Children’s bones keep growing until they reach peak bone mass, which is usually between 18 and 25 years. The recommended calcium intake for 11 to 18-year-olds is 800-1,000mg compared with 700mg for adults. But according to the British Nutrition Foundation, most children and young people, especially teenage girls, don’t get enough calcium in their diet and this can increase their risk of osteoporosis in later life. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, calcium-fortified non-dairy alternatives and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals.
Around 80 per cent of teenagers get acne to some degree. Hormonal changes are thought to be a contributing cause of acne. During puberty, the body becomes more sensitive to the hormone testosterone, which can lead to increased production of oily sebum in the skin. Sebum is very useful to the skin, but in excess it can block hair follicles, where it mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to cause inflammation and spots. Acne is often seen as a minor issue, but it can affect confidence levels, even when the symptoms appear to be mild. There are many over-thecounter spot and acne products available, but it usually takes trial and error to find the right treatment. Acne usually subsides in the late teens, but can persist into adulthood.
Period pain may occur in teenage girls soon after they start their periods for the first time. The painful muscle cramps are mainly felt in the lower abdomen, but can spread to the back and into the thighs. Some girls also experience nausea, dizziness and headaches. Period pain may be eased with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (e.g. ibuprofen or naproxen), using a hot water bottle or heat therapy product, having a stomach massage, or by doing gentle exercise and relaxation techniques.
Head lice are most common in children between four and 11 years. The grey-brown lice are spread by head-to-head contact. They live close to the scalp, which makes them difficult to see, and they don’t always cause itching, so not everyone knows they have an infestation. An active infestation can only be confirmed once a live louse is found with a fine-toothed detection comb. Physically-acting treatments coat the lice in an oily substance so they can’t breathe or get rid of excess water. Unlike chemical insecticides, this doesn’t lead to problems with resistance.
Verrucas are warts, usually on the sole of the foot, which may have a black dot (or dots) at their centre. They can occasionally be painful when standing or walking. Many over-the-counter verruca treatments contain salicylic acid, which destroys the verruca. The verruca is gradually filed away with a pumice stone or foot file, but it can take up to two years for a verruca to disappear completely. Cryotherapy sprays, which freeze the verruca, are also available over-the-counter.
Athlete’s foot is a fungus that usually grows between the toes or on the base of the foot. The affected areas may be red, dry and flaky or white and soggy, and may feel itchy or sore. The fungus thrives in warm, dark and moist places and often spreads at public swimming pools or on changing room floors. Untreated athlete’s foot can spread to the toenails and around the foot. In severe cases, it can lead to a bacterial infection, but most cases can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams, gels, sprays, liquids and powders.
Dandruff often starts in puberty, although younger children can be affected too. White or grey flakes of dead skin appear on the scalp, which may also feel dry or itchy. Regular hairwashing, especially with tea tree shampoos and shampoos containing antifungal ingredients, may ease mild symptoms. More severe symptoms may require medicated shampoos containing salicylic acid. The shampoos should be gently massaged into the hair and scalp and left in place for at least five minutes. Customers should be advised to avoid hair spray and hair gel products while their symptoms persist.
According to NHS Choices, one in 40 children wet the bed regularly at seven and a half years of age and one in 65 wet the bed regularly at nine and a half years of age. Bedwetting isn’t considered to be a problem unless it bothers the child, as children do grow out of it eventually. The first management steps are usually limiting the amount of fluid the child drinks in the evening and making sure they go to the toilet before they go to sleep. If this fails to work, a bedwetting alarm may help to train the child to wake up once their bladder is full. Medical treatments aren’t recommended for children under five years.
Hayfever can be a particular problem for secondary school children. The grass pollen season – which affects 95 per cent of hayfever sufferers – occurs during May and June, coinciding with exam time. Research shows that hayfever sufferers are 40 per cent more likely to drop a grade in their final summer exams compared to their mocks in January. Management options include antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays and sodium cromoglicate eye drops. Children with severe symptoms may be suitable for immunotherapy through an allergy consultant. This type of treatment involves exposing hayfever sufferers to small amounts of pollen over time so that they build up resistance to its allergic effects.