Common Childhood Illnesses During Fall

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Common Childhood Illnesses During Fall

As a parent, you know there are many childhood illnesses that seem to pop up more in the fall. We’ll look at some of the most common ones here, and what you can do to help your child and the symptoms they are experiencing.

Common Cold 

The common cold can be caused by several different types of viruses; however, the most common are the rhinoviruses. This virus can be spread from person to person through infected droplets that are made when someone coughs or sneezes and then another person breathes in those droplets. It can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces.

Everyone is at risk of developing a common cold. These most often occur from September to April. The most common symptoms are stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, low-grade fevers, mild cough, achy muscles, headaches, and mild fatigue or tiredness. The common cold symptoms can last from a few days up to several weeks. Treatment includes managing the symptoms with over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, decongestants, or antihistamines. Rest and increased fluid intake are also very important to prevent your child from becoming dehydrated.


Influenza is an extremely contagious infection that affects the respiratory system and is caused by a virus. Young children are particularly prone to the flu due to their AGE, and therefore it is recommended they receive a flu vaccine yearly. The flu is usually spread when a child coughs or sneezes or when they touch a contaminated surface and then touch his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Children are the most contagious 24-hours prior to the onset of their own symptoms, which is why it can spread so easily. The most common symptoms include high fevers, body aches, headaches, worsening cough, runny or stuffy nose, and tiredness. Most children recover within a week. If you are concerned your child has influenza, call their pediatrician’s office immediately to help prevent it from worsening. Antiviral medication can be given sometimes, in addition to treating the symptoms with medications like Tylenol (for fevers and pain) and cough medication.

Strep Throat 

Strep throat is another common childhood illness. It is caused by a bacteria called group A Streptococcus that lives in the nose and throat and easily spreads from person to person. It is spread by the infected person coughing or sneezing or if a person touches a contaminated surface, so good hand washing skills and overall hygiene is very important. Children may quickly complain of an extremely sore throat and pain when swallowing. You may also notice a fever, red and swollen tonsils, and sometimes white patches on the tonsils. If you notice these symptoms your child should be evaluated by their pediatrician. A rapid strep test or throat culture (a swab of the child’s throat) will need to be completed to determine if she or he has strep throat. If the test is positive, the child will then be prescribed antibiotics. It is important to always take the full dose of antibiotics, even if your child is feeling better in the middle of the treatment course. This is because the antibiotic will continue to work in your child’s body a few days after the treatment has actually been completed. This helps reduce the risk of potentially needing more antibiotics.  

Ear Infection 

Ear infections, also called acute otitis media, can be very common in children and are an infection behind the eardrum. It is the result of a bacteria or virus causing fluid to be trapped behind the eardrum, which then causes swelling of the eardrum and can become painful for the child. Oftentimes, ear infections can resolve on their own; however, if you feel your child is not improving, call your pediatrician’s office to have your child examined. Sometimes antibiotics will be given for treatment. Common symptoms to watch for are complaints of ear pain or pulling at one’s ear if your child is nonverbal, loss of appetite, irritability, poor sleep that is a change from your child’s normal sleep habits, fever, drainage from the ear, or possible change in hearing.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is another common respiratory illness for children. As the name implies it is caused by a virus. Usually, it causes the child mild, cold-like symptoms like a runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, and fever. 

Symptoms usually begin between 4 to 6 days after being exposed and infected with the virus. The virus is spread when a child coughs or sneezes. Like many of the other viral illnesses, a child can also get it by touching a contaminated surface. Usually, the infection lasts 1-2 weeks. Treatment is aimed at managing the symptoms and treating any fever or pain with Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Other supportive measures you can take for your child are increasing their fluid intake to make sure your child does not become dehydrated and allowing your child to rest and recover fully. Prevention is also equally important. You can teach your child how to cover their mouth when coughing and sneezing, how to wash their hands often with warm, soapy water, avoid close contact with others who have RSV, and thoroughly cleaning frequently touched surfaces.

General Guidelines

Prevention is a huge part of childhood illnesses and as mom and dad, you can do a lot to help make sure your child stays healthy during the fall and winter months. Good handwashing skills are important in order to reduce the spread of these types of diseases. Likewise, thoroughly cleaning high contact surfaces, practicing coughing and sneezing etiquette, and teaching your child these skills can greatly help reduce the spread of these illnesses. Lastly, if you feel your child is not improving or have additional questions or concerns it is always best to call your pediatrician’s office.


Johns Hopkins Medicine, Common Childhood Illnesses 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Group A Streptococcal Disease  January 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Respiratory Syncytial Virus  December 2020

Cleveland Clinic, Ear Infection (Otitis Media)  April 2020