Ear, nose and throat infections are common in people of all ages, but young children are particularly susceptible because they have less developed immune systems.
The most common infection is of course the cold, which is caused by any one of hundreds of different viruses making it impossible to vaccinate against. The virus causes the nose and throat to become inflamed which produces lots of mucus or snot. This starts the gradual onset of sneezing, a blocked nose, sore throat, coughs and headaches. The symptoms usually last for about a week although in some cases it can be longer. Famously there is no cure for the common cold, but you can ask your doctor for mild pain killers to help ease the symptoms.
Another common and really unpleasant infection is seasonal flu and the symptoms are a lot more severe than a cold. Flu can hit suddenly and shares the symptoms of a severe common cold but on top of that it brings a feeling of total exhaustion and fatigue along with very some unpleasant body aches. If your child is suffering from flu make sure they get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. You may want to have a chat to your family doctor about ways to ease the symptoms.
OK so lets take a close look at infections of the throat. One of the most common throat infections in children is tonsillitis. This causes the glands at the back of the throat, known as the tonsils, to become infected and inflamed. The infection is mainly caused by a virus and it’s pretty common in children aged between 5 and 15. As well as swollen tonsils, some of the common symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, coughing, headaches and sometimes even vomiting. In extreme cases, a child’s breathing may be affected, and abscesses can start to appear on the tonsils and if this occurs then contact your doctor as soon as possible. In most cases it should only last for about 10 days, and symptoms should clear themselves up although if it’s a bacterial infection antibiotics may be needed. In more severe cases where tonsillitis occurs frequently the tonsils can be removed surgically although this happens less often these days.
One thing that you should be aware of is that the symptoms of tonsillitis can be very similar to those of glandular fever, a much more serious condition. It shares many of the same symptoms, though they’re often more severe, along with other signs like tell tale inflammation of the lymph glands in the neck and in the armpits. It can stick around in the body for months, causing fatigue and there are some potentially serious complications. It can also recur from time to time many years later and is can be a very debilitating condition.
Other common problems include infection of the adenoid glands, found just above the tonsils. When the adenoid glands get infected they enlarge causing problems such as difficulty breathing, loud snoring, sleep problems and a horrid condition called glue ear which is where a build up of thick mucus blocks the inside of the ear causing temporary difficulty in hearing. If the Adenoids are seriously affecting a child’s health then they can be removed with a simple surgical procedure.
Infections can also occur lower down in the airways too an example of which is Bronchitis. Bronchitis occurs when the airways of the lungs become infected and inflamed. It can cause breathlessness and wheezing, sometimes with a slight fever and sinus problems too. The symptoms usually clear up on their own within about 3 weeks but sometimes your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Smoke can be a cause of bronchitis, so it goes without saying that parents should not be smoking around their children as it can lead to all sorts of respiratory problems.
Sometimes the top of the nose can get infected causing a problem called Sinusitis. The air filled spaces in the face and the head become infected and uncomfortable, usually leading to a blocked or runny nose with along with a bad cough, fever, bad breath, irritability and headache. Sinusitis usually clears up on its own although your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or a steroid nasal spray if it’s a bacterial infection.
And finally, the ears. Middle ear infections occur in the area just behind the eardrum. This area is normally filled with air but when infected it fills with fluid which can cause pain. As you would imagine, the symptoms include quite severe earache and also a slight deafness, along with fever and flu like symptoms and in some cases the ear may perforate, causing pus to run out of the ear. Most of these infections will clear up in a few days but in severe cases your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Paracetamol can be useful for bringing down fevers and helping with pain but it’s important that you never give your child aspirin as it can cause a severe reaction.
With any Ear Nose and Throat infection it’s important to give your child plenty of fluids and make sure they can get lots of rest. Ignoring symptoms can lead to more serious conditions. They can be quite tricky things to diagnose so if you have any worries or any doubts then contact your GP or call NHS direct.
Due to possessing less developed immune systems, children are particularly susceptible to ear, nose and throat infections; which Dr Christian here discusses in detail. Starting off with the virus that causes the cold, before moving on to discuss the seasonal flu, throat infections, tonsillitis, glandular fever, problems with the adenoid glands, bronchitis, sinusitis, and finally middle ear infections; Dr Christian reveals the types and lengths of symptoms, as well as the available cures and remedies. If you think your child may be suffering from an ear, nose or throat infection, always remember to give them lots of fluids and ensure they get plenty of rest. And finally, if you have any worries, don’t hesitate to contact your GP, or call NHS Direct. Ignoring symptoms of ENT infections can often worsen and prolong the illness.
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