Ask The Doctor:
Children's Health During the School Year
"Is there anything I can do to keep my child healthy this school year?"
Young children in large groups tend to spread the viruses and bacteria that cause illness easily. For five days a week, 6 to 7 hours a day, they are sitting close to one another in the classroom, surrounded by other children, sharing classroom equipment, using community bathrooms, and eating (and sharing?) food with their friends. Add a little runny nose, cough and sneeze: well, it's a wonder they stay healthy at all. The best and easiest way to keep these germs from infecting your child is frequent hand washing with soap and water by the students. I know parents want to hear something more novel, but it's that simple. Just use any type of soap along with rubbing the hands with water for as long as it takes to hum you're A, B, C's. To get them in the habit of doing this at school they need to be doing it home, before and after eating and after using the toilet. Parents, like always with children, need to lead by example. So everybody needs to doing this at home. Here is a list additional habits to teach your children:
- Keep hand sanitizer (Germ-X) in their desk and backpack (for quick cleaning after using classroom equipment or while on the bus)
- Cover the mouth/nose when one sneezes or coughs
- Don't share water bottles, food, hats or coats
- Make sure they get 8-10 hours of sleep at night, 60 minutes of exercise daily and keep video screen time to less than 2 hours a day
- Get the flu vaccine in October
- Drink more water
- Keep them buckled up in the car...ALWAYS
For something trendy, but with sound scientific support to boost the immune system:
- Supplement your child's diet with 1000-2000IU of Vitamin D daily
- Give a daily probiotic. I recommend one stored "behind the counter" at the pharmacy. That is those which are store refrigerated keeping the cultures fresh and alive.
Ask The Doctor:
Motion Sickness / Car Sickness...
"Our family's holiday tradition includes a lengthy trek to grandma and grandpa's, and inevitably one of our three queasy kids gets sick in our minivan on the way. Is there anything we can do this year to prevent that?"
Car sickness occurs in about 25% of children, mostly between 2-12 years of age. Like other types of motion sickness, it occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the motion-sensing parts of the body, namely the inner ear, eyes, and sensors in the joints of the arms and legs. The most common situation is the young child who sits low and cannot see out very well. The inner ear will sense the motion but their eyes and joints won't. This can result in the child developing a cold sweat, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, or vomiting. There are several things you may want to try to help decrease their car sickness. Try to have your child look out the front window, not the side one. Older children may be able to sit in the front seat. Have them focus on distant objects, this is better than watching objects whisk by the side windows. Avoid them looking at books or games. Keep the car well ventilated by cracking a window. Offer distractions by talking, listening to music or singing songs. Have your child eat light before the trip by avoiding greasy foods or large meals just before you leave. Wrist bands that provide acupressure (like Sea-Bands) can be effective in children. Before the trip put the band on the child with the pressure button over the center of the wrist, about ½ inch above the inner wrist crease. You can try over the counter Dramamine (50mg chewable tablets) given 1 hour before the trip. The usual dose is ½ tab for kids 3-6 years, 1 tab for kids 6-12 years, and 2 tabs for those over 12. If your child still naps, then traveling at naptime may help if they sleep during the ride. Always keep a large ziplock plastic bag handy for vomiting….just in case nothing works. If your child's motion sickness persists then a visit to your pediatrician for further suggestions is in order.
Ask The Doctor:
Holiday Eating & Wellness...
Overreacting? I'm not exactly sure what you're concerned about, but let me guess. Some parents feel that overeating sweets effects their child's behavior and causes hyper-excitability, irritability and disrupted sleep. This effect is quite variable among observers (mostly parents) and hasn't been reproducible when studies are conducted scientifically. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn and is commonly used in processed foods and drinks. It is sweeter and cheaper than sucrose (table sugar) which is made from sugar cane. Corn syrup contains about 57% fructose and 43% glucose, where table sugar contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Digestion quickly breaks down both sugars. Some have proposed that people metabolize high fructose corn syrup in a way that raises the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. There is scant evidence to support either of these ideas. To summarize, sugar is sugar, and too much sugar means too many calories that can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. Now about artificial dyes, or food coloring. Some of these additives have been suspected of causing increased hyperactivity in children. In 2007, a British study concluded that consuming artificial coloring and preservatives in food can increase hyperactivity in kids. Scientists, however have been studying the link between food additives and hyperactivity in children for more than 30 years, with at best, mixed results.
