In the first months of live your baby 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 cold are entirely normal during the first year of life, as the immune system is still developing.
Cold and blocked nose
If your baby is finding it difficult to breathe through the nose, special nose drops for babies can be helpful. You should never use nose drops for longer than one week, as they can dry out the nasal mucous membranes. As an alternative to drops, you can trickle a salt water solution into your baby's nose to help with breathing (available from pharmacies).
At birth, your baby's digestive system is only in the 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 babies are often affected by colic, constipation, diarrhoea and vomiting in the first few months of life. Colic, or wind is made worse by swallowing air while drinking. When babies experience colic, often during the night, they pull their legs in close to the body or stretch them out, make fists with their hands and will often not settle, even if rocked or carried.
Diarrhoea and vomiting
These are also common in infants, Do not be concerned if your baby vomits a small amount of milk after drinking. By contrast, take care to note symptoms below, which can indicate a serious infection.
A fever (over 38) combined with one or more of the following:
• 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.
Common childhood illnesses
The most common 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 only the very young due to the under developed immune system. These illnesses generally occur only one in a person's lifetime. Children's illnesses are generally harmless. However, extremely serious, and in some cases life-threatening, complications can arise. For this reason paediatricians recommend immunisation.
Allergies often begin in infants or small children with the appearance of an itchy eczema (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 to dust in the home, animal hair, insecticides and pollen. There are more than 20,000 substances known to trigger allergic reactions.