5 common illnesses to look out for in your child
Article by Cherlynn Ng
Having your precious child fall sick is one of the most worrying yet inevitable things you will experience as a parent. You feel their pain like it’s your own and can’t help but wonder what you can do to ease their suffering.
Although it’s part and parcel of life, the best thing you can do is to be prepared for such situations. Being able to identify early symptoms so that you can swiftly decide on a course of action during emergencies can be a lifesaver, so familiarise yourself with these most common ailments that might be plaguing your child.
1. Common cold
Symptoms: Blocked or runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, mild fever
Caused by viruses in the upper respiratory tract, colds often affect infants and toddlers, who can suffer up to eight bouts per year. However, antibiotics are not typically required and most kids bounce back within five to seven days.
What to do:
• Ibuprofen can help bring down a mild fever
• Bring your child to the doctor if he or she is running a high temperature
• Make sure your child stays hydrated by consuming fluids
• Let your child have plenty of rest
• Keep your child away from other people and crowded places
2. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
Symptoms: Fever, painful sores in the mouth and throat, skin rashes
Although highly contagious, this viral illness is not usually severe and clears up between seven and 10 days. Children below the age of five are most susceptible to catching it, through coughs, sneezing, skin-to-skin contact and fecal matter.
What to do:
• Keep your child at home so that the infection will not spread to other kids in school
• Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
• Cold fluids can provide relief to a sore throat (avoid acidic juices!)
• Consider switching to a soft diet as mouth ulcers can be immensely painful
• Disinfect all toys and items that your child comes into contact with
3. Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, slight fever
A variety of viruses can cause the stomach bug, which is more than just your average tummy ache. Most go away on their own within a few days to a week, requiring nothing more than lots of rest and tender loving care on top of a careful diet.
What to do:
• Reduce contact with other people as gastroenteritis is contagious
• Replace lost salts and water with lots of fluids to prevent dehydration
• Avoid milk and dairy products
• Try the BRAT diet: Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast
• Greek yoghurt or probiotics can help to promote healthy gut flora
Symptoms: Yellowing of the skin and eyes, constant high-pitched crying, listlessness, lethargy and weariness, poor weight gain
Jaundice test: Press gently on your baby’s forehead or nose under good lighting. The skin colour of a healthy infant should simply look lighter than its normal colour for awhile. However, if the skin looks yellow instead, this might be a sign that your baby has mild jaundice.
There is no real way to prevent jaundice, but premature babies and infants who are not getting enough milk are at higher risk of developing the condition. It usually resolves itself as the child’s liver starts to mature.
What to do:
• Increase the frequency of feeds
• Bring your baby outdoors into the sun
5. Ear infection
Symptoms: Fever, ear pain (you might notice your child fidgeting with either ear), loss of balance, difficulty in hearing, vomiting and diarrhea in babies
There are three types of ear infections, with the most common one known as Acute Otitis Media (AOM). This condition occurs in the middle ear and typically affects younger children, whose ears are still developing and hence more prone to retaining fluid.
What to do:
• Most ear infections go away on their own
• Doctors usually prescribe amoxicillin if treatment is required
Common tell-tale signs that your child isn’t feeling well are incessant crying and a loss of appetite, so stay vigilant and keep a lookout for these red flags. While the information here serves as a quick guide and it might be tempting to self-medicate, be sure to always consult a doctor before your child’s condition worsens.
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