Conjunctivitis (Pink eye)
This common condition is characterized by inflammation, grittiness and irritation of the conjunctiva (the delicate membrane covering the white of the eye and inside of the lids). The child’s eye will be red with crusts which form around the eye, especially after a night’s sleep. Most cases of pink eye are caused by a bacterial or virus infection, but an allergy to some airborne product such as cigarette smoke can trigger the irritation. Blocked tear ducts can also give cause to pink eye, and on occasion conjunctivitis can be a symptom of another serious eye disorder.
Prevention and treatment:
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist as soon as you suspect pink eye for the correct treatment to be administered.
- Bathe the child’s eye with cotton wool and warm sterile water or a weak solution of rooibos tea, to remove the crusts.
- Refrain from touching the eye too often, and keep the child’s face cloth and towel separate to that of the family’s.
- If your baby has a blocked tear duct, gently massage the area near the bottom lid to aid in removing the blockage.
Constipation is more likely to occur in bottle-fed babies than those who are breastfed. Your baby will have infrequent bowel movements with stools that are hard and difficult to pass. If she is suffering from severe constipation, you may notice tiny streaks of blood present in the stools, this indicates that there are tiny cracks in the anus due to the passing of hard, dry stools. She will be irritable and may complain of ‘tummy-ache’.
Prevention and treatment:
- When introducing solids to your baby’s diet, be sure to offer plenty of fruit and wholegrains.
- Prune and apple juice are sometimes quite effective in relieving constipation.
- Increase your child’s fluid intake and ensure that as an older child he takes part in physical activity.
- By adding a little brown sugar to your baby’s milk feed you may just be able to solve the problem.
- Keep the anal area well lubricated.
- Red Bush tea to which a little brown sugar or honey has been added is another way in which you can loosen your baby’s stools.
Diarrhea is characterized by the child having loose watery stools (more than three a day), and is often accompanied by vomiting, especially after the intake of food. Diarrhea – with or without vomiting can cause the body to lose essential fluids, causing dehydration – a serious condition that can be prevented.
While some might believe that diarrhea is not a particularly dangerous complaint, it can lead to life-threatening consequences in babies and young children. Babies have a small body mass and when they develop diarrhea they very quickly lose fluid and vital minerals from their bodies, which if untreated results in dehydration. Children under five years of age are particularly vulnerable, as severe diarrhea left untreated may result in death.
Signs of dehydration are:
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Sunken eyes
- Little urine passed, which is dark in color
- Cold hands and feet
- Skin that is pinched, takes time to return
When treating diarrhea, it is essential to replace all lost fluids and minerals to prevent dehydration, and this can be effectively done by giving your baby an oral rehydration solution as soon as the diarrhea/vomiting starts. Oral rehydration solutions are available from your local pharmacy, or alternatively you can make this solution at home, but do be absolutely sure to use the correct amount of ingredients. This solution should be offered to your baby as frequently as possible, and in small amounts to prevent the onset of vomiting.
Home recipe for oral rehydration solution:
|SMALL AMOUNT||LARGE AMOUNT|
|1 cup clean water||1 litre clean water|
|2 level teaspoons sugar||8 level teaspoons sugar|
|2 pinches of salt||½ teaspoon salt|
|Mix ingredients together and allow to cool. Keep the solution well covered.||Mix ingredients together and allow to cool. Keep the solution well covered|
There are no guaranteed safeguards against diarrhea, but you’ll reduce the likelihood by keeping your baby well nourished – breastfeeding is the best and safest way; following strict hygiene measures when bottle-feeding – cleaning all teats, dummies and bottles with the greatest of care, and being sure to use clean water; washing your hands before handling your baby and; not giving unnecessary medication.
Earache is normally caused by an inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media), but could also be the result of other illnesses such as mumps. The baby suffering from earache will scream when placed in a lying position and usually stop when picked up. Fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms of this disorder.
Otitis media results from a blockage in the Eustachian tube (A tube lined with mucous membrane that joins the nose-throat cavity and the inner ear). This at times develops into an infection causing a lack of drainage.
Prevention and treatment:
- Otitis media responds well to medication if treated early.
- Precautions should be taken to ensure that no water enters the ear when bathing.
- Don’t prop feed your baby, this can cause milk to leak into the Eustachian tube.
- In severe cases your doctor may suggest having ‘grommets’ inserted. These are minute plastic tubes that allow for effective drainage.
- Always consult a doctor in the case of ear problems.
Recurrent ear infections are common in children under the age of five years, and they needn’t cause any additional problems, provided they receive appropriate treatment. All babies are born with a natural immunity, which is passed on from the mother during pregnancy, and is boosted if the child is breastfed. Unfortunately, as the child gets older, this natural resistance to infection begins to wear off, with the child becoming prone to childhood illnesses.
