With the advent of vaccines and improvement in healthcare, epidemics of acute, highly-infective childhood diseases have become significantly declined in most parts of the world; all thanks to effective vaccines. In spite of that, childhood illnesses may still come in the form of common flu and cold. They also exist in the form of mysterious diseases like Kawasaki. Unlike deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough, measles, and diphtheria, most of other childhood diseases in the present times are easy to treat if diagnosed in the early stages.
7 Common Childhood Diseases
As a parent, it is crucial to know about the common ailments that may hit your child. Being well aware of the symptoms, you’d be able to take appropriate action at the right time – in fact, you might even prevent these illnesses from affecting your child.
Read on to find out about common childhood diseases along with their symptoms, causes, and prevention strategies.
1- Ear Infections
Children are vulnerable to ear infections owing to their small and horizontally positioned auditory tubes. These tubes run from each ear connecting the ear to the back of the throat. Infection occurs when these tubes get blocked or swollen.
Causes of auditory tubes’ blockade include:
- Sinus Infections
- Excess mucus
- Changes in air pressure
Infants who are bottle-fed are most likely to develop ear infections as compared to those who breastfeed. Other risk factors include exposure to cigarette smoke, recent illness or ear infection, pacifier use, climate and altitude changes.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
The common symptoms of ear infections include fussiness in young infants, hearing loss, a persisting feeling of pressure inside the ear, ear-drainage, mild pain, and discomfort inside the ear. These symptoms may be sporadic or prolonged. They may occur in one or both ears; however, double ear infection results in severe pain. Take your child to the doctor when you notice these symptoms, especially when the child is younger than six months.
Mild ear infections diminish without intervention. However, the symptoms can be troublesome for the child. There are a few methods to alleviate the ear infection symptoms like applying a warm cloth of the infected ear or using prescription medicine like ibuprofen or ear drops to relieve pain. If the symptoms prolong or get worse, consult with a doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics.
As the dictum goes, prevention is better than cure. Eliminating the risk factors, as much as you can, can help prevent the ailment. Here are a few practices that can render your kid safe from an ear infection:
- Avoid crowded areas
- Forego pacifiers with small children, especially infants
- Breastfeed infants
- Protect your child from secondhand smoke
- Keep immunizations updated.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Children under the age of five are the most common victims of croup, which is a viral condition that generally occurs during the fall and winter. It causes swelling around the vocal cords and is the reason behind a barking-seal-like cough. Croup starts as a harmless cold and leads to severe conditions. Several viruses are responsible for this ailment.
Causes of Croup include parainfluenza virus (common cold), adenovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Apart from these viruses, several allergies, bacterial infections, and inhaling irritants can also cause Croup.
Croup symptoms are more severe in the kids under the age of three. Common symptoms include fever, heavy breathing, barking cough, hoarse voice, and cold symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing. If your child has blue or gray skin around the fingernails, nose, mouth, or is making high-pitch sounds while breathing, having difficulty swallowing, or having trouble breathing at all, you need to rush to the hospital for immediate medical care.
Usually, croup lasts more than a week, recurring frequently. It is sometimes accompanied by a higher-than-103.5 fever. You should bring this to the doctor’s attention.
Cool mist humidifiers and prescription pain relievers can help a lot in mild cases of croup. In the severe cases, a doctor may recommend steroid medications to clear your child’s airways, enabling the child to breathe easily.
3- Hand-foot-and-mouth Disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease. It can be transmitted through direct contact with unwashed hands, surfaces contaminated with feces, an infected person’s saliva, respiratory secretions, or stool.
It can affect people of all ages, but the most common victims of this condition are children under the age of five.
As mentioned earlier, this disease spreads through bodily fluids. Risk factors for this condition include age (infants or young children are more prone to it), environment (childcare centers are main culprits behind this), and poor hygiene practices.
Symptoms of this disease appear three to seven days following the initial infection. This duration is called the incubation period. The symptoms include fever, sore throat, poor appetite, painful red blisters in the mouth, red rash on hand and soles of the feet, headache, and fever. A sore throat and fever are the first symptoms to appear, the rest of those shows up later.
Usually, the infection goes away in seven to ten days without any treatment. Nevertheless, the doctor may recommend specific methods to ease the symptoms. These methods include prescription ointments to soothe rashes and blisters, pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve a headache, and medication syrups to alleviate a sore throat.
Conjunctivitis or pinkeye is another common childhood disease you should look out for. If your child’s eyes have become red or pink in color, itchy, and crusty, he may have developed pinkeye. It occurs when a virus same as common cold, allergen, bacterium, or an irritant inflames the transparent covering of eye’s white part, i.e., conjunctiva.
Viral and bacterial pink eye are contagious, and the causes may be a virus similar to a common cold or a bacteria responsible for common ear infections. As for the allergic pink eye, it happens due to exposure to an outside allergen like pollen.
Pink eye symptoms include itching, discolored eyes, gritty feeling making the child feel if there is sand in his/her eye, watery eyes, white, green, or yellow discharge that crusts around the eye during sleep, photosensitivity, and swollen eyelids. Other symptoms include a runny nose and sneezing.
