Five ways parents can help their kids take risks – and why it’s good for them



Have real conversations with your kids about what they’re doing, and the potential consequences of their actions.
from shutterstock.com

Linda Newman, University of Newcastle and Nicole Leggett, University of Newcastle

Many parents and educators agree children need to take risks. In one US study, 82% of the 1,400 parents surveyed agreed the benefits of tree-climbing outweighed the potential risk of injury.

Parents cited benefits including perseverance, sharing, empowerment and self-awareness. One parent thought it allowed her son to learn what his whole body was capable of.




Read more:
Should I let my kid climb trees? We asked five experts


Taking risks and succeeding can motivate children to seek further achievements. Failing can lead to testing new ideas, and finding personal capabilities and limits. In this way, children can overcome fears and build new skills.

We mentored a group of educators in a research project trialling how to best introduce kids to risk.

Parents identified sharing and collaboration as one benefit of letting kids climb trees.
from shutterstock.com

Parents can use some of the lessons these educators learnt to help their own children take more risks and challenge themselves.

What was the research?

Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool (NSW) wanted to conduct research around risky play. “Risky play” is a term which has evolved from a trend to get more children out into nature to experience challenging environments.

Adamstown wanted to find out whether adult intervention to promote safe risk-taking would play a significant role in developing children’s risk competence.

Educators engaged children in conversations about risk, asked prompting questions and helped them assess potential consequences.

The Adamstown research built on 2007 Norwegian research that identified six categories of risky play:

  • play at great heights, where children climb trees or high structures such as climbing frames in a playground

  • play at high speed, such as riding a bike or skateboarding down a steep hill or swinging fast

  • play with harmful tools, like knives or highly supervised power tools to create woodwork

  • play with dangerous elements, such as fire or bodies of water

  • rough and tumble play, where children wrestle or play with impact, such as slamming bodies into large crash mats

  • play where you can “disappear”, where children can feel they’re not being watched by doing things like enclosing themselves in cubbies built of sheets or hiding in bushes (while actually being surreptitiously supervised by an adult).

The educators examined their practices in these areas to see how and whether they were engaging children in risky play, and how children were responding.

Skating down a hill is one way kids can engage in risky play.
from shutterstock.com

Here are five lessons educators learnt that parents can apply at home.

1. Have real conversations with children (don’t just give them instructions)

Adamstown educators found children were more likely to attempt risky play when adults talked to them about planning for, and taking, risks.

Parents can use similar strategies with their children, helping them question what they are doing and why.

Phrases like “be careful” don’t tell children what to do. Instead, say things like

That knife is very sharp. It could cut you and you might bleed. Only hold it by the handle and cut down towards the chopping board.

Equally, praise with meaning, using phrases like

You cut the cake, thinking about how you held the knife and didn’t slip or cut yourself. Well done!

It is important for children to provide insight into their own problem solving. You could ask their thoughts on what might happen if they used the knife incorrectly or what safety measures they could put in place. This will help develop their risk competence.

2. Introduce risk gradually

Allow your children to try new things by slowly increasing the levels of difficulty.

At Adamstown, a process of introducing children to fire spanned nine months. First – on the advice of an early childhood education consultant – they introduced tea-light candles at meal times. This then moved to a small fire bowl in the sandpit, before children were introduced to a large open fire pit.




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Ensuring children get enough physical activity while being safe is a delicate balancing act


The fire pit is now used for many reasons. In winter, children sit around it in a circle and tell stories. Educators show them cooking skills, referencing the ways Australia’s First Nations People cook. The fire pit is also used to create charcoal for art.

Encourage your children to think about risk when they’re in a safe situation.
from shutterstock.com

Children have been made aware of the safe distance they need to keep and about the potential hazard of smoke inhalation.

During the research process, as children were introduced to more risk, there were no more injuries than before and all were minor. There were also no serious incidents such as broken bones, or events requiring immediate medical attention.

3. Assume all your children are competent – regardless of gender

Adamstown educators were surprised to discover that, although they weren’t excluding girls from risky play, the data indicated they challenged and invited participation more often with boys.

Parents may hold intrinsic biases they are not necessarily aware of. So, check yourself to see if you are:

  • allowing boys to be more independent

  • assuming boys are more competent or girls don’t really want to take as many risks

  • dressing girls in clothes that limit their freedom to climb

  • saying different things to boys and girls.

4. Be close-by but allow children to have a sense of autonomy

Children don’t always want to be supervised. Search for opportunities to allow them to feel as if they are alone, or out of sight. Be close-by, but allow them to think they are playing independently.

