Children tend to fall ill more often than adults due to an immature immune system and some conditions are more common in children. Here is a list of common pediatric conditions and how they are identified and addressed:
Colds and Flu: On average, a child gets a cold about 6-10 times a year. Colds spread through direct contact with other children, coughing or sneezing and touching infected surfaces such as toys and books. Symptoms include runny nose, cough, sore throat and fatigue. Colds cannot be cured and usually last a few days up to 2 weeks. Symptomatic treatment helps keep your child comfortable. This includes pain medication, salt water gargling and steam inhalation. If muscle aches and fever are present, your child could have the flu. Treatment however is usually the same. A yearly flu vaccine can help minimize attacks.
Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye): Inflammation of the eye and eyelid lining can occur due to bacteria, viruses, irritants or allergens. It results in redness of the eyes with tearing, discharge and crusting on the eyelids. Your child can catch it by coming in close contact with another child or touching a contaminated surface. The condition heals on its own. Cold packs to the eye can help relieve inflammation and discomfort. Your doctor will prescribe medication if symptoms are severe.
Gastroenteritis: Upset stomachs are usually caused by viruses which are spread through food or close contact with other children. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. An accompanying rash may also be seen. Bowel rest and increased fluid intake is recommended. Bland foods such as toast, crackers, bananas and rice should be gradually introduced. A probiotic may be recommended to increase healthy gut bacteria. Children younger than 1 year of age should visit the doctor.
Strep throat: This is an infection of the throat caused by bacteria called streptococcus. It is associated with throat redness, difficulty swallowing, swollen neck glands and fever. It is usually treated with antibiotics. Untreated, it can lead to complications that may affect the heart valves. Pain killers, salt water gargles and throat lozenges are recommended to control symptoms. Fluid intake should be increased.
Croup: This viral infection affects the throat and voice box giving your child a high-pitch barky cough and abnormal breathing sounds. It may be accompanied by fever and cold symptoms. The condition usually lasts no more than a week. Using a cool mist humidifier or having your child sit in a steamed-up bathroom can ease the symptoms. For severe breathing difficulty, contact emergency services. Steroids and breathing treatments may be necessary.
Eczema: Also called atopic dermatitis, this condition affects 1 in 10 children causing an itchy rash on the face, elbows and knees. It may also spread to other areas such as behind the ears or on the scalp. The rash heals but is often recurrent. Your doctor will prescribe medications such as steroid creams and antihistamines to control symptoms. Cool baths can also help. Skin infections which sometimes accompany eczema are treated with antibiotics.
Ear infections: Ear infections are common in children and usually occur following colds as bacteria enter the ear canal through the eustachian tube which connects to the throat. It is usually associated with ear pain and fever. Treatment usually involves pain medications and antibiotics.
Hand, foot and mouth disease: This is a viral infection that affects children under the age of 5. Symptoms include mouth sores, fever and a skin rash. The condition is contagious and spreads through saliva, fluid from mouth blisters, feces, nasal secretions and contaminated surfaces. There is no cure, but symptomatic treatment includes analgesic mouthwashes or sprays for the mouth sores.
Head lice: Lice are tiny insects that can infest the scalp causing itching. This condition commonly spreads among school children, especially girls. It is treated by application of special medicated shampoo.
Pinworms: These are worms that infest the large intestine and anal region causing itching. This can lead to a secondary infection or an allergic reaction. A single or double dose of oral medication usually eliminates the worms. Topical medications help reduce the irritation. Your doctor will recommend getting the rest of the family treated as well. A thorough cleaning of bed linens, clothes and the rest of the house is recommended.