10 tips to to put a smile back on your child’s face when they have a miserable cold.

Disclaimer –  This article is only to be used for informational purposes only, and does not replace the need to consult a health care professional to discuss the most suitable treatment for your child. 

Pharmamum’s Ultimate Guide: Colds

Are you at the stage where your baby/toddler has started child care? They are there for a week, get sick, recover, go back to daycare for a week and then get sick again? The cycle just keeps repeating and repeating? Well, I hope it gives you some reassurance that you are not alone and it can be a very frustrating and exhausting time for parents when your baby starts childcare. On the positive note, you are are building up your child’s immune system and by the time they are in kinder, colds will be less prevalent.

Young children can catch between 6 to 12 colds a year and the younger they are, the more likely they are to catch a cold.  Younger children haven’t built up their resistance to all the different cold viruses and there are hundreds of them. That’s why, unfortunately, we can’t be vaccinated against the common cold. Colds are most contagious in the first one to two days once symptoms have developed. They spread via coughing, sneezing and contact. I used to cringe when I would drop my daughters off at creche and I would see a child pick something up, put it in their mouths and then my daughter would pick it up and put it in her mouth, I would think, ‘here we go, next week we’ll be home again!!’

Most common colds usually last a week, however a cough can last for longer. Your child may have a runny nose, blocked nose, cough, sore throat, occasional fever, red eyes and lose their appetite.

There is no treatment to cure a cold unfortunately, and these days when you walk into a pharmacy to purchase some medicine for your baby/child, you get told, that we can no longer give children under 6 years of age any oral cold and cough medication. This is true, as there are reports of serious adverse effects with the use in infants and children under six. Products containing antihistamines, antitussives, expectorants or decongestants are not recommended to be given to young children. Some examples of these are: Dimetapp, Demazin, Robitussin and  Duro-Tuss. There is no evidence that they work in that age group and can cause side effects, such as allergic reactions, effects on sleep, hallucinations and increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. For 6 to 12 year olds, these medicines will continue to be available to them because the risks of side effects are reduced in older children because they weigh more, get fewer colds and can say if the medicine is making them feel better.

So what’s a parent to do when they have a miserable child who is coughing, spluttering and struggling to sleep through the night? The following is a list that will hopefully give you options and some relief as a parent in managing a cold, and help relieve their symptoms making your child feel as comfortable as possible whilst suffering with a cold.

1) Give your baby/toddler/child Paracetamol/Ibuprofen every 6 hours to relieve a fever or  headaches for up to 48 hours if the child is uncomfortable. Whilst paracetamol is the first option recommended to treat fever, most infants and children can tolerate a low-grade fever (eg 38–38.5°C) well. They often respond to fluids and comfort, and may not need medication. When I was growing up my parents would check my temperature and as soon as it was over 37 degrees celsius, I would be given Paracetamol. This was the done thing, but today it is recommended to leave a temperature if it doesn’t bother your child because it is your body’s response to fight off the virus by raising their body’s temperature. However if your child is really bothered and irritated by the fever I would definitely recommend to give the Paracetamol. Often I will find both of my girls playing and doing there own thing still whilst running a high temperature.

There is no benefit in combining or alternating paracetamol with ibuprofen for treatment of fever. It is not recommended because the added complexity can increase dosing errors. Be aware there are different strengths of Paracetamol and dose according to weight not age.

2) Make your baby/child feel comfortable– Often a baby with a blocked nose, congestion, cough can feel quite distressed and anxious suffering with these symptoms. It may even be your baby’s first cold so do be mindful they will need extra cuddles and affection. This also applies in the middle of the night when they may wake themselves coughing and often quite upset if experiencing a blocked nose. It’s a sensation that can even distress us when we are unwell. So sit them up for a minute offer them water, if they push it away sometimes the only thing that may settle them may just be a breastfeed or bottle, this will maintain their hydration and just comfort them.

3) Nasal saline sprays– The nasal sprays come in a few different brands Fess, Flo etc. They allow you to clear your child’s nose of discharge  and ease a blocked nose. You can even give them to your baby whilst they are feeding to be sure it will be inhaled. My personal preference for a baby is the Flo brand of saline sprays, because it’s a gentle spray or drop, you can spray it at any angle, you don’t need an aspirator, it’s preservative free and the design of the bottle is easy to hold and use whilst trying to give it to your baby. These sprays are great because they can come as just saline or some of them come with eucalyptus for older children/adults to help a blocked nose.

