Common Illnesses

Tummy aches, sniffles and sneezes – they’re all a part of childhood. Your child is bound to get sick at some point. You can rest easy knowing the caring and compassionate staff at Banner Children’s will be there when they do, with the care and support your child needs.

Most children face several minor illnesses as they grow up, including:

Ear Infections

Ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses in the middle ear. They’re usually a result of another illness that caused congestion and swelling in the nasal passages, throat and eustachian tubes, such as a cold, the flu or allergies.

Signs and Symptoms of Ear Infections

The signs and symptoms of ear infections in children include:

  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Ear pain (especially when lying down)
  • Fussiness or crying more than usual
  • Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Fever
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite

The signs and symptoms of an ear infection can also be indicators of other conditions, making it important to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to call your doctor if:

  • Your child’s symptoms last more than one day
  • Their ear pain is severe
  • You see discharge of fluid, pus or bloody fluid from the ear
  • Symptoms are present in a child less than 6 months old
  • Your baby or toddler is sleepless or irritable after a cold or upper respiratory infection

Treatment and Support for Ear Infections

If your child doesn’t have too much pain or a high fever, your doctor will likely have you wait a day or two to see if the ear infection gets better on its own. If not, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Children often feel better within one day of taking an antibiotic.


Colds are caused by viruses, most likely rhinovirus. Colds cause sneezing, coughing and sore throats. Babies and toddlers typically have eight to ten colds per year before they turn two. Most children will have at least six to eight colds a year, or more, especially if they attend daycare. Colds in children occur less often after age six.

Signs and Symptoms of Colds

The signs and symptoms of a cold in children include:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery mucus in the nose
  • Watery or crusty eyes
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Tired feeling
  • Fever (sometimes)

A virus may also affect your child’s sinuses, throat, ears and bronchial tubes. Additionally, your child may also complain of a headache and feeling stuffy.

Talk to your pediatrician if your child is still sick after a few days or has a high fever, chills, vomiting, respiratory distress, a hacking cough or extreme fatigue as these can be symptoms of something more severe.

Additionally, watch for signs of flu complications, like pneumonia. Call your pediatrician immediately if your child has a low-grade fever, achiness, is coughing up mucus, showing signs of labored or fast breathing and tiredness.

Treatment and Support for Colds

Most colds go away on their own after a few days. Since colds are a virus, antibiotics don’t work, therefore they are not prescribed. Treatment for colds involves easing your child’s symptoms until the cold passes. You can help your child feel better by:

  • Giving them plenty of fluids to help with dehydration
  • Making sure they get plenty of rest
  • Using saline spray for congestion


Croup is an infection in the upper airway which causes a barking cough and obstructs breathing. Croup typically occurs in younger children. It isn’t serious and can be treated at home.

Signs and Symptoms of Croup

Croup usually starts as a cold and happens if there is enough inflammation and coughing. Symptoms of croup are usually worse at night and can last for three to five days. Common signs and symptoms of croup include:

  • Fever
  • Hoarse voice
  • A loud barking cough that’s is further aggravated by crying and coughing
  • Noisy or labored breathing
  • Anxiety and agitation, which triggers worsening signs and symptoms

Treatment and Support for Croup

Your pediatrician will be able to diagnose croup by listening to the cough and your child’s breathing. The goal of croup treatment is to ease your child’s symptoms until they go away on their own.

The first step is to keep them calm so as to not trigger any anxiety. Over-the-counter medicine for fever can help make your child more comfortable. Moist air makes breathing easier for children and can help ease a severe cough. Try using a cool-mist humidifier or running a hot shower to sit in the seam for 10 minutes. If it’s cool outside, try going outside to breathe in the cool air or taking a drive with the windows slightly lowered. Cool air can help ease symptoms.

Most kids recover from croup easily without lasting problems. Children who were born prematurely, have asthma or any other lung diseases can be at risk for complications from croup. Seek immediate medical care if your child is not responding to home treatment after three to five days or is showing the following symptoms:

  • Making high-pitched breathing sounds when not crying or agitated
  • Makes high-pitched breathing sounds when they inhale or exhale
  • Seem anxious and agitated more than usual or are fatigued and listless
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Breathing at a faster rate than usual
  • Is showing signs of cyanosis, such as blue or grayish skin around the nose, mouth or fingernails

Pink Eye

Pink eye is inflammation or an infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. Pink eye is typically caused by bacterial or viral infections, allergies or an incompletely opened tear duct.

Signs and Symptoms of Pink Eye

The signs and symptoms of pink eye include:

  • Redness in one or both eyes
  • Itchiness in one or both eyes
  • Discharge in one or both eyes
  • Tearing
  • A gritty feeling in the eye

Newborns are susceptible to bacteria that is normally present in the birth canal. The bacteria don’t cause symptoms in the mother. In rare cases, the bacteria can cause children to develop a serious form of conjunctivitis called ophthalmia neonatorum and requires immediate treatment to prevent blindness. You will often see antibiotic ointment being applied to a newborn’s eye shortly after birth to prevent eye infection.

Treatment and Support for Pink Eye

Pink eye treatment is focused on symptom relief. Viral pink eye typically goes away on its own. Bacterial pinkeye is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. You can help your child feel better by using a cool or warm compress on the eyes and carefully cleaning the edges of the infected eye with warm water and gauze or cotton balls.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild viral infection that is most commonly found in young children. This infection causes a rash on the hands and feet and sores in the mouth.

Signs and Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

The incubation period for hand, foot and mouth disease is three to six days. Hand, foot and mouth disease can cause the following symptoms:

  • Feeling of being unwell
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Painful, blister-like lesions on the palms, soles and sometimes buttocks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability in toddlers

A fever is usually the first sign of hand, foot and mouth disease, followed by a sore throat and sometimes a poor appetite and generally feeling unwell.

Treatments and Support for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Your pediatrician will be able to determine if your child has hand, foot and mouth disease over any other type of viral infection by evaluating the symptoms. There is no treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease – the signs and symptoms usually clear up within seven to ten days.

Over-the-counter pain medications other than aspirin should help with the general discomfort.

When Should I Take My Child To A Hospital Emergency Room?

In most cases, these common illnesses should clear up within a few days. A visit to your pediatrician should be made if your child has any of the following conditions:

  • Colds and coughs that have not gone away within a few days
  • Earaches
  • Allergies
  • Severe sore throat and other signs of strep throat
  • Rashes or mild skin infections
  • Painful urination

An emergency room visit should be made if your child has a severe illness or injury that needs immediate care. Some signs that your child needs emergency care include:

  • Seizures
  • Severe pain
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Signs of a severe allergic reaction
  • Uncontrolled bleeding or vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Eye injuries
  • Sudden and sharp stomach or abdominal pain
  • Severe spinal cord or head injuries
  • Neck stiffness with fever
  • Strange, less alert and unusually withdrawn behavior

Newborn babies up to three months old have a much more fragile immune system than older children. You should seek emergency medical attention for your newborn any time you see anything unexpected or different that concerns you, including:

  • Symptoms of dehydration, such as sunken eyes or less than 6 wet diapers per day
  • Difficulty waking them up
  • A fever of 100.4 or higher
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Bloody vomit or stool
  • Frequent forceful vomiting or if they’re unable to keep fluids down
  • A soft spot (fontanelle) on the back of the skull that bulges out even when your baby is calm and upright – especially if it occurs with a fever or extreme tiredness

Banner Children’s is here to help get your child back to feeling back like themselves in no time. If your child is experiencing any of these common illnesses, give us a call.