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.
Especially during the younger years, adequate food and nutrition is vital for a child’s growth and development. But for some children, a snack or meal as simple as a peanut butter sandwich or a cup of milk can cause serious health problems. So, what’s a parent to do when they suspect their child is allergic to a certain food?
A food allergy is the abnormal response of the immune system to a food. It’s possible to be allergic to any food, but these particular foods are responsible for the majority of allergies: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and peanuts. Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerance, or food sensitivity, which is more common and less severe.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction typically occur within just moments to an hour after the child ingests a food. They can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, so it’s important for parents to understand what to do if they suspect their child is having an allergic reaction to food. Symptoms will vary for each child, but the most common telltale signs include:
- Trouble breathing
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat
- Light-headedness or loss of consciousness
Food allergy symptoms often resemble other medical conditions, so always contact your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis. If you suspect your child has a food allergy, remove that particular food from your child’s diet immediately. If the allergic reaction is severe, seek medical care right away.
The good news is that food allergies are often outgrown during early childhood. Your pediatrician or allergist can perform tests to pinpoint and track your child's food allergies They can also work with you to modify and manage your child’s diet to ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition for growth and development without putting them at risk for additional allergic reactions.
It may seem like your teenager is ignoring you, but in reality, they may be having trouble hearing you. More and more we see kids listening to their MP3 players while doing homework, walking to school or riding in the car. The result? A surge in hearing loss.
For years, studies have shown that constant exposure to loud sound damages hearing. In fact, between the mid-1990s and 2006 there was a 31 percent increase in the prevalence of hearing problems among U.S. adolescents, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers suggest that one in every five teens today has some sort of hearing impairment.
Chronic exposure to loud noise may not cause hearing loss in the short term, but it can gradually result in irreversible hearing loss later in adult years. Even slight hearing loss can have a negative impact on a child’s academic success and social interaction. Warning signs of potential hearing loss include: difficulty following directions, asking that things be repeated, trouble with speech and language and listening to the TV at a high volume.
With the prevalence of music devices only gaining popularity, parents need to be particularly aware of their kids’ music-listening habits and educate them about the dangers of excessive noise.
To mitigate hearing loss, talk to your kids about how to use their music players properly to protect their ears from hearing damage.
- Teach kids to never play their music devices at full volume.
- Monitor your child’s music volume and frequency.
- If you can hear the music from the child’s ear buds, then the music is too loud.
- Explain to your child the importance of wearing ear protection when they are in an environment with loud noises for long periods of time, such as concerts.
The difficult truth about hearing loss is that in many cases it is not reversible, and it can even be progressive over time. Talk to your kids about the dangers of hearing loss now, and keep the volume and length of their listening to a minimum.
Whenever you have questions about your child’s hearing, talk to your pediatrician.
A baby’s soft, smooth skin is delicate, making it susceptible to diaper rash, a common and mild irritation of the skin that causes redness in the area where the diaper is worn. Most cases of diaper rash are caused by excessive moisture from leaving a wet or soiled diaper on for too long. The baby’s skin becomes red, irritated and prone to chafing. Painful sores can develop, and the baby becomes vulnerable to yeast and bacterial infections.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of babies between 4 months and 15 months of age will experience diaper rash at least one time in a two-month period. Diaper rash is most common between 8 to 10 months of age, or when a baby is introduced to solid foods, which increases the frequency of bowel movements.
Soothing Your Baby’s Diaper Rash
If your baby develops diaper rash, one way to improve its condition is to change his or her diaper frequently. Other helpful ways to treat diaper rash include:
- Rinsing the affected area with warm water and a soft washcloth
- Pat dry; never rub
- Avoid baby wipes that contain alcohol or are fragranced
- Allow your baby’s bottom to air out whenever possible
Preventing Diaper Rash
Parents may not be able to prevent diaper rash completely, but you can do a lot to keep the irritation to a minimum. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends the following steps to keep diaper rash at bay:
- Apply a heavy layer of diaper ointment or cream to your baby’s bottom after every change.
- Leave breathing room in the baby’s diaper, and avoid putting the diapers on too tightly as it will trap moisturize and prevent air circulation.
- Switch diaper brands or use extra absorbent diapers to whisk away moisture and keep skin dry.
- Change the baby’s diaper immediately after it becomes wet—this is the key to preventing diaper rash.
The good news is that preventing and treating a diaper rash is fairly easy, and most breakouts can be resolved in just a few days. Call your pediatrician if the rash won’t go away or doesn’t improve after a few days. You should also bring your child to see his or her pediatrician if the rash is accompanied by blisters, a fever or pain.
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