Childhood and the pre-teen years are an exciting period. From starting school for the first time and making new friends to entering puberty and becoming independent, your child will make great progress and develop both physically and mentally during this stage of life. Change won’t come as drastically as it did in their first four years of life, but your child will continue to grow, learn, and develop on a more gradual timeline.
In the next segment of our “Health as We Age” series, we’ll take a look at the common health concerns and medication needs for children and pre-teens ages five to 12.
Health Concerns for Children and Pre-Teens
As they go off to school and spend more time outside of the home, children will spend more time with friends and peers—exposing them to more potential illnesses and injuries. For this reason, it’s important that you maintain regular check-ups with your child’s pediatrician and keep them up to date on any vaccinations.
Allergies and Asthma
Children of all ages can suffer from allergies. Common food allergens for children include peanuts, milk, soybeans, tree nuts, eggs, and wheat. Other common allergens include molds, dust mites, animal dander, venom from stinging insects, medications, and pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds. Your child may grow out of their allergies in early childhood, but they could also develop into adulthood. Allergies tend to run in families, so if a parent has an allergy, it’s likely the child will develop the same allergy.
Common signs of an allergic reaction include dry, red, itchy skin or rash, coughing, congestion, sneezing, runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, or swelling. Identifying and avoiding allergens early can prevent a more severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis—a potentially life-threatening reaction to allergens. If you notice symptoms of an allergic reaction, consult your child’s physician so they can help determine what caused the reaction and how it can be treated.
Allergens can also trigger a breathing condition called asthma. Asthma causes swelling and inflammation in the bronchi of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Approximately one in four children will experience wheezing or asthma sometime during their childhood years. Symptoms of asthma can last up to a few days and most commonly include coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. If you believe your child might have asthma, consult their doctor to look at possible treatments and what may be triggering the onset of asthma attacks.
Cold and Flu
Just like infants and toddlers, children in this age range are easily susceptible to colds and the flu. Both illnesses cause similar symptoms, so it may be difficult to determine if your child is suffering from a common cold or the more serious flu virus. KidsHealth.org provides an easy-to-read chart to determine if your child’s symptoms are more consistent with one illness over the other.
Whether your child has a cold or the flu, it’s best to keep them home from school until they feel better, as both illnesses are easily spread to other children. For a cold, the best thing you can do for your child is to help them get plenty of fluids and rest. If you believe they have the flu, contact their pediatrician as soon as possible.
There’s no fool-proof way to prevent the common cold, but the flu can be prevented most of the time by the flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that all children over 6 months receive the flu vaccine on yearly basis.
Children get into messy, and often germy, situations. These germs often come in the form of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites that can cause infections. Common childhood infections include chickenpox, cold sores, head lice, ear infections, pink eye (conjunctivitis), urinary tract infections, diarrhea, bronchitis, and mononucleosis. Infections are often accompanied by a fever as well as other symptoms including fatigue, muscle aches, coughing, pain, and other various ailments depending on the type of infection.
If you believe your child has an infection, seek medical treatment and keep them isolated from other children. Infections can easily be spread from person to person through touch, sneezing, or coughing.
Children’s mental health problems are unfortunately common. Mental Health America estimates that one in five children has a diagnosable mental health disorder, but about two-thirds of them go undiagnosed. Undiagnosed mental health issues can affect your child’s ability to function on a normal level at both home and school. Parents are often the first to notice emotional or behavioral problems in their children, and these observations are important for ensuring your child receives the care they need.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. With ADHD, your child may find it difficult to pay attention, control impulsive behaviors, or may be overly active. ADHD is usually first diagnosed in children and often lasts into adulthood.
It’s normal for a child to have trouble focusing or behaving every once in a while, but those with ADHD do not grow out of these behaviors and exhibit them on a regular basis. Common behaviors for a child with ADHD include daydreaming, forgetting or losing items often, squirming or fidgeting, talking too much, taking unnecessary risks, having trouble resisting temptation, having trouble taking turns, or difficulty getting along with other children.
If you suspect your child may have ADHD, consult their doctor about treatment options. They’ll use several methods to properly diagnose your child and most likely recommend a combination of behavior therapy and medication.
