Childhood Illness

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Childhood illnesses can be a tremendous source of stress for parents. Often, a lot of this stress is related to the parents' lack of understanding about their child's illness, and the worry that their child's health is no longer within their control. Children are susceptible to infectious diseases because of their developing immune systems, ready exposure to other kids who may be ill, and habits such as putting their fingers in their mouths. The average preschooler catches as many as 10 infectious diseases a year.

On the plus side, repeated exposure to common viruses and other infections helps build immunity. Most children become less illness prone after they start school.

Some common illnesses in kids are coughs, colds, ear infections, respiratory tract infections, food allergies, food intolerance, constipation, mumps, rubella and measles. Measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox are contagious and children can sometimes get infected just by being in the same room. Most common childhood diseases are preventable, and prophylactic measures in the form of immunization are readily available. Ensure the kid eats a balanced diet. Supplement with children's vitamin and mineral pills. Babies from the age of 6 months up need iron fortified vitamin drops. Promoting and practicing good personal hygiene will go a long way toward preventing these common infections.

Consult your pediatrician if your child exhibits serious signs and symptoms like:

  • High-grade fever or ANY fever in an infant younger than 4 weeks
  • Complaints of persistent headache or body ache
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts for more than a day
  • A fit or convulsion occurs
  • Fainting or severe sleepiness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Lips turning blue
  • A limb is motionless and non-responsive
  • Unusual excitement or hysterical crying
  • Earache and/or fluid discharge from the ear
  • Chills that make the child shake all over

If your child is sick, keep him home if he is too ill to participate in normal activities, throwing up, or has a bacterial infection and has not been on antibiotics for 24 hours. If children are well enough to be out of bed and playing/enjoying activities, they're well enough to go to day care or pre-school from a medical perspective.

Keep in mind that most infections may take a week or two to clear up. If you give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever relief, stick to the recommended dosage guidelines. Also, never give your child aspirin for a viral infection, as it may cause a rare but potentially life-threatening disease called Reye's syndrome. If at any time you're concerned that your child's illness is severe or not improving, contact your child's doctor.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,