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Meet the Runny Nose: A Spotlight on Common Ear, Nose and Throat Problems in Toddlers

December 3, 2020

You’ve been there. You’ve dealt with the snotty noses, the stubborn coughing bouts and the earaches that refuse to go away. And most of all, you’ve aced how to wheedle a queasy toddler out of an illness-induced tantrum. You should know that most of these little episodes are led on by problems associated with the ear, nose or throat, all of which are intrinsically related and connected. This ecosystem is known as ENT, an acronym for ear-nose-throat.

ENT problems, otherwise known as upper respiratory tract infections, comprise the most common conditions that children develop. And because they are caused by viruses, there’s very little that antibiotic courses can do (unless if there’s a secondary bacterial infection).As a mommy or daddy, it can seem frustrating not to be able to cradle your child to recovery through medication. And yet, in most cases, these illnesses are inevitable and the best way to overcome them is to power through.

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What Are the Most Common ENT Problems?

Here, we cast some of the most common ENT illnesses in toddlers under the spotlight. We also tell you the best ways to rise above them.

1. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Ah yes, meet the snotty nose. Again. You’ll find that the common cold is the most frequent visitor in your home and has taken a shine to your tiny tot. Upper respiratory tract infection also causes influenza and typical symptoms consist of a runny nose, a sore throat, nasal blockage, cough and general crankiness.Respiratory tract infections are most commonly spread through contact. So, if your child potters around with a friend who carries the virus, chances are, you’ll have a sick (and grumpy) toddler a few days later. So, what’s the solution you ask? Hygiene.

Ensure that you carry a sanitiser with you and consistently sanitise your little one’s hands. Encourage your child to wash his hands regularly, especially before meals, and teach him to cover his mouth while coughing to avoid spreading infection. If another little one has a cold, advise yours to hold back on eating shared food. A routine influenza vaccination can also ward off unwelcome viruses. Antibiotics are rather useless to treat viruses and should be prescribed for bacterial infections only, by your doctor. So, prevention is better than cure.

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2. Ear Infections

More tantrums than usual? Perpetual irritability? Ear tugging? Say hello to the ear infection. Ear infections are the second most common ENT condition, after the common cold and 1 in 5 to10 preschoolers develop one before they cross the three-year mark. An ear infection entails swelling inside the middle ear and is a loyal successor to the cold. Caused by bacteria or viruses, ear infection results in the dysfunction and subsequent blockage of the Eustachian tube, followed by the development of fluid behind the eardrum.

The resultant pressure can cause pain, discomfort, fever and a potential rupture of the eardrum. The damage to the eardrum is almost always reversible, with the rupture healing within a few weeks. While your doctor may suggest antibiotics depending on your child’s condition, other ways to alleviate pain include applying a warm (not hot) compress, steam inhalation through the nose to restore middle ear ventilation, and elevation of your toddler’s head to promote sinus drainage.

3. Ear Fluid:

Sometimes, an ear infection leaves a memento behind in the form of persistent ear fluid. This fluid, which is housed in the middle ear, usually recedes within three months if precautions such as not allowing water into the affected ear, are taken.

Typical decongestants and antihistamines may help but your doctor may recommend waiting before suggesting a further course of treatment for your little one. Sometimes, in cases where ear fluid refuses to clear, an antibiotic course may be initiated or surgery may be considered.

4. Tonsillitis

If your tot’s appetite radically reduces, it may be because he is finding it hard to swallow. If you also notice a fever, red tonsils, swollen neck glands and a white or yellow coating on the tonsils, you should consider meeting your doctor.

Tonsillitis could be spurred on by either bacteria or a virus. In the former case, antibiotics may be adequate in treating the condition. However, a virus is resistant to antibiotics and your child’s body will work at combatting the virus on its own. For recurrent or severe cases of tonsillitis in some children, a surgery to remove the tonsils may be recommended.

5. Croup

If your child displays a throaty cough, a hoarse voice and a raspy breathing noise, be prepared for croup. Characterised by a fever, a stuffy nose and a ‘barking' cough, croup is caused by the same set of viruses that spread the common cold.

Acetaminophen for children older than six months can help alleviate a fever. Also, inhaling moist air and nebulisation can help to soothe the discomfort. Cradle your child in a steam-filled bathroom by running a hot shower for a few minutes. You could also try steam inhalation, but be vigilant that your toddler doesn’t poke his fingers into the boiling water while he’s at it.

There’s no need to get frazzled at the onset of a respiratory tract infection. ENT problems will be recurring guests in the years to come, and it’s best that you know how to greet them now.

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