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How to Stay Healthy When Your Kids Get Sick

Published on Oct 31, 2023 | 2:13 PM

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Now that we're in the depths of cold and flu season it's important to remind your little ones to cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze as well as frequently wash their hands as kids get sick more often than adults with children ages 1 to 3 getting sick six to nine times per year and kids ages 4 to 10 getting sick four to six times per year. (1) Adults understand the basic ways to prevent getting sick, even when exposed to others during covid, flu, and other illness peaks, but children need to be frequently told not to touch their face and put their fingers in their mouths and noses. While preventative measures are important your little one most likely will still get sick a few times each cold and flu season which in turn exposes you and your family directly. Being able to get pediatric care quickly can help stop sickness and start recovery even sooner. Here are a few things to note that can help you throughout the year when it comes to taking care of your family

What are the most common illnesses in children?

While it might seem like kids catch viruses or develop infections all year round, the most common time of year for this to happen is from September through January when flu season is most prevalent and when the most drastic temperature changes occur. (2) Children are also exposed to highly contagious illnesses in school and daycare settings. Here are the most common conditions in kids during the season: 

  • Acute Bronchitis: Typically caused by viral infections, such as the common cold or flu, acute bronchitis most often leads to symptoms like coughing, chest discomfort, and mucus production. The condition spreads more aggressively in kids due to their still-developing immune systems and close proximity to each other during the school year or in daycare settings. 
  • Ear Infections: Also known as otitis media, ear infections occur when the middle ear becomes inflamed and infected. As shown in the CallonDoc Guide to Ear Infections, the condition is more common in children up to age eight due to them having shorter and more horizontal Eustachian tubes in addition to still developing immune systems and frequent exposure to the germs that cause the infection. 
  • Influenza: More commonly known as the flu, influenza is highly contagious across all age groups, but is more aggressive amongst children due to their developing immune system, less familiarity with the many strains they encounter of the virus, and close proximity in educational settings. As discussed in the CallonDoc Guide to the Flu, the flu causes fever, chills, a cough, a sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, and fatigue. However, for children with the flu, vomiting and diarrhea is more common. 
  • Pink Eye: Medically referred to as conjunctivitis, pink eye is an inflammation of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. As explained in the CallonDoc Guide to Pink Eye, the condition can be caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies, or irritants. It affects children more due to bacteria being more prevalent in school and daycare due to frequently touching their eyes and face without washing their hands. Pink eye is characterized by eye irritation, crusting, slight swelling, and redness. 
  • Sinus Infection: Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, is the inflammation or infection of the sinus cavities, which are air-filled spaces within the facial bones. As mentioned in the CallonDoc Guide to Sinus Infections, the condition can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergies and results in symptoms such as nasal congestion, facial pain, headache, and mucus discharge. Due to their higher susceptibility to upper respiratory infection-causing viruses and still developing sinuses, children are more likely to suffer from this condition until they fully develop. 
  • Skin Infection: Conditions characterized by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or other pathogens invading and multiplying in the skin; skin infections cause various symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, and sometimes pain or discharge. These infections can manifest as conditions like impetigo, ringworm, or cellulitis. Alongside being in environments where they are most susceptible to getting infections, children also tend not to have strong hygiene habits and may accidentally introduce the cause to a wound or susceptible area. 
  • Strep Throat: A contagious bacterial infection of the throat caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria. As highlighted in the CallonDoc Guide to Strep Throat, it results in symptoms such as a sore and scratchy throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, and swollen tonsils with white or yellow patches. 
  • Upper Respiratory Infection: Upper respiratory infections are infections that affect the upper part of the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, and sinuses. As discussed in the CallonDoc Guide to Upper Respiratory Infections, they are typically caused by viruses like the common cold or influenza and can lead to symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, and sometimes fever.

Is it normal for my child to be sick all the time?

