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Video: Common Questions About Kids and Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a common childhood illness. But what steps should you take to look after someone who catches it? In this video Dr Rishi Duggal explains what to do if you or your children get chickenpox, and when to get urgent medical advice.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

The main symptom is the rash – it can occur in 3 main stages:

  • Stage 1: red spots on face or chest
  • Stage 2: after a couple of hours to a day, spots spread to other parts of body – spots can form fluid filled blisters, very itchy
  • Stage 3: these form scabs or crust – can take several weeks to fall off

How to treat it?

  • Can manage pain with paracetamol (*acetaminophen)
    • Avoid ibuprofen with chickenpox as some may have bad reactions to this
  • Calamine lotions and cremes/gels can help soothe the skin
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated
  • Keep your child out of school and if it’s you, stay away from work

How do you catch it?

  • Chickenpox is HIGHLY contagious – really easy to spread:
    • Through droplets infected person has breathed, sneezed or coughed out
    • Through contact with fluid from blisters
    • Even being in same room with someone for 15 mins who has chicken pox

When to get help

  • Contact your GP (*doctor) or NHS 111 if:
    • You’re not sure if you or your child has it
    • Your baby is less than 4 weeks old and has it
    • If you’re pregnant or have a weakened immune system
    • If your symptoms aren’t improving after a week
  • In rare situations your skin can become red or swollen and even more rare, you can find it difficult to breathe.  Seek urgent advice.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





Depression Ruins Lives – What If My Child Has It?

Depression doesn’t just affect adults. Children and teenagers can get depressed too.

Some studies show that almost one in four young people will experience depression before they are 19 years old.

It’s important to get help early if you think your child may be depressed. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to disrupt your child’s life and turn into a long-term problem.

Signs of depression in children

Symptoms of depression in children often include:

  • sadness, or a low mood that doesn’t go away
  • being irritable or grumpy all the time
  • not being interested in things they used to enjoy
  • feeling tired and exhausted a lot of the time

Your child may also:

  • have trouble sleeping or sleep more than usual
  • not be able to concentrate
  • interact less with friends and family
  • be indecisive
  • not have much confidence
  • eat less than usual or overeat
  • have big changes in weight
  • seem unable to relax or be more lethargic than usual
  • talk about feeling guilty or worthless
  • feel empty or unable to feel emotions (numb)
  • have thoughts about suicide or self-harming
  • actually self-harm, for example, cutting their skin or taking on overdose

Some children have problems with anxiety as well as depression. Some also have physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches.

Problems at school can be a sign of depression in children and teenagers and so can problem behaviour, especially in boys.

Older children who are depressed may misuse drugs or alcohol.

Why is my child depressed?

Things that increase the risk of depression in children include:

  • family difficulties
  • bullying
  • physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • a family history of depression or other mental health problems

Sometimes depression is triggered by one difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement or problems with school or other children.

Often it’s caused by a mixture of things. For example, your child may have inherited a tendency to depression and also have experienced some difficult life events.

If you think your child is depressed

If you think your child may be depressed, it’s important to talk to them. Try to find out what’s troubling them and how they are feeling.

See some tips on talking to younger children and talking to teenagers.

Whatever is causing the problem, take it seriously. It may not seem a big deal to you, but it could be a major problem for your child.

If your child doesn’t want to talk to you, let them know that you are concerned about them and that you’re there if they need you.

  • Encourage them to talk to someone else they trust, such as another family member, a friend or someone at school.
  • It may be helpful for you to talk to other people who know your child, including their other parent.
  • You could also contact their school to see if they have any concerns.

When to get medical help

If you think your child is depressed, make an appointment with them to see your GP (*doctor).

  • If necessary they can refer your child to their local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) for specialist help (in the UK)**.
  • See more about CAMHS.
  • If you are worried about any aspect of your child’s mental health, you can call the charity YoungMinds’ free parents’ helpline (in the UK)** on 0808 802 5544 for advice.
  • The YoungMinds website also has mental health support and advice for your child.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States





How to Cope With Pregnancy Morning Sickness

What is Morning Sickness

Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, also known as morning sickness, is very common in early pregnancy. It’s unpleasant, but it doesn’t put your baby at any increased risk and usually clears up by weeks 16 to 20 of pregnancy.

