Common Types of Pediatric Infections

As a parent caring for a child experiencing symptoms of feeling sick, it can be a difficult and uncertain experience. However, such symptoms can occur often in all healthy children, especially in the first few years of life. These symptoms are usually indicative of the strengthening of the immune system.

Sometimes, however, a true medical condition can be the cause of these symptoms. One of the most common reasons for a child to be having these symptoms is an infectious process, whether bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal.

If a child is experiencing trouble breathing, high fever, unjustified weight loss, extreme fatigue, or trouble focusing, they need to be seen and examined by a pediatrician or health care provider.

In what follows, we’ll be detailing some of the most common types of pediatric infections, their etiology and symptomatology, and the particular treatments for the various pediatric infections.

Types of Pediatric Infections

Similar infections occur in adults and children, and they cause many of the same symptoms and sequelae. The severity of the particular infection will be dependent on the immune status of the adult or child. Sometimes children will have less morbidity with certain infections than adults, and sometimes they will have higher morbidity.

There are, however, certain infections that occur more commonly in children than adults. For example, the most common pediatric bacterial infections include otitis media, impetigo, and strep throat. Other common pediatric infections include skin infections, respiratory infections, bone infections, and joint infections.

The following are some of the most common types of Pediatric Infections:

  • Otitis Media and Externa
  • Sinusitis
  • Impetigo
  • Tonsilitis
  • Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
  • RSV

Other noteworthy pediatric infections include bronchitis, influenza, gastroenteritis, chickenpox, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, pharyngitis, and conjunctivitis.

Otitis Media and Externa

Otitis Media and Externa

As one of the most common infections of childhood, otitis media is a middle ear infection that’s most often viral, yet sometimes it is caused by a bacterial infection. The most common types of bacteria found in ear infections are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis.

Treatment for suspected bacterial otitis media will include antibiotics. Delay in treatment can lead to potential complications in the inner ear, such as hearing loss or difficulties with balance.

Differing from otitis media, otitis externa is an ear infection affecting the outer ear and typically results in an inflammatory response of the outer skin and ear canal. Symptoms include ear pain, itch, and discharge.

Otitis externa should be treated as early as possible. In most cases, antibiotic drops will be necessary to eradicate the infection. The infection can recur, and close follow-up with a pediatrician will lead to the best outcome.


This common bacterial skin infection is usually seen in young children. Impetigo causes red sores and blisters around the face but can also be seen on the neck, hands, and groin region. Impetigo can usually be treated with topical antibiotics. Sometimes treatment will take some time to clear the infection completely, and slow improvement may mean that alternative antibiotic treatment will be necessary.


Tonsilitis, which is an infection in the tonsils, commonly affects children between the ages of preschool and middle school. The infection is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. The bacteria most often identified in tonsilitis is streptococcus, and there can be recurrent episodes of the infection.

The most common symptoms of tonsillitis include sore throat, difficulty swallowing, blistering on the throat, and loss of appetite. Pediatric tonsillitis may also involve additional symptoms such as upset stomach and nausea. To prevent tonsillitis, it’s important to practice good hygiene to reduce total bacterial exposure.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Another common infection in children and infants, Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (HFM), is a viral illness that presents itself via sores and ulcers inside of the mouth and blisters on the hands and feet. The lesions can sometimes be seen in other body locations.

While HFM disease can be particularly painful for some children, it is usually very manageable, and outcomes are usually good.

If a child develops hand, foot, and mouth disease, certain medications can be helpful to alleviate symptoms, such as over-the-counter pain medication or over-the-counter numbing agents for blisters and ulcers. 

HFM disease is very contagious. Thus, the child must be isolated from others while the lesions heal to eliminate any risk of external contamination from others.


RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is the most common cause of lower respiratory infections in infants and children.  

respiratory syncytial virus

While its cold-like symptoms in older teens and adults are typically mild and usually resolve with time, RSV can be severe in infants and children, resulting in the need for hospitalization.

Although a vaccine for RSV is currently being researched, no specific antiviral treatment options for RSV exist. The treatment is supportive therapy to assist the child in fighting the virus via their immune system.

Final Thoughts

Many children are admitted to the hospital due to infection. Hospitalization is typically required for advanced treatment with intravenous antibiotics.  

Fortunately, most infections can be managed on an outpatient basis. The key to good outcomes with infection is timely diagnosis and treatment.

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