Toddlers seem to be constantly catching something. Colds, coughs, sniffles and even fevers are quite common.
Doctors and medicines
When your child is feeling under the weather, there’s only one thing you want to do: make him feel better as soon as possible. But it can be hard to know what kind of medication to give and when. Knowing you have good medical care for your child can put your mind at ease, and choosing a good doctor ahead of time can save you a lot of worry.
There might be times when you’re not happy with a doctor’s diagnosis or advice. It’s OK to want a second opinion or to consider changing doctors.
Going to hospital can be very stressful for children, as well as for parents and the rest of the family. Read about how you can make hospital visits
easier for your child and yourself.
Common health issues
Mild illnesses are part of growing up – there’s not a whole lot you can do to help your child avoid them. But if you’re ever worried about your child’s health, there’s no harm in asking a health care professional for advice.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the most common health issues experienced by Australian children.
Allergies occur when your child’s immune system reacts to substances in the environment (‘allergens’) that are normally harmless to most people – for example, food, insect stings or bites, dust mites, animals and pollen. Many children have non-food allergies to ordinary things in our homes and environment.
Researchers estimate that only 6-8% of children have food allergies. Food intolerances are more common, but they’re not the same as allergies. If you’re not sure why your child is having a reaction, and there’s a possibility it could be caused by a food allergy, it’s best to consult your doctor. Read more in our article on recognising and managing food allergies and intolerances.
One in five Australian children suffers from asthma. It can sound like a whistling wheeze when your child breathes out. If you think your child has asthma, see your doctor about a management plan.
Also called a urinary tract infection, this issue is more common in girls than boys. You might notice that your child needs to wee more often, is irritable or has a mild fever. Treatment is with oral antibiotics, so see your doctor.
For girls, wiping front to back will prevent most bladder infections. See our toilet training guide for more information.
This virus causes itchy red blisters on the body. Chickenpox is contagious, so you’ll need to keep your child away from other children until the last blister has healed over. The easiest way to avoid chickenpox is to have your child immunised – the vaccine is offered free at 18 months of age.
Colds are the most common cause of illness in children. Fluids, comfort and rest are usually the best remedy.
This is caused by a virus and usually comes after a cold. The main symptoms of croup include a barking cough, hoarseness and noisy breathing (particularly when breathing in). These symptoms tend to be worse at night. Most cases of croup don’t need treatment and can be managed like a cold. Sometimes, though, symptoms can cause breathing difficulties – in this case, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Vomiting and diarrhoea
These illnesses are common in toddlers because little kids tend to put everything (including dirty fingers) in their mouths. Because young children can easily become dehydrated when they’re unwell, offer your child small amounts of clear fluid regularly until the vomiting or diarrhoea passes. You could try water or oral dehydration fluid (or flat lemonade diluted 1:4 with water if your child won’t drink water alone). If you’re worried your child isn’t getting better, ask your health care professional for advice.
Video Viral and bacterial infections in children
This short video is about the incidence and treatment of infections in babies and children. It features paediatrician Dr Con James talking about the differences between viral infections and bacterial infections. He explains how often urinary tract infections happen in children. He also describes the causes of and treatments for pneumonia, meningitis and dermatitis.
Signs of serious illness
The signs of serious illness in a toddler are the same as for babies, and can be found in our nutshell guide to baby health. Illness can quickly worsen in a toddler, so always call your doctor if you’re worried.
Video Signs of serious illness
This short video features paediatrician Dr Con James discussing the signs of serious illness in babies and young children. He says you should always seek medical advice from a GP or hospital when you think there's a problem or when children are very unwell.
Health tips for toddlers
1. Make sure immunisations are up to date
Immunisation protects us against bacteria and viral nasties, such as measles and diphtheria, which are potentially serious – and even life threatening. Immunisation is considered essential protection for your child. Toddlers can be immunised by a GP or at a baby health centre at 12 months, 18 months and 24 months.
The Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement is payable only once you’ve followed the immunisation recommendations.
2. Don’t give unprescribed medications
Normal household medicine can be deadly to toddlers. That’s why it’s important not to give any medication to your child unless it’s prescribed for her by a doctor. Some herbal remedies can also be dangerous, so it’s best to check with a doctor to be safe. You can also read more about medications for children.
3. Keep her air clean
Second-hand smoke can cause serious health risks to non-smokers. If someone in your house smokes, you can protect your child by making sure people always smoke outside. Avoid using chemical household sprays, like insect repellent or cleaning products, when your toddler is in the room.
Hygiene is important for anyone taking care of children, and is one of the most effective ways we have to protect ourselves – and others – from illness. Hygiene is especially important if you’re taking your toddler swimming. Make sure to wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water to avoid germs getting into the pool.