8 Most Common Childhood Illnesses: Insights from a Pediatrician

September 9th, 2023
8 Most Common Childhood Illnesses: Insights from a Pediatrician

As parents, you always want the best for your kids. This is why you should know what to do when your child is sick.

Here’s the challenge: How will you make your child feel better? What immediate steps are ideal?

We at Omega Pediatrics believe that the best way to deal with common childhood illnesses is to consult your pediatrician. So, we suggest you book your appointment with us immediately when you know your child is sick. The great thing is that we are able to get you in same day. However for those who are not our patients below are some steps you can take if your child has any of the illnesses discussed below.

While waiting for your appointment, we’ve prepared a guide to help you identify these childhood illnesses and what you can do in the meantime. The guide aims to give your little one some immediate relief and the symptoms won’t worsen!

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How To Identify and Treat Common Ailments in Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shared a list of the most common sickness, plus how to treat common childhood illnesses. Bear in mind that this is only a guide. We still recommend consulting a pediatrician near you for better management of your child’s illness.

1.  Sore Throat

You can detect a sore throat if there’s a reddened portion in your child’s throat. There’s irritation and pain which intensifies when your child swallows. It can either be viral or bacterial in origin.

A viral illness, such as a cold or flu, is the primary cause of pharyngitis or sore throat. The pain and irritation will just subside and resolve on its own.

innocent newborn baby crying

Your kid may have strep throat infection, a less common sore throat caused by bacteria. They contract this infection by touching a toy used by a child with the infection, despite being primarily spread through coughing and sneezing.

How do I know if my child has a viral or bacterial sore throat?

Your child’s symptoms typically indicate whether his sore throat is viral or bacterial. A cough, swelling, and a runny nose characterize viral sore throats. Bacterial sore throats, like strep, are characterized by nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, and no cough. However, just like everything else in healthcare it is not always clear cut. There could be overlap, a child may have both or a child may be recovering from one while the other is just starting. So this is where testing comes in.

Treatment: A lab examination or strep test involving a quick throat swab is required to confirm the strep diagnosis for a bacterial sore throat. Your pediatrician will prescribe antibiotics if strep is confirmed. You may be wondering what antibiotics will be prescribed. Well, it depends but if the child does not have allergies usually Penicillin V or Amoxicillin is our go to. If the child is allergic to Penicillins (Amoxicillin is a form of Penicillin) we tend to give Azithromycin.

If your child tests negative, it’s likely a viral sore throat that can be treated with home remedies. Here are some ways you can do to give relief:

  • Make lemon juice with honey, for ages 1 year and above.
  • Gargle salt water, for ages 5 years and above.
  • Drink warm tea, peppermint, or chamomile flavor.
  • A mist humidifier in the child’s room.

2.  Ear Pain

Kids may have ear pain which falls into two categories. The first is AOM, acute otitis media, which signifies infected fluid behind the eardrum. The second condition is OME, otitis media with effusion, which occurs when there’s  fluid in the middle ear concurrently.

When your kid complains of ear pain, it doesn’t always indicate an infection. Teething, nasal congestion, and throat irritation can also cause ear discomfort. A thorough physical examination from your child’s pediatrician is required to make the diagnosis.

Treatment: The pediatrician will examine your child's ear to make an informed diagnosis. Sometimes it could be something entirely different. If otitis media,  antibiotics will be prescribed. The child usually has high-grade fever and other symptoms are present including fussiness at night or restless sleep.

Some otitis media are however caused by viruses but since there is no way to test the ear to ascertain what type of infection it is, for the most part the doctor has to make a clinically informed decision. So while you think it is just an ear infection, there is more to it than meets the eye. Remember your doctor is under oath to do what is BEST for your child so before antibiotics are prescribed even for the common ear infection, the doctor tries to be as sure as possible that it is more likely bacterial and as such the patient will indeed benefit from antibiotics and the risk outweighs the harm potential of the antibiotics.

