Parenthood is one of the most rewarding roles life has to offer—but it can be one of the most stressful as well. One minute you’re playing with your child, marveling at his new skills; the next, you could just be recognizing a health problem.
It is among your responsibilities as a parent to instill healthy habits in your children—even at a young age—as these can stay with them well into adulthood. It is equally important that you arm yourself with proper knowledge of the common childhood illnesses, so you know how to keep your child from contracting them and what to do when they strike your household. Let’s talk about some of the most common childhood illnesses, their symptoms, and their possible home remedies, and seeking medical advice and treatment from family nurse practitioners if they get out of hand.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
RSV is common in children younger than 2 years of age and is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants and young children. The virus creates inflammation in the lower, smaller airways of the lungs. If your child is experiencing a cough, a fever higher than 100.4, wheezing, nasal congestion, poor appetite, and/or rapid breathing, it is time to consult your family nurse practitioner.
However, RSV doesn’t necessarily require hospitalization. Milder cases can be treated at home, but strict handwashing should be practiced to avoid spreading the virus throughout the household.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
Children in daycare or school are especially susceptible to HFMD. Symptoms include sores in their mouth, hands, and feet, and even near their genitalia. This illness is usually spread through contact with an infected person’s saliva, blister fluid, and stool. HFMD is highly infectious, even to adults, so this is another reason for staying vigilant on hand hygiene.
Since this is a viral infection, supportive treatment at home is best as the disease runs its course; however, the sores in the mouth may cause your child to eat and drink less. If you notice this, give your family nurse practitioner a call to prevent dehydration.
Rashes are very common in children and can be caused by a number of factors. Infants get many rashes that disappear in time without treatment.
Diaper rashes occur when diapers are not changed often enough. Treatment with an emollient ointment and frequent changes should do the trick. If left untreated, a diaper rash can evolve into a secondary yeast (fungal) infection or bacterial infection that then needs the attention of your health care provider. Topical antifungal ointments and antibacterial creams will help heal these infections.
If your child is taking a new medication and develops a rash on his arms, legs, belly, or back, call your nurse practitioner because it could be an allergic reaction.
There are also some infectious illnesses that could present with rashes. These include roseola, measles, and chickenpox.
Roseola, also known as sixth disease, may cause a fever as high as 104 and a rash that starts on the neck and spreads to the trunk and arms. Consult your primary care office if this happens.
If your child is not vaccinated, measles and chickenpox are a risk. Remember, you don’t need to see a dermatologist for childhood rashes. Family nurse practitioners themselves are experts in diagnosing and treating rashes in children, and even in administering vaccinations for measles and chickenpox.
Allergies, Asthma and Eczema
If you’ve never had experience with allergies, asthma, and eczema, you may not know that they are all related and often appear in childhood. Environmental allergies may not only lead to a runny, sneezy nose, but to tightening of airways leading to the wheezing of asthma as well.
Environmental and food allergies can both cause eczema, which appears as itchy rashes mostly on the neck and in areas where skin folds, such as inside the elbows and knees. Treating allergies, avoiding things that cause allergic reactions, and using emollient creams after baths are ways to deal with eczema. Your primary care provider can give you extra tips to keep your child comfortable.
If you notice your child wheezing or coughing often, they may have asthma. This can be a serious condition that should be managed by your healthcare provider. Treatment usually includes clearing your environment of allergens (things that cause allergies), daily medications, and often “rescue” inhalers to use when your child has an asthma attack. You should also spend time with your provider devising an asthma plan, including when to call for worsening or more frequent attacks and when to seek emergency care.
Watching your child experience gastroenteritis is probably one of the hardest things you would have to go through as a parent. There’s little to do but offer comfort and encourage fluids as they experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping.
Gastroenteritis is caused by many different viruses and bacteria. If symptoms persist for more than a few days, or if you can’t get your little one to drink, notice they are urinating less, or if they seem lethargic, call your primary care office for advice. Tylenol should be good for fever but avoid antidiarrheal medicines unless ordered by your provider.
Getting the Best in Primary Care in Kent, WA
As a parent, you need someone you can rely on to be your source of information, reassurance, and guidance when your child gets sick. At the Family Care of Kent, our family nurse practitioners are exactly the kind of experts who can walk with you through this challenge of parenthood.
Our nurse practitioners are always here to help you with the healthcare needs of your child as well as your entire family. We administer immunizations, prescribe medications, perform annual wellness exams, and evaluate all types of medical concerns. To meet with any of our exceptional family nurse practitioners, call us at (253) 859-2273 today, or request an appointment online.