Do you plan on taking an active role in your kids’ health and well-being, or will you leave that completely up to your Pediatrician?
Recently I took a moment to sit down with a very successful, charming and intelligent Pediatrician (okay, my wife) to ask her what issues she would like new parents to take ownership of when it comes to their kids’ health.
Below are her answers, in no particular order, supported by additional research and studies:
1. There Is No Healthy Juice
According to a study published in Pediatrics, children who drank at least one sugary drink per day were 43 percent more likely to become obese than children who drank less on average or none at all. “Juice is just like soda,” says pediatric obesity specialist Robert Lustig. “There is no difference.” Juice is full of sugar, it’s high in calories and it’s dangerous.
2. Fevers Are Okay
Normal fevers between 100° and 104° F (37.8° – 40° C) are actually good for sick children. They turn on the body’s immune system and help it to fight infection. Unless your child is experiencing an extremely high temperature over 104, you don’t need to panic or go to the ER or call your Pediatrician. Instead, treat with liquids, rest and Children’s Tylenol or Motrin.
3. Co-sleeping = No Sleeping
According to a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, “The longer children co-slept, the worse their sleep habits—including shorter sleep duration and frequent awakenings.” This isn’t to say that if you let them co-sleep, your kids are guaranteed to have sleep issues. But the odds are against you. New parents need to make a decision on this early on, and they believe the science, commit to not co-sleeping. It may not be easy at first, but your family will benefit in the long run.
4. Have Your Children Vaccinated
The debate over vaccinating children stems from an article published in 1988 linking the MMR vaccine to autism. However, that article has since been discredited and retracted by the journal that published it. Read what the Center for Disease Control has to say on the issue here. Or what the World Health Organization says here. Or this interesting anecdotal evidence, from a woman who grew up unvaccinated and contracted many of the diseases vaccines could have prevented, such as whooping cough, polio, measles, Haemophilus influenzae, and rubella.
The fact is, vaccines are safe, they save lives and your child should have all of them according to the recommended schedule.
5. Daddy Doesn’t Know
If you’re a father who is a primary caregiver, or equally and actively involved in your family’s child-rearing, you are probably up to speed on the finer details of your kids’ health history. However, many fathers who bring their children to the yearly check up simply don’t have all the necessary personal information about their kids that the doctor needs. “When was your child’s last physical?” “Any rashes?” “Any problems at school?” If you can’t answer these questions, it can create complications for the physician and slow down the well visit. It’s important that whichever parent takes the child to the doctor — mom or dad — be well versed in that child’s health and well being, so make sure you have this information at the ready.
6. Your Child Doesn’t Always Need Antibiotics
Antibiotics are NOT the appropriate treatment for most sicknesses that hit kids. According to the CDC:
“Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections.”
Taking antibiotics will not cure the infection, will not keep other people from getting sick, will not help your child feel better, may cause harmful side effects and may contribute to antibiotic resistance. The fact is, when it comes to a viral infection, you have to ‘let it run its course’ and simply treat the symptoms until the virus is gone.
7. Read To Your Kids
According to the American Academy Of Pediatrics, Parents should read aloud to their infants every day and continue to do so at least until their children enter kindergarten, the academy’s Council on Early Childhood advised. “Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” the academy’s report said. That, in turn, “builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”
And this isn’t an income-class issue. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, only 33% of children in poverty are read to every day, and in family incomes four times greater than the poverty level, 40% of children do not get a daily dose of reading.
Reading to your kids is one of the simplest things you can do that will have lasting, long-term health benefits for children.
8. Be “Patient”
Years ago, our parents and grandparents seemed to understand this intuitively: if the doctor is late, it’s for a good reason.
If your pediatrician is running an hour late, consider the possibility that they’ve been in the room with an obese 13 year old girl who is being bullied at school and having suicidal thoughts, or something similarly intense that requires extra time and consideration.
Plan out your day by allotting a few hours for the visit in case the Pediatrician can’t see you exactly on time, even if they want to. And bear in mind, when it’s your turn, your child will get the same level of care and attention.
9. Don’t Be Rash
Just like fevers, most of the time you don’t need to call your Pediatrician for medical advice when your child has a rash. If your child is not febrile, not itching, and generally not bothered, give it some time. Only use fragrance free, dye free products and moisturize. Apply some Vaseline or Eucerin or Aquaphor, cover it up, and wait. If you don’t see improvement after a few days, then it would be appropriate to call your Pediatrician.
10. TV In The Bedroom
Having a TV in a child’s bedroom contributes to poor health in a myriad of ways. Studies show that if your child has a TV in their bedroom they are more likely to:
- Have a weight problem
- Have sleep disturbances by affecting melatonin production
- Have nightmares
- Have lower scores on standardized tests
- Smoke (twice as likely as other adolescents)
- Eat more fast food and soda
If you’re not convinced, do a test run: take the TV out of their bedroom and track the results over the course of a few weeks. You might be surprised.
Conclusion: It’s About You
Pediatricians are in the unique position of having to work through 3rd parties (parents) in order to provide health care for their patients (children). You can make their job easier and your kids healthier by following some of the tips above, such as: eliminating juice, not co-sleeping, reading aloud with your kids daily and removing TVs from their bedrooms. Although you should rely on your Pediatrician to provide general medical guidance and prescribe medication when necessary, ultimately, you are the one who is responsible for your child’s health and well-being.