Wellness - Chronic Illnesses | 3-18 yrs

Common Chronic Ailments In Children


Chronic medical conditions can adversely impact a child's physical, emotional and mental development. Chronic illnesses are those that last for up to three months or so at a time. Such diseases are long-term medical problems. These often worsen overtime and some may even be incurable. This can mean that a child with a chronic disease like diabetes, epilepsy, heart condition, asthma and cerebral palsy will have to live with the symptoms and effects of the disease for life. Some other common chronic health ailments in children are cancer, AIDS, sickle cell anaemia, spina bifida (split spine) and cystic fibrosis.

Chronic maladies can translate into frequent doctor/hospital visits, long-term home care and treatments. Also, due to lifelong ailments, children can miss school, lose friends and even go into depression. Children with chronic health troubles may also need coping strategies for their personal and professional adult life. An article titled Understanding Chronic Illness in Children published in on www.med.umich.edu, states, "Parents need to help children learn new ways to cope with the special challenges of an illness. Discussing with a teen how their illness is affecting him or her and finding ways to help solve problems or cope with the feelings is very helpful."

Also, healthy siblings may feel neglected if the attention of the parents is always focussed on the ailing child. They can also have feelings of guilt or shame for being resentful towards their sick sibling. So, if a child suffers from an ever-present medical condition, it can become necessary to make major changes in the family’s lifestyle.

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Understanding Chronic Illness In Children

For some children, chronic health conditions affect everyday life throughout childhood. A chronic condition is defined as a health problem that lasts over three months, affects your child’s normal activities, and requires extensive medical care.


Most children with asthma have symptoms before they turn 5. In very young children, it may be hard for parents, and even doctors, to recognise that the symptoms are due to asthma.

Heart Disease

There are many different types of heart problems that can affect children, from congenital heart defects to viral infections and heart disease acquired later in childhood due to illnesses or genetic syndromes.


Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in children: 90 to 95 per cent of under 16s with diabetes have this type. It is caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin.

Paediatric Kidney Disease

Kidney disease often goes undetected in the general population, but children and adolescents are at an even greater risk due to the nature and causes of the disease and the ambiguity of the symptoms.

Sickle Cell Disease

Usually, red blood cells (RBCs) are shaped like round discs. People who have sickle cell disease, though, have RBCs that are shaped like sickles, or crescent moons. This defect can cause painful episodes, serious infections, chronic anaemia, and d...


Epilepsy is a condition in which a person has a tendency to have recurring seizures. Children with epilepsy can still attend pre-school, school and sports, but the risks must be managed. Epilepsy may affect learning and behaviour in some children.

Helping Children Cope With Chronic Illness

The chronically ill child has some sense of illness severity, even without medical explanation. He or she receives clues through his or her knowledge of illness, the urgency of treatment, contact with other patients, and the responses of family an...

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