Viral Respiratory Infections: When to Seek Medical Attention for Your Child

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With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the growing number of cases reported daily in our region, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about how to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the common cold. 

Dr. Carmela Sosa, Medical Director of Valley Children’s Primary Care Group and pediatrician at the Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center on Valley Children’s main campus in Madera, offers some tips for parents wondering what to look for and when it’s time to bring their child in to the doctor’s office.

“These two viral infections share many of the same symptoms, such as fever, runny nose and cough,” says Dr. Sosa. “Those symptoms typically appear two to 14 days after exposure.”

Many parents have heard through media coverage that COVID-19 seems to be impacting the general pediatric population less severely than older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

“Data recently released from China on more than 2,100 children showed that more than 90% of children had mild to moderate symptoms, or even no symptoms at all,” says Dr. Sosa. 

So what should parents do if their child is showing symptoms of a respiratory infection?

“If your child has moderate symptoms, such as a runny nose, a mild sore throat or a low-grade fever, but otherwise appears well, it’s okay to keep them home,” says Dr. Sosa. She encourages parents to keep a close eye on your child’s condition and be in phone contact with their pediatrician. Call your child’s doctor if they are showing symptoms of a more significant infection: rapid breathing, drooling or trouble swallowing, or prolonged high fever.

If you think your child has been exposed to coronavirus, contact your doctor’s child immediately. Please do not go to the office without calling ahead. They will need time to prepare for your arrival. 

If your child is showing symptoms of severe illness, such as struggling to breathe, seek immediate medical attention. 

Dr. Sosa encourages parents to be vigilant about establishing routines that can help prevent the spread of viral respiratory infections.

“As with all viruses, cover your cough, practice good hygiene and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces,” says Dr. Sosa. “With COVID-19, avoid going out into large crowds. Practice social distancing to help decrease the risk of exposure and to help prevent the spread.”

We encourage parents to visit the California Department of Public Health website, which issues daily updates on COVID-19 in English and Spanish.  

You can also call Valley Children’s COVID-19 Hotline, available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 559-353-3333 (Toll free number: 888-286-9336)

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