As mothers we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect – to know everything there is to know about parenting, children's health and development because we want to take good care of our little people. Our pharmacists at Calanna take their role as a health advocate and go to advisor for your family seriously and are available 7 days until late to help with all those little things that can cause us worry or concern about our family.
The fact that we provide support to mothers and families every day means we are well versed in dealing with what really are common health complaints. We understand that distilling that knowledge however is actually really helpful so we decided to share it. Here is a bit of info on the top 10 conditions we commonly see in families who come to us for their health support.
1. Prickly Heat (Miliaria)
CAUSE: Heat/humidity, and sweating more than usual. It is very common in the tropics, especially in babies and young children as their sweat glands haven’t developed properly yet.
TREATMENT: The rash will generally clear up on its own, but you can speed up the process by keeping the child cool, giving lukewarm baths and dressing them in light cotton clothing. It is also recommended to ensure you dry them well after baths or swimming and if it persists, try a product such as Mario’s Prickly Heat Lotion which is designed to provide relief and threat the issue by drying out the blocked sweat glands.
2. Conjunctivitis (there are a few types)
CAUSE: Bacterial infection. This is what most people think of when they hear conjunctivitis. Symptoms generally include red eyes and a thick yellow/green discharge which comes back frequently when wiped away and can sometimes cause the eyes to be stuck together after a sleep. This type of conjunctivitis is contagious and spreads via direct contact with hands or items that have touched the eye.
TREATMENT: It can be treated with antibiotic eye drops, such as Chlorsig.
CAUSE: Usually follows a viral infection such as the common cold or influenza. Symptoms generally include eye redness and a clear, stringy or watery discharge. Unfortunately viral conjunctivitis is very contagious and can be spread by sneezing or coughing.
TREATMENT: The good news is it will go away on its own, but you can use lubricant eye drops to help ease any discomfort.
CAUSE: It is usually caused by pollen, animal dander or dust mites. The most common symptom is itchy eyes.
TREATMENT: It can be treated using over the counter antihistamine eye drops. Identification and avoidance of the allergen is generally recommended as well
3. Nappy Rash
-Irritant Nappy Rash
CAUSE: This is usually caused when the skin is in contact with the child’s urine or faeces for extended periods of time but some children just have sensitive skin. Symptoms include redness, raised or swollen skin and discomfort or pain, especially when touched.
TREATMENT: Suggestions for treatment include changing nappies more frequently, applying a barrier cream to the area at each change and plenty of nappy free time to allow the area time to dry out. Also ensure you are using a gentle soap when bathing and pat dry the area well.
-Fungal Nappy Rash
CAUSE: A fungal infection can sometimes occur following a case of irritant nappy rash. It is especially common in North Queensland due to the heat. Fungal nappy rash is usually bright red and shiny. The red areas have clearly defined edges and it can also spread to affect the skin folds.
TREATMENT: Treatment is usually with one of the fungal nappy rash creams that are available behind the counter (daktozin or Resolve Nappy Rash Cream). It will usually take longer to clear up and can also come back.
-Bacterial Nappy Rash
CAUSE: Usually starts as irritant nappy rash but then develops a bacterial infection as well. The rash may be weeping or have yellow crusting and the child may also have a fever.
TREATMENT: It is important you see a doctor if you suspect your child may have bacterial nappy rash.
CAUSE: The most common intestinal worms in humans are threadworms (also known as pinworms). They are especially common in young children due to their tendency to put their fingers in their mouths. The most common symptom is an itchy bottom (especially at night). Other symptoms can include reduced appetite, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by using sticky tape to check for the presence of worm eggs around the outside of the anus or sighting adult worms in the faeces.
TREATMENT: There are two different ingredients available in the over the counter worm preparations. Pyrantel can be used in adults and children over one year old and mebendazole can be used in adults and children over two years old. For younger children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, it is recommended that you see your doctor. It is important to complete a second treatment two weeks after the first is given. Other tips to reduce re-infection include cutting nails short, washing hands thoroughly after going to the toilet or changing nappies and again before eating, wash all towels, sheets, pyjamas and underwear in hot water to kill any remaining eggs and clean the toilet regularly with disinfectant.
5. Pain Relief
CAUSE: Children will suffer from a variety of conditions, including teething, viral infections and gastrointestinal infections. These will often be associated with pain, fevers and general irritability.
TREATMENT: If you suspect your baby or child is in pain or they have a high fever, you can give them over the counter medication to help to ease the symptoms. The treatment options available include paracetamol (eg. Panadol, Dymadon) or ibuprofen (eg. Nurofen, Advil). These are available in oral liquids for younger children or chewable tablets for older children. Paracetamol is also available in a suppository which can be especially useful if the child is vomiting and cannot keep medication down. Paracetamol can be given to children over one month and ibuprofen can be given to children over three months. Although both of these medications have been around for many years and are quite safe, they do come with some warnings so it is important to always follow the directions on the box and see your pharmacist or doctor if you have any concerns.
6. Head Lice
CAUSE: Head lice are usually spread from direct head-to-head contact as they do not have wings so they can only crawl. The main symptom of head lice is an itchy scalp, particularly around the ears and back of the head but not everyone experiences an itchy scalp so it’s also important to check for the presence of head lice and their eggs. The best way to check for head lice is by lathering the hair in conditioner and using a fine tooth nit comb to comb through each section of hair multiple times, wiping the comb on a tissue each time and examining it carefully for any head lice or their eggs. If any head lice or eggs are found then you should begin treatment promptly.
