Did you know that you can be sick as a child and never get the help you need or a diagnosis of an invisible illness you have? How many times did your parents tell you to walk it off when you didn’t feel well? Howe many headaches or belly aches did you complain about that they thought was caused by being tired or eating too much candy.
Parents don’t know everything. They try their best to do what’s right for you, but sadly, they often don’t make the right choices. It’s hard for a young child to communicate with an adult about their needs.
Maybe you didn’t have the right words to express how you felt, or the doctor couldn’t pinpoint what was going on in your body. It’s possible that you were fighting an invisible illness, but because it wasn’t always apparent to those around you, you were never diagnosed. All you knew is that you felt different than the other children.
Did Your Invisible Illness Start as a Child?
Perhaps, as an adult, you realize that your chronic illness started in childhood, and looking back, it all seems to make sense. Do you recognize any of these symptoms from your younger days?
1. Frequent Exhaustion
While other children came home from school, grabbed a snack, and headed outside to play, did you find that you needed a nap? Many kids are physically exhausted by the school and getting up early. If you needed more sleep than your friends, it could have been a sign of an invisible illness.
Pediatricians and parents often brush off a kid saying their tired and think they need to nap. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a nap on occasion. However, when a 12-year-old is sleeping more than 8-10 hours a day, it needs to be investigated.
Thankfully, doctors are more receptive to childhood illnesses and realize that several serious health complications can start at a young age.
2. Chronic Headaches
Lots of things can cause headaches. People can see them as a side effect from stress, a poor diet, sinus troubles, and a plethora of other reasons. However, a young child shouldn’t be complaining of headaches often.
Many things can cause headaches in a child, specifically juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and eye problems like retinitis pigmentosa. Parents should never ignore ongoing headache problems when it could be a sign of an invisible illness.
3. Social Anxiety
Mental illness has a stigma attached to it. Though experts know more about these conditions today, there was once a time where it was never discussed. If you grew up in the 70s-90s, then it’s possible that you had problems that were brushed under the rug.
Do you remember being anxious, nervous, or had an upset stomach or headaches when you went into the grocery store with your parents? Were there ever times when you went to the bathroom during lunch because mingling with the other kids made you physically ill?
It’s possible that you had a social anxiety disorder or another mental illness. A chemical imbalance in your brain can happen at any age. Parents often say that their child is shy just because they didn’t fully understand the invisible illness that made them act and feel this way.
4. Constant Bruises, Muscle Strains, and Torn Ligaments
Did you ever notice that you had constant bruising? If you barely even brushed your leg against something, it would turn into an unsightly bruise? What about muscle strains and torn ligaments from doing simple things like riding your bike?
It’s normal for a child to have some bruising when playing and roughhousing outside or with friends. However, when the bruises seem to be constant and can occur for the smallest of reasons, they need to be investigated. Conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can cause people to go through these problems all their life without being diagnosed.
Since Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a genetic condition, it takes specialized testing outside the routine blood work to diagnose. Many people wait decades to find out what’s going on in their bodies.
5. Heartbeat Irregularities
When you consider heart problems, most people don’t think about children getting these devastating conditions. Sadly, the American Heart Association found that about one in four children under the age of five is plagued by heart abnormalities.
One of the more benign conditions that affect children is an irregular heartbeat or murmur. Most kids outgrow these abnormalities and live a happy and healthy life. However, other illnesses aren’t as innocent.
Things like heart valve disorders, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, ventricular septal defects, atherosclerosis, and Kawasaki disease, can all affect children. If you had problems running on the playground with the other kids because your heart would race out of control, then it’s a sign that the invisible illness started young.
6. Intolerant to Heat
Some children cannot take the heat. They will become sick, vomit, break out in a rash, or even pass out. While it’s common to think of an adult as heat or cold intolerant, most people would never consider this in a child.
The same issues that make an adult unable to take temperature extremes can happen to a little one. Things like thyroid conditions and autoimmune disorders can make the body unable to regulate temperature properly, which can cause a day at the park to turn into a nightmare.
7. Chronic Pain
It’s easy to pass off a child’s knee or back pain as a growing pain issue. Most children do experience growing pains. Consequently, other illnesses have nothing to do with growth.
Juvenile arthritis is one condition that should always be considered when a child is in chronic pain, but there are things like fibromyalgia that can start in youth too. Many invisible illnesses can begin at a young age, and they tend to worsen as a person gets older.
8. Frequent UTIs
Urinary tract infections are typically a female problem, though a male can get them on occasion. The very setup of the female system makes little girls and women prone to these horrendous infections.
While it’s perfectly normal to get one of these infections after a round of antibiotics, anyone who continues to get them several times a year is a cause for alarm. Conditions like diabetes, kidney problems, and an abnormality in the urinary system can all cause these issues.
One of the reasons why it’s so important to get to the bottom of this invisible illness is because frequent infections can damage the urinary system and plague you.
9. Always Sick
Were you always sick as a child? Do you remember every bug that came around you seemed to catch? The signs of a weakened immune system are hard to ignore. Many children have a compromised immune system from an underlying problem and have no clue what’s going on.
Parents catch on that their child seems to pick up every illness coming and going, but few doctors investigate it. A child who is always sick needs to be tested to see why their immune system is failing them. There may be an underlying autoimmune disease that is wreaking havoc on the body.
10. Extreme Skin Sensitivity
Children can have skin sensitivity that comes along with certain detergents used or other scented items. However, things like eczema, dermatitis, or even autism can affect how fabrics react with the skin.
Extreme skin sensitivity seems like nothing, and many parents learn to deal with it by changing detergents or trying other holistic practices. Sadly, there can be an invisible illness under the surface that is causing these irritations.
A doctor may look at it and say that it’s “goose or chicken flesh.” However, without proper testing and treatment, it can be a painful situation to endure through adulthood.
Many children struggle to deal with the pain, skin inflammation, frequent infections, joint pain, and exhaustion every day. The struggle to be like other children and play carefree outside seems to be a dream.
The medical community has evolved in the past decade, and doctors are more informed about illnesses that involve children. Did you know that you can develop a severe mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar as a child? Other things like Parkinson’s disease and diabetes can also plague the younger ones.
Parents need to take the complaints of their kids seriously. While they may be trying to get out of school or have developed hypochondriac tendencies that they use for their benefit, there is a good chance that they are telling you what’s going on the best way they know-how.
Children don’t always have the best communication system, so parents need to be in tune with their brood and listen to what they are saying. It never hurts to get an opinion from a medical specialist if a child is continuously complaining about not feeling well.