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Looking after children with respiratory illnesses

23 June 2005

Advice for parents and caregivers looking after children with respiratory illnesses

There have been a lot of respiratory illnesses circulating in the community over the last few weeks. Schools in particular are reporting higher levels of absenteeism in students. One of the main illnesses circulating seems to be influenza B. Hawke¡¦s Bay District Health Board¡¦s public health unit provides the following advice: Limiting the spread of the illness

- Keep sick children at home. They should not return to school until they have been better for at least 24 hours.

- Make sure hands are washed and dried well after sneezing, wiping or blowing the nose; going to the toilet; and before eating and preparing food.

- Keep coughs and sneezes covered with a tissue. Dispose of the tissue in a rubbish bin.

Looking after sick children at home

- Keep your child warm and give them frequent small drinks of clear fluid, for example, water or watered-down juice.

- Give your child paracetamol, not aspirin, if they are irritable, miserable or appear to be in pain. Check the correct dose is given.

- Check your child frequently, including overnight.

What to watch out for Most school-aged children recover in 5 to 7 days. It is important, however, that parents and caregivers also watch out for signs that their child may have developed a bacterial infection or another serious illness.

The following signs indicate you need to seek immediate medical attention for your child.
- If your child was getting well, and then a high temperature (more than 38.5„aC) returns. This may indicate a secondary bacterial infection.
- If the child is persistently breathing faster than usual or has difficulty breathing for example, breathing is noisy or it is taking a lot of effort for the child to breathe.
- Persistent pain that doesn¡¦t go away and isn¡¦t relieved by paracetamol, or requires more than 4 doses of paracetamol in 24 hours, or requires regular paracetamol for more than a day.
- A rash that looks like small bruises under the skin and doesn¡¦t go away when pressed on with a finger.
- A child that is drowsy or not responsive.

If your child¡¦s illness gets worse or you are concerned ring your GP immediately
- Say what the symptoms are and why you are concerned.
- If your child has been seen by the doctor, follow their advice and keep a close eye on your child.
- If your child¡¦s illness gets worse go straight back to the doctor or, in an emergency, dial 111 for an ambulance.

Hawke¡¦s Bay District Health Board & the Ministry of Health acknowledge the work of Regional Public Health, Capital & Coast District Health Board and Hutt Valley District Health Board in producing this material.

ENDS

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