A number of factors can cause a child to develop a headache, such as stress, lack of sleep, skipped meals and certain medications. Other times a child may suffer from a headache due to a common illness or infection, such as a cold or flu. And in serious cases, head trauma or an underlying condition such as meningitis could be causing the child’s headache. That’s why it’s important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s headache patterns.
Although it’s easy for parents to worry, most headaches in children are rarely a sign of something serious. However, parents should contact their child’s pediatrician if the child has unexplained or recurring headaches over a short period of time or on a regular basis.
Parents should also notify their pediatrician if the child’s headache is accompanied by one or any combination of these symptoms:
- Double vision, weakness in a limb or loss of balance
- Disabling pain that does not improve with over-the-counter pain medication
- Interrupted sleep
- Decreased level of alertness
- Change in personality
To help pinpoint the causes of your child’s headaches, parents should keep a diary of their child’s symptoms. Track when headaches occur, how long they last, the severity of the headache and if anything provides relief. Over time, your notes can help you and your pediatrician understand the child’s symptoms to reach a diagnosis and proper treatment plan.
Your child’s pediatrician may also ask you a series of questions to determine the source of your child’s headaches:
- Do the headaches follow a pattern or do they change over time?
- Has your child recently suffered a serious injury?
- What seems to help or worsen headaches?
- Does your child take any medications or have any past medical issues?
- Does your child have allergies?
- Is there a history of headaches in your family?
In many cases, a child’s headache may be relieved at home with simple care. Over-the-counter pain medications, rest and avoiding those triggers that prompt headaches may be enough to ease the pain.
Remember, headaches are not always a symptom of something more serious. However, parents should be mindful of the types of headaches their child has and how frequently they occur. If you suspect something is wrong or not normal, always contact your pediatrician for an appointment.
Especially during the younger years, adequate food and nutrition is vital for a child’s growth and development. But for some children, a snack or meal as simple as a peanut butter sandwich or a cup of milk can cause serious health problems. So, what’s a parent to do when they suspect their child is allergic to a certain food?
A food allergy is the abnormal response of the immune system to a food. It’s possible to be allergic to any food, but these particular foods are responsible for the majority of allergies: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and peanuts. Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerance, or food sensitivity, which is more common and less severe.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction typically occur within just moments to an hour after the child ingests a food. They can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, so it’s important for parents to understand what to do if they suspect their child is having an allergic reaction to food. Symptoms will vary for each child, but the most common telltale signs include:
- Trouble breathing
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat
- Light-headedness or loss of consciousness
Food allergy symptoms often resemble other medical conditions, so always contact your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis. If you suspect your child has a food allergy, remove that particular food from your child’s diet immediately. If the allergic reaction is severe, seek medical care right away.
The good news is that food allergies are often outgrown during early childhood. Your pediatrician or allergist can perform tests to pinpoint and track your child's food allergies They can also work with you to modify and manage your child’s diet to ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition for growth and development without putting them at risk for additional allergic reactions.
It may seem like your teenager is ignoring you, but in reality, they may be having trouble hearing you. More and more we see kids listening to their MP3 players while doing homework, walking to school or riding in the car. The result? A surge in hearing loss.
For years, studies have shown that constant exposure to loud sound damages hearing. In fact, between the mid-1990s and 2006 there was a 31 percent increase in the prevalence of hearing problems among U.S. adolescents, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers suggest that one in every five teens today has some sort of hearing impairment.
Chronic exposure to loud noise may not cause hearing loss in the short term, but it can gradually result in irreversible hearing loss later in adult years. Even slight hearing loss can have a negative impact on a child’s academic success and social interaction. Warning signs of potential hearing loss include: difficulty following directions, asking that things be repeated, trouble with speech and language and listening to the TV at a high volume.
With the prevalence of music devices only gaining popularity, parents need to be particularly aware of their kids’ music-listening habits and educate them about the dangers of excessive noise.
To mitigate hearing loss, talk to your kids about how to use their music players properly to protect their ears from hearing damage.