Except in cases of penicillin allergy, amoxicillin is usually prescribed by the pediatrician.

3.  Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTI is an infection of your child's kidneys and ureters that are connected to the bladder and the urethra. Bacteria and germs enter the urinary tract through the skin around the rectum and genitals or through the bloodstream from any area of the body.

Your kid experiences pain and/or a burning sensation while peeing. It could also be   frequent urination, side or low back pain, or bedwetting, that is, unknowingly urinating while sleeping.

UTIs in children sometimes go undiagnosed since there are sometimes no symptoms or if they are too young to express them. Urinary tract infections must be treated as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading and worse, kidney damage.

Treatment: Your pediatrician will need a urine sample to check for UTI. If positive, he may prescribe different treatments depending on the bacteria present in the urine. The medication can either be through injections or oral.

4.  Skin Infection

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites are causes of skin infections in children. Some of the common skin infections are::

  • Impetigo

These are blisters with yellowish crusts that commonly occur at the face at the area near the nose and mouth.

  • HMFD (hand, foot, and mouth disease)

These are contagious rashes and blisters near the hand, foot, and mouth.

  • Viral warts

There are bumps with dark dots that can grow in any skin area.

  • Chickenpox

These are highly contagious rashes that appears as blisters on the face, back, and chest and are very itchy.

  • Molluscum contagiosum

These appear as skin-colored bumps with indented centers near the eyelids, armpits, neck, and thighs.

  • Scabies

These are rashes that resemble a pimple that is very itchy. It can grow in any part of the body particularly at the chest, back, arms, and legs.

  • Fungal infections

These are rashes in the face, scalp, trunk, or nails caused by yeasts and dermatophytes or ringworm.

Treatment: You need to visit your child’s pediatrician or dermatologist if you believe that your child has a skin infection. The treatment varies depending on the skin infection.

Prescribed topical medications for scabies, fungal infections, and impetigo may suffice. Viral warts may need skin treatment such as laser or surgery, Molluscum contagiosum may go away on its own.

5.  Bronchitis and Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a chest virus that affects infants and toddlers 0-2 years old. It is normally moderate and treatable at home, although it can be severe. Your child’s breathing may have a "wheezing" sound when examined by the doctor, typically caused during the flu and cold season.

On the other hand, bronchitis causes a dry, mucus-filled cough for children of all ages.

Treatment: Typically, bronchitis and bronchiolitis don’t need heavy treatment. Instead, you will just be advised to make your child comfortable. Closely monitor your child, and check for breathing problems, eating problems, or signs of dehydration. Have plenty of fluids and rest.

6.  Pain or Aches

Pain is a common symptom of injuries or ailments like sprained ankles, ear pain, or sore throats. Your child may feel aches and crampy muscle pains.

Treatment: Consult your pediatrician on how to treat the injury or illness and which painkillers to get. They may prescribe acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which are best for children's pain.

Don’t take narcotic painkillers, such as codeine. This has been linked to serious respiratory issues, including death in children.

If your child is experiencing a headache, try these home remedies:

  • Neck and shoulder massage using lavender or eucalyptus oil mixed with a carrier oil.
  • Take breaks and ensure sufficient lighting when using gadgets
  • Balanced meals rich in magnesium and lots of water

And if your child is experiencing a stomach ache, ease it by applying hot compress. Then eat bland food and drink chamomile, ginger, or peppermint tea.

7.  Common Cold

Viruses in the upper respiratory tract cause colds. Young children, especially those in daycare, contract six to eight colds annually. Symptoms include a runny nose, congestion, and coughing lasting up to ten days.

Let your child blow their nose gently with a soft tissue. If blowing is impossible, use a bulb syringe to remove mucus from the nose.

Treatment: The presence of green nasal mucus doesn’t always require antibiotics. Let your child drink lemon juice with honey, have a steam bath and a mist humidifier in his room. Apply essential oil balms or vapor rubs to the sore areas to soothe your child.

