By Raising Children Network
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School-age children are prone to all the same illnesses as younger children. They also add a new one to the list – growing pains.

What to expect

The following health problems are pretty common – and normal – in school-age children.

Growing pains
Although 20% of young school children suffer growing pains, their cause is still a mystery. These are the symptoms:
  • Children get an aching or burning sensation in the legs, in the muscles of the thighs, calves, feet or in the joints. The pains can also happen in other parts of the body, although this is less common.
  • The pains usually happen at night, sometimes waking your child up, but pain is also common in the daytime.
  • The pains are rarely so bad that they stop your child getting around.
  • Growing pains tend to come and go.

Your child might get some relief and comfort from a massage on the pain spot. If massaging really hurts, your child might be suffering something more serious, so seek advice from your doctor.

These tiny parasites attach themselves to children’s hair, lay eggs and cause lots of itching. They’re most common when children start socialising in groups at school. The best way to remove lice is with a fine-toothed lice comb and lots of cheap conditioner.

Cuts, grazes and scratches are common in preschoolers and school-age children, and can usually be treated at home. But you should see a doctor if:

  • the cut is deep and doesn’t stop bleeding with firm pressure, or is large with rough or jagged edges
  • there’s a lot of dirt, gravel or splinters of wood, metal or glass in there
  • you’re not sure if your child is up to date with his tetanus immunisation.

Car sickness
Almost 50% of children suffer at least one bout of car sickness. If your child goes pale, becomes very quiet or complains of feeling sick, stop and let her have a walk in the fresh air.

Try the following tips to help your child avoid travel sickness:

  • Offer him something to eat (but not fatty foods) before you leave. Car sickness can seem worse on an empty stomach.
  • Encourage him to look out the car window at non-moving objects, like houses or the sky. Looking at moving things, like other cars, can make him feel woozy.
  • Open the window a little for fresh air.
  • Reading in the car can bring on the woozy feeling.

Food allergies – not so common
Food allergies aren’t as common as you might think. Food intolerances are more common, but they’re not the same as allergies. If you’re not sure why your child is having a reaction and there’s a possibility it could be because of a food allergy, it’s best to consult your doctor.

Hygiene is important for anyone taking care of children, and is one of the most effective ways we have to protect ourselves – and others – from illness. You might like to print out our handy illustrated guide to daily personal hygiene for school-age kids.

Signs of serious illness

If your child shows any of these signs, see your doctor. The more of these signs she has, the more serious it’s likely to be:

  • drowsiness (she’s less alert than usual)
  • decreased activity or lethargy (she’s less active and just wants to lie around)
  • breathing difficulty
  • poor circulation (she looks paler than usual, and maybe has cold hands and feet).

Always seek urgent medical attention if your school-age child:

  • vomits green fluid
  • has a convulsion (a fit)
  • stops breathing for more than 15 seconds.

You know your child best. If you have any worries about his health, seek medical advice.


Second-hand smoke is the smoke we breathe in from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes. It can cause serious health problems for your child. Make a commitment that your home and car will be smoke free at all times, and insist that no-one smokes around your child.

Going to the doctor

When your child is feeling under the weather, there’s only one thing you want to do – make her feel better as soon as possible. But sometimes it can be hard to know how to do this.

Having good medical care for your child can put your mind at ease, and choosing a good doctor ahead of time can save you a lot of worry. Your doctor also plays a critical role in advising you on what kind of medication to give your child and when.

If you’re visiting the doctor, let your child know in advance what to expect. At the doctor’s office, you can also involve your child in what’s happening during the examination. He might even want to think of questions to ask the doctor so he feels involved in the process. A doctor who takes the time to talk to your child will make all the difference. You might like to read our tips on how to make doctor’s visits easier.

Going to hospital can be very stressful for children, as well as for parents and the rest of the family. Our article on going to hospital has tips for making hospital visits easier for your child and yourself.


Your child’s first permanent teeth start to arrive at about age six. This is a cause for excitement at school, and you might get stories about Madeleine’s tooth stuck in her sandwich or how Callum had a visit from the tooth fairy.

Part of dental care for school-age children is regular teeth-cleaning. Your child will need your help and supervision brushing teeth until he’s at least eight years old. Use a small smear of toothpaste on a soft bristle toothbrush, twice a day, in the morning and before bed at night.

The best way to prevent tooth decay is to go easy on sugary food and drink. Sugar (even the sugar in fruit juice) rots teeth and can actually spoil the appetite for healthy, nutritious food. Solid fruit is better for children, and water is the best thirst quencher.

To keep your child’s teeth healthy, go for regular dental check-ups as often as your dentist advises.

Getting dressed and ready for school

Learning to dress herself makes your child very proud. By four or five your child can handle the trickier jobs, like doing up zips and buttoning a shirt. While she’s mastering the art, allow plenty of time to get out the door to avoid getting frustrated.

Choosing his own outfits gives your child lots of confidence, so try to live with those clashing combinations for now if you can.

The right school backpack, worn correctly, might save your child from back and neck pain.

Sun protection

For vitamin D, children need a small burst of sun, as little as 15 minutes, each day. The sun’s burning UV radiation is strongest in Australia from September to April, between 10 am and 3 pm, so try to plan outdoor activities for early morning and late afternoon.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, so sun safety is important. Sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, protective clothing and shade are the best ways to stop sunburn, especially between 10 am and 3 pm.

It’s a good idea to apply sunscreen before you drop your child at school so you know she’s protected. Most schools have an outdoors policy of ‘no hat, no play’, so make sure she takes her hat each day.


Bedwetting is quite common in school-age children. They can’t control it, and most grow out of it.

Soiling is when children who are past the age of toilet training regularly do poos somewhere other than the toilet. They can’t control when and where the poo comes. This can be very upsetting for children and parents. The main cause of soiling is chronic constipation.

Washing hands before meals and after the toilet is the way to keep bacteria at bay. A pump action soap dispenser might be easier for your child to handle than a slippery bar of soap.
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  • Newsletter snippet: School-age health: what to expect

    By Raising Children Network

    School-age children are prone to the same illnesses as younger children – with the addition of growing pains! Daily hygiene is important for good health.

    Health issues to look out for

    • Around 20% of school-age children suffer from growing pains. Symptoms include aching legs or joints, usually at night and not all the time.
    • To deal with lice, use a fine-toothed lice comb and plenty of hair conditioner to remove these tiny parasites.
    • Most abrasions can be treated at home, but see a doctor if you’re worried.
    • Almost 50% of children suffer from car sickness at least once.
    • Second-hand smoke can cause serious health problems, so try to keep your home and car smoke free.

    Daily care

    • You can care for your child’s teeth with regular brushing, check-ups and a low-sugar diet.
    • Use sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, protective clothing and shade when your child is out and about.
    • School-age children can usually handle some of the trickier parts of getting dressed, like zips.
    • Bed-wetting is still common at this age.

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network’s comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website,

  • Last updated or reviewed 07-03-2012