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The Top 10 Common Illnesses In Children: Symptoms & Treatment


Mother calling a doctor when a kid is sick
Mother Calling A Doctor

As a parent, you might become worried just thinking about your child getting sick. Whether your child has a chronic illness or not, it’s natural to be afraid of seeing your child in pain.

Every parent feels the pain of their child when they even get a slight cold or cough.


The thing to do at this time is not to panic but to look for the solution and prepare your child for the course of recovery. Today, we are here to help you with the top 10 common illnesses in children with a guide that will help you determine symptoms and the treatment of the disease. So let's find out more about them without any further ado!


 

In This Article



 

Why do Children get Sick?


According to NIH,

A person’s immune system fully develops by the age of 8, and around the age of 10 to 50 is when the immune system is usually the strongest.

This is why children are more vulnerable to illnesses. Exposure to new environments and illnesses can help strengthen your child’s immune system. Children get sick many times throughout the year. This is very common and nothing to be concerned about.


By knowing what is common, you can be prepared to deal with the situation without panicking. It can also help you recognize what is expected, and when you should worry.



The Top 10 Common Illnesses in Children


Some of these illnesses, like the cold, are nothing to worry about and can be overcome with time. However, some of them like eczema and asthma can be more serious long-term illnesses.


Below are the top common illnesses in children to be on the lookout for.



1. Common Cold


What Is It?

A viral infection in the upper respiratory tract (sinuses and throat).


How Long Does It Last?

A cold normally lasts from 5 to 12 days. Children can get between 6 to 10 colds in a year until the age of seven, after which it becomes less frequent.


How does It Start?

Through direct contact or the air (sneezing or coughing). Children with a weak immune system or those who go to school/daycare are at a bigger risk of getting sick.


Symptoms

  • Mild fever

  • Fast or shallow breathing

  • Cough

  • Runny nose or blocked nose

  • Sneezing


Treatment

Colds can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication like children’s Tylenol or cough drops.


Get more info here!


How to soothe symptoms:

  • Taking honey with warm liquids

  • Eat soup

  • Bed rest

  • Taking steam

  • Salt water gargle


When to See a Doctor?

If your child gets colds more often for longer periods, it might be best to bring it up with your child’s pediatrician. If the cold develops into a sinus infection, then your child might need to see a doctor for antibiotics.



2. Bronchiolitis


What Is It?

A lung infection in babies and young children. Bronchiolitis affects the smaller airways and is more common in children, while Bronchitis affects the larger airways and is more common in adults.


How Long Does It Last?

Usually a few weeks. For some, it can be a recurring condition.


How does It Start?

Most commonly from a virus but can develop from a cold. It is also contagious and can be contracted from someone else with Bronchiolitis.


Therefore, if your child has Bronchiolitis, keep them at home and away from other children. There is a bigger risk during winter and for children under the age of two, as well as those with weak immune systems.


Symptoms

Similar to a common cold.

  • Mild fever

  • Cough

  • Stuffy or runny nose

  • Severe trouble breathing

  • Wheezing (whistling sound when coughing)


Treatment

Most of the time Bronchiolitis isn’t serious, and can only go away on its own. Therefore, treatment is focused on relieving symptoms. In the case where symptoms become severe, your child might need to be hospitalized.

  • Give lots of fluids, even if it is little sips throughout the day.

  • Use a humidifier to relieve congestion.

  • Nasal and cough drops. (don’t use cough drops for children younger than two)

  • Put extra pillows behind your child’s head when they sleep to elevate their head and assist in breathing.

  • Avoid medication unless you have consulted a doctor.


When to See a Doctor?

  • If symptoms persist

  • Your child isn't feeding properly

  • Shallow breathing or wheezing

  • Blue lips or nails

  • Poor appetite and lethargy


Child With A Thermometer
Child With A Thermometer

3. Lice


What Is It?