5. Discuss risk at times that don’t directly involve it

When walking together to the shops, talk about the risks involved in crossing roads, such as fast cars. You can note safe and unsafe situations as well as encouraging your child to notice these as you go about your daily life. This can also be done in relaxed situations like in the bath.

This way, when the time comes for your child to learn a new skill like crossing the road alone, they have already had some opportunity to consider measures to keep themselves safe in a non-stressful situation.

If your child has a fall or other mishap, when everything is settled again, ask your child about why it happened and how they might suggest it could be prevented next time.




Read more:
Kids learn valuable life skills through rough-and-tumble play with their dads


This article was written with Kate Higginbottom, Service Director and Nominated Supervisor at Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool Centre.

The Adamstown centre was part of a larger research project, in which four Australian early childhood centres in Newcastle took part as practitioner researchers.The Conversation

Linda Newman, Associate Professor, University of Newcastle and Nicole Leggett, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

140th out of 146: Australian teens do close to the least physical activity in the world



Teenagers across the world are failing to meet physical activity targets – but Australian teens are doing worse than most.
From shutterstock.com

Brendon Hyndman, Charles Sturt University

In a study published in The Lancet today, we find out how 1.6 million adolescent school students from across 146 countries are faring in terms of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) physical activity recommendations.

The answer: pretty dismally. And Australia is among the worst, ranked 140 out of the 146 countries studied.

The WHO guidelines for this age group recommend a minimum of one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. That’s a jogging-like intensity that gets you sweating and puffing.




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How much physical activity should teenagers do, and how can they get enough?


This benchmark has been set based on what we know about the benefits of regular movement for good physical health (fitness, strong muscles and bones) and preventing disease (such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease). Not getting enough physical activity is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

So if young Australians are losing out on these benefits, it’s concerning. While it’s a huge problem to tackle, we can take important steps at school and at home.

The study

The researchers analysed data from students aged 11 to 17 provided in surveys. Although movement devices (such as accelerometers and pedometers) are generally the most accurate way to measure physical activity, surveys can reach large populations and provide valuable insights on a national and even global scale.

The study provided figures for two time points – 2001 and 2016. In 2016, an average of just one in five adolescents across the 146 countries met the recommended physical activity levels. More boys meet these guidelines than girls.

Australia came in seventh from the bottom when it came to the proportion of adolescents not getting enough physical activity. This placed Australia ahead of only Cambodia, Philippines, South Korea, Sudan, Timor-Leste and Zambia.

Kids’ physical activity levels tend to decline when they move from primary school to high school.
From shutterstock.com

These findings align with recent national report cards that graded Australian adolescents’ physical activity as a lowly “D-”.

The researchers predicted just over one in ten Australian adolescents were meeting global physical activity recommendations in 2001 (87% were not) and in 2016 (89% were not). So if anything, things are getting worse.




Read more:
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Why is this age group doing so poorly?

Research continues to show a child’s physical activity participation has often peaked in primary school, before they transition into secondary school.

In high school, there tend to be less areas conducive to outdoor physical activities, like playgrounds. High school students are often exposed to more spaces for sitting and socialising, and research shows they can start to develop negative attitudes towards physical education.

Sedentary behaviour also increases during secondary schooling, with a higher proportion of students using electronic devices for longer than the recommended two hours per day for recreation and entertainment.




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Teenagers who play sport after school are only 7 minutes more active per day than those who don’t


By secondary school, teenagers have had seven years of primary schooling to develop fundamental movement skills, so will require more advanced movement opportunities to test themselves. This can be difficult if schools don’t prioritise facilities to encourage physical activity.

The blocks of recess time for physical activity can be less in secondary school, with guidance for 30 minute periods, compared with an hour for primary. This can vary according to the priorities of each school, particularly when recess time is competing with lessons, time to eat, and other activities.

Health and physical education requires improved status, resources and time allocation across the board.

How can we improve things?

The WHO is aiming to increase the number of young people meeting physical activity guidelines by 15% in 2030. So we need to consider how we can make some positive changes.

A new national physical literacy framework and campaign is a good start.

According to Sport Australia, physical literacy is about more than playing sport – it’s about holistic development.

