Recurrent infections

Repeated infections in children

Our Aim with children who have repeated infections requiring medical treatment is:

  1. To treat the acute attack and confirm a diagnosis
  2. Give you a plan of action for your child to prevent the wheels from coming off
  3. To educate you, the parent, to become the expert in managing your child
How common are repeated infections in children?

Common and mild infections are good for children as they develop their immune system. The majority of viral infections are mild and settle within a short period. In some children these infections can be more severe with nose, ear, throat and chest involvement and require medical treatment like antibiotics. There must be an underlying reason why this occurs in some children more than others and a way to prevent the ‘wheels from coming off”.

What causes some children to have more than the usual number of infections?

Sometimes it’s easy to see the cause of an infection, such as being in day-care centers. Children in day-care centers give infections to each other. They drool and their noses drip. They touch each other and touch all the toys. This spreads infections. As adults we have far less contact with each other’s germs, so we are less likely to catch so many infections. At day care centers the majority have mild infections and there are those whose “wheels come off” with prolonged and more severe course.

Exposure to cigarette smoke (sometimes called “passive smoking”) is another cause for runny noses and wheezing in young children. Passive smoking is now linked to infections and asthma in children.

Do specific medical conditions cause repeated infections in children?

Some differences in body structure make it easier for that person to get infections because the normal drainage of the eustachian tube (in the ear) or sinuses (in the nose) is blocked. When the drainage is blocked, the number of bacteria grows. This leads to infection. In most children, as the head grows, drainage problems get better. All the above are aggravated by allergic rhinitis.

Allergy and asthma can also cause repeated sinusitis (stuffy or drippy nose) and wheezing. Allergy can cause inflammation inside the nose that lasts for a long time. Because of the inflammation, the normal drainage pathways of the nose and sinuses swell and get plugged up. Bacteria grow, causing an infection. Medicine is necessary to treat the cause of the infection, which is the allergy.

Coughing that goes along with mild viral infections may be a sign of asthma. Sometimes when we think children have pneumonia as a complication of a cold, they really have asthma. These children need asthma medicine in addition to other medicine for infection.

What can I do to prevent repeated infections in my child?

If you smoke, stop. Until you quit completely, smoke only outside of your home and outside of your car. Smoking in a room away from your child does not help. Air filters also do not help protect your child from secondhand smoke.

The worst season for colds is the winter. If you have a relative or friend who can take care of your child during the winter, you could move your child out of day care, where so many other children would have colds. Smaller home-care situations (with 5 children or less) would be another good choice. Fewer children in day care means fewer infections to be exposed to.

If you have a family history of allergies and asthma, you may want to have our doctors check your child for these conditions.