4) Using a vaporiser in your baby’s room whilst they are sleeping allows for a more peaceful nights sleep. In children under 2 years, I would recommend just water in the vaporiser as the steam is what makes the child breathe easier and  I would not recommend the use of menthol/eucalyptus inhalant liquids in the vaporiser until your baby is over 2 years of age, due to the risk of the eucalyptus concentration building up in the room to toxic levels and risking airway spasm.  I can understand if you think, how is a vaporiser going to help, but you really do need to try it, to see how it helps. If you can compare it to how you feel when you go for a walk  into the brisk cold air and feel your airways tighten vs  how you feel when you are in a warm hot bath and how you can take much deeper breaths. The  atmosphere, temperature, and humidity in particular, can really affect our lungs and how we breathe. Steam therapy is a natural, gentle and effective method to help keep airways clear and alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu. I would also recommend on those cold nights, if you have heating, to make your child’s bedroom temperature around 19-20 degrees, just for the same reason, it stops the cold air hitting the lungs and tightening. When moist, warm air enters the lungs it helps to ‘liquefy’ mucus secretions and phlegm, making them easier to expel. This in turn helps keep the lungs and airways clear, making it easier to breathe. There are different brands of vaporisers available on the market, Vicks and Eukybear both make them. I have both at home and they both are as effective as each other, the only difference is the Eukybear vaporiser is a lot quieter.

5) Using a Eucalyptus baby balsam (ie. Vick’s baby balsam) which contains very low concentrations of eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender and aloe vera rubbed on the side of child’s pajamas works really well to relieve a blocked nose. Also rubbing the balsam  on their feet  and putting on socks works really well to relieve a cough. My four year old daughter recently had a cough that was waking her during the night and  I put the Vicks baby balsam on her feet with socks on, and tucked her into bed. I didn’t hear a peep from her but she came out of her room half an hour later saying, ‘mummy these socks are annoying me’, so I said, ‘If they are really bothering you take them off’, she went back to  bed and was coughing and coughing. She came back out and said to me’ Mummy I think I better put the socks back on’. I didn’t hear a cough from her for the rest of the night.  I can’t tell you the reason how or why it helps a cough but it just does. So its worth a try.

6) Honey- Once your child is over one year of age you can  give them a teaspoon of honey to coat the lining of the throat which helps reduce the tickle which sets off a cough. Even make your own cough mixture with some warm water, a teaspoon of honey and squeeze some lemon juice.

7) Fluids– Staying hydrated is very important when fighting infections (especially if your child has a fever)  ie plenty of water, nice warm chicken soup, vitamin C packed fresh juices etc.

8) Vitamin C– Ongoing vitamin C use has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds in children. (All berries, Kiwi fruit and Oranges contain the highest amount of Vitamin C in fruit.)

9) Herbs- As a pharmacist when asked about natural herbs and complementary medicine, the most common answer you will hear is, ‘there is not enough information/evidence from good quality clinical trials to show that vitamin or mineral supplements or herbal medicines help or treat, but it’s up to if you want to try it’. That is true to an extent but it does depend on which herb/supplement/vitamin we are discussing. A lot of complementary medicines, herbs and vitamins  have now had a substantial amount of clinical trials carried out, and in Australia are classified by the Therapeutics Goods of Australia as an AUST R product. This  means they have to provide  the board satisfactory assessments of their quality, efficacy and safety. So if you were to take a product off the shelf and notice it has Aust R on the back of the label, you will be satisfied in your own mind that this product has had significant clinical trials and has proved it does what it says on the label, not just ‘may relieve’ or may reduce the severity.’

One such product which has been registered in Australia  as an Aust R product is a medication called Prospan. Prospan contains a herb called  Hedera helix. It is a clinically proven cough treatment whicheases the urge to cough and soothes a cough. It helps to break down mucus and clears the chest. Being a herbal treatment, we often think it is perfectly safe, no side effects, no interactions. This is unfortunately incorrect. Herbal medicines just like conventional medicines  can and do come with side effects. Prospan can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea in 2% of the population. When my youngest daughter  takes it for a nasty cough, chesty or dry,it works really well and she will often have a good night sleep with minimal coughing, however when my eldest daughter takes it, it relieves her cough but unfortunately she is one of the 2% of the population who have gastrointestinal side effects from Hedra Helix (Prospan) and unfortunately vomits after taking it. Some children may get diarrhoea or vomiting from it, however it only affects 2% of children. So its worth a try if your child doesn’t suffer with any side effects from taking Prospan.

