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common toddler infections

Going to a nursery or crèche will help your toddler to explore new horizons and make friends. But close contact with other children also spreads infection. Here’s how to deal with the common health problems your little one may bring home, and stop them spreading…


Second only to finger paintings, colds are what toddlers most often carry home! Colds are caused by any one of more than 200 viruses, and symptoms can last up to three weeks. Give your little one plenty of fluids, and wait for nature to cure the cold. They won’t be able to blow their nose, but teach them to wipe it with a soft tissue, not a sleeve. Your local pharmacist, or Tesco pharmacist, can help advise you on suitable medication. See your doctor if your toddler becomes unwell, runs a high fever, is chesty or develops earache.


Often caused by bacteria, conjunctivitis makes one or both eyes sticky, crusty and sometimes bloodshot. It’s infectious, as bacteria spread through droplets in the air, and on little hands. Wipe your child’s eyelids gently with separate pieces of cotton wool dipped in cooled, boiled water. See your GP too, as most cases of infections need antibiotic eye drops.


With threadworms (or Enterobiasis) eggs spread directly from hand to mouth. The main symptom is an itchy bottom, especially at night, when threadworms are active. You may also see white worms about 1cm long, like threads of cotton, wriggling in your child’s poo. To successfully treat threadworms, the whole family will need to be treated, even if not everyone is displaying the symptoms – you can buy the treatment from your local pharmacy. You will also need to follow a strict hygiene routine which includes vacuuming the whole house and washing all towels, bedding, sleepwear and cuddly toys. You can find full details on the HSE website. Keep your toddler’s nails short, and teach them to wash their hands, especially before eating and always after going to the toilet. Threadworms spread easily among children, so good hygiene may help to prevent another outbreak.


This common virus has an incubation period of 14 to 21 days before the first spots appear, and it is very contagious, especially in the early stages. Your little one may be unwell for a day before an itchy rash appears. This rash develops into crops of small blisters, mainly on the torso. Keep your toddler cool and their nails short to help prevent scratching. Lukewarm baths, calamine lotion, and cooling gels can all help relieve itching. For severe itching, ask your pharmacist about antihistamine syrup. The HSE has lots of useful advice, but you should also consult your GP if your little one has a high fever, won’t eat or drink, seems very unwell, or if you are pregnant or likely to come into contact with others who may be pregnant, as chickenpox can cause complications (although most mums-to-be will already have had it, so will be immune).

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Caused by viruses or bacteria, diarrhoea and vomiting are common in toddlers, and spread rapidly. Replacing fluids is vital – over-the-counter rehydration solutions are ideal. Ask your Tesco Pharmacist for advice. Give small sips of fluid if your little one has been vomiting. See the doctor if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or your child is listless, feverish, has stomach ache or passes blood in their poo. The HSE offers oral vaccination to babies against the rotavirus infection as part of the childhood vaccination schedule.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

This has nothing to do with farm animals (that’s foot and mouth disease, which only affects animals). It’s a viral infection that spreads via air droplets and by touch, which is why it’s so common in young children. It’s usually mild. Symptoms include red spots on the palms and soles, and ulcers in the mouth, but there can also be fever. It will usually clear itself within 7-10 days. Meanwhile, liquid paracetamol can help relieve symptoms. If your toddler’s suffering, give them soft foods like ice cream. As always when your child is unwell, trust your instincts and always see your GP if you’re worried about your toddler’s health

Like this article? See also how to care for a little one after they’ve been ill


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