In the first months of his or her life, your child will receive a sufficient supply of antibodies from your breast milk. However, once you start giving your child other foods and/or stop breastfeeding, he or she may become susceptible to minor illnesses. Frequent colds are entirely normal during your child’s first year of life, as he or she is in the process of building up his or her own immune system.
If your child is finding it difficult to breathe through the nose, special nose drops for babies can be of help. However, you should never use nose drops for longer than one week to ensure that the mucous membrane of the nose is not unnecessarily dried out. Alternatively, you can trickle a solution made of cooking salt or sea salt (also available at pharmacies) into your child’s nose.
At birth, your baby’s digestive system is only in its first stages of development. The system has to learn how to cope with new foods and is susceptible to bacteria and viruses. This is why children are often affected by colic, constipation, diarrhoea and vomiting in the first few months of their life, until such time as the digestive system is completely developed.
In the first few months, many babies suffer particularly often from colic, which is made worse by swallowing air while drinking. When babies experience wind – which is common during the night – they pull their legs in close to their body or stretch them out, make fists of their hands and will often not quieten down even if they are carried around.
Diarrhoea and vomiting are also common in infants. Do not be concerned if your baby vomits a small amount of milk after drinking. By contrast, the following symptoms, combined with a fever (over 38°) indicate a serious infection:
- Frequent vomiting within a few hours.
- Watery, green-coloured stool several times a day.
In the case of diarrhoea and vomiting, the fluids that have been lost should be replenished as quickly as possible, as small children can dehydrate very rapidly. Check whether your child is still passing water and/or shedding tears.
The most common children’s illnesses are measles, mumps, chickenpox, German measles and scarlet fever. These conditions are grouped together under the term children’s illnesses because they generally affect very young people – due to the weakness of their immune system – and usually only occur once.
In themselves, children’s illnesses are generally harmless. However, extremely serious, and in some cases life-threatening, complications may arise. For this reason, paediatricians recommend immunisation.
Allergic illnesses often begin in infants or small children with the appearance of an itchy eczema (so-called atopic dermatitis). Eczema is usually caused by intolerance to a specific food. Later in life, children may be affected by bronchial asthma and hay fever.
In addition to food allergies, the immune system may react, in particular, to dust in the home, animal hair, insecticides and pollen (hay fever). Today there are more than 20 000 substances known to trigger allergic reactions.