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Common Illnesses, Sensible Solutions

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A cold is probably the illness your child gets most frequently. On average, a child under 7 gets seven to ten colds per year, each lasting one to two weeks. Children over 6 months don't usually need to see their health care provider for a cold unless there is ear pain, sore throat, or fever over 102 degrees that lasts longer than a day or two.

Another familiar fact: There's no cure for the common cold. Studies show that decongestants and cough medicines aren't very effective in reducing the symptoms or duration of a cold. Antibiotics are not necessary for an uncomplicated cold and may even set up a child for infections with resistant bacteria later on. The solution: liquids and rest.

Familiar Symptoms

Fever may accompany a cold or other viral or bacterial illness. You can usually wait a day or two to see if other symptoms or complaints develop before seeking medical care for your feverish toddler or preschooler. Fevers under 101 degrees generally do not need to be treated unless a child has a history of convulsions with fever.

How your child looks and behaves is more important than whether he has a fever, unless that fever is 104 degrees or more. If he is eating and sleeping reasonably well and is at least somewhat playful, you can watch and wait. You can certainly give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the fever is over 101 degrees or he just seems uncomfortable.

Diarrhea occurs frequently enough for it to be unsurprising in young children. It is caused most often by viruses, and when severe and prolonged it can result in dehydration, something that is dangerous and preventable. If your child has a watery bowel movement every one to two hours for more than eight hours, you should check with your health care provider. If there are fewer than six diarrhea events per day and your child is drinking plenty of liquids and is reasonably playful, you can wait a day or two to see if she gets better before calling. Continue to offer her regular diet as tolerated, but avoid fried foods or foods high in fiber such as beans or broccoli.



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