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Common ailments in Young children


Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most cases are in children under age 15, but older children and adults can get it. It spreads very easily from one person to another.
The classic symptom of chickenpox is an uncomfortable, itchy rash. The rash turns into fluid-filled blisters and eventually into scabs. It usually shows up on the face, chest, and back and then spreads to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include
• Fever
• Headache
• Tiredness
• Loss of appetite
Chickenpox is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days. Calamine lotions and oatmeal baths can help with itching. Acetaminophen can treat the fever. Do not use aspirin for chickenpox; that combination can cause Reye syndrome.
Chickenpox can sometimes cause serious problems. Adults, babies, teenagers, pregnant women, and those with weak immune systems tend to get sicker from it. They may need to take antiviral medicines.
Once you catch chickenpox, the virus usually stays in your body. You probably will not get chickenpox again, but the virus can cause shingles in adults. A chickenpox vaccine can help prevent most cases of chickenpox, or make it less severe if you do get it.


Colds are caused by viruses, which are extremely small infectious organisms (much smaller than bacteria). A sneeze or a cough may directly transfer a virus from one person to another. The virus also may be spread indirectly, in the following manner.
• A child or adult infected with the virus will, in coughing, sneezing, or touching her nose, transfer some of the virus particles onto her hand.
• She then touches the hand of a healthy person.
• This healthy person touches her newly contaminated hand to her own nose, thus introducing the infectious agent to a place where it can multiply and grow—the nose or throat. Symptoms of a cold soon develop.
• The cycle then repeats itself, with the virus being transferred from this newly infected child or adult to the next susceptible one, and so on.

Symptoms of a cold : 
Once the virus is present and multiplying, your child will develop the familiar symptoms and signs:
• Runny nose (first, a clear discharge; later, a thicker, often colored one)
• Sneezing
• Mild fever (101–102 degrees Fahrenheit [38.3–38.9 degrees Celsius]), particularly in the evening
• Decreased appetite
• Sore throat and, perhaps, difficulty swallowing
• Cough
• On-and-off irritability
• Slightly swollen glands
• Pus on the tonsils, especially in children three years and older, may indicate a strep infection.
If your child has a typical cold without complications, the symptoms should disappear gradually after seven to ten days.
An older child with a cold usually doesn’t need to see a doctor unless the condition becomes more serious. If she is three months or younger, however, call the pediatrician at the first sign of illness.


Coughs are one of the most common symptoms of childhood illness. A cough can sound awful, but it’s not usually a sign of a serious condition. In fact, coughing is a healthy and important reflex that helps protect the airways in the throat and chest.
But sometimes, a cough calls for a trip to the doctor. Understanding what different types of cough could mean will help you know how to take care of them and when to go to the doctor.
“Barky” Cough
Barky coughs are usually caused by a swelling in the upper part of the airway. Most of the time, a barky cough comes from croup, a swelling of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).
Croup usually is due to a virus, but also can come from allergies or a change in temperature at night. Younger children have smaller airways that, if swollen, can make it hard to breathe. Kids younger than 3 are most at risk for croup because their airways are so narrow.
A cough from croup can start suddenly, often in the middle of the night. Most kids with croup will also have stridor, which is a noisy, harsh breathing (often described as a coarse, musical sound) that happens when the child inhales (breathes in).
Whooping Cough :
Whooping cough is another name for pertussis, an infection of the airways caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. Kids with pertussis will have spells of back-to-back coughs without breathing in between. At the end of the coughing, they’ll take a deep breath in that makes a “whooping” sound. Other symptoms of pertussis are a runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, and a low-grade fever.
Although pertussis can happen at any age, it’s most severe in infants under 1 year old who did not get the pertussis vaccine. Pertussis is very contagious, so your child should get the pertussis shot at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 months, and 4-6 years of age. This shot is given as part of the DTaP vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis).


Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, but the good news is that it’s often caused by infections that don’t last long and usually are more disruptive than dangerous. Still, it’s important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent diarrhea. Diarrhea — frequent runny or watery bowel movements (poop) — is usually brought on by gastrointestinal (GI) infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
The specific germs that cause diarrhea can vary among geographic regions depending on their level of sanitation, economic development, and hygiene. For example, developing countries with poor sanitation or where human waste is used as fertilizer often have outbreaks of diarrhea when intestinal bacteria or parasites contaminate crops or drinking water.
Diarrheal infections can be spread through:
• dirty hands
• contaminated food or water
• some pets
• direct contact with fecal matter (i.e., from dirty diapers or the toilet)
Anything that the infectious germs come in contact with can become contaminated. This includes toys, changing tables, surfaces in restrooms, even the hands of someone preparing food. Kids can become infected by touching a contaminated surface, such as a toilet or toy, and then putting their fingers in their mouths.
Viruses: A common cause of diarrhea is viral gastroenteritis (often called the “stomach flu,” it also can cause nausea and vomiting). Many different viruses can cause viral gastroenteritis, which can pass through a household, school, or day-care center quickly because it’s highly infectious. Although the symptoms usually last just a few days, affected kids (especially infants) who are unable to get adequate fluid intake can become dehydrated.

Ear infections:

Ear infections in children are one of the most worrisome illnesses for both parents and children to go through, especially if they are frequent.
Your child may have 2 or more of these symptoms:
1. Cold symptoms – keep in mind that ear infections are almost always preceded by a cold. Often a clear runny nose will turn yellow or green before an ear infection sets in.
2. Fussiness during the day or night
3. Complaining of ear pain or hearing loss
4. Night-waking more frequently
5. Unwillingness to lie flat
6. Fever – usually low grade (101º – 102º); may not have a fever
7. Sudden increase in fussiness during a cold
8. Ear drainage – if you see blood or pus draining out of the ear, then it is probably an infection with a ruptured eardrum. DON’T WORRY! These almost always heal just fine, and once the eardrum ruptures the pain subsides.
Steps to prevent ear infections
If your child has had several ear infections already, or you simple wish to lower their risk of getting ear infections in the first place, here are some ways to prevent or at least lessen the frequency and severity of ear infections:
1. Breastfeeding
There is no doubt whatsoever in the medical literature that prolonged breastfeeding lowers your child’s chances of getting ear infections.
2. Daycare setting
Continuous exposure to other children increases the risk that your child will catch more colds, and consequently more ear infections. Crowded daycare settings are a set up for germ sharing. If possible, switch your child to a small, home daycare setting. This will lower the risk.
3. Control allergies
If you think allergies are contributing to your child’s runny nose and, consequently, ear infections, click on allergies to find out more about how to minimize your child’s allergies.
4. Feed your baby upright
Lying down while bottle-feeding can cause the milk to irritate the Eustachian tube which can contribute to ear infections.
5. Keep the nose clear
When a runny nose and cold start, do your best to keep the nose clear by using steam, saline nose drops, and suctioning. Also try Xlear® nasal spray which contains xylitol that can help prevent viruses and bacteria from attaching in your child’s nose. See colds for more info on clearing the nose.
6. Cigarette smoke
There is strong evidence that smoking irritates the baby’s nasal passage, which leads to Eustachian tube dysfunction.
7. Eat more raw fruits and vegetables
These can greatly boost your child’s immune system and help fight off infections.

Fever & Chill

Fever is a symptom, not a disease. It is the body’s normal response to infections and plays a role in fighting them. Fever turns on the body’s immune system. The usual fevers (100° to 104° F [37.8° to 40° C]) that all children get are not harmful. Most are caused by viral illnesses; some are caused by bacterial illnesses. Teething does not cause fever.  Call you pediatrician and explain symptoms to get further treatment.


