When I became a mother, I was so hyper vigilant in making sure that I did my best to avoid my child getting sick. I religiously washed my hands, pacifiers, and pretty much everything that touched her. I wouldn’t let certain friends’ kids come over who often had runny noses for fear of Pearl catching whatever pre-school crud was going around. Needless to say, when she got her first cold, I panicked. Fast forward to 3 years later, and my toddler fights off infections and viruses on the regular. Just over the last 2 months she’s been sick 4 times. We’ve been to the doctor more times than I can count, and she’s on even more homeopathic supplements and vitamins than I can remember to give her.
If you’re a first time mom, or are going to be soon, I’m here to tell you that it’s totally normal and OK (dare I say “good”) for kids to get sick. It boosts their immune systems & this is how they regulate their little systems to grow up into healthy adults. We need not panic so much. Here are 3 scary sounding illnesses that most kids get (some you’ve probably never heard of) that really aren’t that scary at all. I had never even heard of a couple of these until I had a child, so you’re not alone!
1. Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease
OHHHHH scarrrryyy! It sounded so bad when it came out of the doctor’s mouth, I teared up. I thought for sure we were doomed to some kind of flesh eating bacteria, and that my child would end up disfigured and spread some awful plague throughout her school. WRONG. HFMD is soooo common in little kids. They are actually in the same family of enteroviruses. Sadly you can get HFMD more than once, and it is generally not as bad in children as it is if an adult or infant catches it (it’s generally worse). The symptoms of this illness are a couple of days of fever, followed by red, cold-sore like bumps in the back of the throat. Some children develop the red bumps on their hands and feet as well. My child only had the bumps in her throat, and one unnoticeable bump on the hand. Nothing ever appeared on her feet. I was cued that something was bothering her throat when she refused to eat or drink anything other than water, and cried when she drank juice or had anything salty. That was pretty much the worst part about it. After a few days, the sore throat mellowed out and that was about as bad as it got. It definitely did not live up to its scary name! Some kids get it worse than others, but it is rarely dangerous. It is most contagious for 7 days, but can remain contagious for longer. Kids can spread it through sharing sippy cups, licking tabletops, and all of the other contaminated things they put in their mouths. The friends I have who’s kids have had HFMD also said it was mellow & nothing particularly grievous. So, if your kid gets this, don’t panic. It’s no worse than some of the colds we’ve experienced in our household.
Here’s another one I panicked over. I thought for sure Roseola was a rare, life threatening condition, once again trying to kill off my family. Wrong, again. Roseola is a rather harmless virus that MOST small children develop at some point (some, multiple times). All of my friends’ babies have had it before the age of two. This strange little virus starts off as a high fever for 2-3 days, generally with no other symptoms. After the fever breaks, a crew of tiny, red bumps appear all over the torso of the child. They last for a few days and then go away. The only worrisome part of this virus is the high fever. My daughter’s fever got pretty high in the first couple days, but don’t worry, you can bring it down with infant tylenol & ibuprofen. Once the fever passes, the rash that appears is pretty much painless and itch-free for the child. It looks scary but the child doesn’t even notice it, usually. Roseola is contagious during the fever portion, not whenever the rash is visible. Roseola spreads through tiny drops of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people, meaning other kids can catch it pretty easily through sneezing, laughing, touching, etc. Still, it is not a disease to be frightened of.
3. Chicken Pox
While the other two may remain new to you, everyone knows what chicken pox is. Most of us have had it. Almost everyone has had chicken pox by adulthood, though it is most common in children. CP is most mellow in children over the age of 3. It is more complicated & severe in infants, adults, and those with compromised immune systems. It is highly contagious, which is why most of the time, when one kid gets it, some of the children in his or her class as well as siblings will contract it if they haven’t had it before. The Varicella vaccine is for the prevention of chickenpox, though not everyone gets it. It starts out with a fever & then the blisters appear on the skin. By far, the worst part is the severe itching, so soothing oatmeal baths, essential oils, and calamine lotion are usually used to calm the skin. It is best not to scratch the bumps. It is most contagious the day before the rash appears. Once you have chicken pox, you usually don’t get it again. Most kids with chicken pox live to tell the tale of their week on the couch watching tv, eating popsicles, and getting lots of love and attention. I still remember when I had it as a kid. It was a week of being treated like the only child (even though I was the youngest of 4)!! Oh, the pampering!
**note: I understand that on a case by case basis, some of these diseases can be bad, but I’m giving a general perspective of the majority of well children who contract them**