Cold and Flu

When to worry about your child’s fever

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Children get sick, so it’s not unusual for a child to have a fever. Most of the time it isn’t serious, but there are times when parents should be concerned about a fever.

Most cases of pink eye (conjunctivitis) don’t require antibiotics

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

While bacterial conjunctivitis responds to antibiotic treatment, many people with the more common viral type are prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily, which contributes to increased resistance to these medications.

The flu shot saves children’s lives

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Even though this year’s flu season is just about over, parents should be thinking about protecting their children next winter. Despite short-term reactions in some people, the flu shot is safe for nearly everyone.

Preventing and treating colds: The evidence and the anecdotes

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

No one wants to deal with the misery of a cold, and nothing is guaranteed to prevent you from catching one, but some basic precautions can help reduce the risk. If you already have a cold, certain treatments are definitely more effective than others.

Antibiotics don’t speed recovery from asthma attacks

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

Winter is often a tough season for asthma sufferers, who generally more likely to become sick than those without asthma. It’s important for asthma patients to receive proper care when ill, and a recent study sheds new light on a common treatment that might not be the best course of action for most asthmatics.

Bronchiolitis: What parents of infants need to know

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

While all babies get colds, bronchiolitis, a respiratory infection that works its way into the lungs. Treatment is usually “supportive,” which means steps to relieve the symptoms, and most babies start to get better after a week or so. But bronchiolitis can make some babies very sick, so parents need to be alert for signs of worsening illness.

When a cough just won’t go away

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

There are a number of conditions that can cause a cough to linger for weeks or months. Doctors treating patients with a chronic cough should consider both the more likely and less common possibilities. When a cough persists after those possibilities have been ruled out or treated, new research suggests that irritated nerve ending in the “cough centers” of the airways could be behind a chronic cough.

Just what is pneumonia, anyway?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The term “pneumonia” encompasses a number of illnesses and infections. Some are more serious than others, and some are more easily treated than others. Since pneumonia has dominated the news cycle for the past few weeks, we’ve put together some definitions to demystify this catchall term for a range of lung conditions.

Flu news: Now most people with egg allergies can get a flu shot

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

If you have been avoiding the flu shot because you’re allergic to eggs, studies suggest that you can safely get vaccinated. Allergic reactions to the flu shot are quite rare. If you’ve never had a reaction to a flu shot, protect yourself by getting one this year. Ideally do it in a doctor’s office or hospital so that you can get prompt treatment in the unlikely event you have an immediate, severe reaction.

When do you really need antibiotics for that sinus infection?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Many people with sinus infections expect to be given antibiotics for treatment, but in most cases the infection will improve on its own. If a person’s symptoms meet certain criteria — for example, when colorful nasal discharge and facial pressure and pain last for more than 10 days — then antibiotics are recommended.