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Health and Environmental Issues for Children Under Six

Identifying Common Childhood Diseases

Common Diseases

  • Colds
  • Chickenpox
  • Diarrhea
  • Impetigo
  • Head lice

How Diseases Spread

  • Direct contact with skin, saliva, mucous, feces, or urine.
  • Indirect contact by using an infected toy, tool, dish or cup.
  • Sneezing.
  • Coughing.

Communicable Disease Awareness

  • Young children have less immunity to common germs.
  • Young children have habits that promote the spread of germs.
  • Young children in childcare settings have close contact with other children and infected items.

Reducing the Spread of Diseases

  • Practice good handwashing and personal cleanliness.
  • Immunize children and staff as needed.
  • Keep a clean environment (equipment, toys, rooms).
  • Wash children's hands after they sneeze or cough.
  • Tend to children with runny noses.
  • Keep diapering areas and food preparation areas disinfected and clean.
  • Reduce sharing of personal belongings such as coats, hats, brushes, and toys.
  • Wash and disinfect equipment and toys that an infected child has used.

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Nationally, nearly 1 in 13 children suffer from asthma. It's the most common chronic disease in children. Survey data indicates that the number of children with asthma in the United States has more than doubled in the past 15 years with the most rapid increase in children under 5.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that makes it hard to breathe. Even when a child is not having an "asthma attack," asthma requires attention. It's important for the child's family, physician, and childcare providers to form a partnership to manage the asthma and help the child lead an active life.

All children with asthma have airways that are overly sensitive, or hyper-reactive to certain asthma "triggers." Things that trigger asthma attacks are different from person to person. Some common triggers are:

  • Exercise
  • Certain plants and trees
  • Changes in weather or temperature
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust
  • Furry or feathered pets
  • Perfumes or fumes
  • Pesticides

In an asthma attack, the symptoms, how often, how bad, and how long it lasts are different in each child. The signs of asthma are

  • a cough, either when resting or after exercise;
  • shortness of breath;
  • wheezing; and
  • a tight feeling in the chest.

What should the childcare provider do?

Asthma is an illness that doesn't go away, even when symptoms are absent. Asthma requires continuous care, including preventive medicines. It's important for you and the parent/guardian to have a plan of action. Have a parent fill out an "Asthma Profile" (pdf) and post it where the child spends most time. For more information, call the American Lung Association at 1-800-586-4872 and ask about the "A is for Asthma - Caregivers Guide."

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