Types of Infections in Children

By: Pawel Reszka

Generally, there are two types of infections that occur in the human body: viral infections such as the common cold, which are fairly simple and the more severe and complicated bacterial infections such as pneumonia. Because the immune system in babies is not as well developed as in adults, it is fairly common for babies to get some type of infection about every one to two months, tapering off as the immune system matures until it reaches a level about the same as for adults by the time the child is school age.

Ear infections

Most children have at least one experience with otitis media (middle ear infection) by the time they are one year of age. Symptoms include pulling on the ear, pain in the ear, fever, drainage from the ear and poor sleep. Because of the small size of the Eustachian tube in children, any type of upper respiratory infection can block the normal function of the tube due to swelling and added nasal discharge. The bacteria remain in the fluid behind the eardrum and cause pain, swelling of the eardrum itself and reduced hearing. Ear infections are typically treated with antibiotics. Children with repeated infections may have surgery to implant a small tube in the eardrum to allow for drainage.

Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary infection or UTI is caused by the presence of bacteria or germs in the urethra, bladder or kidneys. It can be caused by tight fitting clothing, improper wiping habits for girls, holding urine for long periods, or bubble baths. Some children have a physical condition that prevents the bladder from emptying completely causing frequent infection. Common symptoms of a urinary tract infection include frequent urination sometimes with only small amounts of urine produced, fever, pain in the back, stomach, lethargy, vomiting and even blood in the urine. A UTI should be treated promptly as scarring in the urinary tract can have drastic consequences throughout the entire lifetime. The usual treatment is by antibiotics given orally or in severe cases intravenously.

Viral Infections

The most common type of viral infections seen in children is the common cold. The cold virus is actually more than one hundred different viruses which produce symptoms that are collectively known as a cold. Depending upon the type of cold virus involved, most colds manifest with symptoms of a cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose or congestion in the sinuses and upper respiratory tract. The contagious period of most colds is five to seven days. Immunization is not a successful treatment for colds since the virus mutates rapidly. The most effective treatment is frequent hand washing. Antibacterial soaps to not kill the virus, but the action of washing removes the virus from the skin.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections appear as a rash that is red, circular and scaly. They usually are found on the feet or scalp, but may also appear on other parts of the body. Ringworm is a well known type of fungal infection. Athlete's foot and jock itch are fungal infections as well. Usually dogs or cats are blamed for spreading the infection, but children often get it from other children at school. Fungal infections are highly contagious. Fungal infections are typically treated by an anti fungal cream applied directly to the lesion. Covering the area after treatment for the first 48 hours prevents further spread of the infection to others.

Croup

Croup is a common respiratory viral infection that manifests as a barking cough and breathing difficulty. There may be hoarseness, fever and a runny nose. There is usually swelling around the vocal chords. Symptoms develop very quickly. It is the sound of the cough and the noise when inhaling that is distinctive among the children who develop the disease. There is no cure, but using treatments to relieve the symptoms such as warm humidified air for mild or moderate croup. More severe symptoms may mean administering a steroid to reduce swelling

Chicken Pox

Because more children are being vaccinated against chicken pox virus, the prevalence of the disease has been dramatically reduced in the United States. The infection is characterized by an itchy rash with blisters. Prevention of the infection is by avoiding contact or by use of the vaccine varivax. Treatments include actions designed to reduce itching and fever and plenty of fluids.

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