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The Children's Wellness Blog

Common Myths about Childhood Nutrition

June 22, 2017

Common Myths about Childhood NutritionFor children and adults alike, what you eat plays an incredibly large role in your overall health. But kids have their own unique set of nutritional needs, and as a parent, your goal is not only to give them the healthy food they need today, but also to teach them how to eat healthy when they become independent, too. There are countless sources of pediatric nutrition advice floating around, but not all of these sources are correct or reliable. To answer your questions and guide you in your efforts to keep your kids healthy, our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center are responding to some of the most common childhood nutrition myths that you may have heard.

Myth #1: When you start introducing your baby to solid foods, begin with vegetables rather than fruits, because the baby will be less likely to develop a “sweet tooth.”

If only it were that easy to prevent your child from ever craving unhealthy foods! In reality, it doesn’t matter in what order you introduce your child to fruits, vegetables, and grains. But when introducing your baby to solid foods, we do recommend that you begin by introducing one single food at a time, and waiting three days before switching to another single new food, and continuing in this manner until your child has tried at least ten individual foods. This will allow you to keep an eye out for reactions and to know which food caused it if it does happen.

Myth #2: Growing children need all the calories they can get, and any baby weight will be lost in puberty.

Childhood obesity has, sadly, become an epidemic in our country. While it’s true that kids need plenty of nutrients because of the many changes their bodies are going through, it’s crucial that they get them from the right sources to maintain a healthy weight for kids, like produce and healthy meats rather than processed foods and “junk food.”  At Children’s Wellness Center, we measure your child’s body mass index (BMI) at every well-child visit starting at age two, and can offer you guidance about whether your child’s weight is healthy and any changes you may need to make.

Myth #3: Breast milk and formula do not have enough protein for babies, so you need to supplement it with pureed meat.

Fortunately, formula and breast milk both contain as much protein as your infant needs. We typically recommend starting to introduce other sources of protein, like meat, beans, cottage cheese, and yogurt, at around 8-9 months of age, after your child has already become familiar with solid foods.

Myth #4: If it looks like my child is overweight, I should put them on a calorie-restricted diet.

Because children need all types of nutrients for their unique development, it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose your child as overweight or obese, or to design a weight loss diet yourself. If you aren’t sure whether your child’s weight is healthy, schedule a Well-Child Visit at Children’s Wellness Center, and we will be happy to evaluate your child’s health to determine what changes (if any) should be made to his or her diet and exercise regimen.

Myth #5: Babies should always remain on breast milk and/or formula until they are six months old.

While six months is a common age for infants to be ready to start trying purees, it’s all a matter of your baby’s individual development. As a general rule of thumb, your child is probably ready to start with purees when he/she can sit in a high chair and keep his/her head up independently. If your child starts to open his/her mouth when others are eating nearby, reach for others’ food, or get hungry more often, it may be time. In some babies, this happens closer to four or five months. Ultimately, because this timeline varies so much from baby to baby, you should speak with your pediatrician for more information. But don’t force your infant to pick up purees too quickly. If you try it and your baby doesn’t seem ready, simply wait a week or two and then try again.

Myth #6: My kids don’t need to eat or drink Vitamin D because they’re getting as much as they need from the sun.

The importance of Vitamin D is highly underestimated, especially when it comes to kids. So as a parent, if your child is no longer on formula or breastfeeding, you should be sure to incorporate Vitamin D-rich foods and drinks like fortified milk and yogurt, as well as eggs, canned tuna, salmon, and fortified cereals. And remember, too much sun exposure can also have plenty of health risks, so it’s best to apply sunscreen every time your child goes outside, rather than intentionally exposing your kids to the sun to produce Vitamin D. For more information, read up on sunscreen safety tips for kids.

Myth #7: If my child is a picky eater, I just need to wait for him/her to grow out of it.