Lice are parasites that infest human hair and sometimes skin. Lice itself isn’t deadly or dangerous, but the irritation or infestation can lead to an infection and have adverse effects.


How Long Does It Last?

Lice cannot live without our blood for more than two days. That’s why it's not as common to get lice from sharing clothes since the lice die more quickly. However, lice on the scalp can live up to 30 days, during which they will lay eggs.


How does It Start?

Contrary to popular belief, lice don’t grow if you are unhygienic. Lice are most commonly transferred through contact with someone else who has lice. It can be transferred through sharing clothes but is often passed through close contact. This can easily happen in a daycare or during school.


Symptoms

  • Severe itching

  • A tingling or crawling feeling on the scalp

  • Lice eggs, also known as nits on the hair. Nits are often mistaken as dandruff.

  • With closer inspection, you will be able to see lice in the hair.


Treatment

  • Wash all clothes and bedsheets to prevent further spread.

  • Keep your child at home. (lice are highly contagious)

  • Check everyone’s head at home with a lice comb to see if the lice have spread.

  • Use over-the-counter creams and shampoos along with a lice comb to treat the lice. (Make sure you buy products according to your child’s age)

  • Avoid using flammable or other bizarre homemade remedies.

  • See a doctor for medicine if the over-the-counter medications are not working.


When to See a Doctor?

  • When treatments are not working

  • Recurring head lice

  • Signs of an infection



4. Ear Infections


What Is It?

There are different types of ear infections. Middle ear infection (acute otitis media) is an infection in the middle ear. Another form of ear infection is called 'Swimmer’s ear', which is an infection in the outer ear canal. A middle ear infection is the most common form of ear infection, especially in children.


How Long Does It Last?

Ear infections are most common in children aged one year old or younger.



How does It Start?

The most common infection in children is an ear infection. Ear infections can be viral, bacterial, or caused by another infection elsewhere. This is because ENT infections can affect each other. For instance, if left untreated, a sinus infection can lead to a throat and ear infection as well.


Symptoms

  • Pain in the ear (some signs include pulling or smacking the ear)

  • Crying

  • Fever

  • Difficulty hearing

  • Fluid in the ear

If these symptoms don’t seem related to a different sickness then it’s most likely your child has an ear infection.


Treatment And When to See a Doctor?

In some cases, the infection will go away within three days. If it doesn't and our child also has a fever, then see a doctor. Most often the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to be taken over a week.


You can also give your child painkillers or fever reducers to treat the fever and pain. If the symptoms aren’t going away or seem to be getting worse after taking the antibiotics then refer back to a doctor for some different antibiotics or treatment.


baby ear close up
Baby Ear

5. Constipation and Diarrhea


What Is It?

Constipation is when it is painful or hard to pass stool, and the stool itself is hard or dry. Someone with constipation might not be able to use the bathroom more than two times a week.


On the other hand, Diarrhea is when a person has to constantly go to the bathroom multiple times a day. Someone who has Diarrhea will notice that they have loose and wet stools.


How Long Does It Last?

Normally, constipation and diarrhea get better after a few days. In some cases, chronic diarrhea or constipation can go on for weeks.

Causes of Constipation

Causes of Diarrhea

  • Eating low fiber

  • Being dehydrated

  • Dairy sensitivity

  • Changes in routine (transitioning to potty training or visiting a different country)

  • Forgetting to use the bathroom

  • Indigestion

  • Bacterial or viral infection

  • Contaminated water

  • Traveling

  • Food intolerance

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain

  • Cramps

  • Diapers that are rarely soiled or overly soiled and leaking

  • Dehydration

  • Fever

  • Soiling pants (can’t control themselves before going to the bathroom)

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Inability to eat

  • The constipated expression on the face


Treatment And When to See a Doctor?

Diarrhea and Constipation generally get better after a few days. To help soothe symptoms, you can give your child some high-fiber foods and liquids.


For diarrhea, doctors recommend the BRAT diet, which is bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Avoid giving your child spicy food or anything that will hurt their stomach more.


