Every mum will admit that while parenting is full of joy, it’s also full of endless curveballs. And when we’re confused, we turn to friends or forums for a miracle answer to our endless questions.
But what about the medical queries that you want professional help with? With input from our Mamamia mum tribe, I put forward eight niggling issues – from sleep problems to newborn baby worries – to someone who’s used to being asked every question under the sun.
Catherine Bronger comes from a family of pharmacists. Working with three pharmacies in Sydney, Catherine is passionate about helping people with their everyday needs (of course, anything more than a minor ailment is a doctor’s domain). She’s also a mum of two herself. Help us!
1. My 10-month-old baby has just got over a bout of diarrhoea. What can she have to help avoid dehydration?
Catherine: I will always recommend rehydration fluids, such as Hydrolyte or Gastrolyte that can be purchased from the pharmacy. They are better to use than ready-to-drink sports drinks, which many mums and dads often ask me about. Rehydration fluids ensure that the fluid being replaced is the right balance of electrolytes that have been lost. A good trick is to make it up with cold water, or my kids love the ice block versions. You'll find they are a little saltier and not as sweet to taste but that's what's needed. If your baby is breastfeeding you can just increase the feeds as much as possible.
But the most important thing is to monitor your baby and ensure there are lots of wet nappies and they are alert and responding well. Babies are so little they don't have as much fluid to lose as adults, and they will dehydrate really quickly. If the diarrhoea persists longer than 12 hours or you notice signs of dehydration like lethargy, sunken eyes, dark smelly urine, it's important to seek immediate medical attention. Remember, your pharmacy is only a short trip or a quick phone call away if you want to reassurance.
2. My 11-year-old daughter just started having bad breakouts. What do you recommend for this?
Catherine: Breakouts out in tweens is common and it's important to start a ritual of good face hygiene every morning and night. Generally at this stage they don't need harsh soaps so mild alternatives like Cetaphil or the QV Face is a better alternative. For an oil-free moisturiser with a low SPF, QV Face and Neutrogena have a great range. In terms of the spots themselves, a low strength benzyl peroxide 2.5 percent can be used on the pimples to dry them out and this can be increased in strength if required.
A trap for first-time users is to prevent using coloured pillow cases and towels as the peroxide in the cream will start to take the colour out of them in time. Sometimes parents will want to start with natural products and there are good alternatives, like tea tree oil, that can be used in these circumstances.
3. My newborn baby looks to have dandruff. What can I do to help her?
Catherine: If your babies' scalp is scaly and flaky it is possible they have cradle cap. Cradle cap is when the oil glands are over-productive and will form little scale-like patches over a newborn's scalp.
Although it may not look great, it is very normal, not contagious and the baby will usually grow out of it in time. It's important not to pick these scales as you will create open wounds that can become infected. You can use olive oil or cradle cap products and massage the scalp with your fingers or a soft brush to loosen the scales.
4. What's your advice surrounding the use of homeopathic sleep remedies to help my baby sleep?
Catherine: As a general rule I stay clear of homeopathic remedies. It's important to have good sleep hygiene with babies and reach out to specialists if you're really struggling. Most early childhood health centres or your local GP can refer you.
5. I forgot to complete the penicillin for my child. What should I do now?
Catherine: It's important to take a full course of antibiotics so the infection doesn't reoccur. Take the dose as soon as you remember, unless it's time for you next dose and then just take the one dose and continue the course until complete.
A good tip is that all medicine will have what we call a CMI (Consumer Medicine Information) package with it or the pharmacist should print you a copy when you pick up medication for the first time.
If you have misplaced this you can always search the TGA website. These leaflets are formatted in a way that is easy to read and give basic information on forgotten doses, how to take the medicine and side effects.
6. My son has a rash on his face when teething. What is causing this and how can I treat it?
Catherine: The rash is usually caused by excessive saliva production and keeping the area dry is key. Keep a spare cloth handy to wipe away excessive drool and if your child often wets their clothes, it's best to use bibs or change their tops regularly.
It's also worth using a barrier cream as this will prevent the moisture and enzymes in the saliva from irritating the skin more. Examples of barrier creams you could use are Vaseline, Bepanthen ointment, paw paw ointment, Sudocrem or even some spare Lansinoh.
When bathing use a mild soap-alternative wash and finish with a light moisturiser. I like the QV or Cetaphil range. If the rash is particularly severe or weeping or you have any concerns go in to see your local pharmacist and ask them to have a look. Often they are able to recommend stronger creams or let you know if you should see the doctor.
7. My one-year-old son split the skin on his forehead after a bump and there's now a scar. What product would you recommend to lessen the scar?
Catherine: Scar treatment is something we get asked lots of questions about. The key to preventing scars is really how you treat the wound initially. There are some great advances in what we call moist wound care, this involves gels and bandages that prevent a scab forming in the middle of the wound, allowing the body to heal quicker and with less scarring.
The choice of bandage will depend on the size of the wound and also how much it's leaking. So it's worth heading into your pharmacy early and getting the best advice on how to treat an open wound. Many pharmacists have now done extra studies in wound care and will dress the wounds for you, so it's worth calling ahead and asking your local pharmacy if they offer this service.
However, once a scar is formed, silicon gels or sheets soften the scar. I will always recommend the sheets such as CICA-CARE silicon sheets rather than the gels. It's a bit pricier but you can wash and reuse them and they are much more effective at reducing the scar.
8. What's safe to use for my 14-month-old child when it comes to mosquito bites?
Catherine: Most of the time, I will use hydrocortisone cream that will bring down the allergic reaction of a mosquito bite. In most states and territories the pharmacist has to give this medication to you to make sure it's the right strength.
They will also have a look at the bites and irritation and may recommend milder creams if not appropriate. If there are multiple bites or the child is particularity itchy you may also want to use a liquid antihistamine, the pharmacist can also help you with this selection.
What's the most helpful piece of advice you've had from a pharmacist?
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Ask Your Pharmacist.
Whether your child is sick and you can’t get them to sleep, or you need help managing and caring for your parents as they grow older, your community pharmacist is here to help. As Australia’s most accessible health destination, pharmacies now do more than just dispense medication. Go in and speak to your pharmacist the next time you have a health issue or minor ailment, and find out how they can help you find the right solution. From vaccinations and absence from work certificates, to baby care and medication management, your community pharmacy is your health hub.