Every day, millions of children with potentially fatal illness are taken by their caregivers to be seen by health workers. In countries with a high burden of child mortality, a handful of conditions are responsible for these visits. Globally, over 80% of the under-five deaths are due to neonatal conditions and infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles and meningitis, often compounded by malnutrition. Most childhood deaths can be prevented with effective interventions that are feasible for implementation, even in resource constrained settings
It is never a good experience to have a sick child. Children can also deteriorate rapidly when they fall sick. There is therefore need to know the commonest child health problems and how to identify them at home.
- Common cold. This involves running, and sometimes blocked nose, difficulty in breathing, and breathing through the mouth. , Fever, cough and sneezing can also be symptoms of a common cold. These infections are often caused by viruses and are very contagious from hands, and surfaces where the droplets from coughing and sneezing are deposited. Proper hydration with fluids, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and hygiene practices like blowing the nose into a disposable tissue paper, coughing into the elbows, hand-washing, and avoiding gathering to spread it may be all that is needed. However, contact your doctor if the child is not better after 2 days or develops symptoms like high fever, worsening cough, and difficulty in breathing.
- Flu (Influenza): This is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus. It closely resembles the common cold with symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and cough. Colds however occur more gradually while the symptoms of flu are rather abrupt. Sore throat is also more common in flu. Other symptoms like fever, muscle aches, headaches also occur in the flu and pneumonia is a complication. Vaccination is effective in reducing severity and frequency of illness. Treatment is often like the common cold with hydration, proper diet, and anti- inflammatory medications, however, there may be need to visit a doctor if not getting better.
- Gastroenteritis: This is often called the stomach flu or diarrhea. It occurs when the child passes more frequent, large volume watery stool. It can be accompanied with vomiting. The commonest cause is viruses and if left untreated, it can rapidly lead to dehydration and death in more severe cases. In 2017, diarrhea killed approximately 480,000 young children across the globe, accounting for 8% of all deaths among children under age 5. Most deaths from diarrhea occur among children below the age of 2 living in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. Simple home interventions, such as oral re-hydration salt and zinc tablets is life saving and approximately 70 to 90%of deaths can be avoided by this home remedy. It is always advisable to contact the doctor if symptoms are not getting better.
- Pneumonia: is a respiratory tract infection caused by viruses or bacteria. It is spread when an infected person coughs the germs from the respiratory tract into the air and it is inhaled by another person. It is most common during the cold months. The symptoms are fast and difficulty in breathing, cough, fever, chest pain, and muscle aches. The cough is often distressing and can last for weeks even after the fever has stopped. If it is not properly treated, it can lead to death. Do contact a doctor as soon as you notice the above symptoms in your child.
- Malaria: is the world’s third most deadly disease for young children between the ages of one month and 5 years, following pneumonia and diarrhea. It is commoner in countries in Africa and the tropics. It is caused by a parasite transmitted through the bite of the female anopheles mosquito. The symptoms of include a flulike illness, fever, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Complications of malaria like Anemia, jaundice, and cerebral malaria are often commoner in children. Consult your doctor as soon as such symptoms are noticed in a child.
- Ear infection:is another common childhood illness. It is often caused by viruses, bacteria and fungus at times. The commonest symptom is ear pain. There may be ear discharge and reduced hearing on the affected side, fever, or other signs of illness. If your child has such symptoms, it is advisable to take them to them doctor who would examine them and treat appropriately.
- Urinary Tract Infection: children can also have a urinary tract infection if bacteria accumulates in any part of the urinary tract. The symptoms include pain, burning or feeling uncomfortable during urination, more frequent urination, the need to urinate frequently or urgently, lower abdominal pain, or side or back pain. A doctor would need to examine the child, perform tests on the urine sample to be able to prescribe appropriate medication for your child.
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HMFD): is a very contagious disease most common in infants and children younger than 5 years old. It is caused by a virus called the coxsackievirus. Symptoms include sores in the mouth, fever, rash on the hands and feet, and flu-like symptoms. This sickness is often not serious and not fatal. There is no specific treatment but frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with people who are infected may help reduce a child’s risk of infection.
- Conjunctivitis: This is frequently called the “pink eye.” The signs of include redness of the affected eye(s), eye discharge, itchiness, and swelling in one or both eyes. Bacteria and viruses are the commonest cause, especially of the contagious type. Spread is by contact with eye discharge often on the hands from infected people. It is not fatal but should be checked out by a doctor and affected children should frequently wash their hands, avoid rubbing the eyes, or use a clean handkerchief, and also stay home to avoid spreading it.