Some women get a very severe form of nausea and vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which can be very serious. It needs specialist treatment, sometimes in hospital. Find out more about hyperemesis gravidarum.

With morning sickness, some women are sick (vomit) and some have a feeling of sickness (nausea) without being sick. The term “morning sickness” is misleading. It can affect you at any time of the day or night, and some women feel sick all day long.

It’s thought hormonal changes in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are probably one of the causes of morning sickness.

Symptoms should ease as your pregnancy progresses. In some women, symptoms disappear by the third month of pregnancy. However, some women experience nausea and vomiting for longer than this, and about 1 woman in 10 continues to feel sick after week 20.

How common is morning sickness?

During early pregnancy, nausea, vomiting and tiredness are common symptoms. Around half of all pregnant women experience vomiting, and more than 80% of women (80 out of 100) experience nausea in the first 12 weeks.

People sometimes consider morning sickness a minor inconvenience of pregnancy, but for some women it can have a significant adverse effect on their day-to-day activities and quality of life.

Treatments for morning sickness

If you have morning sickness, your GP (*doctor) or midwife will initially recommend that you try a number of changes to your diet and daily life to help reduce your symptoms. These include:

  • getting plenty of rest – tiredness can make nausea worse
  • if you feel sick first thing in the morning, give yourself time to get up slowly – if possible, eat something like dry toast or a plain biscuit before you get up
  • drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, and sipping them little and often rather than in large amounts, as this may help prevent vomiting
  • eating small, frequent meals that are high in carbohydrate (such as bread, rice and pasta) and low in fat – most women can manage savoury foods, such as toast, crackers and crispbread, better than sweet or spicy foods
  • eating small amounts of food often rather than several large meals – but don’t stop eating
  • eating cold meals rather than hot ones as they don’t give off the smell that hot meals often do, which may make you feel sick
  • avoiding foods or smells that make you feel sick
  • avoiding drinks that are cold, tart (sharp) or sweet
  • asking the people close to you for extra support and help – it helps if someone else can cook, but if this isn’t possible, go for bland, non-greasy foods, such as baked potatoes or pasta, which are simple to prepare
  • distracting yourself as much as you can – the nausea can get worse the more you think about it
  • wearing comfortable clothes without tight waistbands

If you have severe morning sickness, your doctor or midwife might recommend medication.

Anti-sickness remedies

If your nausea and vomiting is severe and doesn’t improve after you make changes to your diet and lifestyle, your GP (*doctor) may recommend a short-term course of an anti-sickness medicine that is safe to use in pregnancy.

This type of medicine is called an antiemetic. The commonly prescribed antiemetics can have side effects. These are rare, but can include muscle twitching.

Some antihistamines (medicines often used to treat allergies such as hay fever) also work as antiemetics. Your doctor might prescribe an antihistamine that is safe to take in pregnancy. See your GP if you would like to consider this form of treatment.

Ginger eases morning sickness

There is some evidence that ginger supplements may help reduce nausea and vomiting. To date, there have not been any reports of adverse effects being caused by taking ginger during pregnancy.

However, ginger products are unlicensed in the UK, so buy them from a reputable source, such as a pharmacy or supermarket. Check with your pharmacist before you use ginger supplements.

Some women find that ginger biscuits or ginger ale can help reduce nausea. You can try different things to see what works for you.

Find out more about vitamins and supplements in pregnancy.

Acupressure might help morning sickness

Acupressure on the wrist may also be effective in reducing symptoms of nausea in pregnancy. Acupressure involves wearing a special band or bracelet on your forearm. Some researchers have suggested that putting pressure on certain parts of the body may cause the brain to release certain chemicals that help reduce nausea and vomiting.

There have been no reports of any serious adverse effects caused by using acupressure during pregnancy, although some women have experienced numbness, pain and swelling in their hands.

