Children and health

Last updated: 4 10 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about children’s health. It describes care centres and clinics that you and your child will visit as your child grows up. It also tells you who you should contact if your child becomes ill or needs other help.

A doctor seated in conversation with a child at a medical care centre.

This text also talks about mental health issues and about the dangers of drugs and gambling, as well as what you can do if your child develops addiction problems.

  • Children’s right to health

    All children are entitled to the best possible physical and mental health. Children are also entitled to the best possible health and medical care.

    Being in good health means being healthy and feeling well. The state has a responsibility to try to deliver the health and medical care that each person in society needs. Children have to be protected against all forms of exploitation and abuse.

Children's health

Children's health is important. All children are entitled to food, care and the best possible health.

As a parent, you need to be attentive to your child's signals and to heed them. Children need love and care, but also nutritious food and sleep. As a parent, you always have to protect your child against danger and contact the care services if your child needs medical care. Some children need medication or extra aids, such as a wheelchair or a hearing aid. All children and young people are entitled to healthcare in Sweden. As a parent, you have to adapt your everyday life to your child's needs.

Midwife's offices, child health care centres and school health services

Most parents are in regular contact with a midwife's office (Barnmorskemottagning, BMM) before their child is born, and with a child health care centre (Barnavårdscentral, BVC) until their child begins school. BMMs and BVCs are staffed by qualified midwives, nurses and doctors. Visits to BMMs and BVCs are free of charge.

  • Midwife's offices (Barnmorskemottagning, BMM)

    Parents-to-be visit a midwife's office, or BMM, during the pregnancy to check that the child and the mother are fine. Both parents are welcome to the midwife's office. Contact a midwife's office when you know that you are expecting a child.

    At the BMM a midwife will weigh the mother-to-be, measure her tummy, explain things about the pregnancy and delivery, and answer any questions the parents-to-be may have. Often BMMs also arrange meetings for groups of parents-to-be. At these meetings, parents-to-be are given information about pregnancies, deliveries, breastfeeding, etc. It is common for both parents to go on visits to the BMM and attend the meetings. It is also common for the other parent to be present during delivery.

  • Child health care centres (Barnavårdscentraler, BVC)

    The child health care services monitor the child's health, growth and development from birth until the child begins preschool class. At child health care centres, parents can get advice and support regarding the best way to look after their child, including about breastfeeding, sleeping and illnesses. Parents have to contact a BVC themselves in order to make the first appointment, which is often held in their home. During the visit, the nurse will describe what the BVC does and examine the child.

    During subsequent visits to the BVC, the child will also be examined by a doctor. The first doctor's appointment at the BVC is usually when the child is four weeks old. The BVC nurse will then invite the parents and child to several more health visits until the child begins preschool class.

    Parents are sometimes worried that the BVC will make judgements about whether they are good parents or not. But that is not what BVCs are for; they are there to support new parents.

  • School health services

    When a child begins preschool class, the school health services assume responsibility for health check-ups and preventive health care. School health services are staffed by a school doctor, a school nurse, a psychologist and a counsellor.

    All pupils are entitled to three health visits while in secondary school and one during upper secondary school. During a health visit, a school nurse talks to the child about health. The child is weighed and measured and the child's eyesight and back are checked.

  • Questions to think about

    Why are BVCs important, do you think?

    What can you say to someone who is worried that the BVC will judge whether you are a good parent or not?

Child rehabilitation

Child rehabilitation accepts children and young people with comprehensive and life-long functional impairments.

The rehabilitation interventions may be advice, support and treatment as well as prescription and testing of assistance methods.

Vaccination of children

All parents receive the offer to have their children vaccinated. Sweden has a child vaccination programme against eleven different diseases: rotavirus, polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, haemophilus influenza type B (HIB), pneumococcal disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), measles, mumps and rubella. If necessary, vaccinations against hepatitis B and tuberculosis are also offered. These vaccinations are administered by a nurse at a BVC or the school health services. The vaccinations are intended to give children immunity against the diseases and to ensure that infections do not spread in communities.

  • Questions to think about

    False information about the risks of vaccination programmes are sometimes spread on the internet. Have you seen examples of that kind of information online?

    What are your suggestions for how to check whether information can be trusted or not?

Professional secrecy and the right to an interpreter

All health and medical care staff have a duty to maintain confidentiality. This is also known as professional secrecy. They may not disclose information about your child without you, as the child's guardian, having allowed it. This applies at midwife's offices and child health care centres as well.

You are entitled to an interpreter if you need one. Notify the public service where you have an appointment that you need an interpreter before you go. Children and family members must not function as interpreters. Interpreters also have a duty to maintain confidentiality.

A young person speaking to an adult at a table in a youth clinic.
  • Questions to think about

    What does it mean that care staff and interpreters have a duty to maintain confidentiality?

    Why is that important?

If your child becomes ill or needs other support

If your child becomes ill, you should first of all call the medical care information service, 1177 Vårdupplysningen, or your medical care centre. There is also a lot of information about various illnesses and conditions on www.1177.se.

  • Medical care centres

    Your child can get care for common illnesses and conditions at your medical care centre. If the doctor there makes the assessment that your child needs specialist care, they will write a referral to a specialist doctor at a hospital, for example. You and your child will then be given an appointment with a specialist doctor.

