Common Childhood Illnesses: What to Watch Out for

The unfortunate fact of life is that kids get sick. Thankfully in most cases not seriously ill and looking on the bright side many childhood illness provide a stronger immune system. Winter tends to be a time for more illness with numerous viruses going around. We look at some of the more common illness that can affect children.

Chicken Pox

One of the most well know childhood illness Chicken Pox is exceptionally common in kids. In fact it is so common that 90% of adults are immune due to the fact that they had it when younger. The illness begins with fever, stomach ache and general malaise before the signature rash appears. The rash is in the form of small blisters that eventually crust over and dry out.

Chicken pox is highly contagious from before the rash appears until all spots are crusted over.

As a virus there is little that can be done but keep the child comfortable. There are a range of lotions and specialised creams on the market for chicken pox to prevent the itch of the blisters as they form and crust. Other symptoms can be dealt with through pain medication.

In a few cases bacterial infection can occur and in these cases the child must see a doctor without delay.

There is a move to vaccination for kids against catching chickenpox and those that do catch it despite vaccination will likely only get a mild dose.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Not to be confused with Foot and Mouth disease that we are familiar with from cows, Hand Foot and Mouth disease is a common illness affecting young children.

There are a range of symptoms of the illness including fever, malaise and irritability, loss of appetite, sore throat and the characteristics sores or blisters that appear around mouth, on palms of hands and soles of feet.

As a virus there is little treatment but rest with analgesics such as pediatric paracetamol and ibuprofen. As there is loss of appetite it is important to keep the child hydrated.

Fifth Disease

Fifth Disease, is a mild viral infection causing a low grade fever, headache and stuffy nose. It may appear to have passed when a rash appears. The rash starts on the face and often appers as red cheeks hence the alternative name of the illness - “Slap Cheek” syndrome.

While fifth disease can be relatively mild it can potentially be dangerous for pregnant women, particularly in the first half of pregnancy. In serious cases the foetus will not survive where a mother who is not immune has become infected while pregnant.

As with Hand Foot and Mouth disease as a virus treatment is by rest, pain relief and maintaining hydration.


Also known as “Sixth Disease”, as the sixth rash causing virus, Roseola features a very high fever as a primary symptom. The fever is usually preceded by a mild respiratory illness with the high fever accompanied by irritability, loss of appetite and often swollen lymph nodes.

The fever will cease suddenly which triggers the second key feature of the illness – a rash, usually starting on the trunk but spreading quickly.

A key consideration with Roseola is to be alert for febrile convulsions which are associated with high fever.

Treatment of roseola is via controlling the temperature by use of pediatric Paracetamol and ibuprofen products as well as keeping the child hydrated.


Croup is caused by a virus and the main symptom is a “barking” cough, akin to a seal. While it lasts about a week treatment mainly involves helping the child to breathe more easily which can include steroid medication and nebulisers. There are some simple home techniques which can be helpful, such as running a hot tap and filling a room with steam for the child sit in for about 15minutes also going for a walk in the cold air outside (obviously a winter technique!).

Children fall ill very quickly. Often it is one of the above illnesses or other similar virus that just need time, rest and a little pain relief however it is important to remember that they can deteriorate quickly and so any concerns should be raised with a medical practitioner without delay.

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