A common condition seen in kids and teens, asthma is a lung condition that causes trouble breathing and shortness of breath. During an attack, the bronchial airways become inflamed and the muscles surrounding them constrict, making breathing difficult. Repeated attacks may cause permanent lung damage and in severe cases can be life-threatening. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 23 million Americans have the condition and more than one-quarter of them are children under the age of 18.
There are a variety of triggers that can lead to an asthma flare-up or make asthma worse. These vary for every person, but common triggers include:
- Allergens, such as animal dander, pollens, mold and house dust mites
- Environmental irritants, such as cigarettes, dry air, fragrances and air pollution
- Infections, such as pneumonia, sinus infection and viral infections of the nose and throat
Does my child have asthma?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma is the most common chronic medical problem in children. Asthma symptoms will vary in frequency and severity, and most children with asthma develop their first symptoms before the age of five. Common signs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in chest
If you think your child may have asthma, contact your pediatrician. They can help you identify the early signs of childhood asthma and provide support for prevention and treatment.
A child may be at a greater risk for having asthma if there is a family history of asthma or if the child has eczema or frequent bouts of chronic lower respiratory problems occurring before the first birthday. Keeping your kids away from cigarette smoke in the home or car, removing pets from the house, paying attention to pollen and air quality forecasts and monitoring exercise are all ways to reduce asthma problems.
The good news is that the majority of asthma cases are only mild, and when the condition is properly managed with medications and extra caution, severe asthma flare-ups can be prevented. Work with your child’s pediatrician to learn more about the condition and ensure your child leads a healthy, normal, active life.
As children grow into adolescence, their bodies require more nutrients to grow healthy and strong. But as many parents know, for those teens with busy school schedules, sports practices and jobs, managing a healthy, well-balanced meal plan isn’t always at the top of their priority list. In many cases, a teen’s most important meals are eaten in the car or on the bus as they shuffle from one activity to the next.
Parents can play a very important role in influencing their teen to stay active while maintaining a healthy diet. These tips can help:
- Encourage your teen to not skip meals, especially breakfast. A well-balanced breakfast is essential to keeping your son or daughter nourished throughout the day.
- Educate your teen about healthy snack choices. Stock your refrigerator and cabinets with healthy foods and snacks, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and lean meats and poultry. Avoid buying sodas and other sugary drinks and foods that are low in nutritional value.
- Involve your teen in the selection and preparation of foods to teach them to make healthy choices.
- Teach your teen how to make healthy selections when eating out at restaurants.
How many servings per day your teenager requires will depend on how many calories his or her body needs. This is based on age, sex, size and activity level. You can discuss your teen’s nutritional habits and recommended daily intake with your teen's pediatrician.
Although balancing school, sports and social activities may present challenges to eating healthy, it is possible to guide your teen on a path of nutritional food choices. Educate them now and promote healthy eating at home to help your teen develop a good understanding of proper nutrition into adulthood. The whole family can benefit from improved eating habits starting at home.
A new baby needs a lot of things. From bottles and car seats to high chairs and baby monitors, an expectant parent has a lot of decisions and purchases to make before baby’s arrival. Considering your baby will spend a great deal of time here, a crib is one of the most important things a parent will buy.
Whether you’re shopping for a brand new crib or receiving a hand-me-down from a relative or friend, remember to evaluate your baby’s resting place carefully to ensure it meets all of the safety guidelines. You can visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for information regarding all of these important safety standards.
There are many types of cribs available today, and parents will want to be educated about safety features and guidelines before choosing one for their baby. Here are a few helpful tips from the AAP:
- Make sure the crib meets current safety standards before purchasing it. As of June 28, 2011, new federal safety standards prohibit the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs. The standards also require stronger hardware and increased durability.
- If you have a crib that was manufactured before the new safety standards were enacted, contact the manufacturer to see if they offer hardware to keep the drop side from being raised or lowered. Consider buying a new crib that meets the stronger standards, if possible.
- Read and follow the directions carefully for setting up, using and caring for the crib.
- Regularly inspect your crib’s screws and hardware, and tighten them as necessary.
- The mattress should fit snugly in the crib to prevent the baby from slipping between the mattress and the crib sides. As a general rule, no more than two of your fingers should fit between the mattress and the side of the crib.
