Congenital abnormalities and allergies

More than with adults, sick children give doctors reason to search for the cause that lies behind the illness. In children it could mean in some cases that the illness is the first symptom of a congenital disorder. Such symptoms may also manifest themselves in adult life. But the chances that someone who has grown into a healthy adult will suddenly fall ill from, for instance, a congenital error in metabolism are much smaller than when young children do not thrive well or are often sick.

For instance, recurrent urinary tract infections in boys may indicate that this is being caused by a congenital stricture of the urethra. Frequent respiratory infections accompanied by diarrhoea and digestive disorders may be caused by cystic fibrosis. However parents need not immediately become worried when their child has an infection a few times within a certain period of time. In by far the most number of cases it is of only a temporary nature. Allergic disorders occur fairly frequently in infancy. Well known is the combination of asthma and skin-rashes. Hereditary factors play an important role in these.

During the first year of its life the baby may contract ringworm, a form of eczema that shows mainly in the face. Afterwards the allergy manifests itself as asthma, with attacks of sudden laboured breathing. After this period the eczema becomes more prominent again but this time in different skin areas, such as the elbow and the back of the knee. After puberty these allergic manifestations are inclined to become less severe. Only a minority of asthmatic children suffer from regular attacks of laboured breathing in adult life.