The flu is caused by one of three types of influenza viruses. Types A and B are responsible for the yearly flu epidemics, and type C flu virus causes sporadic mild illness. Type A flu virus is further divided into different subtypes based on the chemical structure of the virus.
How is flu spread among children?
Flu is highly contagious, particularly when people share close quarters as children do in school classrooms. Flu is spread among children when a child either inhales infected droplets in the air (coughed up or sneezed by an infected person) or when the child comes in direct contact with an infected person’s secretions. A person can be contagious one day before onset of symptoms and 5-7 days after being sick. This can happen, for example, when they share pencils at school or play computer games and share the remotes or share utensils such as spoons and forks. Hand to hand contact is also important to consider when thinking about how flu is spread.
Symptoms: The symptoms of flu in children are more severe than symptoms of a childhood cold. Symptoms of flu in children start abruptly and usually cause kids to feel the worse during the first two or three days of onset. Flu symptoms in children may include:
• A high-grade fever up to 104 degrees F
• Chills and shakes with the fever
• Extreme tiredness
• Headache and body aches
• Dry, hacking cough
• Sore throat
• Vomiting and belly pain
Are there ways to prevent the flu in children?
The best way to prevent flu is to get an annual influenza vaccination. Vaccinating children with the influenza vaccine each year helps protect them against flu.


The head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Lice (the plural of louse) are a very common problem, especially for kids. They’re contagious, annoying, and sometimes tough to get rid of. But while they’re frustrating to deal with, lice aren’t dangerous. They don’t spread disease, although their bites can make a child’s scalp itchy and irritated, and scratching can lead to infection. It’s best to treat head lice quickly once they’re found because they can spread easily from person to person.
Signs of Head Lice: Although they’re very small, lice can be seen by the naked eye. Here are things to look for:
Lice eggs (called nits): These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp, where the temperature is perfect for keeping warm until they hatch. Nits look sort of like dandruff, only they can’t be removed by brushing or shaking them off. Unless the infestation is heavy, it’s more common to see nits in a child’s hair than it is to see live lice crawling on the scalp. Lice eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they’re laid. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear and stays firmly attached to the hair shaft. This is when it’s easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg shell is moving away from the scalp.
For some kids, lice causes irritation & the irritation may be mild; for others, a more bothersome rash may develop. Excessive scratching can lead to a bacterial infection (this can cause swollen lymph glands and red, tender skin that might have crusting and oozing). If your doctor thinks this is the case, he or she may treat the infection with an oral antibiotic.


Also known as conjunctivitis is the most common eye problem kids can have. It can cause redness; itching; inflammation or swelling; and a clear or white, yellow, or greenish gooey liquid to collect in the eyes.
It’s called pinkeye because the white part of the eye and inside the eyelids become red or pink when you have it. Pinkeye may start in one eye, but many people get conjunctivitis in both eyes at the same time.
Kids get conjunctivitis for different reasons. Most kids get it from bacteria or viruses. This is called infectious conjunctivitis. Bacteria can be seen only with a powerful microscope, and viruses are even smaller than bacteria! Bacteria live on your skin or in your nose or mouth all the time and you never know it. Most don’t ever bother you, but certain kinds of bacteria can cause infections like conjunctivitis.
Sometimes kids get ear infections when they have conjunctivitis because the same bacteria can cause both problems. Viruses, like the kind that can give you a cold, can cause conjunctivitis, too. Conjunctivitis is easy to catch just through touching. You can get conjunctivitis by touching the hand of an infected friend who has touched his or her eyes. If you then touch your eyes, the infection can be spread to you. Washing your hands often with warm, soapy water is the best way to avoid being infected with conjunctivitis. Kids also get conjunctivitis because of allergies or because they get something irritating in their eyes, but these kinds of conjunctivitis are not contagious.


