Your child’s health

Our family GP gives you all the facts you need about your child’s health

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Additives in orange squash could make your child hyperactive

Q. Does my toddler need to be taking vitamin tablets?

A. Unless a toddler is drinking a lot of formula milk, yes, they do. The Department of Health actually recommends daily vitamins (A, C and D) for all children aged 6 months to 5 years unless they’re drinking over 500ml of formula.

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Breastfed babies may need vitamins even earlier, so if you think you should, discuss it with your health visitor. This is because children often don’t have enough of these vitamins in their diet. Try and make sure you’re encouraging your little one to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, too, so vitamins naturally become part of her diet as she grows.

Toddler BMI

BMI (body mass index) is used to check whether we’re at a healthy weight for our height, but you may not have considered your toddler’s BMI – until now.Department of Health growth charts now have a column for plotting BMI for children over the age of 2. If your child seems heavy for his height based on the new charts, the doctor can calculate BMI on a separate graph. BMI for a child under 4 should be on the 25th-75th centile (lines on the chart plotted between height and weight). A BMI above the 91st centile suggests your child is overweight. However, you should never put a small child on a diet. Instead, discuss it with your GP or health visitor and continue a healthy diet and lots of physical exercise and you should find the BMI levels out to a healthier number.

Did you know…

  • Only 4% of a baby boy’s foreskin can be pulled back. This expands to 90% by the age of 3
  • At least 1 in 500 babies are born with an extra toe or finger
  • 5 to 8% of pre-school children suffer from speech delay
  • 1 in 4 3 year olds are obese

Foreskin facts

  • It’s normal not to be able to pull the foreskin back totally when he’s a baby. It’ll free up as he grows.
  • The foreskin can balloon out when boys wee. All is OK if he’s producing a good stream of urine.
  • Once he’s old enough to wash himself, it’s really important to show him how to clean under his foreskin.
  • If there’s any pain, redness or discharge talk to your GP as it could mean there’s an infection.
  • If the foreskin can’t be fully pulled back by age 7, see your GP who may prescribe steroid cream or refer you to a surgeon for advice.

Can sugary drinks make children hyperactive?

A recent study has shown no behavioural difference in children given a sugary drink and those given one with sweeteners.

However, there are a number of additives that can affect behaviour in children. If your child appears to be hyperactive, make sure that you check labels for additives E102 (often found in squash, cordial and coloured fizzy drinks), E104, E110 (often found in orange squash), E122, E124 and E129, and aim to avoid them.

New diagnosis methods for jaundice

The way doctors test for jaundice in babies could change if new guidelines are put into place. The condition, which can affect most babies to some degree, is harmless in the majority of cases. It’s usually spotted when a baby’s skin goes a yellow colour due to the deposit of a waste product called bilirubin. But blood tests would be a surer way of diagnosing it, say experts at the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Ways to help eczema

  • Avoid soaps as they can make eczema worse. There are soap substitutes which are better for use on children with eczema.
  • Moisturise regularly as this will help relieve itching and help reduce the number of flare-ups.
  • Consider a water softener if you live in a hard water area. Hard water can make eczema worse.
  • Reduce house dust mites. Many children with eczema react to house dust mite allergens. Wash bedding at 60ºC to kill the bugs.
  • Use steroid cream on acute flare ups for up to a week at a time. If it doesn’t settle, see your GP again.

Steps to dealing with a burn

  • Hold the burnt area under cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Remove clothes from area unless they’re stuck, in which case leave them.
  • Cover the burn with something clean and non-fluffy such as a tea towel or dressing.
  • Use painkillers at age-appropriate doses.
  • Seek medical help if the burn is severe or on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

Spraying away glue ear

One of the most common causes of hearing problems in toddlers is glue ear in which fluid builds up behind the eardrum. It often develops after an ear infection and GPs usually advise a child should be monitored for a few months.

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If hearing loss persists, your child will be referred to a specialist who may suggest using grommets (tiny tubes inserted through the eardrum to allow air in behind it). However, new tests in Sweden have shown nasal sprays could be more effective. It’s thought spraying inside the nose helps fire up the immune system and unblock the ears. A spray could be on the market in two years, but see your GP now if you’re concerned.

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