Spotting the signs of minor childhood illnesses

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Information & Advice

Spotting the signs of minor childhood illnesses

Tots are frequently picking up minor bugs and ailments which can be a worry for parents. But often, as Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers explains, there's nothing to worry about

"They're just not themselves," is a sentence Angela Chalmers often hears when worried parents bring their children into the Boots pharmacy where she works.

Often, says Angela, a pharmacist for seven years, parents can't put their finger on exactly why their little one is suffering. They just know they're not their usual robust little selves.

Children and illnesses: Under the weather

"As a parent, your radar will be triggered," says Angela. "You'll often take one look at your child and know they're feeling under the weather.

"They may seem a bit grizzly, have a bit of a temperature or be off their food. They may have developed a rash or have become constipated."

Because your child's immune system is still developing, it means they are more susceptible to viruses.

"A virus can affect their whole body and trigger off lots of symptoms," explains Angela.

Illness in children: How high is too high?

Normal human body temperature for under fives is 37.5C. In children, any temperature of 38C or above is considered high and is classed as a fever. If your child's temperature is over 39C, you should see a doctor straight away.

Your child’s fever may result from an infection or an illness such as flu or an ear infection. Ear thermometers can give you an accurate reading and enable you to measure your child’s temperature while they sleep. The Brother Max 3-in-1 Digital Thermometer measures ear, forehead and room temperature fast and accurately. The Digital Ear Thermometer, meanwhile, takes just a second to give readings.

Illness in babies: New mum worries

Around a fifth of infants suffer from colic - spates of crying that go on for hours for no apparent reason. Although distressing for the child and exhausting for the parents, the condition itself is harmless and usually ends by the time a child is four months old.

Watch this video with Boots pharmacist Sibby Buckle to learn tips that may help with colic and other new mum worries, such as teething and breastfeeding.

Illness in babies and children: What if I see a rash?

Check to see if your child's illness is accompanied by a skin rash. If your child develops a rash on their face or body, keep them comfortable. It might help if there's a window open in their room to keep them cool and if they're wearing light cotton clothing. If you suspect the rash may be associated with an illness such as chickenpox or measles, see a pharmacist or doctor. If your baby's rash resembles red pin-prick marks or purple bruises and doesn't fade when you put a glass on them, you should seek medical advice immediately since these can be symptoms of meningitis. Other symptoms of meningitis may include a temperature higher than 38C (100.4F), a stiff body, vomiting and shivering and an aversion to light.

Illness in children and babies: What to eat during diarrhoea

Even if babies have diarrhoea, it is important to keep feeding them milk. With older children, go for small portions of plain food like crackers, boiled rice, a piece of toast or soup. Try giving them water or diluted fruit juice. Speak to your pharmacist. You should also keep a careful eye on your child and make sure they are hydrated.

“Dehydration can happen very quickly in little ones and can be serious,” says Angela.

If your child is struggling to keep food down, you might like to consider using rehydration sachets. The dose is different, depending on the age of your child, so always check the label and read the packet instructions. If problems persist or you suspect your child is seriously dehydrated, seek medical assistance immediately. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes and decreased frequency of urine or dry nappies. Sometimes super-absorbent nappies make it difficult to tell if this is happening, but if you place a ball of cotton wool in their nappy, it’s normally a good indicator as to whether your baby is passing urine.

Illness in children: Helping with pain

If your child seems to be in pain - perhaps if they're complaining of a tummy ache - and they're off their food, it may be related to their diet. You may wish to consider whether they're getting plenty of fruit and vegetables. Check whether they're constipated. They may just wish to lie down with a hot water bottle for half an hour but, if the symptoms don't clear up, seek medical advice. If the tummy ache is accompanied by vomiting, speak to a pharmacist or doctor to check if the problem is serious.

Illness and babies: Teething pains

If your baby is suffering with teething pains, you may like to consider giving them paracetamol which can be administered without food. Always read the packet instructions regarding dosage and minimal age. Only give ibuprofen and paracetamol together if the GP recommends it and try to stagger the dosage. Perhaps you could keep a diary of the dosages to remind you because it's easy to get confused.

Never give aspirin to a child under 16


Illness in babies and children: When to contact your GP

If your child’s symptoms don’t clear up, it’s best to see your GP. With babies, you may want to see your doctor a little bit quicker.

Illness in babies and children: Parents know best

Childhood illnesses can be alarming for parents because of the speed with which they take hold. Bear in mind they can clear up quite quickly too. But remember: you know your child best. If you have any concerns that the illness isn’t clearing up, seek medical advice.

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