10) Child-friendly Solutions

My four year old daughter absolutely loves these, but I have to put them high up, out of sight in the medicine cabinet, they are made by the company All Natural and called,  All natural Kids cough and Kids cold lollipops which are a homeopathic remedy and contain no sugar, just natural flavour and colour and you can get them from most pharmacies. They really help her symptoms if she has a cold or cough plus just lubricating the throat really helps too. Remember lollipops are a choking hazard, so be aware of your own child’s ability to be able to suck on a lollipop, they are recommended for children 2 years up.

Please be aware that the above treatment is for the common cold and occasionally there can be complications ie an ear infection, croup, bronchiolitis, pneumonia etc If your child has a high fever for longer than 48 hours, that is not being brought down by paracetamol or your child refuses to take fluids, vomits frequently, has a severe headache, difficulty breathing, very lethargic,  sleepy or  a rash on the body, please see a doctor as soon as possible. A baby younger than 3 months must be seen by a doctor immediately because it is hard to tell if they have a more serious illness.

Stay tuned for my next blog which focuses on Probiotics and tips for boosting your child’s immune system.

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.

6 ways to remove your babies cradle cap, and no.. don’t pull it off!

Disclaimer –  This article is only to be used for informational purposes only, and does not replace the need to consult a health care professional to discuss the most suitable treatment for your child. 

Pharmamum’s Ultimate Guide: Cradle Cap

Just when you are finally getting yourself organised to go out and about and show your newborn off to the world, you begin to notice  yellow looking flakey plaques on the top of your baby’s head. What on earth could this be? Does my baby have eczema or psoriasis? There is no need to panic, and although it does look horrible and cause you concern, it is very common to surface about a month after being born  and will usually subside on it’s own and not cause the baby any discomfort.

What you are looking at, is a skin condition called Cradle cap. It often appears within the first three months of life, it usually settles on it’s own (usually by six months)  but it can take up to even longer than a year to settle. To describe what cradle cap looks like, it appears as an oily yellow plaques that reside on a baby’s scalp. It is thought to be caused by a presence of yeast that can grow  on the scalp, as well as the production of sebum which is an oil that is secreted by the sebaceous glands. The oil acts to waterproof the skin and is useful in the mothers womb, but once the baby is born and the skin cells are replicating and growing, they can get trapped and form greasy looking plaques on the baby’s scalp. The sebaceous glands are thought to be stimulated by the mothers hormones that are still circulating throughout the baby’s bloodstream. The cradle cap can also spread to the eyebrows and/or behind the ears.

Both of my children had cradle cap and it would have surfaced itself after 4-6 weeks after birth. Just about the same time that we were having a celebration with family and friends to celebrate their birth. About half of all babies born, suffer with cradle cap. It is not due to poor hygiene or anything  the parent is doing, and is not contagious. It doesn’t bother the baby and there is certainly no pain or itchiness associated with cradle cap.  Whenever I was feeding my children I always  felt tempted to pick the plaques off. However I had to stop myself picking at it,  as you can increase the risk of skin infections, and there is every chance it will reappear because the secretions of oil are still occurring.

How to treat cradle cap?

1. You can leave it and ignore it, and that’s perfectly fine as it will clear up on its own.

2. You can apply an oil ie olive oil or almond oil or even vaseline to the scalp, and massage it with your fingers , place a towel or allow the baby to sleep on something you don’t mind getting oil stains. Give your baby a bath and wash out the oil after an hour. We recommend using an oil, as this will soften the plaques allowing them to be easily removed but it’s important to wash the oil out because otherwise it will contribute to the problem.  After the bath, brush the hair with a soft brush to brush away the flakes or even use a very soft toothbrush to gently brush aways the flakes and plaques. Keep doing this every day until the scalp has improved.

3. If the above treatment doesn’t work (ie the plaques are just too thick and the oil is not softening them),  the next step would be to use a medicated lotion called Egozite cradle cap lotion,it  is an oil based solution containing 6% salicylic acid to remove crusts on the infant’s scalp by softening the plaques if they are very thick and crusty.

