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HiPP's A-Z of pregnancy & child health

The A-Z contains information on many aspects of pregnancy
and child health. It is arranged alphabetically so you can find what you are looking for with ease. If you are at all concerned about your health or your child’s health, please consult your health professional.

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Haemoglobin/Iron

During pregnancy, blood tests are carried out to measure the levels of haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body. Anaemia is a condition in which haemoglobin levels are low - and the resulting lack of oxygen going round the body causes symptoms such as tiredness, breathlessness, poor concentration, paleness/pale skin, weakness.

The body uses iron to make haemoglobin and iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia. Pregnant women have a greater volume of blood circulating in the body and therefore they need good levels of iron to make enough haemoglobin to go round. Read our tips for maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy, including which foods are a good source of iron.

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Haemorrhoids
Also known as ‘piles’, these are swollen veins in the anus, or back passage, caused by increased pressure (often through constipation, or straining to pass a motion). Haemorrhoids often occur in pregnancy, as the developing baby increases the pressure on blood vessels.

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Hair Loss - Mums, After The Birth

Sometimes, because of hormonal changes, hair becomes thicker during pregnancy. After the birth hair falls out at a greater rate as the hair returns to normal. However, this may also be caused by medical problems i.e. anaemia and thyroid problems. Hair loss can go on for some time but don’t be alarmed - it will eventually stop!

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Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

This is very contagious disease that spreads quickly round young children. It has nothing to do with the foot and mouth disease suffered by animals!

Hand, foot & mouth disease is usually quite mild and lasts for only a few days, but it can be quite uncomfortable. It starts with feeling unwell and often a slight fever. The throat may be sore and blisters or mouth ulcers develop. Spots, uncomfortable and sometimes itchy, also occur on the hands and feet. The usual treatment is to give a suitable children's liquid paracetamol (e.g. Calpol) or ibuprofen if necessary. Also give plenty to drink. Foods such as yogurt are soothing for a sore mouth - as are ice lollies.

If you are pregnant, the risk of hand, foot and mouth disease affecting you or your baby is very low, but if possible you should avoid direct contact with anyone who has the condition and contact your GP if you think you have developed it. If pregnant women catch the virus shortly before giving birth, it can pass to the baby, who may need hospital treatment to avoid developing further problems.

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Hay Fever
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is a seasonal condition caused by an allergy to pollen. It causes nasal congestion, sneezing and often sore or watery eyes. If you need to take any medication for this, or any other condition while pregnant or breastfeeding, always consult your GP first.

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Head Banging
Some babies take to head banging - it occurs most commonly between the ages of 8 months and 4 years and is more prevalent in boys than girls. It sometimes starts during teething, an ear infection or a physical or emotional upset (as a way of dealing with feelings of anger and frustration). It rarely causes damage and babies usually grow out of it quite quickly. It is thought that giving more stimulation or more cuddles may help, and that music may be soothing. If head banging persists and happens very frequently or is extreme, including during play, check with your GP to rule out any health problems.

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Head Injury

Babies and toddlers often bump their heads and it is rarely serious. They will usually cry and be distressed and this is quite normal. Most children will settle down. Seek medical advice if the child continues to be distressed, loses consciousness, is sick, has a convulsion, is unusually drowsy or has a headache.

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Headlice/Nits

Headlice or nits are extremely common, especially among young school children. Headlice and their eggs (nits) do not result from poor hygiene - they prefer clean hair and scalps! Ask your pharmacist for advice and treat the whole family. Notify the school too.

Always seek medical advice before using insecticide lotions on young babies (under 6 months), pregnant women or people with asthma or allergies. Do not use insecticide lotions or rinses 'just in case'. They should only be used if live lice are found.

Headlice are growing increasingly resistant to the insecticides used to remove them and you may prefer to try the following, chemical-free, method of combating the problem:

  • After washing the hair, apply liberal amounts of conditioner and comb through
  • Using a special fine-toothed nit comb (available from chemists) systematically comb through every strand of hair right from the roots to the ends
  • Check the comb for lice after each stroke. This is likely to take around half an hour, so allow enough time
  • Rinse the hair as normal. Repeat this procedure every three days for at least two weeks

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Healthy Start
If you are on certain benefits, you may be eligible for free vitamins, milk, fruit and vegetables under the government’s ‘Healthy Start’ scheme - check out the website www.healthystart.nhs.uk. You can apply when you are 10 weeks' pregnant, or at any time for a young child.

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Hearing

Babies are routinely screened for any hearing problems. The sooner a problem is detected and treated, the better the outcome. Recurrent ear infections can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. If a baby or child has recurrent ear infections which cause the middle ear to fill with fluid (glue ear), the doctor may recommend a procedure to insert tubes (‘grommets’) to allow the fluid to drain or an adenoidectomy (see adenoids)

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Heartburn During Pregnancy

Acid reflux may occur during pregnancy, causing heartburn - a burning sensation that can extend from the bottom of your breastbone to your lower throat. This is because, during pregnancy, the valve at the top of you stomach relaxes and may allow some of the stomach contents to leak back in to the oesophagus. If you suffer from heartburn at night, try sleeping propped up on extra pillows.

Other measures you can take include:

  • Avoid foods that can make heartburn worse, e.g. fizzy drinks, acidic foods such as oranges or tomatoes, fried or fatty foods, highly seasoned foods
  • Don't eat big meals - eat little and often and slowly
  • Don't eat a meal too close to bedtime
  • Avoid drinking large quantities of fluids with your meals
  • Try chewing gum after eating
  • Avoid tight clothes around the waist or bump
  • Over the counter antacids may help - check with the pharmacist if they are safe to take during pregnancy
  • Your midwife or GP will be able to advise you about medications for heartburn

Visit the Infant and Adult Gastric Reflux Support Group for more information: www.livingwithreflux.org.

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Heat Rash

Very young babies often develop a fine red rash (commonly referred to as a heat rash) over parts of their body and face - this is not serious and soon clears. If your baby has a rash and appears unwell, seek medical advice.

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Heel Prick Test/Newborn Bloodspot

This blood test (sometimes referred to as the Guthrie test) is carried out routinely on babies around 5-8 days to check for the rare inherited disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) and congenital hypothyroidism (CHT). The midwife pricks the baby's heel to collect some drops of blood on a card. In many areas the test will also check for sickle cell disorders (SCD), cystic fibrosis (CF) and Medium Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (MCADD).

For further information, see www.newbornbloodspot.screening.nhs.uk.

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Hernias

Some babies have umbilical hernias, which are small swellings near the navel. These usually require no treatment and usually clear up by themselves (by about 2 years of age).

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High Temperature

The medical term for a fever or high temperature is pyrexia. The normal average body temperature of a child is around 37°C (but this does vary). A fever is a temperature over 37.5°C. It’s always distressing when your baby or child has a fever, but it’s seldom harmful. Fevers are quite common in young children but are usually mild. Most fevers are caused by infections - either a bacterial infection such as tonsillitis, or a viral infection such as flu. White blood cells in the body fight infection and raise the temperature of the body in an effort to destroy the bacteria or virus.

Contact your doctor, or NHS Direct (0845 46 47), if you are at all worried - or if your child’s fever lasts more than 3 days.

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Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a type of complementary medicine that aims to treat the patient holistically. This type of treatment is often very suitable for babies and children. Consult a registered homeopath or GP before undertaking any homeopathic treatment. Visit the Society of Homeopaths for more information: www.homeopathy-soh.org.

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Have you got a question?

If you want more advice, please ask a question or visit our forum.

Otherwise, please get in touch with the HiPP Baby Club.