Health care for children aged three to five years old
Mild illnesses and infestations are part of childhood – and largely unavoidable. But effective preventive measures like sun protection and good hygiene help you protect your child’s health – now and for the rest of their life.
If you’re ever worried about your child’s health, talk to your GP or child and family health nurse.
When your child is unwell
The most common health issues
for children in Australia include colds, gastro, conjunctivitis, impetigo, hand foot and mouth disease, lice, worms and warts. It’s always best to see the GP if you aren’t sure what the problem is or what to do about it.
You should seek medical attention for the following signs of serious illness
- drowsiness, lethargy or unresponsiveness
- a stiff neck, persistent headache or complaints of light hurting her eyes
- pale or blue skin
- difficulty breathing
- persistent vomiting or diarrhoea
Young children’s symptoms can get worse very quickly, so always seek medical advice from a GP or hospital if you’re worried.
A child’s average body temperature is about 37°C. If your child’s temperature is higher than 38°C, he or she probably has a fever. Fever is often the first sign that your child is unwell. A fever isn’t an illness in itself – it’s the sign of an illness. Most fevers in children are caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
Using a thermometer is the best way to check your child’s temperature.
Children’s small bodies are very sensitive to medicine, and they need medications that have been specifically designed for their size and their needs. Whenever you give your child medication, you need to check the dosage carefully. And always store medicines out of your child’s reach.
Allergies happen when your child comes into contact with something in the environment that he or she is allergic to, like various foods, dust mites or pollen.
Symptoms of mild or moderate allergic reactions
can include a rash, a tingling mouth, and swelling of the face, eyes or lips.
Symptoms of severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis
include difficult or noisy breathing, swelling of the tongue or throat, dizziness, and going pale and floppy. Anaphylaxis is life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.
If you think your child might have allergies, getting a proper diagnosis is important. To start this process, you can talk to your GP.
Most children with allergies to egg, cow’s milk or wheat outgrow their allergies by the time they’re five years old. Peanut, treenut, fish and shellfish allergies are more likely to be lifelong.
Asthma is when a child’s airway passages are narrowed, which means the child doesn’t get enough air into and out of her lungs. Children with asthma react to asthma triggers – like viral infections, exercise and pollen – by wheezing, coughing and becoming short of breath.
Asthma can sound like a whistling wheeze when your child breathes out. Your child might also be short of breath either during physical activity or while she’s resting, or might cough during physical activity.
If you think your child has asthma, see your GP about a management plan.
Good daily personal hygiene is one of the most effective ways we have to protect ourselves from illness.
This is a great age to start teaching your child good daily hygiene habits – try to make them part of a routine wherever possible. Remember that play and praise are a big part of how children learn, so try to work in a tooth-brushing or hand-washing song, and reward your child’s efforts with smiles and hugs. You’ll probably meet with a lot less resistance!
Regular baths or showers will keep your child clean and healthy. Bathing at the end of the day can also be part of a bedtime routine.
Teach your child to wash her hands
with water and soap over her hands and wrists, and then to dry them thoroughly. Children should wash their hands:
- before eating or preparing food
- after going to the toilet
- after playing or touching animals or dirty things
- after sneezing or coughing.
Your child should cover his or her mouth
with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Make sure he or she puts the tissue in the bin. Encourage them to cough into sleeves or elbows when they don't have a tissue.
You’ll still have to brush your child’s teeth for him or her, but making it part of your morning and night routine sets the pattern for when they can manage by themselves.
Use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste on a toothbrush designed especially for children aged 2-5 years.
You can help your child avoid tooth decay by making sure he or she goes easy on sugary food and drink, drinks plenty of tap water, and sees the dentist for regular check-ups.
Keep your child safe in the sun and prevent sunburn by:
- slipping on protective clothing
- slopping on SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
- slapping on a broad-brimmed hat
- seeking shade
- sliding on wraparound sunglasses.
Even if your child uses the toilet or potty during the day, it’s not time to throw away the nappies just yet. Your child has only just developed the amazing physical ability to manage this body process, and it can take a while to get it right.
Often, children are 3-4 years old before they’re dry at night. Some children still wet the bed at 6-7 years, or even older.
Try these tips for smoothing the path to dry nights:
- Make it clear to your child that you’ll help them in the middle of the night if they wake up needing to use the potty.
- Assure them that there’s nothing wrong if they has an accident at night.
- Use a waterproof protector or bedwetting sheet to cut down on washing, and make it easier to change bedding in the night.
This article was published with permission from the Raising Children Network.