Here are some other things we should be focusing on:

  1. we need to place more value on recess periods by ensuring there is at least one hour of mandatory recess time scheduled each day for teenagers to be as active as possible. We also need to prioritise quality and accessible facilities for students to test themselves physically (for example, climbing and fitness facilities)

  2. families should dedicate one hour after school each day to turning off electronic devices with the goal of moving more

  3. school teachers should work to identify teenagers’ physical activity interests, levels and needs as they enter secondary school, looking to provide more physical challenges. If facilities are not available, they should plan for and include relevant excursions

  4. schools should encourage more opportunities for safe active transport (travelling to and from school by walking or cycling), organised sport and recreation, student-centred PE classes (promoting choice for more enjoyable activities), and activity opportunities before and after school

  5. during unavoidable and prolonged periods of using digital devices (like during classroom lessons), teachers should provide short bursts of movement tasks for even one minute, such as moving to music

  6. school staff and training teachers should receive professional development for learning about, accommodating and encouraging physical activities within the context of secondary schools (especially beyond scheduled classes)

  7. schools should be engaged with stakeholders such as families and community leaders in a collective effort to improve and model the value of physical activity opportunities in secondary schools.




Read more:
Adapting to secondary school: why the physical environment is important too


Leaders from across sectors need to prioritise the development of physical activity strategies and resources for secondary schools. This is not a new concept, but the findings of this research make it impossible to ignore. Trialled programs or policies that encourage physical activity in secondary schools should now be brought in on a larger scale.The Conversation

Brendon Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Personal Development, Health & Physical Education / Course Director of Postgraduate Studies in Education, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Is social media damaging to children and teens? We asked five experts



They need to have it to fit in, but social media is probably doing teens more harm than good.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Alexandra Hansen, The Conversation

If you have kids, chances are you’ve worried about their presence on social media.

Who are they talking to? What are they posting? Are they being bullied? Do they spend too much time on it? Do they realise their friends’ lives aren’t as good as they look on Instagram?

We asked five experts if social media is damaging to children and teens.

Four out of five experts said yes

The four experts who ultimately found social media is damaging said so for its negative effects on mental health, disturbances to sleep, cyberbullying, comparing themselves with others, privacy concerns, and body image.

However, they also conceded it can have positive effects in connecting young people with others, and living without it might even be more ostracising.

The dissident voice said it’s not social media itself that’s damaging, but how it’s used.

Here are their detailed responses:


If you have a “yes or no” health question you’d like posed to Five Experts, email your suggestion to: alexandra.hansen@theconversation.edu.au


Karyn Healy is a researcher affiliated with the Parenting and Family Support Centre at The University of Queensland and a psychologist working with schools and families to address bullying. Karyn is co-author of a family intervention for children bullied at school. Karyn is a member of the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Committee, but not a spokesperson for this committee; this article presents only her own professional views.The Conversation

Alexandra Hansen, Chief of Staff, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Should I let my kid climb trees? We asked five experts



Falls are the main reason for childhood injuries, but kids usually recover.
from shutterstock.com

Sasha Petrova, The Conversation

We often remember childhood as a time when life seemed infinite and adventures in our backyard felt expansive, as if we were exploring other worlds.

Climbing a tree was its own adventure. You could discover what you were capable of, while also getting the chance to see the world from a different vantage point.

Of course, sometimes you’d fall. But that’s to be expected – there’s a risk in every journey of discovery.

Parents want their children to enjoy the same joys of childhood they look back on fondly, but many struggle with getting the balance right – how much freedom can you give while also making sure your child is safe?

We asked five experts – including a paediatric surgeon who operates on children who’ve fallen out of a tree – if it’s OK to let kids climb trees.

Five out of five experts said yes

Although, in every case, it’s a yes, but…

Here are their detailed responses:


If you have a “yes or no” education question you’d like posed to Five Experts, email your suggestion to: sasha.petrova@theconversation.edu.au


Disclosures: Shelby Laird is a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education as well as its local affiliate, Environmental Educators of North Carolina.The Conversation

Sasha Petrova, Section Editor: Education, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

6 ways to stop daylight saving derailing your child’s sleep



It’s harder for kids to get to sleep when it’s light outside and they’re not as tired.
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Julie Green, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Jon Quach, University of Melbourne

Daylight saving will begin this weekend across most of Australia, signalling warmer weather, longer days and new opportunities for children to make the most of time outside.

It can also mark the start of a rough patch in the sleep department. Children’s body clocks can struggle to adjust as the hour shift forwards means they aren’t tired until later.

There are things parents can do to ease the transition to daylight saving and planning ahead is key. And if things get wobbly, there are also strategies to get them back on track.

But first, let’s look at where the problem starts.




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Spring forward, fall back: how daylight saving affects our sleep


Children’s body clocks

The body clock – also known as our circadian rhythm – controls when we sleep and wake.

