5 Common Childhood Illnesses Caused by Bacteria

Childhood illnesses are common, especially infections. Discover some of the most common childhood illnesses caused by bacteria.
5 Common Childhood Illnesses Caused by Bacteria

Last update: 27 July, 2021

Due to children’s underdeveloped immune systems, illnesses caused by bacteria are very common in the first years of life. Although in most cases, they’re mild, it’s important to be vigilant to avoid the development of complications that, although rare, can occur. Do you know the most common childhood illnesses caused by bacteria?

Five common illnesses caused by bacteria that children can suffer from

Below, you’ll find some fairly common conditions, so you may well have heard of them. The treatment aspects are very particular in each case, but they share the fact that they usually require the use of antibiotics.

1. Otitis

A pediatrician looking at a child's ear.

Otitis is the inflammation of one of the segments of the ear. Classically, we refer to three different portions of this organ: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Infections of the outer and middle ears are very common. While infectious diseases in the inner ear are rare and produce other symptoms.

This condition’s usually caused by infection by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Depending on various factors, the infection can range from simple redness and itching of the ear canal (otitis externa) to severe pain. This may include pus release and rupture of the eardrum (otitis media).

2. Whooping cough, one of the diseases caused by bacteria

Bordetella pertussis is the bacterium responsible for whooping cough. It’s a highly contagious respiratory infection that, from a clinical point of view, stands out for the appearance of a cough that makes breathing very difficult for as long as it lasts. In fact, the cough’s so strong that it may even produce vomiting or small hemorrhages.

In many cases, it’s not possible to determine B. pertussis infection. It’s at this point that physicians use the term pertussis syndrome. This is a disorder that expresses the same symptoms as whooping cough but may be caused by other bacteria or other agents, such as adenovirus.

It’s a vaccine-preventable disease, so its incidence and prevalence have greatly decreased in recent decades. However, it’s still endemic in many countries, especially in developing countries.

3. Meningitis

Meningitis is one of the most dreaded conditions on the list, as without proper treatment it can lead to severe complications. It’s not a disease caused exclusively by bacteria. Some of the most commonly implicated agents are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitides.

Thanks to vaccination strategies, the incidence of meningitis and its complications have decreased over time. However, it remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality in children.

Symptoms are highly dependent on the age of the patient and usually become easier to diagnose as the child gets older. In schoolchildren and adolescents, the presence of stiff neck, vomiting, high fever, and abnormal movements can be suggestive of meningitis.

4. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a very common condition in both children and adults. It’s not always infectious and, when it is, most cases are due to viral infections. Conjunctivitis due to bacteria can be a little more difficult to treat. In some cases, it requires the administration of antibiotics.

Symptoms include localized redness, itching, excessive tear production, and, in some cases, pus emission. As this is a transmissible condition, it’s best to follow personal and family hygiene measures to avoid contagion.

5. Sore throats

A pediatrician checking a child's throat.

The term angina is often used in children to refer to some types of infection characterized by inflammation of the tonsils. Most clinical forms are mild, characterized by sore throat, general malaise, bad breath, fever, and swollen glands in the neck.

It’s important to differentiate it from other diseases such as angina pectoris or Vincent’s angina. The former refers to the symptoms of a disease that affects the blood supply to the heart, which in simple terms could refer to a heart attack. However, it’s not the same thing.

Vincent’s angina’s an extensive infection that involves the gums and organs mentioned above. However, without treatment, it can make swallowing food very difficult and compromise the patient’s airway. Of course, the latter two conditions are more common in adults.

Childhood illnesses caused by bacteria vary greatly

These diseases are unpredictable. The vast majority only signify discomfort that may cause your child to spend a few days in bed, while others may become more complicated and produce the need for more care.

The most important thing is to keep an eye out for any additional symptoms, fever being one of the most common. Seeing a pediatrician as soon as possible is the best option to make sure everything’s going well.

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  • Artigao F, et al. Meningitis bacteriana. Protocolos diagnóstico-terapéuticos de la AEP: Infectología pediátrica.