INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – If your child is coughing, sneezing and fighting a fever you might think they have the flu–but doctors say influenza is not the only virus parents should look out for.
Mary Kay Foster is the special pathogens program manager at IU Health.
“There are all kinds of circulating respiratory viruses out there,” Foster said. “They can make you feel almost as bad as having the flu.”
She says one nasty perpetrator is called croup.
It often begins as a cold and worsens with inflammation.
Foster describes it as a seasonal virus that hits kids under the age of five especially hard.
“Their airways are very small and what happens is they swell and they start making this barking noise (when coughing),” Foster said.
The Mayo Clinic says croup usually lasts three to five days and most cases can be treated at home.
You should seek immediate medical attention if your child is struggling to breath or swallow or develops blue or grayish skin around the nose or mouth.
Doctors say if your child is sick at all, you should keep them at home.
“They (the viruses) can take somebody that has a weak immune system and make them incredibly ill,” Foster said.
A Respiratory Synytial Virus or RSV is another infection that causes flu-like symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most cases go away on their own within a week or two and almost all children fight an RSV infection by their second birthday.
Foster says you are more at risk of being exposed to a virus if you’re out and about around large groups of people.
“If somebody coughs and touches a handle or if you’re going up to the counter to pay for something, they may have touched that counter and that’s where you get the viruses from.”