Several environmental cues affect our body clock, the most common of which is the light-dark cycle. When it’s dark, our bodies produce more of the hormone melatonin, which helps bring on sleep. And when it’s light, our bodies produce less, so we feel more awake.

When daylight saving begins, children’s bodies aren’t getting the usual environmental signals to sleep at their regular time.

But a later bedtime means getting less sleep overall, which can impact on their concentration, memory, behaviour and ability to learn.

So, how do you plan for the daylight saving switchover?

1. Take a sleep health check

This is a good opportunity to look at how your child is sleeping and whether they’re getting enough sleep overall. Individual needs will vary but as a guide, here’s what you should aim for:

Most children wake themselves in the morning, or wake easily with a gentle prompt, if they’re getting enough good-quality sleep.

But sleep problems such as trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep are common and persistent. Around 50% of problems that begin before a child starts school continue into the early school years. So, early intervention makes a difference.




Read more:
Sleep problems that persist could affect children’s emotional development


2. Review the bedtime routine

As well as the light-dark cycle, children’s circadian rhythms are synchronised with other environmental cues, such as timing around bath and dinner. A positive routine in the hour before bed creates consistency the body recognises, helping children wind down in preparation for sleep.

Bedtime routines work best when the atmosphere is calm and positive. They include a bath, brushing teeth and quiet play – like reading with you – some quiet chat time, and relaxing music.

Reading stories before bed is calming and helps create a predicable routine.
Shutterstock

Keeping quiet time consistent makes it easier to say goodnight and lights out. Doing a quick check on whether they’ve had a drink, been to the toilet and so on can help address things they might call out for later.

Gently reminding children what you expect and quiet praise for staying in bed helps too.

3. Keep regular sleep and wake times

Sticking to similar daily bedtimes and wake times keeps children’s circadian rhythms in a regular pattern.




Read more:
Regular bed times as important for kids as getting enough sleep


It’s best to keep this routine during weekends and holidays – even though these are times when older children in particular are eager for later nights. This is worth remembering to avoid a double whammy of sleep disruption as daylight saving and the school holidays coincide.

If your child is not tiring until later, try making bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day until you reach your bedtime target.

4. Control the sleep environment

Darkening the room is an important cue to stimulate melatonin production. This can be challenging during daylight saving, depending on your home. Trying to block out light – say, with thicker curtains – is a good strategy. Keeping the amount of light in the room consistent will also make for better sleep.

Research suggests the blue light emitted by screens from digital devices might suppress melatonin and delay sleepiness. It’s advisable to turn screens off at least an hour before bed and to keep them out of the bedroom at night.

Turn screens off an hour before bed.
Ternavskaia Olga Alibec/Shutterstock



Read more:
Wired and tired: why parents should take technology out of their kid’s bedroom


Temperature plays a role in priming children for sleep, as core body temperature decreases in sync with the body clock. So, check the room, bedding or clothing aren’t too hot. Between 18℃ and 21℃ is the ideal temperature range for a child’s bedroom.

5. Consider what happens during the day

Making sure your child gets plenty of natural daylight, especially in the morning, keeps them alert during the day and sleepy in the evening.

Daytime physical activity also makes children tired and ready for a good night’s sleep.

For children over five, keep naps early and short (20 minutes or less) because longer and later naps make night sleep harder.

For younger children, too little daytime sleep can make them overtired and therefore harder to settle into bed.

6. Focus on food and drink

Think about dinner timing because feeling hungry or full before bedtime can delay sleep by making children too alert or uncomfortable.

It’s also important to avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. Caffeine is in chocolate, energy drinks, coffee, tea and cola.




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Kids’ diets and screen time: to set up good habits, make healthy choices the default at home


In the morning, a healthy breakfast helps kick-start your child’s body clock at the right time.

Finally, worries, anxiety, and common illnesses can also cause sleep problems. If problems last beyond two to four weeks, or you’re worried, see your GP.The Conversation

Julie Green, Principal Fellow, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Jon Quach, Research fellow, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How other countries get parents to vaccinate their kids (and what Australia can learn)



Different countries take different approaches to get parents to vaccinate their children. But saying which one works best is difficult.
from www.shutterstock.com

Katie Attwell, University of Western Australia and Mark Navin, Oakland University

Countries around the world, including Australia, are using different ways to get parents to vaccinate their children.

Our new research, published this week in the journal Milbank Quarterly, looks at diverse mandatory vaccination policies across the world. We explore whether different countries mandate many vaccines, or just a few; if there are sanctions for not vaccinating, such as fines; and how easy it is for parents to get out of vaccinating.

This is part of ongoing research to see what Australia could learn from other countries’ attempts to increase childhood vaccination rates.




