Illnesses are common enough in adults, but when it comes to children, whose immune systems haven’t had a chance to fully develop yet, it can be a little harder to keep them healthy. In addition, children don’t tend to take care of their hygiene as diligently and are thus more likely to spread contagious illnesses.
As a diligent parent, you need to care for your child in case they get sick. To prepare yourself for the worst, these eight most common childhood diseases should be on your warning list:
1. Hand-foot-mouth disease
This is a fairly common childhood disease for kids under the age of five, and it is highly contagious. Although commonly caused by coxsackievirus, it can be caused by other viruses. Once a child has had hand-foot-mouth disease from one virus, they are immune to that virus, but would still be able to contract it from a different virus.
The most common symptoms are sores on the mouth, red spots on the hands and feet, a sore throat and fever.
Once a rite of passage for almost all children, chickenpox can now be prevented with the varicella-zoster vaccine. In general it is a fairly common, routine illness, however it can have complications including skin infections and pneumonia.
Those who have had chickenpox are at risk of getting shingles as adults, so it is best to avoid this common childhood disease if possible. Chickenpox can be recognized by the itchy rash of red spots which blister and ultimately scab, as well as fever, loss of appetite, headache, and malaise.
3. Food allergies
In general, there are a number of foods which children tend to be allergic to. The most common allergies include milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, walnuts, cashews, and other tree nuts, and insect stings.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include a skin rash or hives, vomiting, difficulty breathing and swallowing, an upset stomach, and coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, and fainting. Allergies are more common in children whose families have a history of allergies, but they can also develop in children with no hereditary background of allergies.
Although measles is preventative through vaccine, there have been recent outbreaks as a result of non-vaccinated individuals. Symptoms include sleepiness, irritability, red eyes, a cough, a runny nose, and a fever. Eventually, small white spots called Koplik spots start to appear in the mouth and throat. Then, a blotchy, red rash starts on the face and spreads over the body.
These common childhood diseases are highly contagious and can be spread for a period of 8 days – four before the rash appears and four after. In most cases, measles spreads before the rash appears, when the person has yet to discover they even have it, and just think they have a flu or a cold. Complications can be fatal, so it is crucial that parents who think their children have measles contact a medical professional immediately.
Mumps is also preventable, and the vaccine used is usually the same one as the measles (it is a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine). Again, mumps has been reintroduced as a risk mostly for unvaccinated people. It is discernable by pain in the salivary glands on one or both sides, pain while chewing and swallowing, achy muscles, loss of appetite, fever, weakness, and fatigue.
Mumps is highly contagious for about nine days. Although a generally routine illness that just has to run its course, some complications can make it fatal.
6. Strep throat
Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called group A streptococcus. Often it is not possible to visually identify strep throat, although visual signs can show up as white or red spots on the tonsils. Strep throat can affect children in a variety of ways including sore throat, fever, red and swollen tonsils, trouble swallowing, and other symptoms of general illness. Most frequently, children will require antibiotics.
7. Ear infection
One of the most common reasons parents bring their children to the doctor is for an ear infection. Even though anybody can get an ear infection, they are most common in children. Ear infections are caused by bacteria causing an inflammation of the middle ear and may require antibiotics to cure.
However, many ear infections clear up on their own, and a doctor may just prescribe some pain killers to help the child tolerate the pain in the meantime.
The difference between croup and laryngitis is just the age of the patient. In children under five years old, it is called croup. In children five and older, it is called laryngitis. It is an infection of the throat and vocal cords, and usually sounds terrible, but will run its own course in about a week.
The illness begins with cold-like symptoms developing into a fever and cough that sounds like a bark. Difficulty breathing and a red throat and larynx are other symptoms. Complications include severe difficulty breathing, which should be treated in a hospital, however it is true that it usually sounds much worse than it actually is.