Stay home if sick, health officials say; here’s when to seek help for ill child

As COVID-19 hospitalizations and flu cases increase, and hospitals cope with rising respiratory illnesses, public health officials recommend that those who are sick stay home to prevent the spread of these diseases. Even if you’re well, wear a mask when you’re out and about, they suggested, and wash your hands frequently.

Residents should do all they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, as they gather for the holidays, health officials say.

“We want people to remember the holidays as a festive time of family, friends, food and fun events, not because of a severe case of RSV or other respiratory virus,” said Dana Hargunani, Oregon Health Authority chief medical officer. “Common-sense vigilance this season can help keep you and your loved ones safe and out of the hospital.”

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The Oregon Health Authority shares these tips for stopping the spread of viruses:

— Get a flu shot and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including new bivalent boosters.

— There is no vaccine or treatment for RSV, but people can protect themselves by covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning high-touch surfaces, and regularly washing their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.

— Consider wearing a mask during indoor holiday gatherings and events. Anyone at risk for getting severely ill from RSV – young children and older adults– should consider wearing a mask when indoors with people who are not in their household.

— Because children younger than 2 are too young to safely wear a mask, parents and caregivers should consider asking those around them to wear a mask.

If you or a family member get sick, here are some suggestions for treating the viruses at home, courtesy of California’s statea epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan:

— Use a nasal saline solution to help improve breathing, and for infants, suction mucus from the nose.

— A cool mist humidifier also can help clear congestion.

— Sit or lie upright to improve breathing.

— Drink plenty of clear fluids to prevent dehydration: water, broth, sports beverages or Pedialyte for kids.

— Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be given to individuals 6 months or older to help control fever. Aspirin can cause a rare but serious illness in infants and children, so it is not recommended. For babies younger than 6 months, consult your health care provider before administering a pain reliever.

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These tips will help most children fight off mild viral infections, Pan said, but consult a doctor or seek hospital care in these cases:

— If breathing seems difficult. Are they breathing fast? Are their nostrils flaring? Is their head bobbing? Are they grunting or wheezing while breathing? Are they fully engaging their diaphragm in an attempt to take in air? Are they pausing when breathing?

— If your child has a gray or blue color to their skin.

— If they show signs of dehydration — a parched mouth, urinating less frequently, fewer tears when crying, playing less than usual. In infants, the soft spot at the top of the head may be sunken.

Your doctor won’t likely test for RSV, Pan said, because the diagnosis won’t change the recommended treatment.

–Staff and Tribune News Service contributed

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