Children are susceptible to catching illnesses because their immune systems are not fully developed. The following paragraphs will outline some of the most common children’s illnesses and offer advice on how to keep your child healthy and what to do if you think your child is suffering with an illness.

Common illnesses

Coughs and colds

Coughs and colds are extremely common in children and it estimated that most children get up to 10 colds each year. Coughs and colds are highly contagious and spread quickly; children are vulnerable to these infections due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Common symptoms include a high temperature, runny nose, sore throat, loss of appetite, tiredness, muscle aches and pains and sore ears. Coughs and colds are viral infections so they cannot be cured with medication; however, over the counter pain relief will help to ease the symptoms associated with these illnesses; you should consult your GP or pharmacist for advice regarding the appropriate dosage. You should ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids and gets lots of rest.

Meningitis

Meningitis is a serious illness which can have long-lasting effects and be potentially life-threatening. There are two types of meningitis; these include viral and bacterial. Bacterial meningitis is often more serious and should be treated as an emergency. The symptoms of both forms of meningitis are usually similar to those associated with the common cold or flu but there are some pointers which you should look out for. Children suffering from meningitis usually lose muscle tension and become floppy; many also develop a rash and have a soaring temperature.

If your child develops a rash, place a glass on the affected area of skin; if the rash does not fade or lose colour you should seek emergency medical help. If your child has a temperature of over 38 degrees and it cannot be brought down by medication you should seen emergency medical attention. Babies with meningitis may also have a swollen fontanel and may go pale. Meningitis should be treated as quickly as possible so if your child displays any of the symptoms mentioned above you should get them checked over by a health professional as quickly as possible.

Asthma

Asthma is increasingly common in young children; it is a respiratory illness which can cause tightness in the chest and difficulties with breathing. Symptoms of asthma commonly include prolonged chesty coughs, difficulties with breathing and wheezing. If you think your child has asthma you should consult your GP who will be able to assess your child’s condition and prescribe the relevant treatment. Most asthmatics have inhalers which help to make it easier to breathe. If your child is asthmatic, you should ensure they have their inhaler with them at all times and inform anybody who takes care of them about their health condition; asthma attacks can come on at any time and can potentially be fatal.

Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by a viral infection and is very common in young children. It is highly contagious and is easily diagnosed due to the presence of small red spots all over the body. If your child has chickenpox they may be more emotional and clingy than usual; try to ensure they have plenty of rest and keep their fluids up and try to discourage them from scratching the spots as they may delay the healing process and cause scarring. There are lotions available which can help to ease the itchiness. If you child has chickenpox keep them away from school or nursery for at least 7 days after the spots appeared; this will enable them to heal and scab over and will prevent the spread of infection to other people.

Keeping children healthy

Try to ensure your children wrap up warm when they go outside; this may involves putting extra layers of clothing on as well as wearing hats, scarves and gloves. Make sure they do plenty of running around as this will help to keep them fit and healthy but ensure they are appropriately dressed for the winter and limit the periods of exercise to regular short bursts of 5 to 10 minutes. Try to provide meals with lots of fruit and vegetables in as this will help to boost their immune system and make them better able to fight off infection. Keep your home clean and warm and provide a comfortable environment for them to sleep in. Brushing teeth with toothpaste and using mouthwash is another way to keep your child in good health.