Guest-Post: Spotting the Signs of Rare Childhood Illnesses

As a concerned parent, it’s difficult to know what to do if your child gets sick. While you don’t want to overreact, there is also the chance that your baby or toddler could be suffering from something a bit more serious than a slight fever.

When in doubt, it is always better to take your child to a doctor. Make sure to ask for a thorough check up and look for signs and symptoms beyond the common cold or flu that you may have missed. And in order to avoid the need medical solicitors later (and possibly save your child’s life) remember to ask questions during your child’s appointment. Not sure where to start? Here are some serious childhood illnesses that you may want to encourage your doctor to look for.

Meningitis. You may think that your child simply has a case of the flu when it’s actually meningitis because the signs are so similar. Both can induce nausea, loss of appetite, a fever and exhaustion. However, with meningitis, it is important to look for other less common symptoms, such as a stiff neck and a skin rash, in some cases. In babies under the age of two, you may also notice a knot on the head. This is actually caused by swelling of the brain.

Croup. This is another illness that begins with symptoms similar to those of a common cold. The primary difference with croup is a more intense cough that sounds like a combination of barking and wheezing. While the serious-sounding cough may be unnerving to a worried parent, the implications are rarely serious; a quick trip to the doctor’s office is usually enough to help your child breathe easier as they fight off the virus.

Respiratory syncytial virus. You may have never heard of this sickness before, but your child is actually more likely to get this than to suffer from the season flu virus. The onset can feel just like a cold or flu–complete with a stuffy nose, increased body temperature and a cough — but it can lead to a more serious conditions like pneumonia or bronchiolitis, a condition similar to bronchitis but that affects the bronchioles instead of the bronchi.

Scarlet fever. Sometimes, during a bout with strep throat, children can suddenly develop a red rash on the chest and abdomen. This development, known as scarlet fever, can have other symptoms, too. Sometimes, the person will also become red in the face or his or her tongue will turn white. While scarlet fever sounds serious–mainly due to its historical reputation as a fatal disease — a round of antibiotics can cure it quickly and easily.

Pertussis. This infection, more commonly known as whooping cough, has been less of a risk in the UK since vaccinations are offered to both expectant mothers and to children during their first few years of life. However, it is still possible to catch this bacterial infection in which the main symptom is a painful cough that can lead to shortness of breath.

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