Most babies will experience teething pain. Some may also have a high temperature and their cheeks may look red and feel warm. “Using an age-specific painkiller will often help to alleviate any symptoms,” says Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation.
“Parents can try special baby teething gels (some contain a mild analgesic) or teething rings cooled in the fridge. “As soon as the first baby teeth start to appear, parents should clean them. At first, they may find it easier to use a piece of clean gauze or cloth wrapped around their forefinger. As more teeth appear, they will need to use a baby toothbrush and a peasized smear of fluoride toothpaste.”
Nappy rash is particularly common between the ages of nine and 12 months. The skin looks red and inflamed where it’s been in prolonged contact with a wet or dirty nappy. If nappy rash isn’t treated, it can develop into a yeast or bacterial infection.
Keeping the baby clean and dry by changing wet or soiled nappies regularly can prevent and treat nappy rash. Applying a thin layer of barrier cream or ointment before putting on a clean nappy (even when the skin is clear) will also help.
Colic is a common problem, yet it is poorly understood. It affects up to one in five babies and can have a huge impact on family life. Babies with colic tend to clench their fists, draw their knees up to their tummy and arch their back due to severe pain.
But they are otherwise healthy and continue to gain weight. The symptoms occur mainly in the late afternoon or evening. There’s no proven treatment for colic, but parents can try massaging their baby’s tummy, changing the baby’s formula milk (on the advice of a healthcare professional), using simeticone drops (to release bubbles of trapped air) or using lactase drops (to help baby digest milk sugars).
Babies and young children experience pain or fever for various reasons, from infections and immunisations to colds and flu. If parents wish to give their child pain relief medicines, it’s important that they choose the right product and dose for their child’s age group.
Babies aged two months and older can be given junior paracetamol. Junior ibuprofen is suitable for babies aged three months and older (and who weigh more than 5kg/11lb). Aspirin isn’t suitable for children under 16 unless it’s prescribed by a doctor.
On 1 September 2015, a new meningitis B vaccine was added to the childhood immunisation programme. The vaccine is being given to babies at two, four and 12 months. Meningococcal group B bacteria are responsible for more than 90 per cent of meningitis cases in young children. Babies receiving the meningitis B vaccine are at risk of a fever that could last for a few days.
Public Health England advises that parents should give infant paracetamol following each vaccination dose as a prophylactic measure. The Meningitis Research Foundation warns that parents should still be aware of meningitis symptoms, as current vaccines don’t protect against all forms of meningitis.
Signs of meningitis include a fever, vomiting, headaches and feeling unwell. Babies can also be floppy, sometimes with a tense, bulging soft spot on their head and/or a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it.
In the first few weeks of starting to eat solid food, a baby learns healthy taste habits. According to Glasgow researchers in August 2015, pre-made baby foods available on the high street are too sweet. The researchers found that brands tend to use sweeter vegetables such as carrot rather than green vegetables, such as spinach, which can have a more bitter taste.
In July 2015, the Infant and Toddler Forum called for better education on sugar and sweet foods at a much earlier age. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. Healthy snacks for babies include chopped mini rice cakes, carrot sticks, apple or banana, cubed cheese or mini breadsticks.
“It’s important to choose savoury foods such as cheese, pasta and vegetables rather than sweet foods,” says Dr Carter. “Food that doesn’t contain sugar is better for a baby’s teeth. If a child has a drink between meals, it’s important to give them only water or milk instead of sugary or acidic drinks, which can cause decay.”
Dummies (soothers or pacifiers) are a controversial issue. Some experts say they can cause speech and dental issues, while others say these make no difference in the long term. Official NHS guidance is to use a dummy once breastfeeding is well established (usually from around one month old). Then to stop using the dummy once the baby is six months to a year.
Some parents find that weaning babies off a dummy can be a difficult task. But according to the British Orthodontic Society, a dummy habit is easier to stop than finger or thumb sucking. Orthodontist Robert Slater of the British Orthodontist Society says:
“Prolonged use of a dummy/pacifier can affect the position of baby teeth and this can then have a knock on effect as the adult teeth emerge. The front teeth don’t tend to come together so well and the tongue tends to sit lower in the mouth, which can affect bite development.”
Originally Published by Training Matters