When your child gets sick, it can produce a lot of anxiety and worry. Here is a list of very common pediatric illnesses and symptoms, along with advice from a pediatrician on what to do.
This is one of the most common symptoms in a sick child. And there are many myths associated with fevers.
Myth 1: All fevers are bad.
Fact: Fevers turn on the immune system to fight potential infection. They are one of the body’s protective mechanisms
- 100 – 102° are low-grade fevers.
- 103 – 104° are moderate-grade fevers. They will cause discomfort, but are still beneficial for fighting infection.
- 105°+ represents a high risk of bacterial infection—seek medical attention.
- Fevers above 108° can be harmful—seek medical attention immediately.
Myth 2: Fevers cause brain damage.
Fact: Fevers fighting infection don’t lead to brain damage. A fever is the body’s natural response to protect itself.
Myth 3: A fever will cause a febrile seizure.
Fact: This is rare. Only 4% of children experience febrile seizures.
Myth 4: Febrile seizures are harmful.
Fact: While scary, febrile seizures usually stop within a few minutes. And they are usually harmless. But if it’s your child’s first seizure, you should seek medical attention.
Myth 5: All fevers need to be treated.
Fact: Only treat fevers for discomfort (usually over 102°.)
Myth 6: Without treatment, fevers will continue to rise.
Fact: Fevers from infection top out at 105°.
Myth 7: With treatment, fevers should subside.
Fact: With treatment, fevers usually come down 1-2°.
Myth 8: If the fever doesn’t come down, the cause is serious.
Fact: A fever can be a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection.
Myth 9: The exact number of the temperature is very important.
Fact: How your child looks is most important.
Myth 10: Temperatures between 98.6 and 100° are low-grade fevers.
Fact: The body’s normal temperature changes throughout the day and peaks in the late afternoon and evening. A temperature of 100.4° or higher is considered a fever.
VOMITING & DIARRHEA
These are also common symptoms, which frequently occur with children. The causes can vary, but they are most likely viral. Don’t treat or slow down diarrhea with medications (prescription or over-the-counter). Diarrhea is best treated with hydration. When you bring your child to the doctor for vomiting and diarrhea, the main part of the evaluation is to assess for dehydration. That is the biggest concern for your provider.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- Less than 4 wet diapers or urination instances per day
- Dry mouth
- Lack of tears
- Unable to hold down liquids
- Oral re-hydration with clear liquids
- Avoid sugary liquids
- Add starchy foods once liquids can be held down (i.e. BRAT Diet – bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.)
When to immediately seek care:
- Unable to hold down clear liquids for over an hour
- Less urine output (your child should urinate every 4-6 hours)
- Bloody diarrhea
- Severe abdominal pain
- Your child doesn’t “look right”
These are of frequent concern, but are often harmless. Because of immunization, the more concerning and contagious rashes are not as prevalent (i.e. measles, chicken pox, and rubella.)
Most common viral rashes are more uncomfortable than dangerous. These include: Fifths Disease or Erythema Infectiosum; Roseola; Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease; and other viral rashes from enteroviruses.
Fifth’s Disease/Erythema Infectiosum:
- Caused by Parvo virus
- Red/slapped cheek appearance
- Lace like rash
- Usually no other symptoms except for mild joint aches
- Not contagious after the appearance of the rash
- Notify pregnant women that may have been in contact with your child as there is an increased risk of infection to the fetus, which can result in Hydrops Fetalis.
- Fine, red bumps on torso
- Usually preceded by a high fever for 4-5 days
- Rash appears after fever subsides and lasts for up to 10 days
- Contagious until the rash is gone
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease:
- Caused by Coxsackie virus
- Looks like Chicken Pox, but rash will start on the extremities instead of the torso
- Symptoms – Fever and blisters in mouth and on arms and legs
- Complication – Dehydration from refusal of fluids due to throat pain
- Very contagious, but children do not need to be isolated. They can return to daycare once fever subsides.
- Usually occur in the summer
- Generally accompanied by upper respiratory infection symptoms and/or stomach problems (i.e. diarrhea and vomiting)
- No need for isolation
COUGHS & COLDS
These are very common illnesses that we see quite frequently. Most children will have between seven and nine upper respiratory infections or colds per year. The frequency of colds increases with daycare attendance. Most are viral and home treatment is recommended. Antibiotics are not needed. Colds usually last for up to two weeks. And unless there is accompanying shortness of breath or fever for more than five days, there is no additional treatment necessary. You may want to see your health care provider if the cold lasts more than two weeks or is accompanied with ear pain.
- Saline nose drops, bulb suction, and humidifier or hot, steamy showers
- Lots of fluids and REST
- Over-the-counter medications are not recommended for children under two, and are generally not recommended for those under six.
- Honey (over the age of one) will work well to coat the throat
As you can see, most of the symptoms and illnesses mentioned can be treated at home as they are often caused by viruses. And no medications or antibiotics are needed. Of course, you should always call your provider’s office if you have any concerns. Remember, YOU know your child best.
About our guest blogger:
Dr. Kristina Gutierrez-Barela is a Pediatrician with DaVita Medical Group. She practices out of the Rio Rancho clinic location, and has been with the group for over 18 years. Dr. Gutierrez-Barela has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, and completed her Medical degree at the University of California, San Francisco. Her special interests include child development, adolescent medicine, and well child care for all children.