Even if you do everything right, your child’ll get ill – and probably quite frequently. This isn’t a bad thing: Your child’s body needs to come into contact with bacteria and viruses in order to build up a good resistance to the germs. In fact, some research shows that the more illnesses your child gets in the first few years of life, the healthier she’s likely to be later.
Of course, you won’t welcome every cold and tummy bug your child falls victim to. After all, caring for an ill child can be extremely worrying, especially when you can’t quite work out what’s wrong. Try to keep things in perspective:
All children get ill, and in the vast majority of cases the illnesses aren’t serious and don’t pose any threat to your child’s long-term health. However, if you’re at all concerned about your child, get her checked out by a doctor. And try to be aware of the signs of diseases such as meningitis, which need urgent medical treatment.
The person who can tell better than anyone else whether your child is ill is you. Follow your instincts: You’re likely to be able to spot when something’s not quite right. Signs that your child has a bug include the following:
· A fever: The presence of a fever almost always means an infection. Fever itself is not dangerous – it’s the body’s normal reaction to the presence of foreign organisms – but you need to bring down your child’s temperature to avoid overheating, which can cause a febrile convulsion.
· Irritability or lethargy: Your child’s behaviour may be influenced by a fever. The raised temperature may make her irritable, drowsy, or lethargic.
· Coughing: This is a common sign that your child has an infection.
· Vomiting and diarrhoea: Symptoms like these are usually associated with problems directly involving the tummy or bowel, such as gastroenteritis or food poisoning, although sometimes they occur for other reasons. Some children vomit if they have a high temperature; others vomit if they’re emotionally upset. Yes, diarrhoea really can be a cause for celebration! If your child is suffering from diarrhoea as well as vomiting, she probably has a tummy bug, which usually settles on its own with no ill effects. Vomiting without diarrhoea, especially if accompanied by fever, may have a different cause such as a urine infection. If you’re in doubt, speak to your GP or health visitor.
· A rash: Rashes often suggests a viral infection. The presence of a rash doesn’t usually make the illness any more serious – in fact, it can help your doctor diagnose illnesses such as German measles and chickenpox. But if your child has a rash, ask your doctor to check it out to ensure that she’s not displaying a symptom of meningitis or another dangerous illness. The easiest way to test for meningitis is the ‘glass test’. Press the bottom of a glass on to your child’s rash. If the rash fades or disappears, it is almost certainly not meningitis; if the rash remains, your child may have meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) – so call an ambulance immediately.