Health

What the doctor didn't say!

A GP’s busy work schedule often doesn’t allow much time to talk through all the information you’d like. Your next port of call is the internet, but before you head for your device, check out our extra expert advice on some common conditions

Published

It goes without saying that if your child’s got a medical problem, your first port of call should be your GP. But even the very best healthcare professionals are always going to be pushed for time. Here’s our guide to the things you might not hear in the surgery…

ASTHMA

This is an increasingly common condition in children. Attacks occur when a trigger (which could be anything from pollen to cat hair) causes the airways to tighten. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and a tight chest. It’s potentially very dangerous and should always be taken seriously.

The treatment You should be given a detailed asthma plan by your GP or asthma nurse, which will usually include everything you need to help your child manage the condition.

But what your doctor might not tell you!

There are the three key questions you should ask your childcare provider for your asthmatic child:

* Do you have an asthma policy – a set of guidelines or rules that cover how a child will be cared for?

* Are you able to provide the individual care that the child needs? And is the environment as safe as possible for your child?

* Do you know how to recognise and deal with an emergency?

Visit www.asthma.org.uk

A smear of nasal balm just inside the nostrils will help prevent pollens settling on the sensitive lining of the nose and causing irritation.

HAY FEVER

Children can be affected just as badly as adults by this common condition, caused by an allergy to different kinds of pollen – and it can stretch well into the autumn, too. It causes sneezing, red, itchy eyes, blocked sinuses and general misery!

The treatment Anti-histamine drugs, which can be taken either in tablet form or via a nasal spray. Make sure you get these prescribed by your GP, as some aren’t suitable for younger children.

But what your doctor might not tell you!

You can take action at home to beat the pollen that causes your child’s symptoms. Try washing your child’s face and hair if they have been playing outside, as pollen grains tend to stick to the skin and hair. A smear of nasal balm just inside the nostrils will help prevent pollens settling on the sensitive lining of the nose and causing irritation. Don’t dry clothes outside when the pollen count is high and keep windows shut in the early morning and evening, when the pollens are released and falling.

Visit www.allergyuk.org

EPILEPSY

An epileptic seizure occurs when there’s a sudden burst of electrical energy in the brain. The frequency, severity and symptoms of these seizures varies hugely. For example, one child might become unconscious, and another remain alert but be unable to control movement. It’s not yet known what causes most cases of epilepsy, and it can start at any age.

The treatment Epilepsy can’t be cured, but it can be controlled using anti-epileptic drugs. There are many different kinds available and it can take a while to find the right drug and dose for your child. Your GP is likely to refer your child to an epilepsy specialist at your local hospital for further investigation and a treatment plan.

But what your doctor might not tell you!

Epilepsy Action has an area just for kids with stories, games and information packs, plus stuff to help support your child at school.

Visit www.epilepsy.org.uk

BEDWETTING

The medical name for this is ‘nocturnal enuresis’, and it can be very distressing for both parents and children. A child might wet the bed for a variety of reasons, including an overactive bladder, constipation, anxiety or a small bladder.

The treatment Drugs are available which reduce the amount of urine that a child’s kidneys produce during the night. There are also bedwetting alarms which wake a child up when he needs to use the loo.

But what your doctor might not tell you!

It’s actually a good idea to encourage your child to drink regularly – six to eight cups of water-based fluid throughout the day. Not only does this stop your child becoming dehydrated, it also helps to train his bladder to cope with larger amounts of liquid.

Visit www.eric.org.uk

DIABETES

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes – where the body fails to produce enough of the hormone insulin – are tiredness, excessive thirst, weeing a lot and losing weight. It’s a very serious condition, so if your child is showing any of these symptoms get him checked out straight away.

The treatment There’s no cure for diabetes but it can be managed. A child with the condition will need to inject insulin and check blood glucose levels daily. You’re likely to be referred to a specialist diabetes unit in your local hospital or health centre.

But what your doctor might not tell you!

That it’s fine to share the load! You may not feel like anyone can take care of your child if he or she has Type 1 diabetes. But then you run the risk of your child becoming too dependent, making it difficult when they need to take responsibility for their diabetes. And caring for a child with Type 1 diabetes can be exhausting. By giving yourself a break, you’ll be in a fitter state both emotionally and physically to look after them.

Visit www.diabetes.org.uk

One of the biggest sources of dust mites can be those beloved soft toys piled up on your child’s bed.

DUST ALLERGY

This is triggered by the tiny dust mites that breed in our carpets, curtains, bedclothes – pretty much everywhere in our houses, in fact! Typical symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose and itchy eyes.

The treatment Antihistamines can help with the symptoms. A doctor should always prescribe these for young children.

But what your doctor might not tell you!

One of the biggest sources of dust mites can be those beloved soft toys piled up on your child’s bed. Although your child’s bedding gets changed regularly, most of us don’t clean soft toys as a matter of course. The most effective ways to do this are to:

* Put toys in a plastic bag and freeze them overnight, then wash and tumble dry.

* Tumble dry the toys for an hour on the hot setting, then wash and dry.

* Soak toys in a mixture of detergent, such as liquid hand wash and eucalyptus oil, then rinse and dry.

Check your sources

The internet’s fantastic for advice but it’s also full of nonsense. Ask yourself these questions when you come across a particularly tempting nugget…

  1. Who runs this site? Many companies have created sites which look independent but on closer examination are just online brochures for their products. That’s not to say the product might not be effective – but take claims with a pinch of salt.
  2. Can this health claim be backed up independently? It’s not enough to find another web source that tells you the same thing – anyone can cut and paste something from a website and put it on another one. Instead, check out sites which use properly qualified experts to check claims.
  3. Is this treatment too good to be true? If a description contains the word ‘miracle’ or ‘instant’, it probably is. If you’re desperate to find a solution, it’s easy to get sucked into claims like this. It’s hard, but try not to let your emotions cloud your judgment.

What sources can I trust? Stick to sites run by reputable organisations, such as the NHS or a relevant support group.

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