The 5 Most Common Sicknesses (and how to prevent them)


By Nancy Gottesman


1) Colds/Respiratory Infections

Colds and respiratory infections are the most common ailments in babies and toddlers. While you probably average two to four colds annually, your child may get six to ten, with symptoms that are more severe and longer lasting (sometimes up to two weeks).

“The advantage of getting more infections at an early age is that the child will probably get sick less once he starts [kindergarten],” says Christopher S. Ryder, M.D., author of Take Your Pediatrician With You (John Hopkins Press, 2007) and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Penn State University at Hershey. “The disadvantage is that simple viral infections can lead to complications.”

For example, a common cold in a toddler can lead to an ear infection. Another major cause of respiratory illness in toddlers is RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), the symptoms of which are similar to those of a cold: stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, diffi culty feeding, fever, cough.

Practically all kids are infected with RSV by the time they’re 2 to 3 years old, but it’s usually not medically necessary to distinguish it from a cold since complications are uncommon in otherwise healthy toddlers. Sometimes, however, RSV can lead to more serious infections such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis (an inflammation of the small air passages entering the lungs) in toddlers younger than 3. Call your pediatrician immediately if your child has a high fever, severe cough, wheezing, lethargic rapid breathing or bluish skin color due to lack of oxygen. (Sometimes hospitalization may be necessary.)

As yet, no clear evidence shows that children’s cough and cold medications work. Not only that, but an estimated 7,100 children under age 12 are treated in emergency rooms each year due to adverse effects from these medications—64 percent of whom are 2 to 5 years old!

The Food and Drug Administration has recently recommended that the medications not be used for kids under 6 years old because of the lack of benefi cial evidence and increased risk of harm. So what can you do for your child’s cold? Treat aches and fever with children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen. For coughing, try a bedtime dose of honey along with parental TLC: A new study revealed that 1⁄2 teaspoon of buckwheat honey given to children 2 to 5 years old helped provide relief for nighttime cough and sleep difficulties.