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Some children have chronic illnesses that last for years and sometimes their entire life. These are usually genetic or due to environmental factors, or sometimes a mixture of both. If parents are exposed to tobacco smoke and alcohol, it could affect the unborn child’s health. Read on to learn more about some severe chronic conditions in toddlers and how to prevent them.
There are many types of diseases that can affect your growing toddler. Some acute short-term illnesses which children face are problems in upper respiratory tract or ear infections, injury-related problems or gastrointestinal problems with vomiting and diarrhoea. While these go away after a certain period of time, there are certain chronic conditions that have long-term consequences and impact everyday life of your toddler. A chronic health condition refers to a health problem that lasts for over 3 months and impacts the day-to-day activities of your toddler.
Different Chronic Conditions Affecting Toddlers
1. Asthma in Kids
It is a chronic inflammatory disease of lungs and airways (tubes which transfer air in and out of lungs). When a toddler is suffering from asthma, his airway tubes get swollen and irritated, causing him breathing difficulty. Asthma attacks require immediate attention from an expert along with the appropriate dose of medications. Most children develop symptoms of asthma before the age of 5.
- Troubled breathing
- Recurring bronchitis
- A tight, uncomfortable feeling in the chest
- Your child slowly exhibits shortness of breath during feed or eats very slowly
- Your child shows little desire to run and suffers from fatigue
Figure out what is causing asthma attacks in your toddler and avoid/get rid of the source. Consult a doctor as soon as possible. Doctors prescribe drugs known as rescue inhalers or quick relievers. They are fast-acting medicines and relieve spasms present in airway tubes, making breathing much easier. One such quick-reliever drug is Albuterol, which is administered with the help of metered-dose inhaler (MDI) or a nebulizer.
- Keep your child off any dust that may have settled in his environment. Keep his bed, bookshelf and other toys clean.
- Air pollution is another cause of asthma, so make sure he is not exposed to it. Do not smoke around him. Inhaling smoke can cause irritation in his lungs and lead to an asthma attack.
- Do not take him near a fireplace, too much smoke can cause difficulty in breathing.
2. Cystic Fibrosis in Children
It is a very severe genetic disease caused by a faulty gene that impacts the movement of sodium chloride (salt) in and out of certain cells. It leads to the secretion of sticky mucus and thickened digestive juices. These secretions further clog the lung, making it difficult for the child to breathe. It also leads to lung infections which can have life-threatening results.
- The most initial and prominent sign is poor growth.
- Coughing and wheezing.
- Salty skin.
- A big appetite and no weight gain.
- Greasy and large stools
If you notice these signs, get a sweat test. This is not painful and is pretty quick. Note that it is not possible to cure CF (Cystic Fibrosis), but certain medications can ease the toddler’s life. The child needs to be in constant touch with the doctor. At every visit, a sputum or saliva mucus will be taken for sampling to know which bacteria is causing the infection. The child can then be treated accordingly Vaccines like Pertussis, annual flu shot and Hib can help combat varied potential diseases. You can also use a vibrating vest or chest clapper to thump your child’s chest every day for around 30 minutes.
3. Sickle Cell Anemia in Children
This is an inherited blood disorder that turns round and flexible red cells into crescent shaped, stiff ones. This deters the blood cells from traveling through vessels and giving oxygen to the body. They become stuck on the way, causing pain, organ damage and infection. Additionally, unlike normal blood cells which have a lifespan of 120 days, sickle cells live for just 10-20 days. This means the body has trouble reproducing them fast, which in turn causes anemia.
- Sudden pain anywhere in the body, where the sickle cells are stuck.
- Sickle cells, at times, pool in the spleen, causing it to inflate, which is quite painful for the child.
- Toddlers suffer from fever, vomiting and rapid breathing at times.
- It can also lead to a stroke in case the sickle cells block a vessel in the brain.
- Aplastic crisis causes the production of red blood cells for some days. This leads to acute chest pain, pneumonia and fever.
- In cases the blood does not reach the retina, there can be many eye problems, including complete blindness.
There is no possible cure, but doctors can help to reduce the pain and keep infections away. Pain that is not too acute can be managed with painkillers such as Acetaminophen and other anti-inflammatory drugs. In case of severe pain, expert help is needed. Penicillin is given daily to the toddler, from when he is 2 months till he turns 5 years old. He will also be given vaccinations like Pneumococcal conjugate or PCV7, one shot each at 2, 4, 5, 12 and 15 months to combat Streptococcus Pneumoniae bacteria. Another vaccine is Pneumococcal or PPV23. Meningococcal vaccine is also given at the age of 2 to save him from a bacteria called Neisseria Meningitidis.
4. Diabetes in Children
This chronic disease in toddlers is a result of unhealthy levels of sugar in their blood. While type 1 diabetes is more common, type 2 occurs in adults, usually around the age of 40. Here, the pancreas (responsible for producing insulin which moves glucose to blood cells) does not function properly. This causes a glucose build up in the blood.
- Increased thirst and frequent urination.
- Extreme hunger.
- Weight loss.
- Irritability or unusual behavior.
- Blurred vision.
- Yeast infection.
Diabetes requires long drawn treatment and supervision. Your doctor will check your child’s A1C levels, cholesterol levels, thyroid function, liver function and kidney function. Your child will require blood sugar monitoring, insulin, healthy eating and exercise. As your child grows, his diabetes treatment plan will also adapt to his changing needs and conditions.
These conditions require extensive medical care, and thorough treatment. It is a tough time for children and many of them also go through a lot of pain. Therefore, it is necessary for parents to know about the early symptoms of varied chronic diseases and have full knowledge on how to treat them.