It's not uncommon for children to experience frequent illnesses, especially from just after birth to when they’re a teenager. In fact, it’s not unusual for children to normally get 12 colds and around eight infections per year and still be considered healthy. (3) In that age range, their immune systems are still developing, which can make them more susceptible to infections. Additionally, children often have close contact with peers in school or daycare, where viruses and bacteria can easily spread. Normally, such conditions can be handled at home with a quick Call-On-Doc consultation, however, signs that they may need to be taken to an in-person clinic or receive more intensive care include: 

  • High or Persistent Fever: A fever that is consistently above 100.4°F (38°C) or lasts for more than a few days should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Rapid or labored breathing, chest retractions, or bluish skin color can be signs of respiratory distress, which should be addressed urgently.
  • Severe Dehydration: Signs of dehydration in children include sunken eyes, dry mouth, very dark urine, lethargy, and reduced urination.
  • Unusual or Severe Symptoms: If your child exhibits unusual or severe symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, a stiff neck, severe headache, persistent vomiting, or unresponsiveness, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Rash: Certain rashes, especially those accompanied by a high fever, can be indicative of serious conditions like meningitis or some infections.
  • Worsening Condition: If your child's symptoms are getting worse rather than improving, it's a cause for concern.
  • Chronic or Recurrent Illnesses: If your child frequently falls ill or has recurrent, severe infections, it may indicate an underlying health issue and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Teaching your children how to stay healthy 

Depending on their age, these lessons and habits may be impossible or be easy building blocks that help them develop into a healthy adult. To help children reduce their risk of getting sick from viruses and infections, you can teach them the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid Sharing Personal Items: Teaching young children to avoid sharing personal items like utensils and drinking cups is essential to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This practice helps reduce the transmission of germs from one child to another, minimizing the risk of illness and promoting better overall health.
  • Regular Handwashing: Regular handwashing is a crucial habit for young children to prevent the spread of germs and infections. It helps remove potentially harmful bacteria and viruses from their hands, reducing the risk of illness and promoting better health.
  • Hand Sanitation: Teaching kids to use hand sanitizer is important when soap and water are not readily available, as it can effectively kill germs and prevent infections. However, it's essential not to overuse it, as frequent and excessive use of hand sanitizer can lead to skin dryness and may reduce the development of a robust natural immune response by limiting exposure to some common germs.
  • Covering Mouth and Nose: Teaching young children respiratory hygiene, such as covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, is crucial to prevent the spread of airborne infections to others. This practice helps contain respiratory droplets that may contain harmful germs, reducing the risk of contagion and promoting better health for both the child and those around them.
  • Avoid Face Touching: Teaching young children to avoid touching their face is important because it reduces the risk of introducing germs from their hands into their eyes, nose, or mouth, which are entry points for infections. This habit helps maintain better hand hygiene and lowers the likelihood of illness, as many infections are transmitted through hand-to-face contact.
  • Encourage Proper Nutrition: Teaching young children proper nutrition is important because it provides them with essential nutrients needed for growth, development, and a strong immune system. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins not only supports overall health but also helps their bodies effectively fight off illnesses and infections.
  • Regular, Daily Movement: Keeping your children active and moving daily helps encourage lifelong healthy habits of physical activity, which helps maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being. Regular exercise supports healthy growth, strengthens the immune system, and reduces the risk of various health issues, including obesity and chronic diseases.
  • Getting Enough Sleep: Teaching young children that sleep is important is crucial because it promotes growth, cognitive development, and a strong immune system. Sufficient and quality sleep allows their bodies to recharge and repair, enhancing overall health and resilience against illnesses.
  • Encouraging Hydration: Teaching young children the importance of staying hydrated to the point that their urine is clear helps them maintain proper bodily functions, including kidney health, digestion, and temperature regulation. Not only does it encourage them to go for water instead of unhealthy juices and sodas, but it also provides a clear standard of health through something they can actually see. Through this habit, children are less likely to experience issues like dehydration, urinary tract infections, or kidney problems.
  • Good Hygiene Habits: Proper hygiene through regular bathing supports overall health and well-being by maintaining clean and healthy skin, which is a vital protective barrier against various pathogens and environmental contaminants. Helping to reduce skin infections, bathing also forms an important social habit for children in the future. 
  • Protection from the Sun: Not only is it crucial for conditions like sunburns and dry skin, but teaching the importance of sun protection helps them avoid the development of skin cancer. Sun protection, such as wearing sunscreen and protective clothing, safeguards their skin from harmful UV radiation and emphasizes encourages long term skin protection habits.
  • Identifying Symptoms and Illness: Teaching young children to recognize symptoms of illness is vital because it empowers them to communicate their discomfort and seek timely medical attention, allowing for early intervention and treatment of health issues. Identifying symptoms early can lead to quicker recovery and prevent the progression of illnesses, ultimately contributing to better overall health for children.

