Asthma is a chronic disease of the tubes (bronchia) that carry air to the lungs. It's often hard to diagnose because different children can show different types of symptoms. For example, one child may have frequent and long-lasting colds, another may cough throughout the night. Symptoms can begin or get worse when "triggered" by common allergens.
Children with asthma may also be sensitive to colds and other viral infections, cold air, particles or chemicals in the air, and/or rapid changes in air temperature. When asthma "flares up," it is often called a "flare" or an "asthma attack."
During a flare, airways become swollen and inflamed, making them oversensitive and "twitchy." This leads to spasms that cause:
If your child has asthma symptoms, he or she should be evaluated and treated by his/her healthcare provider. Treatment includes controlling the inflammation of the airways with medications, and avoiding triggers. The most important thing to remember about treating asthma is that rapid response helps to manage and stop the asthma "attack" quickly.
It's not possible to prevent asthma, but you can work to help prevent asthma attacks. Once your child's healthcare provider has identified your child's asthma triggers, try to eliminate your child's exposure to them.Back to Top
Chickenpox is a common illness among kids, especially before age 12. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It usually goes away without treatment, but because the infection is so contagious, it often travels through entire families, preschool classes or play groups.
A child is contagious until all lesions are crusted over.
There is no treatment for chickenpox, as it's caused by a virus. However, your child can be protected by getting the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, usually between the ages of 12 to 15 months. If you think your child may have chickenpox, call his or her healthcare provider. Be sure to ask about recognizing potential complications. If you choose to take your child in for a checkup, let the staff know that you suspect chickenpox to ensure that other children in the waiting room are not exposed.Back to Top
Most often caused by rhinovirus, colds are the most common infectious disease in the Canada. A cold is typically contagious during the first two to four days after symptoms begin, and for up to three weeks. It is easily spread by person-to-person contact or by person-to-surface contact ... and preventing its spread is one of the primary reasons that frequent and thorough handwashing is so important.
Medicine will not cure a cold, but it may help relieve your child's muscle aches, headache, and fever. You can try acetaminophen or ibuprofen â€” just be sure to read the label for recommendations based on age and/or weight.
Ask your healthcare provider about symptoms to watch for that may require medical care.
In addition: Never give cold medicine to a child under the age of 12 without direct instructions from your healthcare provider, and never give aspirin to a child with a cold. This can lead to a rare but serious illness called Reye's Syndrome.
Read more about treatment and prevention of Colds & Flu..Back to Top
Conjunctivitis is often called "pinkeye." This common condition is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. Some types go away by themselves, and some need medical treatment. Some conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria or viruses; these varieties are contagious. Other (non-contagious) varieties are caused by allergies or an environmental irritant, such as airborne pollutants like smoke or fumes.
Treatment varies according to the cause of pinkeye, so contact your child's healthcare provider to determine the cause and recommended treatment. Try cool or warm compresses to help your child's symptoms. In addition, gently clean the infected eye(s) from inner to outer corner with a clean gauze or cotton pads dipped in warm water. If your child develops a fever and increased swelling, redness, or tenderness in and around the eye/eyelids, contact his/her healthcare provider immediately.Back to Top
Ear infections are very common among young children. Depending on the type of ear infection your child has, it may or may not require medication.
If you think your child has an ear infection, call his/her healthcare provider. Treatment will vary depending on many factors, including type and severity of the ear infection, how long it has lasted, frequency of ear infections, age and possible risk factors, and whether the infection affects your child's hearing. If your child is prone to ear infections, it may help to keep him/her away from large groups of children and secondhand smoke.Back to Top
Influenza, or the "flu," is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs that is caused by influenza viruses. Flu is sometimes confused with the common cold, but in general, the flu is worse than the common cold. It is also highly contagious; the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that all children over the age of 6 months receive an annual flu vaccine.
Antibiotics will not cure the flu virus. And since flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza, or by touching an infected surface, handwashing and cleaning/disinfecting of surfaces are critical in preventing its spread. If you think your child has the flu, contact his/her healthcare provider. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the provider may prescribe antiviral medication to help alleviate symptoms.
