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Common Childhood Health Concerns

Infectious Diseases

Here are some illnesses that children often get, or used to get before immunization. Some are now prevented by immunization. All of these spread from person to person.  The table shows the following:

Disease: The name your health-care professional will call it.
Symptoms: The signs of sickness your child will have or show.
Spread: The way your child can get or spread the disease.
Infectious: The time when your child is most likely to spread the disease.
Exclusion: When your child is not allowed to attend school, nursery or day care with this illness

How It’s Spread
Common Cold
  • Runny nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Fever.
  • Sore throat.
  • Ear ache.
  • Droplets from coughing and sneezing.
  • By hands.
  • By touching objects with droplets on hands.
  • 2-4 days before symptoms are present or the child looks ill.
  • Lasts about 10 days.
  • None
  • Diarrhea.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Lasts 3-9 days.
  • Dehydration.
  • Virus spreads by hands that have contacted diarrhea.
  • Toys and hard surfaces in day cares.
  • Possibly respiratory.
  • Can take up to 2 days before
    diarrhea starts.
  • Can spread as long as the child has diarrhea.
  • While child has diarrhea.
German Measles
  • Mild fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Sometimes followed by a mild red rash.
  • By an infected person coughing or sneezing.
  • By contact with the nose and throat secretions of an infected person.
  • The virus can pass from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn baby.
  • From 7 days before until 7 days after the rash first appears.
  • Until 7 days after the rash first appears.
  • Exposed pregnant women should contact their doctor.
  • Cough.
  • Headache.
  • Chills.
  • Fever.
  • Mild runny nose.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Tiredness.
  • Aching all over.
  • Same as common cold: droplets from breathing, coughing, sneezing.
  • 1-3 days.
  • Lasts 5-10 days but recovery can take weeks.
  • None.
(Red Measles)Vaccine-preventable
  • High fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Cough.
  • Inflamed eyes.
  • Small red spots with bluish-white centers inside the mouth (Koplik spots).
  • After about 4 days, a bright, red, raised blotchy rash appears.
  • By an infected person coughing or sneezing.
  • By contact with the nose or throat secretions of an infected person.
  • From 4 days before onset of symptoms until 4 days after the rash appears.
  • Until 4 days after the rash first appears.


  • Fever
  • Swollen salivary glands (below the ears).
  • By an infected person coughing or sneezing.
  • By contact with the nose or throat secretions of an infected person.
  • From 7 days before until 9 days after the swelling appears.
  • Until 9 days after the swelling first appears.
(respiratory syncytial virus)
  • Cough.
  • Stuffy or runny nose.
  • Mild sore throat.
  • Ear ache.
  • Fever.
  • Droplets from sneezing or coughing.
  • Sharing drinks.
  • Same as cold.
  • From 1 day before symptoms, to five days after.
  • None
Ear Infections
(otitis media)
  • Ear ache, irritable, pulling at ears, trouble sleeping.
  • Pain.
  • Bacteria spread from throat while ears are congested with cold or other upper respiratory infection.

  • Not applicable.
  • None.


Not all illnesses are bad for baby. They help baby build immunities.
When babies have an infectious illness, please make sure they don’t share toys. Try to keep them away from other children.

Hand-Washing Prevents Disease Spread

Frequent and thorough hand-washing is the most important way to prevent the spread of infection.


  • Washing your hands removes visible dirt and reduces the number of germs on your hands.
  • This makes it less likely that germs will be spread from your hands to food, wounds and things that you touch.


  • After sneezing or coughing.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After changing a diaper.
  • Before and after preparing food.
  • Before and after meals and breaks.
  • Before and after smoking.
  • When arriving home and before and after work.

With What?

  • Soap. It does not need to be antibacterial.
  • Warm, running water.


  • Wet hands under warm, running water. This makes the soap work better.
  • Scrub hands all over for at least a count of 10.
  • You may need to take more time if your hands are visibly soiled. Pay special attention to fingertips, thumbs and in between fingers.
  • Rinse under warm, running water for at least a count of 10, holding the hands downward.
  • Dry hands thoroughly with a paper towel. At home, use a separate towel for each person. Wash towels regularly.
  • Turn the taps off with the towel.
  • If the water is not safe for drinking because of germs (bacteria, viruses or parasites), it won’t remove germs when hand-washing.
  • You can use a hand disinfectant to reduce the number of germs on your hands.
  • Hand disinfectants are rubs, gels, rinses or wipes that contain alcohol. They are used to kill germs living on your hands. They must contain at least 62% alcohol for them to be effective. The alcohol in hand disinfectant completely evaporates in about 15 seconds. They are only effective on clean hands.


Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (online), 2016

Skin Conditions

Diaper Rash

  • Prevention is best.
  • Keep baby’s bottom as clean and dry as possible.
  • If baby’s bottom tends to get sore, apply diaper rash ointment with each diaper change.
  • You should also change diapers often, wash diaper area and let bottom dry in air.
  • If baby gets a severe diaper rash, contact your health-care provider.

Cradle Cap

  • This is what we call the greasy, yellow, scaly patches on the scalp. It may also appear on the eyebrows and behind the ears.
  • It is a harmless condition that does not bother baby.
  • Most babies will outgrow it by 6-7 months.
  • The cause is unknown but is probably linked to immature oil glands.
  • It will eventually clear up on its own.
  • Apply a little oil to the scalp and leave for ten minutes. Follow with a gentle shampoo. Brush.
  • If the scalp becomes infected, please see your health-care provider for further treatment.

Heat Rash

  • A rash that looks like tiny bumps, with slightly red areas around them.
  • It occurs in areas like the neck and creases of the legs where baby gets hot.
  • Dress baby in less clothing or take baby to a cooler, drier place.

Baby Acne (Newborn Rash)

  • A reddish, blotchy rash on the cheeks about
  • 3 to 4 weeks after birth is normal.
  • It is a bit like acne and usually clears when mother’s hormones clear from baby’s system.


See information under “Allergies”.

Other Health Concerns


  • Constipation is hard, dry bowel movements. Baby may have difficulty passing them. Babies, especially when breastfed, can go several days without a bowel movement and this does not mean they are constipated.


  • This is the passage of frequent watery bowel movements. It can quickly cause dehydration in babies. See your health-care provider.


  • Dehydration is what happens when baby does not have enough fluid (water) in his or her body. This may happen when baby feels ill and doesn’t want to drink.
  • Fever can make this more likely.
  • It may happen during an illness with vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Sign of dehydration are:
    • More than 6 hours without a wet diaper.
    • Urine that looks darker in his diaper and smells stronger than usual.
    • Extreme tiredness.
    • A dry, parched mouth and lips.
    • No tears while crying.


  • Consider taking an infant CPR course.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Prevention

  • SIDS is also known as crib death.
  • It is the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant under one year of age. The cause remains unexplained.
  • Normal, healthy infants sleep on their backs; this reduces risk of SIDS.
  • All infants should be in a smoke-free and drug-free environment.
  • Baby should not be over-dressed or given too many blankets. Avoid overheating, even during an illness.
  • Breastfeeding gives some protection against SIDS.


  • Allergies are when the body reacts to a specific object.

Allergies can take many forms. Common ones are:

  • Stuffy or running nose.
  • Skin reactions, like eczema or hives.
  • Diarrhea or vomiting.

Common breathing allergies:

  • Dust mites.
  • Pollen.
  • Molds.
  • Pet saliva (especially cats).

Common skin allergies:

  • Lotions, creams, etc.
  • Fabrics of clothing, bedding, etc.
  • Metals.
  • Antibiotic creams and ointments.

Common food allergies:

  • Milk.
  • Eggs.
  • Peanuts and other nuts.
  • Fish and shellfish.
  • Wheat.
  • Soy.
  • Sulphites.

If you suspect your child is allergic, please see your health-care provider for ways to help your child.

Head Flattening

Head flattening has become a problem in the last few years, as parents put babies to sleep on their backs. Prevention is important.

  • Put baby’s head at the head of the crib one day and the foot of the crib the next day. Baby will not be resting his or her head on the same side every day. You baby will naturally look towards the door.
  • Avoid having your baby in a car seat or stroller for long periods of time when possible.
  • Alternate the location of a mobile for your baby to look at when in the crib.
  • Have supervised tummy time when your baby is awake. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes three times a day. It helps if you get on the floor face-to-face with your baby and use this as play time.


Fever is a body temperature above the normal range.  It is common in babies. It can occur for many reasons, but usually for an infectious disease. You should see your health-care provider to find out why baby has a fever, especially in the first several months.

  • Do not use any medication to try and bring the fever down.
  • Remove some of baby’s clothes.
  • Offer the breast more often, if he or she will take them.

A slight fever is not harmful. Take baby to your health-care provider if:

  • If a baby under 6 months has a fever.
  • If baby has a fever over 41°C rectally.
  • If baby has a fever more than 3 days.

Many medicines are sold without a prescription and are thought to be safe. Some can be harmful to babies. Always check with your health-care provider before giving baby medicine.

Measurement Method
Normal Temperature Range
36.6°C to 38°C (97.9°F to 100.4°F)
>38°C (100.4°F)
34.7°C to 37.3°C (94.5°F to 99.1°F)

>37.3oC (99.1oF)


  • Allergy/Asthma Information Association (online) 2016
  • Caring For Kids (online) 2015
  • Food Allergy Canada (online) 2016
  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (online), 2016