10 childhood illnesses to look out for
10 childhood illnesses to look out for
People with compromised immune systems like pregnant women, newborn babies and the sick can be seriously affected by chickenpox.
How does it spread? – This very infectious disease spreads through direct contact. The virus could also spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or when you touch the fluid in the chickenpox blisters.
The scabs of the blisters are not considered infectious.
Incubation/ infectious period – The most infectious period is 1 or 2 days before the blisters appear until a week or so after they have dried up. Once infected it would take 10 to 20 days for symptoms to appear.
First signs and symptoms – Children will usually feel sick and have a fever. Sometimes a cough, sore throat, loss of appetite and a headache may be present. The red spots will appear 1 to 2 days after the onset of fever.
Preventive measures – The best way of preventing chickenpox is to get vaccinated.
How does it spread? – Croup is contagious and will spread by close contact and touch. Germs can spread when an infected person coughs and sneezes.
Incubation/ infectious period – Croup could last 5 to 6 days and those having croup or a cold associated with it will be infectious within this period.
First signs and symptoms – A cold which will progress to the ‘barking’ cough which will be worse at night, a low, raspy voice and slight difficulty in breathing when coughing.
Preventive measures – Limiting contact with those who are infected and regular sanitising and washing of hands can help prevent the spread of croup.
E. Coli infection
How does it spread? – You can get infected with E. Coli by consuming contaminated food (undercooked food, unpasteurised milk, fresh produce, and unhygienic preparation of food), water contaminated with animal or human faeces and through personal contact.
People with compromised immunity such a pregnant mothers, young children and the sick are especially susceptible to this.
Incubation/ infectious period – Symptoms start 3 to 4 days after contact with E. Coli and the symptoms could last up to a week.
First signs and symptoms – Diarrhoea with blood, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.
Preventive measures – Washing hands properly after using the toilet and not consuming undercooked meat if you have a compromised immune system will help prevent you from getting an E. Coli infection. Of course, staying away from someone who has the infection will help as well.
Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib)
The Haemophillus influenza bacterium has 6 different types (from A to F), with type B being the most deadly. Hib is one of the main causes of meningitis in children.
How does it spread? – Hib can be transmitted through droplets when an infected person coughs and sneezes.
Incubation/ infectious period – When a child is diagnosed with Hib through a blood test, they will most probably need hospitalisation.
First signs and symptoms – Hib causes several problems once the infection gets into the blood stream and spreads into the lungs and brain. Fever, decreased alertness, breathing problems, joint pains and stiff neck are initial symptoms of this infection.
Preventive measures – Hib is completely preventable though vaccination.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
How does it spread? – HFMD can be spread though sneezing, coughing and through the faeces of an infected person. The liquid inside the blisters also spread the disease.
Incubation/ infectious period – As this is highly contagious, school-going children with HFMD should be kept at home until the blisters dry up and their doctor gives them the green light to return to school.
First signs and symptoms – Sore throat, fever, blisters in the mouth and throat, hands, feet, and sometimes on their buttocks. Headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite could also be present.
Preventive measures – Washing hands with soap before eating, washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet and avoiding contact with those infected.
The inflammation of the liver can occur due to consuming food contaminated with faeces (especially undercooked seafood found in contaminated water), or due to a viral infection.
How does it spread? – The main way Hepatitis A spreads is through ingestion of faeces of an infected person. When people eat and drink contaminated food and water they can contract hepatitis A.
If the faeces of a child who has hepatitis A get on toys at a daycare or play centre, other children who touch it and put their hands in their mouths can get it as well.
Incubation/ infectious period – If the hepatitis A virus enters the system it may take 2 to 3 weeks for symptoms to be visible, and a few weeks thereafter for total recovery.
First signs and symptoms – Loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, weight loss, abdominal pain, fever, jaundice, discoloured urine and stools.
Preventive measures – Hepatitis A can be prevented though a vaccination.
How does it spread? – Coughing, sneezing, contact with infected saliva or through touching something touched by an infected person then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Incubation/ infectious period – Adults can be infectious 1 to 2 days before the onset of symptoms and 5 to 7 days thereafter. Those with compromised immune systems will be infectious for a longer period of time.
First signs and symptoms – Cold–like symptoms such as runny nose and sore throat, fever, head and body aches and tiredness. In rare cases diarrhoea and vomiting may be present.
Preventive measures – For a generally healthy child or adult, following safety measures such as regularly washing your hands with soap and water or sanitising your hands.
Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, wearing a surgical mask if you are with someone who has the flu, and not sending children with the flu to school will help prevent the virus from spreading.
Those with compromised immune systems, may consider the flu shot.
Young children, teens and those with weakened immune systems are more prone to getting meningitis. Viral meningitis is more common and less severe than bacterial meningitis.
How does it spread? – Meningitis is contagious and can be passed on through coughing, sneezing and sometimes touching surfaces that have been touched by infected people.
Infectious period – Meningitis could last for almost 2 weeks and persons infected would be infectious during this time.
First signs and symptoms – Fever, stiff and painful neck, drowsiness, low alertness, headache, vomiting. Younger children may have flu-like symptoms and have shortness of breath. Babies may develop a rash and be grumpy.
Preventive measures – Talk to your child’s doctor about Hib, Meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccinations.
Most often mumps goes away by itself but in some cases complications could arise in the form of meningitis, pancreatitis, or infections in the testicles or ovaries.
How does it spread? – Mumps is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact or when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Incubation/ infectious period – The incubation period is 2 to 3 weeks, and the infectious period is 7 days before and 9 days after symptoms appear.
First signs and symptoms – Fever, swelling of jaw and cheeks, pain in the jaw, headache, earache, sore throat, pain when opening the mouth, tiredness, loss of appetite, and in some cases vomiting.
Preventive measures – Mumps is completely preventable through vaccination. The mumps vaccine is routinely given in the MMR vaccine that includes measles and rubella.
Pink eye (Conjunctivitis)
The pink eye comes from the infection of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane that lines the eyeball.
How does it spread? – Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and could spread through direct contact and touch.
Infectious period – As long as the infected person’s eye is pink and there is a discharge, they could be infectious.
First signs and symptoms – Excess tearing from one or both eyes, a white or yellow discharge, itchiness and redness, an uncomfortable gritty sensation in the eye, sensitivity to light, burning sensation and blurred vision.
Preventive measures – The only way to prevent conjunctivitis is to follow good hygiene. Wash hands regularly with soap and water and avoid touching and rubbing your eyes even when they're itchy.