5 simple questions to help identify childhood health concerns
At Bayside Family Medical, we offer a broad range of child health services, from immunisations to allergy testing and much more. In this article, we suggest a few simple questions that may help alert parents to some of the health matters we regularly see as GPs.
Are they reaching their developmental milestones?
Developmental milestones are things most kids can do by a certain age. The way your child moves, speaks, learns and plays provides important insight into their development.
You can find information about these milestones inside your child’s My Health, Learning and Development record (‘Green Book’). Your Maternal and Child Health Service nurse will talk to you about these milestones at your regular maternal and child check-ups.
If you have any worries about your child’s development, including any speech or hearing concerns, our doctors are here to help. We have a team of GPs with specialised interests in child health who are ready to assist and if needed, refer your child to paediatric specialists or allied health professionals where necessary.
Are they eating and sleeping well?
Parents of fussy eaters know all too well how challenging it can be when children won’t eat certain foods. If your toddler is a fussy eater, we can provide strategies to help make mealtimes more enjoyable for everybody. In some cases, we may refer you to partner with a dietician for further advice.
Likewise, if your baby or toddler is experiencing sleep concerns such as a sudden change in sleeping pattern or frequent night waking, this can be distressing for the family. Please seek advice from us about strategies to help manage these problems.
What are their bowel/toilet habits like?
Constipation is a very common problem in childhood. It can start as early as when your baby transitions off breast milk to start solid foods. Constipation may also coincide with a negative experience such as a painful bowel movement.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Anal fissures (small splits of the skin around the anus) that cause pain and bleeding when going to the toilet
- Holding-on behaviour.
Please book in with a doctor if you are concerned about your child’s bowel habit. For more information about constipation management, refer to this RCH fact sheet.
Bedwetting is another common problem for young children, and it can cause sleepless nights for the family, as well as distress for the child. Daytime control usually starts to occur around the age of 4, however 1 in 3 children wet the bed. At 6 years of age, around 1 in 10 continue to do this and lessening into adolescence.
If your child is still regularly wetting the bed at night by age 6, or if they suddenly start to wet the bed after six months of being dry, it may be a good time to book in and speak with your GP. This fact sheet has more information.
Treatment of enuresis takes time and may involve several health care providers including your GP, a paediatrician or psychologist (at Bayside Specialist Suites, which recently opened near our sister clinic, Bluff Road Medical Centre) or a continence therapist. We can also provide advice for children experiencing other continence issues such as frequency issues or giggle incontinence (involuntary urine loss when laughing).
How well are they breathing?
Asthma is a common medical condition affecting the airways – 1 in 10 Aussie kids have asthma. It often goes hand in hand with other allergies like hay fever and eczema.
A child experiences symptoms of asthma when the airways tighten as the lining of the airway becomes swollen and inflamed and this causes excess production. This can cause:
- Chest tightness or pain (often described by young children as a ‘sore tummy’)
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing – whistling noise when breathing out
- Coughing (particularly at night)
If you have concerns about your child’s breathing, please book in with your GP. Most children with asthma can be safely managed by your GP but we may occasionally refer you to a paediatrician or paediatric respiratory specialist for a review.
If your child does have asthma, it is important they have an Asthma Action Plan. This forms an important communication and education tool for parents and caregivers. For further reading about asthma in children, refer to the Better Health website.
Are they showing any signs of allergies?
Allergies occur when the body reacts to something in the environment. Common allergens can include food, dust mites, pollens and grasses or chemicals in creams. In someone predisposed, the immune system releases histamines and other substances upon exposure to the allergen causing a range of symptoms.
Symptoms of a mild or moderate reaction may include:
- Rash, hives or welts
- Swelling of the face, eyes or lips
- Tingling or itchy mouth
- Eczema, hay feveror asthma – these symptoms might be worse than usual
- Mild diarrhoea, stomach painor vomiting (if this occurs after an insect sting, it may be a severe allergic reaction).
Symptoms of anaphylaxis, or a life-threatening severe allergic reaction may include:
- Difficult or noisy breathing
- Tongue and throat swelling or tightness
- Difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
- A wheeze or persistent cough
- Persistent dizziness or fainting
- Paleness and floppiness (in young children)
- Diarrhoea, stomach pain or vomiting after an insect sting.
If you suspect your child may have allergies, the first step is to speak to your GP.
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