Common childhood illnesses can cause a lot of distress to the child and parents as well as impact the child’s overall development.

These illnesses also have a potential to turn into a serious condition or have long-term effects, if they are not treated in a timely manner. This article is written with a view to shed light on some of these common disorders and help parents to understand them. It also provides some simple preventive measures in order to effectively manage them.

Atopic Dermatitis (or baby eczema):

The onset of atopic dermatitis is usually between 4 to 24 months of age although it can manifest itself in older children for the first time. It is a type of Eczema, a skin disorder seen as itchy reddish papulovesicles over face and in the antecubital fossa and back of the knee. 70% of these clear by age 10. To prevent this, patients are educated to avoid scratching, minimize contact with irritants like woollens and chemicals, reduce exposure to house dust mites by using barriers on mattresses and pillows and regular vacuuming, and use of mild soaps and cleansing solutions.

Diaper Dermatitis (or diaper rash):

It is an irritant dermatitis occurring in babies between 4 to 15 months of age and caused due to prolonged contact with faeces and ammonia. It is usually prevented by keeping the area clean and dry and by avoiding the use of disposable absorbent diapers. Washed cotton diapers should be dipped in dilute lemon juice. Emollients and topical antifungals with steroids are useful in acute phase.

Otitis media:

This is an infection of the middle ear and affects children by their 2nd birthday with peak incidence between 6 and 18 months of age. The risk of Otitis media is increased due to allergies, bottle-feeding, exposure to cigarette smoke, and immune dysfunction. Symptoms include pain, fever, excessive crying, and recent history of cough, cold or discharge of pus from the ear. If neglected serious complications may develop such as hearing loss leading to improper language development and school problems, meningitis, brain abscess, acute mastoiditis and facial nerve palsy.Proper treatment of respiratory tract infections will help prevent complications.

Pyodermas:

This is an infection of the skin, which may be seen as redness or blisters, crusts, and scabs. It occurs in all age groups. The onset is usually determined with scratching. General prevention measures are local hygiene, rest and limb elevation if required. Topical antibiotics are effective in most cases.

Abdominal pain:

The condition can occur in all age groups and generally occurs due to an improper diet. There is also increased perception of pain in children that gets aggravated by psychosocial stressors in school and family. Counseling the child and parents is helpful in addition to controlling the stressors. It can be prevented with a nutritious diet with high fibre, and avoiding of carbonated drinks and refined foods aid the reduction of bloating and pain. Regular deworming also helps.

Constipation:

This condition can occur in all age groups. It is diagnosed if the stool frequency is less than 2 per week, and is especially present for more than two weeks, causing distress to the patient. It can cause physiological and psychological morbidity. 85% of the children have functional constipation due to sedentary lifestyle and low residue diet. Dietary changes and incorporation of fibrous meals is helpful for this condition. Behaviour training in the form of sitting in the toilet 2-3 times per day for 5-10 mins after meals daily is also effective in prevention.

Acute diarrhoea:

This is widely prevalent in children under the age of 5 years. It is diagnosed if there are liquid or watery stools more than three times per day. Diarrhoea is responsible for 20% of deaths in children under the age of 5 years. Risk factors include poor sanitation, poor personal hygiene, no access to clean drinking water, unhygienic food preparation practices, low rates of breastfeeding and immunisation. HIV, IgA deficiency and other chronic conditions predispose to recurrent diarrhoea. Treatment is rehydration and antibiotics if required. Three C’s i.e. clean hands, clean container and clean environment will help to prevent it.

Diarrhoea is responsible for 20% of deaths in children under the age of 5 years. Click To Tweet

Respiratory tract infections:

This condition is most often found in children between 1-5 years of age. Common cold or Nasopharyngitis and Acute Tonsillopharyngitis are frequent illnesses in childhood. They are usually caused by viruses and occasionally by bacteria or due to allergies and are spread by droplet infection. Predisposing factors include chills, sudden exposure to cold and overcrowding. The usual symptoms are fever, thin nasal discharge, irritability, headache, nausea and sore throat, hoarseness of voice. The child may refuse to feed due to loss of appetite. There is an occasional occurrence of lower respiratory tract infections and pneumonia. Treatment consists of warm saline gargles, saline nasal drops to relieve nasal congestion, sipping warm liquids, soft food as swallowing is painful, paracetamol for fever and pain, antibiotics if bacterial infection is present.

It is evident by this small list of common diseases that building immunity by breastfeeding and maintaining hygiene go a long way in preventing common disorders and also help lower the severity.

Dr. Deepa Kala is a Professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology practicing since 16 years, based in Navi Mumbai. She believes that big changes in our healthcare status can be brought about by awareness and simple lifestyle changes by the people and the medium she has chosen for this is patient education in various forms like talks, short articles or role-plays.