As parents, we do everything we can to help our kids grow up healthy. But the reality is health conditions can occur no matter how much you care for your child. Chromosomal abnormalities that occur in utero can lead to a variety of ailments. Environment, lifestyle choices, and exposure to toxins can also adversely affect a child’s health.
Information is empowering. You may not be able to protect your children from all diseases, but you can catch the warning signs early when it’s most treatable.
Connective Tissue Disease
A number of conditions fall under the umbrella of connective tissue disease. These are diseases that affect the connective tissue, including fat and cartilage. They often impact the joints, skin, eyes and mouth.
Some, like scleroderma, are more prevalent as we age. However, other connective tissue diseases affect children and begin to show up early in life.
The common signs of connective tissue disease include:
- Arthritis (swollen, red joints)
- Joint pain and aches
- Hair loss
- Dry mouth
- Dry eyes
- Mouth sores
There are other symptoms of connective tissue disease that can only be discovered through a physical exam. If your child has persistent symptoms schedule a doctor’s appointment to diagnosis the cause and any underlying issues.
Most parents are familiar with asthma, but many people don’t understand what causes it and how to recognize the early symptoms. A person with asthma has difficulty breathing because the airways are swollen, inflamed or narrowed. It can also be caused by an overproduction of mucus in the airways.
Asthma is more common among children and teens than adults. Unfortunately, cases of asthma have increased over the years. Much of the time asthma is mild, however, the condition can be life-threatening.
The symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Tightness in the chest
- Difficulty sleeping or sleep disruption
- Whistling sound when exhaling
- Coughing attacks
The more pronounced these symptoms are the more severe the asthma is in a child. Parents should also note that the condition can worsen over time. If that’s the case symptoms will get worse and the child will require the use of an inhaler more often.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
The word leukemia is something no parent ever wants to here. Most cancers occur in older adults, but leukemia is the exception. It’s the most common cancer among children and teens. Approximately 4,000 children under the age of 20 are diagnosed every year.
There are different types of leukemia that can occur in childhood. The most common form that accounts for 75% of childhood leukemia cases is acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). As scary as it sounds, 98% of children go into remission after less than a month of treatment and 90% are completely cured.
The symptoms of ALL include:
- Reoccurring fevers
- Frequent infections
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Bruises easily
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Bleeding gums
- Joint or bone pain
- Swollen belly
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Profuse bleeding
These symptoms can also be caused by a number of other less severe conditions. However, if symptoms persist, get worse or manifest simultaneously it’s best to consult a pediatrician for testing.
Anyone who’s dealt with an ear infection understands the pain and discomfort it produces. During childhood, it’s one of the most common illness experienced. Babies as young as a few months old can get ear infections, which is why parents must know the symptoms to watch out for:
- Baby cries more than normal
- The child expresses a feeling of pain in the ear
- Young children pull, tug or rub on their ear
- Whitish or yellow fluid in the ear
- Upset stomach
Ear infections tend to be short-lived and can clear up on their own, but they can cause more permanent damage if the cause isn’t addressed. A condition called “glue ear” can develop. This impedes hearing and can lead to speech or behavioral problems in children.
There are many vaccines to prevent children from developing viral infections, but there is no shot for croup. It primarily affects children five and younger, causing their windpipe, lungs and vocal cords to swell. Croup is most common in the winter because it comes from the viruses that also cause the common cold.
Typical symptoms include:
- Barking cough
- Stridor (a vibrating sound when breathing in)
- Cold-like symptoms
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
In most cases, croup will clear up in a few days and isn’t serious. However, severe cases require emergency medical attention.