In many cases, “food defiance” is a phase that kids outgrow, but sometimes the bad habits can stick around, and as a parent, you just need to know what tricks to try. First of all, lead by example so that your child can see you getting a balanced and varied diet. Children also tend to want to eat what is on their parents’ plates, so this is a great way to get them to try new foods, too. Second, help your children get excited by and interested in food by letting them help you cook. And finally, try mixing in the foods you want them to eat (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) with foods they already like, such as peanut butter, yogurt, and more.

Every stage of your child’s life comes with a new set of nutritional requirements, and we certainly understand how difficult it can be to keep tabs on it all, especially when you have multiple kids who are in different age groups. But our providers at Children’s Wellness Center are always here to help and to answer your questions. To talk more about how to give your child the best nutrition you can, call Children’s Wellness Center or schedule an appointment for your child. Plus, for more pediatric health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 4: Attics and Basements

June 12, 2017

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 4 Attics and BasementsChildproofing your home is no quick job. Our board-certified pediatricians and other providers at Children’s Wellness Center (CWC) have written a series of blogs with helpful tips to make your home safer for children of all ages. But today, we’re highlighting some childproofing tips for lesser-considered areas of the home: attics and basements. Even if these spaces are rarely accessed, they should be arranged and protected in a way that keeps your child safe.

  • Attics and basements are common places to store tools. Regardless of whether you store them in your basement, attic, garage, or an outdoor shed, make sure that power tools are always unplugged when they aren’t in use and that you store them in a locked cabinet that your child can’t reach. It’s also a good idea to set a border your children are not allowed to cross, so that the area with the tools and any other dangerous equipment is off-limits to them.
  • Basements are common places to house laundry areas and to store cleaning supplies and other household chemicals. It’s important that all potentially dangerous products be stored in a latched or locked child-safe cabinet that is out of your child’s reach. Items to look for include (but are not limited to):
    • Any type of cleaning products, like all-purpose cleaner, bleach, drain cleaner, laundry detergent, and more
    • Automotive fluids (antifreeze, motor oil, spare gasoline, etc.)
    • Pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers
    • Paints, stains, and varnishes
  • Be very cautious about single-use laundry detergent packets (often called “pods”). The detergent they contain is highly concentrated, so it’s more dangerous if a child ingests it, and unfortunately, their bright colors and compact packaging make them look like candy to some children. If you use these products, keep them stored in a locked cabinet that is out of your child’s reach, and be careful to put them away between every use. However, many parents prefer to stay on the safe side and use traditional laundry detergents instead, while following these same storage precautions as well.
  • Don’t forget to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your attic and basement—these areas are easy to overlook when families don’t spend as much time in them. Make sure to check the batteries at least twice per year, too—try putting it on your calendar so you won’t forget.
  • Both attics and basements have some type of staircase or ladder leading to them, so protect your child from falls and injuries with these tips:
    • Ideally, have your stairs carpeted so that it’s less likely that your child will slip and fall.
    • Install a childproofing safety gate until all of your children are old enough and have the motor skills to go up and down stairs safely. Look for gates that are not accordion-style and that firmly attach to both sides of the doorway.
    • When your child has reached an appropriate stage of development (usually around 18 months), teach him/her how to climb stairs (using the handrail) and how to crawl down stairs backward on his/her belly. Then, when he/she is old enough, teach him/her how to walk down stairs (using the hand rail).
  • Just as in the rest of your home, make sure any large pieces of furniture are anchored to the wall so that they will not tip over.
  • Keep a child safety latch on the trash can, especially if you’re throwing away potentially dangerous items.
  • Use child safety locks on washers and dryers, to prevent your child from climbing inside.
  • If you have a laundry chute, install it out of your child’s reach if possible. If the chute is already installed, use child locks to prevent your child from opening the doors and falling down the chute.
  • If you have windows in your attic or basement, don’t forget to install childproof locks on them, as well as on all other windows in your home.

In blog articles such as these, our goal is to inform patients about childhood health and safety measures they may not know about or think about otherwise. But the purpose is not to make you panic about potential dangers in your home. Instead, we simply hope to give you the information you need to make your home as safe as possible, today and at each stage of your child’s development. If you have additional questions about childproofing your home or about other aspects of your child’s health and safety, contact Children’s Wellness Center and we will be happy to help. Or, to access your child’s records or schedule an appointment, log into our pediatric patient portal for a convenient choice.