Depression and Anxiety
Children worry about being away from their parents or have fears related to the unknown. However, persistent and extreme forms of fear and sadness in children could be due to anxiety or depression.
In children, depression often manifests itself through continual feelings of sadness, lack of interest in things they once enjoyed, helplessness, or hopeless. Common behaviors in children with depression include not wanting to participate in fun activities, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, acting tired, sluggish, or tense/restless, having a hard time paying attention, feeling worthless, useless, guilty, or self-injury or self-destructive behavior. Depression should be taken seriously in children as extreme forms can lead a child to contemplate suicide, the leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
When a child’s fears and worries grow so extreme that they interfere with school, life at home, or extracurricular activities, they may be diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety may present itself as fears or worry but can also cause your child to be irritable or angry. Common symptoms include trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some children may internalize their anxious feelings, leading symptoms to be missed.
If you suspect your child has anxiety or depression, the first step is to talk to their pediatrician or a childhood phycologist or psychiatrist.
As your child becomes more independent and a preference for foods they do and don’t like, it’s important to teach them about proper nutrition. Monitor their intake of sugars, fats, and sodium. Educate them about how indulgences like cakes, candy, chips and other snacks should be eaten in moderation. Too many unhealthy foods can lead to your child gaining weight that can cause health issues as they age. Go over your child’s school lunch menu with them and help them determine which foods are best for them. You can also pack a lunch for them at home to ensure they’re getting plenty of healthy foods.
Around age 11, your child will most likely begin to enter puberty. With puberty comes many physical and emotional changes that may leave your child confused. Boys and girls will go through different physical changes during puberty, so it’s important to talk to your child about the changes they’re going through and assure them that what is happening to their body is part of growing up. Remember that all children will enter puberty at different times—some earlier or later than others. Reassure your child that even though their friends may be developing at different rates, this is completely normal.
Common Medications for Children and Pre-Teens
Children between five and 12 can safely take children’s versions of many medications. Most painkillers, allergy, and cold medications can be found over-the-counter, while inhalers and antibiotics require a prescription from your child’s pediatrician. Below are common medications for children and pre-teens and which amounts are safe for your child to consume.
If your child has asthma, their doctor may recommend an inhaler to help control their symptoms. Inhalers are used as a preventative, long-term treatment option to reduce inflammation in your child’s airways that leads to asthma attacks. Inhaled corticosteroids are the most common type of asthma inhaler. These include medications like fluticasone (Flovent Diskus, Flovent HFA), budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler), mometasone (Asmanex), ciclesonide (Alvesco), beclomethasone (Qvar), and others. Inhalers are available via prescription, and your child’s doctor will prescribe the best option to soothe their symptoms.
Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can be given to your child when they’re in pain or have a fever. Both acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Children’s Advil or Children’s Motrin) come in children’s versions that are recommended for children between ages two and 11. The dosage your child should consume for any pain reliever is based on their weight. Check the packaging or with your child’s pediatrician first. Children under the age of 19 should never be given aspirin to relieve pain or fevers. Narcotic pain relievers are typically not recommended for young children.
Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat many different types of infections, but only those caused by bacteria. Infections caused by viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Depending on the type and severity of your child’s infection, their pediatrician may recommend amoxicillin, Zithromax, penicillin, clarithromycin, and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim or another type of antibiotic to treat it. If your child needs to take antibiotics, it’s very important they take the entire course of antibiotics, even if they seem better after a few days.
Allergies and Colds
If your child is suffering from minor allergy symptoms, their doctor will most likely recommend an antihistamine. Children’s versions of over-the-counter antihistamines include Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Claritin (loratadine). Consult your child’s pediatrician prior to giving your child allergy medication, as they can recommend the proper antihistamine and dosage.
For colds, your child’s doctor may recommend cold or cough medications. These medications are not recommended for children under the age of four, but their doctor may recommend them for older children if they believe it is necessary. Cough expectorants like guaifenesin (Children’s Mucinex), cough suppressants like dextromethorphan (Children’s Robitussin), and decongestants like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine (Children’s Sudafed) can be taken by children over the age of six in the recommended dosages to relieve cough and cold symptoms. Always consults your child’s doctor before giving them cold and cough medicines, as there may be different options available to relieve their symptoms.
Saving Money for Parents
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