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Common Childhood Illnesses: A Guide

2017 September 14

As someone with young children in your care daily, it’s important to have a basic understanding of common childhood illnesses and how to treat them.

Here are 5 common illnesses, their symptoms and how to treat them:

  • The Common Cold – The common cold is easy to catch and difficult to prevent, making it the most common illness of both children and adults. You can help to prevent children from catching the common cold by encouraging them to wash their hands regularly, especially after playing outside and using the bathroom. The common cold is spread by germs that enter the body through the mouth or nose and so using hand-sanitiser and washing regularly is a good place to start. Children can take child-specific paracetamol or ibuprofen to help relieve the symptoms of the common cold, whilst also drinking plenty of fluids, and let’s not forget the trusty bowl of chicken soup! Ensure that you check medicine labels before administering.
  • Croup – Croup is a particularly unpleasant respiratory infection that’s mostly common in very young infants and babies. Croup is usually worse at night, or if a child is upset and crying. A fever, runny nose and cough are the symptoms of croup and as the upper airways become more inflamed a barking cough is often the result. Rest and plenty of fluids is the answer to croup, along with children’s ibuprofen for the pain and inflammation.  
  • Slapped Cheek Syndrome – Also known as ‘Fifth Disease’, slapped cheek syndrome is usually indicated by a bright red rash across the child’s face alongside a runny nose, fever and mild headache. The rash usually follows a few days after the cold-like symptoms and should go away within a few days if the child has a strong immune system. Children with weak or compromised immune systems should be taken to see the doctor for further advice and to prevent the condition from worsening.
  • Ear Infection – Ear infections are common companions to the common cold and other respiratory infections. Ear infections can cause pain and even temporary deafness and it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor may prescribe either painkillers or antibiotics depending upon the severity of the infection.
  • Chicken Pox – Chicken pox is highly contagious and if one of your child’s friends has it, chances are your child will have it also. Children are contagious one or two days before the rash shows up and until the blisters have gone, which makes it almost impossible to prevent. The itchy blisters are unpleasant for children but can be soothed with calamine lotion and other medicines. Cool, damp cloths should be used to relieve heat as well as loose, cool clothing. Children should be kept out of the sun to reduce itching and chances of burning. Adults caring for children with chicken pox should take care if they haven’t had the disease or the vaccination in the past as it can be extremely dangerous for adults and teenagers to contract the disease, with scarring being permanent for adults.

Remember that you should always consult a doctor if you are unsure of any symptoms your child may be displaying. The illnesses listed above are common and usually quite mild for children with strong immune systems. Regular hand-washing, use of sanitiser, healthy eating and regular exercise can help to keep these illnesses at bay.

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