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The Children's Wellness Blog

Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Health for Babies and Children

May 2, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Health for Babies and ChildrenBeing a new parent can be overwhelming to say the least. There’s so much to think about in order to keep your child healthy and safe. Our pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center are here to help you learn one step at a time. Even though dental hygiene is part of an adult’s daily routine, it’s easy to overlook or underestimate it when it comes to young children, and a child’s oral health has its own unique set of guidelines. To bring you up to speed, we’ve answered some of the most common questions parents ask about their children’s oral health.

At what age should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

There are varying recommendations about when you should start brushing your teeth, so when you visit one of our board-certified pediatricians for your baby’s early well-child visits, we can discuss your infant’s risk factors for tooth decay and help you determine when to start brushing his/her teeth gently. When it’s time, you should start by brushing your child’s teeth for them, then gradually having them take on more and more of the responsibility (while you supervise to correct any mistakes they might make). Kids are generally able to brush effectively on their own by around age 6, but every child matures at his or her own pace, so simply keep an eye on how well your child brushes in order to judge when he/she is ready to do it on his/her own.

What foods should my child avoid to reduce tooth decay?

Tooth decay happens when certain bacteria in the mouth convert sugar to an acid that degrades the teeth. So, put simply, offering healthy childhood nutrition by minimizing the amount of sugar in your children’s diet (even natural sugars) will lower their risk for childhood cavities. Be particularly cautious with sugary foods that tend to stick to the grooves in teeth, like raisins, gum, and caramel. On the flip side, try to also provide food and drinks that are high in tooth-healthy nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

If “baby teeth” fall out anyway, does it really matter if they get cavities?

It’s a common misconception that the health of your child’s baby teeth isn’t important because they’re temporary, but the fact is that tooth decay in these teeth can have both long-term and short-term effects. It can impact the health of your child’s “adult teeth” and make him or her more likely to have more cavities later in life. But even in the short term, cavities can be painful for your child, and what begins as mild tooth decay can worsen and even cause a dangerous infection. By getting started with good dental hygiene early, you can give your child a head start to a life of healthier, more comfortable teeth.

Is fluoride safe for young children?

Fluoride, a chemical that many cities add to their drinking water, makes the teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. For young children and adults alike, it’s a healthy addition that can help to minimize dental problems. The only issue to keep an eye out for is fluorosis: a cosmetic condition that can develop in the “baby teeth” in children who are using too much fluoride. Fluorosis causes white or brown marks on your child’s teeth, and while it’s not dangerous, it’s a signal that you can cut down on the amount of fluoride your child is using.

When should I take my child to see a dentist?

For most of our patients, we recommend that children have their first dental visit when they’re three years of age. But our pediatricians will also evaluate your child’s teeth during their well child visits, and will let you know if your child should start going to a dentist earlier.

How do I know if my child has tooth decay?

Spotting early cavities can be challenging, especially on your child’s tiny teeth. During your regular well child exams at Children’s Wellness Center, we’ll examine your child’s teeth for any identifiable tooth decay.

What type of toothpaste and toothbrush should I use for my child?

Look for a toothbrush that is designed for your child’s age group (these usually have softer bristles and are small enough to fit a child’s mouth). As far as toothpaste goes, be sure to choose one that contains fluoride, and use small amounts based on your child’s age. For children under age three, only use a drop of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. From age three until your child is able to properly rinse and spit, use a pea-sized amount. Once your child can rinse and spit, he/she can use a normal amount of toothpaste.

As small as a child’s teeth may be, they can have a strong impact on his or her health and comfort both today and for years to come, and as a parent, there is plenty you can do to keep your child healthy and happy. To discuss your child’s oral health in more detail, schedule an appointment using our online patient portal. Or, for more health and safety tips as well as the latest news in pediatrics, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Safely Use Insect Repellent for Children

April 26, 2017

How to Safely Use Insect Repellant for ChildrenWe’re heading full steam into summer, and while that means spending more time with your children and potentially enjoying a family vacation or two, it also means that insects will be making their way back into our lives. Insects are a valuable part of our ecosystem…that is, when we can keep them from biting or stinging our families. The tips below from our licensed and experienced pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center (CWC) can help you protect your children from both insects and the potential side effects of insect repellents.

