It's prime time of year for sniffles and sneezes - a busy time at pediatricians' offices.
Dr. Melissa Conroy of PediatricCare in Topeka sees firsthand how kids share germs. She says since they're in such close contact at school, illnesses often spread among them.
Knowing when to bring them to the doctor can be tricky. Dr. Conroy says a run of the mill sore throat will go away in a couple days, but watch for signs it could be something more serious. She says it might be the bacterial infection strep throat if the pain is so severe a child cannot swallow and it hurts to eat and drink. A fever of 102 or more and a rash - either a whitish color on the tonsils or a sandpaper-like rash on the skin - are other signs of possible strep throat.
The strep bacteria can be diagnosed with a quick throat swab. Getting it treated with an antibiotic is important in preventing complications. Conroy says the pain eventually goes away, but if the bacteria is not treated, it's possible it could lead to the more-serious rheumatic fever later on.
Also making the rounds right now is a viral infection called RSV. Conroy says that in adults and older kids, it causes congestion that might be inconvenient, but in children under two, parents need to watch for respiratory trouble. She says if a child is having trouble breathing, starts breathing unusually fast or seems short of breath, it's a good idea to see a doctor.
Since RSV is a virus, Conroy says there's not medication for it so it needs to run its course. At home, use nasal saline and bulb sunction to relieve congestion. In serious cases, the child may need to be hospitalized for breathing treatments.
As far as preventing the spread of the germs, Conroy says frequent hand washing is the best defense.