Parents have been advised not to take for granted common cold, otherwise known as catarrh, among children because if it is not well treated, it could lead to heart problems.
A Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the National Cardiothoracic Centre at Korle Bu, Prof. Mark Tettey, advised parents to send children who suffer from common cold to the hospital for the right treatment to be administered to protect their health.
“Do not self medicate. Do not just go and buy paracetamol, aspirin, vitamin ‘C’ , cough mixture or ginger for your children with cold, rather take them to the hospital for proper treatment,” advised Prof. Tettey.
He explained that common cold is primarily due to a viral infection but in some cases, it could go further and be complicated by a super infection where the tissues in the throat are exposed to bacterial infection.
When that happens the affected child complains of sore throat or a painful throat.
Prof. Tettey said for instance that, the bacterial infection such as the streptococcal infection is considered a dangerous infection which the body tries to fight by producing antibodies.
Unfortunately, he said sometimes these antibodies turn to attack the body’s own tissues.
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At this stage the child may have fever and joint pains and sometimes signs of heart failure. This stage is called rheumatic fever.
He said this may sometimes go unnoticed because these symptoms and signs are similar to that of malaria and are often treated as such by parents giving most children some relief.
However, he stressed, the trouble comes when what started earlier lingers on to affect the valves of the heart in some children.
He explained that the valves of the heart are strategically located to cause blood flow in the heart in one direction.
“When that happens, the valves are destroyed and leak blood in the reverse direction. Sometimes these valves that have leaflets stick to one another and become narrow progressively.
Once this process starts, after five, 10 or 15 years, the effect of the poorly treated cold may end up as a heart disease.
The affected child will now show signs of heart failure,” he pointed out.
“This is what we describe as the rheumatic heart disease,” he added. In such instances, he said, a heart surgery is needed to repair or replace the diseased valve with an artificial valve.
In order to prevent children from getting common cold and streptococcal throat infection, Prof. Tettey advised against overcrowding in homes and schools.
“Schools should avoid overcrowding especially in the classrooms, since overcrowding spreads common cold and streptococcal throat infections,” he said.
Prof. Tettey mentioned other causes of heart problems in children to be congenital heart disease which are structural problems of the heart from birth.
During the development of the baby in the womb, something may go wrong and result in this condition.