  • Avoid using insect repellent on children under two months of age.
  • Choose insect repellents with one of two active ingredients: DEET or picaridin. DEET is the most common, and it can be safe for children as long as it is used correctly.
  • Apply the insect repellent for your child, rather than letting him/her apply it on his/her own. When you apply it to his/her face, spray the repellent on your hands and use your hands to carefully apply it, avoiding the mouth and eye areas to prevent ingestion or eye injuries.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on a child’s hands, because children often put their hands in their mouths.
  • Follow all instructions on the bottle of insect repellent, and pay special attention to any instructions for children.
  • Only apply DEET to your child once per day. One application usually lasts between two and five hours.
  • Always bathe your child after coming indoors from using insect repellent, and wash the clothing he/she was wearing (including any jackets) before he/she wears them again.
  • On top of using an insect repellent, reduce your chances of an insect bite or sting with the following tips:
    • Avoid areas that appear to have many insects.
    • Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible but is not brightly colored, as bright colors can attract insects.
    • Do not wear perfume or scented lotions.
    • Wear shoes at all times.
    • Keep your yard free of standing water, because this is where mosquitos breed.
  • If you are going to an area with many ticks, dress your child in long pants and consider using permethrin (a repellent specifically for ticks). Only apply permethrin to clothing, tents, sleeping bags, etc., and never apply it to skin.
  • Do not rely on alternative insect repellent methods, like wearing wristbands, eating garlic or vitamin B1, using ultrasonic insect repellent devices, or installing bug zappers.
  • Keep an eye on your child for signs of an allergic reaction or rash when they use insect repellent. If they do have a reaction, wash off the repellent immediately, avoid using it in the future, and schedule a visit with our pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center.
  • Repellents using DEET will state how much DEET they include, so look for products with no more than 30% DEET.
  • Spray repellents outdoors so your child doesn’t breathe them in.
  • Consider using a mosquito net for your baby’s stroller or carrier, particularly for infants less than two months old, since they are not yet old enough to safely be exposed to insect repellent. This should be used not only when you’re going to an insect-heavy area, but any time you take your baby on a walk as well.
  • If you are in an area where ticks are present, examine your child’s skin carefully for ticks when you go indoors. Don’t forget to check creases and hidden areas, like behind the knees, between the toes, etc.
  • If you choose to use an insect repellent with oil of lemon eucalyptus, be sure to only use it on children who are over three years of age.
  • Protecting your child from the sun and insects at the same time is wise, but use a sunscreen first, then apply the insect repellent. Do not use a product that combines sunscreen and insect repellent. Not only does this tend to lower the sun protection of the product, but because sunscreens need to be reapplied around every 90 minutes, it can lead to overexposing your child to DEET as well.
  • Check the list of ingredients on your insect repellent to make sure all the ingredients are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as safe to use on skin and clothing.
  • If you use an insect repellent that uses picaridin, look for concentrations of 5-10% when using the product on children.

One of the key rules to keeping your child healthy is not to take his/her safety for granted. Many products are perfectly safe for adults but are too much for a child’s unique anatomy and chemistry, and in many cases, all it takes is asking the right questions to keep your child healthy and happy. There’s no need to keep your child indoors all summer—as long as you take the right precautions, the entire family can enjoy the great outdoors while also being safe from insect bites and repellent-related issues. To learn more about how to keep your child healthy through the spring and the upcoming summer, schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center. Plus, for more helpful child safety tips and health tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Create a Safer Home for Your Children, Part 2: Childproofing for Every Age

