What’s Going Around: coughing, wheezing and ear infections

UPMC Pinnacle’s Heritage Pediatrics reports there have been more coughs with wheezing. In many cases these are due to viruses that causes wheezing and a deep cough, and can result in difficult breathing. In younger children and babies this illness is called “bronchiolitis.”

Bronchiolitis starts as a typical cold the first few days with a lot of nasal congestion and nasal discharge and sometimes a fever. Then after a few days to a week, the cough becomes deeper and wheezing begins, Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said.

Wheezing is caused by a tightening and inflammation of the airways. This can result in fast shallow breathing, a whistling sound with breathing, and coughing spells. If your child is showing any of these signs, call your medical provider.

Treatment for bronchiolitis is supportive, meaning there is not a medicine that will make it resolve faster. However, younger children and babies can worsen to the point of needing to go to the hospital because of low oxygen levels or respiratory distress. If you think your child is wheezing, be sure to call immediately, Zimmerman said.

Prevention is difficult because these viruses are spread through the air and can be easily picked up in public enclosed places such as grocery stores, offices, church, and airplanes. If you have any of these symptoms, you should avoid going to public places as much as possible.

Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics reported a lot of viral colds, fevers and sore throats. They said less than 10 percent of the sore throats that presented this week for evaluation were strep. The majority were viral in origin or due to rawness caused by post-nasal drainage.

With the increase in colds comes a logical increase in the number of ear infection cases, Dr. Joan Thode said. The number of croup cases stayed consistent with last week, at a moderate amount.

Providers also saw a sharp increase in the number of concussions, mostly in middle and high-school aged athletes.

Thode offered the following advice about ear infections:

“Contrary to some popular beliefs, the sinuses and nasal passages are not connected to the inner ear. The nasal passages and the inner ear both empty into the throat, but at two different locations.

What causes ear infections is not a backup of nasal mucous into the ear but rather a general inflammation of the tissues of the throat that typically occurs as the immune system fights a virus. This inflammation includes the exit tract of the inner ear, causing the fluid that would naturally drain from the ear to get stuck in the ear until the inflammation goes away.

The fluid stuck in the ear, which is a warm place, creates a perfect bacterial breeding ground. This is how an ear infection occurs.

The pain from ear infections comes when the fluid builds up in the ear and puts pressure on the eardrum. The body’s army cells of the immune system also take up space, putting more pressure on the eardrum. The eardrum has a nerve that can take only so much stretch before it sends pain signals to the brain.

This pain is best treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen) to decrease some of the inflammation.”

This week, WellSpan Medical Group providers are seeing cases of bronchitis in York, Adams and Lancaster counties.

Suspected flu cases slowed this week, however, there were suspected cases in York and Adams counties. Providers are still stressing the importance of annual flu vaccinations.

In addition, they’re seeing a number of upper respiratory infections in York, Adams and Lancaster counties. For those affected, over-the-counter allergy medication, decongestants and sinus washes may help.

Summit Health Care providers in Cumberland and Franklin counties are seeing the same upper respiratory viruses as the past few weeks.

As the days get shorter, officials from Summit Health are shining a light on some seasonal challenges.

Although the sun’s rays can be damaging, they also have benefits. Often, the change of season can mean a decrease in Vitamin D. It’s important for children to take a daily vitamin, providers said.

Also, the earlier darkness can trigger seasonal affective disorder, which can trigger depression. A helpful tip can be trying to take a walk earlier in the day to enjoy the suns rays and to get some fresh air.

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