When to see a doctor for morning sickness

If you are vomiting and can’t keep any food or drink down, there is a chance that you could become dehydrated or malnourished. Contact your GP (*doctor) or midwife immediately if you:

  • have very dark-coloured urine or do not pass urine for more than eight hours
  • are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours
  • feel severely weak, dizzy or faint when standing up
  • have abdominal (tummy) pain
  • have a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • vomit blood

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also cause nausea and vomiting. A UTI is an infection that usually affects the bladder but can spread to the kidneys.

If you have any pain when passing urine or you pass any blood, you may have a urine infection and this will need treatment. Drink plenty of water to dilute your urine and reduce pain. You should contact your GP within 24 hours.

Risk factors for morning sickness

A number of different factors may mean you are more likely to have nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. These include:

  • nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy
  • a family history of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, or morning sickness
  • a history of motion sickness – for example, in a car
  • a history of nausea while using contraceptives that contain oestrogen
  • obesity – where you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
  • stress
  • multiple pregnancies, such as twins or triplets
  • first pregnancy

Visit the pregnancy sickness support site for tips on dealing with nausea and vomiting, and advice for partners too.

Find maternity services near you  (in the UK)

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





How to Cope With First-Year College Stress: Self-Help Tips

Starting university can be a stressful experience. How you cope with the stress is the key to whether or not it develops into a health problem.

Stress is a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. In small amounts it’s good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, including in exams.

Leaving home to start your studies can involve some stressful changes. These might include moving to a new area, meeting new people and managing on a tight budget.

Signs you might be stressed

The first signs of stress are:

Too much stress can lead to physical and psychological problems, such as:

  • anxiety – feelings ranging from uneasiness to severe and paralysing panic
  • dry mouth
  • churning stomach
  • palpitations – pounding heart
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • depression

Things that can help with stress

Short periods of stress are normal, and can often be resolved by something as simple as completing a task – which cuts down your workload – or by talking to others and taking time to relax.

Some of these suggestions might help:

  • Work out what it is that’s making you anxious. For example, is it exams, or money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you’re under.
  • Try to have a more healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleepexercise regularly, cut down on alcohol, and spend some time socialising as well as working and studying.
  • Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
  • Learn to relax. If you have a panic attack or are in a stressful situation, try to focus on something outside yourself, or switch off by watching TV or chatting to someone.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises may help.
  • Try to resolve personal problems by talking to a friend, tutor or someone in your family.
  • Read about how to cope with the stress of exams.

For more tips on beating stress, check out these 10 stress busters.

The NHS Choices Moodzone has eight free mental wellbeing podcasts or audio guides that may help you when your mood is low or you’re facing an anxious time in your life.

This anxiety podcast tackles stress that arises around revision time and exams.

Professional help for student stress

Long-term stress and anxiety is difficult to resolve by yourself, and it’s often best for you to seek help.

Don’t struggle alone. Anxiety can seriously affect your academic performance, and that’s not only distressing for you, but means a lot of wasted effort.

Find out more about tackling student mental health issues.





How to Help Your Child Live With Kidney Disease

Having kidney disease affects children in many ways. They may need to take medicines and alter their diet, and can also face challenges at school.

It’s only natural to worry if you have a child with kidney disease. Parents often have questions about their child’s health. We answer some of the most common ones.

It can be helpful for parents to talk to members of the renal team, such as the social worker or clinical psychologist. Other parents and patient support groups may also be able to help.

Can I give a kidney to my child?

As a parent, your first instinct may be to deal with your child’s condition by giving them one of your kidneys. Around half of all kidney transplants carried out are now from living donors.

Living organ donation usually involves one family member donating an organ to another family member or a partner. The relative is usually blood related – a parent, brother, sister or child. It’s possible for a healthy person to lead a completely normal life with only one working kidney.

Considering donating a kidney is a big step. It’s major surgery, and will only go ahead once strict rules are met and after a thorough process of assessment and discussion. Talk to your child’s renal team if you want to explore whether donation could be an option for you and your child.

Will my child grow normally?

The kidneys play an important role in a child’s growth, so children with kidney disease may not grow as well as their peers. To make the problem worse, their illness can make them feel sick, alter their sense of taste and reduce their appetite.

