Since the Back to Sleep campaign in the 1990s, parents have been advised to put babies on their backs, and this has seen a significant decrease in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, experts have noticed an increase in misshapen heads among babies, a condition known as plagiocephaly, that presents itself as a flat area. Although this can cause concern for parents, doctors explain it’s usually just a cosmetic issue and almost always improves by itself.
So, we ask Dr Puneet Wadhwa, Specialist Pediatrics, City Centre Clinic Ibn Battuta, what the early signs of positional plagiocephaly are. He tells us there are no obvious symptoms associated with the condition other than the flattened appearance of the back of your baby’s head, which may be more flat on one side than the other.
There is no reason for immediate alarm, but a visit to a pediatrician is important to rule out anything more serious. He reassures us: “As the condition is purely cosmetic and mostly heals itself in time, there is no need for parents to panic. However, it is important to rule out other possibilities such as craniosynostois, which is a rare condition that causes parts of the skull bones to be fused together, restricting the growth of the head and also resulting in a flattened head. This is a serious condition and may require surgery, so it’s best to visit a pediatrician for certainty.”
Preventative measures can be taken in order to avert plagiocephaly or to allow the natural re-moulding of the head shape to take place, Dr Wadhwa advises:
The younger the child is when plagiocephaly is recognised, the better the chances of improving it. It is harder to improve after 14 months of age.
During the day, encourage your baby to lie on their tummy or encourage them to try new positions during playtime. This will help balance the time your baby spends sleeping on their back (which is the safest position).
Repositioning the head
To encourage your baby to turn their head onto the non-flattened side, keep changing the position of toys and mobiles in their cot to distract their attention. This will prevent one side becoming more flattened than the other.
Alternate the side you hold your baby when feeding and carrying. This will prevent pressure on one side of your baby’s head.
Experts believe that repositioning therapy will, for the most part, correct the condition. But, as every baby is different, it may need further treatment that could include physiotherapy sessions if it transpires your baby sleeps on one side and they have difficulty turning their head in one direction.
Dr Puneet Wadhwa, Specialist Pediatrics. Sat-Thu, 9.30am-9pm. City Centre Clinic, Ibn Battuta, www.citycentreclinic.com (04 205 2777).
Hot topic: Fighting the fear of Meningitis B
Mention the illness Meningitis to any parent and you will see the fear in their eyes. For decades, Meningitis B (Men B) has been the most common cause of bacterial meningitis across the globe, with many serious after-effects and, in more severe cases, fatalities. Most common in children from two months old to five years, both meningococcal meningitis and septicemia remain the leading infectious illnesses in the UK. However, there is good news for worried parents because since the introduction of the MenB vaccine as part of the Primary Childhood Immunization Schedule just under two years ago, kids across the UK are being protected and other countries are quickly following suit. In fact, all children born and residing in the UK, who are under two years of age, are to be vaccinated against this frightening disease.
So, what about children born here in the UAE? Currently the Men C immunization can be administered as an option by getting a combination vaccine which covers all the different strains of A, C, W and Y. But with a vaccine against Men B not available in the country, it can lead to some very anxious parents. Dr. Mohammed Zaheeruddin, Specialist Pediatrician at Medeor 24x7 Hospital, tells us: “Since there are many expats living here who may get exposed to bacteria during their travels, we advise that they take the Men B vaccine in their home countries if it is available. This can usually be done through a General Practitioner.”
As with the other strains of Meningitis, symptoms can escalate to become very serious very quickly. According to Dr. Zaheeruddin, some of the main symptoms to be aware of include: “Sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light) and an altered mental status (confusion).” Septicemia, or blood poisoning, can also present itself as the illness takes hold so it is important to check the body for red or brown pin-prick marks which can change into larger red or purple blotches.
Dr. Zaheeruddin says Men B is most commonly spead by people sharing respiratory or throat secretions, which typically occur during close (coughing or kissing) or lengthy (living in the same household) contact. You can also be susceptible when eating food prepared by people who do not follow good hygiene practises and mothers can pass bacteria to their babies during labour and birth.
Medeor 24x7 Hospital, Consulates Area,Bur Dubai, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Street, (04 350 0600).