Growing up is lots of fun, but the reality of childhood is that there will always be unpleasant health milestones to deal with.
Broken bones, drawing blood, getting stithes, grommets and tonsillectomies- your child may face any or all of these as she develops and explores her world. None of them are easy for us parents to go through, but mostly our children just sail through them. To put your mind at ease we show you how to deal with them.
Grommets are small plastic tubes inserted, under general anaesthetic, in the eardrum to allow sufficient air through a baby or toddler's drainage tube to avoid fluid build-up and persistent ear infections. The operations takes only ten minutes but your little one could be in theatre for half an hour. So to make the wait and recovery easier, here is what to expect and do:
- Let your child have a meal six hours before surgery to reduce hunger. Take along fluids, which can be given up to two hours before surgery.
- Admit her an hour early to acclimatise to the environment. Take along books, toys and things that she likes.
- Your paediatrician may allow you to remain in theatre during the operation.
- She'll be slightly disorientated after the operation and will probably cry. Once fully awake, and she's had a drink, she will quickly improve and go home.
- Once home, most children do well with little or no pain.
Small qauntities of fluid may drain from your child's ears for several days after surgery. If a discharge persists, contact your paediatrician.
Persistent or recurrent tonsillitis, strep infections, swollen tonsils, snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea may lead your doctor to recommend surgical removal of your little one's tonsils.
Although surgery can be frightening for kids and parents, this is what you can do to prepare your toddler and what to expect.
- Talk lightly and openly about the operation, making a game of it almost.
- Go half an hour early to acclimatise her to the environment and take along books, crayons and things that she likes.
- She'll receive general anaesthesia and the operation lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.
- No skin is cut through because the doctor removes the tonsils through your child's open mouth.
Expect to remain five hours at the hospital or possily overnight. Recuperation, with some throat pain and discomfort, may take several days to a week or more.
Toddlers are busybodies and as a result do break bones occassionally and these are tell-tale signs:
- Limb bent out of position.
- Snapping sound.
- Won't stand or walk.
- Tender to touch.
- Movement increases pain (a limb can move if a bone is broken).
If you suspect a break, protect and immobilise the injured area and get medical help immediately. If your toddler can be transported, your doctor will take x-rays and advise on how to move her safely.
If you suspect a skull, neck, back or pelvic fracture, don't move her; call for emergency help. Don't try to straighten the position of a dislocated joint or broken bone as you could make it worse. If she has a weak or rapid pulse, bluish skin, rapid breathing, confusion or is coughing up blood, rush her to the nearest casualty centre if emergency help isn't available.
For stitches to hold better, it's important to get them done within six to eight hours. Your little one may need them, or emergency treatment, if:
- Firm pressure with a clean cloth doesn't stop the bleeding within ten minutes.
- The wound was from an animal bite.
- The wound has dirt or gravel that won't disappear with soap and water.
- The wound was from a dirty or rusty object.
Your doctor will apply local anaesthetic to numb the area, wash it and stitch it closed. You may have to assist in holding the affected area while this is done and distract your little one with a sweet. A non-stitches alternative is skin glue that forms and adhesive bond over the wound within a minute. It's painless, quick to apply and doesn't need to be kept dry, and it flakes off in about seven to ten days.
Drawing blood can be traumatic for a baby or toddler, particularly if the technician or doctor struggles to find the vein. Here are some tips that might help.
- Before the event, let your toddler pretend to draw blood from her teddy and chat with her about it.
- Let your little one sit on your lap during the blood draw.
- Hold her free hand for comfort.
- Pretend your crooked finger is a candle and she has to blow it out to draw more blood.
- An ideal time for her favourite story.
- A topical anaesthetic will help to numb the skin.
- Praise and reward her afterwards.
Being well-informed and capable in emergencies is half the battle won. Consider going on an introductory first aid course and then an advanced one. You won't regret it.