This article appeared in LA Health and Fitness in September 2017

It’s September, and the kids have been back to school for a month, and you are starting to get in your routine, your well-deserved break from the dog days of summer. And then the kids start to get sick. They have been trading their germs back and forth for the last month. Noses start running, throats start hurting and at 2 a.m. the two-year-old is screaming that his ear hurts.

The fall and beginning of winter are peak seasons for upper respiratory infections, ear infections, the flu and the dreaded strep throat. A lot of infections are viral and will pass in seven to ten days, but they can set you and your kids up for a bacterial infection. High fevers (over 101), single-sided throat or ear pain, tender neck bumps (lymph nodes), purulent (green or yellow) nasal discharge from the nose for days can all be signs of bacterial ear, nose or throat infections and should be seen by a physician. Some over-the-counter medicines can help to alleviate symptoms.

There are also different allergens that start around this time of year. Ragweed is the biggest one in September and October. Grass allergens are still high in the New Orleans area, since we don’t have true “seasons.” Signs of allergies are clear nasal discharge, mild conjunctival injection infection (red eyes), itchy nose, congestion and cough (from the drip). These usually can be managed with antihistamines and nasal steroids, but sometimes may call for allergy shots or oral anti-allergy therapy. Asthma or reactive airway diseases will also worsen with allergies.

The flu starts around October and peaks between December and February. Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea, while others just have respiratory symptoms. If you feel you may have the flu, you should get tested with a simple nasal swab. You may be eligible for an antiviral medication that can shorten the course of the illness and decrease its symptoms. Fevers should be treated by rotating acetaminophen and ibuprofen every four to six hours. Drink plenty of fluids.

Children who have recurrent ear infections, or whose ears seem to never clear completely, who also often have a runny nose and breathe through their mouth (day and night) may have enlarged adenoids. The adenoids are lymphoid tissue just like a tonsil in the back of the nose. They can become enlarged and block the back of the nose and the eustachian tube, leading to the symptoms above. You should have your child evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist, if this sounds familiar.

Grayson Gremillion M.D. Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist