Common Childhood Illnesses: What They Are and How To Prevent Them
As a parent, ensuring that your child is happy and healthy is your number one priority. Despite all best efforts, however, it’s a scientific fact that eventually all children will come down with some sort of cold or illness. Children usually start getting sick after they’ve reached six months and the immunity they’ve received from their mother begins to fade. At this point, the child must start building up his or her own immune system. This means that the average toddler/preschooler will have about seven or eight colds per year.
Luckily, this number starts to go down as your child ages, with school age children averaging around five to six colds per year. By the time your child is a teenager, they should be at the average adult level of about four colds a year.
When you add in the additional average two to three stomach illnesses that kids get a year, however, it can sometimes feel like your child is always sick. Don’t worry! Although each fever or cough might seem like the end of the world, it’s all par for the course in the business of growing up. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common childhood illnesses, as well as tips for reducing your child’s chance of falling under the weather.
The Common Cold
As mentioned above, your child is likely to come down with a cold a couple of times a year. This is because children, especially those of school age, are constantly exposed to new viruses. There are a minimum of 200 different types of cold viruses constantly mutating. You’ll probably notice your children getting sick more often in the winter, not because of the temperature, but because of our tendency to stay indoors in crowded areas.
Although it’s hard to see your child sniffle and cough, colds help them to build important immunities that will keep them healthy the rest of their lives. You can treat most colds at home with fluids, rest, and over the counter pain medicines for fevers. If the fever suddenly spikes or your child is under six months of age, it is advised to make a visit to the doctor, however.
Pinkeye is a common childhood illness largely because it is very contagious and can spread through a household or classroom quickly. Also known as conjunctivitis, pinkeye is the inflammation of tissue lining the eyelids, usually caused by a bacterial infection in younger children. If your child’s eye looks pink or shows signs of discharge or crustiness, you should take him or her to the doctor to get the eye checked out.
Although the infection is pretty painless, you’ll still want to keep your child home from school for at least the first 24 hours after the antibiotic drops have been prescribed. Make sure to also wash clothes and blankets that your child has come in contact with to ensure it doesn’t spread in your home.
Gastroenteritis (Stomach bug)
Most of us have probably suffered from enough stomach bugs to know that they’re no fun. Kids are no exception. This bug is most often caused by the norovirus, which can thrive in child-care centers. The good news is that gastroenteritis usually clears up on its own in under a week with just some rest and TLC, although any stomach illness that lingers for over a week should be brought up with your doctor.
It is important to ensure that your child is getting enough fluids, as vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Give your child small sips of Gatorade, Pedialyte or another electrolyte solution every 15 minutes to ensure that they can keep the liquid down. If your child seems to handle liquids well, you can move on to small portions of simple foods like toast or applesauce.
Although this illness sounds sort of scary, it’s actually very common and easily treated! The telltale sign of hand-foot-mouth disease is painful sores in the throat and mouth, although you may also notice reddish blisters on your child’s hands and feet. This is due to the Coxsackievirus virus that is easily passed from child to child through touch, sneezes, coughs, and more.
There’s no specific treatment for this illness, but your doctor will be able to easily identify it. You can give your child a topical oral anesthetic as well as an over the counter pain reliever like Advil. Since it may hurt to eat, you can also treat your child to ice cream or popsicles. The rash will usually be gone in a week or so, with no lasting damage done.
Ear Infections/Ear Pain
Ear pain and ear infections are some of the most common childhood illnesses. There are many reasons why your child may be experiencing pain in his or her ears, including swimmer’s ear, a skin infection of the ear canal, pressure from a sinus infection, or even as a result of radiating pain from a toothache. If your child complains of ear pain, it’s a good idea to take them to the doctor to get to the bottom of the issue.
For normal middle ear infections, your pediatrician will likely prescribe the antibiotic amoxicillin. The medicine will come in an easy to swallow liquid form — some kids even like the “bubble gum” taste! Other forms of ear infections are often caused by viruses and won’t require antibiotics at all. In these instances, the doctor can help you with pain management strategies until the virus runs its course.
General Tips for Preventing Sickness in Kids (and Adults)
- Keep your hands clean. Encourage regular hand washing. This seems like an obvious tip, but it actually can make a huge difference if your children get into the habit of washing up after they leave school or day care.
- Get active! Studies show that children who engage in regular exercise can reduce their likelihood of getting sick by 20-25%.
- Prioritize a good night’s sleep. Being well rested is so important to overall health in both children and adults. Remember that your children need significantly more sleep than you do and plan their bedtimes accordingly.
- Don’t touch your face! Viruses enter your body through the nose, mouth, and eyes. It can be incredibly difficult to try to get your child to keep their hands off his or her face, but setting up these good habits early will definitely pay off in the long run.
- Eat a healthy diet. This is another seemingly obvious tip, but it’s important for children to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals. These will help boost their immune system so they can fight off illnesses. You may also want to consider introducing foods with probiotics in them, like yogurt, to encourage good digestive health.
If you have any questions about symptoms that your child is experiencing, call our office just to be on the safe side. We will let you know what you should do and if a doctor’s appointment is necessary. We’re here to work with you on helping your child be as healthy as he or she can be!