*Disclaimer* This post is meant to give an overview of common illnesses only. It is not a comprehensive list and is not written by an expert. If your child is ill you should always seek the advice of a medical professional and read all medicine information leaflets carefully before attempting to treat your child.
Common Baby Illnesses and Infections
This is a mild illness that causes a rash of red, itchy spots that eventually scab over and drop off. The virus is very contagious and most children get it at some point. It can usually be treated with calomine lotion. However, some children can become more seriously ill with chickenpox and need to see a doctor, especially if the blisters become infected or they have difficulty breathing.
Also known as ‘red eye’ or ‘pink eye’, conjunctivitis is a common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye (the conjunctiva). It can be caused by an infection, allergic reaction or an irritant. You can gently cleanse the eye area with cotton wool and water and eye drops may help, but check with your pharmacist to see which ones are suitable. It’s contagious so make sure you wash your hands regularly and use a different towel from your baby to avoid it spreading. Symptoms normally clear up within a couple of weeks, but visit your GP as there can occasionally be complications.
It’s normal for children to catch around eight colds a year because their immune system is still not fully developed and there are so many different strains of the virus. Most colds clear up on their own after 5-10 days. Children under six shouldn’t have over-the-counter cold remedies such as decongestants, but using saline nasal drops can sometimes help. Always ask your GP or pharmacist.
If your child has a loud, barking cough and makes a harsh sound when they breathe in, it could be Croup
Ear infections often follow a cold and sometimes cause a fever. Your baby might pull or rub at their ear, be irritable or have difficulty feeding. They are usually caused by viruses so can’t be treated with antibiotics. They usually get better by themselves between 3-5 days. Don’t put any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into your child’s ear unless your GP advises you to do so.
A fever is a temperature of 37.5C (99.5F).
Babies often develop fevers from mild viral infections. They can usually be treated with extra fluid and children’s ibuprofen or paracetamol, but watch out for signs of dehydration
This is a condition that occurs in newborn babies and causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is usually harmless but should be checked out by a GP a.s.a.p as it may be the sign of an underlying condition and might require treatment.
This is a fungal infection in the mouth which is usually harmless and easily treatable. The main symptom is a white coating on the tongue that may look like curd or cottage cheese and cannot be rubbed off easily. You should see your GP if you think your baby may have thrush, as you may need an antifungal medicine to treat it.
A baby with reflux will regularly bring up milk shortly after a feed. It’s usually just because their oesophagus isn’t fully developed and in most cases it disappears after a year, or just over. However, in some cases it can be the sign of a more serious problem, such as GORD
Sore throats are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds or flu. They usually clear up on their own after a few days, but can be treated with child paracetamol or ibuprofen. See your GP if your child has a sore throat for more than four days, has a high temperature or other symptoms or is unable to swallow fluids.
What to do if your baby is sick
If your baby is ill, always seek the advice of a medical professional such as your GP, health visitor or midwife. If you’re in the UK, you can also call the NHS non-emergency information line (111) for advice. Make sure you bring your child’s red book (health record) with you if you go for any assessment or treatment.
There are some symptoms that should always be treated as serious. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with this NHS list of “red alert” symptoms so you can get medical attention as soon as possible if your child displays any of them. Also, check out this list of Meningitis symptoms in babies and toddlers-even if your child does not have a rash.
If you have been advised that the symptoms are not serious, this NHS advice on looking after a sick child may be helpful.
Which common childhood illnesses have you (or your children) suffered from?