These symptoms may appear in one or both eyes.
Treatment of pink eye depends upon whether the disease is bacterial, viral, or allergic. Doctors recommend topical antibiotics to treat bacterial conjunctivitis. The child improves within a few days; however, the entire course of the medications needs to be completed.
As for the viral pink eye, no medicines can treat it. Nevertheless, certain home remedies can manage the symptoms of viral conjunctivitis, which are:
- Clean the eyes with a wet cloth regularly.
- Use cold or warm compress on the eyes, as it will have a soothing effect.
5- Fifth Disease
Fifth disease, also known as ‘slapped cheek disease,’ is a viral ailment that causes a red rash on the legs, arms, and cheeks, as the name suggests. In children, it is mild and common, but it can be severe for pregnant women or people with a weak immune system. There is no medication cutting the disease’s period short.
An airborne virus, parvovirus B19 is the cause of the fifth disease. This virus spreads through respiratory secretions and saliva. Children who are in the elementary school are more likely to catch it. Nonetheless, people of all ages can catch it. It is usually prevalent in spring, winter, and early summer.
Symptoms of the fifth disease mainly include a headache, low-grade fever, nausea, sore throat, fatigue, stuffy nose, and runny nose.
For people (including kids) who have a healthy immune system, treatment is not necessary. Doctors may recommend acetaminophen to relieve the symptoms, but your child’s body will fight off the virus by itself. The process takes one to three weeks generally.
You can help with the process by making your child drink as many fluids as possible and having extra rest. Moreover, your child can go back to school when there is a red rash on the check as it is a sign that the disease is no longer contagious.
Rotavirus is another disease that is common in children under the age of five. It is easily transmissible and highly contagious. Adults can also catch the infection, but the symptoms will not be severe. According to Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), before the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in 2006, this condition was the primary cause of diarrhea-related deaths in children having the age of five and under.
Despite the fact that medications cannot treat this disease, medical intervention may be necessary to prevent a life-threatening situation.
Symptoms of the rotavirus appear within two days of exposure to the virus. The major symptom of this disease is severe diarrhea. Other symptoms include vomiting, irritability, dehydration, severe fatigue, black or tarry stools, high fever, stools with blood or pus, and abdominal pain.
As dehydration is the major concern in children having rotavirus, look out for these signs for your child may be losing electrolytes: dry mouth, reduced urinary frequency, cool skin, lack of tears when crying, and sunken eyes.
No antiviral medications, prescription anti-diarrheal drugs, or antibiotics can make the rotavirus go away. However, one can alleviate the severity by staying hydrated and comfortable. Here are a few things to do while the virus is working its way out of the system:
- Drink fluids aplenty
- Eat broth-based soups
- Avoid fatty and sugary foods as they worsen the diarrhea
- Eat a diet of bland foods like white toast
- Take fluids with electrolytes like Pedialyte
You should seek emergency medical attention if your child has:
- Frequent diarrhea for 24 hours or more
- Constant vomiting
- 104° or higher fever
- Unresponsive composure or lethargy
- Incapacity to keep fluids down
7- Kawasaki Diseases
Kawasaki disease is a mysterious and rare ailment that targets kids who are below the age of five. Also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, it inflames the arteries, veins, and capillaries. It also impacts the lymph nodes and is the major cause of heart disease in children.
The exact cause of this ailment is unknown hitherto. Researchers suggest that a mixture of environmental factors and genetics can be the cause of KD as it occurs during specific seasons and mostly affects children of a particular descent, i.e., Asian and Pacific.
Although researchers state that the diseases cannot be inherited, siblings of an individual with KD have ten times more chances to have this ailment.
This disease develops in stages with several prominent symptoms. It usually appears during spring and late winter. However, some cases of KD have been reported in mid-summer in the Asian countries
Early stage symptoms may continue till two weeks. They include a rash on the torso and groin, high fever that prolongs for five days or more, bright red or swollen lips, bloodshot eyes without crusting, ‘strawberry tongue’ that looks bright with red spots, swollen hands and feet, swollen lymph nodes, and red palms and soles of the feet.
The victim may develop heart problems during this time.
Late symptoms appear within two weeks following the fever. The skin on the hands and soles may start peeling and coming off in sheets. Some kids also develop joint pain or arthritis during this stage. Other symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, temporary hearing loss, and an enlarged gallbladder.
Those who have been diagnosed with KD should start getting the treatment immediately in order to prevent heart damage. The first-line treatment entails an infusion of antibodies over 12 hours. The patient should receive this treatment within ten days of the fever. Following the infusion, the patient should take a daily dosage of aspirin for the next four days.
Furthermore, some children may need more time for treatment to prevent heart attack or a blocked artery. In these cases, daily antiplatelet aspirin dose has to be given to the patient until he/she has a normal echocardiograph.
Providing home care to your child and remaining aware of the potential ailments victimizing your child is a good thing. However, it is not an alternative to the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, consult with a pediatrician if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms in your child.