    In Sweden, you can choose which medical care centre to take your child to. If you do not make a choice, your child will be assigned to a medical care centre that is near where you live. On your first visit to the medical care centre, you will be given help to register.

  • Children’s hospitals

    Some bigger cities have special hospitals for children and young people. Smaller cities and towns will have a special clinic for children and young people aged between 0 and 16.

  • Medical clinic for children and young people (Barn- och ungdomsmedicinsk mottagning, BUM)

    Medical clinics for children and young people (Barn- och ungdomsmedicinska mottagningar, BUM) are clinics specialising in children and young people until the age of 17. An appointment at a BUM clinic usually requires a referral from a BVC, school health services or some other medical clinic.

  • Child insurance

    Most parents choose to take out an insurance policy for their children. Such insurance policies can provide cover for illness, accidents, functional impairments and reduced work capacity. Most child insurance policies apply until the age of 25. They vary in what they cover, however, so you need to read up on what different policies include before choosing one.

  • Mental health disorders

    If your child needs help and support for mental health disorders, you should first contact the school health service at your child's school or a medical care centre. Your child will be given specialist care if necessary. If your child is 6 years old or younger, you can also contact the BVC for advice. From the age of 13, your child can also contact a youth clinic on their own.

    Mental health disorder is an overall term that includes less severe mental health issues as well as more serious ones.

    Depressions manifest in different ways depending on a person's age. Children and teenagers with depression do not always become noticeably gloomy. It is more common that they are irritable and angry, for instance.

  • Youth clinics

    Youth clinics are for young people from the age of 12 or 13 to the age of 25. Visits are free of charge.

    At a youth clinic, you can get counselling support if you are feeling down and need someone to talk to. You can also ask the counsellor about issues to do with your body, with sexuality or contraceptives.

    The Youmo.se website has information about the body, sex and health in several languages. Youmo.se is intended for young people between 13 and 20. The website also has contact information for all of Sweden's youth clinics.

  • Child and adolescent psychiatry (Barn- och ungdomspsykiatrin, BUP)

    Child and adolescent psychiatry offices (BUPs) treat children and young people who have the greatest need for psychiatric support or care. BUPs treat young people up to the age of 18. Once you turn 18, you should contact your medical care centre or an adult psychiatry office if you need psychological support.

  • Questions to think about

    Where is your nearest medical care centre?

    What are the risks if children who need support do not receive the right support and help?

    What are the risks if a child's parents do not want the child to be evaluated by psychiatry staff?

Dental care services

Sweden has both public and private dental care services. Public dental care services are known as Folktandvården. You can choose whether you want to go to Folktandvården or to a private dentist.

Going to the dentist is free of charge until the year in which you turn 23. From 1 January of the year you turn 24, you have to pay.

Asylum-seeking children and young people receive free dental care until they turn 18.

Tobacco, alcohol, narcotics and gambling

Tobacco, nicotine products, alcohol and narcotics are all examples of drugs. Drugs are harmful to your body and affect your health. You can also become addicted to them.

Alcohol, tobacco and nicotine products are legal but cannot be bought everywhere or by everyone. Alcoholic products are sold in special shops called Systembolaget. You have to be at least 20 years old to buy alcohol at Systembolaget. And you have to be at least 18 to buy cigarettes, snus and other products containing nicotine. This is in order to protect children and young people from the use of alcohol, tobacco and nicotine products.

In Sweden, the use, purchase, sale, importation, production, or carrying of narcotics is prohibited for everyone. There are different types of narcotics, such as cannabis, khat, heroin, amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy. Narcotics are also sometimes called drugs.

Gambling – placing bets or playing games for money – includes lottery tickets, bingo, outcomes of sports events, casino games and poker, and can also be addictive. Gambling is illegal for people under the age 18.

If you are a parent or an adult who has a close connection with a young person

It is common for young people to be curious about gambling, alcohol and narcotics and for them to want to try these things. It is therefore important that you as a parent or other close adult talk to them about the risks and possible consequences of using drugs or gambling. You should also tell them what the rules and laws surrounding these things are.

Where free support and help is available

Young people who have problems with gambling, alcohol or drugs need help. If you are worried about your child but unsure of what you can do, you can get support and help.

There are helplines you can call to ask advice.

Sluta Röka-linjen (the Quit Smoking helpline): 020-84 00 00

Alkohollinjen (the Alcohol helpline): 020-84 44 48

Droghjälpen (the Drugs helpline): 020 – 91 91 91

Stödlinjen (the Support helpline: 020-81 91 00 (for gambling problems)

These helplines can be contacted by family members as well as by young people themselves. Callers can remain anonymous if they wish, meaning you do not have to say who you are and the person you speak to is not allowed to try to find out who you are.

If you want help and support, you can also always call 1177 Vårdguiden. They can give you guidance and more information. Information is also available on the 1177 Vårdguiden website.

The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Centralförbundet för alkohol- och narkotikaupplysning, CAN) has a website called Drugsmart, which is aimed at young people as well as worried parents. It has information about alcohol, drugs, doping and tobacco. You can also email questions regarding young people between the ages of 13 and 19. Young people as well as their parents can send questions.

Some municipalities have what are known as Maria clinics (Mariamottagningar). They specialise in young people's alcohol and drugs problems. You can also find information about tobacco, alcohol and drugs on umo.se.