Children are more prone to diseases because they have weaker immune systems than adults. That said, school-aged children (5-18 years) become sick more often. The diseases affecting children in this age bracket are common, and most are harmless. But the question now is: what are the main health concerns of school age children? Read on to find out.
1. Dental Care
First in the list of what are the main health concerns of school age children is dental care. Dental diseases affect children more than they affect adults. According to the CDC, 20% of children aged 5-11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth, while the percentage of children aged 12-19 years with at least one decayed tooth is 13%. Poor dental health can negatively affect your child’s quality of life, school performance, and other aspects of their life now and in the future.
Healthy teeth and gums are essential to your child’s general wellbeing. Children lose baby teeth and grow permanent teeth between 6 and 12 years. Support your child’s teething by allowing loose baby teeth to fall out on their own. Pulling teeth out before they are loose can cause gum or teeth injuries which can be very painful. Seek dental care if a permanent tooth fails to grow three months after your child lost their baby tooth.
Routine dental care is essential in having healthy teeth and gums. Encourage your school-age child to brush their teeth at least two times a day or after every meal. Flossing should be done once a day. Ensure they use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride paste. The toothbrush should be replaced every three months.
Besides ensuring proper dental care, take your school-aged child to see a pediatric dentist or go for family dental care at least twice a year. A dentist can brush your child’s teeth and get rid of things your child couldn’t remove. Take your child to see orthodontists if they need braces, show signs of early loss of baby teeth, or have any dental issues that necessitate the need to see a professional. They can also identify potential dental problems and provide amicable solutions to them.
2. Mental Illness
While not so many people would consider mental illness in the list of what are the main health concerns of school age children, mental health issues affect children aged 5-18 years. The most common mental issues affecting children include anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other conditions. 9.4% of children between 2 and 17 years are diagnosed with ADHD, 7.1% receive anxiety diagnosis, and 3.2% receive depression diagnosis every year.
If left untreated, mental issues can affect your child’s overall quality of life, educational performance, social life, and future life. Repeating and severe symptoms that affect home, school, and other activities should be professionally diagnosed and treated with professionals.
You can boost your school-aged child’s mental wellbeing by developing positive relationships with them, encouraging a healthy lifestyle, engaging in positive thinking activities, providing support, and talking to them about their personal issues more frequently. Older children with diagnosed mental issues can receive pharmacological medications and professional mental help from psychiatrists and therapists.
3. Head Lice
Head lice condition is second in the list of what are the main health concerns of school age children. Head lice are tiny insects that feed on blood and often infest the human scalp. About 6-12 million children experience head lice infestation in children aged 3-11 years in the United States every year. If left untreated, head lice can affect your child’s health.
The primary symptoms of head lice in children include visible bugs in the hair, itching scalp, sores on the head caused by scratching, and difficulty sleeping because head lice are more active in the dark. Head lice are often spread through direct contact and sharing clothing and other things that nits and lice can inhabit.
Being highly preventable, your child can protect themselves from getting head lice by avoiding head-to-head contact while playing with other children, not sharing clothing, and not sharing towels and combs. They should avoid coming in contact with infested items like furniture and bedding. Vacuum your furniture and floor to kill any lice and nuts. Head lice have a lifespan of 1-2 days if not feeding on blood, making them easy to isolate and kill. The nits die within a week if they don’t have favorable living conditions similar to the human scalp.
If your child is already affected, look for pharmacological medications. One common medication is permethrin lotion, approved by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) to treat head lice. The lotion kills lice and is safe when used as directed by a medical practitioner.
Allergic conditions are among the most common health concerns that affect school-going children in the United States. They occur when the body negatively reacts to external elements. According to a Healthline report, more than 40% of children in the United States experience some allergy against one or more allergens in their school-age years. The most common allergens that result in allergic reactions in children include latex, pollen, mites, animal dung, certain foods like shellfish and eggs, and medications.
Allergies can range from mild to severe reactions. A mild reaction affects specific parts of the body and can cause itches and rashes. A severe reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, can be detrimental and require immediate medical attention. It affects the entire body, and its symptoms include swelling, itchiness, breathing difficulties, and even loss of consciousness. Fortunately, severe allergic reactions are rare.
Allergies are naturally preventable. Identifying and avoiding an allergen that initiates allergic reactions is key to preventing your child from developing allergies. Call animal control to capture stray animals and groom your pets properly because animals can be a major source of allergens. Check ingredients on food labels to prevent food allergies.
Various medications that can effectively alleviate symptoms and treat reactions exist. The common ones include antihistamines used to prevent and treat allergies, decongestants used to relieve blocked noses caused by allergies, and steroids used to reduce inflammation resulting from allergic reactions.
Skin creams and lotions can get rid of rashes and itchiness. A more advanced treatment option for allergies is allergen immunotherapy which encompasses administering allergens through tablets, drops, or injections. Immunotherapy takes years. Anaphylaxis is often treated by administering epinephrine.
