Infectious Diseases FAQs

What is shigellosis, and how can I prevent my child from getting it?

Shigellosis is an infection that normally occurs in the digestive tract. It is a common disease but can be serious, especially in children under age three. Outbreaks can occur in day care centers, and sometimes are caused by contamination of food by infected food handlers. Recently, there has been a rise in strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Call the doctor if your child has signs of a Shigella infection, including diarrhea with blood or mucus, accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, or high fever. 

The best way to prevent the spread of Shigella is by frequent and careful hand washing with soap, especially after your child uses the toilet and before he or she eats. This is especially important in a child care setting. Proper handling, storage, and preparation of food can also help prevent Shigella infections, so keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

What causes croup, and what can I do to ease it for my child?

Like a common cold, croup is a viral infection that settles lower in the throat and causes swelling around the vocal cords and voice box. Croup usually comes on suddenly in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Children often develop a hoarse voice and a very unique “barky” cough like a sea lion. The more severe the swelling, the more noisy your child’s breathing may be. You may hear a raspy sound called “stridor” when your child inhales. Children with croup often have stridor when they are laughing, playing, or coughing – this is typical. But if you hear this sound when your child is calm and at rest, that means the illness is becoming worse and needs to be treated. 

Home treatment for mild croup includes humidity, steam, cold air, and other activities that calm and comfort your child. If stridor persists, or if your child is drooling, having difficulty breathing, or acting sicker, contact your physician or emergency services.

My older kids want to play outside, but I worry about them getting sick from cold or wet conditions and spreading the germs to their baby brother. What should I do?

The common cold and a variety of respiratory illnesses are caused by viruses transmitted through close contact with ill people. They are not caused by cold weather conditions. It is important for your children to cover their mouths with their sleeves when they cough or sneeze and to wash their hands afterward. They also should wash their hands when they come home after playing outside. These measures will help protect your baby from getting sick.