Children can fall ill at any time, but they are especially vulnerable when in childcare centres. Here are some common illnesses to look out for.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Your child is growing older by the day, and before you know it, it is time to enrol him in childcare. There are so many things to look forward to, for both parent and child, when this time comes. It could be a time when your child makes his very first friend. He will be learning to interact with the other little ones as well as the staff, and discovering lots of new things around him.
But there is one worry when sending your child to a childcare centre: what if he catches something from one of the other kids?
The Common Illnesses
During the first few years of their lives, children tend to be more vulnerable to illnesses as their bodies are still building their immunity to infections. Add to that the close proximity children are in when they are in childcare, playing together, and sharing toys, the possibility of them falling ill rises.
There are undoubtedly many illnesses children can be infected with, but there are some illnesses that are more commonly spread among children when they are in childcare. Dr Paul Ang Teng Soon, family physician at Zenith Medical Clinic, says, “The common illnesses are still the acute illnesses, such as fever, cough, [runny] nose, hand, foot and mouth disease, vomiting and diarrhoea.”
Children in childcare can be infected with these illnesses through various means. According to Dr Low Kah Tzay, paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, these illnesses can be “spread via respiratory droplets, oral and nasal secretions, urine or stools”, which can then “contaminate the play area, toys and other shared items”.
Let’s now take a closer look at these illnesses.
Fevers in children are usually caused by infections or immunisations. The easiest way to know if your child has a fever is to check his temperature. If you are taking his temperature orally (i.e. in the mouth) or at the armpit, temperatures higher than 37.50C and 37.0C respectively typically indicate a fever.
Don’t worry too much if your child has a fever. A high temperature does not always imply a serious illness but do seek medical advice if you are giving your child any medication to treat his fever. Other things you can do to make your child feel comfortable while he is fighting off the fever are giving him a sponge bath using warm water, dressing him in lightweight clothing and providing him with lots of fluids to keep him hydrated.
Cough and Runny Nose
If your child is coughing and has a runny nose, it could mean that he has a common cold. Since your child’s immune system is still building its immunity to ward off infections, you may find that your child gets the cold often. Fortunately, common colds in children are not usually serious and your child’s body should be able to fight off the infection on its own without treatment.
However, there are some over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help relieve your child’s symptoms such as antihistamines to alleviate a runny nose, but be sure to consult your doctor for the proper dosages you should give to your child.
Vomiting and Diarrhoea
Vomiting and diarrhoea in children are usually signs of gastroenteritis, which is an infection of the stomach and intestines. Gastroenteritis in children is most often caused by a virus known as rotavirus, which can present other symptoms besides vomiting and diarrhoea, such as abdominal pain, loss of appetite and fever.
A child can be infected with rotavirus
if he comes into direct contact with the vomit or diarrhoea
of another child who already has the infection.
Like the common cold, there are no specific medications to treat the rotavirus infection, but your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms. The most important thing you can do if your child is infected is to ensure that he is frequently hydrated.
Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD)
A particularly common disease in Singapore, HFMD is spread through direct contact with an infected child’s saliva, faeces and mucus. A child can also be infected with HFMD if he comes into contact with any contaminated objects.
Symptoms of HFMD vary, from a sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and a loss of appetite. The most significant symptoms are ulcers in the child’s mouth and tongue, as well as a rash on the child’s palms, soles of the feet, buttocks, arms and legs.
HFMD is usually mild and there are no specific treatments to cure the disease but do bring your child to see a doctor if you suspect he has HFMD. Your doctor might prescribe medications to alleviate your child’s symptoms. Besides giving your child the prescribed medications, you can also help your child recover by providing him with sufficient fluids and ensuring that he gets enough rest at home.