Let’s face it; there are times where being a parent is a gross job. You expect to be grossed out by dirty diapers and cleaning up after sick kids, but some common childhood ailments are gross and can literally make your skin crawl.
Kids are notorious for catching disgusting but harmless ailments; especially if they attend daycare, preschool, or have school aged siblings that bring nasty’s home with them. The good news is, that while some ailments are completely disgusting, they are generally harmless and easy to treat.
Kids, especially babies and toddlers, are magnets for bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Because kids often put their fingers in their mouths and have poor hand washing skills, bacteria, viruses and parasites can easily find a point of entry via the eyes, nose, mouth, or ears.
Common childhood ailments like: parasites, head lice, warts, impetigo, ringworm, cold sores and pinkeye are extremely common, and also very treatable.
7 Intestinal Parasites
Most parents think that parasitic infections are only found in third world countries with poor sanitation. In all reality, 270 million preschool age children, and 600 million school age children around the world have some type of parasitic infection.
Parasites are small organisms that live in or on a host and feeds. Intestinal parasites dwell in the intestines of their hosts, and are generally protozoa, or worms. While living in the intestines, parasites can reproduce at an amazing rate, and may or may not cause symptoms in the host.
Pinworms are one of the most common parasites found in young children. Pinworms are thin, white, worms that make their home in the rectum of their host. The pinworms crawl out of the anus at bedtime and lay their eggs on the skin. This causes intense itching and discomfort. Pinworm eggs can live for up to two weeks outside of a host, and are often found on clothing, begging, and under the fingernails of the host.
A child who is infected with pinworms rarely displays any symptoms. They may notice discomfort and itching around the anus, and often experience sleep disturbances as a result. Adult worms can sometimes be found around the anus, in the child’s underwear, diaper, or stool.
Pinworms spread easily among children. When a child itches, eggs become imbedded under the fingernails. The eggs are easily transmitted to another child via direct contact, or coming into contact with objects that have been contaminated with eggs. The child then ingests the eggs, and a new host is found.
To diagnose a pinworm infection, your doctor may have you check your child’s anus, underwear or diaper during the night using a flashlight. Your doctor can also test your child for the presence of pinworms.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will prescribe an oral medication. The medicine generally works within two weeks, but it is important to stress good hand washing, and wash all clothing, towels, and bedding in hot water. It is also a good idea to have other household members checked as well.
Giardiasis is a waterborne disease that is especially common in daycare centers and schools. Some children have no symptoms but are still hosts for the parasite and can infect others.
Symptoms of giardiasis are:
- Watery diarrhea or soft, greasy stool
- Stomach cramps
The parasites that cause giardiasis are found in city water supplies, pools, spas, lakes, rivers, and animal feces. They can also be transmitted from person to person.
Your child’s doctor will need to obtain a stool sample in order to diagnose giardiasis. After a definite diagnosis is made, your child will receive anti-parasitic medication to clear up the infection.
6 Head Lice
The CDC reports that an estimated six to twelve million children, ages three through eleven, become infested with head lice annually. Head lice are a parasitic insect that live on the scalp, eyelashes, and eyebrows of the host. While they are not known to transmit any diseases, their presence is irritating and causes embarrassment for parents and children alike.
Head lice can only crawl, this means that they are spread by direct contact with a host, infested clothing, personal care items, bedding, or towels. Contracting head lice isn’t a hygiene issue, in fact head lice prefer cleanliness.
Head lice are small, oval shaped, grayish insects. An adult louse can live for up to thirty days on a host. During that time the louse feeds on the blood of the host, and reproduces at an amazing rate.
Nits are small oval shaped eggs that are laid by the female louse. These eggs can be found close to the scalp on the hair shaft. Adult females can lay six eggs a day, so a louse infestation can become extremely problematic in a short period of time.
Nits and lice can be found behind the ears or at the base of the neck in the earliest stages of the infestation. As the infestation becomes more severe, nits and adult lice can be found all over the scalp, eyebrows, and even in the eyelashes.
The symptoms of a louse infestation are: intense itching, sores on the scalp from itching, and disturbed sleep from increased night-time louse activity. The most obvious indicator of a louse infestation is the presence of adult lice, or nits.
5 Aggressive Treatment
All persons in the household with an active louse infestation must be treated. Twenty five states have reported cases of louse infestation that were resistant to over the counter treatment. The best solution is to call your family doctor, and get a prescription shampoo.
You will need to treat everyone in the household with an active louse infestation by shampooing the hair with a prescription shampoo. This must be followed by separating the hair into small sections, and combing with a fine tooth comb in order to remove nits and adult lice. You will need to repeat the process in one week. Closely monitor uninfected household members for evidence of a louse infestation.
Washing all clothing and bedding that has come into contact with the infected person is seen by many as key to breaking the cycle of reinfestation that can occur without proper treatment. Washing pillows, vacuuming mattresses, carpets, and car upholstery can all help to prevent reinfestation.
Brushes and hair accessories should be washed in hot water with a prescription shampoo.
You can also spray furniture, mattresses, and other non washable items with an over the counter spray to kill lice.