4. Other products that are available over the counter and are from natural ingredients  is a product made by Mustela. I personally am a big fan of Mustela products because they are made from natural ingredients and don’t contain harmful agent ie Parabens or Phtalates. It’s called Mustela STELAKER Cradle cap cream. It contains natural ingredients derived from avocado to help eliminate the spread of micro-organisms and contains  Aloe Vera and borage oil, which soothe and hydrate. Mustela recommends using this products every night for two weeks rubbing it into the scalp and leaving it overnight and then washing the baby’s hair in the morning with their foam shampoo for infants.

5. Another two great products and we are getting great feedback from is  MooGoo’s Eczema Balm and Scalp Cream. They are both natural creams that contain the anti-yeast ingredient Piroctone Olamine.

6. If your baby’s cradle cap doesn’t respond to any of the above treatments, ask your doctor about medicated or dandruff shampoos. These shampoos, many of which are available over the counter, contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, selenium, and ketoconazole  that can help treat the cradle cap.

With most cases of cradle cap you can easily treat at home and  use the above methods and be aware that once treated cradle cap can reappear but with the above treatments you should be able to control it. However if you notice the following it is important to speak to your GP:

  • the cradle cap doesn’t improve after two weeks, despite simple treatment described above
  • your baby is scratching at it
  • the rash is red or sore and/or feels warm and/or fluid is oozing out of any area/plaque
  • the rash seems to be spreading
  • Any of these symptoms indicate either an infection or different skin condition and need to be treated differently.

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.

9 steps to calm when the crying won’t stop, Pharmamum’s Survival Guide to Colic

Disclaimer –  This article is only to be used for informational purposes only, and does not replace the need to consult a health care professional to discuss the most suitable treatment for your child. 

Pharmamum’s Survival Guide to Colic

Colic is one of  the earliest health conditions you may be faced with soon after you come home with your newborn. Unfortunately it cannot be avoided and is part of a baby’s development. The feeling I get when I hear the word ‘colic’ is one where my heart does race a little quicker as colic was personally exhausting to deal with. It can be stressful as you feel helpless when your baby is  unsettled and distressed. You want to solve your baby’s problem and know what’s causing them. If someone had told me it’s healthy for your baby to cry and it’s great that your baby can express themselves, in a way they can show you something is bothering them, I would have been a lot more relaxed as a first time mother. From this blog, hopefully, you feel more confident dealing with colic, as well as trying my suggestions listed below to help comfort both you and your baby.

Colic is a general term to describe baby’s when they are crying and fussing for hours on end and cannot be settled. Typical symptoms of colic include: pulling their knees to their chest and going red in the face when they cry, have wind or a bloated tummy,  and  passing wind or faeces around the time the crying stops.  It’s quite normal for colic to begin in the afternoon and carry on until late in the evening, when your baby finally settles and goes to sleep. It’s very important to get your baby checked out by a health professional to make sure there is no medical cause for the crying which will give you peace of mind. Once your baby has been checked out by the doctor or health nurse and your baby is feeding well and continually having wet nappies, often your baby’s  constant crying  can be put down to colic.

If you can not settle your baby  and you and your partner need a break, then it’s definitely ok to ask for help either from a  family member or a health nurse. It’s important to look after yourself and it can be quite distressing hearing your baby crying so it’s ok to put your baby in the cot or a safe place like a bouncer for a couple of minutes and go to another room and have a couple of minutes to take a few deep breaths. Be aware that colic doesn’t last forever and will dramatically improve by 4 months. I felt with both of my girls we turned a corner by 8 weeks and by 12 weeks it was gone. Often it’s a combination of your baby getting use to the outside world and dealing with physical sensations such as digestion, feelings of fullness, hunger or  wind as well as their emotions ie feeling anxious or tired and every baby deals with it differently. I remember with  my first born, I felt like I had her in my arms for the first 6 weeks, constantly picking her up in my arms, rocking and swaying her and having the contact with either myself or my husband. Be aware that there’s no harm in holding your baby. You do what feels right and if you feel your baby needs your touch or closeness, don’t feel that you are setting them up for bad habits where they will always need you to settle them. You will never do any harm to your baby by holding them and comforting them and studies are now showing those babies who are often held or in a sling/ baby bjorn type carrier have a tendency to fuss and cry less.