In regard to the holidays, your family should practice good nutrition all year long! But during this time of year make an extra effort to eat healthy at home and while out shopping. Substitute water for juice, sweet tea and soda. Increase the kids' level of activity (and yes, yours too) by raking leaves, jog or walk with them, ride bikes, just take them outdoors more. Don't obsess about every morsel they put in their mouths. It's all about balance and moderation. Enjoy the holidays, and your kids!
Ask The Doctor:
Exposure to unvaccinated children...
I have a 10 month old little boy. My friend has a little boy who is 13 months old. Of course our boys spend a lot of time together even though they do little more than look at each other while chewing on whatever they can find. A few days ago, my friend told me she is planning on foregoing vaccinations for her child. I know this is a personal decision. However, my son will continue to have his vaccines. Should I limit play dates since she's not getting her child vaccinated or should I nor worry about it?
First let me say that I appreciate your decision to have your child vaccinated as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control. Regarding your 10 month old son, you should understand that while most children develop complete protection from the conditions for which they are vaccinated, some individuals do not. There are some children that do not respond as well as we would like to our vaccines and only develop partial or no protection to these illnesses. When the community is fully vaccinated these same children with incomplete immunity are protected because everyone they are surrounded by should be disease free. This therefore this keeps the under protected child safer because they will be less likely to be exposed to those illnesses. This is the so-called “heard immunity” effect. Also be aware that there are increasing numbers of parents that have decided not to have their child immunized based on unfounded believes that the vaccines are harmful, and they selfishly hide within the “herd” hoping to not be exposed to these illnesses. Currently, 50% of 13-month-old children in Tennessee have not received their first MMR vaccine and 15% are incompletely protected against whooping cough and bacterial meningitis. As a result measles rates are skyrocketing and we are seeing more pertussis now than we did in the 1950s. People forget that one out 1000 children will die from measles, one of 1000 with measles will develop encephalitis (brain infection) with permanent neurologic deficits, and one out of 100 infants who come down with pertussis will die from their illness.
Parents will always have different priorities when it comes to the safety of their children. From organic foods to fireworks, and from guns in the home to vaccinations; it is absolutely within your right to make decisions regarding what you believe is safe for your child. I with personally would not want to tempt fate by exposing my child to unvaccinated children. This is one of the reasons I do not care for children in my practice whose parents have made the same decision. Doing so would not only encourage that decision, but also expose patients in my practice to potential life threatening infections.
Ask The Doctor:
Understanding Infant colic...
"Is there anything I can do to sooth my baby's colic? She cries all the time, and no matter what I try I can't seem to comfort her."
If your baby really cries all the time, off and on all day, then it is unlikely that she has colic. Infant colic is a condition that effects 20% of infants. It typically consists of intense or inconsolable crying that usually begins around 3-4 weeks of age, lasts for about 3 hours a day, occurs at least 3 days a week and begins to resolve around 3-4 months of age. It often is associated with the infant curling up her legs, clinching her fists and tense abdominal muscles. Experts feel its origin is likely an immature or over-sensitive infant nervous system with an inability to self soothe. Happily, it is not associated with any other conditions later in life. Boys and girls are equally effected as are breast and bottle fed babies. I recommend that if you suspect your infant has colic, then you should consider seeing your pediatrician. While there are no cures for colic, your child's provider can check your infant for some of the medical conditions that can cause frequent crying at this age which can be treated. Milk protein allergies, gastroesophageal reflux, and urinary tract infections are but a few of the more common ailments that can share the symptoms of colic. Even though there are not any fixes for colic, there are several things that you can try which may ease the stress of this condition. Try swaddling your infant to help them soothe themselves. You can place her in a swing, give them a ride in the car or stroller, walk with them (try one of those infant front pack carriers), or put them in a carrier on the floor near a running vacuum cleaner (nothing too loud) or washing machine. The noise and the vibration are comforting. Let a close friend or family member watch your bundle one evening while you leave the house and take a mental break. It's common to get really stressed dealing with these babies night after night. Medications and herbal therapy rarely provide any benefit and have been associated with serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects.
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.