9 Common Childhood Ailments & How To Treat Them

9 Common Childhood Ailments & How To Treat Them

Mild illnesses are part of growing up – if anything, medical professionals will tell you they’re vital to a child’s development and, specifically, a healthy immune system. But with so many ailments around these days, it pays to have a sound knowledge of what to look out for, how to treat the condition and when to seek professional advice. Here, we asked a range of health experts to share their views on some of the most common childhood health conditions around – from nits to eczema…

WHAT IT IS: “Molluscum Contagiosum (MC) is a viral skin infection caused by poxvirus,” explains Dr Mariam Adegoke, GP & Founder of Adegoke Wellness Clinic. “It’s usually easy to recognise – the hallmark feature is a cluster of pearly white, pink or flesh-coloured papules (small, firm, raised spots) that have a central dimple to them. Sometimes they can be itchy, but they are usually painless. They can affect any part of the body, so don’t be surprised if they pop up all over the place. Thanks to their obvious appearance, they are usually easy to recognise and diagnose. It’s also worth noting it’s a harmless skin condition that usually self-resolves within 6-12 months – though it can take up to four years.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “This skin condition commonly happens in childhood, but it can also occur as we get older, too,” adds Dr Adegoke. “Although it’s caused by a virus, it doesn’t require school exclusion as the chance of spreading it on during normal activities is small. The ways it can spread are through direct contact with the skin – think sharing towels. My best advice for treatment is to practice good hand hygiene, don’t pick at or squeeze the spots and avoid your child sharing towels, clothes, socks or baths. The only time you may need to seek a professional is if the spots are affecting your child’s quality of life – in this instance, cryotherapy can be used to freeze them off. Likewise, if skin becomes infected with bacteria, antibiotics may be required by your local GP – though this is rare.”

WHAT IT IS: “The most common worms in childhood are threadworms,” continues Dr Adegoke. “They look like pieces of white thread that can be noticed in poo or around the anus. Intense itching near the bottom (and the vagina) are typical symptoms, and often sleep is disturbed as a result. Other symptoms include irritated skin around the anus, bed wetting and weight loss – though the latter is more common in severe situations. Worms start to spread when their eggs are ingested. They then go onto hatch and lay more eggs (up to a thousand) around your anus, which is why it can be so painful. When your child scratches them, the eggs then get stuck under their fingernails and pass onto anything they touch – including surfaces that others can also touch. This is why worms are spread so easily and basic hygiene measures are essential. Despite this, there is no need for school exclusion as they can be treated at home quickly.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “Usually treatment is with either ‘mebendazole’ or ‘piperazine’ and these can now be bought over the counter in pharmacies,” continues Dr Adegoke. “Everyone in the household should be treated – even if they’re not showing symptoms. In children under two, or anyone who’s pregnant, you should always consult a GP as these situations may require alternative treatment. Alongside this, other basic advice includes good hand hygiene, keeping fingernails short and ensuring they’re scrubbed thoroughly. Washing bedding, towels and pyjamas regularly is key, too, as is making sure your children wear underwear at night then change it come morning. Get your child to shower and bath every morning, too – this is because threadworms thrive at night, so this is an optimum time to rinse them away.”

WHAT THEY ARE: “Warts and verrucae are small lumps on the skin that most people have at some point in their life,” says the experts at Daisy First Aid. “They often occur in children but are harmless – at most they can cause itchiness and small amounts of pain. The difference between the two is warts will feel firm and rough and are usually found on the palms and knuckles, whereas verrucae will almost always be on the soles of your feet.” 

HOW TO TREAT THEM: “Unlike other conditions on this list, verrucae are incredibly easy to treat,” adds Daisy First Aid. “They can be left entirely, as eventually they’ll go away on their own, but you can also seek out over the counter medicine at your local pharmacy which can be used to treat them at a quicker pace. Your pharmacist will advise the best one for your child’s individual needs.” Dr Adegoke adds: “Other prevention tips include medicated plasters, creams and sprays which often contain salicylic acid to soften the outer layer of skin. Otherwise, change your child’s socks daily and don’t share towels or flannels either. Try to get them to wear flip flops when walking barefoot, too, and never allow your child to scratch or pick at the warts – this will just make the problem worse.”

WHAT IT IS: “Gastroenteritis is the medical term for inflammation of the tummy tract lining,” explains Dr Adegoke. “It is a common condition usually caused by viruses that are circulating in children – including ‘rotavirus’ and ‘norovirus.’ It can also be brought on by bacterial infections including salmonella and food poisoning. It’s hard to miss in terms of symptoms – you can expect your child to have watery diarrhoea, vomiting and severe abdominal cramps as well as nausea and tummy pain.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “The key to your child recovering from gastroenteritis is to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest,” adds Dr Adegoke. “Often, they’ll feel better within two to three days although it can take up to a week. Make sure your child is kept off school or nursery until 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting. They shouldn’t swim in pools for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea either – this will ensure no leftover germs are spread.”

