As unfortunate as it is and as much as we wish we could prevent it, all children get sick. It is an unavoidable fact of life. Even if you take every precaution, from feeding your children a healthy diet, to giving them probiotics and multivitamins, they will at some point pick some form of infection.
And where are the most common culprits? The playground. The crèche. The classroom. These places are hot spots for the spread of infections. It is coming into contact with other children that carry infections and diseases that is the most common way of your child catching an illness.
Here are some of the most common playground bugs that your child is likely to pick up and how to treat them:
Causes and Symptoms
There are over 200 viruses that can cause a common cold. People sneezing or coughing and droplets being airborne can spread these. It can also be spread through indirect contact such as someone touching a door handle that had been sneezed on by someone with a cold and then touching their face.
Symptoms include nasal stuffiness, runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and a cough.
Cold symptoms will ease within a week without the need for treatment. However, discomfort can be alleviated through lots of rest and fluids, as well as over-the-counter medicines such as children’s paracetamol. See your GP if your child has a very high fever and swollen glands, as these symptoms could be a sign of tonsillitis and they may need to be prescribed antiobiotics.
Causes and Symptoms
The majority of tummy bugs are caused by viruses that can easily be passed on through hand-to-hand contact. Gastroenteritis is an infection of the stomach and bowel. It can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. It can also be caused by food poisoning.
The most common cause of gastroenteritis in children is rotavirus. This is a virus that is spread by infected children who do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.
This is extremely common in young children and the first infection is generally the most severe as after it children begin to build up immunity to the virus.
Symptoms usually begin with a rapid onset of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Tummy bugs are highly contagious so it’s important to keep your child at home for 48 hours until their symptoms have settled. The most important thing is rest and lots of fluids.
It is vital to make sure that your child does not become dehydrated, so it’s important to give lots of fluids. If your child shows symptoms of dehydration, contact your GP.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
Causes and Symptoms
Not to be confused with foot and mouth disease, hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild illness that is common in children under 10 years of age. It is very contagious, but most adults are immune to the viruses that cause it. If a child catches it, it is unlikely they will catch it again in the same outbreak.
Symptoms include a non-itchy rash on the palms of hands and soles of feet. There can also be ulcers in the mouth. Children who catch it may feel generally unwell.
Medical treatment is not necessary in most cases of hand, foot and mouth disease. The body’s immune system clears the virus and the rash and ulcer symptoms generally go away in seven to 10 days.
Causes and Symptoms
Head lice are tiny insects that are spread from hair through head-to-head contact. While anyone with hair can catch head lice, they are most common in children as they are more likely to have head-to-head contact during school or playtime. Head lice are most common in children between four to 11 years.
The most common symptom of head lice is an itchy scalp but not in all cases. Surprisingly, the itching is not caused by the head lice biting the scalp but by an allergy to the lice. If a child is not allergic to the lice, they will not feel itchy.
Another symptom of head lice is a rash on the back of the neck that is caused by a reaction to louse droppings.
Head lice can be persistent and can prove to be difficult to remove. This is because of their high re-infestation rate and because lice are developing a resistance to some insecticides that are used in treatments.
There are two main methods to removing head lice and their eggs:
1. Wet combing
The wet-combing method involves combing the hair from root to tip with a special fine-toothed comb. Complete thoroughness is required to ensure proper removal of the head lice. Wash the hair with shampoo and then apply a large amount of conditioner to the hair. Brush with a regular comb to remove knots from the hair and then use the louse detection comb to thoroughly comb through the hair. Then rinse out the conditioner and repeat the combing procedure. This process needs to be repeated on day five, nine and 13 in order to remove all young lice as they hatch and before they have time to breed again.
2. Medicated treatment
The alternative method to wet combing is using a medicated lotion or spray; however, no medicated treatment is 100% effective. Medicated treatments should only be used if a living head louse is found. As each treatment differs, it is important to follow the instructions of the treatment you have purchased. Generally the advice with these treatments is to treat once and then again in seven days. After the treatment you should use the special comb to remove any dead lice and eggs.
Three to five days after the initial treatment, check for baby lice that would have hatched from eggs since the treatment. Do this again at 10 to 12 days. If the treatment does not work and there are still lice infecting your child’s hair, get advice from your pharmacist, GP or school nurse.
“Childhood bugs are part of the deal at schools and crèches…I have my little girl on a multivitamin..its not going to always prevent her picking up infections or sicknesses, but it can build up her immunity. Plenty of berry fruits which have antioxidants.”
“My advice is to not get too hung up on being super hygienic. We can’t keep our children in a bubble for their whole lives. Exposing them to all that is out there strengthens their immune systems. A good pro biotic and a healthy diet is an effective way to keep their bodies and immune systems healthy without having to supplement.”
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