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During a child’s first few years of life, minor illnesses are a common occurrence. Germs spread easily in locations that children frequent, such as schools and daycares. As a result, it's likely your child will contract at least one or two common childhood ailments. Most are simple and easily treatable, though some may require medical attention.

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Common Cold

More than 200 viruses can lead to the common cold, though the rhinovirus is the most common. Symptoms include a runny nose, congestion, and cough and can last up to 10 days. Extra rest and fluids are the best treatments. Nose sprays or drops and humidifiers can ease stuffy noses. For children over the age of two, mentholated rubs on the chest help soothe coughing.

little girl blowing her nose
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Sore Throat

In most cases, a virus causes sore throats, meaning antibiotics — which are for bacterial infections — are not effective. Children may experience a cough and runny nose in addition to a sore throat. Drinking water can soothe soreness or scratchiness and most of the discomfort improves within three to five days. If the sore throat does not improve after that time, the child may need to see a doctor.

mother feeling neck on little girl with sore throat
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Ear Infection

Five out of six children will experience an ear infection by the time they are three years old. Inflammation, usually due to bacteria trapped in the middle ear, leads to the infection, which may occur alongside a cold or sore throat. Pulling or tugging at the ear is one of the most common signs in children who cannot express the pain verbally. Crying and irritability, fever, and fluid draining from the ear are also symptoms.

Some infections require antibiotics, especially if the child is between six months to two years.

little girl holding her sore ear, infection concept
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Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection of the urethra, bladder, or kidneys are not always obvious. High fever with no other symptoms is a strong indication of a UTI, and girls experience them more often than boys. The child may complain of burning during urination, abdominal pain, or side or back pain. Foul-smelling, cloudy, or bloody urine is also a sign, along with an urgent need to urinate.

A seven to 14-day round of antibiotics is the usual treatment.

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Impetigo

A highly contagious skin infection, impetigo mainly affects young children and infants. Staphylococcus organisms cause red sores to appear on the face, mostly around the mouth, nose, hands, and feet. It spreads when a child comes into contact with an infected person or the items an infected person touches. Within seven days, the sores burst and develop amber or honey-colored crusts. Physicians prescribe antibiotics to control the spread.

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Other Skin Infections

A variety of skin conditions can affect children. Signs include honey-colored crust on a rash, fever blisters, and swollen, red bumps, streaks, or areas of redness. A fever, flu-like symptoms, pain, or swollen lymph nodes can also point to a skin infection. There are several different types of skin infections:

  • Fungal: usually in the diaper area or between toes
  • Viral: measles, rubella, warts, or molluscum contagiosum
  • Rashes: chickenpox, mumps, fifth disease
  • Parasitic: scabies or lice
little toddler girl scratching her itchy arm
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Bronchitis

A virus causes bronchitis or a chest cold. An infection of the central airways of the lungs, this condition usually lasts no more than three weeks. Coughing is the primary symptom, along with chest soreness, headache, body aches, fatigue, and sore throat.

Fluids, rest, a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer, nasal sprays, and breathing in steam from a bowl of hot water or a shower can help ease symptoms.

little girl breathing in steam for illness
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Sinusitis

A child may develop bacterial sinusitis when bacteria become trapped in the nasal sinuses. Symptoms mimic those of a cold. If a child develops persistent bad breath or a thick yellow nasal discharge, the physician may prescribe antibiotics. Viral sinusitis usually accompanies a cold, and allergic sinusitis appears with allergies such as hay fever.

A warm washcloth over the face soothes headaches or sinus pain. Cool-mist humidifiers help with congestion.

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Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (HIB)

The bacteria causes many infections including H. influenzae type B (Hib). Hib is rare in countries like the U.S., due to a vaccine developed in the late 1980s. Though little is known about transmission, researchers know the bacteria enter through the nose and mouth and may not cause symptoms for a long while. If the infection advances, it can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, cellulitis, and sepsis. Physicians generally perform lab tests to confirm a diagnosis.

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Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye," is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the eyeball and lines the eyelids. Because there are several types, consult a physician before attempting treatment.

  • Bacterial: Red or pink itchy eyes, greenish or yellowish discharge, crusty eyes after sleeping
  • Viral: Pink, swollen, sensitive to light, excessive watering in one or both eyes
  • Allergic: Excessive tearing, itching, and redness, usually in both eyes.
  • Chemical: Red, watery eyes, often occurs after swimming in a chlorinated pool
  • Immune-mediated: A symptom of systemic diseases, such as Kawasaki disease
little girl with pink eye or conjunctivitis

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.