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SICK KIDS: When parents need to worry?

Updated on February 16, 2015

Common diseases and how they spread?

Parents are often frustrated by how often their children getting sick, especially if they are in school or day care. It is normal for young children to have 6 to 8 upper respiratory tract illness and 2 to 4 gastrointestinal infections each year. Children in school and day care tend to have more and this is called day care syndrome. As your child gets older, his immune system will strengthen and he will build up immunity to many common infections and he will get sick less often.

Infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites and depending on the disease, the organisms may spread via various routes of transmission. For examples, infections that are spread by respiratory transmission, in which respiratory droplets from an infected person's lungs, nose or mouth are spread to another person. The droplets can spread through the air directly onto another person, or may land or be placed on another surface, which is then touched by another person. If the susceptible person touches his eyes or mouth, he can become infected. Infections spread by respiratory droplets include the common cold, pneumonia, chickenpox, pertussis,influenza flu and many other viral illnesses.

The other common route of disease transmission in children is feco-oral. Never underestimate this mode of disease spread.This is where hand hygiene carries an important role in breaking the weakest link in disease transmission thus preventing the illness from occurring. When child comes in contact with stool that is infected accidentally especially after diaper change or during defecation. A person's hands or other objects can become infected by tiny pieces of the infected stool and this infectious particles can then find their way into someone's mouth and cause infection. Diseases that spread via this manner include acute gastroenteritis,dysentry, worms infestations and hepatitis A.

There are various other routes of disease spread such as contact with infected blood and body fluids such in cases of Hepatitis B/D, HIV, cytomegalovirus, syphilis etc.But, these are not so common in a low-risk children.

When to get worry?

Being sick is a part and parcel of our children's life as their body need to learn on how to develop immunity against those infections and get ready to fight more dangerous bugs later in their life. So, be less worry when your child getting sick. As you know most of the paediatric illnesses are viral in origin and most of them are self-limiting. As parents, you should be able to differentiate between the simple illness and those seriously dangerous illness.

For example, in nursery there are 2 ill kids. The first child, A has developed acute gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) since past 2 days with low-grade fever. However,he still active and able to take feeding as usual. On the contrary,the second child B, also has contracted acute diarrhea and vomiting for the same duration, but he's too lethargic to play and take feeding. He only can take small amount of fluids but will vomit it out after each feed.

So, which child is more worrying and in ill condition, child A or B? I know most of you,will say B. So,what make you come into that conclusion?

The answer lies in our WHO-IMCI (World Health Organisation-Integrated Management of Childhood Illness) guidelines.

Sick child


WHO-IMCI Danger signs

General danger signs are those symptoms that signify the child is really sick and not doing well. Parents should be worried if any of these signs is present in their ill child:

∗ The child is unable to drink or breastfeed

∗ The child vomits everything

∗ The child has had convulsions with this illness

∗ The child is lethargic or unconscious

-The above signs are just a guideline to help health care staffs and also parents to accurately identify the grave signs of illness so that each ill child will get treatment as early as possible.

-This guideline also may help parents to differentiate the simple illness from the dangerous one. This will negate unnecessary anxiety and worry in parents especially when their child fall sick due to simple illness like common cold or uncomplicated diarrhea.

-However, we must aware that guideline is just a guideline. It helps us to simplify things. In any case if parents are in doubt about their child's health, kindly consult nearest clinic or hospital for opinion and treatment.


WHO-IMCI Danger signs

Do you aware of this danger signs criteria?

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Good health, better future

Health education is a life-long process and parenting skills needs perseverance, creativity and up-to-date knowledge in order to provide better care for our children. All children in this world deserve good health so that they can enjoy every moments of their childhood and grow well to become better person in the future.

Be a responsible parents and do no harm. :-)


IMCI-Danger signs check


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