School Age : Health & Daily Care
Updated: Feb 5
General Health Checks
The regular visits with your healthcare professional are known as ‘well child visits’. Now your child is considered a ‘School aged child’ your scheduled visits continue to be about one visit every 12 months (age 5, 6, 7 & 8).
At each of these checkups, your doctor will continue to monitor your child’s growth, physical development, sleeping, nutrition and dental care; as well as perform tests to determine their eyesight, hearing, heart and lungs are all within healthy ranges for his or her age. As your child gets older, your doctor will discuss with you in more detail your child’s emotional and intellectual development and the ways in which you can assist in their educational processes.
Immunisation and vaccinations
Once you have made a decision about your child’s immunisation, your doctor will advise you on what you need to do to ensure your child is up to date with their immunisation as outlined in the national immunisation program (NIP).
As a parent of a school aged child, you have had years of experience in dealing with the more common of health problems, such as coughs, fevers, colds, and vomiting; and know the warning signs for more serious issues are to look for. Around this age group your child will most likely suffer ‘minor injuries’, such as cuts, scrapes and bruises as they start to be more adventurous in their play. Keeping your basic first aid and CPR skills up to date can be an invaluable source of confidence when dealing with these kinds of minor emergencies.
You should not hesitate to contact your health professional if you aren’t sure what to do in any situation or are worried about your child’s health or welfare.
Signs of serious illness and conditions
Sometimes it is hard to know when your child’s illness is a serious issue, or if it is a common and minor condition. You should call your doctor, or healthcare professional straight away if your child exhibits any of the following:
Your child has a high temperature or fever of over 38°C.
Your child has a fit, or convulsion.
Your child vomits green fluid.
Your child has a lump in the groin area, or hernia.
Your child has an apneic episode (stops breathing for more than 15 seconds)
There are also other signs that can indicate serious illness, if your child’s behaviour indicates more than one of the following you should seek medical advice immediately.
Excessive drowsiness (Less alert than usual, less aware of surroundings than usual).
Decreased activity (considerably less active, less interested in activities).
Breathing difficulty (coughing, short shallow breath, labored breathing).
Poor circulation (skin is pale, hands and feet might be cold to touch).
Feeding less (around half their normal intake).
Less urinary output (less than 4 in 24-hour period).
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor if you are worried about your child. Your doctor is there to diagnose and treat any illnesses you and your little one might have, but they are also there to answer your questions and reassure you. Most healthcare professionals understand the anxiousness that comes with being unsure as a parent and will be happy to see you to ease your concern.
It is common for children to start toilet training around 2-3 years, but some children can be showing signs of being ready from as early as 18 months. There are many techniques for toilet training and each child may respond better to a particular one. Both disposable and reusable nappies come in ‘pull up’ styles that can be helpful during the transition process. Most children are toilet trained fully by age 4 or 5. If your child is not responding to attempts to toilet train you should talk with your healthcare professional about toilet training techniques and how you can help your child in this process.
Nappy rash is the term commonly given to a skin irritation in young children. It is caused by the skin being in prolonged contact with the moisture from a soiled nappy, rubbing or chafing from the nappy itself, or (rarely) could be a result of allergic dermatitis.
Children can also suffer a type of ‘nappy rash’ when they transition into wearing underwear. Make sure your child is cleaning their genital area thoroughly after using the toilet, and if they have any accidents change their pants straight away. Not wiping properly and spending time in wet underwear can also cause conditions like thrush and urea rash.
Allowing your child to spend time with fresh air and a controlled amount of sunlight around their skin is very beneficial to clearing up skin irritations. Nappy rash ointment and creams are very readily available from stores and are also very effective.
Dressing school aged children
The best kinds of clothing for school aged children are easy and comfortable for them to move around in and are not constricting. They should be easy for them
to dress themselves in and durable (your child will put clothes through their paces).
As your child gets older, they will be able to tell you if they are cold or hot, and you can help them to choose outfits to dress themselves accordingly. Bear in mind that sometimes children will say that they are not cold or hot to avoid dressing appropriately.
Dressing for bed
It is recommended to dress your school aged child in traditional type pyjamas for sleep. You should dress your child for bed in the same manner that you yourself would dress, so that they don’t become cold at night and ensure that you provide them with the correct bedding for the weather.
Tips for dressing your child
Now that your child is older, they will want to start dressing themselves. If they are reluctant to dress themselves, make getting dressed fun by singing songs and making games as you help to dress them, this will make them more eager and confident as they learn to navigate zippers and buttons. Praising your child when they do dress themselves will also help them to feel a sense of achievement and encourage them to dress themselves more.
Cleaning your child’s face and head
Teach your child the importance of keeping their face clean throughout the day, especially as we branch out even further in the world of food. You will find that your child isn’t always as skilled as grown-ups are at getting the food in the mouth as opposed to all over the face.