A pinworm (“threadworm”) is a small, thin, white roundworm (nematode) called Enterobius vermicularis that sometimes lives in the colon and rectum of humans. Pinworms are a type of little worm that commonly infects the intestines, often in kids. Many of the kids in your school have probably had pinworms at one time, and the worms are nothing to be afraid of.
Pinworms are really small — about as long as a staple. Their eggs get inside the body through the mouth after you touch something which is contaminated with pinworm eggs, then touch your hands to your mouth. Pinworms can also spread from one person to another. The worms do not come from pets, only people. And people who have pinworms are not dirty — kids can get pinworms no matter how often they take a bath or play in the mud.
Symptoms: Pinworm infection causes itching around the anus which can lead to difficulty sleeping and restlessness. Symptoms are caused by the female pinworm laying her eggs. Symptoms of pinworm infection usually are mild and some infected people have no symptoms.
Treatment: Pinworm can be treated with either prescription or over-the-counter medications. A health care provider should be consulted before treating a suspected case of pinworm infection. Strict observance of good hand hygiene is the most effective means of preventing pinworm infection. This includes washing hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before handling food. Keep fingernails clean and short, avoid fingernail-biting, and avoid scratching the skin in the perianal area. Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection.

Scabies: ( Rashes, Itching )

Scabies is a skin irritation caused by an infestation of tiny parasitic mites that burrow under the skin. The bumpy rash you see is actually an allergic reaction to the eggs and feces the mites leave behind. The name comes from a Latin word meaning “to scratch,” and if your child has scabies, he’s likely doing lots of that. Some children develop widespread scabies. The scabies rash can cover most of the body. Even a child’s palms, soles, and scalp can be infested with mites. In babies, the rash often appears on the palms and soles. Babies who have scabies are very irritable and often do not want to eat or sleep. Children, too, are often very irritable. The itch can keep them awake at night. Anyone can get scabies. Because skin-to-skin contact is the most common way to get scabies, the following people are especially susceptible: Children and mothers of young children. Scabies is very contagious. When one person in a household gets scabies, everyone else in the household is likely to get it.
Signs and symptoms of scabies include:
Itching, mainly at night: Itching is the most common symptom. The itch can be so intense that it keeps a person awake at night.
Rash: Many people get the scabies rash. This rash causes little bumps that often form a line. The bumps can look like hives, tiny bites, knots under the skin, or pimples. Some people develop scaly patches that look like eczema.
Sores: Scratching the itchy rash can cause sores. An infection can develop in the sores. The doctor will take a look at the rash and possibly do a painless test that involves scraping off a small sample of skin and looking at it under a microscope. Scabies mites and their eggs are visible when magnified. Mites can be easy to miss, though, because there are usually only ten or fewer on an infected person.

Nose infection

Sinuses are moist air spaces within the bones of the face around the nose. When they become infected and swell or become irritated, this is called sinusitis (or a sinus infection). These infections usually follow colds or bouts with allergies. Sinusitis is common and easily treated.
The sinuses are four sets of hollow spaces that are located in the cheekbones, the forehead (frontal sinus), behind the nasal passages and deep in the brain behind the nasal passages (sphenoid sinus). Sinuses are lined with the same mucous membranes that line the nose and mouth.
Symptoms: Younger kids often have cold-like symptoms, including a stuffy or runny nose and slight fever. If your child develops a fever 5-7 days after cold symptoms begin, it could signal sinusitis or another infection (like bronchitis, pneumonia, or an ear infection), so call your doctor.
Prevention: Simple changes in your lifestyle or home environment can help lower the risk of sinusitis. For example, during the winter, when your heating system makes the air inside your home abnormally dry, consider using a humidifier to keep home humidity at 45%-50%. This will stop dry air from irritating the sinuses and make them less of a target for infection. It’s important to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent mold growth.
Although sinusitis itself is not contagious, it is often preceded by a cold, which can spread easily, particularly among family or friends. The most effective way to prevent spreading germs is to teach your family the importance of frequent hand washing, particularly when they’re sick.

Further reading/references