If you’re a parent, you know that little children get sick a lot. It takes time for the immune system to mature and fight off these germs, so it’s common for young children to come down with sniffles, coughs, and minor illnesses.
As a parent, here are some common childhood diseases you should be aware of:
1. The Common Cold
Children may get lots of colds throughout the year. Contrary to popular belief, colds are not caused by getting wet or being out in cold weather. Cold viruses are airborne, meaning they’re spread when a sick person coughs or sneezes.
The best way to prevent the common cold is to wash hands regularly and avoid contact with sick individuals when possible.
Symptoms of the common cold include:
- Congestion/runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches and pains
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
2. The Flu
Influenza viruses spread very easily, especially during flu season in the fall and winter months. The flu shares many symptoms with the common cold, but flu symptoms can be more severe.
The most effective way to prevent the flu is to receive a flu vaccine every year. Most children may be squeamish about receiving vaccine shots—but a shot once per year is better than being bedridden for days or even weeks.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- High fever and/or chills
- Severe body aches, pains, and/or headaches
- Sore throat and/or cough
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
If you’re a parent, you may remember chickenpox as being one of the most common childhood illnesses that everybody seemed to get. While chickenpox may only have mild side effects for some, it can still lead to severe complications or even death in children with weak immune systems.
Thankfully, chickenpox can be prevented with the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine.
The chickenpox virus is an airborne disease, meaning it spreads easily when an infected person sneezes and coughs. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- A rash on the arms, legs, torso, and/or face, which may appear as raised red bumps or blisters
- Fatigue or unexplained tiredness
- Lack of appetite
4. Strep Throat
Strep throat (streptococcal pharyngitis) is a bacterial infection that causes a sore, swollen throat. Children should see a doctor for strep throat because most cases require medication to get better. Strep bacteria can travel through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or it may be transferred on the surfaces of shared objects.
In addition to regular hand washing, kids should avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking glasses, and food with others. Wash lunchboxes and utensils in hot, soapy water every day.
Symptoms of strep throat include:
- Sore or itchy throat
- Red or inflamed tonsils
- Trouble swallowing
It’s important for your child to take all of the antibiotics prescribed to them, even if they’re feeling better. That’s because some bacteria may remain after symptoms disappear. The bacteria can then multiply and make your child sick again.
5. Pink Eye
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is the inflammation of the eye and inner eyelid. Pink eye can have several causes, but is most commonly caused by viruses or bacteria that are transferred from a child’s hands to their eyes. Other kinds of conjunctivitis are caused by reactions to allergens like pollen, ragweed, or dust in the air.
Pink eye can be successfully avoided through regular hand washing and taking any prescribed allergy medications. Remind your kids to wash their hands after coming in from outside, after sharing toys, and before touching their faces or removing contact lenses.
Symptoms of pink eye include:
- Pink or reddish discoloration of the white part of the eye
- Itchiness or irritation of the eye
- A gritty feeling, as if there’s sand or another irritant in the eye
- Discharge from the eye
- Excessive tear production
- An eyelid that feels “sticky” or swollen
- Blurry vision
A doctor will typically prescribe a special eye drop or ointment or antibiotic pill. Kids may also feel better with a warm compress over their eyes. Don’t let kids touch or rub their eyes—that can make the problem worse.
Pinkeye may be uncomfortable, but it usually doesn’t cause long-term complications. If symptoms get worse or don’t go away after a week of treatment, talk to your doctor for more options.
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