How to help

It’s important to make sure that children with kidney disease get enough nutrition. Talk to your child’s doctor about ways to help boost growth. Taking supplements and limiting certain foods while eating more fats and carbohydrates to increase calorie intake can help. Some children benefit from injections of growth hormone.

Will my child have a problem making friends?

Children with kidney disease can have trouble making friends and fitting in with children of their own age. This can be because they miss time off school.

It can also be because of a child’s natural concern that their kidney disease makes them different from other children. Children can lack confidence if they’re small for their age and their appearance has changed (for example, if they are bloated) as a result of their condition and its treatment.

How to help

Find ways to encourage your child to meet other children and make friends. They can meet other children through nurseries, playgroups, school and after-school clubs. Having children over for tea and sleepovers and, in the case of older children, using social networking sites, such as Facebook, can help encourage them to make friends.

Will my child have difficulties at school?

Kidney disease itself doesn’t usually cause problems with learning, but children who have had kidney disease from a young age may spend so much time in hospital that they struggle with schoolwork. They usually catch up as they get older.

How to help

If your child misses school, do all you can to help them with their schoolwork. Talk to their teachers as early as possible to make a homework plan that your child can get on with while they’re in hospital.

  • Make sure your child is getting as much extra educational support as possible from the school. The hospital teachers can also help and advise you.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s development or learning, talk to your child’s school.

Read more about how to talk to the school about your child’s health condition.

Should children with kidney disease do sport?

It’s tempting to be overprotective of a sick child. In general, sport and exercise is great for children with kidney disease. But bear in mind that they may get tired more easily than their friends and classmates.

How to help

Encourage your child to do all the activities their friends do. If your child is on dialysis, swimming might not be possible. In some cases, particularly after a kidney transplant, children should also avoid contact sports. Otherwise, they can safely take part in most sports.

What if my child refuses their medicine?

Taking medicines is part of life for most children and young people with kidney disease. They can find this a strain and may stop taking their medicines.

How to help

  • Try to work out why they don’t want to take their medicines. Children, especially teenagers, may stop taking their medicines because they can cause unflattering changes in appearance.
  • Talk to them about why taking their medicines is important for their health and what will happen if they don’t. Be careful not to scare your child into taking their medicines.
  • Explaining to older children and teenagers why they need to be responsible for taking their own medicines can make them more likely to keep taking their tablets.
  • It can also help to involve the renal team that’s looking after your child, as they will have lots of experience of tackling this problem with other children and young people.
  • It’s very important that you let the renal team know immediately if you think your child isn’t taking their medicines.

Who can my child talk to about kidney disease?

All children’s kidney teams have different professionals on hand to chat to your child. These include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, play specialists, teachers and some youth workers.

How to help

Arrange for your child to talk to a member of the kidney team. It can also help if they meet a young adult who had chronic kidney disease during childhood, or another child of their own age. You can find contacts through your doctor, local support group, or the British Kidney Patient Association (BKPA)**.

How do I explain kidney disease to my other children?

Brothers and sisters of children with kidney disease may feel left out and worried. They need time with you to talk over their worries and feel part of the overall plan.

How to help

Your child’s kidney team is there to help the whole family. Ask the play specialist, psychologist or social worker to spend time talking to your child’s brothers and sisters and answering their questions.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States, the National Kidney Foundation  and the American Kidney Fund





How to Manage Your Diabetes for a Safer Pregnancy

Diabetes and your unborn baby

Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood is too high.

Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods, such as bread and rice. Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, helps your body to use glucose for energy.

Three types of diabetes can affect you when you’re pregnant:

The information on this page is for women who have pre-existing diabetes in pregnancy.

Most women with diabetes have a healthy baby, but diabetes does give you a higher risk of some complications.

