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Lung Health for Your Little Ones

Prevent Lung Disease
The most important thing you can do to prevent lung disease in children is to make sure they are not exposed to harmful things in the air they breathe such as smoke, dust and air pollution.

  • Make your home and car no-smoking zones. Choose the non-smoking areas in restaurants and hotels.
  • Keep your home free of excessive dust and mold to decrease chances of allergies.

Prevent Viral and Bacterial Respiratory Infections

  • Practice good hand washing and teach your children to do the same. Keep antibacterial hand gels throughout your house and in the car. Teach your children to use these in school.
  • Get flu shots for your family yearly.
  • Avoid public places during flu seasons if your child has asthma or gets sick easily. 

What To Do When Your Child Has Respiratory Symptoms
To decrease your child’s symptoms during a respiratory illness, the American Association for Respiratory Care recommends:

  • Have them drink plenty of fluids.  Fever that often comes with a respiratory illness can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluid).  If your child has a sore throat or is vomiting, give them small amounts of water or juice every 30 minutes (even if it is only a few spoonfuls at a time). Try ice pops, gelatins or sweetened beverages to get them to drink. Children often don’t feel like eating when they are sick. Fluids are more important than food. Encourage them to drink juice, eat fruits, vegetables and other foods with good nutritional value and to avoid junk foods (potato chips, candy, etc.) so that the foods they do eat will help them get well. If your child has signs of dehydration, call your doctor. Signs of dehydration are: a decreased number of diaper changes; decreased frequency of urination; and/or a dry mouth or lips.
  • Treat fever over 101 degrees with acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed by your doctor. Sore throats are often from viruses and can be treated with these pain relievers as well.  It is not unusual for children to have high fevers (101-103 degrees) with viral illness. A fever that does not come down after giving acetaminophen at the recommended dose and ibuprofen at the recommended dose 2 hours later should be reported to your doctor.
  • Reduce airborne irritants and allergens. Make sure air filters for heaters and air conditioners are clean, and restrict smoking to outside and away from the house. Control mold by checking under sinks and around water pipes for leaks and standing water where mold can grow. If your child has allergies to pets, keep the pets outside or at the very least out of the child’s bedroom. Dust mites live in carpet draperies and bed linens. Reduce them with frequent vacuuming and washing bed linens in hot water (above 130º F) every week. Stuffed animals should be washable, hypoallergenic and stored in a container when not in use.
  • Call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention if:
  • Your child’s fever is greater than 103 degrees after both acetaminophen and ibuprofen have been tried to reduce the fever
  • Your child complains of the neck or head hurting and cries when moved.
  • Your infant has a weak cry, increased respiratory rate, blue lips or is making a grunting sound when breathing.
  • Your child is difficult to awaken. 
  • Your child has signs of dehydration.
  • Symptoms such as cough or fever are still present after a week.

Reviewed: May 26, 2005
Revised: June 2008

© 2019 American Association for Respiratory Care