Children, 6 years old and below, are not advised to take over-the-counter cough medicine unless specifically instructed by your kid’s physician.

According to numerous studies, cough suppressants do not work in children under 4 and can potentially cause serious side effects. Consult your pediatrician before giving any cough medicine.

8.  Bacterial Sinusitis

Bacteria that are trapped in the sinuses are what cause bacterial sinusitis. Sinusitis is suspected when cold-like symptoms like nasal discharge, daytime cough, or both persist for more than ten days without improving.

Treatment: Your pediatrician will conduct a physical exam and considers all the symptoms. Antibiotics may be prescribed if this condition comes with thick yellow nasal discharge and a fever for at least three or four days straight.

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When to Consult Your Pediatric Doctor with regard to Childhood Illnesses

For parents, it might be confusing when to treat an infection at home or decide to bring your child to a doctor. As much as possible, pay close attention to certain symptoms to know when to make an appointment with your child's doctor.

  1. Sore throat with a fever and tenderness at the neck.
  2. Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher that lasts longer than 3 days.
  3. Vomiting or diarrhea and doesn’t respond to dietary restrictions.
  4. Labored breathing or shortness of breath that doesn’t respond to home remedies

.In a few cases, a sickness that seems to manifest mild symptoms can be a prelude to a serious illness. To cite an example, if your child has a recurring UTI, your pediatrician, after undergoing diagnosis, might consider a serious case of kidney infection.

Hence, in this case, your pediatrician will give you a referral to a pediatric nephrologist, a subspecialist in children’s kidney ailments, for further evaluation.

Call your pediatrician immediately, especially if the symptoms change, or worsen, or don’t disappear after a few days. This  also includes if new symptoms appear. If the  illness worsens, your pediatrician will be able to help your sick little one.

Hydrocephalus-childhood illnesses

Preventing the Spread of Illness in Your Family

Whenever kids play, they can easily contract illnesses and infections. This is especially true since babies and children use their hands to rub their noses or eyes and then touch toys or other people.

Kids also love to play outdoors. It can’t be avoided they have their hands dirty with soil and touching other common surfaces. Then, they touch their own noses and eyes, and viruses spread from one person to another.

Because of these, your kid may often get sick during their early years. It is a common fact that at this age group, absenteeism from school is high due to sickness. It’s because their bodies are still developing immunity to infections.

As much as possible, you’d want them to avoid getting sick. Practicing healthy habits can help prevent the spread of germs and/or infectious diseases to you and your family! Therefore, everyone in the house should practice good hygiene.

  1. To prevent foodborne illnesses, handle and prepare food safely. Practice food safety.
  2. Frequent handwashing with soap and water.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  4. No sharing of personal stuff such as utensils (plates, spoon, fork, cup), towels, and drinks. This also holds for combs, shavers, and similar items.
  5. Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces such as the kitchen countertop.
  6. Clean, or wash if possible, children’s toys and beddings regularly.
  7. Don’t miss your child’s scheduled immunizations and/or vaccinations.
  8. Do not let your kid touch wild animals (and their droppings!) to avoid catching illnesses from animals.
  9. If you think your child is sick, let him stay home instead and schedule an appointment with his pediatrician immediately.

Consult Your Pediatrician is Always The Best Route

If you feel like your child catches something bad, you might be caught in a dilemma between home remedies or seeing a doctor. Trust your instincts –if you're in doubt, ask your doctor.

Your child’s doctor is definitely the best to help you determine what's wrong with your child and what to do about it. They know better, and more efficient, ways of treating your little one.  If you're unsure how to care for your sick child, always ask the doctor for help.

Omega Pediatrics cares for your child’s health. If you need a pediatrician, we are open until 9 pm to cater to your child’s needs. Dealing with common childhood illnesses may be tough, so we’re here to help.