How to Safely Use Sunscreen for Your Child

June 5, 2017

How to Safely Use Sunscreen for Your ChildWith our beautiful summer weather, your child is probably excited to get outdoors to play and swim, especially now that most schools are out for the summer. But as a parent, you want to make sure they’re enjoying the weather in a safe and healthy way. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is sun protection. Everyone knows that sunscreen can protect children and adults alike from sunburns, skin cancer, and other issues caused by too much sun exposure—but only if it’s used correctly. That’s why our board-certified pediatricians and other providers at Children’s Wellness Center have put together a collection of sunscreen tips for parents.

  • Babies under the age of six months have very sensitive skin, so they should truly be kept out of direct sunlight. However, if you know they will be getting some sun exposure, use sunscreen on any exposed areas of their skin.
  • When you’re selecting a sunscreen for your family, use these guidelines:
    • Find a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (often labeled as “broad-spectrum”).
    • Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above. Studies have shown that it is not necessary to use a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30.
    • Look for a sunscreen that is labeled as “water resistant.”
  • For areas that are particularly sensitive to sunburns on a child like the nose, tops of the ears, and shoulders, use a sunscreen that includes zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
  • Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before your child goes outside, to give the product the time it needs to absorb into the skin and become effective.
  • Use sunscreen every day before your child goes outside, regardless of the weather. As many as 80% of the sun’s rays can still get through clouds, even in the winter.
  • While it’s best to use a “water resistant” sunscreen, any sunscreen needs to be re-applied every 40-80 minutes (depending on the specific product), as well as after your child has been swimming or sweating.
  • Don’t assume sunscreen is your only defense against the sun. For true protection, combine proper sunscreen use with other summer child safety measures, such as these:
    • Keep as much of your child’s skin covered as possible in lightweight yet tightly woven clothing.
    • Look for clothing that is labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 or higher.
    • Have your child wear a hat with a three-inch-wide brim to shade the face, ears, and back of the neck.
    • Try to avoid taking your child outside between 10am and 4pm—the hours when the sun is at its strongest.
    • Have your child wear sunglasses that provide at least 99% UV protection.
  • Before you start using a new sunscreen for your child, put a little bit on a “test spot” of his or her skin to see if the skin becomes irritated. If so, try a different sunscreen. You may want to choose a hypoallergenic product like those offered by Neutrogena or Aveeno, especially if your child has sensitive skin or pediatric allergies.
  • Remember to protect your child’s lips, too, by using a lip balm that contains sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
  • There have been claims about toxic chemicals in sunscreen being absorbed through the skin. While you don’t want your child to ingest sunscreen, there have been no proven problems from proper sunscreen use, and yet the benefits of using sunscreen have been proven time and time again, so don’t shy away from sunscreen as long as you use it correctly.
  • It’s not a good idea to use a product that combines sunscreen with insect repellant for children. Sunscreen should be re-applied frequently, while insect repellant must be used sparingly for children, so to avoid getting too little sun protection or too much insect repellant, purchase these two products separately.
  • Remember to check the expiration date on your sunscreen bottle before using it, and if you notice any clear changes to the consistency or color of the sunscreen, it’s time to replace it.

Parenting is all about finding balance. Too much sun exposure is harmful, but so is keeping your child indoors and away from the fun and refreshing exercise he or she can get outside. That’s why knowing how to properly use sunscreen is such a powerful tool—it lets your family enjoy the many benefits that the great outdoors have to offer while dramatically cutting down on the risks. If you have questions about your sunscreen use, contact Children’s Wellness Center for guidance. Or, for more child safety tips and health tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Home Remedies: Helpful, Ineffective, or Dangerous?