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The shift from voluntary vaccination

Until recently, many governments preferred vaccination to be voluntary. They relied on persuasion and encouragement to try to overcome parents’ hesitancy or refusal to vaccinate their children.

However, recent measles outbreaks have made those methods less politically tenable. The rise of pro-vaccination activism and the polarisation of public debate about immunisation policy has motivated governments to take a more hard-line approach.




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Early evidence from Italy, France, California and Australia indicates this has led to higher vaccination rates. But different countries have pursued very different policies.

Australia’s federal “No Jab, No Pay” policy removes entitlements and childcare subsidies from unvaccinated families. Four Australian states also have “No Jab, No Play” policies to limit vaccine refusers’ access to childcare.




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California bans unvaccinated children from school, and Italy fines their parents. France classifies vaccine refusal as “child endangerment” and can impose hefty fines.

Some governments can use more than one method at once, like Australia’s mix of state and federal policies. Italy’s new policy uses a combination of excluding unvaccinated children from daycare and fines for parents.

Making it hard to refuse

Australia, Italy, France and California make it difficult for parents to refuse vaccines by only permitting medical exemptions to their mandatory policies.

However, other jurisdictions ultimately allow parents to refuse vaccines, albeit using different methods. For example, Germany and the state of Washington require parents to be counselled by medical professionals before they obtain an exemption to vaccinating their child. In Michigan, public health staff provide a mandatory education course for parents seeking non-medical exemptions.

Which policy leads parents to vaccinate?

We can assess a policy to get parents to vaccinate using a notion called “salience”. Put simply, will a vaccination policy actually make parents vaccinate?

For example, Australia’s federal vaccine mandate has become more salient since parents can no longer obtain conscientious objections and risk losing benefits for not vaccinating.

But there are other factors to consider, such as whether a policy promotes timely vaccination.

Australia’s “No Jab, No Pay” policy applies to children from birth, so it motivates parents to vaccinate on time. But the United States has state-level policies that prompt parents to have their children up-to-date with their vaccinations when they start daycare or primary school.

Who doesn’t have to vaccinate?

Another important question is who gets to duck away from the hand of government. Australia’s “No Jab, No Pay” policy leaves wealthy vaccine refusers untouched as they are ineligible for the means-tested benefits docked from unvaccinated families.

And Australian states’ policies to exclude vaccine refusers’ children from daycare doesn’t affect families who don’t use daycare.

Since France and California exclude unvaccinated children from school, these countries have the capacity to reach parents more equitably (almost everyone wants to send their kids to school so more people are incentivised to vaccinate). In both places, you can homeschool if you really don’t want to vaccinate.

Addressing the many reasons for not vaccinating

Mandatory vaccination policies also need to recognise the two types of parent whose child might be unvaccinated. Much airtime focuses on vaccine refusers. However, at least half the children who are not up-to-date with their vaccines face barriers to accessing vaccination, such as social disadvantage or logistical problems getting to a clinic. They are the children of underprivileged parents, not vaccine refusers.

When it comes to the vaccination status of disadvantaged children entering daycare, Australian states have chosen a “light touch” as part of the “No Jab, No Play” policy. Existing state policies provide grace periods or exemptions for these families.

But the federal “No Jab, No Pay” hits all parents where it hurts, and offers no exemptions or grace periods to disadvantaged families. Likewise, California’s school entry mandate makes no such exceptions. Italy and France have daycare exclusions similar to “No Jab, No Play” in their policies, but we have not found any evidence they make exceptions for disadvantaged families.




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Forget ‘no jab, no pay’ schemes, there are better ways to boost vaccination


Finally, mandatory vaccination policies vary on how much they cost for governments to deliver. Oversight of parents, such as inspections or implementing fines, can drain government resources. And educational programs for parents seeking exemptions are expensive to run.

Governments can outsource some of these costs to parents (for instance, parents may have to pay a fee to see a doctor for an exemption).

Governments can also hand over the tasks to medical professionals, but then they have less control over what these professionals do. For instance, California is now seeking tighter regulation of doctors who say children are eligible for medical exemptions. This monitoring will cost the state, but will allow greater oversight. Victoria also had problems with doctors who accommodated vaccine refusers.

So where does this leave us?

Our work investigating international strategies to get parents to vaccinate their children is ongoing. Australians seem strongly attached to our vaccine mandates. But both state and federal policies have undergone tweaks since their inception.

Any future adjustments should ensure all parents are targeted, that disadvantaged families are not further disadvantaged, and that we make it very easy for everybody to access vaccines in their communities and on time.

