There are so many things you can never be prepared for in parenting. You expect that when you have children you’ll be tired, you’ll change diapers, and you’ll deal with nearly endless runny noses. But if you’re anything like me, you’re blissfully unaware of all the other ailments you might have to deal with.
So then when you get a surprise diagnosis for something seemingly gross, icky, or embarrassing, it feels strange and shameful – like you did something wrong. Well, we’re here to shed some light on ten childhood ailments that are much more common than you think. If one of them strikes your family, know you’re not alone!
Pinworms – Yes, pinworms are actual worms. They take up residence inside the intestines and then exit the child’s anus while they’re sleeping to lay eggs. The eggs are deposited with a sticky substance to keep them in place, but it causes intense itching so children scratch and the invisible eggs become affixed to their hands and fingernails. Because children tend to not be the best at personal hygiene, at some point the eggs find their way back into their mouth where they’re swallowed and return to the intestines, hatch, and the cycle begins anew. There are naturopathic, over-the-counter, and prescription remedies.
This sounds super icky, super embarrassing, but is super common. It’s just that nobody wants to admit they’ve had to deal with it. Trust me – it’s occurred in our family. Twice.
Thankfully, pinworms are not harmful. Just gross.
Fifth Disease – Fifth Disease is one that you probably won’t be aware of until your child is no longer contagious. It presents as a mild cold – runny nose, possible slight fever, maybe a headache. Then your child will wake up with a bright red rash on both of their cheeks (it’s also known as “slapped cheek syndrome” because of this phenomenon) and you will freak out, take them to the doctor, and then learn that by the time the rash appears, they are no longer contagious and can return to normal school/daycare activities.
I may have had experience with this one, too.
There is no treatment since Fifth Disease is a virus, and by the time you realize they’re afflicted there is no longer a need for intervention.
Lice – Despite the stereotype, having head lice has nothing to do with personal hygiene. An infestation happens simply because your child was exposed to someone who had it. It’s easily spread between family members and even for those not afflicted, there’s always the side effect of scalp itching simply because you’re thinking about lice and paranoid that you have it.
How many of you just scratched your head?
There are many treatments available, but if someone in my family came down with lice, I’d try this treatment first – it’s chemical free, cheaper, and just as effective than the prescription stuff!
Pinkeye – One day, you go in to get your child out of their crib and they are crying and panicked because their eye has been crusted shut. Pinkeye/conjunctivitis is caused by a number of things – viruses, bacteria, allergies, an irritant. Often, it is caused by the same virus that might cause a cold. Symptoms include redness, swelling, discharge/crust that prevents the child from opening their eye after sleeping. Even though pinkeye does not affect vision most of the time, it is worth being evaluated by a doctor to ensure that the cause is not serious.
Impetigo – Impetigo is an infection of the skin (usually around the mouth area) made up of small, yellow crusty patches. It can be caused by staph or strep bacteria and usually afflicts skin that has already been irritated by other things, and then gets infected. When my son got impetigo, it was at the same time he had a terrible cold and the skin on his nose had been rubbed raw from wiping it incessantly. Impetigo looks terrible and should be treated with antibiotics to prevent more serious infection, so see your doctor if you notice small blisters or crusty patches.
Nursemaid’s elbow – A couple months ago, a friend posted on Facebook that her toddler was injured while playing with her daddy and was diagnosed with Nursemaid’s elbow (radial head subluxation). Basically, while playing around – as we all do with our little ones – the elbow ligament, which is looser in young ones than in school-aged children and adults, slipped out of place and the elbow dislocated.
It sounded like such a horrible injury – but then, in the comments, were numerous parents chiming in with “that happened to us, too!” and “my son had that happen last week!” Turns out, it’s really common.
It’s certainly a very painful affliction for children to endure, but the good news is that doctors can reposition the elbow fairly easily and the pain resolves almost immediately.
Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease – This is a common viral infection characterized by sores in the mouth and blisters/rash on the hands and feet. One of our bloggers came down with this prefaced by a terrible sore throat and fever. It is highly contagious and often spreads through families or daycares.
There is one virus that is the most common cause of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and it’s true that once you get it, you develop immunity to future infections from that particular virus. However, there are other less-common viruses that cause the illness, so if you’re exposed to one of them, you may get it a second time.
Ear infections – These are so, so tricky. Kids’ ears can hurt terribly, but there’s no infection. I’ve had friends bring their kids in for regular well-child check-ups with no concerns only to discover they had double ear infections.
Some infections require antibiotics, others can go without.
It’s so unclear as a parent when to bring the kids in. I’ve always said that they should train parents to diagnose ear infections before they bring their babies home from the hospital. Doctors seem to be able to tell whether there’s an infection or not after looking in the ear for like half a second, so how hard could it be? “No infection. $120, please!” Help a mama out and tell us how to figure it out ourselves!
Ringworm – Unlike pinworms, ringworm is thankfully not caused by a worm. It’s caused by a fungus, but gets its name because of its ring-like appearance. It’s a red rash that gets bigger as the infection spreads, but the inside of the ring is clear because the section has already healed.
Ringworm is easily spread and treatment is available in the form of topical treatments or antifungal pills (for more severe infections).
Yeast diaper rash – Diaper rashes are super common, but yeast diaper rashes are a totally different animal. I didn’t realize my baby had yeast and tried every single diaper cream on the market, mixed my own, let my infant go diaper-free (what a mess!) and finally, at my wit’s end, I even tried to put breast milk on it because some women swear by that as a solution to everything. No luck.
Turns out yeast needs special treatment and diaper creams don’t work. Even worse, any diaper solution with corn starch (traditional baby powder) actually feeds the yeast. In addition, we were using cloth diapers which basically allow the yeast to live within the fibers unless you do some additional treatment aside from the regular laundering process to kill them. I didn’t realize this right away which allowed the rash to recur.
Since diaper creams won’t kill the yeast, prescription antifungal treatments are available. However, we were able to buy over-the-counter cream for women’s vaginal yeast infections with the active ingredient clotrimazole to combat the rash. Consult with your doctor first, though.
These descriptions are intended to describe personal experiences with these illnesses. Please always contact your child’s doctor if you have concerns about their health.
What ailments have you had to battle with your children that caught you by surprise?