Wednesday, 27 August 2008


the first thing to know about eczema is that it is a common condition in childhood it affects a fifth of the children in the UK, the good news on this statistic is that 75 % of those children grow out of it by puberty.

It is thought that eczema has a genetic basis and tends to run in families. It is often associated with other conditions such as asthma or hay fever. Children with eczema have dry, sensitive skin which is easily irritated by certain chemicals (such as soaps or bubble bath solution) and by contact with woollen or polyester garments. In some children and adults for that matter, diet seems to play a role in eczema, although it is often very difficult to find the offending food. Eczema is not contagious.

It is characterised by a very itchy, red rash, usually present in patches on the elbow creases and behind the knees, although it may occur on the face, neck, hands and feet almost anywhere.

In babies it usually starts with the cheeks then moves to the wrists,ankles, folds behind the knees and on the inside of elbows. The rash may develop cracks and weep or bleed, especially when the child scratches excessively because of the itch. the scratching can cause the area to get infected by bacteria, which enter the skin via the cracks. In between attacks of eczema, the skin looks thickened and dry. Eczema usually begins at some time during the childhood, often in the first few months of life. The main truiggers seem to be soap which dries the skin, dust mites and occasionally foods such as dairy, eggs and fish.

Eczema cannot be cured. The key it living with the condition is to try to prevent severe flare-ups, the way to do that is to treat symptoms as soon as they appear. Eczema is worsened when the skin is dry, so oils and moisturising creams applied directly to the skin are helpful, as is the use of bath oils, all these things help to prevent the skin from becoming dry but be careful to only use products which are specially formulated to help with the condition or some non perfume products such as aqueous creams as perfumed products can aggravate the condition.

If your child is scratching at the rash, try putting cotton mittens on their hands at night, cut nails short and keep them clean. If their scratching becomes constant, see your doctor equally if the rash becomes infected, your doctor will probably recommend a short course of antibiotics.

If the eczema is servere your G.P. may prescribe steroid creams to help but always read the instructions very carefully and use as instructed, as this type of cream can lead to thinning of the skin.

What you can do to help
Try to dress your child in cotton clothes and more spercifically underwear as they are more comfortable for your child than woollens or synthetics, keep the child cool, as overheating can make the itch worse also avoid very hot baths or showers are also aggravating. Use creams after your childs bath to keep the skin supply and prevent it from drying. It maybe worth looking into food intolerances to see if the out breaks are linked to a food allergy

For more information try The National Eczema society at

Friday, 22 August 2008

Ear Infections

Ear infections are one of the most common illnesses in babies and young children. Most ear infections are middle ear infection, young children are more prone to these types of infections, because the tubes which connect the throat to the middle ear are softer and shorter. This means that germs can reach the middle ear more easily than in older children, whose tubes are longer and more vertical. In younger children the tubes are prone to getting blocked, so that there is less ventilation into the middle ear space.

Although they may cause fever and pain in the short-term, they usually get better with treatment and there are no long-term consequences.

Some children do have recurrent ear infections, for reasons that are still not clear, and these may lead to a condition known as ‘glue ear’ and can result in hearing loss. ‘Glue ear’ is the term used to describe the presence of thick, glue-like secretions in the middle ear. These are sometimes the consequence of repeated ear infections. Glue ear, very often affects the child’s hearing, which in turn may have an impact on the child’s speech development.

Ear infections in young children need to be seen promptly by a doctor and followed up to make sure that they don’t keep coming back.

The symptoms experienced depends on the age of the child, symptoms may include fever, irritability or drowsiness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting and sometimes diarrhoea, and headache. Younger children may tug their ear, or poke their finger inside. While sometimes ear infections are ‘silent’ and do not cause any specific symptoms, usually your child will complain of earache, or of a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear. Babies may cry a lot and pull at the affected ear, especially at night when lying down. Some children may suffer severe and intense pain in their ear. Ear infections can cause a temporary decrease in hearing, so that some children may have noticeable partial deafness during ear infections. Occasionally the eardrum may rupture (perforated eardrum), with a thick and sometimes bloody discharge. This creates some relief of the pressure that has built up in the ear as a result of the infection, and eases the pain, do not panic the burst eardrum usually heals naturally.

