Sooner or later your baby or child will be exposed to germs and may end up getting sick. If your baby goes to daycare or to other places they may interact with many children such as a church nursery, play group or public play areas, they may get sick at a younger age, but that does help them build immunity. Some children may not be exposed to a lot of germs until they start attending pre-school or school. Either way, your child will eventually be exposed to some common illnesses.
Jade Elliott sat down with Dr. Shellie Ring, a pediatrician with Intermountain Healthcare to talk about common contagious illnesses your baby might be exposed to at daycare or other public settings.
Some of the most contagious diseases among babies and young children:
Respiratory syncytial virus. Common contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract among children under age two. Symptoms are similar to a cold, but if it progresses it can affect breathing and become serious. When babies can’t breathe well, they may refuse to breastfeed or bottle-feed. They may get dehydrated and not produce wet diapers. Call your doctor if you see these symptoms. Seek immediate medical attention if breathing is rapid or significantly impaired or lips or fingernails turn blue.
The official name for pink eye is conjunctivitis which is when the membrane that lines your eyelid becomes inflamed. Symptoms in the eye are redness, itchiness, grittiness, discharge that forms a crust during the night and make it difficult for your baby to open their eye in the morning.
It’s very contagious and can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction or in newborns by an incompletely opened tear duct.
If your young child is around someone who has pink eye, take these precautions: wash hands often, don’t touch your eyes. Don’t share towels or washcloths and use a clean towel and washcloth daily.
Treatment for pink eye involves symptom relief. Clean the eyelids with a clean, wet cloth. Applying a cold or warm compress. Prescription antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed and are very effective.
Stomach viruses and diarrhea
Viral gastroenteritis is very common and very contagious. Your baby can get it from sharing a cup or utensils with someone who has the virus or coming into contact with infected fecal matter, and then put their hand in their mouth, which can happen a lot in daycare settings.
Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, chills, achiness. It’s important to keep them home from daycare if they have these symptoms.
When your baby has frequent diarrhea and vomiting, it’s important to keep them clean and dry, change their soiled clothes and bedding. Wash fabrics in the hottest, longest cycle available. Dry them on high heat.
Treatment for gastroenteritis is to keep your baby hydrated. Depending on your baby’s age and how much they’re vomiting, your doctor may recommend an oral electrolyte solution. If your baby is eating solid foods ask your doctor whether they should eat their regular diet.
Hand Foot Mouth Disease
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, runny nose, and then a blister-like rash on the hands, feet or in the mouth. Children are contagious during the first week and remain contagious until the rash has disappeared.
Treatment for hand, foot mouth disease mostly involves treating the symptoms. The disease should end within 7-10 days. Age-appropriate doses of over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help with sore throat pain. Do not give aspirin to babies or children as it can cause Reye’s Syndrome. Depending on your child’s age sore throats may be eased with cold or frozen foods like fruit popsicles or yogurt. Children over three can benefit from over the counter sore throat sprays that contain pain reliever.
How to help prevent your child from getting sick
The younger your baby is the more you’ll want to avoid public areas during cold and flu season and avoid being around people that are sick.
Importance of proper hand washing and using sanitizer for young children and caregivers before eating and after diaper changing, using the bathroom, touching pets, being in public spaces or if anyone has symptoms.
Changing tables and potty chairs, should be sanitized after each use at daycare. Toys and other items frequently touched like bathroom fixtures, drinking fountains, doorknobs or handles should be sanitized daily.
Keep your baby up to date on their immunizations
For diseases that can be prevented with vaccines, such as flu, chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, etc. be sure to talk to your doctor to keep your baby up to date on their immunizations.
Click here for more information about viruses and where in Utah they are active.
The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.