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As temperatures start to drop and suntans begin to fade following this year’s record breaking heatwave, many of us will be looking forward to getting back into a daily routine as the kids head back to school. While we can’t help you with debates over packed lunches or the morning traffic, our pharmacists can certainly help you keep your little ones happy and healthy during the school year ahead.

Head Lice
Most of us will have come across these tiny wingless insects at some point in our lives, particularly in our school days. As the name suggests, head lice like to live in hair, close to the scalp and feed on the abundant blood supply which can be found there. They lay their eggs, sometimes called nits, and stick them tightly to the roots of the hair making them difficult to remove. Being so small and hard to see, it isn’t always easy to tell if your child actually has head lice or not so be on the lookout for related symptoms such as an itchy scalp or rash around the child’s head and neck. Head lice are most common in children of school going age and while the lice cannot jump from one child to another, close contact while learning and playing means they are easily spread.

It may sound like the odds are in the head lice’s favour they are however relatively simply to treat, though we would advise that head lice are only treated once their presence has been visually confirmed. The best way to confirm if head lice are present is thoroughly combing through wet hair which has been coated with regular conditioner with a special fine-toothed comb often referred to as a nit comb. Work through each section of the head individually and wipe the comb on a clean, white tissue. If head lice or their eggs are present, they will be visible against the white back ground.

If you do come across lice or eggs, don’t panic as there are several very easy option you can take to treat your child’s hair for head lice:

– Pesticide treatments (e.g. Lyclear Creme Rinse) work by directly killing the head lice with chemicals which are toxic to them. Head lice are robust however and resistance to pesticides is increasingly common.

– Non-pesticide treatments (e.g. Hedrin) work by coating the head lice with substances which dehydrate and suffocate them rather than killing them directly which is becoming increasingly popular.

– Wet combing is the most traditional treatment for head lice, which involves combing through the hair with a fine-toothed nit comb every two or three days for at least two weeks. This manually removes the head lice and their eggs from the hair and scalp.

Following treatment you may wish to use a preventative spray to help avoid and further infestation. Speak to our friendly pharmacy staff for more advice and recommendations on the best product for you.

Vitamins for Children
In a perfect world our children would get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the food that they eat. Ideally a balanced diet would include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein (chicken, fish, meat and eggs), whole grains (porridge, wholemeal pasta, brown rice) and milk and other dairy products (cheese, yoghurt). In reality though it can be a real struggle to get children to eat the right foods and in some cases, it can be a dinner time battle to get them to eat at all.

Growing bodies need a vast number of different nutrients to allow them to grow and stay healthy so it can be daunting when it comes to making sure your children are getting those they need. These are the main vitamins and minerals that are the most important for growing children:

– Vitamin A: Is essential for normal growth and development; bone and muscle repair; and healthy skin and eyes and normal immune responses. Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, and yellow or orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and squash.

– B vitamins: The family of B vitamins (vitamins B2, B3, B6, and B12) all aid your child’s metabolism, energy production, and healthy circulatory and nervous systems. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and soybeans.

– Vitamin C: Helps to promote healthy muscles, connective tissues, and skin. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli.

– Vitamin D: Is very important for proper bone and tooth formation and helps the body to absorb calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include milk and oily fish like salmon and mackerel. The best source of vitamin D however is sunlight, so it’s important to get your little ones outside often.

– Calcium: Helps to build and maintain strong bones as your child grows. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.

– Iron: Is integral in the building of muscle and is essential to healthy red blood cells, iron deficiency is a risk in adolescence, especially for girls once they begin to menstruate. Good sources of iron include beef and other red meats, turkey, pork, spinach, beans, and prunes.

If you are concerned that your child’s diet is lacking in any of these vitamins or minerals, you may choose to give them a multivitamin. Some popular brands include Gummy Vites, Kiddi Pharmaton and Vivioptal Junior. If you would like further information or advice on which multivitamin would be best for your own child, call in to our pharmacy and speak with our staff, we will be more than happy to answer any questions.

