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, eventually all children will come down with some sort of illness. Children usually start getting sick after they’ve reached six months of age, and the immunity they’ve received from their mother begins to fade. At this point, the child must start building up their own immune system.
The average toddler/preschooler will have about seven or eight colds per year. Luckily, this number starts to go down as your child gets older, 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.
Pediatricians in The Woodlands & Spring, TX
When you add in the additional average two to three stomach illnesses that children 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 process 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.
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 germs and viruses. There are at least 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 during cold weather.
Although it’s hard to see your child sniffle and cough, colds help them build important immunities that will keep them healthy for the rest of their lives. You can treat most colds at home with fluids, rest, and over-the-counter pain medicines for fevers. However, if the fever suddenly spikes or your child is under six months of age, it is advised to make a visit to the doctor.
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 them to a pediatrician 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 administered. Make sure to also wash clothes and blankets that your child has come in contact with to ensure it doesn’t spread to other individuals in your home.
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. Any stomach illness that lingers for over a week should be brought up with your child’s pediatrician.
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 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 scary, it’s actually very common and easily treatable! 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 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 pain and ear infections are some of the most common childhood illnesses. There are many reasons why your child may be experiencing pain in their 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 consult with a pediatrician to get to the bottom of the issue.
For normal middle ear infections, your pediatrician will likely prescribe an antibiotic called 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 don’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)
While ensuring your child never gets sick is impossible, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk. Here are some tips you and your child can incorporate to keep both of you healthy:
- Keep your hands clean, and encourage regular hand washing. This seems like an obvious tip, but it can actually make a huge difference if your child gets into the habit of washing up before eating meals and after playing outside, using the restroom, sharing toys with peers, and coming home from 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 extremely important to overall health in both children and adults. Remember that your child needs significantly more sleep than you do. Plan their bedtime 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 their face, but setting up good habits early on 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. This will help boost their immune system, so they can fight off illnesses. You may also want to consider introducing foods with probiotics, like yogurt, to encourage good digestive health.
If you have any questions about symptoms that your child is experiencing, call our office at (281) 296-7770. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to even the most minor symptoms. We will let you know what you should do and if a doctor’s appointment is necessary. We’re here to work with you to keep your child as healthy as they can be!