Medical & Developmental Health Information
Children deserve love, security, safety, good health and joy. As foster parents, you have taken on the job of securing these for the children in your care. FaCES has the privilege of working with you to help you keep your child healthy and safe.
Children in foster care, like all children, will have occasional and transient illness. They may also have more serious acute and chronic health issues. Many foster children have lived in places where they have been neglected and/or abused. Studies have shown that children living in foster care generally have more chronic medical, developmental and behavioral problems than children living with their birth parents. It can be difficult and frustrating to tackle these health issues without adequate support.
FaCES is here to help you. We know that you have taken on the responsibility of assuring that the children in your care receive appropriate and timely medical care. We hope this information will help you recognize potentially serious medical problems in these children.
Disclaimer: This information represents a guide for foster parents and does not replace medical advice from your doctor.
A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal. It is the body’s way of fighting off infection and therefore it does not always need to be treated.
Fevers are very commonly seen in childhood illnesses, including respiratory (lung) and gastrointestinal (stomach) infections. In addition to raising a child’s temperature, fevers can also make a child’s breathing and heart beat faster. Children often feel uncomfortable and irritable when they have a fever and don’t want to play. This crankiness improves when the fever goes away. Fevers in children tend to come and go, especially when they are getting fever medicine. They may be playful one minute and grumpy the next. This is normal, as long as there are no other worrisome signs such as extreme lethargy (laying around, won’t move), difficulty breathing, persistent vomiting, unable or unwilling to drink, or extreme pain. Contact your child’s physician if the fever lasts for more than 48 hours.
Fevers are treated differently depending on the age and health of the child. To find out if your child has a fever, take your child’s temperature using a digital thermometer. Your child may feel warm to the touch, and not have a fever.
If your child has a heart or lung disease, a problem with his or her immune system, HIV, sickle cell disease or a history of cancer, these recommendations do not apply. These children are more likely to have a serious illness causing their fever than healthy children. If your child has any of these diseases, and your child gets a fever, call his or her doctor immediately. The only exception to this rule is if your child’s primary care doctor or specialist has provided you with different instructions. In this case, you should follow the plan outlined by your child’s doctor.
Earaches are common problems in children. The pain may be caused by fluid in the ear, referred pain from the throat or teeth, or an acute infection. Many children have ear pain when they get a cold or allergies, but the earache goes away on its own. Ear pain does not always indicate an infection, so your child does not always need antibiotics.
Chest pain may be a sign of a serious problem – or it may be completely innocent and not worrisome. All chest pain lasting more than a few minutes should be discussed with your child’s doctor.
The common cold is due to viruses that are spread from one person to another by hand contact or coughing and sneezing. There are up to 200 different viruses that can cause colds. Cold air and drafts do not cause a child to get a cold.
- The average child under 6 years old gets 6-8 colds per year. These colds may last longer than when an adult gets the same illness.
- Children who go to school or daycare are especially likely to have many colds each year.
- Most colds aren’t serious and don’t need to be treated by a doctor.
- When your child has a cold, make sure that she rests and drinks lots of liquids (milk, juice and water)
- Encourage your child to wash her hands frequently so that she doesn’t give her cold to other people in the house.
Abdominal pain (“belly pain” or “stomach ache”) in children is common and can have many different causes. The pain often goes away by its own in a short time. Stomach aches may be caused by simple things such as:
- Gas pains,
- Eating too much,
- Stress and worry, or
- Constipation: holding in bowel movements (poop)
Vomiting (“throwing up,” “stomach flu”) is very common in childhood and is usually caused by a virus. A viral stomach illness typically causes vomiting and diarrhea, and lasts 24-48 hours (but can last longer). Children will sometimes have a slightly elevated temperature.
Your child’s bowel movements (BM’s, poops, stools) will probably vary in frequency and texture from day to day. It is normal to have an occasional “loose” stool. However, when a child experiences a sudden change from formed, solid stools to frequent, watery stools, this is diarrhea.
- Diarrhea is a common childhood problem.
- Diarrhea is often due to a viral stomach illness. It can occur with vomiting and a low-grade fever that typically lasts 3-6 days.
Though most viral stomach illnesses usually go away on their own with time, rest and fluids, is important to monitor your child for signs of dehydration. Remember that it takes less time for younger children to become dehydrated than older children.
A fussy baby who never seems to stop crying can be very frustrating. Typically, babies will cry the most often between birth and 3 months of age. If your baby is crying there are several things you can try to calm him down.