WHAT IT IS: “Eczema is an umbrella term for a group of varying skin conditions,” advises Dr Sophie Shotter. “The most common type is actually a condition called ‘atopic dermatitis’ which usually presents between the ages of six months and five years. It’s also worth noting that the appearance of eczema changes as a child grows and develops. In infants, it’s usually found on their face or scalp. Whereas in younger children – aged 6-12 months – it is often shown on a baby’s elbows and knees, as well as on their ankles and hands. Additionally, the younger your child is the redder and weepier it looks, whereas in toddlers it takes on a dry and scaly appearance.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “Before you begin treatment, it’s important to figure out what your child’s eczema triggers are,” says Dr Shotter. “However, this is often easier said than done, especially if they’re younger and can’t communicate as well. Common triggers can be irritants, heat and sweating, as well as infection and allergies. Identifying their triggers will help you to control exposure to them, which, at the end of the day, is the best course of action. If you’re in any way concerned, or you feel it’s worsening, don’t be afraid to see your GP who will advise further, or prescribe a topical remedy.” 

WHAT IT IS: “Slapped cheek syndrome – also called fifth disease – is a viral infection that’s caused by parovirus,” says Dr Adegoke. “It is spread by droplets (coughing or sneezing) and it can happen at any age but is most common between ages four and ten. The difficulty with this illness is children are often asymptomatic with it, whereas others may notice a runny nose, headache, sore throat and slightly raised fever. This is then followed by the characteristic rash, which gives the syndrome its name. The cheeks can be bright red, exactly like they’ve been slapped. When children come out in symptoms (if they do) they are contagious until 24 hours after their fever has resolved. Once the rash has gone, this is an indication that they will no longer be able to spread the virus.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “Usually slapped cheek syndrome is a self-limiting virus – i.e. it resolves itself on its own – so the usual advice given is the same as any other illness,” recommends Dr Adegoke. “This includes drinking plenty of fluids and using paracetamol or ibuprofen for any aches or fevers. The rash can take one to two weeks to settle.”

WHAT IT IS: “HFM is another common childhood illness which usually gets better on its own in 7-10 days,” explains Daisy First Aid. “The first signs of it include a sore throat, high temperature and your child losing their appetite. After two or three days, ulcers may begin to appear in their mouth and on the tongue, making it painful for them to eat and drink. They can also get raised, blister-like spots which appear on the hands and feet as well as on the bottom of the thighs of your child.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “As it is a virus, there aren’t any set treatments,” says Dr Adegoke. “Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration is key, while paracetamol and ibuprofen will soothe a headache and sore throat. It’s also paramount your child follows good hygiene measures as HFM can be spread through unwashed hands or from poo and saliva. If your child is ill with HFM, don’t let them share towels, clothing, cups or bedding. Disinfect any common areas in your home regularly, as well as toys and other objects that may be contaminated. Keep them off school while they feel unwell and as soon as they’re better they will be fine to return. If symptoms do worsen however, always see a GP – this is especially true if it doesn’t settle after ten days. At this stage antibiotics may be considered.”

WHAT IT IS: “Head lice are tiny insects that live in the hair on your child’s head and often feed off the blood from their scalp,” explains Daisy First Aid. “They’re very common in younger age groups as they are passed on by head-to-head contact, which is often unavoidable in places like nursery.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “Generally, the child’s head will be itchy, and it can feel like something is moving throughout their hair,” continues Daisy First Aid. “The good news though is lice and nits can be easily treated, primarily by wet-combing the hair or by using specialist lotions and sprays. If they continue to persist after trying this course of action then speak to your local pharmacy for further treatment, but often they are easy to get rid of yourself – especially when stamped out early on.”

WHAT IT IS: “Nappy rash appears as red patches on a child’s bottom and often the skin in this area is hot to touch and it appears pimply,” explains Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme. “It is very common with most babies and toddlers experiencing it at one point or another. The cause is usually several things – from wearing a soiled nappy for too long, to nappies rubbing against the skin, or it can even be the result of certain soaps or fragranced bubble baths.” 

HOW TO TREAT IT: “Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to treat and soothe,” finishes Dr Ifeoma. “Use non-fragranced products to treat the condition, like CeraVe’s Moisturising Lotion which provides continuous hydration to the skin throughout the day and is gentle to use on your baby’s skin. To prevent nappy rash altogether ensure you’re changing dirty nappies as quickly as possible and clean the area thoroughly – drying it efficiently, too. Avoid using wipes with fragrance or alcohol in them as this will exacerbate the issue. It’s an old classic, but Sudocrem is a brilliant remedy too. Use it with every nappy change and you’ll quickly see results. You can try leaving the nappy off for a little while as well, this will help to air the bottom out. Usually, rashes like this will clear up within a few days, but if you find it’s worsening or getting increasingly hot, check in with your GP in case this is a sign of infection.”

For more information, visit AdegokeClinic.com, DaisyFirstAid.com, IlluminateSkinClinic.co.uk or follow @Dr_Ifeoma_Ejikeme on Instagram.

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.


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