Well-being: Germ of an idea
THEY'VE survived catastrophe on the flume of death at your holiday resort, avoided being burnt to a crisp on those days when the sun finally broke through the rain, and managed to avoid shattering any bones skateboarding and trampolining. Congratulations on shepherding your family to the end of the summer break without a trip to A&E.
But now that you've handed your little darlings back to the care of their teachers, it might be worth considering the horrors that are lurking in the school corridors and playgrounds. Don't assume that because the youngsters are safely back in the classroom they're out of harm's way. There are as many potential afflictions that could befall your precious mites in a school environment as in the home.
Dean Marshall, who has a practice in Dalkeith and is chair of the Scottish GPs Committee of the BMA, says, "As a GP, at this time of year you see a lot of tummy bugs, ear infections and sunburn that have been picked up on holiday. It's also a time when people should be informing schools of anything that happened over the holidays and telling them about any new conditions, such as asthma or allergies."
But forewarned is forearmed, so being aware of the worst pitfalls will see your children running out of the school gates as hale and hearty as they were when you dropped them off.
Nits, or head lice – as they're officially called (are you scratching yet?) – are spread when children get together, and at some point your offspring are likely to have 'visitors'. So arm yourself with a nit comb and lashings of slippery conditioner, and get checking. Passed from person to person by close contact (they cannot jump, swim or fly), head lice affect one in seven children – and girls more often than boys, as their heads are more likely to touch during play. Unchecked, a lot of lice can appear over a short space of time, but there are numerous special shampoos, lotions, conditioners, sprays and oils designed to deal with the horrible little critters. Always check out the contents, especially if your child has asthma, eczema or allergies.
Another nifty device is an electronic nit exterminator such as the Rio Bug Zapper (14.99, at Argos), an electronic comb that electrocutes the lice and removes the need for constant washing. Or try pesticide-free Hedrin Head Lice Spray (6.85, at Boots) or tea tree oil shampoo.
Hormones play havoc with teenage skin, and contrary to many parents' conviction, diet, exercise and dirt are not to blame. The problem is hormones overstimulating oil-producing glands and dead skin cells near the surface of the skin slowing their rate of shedding, clogging pores and causing blockages that turns into spots. According to the Acne Support Group (0870 870 2263, www.stopspots.org), more than 85 per cent of teenagers will develop some form of acne, but it is very treatable with over-the-counter creams – there are also more than 100 prescription treatments available.
Picked up from changing-room floors, this is a fungal infection that grows between the toes. Skin becomes inflamed and itchy, then peels and cracks painfully if not treated.
Encourage children to wear flip-flops at public pools, change their socks every day and wash feet regularly. They should also have a change of shoes so trainers can dry out in between wears.
Treatment includes yeast-killing Lamisil Once, which contains terbinafine hydrochloride, or Scholl Advance Athlete's Foot Cream (5.49), which stops the itch and solves the condition in a week.
Caused by a viral infection, verrucas are hard, thick growths on the soles of the feet that, left untreated, can drag on for years. Contracted in changing-rooms and swimming pools, verrucas have a black dot in the middle and can be sore to touch when pressure is applied.
Treatment includes gels containing salicylic acid to zap the virus – try Bazuka Extra Strength Gel (5.86, Boots), which can kill the warts in a fortnight.
Despite schools' best attempts to promote healthy eating, kids' diets can go to pot when they're with friends. You might like to think they're munching on apples, but it's inevitable that the occasional can of Irn-Bru or sausage roll will find its way into their chubby fists. But keep giving them fruit and nagging. Another tip is to make sure they don't have too much spare cash.
Despite fears that the end of the summer holidays will lead to a swine flu epidemic, and the fact that some experts are calling for the closure of schools, the Scottish government has no immediate plans to vaccinate children against the virus.
However, in a paper published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, Professor Neil Ferguson and Dr Simon Cauchemez, of the department of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, are calling on ministers to close schools in order to reduce the number of cases and allow the vaccine to be produced.
However, schools secretary Ed Balls says there is no longer a case for closing schools, as the virus is already established in the community. He also says this situation will be reviewed.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman says, "Priority groups don't include school children, and there are no immediate plans to vaccinate them. In the first phase of vaccination, we are prioritising those aged between five and 65 who are at risk and are usually offered the seasonal flu vaccination, as well as pregnant women and health workers."
Based on current Scottish Government and NHS guidance, teachers are to encourage pupils to prevent infection by hand-washing, covering their mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and disposing of tissues after a single use.
According to Edinburgh City Council education leader Marilyne MacLaren, "Staff will be looking out for symptoms and encouraging pupils to take simple precautions. Everyone should catch a cough or a sneeze in a tissue and then put it in the bin – catch it, bin it, kill it."
SICKNESS AND DIARRHOEA
In order to prevent an outbreak of gastro-intestinal bugs, it's important that children understand how and why they should wash their hands. Guidance sent out to schools in response to the swine flu outbreak stresses hand-washing, so nurses will be advising children how to do this correctly.
Not so common nowadays, but still worth watching out for, this skin condition is caused by a tiny mite that tunnels into the skin and lays eggs. Scabies causes an itchy rash and is passed on to others by skin-to-skin contact such as holding hands. Creams or lotions will cure it, but it must be applied properly to every part of the body.
But what if your child just won't go to class? School refusal occurs most among those starting at primary or secondary, and has various causes. Fear of failure or social situations are common reasons, or it could be linked to changes at home. If you can't get to the root of the problem, talk to the teachers. If your child feels lonely or excluded, identify a couple of potential friends and invite them round to play. If it's bullying, work with the school to put an end to it. If it's a learning difficulty, arrange for assessment by a psychologist. And if it's because of home tension, ask your GP to refer you for family counselling.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
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