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WORMS & OTHER REVOLTING KIDS' AILMENTS; Things you don't know about (and would rather you didn't know about) until you're a parent...

Byline: Words: Jo Porter


There's no nice way to put this. The eggs from these tiny parasitic worms hatch in your child's gut, then the worms travel through the intestine and peek out of their bottom at night to lay more eggs around the bum. The worms secrete a mucus which causes itching, so the area gets scratched, eggs get stuck under the nails, then swallowed and the cycle starts again. Threadworms are the most common type of worm infection in the UK, so neither you nor your child should feel embarrassed. It's easily treatable with an over-thecounter remedy from the pharmacist, but each worm can lay as many as 10,000 eggs, so make sure you treat the whole family, wash everything and vacuum daily.


'The best way to see if your child has threadworms is to wait until they are asleep, part their butt cheeks and peer in with a torch. I was totally horrifed to find a tiny white wiggly worm poking out of my six-year-old son's bottom. Absolutely revolting. I became paranoid about having clean sheets and pyjamas every day, dusting and hoovering like a lunatic, and washing hands constantly, but after two weeks and two doses of Ovex it did get rid of them.'

Hand, Foot & Mouth

Don't panic! No relation whatsoever of 'foot and mouth disease' in cows.

It's quite a common infection which triggers a bit of everything: a bit of a cold, a bit of a temperature, a bit listless, not eating much. Plus a rash, or little blisters on hands and feet, and sores in their mouth that look like ulcers. The rash is not itchy, and symptoms generally clear up on their own in about a week with plenty of sleep, water, paracetamol and TLC.

Molluscum Contagiosum

It sounds like a fossil, but is a virus. Spots that look like an unsightly combo of whiteheadplus-wart appear in clusters.

They're itchy, but scratching makes them bleed and spreads the infection. It lasts for over a year, but it's best to let them go away on their own as treatment involves burning off the spots, which can cause scarring.


'Both of my sons caught this when they were eight - possibly from a swimming pool - so I think it might be age-related. It looks worse than eczema, with clusters of at least a dozen spots, but there is nothing you can do. We tried squeezing but it didn't help. After two years of having the spots, bizarrely they disappeared - almost overnight - going as quickly as they had come.'


Happily, there are no actual worms involved in ringworm, which is a highly infectious fungal infection that appears as a ring-shaped rash on any part of the body. Children are most likely to get it on their scalp or feet. Adults can get it in the groin area, where, fantastically, it goes by the name of 'jock itch'. Although not usually serious, ringworm can look alarming and is irritating - itchy patches of skin spread outwards, and look almost like burns. Your child may even lose some hair in patches or have small blisters.

A pharmacist can help you choose the right treatment - antifungal tablets, shampoo or cream. With very young children, it is worth checking with your GP. If the skin gets broken or very sore, antibiotics might be needed.

Slapped Cheek Syndrome

The clue to this one is in the name - it really does look as though your child has been slapped, hard, on the cheek. Passed through direct contact and saliva, slapped cheek syndrome is another fast-spreading infection that is upsetting but not usually serious, although can have cold-like symptoms, a raised temperature, a headache and possibly itchy skin. With rest, hydration, and Calpol to bring down a temperature, slapped cheek generally clears up by itself in a few days. It can be a problem if you're pregnant up to about 20 weeks gestation, as it raises the chance of miscarriage. If you're worried, contact your midwife or GP.


'My son came down with slapped cheek syndrome at school and I'm glad it started there because it looks exactly like it sounds and you half expect social services to turn up at your door. He felt a bit poorly for a day then just became unbearably bored - he felt fine and the redness had faded but was kept off school for the rest of the week as a precaution because one of the classroom assistants was pregnant.'


This is an ugly and uncomfortable skin infection that often appears around the nose and mouth. It occurs more readily when the skin is already affected by something else, such as eczema. There are two types: non-bullous impetigo is the most common, with small blisters that burst leaving wet red patches, which then go brown and crusty. It looks horrible, is very itchy, and extremely contagious. It may also bring on a fever or swollen glands, in which case consult your doctor immediately.


'A little red patch appeared on my son's cheek at bedtime and I thought he'd bumped himself, but by the morning it had blistered. After breakfast the patch had got bigger, then half an hour later it had gone crusty. I could see it developing before my eyes. Panicking it was a flesh-eating bug we rushed to the GP, who recognised it as impetigo. He prescribed antibiotics, which stopped the spread almost immediately, and it cleared up shortly afterwards.'

Glue Ear

Otitis media with effusion (OME) or 'glue ear' to you and me, is actually not about ear wax. If your child has had a lot of ear infections, even mild ones, they may have a build-up of sticky fluid in their middle ear, which causes muffled hearing. This can affect hearing and speech development, and, as a consequence, behaviour. Older children might suddenly appear to be ignoring you, and some start to 'switch off', finding it so difficult to distinguish between sounds that they become upset and badly behaved, or just stop interacting with other children. Most of the time the ear will drain itself over a few weeks or months. If there is no improvement after three months, treatments may include inserting grommets (small tubes) into the ear to help drain the fluid.


Become a tyrant about washing hands as it's amazing how many infections this can save you from.

Get advice from your pharmacist before using calamine lotion or similar creams to try and ease itching, blistering, soreness or swelling - they could make the condition worse.

Try and encourage your kids not to share towels or clothes with their friends.

Check with the school/nursery before sending your child in. All have different policies, but a 48-hour stay-at-home is often standard for contagious conditions. If you spread something nasty around your kids' friends, don't be surprised when your child comes home with it all over again.

It's grim, but the best way to check for threadworms is with a torch, in the dead of night Ear
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 26, 2014
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