6 common health issues in children

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 9 Oct 2021

6 common health issues in children

If you have young children, read this to find out the 6 most common health issues in children and what you can do to alleviate the conditions:

1. Eczema

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that usually begins during infancy or childhood. The main symptom of eczema is itchy, dry, red and inflamed skin. In toddlers and adolescents, eczema commonly affects the areas with folds, such as the neck, wrists, elbows, ankles and behind of the knees.

Contrary to popular belief, eczema is not contagious or infectious, but constant scratching can result in open sores and bacterial infections. Eczema is also not a sign of poor hygiene or bad parenting – in fact, frequent washing with harsh soaps can dry out the skin and worsen the condition.

Depending on the age of your child and severity of the condition, your doctor may prescribe treatments like topical steroids, oral antihistamines and antibiotics.

What parents can do: 

  • Moisturise at least 3-4 times a day with a fragrance-free moisturiser, or a suitable moisturiser recommended by your doctor. 
  • Avoid soap-based products and long showers with hot water. 
  • Keep your child’s nails short and clean and prevent scratching if possible. 
  • Dress your child in lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton. 

 2. Water warts 

Water warts, also known as molluscum contagiosum, is characterised by small, raised spots on the skin. It is caused by a virus called the molloscum contagiosum virus (MCV) that can be transmitted by skin contact or through contaminated towels, soft toys, clothes or bathwater. Commonly affecting young children between the ages of one and ten, it is a mild infection that usually clears up on its own within 18 months. Children with water warts can still continue going to school and participate in activities like sports and swimming. However, take note that scratching the raised bumps may increase the risks of infection and spreading the rash to other parts of the body. 

What parents can do: 

  • Avoid squeezing or scratching the spots, and encourage your child to do the same. Your doctor will be able to prescribe a soothing cream if the bumps are itchy. 
  • Dress your child in loose clothing. 
  • If your child is going swimming, use a waterproof bandage to cover the bumps. 
  • Make sure your child doesn’t share clothes, towels, toys or baths with anyone else until the bumps clear up. 

According to Dr June Tan Sheren at Osler Health, molluscum usually clears on its own within 6-12 months but can take as long as 3 years to resolve, as immunity to the virus takes time to develop. There are various treatment methods that your doctor might recommend if needed such as cryotherapy (freezing), curettage, or applying a medicated cream to the surface. Prevention is better than cure! Avoid sharing towels, clothing, goggles and other sporting gear.

3. Worms 

Intestinal worms are a common health issue in children worldwide. According to Dr Neil Forrest, British GP based at Osler Health Star Vista Clinic, threadworms are the most common type of intestinal worms seen in patients. Threadworms look like tiny white threads about one centimetre long and live in the intestines. At night, they come out to lay their eggs on the skin between the buttocks and sometimes in the vagina in girls. They can also be found in poo after going to the bathroom, or around the anus at night. By far, the most common symptom is itching around the buttocks, or the vagina for girls. 

What parents can do: 

  • Stop the spread by discouraging scratching, keeping fingernails trimmed short and washing hands frequently. 
  • Wash bedsheets in hot water and vacuum floors and mattresses to get rid of the eggs. 

Your doctor will prescribe a medication called albendazole to kill the worms already inside the body. Dr Forrest recommends treating the entire household at the same time, even those without symptoms. 

 4. Hand foot mouth disease (HFMD)

Hand foot mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children. Symptoms can include sores in the mouth, a red rash on the palms and soles, fever, sore throat and loss of appetite. 

What parents can do: 

  • Bring your child to the doctor immediately if you suspect he has HFMD. 
  • Keep your child hydrated with plenty of water and fluids. 
  • Switch to soft foods like porridge as mouth sores can be very painful.

 5. Heat rash 

Heat rash, also known as “prickly heat”, occurs commonly in hot and humid climates due to sweating and blockage of the sweat glands. These rashes appear as little red bumps in skin creases or areas where clothing rubs into the skin, such as the neck, back and chest. Heat rash is generally harmless and should clear up in a few days once the child is cooled down. 

What parents can do: 

  • Remove excess clothing and apply cool compresses. 
  • Avoid topical medications because they might block the sweat glands further and aggravate the condition. 

 6. Gastroenteritis 

Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is the infection of the intestines. Stomach flu can be caused by food poisoning or viral infections like the rotavirus. Symptoms may include diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever. 

What parents can do: 

  • Keep your child hydrated with plenty of water and fluids. 
  • Avoid giving your child milk as the intestines are already weakened by gastroenteritis and may not be able to digest lactose in milk fully. This can worsen stomachaches and diarrhoea. 
  • Watch for signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth, lips and eyes, or not peeing for hours. If you notice these signs, please bring your child to the Emergency Room immediately. 

Osler Health offers a comprehensive range of children’s health services in Singapore, including diagnosis and treatment of common childhood ailments, vaccinations, developmental assessments, travel consultations and more.

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