As parents we are bound to worry every time something is not quite right with our children. Sometimes, however, with a bit of knowledge we can be better prepared for what life has to throw our children’s way. With that in mind, @Parental_Choice asked our “resident” GP for some tips and information on common childhood ailments and how to be prepared.
The legal bit: Please be aware that this is general information only and each child is different. If you are particularly concerned or anything is vastly out of the ordinary, please do go to your GP for any specific medical advice for your child.
Cold and cough
On the whole these are viral and get better by themselves. A lot of parents are surprised that a cough after a cold can last up to 4 weeks and this can be quite normal. Also the amount of flem and the colour does not give any indication that this is a chest infection rather than just a normal cold as quite often children are coughing up the nasal discharge that has trickled down the back of their throat (nice I know!). As a rule of thumb if your child is alert, happy drinking fluids and playing, these are all reassuring signs that nothing much is affecting them. Antibiotics do not work for viral coughs and colds and should not be prescribed.
Children who have problems with their immune system or chest complaints like asthma or congenital heart problems may shake off colds and coughs less quickly than children with no medical difficulties and should be checked over by a GP. Other concerning signs are a temperature that will not go down despite paracetamol and ibuprofen ( both together), not drinking fluids for more than 24 hours, difficulty in breathing, decreased urine production, non-blanching rash anywhere, neck stiffness or an inability to look at bright light. If your child has any of these symptoms medical advice should be sought urgently.
Ear infections are divided into inner ear and outer ear infections. If there is discharge from your child’s ear and moving the ear lobe hurts then this may be an outer ear infection. This is usually treated with sprays or drops and it is necessary to get these from your GP on prescription. If there is no discharge or if there is discharge and moving the earlobe does not cause additional pain then this is likely to be an inner ear infection. Over 80 percent of these are viral and so most GPs will wait 3-4 days treating with pain killers to see if the infection clears by itself. If there is still an infection after this time bacterial infection is more likely and so at this stage a prescription for antibiotics may be given. Sometimes what can happen during an acute infection is that the ear drum can perforate. If this occurs then a small amount of blood may appear in the ear discharge with a sudden abrupt cessation of the pain as the pressure behind the ear drum is released. Perforations are not dangerous and cannot be prevented. Most perforations heal in a few weeks. If you are concerned after this time regarding your child’s hearing you should see your GP.
With one in three children getting nits at some point each year, nits are a common childhood ailment. The only way to be 100% sure that your child has nits is by finding live head lice or nits in your child’s hair. If you find nits, your child and everyone in your household must be treated immediately. There are numerous products available at your local pharmacy, supermarket or on-line but there is no need to see your GP. Some treatments such as electric nit combs or tree and plant oil treatments, such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and lavender oil herbal remedies are not recommended as they haven’t been found to work. There is nothing you can do to prevent headlice but dealing it effectively and quickly will at least stop the itching and prevent anyone else getting them.
Threadworms (pinworms) are tiny worms in your poo. They’re common in children and spread easily. The signs of worms are extreme itching around the anus or vagina, particularly at night and irritability and waking up during the night. You can often see the worms around your child’s bottom at night. You can treat them without seeing your GP and can easily get medicine over the counter at your local pharmacy. Everyone in your household will need to be treated twice as although the medicine kills the threadworms, it doesn’t kill the eggs. Eggs can live for up to 2 weeks outside the body. To avoid getting recurrent bouts of worms, make sure that everyone washes their hands and scrubs under their nails before every meal and after going to the toilet, surfaces must be regularly disinfected and children should be encouraged to wear pants at night (and then change them in the morning). Avoid sharing towels and flannels and try to stop your children from sucking their thumbs or biting their nails.
This is a very common rash in childhood and the spots do go away by themselves but this can take a couple of years. It is however the best option as most of the medical treatments that effectively clear the spots can scar the skin. Occasionally the spots can become infected. If any of the Molluscum spots get red or sore and this persists see your GP.
This is a bacterial infection of the skin. It is common and not dangerous however it usually needs antibiotic cream to clear it. Impetigo has a classic yellow discolouration to it.
These usually again clear by themselves given enough time however there are a great deal of effective over the counter medications. The quickest way to get rid of verrucas is to have them treated by a chiropodist at the same time as applying daily salicylic acid containing preparations that are available from the pharmacy. Another option is to have them treated with cryotherapy in the GP surgery. However this is normally reserved for verrucas that are difficult to treat and is not offered by all surgeries.
These are very common in childhood. These can be left as the body will eventually clear these itself. However if you wish to speed this up there are many OTC medications from the pharmacy available. Again if they are proving difficult to treat cryotherapy through the surgery if available is an option.
Many thanks to our “resident” GP for these tips. Again if you have any particular concerns relating to your child, do please go directly to your GP. The above is general information only.