Common Illnesses Per Age Group: Their Causes and How to Prevent Them

Knowledge is power, as the common saying goes, and with numerous illnesses that can afflict our little ones, we should stock up on information, such as causes, symptoms, prevention methods, and treatments as much as we can. So here is a list of common illnesses that kids usually get per age group.

Baby and Breakfast: Fitness and Health Common Illnesses Per Age Group: Their Causes and How to Prevent Them


Infants Age Group 0-3

1 Birth Defects

Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or parts of the body (e.g. heart, brain, foot, etc.). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe. The well-being of each child affected with a birth defect depends mostly on which organ or body part is involved, and how much it is affected. Depending on the severity of the defect and what body part is affected, the expected lifespan of a person with a birth defect may or may not be affected.


Some factors might increase the chances of having a baby with a birth defect, such as:

  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking certain drugs during pregnancy.
  • Having certain medical conditions, such as being obese or having uncontrolled diabetes before and during pregnancy.
  • Taking certain medications, such as isotretinoin (a drug used to treat severe acne).
  • Having someone in your family with a birth defect.


  • Avoid harmful substances
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle
  • Talk to your healthcare provider


2 Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.

Signs and Symptoms

Children or adults with ASD might:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying overhead)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings


There is currently no cure for ASD. However, research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. These services can help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others.


3 Common Cold

When germs that cause colds first infect the nose and sinuses (air-filled pockets in the face), the nose makes clear mucus. This helps wash the germs from the nose and sinuses. After two or three days, mucus may change to a white, yellow, or green color. This is normal and does not mean you or your child needs antibiotics.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Post-nasal drip (mucus dripping down your throat)


Antibiotics are not needed to treat a cold or runny nose, which almost always gets better on its own. Just make sure your child stays hydrated. There are steps you can take to help prevent getting a cold, including:

  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Avoid close contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections


4 Flu

Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Children younger than 5 years of age–especially those younger than 2 years old–are at high risk of serious flu-related complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Dehydration
  • Worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma
  • Brain dysfunction such as encephalopathy
  • Sinus problems and ear infections

Who are at risk

  • Children younger than 6 months old
  • Children aged 6 months up to their 5 years old
  • Children aged 6 months through 18 years old with chronic health problems


Vaccination is the best protection against flu.


5 Ear Infection

Ear infections can affect the ear canal or the middle ear. Acute otitis externa (AOE) is the scientific name for an infection of the ear canal, which is also called swimmer’s ear.

Middle ear infections are called Otitis Media, and there are two types of middle ear infections:

(A) Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear without pain, pus, fever, or other signs and symptoms of infection.

(B) Acute Otitis Media (AOM) occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear and is often caused by bacteria, but can also be caused by viruses.


  • Colds and flu season
  • Injury to the ear
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Family history


  • AOE is usually treated with antibiotic ear drops.
  • OME usually goes away on its own and does not benefit from antibiotics.
  • AOM may not need antibiotics in many cases because the body’s immune system can fight off the infection without help from antibiotics, but sometimes antibiotics are needed.
  • Watchful waiting wherein your provider may wait a few days before deciding whether to prescribe antibiotics, while treating the symptoms of AOM. Watchful waiting gives your or your child’s own immune system time to fight off the infection first before starting antibiotics.


6 Group B Strep

Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep, GBS) are bacteria that come and go naturally in the body. Most of the time the bacteria are not harmful, but they can cause illness in people of all ages. If a pregnant woman has the bacteria in her body, she can pass them to her baby during labor and delivery. Most babies who get GBS disease in the first week of life (early-onset disease) get it this way. It can be hard to figure out how babies get the bacteria if they get sick later (late-onset disease). The bacteria may come from the mother during birth or from another source.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Irritability or lethargy (limpness or hard to wake up the baby)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue-ish color to skin


Doctors treat GBS disease in newborns and older babies with antibiotics, such as penicillin or ampicillin. Doctors give the antibiotics through a vein (IV). For babies with severe illness, doctors may determine they need other procedures in addition to antibiotics.


7 Jaundice

Jaundice is the yellow color seen in the skin of many newborns. Jaundice happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood. During pregnancy, the mother’s liver removes bilirubin for the baby, but after birth the baby’s liver must remove the bilirubin. In some babies, the liver might not be developed enough to efficiently get rid of bilirubin. When too much bilirubin builds up in a new baby’s body, the skin and whites of the eyes might look yellow.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Very yellow or orange skin (skin color changes starting from the head and spreads to the toes).
  • Baby is hard to wake up or will not sleep at all.
  • Baby is not breastfeeding or sucking from a bottle well.
  • Baby is very fussy.
  • Baby does not have enough wet or dirty diapers.


  • When being treated for high bilirubin levels, the baby will be undressed and put under special lights. The lights will not hurt the baby. This can be done in the hospital or even at home. The baby’s milk intake may also need to be increased. In some cases, if the baby has very high bilirubin levels, doctors will do a blood exchange transfusion. Jaundice is generally treated before brain damage is a concern.
  • Putting the baby in sunlight is not recommended as a safe way of treating jaundice.


8 Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding or VKDB, occurs when babies cannot stop bleeding because their blood does not have enough Vitamin K to form a clot. The bleeding can occur anywhere on the inside or outside of the body. When the bleeding occurs inside the body, it can be difficult to notice. Commonly, a baby with VKDB will bleed into his or her intestines, or into the brain, which can lead to brain damage and even death. Infants who do not receive the vitamin K shot at birth can develop VKDB at any time up to 6 months of age

Signs and Symptoms

  • Bruises, especially around the baby’s head and face.
  • Bleeding from the nose or umbilical cord.
  • Skin color that is paler than before. For darker skinned babies, the gums may appear pale.
  • After the first 3 weeks of life, the white parts of your baby’s eyes may turn yellow.


VKDB is easily preventable with just a single vitamin K shot at birth.


Children Age Group 4-11


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms

A child with ADHD might:

  • daydream a lot
  • forget or lose things a lot
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk a lot
  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  • have a hard time resisting temptation
  • have trouble taking turns
  • have difficulty getting along with others


In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. For preschool-aged children (4-5 years of age) with ADHD, behavior therapy, particularly training for parents, is recommended as the first line of treatment


2 Asthma

Asthma is a serious disease that causes wheezing, difficulty breathing, and coughing. Over a lifetime, it can cause permanent lung damage. While we don’t know what causes asthma, we do know how to prevent asthma attacks or at least make them less severe.


Using medicine as prescribed by your doctor can prevent asthma attacks.

  • Inhaled corticosteroids and other control medicines can prevent asthma attacks.
  • Rescue inhalers or nebulizers can also give quick relief of symptoms.


3 Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV). It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. The rash appears first on the stomach, back, and face, and can spread over the entire body causing between 250 to 500 itchy blisters. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Signs and Symptoms

The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. The rash may first show up on the face, chest, and back, then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. It usually takes about one week for all the blisters to become scabs. Other typical symptoms that may begin to appear 1-2 days before rash include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • headache


The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents, and adults should get two doses of chickenpox vaccine. At home, calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching. Keeping fingernails trimmed short may help prevent skin infections caused by scratching blisters.


4 Developmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavioral areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.


  • Genetics
  • Parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy
  • Complications during birth
  • Infections the mother might have during pregnancy, or infections the baby might have very early in life due to exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead.


If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or you are concerned about your child’s development, talk with your child’s doctor and share your concerns.


5 Obesity

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure used to determine whether a child is overweight and obese. Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.


  • Genetics
  • Behavior
  • Community environment


  • Healthy diet
  • Active lifestyle
  • Getting enough sleep


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