7 illnesses your child may catch this winter

7 illnesses your child may catch this winter

YOU CANNOT PLACE YOUR CHILD IN A BUBBLE TO PROTECT AGAINST EVERY SNEEZE AND SNIFFLE. But you can learn to spot the most common childhood illnesses – and what to do about them. To start, follow this guide from Carmen Hansford, MD, pediatrician at Elyria Pediatric Care, part of the UH Rainbow Care Network. “When in doubt, call the pediatrician,” says Dr. Hansford. “And always call the doctor for advice about symptoms in infants younger than 3 months old.”

Common cold

Signs: Runny nose, sneezing, mild fever, poor appetite, cough, sore throat, swollen glands
Home treatment: Clear nostrils with a suction bulb or saline drops. Place a cool-mist humidifier in the room at night to ease sleep.
Call the doctor for: Colds in children age 3 months or younger, or for trouble breathing, blue lips or nails, a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, ear pain, or symptoms that last more than one week

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Signs: Same as colds, sometimes wheezing or grunting with each breath
Home treatment: Give fluids, use a cool-mist vaporizer and clear the nose. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can relieve pain (always check labels for correct dosage, and never give a child aspirin). Ibuprofen should not be given before 6 months of age.
Call the doctor for: The same reasons as for a cold or extreme fatigue, thick and colored nasal discharge or a worsening cough


Signs: Fever, fatigue, sore throat, stuffy nose, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (this is more common in kids than adults), and aching head, body or muscles
Home treatment: Practice prevention by having your child receive a yearly flu shot beginning at age 6 months. Once he or she is ill, rest and water work best.
Call the doctor for: Flu in children age 5 or younger or with a chronic illness, or trouble breathing, severe vomiting, lack of interaction, extreme irritability or symptoms that improve and then return

Ear infections

Signs: Fever, earache, fluid draining from the ear, trouble sleeping or balancing, hearing loss
Home treatment: Put a warm, moist cloth over the painful ear. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also ease the ache.
Call the doctor for: Fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or blood or pus oozing from the ears

Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

Signs: Fever, stomach or abdominal pain, vomiting, watery diarrhea
Home treatment: Encourage rest, provide plenty of fluids and try to get your child to eat his or her regular diet.
Call the doctor for: Blood or bright-colored bile in the vomit or signs of dehydration, such as feeling very thirsty, producing less urine and fewer tears, and exhibiting sunken eyes or weight loss


Signs: Barking, hacking cough that usually worsens at night
Home treatment: Moist air helps. Use a humidifier or sit in a steamy bathroom with your child for 10 minutes.
Call the doctor for: Trouble breathing or a high-pitched noise when inhaling, or dark or bluish skin around the face or fingernails

Strep throat

Signs: Severe pain when swallowing, tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth, high fever, white patches on the tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, decreased appetite
Home treatment: Gargling with warm salt water, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
Call the doctor for: Any severe sore throat that may be strep

Have more questions?

For our online symptom checker, health library and more, visit Rainbow.org/AskRainbow.

Carmen Hansford

Pediatrician, Elyria Pediatric Care
Clinical Instructor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Request an Appointment

Request an appointment with a specialist at University Hospitals.
216-UH4-KIDS 216-844-5437 or use our Online Request Form

Need to Refer a Patient?

Click here for Patient Referrals

Hooray for Helmets

Register to win a family four-pack of bike helmets.

Browse Services A-Z

Maps and Directions

Click here for directions