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HLT 111 - Health and the Young Child - Textbook

Chapter 2: Common Chronic Diseases of Young Children

Chapter Objectives

At the conclusion of this chapter, students will be able to

  1. Identify and outline common chronic diseases in children
  2. Discuss the causes, manifestations and prevention of chronic diseases in children
  3. Compare the terms Chronic Disease and Non-Communicable Disease and discuss why the term Chronic Disease may be the preferred terminology.
  4. Describe the levels and the significance of disease prevention approaches used at home and in the school setting
  5. Demonstrate knowledge and skills on how to care children with common chronic medical conditions such as allergic diseases, asthma, anemia, diabetes etc.


Children are commonly affected by infectious diseases and injury-related problem. However, children could also be develop chronic illnesses. The causes of chronic illnesses could be genetic, environmental or both.  Common chronic diseases of children include asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, epilepsy, and developmental disabilities, including ADHD, cerebral palsy, and autism spectrum disorders.

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways and lungs and thus making it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, or serious — and even life threatening.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include coughing, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, wheezing and tightness or pain in the chest .  We do not know what causes asthma but asthmatic attacks can be triggered by allergens (like pollen, mold, animal dander, and dust mites);  tobacco smoke;  air pollution, and airway infections.

The prevalence of asthma in children has been on the increase. Better management of asthma reduces morbidity and mortality from asthma, including hospitalization, need for emergency department visits, missed days of work for parents, and missed days of school for children.

Cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis  is a chronic, progressive dis¬ease of the body’s mucus glands. Cystic fibrosis primarily affects the respiratory and digestive systems in children and young adults.  There is no cure for cystic fibrosis. Diseases such as cystic fibrosis that are caused by inherited genes are called genetic diseases. Using prenatal genetic tests for  early diagnosis can lead to better treatment for children with cystic fibrosis.

Obesity and diabetes
Obesity and overweight is a major public health problem both in children and adults. Children who are obese or overweight maintain their obesity as adults, leading to obesity-related complications such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, some cancers, arthritis, and sleep-disordered breathing. Healthy diet, physical activity  are important preventive measures for diabetes. Early detection and treatment of chronic illnesses through regular medical care  is  important for all children to lessening morbidity, mortality and the overall impact of chronic illness on the child and family.

Chapter Review and Discussion Questions

Chapter Review

  1. What are the common chronic diseases affecting children in your neighborhood or community? What are the preventive measure taken by local health/ education authorities and/or the community?
  2. What are the three levels of prevention of chronic diseases? Discuss each and give an example for each level of prevention.
  3. When a teacher undertakes screening of children for hearing, vision, etc., what level of prevention is this?
  4.  Discuss the causes, manifestations and prevention of common chronic diseases in children such as allergic diseases, asthma, anemia, diabetes, etc.

Group Discussion

Discuss the role of media including social media and advertisements in spreading “non-communicable “ diseases. Think of commercials for fast food, tobacco, and soda drinks and how the lifestyle choices in the family can affect children’s health.