Our doctors provide expert care to your children from birth to adulthood.
There are many reasons why we bring our children to the doctor. Below we explore 5 of the most common childhood illnesses that we see in our practice.
The most frequent illness-related reason for visits is a cough. Children usually cough when a common cold causes mucus to trickle down the back of the throat.
The common cold is one of the most frequent reasons children miss school. It’s normal for a child to have eight or more colds a year because more than 200 viruses can cause the common cold, and young children lack the immunity to resist them. Antibiotics don’t work against these viruses, nor do they help your child feel better when suffering with a cold.
Children often experience fever, aches, cough, stuffy nose and a sore throat during a common cold. Symptoms usually peak within two to three days but can last for up to two weeks. If your child is eating, drinking, and breathing normally and is not wheezing, a cough should not alarm you.
If your child has a bad cough that won’t go away, is breathless, wheezing or has a high temperature, make an appointment with your doctor.
2) Ear infections
Parents of young children know how common ear infections are. Five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday.
Ear infections, or otitis media, are common in children because of their narrow ear canal. The accumulation of air and water in the middle ear, often caused by bacteria, creates pressure and inflammation that leads to intense pain. A bacterial ear infection often begins after a child has a cold or other upper respiratory infection.
In very young children who are not yet speaking, signs of an ear infection include fussiness, sleeplessness and tugging at the ear.
A virus, bacteria or an allergic reaction most commonly causes this inflammation of the membrane that covers the inside of your child’s eyelids and the white part of the eye.
It’s easy for children to get the highly contagious conjunctivitis bacteria or viruses because they are in close contact with so many other children and good hygiene is often lacking. Direct contact with an infected child’s secretions, usually through hand-to-eye contact, is the most common way bacterial conjunctivitis is spread. Your child’s eye will be red with a lot of pus.
Bacterial conjunctivitis can spread very quickly through your home, so make sure your child washes their hands regularly, avoids touching the eyes, and does not share bedding or linens with anyone else. Keep your child out of school for at least 24 hours after treatment begins.
Viral conjunctivitis is also very contagious and is caused by the same virus responsible for the common cold. You’ll notice a watery mucus discharge from your child’s eye. Symptoms usually last for up to two weeks and then disappear on their own, although severe cases can last even longer. Antibiotic eye drops do not cure viral conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and is caused by an allergen in the environment that is irritating your child’s eye. The main symptom is itching. Applying cool compresses to the eyes and using eye drops are helpful.
4) Sore throat
Most cases of sore throat are viral in origin. However streptococcus bacteria are also responsible for a large amount of presentations.
Sore throats are commonly seen during the school year when young kids and teens are in close quarters. How can you differentiate between a normal sore throat caused by the common cold virus and a sore throat caused by the streptococcus bacteria? If your child also has a runny nose and sneezing, it’s probably a cold. But if the sore throat lasts more than a week and your child experiences:
Painful or difficult swallowing
Pus or red and white patches in the back of the throat
Tender or swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
Red and enlarged tonsils
Fever over 38 degrees
Loss of appetite and nausea
. . . and has been in contact with someone who has streptococcus sore throat, it’s probably caused by the bacteria. The bacteria are spread during normal activities like sneezing and coughing, which is why teaching kids to cover their mouths and wash their hands often is so important.
5) Gastroenteritis, or a stomach bug
This common infection in the intestines causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain ranging from mild to severe. Many children have more than one episode in a year. A variety of viruses, parasites and bacteria that are easily spread in schools and day-care centers, including norovirus, can cause gastroenteritis.
Most stomach viruses clear up within a few days to a week, and the main concern is preventing dehydration. Encourage your child to drink fluids in small, frequent amounts. If your child can’t keep down sips of liquids and begins to show signs of severe dehydration such as lethargy or no urine for six hours or more, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.