10 Ways to Keep your Child Healthy
Your kids aren't indestructible no matter how often they try to prove otherwise.
Bumps and bruises are going to happen. Coughs and chills come with the territory. Being a parent is tough work, but with a little thought and planning, you can keep them safe, happy and healthy.
Below you’ll find 10 recommendations from local doctors on doing so, and you may even learn a thing or two about your own health in the process.
SEE ALSO: The Importance of Play
- Establish a medical home
Your children have a primary care physician, don’t they? If your child’s doctor wouldn’t recognize you and your kids in line at the grocery store, y’all have to work on that relationship.An emergency room visit is frightening, and appearing there with a sick child might get the problem treated –– but that’s it. Go if it’s an emergency, but there’s a reason the doctors there refer parents to primary care specialists.“They’re going to cure the problem. They’re not going to discuss the whole child,” said Dr. Gretchen Petterway with CHRISTUS Pediatric Associates.“That’s why I stress the importance of a medical home. When you go home, you get all of your needs met.”The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines a medical home as “a cultivated partnership between the patient, family and primary provider in cooperation with specialists and support from the community.”
A clinic and its doctors need to be as educated about the specifics of your children’s health as you do to spot and correct long-term problems. Find someone you’ll see often enough and trust well enough to see your child as a continuing project, not just a problem to fix.
- Routine is your friend
It’s your job to keep the kids on schedule. God knows they won’t do it themselves.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t have their kids on a schedule,” said Dr. Mary Beth Valiulis, a practitioner in Shreveport certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine. “It’s a learned thing. It’s not an automatic parenting skill.”Yes, a health routine includes preventative care visits and immunization schedules, but when Valiulis says routine, she means everything — sleeping, eating, playing and learning.
The mind works better on a correct sleeping and eating schedule, and that goes double for young minds, Valiulis said.Don’t let their weekends devolve into a free-for-all. Do the planning for them and teach them why it’s important, and eventually they’ll make routine a lifelong friend.
- Lifelong food choices start early
If you want the kids to remember well into adulthood how to maintain good eating habits, show them what that looks like.There are enough literature, culture and advocates touting balanced meals, proper water intake and portion control to fill a series of encyclopedias. The real advice is avoiding the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.“Be honest, and make those changes for yourself to model that behavior for your child because kids look up to their parents. If parents model poor behavior, poor choices, then the kids are going to do that,” said LSU Health Shreveport Vice Chair for Pediatric Research Dr. John Vanchiere.
- Flexibility matters
Someone in your family wants to explore sports, and that’s great. But if they don’t learn the value of limbering up, they could be headed for a sports injury.“Sports are so intense these days. Kids are putting increased hours into sports but not putting increased hours into preparing for sports,” said Dr. John Fox, chief of staff at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Shreveport.Make sure they warm up well enough to break a sweat and follow that up with time focused on stretching. Don’t discount yoga practices, Fox said, as many professional teams are incorporating them into their training.
- Armor up
More kids are wearing bike helmets these days, thank goodness. But if your kids are making the most of their outdoor time (as they should), don’t forget to wrap them up right.“We can fix a broken wrist or a broken leg, but we can’t fix a broken melon,” Fox said.
When they become involved in organized sports, assure yourself they’ll have the most appropriate equipment and the professional supervision to guarantee it works.
- No screens in bed
It’s never been easier to fall asleep distracted. The answer is simple: power down the bedroom.
“In the age of no cell phones, you didn’t have the temptation of checking Facebook or texting,” Valiulis said. “It’s not fair to the kids.”TVs, computers and devices should be off whether in or out of a child’s bedroom when it’s time to sleep. Light and sound disrupt good sleep, and a stimulated brain is going to get less sleep altogether.
- Clean hands, clean bodies
It’s so basic it can be overlooked: make sure the kids are washing their hands.
“Not to the point of excess or making your kids neurotic, but good, routine hygiene,” Vanchiere said.
“So many germs are passed from person to person on your hands.”That’s especially true for toddlers, who’ll put anything and everything in their mouths.“When they’re visibly dirty, wash with soap and water. Hand sanitizers are great and kill lots of germs,” Vanchiere said. “Teach them early and they’ll keep with it.”
- Vaccines do not cause autism
If you still believe they do, ask your doctor. If you don’t trust your doctor’s medical opinion, ask the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.“We’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure the safety of our vaccines. Our vaccines have been improved. There’s a continuous improvement program. We don’t use some of the preservatives we used in the past. We’re trying to make them safe and efficacious as the same time,” Vanchiere said.
- Oral health is a marathon
After that first baby tooth pops out around six months, it’s time to find a dentist. After that, it’s training, repetition and reinforcement.“Oral health is an inseparable part of the overall health and welfare of children and adults,” said Dr. Holly Cook, a pediatric dentist in Shreveport. “Primary prevention of dental cavities relies on timely family education, instruction and motivation, early identification of risks and a tailored prevention program.”Brush. Floss. Rinse. Repeat at least twice daily. Don’t forget, and don’t let the kids forget.
- Health is not a financial decision
It’s not cheap to keep them healthy, and your kids are relying on you to invest in them. Make their appointments and keep them.Parents who take a wait-and-see approach, who avoid regular wellness visits because everything seems fine or who decide on health choices based on available funds are doing a disservice to their children.“Some parents get busy with life and the kids seem to be doing fine,” said American Academy of Pediatrics fellow Dr. Monica Haynes. “But we can pick up subtle things — developmental delays, growth problems or even diseases, and we can catch them early. That usually means a better prognosis and a better outcome for the child.”
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