In some situations, your child might need medicine or antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. Symptoms that last longer than a few days need to be checked with a doctor as well.



6. Pink Eye


What Is It?

A viral or bacterial infection that affects the white part of the eye and the inner eyelids. Pink eye (also known as Conjunctivitis) looks scary but is usually a minor infection and nothing too serious.


How Long Does It Last?

Pink eye symptoms can last between five days to two weeks.


How does It start?

Pink eye is contagious. It can spread through direct or indirect contact. It can also start from a common cold (especially if droplets from a sneeze or cough get in the eye) or a sinus infection. If your child has Pink Eye, keep them at home to prevent the infection from spreading


Symptoms

  • Discharge in the eyes

  • Itchy and watery eyes

  • The area around the eye as well as the white part is pink

  • Painful and swollen eyelids

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Trouble opening eyes

  • Crying and feeling discomfort


Treatment And When to See a Doctor?

If you notice the above symptoms see a doctor to determine if your child has Pink Eye. If there is a bacterial infection, your child will need antibiotics. If it is viral, it should clear up in a few days by itself and doesn’t require medicines.


You can help soothe symptoms by:

  • Gently applying a cool cloth around your child’s eyes

  • Clean your child’s eyes carefully around the corners

  • Gently wipe your child’s eyes in the morning with a soft cloth to help them open their eyes (the discharge will get crusty in the mornings)

  • Avoid things that can cause discomfort (devices and bright lights)


Visit a Doctor Again

  • If more than two weeks have passed and symptoms are still there or are getting worse

  • Your child is developing a fever

  • Your child is under three months old and has eye discharge



7. Stomach Flu


What Is It?

The stomach flu, (or stomach bug) is commonly caused by a virus, the most common one being norovirus. In some cases, it can also be caused by bacteria. It is not the same as the common flu. Like the word itself, stomach flu is flu in the stomach and intestines. It can happen to adults but is more common in children.


How Long Does It Last?

Between one to three days.


How does It Start?

The stomach flu is caused mainly by viruses, and therefore, it is highly contagious. Your child can get the stomach flu from another child or sibling who has the flu. If your child has the stomach flu, it’s likely the rest of your children will catch it within a few days too.


Children can also get the stomach flu from not washing their hands properly, touching dirty objects, or food poisoning.


Symptoms

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort

  • No appetite

  • Chills or fatigue

  • Muscle pain and stiff joints

  • Headache

  • Severe dehydration

Symptoms are severe in the first 24 hours and should get better over the next two days.


Treatment

Treatment focuses on soothing symptoms. This includes:

  • Don’t give your child anything to eat for a few hours when they are throwing up a lot. After a while, when their stomach is more settled, give your child little amounts of bland food that won’t upset their stomach more.

  • Make sure your child stays hydrated. (Babies need a water solution with proper nutrients and not plain water. If your child is six months or younger, consult a doctor)

  • Give clear and light liquids like water, ginger ale, sprite, electrolyte water, or tea in the form of sips throughout the day. Avoid giving milk or juice.

  • Don’t give your child over-the-counter medication for diarrhea or fever unless recommended by a doctor.


When to See a Doctor?

In most cases, the stomach flu can be treated at home and does not require visiting a doctor. However, see a doctor:

  • If your child’s symptoms last more than five days

  • Your child has a severe fever or dehydration

  • Your child is sleeping for long periods or is unresponsive

  • Your child has bloody diarrhea.



8. Chickenpox


What Is It?

Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus known as the Varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It isn’t as common as it used to be because the chickenpox vaccine is given to most children at a young age. However, there are still some cases around the world.


How Long Does It Last?

Generally between one to two weeks. It takes around 5 to 10 days for the rashes to crust over and fall off after the initial rashes become visible.


How does It Start?

The chickenpox virus can spread through the air or direct contact. Chicken pox symptoms can develop up to three weeks after being in contact with an infected person. It starts with a fever and body aches. Then, rashes start spreading over the body after one or two days.