Threadworms
Threadworm infection is a surprisingly common problem but is especially common in young children. Threadworms are tiny parasitic worms that mainly live in the large intestine. The worms themselves look like small pieces of white cotton, hence the name, and you may notice them around your child’s anus or in their poo. Threadworms can cause itching around the anus which may be worse at night when the worms lay their eggs there. Threadworm infections are unfortunately very easily spread. If your child scratches their bottom they can transfer the eggs to their mouth, clothing or other surfaces. If someone else then touches an infected surface then they may transfer the eggs to their own mouth and become infected themselves. If your child does become infected we strongly advise that everyone in the household be treated at the same time, even if they don’t have symptoms to avoid further infection. The treatment for threadworms is an inexpensive and readily available medicine called Vermox. It comes either in chewable tablets or a liquid suspension, so it is easy for children to take. Good hygiene practices should also be followed to help prevent spreading the eggs, these include:

– Washing bedclothes

– Thoroughly cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces

– Washing hands before eating or preparing food and especially after going to the toilet

– Discourage children from putting their fingers in their mouths

– Making sure your child wears underwear to bed can also help to prevent them from picking up eggs, should they scratch at night.

If you require threadworm treatment for any member of your family, visit any of our pharmacies and chat with our friendly staff.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea in children
Vomiting and diarrhoea can be common conditions in children, especially around the time they return to school as infections are easily transmitted in the school environment. The most common causes are bacterial or viral infections and these will typically only last one or two days. Normally these are nothing to be too concerned about as long as your child does not seem particularly unwell. However, if symptoms do last for longer than a few days, or if your child is floppy, irritable or less responsive than normal, there may be a more serious cause and advice should be sought from your GP as soon as possible. Other reasons we would suggest you seek medical advice are if your child is unable to hold down fluids, seems dehydrated (dry mouth, crying without producing tears, infrequent urination, drowsiness) or if their vomit is green in colour or contains traces of blood. If your child is vomiting, has a headache or stiff neck and a rash or if they develop severe tummy pain you should take them to A&E straight away. Most cases of vomiting and diarrhoea however can be treated at home as long as you bear in mind the following:

– It is important to make sure your child doesn’t get dehydrated. Offer them drinks frequently but try avoid fruit juices or fizzy drinks as these can cause further irritation.

– You may also consider giving an oral rehydration solution such as Dioralyte, this very effective to replace lost fluids and body salts from vomiting or diarrhoea.

– Another treatment that can be used to help if your child has diarrhoea is Tasectan. This is a powder that can be added to their food or drink and can help shorten the duration of diarrhoea.

– Let your child eat if they want to, but try to stick to very plain foods that will not cause any further upset to their stomach until they are feeling well again. You can of course always come into the pharmacy for more advice and tips on treating vomiting and diarrhoea.

Stress Management
Everyone encounters some level of stress in their everyday lives, and the return to school or looking after a child who is unwell can certainly heighten these levels.

While a little bit is quite normal and may not be a problem, too much stress can become overwhelming. Ideally we should try to avoid having too much stress in our lives, but for many of us this is impossible so need to learn how best to deal with the stress in our lives before it becomes detrimental our mental or physical health. Common symptoms of stress include fatigue, headaches, insomnia, mood swings, food cravings, irritability, a racing pulse and digestive distress. Chronic stress can lead to increased blood sugar, weakened immune system, a lower ability to burn fat, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety and even cardiovascular disease in extreme or prolonged cases.

So, what can we do to try to manage our stress?

– Try to learn to accept things as they are and that there are always certain things you can’t change

– Being grateful for what we have can really change our perspective of a situation

– Time management is an essential skill to cultivate. Planning ahead can help prevent stress both in the long and short term

– Try to engage in something you enjoy, even if just for a short time is a great way to take your mind off things and reduce your stress levels

– Learning some basic meditation techniques and practicing mindfulness can help reduce the impact we feel stress has on us. There are many resources online to help

– While our lives can be unavoidably busy, making sure to getting enough sleep is vital for combating stress and for our overall health

– You may even try taking a natural remedy; there are many available such as Kalms, Kelkin Stress Less and Rescue Remedy. Although there is little medical evidence to support the use of these products, many people who take them do find them to be effective when they feel stress is difficult to cope with. Ultimately though, if you are unable to cope with your stress we would advise that you visit your GP.