Identify and clean where germs propagate

Despite teaching children these habits to stay healthy and prevent some illnesses, also try to keep a clean environment even when your child is sick. Areas to focus on include:

  • Air Ventilation 
  • Commonly used surfaces 
  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchens 

While isolation can help spread infections in your home, with young children where this is not possible, make sure to regularly wipe, clean and disinfect surfaces to limit exposure to other family members. Here is a more in-depth guide and tips to help you recognize areas to clean:

Air Ventilation: Proper air ventilation is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment when your child is sick. It helps reduce the concentration of airborne pathogens, like viruses and bacteria, and promotes the circulation of fresh air. Good ventilation can be achieved through open windows, fans, or properly managed HVAC systems, and also aids in preventing the buildup of indoor pollutants. This also supports a cleaner, healthier indoor atmosphere, ultimately reducing the risk of illness transmission within the household.

Disinfect Common Surfaces: Commonly used surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and more can play a significant role in staying healthy when your child is sick. These surfaces can harbor germs and become entry points for spreading illnesses within your home. Regular cleaning and disinfection of these high-touch areas are essential to minimize the risk of infection and reinfection, as they help reduce the potential for indirect contact transmission and ensure a cleaner, safer environment during a child's illness.

Keep Bathrooms Clean: Bathrooms are a critical area to focus on for maintaining health when a child is sick as they not only harbor germs spread through respiratory droplets, but also through saliva, urine, and bowel movements. Germs have a higher chance of spreading in bathrooms due to high-touch surfaces (sinks, toilet handles, shower fixtures) and personal items such as toothbrushes and toilet seats. Help teach and enforce leaving the toilet seat down when flushing and regularly sanitize bathrooms. 

Sanitize The Kitchen: Similar to the bathroom, the kitchen is shared by everyone in the household and should be regularly cleaned. It's important to regularly disinfect kitchen surfaces, handles, and appliances that the sick child may have touched to prevent the spread of germs. Additionally, avoid sharing utensils and dishes with the sick individual and practice proper food safety measures to ensure that the entire family's meals are prepared and handled hygienically, contributing to a healthier environment during the child's illness.

Form a good relationship with a pediatrician

While it may be difficult at first, building a strong relationship with a local doctor for your child is essential for their well-being as it ensures continuity of care and a deeper understanding of their unique healthcare needs. Additionally, the relationship allows for more effective communication, early intervention when necessary, and the provision of personalized guidance and preventive care to support your child's growth and development. Especially when your child’s symptoms become severe will a doctor be able to provide fast and professional healthcare options. 

Address and catch symptoms early

Catching symptoms early when your child begins to become sick is vital for staying healthy as it not only allows for prompt medical attention, but it might also allow you to cut the time any condition is contagious. Early recognition of illness helps contain its spread, enables quicker recovery for the child, and minimizes the risk of transmission within the household. Timely management of symptoms also supports your child's overall health by preventing the progression of illnesses and reducing the impact on both the child and the family's well-being.

Keep an eye on your personal health

While it might not be at the forefront of your worries, your personal health is important to maintain especially when your child gets sick. Your well-being enables you to provide the necessary physical and emotional care, make informed decisions about their healthcare, and maintain a clean and healthy environment. Additionally, staying healthy reduces the risk of illness transmission within the household, ensuring a quicker recovery for the child and preventing additional stress and strain on the family. 

Whether you need pediatric care or care for yourself, Call-On-Doc can be the answer you need to keep your household happy and healthy. Our team can offer you a consultation and access to prescription medication within the same day!

Source:

  1. “Children and Illness.” WebMDhttps://www.webmd.com/children/features/children-illness.
  2. “Why is my child always sick? A pediatrician answers your questions - CHOC - Children's health hub.” CHOC Children's Health, 18 August 2022, https://health.choc.org/why-is-my-child-always-sick-a-pediatrician-answers-your-questions/.
  3. Nellis, Andy, and Nipunie S. Rajapakse. “The constant cold: Why kids are always sick and what to do about it.” Mayo Clinic Press, 10 January 2022, https://mcpress.mayoclinic.org/parenting/the-constant-cold-why-kids-are-always-sick-and-what-to-do-about-it/.

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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