Saturday, 27 September 2008

Muscular dystrophy

We say that a child has muscular dystrophy but in actual fact it is an umbrella term for many different diseases. The muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of more than 30 genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement. Some forms of MD are seen in infancy or childhood, while others may not appear until middle age or later. The disorders differ in terms of the distribution and extent of muscle weakness, age of onset, rate of progression, and pattern of inheritance.

There is currently no specific treatment to stop or reverse any form of MD. Treatment may include physical therapy, respiratory therapy, speech therapy, orthopaedic appliances used for support, and corrective orthopaedic surgery. Drug therapy includes corticosteroids to slow muscle degeneration, anticonvulsants to control seizures and some muscle activity, immunosuppressant’s to delay some damage to dying muscle cells, and antibiotics to fight respiratory infections. Some individuals may benefit from occupational therapy and assistive technology. Some patients may need assisted ventilation to treat respiratory muscle weakness and a pacemaker for cardiac abnormalities.

The prognosis for people with MD varies according to the type and progression of the disorder. Some cases may be mild and progress very slowly over a normal lifespan, while others produce severe muscle weakness, functional disability, and loss of the ability to walk. Some children with MD die in infancy while others live into adulthood with only moderate disability.
For more information on this topic try Muscular Dystrophy Campaign at

Monday, 22 September 2008


There has been a noted increase in the number of cases of measles in recent years, this is thought to be as a result of parents deciding not to have their child immunised due to the controversy over the MMR vaccine.

Measles is caused by a virus that is spread by droplets. The virus is passed on through direct contact with someone who's infected, for example by touching or kissing them, or through breathing in contaminated air. It's fairly easy to catch if you haven't been vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has the infection, which is why epidemics often occurred among school children.

The infectious period is from four days before the rash to four days after it's appeared. Unfortunately, it's most infectious before the rash appears so people tend to spread the virus before they realise they have it, it is best to inform anyone who has been in contact with the child in this period that they have measles, as people of any age can get it.

It's most common among those aged between one and four, all children who have not been vaccinated are at risk from measles, and those who have problems with their immune system may have a more severe case of measles.

The symptoms take about ten to 14 days to develop after exposure to the virus, the early symptoms are like a cold, with runny nose, cough, conjunctivitis and fever, a few of days later, tiny white spots surrounded by red may develop on the inside lining of the cheeks, so they are difficult to see. The measles rash appears a day or two later, starting behind the ears or on the face and spreading down across the body.
It's a fine red rash which becomes blotchy and confluent, it fades after three to four days and should be completely gone after a week or so.

The infection isn't usually serious but there are potential complications that can be fatal, even for otherwise healthy children. These are rare but include otitis media, pneumonia, hepatitis, conjunctivitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Encephalitis or inflammation of the brain may develop a few days after the rash has appeared, and a quarter of those who get this complication will be left with brain damage and a devastating but extremely rare illness called sub acute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). This progressive illness may develop many years after the first bout of measles and is eventually fatal. Fortunately, it's very rare, occurring in fewer than one in 100,000 cases.

It is important to see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis as although rare, complications can be very dangerous. In most cases children may be treated at home with pain and fever-reducing syrups such as Calpol, always check it is the right product for your child age and they should be encouraged to drink fluids. Very rarely hospital treatment, with antiviral drugs, may be needed in more serious cases.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Heat Rash

Heat rash takes the form of tiny blisters which appear in newborn babies. It's often caused by the sweat glands which are not fully developed in babies, and can become blocked if the baby is too hot. This is why heat rash is commonly seen in newborn babies during summer. It may also appear during a fever, or simply when a baby has been overdressed.

It takes the form of pinkish blebs or small blisters which usually appear over the face, neck and in skin folds, especially in the nappy area. If infected, they may become pus-filled, and you should seek medical advice.

You can help by giving your child a luke warm bath, dressing them in light cotton clothing. The rash should disappear in two to three days. If your baby is scratching the spots, speak to your doctor or child health nurse about which creams may help.

Warning: Seek medical attention if

  • the spots become inflamed or pus-filled (yellow or green). This means that they have become infected, and need treatment
  • the rash lasts more than two to three days
  • in addition to having a rash, your baby is generally unwell, has a fever or is not feeding well
  • you are concerned

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Head Lice

Remember the nit nurse, thankfully those days of ritual humiliation and terror are gone but the down side is that if your child has head lice it may take a while before they notice, its a good idea to check every time you wash their hair those little buggers can arrive at any time.

Head lice often called nits unsurprisingly given the name like to live on heads, they are extremely common in children, often first noticed due to the presence of eggs in the child’s hair. they are spread from person to person by close contact, despite close attention to hygiene, the adult then lays egg in the next person’s hair which usually takes about a week to hatch, and the cycle begins again.

The first sign of head lice is usually itching the head, especially the nape of the neck and behind the ears. If you look closely at your child’s hair, you will see many small, white, oval-shaped eggs firmly attached to the root of the hair shaft, close to the scalp. The further away from the scalp, the longer the nit has been there (hair grows at the rate of 0.3 mm a day). The adult insects themselves move very quickly and are difficult to see unless you part the hair very quickly and you see one jump. There is no need to chase them, the fact that there are eggs are good enough evidence of their presence.

There are many different types of Anti-lice shampoos that are available from the chemist without a prescription, they are simple to use and effective. If you do choose to use them then do so strictly according to instructions.

For a more natural cure try hair conditioner. Apply a very generous amount of conditioner to dampened hair, and rub into the scalp and along the hair shafts. Leave on for at least 15 minutes. You may place a shower cap over your child’s head while you are waiting. The action of the conditioner is to suffocate the lice, which then release their claws from the hair shaft or scalp. A fine-toothed lice comb can then be used to comb out the conditioner. Use a tissue or tap water in the sink to rinse the comb between strokes. You will often see lice bodies that you have combed out. It is said that this treatment needs to be repeated every 2-3 days for two weeks, but it is very effective. Remember that there is no need to shave or cut your child’s hair, the little lice have no preference as to length and for that matter age.

Lice are highly contagious, and can spread rapidly between families and between children in the same class. If you find lice in you child’s head check the whole family, and even if you do not see any eggs or lice, it may well be worthwhile to treat all other family members just in case. It is important to let the child’s creche, nursery or school know that your child has lice.

Clean and vacuum your child’s room, as well as any areas in which they have been playing. Soak all brushes and combs in anti-lice shampoo for several hours to disinfect them. Wash all bedding, blankets and clothes in hot water. Any item that can't be washed should be sealed in plastic bags for two to three weeks in order to kill the eggs. If your child is itching excessively and it interrupts their sleep or if sores develop on the scalp, and weep or spread then you need to see a doctor.

These little buggers are tricky so keep an eye out