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Common infections in toddlers

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Nursery or playgroup will help your toddler to explore new horizons and make friends. But close contact with other tots also spreads infection. Here's how to deal with the common health problems your little one may bring home...

Colds

Second only to finger paintings, colds are what toddlers most often carry home! Colds are caused by any one of over 200 viruses, and symptoms can last up to three weeks. Give your little one plenty of fluids, and wait for nature to cure the cold. He won't be able to blow his nose, but teach him to wipe it with a soft tissue, not a sleeve. See your doctor if your toddler becomes unwell, runs a high fever, is chesty or develops earache.

Conjunctivitis

Often caused by bacteria, conjunctivitis makes one or both eyes sticky, crusty and sometimes bloodshot. It's infectious, as bacteria spread through droplets in the air, and on little hands. Wipe your child's eyelids gently with separate pieces of cotton wool dipped in cooled, boiled water. See your GP, as most cases need antibiotic eye drops.

Threadworms

Threadworm eggs spread directly from hand to mouth. The main symptom is an itchy bottom, especially at night, when threadworms are active. You may also see white worms about 1cm long, like threads of cotton, wriggling in your child's poo. The whole family will need threadworm treatment - you can buy it from the Tesco Pharmacy. Also wash towels and bedding on a hot wash. Keep your tot's nails short to reduce scratching, and teach him to wash his hands, especially before eating and always after going to the loo.

Chickenpox

This common virus has an incubation period of 14 to 21 days before the first spots appear, and it is very contagious, especially in the early stages. Your tot may be unwell for a day before an itchy rash appears. This rash develops into crops of small blisters, mainly on the torso. Keep your tot cool and his nails short. Apply calamine lotion, and give your toddler lukewarm baths with bicarbonate of soda to help relieve itching. For severe itching, ask your pharmacist about antihistamine syrup. Consult your GP if your tot has a high fever, won't eat or drink, seems very unwell, or if you are pregnant or likely to come into contact with others who may be pregnant, as chickenpox can cause complications (although most mums-to-be will already have had it, so will be immune).

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Caused by viruses or bacteria, diarrhoea and vomiting are common in toddlers, and spread rapidly. Replacing fluids is vital - over-the-counter rehydration solutions are ideal. Ask your Tesco Pharmacist for advice. Give small sips of fluid if your tot has been vomiting. See the doctor if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or your child is listless, feverish, has stomach ache or passes blood in his poo. The Department of Health will be offering a vaccination to children under four months against the rotavirus infection from September 2013 as part of the childhood vaccination schedule.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

This has nothing to do with farm animals. It's a viral infection that spreads via air droplets and by touch that's common in young children. It's usually mild, with red spots on the palms and soles, and ulcers in the mouth, but there can be fever. Recovery takes a few days. Meanwhile, liquid paracetamol relieves symptoms. If your toddler's suffering, give him soft foods like ice cream. See your doctor if your child seems very unwell.

Solutions for children's ailments