Tooth pain is common and can be very distressing to children. In babies, pain may be caused by teething, as new teeth work their way through the gums. Teething should not give children a fever.
In older children, tooth pain is often caused by tooth decay (cavities). Tooth decay is a result of bacterial growth that occurs when teeth are exposed to sugary liquids and foods for long periods of time. Many children in foster care did not have good dental care prior to being in foster care, so they may already have cavities. To help keep your child’s teeth healthy, you should make sure that he or she gets regular dental exams. If you do not have fluoride in your water, your doctor may prescribe fluoride drops for your child.
Bed sharing is a common practice in many cultures for many reasons. However, adult beds were not designed for babies to sleep in, and while an adult bed is comfortable for an adult, it is dangerous for an infant.
Studies have shown that sharing a bed with an infant increases the baby’s risk of injuries and even death due to suffocation. Room sharing is a safer alternative to bed sharing. Keeping a baby’s crib or bassinet next to your bed allows you to monitor the baby without increasing the risk of injuries or death due to suffocation.
Here are some guidelines for creating a safe sleep environment for all babies. By following these simple steps, you can prevent accidental infant deaths.
Most head injuries aren’t serious and don’t cause any long-term problems for a child. If your child has had only a light bump to the head, he may cry for a short time and then go back to playing. In this case, you can take care of your child at home. But it is important to know when a head injury could be serious, so you can seek appropriate medical care for your foster child.
- Children who are learning how to walk and climb fall very frequently.
- Infants are more likely to suffer serious head or brain injuries when they fall.
- Many children of all ages fall and hit their head during normal play.
- Head injuries can also occur with car accidents, bicycle falls, sports injuries and child abuse.
All children should wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, scooter, or skateboard, wearing roller skates, or when skiing or horseback riding. The helmet should cover the top of your child’s forehead.
Injuries are the leading cause of death in children aged 1-21 years. It is extremely important that parents take all possible steps to keep children in a safe environment because most injuries are preventable. If your child is injured, it is important to act quickly and get your child the appropriate help. Several common injuries and ways to prevent them are addressed here. These include burns, animal bites, cuts, broken bones, poison ingestion, choking, strangulation and drowning.
All children suffer minor injuries during normal play, but sometimes injuries can be serious, like a fracture or broken bone. A bone may break due to a fall, car crash, or other accident. If your child has a fracture, it is important for him to get appropriate medical care, which may include a cast or splint. Bones that heal incorrectly can affect your child’s growth and cause long-term problems.
Most bites occur from pets in the home or from other people, but children can get bitten by wild animals as well. The main concern with any bite is infection, especially if the bite has broken the skin. Bites can get infected very easily and your child may need medicine to prevent the spread of infection. Even though the skin seems clean, there may be bacteria underneath the skin in the bite. Less commonly, wild animals or house pets who have not received all of their shots may spread serious diseases to your children through biting.
Most rashes in infants and children aren’t serious. Many rashes will go away on their own without any treatment. Some rashes are more worrisome and need to be treated by a doctor.
Dial 911 if your child has these serious warning signs and appears to be having a serious allergic reaction. If your child carries an EpiPen give the shot right away.
- Severe difficulty breathing (wheezing)
- Feeling tightness in chest and throat
- Breaking out in rash (hives), swelling, or itching over most of the body
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Swelling of the lips and tongue
Bug (insect) bites and stings can be itchy or painful. Your child’s skin may get swollen and red in the area of the bite or sting. Stinging insects such as bees, wasps and hornets have venom in their stingers that causes pain and swelling. In most cases, you can treat bug bites and stings at home. However, some children may have an allergic reaction to the venom, and may need a doctor’s attention.
Deer ticks are common in the northeastern United States. They are found in forests or grassy, wooded areas from late spring until early fall. You may even have ticks in your backyard. Most tick bites are harmless, but sometimes a deer tick can spread Lyme Disease or other diseases to your child. Early detection and removal of a tick from your child’s body is key to prevent your child from getting Lyme Disease.
Check your child for ticks after playing outdoors near wooded areas or tall grasses. Pay particularly attention to the scalp, neck, armpits, and groin. Deer ticks are small, so look closely.
If you suspect your child may have had contact with a toxic chemical or a medicine that is not hers, call your doctor and the poison control center immediately If you cannot find the number for poison control, dial 911 and ask for the poison center.
Regional Poison Control Center (RI and Massachusetts): 1-800-222-1222
Information to tell the Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222
poison on skin
poison in eye