Parents of young children often get frustrated with the number of times their children become sick with common illnesses.
It is quite normal for young children to have as many as six to eight upper respiratory tract infections and two or three gastrointestinal infections each year. Children in day care, preschool or kindergarten can often have even more.
When you have large groups of children in a child care or school setting, there is always a high risk of contracting an illness. Many children are contagious for a day or two before symptoms develop, therefore illnesses tend to spread undetected very quickly.
What causes infections?
Infections are caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites and your child will get an infection if they come into contact with someone who has the infection and if they are not already immune.
Some infections, such as Impetigo (School Sores) and Varicella (Chickenpox) are spread from direct contact with the infection site.
Other infections are spread by respiratory droplets from an infected persons lungs, nose or mouth to another person. The droplets can spread through the air directly onto another child, or may land on a surface, which is then touched by another child. Infections spread by respiratory droplets include the common cold, flu, and Whopping Cough (Pertussis).
How to prevent illness?
Young children are more susceptible to illness as they haven’t had the chance to build up immunity to these common infections. It is very difficult to prevent illness if your child has been exposed to another infected child. As your child gets older, their immune system will strengthen and they will get sick less often.
Attention to hygiene may help with minimising infection transmission, including;
- Careful hand washing before eating and after toileting
- Avoiding the sharing of drinks, food and utensils
- Keeping children home from childcare or school if they are not well
- Keeping any suspect lumps or rashes covered until you know exactly what they are
Diagnosis and Treatment
A medical professional will be able to determine what illness your child has and will recommend appropriate treatment if and when required. Always seek professional diagnosis if you are concerned about your child’s health.
For more information about common childhood illnesses we recommend the following reputable websites:
New South Wales Health Department
The Children’s Hospital – Westmead
Royal Children’s Hospital – Melbourne