Having a sick child is no fun, no matter how old your child is. Knowing what illnesses to look for, the symptoms related to them, and how to treat them, will make your life a little easier when it comes to dealing with a sick kid. These are just 10 of the most common childhood illnesses, keep in mind that there are a lot of other illnesses out there that your child could have.
- The common cold. You know the deal with this one because you most likely deal with them yourself. In kids, it is a little harder to deal with because you can’t give them cold medicines when they are under 2. Colds have many different symptoms that can range from a cough and stuffy nose to a full blown fever with sore throat and your child refusing to eat. The best solution with a cold is to do your best to keep your child hydrated as that will help keep the fever down and the mucous thin. Kids usually bounce back rather quickly and can bounce back from a cold in 5-10 days, sometimes sooner. You can expect anywhere from 3-7 colds during cold and flu season, more for kids who go to daycare or school.
- Gastroenteritis. This is just a fancy name for vomiting and diarrhea. In a child that is still in diapers this can be especially miserable, and for kids who don’t know how to vomit in a bucket, it can cause a lot of messes to clean up. Sometimes in these situations you can give your child a bath, and change the water frequently. This will help keep your little one from getting a sore bottom. Any child with vomiting and diarrhea can get dehydrated quickly, so it is important to try to keep your child hydrated. Depending on their age, try giving your little one pedialyte to restore electrolytes and rehydrate (if they can keep it down).
- Ear infection. Another very common illness is ear infections. If your infant has an ear infection, she may start pulling on her ear, refusing to drink her bottle or breastfeed, and have a fever. Older kids will just complain that their ear hurts or that it hurts to swallow and may have a fever. There could be some drainage, swelling, and redness of the ear. Sometime your little one will want to lay with their ear on your chest because the pressure and heat helps with the pain. Some ear infections may require antibiotics, so you should see your doctor if you suspect your little one has an ear infection. Giving acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with fevers and pain.
- RSV. Respiratory Synctial Virus does just what it sounds like, it affects the respiratory system, mostly the lungs. Children under 2 are affected the most, with infants under a year having the most serious symptoms. There are over 100,000 babies admitted to the hospital due to RSV. RSV can become very serious, so if you notice your baby is having difficulty breathing, wheezing, breathing fast, struggling to breathe, refuses to eat, or starts to turn bluish/purple around the lips, you need to go to the ER or see your pediatrician right away.
- Roseola. Roseola is one of the more difficult illnesses, only because you don’t know it’s roseola until it’s over. Sometimes your child will have roseola and you won’t even know your child is sick. Other kids will have a very high fever, sometimes as high as 105 degrees fahrenheit, with no other symptoms, then after several days of fever, your child breaks out in a rash head to toe. The rash lasts a few hours, up to 24 hours, and then it’s all over. Most kids have roseola by the time they are 2 years old. The biggest thing when dealing with roseola is to keep your child hydrated and try to control the fever for comfort.
- Croup. Croup affects the voicebox and windpipe and can last up to a week. It usually starts with a sudden onset of a “barky” cough which gets worse at night, and it can be accompanied by other cold symptoms. To help with the symptoms you can use a cool mist humidifier or run a hot shower and sit with your child in the steamy bathroom. If it is cool outside you can dress your child in a coat and take her outside. Breathing in cool moist air will help keep your child’s airway from swelling too much. If you think your child is having difficulty breathing you should take them to the doctor or ER for further evaluation.
- Strep throat. Though it is uncommon in babies and toddlers, this is a very common illness among school age children, and if a sibling has strep throat, then other siblings are likely to get it. The most common symptom is a sore throat, the pain can be so bad that your child may refuse to eat or drink and even have difficulty talking. Your child may also have a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and even abdominal pain. If you suspect your child has strep throat you will need to see your child’s doctor so they can test your child and prescribe antibiotics if needed. If you child does need antibiotics, make sure to keep them home for at least 24 hours to keep them from spreading it to others, even if your child feels better. Again, try to keep your child hydrated.
- Chickenpox. Even though chickenpox can be prevented with a vaccine, your little one may still get the illness. Children who have not been vaccinated are at the greatest risk, as are pregnant women if they never had chickenpox and were not vaccinated. If you suspect your little one has chickenpox, keep them away from anyone who has not been vaccinated, especially newborns and pregnant women. The biggest challenge is to keep your child from scratching as this can open the blisters and potentially cause an infection. If you suspect one of the blisters has become infected, you need to visit your doctor for treatment.
- Pinkeye. Pinkeye can spread rapidly through your house, so if you suspect your child has pinkeye, make sure you go to the doctor as soon as possible to get antibiotics if needed and make sure everyone is washing their hands. Pinkeye causes inflammation of the eyelids and causes redness, yellowish drainage, crusty eyes, and blurry vision. If your child needs antibiotic eye drops, keep your child home for 24 hours to help stop the spread of the bacteria.
- Hand-foot-mouth disease. This is one of the most difficult childhood illnesses because it can be painful and it has to run it’s course. This virus is most common in the summer and fall and is extremely contagious. If your child goes to daycare and one kid has it, chances are most of the kids will get it. This will start out with the palms of the hands and soles of the feet being bright red, and eventually this will turn into blisters in the mouth, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It can last seven to ten days. As with anything else the most important thing is to keep your child hydrated, which is difficult because of the pain. You can help with this by giving your child ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Cold drinks and popsicles can help soothe the pain as well.
Chances are, if your child is sick, you may end up with it too because kids love to share! The best thing you can do is do what you can to take care of yourself and your child. Once you have kids, you should always be prepared for any illness because you don’t want to have to run out for supplies when your child wakes up at 2 AM vomiting.