The 24 Most Common Childhood Illnesses

Measles, Mumps, Rubella (German Measles), Whooping Cough (Pertussis), and Meningitis

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission; Posted December 8, 2012

A child with measles; photo courtesy CDC


Disclaimer: The author is not a doctor. This article is informational material only and does not constitute medical advice. Contact your physician for all medical conditions.


You likely have nothing to worry about regarding measles if your children are current on their vaccines (and they most likely are if they attend school).

But the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has reported outbreaks among unvaccinated children. The infection starts with a fever, runny nose, and cough.

As these symptoms diminish, another one takes its place—full-body rash. Most children show recovery within two weeks, but a significant number can develop pneumonia or other problems.


This is simply another common childhood condition that used to be very common prior to a viable vaccine being developed. As with other medical research, things are much improved today.

Often, this infection manifests with no symptoms, but when it does, the most common sign is swollen glands located between the child’s ear and jaw. This is often described (in a tongue-in-cheek way) as “chipmunk cheeks”.

Even though vaccination rates for this condition have been high, and seemingly acceptable compared to other vaccinations, recent outbreaks have infected thousands of children in America.

Rubella (German Measles)

Rubella is also referred to as called German measles. It is a relatively mild virus which generally creates no threatening problems. But it can harm the fetus when a pregnant woman contracts a case of it.

In the past, this was why it has been a common practice to hold a sleep-over party when a young girl gets it in the hope all the other girls will contract it as well. The idea is that if they go through it and develop an immunity, they won’t have worries later in life, when pregnant.

The symptoms of this one? A low fever accompanied with a rash that spreads beginning from the face downward to the rest of the body. Today, a childhood vaccine known as MMR gives immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Pertussis makes children very hard, so that they run out of breath, causing them to inhale with a “whooping” kind of sound. This condition is the most severe in babies and may necessitate hospital treatment.

The technical name for this illness is pertussis; the “P” is represented in the DTaP vaccine. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not very helpful during treatment, so vaccination is essential for prevention.

Adults may need a booster shot, just to be safe, especially if they are a caregiver for a young infant.


This condition is actually an inflammation or an infection of the tissue surrounding the child’s brain and spinal cord. In teenagers and adults, the primary symptoms are headaches, fever, and a stiff neck.

In the case of younger children, they may have flu-type symptoms or exhibit extreme irritability. Viral meningitis is usually mild, but on the other hand, bacterial meningitis is more dire with dangerous consequences if it is not addressed quickly.

Luckily, vaccines are available to prevent some specific bacterial causes of meningitis. Ask your pediatrician at your next visit.

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