When your baby has a chest infection it can be a very stressful time and often first-time parents don’t really know the best course of action to take. It can be difficult to know how serious an infection is, and what the best course of treatment should be. Getting an urgent appointment with a paediatrician can be difficult and expensive. So, what else can you do?
The struggle that babies have with a chest or throat infection is with the phlegm build-up. Phlegm can build up in the throat which can then spread the infection to their lungs. For us adults it’s not a major problem – we just cough it out. But little ones don’t have the strength to cough like we do, meaning the phlegm sits there and can continue building up, eventually blocking sections of the lungs and can prevent them from breathing fully which may prevent them from feeding properly.
That’s where physiotherapy can help. Physiotherapists are primary health care providers, which means that they can be seen without requiring a referral from a doctor, and they can also assist with the decision on whether additional medical intervention may be advisable. With a combination of nebulising (which can and should be done at home) and manual techniques, including percussions, we are able to loosen the phlegm and move it to a more central location in the baby’s respiratory system. From there we slide a tube down the nose to the back of throat (cue the tears for both baby and mom) and literally suck it out. While this is not comfortable, it is highly effective at addressing the problem and gets the baby taking nice, full breaths. If you are new to parenting, a physiotherapist can also provide guidance on how to perform the nebulising at home.
Seeing a doctor is always recommended, but often the infection is viral and all we can do is treat the symptoms with physio techniques, and enable your baby to breathe more easily, until he or she has been able to fight it off.