If your kids are like most, they are going to catch something this fall and winter. So here are the seven most common childhood ailments for parents to watch out for. Read on for some valuable tips on helping your child recover faster, too. Recognize the common symptoms and know when to take your child to the doctor. This advice can make this cold and flu season more manageable for you and your family.
1. The Common Cold
Since it is one of the most common childhood ailments, your child can have up to five colds this year. The best advice is to treat the mild fever, congestion, coughing, and sore throat with lots of fluids and rest. If your child seems uncomfortable, children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the fever. Consult your doctor for the proper medicine and dosage for your child.
Follow your doctor’s directions carefully, as well as the instructions on the medicine bottle. Consult your pediatrician if your child is under six months old. Also, try to avoid cough and cold medicines. Instead, use saline drops or spray to moisturize your child’s nasal passageways.
An aspirator works to remove excess mucus. A cool-mist humidifier can be helpful, but be sure to clean it regularly to prevent mold growth. Most children recover from a cold within five to seven days.
Kids under the age of two are most susceptible to RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, which affects the lungs. In most cases, the symptoms are minor and like those of a cold. But for preemies or children who have a compromised immune system, a congenital heart condition, or chronic lung disease, it can become serious fast. RSV can turn into either bronchiolitis or pneumonia.
About 150,000 children a year enter the hospital due to RSV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Call your pediatrician immediately if your child is wheezing, breathing fast or struggling to breathe. Also, if your child refuses to drink liquors, is extremely lethargic, or develops a bluish tinge on her lips and mouth.
Roseola is usually over by the age of two and almost always by kindergarten. Usually, a child’s roseola symptoms are so minor, most people don’t realize they’re under the weather. However, some children come down with a high fever, coughing, congestion and also, a patchy rash that starts on the chest and spreads out.
Although roseola usually runs its course within a week, contact your pediatrician if your child’s fever spikes or lasts longer than three days. In the meantime, relieve his discomfort with children’s ibuprofen and keep your child home until the rash is gone.
Gastroenteritis is usually much worse than a tummy ache. This illness, better known as the stomach bug, causes diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Many viruses, including norovirus, which often sweeps through childcare centers and schools can cause gastroenteritis.
Most stomach viruses clear up within a few days to a week and require nothing more than rest. Still, make sure your child drinks lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
5. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
The biggest sign of this illness is painful sores in your child’s mouth and throat. The coxsackievirus is most active during the summer and fall. It is highly contagious, spreading through touch, coughing, sneezing and fecal matter. The sores are often accompanied by red blisters on the hands and soles of the feet that last seven to 10 days.
If your child also feels achy, offer children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Ease sore throats with ice pops and cold fluids. Avoid acidic juices, which can sting the mouth and throat. Also, watch for dehydration, since the sores are so uncomfortable, some children resist drinking at all.
6. Strep Throat
The good news is, most babies and toddlers rarely get strep throat. Younger kids are most likely to become infected by streptococcus bacteria if an older sibling has it. Although strep spreads mainly through coughing and sneezing, your child can also get it by touching anything that an infected child has touched. The classic symptom is throat pain that can be so severe that your child will trouble to swallow and even talk. They may develop a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and abdominal pain.
See your doctor if you suspect your child has strep. The doctor can administer a rapid test, which won’t pick up every strep strain, and a throat culture that takes 48 hours but is definitive. Antibiotics can help your child feel better fast, but keep them home for at least another 24 hours after the first dose. That will help to reduce the risk of passing the bacteria to someone else.
7. Influenza or the Flu
Get the flu vaccine early since it takes two weeks to kick in fully. The flu comes on hard and fast. Your child may get a fever of up to 103℉ with headaches, body aches and chills, a sore throat and cough. Sometimes, they also have vomiting and diarrhea. Influenza is a horrible sickness that often lasts for more than a week. Also, it can lead to dangerous complications, including pneumonia.
However, you can greatly reduce your child’s risk by scheduling an annual flu vaccine, which they can get as a shot or as a nasal spray. The vaccine isn’t 100-percent effective because strains of the virus vary each year. But, if your child gets the flu despite being vaccinated, the symptoms should be far less severe.
Childhood Ailments: When to Call the Doctor
The most common childhood ailments run their course without any huge problems. However, for some symptoms and for some kids, it may warrant a consultation with your pediatrician.
Here’s what you should watch for:
- Dehydration: Your child may have sunken eyes or, for babies, a sunken fontanel or soft spot on the head. Some kids will seem extremely lethargic, or the mouth might be sticky or tacky to the touch. Also, beware if your child is urinating fewer than three or four times a day.
- High Fever: In newborns, any elevated temperature warrants a call. For infants 3 to 6 months old, call the doctor if the fever hits 101℉. For older babies and children, the threshold is 103℉.
- Breathing Difficulties: Phone your doctor right away if your child is wheezing, their breathing is fast or labored, or if you notice long pauses between each breath.
- Not Eating: It’s normal for a sick child to have little interest in food. But if your kid is eating or drinking less than half of what they normally would for two days or longer, check in with your doctor.
- Preexisting Conditions: If your child has been asthma, diabetes, a suppressed immune system, or another chronic medical condition, be sure to contact your pediatrician every time they come down with a virus that could compromise their health.
Let’s face it – Illness is a part of childhood, but with these tips, your child will feel better faster. Also, you’ll know when to call the doctor. Remember, if there’s any worry or doubt, don’t hesitate to call your doctor immediately. These childhood ailments can lead to more serious ones, so always be on the watch for them.