Read more about symptoms, treatment and prevention of flu â€” including the important Flu Vaccine â€” in Colds & Flu...Back to Top
Giardiasis is caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia. The illness affects the digestive tract and is one of the primary causes of diarrhea in Canada â€” and young children are three times more likely to contract the disease. It is spread from the stool of an infected person usually from the hand to the mouth. Children who are not yet toilet trained are often linked to nursery and family outbreaks. Sporadic outbreaks may occur through ingestion of fecally contaminated water or food. Lakes or streams which are open to human and animal fecal contamination may be sources of infection.
Giardiasis is treated with prescription medicine â€” usually in liquid form â€” that kill the parasites. Be sure to ask your child's healthcare provider to tell you about any potential side effects.
A child suffering from giardiasis may also become dehydrated.
Read more about Giardiasis in Germs 101..Back to Top
Head lice are tiny, wingless parasitic insects that live among human hairs. They are very common, especially for children ages 3 to 12, and more frequently in girls. Head lice are also very contagious ... and have nothing to do with a child's hygiene or cleanliness.
Call your child's healthcare provider if you suspect that your child has head lice, or if your child is scratching his/her scalp or other areas with body hair. Your child's healthcare provider or a pharmacist can recommend a medicated shampoo, cream, or lotion to kill the lice. They may also suggest a special rinse to use on your child's hair that makes it easier to comb out the nits.
Seek medical advice if prescription or over-the-counter medications are not successful.Back to Top
This contagious skin infection is one of the most common skin infections among kids. Usually, it is caused by one of two bacteria: group A Streptococcus or Staphylococcus aureus. Impetigo is especially common in the summer months, and is even more likely to occur where skin is already injured or irritated. It can be spread by contact with infected skin, or touching things like clothing, towels, and bed linens that have been touched by infected skin.
Symptoms depend on which bacteria caused the infection:
If you suspect that your child may have impetigo, call his/her healthcare provider. Small areas of impetigo can usually be treated with antibiotic ointment â€” but if your child has it in too many areas of the body, his or her healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic pill or liquid. Once antibiotic treatment begins, healing should start within a few days.Back to Top
MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a potentially dangerous type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics and may cause skin and other infections. As with all regular staph infections, recognizing the signs and receiving treatment for MRSA skin infections in the early stages reduces the chance of the infection becoming severe.
Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that may be:
If you suspect an MRSA skin infection, cover the area with a bandage and contact your healthcare professional. It is especially important to contact your healthcare professional if signs and symptoms of an MRSA skin infection are accompanied by a fever.
Learn more about Staphylococcus aureus/MRSA in Germs 101..Back to Top
Ringworm is not a worm, it's a fungal infection of the scalp or skin that gets its name from the "rings" it can produce on the skin. Ringworm is in the "tinea" family of fungal skin infections, which also cause jock itch and athlete's foot. It is very common and mildly contagious, especially among children. Domestic animals such as farm animals, dogs, cats, hamsters, and guinea pigs can also have ringworm; children can contract ringworm from these animals if they are in close contact with them.
If you suspect that your child has ringworm, call his or her healthcare provider. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend an antifungal ointment for ringworm of the skin, or an oral medication for ringworm of the scalp and/or nails.
Read more about Tinea in Germs 101..Back to Top
Strep throat gets its name from the group A Streptococcus bacteria that causes it. Strep throat is very common, and it's contagious. When a child has strep throat, the bacteria are typically found right in the nose and throat area, which makes strep very easy to pass along by sneezing, coughing, or even hand-to-hand contact. If left untreated, strep throat can lead to serious complications.
If you think your child has strep throat, or has a sore throat and may have been exposed to strep, contact his or her healthcare provider. Your child's healthcare provider will conduct a rapid strep test and/or a culture before deciding if antibiotics are necessary.Back to Top
Warts are skin infections caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family, and they are more common in children than in adults. While they can appear anywhere, they often are found on or around small cuts or scratches, or around nails when a child bites his/her nails and skin. They are very contagious, and your child can contract warts just by touching something â€” like a towel or table â€” that was touched by someone with a wart.
There are different symptoms for different warts:
If your young child has a wart, talk to his or her healthcare provider before trying to treat it yourself. A wart will often go away without treatment; this can take from approximately 6 months to 2 years. Or, your child's healthcare provider may decide to remove the wart if it is bothering your child or is painful (as is often the case with plantar warts).Back to Top