Symptoms

Chicken pox symptoms are usually mild, especially for children who are vaccinated. However, Chicken pox can be life-threatening for children who are very young, and immunocompromised, as well as children who are in the womb when the mother has chicken pox.


Symptoms can vary but the main symptoms are:

  • Itchy rashes, mainly on the face, scalp, stomach, armpits, arms, legs, and inner mouth. These rashes will turn into small fluid blisters, which will crust over with time.

  • Fever

  • Fatigue and irritability

  • Little to no appetite

  • Body stiffness

  • Cough or runny nose


Treatment

Since Chicken pox is viral, it does not require medication. In the case where your child’s condition is severe, a doctor might prescribe antiviral drugs depending on your child's age.


You can help ease your child’s symptoms by:

  • Stopping them from scratching. (Cover their hands with gloves or trim their nails) If your child scratches the blisters open it can lead to a bacterial infection. In this case, your child might need antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

  • Give them cool baths to soothe their skin. (Pat dry your child’s skin to avoid popping the blisters)

  • Use chamomile lotion or anti-itch cream prescribed by a doctor

  • Give your child bland food (if there are blisters in their mouth)

  • Let them rest

  • Give your child medication for fever (never give your child aspirin)


When to See a Doctor?

See a doctor when you notice any symptoms to determine if your child has Chicken pox or another illness. See your child’s doctor again if:

  • Your child’s fever goes away and then returns

  • Your child has a high fever and looks very ill. (Not eating or sleeping properly)

  • Your child has trouble breathing or a severe headache

  • Your child is vomiting, dizzy or confused

  • The rash or blisters are swelling, oozing pus, turning red, or sore. (This can be a sign of an infection)



9. Asthma


What Is It?

According to the AAFA, “Asthma is a long-term disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the airways. This results in narrowing of the airways that carry air from the nose and mouth to the lungs”.


This can make it hard to breathe, which can cause asthma attacks. Asthma itself is very common. Approximately 1 in 13 people around the world have Asthma.


How Long Does It Last?

Asthma is a lifelong condition. Asthma isn’t always severe. In most cases, Asthma doesn’t affect a person’s ability to go about their daily life with ease. With proper care, you can ensure your child’s health and well-being despite them having Asthma.


How does It Start?

Asthma can develop from various conditions. This includes:

  • Allergies

  • Pollution or smoke

  • Sinus infections

  • Genetics

In most cases, asthma develops when a child is exposed to an infection at a young age when their immune system isn’t fully developed yet. This can lead to sensitivity to allergies, dust, or mold, which can increase the risk of asthma attacks.


Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, especially after walking short distances

  • Coughing all the time or having coughing fits

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • It takes longer for your child to recover from respiratory illnesses

  • Fatigue and having trouble playing or being active

  • Trouble laying down and breathing


Check to see if your child has a blue tinge on their lips, skin, or nails. This can mean your child is not getting enough oxygen. Someone who has Asthma might have trouble exercising, being in dusty areas, or doing things that can trigger their Asthma and make it hard to breathe.


Treatment

Asthma is a lifelong condition that won’t go away. However, with treatment focused on alleviating symptoms and changes to your child’s lifestyle, asthma attacks can be prevented from disrupting your child’s health.


A doctor will determine treatment depending on your child’s age, medical history, risk factors, and the severity of the symptoms. Treatment can include daily medication to prevent inflammation of the airways or an inhaler with short-term drugs to treat asthma attacks.


You can help prevent asthma attacks and trouble breathing by:

  • Preventing triggers like allergies, dust, or mold

  • Helping your child be active without compromising their breathing

  • Helping your child do breathing exercises

  • Research and learn about warning signs of an asthma attack and what to do in the situation where it happens

  • Give your child treatments that can ease their symptoms through steam or a humidifier


When to See a Doctor?