Globally, as more jurisdictions move away from voluntary child vaccination to mandatory policies, we need to get a clearer picture of how these policies work for families, government and the policy enforcers, including school staff and health professionals.The Conversation

Katie Attwell, Senior Lecturer, University of Western Australia and Mark Navin, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Oakland University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How do you know if your child has hay fever and how should you treat it?



It comes down to the persistence of symptoms.
Littlekidmoment/Shutterstock

Paxton Loke, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Spring has sprung and if you’re one of the one in five Australians who get hay fever, you’ve probably noticed some of those pesky symptoms: sneezing; an itchy, runny or stuffy nose; and red, itchy, watery eyes.

Unfortunately children aren’t immune. One in ten will get hay fever – or allergic rhinitis, as it’s known in the clinic – and the rate appears to be rising.

Pollens generally cause seasonal symptoms (in spring or summer), while house dust mites are mainly responsible for year-round symptoms.

Children who are allergic to both seasonal and perennial allergens may experience a marked increase in their symptoms during spring.

Hay fever can lead to fatigue, irritability and poor concentration, and can affect children’s learning and social behaviour. But the good news is it’s usually easily treated.




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Why do kids get hay fever?

Hay fever can begin as early as 18 months of age, when children are exposed to pollens or house dust mites.

Tiny particles get trapped in the hairs and mucous that line their nasal cavity, or can enter via the conjunctiva – the tissue that covers their eye.

The body treats these invaders as dangerous and mounts an attack, using antibodies called immunoglobulin E, or IgE.

When the allergens bind to IgE antibodies, which are present on immune cells (such as mast cells), the cells quickly release chemical mediators, including histamines and leukotrienes. This causes sneezing, itchy and/or runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.

The body then recruits other immune cells, such as T cells, causing more inflammation and worsening symptoms.

How do you know if it’s hay fever?

While hay fever can be a life-long health issue, symptoms can fluctuate over time.

As well as sneezing, an itchy, runny nose, and itchy watery eyes, you might notice your child has a dry cough, is snorting or sniffing, or continually clears their throat.

In some instances, they might make a clicking sound with their tongue when they use it to scratch the roof of their mouth.

Hay fever symptoms in children are the same as adults.
Creatista/Shutterstock

While these symptoms may initially look like the common cold, the persistence of symptoms after weeks usually points towards hay fever.

Children with hay fever usually don’t have fevers (which are more common with infections) but they may be more prone to recurrent colds.




Read more:
Health Check: how to tell the difference between hay fever and the common cold


If you’re unsure, take your child to your local doctor for a diagnosis. If necessary, they can use skin prick or blood tests to detect the presence of relevant IgE antibodies to the suspected allergens.

Your doctor may then discuss the three main treatment options: avoiding the allergen, oral and topical medications, and allergen immunotherapy.

Avoiding the allergen

Once you suspect or know the allergen, you can help minimise your child’s contact with the cause of their hay fever.

For children who have seasonal allergic rhinitis, allergen minimisation strategies could include:

  • staying indoors on windy days with high pollen counts
  • avoiding activities with allergen exposure (such as grass mowing)
  • having a shower promptly after outdoor activities
  • using re-circulated air in the car.
Try to keep kids with hay fever indoors on days with a high pollen count.
Eva Foreman/Shutterstock

For cases of perennial allergic rhinitis, where house dust mite is the dominant cause, avoidance strategies could include:

  • washing household bedding (sheets and pillow cases) in hot water (above 60°C)
  • removing soft toys
  • replacing woollen underlays with dust mite covers
  • vacuuming carpets with vacuum cleaners fitted with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

Medications

Medical therapy is often required in addition to avoiding the allergen.

First line treatments are non-sedating oral antihistamines such as cetirizine, loratadine, fexofenadine and desloratadine. These are available as a syrup or tablets, and can be used for children aged 12 months and over.

They’re available over the counter at pharmacies, or your doctor can advise you on which might work best for your child.




Read more:
Health Check: what are the options for treating hay fever?


Nasal steroid sprays (also called intranasal corticosteroids) are also very effective in alleviating symptoms when used correctly.

For children who suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis, nasal steroid sprays should be started prior to the start of the pollen season, and maintained throughout the season.

Nasal steroid sprays can be used for children aged two years and above, and need to be started under the direction of your doctor.

Side effects can include nose bleeds or nasal dryness. While long-term use is generally safe, it’s best to have ongoing reviews by your doctor.