April 21, 2017

child-safetyThe transition to parenthood when your first child is born is undoubtedly one of the most drastic changes you will ever make in your life, and many parents need every bit of those nine months of pregnancy to prepare. One item on that mile-long to-do list is babyproofing the home. While that’s an important step, many parents cross it off their list when their home is ready for a newborn and assume the task is finished. But in reality, every stage of development your child reaches carries its own dangers for pediatric injuries—crawling, walking, climbing, and so on, so it’s important to reassess your home’s safety at each developmental milestone, even including adolescence. Our physicians at Children’s Wellness Center have a few childproofing tips that are often overlooked for each age range, so following the steps below for your child’s age can create a safer home, so you can worry less and enjoy your child more.

Childproofing for Infancy

  • Anchor all potentially tippable furniture (bookshelves, desks, etc.) to the wall. Be sure that all televisions are secured as well, because these are often overlooked as large, heavy items that can easily be tipped onto a child.
  • Comb the house for choking hazards (which includes anything smaller than the opening in a toilet paper roll).
  • Place a paper on the refrigerator or in another prominent place that lists the phone numbers for all emergency services, such as poison control, the local police station, your pediatrician, and any other relevant providers, as well as your own cell phone and work phone numbers. Not only is this helpful for babysitters, but it makes the information for emergency action easier for you to find in a hectic situation as well.
  • Research any houseplants you have (or are planning to get), because some can actually be dangerous for children.
  • Make sure your windows’ blinds do not have looped cords. Ideally, you should look for blinds that are entirely cordless.

Childproofing for the Toddler Years

  • Single-use packets for laundry or dishwasher detergent can look like candy and be particularly dangerous because the soap is highly concentrated, so either avoid them or store them in a very secure place that is out of your toddler’s reach.
  • On top of storing poisonous chemicals out of your child’s reach, choose a specific sticker or picture to put on these bottles and teach your child what it means
  • Children can drown in as little as one inch of water, so install a lock on your toilet lid.
  • Install window guards, and avoid having furniture placed in a way that children can climb on it to get to high windows.
  • As soon as your child is using the bathtub without a baby bath, install a non-slip mat, and remember to never leave your child unattended in the bathtub.
  • Store all medications out of your child’s reach.
  • Install outlet covers on all of your electrical outlets, and be sure to use covers that are too large to be choking hazards.
  • Remove or modify furniture that has sharp edges (such as certain coffee tables, television stands, etc.).
  • If you have a fireplace with stones surrounding it or with a stone hearth, cover the stones to avoid injuries.

Childproofing for the Elementary Years

  • As soon as your child is tall enough to reach the edge of your countertops, be cautious not to place anything too close to the edges of countertops.
  • Make sure your child is still unable to get through door latches and other safety locks, and step up to more difficult locks if necessary.
  • Show your child what the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm sound like and explain to them what to do if they hear one of the alarms.

Childproofing for Adolescences

  • Make sure all medications (especially prescription, but ideally over-the-counter as well) and alcohol is locked up. But keep in mind that this should also be paired with educating your teen about the dangers of underage drinking.
  • When your child is able to drive, make very specific teen driving rules about when and where they are allowed to drive. The Georgia Department of Driver Services offers a wealth of information and tips for parents about keeping your teen driver safe.
  • As much as you may trust your teenager, don’t avoid taking precautions. Not only can teens act out-of-character when they’re under peer pressure, but you can’t trust that their friends or guests will be as responsible as your child is.
  • Consider a rule against allowing your teen to use certain equipment or appliances when you aren’t home, such as the lawnmower or power tools, the stove, or other potentially dangerous items, regardless of how routinely they use them while supervised.

Making your home a safe environment for a baby and toddler is one of the top concerns on many parents’ minds, but the older a child gets, the easier it can become to forget what new types of hazards they may encounter. While the list above is absolutely not a comprehensive one, it can be a helpful way to start thinking about your environment and help you think of precautions you may have overlooked. To further discuss creating a safe home for your child, schedule an appointment with Children’s Wellness Center in our patient portal. Plus, keep an eye out in the coming weeks for Part 3 in our childproofing series.