Caring for your child’s genitals
Keeping your child’s genitals clean and fresh is very important to their general hygiene. Not properly cleaning when toileting and bathing can lead to illness and serious skin irritations.
If your child is a girl, make sure you teach her to clean her vagina from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from her bottom to her genitals when she goes to the toilet or bathes. In the bath you can use a washcloth and clean her genitals as part of your routine, still taking care to wipe from front to back, and teaching her to do the same. If you are worried or concerned about her, you should call your doctor.
Boys’ genitals also require thorough cleaning. As he learns to go to the toilet himself, teach him to always wipe from front to back, and thoroughly, taking care to not spread bacteria from his bottom to his genitals. You can teach him to clean his penis as part of his regular bath. If you are worried or concerned about your son, you should call your doctor.
Preparing the bath
Your school-aged child should be bathing in your family bath. A bath can be made fun by adding toys and games, and bath time can quickly become playtime. Encouraging your child to play and be comfortable in the water helps to make bath time seem fun and less of a chore as they grow. You can also encourage your child to enjoy having a shower as they get older.
Giving the bath
When it comes to giving your child bathing, remember that you need to teach them to start at the top and work your way down their body. Teach them to take a clean washer and clean their eyes, ears and face. Your child can wet their hair, but he or she will only need it ‘shampooed’ every 2 days or so. Make sure you use a specialty children’s shampoo until your child is old enough to start washing their own hair. Teach your child to always clean their genitals last, so as not to spread any bacteria to other parts of the body.
Some kids will really enjoy the bath and will want to stay and play in it after they are finished washing, but it is important to remember that they can still get cold very quickly and encourage them not to stay in the water too long. Some children will prefer to take a shower with someone else until they are comfortable showering by themselves.
Use your discretion in allowing your child to bathe alone. It is generally not recommended to let children bathe alone under the age of 5. Once you feel confident that your child understands the dangers of drowning and slipping in the bath or shower, you can allow them to supervise themselves. Always ensure you fill the bath/start the shower for young children so that you can test the temperature before they immerse themselves.
When to bath
Most school aged children will bathe once a day, some parents who have children that really enjoy baths might be tempted to bathe more often, but this can lead to them having dry skin. You can make bath time any time during the day, whether you prefer to do so in the morning, throughout the day or as part of a calming night routine is entirely up to you.
What if my child doesn’t like baths?
If your child really doesn’t like baths, you can try using a few different techniques to work up their tolerance to bath time. Try making it an interactive experience. Singing, playing and splashing in the bath can help your child to feel more relaxed and enjoy it more. Lots of parents make it a group activity, by taking their child in the shower with themselves or hopping in the bath too. The earlier that your child comes to like bath time the easier it will make your life as they grow.
You might find that as your child gets a little older, he or she becomes less co-operative with your attempts to trim their little fingernails. It is best to get someone to help you by calming or distracting your child while you use specialty baby nail clippers or use nail scissors to trim them down. Another technique is to cut their nails while they sleep, eat, or are in some other way distracted.
Trimming your child’s nails regularly will help stop him or her from scratching both themselves, and you. Now that your little one is spending more time exploring the world, you might find that their nails are being worn down naturally and don’t require trimming as regularly.
Most children will have their full set of primary teeth by age 3 to 3 ½. These ‘baby teeth’ are deciduous and will fall out to be replaced by ‘adult teeth’, beginning at approximately age 5/6, and most children will have a full set of adult teeth around age 12. Your child will lose their baby teeth in the same order that they grew in, usually starting with the central front teeth and moving outwards until all the teeth have been replaced. Your child’s final teeth, or wisdom teeth, will generally come in between the ages of 17 and 21. If you are concerned about your child’s tooth development you should contact your dental professional.
Tooth and Gum care
Encouraging healthy dental habits from a very young age will help you to teach your child to brush their teeth themselves. By the time your child is 5 years of age, they should be using a child’s toothbrush with soft bristles of varying heights and fluoride toothpaste to clean their teeth twice a day. Discuss which toothpaste and toothbrush is best for your child with your dental professional.
Singing a special ‘teeth-brushing’ song or having a special routine with dental care can help to make the experience fun for your child. Setting your child up with good oral hygiene from a young age will benefit them greatly in the future.
Early tooth decay prevention
It is important to remember that diet can immensely influence tooth decay. To avoid any early tooth decay, avoid giving your child too much of anything sweet, including drinks like fruit juice and soft drink. You should also try not to expose your children to too much acidic food, like citrus. Discourage your child from snacking too much throughout the day, as saliva needs time to remineralise the enamel on the teeth to prevent decay. Be careful when sharing food with your children and try not to share eating utensils. Your own mouth is full of bacteria that can be spread to their own teeth and gums.
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