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9 Super Scary Ailments Kids Contract That Are Actually Harmless

For parent, their baby's "firsts" can be quite exciting and scary. It's exciting to see your child say their first syllable or crawl for the first time. However, it becomes a nightmare when you see your child getting sick for the first time. It's like being punched in the gut and losing wind.

Birthmarks on the skin or fever is quite ordinary as we all have them. But what really scares parents, especially first-time parents, are the unexpected, like baby acne, barking coughs, and bumps, and other unfamiliar things you encounter while taking care of your little one. However, there's no need to get scared because some of them are manageable, even harmless.

Let’s take a look at some of these common afflictions and viruses that can affect young children.

1. Baby Acne

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Don’t pop those pimples!

Everyone is happy to welcome the little one home. Everything is ensured to be on tip-top shape, clean, and sterilized. Despite all your care and precaution, you suddenly notice one day that pimples are erupting all over your baby’s face. You fear that your baby has an allergic reaction. You start wondering whether it was the chocolate you’ve been eating that has somehow affected your breast milk causing an acne-like breakout on your baby's face.

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While hormones may play a role (doctors aren’t 100% sure of the cause, though), they’re not same hormones that cause acne among adolescents. Baby acne is not known to be allergy-related either but is extremely common. Around 30% to 70% of babies develop acne, and boys are more susceptible.

There is no specific treatment for baby acne. Just let it to run its course and it will disappear in due time. However, you should avoid over-bathing your baby since their skin tends to get dry easily. Use creams or lotions to moisturize your baby's skin provided they are dye and fragrance-free. Whatever you do, don’t pop your baby’s pimples!

Although it can be alarming to see them suddenly appear, there's no cause for worry. The New Health Guide advises parents to use a gentle milk-soap, keep their baby’s face dry, and use mittens to prevent baby from scratching his or her face. These tips will help prevent the spread of acne and help your baby’s skin clear sooner.

2. Croup

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Cold air can help ease swollen airways.

It's a fact that babies will get sick. When they do, they might show physical symptoms, like sniffles sneezes, and fever. As a parent, you do your best to make your child as comfortable as he or she can to ensure a good night's sleep. But what if you suddenly hear your baby make a terrible noise -- like a strange animal trapped in your house or like a barking seal? Your child might just have croup, an inflammation in the larynx and trachea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that children are most susceptible to contracting croup between the ages of 3 months and 5 years, due to the small size of their airway. The most common form, viral croup, infects a child’s voice box and windpipe, causing the airway to swell and narrow. The swollen airway contributes to noisy breathing and often causes difficulty in your child’s breathing. If you notice that your child has difficulty breathing, call your doctor immediately. AAP reports that croup accounts for 15% of respiratory infections in children.

Lisa Stevens, a Delaware mother of two, had her first experience with croup when her son was just 6 months old. Says Stevens, “There is nothing worse than waking up to hear what sounds like a dying seal on the baby monitor!” After several bouts of croup, Stevens discovered a solution much better than the recommended hot steam. When croup hit, Stevens would bundle her son up and take him out into the cold air. Stevens’ son, now 11, has since outgrown croup.

Stevens’ advice to fellow parents is not to panic, croup sounds scary but is treatable. Most importantly, “Keep an eye on your child to make sure their fingers or lips are not turning blue. If they are sleeping, watch them breathe. If you notice them sucking in their stomach to breathe, that means they’re having trouble getting oxygen -- go to the ER!”

3. Night Terrors

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Just wait it out.

You’re about to doze off when you hear terrified screams coming from your child’s room. Thinking of the worst, you rush into the room only to find that you’re unable to calm your child down. You try all the usual comforting techniques -- rocking, humming, snuggling -- but nothing seems to be working. In fact, the more you try to comfort your child, the more upset he gets! Your child has just experienced night terror.

Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Jennifer Schindele, explains that “night terrors are a disruption of sleep, similar to a nightmare, where the child is actually still asleep and acting out a dream.” Schindele says night terrors are common in children between the ages 2 and 12, “but some parents witness them as early as 18 months.” KidsHealth.org reports that night terrors are rare among children, with only 3% to 6% of children affected.

While night terrors are scary for parents, Schindele assures parents that their children likely won’t remember it happening. It’s important, says Schindele, that parents make sure that their “little one is safe (not able to harm themselves if they thrash around) and wait it out.” How long will you have to wait it out? Schindele says that night terror episodes usually last anywhere a few minutes to a half hour.

