Children are very susceptible to illnesses, in part because their immune systems are not fully mature.
Breastfeeding of course provides some immunity to common illnesses, but nowadays most children are weaned by the time they are 1 year old.
Children also have a habit of exploring the world around them with their mouths and their hands. Anything that comes into contact with their mouth and hands can potentially cause an illness.
The good news is that the more your child is exposed the stronger their immune systems will become, and their ability to fight off infection in the future.
Some of the most common childhood illnesses and symptoms to be on the look out are listed below:
Colds/Cough – Cold and coughs are usually caused by viral infections, thus must be spread by person to person contact, not through the weather alone. Common symptoms of a cold include a stuffy nose, cough, possible sore throat and occasionally a temperature. Colds can become more severe and result in bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections. Signs that a cold is becoming worse and may need medical treatment include green or yellow nasal discharge, fever lasting more than one day or a persistent and wheezy cough.
Flu – The flu is characterized by headaches, chills, muscle aches and a high fever. Respiratory symptoms may also develop, and a feeling of fatigue which may last for several weeks after initial symptoms. The flu is also spread from person to person contact usually with respiratory secretions of someone who is sick. Antibiotics can’t treat the flu. Treatment often consists of rest, fluids and Tylenol.
Ear Infections – This is perhaps the most common infection affecting children. Ear infections happen when bacteria enter the ear from the nose or throat. Usually an ear infection is accompanied by a fever and possibly pus draining from the ear. Symptoms may include pain, fever, dizziness and irritability. Usually Tylenol will provide some relieve. Though ear infections aren’t contagious, the viral infections that cause them are. Some children will develop repetitious ear infections, usually associated with a problem with the tube that passes between the throat and the middle ear.
Chicken Pox – Chicken pox is probably the most common infectious disease that affects preschool and school age children. Symptoms usually include an itchy rash and blisters, sometimes coupled with a fever. Chicken pox can also be transmitted to adults, and is usually a much more serious illness. The good news is a chicken pox vaccine is available for babies 1 year of age or older.
One of the best things you can do to help your child is try to minimize their exposure to illness by encouraging frequent hand washing.
Most illnesses are spread when a child touches something the virus has settled on and then touches their face.
Practicing good habits at home will help encourage your child to limit their exposure and the spread of illness to other family members.