Common Childhood Illnesses

By: Dr Rachel MacLachlan

Common Childhood Illnesses

It is that time of year again when your children finish up their summer holidays and return to school, kindy and day care. It’s the start of the New Year and things are getting back into a normal routine for the family. But the start of a new school year brings the possibility of your children becoming sick when they mix with their class mates again.

It is common for children to get 6-8 coughs and colds per year, especially in the younger years. Most of these illnesses are viral and self-limiting, which means they clear up on their own. It is due to your child being exposed to one of the thousands of viruses that cause coughs and colds. As your child gets older, their immunity builds and the illnesses become less frequent.

The common cold is the most common minor illness that children catch from other children. It is caused by a virus, and antibiotics do not work for this illness. Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

It is treated by giving lots of fluids and also paracetamol or ibuprofen, along with plenty of rest. Most children will get better on their own with the advice above. If it does not settle on its own, if the condition gets worse, if a rash develops, or you have concerns, then your child should be seen by a GP. To help prevent passing on a cold to another person, use tissues and wash hands regularly.

Another common illness that children get is tonsillitis. This can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Symptoms of this can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Painful swallow
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • White spots on tonsils (pus)

This usually settles on its own if caused by a virus. This can take 3-4 days. The usual treatment is paracetamol or ibuprofen, alongside rest and fluids. If it does not settle in 4 days or any of the symptoms worsen, then your child should see a GP. If your child is unable to swallow fluids, is unable to talk or has any difficulty breathing, they should be taken to the Emergency Department.

Rashes are another common presentation in children. There are hundreds of causes of rash. Some are caused by viruses and appear alongside a cough or a cold. Another common rash seen in children of kindy age is hand, foot and mouth. They appear like blisters and can occur anywhere on the body. It is accompanied by a mild fever and body aches. This settles on its own with fluids, rest and paracetamol. They do however need to be excluded from kindy until it has cleared. Other causes of rash include chicken pox, eczema and more serious conditions such as measles or meningitis. I always recommend that a GP assesses your child when they develop a rash so that a diagnosis can be made as there are so many possible causes. Any rash that does not go away when pressed with a glass needs urgent medical attention in a hospital as it could be a sign of meningitis.

We encourage parents to book an appointment to get their child assessed by a GP if they are unsure of any symptoms, are unsure of what to do or have concerns about the health of their child.



Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Medical Centre, or any other provider within the clinic.

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