When an ear infection is diagnosed antibiotics are usually only given to babies and children who are very unwell, as symptoms of a middle ear infection usually get better without intervention within 24 hours. if you child is diagnosed with an ear infection an is prescribed antibiotics, even if the symptoms have improved always make sure that the child finishes the whole course of treatment, as stopping too soon could make the infection come back.

Your G.P. may tell you to give your child infant painkillers such as Calpol to help with the pain and bring down any fever

Many children who have recurrent ear infections, or a chronic infection (glue ear), may require the insertion of ventilating tubes (grommets) into the eardrum. This prevents fluid from building up behind the drum, and helps to preserve hearing. This is a very common procedure in childhood, and usually your child can be a day patient. Grommets usually fall out after 6-12 months, although sometimes special tubes are inserted which will stay in longer. Unfortunately in some children, grommets may need to be reinserted again if infections recur.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Down's syndrome

Down's syndrome is a genetic condition known as trisomy, where a person inherits an extra copy of one chromosome, chromosome 21. This additional genetic material changes the balance of the body and results in characteristic physical and intellectual features. Even with extensive research it is still not known why this abnormality occurs. Down's affects around one in 1,000 babies born in the UK, about 600 babies a year.

There are three types of Down's syndrome:

Regular trisomy 21 - all the cells have an extra chromosome 21, this is the most common type
Translocation - the extra chromosome 21 material is attached to another chromosome and one of the parent's may carry the translocated chromosome without any signs of the condition themselves. This accounts for around four per cent of all cases.

Mosaic - only some of the cells have an extra chromosome 21. Around two per cent of people with Down's have this type, which tends to result in milder features.

Most people recognise the typically flat facial profile and eyes of those with Down's syndrome. Other typical facial features include smaller ears, flat back of the head and protruding tongue. People with Down's also tend to be shorter than average with poor muscle tone and have short, broad hands with a single crease across the palm.

Medical Problems
Thera are a number of medical problems that are more common in people with Down's syndrome. Almost half have heart defects, some of which can be treated, some of which cannot. Many have stomach problems, which can make eating difficult, and thyroid gland problems.

Other physical problems include cataracts, hearing and sight problems and a susceptibility to infection. Most suffer from varying degrees of learning disability, which may range from moderate to severe. Also in later life there is an increased risk of developing leukaemia.

On a more positive note children with Down's syndrome are usually happy and extremely affectionate. Many live well into adulthood, with the average life expectancy being around 60 years.

Care and treatment
At the present there is no cure for Down's, but treatment of any accompanying health problems and support for learning difficulties allows many people with the syndrome to lead relatively normal (what ever that means) and semi-independent lives. Others, however, need full-time care it purely depends on the severity of the illness.

Risk of having a child who has Down's syndrome
The risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome increases with the age of the mother, especially over the age of 35. There is also an inreased risk of having a child with Down's syndrome if a woman already has a child with the syndrome, or if a close family member has had an affected child. However, most cases are sporadic (the parents aren't affected) and the risk of recurrence in further pregnancies is very small.

Antenatal screening
It's not possible to prevent the genetic abnormality occuring, but in recent years it has become possible to identify more accurately during pregnancy those babies most at risk. In most antenatal clinics, women are routinely offered a blood screening test (the triple test) from 14 weeks of pregnancy, which measures the level of specific substances in the blood. The results are combined with a woman's age at her expected date of delivery to give an estimated level of risk of Down's syndrome. Another method of screening available in some hospitals is the nuchal translucency test. This is an ultrasound scan performed between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy, which measures the amount of fluid at the back of the baby's neck. It's important for women to realise that both forms of screening only identify those women who are at an increased risk of having a baby with Down's, it doesn't tell them whether their baby has Down's or not.

Those women who are found to be at a higher risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome are offered the opportunity of further tests to establish whether their child has Down's or not. The tests offered may be amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. These do provide a definitive answer.
Screening for Down's syndrome isn't compulsory. Women are offered screening if they wish to know whether they're at an increased risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome. If they are, they can then decide whether to have a definitive test. If this test confirms Down's syndrome, women can then make an informed decision about continuing with their pregnancy or not.