While most children grow out of night terrors by elementary school, Schindele says that there are things parents can do to try to prevent night terrors. Schindele recommends that parents “keep a consistent, age-appropriate bedtime and make sure that the child is not overtired when put to bed.”

The inability to comfort your child in the grips of a night terror is unsettling, but the individual episode will pass and that this is a sleep stage your child will grow past.

4. Head Lice

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Spend the money to treat your entire family.

There is not a single parent out there who doesn’t fear the dreaded L-word, lice. The odds are great that your child will contract head lice at least once in their lifetime. The most reassuring thing about lice is that they are more a nuisance than a danger to your family.

Tiny, wingless, parasitic, blood-sucking insects, head lice spread by close human-to-human contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), “head lice infest the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. Lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly.”

Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist, estimates that approximately 1% of children contract lice each year, making the odds that you’ll have to deal with an infestation pretty low.

A Maryland mother of two, Shannon Tedeschi, dealt with a lice infestation when her children contracted them at daycare. After her daycare alerted her that another child was infected, Tedeschi combed her son’s hair to see if he had contracted head lice. Tedeschi began finding what she thought were nits (louse eggs) and her mothering instincts kicked into overdrive: “I was seriously like a mama gorilla picking things out of her baby’s hair!”

After treating the entire family, constant vacuuming and blasting pillows in the dryer, it took around a month for the infestation to clear. Says Tedeschi, “You’re going to scratch your head like crazy for weeks, and even months, afterward and most likely you don’t have lice.” Her advice? Spend the money to treat your entire family, don’t forget to wash the car seat covers, and most of all, “Good luck!”

While the thought of dealing with lice can be terrifying, the truth is that lice outbreaks are more a nuisance than anything. Lice is easy to treat and there are many effective preventative treatment shampoos on the market to set your mind at ease.

5. Ringworm

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It’s an easily treatable skin infection.

Despite its name, ringworm is actually a common skin infection related to athlete’s foot and jock itch. Highly contagious, ringworm is a mold-like fungus that thrives on moist skin and presents itself as red patches, often ring-shaped as its name suggests. According to MedlinePlus, ringworm is easy for your doctor to diagnose and responds well to treatment, with most cases clearing in 4 weeks. While children are more likely to contract ringworm, DrGreene.com reports that up to 20% of the general population has ringworm at any given time.

Andrea Lamb, a Pennsylvania mother of four, was startled when her 7-year-old son’s pediatrician diagnosed a spot on his head as ringworm. Normally easy to treat, Lamb’s son plays football, wearing a tight-fitted helmet for practice and games and often picking up other players helmets by mistake; this has made ringworm challenging to treat.

Ringworm is extremely contagious, and Lamb’s 10-year-old son contracted it shortly after her 7-year-old. After three months of treatment, Lamb is finally starting to see improvement with her 7-year-old’s infection. Says Lamb, “My best advice for any parents dealing with ringworm is to take a deep breath and know it is not serious; it’s a very common, treatable condition -- that is if your child listens to you about not sharing everything and is cooperative with the treatment!”  

Spotting any type of rash on your child can be alarming, but ringworm is easy to treat and clears up relatively quickly.

6. Moluscum Contagiosum and Warts

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Be patient - it takes time for them to go away.

While skin growths, such as molluscum contagiosum and warts, are often the features of grotesque and frightening fictional characters, they’re especially common among children.

Caused by a poxvirus, molluscum contagiosum presents itself as small, flesh-colored lesions, known as Mollusca, that can appear anywhere on the body. According to the CDC, molluscum contagiosum typically clears within six to twelve months but can take up to four years to resolve. The CDC reports that approximately 10% of children, under the age of five, will contract molluscum contagiosum.

“More common in kids than in adults,” according to Kidshealth.org, warts are skin infections caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family.” Though warts can affect any area, they are more prevalent in “warm, moist places, like small cuts or scratches on the fingers, hands, and feet.” With approximately 50% of children developing warts, it’s likely you’ll be dealing with warts at some point during your child’s elementary school years.

There are many medical treatment options, but Sara Beaver, a North Carolina mother of three, says that a common household item took care of her daughter’s warts: duct tape. After freezing failed to eradicate her daughter’s plantar wart, Beaver covered it with duct tape and changed it every night.

