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Understanding the problem

Understanding the problem

It can be difficult for young children to describe their pain, but a parent or carer can usually tell if the child is in distress.

Colic: this can start within weeks of birth, with symptoms peaking when the child is around two or three months old. Parents can be reassured that colic should resolve by three to four months of age. The most common signs of colic are periods of intense crying, irritability or fussing that begin and end for no apparent reason and last at least three hours a day on at least three days a week, for at least one week. This often occurs in the early evening and the baby may pull up their legs and arch their back when crying. Colic may be linked to trapped wind or having an immature digestive system, but babies should be fine otherwise, and still feed and gain weight. 

Teething: a baby’s first teeth usually start appearing at six to nine months of age. Unfortunately, even before the teeth are visible, teething can cause pain and discomfort around the gums, swollen gums, excessive saliva production and an increased tendency to chew on objects for relief. The child may also have one flushed cheek, a mild temperature of 38°C and be more fretful than usual.

Colds and flu: caused by a number of different viruses, colds are normally mild and will resolve in five to seven days, although it can take up to two weeks in young children. Symptoms include sneezing, a sore throat, runny nose, mild fever and a cough. Flu symptoms tend to come on more quickly and make the child feel more poorly. They may also complain of aching muscles, lose their appetite and feel very tired. 

Care should be taken when recommending cough/cold products for children, as many ingredients are unsuitable for those under six years of age. Always check the packaging for instructions.

Ear infection: children are more susceptible to ear infections than adults, especially after they’ve had a cold. Symptoms include ear pain, fever, vomiting, hearing loss, lethargy, irritability and difficulty feeding. Children may pull or tug at their ears and also have a cough or runny nose. Ear infections often get better on their own within three days. 

Sore throat: often a symptom of colds and flu, a sore throat can be soothed with pain relief, and should clear up on its own within a few days.