Head colds and head lice: a heads-up on autumn ailments
When the weather gets cold and damp, children are more susceptible to bugs, bumps and creepy-crawlies
Deep breath: children with asthma need their own individual plan for managing their symptoms. Photograph: getty images
Summer’s over, the children are back at school, and now’s the time for autumnal ailments to start kicking in. As we head into the colder weather, parents are anticipating their kids getting struck down by some winter-borne bug or infection. Relax: the onset of autumn and winter need not be soundtracked by snuffles, sneezes, coughs and wheezing. A few simple precautions can help your child stay healthy and happy. We spoke to a GP, Dr Marian McWade, about the most common illnesses that affect children starting the new school year, and get some advice on how to treat and prevent seasonal sickness.
They followed me home, Mummy! As the kids get bedded into their school routine, they’re going to be bringing friends back home for playdates. But they may also be bringing some unwelcome visitors. The start of the school year is peak time for head lice, so check regularly using a nit comb, even if you don’t see your children scratching their heads.
“Parents usually look after their kids’ head lice themselves, but they might sometimes ask me for advice on treating them,” says McWade.
“The best method is to use a fine comb and go through the hair section by section to remove all lice. Don’t just rely on treatments: studies have shown that headlice can become resistant to some treatments, so when they come back the treatment doesn’t work on them.”
Hedrin is one treatment recommended for treating and preventing head lice, but no matter which product you use, you should take the time to do the fine-combing, getting out the nits, or eggs, which are usually found on individual hairs, along with the adult and young lice.
And don’t be ashamed: having headlice is not a mark of uncleanliness, and even children whose hair is washed daily can get headlice.
Head colds, chest infections and tonsillitis
We live in a damp climate and when the weather turns cold, children start to experience a range of upper-respiratory problems.
“It’s particularly noticeable in junior infants, because the children haven’t yet been exposed to a lot of infections. So they’ll catch colds much more easily,” says Dr McWade. “Tonsillitis is a big one - all the kids are getting that at the moment.”
The majority of upper-respiratory tract infections will be viral, says McWade, although symptoms of asthma will also be exacerbated by the cooler, damp weather. Wrapping up warm, while not 100 per cent effective, can help shield kids from colds.
“Good nutrition and good living standards are essential for keeping your child healthy during the winter months, and while it might not guarantee against catching colds, it helps to keep kids properly covered up and give them good, nutritious hot meals.”
Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections; many parents bring their child to the doctor with a viral infection, only to be told to put them to bed, give them Calpol and that’ll be €70, please. But many of us still bring our child to the GP, just to get reassurance that it’s nothing more serious.
Parents whose children suffer from asthma know all too well the stress of winter time, as the inhalers are dug out from the back of the medicine cupboard, and ears are pricked up for the sounds of wheezing and persistent coughing. Asthma is different for every child, so there’s no one-size-fits-all method for preventing flare-ups.
“Each child should have an individual, personal plan for managing their asthma, so parents can have an idea when they’re more likely to have symptoms, and how much medication they need to prevent flare-ups.”