Here’s a quick guide to some of the most common child health issues in Australia.
Allergies happen when your child’s immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless to most people – for example, foods, insect stings, dust mites, animals or pollen. See your GP if you think your child has an allergy.
If your child has asthma they might have a whistling wheeze when breathing, be short of breath either during physical activity or while they’re resting, have a persistent dry cough, or cough during physical activity or at night. If you think your child has asthma, see your GP.
Children can get colds as often as once a month. The best treatment is usually fluids, comfort, and rest. Antibiotics won’t help. If you’re worried that it’s something more serious than a cold, see your GP.
Conjunctivitis is an infection of the lining of the eyeball and eyelids. Symptoms include red, puffy, sticky, and sore eyes. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are very contagious, but allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious. Take your child to the GP to check which kind of conjunctivitis your child has and how to treat it.
Food intolerances are a reaction to a food you’ve eaten. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain, which usually clear up by themselves. Talk to your GP if you think your child has a food intolerance.
Many children get gastroenteritis (‘gastro’). Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea, stomach cramps, and fever. Most cases of gastroenteritis in children aren’t serious, but it’s important to make sure that your child gets enough fluid.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease cause small blisters inside the mouth and on the hands and feet. These aren’t itchy. It’s a mild and harmless infection.
Impetigo or school sores usually start as flat, red spots or small blisters anywhere on your child’s body. The spots might fill up with yellow or green pus, burst or crust over. The blisters are very itchy. If you think your child has impetigo, go to the GP, because your child needs antibiotics. Impetigo is highly contagious so keep your child at home until they’ve been on antibiotic treatment for at least 24 hours.
Lice or nits
These insects attach themselves to children’s hair, lay eggs (often called nits), and cause a lot of scratching and itching. You can remove lice by combing wet hair with a conditioner or using anti-lice products. Keep your child at home until you’ve treated the lice.
A wart is a small, flesh-colored, raised growth. You mostly see them on children’s arms, hands, and legs. Warts are usually painless. See your GP if the wart is on your child’s face, feet or genitals, or if the wart looks red, hot, and painful.
Symptoms of worms include an itchy or red bottom. Worms aren’t usually dangerous. They’re easy to treat with antiparasitic tablets that you can buy over the counter from your local pharmacy. You should treat everyone in the family at the same time. It’s very common for infections to come back, particularly in children at child care, preschool, or school.