Fact: kids get sick.
Our community pharmacists often
receive calls and visits from concerned parents about the health of their
Here are three common illnesses
that we see, with some guidance on symptoms and treatments:
Cough, cold and flu
The common cold is caused by viruses. There are lots of different viruses, but
some of the most common ones are rhinoviruses. The flu is caused by influenza viruses.
A cough is the body’s way of getting rid of something that’s
irritating the throat or respiratory tract. Coughs can be caused by infections,
allergies, irritants like dust or smoke, asthma, or a buildup of phlegm.
Viruses are spread
when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, releasing tiny droplets into
the air. These droplets are either inhaled by other people or land on surfaces,
and are then spread by touching the nose, mouth or eyes.
The symptoms of the common cold can include a runny or blocked
nose, a sore throat, coughing or sneezing, headaches, and occasionally, fever.
Flu symptoms are similar but usually more severe, and also
include aches, chills, and fatigue or weakness.
Coughs can either be
chesty or dry — a chesty cough means that mucus is produced, which you won’t
find with a dry cough.
What to do
Firstly, it’s a myth
that antibiotics can treat a cold or flu virus. These will only be prescribed
by your doctor if there is a secondary bacterial infection like pneumonia.
Viral infections like
cold and flu will usually clear up on their own, but there are a few things
that you can do to help relieve symptoms:
Panadol or ibuprofen can help with a sore throat, aches or fever. Be sure
to give the right dosage for your child's age.
a nasal spray or saline drops to relieve a blocked nose.
syrups and elixirs can help. Chesty cough products are usually formulated to
help bring up mucus by thinning it out, whereas a dry cough formula typically
helps to suppress the cough.
your child is old enough for lozenges, they can help to numb and soothe a sore
your child lots of liquids to help them stay hydrated.
a hot shower and sit in the bathroom to inhale the steam, which can help with
If your child’s
symptoms are getting worse, or they have chest pain, an earache, are having
difficulty breathing or are struggling to keep down liquids or food, call your
Vomiting and diarrhea
Vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms of gastroenteritis, often called
“gastro.” It’s an illness that’s typically caused by viruses, but it can also
be caused by bacteria, toxins, or parasites.
It’s caught through
close personal contact with an infected person or their bodily fluids. Vomiting
and diarrhea may also be caused by drinking contaminated water or eating
contaminated food (food poisoning).
the bowel motions are watery, frequent and can be greenish-brown or tan in
colour. Diarrhoea can last a week or more, but vomiting usually settles
Other symptoms of
gastroenteritis can include cough or sore throat, fever, nausea, loss of
appetite and headache. Signs of bacterial gastroenteritis include a persistent,
high fever, severe stomach pain and mucus and/or blood in the bowel motion. If
you suspect that your child has bacterial gastroenteritis, seek medical help.
another symptom and can be spotted through an increased thirst, dry mouth,
passing small volumes of dark coloured urine, and dizziness.
What to do
One of the most
important things to do is to prevent dehydration. If your baby is bottle-fed,
give them clear fluids instead of formula for 12-24 hours, and then
re-introduce formula when symptoms have improved.
Liquids should be
sipped slowly and frequently. Water is preferable, but diluted juice, diluted
lemonade or an electrolyte solution are also beneficial. Rehydration formulas
are fortified with electrolytes that replace those lost through vomiting and
diarrhea and are available as ready-made drinks, powders, effervescent tablets
or ice blocks.
circumstances, your doctor or pharmacist may recommend a medicine called
Loperamide, which can provide symptomatic relief.
Also known as
“slapped cheek disease”, fifth disease is a common illness for school-aged
children. It’s caused by a virus called parvovirus B19 and is most common
around early springtime.
It’s caused by a
virus called parvovirus B19 and is most common around early springtime.
Much like the cold or
flu, fifth disease is spread by personal contact or touching an infected
The most well-known
symptom of fifth disease is a red rash on the cheeks that lasts around seven to
10 days. There may also be a rash on the limbs or torso.
Before the rash
appears, the child may experience flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose,
fever, fatigue, or headache.
What to do
Fifth disease should
be treated similar to the common cold, with rest and plenty of fluids. You may
wish to give the child ibuprofen or paracetamol to help relieve pain or fever.
If you suspect that
your child is suffering from an illness, or want advice or guidance for how to
treat their symptoms, visit your local community pharmacist for a chat, or give
them a call to discuss your concerns.
For more information
on children’s health, listen to our podcast episode with Magna, a pharmacist from Capital Chemist