The 5 most common childhood illnesses. Everything you need to know.

It’s fairly common knowledge that children are much more prone to illnesses that your average adult. Their little bodies are still developing an immune system with the strength to fight off all the nasties, and the result is a lot more coughs, colds and other illnesses. As a parent, you’ve probably worried about this quite a lot, googling symptoms and panicking at every coughing fit when they were tiny. The truth is, you don’t need to worry about them catching things, because they probably will anyway! Instead, you should be focusing on knowing the symptoms so that you can recognise them early, along with some effective treatments to get your little ones back on the road to health quickly. Aside from the odd outbreak of a random virus, there are some very common childhood illnesses you can be on the lookout for, and most are easy to cure at home.


The Common Cold

The most common illness in both children and adults is, unsurprisingly, the common cold. Children catch around 5 colds a year, and it’s usually the most common reason for missing school. Symptoms include a sore throat, runny nose, headaches, loss of appetite, slight fever or a blocked nose. As an adult who’s had their fair share, you can probably spot the symptoms a mile off! Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold – you’ve just got to let it run its course. You can however, help your little one feel more comfortable with regular doses of Paracetamol if they have a fever, making sure they stay hydrated and keep their airways clear of mucus. In very little ones you can do this with a nasal aspirator, or you can just make sure they keep blowing their nose if they are a bit older!


Chicken Pox

It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent or not, most people will recognise chicken pox when they see it. It’s a contagious illness that causes a very itchy rash, along with red spots all over the body that will start to scab over. Your child will probably have had the virus for a while before the spots start to show, since it takes around 14-16 days for symptoms to develop. Along with the trademark rash, they might also get a fever, headache, cough and a sore throat. Again, there is no cure for chicken pox, it will pass in its own time.


Most parents tend to see it as a good thing when their child catches it, since it can be dangerous in adults who didn’t have it as a child. So all you can do is try to relieve the symptoms. Paracetamol will take care of the fever and sore throat, fluids and vitamins will keep them hydrated and give them some energy. For the itching, there are a lot of creams out there that can soothe their skin, or you can put socks or mittens on their hands to stop them scratching. It should clear in its own time, but make sure you see your GP if it doesn’t get better, or if the symptoms get worse.



Croup is one of those illnesses that tends to only affect children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years, and is much more common in autumn and winter (so about now). It causes irritation in your child’s upper airways, leading to swelling, difficulty breathing, noisy breathing and a cough that sounds a bit like a high-pitched seal. While anything that affects a child’s breathing sounds scary, croup is incredibly common and usually starts off as a cold. Most cases are mild and can be treated at home with fluids and humid air, running a very hot shower and having the child in the bathroom breathing in the warm air is an easy way to do this.

Do see a doctor if symptoms haven’t improved within 3-5 days.  If they make a high-pitched noise when they breathe in (doctors call this stridor), have trouble swallowing, have laboured breathing, are very tired and are difficult to wake up see a doctor immediately. You should also keep your child away from other children until their fever is gone, since croup is highly contagious.



This is essentially a severe tummy bug and is one of the main causes of diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting in children. It can be caused by common contagious viruses (like the norovirus), E.coli, Salmonella or parasites. If your child has gastroenteritis they will usually complain of stomach cramps and pain, a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. The most effective treatment is to ‘let it work its way through the system’.  The body tends to flush these things out naturally through things like vomiting and diarrhoea. However, you do need to make sure that your child is well hydrated, since they will be losing a lot of fluids. Dioralyte can be given depending on the age of your child, but seek medical advice beforehand and lots of fluid will help with rehydration and soothe symptoms.


Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever was considered an ‘outdated disease’ until recently, when cases in children started to spike hugely. It’s a bacterial infection caused by group A strep and while it used to be a serious concern, it’s now very easily treated. Scarlet fever presents as a distinctive scarlet-coloured rash around the neck and face, which can then spread to the rest of the body (typically the groin and underarms), along with a sore throat and sometimes a fever. This is one you can’t treat at home, so if you see this rash and a sore throat, a quick trip to the GP is vital. They will do a strep test, and if it’s positive they will prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear up the rash and treat the strep.


The good news is, most of these common childhood illnesses can be treated in the comfort of your own home, with medicines that are readily available from your local pharmacy. But when you have a sick, sometimes screaming and inconsolable child, it can be difficult to keep track of what medicine you’re supposed to give them and when.


That’s where the Medi-Redi medicine storage timer comes in very handy. This unique gadget not only gives you a safe, portable place to store your medicines, but it helps you track what medicine(s) you have given and when, so you never have to worry about missing a dose as in the case of antibiotics or double dosing. There is even an alarm and a clear indicator light that blinks green when it’s safe to give another dose. Treating common childhood illnesses has never been easier!


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