Spring Break Safety Tips

March 31, 2017

Spring Break Safety TipsSpring break has arrived, and as hectic as life can be as you prepare for a vacation, a getaway with your children offers valuable quality time and lets you build lifelong memories for your family. But in the midst of all the spring break fun, helping your kids stay safe is a top priority for all of us at Children’s Wellness Center (CWC). With that goal in mind, here are some essential safety tips for any activity you’re enjoying throughout your spring break:

On the Road:

  • If you’re flying to your destination and renting a vehicle, plan ahead to have the type of car safety seat you need. Car rental companies typically have car safety seats available for you to use, but if you’re concerned about having a seat that will fit your child properly, it may be a good idea to bring your own.
  • On long drives, make stops about every two hours to let both yourself and your child take a break and stretch.
  • Particularly if you’re flying, wash your child’s hands frequently and consider bringing cleansing wipes as well for a more convenient option. Travel tends to bring you into contact with a lot of bacteria, and being vigilant may help your child avoid a pediatric illness.
  • Never leave your child alone in the car, regardless of whether the doors are locked, how long you plan to be away, or how hot or cool it may be outside.

In the Sun:

  • For infants under 6 months of age, avoid direct sunlight. Keep them in the shade, and if necessary, you can apply a very small amount of sunscreen on exposed skin.
  • For all children, don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect them from sun damage. Dress them in light yet tightly-woven fabric (such as cotton), ideally with long sleeves, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses for eye protection.
  • Any time you’re using a new sunscreen, do a “spot test”: apply sunscreen to a small area of skin to make sure your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction. We also recommend looking for hypoallergenic sunscreens, such as those offered by Neutrogena and Aveeno.
  • When you’re looking for a sunscreen, make sure you select one that is “broad-spectrum” (meaning that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. Preferably, select one that is waterproof as well, but regardless, be sure to reapply every 1.5-2 hours.
  • Sunscreen needs time on the skin before it becomes effective, so apply it 30 minutes before your child goes outside.

At the Beach:

  • When you arrive at the beach, take stock of the area. Look for any signs or flags that indicate water conditions, and make sure that you know where the lifeguard is, where the designated swimming area is, and where there may be underwater rocks or other hazards. If possible, keep your child near the lifeguard while they’re swimming.
  • Teach your children about rip currents, and show them how to swim parallel to the shore if they find themselves in a rip current.
  • If you see lightening or if there are reports of lightening in the area, leave the beach immediately.
  • Use “touch supervision” – stay within arm’s reach of your child any time they are in or near the water.

At the Pool:

  • Never allow your child to swim alone. Even if he/she is a skilled swimmer, unforeseen accidents can always happen to cause pediatric injuries.
  • Make sure your child uses a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket that fits properly. Do not rely on “floaties” (such as the popular inflatable arm bands) to keep your child safe. While they can help, they are not strong enough to prevent drowning, so they are not a substitute for proper supervision.
  • Make sure your child knows never to dive into water unless it is specifically permitted and an adult has verified the water depth and checked for underwater dangers.

In the Heat:

  • When it’s hot and/or humid outside, limit the amount of time your children spend on strenuous activities.
  • Make sure your child always has water available when they need it and that they are consistently drinking enough water.
  • If you’re in a warmer climate than your children are used to, ease them into outdoor activities. Keep their outdoor active time to a minimum for the first day and gradually increase it.
  • Spend as little time as possible outside between 10am and 2pm, because these are the hours during which the sun is particularly strong and the weather is at its hottest.

You’ve probably been looking forward to spring break for months, and by all means, you should make the most of your time with your kids. But you can have a fantastic week while also keeping your family safe, and at Children’s Wellness Center, we’re here to help. For more health and safety tips for your child, explore our website or schedule a pediatric appointment through our patient portal. Plus, for daily updates and health news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.