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When's a Common Cold Not a Cold?

If your child has recurring illnesses, don't simply brush off these ailments as normal childhood health problems. He or she may have a serious underlying disease.

When's a Common Cold Not a Cold?

If your child has recurring illnesses, don't simply brush off these ailments as normal childhood health problems. He or she may have a serious underlying disease.

Primary immunodeficiency, or PI, is a genetic defect that can compromise a child's immune system, leading to an increased susceptibility to certain infectious illnesses. There are more than 100 types of PI; each has somewhat different symptoms, depending on which parts of the immune system are affected. Some deficiencies are deadly, while others are mild.

In children with PI, usual childhood illnesses occur frequently and can drag on and become chronic despite the use of antibiotics. If a child suffers from eight or more ear infections or two or more serious sinus infections within a year, he or she could have a serious form of PI. Other warning signs are failure to gain weight or grow normally and a proven family history of PI.

While there are more than

1 million children and young adults in the United States affected by PI, experts estimate that 70 percent to 90 percent of those with the disease go undiagnosed. Without diagnosis and treatment, constant infections can significantly weaken your child's immune system.

Parents should know that a simple and inexpensive blood test could identify the disorder in more than 95 percent of cases. Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options that can provide a better quality of life or, in some cases, a cure.

The Jeffrey Modell Foundation, a nonprofit research foundation devoted to the study of PI, is making a profound difference in many lives by raising awareness of the disease.

Since beginning a national public awareness and physician education campaign last year, 32 Jeffrey Modell Diagnostic and Referral Centers throughout the United States have reported promising figures. They calculated increases of 85 percent in the number of patients diagnosed; 31 percent in the number of patient referrals; and 67 percent in the number of patients receiving treatment.

 

5 Ways to Keep Your Kids From Getting Sick

Teachers are finding it more of a challenge than ever to keep their classrooms healthy and clean for students, according to a recent survey of teachers.

5 Ways to Keep Your Kids From Getting Sick

Teachers are finding it more of a challenge than ever to keep their classrooms healthy and clean for students, according to a recent survey of teachers.

The survey found that 90 percent of teachers think it is "common for students to come to school sick." Only about 30 percent said their schools' custodial staff disinfects the classrooms regularly.

"Germs are frequently spread through surface contact yet many teachers do not have the time or the tools to combat these germs," said Dr. Paul S. Horowitz, medical director of the Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital pediatric and adolescent clinics in Portland, Ore. "This discrepancy can directly impact the health and wellness of both students and teachers."

More than 70 percent of teachers said they have missed school because of an illness they believe they caught from one of their students. The survey was conducted by the children's publisher Scholastic and released during an American Medical Association and National PTA media briefing on children's health.

Encouraging children to live a healthy lifestyle outside the classroom is important in illness prevention, said Janis Hootman, a registered nurse and immediate past president of the National Association of School Nurses.

"Children's health habits away from school have a direct impact on what happens to them and their classmates during school," Hootman said.

Doctors offer the following tips for parents:

* Make sure that your kids wash their hands. This is the single most effective method for disease prevention. Hands should be scrubbed for 10 to 15 seconds.

* Don't allow your children to share utensils. Although learning to share is important, this shouldn't apply to cups, glasses or eating utensils.

* Make sure your children get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation stresses the immune system. Most children need at least eight hours of sleep per night.

* Allow for a full recovery. Do not send your kids to school when they are sick.

* Keep your children up-to-date on vaccines. New vaccines guard against an array of dangerous illnesses, including meningitis.

"We've come so far in protecting public health as a result of widespread immunizations," said Dr. Walter A. Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, Ga. "We protect each other by vaccinating our children."

 

Common Childhood Illnesses… What To Look For

Children are very susceptible to illnesses, in part because their immune systems are not fully mature.

Breastfeeding of course provides some immunity to common illnesses, but nowadays most children are weaned by the time they are 1 year old.

Children also have a habit of exploring the world around them with their mouths and their hands. Anything that comes into contact with their mouth and hands can potentially cause an illness.

The good news is that the more your...

Children are very susceptible to illnesses, in part because their immune systems are not fully mature.

Breastfeeding of course provides some immunity to common illnesses, but nowadays most children are weaned by the time they are 1 year old.

Children also have a habit of exploring the world around them with their mouths and their hands. Anything that comes into contact with their mouth and hands can potentially cause an illness.

The good news is that the more your child is exposed the stronger their immune systems will become, and their ability to fight off infection in the future.

Some of the most common childhood illnesses and symptoms to be on the look out are listed below:

Colds/Cough – Cold and coughs are usually caused by viral infections, thus must be spread by person to person contact, not through the weather alone. Common symptoms of a cold include a stuffy nose, cough, possible sore throat and occasionally a temperature. Colds can become more severe and result in bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections. Signs that a cold is becoming worse and may need medical treatment include green or yellow nasal discharge, fever lasting more than one day or a persistent and wheezy cough.

Flu – The flu is characterized by headaches, chills, muscle aches and a high fever. Respiratory symptoms may also develop, and a feeling of fatigue which may last for several weeks after initial symptoms. The flu is also spread from person to person contact usually with respiratory secretions of someone who is sick. Antibiotics can’t treat the flu. Treatment often consists of rest, fluids and Tylenol.

Ear Infections – This is perhaps the most common infection affecting children. Ear infections happen when bacteria enter the ear from the nose or throat. Usually an ear infection is accompanied by a fever and possibly pus draining from the ear. Symptoms may include pain, fever, dizziness and irritability. Usually Tylenol will provide some relieve. Though ear infections aren’t contagious, the viral infections that cause them are. Some children will develop repetitious ear infections, usually associated with a problem with the tube that passes between the throat and the middle ear.

Chicken Pox – Chicken pox is probably the most common infectious disease that affects preschool and school age children. Symptoms usually include an itchy rash and blisters, sometimes coupled with a fever. Chicken pox can also be transmitted to adults, and is usually a much more serious illness. The good news is a chicken pox vaccine is available for babies 1 year of age or older.

One of the best things you can do to help your child is try to minimize their exposure to illness by encouraging frequent hand washing.

Most illnesses are spread when a child touches something the virus has settled on and then touches their face.

Practicing good habits at home will help encourage your child to limit their exposure and the spread of illness to other family members.

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