Dr Rob Hicks answers your back-to-school health Qs

We teamed up with BootsWebMD.com to host a webchat with GP Dr Rob Hicks on toddler and pre-schooler health. Here is the advice he gave:

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GP Dr Rob Hicks hosted a webchat on toddler and pre-school health to tackled all your concerns, from head lice to slapped cheek syndrome. Here is the advice he gave:

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Q: What are the most important foods I need to include in my child’s lunchbox? 

Dr Rob Hicks said: A lunch box should contain starchy foods, protein foods, a dairy food, and some fruit, vegetables or salad. Starchy foods such as rice, potato, pasta should make up about a third of the food, then include one dairy food such as a piece of cheese or a yogurt, and a portion (handful) of fruit, vegetables, or salad. Try and vary what’s in your child’s lunchbox so he doesn’t get bored!

Q: My child has a deep graze from a fall on the pavement – do you have any suggestions on how to prevent infection?

Dr Rob Hicks said: Keep an eye out for signs of infection such as redness and oozing of liquid. To prevent infections keep it clean. If you’re concerned about it then ask your GP’s advice. Keep his immunity fighting fit by maintaining a healthy diet, providing plenty of activity and rest. 

Q: My 5 year old boy has started getting travel sickness – do you have any top tips?

Dr Rob Hicks said: It’s a good idea to have a light meal before travelling, and try and ensure he has a clear view of the road ahead when in a car. Avoid activities that mean he’s looking down in his lap – singing songs or playing ‘eye-spy’ or ‘spot the red car’ help. There are over the counter travel sickness medicines available so have a word with your pharmacist about a suitable one. Acupressure wristbands are worth considering too.

Q: My son starts nursery soon and I am worried about him getting head lice – do you have any tips on how to stop him from getting them? 

Dr Rob Hicks said: Head lice are a normal part of childhood and there’s no reason to feel embarrassed if your child gets this infection. It’s difficult to prevent since the lice are passed from head to head when child play together. Once a week, check your child’s head for head lice and only if you see live lice is treatment needed. Using headlice treatments to prevent head lice is not recommended because this is ineffective. For more information visit BootsWebMD.com

Q: How many hours sleep should my 2 year old require per night and does he still need daytime naps?

Dr Rob Hicks said: Generally speaking 2 year olds need about 12 hours sleep at night, and a daytime nap of around 1-2 hours.

Q: Is it better for my 2 year old to get chickenpox now or when he is older? His friends have chickenpox and their parents are having ‘pox parties’ but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. 

Dr Rob Hicks said: Generally speaking it’s better to get chickenpox in childhood because it tends to be a much milder illness than when contracted as a teenager or an adult. The majority of people get chickenpox in childhood so personally I don’t think it’s necessary to go looking for it!

Q: My youngest has a habit of constantly putting everything he can see into his mouth. Should I mention this to the nursery or do I allow them to figure it out for themselves? 

Dr Rob Hicks said: I think it’s a good idea to let the nursery know about your son’s habit of putting things in his mouth. The nursery will obviously be aware and prepared for children’s different behaviours and will make sure there’s nothing around that could cause problems, but there’s no harm in sharing this information with them.

Q: Last year my boy was completely exhausted every time he came back from school and pretty much fell asleep as soon as he came home. Should I be looking into his diet or giving him some extra vitamins and minerals this year?

Is he getting enough sleep because if he’s not then he will probably be exhausted after a full day at school. Another thing to find out is whether he’s eating his snacks and lunch when because if he isn’t then he’s likely to be tired when he comes home. Try giving him a snack when he comes out of school as this might keep him going until teatime. Also, think about whether he’s doing too much during the day, for example, is he doing an after school club too? Perhaps ask your GP to check him over in case he’s iron deficient, for example.

Q: I have 2 children and my youngest is starting nursery – is there anything I can do to boost my little ones’ immune system? 

To boost the immune system a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables, plenty of activity, and enough sleep are essential. Try and keep your children away from cigarette smoke as this can leave them more susceptible to infection. In the UK it’s recommended that children up to the age of 5 have a daily vitamin supplement containing vitamins A, C, and D. Your health visitor will be able to advise you about a suitable one. For more information visit BootsWebMD.com

Q: I am not quite ready to send my 2 ¾ year old to nursery this year as he acted out of sorts with nursery pals. I brushed it off as shy but this behavior has continued – is this normal? 

Every child is different and this can be perfectly normal. In fact, this kind of behaviour is more common than you might think. Usually children grow out of it as they learn to socialise. It can help to set-up play dates with similar aged children who you know your son is happy around, so he gets used to social environments and you can be reassured that he plays nicely.

Q: My 2 year old son is refusing to eat any vegetables and I’m worried he may not be getting enough nutrients and will also refuse to eat veggies in his nursery meals – any tips for fussy eaters?

There are a number of ways of overcoming this challenge. For more information visit BootsWebMD.com

Q: My son has been at a prep school for the last year and now we need to move and he doesn’t want to go to a new school. Any advice on how I can make him feel less worried?

Some ideas to try to make this easier are to make at least one visit to the new school before the first day of school, and also to try and help your son meet one or more of his new classmates beforehand so when he does go to school it’s not all so ‘new’ for him. Also, arrange for a treat after the first day at school so he is focused on this positive rather than his anxiety. 

Q: My 2 year old son has a habit of storing food in his mouth until it goes dry. I am worried that if I am not there to ask him to spit out the food (at nursury) he will choke. 

Often this is something that children do for a while and then it becomes a thing of the past. However, I think a check-up with your son’s doctor is warranted to make sure there isn’t a problem that is preventing him from swallowing the food properly that needs treatment.

Q: Just had a call from my son’s nursery to say that they have a case of slapped cheek disease in the room – what is this and should I be worried?

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Slapped cheek is a common viral infection that causes the typical ‘slapped cheek’ rash and high temperature and for most people is a mild illness that doesn’t cause problems. For more information visit BootsWebMD.com

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