- Teach kids to never play their music devices at full volume.
- Monitor your child’s music volume and frequency.
- If you can hear the music from the child’s ear buds, then the music is too loud.
- Explain to your child the importance of wearing ear protection when they are in an environment with loud noises for long periods of time, such as concerts.
The difficult truth about hearing loss is that in many cases it is not reversible, and it can even be progressive over time. Talk to your kids about the dangers of hearing loss now, and keep the volume and length of their listening to a minimum.
Whenever you have questions about your child’s hearing, talk to your pediatrician.
A baby’s soft, smooth skin is delicate, making it susceptible to diaper rash, a common and mild irritation of the skin that causes redness in the area where the diaper is worn. Most cases of diaper rash are caused by excessive moisture from leaving a wet or soiled diaper on for too long. The baby’s skin becomes red, irritated and prone to chafing. Painful sores can develop, and the baby becomes vulnerable to yeast and bacterial infections.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of babies between 4 months and 15 months of age will experience diaper rash at least one time in a two-month period. Diaper rash is most common between 8 to 10 months of age, or when a baby is introduced to solid foods, which increases the frequency of bowel movements.
Soothing Your Baby’s Diaper Rash
If your baby develops diaper rash, one way to improve its condition is to change his or her diaper frequently. Other helpful ways to treat diaper rash include:
- Rinsing the affected area with warm water and a soft washcloth
- Pat dry; never rub
- Avoid baby wipes that contain alcohol or are fragranced
- Allow your baby’s bottom to air out whenever possible
Preventing Diaper Rash
Parents may not be able to prevent diaper rash completely, but you can do a lot to keep the irritation to a minimum. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends the following steps to keep diaper rash at bay:
- Apply a heavy layer of diaper ointment or cream to your baby’s bottom after every change.
- Leave breathing room in the baby’s diaper, and avoid putting the diapers on too tightly as it will trap moisturize and prevent air circulation.
- Switch diaper brands or use extra absorbent diapers to whisk away moisture and keep skin dry.
- Change the baby’s diaper immediately after it becomes wet—this is the key to preventing diaper rash.
The good news is that preventing and treating a diaper rash is fairly easy, and most breakouts can be resolved in just a few days. Call your pediatrician if the rash won’t go away or doesn’t improve after a few days. You should also bring your child to see his or her pediatrician if the rash is accompanied by blisters, a fever or pain.
Children need physical activity on a regular basis to keep them healthy and strong. It’s unfortunate that many kids today are considered overweight. In fact, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. And in 2008, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
The effects of obesity on a child’s health can be severe. Overweight children are more prone to chronic illnesses as well as a poor self-image during childhood. It's critical that kids are getting the right amount of exercise in order to regulate obesity, promote heart and lung fitness, and prevent other serious illnesses. Adopting healthy habits at a young age can keep kids fit and healthy into adulthood.
So as a parent, how do you find the time to stay active and healthy? And how can you make physical activity fun and enjoyable for your child? To help kids stay fit while having fun, follow these helpful tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Set a good example and embrace a healthier lifestyle for yourself. Children who see a parent making health and fitness a priority will be more inclined to do the same.
- Limit TV time to two hours a day to encourage physical activity elsewhere.
- Keep physical activity fun and enjoyable so that your child wants to participate again and again.
- In combination with an active lifestyle, provide well-balanced meals and promote healthy food choices.
- Talk to grandparents, teachers, and other caretakers about your expectations for fitness so that you can work together to encourage healthy activity when your child is away from home.
- Turn mundane tasks, such as raking leaves, into a fun family activity that involves exercise.
- Learn your child’s interests and suggest team sports, such as soccer as a great way to keep kids active and fit on a regular basis.
Combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle for your entire family. Parents can turn exercise into a lifelong habit by making fitness a part of their daily schedule. When your child is interested in physical activity at a young age, exercise and fitness are more likely to become a routine that lasts for years in years.
Questions about fitness or nutrition? Talk to your pediatrician for advice and suggestions for promoting a healthier lifestyle for your family.
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