One thing’s for certain, when you become a parent you will suddenly find yourself suffering from every cough, cold and bug doing the rounds.  This is certainly true if you have a little one at nursery or school.  Unfortunately, children are natural sharers, certainly when it comes to germs.

So, what are the most common childhood illnesses you should be aware of, and the common symptoms you should be looking out for? We thought we’d have a look at the two most common ones.

#1 – Chickenpox

One of the main reasons chickenpox spreads so rapidly is because there’s an extended incubation period.  Depending on the individual it can take between one and three weeks for symptoms to begin to appear.  Unfortunately, you are at your most contagious in the days before a rash appears, and when you’re unlikely to be aware you have chickenpox.

Before the rash starts you can expect to see any of the following:

  • General feelings of unwellness/tiredness
  • A temperature over 38C
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Aching
  • Reduced appetite

Of course, not everyone suffers from all (or indeed any) of these symptoms, and equally as they can be symptomatic of all sorts of things, they’re hard to use for diagnostic purposes. 

Initially your child will develop a rash, these will be small red spots which may appear on the face and torso first, but will then spread across the body.  Some children get hundreds of spots, whilst others only have a few.

Within a few hours, or over the course of a day, the spots will turn in to fluid-filled blisters which can become very itchy. It is important to discourage scratching as this can increase the risk of spreading the infection to others, and can also cause complications of the spots become infected themselves.

After a few days the blisters will start to scab over.  During this time new spots can appear, which can prolong the recovery period.  Once all blisters are scabbed over, your child will no longer be infectious to others.

#2 – Diarrhoea and vomiting

A parent’s favourite combination, this particular bug has many causes, but again spreads like wildfire through a school class. Generally speaking youngsters are unlikely to need treatment, but special attention should be paid to babies and toddlers who can experience complications as a result of illness.

One of the biggest concerns with such a bug is dehydration.  Classic signs of dehydration in young children include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Few or even no tears when they cry
  • A dry mouth
  • Fewer wet nappies
  • Dark yellow urine

The key is to keep offering milk feeds where relevant, and try adding in a bottle of cool boiled water in between to maintain fluid levels.  If a young child is being sick, a great tip one our Mums gave us was to offer no more than 5-10ml of fluid every 10 minutes.  The amount is too small for a child to bring back up, thus ensuring they keep it down.

Encourage children to eat, if they can stomach it, but don’t be too concerned if they are off their food.  Hydration is more important at this stage. 

Of course, if you have any serious concerns about your child and their health, always seek medical advice.