Also don’t be pressured, especially if you are in a mothers group and others are talking about how well their  one month old is sleeping and they have their child in a four hour feeding routine etc. There is no gold medal given to achieve this, and baby’s aren’t computers! If you feel your baby is hungry or needs a feed, then feed them, don’t watch the clock and say they haven’t reached four hours yet. I’m by no means saying getting into a routine isn’t important, in fact the opposite. I think it is very important for you to get your baby into a routine ,but it will come. From my own experience, I found with my eldest daughter Sophie, and being quite clueless about routines etc, by about 3 or 4 months, I was noticing that we were already in a pattern with Sophie’s sleeps and feeds without really trying.

I also found that my eldest daughter loved the swing. She could have sat in it for hours (not that we let her) and that really calmed her down, often when nothing would settle her. With my youngest daughter, Georgia, because I had a two year age gap and my eldest daughter was still at a very demanding age when Georgia was born, I felt the baby bjorn (baby carrier/ or sling) was a life saver. I was able to have Georgia close to my chest which would calm her right down, if she was distressed, whilst playing, feeding, bathing and attending to Sophie’s needs.

Another thing I found worked well and it does depend on whether your baby does take to the water, but a nice bath really can calm a baby, but make sure the water is 37 degrees because otherwise your baby will be cold and won’t be able to relax. Placing a face wash over the tummy/chest area, keeps them feeling  secure in the bath.

The following is a checklist which hopefully you will find useful when your baby is unsettled:

1) Check/change nappy

2) Is my baby hungry? signs they are hungry is them putting their fists in their mouths and sucking as well as opening their mouths looking for a breast/bottle or crying.

3) Have you burped your baby?  Sitting them on your lap and rubbing their back whilst supporting their chest/chin  in the other hand, or change positions and pop them over your shoulder supporting their neck and rubbing their back. Even having them in a bouncer or swing which puts them in a more upright position helps them get some wind up. If you are bottle feeding, to reduce wind, make sure your baby is positioned in your arms in an upright position and ensure the bottle is tilted enough for the milk to completely cover the teat hole, to reduce any air bubbles being ingested.

4) Is my baby cold or hot? They say with a baby to put one more layer on them than what you are wearing.

5) A pacifier/dummy may help. I understand a lot of people are against dummies and I know all sleep schools are, and often that is the first thing they will do is get rid of the dummy. For some parents,  it’s a pain in the neck, the baby drops the dummy, and the parent has to continually go back and forth and  pop the dummy back in the child’s mouth for the baby to re-settle. That is when the dummy is a big problem, and you wished you never started with it in the first place.  For others, it can be a bit of a life saver, because many babies will soothe themselves by sucking. Personally, I found the dummy to  help both of my girls. With Sophie, I used to find it help her settle and often found it out of her mouth by the time she woke up, and she was my good sleeper. Georgia was not the best sleeper, but also found the dummy to soothe her.  Other babies may suck on their fists to soothe them, and if they do that, that would be preferable as they can always find their fist and as a parent you don’t need to worry about how am I ever going to get rid of the dummy.

6) Rock/ cuddle/sway, sometimes all your baby is crying out for is your closeness, to be held and  to know mummy/daddy is around and just needing to be comforted.

7) Making them comfortable with either a swing/ bath/ massage, check the environment, try make the environment as relaxing to your baby by singing to them, read them a story, just hearing your voice comforts your baby. Also background noise is fine but if there is a lot of disturbing noise, it may be quite distressing for the baby.

8) Is my baby tired? What are tired signs? Pulling at ears, jerky arm and leg movements, yawning, arching backwards, redness appearing around the eyebrows and even hiccups.  It’s very important to realise  that newborns really can not be kept up for long at all, in fact from birth to at least 3 months they say once they wake up, they will be showing tired signs within an hour and should be put back to sleep no later than one and a half  hours after they woke up. I remember both of my girl could not stay awake for longer than one hour and 15 minutes at the age of two months.  It really doesn’t leave much time to change there nappy, feed,  burp them, a little play and back to sleep again. It’s important to do it in that order, because the nappy change helps wake the baby up, and you should try and feed them within 15 minutes of waking because otherwise they will start showing tired signs and not have the best feed and most likely fall asleep whilst feeding. Also don’t allow friends or grandparents say, ‘they don’t need to go back to sleep, they just woke up, look how nice they are playing’  because remember, they are not the ones who are going to pay for it once they leave, you are! An overtired baby is not fun, and it takes them a lot longer to re-settle if they get are overtired.