- Do not use the crib if there are any missing, damaged or broken parts, and never substitute original parts with pieces from a hardware store. Always contact the crib manufacturer for replacement materials.
- Be sure to inspect every crib your child uses—from grandma’s house to the day care center—for safety.
- Visit the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website to see if your crib has been recalled.
- The slats of the crib should be no more than 2 3⁄8 inches apart, as widely spaced slats can trap the infant.
- All surfaces of the crib should be covered with lead-free paint, and the wood should be smooth and free of splinters.
Remember, your baby will spend many hours in his or her crib. Take special care to ensure that your baby’s sleeping place offers very little opportunity for injuries and problems. You can learn more about crib safety standards, as well as safe bedding practices by visiting www.healthychildren.org and www.cpsc.gov, or by contacting your pediatrician for more information.
The tonsils are oval-shaped, pink masses of tissue on both sides of the throat. They are part of the body's immune system, designed to fight off bacteria and viruses that try to enter the body through the mouth. Sometimes common illnesses are too much for the tonsils to handle, and the tonsils become infected themselves. This condition is known as tonsillitis, an inflammation of the tonsils that can cause a sore throat and discomfort for your little one.
Tonsillitis is common in children, but it can occur at all ages. Many cases of tonsillitis in elementary-aged kids are caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu. Bacterial infections, particularly streptococcus (strep), can also cause an infection of the tonsils.
If your child has tonsillitis, his or her main symptom will be a sore throat. It may be painful to eat, drink or swallow. Other common signs of infected tonsils include:
- Red, tender and enlarged tonsils
- Yellow or white coating on tonsils
- Swollen, painful lymph nodes in the neck
- Bad Breath
If your child’s symptoms suggest tonsillitis, call your pediatrician. Your child will need to visit a pediatrician to determine whether it is a bacterial or viral infection, which can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam and a throat culture.
If bacteria caused the child’s tonsillitis, then antibiotics may be prescribed to kill the infection. If a virus causes it, then the body will fight the infection on its own. Rest and drinking fluids can also help alleviate symptoms and ease pain. In some cases, if the child suffers from frequent episodes of tonsillitis or repeat infections over several years, your pediatrician may recommend a tonsillectomy, a common surgical procedure to remove the tonsils.
Because tonsillitis is contagious, kids should help protect others at school and home by washing hands frequently, not sharing cups or other personal utensils, and covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Always contact your pediatrician when you have questions about your child’s symptoms and health.
A number of factors can cause a child to develop a headache, such as stress, lack of sleep, skipped meals and certain medications. Other times a child may suffer from a headache due to a common illness or infection, such as a cold or flu. And in serious cases, head trauma or an underlying condition such as meningitis could be causing the child’s headache. That’s why it’s important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s headache patterns.
Although it’s easy for parents to worry, most headaches in children are rarely a sign of something serious. However, parents should contact their child’s pediatrician if the child has unexplained or recurring headaches over a short period of time or on a regular basis.
Parents should also notify their pediatrician if the child’s headache is accompanied by one or any combination of these symptoms:
- Double vision, weakness in a limb or loss of balance
- Disabling pain that does not improve with over-the-counter pain medication
- Interrupted sleep
- Decreased level of alertness
- Change in personality
To help pinpoint the causes of your child’s headaches, parents should keep a diary of their child’s symptoms. Track when headaches occur, how long they last, the severity of the headache and if anything provides relief. Over time, your notes can help you and your pediatrician understand the child’s symptoms to reach a diagnosis and proper treatment plan.
Your child’s pediatrician may also ask you a series of questions to determine the source of your child’s headaches:
- Do the headaches follow a pattern or do they change over time?
- Has your child recently suffered a serious injury?
- What seems to help or worsen headaches?
- Does your child take any medications or have any past medical issues?
- Does your child have allergies?
- Is there a history of headaches in your family?
In many cases, a child’s headache may be relieved at home with simple care. Over-the-counter pain medications, rest and avoiding those triggers that prompt headaches may be enough to ease the pain.
Remember, headaches are not always a symptom of something more serious. However, parents should be mindful of the types of headaches their child has and how frequently they occur. If you suspect something is wrong or not normal, always contact your pediatrician for an appointment.
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