Understanding Eczema in Children

At some point, almost every child has dry skin. Sometimes it appears in small patches behind the knees or in the creases of the elbows. It can involve larger areas of skin, too, such as the fronts of the thighs. And sometimes the skin all over the body gets dry.

The medical term for dry skin is eczema or atopic dermati­tis. In a toddler, eczema classically appears in the folds of the knees and elbows. It can also show up as dry or red patches on the cheeks, behind the ears, or on the wrists or ankles. Some chil­dren develop skin-colored bumps on their thighs, the backs of their arms, or their bellies. Eczema can range in color from nor­mal skin tone to bright red. Continue reading “Understanding Eczema in Children” »

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Understanding Lazy Eye in Children

A lazy eye is an eye that wanders in toward the nose or out toward the ear. This laziness can occur constantly, but more often it happens intermittently. In fact, the most common time you will notice it is when your child is tired.

A lazy eye is usually the result of weakness in one of the muscles that control eye movement. There are 6 muscles attached to each eyeball — so 12 in all — that must coordinate to make the two eyes move in sync. If one of those muscles is either too strong or too weak, it will pull (or fail to pull) the eye in a certain direction. This is called strabismus. Although laziness could cer­tainly happen in both eyes at the same time, it is far more likely that it will occur in just one eye. Continue reading “Understanding Lazy Eye in Children” »

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Corneal Abrasion in Children

The cornea is a clear layer of tissue covering the front of the eye. It protects the eye from irritants and minor damage. When this tis­sue is scratched or damaged, the result is called a corneal abra­sion.

Anything that swipes across the eye, such as sand, a fingernail, or a piece of paper, plastic, or metal, can cause a corneal abra­sion. Because a corneal abrasion is caused by physical damage, it is not contagious.

A scratch on the cornea usually causes acute pain. Bright lights become uncomfortable, and so a child with a corneal abrasion will likely close her eyes in the daylight or in a well-lit room. Her eye will tear frequently, and she will likely blink more often than usual. The eye may look red and irritated, but it also may look completely normal. In some cases, your child may be in so much pain that it is difficult for you to inspect her eye. Continue reading “Corneal Abrasion in Children” »

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Understanding Pink Eye in Children

An infected eye can look pink or red, glassy or goopy, swollen or even a little bit black-and-blue. Many of these infections in the eye fall under the general umbrella of conjunctivitis. This term comes from the conjunctiva, which is the mucous membrane on the inside of the eyelid. Although the infection often shows up on the white part of the eye (the sclera), the real site of irritation is usually underneath the lid.

Not all eye infections are conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva has to be inflamed for the label to apply. Continue reading “Understanding Pink Eye in Children” »

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How to Deal With Kids’ Hair Loss

If the cause of the hair loss is mechanical, you can usually fix the problem. If rubber bands are breaking the hair, stop using them. If brushing vigorously is causing the hair to fall out, brush gently and occasionally. If your child has become a hair puller, talk to your doctor about strategies for changing this behavior. One approach is to cut the hair short enough that there isn’t much to grab.

If the alopecia is spontaneous, there is nothing you can do to minimize the hair loss. In time, the hair will likely grow back. If the hair loss is significant, hats, hairpieces, or wigs are all worth considering. Most toddlers are not self-conscious, but some will mention that the hair loss bothers them. Continue reading “How to Deal With Kids’ Hair Loss” »

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What to Do If Your Child Has Lice

Getting rid of lice can be difficult. Treatment requires two steps. The first step is to kill all of the live lice. This can be achieved either by smothering the scalp with petroleum jelly (Vaseline), mayonnaise, or oil to suffocate the lice or by washing with a medicated shampoo. If you choose to use a suffocant, leave it on the scalp overnight. A shower cap will keep the pillow clean and makes the process a little more manageable. Even the shampoo should be left on for 1 to 8 hours, rather than the 10 minutes rec­ommended in the directions, for best results. Continue reading “What to Do If Your Child Has Lice” »

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What to Do If Your Child Has Head Banging

If your child is banging his head while in a crib, pull the crib away from the wall. Often a child will stand in the crib and bang his head on the wall. Sometimes, however, a child will bang on the crib itself.

Place the crib on a thick rug. This will reduce the noise associ­ated with the banging and immobilize the crib, making it harder for your child to rock the crib back to the wall, where he can bang some more.

Crib bumpers are controversial. They may be helpful to mini­mize head banging, but your child may use them to climb out of the crib as well. If you use crib bumpers, tie them securely to the railings. Use thin bumpers with the least amount of cushioning possible to minimize the area on which your child can climb. In general, bumpers are not recommended because the risks associ­ated with your child’s climbing out of the crib outweigh the risks associated with head banging. Continue reading “What to Do If Your Child Has Head Banging” »

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Understanding Head Banging In Children

What is happening inside my child’s body? It is not uncommon to see a child walk over to the wall and bang his head repeatedly. Such banging is usually rhythmic and delib­erate. This behavior is simply called head banging.

There is no consensus on why some children bang their heads, but one theory is that the behavior stimulates the vestibular sys­tem, the same mechanism in the inner ear that controls balance. Other rhythmic behaviors, such as body rocking and head rolling, are thought to be similar because they, too, stimulate the vestibu­lar system. Alternative explanations for head banging range from boredom to self-stimulation (similar, in fact, to masturbation). Continue reading “Understanding Head Banging In Children” »

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What to Do If Your Child Has Headaches

If your child complains of a headache but is otherwise well, you can use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) to help relieve the pain. Also try dimming the lights and quieting the room. Turn off any music and put away loud toys. If the house is especially busy at the time, shut the door to the child’s room to keep the noise to a minimum.

Sleep is probably the best treatment for a benign headache. Although no parent can make a child sleep, encouraging rest and creating an environment conducive to sleep can help. Continue reading “What to Do If Your Child Has Headaches” »

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Understanding Head Trauma in Children

Toddlers hit their heads often. They fall, trip, roll, and stumble. The sound of a head hitting the floor or wall can be a gut-wrenching noise. Before you panic, thinking that your child may have done serious damage, look at her. The best sign that there is nothing to worry about is that your child cries immediately, then calms down and goes back to her usual activity. Even if a big mp (often referred to as a “goose egg”) emerges within minutes, her head is probably fine. In fact, goose eggs tend to be reassuring, because the swelling is heading outward onto the scalp and not inward toward the brain.

Trauma is the leading cause of injury and death in children younger than 16 years of age. Children have a higher risk of head injury in accidents than adults. This is partly because they have larger heads (relative to their body size) and underdeveloped neck muscles. Continue reading “Understanding Head Trauma in Children” »

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