TREATMENT: There are a number of insecticides available in the pharmacy and they come in many different forms to enable easy application. No topical insecticide will kill all of the eggs so it’s important to follow up with a second treatment seven days later. The conditioner and combing technique can also be used to help remove any lice present in the mean time, but it is not recommended to retreat any sooner than seven days as this can contribute to head lice becoming resistant to certain treatments. It is also a good idea to wash any hats, brushes, hair ties and pillow cases in hot water to ensure that all eggs or lice are killed
CAUSE: Many rashes can be diagnosed and treated with help from your local pharmacist. The most common rashes we see in children are eczema (atopic dermatitis) and fungal infections such as ringworm. Eczema is an inherited condition that usually presents as patches of skin which can be dry, red, scaly and usually very itchy. It varies in severity from quite mild to very serious forms, which can sometimes require hospitalisation.
TREATMENT: Eczema is usually treated by moisturisers and steroid creams, but it can be a bit of trial and error to find which cream is going to work for your particular child. It is also very important to avoid soaps, hot water and any other irritants that will dry out the skin and worsen the symptoms.
CAUSE: Fungal infections are particularly common in North Queensland as they thrive in hot, humid climates. The most common fungal infections we see in children are fungal nappy rash, which we’ve already touched on, and ringworm. Despite what the name suggests, ringworm is actually not caused by a worm. It can be spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or by contact with other items such as towels, clothes or the floor. It usually presents as a red scaly rash in the shape of a ring which is clear in the middle and can be quite itchy.
TREATMENT: Treatment is with an over the counter antifungal cream, usually applied to the area 2-3 times per day and continued for two weeks after the rash has cleared. It is also important to keep the area clean and dry, and wash your hands after touching the area. You can prevent the infection spreading to other people by not sharing towels and cleaning the shower, bath and bathroom floor.
8. Continence (bed wetting and pelvic floor health)
Continence issues can affect anyone and although it’s something many people don’t seek help with, it is very common and in most cases it’s not just something you need to put up with. Bedwetting is common in young children and although it usually improves as they get older, it can be exacerbated by stress so it’s important to be patient and offer the child support. If the bed wetting continues then you can seek further advice or treatment from your general practitioner, child health nurse or paediatrician.
Many women experience continence issues, especially during pregnancy or after childbirth. The symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor include leaking small amounts of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running, failing to reach the toilet in time, reduced sensation in the vagina or a sensation of heaviness. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscle by completing pelvic floor exercises at least three times every day should help, and if it doesn’t then it is important to see your general practitioner or women’s health physiotherapist for further treatment options.
HOW WE CAN HELP: Although your pharmacist may not be your first thought when experiencing issues with breastfeeding, they can be a wealth of knowledge, particularly when it comes to taking medications whilst breastfeeding or if wanting supplements to boost supply or prevent mastitis.
If breastfeeding, it is important to check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking any prescription or over the counter medication, vitamins or supplements. They will usually be able to advise you on if it is safe to take as well as tips on when to take it and any signs to look out for if it is passed through the breast milk.
Many women want advice on increasing their supply, particularly when breastfeeding is first established or they return to work. Most mothers do produce enough milk but sometimes a low supply can be caused by the baby not attaching properly or not feeding effectively. Lactation consultants are fantastic at helping with any breastfeeding issues, but if they have ruled out any of the usual causes of low supply, they may suggest you try galactagogue (milk producing) foods or a supplement such as fenugreek.
The other common question we get asked is in regards to mastitis and tips to help prevent (or treat) mastitis when breastfeeding, or stopping breastfeeding. Mastitis is inflammation or infection in the breast and can be caused by a range of different things. Symptoms of mastitis will usually include pain, a patch of red skin, a hard lump, a fever and/or aching joints. Although it is painful, it is very important that you continue breastfeeding or expressing from the affected breast. Heat packs or a gentle massage in a warm shower can help to remove lumps and improve milk flow. You can also take paracetamol and ibuprofen for pain relief, and use a cool pack on the breast after feeding if needed. Also ensure you drink lots of water and get plenty of rest. If you experience mastitis regularly then a probiotic such as Qiara or Inner Health Plus Pregnancy and Breastfeeding may help to eliminate or reduce any future occurrences.
10 Supplements for Mums
Many Mums come in to the pharmacy wanting advice on supplements for a range of issues, but the most common ones would have to be iron levels and/or a lack of energy. Iron deficiency is common during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to increased requirements or after childbirth due to possible blood loss during labour. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness and breathlessness. If you suspect you may have an iron deficiency it is important to see your doctor so they can request blood tests to check your iron levels. Depending on the results, your doctor may recommend increasing the iron rich foods in your diet or an iron supplement. There are a variety of iron supplements available over the counter either on their own or with supporting ingredients such as folic acid or vitamin C.
Iron deficiency is just one cause of tiredness and a lack of energy. The B group vitamins are also beneficial for increasing energy and helping relieve stress/anxiety, which are symptoms that are almost always experienced by Mums at some stage in their parenting journey. There are a variety of products available in the pharmacy that contain the B group vitamins and are formulated specifically to help with these symptoms; your local pharmacist will be able to assist in choosing the right one for you.
We also have Naturopaths on staff who you can book an appointment with if you prefer to talk to a natural health consultant.