The infection spreads into the ears via a tiny tube, that is known as the ‘Eustachian tube’ . This tube connects the lining of the nose to the inner eardrum, and is very important in allowing the pressure of both sides of the eardrum to be equal. If infection sets in, these tubes become blocked with mucus, resulting in earache or temporary impaired hearing.
In the initial stages, the child will probably suffer with a raised temperature, that at times can escalate to around 39,5°C. He will become irritable and may refuse to eat because of a sore throat, and if he is able to express pain, he will complain of discomfort in one or both ears. Young babies may not be able to fully locate the pain, and you may find that he constantly pulls on his ears or bangs his head.
If the infection reaches an acute stage, the mucus becomes thick and sticky, commonly known as ‘glue-ear’. Treating this condition will require a visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist who will recommend the appropriate treatment, or if that fails to cure the problem he may suggest inserting ‘grommets’. These are minute tubes that are inserted into the eardrum, to allow for complete drainage. This is a relatively small operation, done under a general anesthetic, where the surgeon will make a tiny hole in the eardrum to suck out the fluid and then insert the grommet. These tubes will cause no discomfort to the child and will fall out on their own within a couple of months.
- Consult your doctor for the appropriate antibiotics.
- Control the temperature with paracetamol every four hours, if necessary.
- In the case of ‘glue-ear’, consult a specialist.
The onset of a fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection, and is a symptom rather than an illness.
Taking a temperature:
The child should remain calm for awhile before taking of the temperature, as if she has been crying, it could add rise to the actual temperature, resulting in an incorrect reading. Prepare the thermometer, by making sure it is clean and shaking down the mercury below the line for normal (36,6°C).
Place your baby/child on a comfortable surface, baring her bottom. Lubricate the end of the thermometer, and carefully insert (don’t force) about an inch of the bulbed, lubricated end into her rectum, speaking reassuringly as you do. Hold in place for two minutes. Remove the thermometer, wiping with a clean tissue before attempting to read it.
This is somewhat a less accurate method of taking a temperature, but it works well in babies suffering from other illnesses such as diarrhea. Remove baby’s top clothing, so that it doesn’t interfere by coming between the thermometer and the baby’s skin. Place the thermometer (oral or rectal) in the child’s armpit, holding the arm down against his side. Keep the thermometer in place for five or more minutes.
This temperature taking method can only be used once the child is of an age to be able to hold the thermometer securely under her tongue, and understand directions not to bite down on it. The child can be placed in a lying, sitting or standing position and if possible not had any hot/cold food/drink in the last 15 minutes – this can interfere with the reading. Place the thermometer under the child’s tongue and get her to hold in place, lips closed for two to four minutes.
Reading the thermometer:
A rectal reading is by far the most accurate, but an oral or armpit reading will be just as effective although it may register one degree lower than the actual temperature. Normal temperature is 36°C, although a slight variation (between 36,6° and 37°C) is of no significance. Hold the thermometer up towards a light and gently rotate until you see the silver mercury. Line it up to the corresponding number – the point where the mercury ends indicates the temperature. Keep a note of this reading to be able to give your doctor accurate details.
Treating a fever:
Remove clothing: Undress your child, leaving her totally unclad or only in a vest and nappy, this will allow excessive heat to escape. Don’t bundle her up, if she complains of being cold or starts shivering as this is just a bodily reaction as it tries to fight the fever, rather place a light sheet or pillowcase over her.
Luke warm sponge baths: Making sure the water is lukewarm – (not too hot or cold, as this will just cause a reverse reaction), sponge her down or if she is old enough let her sit in the bath while you gently sponge water over her body. Pat her dry and dress her in light clothing.
Increase fluid intake:
Suffering from a fever, increases the loss of bodily fluids through the skin. Offer your baby/child cool liquids in the form of boiled water, juice or her normal milk feeds.
There are a number of effective fever reducing medications on the market, so it is suggested that you consult your doctor or pharmacist on the best one to use.
An extremely high fever occasionally causes convulsions, that usually only last for a minute or two, especially in babies and young children. During a seizure the child will roll her eyes, her body will stiffen and she may even foam at the mouth and begin fierce jerking movements. These can be very frightening for the parents, but it is important to remain calm throughout the ordeal – convulsions do no harm to the child.
- Hold your baby gently in your arms or lay her down on her side with her head lower than her body (if possible).
- Don’t try and feed her or put anything into her mouth while she is busy convulsing.
- He may lose consciousness during the attack, but should revive soon afterwards without additional help.
- If the seizure lasts for five or more minutes, seek emergency help.
- Once your baby has recovered from the seizure, he may seem sleepy. Lie him down on his side, covered with a light blanket then call the doctor.
- After the attack, give your child a luke warm sponge bath and control his temperature with appropriate medication