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Children's health issues and concerns

Common health problems for school-age children (over 5) include:

For younger children, see early childhood health issues and concerns.

Colds, coughs and ear infections

Colds are a common illness for children—children can catch 8 or more colds per year.

As children build their immune system, they are better able to fight off the viruses that cause colds. Most colds get better in 5–7 days.

Coughing helps clear the body’s airways. Children often cough when they have a cold to clear their chest or throat.


A cough with other symptoms (a high temperature or breathlessness) can be a symptom of chest infection or asthma. 

Most ear infections are caused by viruses and often follow a cold.

Ear infections can cause earache and a high temperature.

You can give a child dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen for 12–14 hours to relieve the symptoms. Do not put anything in the child’s ear (oils, drops, cotton buds) without a doctor’s advice.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea is not usually a cause for concern.

Give your child plenty of water to replace the fluid that’s been lost, but only give them food if they want it.

Don't give them fruit juice, cordial or soft drinks, as these drinks can cause or make diarrhoea worse.

Contact your doctor if your child has:

  • diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time
  • diarrhoea that's particularly watery, has blood in it, or lasts for 2–3 days
  • a severe or continuous stomach ache.

Allergies

An allergy is a negative reaction by the body to a foreign material. 

Reactions range from mild to severe.

A mild reaction affects only a specific area of the body and causes rashes, itchiness, watery eyes or congestion.

A severe reaction is a rare and life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.

 A severe reaction affects the whole body and causes generalised itchiness, difficulty breathing, sudden swelling and loss of consciousness.

Some of the most common causes of allergies are:

  • pollen
  • mould
  • dust mites
  • certain food, such as nuts and shellfish
  • clothing
  • medicines
  • latex
  • insect bites

Infections and parasites

Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Fever is often a symptom of infection.

Infections that affect children are:

Immunisation

Immunisation can protect children against many potentially severe infectious diseases. Vaccines are one of the most effective and safest preventive care measures available.