Common Childhood Illnesses and Their Treatments

When is that cough just a cold, and when is it something more? Keep reading for a quick guide to common childhood illnesses and their treatments.

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Flu (Influenza)

The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by a group of influenza viruses and is especially common in the fall and winter months. Most kids will recover within 1 week, but the flu can be serious in kids under the age of 2, and infants should be watched closely for potential complications.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fussiness in infants

Treatment at home typically includes the use of OTC medications to reduce fever, plenty of fluids, and helping your child rest comfortably. In some cases, antiviral medicine can be prescribed that may shorten the course of the illness by 1 to 2 days. This medication must be taken as soon as possible (typically within 48 hours) of the start of the flu in order to be effective.


RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus and is a common virus that can cause both upper and lower respiratory tract infections. It is typically mild but can cause pneumonia in kids. Infants and those with breathing problems or compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing complications.RSV is highly contagious and typically sweeps through the school setting from late fall through early spring.

RSV causes symptoms that mimic the common cold, including:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Low fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Earaches
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Not eating or drinking well

RSV typically runs its course in about a week. Home care typically includes rest, plenty of fluids, OTC medications, and salinpirators to help we nasal sprays or nose asith nasal congestion in infants.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

This strangely named disease is caused by a virus and occurs most often in the summer and fall months in children ages 10 and younger. It can spread very rapidly in the childcare setting or a school environment.

Symptoms include:

  • Red rash
  • Possible blistering on the hands and feet
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fussiness in babies and toddlers
  • Lesions inside the mouth

The characteristic blistering rash of HFM typically lasts for about a week. Blisters should be kept clean, dry, and uncovered. Topical antibiotic ointment can be used if a blister bursts. Keep your child well hydrated and watch for signs of dehydration. OTC medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also help manage symptoms.

Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)

Gastroenteritis is an umbrella term for an infection that causes stomach irritation and symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Commonly known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or even parasites. Some of the most common infections arenorovirus and rotavirus.

The full list of symptoms include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

Gastroenteritis is usually mild and will generally run its course within a few days. It is very important to keep kids hydrated when they are suffering from the stomach flu, as they can lose fluids quickly through symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Pedialyte is a great option to offer kids suffering from the stomach flu. Avoiding solid foods or following the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) can help a great deal as well.

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye can be the result of a bacterial or viral infection or even allergies. It is highly contagious and is most common in children under the age of 5.

Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • Eye redness
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Itchy eyes or feeling like there is sand in the eye
  • Watery, teary eyes
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Pain in the eye

The typical treatment for pink eye consists of home remedies such as the use of cold compresses and eye drops. Conjunctivitis should clear up on its own in about 1 to 2 weeks. In some cases, the use of antibiotic eye drops can help reduce the duration of the infection.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is caused by an infection of streptococcal bacteria and is very common in school-age children. As many as 1 in 5 kids can be silent “strep carriers,” which means they host the bacteria without being symptomatic or contagious.

Symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swollen tonsils or lymph nodes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Red spots or white patches on the roof of the mouth and back of the throat

Strep throat can be very pervasive and typically requires the use of antibiotics to clear up an active infection. Twenty-four hours after antibiotics have been started, your child should no longer be contagious and can return to school if they are feeling well. OTC medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can also be used to manage symptoms. Treatment at home can include getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and offering honey to children older than 12 months.

When your child is sick and needs medical care, contact Focus on Kids Peds for an appointment with one of our friendly pediatricians!