If you already have diabetes

If you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may be at a higher risk of:

People with type 1 diabetes may develop problems with their eyes (diabetic retinopathy) and their kidneys (diabetic nephropathy), or existing problems may get worse.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your baby may be at risk of:

  • not developing normally and having congenital abnormalities, particularly heart and nervous system abnormalities
  • being stillborn or dying soon after birth
  • having health problems shortly after birth, such as heart and breathing problems, and needing hospital care
  • developing obesity or diabetes later in life

Reducing the risks if you have pre-existing diabetes

  • The best way to reduce the risk to your own and your baby’s health is to ensure your diabetes is controlled before you become pregnant.
  • Ask your GP or diabetes specialist (diabetologist) for advice. You should be referred to a diabetic pre-conception clinic for support before you try to get pregnant.
  • Find diabetes support services near you (UK)**.
  • You should be offered a blood test called an HbA1c test, which helps assess the level of glucose in your blood.
    • It’s best if the level is no more than 6.5% before you get pregnant, as long as this does not cause problems with hypoglycaemia (*hypoglycemia).
    • If your HbA1c is higher than this, you would benefit from getting your blood glucose under better control before you conceive to reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby.
    • Your GP or diabetes specialist can advise you on how best to do this.
    • If your HbA1c is very high (above 10%), your care team should strongly advise you not to try for a baby until it has fallen.

Folic acid

  • Women with diabetes should take a higher dose of folic acid. The normal daily dose for women trying to get pregnant and for pregnant women is 400 micrograms.
  • Diabetic women should take 5 milligrams (mg) a day. Your doctor can prescribe this high-dose folic acid for you, as 5mg tablets are not available over the counter.
  • Taking folic acid helps prevent your baby developing birth defects, such as spina bifida. You should take folic acid while you are trying to get pregnant, until you are 12 weeks pregnant.

Your diabetes treatment in pregnancy

  • Your diabetic treatment regime is likely to need adjusting during your pregnancy, depending on your needs.
  • If you take drugs for conditions related to your diabetes, such as high blood pressure, these may have to be altered.
  • It’s very important to keep any appointments that are made for you so your care team can monitor your condition and react to any changes that could affect your own or your baby’s wellbeing.
  • Expect to monitor your blood glucose levels more frequently during pregnancy. Your eyes and kidneys will be screened more often to check they are not deteriorating in pregnancy, as eye and kidney problems can get worse.
  • You may also find that as you get better control over your diabetes you have more low blood sugar (hypoglycaemic) attacks. (*hypoglycemic) These are harmless for your baby, but you and your partner need to know how to cope with them.
  • Find out about treating a hypoglycaemic attack, and talk to your doctor or diabetes specialist.

Diabetic eye screening in pregnancy

You will be offered diabetic eye screening at recommended intervals during pregnancy if you had diabetes before you got pregnant (pre-existing diabetes).

This screening test is to check for signs of diabetic eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy.

Everyone with diabetes is offered diabetic eye screening, but screening is very important when you are pregnant because the risk of serious eye problems is greater in pregnancy.

Diabetic eye screening is strongly recommended in pregnancy. It is part of managing your diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy is treatable, especially if it is caught early.

If you decide not to have the test, you should tell the clinician looking after your diabetes care during pregnancy.

Read more about diabetic eye screening.

Labour and birth

If you have diabetes, it’s strongly recommended that you give birth with the support of a consultant-led maternity team in a hospital.

Read more about where you can give birth, including in hospital.

Babies born to diabetic mothers are often larger than normal. This is because blood glucose passes directly from you to your baby, so if you have high blood glucose levels your baby will produce extra insulin to compensate.

This can lead to your baby storing more fat and tissue. This in turn can lead to birth difficulties, which requires the expertise of a hospital team.

After the birth

Two to four hours after your baby is born they will have a heel prick blood test to check whether their blood glucose level is too low.

Feed your baby as soon as possible after the birth – within 30 minutes – to help keep your baby’s blood glucose at a safe level.

If your baby’s blood glucose can’t be kept at a safe level, they may need extra care. Your baby may be given a drip to increase their blood glucose.

Read more about special care for babies.

When your pregnancy is over, you won’t need as much insulin to control your blood glucose.

You can decrease your insulin to your pre-pregnancy dose or, if you have type 2 diabetes, you can return to the tablets you were taking before you became pregnant. Talk to your doctor about this.

If you had gestational diabetes, you can stop all treatment after the birth.

You should be offered a test to check your blood glucose levels before you go home and at your six-week postnatal check. You should also be given advice on diet and exercise.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Locate diabetes support services in the United States 





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