Sara Beaver has also dealt with molluscum contagiosum and warns parents that it can take a long time to clear (her daughters’ cases took a year). Beaver had luck treating the Mollusca with Honest Organic Healing Balm, “Apply it every morning and every night and it goes away in a few days!”

If you’re dealing with warts or molluscum contagiosum, Beaver’s advice is to “be patient. Warts and molluscum take time. Fun Band-Aids help too!”

7. Pinworms

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Keep an eye out for night scratching.

Parasitic infections make for great horror films, but when you’re dealing with one at home, the general mood is not so campy. In fact, a pinworm infection can be downright scary, despite the fact that they’re harmless. The most common parasitic worm in the United States is also most common in children, with the CDC reporting that approximately 11% of children contract them. Many people do not encounter symptoms, while others may experience itching around the anus. If you’re the slightest bit squeamish, skip to the next section.

Another highly contagious infection, MedlinePlus explains that pinworms are contracted by swallowing their eggs (easy to do because the eggs are spread through hands, food, clothing, bedding, and other items you contact), and they live in the colon and rectum. Here’s where things get a little creepy -- “while you sleep, the female pinworms leave the intestines through the anus and lay eggs on nearby skin.”

Jennifer Schindele, a Pennsylvania mother of two, dealt with a pinworm infection with both of her young daughters. Schindele’s advice to parents? “Don’t freak out. It’s a relatively common occurrence among young children, and can be contracted easily by just running through the back yard barefoot or by not washing hands properly.” To decrease the likelihood of contracting pinworms, Schindele suggests parents keep their children’s fingernails short and clean and emphasize proper handwashing.

Pinworm infections are easily diagnosed and treated by doctors, and it is recommended that the entire family get treated to prevent the possibility of reoccurrence.

8. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFM)

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Blisters in the mouth and on hands and feet are telltale signs.

Often confused with hoof-and-mouth disease, HFM is an enterovirus easily spread among young children. According to the CDC, HFM “usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old.” With over 50 million people contracting an enterovirus in the United States each year, it’s highly likely that your child will contract one of HFM’s cousins, if not the HFM virus itself.

Jocelin Chastain, an Oklahoma mother of two, experienced hand, foot and mouth disease when her two-year-old daughter presented “textbook” symptoms. According to Chastain, her daughter’s symptoms began “with a rash on her bottom that didn’t look like a normal rash. It was red spots and not in the normal areas, going down her legs and up her back.” When her daughter refused to eat, Chastain looked into her mouth and saw a sore on her cheek. Shortly after, Chastain’s daughter developed blisters on her feet.

After her daughter was diagnosed, Chastain’s doctor told her that the virus just needed to run its course. Chastain says that the most difficult part was managing childcare, as her daughter could not return until the blisters were gone from her mouth, feet, and hands.

Spotting the telltale rash, sores, and blisters of hand, foot and mouth disease is alarming for any parent, but rest assured the virus will run its course in about a week.

9. Pinkeye (conjunctivitis)

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Highly contagious, but diligent hand washing can help prevent the spread.

When parents hear that a case has been reported in their child’s daycare or class, pinkeye watch begins in earnest! Highly contagious, pinkeye, says the Mayo Clinic, is a bacterial or viral infection of the eye or caused by an allergic reaction. The CDC reports that 3 million school days are missed each year due to conjunctivitis, which means you’re most likely going to deal with a case of pinkeye at some point in your child’s school career.

Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, doesn’t discriminate, infecting everyone from babies to adults. Characterized by irritation, redness, and discharge from one or both eyes, you want to see your doctor if you suspect a case of pinkeye, to begin treatment and prevent the spread of infection to others.

Jennifer Schindele’s daughter contracted pink eye when she was just 6 weeks old, with thick, green discharge and swollen eyes as the first signs. Warm compresses and prescription eye drops eased the irritability and cleared the infection in days. Schindele advises parents to resist the urge to remove any eye drainage with their fingers, as this can easily spread the infection.

Depending on the cause of your child’s pink eye (bacterial or viral), it can take anywhere from days to weeks to clear. Reassure yourself, and your child, that pink eye is common and will go away relatively quickly.

With most of these viruses and infections, proper hand washing can greatly reduce both you and your child’s risk of contracting something scary (but harmless). Unfortunately, kids will be kids, so your next best bet is to remain calm, call your pediatrician and patiently let things run their course.

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