For more information and support,
The Down's Syndrome AssociationTel: 0845 230 0372 Website:

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Diarrhoea, causes and treatments

Cleaning your child and the floor when your child has diarrhoea is unpleasant, even the most motherly woman has to admit that there are many things they would rather be doing, we have all had that nappy where its easier to put them in the shower than try to clean them, the unfortunate fact is that diarrhoea is relatively common in young children. Thankfully, it usually passes naturally after a day or two, however if your child is under 3 months it is best to see your G.P. as they can dehydrate very quickly. Always remember that if you are worried or the problem is severe or carries on more than a couple of days always seek medical advice.

There are many possible causes of diarrhoea, including food poisoning, but the most common in children is a viral infection, such as gastroenteritis. In some toddlers with chronic diarrhoea it turns out to be as simple as they are drinking too much fruit juice. Like vomiting, diarrhoea can accompany many infections, both bacterial and viral. Other causes of chronic diarrhoea include Giardia, coeliac disease, apendicitus and other less common conditions. Sadly in many toddlers, no cause for the diarrhoea can be found and most grow out of it as they get older.

Where your child is suffering from a mild case of diarrhoea the most important thing to remember is that your child has enough to drink. Your doctor or pharmacist may prescribe or suggest an oral preparation that can be used to rehydrate your child but always follow the instructions carefully. If you have a young baby who is breast or bottle fed, you should continue to feed but offer extra fluid between feeds. For older children food can generally be given after one to two days, especially if your child is hungry. It is generally best to start with bland foods such as plain biscuits, bread, rice, potato or jelly.

Our favourite was to have boiled lemonade (sound vile but it not), it was almost worth being ill to get it, I suppose the theory behind it was that when you boiled it you took out all the fizz so you were left with a sweet easily digestible liquid that would help to rehydrate you and you would get some energy from the sugar. Not sure how it would go down today probably moan about the sugar rotting their teeth or something similar but I can remember it was enjoyed three generation of our family.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Colds and flu's can lead to a cough, if there is a lot of mucus running down the back of the child’s throat. A cough tends to be a symptom of another illness and can vary in its severity depending on its cause. If your child has a temperature as well as a cough, it could be a sign of a infection. You should visit your GP they will be able to tell if it's a bacterial infection and might prescribe antibiotics to clear it up.

Things you can do to help

Trying to give a feed or a drink just before a nap this can help to soothe the throat. Help clear a chesty cough by laying your baby across your lap and patting their back gently.
  • Keep your child warm but not too hot and keep their room at a comfortable temperature. This should help stop a cough moving down the chest which could lead to an infection.
  • Use a inhalant or vapouriser in the room such as Olbas oil or use the oil it self if your child is old enough (3 months), always check the labels before you buy or use products. Most of these products are unsuitable for very small babies.
  • Take you child into the bathroom sit on the toilet and run the shower so the room fills with steam your child breathes in the steam and it should help to clear the passages ( its the child equivalent of putting your head over a bowl of steam).

  • Warning: It is worth bearing in mind that a cough or wheezing can be a sign of something more serious, such as croup, asthma, or bronchitis. If the cough lasts for more than three days or your child seems breathless, particularly irritable or has a fever, or if you are concerned in any way you should contact your GP.

    Saturday, 2 August 2008

    Cradle cap - flakey scalp

    The first thing to say about cradle cap is that it is very common. If your baby's scalp has flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or even thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches, it's most likely cradle cap.

    Cradle cap is harmless it shows up in the first few months of life, and it usually clears up on its own in about six to 12 months, although it is not uncommon of some babies to have it for several years.

    The cause of cradle cap seems to be unknown but debated. What is known for sure is that it is not caused by poor hygiene or allergies and it's not contagious. It probably doesn't bother your baby at all, although if it gets severe it might itch. In most cases it is the mothers who are bothered by the cradle cap the babies as with most things are completely oblivious.

    Do nothing ! You don't really need to do anything, but if it bothers you, try shampooing more frequently and gently brushing your baby's scalp with a soft brush or a terrycloth towel. Some parents find that rubbing olive oil into the scalp and leaving it for 15 Min's before washing it out can help to lessen the problem.
    If you are in any way worried about it or it spreads beyond the scalp speak to your G.P. about it.