Childhood Illnesses: 10 Most Common Conditions in Children

Here are the symptoms and treatments for the 10 most common paediatric medical conditions.

1. Common Cold  

Does your child have a blocked or runny nose and watery eyes? Is he sneezing and coughing? He could be having a cold. Colds are common among infants and toddlers. If the child’s body feels hot, he could also be running a fever.  

What to Do:  

Keep him hydrated with lots of fluids like water and low-sugar juices
Keep him away from crowded places, sick individuals and other children
Teach your child to use a tissue to blow his nose, or to cover his mouth when sneezing
Bring your child to the doctor if he does not get better after a few days, or if he is also running a high fever
Coughs and colds are respiratory illnesses. Learn more about the causes and available vaccinations.  

2.  Bronchitis and Bronchiolitis  

Is your child wheezing i.e. making a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing out? Is he breathing rapidly and having trouble breathing? The small airways of his lungs could be infected.  

What to Do:   

Keep your child hydrated with fluids like water and juices high in vitamin C
Avoid smoky places. Tobacco smoke can make your child’s condition worse
Bring your child to a doctor if he is wheezing for the first time or if his breathing is laboured, and if he is lethargic, lacks energy or refuses to eat

3. Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis) 

Is your child suffering from nausea and vomiting? Are his stools smelly and watery? He could be having the stomach flu, or an infection in his gut. Other symptoms include muscle aches, abdominal pain and a slight fever.  

What to Do:  

To replace lost water and salts, keep your child hydrated with fluids like water or juices that do not contain milk. Encourage your child to take frequent, small sips of fluids
Avoid other people — stomach flu is contagious
Bring your child to a doctor when symptoms persist or worsen
Related: Diarrhoea
Find out what you can do when your child has gastroenteritis, commonly known as “stomach flu".

4. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) 

Are there rashes or blisters on your child's palms, feet or buttocks? Does your child have painful mouth ulcers, a fever or sore throat? He may have hand, foot and mouth disease. Occasionally, this can develop into something more serious.  
Look for blisters on your child's palms:   


What to Do:   

Inform your child's  school, infant or child care centre if he has HFMD. Keep your child home so that the infection won’t spread to other children
Keep your child hydrated. Give him plenty of water and fluids
Switch to a soft diet (e.g. porridge) as mouth ulcers can be very painful
Help your child get plenty of bed rest
Take measures to prevent the spread of HFMD at home, such as disinfecting all toys and other objects that your child comes into contact with
Bring your child to the doctor immediately if you suspect he has HFMD

5. Febrile Seizures   

During a febrile seizure, a child may become unconscious, turn stiff, fall down suddenly, or have jerking arms and legs. Other symptoms include a clenched jaw and rolling of the eyes back in the head.

What to Do:  

Don’t try to restrain your child. Leave him on the ground and let the seizure run its course
Don’t force anything into your child’s mouth. Just make sure his airway is clear to prevent choking
After the seizure is over, let your child sleep if he wants
Bring your child to the doctor immediately if this is the first time he is having a seizure
Related: Fever  
Learn the common causes of fever among children and when to bring them to the doctor.

6. Chickenpox  

Does your child have a fever, and itchy, red spots on the body and face? Chickenpox rash appears over a few days and eventually becomes blisters. The spots may leave scars if the scratched areas are infected. In healthy children, chickenpox is usually a common and mild disease. It is very contagious, and can easily spread through direct contact or droplets in the air from an infected person.  

What to Do:  

Inform your child’s school or childcare centre if he has chickenpox and keep him home to prevent the illness from spreading to other children
To avoid scratching, trim your child’s fingernails and consider letting him wear gloves at night
Give your child cool baths to help relieve itching
Bring your child to the doctor immediately if the rash spreads to the eye, or gets very red or tender. Also have your child see the doctor if he is dizzy, disoriented, vomiting, experiencing rapid heartbeat, short of breath, or if he is having tremors, loss of muscle coordination, a stiff neck or a high fever
Related: Fever 

7. Eczema   

Does your child have a red, itchy rash on his limbs, face or trunk? Is he constantly scratching and complaining of itch? Children suffering from eczema usually have a family history of eczema and other related conditions like asthma or hay fever. It is not infectious.   
Picture of eczema on a child's wrists:

What to Do:   

Keep your child's skin moisturised and use a topical steroid cream if prescribed by the doctor
Giving your child anti-itch medication (antihistamine) before bedtime will reduce the itch and help him sleep more comfortably
Avoid common triggers, such as sudden changes in temperature, dust, animal fur, tobacco smoke and stress
Use mild soaps and dress your child in light cotton clothing
Bring your child to the doctor if the itch interferes with his daily activity or sleep, or if there is crusting or oozing sores

8. Asthma   

Does your child sometimes wheeze and experience tightness or pain in the chest? Does he find it difficult to breathe? Or perhaps he has a cough that won’t go away. With asthma, a child’s airways are sensitive and inflamed. It is very common, affecting about 20 percent of children in Singapore.  

What to Do: 

Get your child to use an inhaler immediately as instructed by his doctor. Repeat the procedure every 20 minutes up to an hour
Avoid common triggers, such as dust, pollen, animal fur, tobacco smoke and stress
Bring your child to the doctor immediately if the asthma symptoms are not relieved or have worsened, or if the symptoms return within four hours
Related: Asthma
Learn more about the causes of asthma and the treatments available in Singapore.  


9. Allergic Rhinitis (Allergies)  

Does your child constantly sneeze and have a runny nose? In Singapore, allergic rhinitis tends to be persistent due to the tropical weather. It is the most common chronic allergic disease in children, and may be associated with asthma, ear infections or eczema. It can also disrupt sleep. 

What to Do:   

Avoid common triggers like dust mites and tobacco smoke
Use a high-efficiency particulate air filter to reduce dust
Try using an extra pillow to keep your child's head propped up, so as to reduce congestion and ease his breathing
Bring your child to the doctor if allergic rhinitis affects his daily activities. His doctor may prescribe oral antihistamines and/or nasal sprays

10. Constipation 

Is your baby or child not pooping as often as he usually does? Has his poop pattern slowed down a lot, and are his stools harder than usual? He may have constipation. Other symptoms include a hard abdomen, discomfort and crankiness. It is rare for breastfed babies to suffer from constipation as breast milk is easily digested.  

What to Do:  

Check with your doctor before trying anything to relieve your baby’s discomfort. 
Related: Constipation 
Children can have varying bowel movements at different ages. Know what to do when your child has trouble passing stool.  

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