Is it safe for children to use deodorants?

My daughter is in class VII and physically fit and active. She perspires heavily in the underarm area. Is it safe for her to use deodorants?
— Shiny Verma, Pune

Some people sweat a lot. It’s not a disease but physiological variation. You can give her a double layer of cloth in the underarm area or use underarm pads. Aluminium chlorohydrate (available as Aldry lotion in the market) can also be applied to reduce sweating. Deodorants reduce body odour but not the sweat. They can be used provided there is no skin irritation.

My 17-year-old daughter is preparing to write the class XII CBSE board exams and NEET 2020. She lives in a hostel. Until six months ago she rarely fell sick. Nowadays she complains of frequent colds, throat infections, fever and headaches. Can this frequent illness be due to exam preparation stress? Should I consult a doctor?
— Minimol Nair, Kochi

Your daughter is newly exposed to the (hostile) hostel environment. Over-crowding, inadequate ventilation, poor hygiene and pollution are normative external factors that cause frequent infections, both respiratory and gastrointestinal. Moreover, your daughter is deprived of healthy home-cooked food and is also perhaps stressed out. This combination of circumstances has probably reduced her immunity, making her susceptible to repeated infections. Make arrangements for her to eat nutritious food and advise adequate rest. I also suggest you consult a physician. If there is evidence of bacterial infection, she should take a full course of antibiotics.

My ten-year-son keeps good health. However for the past one month, I’ve noticed that after he eats spinach, he gets a stomach ache which lasts all day. He has been eating spinach since he was a toddler. Is it possible he has suddenly developed an allergy to spinach?
— Rinki Sharma, Mumbai

Does your son like spinach or are you forcing him to eat it? If he is consuming it under compulsion, the ‘pain’ may not be a serious issue. If he dislikes spinach, don’t force-feed him with it. There are many other green leafy vegetables. But if he likes spinach and still complains of pain, it may be an allergy. For this also, the solution is to substitute spinach with other green leafy vegetables.

I have two children, 12 and 14 years old. Because of the long commute to and from school, they start studying only after 7 p.m and often stay up until 11 p.m to finish their homework. They wake up by 5:30 a.m. to reach school by 8 am. I worry they are not getting adequate sleep. Will sleep deprivation affect their health?
— Shailaja Ved, Bangalore

Children of this age require eight-nine hours of sleep every night. That’s when the body rests, recuperates and replenishes energy. Some adults do well with four-six hours of sleep. However they are exceptions. You say that your children do homework from 7-11 pm. That’s almost four hours. It’s quite likely that they are tired from the long commutes and hence unable to concentrate. That’s perhaps why it takes so long for them to complete their homework. They definitely need an extra two hours of sleep and outdoor play every day.

(Dr. S. Balasankar is professor and head of the department of paediatrics, Madurai Medical College)

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