The latest parenting news

Want the latest on how to keep your little ones happy and healthy? Course you do! Helen Foster scours the globe to bring you the juiciest nuggets

News

The pill that fights colic – naturally

Many mums know all too well about this painful wind-based condition that affects up to a third of babies in their first few months, but research from Australia and Iran has found that a mix of probiotic bacteria and the prebiotics that feed them might ease it.

In trials, 83 per cent of the babies given the pre- and probiotic bacteria combo cut their average crying time by half.

‘The make-up of gut bacteria might be a risk factor in colic,’ says Dr Mayur Joshi, medical advisor to Probiotics International, manufacturers of Bio-Kult Infantis used in the trial. It’s thought that the mix of bacteria studied repopulates the bowel in a healthier way.

Don’t give medicines on a spoon

According to new research from the American Academy of Paediatrics, tens of thousands of children in the US end up in hospital because they’ve been given medicines measured with spoons rather than droppers or syringes. Steve Tomlin, consultant pharmacist for Children’s Services at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, agrees it’s a problem here, too.

‘Doses prescribed for children need to be reasonably accurate; even common medicines like paracetamol can be toxic if larger doses are given regularly. And a medicine spoon can give an inaccurate dose if it’s filled wrongly.’

If your tots don’t like taking medicines via a syringe, Steve suggests a better plan is to measure the medicine with a syringe first, then transfer it to a spoon.

Get nostalgic on days out

If you’re looking for something to entertain a bored little one, a recent study from Eco Attractions says thinking back to your own childhood may provide the answer...

They found that two-thirds of today’s young ones had never made a daisy chain, and 40 per cent had never stomped around in squelchy mud!

So they compiled a list of 30 experiences missing from the lives of modern kids – things such as rockpooling, jumping in puddles, having a picnic in the park, going blackberry-picking and skimming stones.

If you used to sleepwalk, so might they

New studies from Canada’s Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal have found that 60 per cent of children started to sleepwalk if both their parents had also done so when they were young.

‘Sleepwalking can sometimes be linked to sleep deprivation so, to try to avoid this, ensure your child has a good bedtime routine and is getting enough sleep,’ says Vicki Dawson from The Children’s Sleep Charity.

‘If your child does start to sleepwalk, one of the key concerns will be safety, so consider taking measures such as fitting safety gates, or have an alarm fitted to your child’s door to alert you that they’re out of bed. Don’t use bunk beds, and if they do get up, gently guide them back to bed – don’t wake them, as it may startle and confuse them, and is unnecessary.’

Growing veg helps tots to like them

When researchers at Ohio State and Cornell Universities in the US asked children to grow their own greens, they found they were five times more likely to enjoy eating them. The best news is, you don’t even need a garden to get involved.

‘If you have a sunny windowsill, a cherry tomato plant is a fun way to start. They grow fast and will produce snack-sized fruit that most children love,’ says Tom Moggach, author of The Urban Kitchen Gardener (£16.99, Kyle Books). ‘If you do have a garden, sugar snap peas and mangetout are also easy-to-grow vegetables that kids love.’

Is it asthma – or peanut allergy?

Recent research from the US found that around 22 per cent of children suffering with what appears to be asthma actually have a mild peanut allergy – but half of these had no clue that they had any sensitivity to peanuts.

‘Many of the respiratory symptoms of peanut allergy can mirror those of an asthma attack, and vice versa,’ says the study’s author, Robert Cohn from St Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital, Ohio.

Robert advises that if your child has been diagnosed with asthma, and is using their medication properly but still has trouble controlling symptoms such as wheezing and coughing, that
you ask your GP about a test for peanut sensitivity, just to check if that’s what could be behind their problems.

It’s time to ditch the bleach

Yes, we know it’s good to have a clean house, but recent research from the Centre for Environment and Health in Belgium has found that children living in homes where bleach was regularly used had a higher risk of contracting flu, tonsillitis and other infections.

The reasons for this aren’t yet clear, but the results are in line with other studies: researchers say it’s possible that airborne compounds released while cleaning with bleach might damage the lining of cells in the lungs, increasing the risk of inflammation and making it easier for infections to take hold.

Your best bet? Keep bleach for high-risk areas such as toilets and sinks, and use other cleaners elsewhere in the home.

There’s a new tonsil operation

While we’re talking tonsils, there’s a new operation to tackle problems with them, called an intracapsular tonsillectomy.

‘The tonsil is a collection of tissue surrounded by a fibrous capsule that sits on a bed of muscle,’ says Michelle Wyatt, consultant paediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon at London’s Great Ormond Street and The Portland hospitals.

‘In a traditional tonsillectomy, the whole capsule is removed from the muscle, which can lead to quite a lot of pain during the recovery period, as well as a risk of bleeding for seven to ten days after the operation, while the area heals.

‘However, the new operation uses a wand-like device that nibbles away about 95 per cent of the tissue from inside the capsule, rather than completely removing it, which reduces the pain and lowers the risk of bleeding.’

Intracapsular tonsillectomies are available on the NHS (as well as privately), but not every surgeon practises it yet. Because some tissue is left behind, right now it’s most commonly used on those children who suffer with large tonsils that obstruct the airways, rather than on those having their tonsils removed because they suffer with recurrent infections.

However, this is beginning to change, as more and more evidence is emerging showing that this new procedure may be just as effective as the classic operation in these cases, too.

Cartoons make injections easier

When it’s time for your children’s jabs, you might avoid the tears if you load an iPad with Peppa Pig to take with you. Research from a team of nurses in Italy found that six-year-olds watching cartoons suffered less pain and upset before, during and after an injection than those who just had a nurse chatting to them as a distraction.

You can beat dry skin

It’s been prescribed to tackle dry skin and eczema for years, but now the Cetraben emollient range is also available over the counter (handy if you run out on a Sunday or just don’t have time to get to the GP for a prescription) – prices start from £4.99.

Don’t forget this top tip from consultant dermatologist Dr Anthony Bewley from London’s Whipps Cross University Hospital. ‘Always apply any emollient in the direction of hair growth,’ he says. ‘Not only does this make it easier to apply, it also lowers the risk of it blocking follicles, which can lead to spots or boils.’

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