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By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with Dr. Angelia Chua, Consultant Family Physician, NHGP.

Allergic Rhinitis (Allergies)

Does your child constantly sneeze and have a runny nose? He might have allergies, specifically allergic rhinitis. Typical symptoms include sneezing, blocked nose, runny, or itching. It might also be hard for the little one to get some sleep if he’s constantly sneezing away.

Allergic rhinitis tends to be persistent instead of seasonal in Singapore due to our tropical weather, and is the most common chronic allergy disease in children.

Help your little one feel better:

  1. Keep him away from the usual triggers like dust mites and tobacco smoke.
  2. Use an air filter in the room, if possible.
  3. An extra pillow to keep your toddler’s head propped up might help reduce congestion and ease his breathing.
  4. Bring your child to the doctor if you feel that the condition is beginning to affect his daily activities.
Related: When Allergies Occur

Asthma

Asthma affects about 20% of children in Singapore, and not all children have the same asthma symptoms. Possible signs and symptoms of asthma include:

  • Frequent coughing episodes
  • A chronic cough (which may be the only symptom)
  • Intermittent rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or chest "hurting"
  • Whistling sound when breathing in or out, also known as wheezing.
  • Laboured breathing, shortness of breath, or loss of breath
  • Feelings of weakness or tiredness

If you suspect your little one has asthma, take him to the doctor — although it is not easy to diagnose asthma if your child is below two, as other common conditions might have similar symptoms (e.g. wheezing and coughing). 

Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications to manage the asthma attacks, and advise on measures to prevent them. In general, asthma can be triggered by dust, pollen, animal fur, tobacco smoke and stress so keep your baby's room clean and dust-free, and your baby relaxed.

Related: Common Childhood Illnesses—Asthma

Chickenpox


Small, red, itchy spots on the body and face could mean your baby has caught the chickenpox. These appear over a few days and progress from red spots to blisters that eventually burst, dry up and form crusts before healing. Mild fever is another possible symptom.

Chickenpox is a contagious disease, but it's usually harmless for healthy children. You can prevent your child from getting chickenpox through vaccination. The recommended age for that is between 12 and 18 months, so parents are strongly encouraged to bring their child for immunisation.

Anyone who has ever had the chickenpox will have a story on how hard it is to fight the urge to scratch the itch. If your toddler has the chickenpox, let him wear gloves or mittens to minimise scratching, as it might lead to scars. Cool baths for your toddler will also help bring much needed relief for the itching. 

Bring your child to the doctor immediately if:

  • The rash spreads to the eye(s)
  • The rash gets very red, warm and/or painful
  • Your baby is drowsy and disorientated
  • Your baby starts vomiting
  • Your baby is experiencing rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, stiff neck or high fever.

Related: Vaccination for Your Baby

Constipation

By the time your baby is 1 year old, you probably have a good idea of his bowel movements. If you don't know what "regular" for your child is, it would be a good idea to keep track of the number of times your baby needs to poop in a day, over the course of a week. 

Once you've got that figured out, it won't be hard to tell when your baby's bowl movements are irregular or less frequent. Other signs of constipation to look out for: he appears to be in pain each time he tries to poop, or his stools are harder than usual.

Just like us adults, your child needs to have enough fibre in his diet. Make sure to offer your toddler enough fruit and vegetables to prevent or ease constipation. Plenty of water and milk is also important when it comes to maintaining regular bowel movements—so make sure your baby stays hydrated. Check with your doctor if the condition doesn't improve.

Related: Nutrition for Your Toddler

Coughs and Colds

As adults, we often self-medicate for coughs and colds because we know it's something that will go away after a few days. But when it comes to children, it's hard not to worry about them, especially if they are too young to verbally tell us how they feel. Parents should not worry needlessly however, as coughs and colds in children very rarely amount to anything serious.

Toddlers usually recover from a common cold spontaneously. In the meantime, make sure your toddler gets plenty of rest and fluids. Do not get any medicine over-the-counter as these medicines—even the ones for children—are usually meant for children 2 years and above

Do go to the doctor if your child's condition worsens.

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Coughs and Colds

Eczema

Does your child have a red, scaly rash on his limbs, face or trunk, and is he constantly scratching and complaining of itch? 

If someone in the family has a history of eczema, then it's quite possible that your toddler may have it too. While not infectious, eczema can certainly cause plenty of discomfort to your child, especially in a climate like Singapore's. 

Here’s what you can do to help ease your child’s discomfort:

  1. Moisturise two to three times a day. Choose fragrance-free moisturisers and generously apply over all skin surfaces.
  2. Avoid dust, animal fur, tobacco smoke and stress as these may aggravate the condition.
  3. Use mild soaps when bathing your toddler and dress him in light cotton clothing.
  4. Discuss with your doctor for a topical steroid cream to help with the condition.
  5. If the discomfort is keeping your child from having proper sleep at night, you may also ask the doctor for some anti-itch medication (antihistamine) to help with the itching.

If the condition worsens and you notice crusting or oozing sores, bring your child to the doctor again.

Related: Bring the Gift of Smoke-Free Living Home

Fever

Fevers are the body's way to fight infections; it can happen suddenly and it may be hard to pinpoint its cause. A fever can go away overnight just as suddenly as it appeared, or it may persist for up to 5 to 7 days.

Use a digital thermometer to measure your toddler's temperature. 37.5°C and 37.9°C is considered a low fever while anything above 38.5°C is high. 

Make sure your little one is hydrated with water and/or milk, and keep the room cool and well-ventilated. Do not dress your toddler up in thick clothes to "sweat it out" as that would be counteractive. 

For high fevers, you may give paracetamol (for infants at least 3 months old) or ibuprofen (for infants at least 6 months old). Do take note of the dosage and the amount of time between each dose.

Related: Fighting Childhood Fevers

Gastroenteritis/Stomach Flu

This isn't just a tummy ache. If your toddler is vomiting, has diarrhoea, and the waft of his stools smell worse than usual, it could be an infection of the gut. He may not be able to tell you, but he's also experiencing some pain around his tummy. The cause could be a viral infection, or food poisoning. 

Your baby might be suffering from dehydration as a result of the vomiting and diarrhoea, so mum and dad should make sure the little one takes small but frequent sips of water. Bring your child to a doctor if the symptoms persist or worsen.

Related: Diarrhoea (Child)

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HMFD)

This is one of the commonest childhood conditions in Singapore. The obvious symptoms are blisters or a rash on your kid's palms, feet or buttocks. Parents should also check for painful mouth ulcers, and measure the toddler's temperature to check for a fever. 

This is an infection that can spread easily. Besides bringing your child to the doctor immediately, inform the childcare centre if your child has HFMD. After seeing the doctor, keep the little one home so he can have sufficient rest and fluids. This is also the time to disinfect all the toys and objects in your house that your child comes into contact with. Because of the ulcers in your toddler's mouth, it would also be best to switch to a soft diet for the time being — porridge or oatmeal cereal, for example.

References

  1. Ezcema (Child), Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.singhealth.com.sg/PatientCare/ConditionsAndTreatments/Pages/Eczema-Child.aspx