9) Mother’s diet– If you are breast feeding  you may find that certain foods you eat  cause symptoms of colic in the baby, and you may need to avoid certain foods that you notice  after breastfeeding cause your baby to become ‘colicky.’  Some studies have found that particular foods eaten by the mother including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, chocolate, onions and cow’s milk can cause an attack of colic in the breastfed infant. Also caffeine and nicotine in breast milk have been linked to infant irritability, since the baby’s body isn’t able to efficiently get rid of these substances. They say that one coffee a day is fine,  but I use to drink one de-caf coffee a day, also because of the fact that coffee is quite dehydrating.

Is there anything I can give my baby for colic?

The answer to that question is yes there are few medicines available but as a pharmacist I need to mention that the medical literature says that in regards to colic there is no evidence that medicines help. If anything it can sometimes mask a problem and should only be given for a short period of time. I agree with this statement in that giving medicine for colic can mask a problem so before medicating, definitely get checked by a doctor to rule out a  medical problem ie reflux, infection, lactose intolerance, hernia etc. Once your doctor has said it is colic, try the above  non-medicated recommendations first, but certainly the over the counter remedies are safe and I have heard from many parents that they believe the colic medication did make a big difference.

Infants friend can be given from birth, it contains no scheduled drugs, and is basically a mixture of healthy aromatic and carminative oils ie Cassia – which is Cinnamon, Aniseed, and Dill. These oils contain aromatic and carminative properties which help relieve wind and flatulence. It also contains antacids ie Magnesium Carbonate and Ammonium Bicarbonate  which neutralise any excess acid.

Infacol can be given from one month and work by helping the small trapped gas bubbles join into bigger bubbles, which your baby can easily bring up as wind – helping to relieve their pain and discomfort.

Gripe Water can be given from birth and also contains herbal ingredients of which the base ingredient Dill Oil which help relax the digestive tract and also prevent formation of intestinal gas bubbles.

Brauer makes Baby & Child Colic liquid which  can be used from birth and includes ingredients such as Chamomile and Magnesium Phosphate which are traditionally used in homeopathic medicine to provide temporary relief from the pain, irritability and bloated tummy caused by colic.

Hyland’s Baby colic relief also make a homeopathic colic remedy which work to calm the babies digestive system. The Hyland’s baby colic relief are tiny tablets that once they hit the tongue, dissolve immediately , but if you don’t feel comfortable putting it in your child’s mouth, you can place them on a teaspoon of water and it will dissolve.

At the end of the day try to stay calm, don’t take your baby’s crying personal  and don’t allow your baby’s crying to lessen your confidence as a parent. Remember colic is a normal part of your child’s development and try, easier said than done, to think we are on track and it will not last forever.

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let us know. I hope this information does help.

Rosy cheeks, dribbling, hand in the mouth… still no teeth! 5 Tips to keep up your sleeve

Disclaimer –  This article is only to be used for informational purposes only, and does not replace the need to consult a health care professional to discuss the most suitable treatment for your child. 


Pharmamum’s Ultimate Guide: Teething

Going through teething as a parent is definitely not easy. It’s not like the child gets a cold and you know after a few days the child will go back to being his/her happy self again. Teething is on-going from the moment your child starts to put their hand in their mouth when they are a three months old, until  when they have their first set of teeth, approximately by their third birthday. When they are miserable or waking up in the middle of the night all of a sudden,  the first thought is, ‘maybe she’s teething, what can I give her? what should I do?’

My girls teethed very differently to each other. My eldest cut her first tooth at 8 months,  and the first thing she did was get rid of the dummy by herself. She wasn’t bothered by teething too much during the day, but night time was another story. We treated her before she went to bed with a teething gel and often gave her a dose of Paracetamol at night which seemed to work well for her. My youngest daughter cut her first tooth at 13 months, she was bothered by it during the day and night, and would put anything and everything in her mouth to relieve the pain and bite down to relieve the pressure. Paracetamol took the edge off it for her, but she responded really well to a homeopathic remedy called Hyland’s Baby teething tablets (that rapidly dissolve when they hit the tongue). I found it calmed her down as well as relieving the pain and if she woke during the night, after having Hyland’s drops she would be able to settle herself back to sleep very quickly.

