Children's Health

Early Childhood Health

Children, the jewel of our lives, the future of the world….and the constant state of worry that parents feel the minute the little babies are born. The health of children is the main concern for parents. Children, even at birth, are highly susceptible to diseases. Some of them are already born to be hypersensitive to environmental conditions. Not all types of medications or clinical treatments are safe for administering to children. And because children develop and change at a higher rate than adults, the changes in their health states is a special concern. This is why complete children's health, which include all persons below the age of eighteen, is a separate field of discipline in medicine.

Common Children's Health Problems

Some common children's health issues are

Chicken Pox

Chicken pox is a common condition that usually affects children rather than adults. This condition is a viral infection caused by the strain of varicella zoster viruses, which keeps the symptoms for about two to three weeks. Chicken pox is characterized by decreased activity, fever, and loss of appetite. After a couple of days, the child will develop a rash all over the body. These rashes are bumps of various sizes, often looking like blisters with clear fluid inside.

After a few days to over a week, the blisters will dry up and encrust. There is no easy way of preventing the spread of the rash. The best thing to do is prevent your child from scratching the blisters, and the itchiness can be relieved using calamine lotion or antihistamine. Keep your child in loose-fitting clothes and keep his body cool to avoid skin irritation. Oral medication for chicken pox is acyclovir which is an anti-viral drug. A child who has acquired chicken pox is highly unlikely to have it again.

Asthma

Asthma is another condition that is a common cause for the absence of many children from school. Studies have shown that parents who have asthma are likely to have children with the same condition. Asthma is an allergy to airborne substances such as dust, pollen, dander, spores, and other chemicals. When the allergen enters the respiratory tract, the lining of the windpipe may inflame, preventing effective air passage, hence difficulty in breathing. Children are often prescribed with asthma inhalers to be used on a regular basis.

Common Cold and Flu

Common cold and influenza can easily be acquired by children. Because both are viral infections, they are transmissible to the body through air and dirty hands. Whenever a child with dirty hands touches his mouth, eyes, or nose, the viruses can enter the body and cause the symptoms. It is recommended that children often wash their hands our use sanitizers after playing and before eating. To relieve the symptoms of the common cold or of flu, a child can take nasal decongestants for runny noses. A lot of fluids, bed rest, and vitamin C can also help a child recover faster.

Children's Health Information

In the developed countries, information is readily available for new parents on how to care for infants and as they grow into toddlers. Children's better health relies on good food and nutrition, proper exercise and outdoor activity, fair amount of sleep, and challenges for the mind. All of these contribute to the general well-being and vibrant health of a child.

Children's Nutritional Needs

Right now there exists a crisis for children’s health in the areas of nutrition. More than ever, children are overweight or considered obese. On the other hand, more and more younger kids, especially girls, are suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. In a well-developed country like Canada, there are more than one million children who live below the poverty line. 50% of all food bank users are children. However, poverty is not the only reason why children are malnourished. Children from well-off families are going to school hungry, as statistics show that 40% of them do not eat breakfast on a daily basis. Hunger than interferes with learning and studying. Nutrition is such an important part of a developing child’s life, and there are many resources available for parents who would like to know more.

Children's Fitness

Out door activity and fresh air reinvigorates a child, and allows them to expend energy in a safe environment. Children will find anything to play with, so big expensive swing sets and swimming pools are not necessary. The exercise is necessary for young bones and muscles to grow and develop strong. The added bonus of the child getting worn out and dropping off to sleep at an earlier bedtime is much appreciated as well by parents. When children don’t have exposure to fresh air and sunlight, they become pale, withdrawn, and weak. Sunshine provides much needed Vitamin D.

Sleep is an important part of children's health and fitness. Sleep is a big challenge for parents of young babies and children. Lack of sleep has been linked to diabetes in adults, as well as poor work performance, sleep deprivation, and the inability to cope with normal everyday emotional challenges. Sleep deprivation in children is, unfortunately, a reality in our society. Our society is curving towards a 24-hour schedule, and not only does that effect adults’ health and sleep patterns, but it trickles down to children as well. Chronic sleep problems occur in children when they just don’t get enough sleep, and it begins to manifest itself in their behavior during daylight hours. They can become cranky, moody, withdrawn, lose concentration, and aggressive. Current evidence also suggests that lack of sleep can make a child more likely to become overweight. Children’s immune systems also depend on sleep to make them stronger against sickness that is rampant is daycare and school settings.

Children's Mental Health

Challenging the mind is another way to make sure your child’s health is at its optimum. The mind is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it’s not fed enough. When a child is not stimulated, boredom, irritation, and annoyance set in. Challenging children with puzzles, reading, and games is a good way to keep the mind strong, and ready to accept more difficult challenges that lay ahead. Challenging children with boredom is also a good way for them to discover imagination and pretend play. Children don’t need stimulation all the time and quiet free time allows for exploration and discovery on their own.

Some Common Childhood Mental Health Problems

Depression
Anxiety
Behavior Disorders
ADD-ADHD
Note: For detailed information on the above, please visit the respective section in our health site.

Signs of Children's Emotional Health Problems

Its important to recognize a child's mental health problems and treat these at the earliest since a child's daily life and studies can get effected. Without help, these problems worsen over time and can even lead to serious consequences such as crime or suicide.

Your child might be experiencing mental/emotional issues if he/she exhibits any of the following behaviors.

1. Sudden decline in school performance
2. Always anxious or worried
3. Developing unexplained fears, overreacting to things, violent behavior.
4. Loss of interest in activities earlier he/she enjoyed.
5. Staying alone and avoiding friends and family.
6. Difficulty sleeping, nightmares and loss of appetite.
7. Inability to focus and sit still.

