Infections in children

Children often have infections. This is because the immune system is not sufficiently developed from the beginning. A good way to protect yourself from infections is to be out a lot and to wash your hands frequently.

This text is primarily about infections in children of preschool and early school age, but a large part of the text is valid for infections of all ages.

You get answers to:

  • why children get sick
  • how infection spreads
  • what you can do yourself to avoid the spread of infection
  • what causes infection
  • when your child can return to preschool or school.

Why do children get sick?

During pregnancy, the baby gets antibodies when the baby is in the stomach. The antibodies above all protect against infections that the pregnant woman has had. Breast milk also contains antibodies that can provide protection against infections. After six months, the antibodies the baby got in the stomach began to disappear. Then it is common for them to start getting more infections, especially in the airways. The child also usually meets more people, for example at the open preschool, and is then exposed to various infections.

By being exposed to infections, the child’s immune system is built up. The older the child gets, the fewer infections the child usually gets. The infections are usually mild and can be managed at home. Each infection takes on average one to two weeks to heal.

When it’s cold outside, most indoors are more than anything else. Then infections spread more easily. Therefore, the number of respiratory tract infections in winter is increasing. For example, colds and coughs.

Usually with six to eight infections per year

During the first four years, children have an average of six to eight infections per year. Then the number decreases. Most often the child gets a cold, cough, sore throat or ear inflammation. It is also common for children to get stomach infections with vomiting and diarrhea.

Some children are sick more often than others. It is usually called in the care that the child is extra susceptible to infection. It almost never means that there is something seriously wrong with the child’s immune system. Infection sensitivity usually grows away over the years. How many infections a person gets during his or her life depends on different things. This is partly about factors that cannot be affected, such as inheritance, and partly those that can be affected, such as how to expose yourself to infection.

What can be caused by the infection?

Infections infect in different ways. Here you can read about how viruses and bacteria spread.

Contact infection – infect through direct contact

Infection can be spread through direct contact between people, for example by taking each other’s hand. It is called contact infection. Often this is how cold viruses spread. Children can also be infected if they take in things that the sick person has taken in or turned around, such as towels, handkerchiefs, toys and toys.

Drop infection – infecting through the air

When a person sneezes or coughs, droplets are collected in the air, which contain infectious agents. Then the person who is close can get infected. It’s called drip contamination. When the droplets have fallen onto surfaces or objects, infectious agents can be carried on from there as contact infections, usually through the hands. It is called drop and contact infection. Often it is so stomach upset and respiratory infections spread.

Airborne infection – infect through inhalation

Indoors, small drops that occur when someone coughs or sneezes may be in the air for a long time. People in the room can then breathe in the infectious agent which can then attach to the respiratory tract and cause it to become an infection. For example, chickenpox and flu can spread in this way. Outdoors, the infection is easily blown away.

What can I do for myself?

It is difficult to avoid infecting each other. Children can bring infections home from, for example, preschool or school.

If there are newborn siblings, or other people with impaired immune systems, they can be severely affected by infections. Therefore, it is always good to be extra careful about hygiene when you or your child have an infection.

Wash your hands the best tip

One of the best ways to avoid the spread of infection is to wash your hands frequently. As usual, always wash your hands before eating and after visiting the toilet. It’s also good to keep in mind the following:

  • Teach the child to cough in the arm fold. Be a good role model by doing so too.
  • Use disposable handkerchiefs.
  • Wash things like snuff blankets, stuffed animals and toys when the baby has recovered.
  • Be outdoors every day.

Advice to avoid getting infected by bacteria in the food:

  • Keep warm food warm – at least sixty degrees.
  • Keep cold food cold – at most eight degrees. Pay particular attention to the handling of sensitive foods, such as raw minced beef and mayonnaise.
  • Make sure the food is cooled and heated quickly.
  • Store raw materials separately and cook them separately.
  • Keep work surfaces and tools clean.

More information can be found on the American Food Agency’s website.

The preschool should have routines for breaking and preventing the spread of infection. The municipality’s environmental committee checks that these routines are carried out properly.

Good to be out all year

Children who go to preschool usually get more infections, because many children stay together. Therefore, it is especially good that children in preschool are out a lot and are careful to wash their hands. Make sure you and your child are out together a lot when you have time.

Smoking increases the risk of infections

Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke in the home often have respiratory infections than children who grow up in a smoke-free home. Even if you smoke as an adult under the fan or outdoors, the child can breathe in harmful substances, such as the smoke that is stuck on the clothes.

What can infections in children be due to?

By infectious diseases is meant all diseases caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, unicellular animals and worms.

Viruses and bacteria are most common

Infections of the respiratory tract are the most common infections in children. The vast majority are caused by viruses, such as colds and flu.

Sometimes children can first get a viral infection and then a bacterial infection. For example, first a cold and then an ear infection. Some infections are caused from the beginning by bacteria, such as strep throat caused by streptococci.

An infection caused by unicellular organisms, worms, lice or other parasites is called infestation. In Sweden, there are basically two infestations in children that are ordinary, worm and head lice. They only infect through direct contact with people or objects that sick people have been in contact with.

Sometimes antibiotics are needed

Only bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. This is because antibiotics have no effect on viruses.

All bacterial infections do not need and should not be treated with antibiotics. If they are mild, they can heal with the help of the body’s own immune system.

When is the child healthy enough to go back to child care or school?

If the child is alert, has a good appetite and does not have a fever, they are most likely healthy. The child needs to have had a fever-free day at home. Then they usually do not infect them.

But there are exceptions such as stomach ailments, streptococcal infection and persistent eyes.

It is good not to be too quick to let the child go back to preschool or school after, for example, a cold. Sometimes the child can be spiky in the morning, but still not able to spend a whole day in group activities, where the pace is different. The child can then easily get a new infection.

When and where should I seek care?

If you are concerned that your child is ill, you can contact a health care center. You can always call and receive medical advice at telephone number 911.

Influence and participate in your care

Children should be able to participate

The Patient Act was introduced on January 1, 2015. The purpose is to strengthen the patient’s position in healthcare.

There is no age limit for when a child can have influence over their care. The child’s ability to participate is related to the child’s maturity.

The older the child, the more important it is for them to be involved in their care. In order to be active in the care and to make decisions, it is important that you as an adult and the child understand the information you receive from the care staff.

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