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
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
• 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.
Would you like to partner with a board-certified family physician who you can trust to support your family’s wellness through all seasons and cycles of life? Dr. Brandon Hall’s family medicine clinic offers compassionate, patient-centered care in a broad range of disciplines including internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and geriatrics.
About the Author—Dr. Brandon Hall
Are you hoping to partner with a Board-Certified Family Physician who you can trust to support your family’s wellness through all cycles of life? Dr. Hall’s family medicine clinic offers compassionate, patient-centered care in a broad range of disciplines including internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and geriatrics.