It's hard to see your child suffer. Learn what you need to know about five common childhood illnesses so you can take good care of your kids.
Sometimes, it can seem like your kids are just getting sick all the time—from chicken pox to skin rashes, to the common cold, everything is fair game when they're young. Even though certain childhood illnesses are just a part of growing up, no parent wants to see their little ones suffer.
The good news is that many of these common illnesses are preventable with proper vaccinations. Immunizations for diseases such as chicken pox, the flu, measles, whooping cough, and other conditions are available at a Rite Aid near you. Ask your doctor or your Rite Aid Pharmacist about getting your kids immunizations up-to-date so they can stay protected.
What's the best way to care for your child when sickness strikes? Knowing the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for the usual culprits can help you identify illnesses earlier and start treatment sooner. Here are five common childhood illnesses to be on the lookout for.
Not all sore throats are strep throat. In fact, according to the CDC, most are not. Throats can be sore for a variety of reasons including allergies, cold air, and post-nasal drip. But if your child's sore throat is accompanied by a fever lasting more than a few days, enlarged lymph nodes, and white bumps (or pus) on the back of the throat, they should be checked by a doctor for strep.
- Treatment: Antibiotics may be prescribed by a physician following a positive diagnosis.
Not surprisingly, the first sign of an ear infection is ear pain. Other signs include ear pulling, fever, sleeplessness, excessive crying, fluid draining from the ear(s), headache, and problems with hearing. There are two main types of ear infections. One is an infection of the ear canal, usually called "swimmer's ear." It's best to take your child to the doctor if they have this infection, as they may need to be treated with ear drops that inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. If the infection becomes severe, it may require antibiotics. The more common type of ear infection, which your doctor can diagnose, is a middle ear infection caused by a cold or virus.
- Treatment: Antibiotics may be prescribed by a physician if deemed necessary.
Diarrhea and Stomach Bugs
Often, these two unpleasant illnesses go hand in hand. A stomach bug, or gastrointestinal infection, usually causes diarrhea (runny, loose bowels) along with vomiting. Symptoms may include stomach cramps and nausea. There are a variety of ways to get gastrointestinal infections, which is why they're so common. Some infections cause vomiting first, followed by diarrhea, while others may cause only one of the two symptoms.
- Treatment: Depending on the illness, you may just have to ride it out and wait for it to pass. Call your doctor if symptoms persist longer than two to three days, or there is blood in the stool or vomit. Dehydration is common so use an oral electrolyte solution to keep your child hydrated.
Hand, Foot and Mouth (HFM) Disease
This common childhood disease causes fever and sores. Flat, red spots appear in the mouth (these may be painful), on the palms and soles, and sometimes the elbows and "diaper area." It can get uncomfortable as some of the sores on the body may blister. There are a number of viruses that cause this easily spreadable disease and it's most common in children under five. In young kids, the first sign may be that they stop eating or drinking because the sores in their mouth make it difficult to do so.
- Treatment: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, such as Children's Tylenol or Children's Motrin. Otherwise, there is no medication for this condition. It should go away on its own within one to two weeks.
Anyone can get pinkeye, aka conjunctivitis, but it's most common in young kids. Bacterial or viral infections, allergies, and irritants (e.g., the chlorine in a pool) can cause this condition. Signs and symptoms include red or pink, itchy, inflamed eyes. You may also notice crust or pus in the eye, a gritty feeling in the eyes, crusty eyelids or lashes, sensitivity to light, or eye discharge. The cause will determine the treatment, so you should take your child to a doctor to get it checked out.
- Treatment: Pinkeye caused by a virus goes away without treatment. If an allergy is the cause, an anti-allergy medicine may be prescribed. Pinkeye caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. Use a cold compress and acetaminophen or ibuprofen to make your child feel more comfortable until the eye infection goes away.
By Joelle Klein
University of Utah Health Sciences, Should I be Worried if My Child Gets Sick Too Frequently?
Duke Health, Is it a Bacterial Infection or Virus?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sore Throat
Parenting.com, Stomach Flu Treatment & Prevention Guide
The Nemours Foundation, Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease
OnHealth, The Facts on Childhood Illnesses
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Pinkeye
HealthyChildren.org, 10 Common Childhood Illnesses and Their Treatments
The Nemours Foundation, Pinkeye
American Academy of Ophthalmology, Parents' Quick Guide to Pink Eye
American Academy of Otolaryngology, Swimmer's Ear