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A Philly Dad’s Guide to the Top 4 Gross Childhood Illnesses

By September 19, 2017December 30th, 2022Well-being
A mother checking her daughter's hair for head-lice using a nit comb

A mother checking her daughter's hair for head-lice using a nit comb

One revelation in the process of transitioning to parenthood is the fact that the world is filled with invisible, hostile organisms that want to invade your child and cause all manner of grossness.

Common childhood ailments may be routine, but that doesn’t make it less gross the first time you’re faced with a snotty, itchy, goopy-eyed baby who wants to stay attached to mama all day and night.

4 Common, yucky afflictions you might face as a parent

1. Rashes

When a baby comes into the world, it takes time to adjust to the environment. Mother’s womb was completely safe and protective, but the outside world is filled with environmental afflictions.

Our second child turned out to have very sensitive skin. Every other week he’d have some angry red splotch on a different part of his body. Rashes can be attributed to sensitivity of new skin encountering potential irritants, and are generally defined under the term dermatitis.

While bumpy red blotches on your baby’s skin can look scary, dermatitis is common — just ask your pediatrician. (Because, if you’re like most new parents, you will end up heading to the pediatrician.) If rashes and irritation are a frequent occurrence, your doctor can advise you whether it’s a different condition, like eczema or psoriasis, that requires treatment.

2. Pink eye

Another common ailment children (and parents) run into in the first few years is conjunctivitis, known commonly as pink eye. The fun thing about this one is that it’s very easy to share! If your child has pink eye, there’s a good chance you, your spouse, and any siblings, will get it, too. (Yay, pink eye for everyone!)

Pink eye is caused by either bacteria, a virus, and, in babies, by blocked tear ducts. As soon as pink eye shows up in your house, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing any bedding that your little one has been rolling around on to contain the outbreak and keep it from affecting other family members. And, of course, wash your hands frequently.

If your baby or child has pink eye, it’s a good idea to see your pediatrician or head to an urgent care clinic — let’s face it, pink eye looks kind of nasty and will freak out other parents. And, if it’s caused by bacteria, your doctor may need to prescribe eye drops to help clear it up.

3. Stomach bugs

I still get flashbacks to the time my daughter and I were both laid-out with a stomach virus, slurping down popsicles, yet unable to keep anything down. Luckily, by four years old she could aim well enough when her food came back up — woe be to those parents with a smaller child afflicted with this most messy of ailments.

The most common stomach bug, gastroenteritis, causes vomiting and diarrhea. In addition to being extremely unpleasant, it can also potentially dangerous; small children often become dehydrated when they can’t keep food down. A small child will quickly become dehydrated during a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, especially if she can’t keep any liquids down.

It’s essential to get fluids back into your child’s system as soon as you can. Your pediatrician can recommend fluids to restores minerals and electrolytes lost through vomiting.

4. Head lice

Unless you’re extremely lucky, you’ll probably get a call some day from a nurse informing you that head lice has been going around your child’s school or day care. Head lice can be managed quite easily. It doesn’t make it any less disturbing, though.

First off, don’t let this make you feel like a neglectful parent, because cleanliness has nothing to do with it. Anyone can get head lice — all that’s required is contact with the hair of an infected person.

Treatment of head lice is usually with an over-the-counter shampoo product, examining your child’s scalp and removing any lingering eggs, and washing any potentially affected bedding and clothing in hot water. If that doesn’t work, your pediatrician can prescribe something more powerful.

After a few of these illnesses, you’ll probably become more adept at managing your own anxiety when it comes to seeing your kids when they’re suffering from childhood ailments. After all, the most important thing you can do is to keep a level head so you can monitor the grossest childhood ailments and call in your pediatrician when the going gets tough.

Brendan Huffman

Father of three kids in the city, interested in sustainability, food, cycling, music, exercise, and anything that has to do with the future and our evolving relationship with technology. I love to explore and write about change, renewal, and growth, be it personal, local, or global.