When treating a louse infestation, it is important to carefully follow the directions that come with the products that you use to avoid excessive exposure to toxins.
Warts are extremely common in children. Between ten and twenty percent of all children have warts at some point during their childhood. While warts are extremely contagious, they are generally harmless.
Warts can be embarrassing to children, and they can be painful if the warts are on the feet. Warts are easily treated, and can be prevented if you know what causes them.
Treatment for warts varies based upon the type of wart your child is infected with, as well as the location. Here are the types of warts most common in children:
- Common warts are located on the backs of the hands and fingers.
- Palmer warts are found on the palms.
- Plantar warts can grow anywhere on the feet, but are commonly found on the soles of the feet.
- Flat warts are small and smooth. They tend to grow in clusters of as many as twenty to one hundred warts in one area. These warts are often found on the child’s face.
- Filiform warts grow on the face, and are usually quite large.
A virus that is passed directly from person to person causes warts. Some children are more likely to become infected with warts. For example, children with compromised immune systems, or those who chew their nails.
The virus that causes warts can be spread from touching infected towels, toys, or direct contact with an infected person. Good hand washing, and encouraging your child not to put his or her hands into their mouth or nose is a good practice for overall infection control.
Forty percent of all warts will clear up on their own and without treatment, and since warts are harmless, it’s perfectly fine to leave warts untreated.
Over the counter treatments have a 75% efficacy rate. Liquid wart removers can take up to twelve weeks to work, whereas remedies that freeze the wart are usually effective after two or three treatments.
You may opt to take your child to a doctor if at home treatments have been unsuccessful, the wart is bothersome to your child, or the wart is on the sole of the foot and causes pain.
Doctors use one of three ways to remove warts:
- Freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen
- Injections that contain a skin test antigen
- Laser treatment
Impetigo is an extremely contagious skin infection that is common in infants and young children. The red sores that indicate an impetigo infection are usually located around the nose and mouth area of the child. Eventually, the water filled sores burst, and develop an amber colored crust.
Impetigo will usually clear up on it’s own after two or three weeks. You may want to seek treatment from your child’s health care professional to shorten the duration of the infection. Your child will be prescribed an antibiotic, and will not be contagious 48 hours after treatment has begun.
Antibiotic treatment is indicated in most cases. While impetigo is generally harmless, it carries a risk of scarring, cellulitis, and kidney problems.
Ringworm isn’t an actual worm, it is a fungal infection that causes an itchy, silver, ring-like rash to appear on the body and/or scalp. The rash initially presents itself as rings on the stomach, sides or back. Ringworm usually presents itself as red scaly patches or bald spots on the scalp.
Ringworm is extremely contagious. It is present on bedding, clothes, towels, toys, and even pets can be affected by it. Scalp infections are passed person to person, or via a comb or brush.
Over the counter antifungal creams are extremely effective in treating ringworm, carefully follow the instructions that come with the product for best results. Do not apply the cream more than is recommended.
It is important to keep your child clean, and isolate clothing, towels, and bedding that your child has used to prevent the spread of the infection. Pets may need a trip to the vet to determine if they are infected. All family members need to practice good hand washing and proper hygiene to prevent the spread of the infection.
2 Cold Sores
Cold sores are painful, reddish blisters that appear on the lip or inside of the mouth. The blisters are sometimes single, but clusters are not uncommon. Even though they are called cold sores, you don’t have to have a cold for one to surface.
Cold sores are caused by the virus called herpes simplex. Most cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus one, although occasional cases are caused by herpes simplex two. Herpes simplex one is extremely common. In fact, most people are carriers who may never exhibit symptoms.
Herpes simplex one is extremely contaigious.You can catch it by kissing someone with the virus, or using a cup or eating utensils of an infected person. Once a person is infected with herpes simplex one, they may get cold sores for the rest of their lives. Even when sores are not present, the virus lays dormant in the body.
The virus tends to flare under times of stress or illness. The sores require no professional treatment, although over the counter remedies can make the infected person more comfortable. Stress good handwashing, and encourage your child not to pick at the sores. This can provide an entry point for a more serious infection, such as impetigo.
Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye occurs when the clear membrane that covers the white of the eye becomes inflamed. Because of the red appearance of the eye, many parents become concerned when their child exhibits symptoms of this common childhood ailment. Pinkeye is fairly harmless, and generally causes no long term damage to the eye.
The same viruses cause pinkeye and bacteria that cause colds and flu, and can also be a result of allergies.
Pinkeye in newborns can cause permanent damage, and is common in babies who are born to mothers with STD’s. Newborns can also develop pink eye from environmental irritants or colds.
A child with pinkeye may complain of eye irritation. The tell-tale sign that pinkeye is present is the pink or red tinge to the white of the eye. Because pink eye is contagious, your child will need prescription antibiotic eye drops before he or she can return to daycare or school.
During the healing process, good hand washing is a must. Warm compresses can soothe irritated eyes. Alternately, some children prefer a cool compress applied to the eyes. Your child’s healthcare provider may also recommend the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to make your child more comfortable.
Chances are, at some point your child will be affected by one or more of these common ailments. In spite of their gross factor, most of these are easily treated.