Parents everywhere seem to be finding this cold and flu season to be worse than usual. The seasonal increase is affecting the health of people of all ages all over North America. In Toronto we are lucky to be near many resources which can help to avoid, detect, and deal with viruses. We may not feel so lucky in the throes of a runny nose and cough, but help is close by.
It seems like it has been particularly difficult to stay healthy this winter for the simple reason that it has been: there are several viruses, including the flu, making their way among Torontonians and people all over North America. As Toronto University Health Network head of infection control Dr. Michael Gardam told Huffington Post Canada "Normally there's sort of a step-wise increase and this was a very dramatic increase." News from nearby is even more alarming, as Boston has declared a state of emergency, and New York State reports an increase of over 250% in flu cases over last year.
Particularly considering that hospital wait times are a continuing topic of concern for Ontarians in general, the best place to go if you are concerned that your small child has a severe respiratory ailment like the flu or bronchitis is your family doctor. There are also numerous clinics in the GTA, although wait times can be long there too, especially at times when there is a community health concern, such as the present one. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done for preschool aged children, let alone infants with cough and congestion. The active ingredient in most adult cough medicines (dextromethorphan) is not safe for children. Alternatives such as that pictured above are out there, and likely easier to find in Toronto then many places outside of the city. There actual usefulness, however, is debatable.
Many parents will use nasal sprays, a humidifier or vaporizer, and mustard compresses to treat cold and flu symptoms. Not much else can be done, beyond the usual fluids and rest. With the flu shot proving to be less than ideally effective, medical practitioners are falling back on perhaps the most basic of prevention strategies: wash your hands.