Although sickness is common during childhood, caring for a sick child can be stressful causing uncertainty about how best to treat your child’s illness and when to see a doctor. Here are a few common childhood conditions and tips on how to manage these situations so that your child receives the best support.
Coughs and colds: Coughs are commonly caused by colds and are usually self-limiting. You should not worry unless your child has difficulty breathing or feeding. If a cough is severe or prolonged, it should be evaluated by a doctor who will rule out or identify conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, croup, or inhalation of a foreign body. Also, you should see a doctor if your child is overly tired, has coughing only at night or has a high temperature. Colds are caused by viruses and are common in children. As they grow, children develop immunity and the incidence of cold reduces.
Fever: Children mostly get fevers due to infections, but it can also occur with excessive clothing, teething and following vaccinations. The raised body temperature makes it difficult for bacteria and viruses to survive. Fevers usually last a few days. You should only be concerned if fever is unusually prolonged, accompanied by drowsiness or lack of energy, or if your child is younger than 3 months. It is important to make sure your child drinks plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Ear infections are common in babies and toddlers, often following a cold. Your child may cry or pull at the ears. Do not use ear buds or put any drops in the ear unless your doctor advises it. Most ear infections are viral in origin and resolve on their own without the use of antibiotics.
Vomiting or diarrhea may be due to an infection, food poisoning or food allergy. This is concerning in babies as the fluid loss can lead to dehydration and urinary difficulties. Breastfed babies naturally have looser stool than bottle-fed babies. Contact your doctor if your baby has passed more than 6 watery stools or vomited three times in a 24-hour period. Gently clean your child’s bottom after every episode of diarrhea to prevent skin irritation. Wash your hands thoroughly following this to prevent the condition from spreading. Do not stop breast or bottle feeding. In older children, fluid intake should be increased and meals given per the child’s appetite.
Food allergies: You should be particularly cautious about food allergies if your family has a history of allergies such as hay fever, eczema, asthma and allergy to certain foods. When introducing solid foods (usually around 4-6 months) make sure you do it one food at a time so that the source of any allergy can easily be identified. Start with foods that commonly cause allergies such as eggs, milk, wheat, nuts, seeds and fish. Your child may grow out of some allergies while others such as peanut allergies are usually lifelong. Allergic reactions vary and include diarrhea, vomiting, itchy throat, skin rash, swollen lips and sore eyes. Sometimes, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can take place requiring immediate medical attention. Talk to your doctor about possible allergies and how they can be treated.