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Ask a Doctor: Answering Questions about Common Pediatric Concerns

Shawna Gifford, MD, pediatrician at Phelps Health
Shawna Gifford, MD, is a pediatrician at Phelps Health.

Published on April 7, 2020

What is constipation? How is it treated in kids?

Constipation is simply stools that are painful or difficult to pass, according to Shawna Gifford, MD, a pediatrician with the Phelps Health Medical Group.

Constipation can be a problem for toddlers and young children while potty training or learning to use the bathroom by themselves. Infants less than 6 months old who are constipated should see a doctor.

To treat constipation, start by giving your child more fiber (try whole-grain bread, fiber bars or gummies) and water. “If your child continues having trouble, you may start them on MiraLAX per the instructions on the label,” Dr. Gifford said. “If this does not work or your child is having trouble passing stool, please see your pediatrician.”

What if my child has repeated ear infections?

Ear infections are often related to Eustachian tube dysfunction. “The Eustachian tube is the tube that runs from behind the eardrum to the nose and equalizes pressure behind the eardrum,” Dr. Gifford explained. Allergies and colds can cause fluid buildup, and bacteria may form, causing an infection.

“If your little one has had four ear infections in the last six months or six in the last year, they may qualify to have a short plastic tube placed in the eardrum that equalizes the pressure and allows fluid to drain,” Dr. Gifford said. “This can improve hearing and decrease ear infections.”

What is RSV? How is the virus treated?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of lower respiratory infections in kids under age 2. In older kids and adults, RSV presents more like a common cold, but in infants and toddlers, the virus can cause trouble breathing and difficulty feeding.

“Good handwashing and avoiding those who are sick are the best ways to prevent the spread of RSV,” Dr. Gifford said.

If you think your infant who is less than 6 weeks old may have RSV, see a doctor. “If your child tests positive for RSV or you are worried they might have RSV, monitor their breathing and oral intake,” Dr. Gifford said.

To help with breathing and feeding, put a couple of drops of saline in each side of the nose and then suction the saline out with a bulb syringe.

RSV usually gets worse on day four or five of the illness, and then improves, usually ending around days 10 through 14. “The cough can linger for about three weeks before it stops completely,” Dr. Gifford said.

How are allergies treated in kids?

Children age 2 and under with allergies should be seen by a doctor. Older kids can take the children’s version of Cetirizine or Loratadine to help relieve allergy symptoms, Dr. Gifford said.

Local honey can help with allergies in kids over age 1. Phelps Health offers allergy testing and immunotherapy (allergy shots or drops) for kids age 5 or older.

Find a Pediatrician

To establish care with a Phelps Health pediatrician, call (573) 364-9000, or click here to learn more about Phelps Health pediatrics.

Found in: Allergy Care Ear Health Pediatrics Services