Other treatment options include:

  • intranasal decongestants – sprays to dry the nose – which relieve congestion in the nose by shrinking swollen blood vessels in the nose. These can be used for up to three days
  • antihistamine nasal sprays, which may act more quickly than oral antihistamines but only in the nasal passages
  • nasal irrigation with saline (salty water) to clear the nasal passages of the allergens.

Desensitisation

Allergen immunotherapy involves monthly injections, or daily drops or tablets.
Microgen/Shutterstock

Allergen immunotherapy, also known as desensitisation, is an option for children who aren’t getting enough relief from medications and avoiding the allergen.

It involves a regular administration of the allergen, either via monthly injections (called the subcutaneous route) or daily drops/tablets under the tongue (known as the sublingual route).

Allergen immunotherapy is available for children aged five years and above via a paediatric allergy specialist, and successfully reduces symptoms in 40-50% of patients.

Treatment is usually given for a period of three to five years, with costs ranging from A$50-A$200 monthly, depending on the number of allergens and products used.




Read more:
Health Check: what’s the right way to blow your nose?


The Conversation


Paxton Loke, Paediatric Allergist and Immunologist, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

McGowan remains tight-lipped about refugee legislation despite removal of children


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has finalised the removal of the last children from
Nauru, as it battles to head off a parliamentary defeat on legislation
to facilitate medical transfers from offshore.

Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister David Coleman said on Sunday:
“There are now only four asylum seeker children on Nauru and they have
all been approved for departure to the United States of America with
their families”.

When parliament rose for its summer break a government filibuster had
prevented amendments reaching the House of Representatives that would
put medical transfers into the hands of doctors, though with the
minister having some oversight on security grounds. The amendments –
based on a proposal originally coming from independent Kerryn Phelps
and supported by Labor – had been passed by the Senate.

At that time the legislation potentially had enough crossbench backing
in the House to pass, but it is not clear whether that will hold when
it is put to the test this month. The government is pulling out all
stops to peel away crossbench support.

Passage of the measure would be a major blow to the Coalition,
although it would not amount to a vote of no confidence. Asked about major defeats in the past, House of Representatives clerks last year had to go as far back as 1929 (which led to an election) and on the 1941 budget
(which brought down the Fadden government).

The government has been hopeful that it can persuade independent Cathy
McGowan to break ranks with other crossbench supporters of the bill.

McGowan said on Sunday it was good news about the children but she
would reserve her position on the legislation until it came before the
House, after parliament resumes on Tuesday of next week.

“Indefinite detention needs to be addressed,” she said.

Phelps said the news about the remaining children was “absolutely
fantastic” but it was “nowhere near enough”.

Hundreds of people were still languishing on Manus and Nauru and there
were “dire reports” about mental health issues, Phelps said.

The proposed change, which would see medical transfers on the basis of
the advice of two doctors, would “take medical decisions out of the
hands of bureaucrats and politicians – with appropriate ministerial
oversight on national security grounds”.

Phelps said she hadn’t seen any evidence of a weakening of crossbench
support while parliament has been in recess.

The government on Sunday declined to explain how it has been able
arrange for the removal of all the children from Nauru when Home
Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last year suggested security issues were a
barrier to removing some of them.

Dutton told parliament in October there were 13 children at that time
in family groups where there were adults, mostly males “that are the
subject of adverse security assessments from the United States.”

At his news conference on Sunday Coleman refused to clarify how these
security concerns had been resolved or where the people in question
were.

“I can’t go into specific cases but I will say that in each case issues have been worked through to the satisfaction of the Department,” he said.

Asked whether some of the children who had been brought to Australia
still had parents on Nauru because of a negative security assessment,
Coleman said: “There have been a number of issues that have been
worked through – but, no, the family groups are together”.

UPDATE

In a fresh effort to persuade the crossbenchers not to inflict a
damaging parliamentary defeat on the government, Scott Morrison has
said the government will set up a medical panel to review transfers
from Manus and Nauru.

The Medical Transfer Clinical Assurance Panel would be chaired by a
nominee of the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, and include
representatives from Foundation House (which provides services to
refugees) and the Australian Medical Association, and two nominees
from the Home Affairs department’s Chief Medical Officer.

If a transfer was rejected, the panel would look at the case, and make
a recommendation to the minister.

The structure would still leave the ultimate authority at ministerial level.

Phelps told the ABC on Monday the new panel would not solve the
problem because bureaucrats would still be making the decisions on
transfers, with the review coming later. The process needed to be
fast-tracked, she said, maintaining support for the bill that will
come to the House.

