Respiratory Illness

Dr. Clayton Butcher

By Clayton Butcher, M.D.

As an internal medicine and pediatric physician, I personally over the last two to four weeks have seen a significant increase in respiratory illnesses. They range from from viral upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, and good old fashion influenza.

This season seems to be particularly severe. Many of our viruses including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), coronavirus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus/enterovirus, human metapneumovirus, and influenza seem to be hitting hard all at the same time. In the hospital, I’m seeing many patients who were previously healthy become fairly severely affected.

Those with underlying respiratory disease or at increased risk to develop respiratory illnesses are of course often hit even harder. Individuals with ectodermal dysplasia should be particularly aware that they are at increased risk for a variety of reasons including (1,2):

  • Absent or decreased mucous glands in their airways which lead to worse trouble clearing infections
  • Increased rate of asthma and allergies
  • Some individuals have cleft palate, which increase their risk of getting infections
  • Decreased immune system function has been linked to some patients with ectodermal dysplasias (especially hypohidrotic ectxodermal dysplasia with immune deficiency (HED-ID)

Steps You Can Take

Be sure you are up-to-date with all your immunizations, especially influenza (which is given every year).  If you have not yet gotten your flu shot, talk with your physician as we are still seeing the number of cases of influenza rise and it would still be beneficial.  Use of saline spray or rinse for your nose can be used to keep it moist and decrease the chance of upper respiratory infections along with improving allergy symptoms. Please visit this blog and read under “preventing nasal crusting” for more details.

Use a humidifier, especially in the bedroom while sleeping, can also help.  Avoiding smoking and second hand smoke is also very important.  Lastly, if you do become sick, see your doctor. If he/she has any concerns for possible bacterial infection, it should be treated aggressively.


  1. Fete T.  Respiratory problems in patients with ectodermal dysplasia syndromes.  Am J Med  Genet A. 2014 Oct;164A(10):2478-8
  2. Mark BJ, Becker BA, Halloran DR, Bree AF, Sindwani R, Fete MD, Motil KJ, Srun SW, Fete TJ. Prevalence of atopic disorders and immunodeficiency in patients with ectodermal dysplasia syndromes.  Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 Jun;108(6):435-8


Clayton Butcher, M.D. is a physician at the University of Missouri,  Internal Medicine and Pediatrics – Woodrail and a member of the NFED Scientific Advisory Council.


One comment on “‘Tis the Season – For Respiratory Illnesses”

  1. 1
    Marc Steingesser on February 20, 2017

    In this blog post Dr. Butcher strongly recommends that those affected by ED should get a flu shot; however, the years that I’ve gotten a flu shot are also the same years I later got the flu. I’ve since stopped getting flu shots and have fared better (i.e. no flu). I’m curious if Dr. Butcher has any data on others with ED with similar outcomes as mine?

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