Childhood illness

How to spot some common childhood illnesses and top tips to treat them at home

As a parent, it sometimes feels like your child recovers from one illness, only to get another.

Catching certain childhood bugs is all part of growing up. But as parents, it can be a worry, particularly when babies cry out, unable to tell you how they’re feeling.

If your child does show symptoms of falling ill, it may often be a childhood bug that will hopefully pass within days and can be treated at home. Find out how to recognise some of the most common illnesses and treat them with this guide. But be sure to make an appointment with your GP if the illness lasts for longer than expected or if their symptoms get worse.

Crying out for colic

You’ve tried everything – you’ve changed their nappy, fed and winded them, even asked the Grandparents around to help – yet there’s no end to the crying. This excessive, frequent crying in a baby who otherwise appears healthy could be a sign your child has colic.

It’s still unclear what causes colic in babies, but it’s been suggested that indigestion, trapped wind, or a temporary gut sensitivity to lactose (the milk sugar found in breast and formula milk) could cause it.

Reducing the amount of lactose a baby takes in with smaller, more frequent feeds can help ease the discomfort. If this isn’t possible, adding lactase enzyme infant drops, such as Care Co-Lactase* to either breast or formula milk can help break down the lactose into more simple sugars which are easier to digest.

You could also try feeding your baby in different positions. If you are breastfeeding, try the ‘rugby ball hold’ and for formula-fed babies, a more upright position can slow the feed.

Soothing a nappy rash

Babies wear nappies day-in and day-out, for up to three years. So it’s no surprise that they may show some signs of skin irritation in that time. Nappy rash takes different forms, either red patches or even the whole of your baby’s bottom may be sore, with some sore spots or pimples.

Keeping your baby’s skin clean, dry and moisturised may help stop a rash from developing. Try to change your baby’s wet or soiled nappy as soon as you notice a fresh one is needed. Clean the whole area thoroughly, using plain water and cotton wool, or fragrance and alcohol-free baby wipes. A barrier cream, such as zinc and castor oil**, can then act to soothe the rash and treat the skin.

Spotting a meningitis rash

If your baby displays a dark red rash that looks like pinpricks on their face and hands (or elsewhere on the body), it could be a sign of meningitis. Try applying a glass tumbler to the skin; if the rash doesn’t disappear under pressure, this could be meningitis and you must take your child to hospital immediately. Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly. You should get medical advice as soon as possible if you’re concerned.

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department immediately if you think you or your child might be seriously ill.

Call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice if you’re not sure if it’s anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.

Chickenpox vs measles

Chickenpox is distinguishable by the red spots which appear on the child’s torso first before spreading over the body. The spots then fill with liquid which become very itchy.

This is very different from measles, which appears in the mouth and cheeks as tiny white spots with a red outline. A rash also appears behind the ears first then spreads across the body. If your child displays these signs, contact your GP immediately for treatment.

But the symptoms of chickenpox can be easily treated at home. Ease the itchiness by giving your child a lukewarm bath, then once dry, you may also want to apply a cooling gel, such as Care ViraSoothe Chickenpox Relief Gel***, designed especially for chickenpox.

You could try helping reduce their fever with children’s paracetamol, but don’t give your child ibuprofen as it may cause serious skin infections. You could try helping reduce their fever with children’s paracetamol, but don’t give your child ibuprofen as it may cause serious skin infections.

Remember, chickenpox is highly contagious, so keep your children out of school or nursery and parents away from work for five days (or until the spots have developed into scabs).

Symptoms of scarlet fever

Once seen as an old-fashioned disease, cases of scarlet fever in children have surged in the UK, so it’s important you are aware of the symptoms. These include a sore throat, headache and a pink red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch and looks like sunburn.

The rash usually starts on the chest and stomach before spreading to other areas, such as the ears and neck. But it is easily treated with antibiotics from your GP.

Telling if it’s tonsillitis

If your child complains of a sore throat and a fever but no rash, this may be a sign of tonsillitis, a viral infection which causes the tonsils to become inflamed.

Look out for white spots of pus that may appear at the back of the throat and on the tonsils, which is a common symptom. The illness may pass after a few days of bed-rest and ibuprofen****. But if it sticks around you must visit your GP, as it may be caused by a bacterial infection.

This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding you or your family’s health.

**Care Zinc and Castor Oil soothes nappy rash and treats dry, chapped skin. Contains Zinc Oxide and Virgin Castor Oil.  Always read the label.

***Care ViraSoothe Chickenpox Relief Cooling Gel and Spray Gel is a chickenpox treatment which helps cools and soothe the skin, helping to relieve the irritating symptoms of chickenpox. For use by children over 6 month’s old and can be applied over both the face and body. For adults and children over 12 years. Always read the label.

**** Care Ibuprofen 200mg Coated Tablets. Contain ibuprofen. For headaches, rheumatic and muscular pain, backache, feverishness, migraine, period pain, dental pain and neuralgia, even cold and flu symptoms. For adults and children over 12 years. Always read the label.

Care Maximum Strength Ibuprofen 400mg Coated Tablets. Contain ibuprofen. For strong, powerful relief from pain due to non-serious arthritic conditions, headaches, rheumatic pain,dental pain, neuralgia, colds and flu. Always read the label.  

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