5. Vomiting and Diarrhea
Vomiting is a common health concern that affects many children. Vomiting has multiple causes, with the most common ones including gastroenteritis and urinary tract infection. Some are also caused by common colds, appendicitis, and meningitis, among other illnesses. Vomiting is also associated with other symptoms, such as nausea, stomachaches, and diarrhea. You need to take your children to see a doctor if your child is frequently vomiting, has poor weight gain, is dehydrated, and has persistent stomach pain.
To prevent vomiting, your child should not eat solid foods for at least 24 hours after persistent vomiting episodes. Instead, they should take electrolyte solutions or water in small amounts. Vomiting caused by underlying diseases can be prevented by treating the conditions.
Diarrhea is synonymous with vomiting. Acute diarrhea may last for 1 or 2 days and go away on its own. It may result from bacterial or viral infection due to consuming contaminated food or water. Chronic diarrhea lasts for an extended period. It may occur because of bowel syndrome and intestine diseases like microscopic celiac and ulcerative colitis.
Diarrhea can be prevented by drinking clean water, proper sanitization, and good personal hygiene. Hygiene education is also effective in preventing children from getting infections causing diarrhea. Children with diarrhea should drink plenty of water and juices. They should eat more semi-solid foods with low fiber. Take your child to see a pediatrician if your child has persistent diarrhea episodes.
6. Immunizable Diseases
Immunizable diseases must indeed feature in the list of what are the main health concerns of school age children. Children are exposed to the risk of illness and disability caused by immunizable diseases like diphtheria, hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, polio, whooping cough, and others.
These diseases can be effectively prevented through immunizations because they can be detrimental if left unchecked under certain circumstances. Vaccines are the safest and most effective prevention measures for immunizable diseases.
Your child should receive four doses of DPT vaccine to protect them from diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis, one dose of measles, two doses of hepatitis A, three doses of Hepatitis B, and other necessary vaccines between birth and 15 months.
Between 18 months and 18 years, your child should receive their fourth and fifth DPT vaccines, second measles vaccine, and two doses for meningococcal disease. Additionally, your child should receive one or two doses of influenza vaccine once a year. They should also receive vaccines for other diseases like COVID-19, chickenpox, and other infectious diseases.
Vaccines will keep your school-aged children safe and save you money on costly treatments. They are also mandatory in many daycares and schools. Ensure that other people in your household are vaccinated against infectious diseases to prevent person-to-person infections.
Schedule immunization schedules with your pediatrician when your child is young. Be sure to encourage them to go for vaccines when they get older. Ask for immunization information or look for them online on health organization websites like the CDC.
7. Common Cold, Coughs, and Ear Infections
Common colds, coughs, and ear infections must come to mind when asked what are the main health concerns of school age children. The common symptoms of a common cold are a runny nose, sneezing, nose congestion, and watery eyes. It is communicable and spreads from one person to another. The common treatments for common cold include Tylenol and Advil, which are very effective in relieving conditions.
Coughs are usually synonymous with colds. Coughs help clear the body’s airways after being congested from a cold. Give your child prescribed coughing syrups or tablets depending on their age and severity of coughs. A cough should be alarming if it occurs alongside other conditions like fever and breathing difficulties. That’s because the issue could be severe pulmonary infections like asthma and chest infection.
Ear infections tend to develop immediately after colds and coughs. A bacteria or virus causes the infection in the middle year. It often follows common illnesses that result in nasal passages and throat congestion, such as allergy, cold, or flu. Ear infections can cause pain and fever. The best medications for ear infections are ibuprofen and paracetamol. Seek medical advice before administering any medications. Avoid giving children over-the-counter medicines.
Obesity is last in the line of what are the main health concerns of school-age children. The percentage of obese school-going children aged 6-11 years and 12-19 years is 18.45 and 20.6%, respectively.
Obesity can be caused by genetics, overeating, and physical inactivity. Conditions like insulin resistance, Cushing’s syndrome, and medications can also lead to obesity. Childhood obesity has many complications that can result in type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and bone and joint issues. Children with obesity end up being obese in their adulthood.
Obesity can be prevented and treated by managing weight. Your child should have a healthy eating plan and participate in weight-management programs. Physical activities like cycling, walking, and playing sports can prevent and manage obesity. Look for bicycle rentals and cycle together with your child. To motivate your child, gift them items like sterling silver hoops and toys when they attain set milestones. Older children should avoid drinking, smoking, and vaping as they are also associated with weight gain.
The explanations mentioned above answer the questions of what are the main health concerns of school age children. Ensure your child’s wellbeing by taking necessary precautions to protect them against diseases. Take them for medical checkups and treatments if they show signs of diseases or feel sick. Book an appointment with a pediatrician if your child needs medical care or if you have any questions regarding your child’s health.