Consult a doctor if you suspect your child has Asthma. Only your child’s doctor can determine how to treat your child’s Asthma. If at any time your child has asthma as well as any of the following problems, see a doctor immediately.

  • There is a wheezing or whistling sound when your child breathes

  • Your child is having trouble breathing

  • Your child is getting asthma attacks more frequently

  • Your child is coughing all the time

  • Your child has chest pain or tightness

  • Your child frequently gets Bronchitis, Pneumonia, or other respiratory illnesses

To learn more about Asthma, visit here!


Mother helping child with asthma
Child With Asthma

10. Eczema


What Is It?

Eczema is a skin condition that can cause the skin to become itchy, red, or swollen. It can also lead to rashes, bumps, or dry skin. Eczema is not contagious.


How Long Does It Last?

Generally, Eczema is a lifelong condition with occasional flare-ups. An Eczema flare is when symptoms suddenly get severe. Otherwise, Eczema only affects a person’s skin on a minor level. In some cases, Eczema can severely affect a person’s skin and needs proper medical treatment.


How does It Start?

The cause of Eczema is unknown. Doctors speculate that Eczema is linked to other skin conditions, genetics, or a weak immune system.


Symptoms

Symptoms can be more noticeable during a flare-up.

  • Red, itchy patches of dry skin

  • Crusty or scaly skin

  • Small red bumps or blisters on the skin


Eczema can affect different areas of the body depending on age:

  • Children one year or younger will experience exam patches on their scalp, face, arms, and legs.

  • Children two years or older will mostly have patches on their neck, upper arms, inner elbow, wrists, ankles, and knees.

  • In severe cases, eczema patches can be found all over the skin

Dry weather or certain skin products can trigger Eczema and make symptoms worsen. Symptoms can change as your child gets older, so it is important to keep an eye on their skin condition.


Treatment

Depending on how severe your child’s Eczema is, a doctor might prescribe topical creams or anti-allergy medicine. Treatment is mainly focused on soothing symptoms and preventing the patches from getting worse. You can help by:

  • Giving your child cool baths to soothe their skin. (Always pat dry)

  • Use skin products that are for sensitive skin.

  • Moisturize your child’s body to prevent their skin from drying out easily.

  • Dress your child in breathable fabric that won’t irritate their skin.

  • Make sure your child doesn’t get too hot and sweaty which can make them feel itchy.

  • Clean and sanitize regularly to prevent irritants.

  • Using anti-itch creams or products prescribed by a doctor.

  • Not letting your child scratch their skin when they feel itchy. (It can make the rash worse or lead to an infection)

By determining what triggers your child’s Eczema, you can prevent symptoms from worsening.


When to See a Doctor?

See a doctor if:

  • Your child’s symptoms are worsening or not improving with treatment

  • Your child has a fever with these symptoms

  • You suspect your child has a skin infection

  • The skin patches have pus or fluid


Remember

Never give your child or teen aspirin. Giving aspirin to children can lead to Reye's Syndrome which can lead to life-threatening problems such as swelling and seizures.



FAQs


1. How often do children get sick than adults?

Children get sick more often than adults. Children can have 8-12 colds or fevers in a year whereas adults have a low ratio ranging from 3-4 per year.


2. Why are children more delicate to diseases than adults?

Children have a weak immune system that is not developed for various kinds of diseases and that's why they are more open to infections and diseases. Whereas, adults have a developed immune system for several diseases and hence are less likely to get infections.


3. Is it possible to not have an immune system?

Yes, it is possible to have a little or no immune system. Kids with SCID have little or no immune system with the absence or little presence of T-cells.



Takeaway


It is common for children to get sick multiple times throughout the year. Staying informed about what illnesses your child can experience can make you feel more prepared and less worried. It can also help you recognize what illnesses are common, and what problems are more serious and need to be addressed with a specialist or doctor.


If any of these illnesses or any other problems are recurring and you are worried that it isn’t normal then remember it's completely fine to consult a pediatrician.








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