May 27, 2017

Home Remedies Parents Should AvoidAt Children’s Wellness Center (CWC), we’ve certainly seen evidence of the growing trend toward using as many natural products and foods as possible. For the most part, wanting to keep your child’s diet and routine as natural and wholesome as possible is wonderful, because we seem to be learning more and more every day about the dangers of certain processed foods and overmedicating. But unfortunately, not all “natural products” and “home remedies” are as safe or effective as they claim to be. As a parent, as good as your intentions are, it can be difficult to know what is truly the best for your child. So our board-certified pediatricians and other licensed providers are weighing in on some popular trends you should be cautious about.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is made from tiny particles of silver (yes, the metal used in jewelry) mixed into liquid. It’s been sold as a home remedy for nearly any illness you can imagine—bacterial infections, viruses, and even cancer and HIV/AIDS. However, the FDA has rejected colloidal silver. Not only is the product ineffective for treating any known medical condition, but it has been found to cause a number of potential health problems. The most common issue from ingesting silver is a condition called argyria, a blue-gray discoloration of the skin which, unfortunately, does not go away when you stop taking colloidal silver, and because no effective treatment has been found, the discoloration is usually life-long. In some cases, colloidal silver can also interfere with medications a child needs, like antibiotics and thyroid medicine, and in rare cases, it can also lead to kidney damage or seizures.

Menthol

While mentholated chest rubs can make a child feel like some of their congestion has been relieved by producing a cool sensation, research has shown that these rubs actually have little or no effect on cold symptoms. And sadly, these products do have potential problems. If they are incorrectly placed directly under the nose (as opposed to on the chest, back, or throat as instructed), they can irritate the airways and make breathing difficulties worse, especially for children with asthma. If they are accidentally or purposely ingested, they can have more serious health consequences.

Chiropractics for Allergies, Asthma, etc.

Chiropractics is a legitimate medical field that can treat a variety of issues with the musculoskeletal system. However, some chiropractors claim to treat problems that they cannot. While spinal adjustments can sometimes be effective in treating back pain, they cannot address other types of illness, like asthma, ear infections, allergies, or acid reflux. If your child is suffering from these or any other health conditions, be sure to schedule an appointment in our pediatric patient portal for a medical exam so we can treat the issue safely and effectively, or refer you to a qualified specialist if necessary.

Essential Oils

As one of the latest and most popular health trends, essential oils are now being used in homes everywhere. But even though they are a natural product, these oils are so highly concentrated that they carry some risks, especially for children. Because children and infants have thinner skin, they absorb topical products more easily. Some oils can have unintended harmful effects when they get into the child’s system. As one example, endocrinologists are concerned that lavender and tea tree oils may be endocrine disrupters, which can lead to precocious puberty. Children also tend to try to ingest essential oils, but they choke on the bitter taste, sending some of the oil into their lungs, which is particularly dangerous. If you do use essential oils, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Check to make sure all of your oils are safe for use around children. Certain oils are more dangerous than others, including tea tree, eucalyptus, camphor, lavender, clove, thyme, and wintergreen oils, and more.
  • Keep all of your oils in a secure place out of your child’s reach.
  • Do not use oils on or around children under two years old.
  • If you use topical oils, always dilute them heavily in a skin-safe “carrier oil” like olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, or avocado oil.
  • Keep oils away from a child’s airways.
  • Avoid using essential oils with vaporizers if your child or another family member has respiratory issues.
  • Do not use essential oils in teething recipes.
  • Never give essential oils to a child by mouth, or take essential oils by mouth if you are pregnant.

Honey

While honey is a go-to sweetener for parents who want to avoid processed sugars, it should never be given to babies less than twelve months old. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, honey can contain a specific type of spore that causes infant botulism in babies under one year old.

At Children’s Wellness Center, we have the same goal you do: seeing your child as healthy and happy as possible. While we respect the desire to give your child a more natural, wholesome life, you should do so with discretion, look for reliable medical sources, and seek the advice of a board-certified pediatrician before you try something new. If you have specific questions about home remedies, give us a call or schedule an appointment. For pediatrician-approved health tips and more, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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