Helping with Children's Mental Health Issues

1. Do not ignore or dismiss your child's mental or emotional issues.
2. Talk to your child and try advocating him/her.
3. Seek professional counseling if you feel necessary.

Children's Dental Health

Children's oral health care should start even before his teeth comes in. After feeding your baby, wipe his/her gums with a soft, damp cloth. This helps prevent the bacteria buildup which otherwise occur and is helpful. When the first teeth appear, start cleaning your baby's teeth using a soft baby toothbrush. Once your child is old enough, about pre school age, start using a toothpaste having fluoride. Make sure you help your child with the brushing. Use only about a pea sized amount of toothpaste, since young children tend to swallow the toothpaste and too much can cause permanent stains on the teeth. Also help your child with the brushing initially, until such a times as when he is able to do it itself.

Using Fluoride Tablets:

Fluoride is an important part of a child's dental health. If enough fluoride is not available from the water itself, with the doctor's prescription your baby may be given fluoride tablets once he/she is ab6 months old. However, make sure you don't over dose your child and stick to the directions of the doctor.

Cavities

Cavities are formed by bacteria which uses the sugar in foods to make acid which eats away at the teeth. Its important to prevent your child's from teeth from forming cavities.

Cavities Risk Factors

1) If your child eats a lot of sweetened foods like candies, cookies, ice cream etc.
2) If your child dinks a lot of sweetened liquids (fruit juices, soda and cold drinks etc.)
3) If your child was born prematurely or weighed very little at birth.
4) Has white or brown spots on teeth
5) If not taken to visit the doctor regularly.

Preventing Cavities

Make sure your child brushes twice daily in order to prevent cavities. Take your child on regular dentist visits and have the dentist show the right way to brush a child's teeth.

Maintaining a Teeth Friendly Diet

Eat limited sweets and sweetened drinks.
Avoid eating much sticky food.
Have snacks such as fruits, vegetables, crackers etc.

Bottle Mouth Problem

When sweetened liquid like milk or juice stays in contact with teeth for long, tooth decay occurs. Baby bottles can cause such tooth decay for your baby. This condition is called bottle mouth and your baby's tooth can develop cavities or become discolored. Therefore, avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle, unless its pure water and its important that your child learns to drink out of a cup as soon as possible.

Children's Eye Health and Safety

Good vision is important to everyone. Without it, a child would find it difficult to learn and grow. Almost 20% of toddlers and one in every four school-age child has vision problems. Since these problems can start at a very young age, your child should receive proper eye care. If left untreated, these problems only worsens and might lead to other serious complications as well as hampering a child's growth and personality by affecting his ability to learn.

The following signs can help you decide if your child might have an eye problem. Check your child's eye for the following
1. If they don't line up or appear crossed,
2. If the eyelids are red, or swollen.
3. If the eyes are watery or red and inflamed.

Its also important to see how your child behaves. Observe if your child does the following often:

1. rubs eyes a lot
2. closes or covers either eye or tilts the head in one direction
3. Faces trouble reading or doing other activities requiring objects to be held close to eye.
4. Holds objects close to them to see.
5. Blink more than usual, squirts the eyes or frowns often or has a blurry vision.

At the same time do not dismiss your child's complaints.

1. If your child complains about itchy or burning eyes, or says his eyes are scratchy or cannot see well, its not normal.
2. If after doing activities requiring objects to be held close to eye, he/she complains about dizziness, headache or nausea.
3. If your child complains about blurry vision, or complains about seeing double.

Even if you child is not complaining about eye problem, or shows any unusual signs, it does not mean that he or she does not have any eye problem. Regular eye check up for your child is therefore necessary for maintaining your child's eye health.

Steps for a good eyesight

Vision screening and eye examinations should start right from the time your child is born. Newborn babies should get their eyes checked at the hospital nursery itself. This examination should check the general eye health of the baby and normally includes a red reflex test. The red reflex test screens for abnormalities in the eye's posterior segment and also for opacities such as cataracts and corneal opacities. The examiner checks whether the 2 red reflexes in either eye are present or not and whether they are symmetrical or not. The examiner also checks for any dark spots on the red reflex, blunted red reflex and the presence of a white reflex. If any of these are present, the baby should be referred to an ophthalmologist immediately.

From birth to about 2 years of age, regular eye examinations are necessary and the following should be tested within that period.

Eyelids and orbits;
Structures of the eyes;
Motility;
Eye muscle balance;
Pupils

Preventing eye injuries

Every year many young children have eye accidents while playing, at home or even while traveling. The eye injuries can even cause blindness. Take the following precautionary measures to prevent eye accidents for your child.

1. Avoid letting your child play with dangerous toys having sharp edges or hard spikes or rod. Don't let your child to play with toys that fly or shoots if he/she does not understand the dangers. while buying a toy , make sure you check whether it is appropriate for your child's age or not- read all warnings and instructions.

2. While playing sports that can possibly injure your child's eye (like cricket, baseball etc), make sure he/she wear proper protection gears.

3. At home make sure you baby proof your house and keep all sharp and pointed objects out of the reach of your child. Also put all harmful household products like detergents, paints, glue, cleaning solutions away safely.

4. While traveling make sure your baby is strapped in the baby seat. Children below 12 years of age should not sit on the front seat of the car. Store any luggage in the trunk of the car.

Children are an important part of the human culture, and steps should be taken to ensure that they all grow up safe and happy and smart. Children's health and wellness is therefore a primary responsibility of a parent. Good nutrition, good sleep, and a good education all help them develop into happy healthy adults.

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