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7 common infectious diseases in children

There are lots of infectious diseases that affect children. Some of them are very common, and most kids will be exposed to them during their childhood.

We've put together a guide to common childhood illnesses, including childhood illnesses with fever. Childhood illnesses come with many signs and symptoms, so we’ll describe these along with simple treatments you can offer at home.

Remember that if you are concerned about your child’s health, then you should consult a doctor.

Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a highly infectious illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is usually mild but in rare cases can cause serious complications.

The symptoms of chickenpox include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Raised temperature
  • An itchy rash of red spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. In time the blisters dry out and develop scabs that fall off.

You can treat chickenpox at home by:

  • Offering plenty of fluids
  • Giving your child paracetamol to help with aches and pains
  • Using cooling patches or skin creams to soothe itching
  • Monitoring fever in your child and temperature with a thermometer for children

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis causes inflammation of the eyes. It can be due to bacterial or viral infection or because your child has an allergy.

Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Red or pink eyes
  • Itchiness
  • A feeling of grittiness in the eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Pus in the eyes that sticks to eyelashes

This is what you can do to help your child with conjunctivitis:

  • Use cotton wool pads soaked in boiled and cooled water to clean their eyes. Use a fresh pad for each eye.
  • Hold a clean flannel soaked in cold water and wrung out over their eyes to soothe them.

Colds

It’s very common for young children to get up to six colds a year. But as their immunity improves, they should get fewer colds.

You probably already know about the symptoms of coughs and colds, which include:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • Coughing
  • A sore throat
  • Headaches and other aches and pains
  • Mild fever

You can help your child manage the symptoms of colds by offering:

  • Lots of fluids to keep them hydrated
  • Paracetamol for aches and pains

You can also encourage them to wash their hands frequently and use sanitiser in between handwashing to reduce the risk of passing on infection.

Croup

Croup is an infection that causes swelling of the vocal cords, windpipe and the airways to the lungs.

Symptoms include:

  • A distinctive barking cough
  • Hoarse voice
  • Noisy breathing

As long as the symptoms are mild, you can treat them at home by:

  • Offering lots of fluids
  • Giving pain relief such as paracetamol
  • Making sure your child rests

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting in children is often caused by a bacterial or viral infection and is thankfully usually short-lived. It can also be the result of food poisoning or an allergy.

Your child may have:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Watery diarrhoea
  • Mild fever
  • Aches and pains
  • Loss of appetite

Help them by:

  • Giving them lots of fluids
  • Offering oral rehydration solutions, which you can get from the pharmacist if you are concerned about them being dehydrated
  • Giving them food high in carbs — for example, potatoes, pasta and rice
  • Cleaning their bottom after diarrhoea and applying barrier cream if they wear a nappy

Ear infections

Many ear infections are caused by viruses and are common following a cold.

You may notice:

  • Your child pulling at their ear or saying their ear hurts
  • A discharge from their ear
  • A high temperature in your child

You can help them feel better by:

  • Giving them paracetamol for the pain
  • Keeping them hydrated
  • Applying a warm flannel to the ear
  • Keeping the ear free of any discharge

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease commonly affects children but usually gets better on its own within 10 days.

Symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue
  • Spots on the hands and feet. They may also appear on your child’s legs and bottom.

You can help soothe the symptoms by:

  • Offering plenty of fluids
  • Giving paracetamol for fever and pain
  • Giving your child soft food, like yoghurt, that won’t irritate their mouth

Helping manage your child’s symptoms at home

This is just a brief guide to the most common childhood illnesses. For more detail, check out the government’s healthdirect website.

For help with managing your child’s symptoms as well as avoiding infections, see the FeverMates collection of health and wellness products, including cooling patches, thermometers, sanitisers and face masks.

It’s our mission to help you and your family bounce back from minor illnesses and make every day a healthy day!

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