Describe signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 1.5: Understand how to support children who are unwell
Learning outcome: Know common childhood illnesses
Assessment criteria: Describe signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses

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It is important for Early Years practitioners to be able to recognise signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses so that they can provide the appropriate care.

In addition, by identifying common illnesses, Early Years practitioners can ascertain if a child will need to be temporarily excluded from the setting to reduce the spread.

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The table below shows the signs and symptoms that may be present in common childhood illnesses.

IllnessSign/symptom
Common coldFever, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, blocked or runny nose
Flu (influenza)Fever, headache, fatigue, chesty cough
Whooping coughFever, headaches, fatigue, lethargy, muscle aches, loss of appetite
TonsilitisFever, sore throat, swollen glands in neck, difficulty swallowing
Stomach bug/food poisoningFever, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, muscle aches, stomach cramps
ChickenpoxFever, itchy spotty rash/blisters, loss of appetite
MeaslesFever, cold-like symptoms (see above), sore eyes. This is followed by white spots in the mouth and a red rash on the skin.
German measles\RubellaFever, cold-like symptoms (see above), sore eyes. This is followed by a red rash on the skin.
MumpsFever, swollen glands in neck, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite
ScabiesIntense itching, raised rash/spots,
Scarlet feverFever, flu-like symptoms (see above), swollen glands in neck, sore throat, rash, white coating on tongue
Hand, foot and mouth diseaseFever, sore throat, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers, raised spots on hands and feet
Impetigo (bullous & non-bullous)Red sores/blisters, usually around the nose and mouth and on the chest which burst to leave crusty patches
Ear infectionsPain inside the ear, fever, difficulty hearing, fatigue, loss of appetite, feeling of pressure or itching inside and around the ear
MeningitisFever, nausea, vomiting, headache, seizures, hypersensitivity to light, rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it, muscle aches (particular around the neck)
Signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses

As you can see, several of these illnesses have shared symptoms. For example, almost all illnesses are accompanied by a fever because when the immune system recognises an infection, it raises the temperature to make it more difficult for the pathogen to survive.

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It is beyond the scope of the role of an Early Years practitioner to diagnose illnesses – this is the responsibility of a suitably qualified medical professional. But having an understanding of the signs and symptoms of common childhood illnesses can be useful for providing appropriate care and advising parents/carers about where they should go for treatment.

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