Common daycare illnesses that sound scarier than they are

It’s not easy being sick yourself, and watching your little one get sick can be just as stressful. However, getting sick is a normal part of life. It’s your body reacting and adjusting to the world around it, and Baby still has a lot of reacting and adjusting to do.

If they do happen to pick up a common daycare illness, keep in mind that they typically sound a lot scarier than they are, and most are likely to go away within a couple of days. If you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to give your healthcare provider a call. Staying informed about symptoms and treatments for common illnesses is a great way to stay one step ahead of all those spooky-sounding viruses.  

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually caused by the (also scarily named) coxsackievirus A16, though it can also be caused by other viruses. If your child has contact with someone with the virus through their snot, saliva, or spray from coughs or sneezes, they could become infected.

Symptoms can include a sore throat, fever, blisters, rash, loss of appetite, irritability, or a general “I don’t feel well” feeling. The reason it’s called hand-foot-and-mouth disease is that the virus can cause rash or blisters on the palms, feet, tongue, gums, and cheeks. Symptoms will start to show up anywhere from three to six days after infection.

Yes, rashes can be serious and can absolutely look a little scary, but this illness will usually go away within a few days as long as your child stays hydrated and rests. If it doesn’t go away, if symptoms worsen, or if new symptoms appear, reach out to your healthcare provider.

Pink eye

Pink eye is a tricky one because it sounds kind of cute but looks pretty gross. The technical name for this infection is conjunctivitis, and hearing either term can strike fear into any parent’s heart because of how notoriously contagious it is. It can easily spread through a daycare as children touch their eyes, touch shared objects and then touch their eyes, etc.

The chief symptom of pink eye is, yes, redness in the eye, but that can also be accompanied by itching, tearing, and discharge. Pink eye can be contagious for up to two weeks after initial symptoms, but treating it early can help prevent the spread.

Pink eye can look a little scary, but it’s usually not dangerous and will sometimes clear up on its own. As soon as you notice symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider, who will likely prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the infection. If the eye becomes especially inflamed, it can affect vision, so it’s important to get evaluated and treated.    


Pox! Caused by a viral infection, chicken pox (a.k.a. varicella) can easily sweep its way through a daycare center. If someone is unvaccinated, chickenpox can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with the rash or through the air, and it’s contagious before symptoms even show up.

Symptoms of chickenpox will generally include a raised rash as well as fever, loss of appetite, headache, or tiredness. As the rash progresses, it can change from bumps into blisters and eventually into scabs.

Chickenpox is uncomfortable, itchy, and sometimes painful, but it’s usually mild and will generally clear up in about two weeks. Your healthcare provider might prescribe treatment to help with itching, but otherwise, the rash and other symptoms will clear up on their own. If the rash spreads to the eyes or other symptoms appear, make sure to see your healthcare provider again.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Hand-foot-and-mouth disease.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. August 22, 2014.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pink eye.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. July 16, 2015.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Chickenpox.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. February 28, 2016.

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