Authored by Revere Health

5 Common Reasons Why Children Visit the Doctor

July 21, 2016 | Family Medicine

What is a Family Doctor

Was your child among the 92.4 percent of children who had contact with a healthcare professional in the past year? In addition to your regularly scheduled well-child visits, you probably made several trips to see your family doctor for acute illnesses or symptoms that concerned you enough to make an appointment. Let’s look at five of the most common childhood illnesses that keep family doctors and their support staff busy.

1) Cough

Does it surprise you to learn that the most frequent illness-related reason for all of those annual physician visits is a cough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Children usually cough when a common cold causes mucus to trickle down the back of the throat.

The common cold is one of the most frequent reasons children miss school. It’s normal for a child to have eight or more colds a year because more than 200 viruses can cause the common cold, and young children lack the immunity to resist them. Rhinovirus is the most common type of virus that causes colds. Antibiotics don’t work against these viruses, nor do they help your child feel better when suffering with a cold.

Children often experience fever, aches, stuffy nose and a sore throat during a common cold. Symptoms usually peak within two to three days but can last for up to two weeks. If your child is eating, drinking, and breathing normally and is not wheezing, a cough should not alarm you. You can relieve the symptoms by:

Increasing fluids
Administering children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce the fever
Using saline drops or spray to moisturize your child’s nasal passageways

If your child has a bad cough that won’t go away, is breathless, wheezing or has a high temperature, call your doctor. A chest infection caused by bacteria may be the reason, in which case antibiotics will be prescribed to clear up the infection. Breathlessness can also indicate asthma, so it’s important to monitor your child and stay in touch with your family doctor.

2) Ear infections

Parents of young children know how common ear infections are. Five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday, and one out of five visits to the doctor in the United States are due to an ear infection or ear pain, according to the CDC.
Ear infections, or otitis media, are common in children because of their narrow ear canal. The accumulation of air and water in the middle ear, often caused by bacteria, creates pressure and inflammation that leads to intense pain. A bacterial ear infection often begins after a child has a cold or other upper respiratory infection.
Was your child among the 92.4 percent of children who had contact with a healthcare professional in the past year?
In very young children who are not yet speaking, signs of an ear infection include fussiness, sleeplessness and tugging at the ear. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines in 2013 that advise doctors to observe young children between the ages of 6 months to 2 years with ear infections, and to start antibiotic therapy if there’s no improvement within 48 to 72 hours from symptom onset. For older children with easily diagnosable infections, doctors usually prescribe an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, to be taken along with over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat the fever and pain.

3) Pink eye, or conjunctivitis

According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, every year approximately 3 million school days are lost as a result of acute conjunctivitis, or pink eye. A virus, bacteria or an allergic reaction most commonly causes this inflammation of the membrane that covers the inside of your child’s eyelids and the white part of the eye.

It’s easy for children to get the highly contagious pink eye from bacteria or viruses because they are in close contact with so many other children, and good hygiene is often lacking. Direct contact with an infected child’s secretions, usually through hand-to-eye contact, is the most common way bacterial conjunctivitis is spread. Your child’s eye will be red with a lot of pus. Your doctor will usually prescribe antibiotic eyedrops to treat the infection.

Bacterial conjunctivitis can spread very quickly through your home, so make sure your child washes his or her hands regularly, avoids touching the eyes, and does not share bedding or linens with anyone else. Keep your child out of school for at least 24 hours after treatment begins.

Viral conjunctivitis is also very contagious and is caused by the same virus responsible for the common cold. You’ll notice a watery mucus discharge from your child’s eye. The pink eye symptoms usually last for up to two weeks and then disappear on their own, although severe cases can last even longer. Antibiotic eye drops do not cure viral conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and is caused by an allergen in the environment that is irritating your child’s eye. The main symptom is itching. Applying cool compresses to the eyes and using anti-allergy eye drops are helpful.

4) Strep throat

Anybody can get strep throat, but it’s most commonly seen during the school year when young kids and teens are in close quarters. How can you differentiate between a normal sore throat caused by the common cold virus and a sore throat caused by the strep bacteria? If your child also has a runny nose and sneezing, it’s probably a cold. But if the sore throat lasts more than a week and your child experiences:

Painful or difficult swallowing
Excessive drooling
A rash
Pus or red and white patches in the back of the throat
Tender or swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
Red and enlarged tonsils
Fever over 100.4 degrees, headache
Loss of appetite and nausea

Anybody can get strep throat, but it’s most commonly seen during the school year when young kids and teens are in close quarters and has been in contact with someone who has strep throat, it’s probably strep. The bacteria that cause strep throat are spread during normal activities like sneezing and coughing, which is why teaching kids to wash their hands often is so important.

Your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat your child’s strep throat, and your child will no longer be contagious within forty-eight hours after beginning treatment. Be sure to consult with your child’s school about the return-to-class policy, and keep him or her comfortable with fluids, popsicles, salt-water gargles, ibuprofen and bed rest.

5) Gastroenteritis, or a stomach bug


This common infection in the intestines causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain ranging from mild to severe. Many children have more than one episode in a year. A variety of viruses, parasites and bacteria that are easily spread in schools and day-care centers, including norovirus, can cause gastroenteritis.

Most stomach viruses clear up within a few days to a week, and the main concern is preventing dehydration. Encourage your child to drink fluids in small, frequent amounts. If your child can’t keep down sips of liquids and begins to show signs of severe dehydration such as lethargy or no urine for six hours or more, contact your family doctor immediately. If the dehydration is severe, your child may need intravenous fluids.

Depending on what is causing the vomiting, your doctor might prescribe drugs to treat the nausea and vomiting or use antiparasitic drugs for a parasitic infection. Because food poisoning is responsible for some cases of gastroenteritis, it’s important to brush up on your safe-food-handling protocol, especially in the summer.


Our providers take time to listen and communicate clearly with each patient, and our professional and courteous staff provides quality, personalized care for all of our patients’ general health and medical needs. We specialize in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management. We strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services and respect their right to participate in all treatment decisions.


The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

Learn more about Telehealth

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.