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December 21, 2017

Respiratory Illnesses Deserve Attention

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Watch If a Minor Cough Becomes a Major Disease

What is that strange sound coming from your child’s mouth? That cough or wheeze might be a minor illness but could lead to major infections or diseases if not treated properly.

Most respiratory conditions in children are viral respiratory tract infections, which include the common cold, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. “These typically affect the upper respiratory tract and include fever, runny nose and cough,” said Leah Lemke, physician assistant, ThedaCare Physicians-New London.

If it turns into a more severe infection, the virus could become croup, bronchiolitis or pneumonia, which affects the lower respiratory tract. “Inflammation in the lower lungs makes it difficult for the child to breathe or they experience wheezing or rapid breathing,” said Lemke.

With croup, the child may have a bark-like cough. Pneumonia may also be caused by bacterial infections, which are more serious than viral infections. See a family physician for immediate attention. Here are some common respiratory illnesses in children:

  • Common Cold: This time of year brings the usual cough, sneezes and sniffles. Kids are back to school. Schedules are changing. “Back to school stress and weather changes can wreak havoc on immune systems,” said Lemke.
  • The common cold is usually accompanied by a sore throat and runny nose. If the cold turns into a harsh cough, fever, rash or other severe problem, bring the child to a family physician.
  • Influenza: Influenza, or the flu, can have fever, muscle aches, a cough and other familiar symptoms. The flu is common with children but if the child is below 2 months, has breathing difficulties or has a fever above 101°F,visit a doctor right away.
  • Asthma: Asthma affects the airways and causes breathing problems. “It is more common in children with allergies,” said Lemke. “There are other triggers of asthma too like exposure to second hand smoke or weather.”
  • Children should be treated by a doctor regularly so they have an asthma treatment plan and medication should an asthma attack occur.
  • Bronchiolitis: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a respiratory infection that usually leads to Bronchiolitis or Bronchitis. “Children with RSV can have wheezing problems for about seven days,” said Lemke. “Some children with RSV are at risk for chronic bronchitis or asthma symptoms later in life.”

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 32 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.