Fall and Winter Illnesses in Children – Health Tips

Once the kids are back in school after the the summer break, we see our kids coming back home tired with body aches, fever, sore throat or sometimes just a runny nose……. This leads to absenteeism and poor outcomes in school. Most of the parents have experienced that. According to research conducted by US Department of Education 1 in 6 students missed 3 weeks or more of school days in 2015-16, one of the reason being poor health. Can we help them and help ourselves to have an easy transition to school mode??


School time is that time of the year where kids get to make new social connections and learn new things, which should be more enjoyable. As we all know childrens’ immunity is not so well developed so they often end up getting infections from their friends.

Causes of Common Infections:

Common Cold:

It is a contagious viral infection affecting the upper respiratory tract. It is usually caused by viruses called Rhinoviruses, spreads among kids who are in close contact with each other. The symptoms being fever, runny nose and body-aches. When its a viral disease, we just need supportive measures to keep the child comfortable like:

  • Using a cool-mist humidifier in the room to keep the air moist help in relieving the congestion.
  • Offer plenty of fluids- water, juice, soups especially chicken soup. They help in keeping the body hydrated and help the body in fighting the infection.
  • Rest is equally important for the body to fight back.

Sore Throat:

Sore throat can be bacterial or viral infection.

Most common causes of sore throat:

  • Cold
  • Viral Infection- runny nose, pain in throat with cough and hoarseness.
  • Strep throat infection- sudden onset of fever, pain in the throat while swallowing, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Group A Strep Throat can also present with Scarlet Fever rash (fine, sandpaper-like rash).

Health Tip: Cough, runny nose and hoarseness is usually not present in Group A Strep throat infection. These symptoms suggest a viral cause of throat infection according to CDC.gov.

In children younger than 3 years old, group A Strep infection presents with atypical symptoms of fever, irritability, and loss of appetite.


Influenza or commonly known as Flu is a respiratory illness of nose , throat and lungs which are part of respiratory system. It spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets, which can easily happen at school setting.

People who are at high risk are:

  • Children younger than 2 years old and adults older than 65 years are at a higher risk severe illness.
  • People with weakened immune system like pregnant mothers and diabetics are at higher risk of severe disease.
  • People with chronic illnesses like asthma , heart, kidney and liver diseases.

Symptoms of Flu:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing
  • Dry and persistent cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea especially in children.
  • Chills and sweat.

Tips on how to differentiate a Cold from Flu: Symptoms of Cold and Flu are very similar but cold symptoms develop gradually over a few days where as Flu symptoms come suddenly over a period of 3-6 hours. There is more fatigue, body- aches, dry cough and high fever in flu, where as cold symptoms are milder.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) :

It is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It can be serious in infants younger than 1 year old, premature babies and older adults with underlying health conditions. Children under the age 5 are also prone to hospitalizations due to developing immunity. There is increase in number of cases particularly this year leading to increase in number of hospitalizations among kids.

Symptoms: Runny nose, fever, loss of appetite, cough and wheezing. In infants, initially there might only be irritability, loss of appetite and breathing difficulties.

Health Tip: Children deteriorate very quickly. Its important to look for signs of difficulty in breathing in young children like “caving in” of the rib cage, its a sign the infant is working harder than normal to breathe. If breathing is difficult for the infants, its time get emergency care. Look for signs of dehydration like no wet diapers in the last 8 hours. Parents trust your instinct and take action immediately if you feel your is child is deteriorating.

Healthy children and adults will usually recover in 1-2 weeks.

You can get RSV more than once in your lifetime and even more than once during a single RSV season. Repeated infections tend to be less severe than the first infection.( Source)

Seasonal Allergies:

Seasonal allergies, also called as Allergic Rhinitis or Hay Fever are immune response to pollens, dust, spores…They are not caused by virus.

Symptoms: Itchy and watery eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and sometimes itchy throat due to post-nasal drainage usually accompanied with fatigue.

Health Tip :Since Seasonal Allergies are not caused by any infections, usually there is no fever.


It is the infection and inflammation of the sinuses. Healthy sinuses are filled with air, but when they are blocked with fluid, germs can cause infection of the sinuses. Sinus blockage can occur due to common cold, allergic rhinitis, nasal polyps or deviated nasal septum.

Symptoms: Runny/stuffy nose, nasal congestion, facial pain/pressure, fever, sore throat, cough and a bad breath.
You can take steam from a bowl of hot water or shower, saline nasal wash, warm compress with a washcloth over the affected area can relieve your symptoms.

In acute respiratory conditions, its important act quickly if you feel the symptoms are getting worse in children.

When to contact the Paediatrician/ Emergency Care:

  1. Signs of dehydration – Child refuses to take liquids orally, have dry mouth. Young children may have less wet diapers or no wet diaper in 8 hours.
  2. Signs of difficulty in breathing: If the ribs look like they are sucking in (caving-in).
  3. Signs of low oxygen level: Bluish discoloration of the lips, skin, nails indicates their oxygen level is low.
  4. Symptoms are getting worse rather than improving.


  1. Encourage children to wash hands often at least for 20 seconds. Wash hands before every meal/snacks.
  2. Wear a mask especially indoors and crowded places. Avoid visiting or going near sick people.
  3. Keep the child home when sick.

Some of the Common Homeopathic Medicines :

Indicated in sudden onset of acute fever, usually in early stages. Symptoms are associated with fear, anxiety and restlessness. Symptoms arise after exposure to dry, cold winds. Cough is dry and painful. Frequent desire to drink water.

Arsenicum Album:
Well indicated in weak person who is restless and anxious. Feels very chilly. Symptoms are better by warmth, warm drinks. Cough from ticking in throat or deep chest, worse after midnight, worse taking cold drinks, lying down and motion.
Bryonia: Indicated in cold and cough, when cold has moved down to the chest. Cough is usually dry, worse when the person moves and in warm room. The person needing Bryonia wants to lie down perfectly still, if he moves his symptoms are going to be worse. Mentally irritable and wants to be left alone.

Drosera is a very common cough remedy. Dry, barking cough. Voice is hoarse. Well indicated remedy in children whom there is no cough during the day, but starts as soon as the child lies down at night. Sensation as if crumbs in the throat causing cough.

Indicated in conditions where a person feels cold even in warm room. Most of the cold complaints are associated with thick, yellow, bland discharges, usually right nostril is blocked. Person feels better in open air, craves for fresh air. No thirst. Complaints are worse in warm, room, towards evening and at night.

Its most important medicine for loud, dry and harsh cough. Cough may wake the person from sleep. Sound of the cough is typical of Spongia, it sounds like a saw being driven into dry pine log. Worse by drinking cold drinks, talking or lying down.

Dry cough brought on by inhaling cold air. The cough is dry in both Spongia and Drosera, but cough of Rumex is shallow and not so harsh and barking. Worse while talking or laughing.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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