Common and Uncommon Diseases in Infancy and Childhood

Children are susceptible to many contagious diseases due to playing close together at nurseries, combined with the fact that their immune systems are immature. Children also have a habit of exploring the world around them with their mouths and their hands. Anything that comes into contact with their mouth and hands can potentially cause a childhood disease.

Breastfeeding of course provides some immunity to illnesses such as the common cold, but there are a number of diseases which children have no immunity to. Immunisation programmes around the word has reduced the number of children falling ill from a number of diseases but not all parents vaccinate their children or have access to immunisation programmes.

Some of the most common & uncommon childhood illnesses and symptoms  are listed below:


Cold and coughs are usually caused by viral infections, thus must be spread by person to person contact, not through the weather alone. Common symptoms of a cold include a stuffy nose, cough, possible sore throat and occasionally a temperature. Colds can become more severe and result in bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections. Signs that a cold is becoming worse and may need medical treatment include green or yellow nasal discharge, fever lasting more than one day or a persistent and wheezy cough.


The flu is characterized by headaches, chills, muscle aches and a high fever. Respiratory symptoms may also develop, and a feeling of fatigue which may last for several weeks after initial symptoms. The flu is also spread from person to person contact usually with respiratory secretions of someone who is sick. Antibiotics can’t treat the flu. Treatment often consists of rest, fluids and paracetamol/calpol to lower the fever.

Ear Infections

This is perhaps the most common infection affecting children. Ear infections happen when bacteria enter the ear from the nose or throat. Usually an ear infection is accompanied by a fever and possibly pus draining from the ear. Symptoms may include pain, fever, dizziness and irritability. Usually Tylenol will provide some relieve. Though ear infections aren’t contagious, the viral infections that cause them are. Some children will develop repetitious ear infections, usually associated with a problem with the tube that passes between the throat and the middle ear.

Chicken Pox

Chicken pox is probably the most common infectious disease that affects preschool and school age children. Symptoms usually include an itchy rash and blisters, sometimes coupled with a fever. Chicken pox can also be transmitted to adults, and is usually a much more serious illness. Once a person has caught Chicken Pox, its unlikely that they will ever catch it again throughout their lives.


Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and last 7–10 days. Initial symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104.0 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes. Small white spots  may form inside the mouth two or three days after the start of symptoms.A red, flat rash which usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body typically begins three to five days after the start of symptoms. Complications occur in about 30% of cases and may include diarrhoea, blindness, inflammation of the brain, and pneumonia. Since the introduction of the vaccination programme, the incidence of death due to measles has reduced significantly In 1980, 2.6 million people worldwide died of it, and in 1990, 545,000 died; by 2014, global vaccination programs had reduced the number of deaths from measles to 73,000.


Mumps is a contagious viral infection that used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine. It’s most recognisable by the painful swellings at the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), giving a person with mumps a distinctive “hamster face” appearance. One of the best things you can do to help your child is try to minimise their exposure to illness by encouraging frequent hand washing. Most illnesses are spread when a child touches something the virus has settled on and then touches their face. Practising good habits at home will help encourage your child to limit their exposure and the spread of illness to other family members.


Rubella, also known as German measles or three-day measles, is an infection caused by the rubella virus. This disease is often mild with half of people not realising that they are infected. A rash may start around two weeks after exposure and last for three days. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.The rash is sometimes itchy and is not as bright as that of measles. Swollen lymph nodes are common and may last a few weeks. A fever, sore throat, and fatigue may also occur. In adults joint pain is common. Complications may include bleeding problems, testicular swelling, and inflammation of nerves. Infection during early pregnancy may result in a child born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) or miscarriage.