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What are acute and chronic childhood diseases?

Childhood diseases, in most cases, are caused by Infectious agents in children against which children have not yet developed immunity. We know they are a cause for concern for parents, so we want to explain the most frequent, what causes them and some habits you can follow to prevent them as much as possible. 

17.6 million children under five years of age suffer from obesity, a disease that, as we have seen in other articles, has serious consequences since it increases the risk of suffering conditions such as cardiovascular or diabetes. Preventing overweight and obesity will be much easier if healthy eating habits have been adopted since childhood.

Correct diet in childhood:

An adequate diet should provide the child with all the essential nutrients for the growth and development of healthy bones and muscles and prevent the risk of common pathologies such as obesity. This disease is becoming more frequent in children, as we explained in the post on How to avoid obesity.

The Ministry of Health differentiates the following stages:

  1. From 3 to 6 years: the energy need is very high since the child is fully developed and subjected to great physical activity.
  2. From 7 to 12 years: growth needs are still critical. At this stage, it is vital to educate the child so that he eats healthily. 
  3. From 13 to 16 years: the muscles and skeleton have just formed at this age, so it is essential to provide enough calories and include high-quality protein and sufficient amounts of calcium. 

The importance of physical activity and rest:

Physical exercise is the other pillar of good health and nutrition. In children, it is essential, in addition to maintaining their weight, to favour their physical and cognitive development and provide them with other benefits in the short, medium and long term. 

For the little ones, aerobic sports are recommended to help develop coordination or elasticity, and from the age of 7 or 10, team sports encourage discipline and collaboration.  

In addition to exercise and good nutrition, another fundamental habit to maintain the health of children is to sleep the appropriate hours for each age :

  • 0-2 months: between 10.5-18 hours.
  • 2-12 months: between 14-15 hours.
  • 1-3 years: between 12-14 hours.
  • 3-5 years: between 11-13 hours. 
  • 5-12 years: between 10-11 hours. 

All these measures are essential to prevent childhood diseases, but there is always a risk that they appear.

Most common childhood illnesses:

The diseases we show below have an infectious origin caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi from abroad. They can also affect adults, but they are so common in childhood because children’s immune system is fully developed, and they must be exposed to these agents to develop.

Infectious diseases:

They affect the digestive and respiratory mucosa and are mostly called by the name of the affected organ, followed by the suffix “itis” since they also cause inflammation. For example, rhinitis, otitis or gastroenteritis are included in this category.

The general characteristic symptoms of these diseases are, among others:

  • Pain
  • redness
  • Irritation
  • Enlargement of local defensive ganglia
  • In addition, each pathology has distinctive signs that help with diagnosis.

The treatment, usually quick, consists of fighting the external agent that has caused the inflammation. For example, if it is bacteria, antibiotics will be used. 

Some of these diseases and their symptoms are: 

Acute tonsillitis: its origin is usually bacterial and, in addition to the redness of the throat, high fever, cough, and runny nose are the most common symptoms in children.  

Acute otitis media: This infection is widespread in children under three years of age.

Cystitis is a urinary infection suffered by approximately 3% of girls and 1% of boys. The cause is a bacterial infection; its characteristic symptoms are the continuous urge to urinate and to itch.

Childhood diseases caused by external agents are numerous, but one of the most common is the cold, with which almost everyone is familiar. 

Mode of transmission of childhood infectious diseases:

The contagion of infectious diseases is very simple and can occur during incubation before the symptoms appear. Another reason is that children share toys and spend a lot of time with other children, who can cough without covering their mouths.

The main routes of infection are:

Respiratory: contagion occurs through micro droplets with infectious particles that we expel when we cough, sneeze or even speak. The contagion occurs by ingesting them, for example, through contaminated water or food. 

For its part, conjunctivitis, a disease that consists of inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the white area of ​​the eye, can be caused by a virus. Its minimum period of contagion is nine days since the virus particles can remain in fabrics, pillows, towels, etc.

The effectiveness of vaccines in preventing childhood diseases:

  • Vaccines consist of administering, usually by injection, weakened viruses or bacteria to induce immunity against them.
  • The immune system of the vaccine considers the inoculated substances foreign and fights against them by preparing its defence mechanisms.
  • The infectious agent, being weakened, is not capable of causing the infection. However, our body is prepared to effectively attack the virus or bacteria if it infects us in the future, preventing us from getting sick. 
  • Two diseases with a high incidence in the past that, thanks to vaccines, have significantly decreased or have practically been eliminated are:
  • It can cause cirrhosis or even cancer development in the affected organ. The disease can become chronic in 90%-95% of perinatally infected children.
  • Its incidence is global, but thanks to the introduction of the hepatitis B vaccine in almost all vaccination schedules, the number of cases has decreased in recent years.
  • Poliomyelitis: This contagious disease is transmitted by a virus that damages motor neurons and causes permanent flaccid paralysis.
  • In 95% of cases, those affected are asymptomatic, and on some occasions, they present symptoms similar to the flu. However, this disease can cause complications such as paralysis of the limbs and death in the worst cases. In the 1950s, this disease paralysed more than 15,000 people in the United States alone. However, it is essential to note that there is no cure for this disease, so the importance of vaccines is even more significant since they have reduced the number of polio cases by 99%.

Genetic childhood diseases:

External agents are not the only ones responsible for childhood illnesses. But, as you will know if you regularly read our blog, our genome contains all the information necessary to maintain life. Still, if these instructions are altered, diseases can appear if mutations occur in genes.

Some of them are congenital, meaning they are present from birth. They can occur either because parents transmit them to their children or because while the fetus is being formed, a “de novo” mutation occurs, that is, spontaneous. 

Cystic fibrosis:

In cystic fibrosis, fluids from the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive juices, typically light and lubricating, become sticky and thick and build up in the body’s passageways, especially the lungs and pancreas. 

Diagnosis almost always occurs around two years of age, although sometimes the disease is not detected until 18. In these latter cases, cystic fibrosis usually presents in a milder form.

The cause of the disease is mutations in the CFTR gene, which has an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern; both copies of the gene must be altered to present the condition. 

Although people with cystic fibrosis need daily care, their quality of life has dramatically improved in the last ten years, and their life expectancy has increased to 35-39 years.

Thalassemia is another common genetic disease encompassing a group of pathologies affecting how the body produces haemoglobin.

Although sometimes patients with thalassemia do not present symptoms and do not require treatment, they usually present anaemia and may need blood transfusions periodically.

It is a hereditary disease and is caused by mutations in the HBB gene. 

Can childhood diseases be detected before they appear?

When babies are born, they undergo a neonatal screening known as a “heel prick test”, which detects at least seven congenital diseases that the newborn can suffer.

The heel prick test analyses a limited number of pathologies, which is why we offer my Newborn DNA at Veritas. This complimentary test studies more than 390 diseases of genetic origin. Early detection has numerous advantages since it allows the necessary measures to be taken to minimise the consequences of many childhood illnesses. Today, thanks to advances in genetics, it is possible.

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