THE SELF-CARE LESSONS THAT CHIL­DREN NEED TO LEARN ABOUT

Ex­perts want kids to be taught to look af­ter their own health so they recog­nise and know how to treat mi­nor ail­ments. LISA SAL­MON re­veals what they want kids to learn

Llanelli Star - - FAMILY HEALTH -

WHILE learn­ing aca­demic sub­jects like maths and sci­ence will make chil­dren more ‘rounded’ and pos­si­bly help set them up for a job, one thing’s for sure – it won’t help them look af­ter their day-to-day health.

Although they can learn to cook at school, chil­dren cur­rently don’t learn cru­cial life skills like how to spot the symp­toms of com­mon ill­nesses, and un­der­stand where to go to get treat­ment if nec­es­sary.

Now, the con­sumer health­care as­so­ci­a­tion PAGB (pagb.co.uk) is calling for self care to be in­cluded as a manda­tory part of school health ed­u­ca­tion.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive John Smith says: “As peo­ple grow from chil­dren into adults, we hope they have the op­por­tu­nity to learn the knowl­edge and skills to look af­ter them­selves ef­fec­tively.

“How­ever, a lot of ev­i­dence sug­gests the con­trary – that too many peo­ple don’t know how to man­age their own health and well­be­ing.”

Re­search shows a lack of un­der­stand­ing means peo­ple are more likely to have a long-term health con­di­tion which can limit their ac­tiv­i­ties.

John, whose or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sents the man­u­fac­tur­ers of branded over-the-counter medicines, self care med­i­cal de­vices and food sup­ple­ments in the UK, ar­gues six self-care mes­sages should be in­cluded as a core part of the cur­ricu­lum. The ef­fect, he says, would be to: “Em­power the adults of to­mor­row with the in­for­ma­tion they need to self care ap­pro­pri­ately and re­duce un­nec­es­sary de­mands on GPs and hos­pi­tal ser­vices.”

Here are six things chil­dren should learn...

1

HOW TO IDEN­TIFY SYMP­TOMS OF SELF-TREAT­ABLE CON­DI­TIONS

CHIL­DREN should learn what the symp­toms of self-treat­able con­di­tions like coughs and colds are, says the PAGB. For ex­am­ple, they might be taught that cold symp­toms usu­ally come on grad­u­ally, af­fect­ing mainly the nose and throat and leav­ing suf­fer­ers feel­ing un­well but able to con­tinue with nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties, whereas flu can ap­pear within a few hours, af­fects more than just the nose and throat and makes peo­ple feel ex­hausted and too ill to carry on as nor­mal.

“We’d like to see chil­dren be­ing taught about mi­nor ail­ments and how to recog­nise their com­mon symp­toms,” says John. It’s im­por­tant peo­ple un­der­stand what the nor­mal symp­toms are, to help iden­tify when it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to self care and when ad­vice from a health­care pro­fes­sional should be sought.”

2

HOW LONG SELF-TREAT­ABLE CON­DI­TIONS LAST

EV­I­DENCE sug­gests peo­ple aren’t aware of the nor­mal du­ra­tion of self-treat­able con­di­tions and can give up on self-care too early.

PAGB re­search has shown, for ex­am­ple, that 71% of peo­ple be­lieve a cold should last for three to six days, when it’s ac­tu­ally nor­mal to ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms for seven to 10 days.

3

CON­DI­TIONS TO TREAT WITH OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICINES

COUGHS, colds, headaches, mi­graine, back­ache and sprains are just a few of the self-treat­able

con­di­tions with symp­toms that can be man­aged at home us­ing over-the-counter (OTC) medicines bought from re­tail­ers and phar­ma­cies.

OTC medicine uses and ben­e­fits are clear on pack­ag­ing and all nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion is in­cluded in patient in­for­ma­tion leaflets.

“Chil­dren should be taught to read and un­der­stand this in­for­ma­tion so when they get older they feel con­fi­dent in manag­ing self-treat­able con­di­tions,” says John.

It could help them to learn, for ex­am­ple, that it’s im­por­tant not to use cough and cold medicines if you’re al­ready tak­ing parac­eta­mol and ibupro­fen tablets, as the cough and cold medicines may con­tain parac­eta­mol or ibupro­fen and it’s easy to take more than the rec­om­mended dose.

4

BE WARY OF DR GOOGLE

WHILE there are vast amounts of eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble health in­for­ma­tion on the in­ter­net, us­ing Google to

iden­tify symp­toms can of­ten be risky and mis­lead­ing, warns the PAGB, which points out that many peo­ple in­cor­rectly in­ter­pret health in­for­ma­tion they find on the in­ter­net.

“This is some­thing health pro­fes­sion­als have be­come only too aware of, as pa­tients be­come overly con­cerned and ex­pect the worst re­gard­ing their of­ten mi­nor con­di­tions,” says John.

“Chil­dren should be equipped with the skills to crit­i­cally eval­u­ate health in­for­ma­tion to en­able them to make ap­pro­pri­ate choices about their health and well­be­ing.”

5

WHERE TO GO FOR AD­VICE AND TREAT­MENT

MANY peo­ple aren’t aware that phar­ma­cists can pro­vide use­ful in­for­ma­tion.

Re­search has found that 47% of peo­ple wouldn’t visit a phar­ma­cist in the first in­stance for ad­vice about a self-treat­able con­di­tion, de­spite this be­ing the most ap­pro­pri­ate and fastest way of ac­cess­ing ex­pert ad­vice.

“This demon­strates that more needs to be done to ed­u­cate peo­ple on how phar­ma­cists can help them and we be­lieve this should start in schools,” stresses John.

6

UN­DER­STAND DIF­FER­ENT ROLES OF HEALTH­CARE PRO­FES­SIONAL

THERE are an es­ti­mated 18 mil­lion GP ap­point­ments ev­ery year for con­di­tions such as back­ache, blocked noses and travel sick­ness which could be treated with OTC medicines at home.

John says: “Chil­dren need to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween NHS ser­vices and the role and ex­per­tise of dif­fer­ent health­care pro­fes­sion­als.

“As well as en­sur­ing they seek ad­vice from the right pro­fes­sional at the right time to meet their needs, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the im­pact on the NHS if they go to the GP or A&E when they don’t

re­ally need to.”

We’d like to see chil­dren be­ing taught about mi­nor ail­ments and how to recog­nise their com­mon symp­toms John Smith, PAGB chief ex­ec­u­tive. right

Colds can be treated with over-the­counter medicines

Kids shouldn’t turn to the in­ter­net for health ad­vice

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