1. As a pharmacist, I would have given stock standard advice and sent a parent away with a teething gel and either Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, but what I learned as a mother, is what works well for one child with teething, doesn’t always work well for another. You do need to try different remedies and see which works for your child. I will go through the symptoms of teething as well as giving a few important tips to parents and clues to look out for. Hopefully as a parent, you will feel confident to know, what to look out for in regards to your child teething and what options you have to relieving your child’s discomfort.

2. Teething symptoms can often start for months before a tooth cuts, i.e. the dribbling and red cheeks are very common starting at least two to three months before the first tooth appears. If your baby is dribbling constantly place a bib  under their chin, as often the saliva can cause face rashes due to the constant contact with moisture on their face. The  contact with saliva will irritate the skin, as well as get trapped in the neck potentially leading to fungal infections. Applying a barrier cream whilst your baby is teething, to the face can prevent nasty skin irritations caused by your baby’s saliva. There are a lot of brands of barrier creams available ie Sudocream, Desitin, Nappy Goo,  etc.  You’ll start to notice that each time your child cuts a tooth, often their poo is a lot runnier and has a different smell to it (you will hear people describe it as an ‘ammonia smell’). Often this is accompanied by nappy rash, so be sure to apply a lot more barrier cream to your babies bottom to prevent the nappy rash from becoming severe.

Often the baby can get a raised temperature, cold symptoms, even pulling on their ear but these symptoms can also be symptoms of a viral or bacterial infection so if you are unsure, don’t hesitate to get your baby checked out by your local doctor.

3. When your baby is just starting out with teething, try simple measures, like putting a teething ring in the fridge and letting your child pop it in their mouth. If your baby doesn’t want a bar of that, try something else like a cold clean face wash and placing it in the fridge and allowing the baby to chew on it. If your child is on solids, you can either give them teething rusks, cold purees and cold sticks of  ie peeled cucumber, watermelon, cantelope, or you can buy a mesh device that you pop cold/semi frozen fruit/veggies in and the baby will chew and suck the juices.

4. Over the counter teething gels (ie Bonjela, Sedagel,Braurer teething gel) can help and soothe the babies inflamed gums and just by rubbing the baby’s gum with or without the gel can provide a little relief. Oral paracetamol can relieve pain and temperature, however  Ibuprofen, is an anti-inflammatory which will reduce inflammation as well. So always give your baby a dose of the medication according to the babies weight. I often get asked do I give Paracetamol or Ibuprofen? I usually answer they are both safe to use assuming the baby doesn’t have any medical conditions but try one and see if that works for the child. If it does, use it when your child is in pain and if it doesn’t try the other.  It is however safe to use Paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time as the medications are from different classes. However the added complexity of taking the two different medications can lead to dosing errors, so be very mindful to dose according to the child’s weight and be aware that both Paracetamol and Ibuprofen come in different strengths and  paracetamol lasts for up to six hours and ibuprofen lasts for up to 8 hours. Often parents will choose to stagger the paracetamol and Ibuprofen so that if the one medication is given and after an hour or two the child seems to still be in discomfort they can give the other as long as it is given carefully and according to the label, when in doubt always ask a health professional to assist.

5. A lot of parents will also try alternative therapies, be that homeopathic remedies such as Brauer baby and teething liquid or  Hyland’s Baby teething tablets (which rapidly dissolve when they hit the tongue)  which I personally found worked well for my youngest daughter  and a lot of mothers also swear by the amber bracelet/necklaces. The jury is still out with the amber bracelets/necklaces and I would be careful and only put the necklace on during waking hours and maybe an ankle bracelet whilst asleep for choking reasons. The alternative therapies shouldn’t be disregarded, however, as a pharmacist I have to say that there is no clinical evidence to say that they work, but in my personal experience ,I got a lot of relief from a homeopathic remedy, and in the end found, I did not need to give paracetamol or Ibuprofen as often when a  new tooth was cutting.

Some good news to parents, is that sometimes you will notice a tooth has just appeared and you think back and realise that when that tooth cut through, it did not bother my child at all. So not every tooth cutting through bothers the child to the same degree as other teeth did. I found from personal experience the top front teeth caused the most discomfort and as both my children got older they weren’t bothered by a lot of the other teeth cutting through. However the back molars  were painful and caused them to wake more frequently during the night, but that is another topic all on its own.

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let us know. I hope this information does help.