Coleman said if the bill were passed this would “effectively lead to
the end of offshore processing”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As children are airlifted from Nauru, a cruel and inhumane policy may finally be ending



File 20181023 169831 chyly1.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
If refugee and asylum seekers are not resettled in Australia, the humanitarian crisis will only worsen.
AAP/Jeremy Ng

Alex Reilly, University of Adelaide

Australia’s off-shore detention policy is unravelling. Predictably, after five years of detention, the mental health of adults and children who have been left in indefinite detention on Nauru is collapsing. On Monday, 11 children and their families were flown to Australia for urgent medical attention.

The New Zealand deal, under which some asylum seekers could be resettled in New Zealand as long as they are banned from ever coming to Australia, is now being seriously considered.

Good politics, bad policy

From the middle of 2013, when off-shore processing was re-started on Nauru and Manus Island, the Rudd government, and later the Abbott government, made bold and irresponsible claims that no asylum seeker attempting to enter Australia by boat would ever be resettled here.

This played well to an Australian public spooked by a dramatic rise in boat arrivals under the Rudd government between 2009 and 2013, and set the foundation for a policy that has systematically brutalised hundreds of innocent people.




Read more:
Same old rhetoric cannot justify banning refugees from Australia


The claim, in the name of deterrence, relied on hopes Australian governments would find places to resettle the asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island in other countries. But there was no plan as to where they might go and, predictably, resettlement proved very difficult.

An agreement with the Cambodian government failed because Cambodia lacks the capacity to resettle people of such different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Malcolm Turnbull seemed to have stumbled upon a resolution when the Obama administration agreed to take sone refugees from Nauru and Manus.

The current US administration has resettled 276 people from Nauru and rejected a further 148. There may be more resettlements to come, but there is no clear timetable, and it will be a resolution for only some of the 652 people remaining on Nauru.

Inexplicably, the Australian Government has repeatedly rejected an offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees there, fearing that people will take advantage of open migration between Australia and New Zealand and will end up resettling here.

Under renewed pressure from opposition parties, the government is reconsidering the New Zealand offer, but only if there is a travel ban preventing refugees ever coming to Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has drawn, once again, on the tired justification that to allow asylum seekers any right of entry to Australia may encourage people smuggling.

Why the people smuggling argument does not stack up

The people smuggling narrative does not withstand reasonable scrutiny. How much cruelty to innocent people on Manus and Nauru is really needed to stop the boats?

A comparison with the Howard years is instructive. From 2001 to 2008, of the 1,153 refugees and asylum seekers resettled on Nauru and Manus Island, 705 went to Australia, 401 to New Zealand and 47 to other Western countries. Most were resettled between 2002 and 2004.




Read more:
Resettling refugees in Australia would not resume the people-smuggling trade


These resettlements were not followed by a resumption of the people smuggling trade. From 2002 to 2007, 18 boats arrived with 288 asylum seekers. In addition, one boat was turned back with 14 passengers.

What remained important for deterrence was the possibility of being detained offshore with no guarantee of being settled in Australia and New Zealand. Only when this possibility was removed (when the new Rudd government dismantled the Howard government’s offshore processing and turn-back policies) was there a dramatic spike in asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The message of deterrence is clear

The systemic cruelty of detaining refugees in offshore detention centres indefinitely has sent an unequivocal message to any asylum seekers who might contemplate seeking asylum in Australia by boat. No person would countenance subjecting themselves to the mental and physical trauma suffered by detainees on Nauru and Manus Island for the chance of receiving protection in Australia. And no parent would risk subjecting their child to a lifetime of mental illness.

The Australian government has proved its mettle. It is prepared to subject innocent people to the cruellest of punishments, to disregard basic principles of human dignity, and to ignore its obligations under international law. This is deterrent enough for any prospective boat rider.

Time to end an inhumane policy

It is well past time to resettle every refugee and asylum seeker on Manus and Nauru in Australia. If this is done while the policies of boat turn backs and offshore detention remain in place, this will not lead to a resumption of people smuggling operations. And if I am wrong in this, we can be confident of stopping the boats again, as the government did with startling effectiveness in 2001 and 2013.

It seems that the government may finally be softening its untenable hard line. With no other resolutions on the table, most of the refugees on Nauru and Manus must end up in Australia or New Zealand.

Until this happens, the mental health of refugees stuck on Nauru and Manus will continue to deteriorate, and courageous whistleblowers will continue to risk their employment revealing the brutality and trauma of conditions in detention.

All this pain and suffering, and economic cost, for a deterrent that is not needed.The Conversation

Alex Reilly, Director of the Public Law and Policy Research Unit, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.