More and more, childhood obesity is becoming prevalent in the U.S. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over the past two decades it has doubled in children and tripled among teens.
Obesity during childhood is a serious matter that can lead to medical problems, including diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Additionally, being overweight can also take an emotional toll on kids, leading to depression and low self-esteem brought on by various psychological stresses.
As a parent, you should play an important role in encouraging your child to make important changes to help them lose weight and overcome obesity. Ask your pediatrician for support in guiding your child toward an overall healthier lifestyle.
Incremental Lifestyle Changes Starting at Home
Kids who are overweight or obese need guidance from their parents to make healthier lifestyle choices. These changes start at home and include eating better and exercising. Involve the entire family in your child’s efforts to lose weight, supporting him by setting good examples and modeling healthy eating behaviors that you want him to adopt both now and into adulthood.
- Be a good role model, leading the way to a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy and staying active.
- Remove unhealthy temptations from the home and gradually introduce healthier foods into your child’s diet over a period of time.
- Prepare meals that are rich in vegetables, fruits and whole-grains, and limit consumption of foods high in sugar and saturated fats.
- Allow your child to participate in preparing the family meals to learn the benefits of cooking at home.
- Limit the amount of time your child can spend watching television playing video games or using the computer.
- Incorporate exercise into your child’s daily routine, which can include a wide range of activities such as walking the dog, raking leaves, swimming, playing tag or washing the car.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
Your child’s pediatrician can also play an important role in monitoring your child’s weight gain starting from age one, helping to make sure it remains within normal guidelines as he grows. If the pediatrician suspects a weight problem, they can discuss it with you and your child, and then help you prioritize the changes that need to be made to manage the child’s weight. YOur pediatrician can work with you to help you set health goals and make the necessary lifestyle changes such as improving diet and becoming more physically active starting at home.
In infants, toddlers and preschoolers, the most frequent cause of sore throats is a viral infection. No specific medicine is required when a virus is responsible, and the child should get better over a seven to ten day period. During this period, your child may develop a fever, but they generally are not very sick.
It is not uncommon to experience a sore throat when your child has a cold or the flu. Unfortunately, there are other reasons for sore throats to develop that may be symptomatic of more serious problems. Children tend to have sore throats more often than adolescents or adults, with sore throats being the most common during the winter months when upper respiratory infections are more frequent.
The major cause of a sore throat is an infection, whether it is viral or bacterial, and can also be caused by allergies and environmental conditions. If your child has a sore throat that lasts longer than the typical five to seven day duration of a cold or flu, and is not associated with an avoidable allergy or irritation, it is important to contact your local pediatrician. The following are signs and symptoms to alert you to take your child to the pediatrician:
- Severe and prolonged sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Joint pain
- Fever that is over 101 degrees
- Frequent recurring sore throat
- Lump in the neck
- Hoarseness lasting over two weeks
At the first onset of a sore throat it is always important to monitor the progress and recognize any other symptoms that may accompany the sore throat, which could cause it to worsen into strep throat, inflamed tonsils, or laryngitis. Contact your pediatrician if your child is experiencing a sore throat that won’t go away. Your pediatrician will help diagnose and treat your child’s symptoms.
Many people mistake a common cold for sinusitis, and vice versa, as the symptoms of a cold and a sinus infection can be quite similar to each other because the same viruses often cause both conditions. Additionally, since the nose and sinuses are connected, it is possible for viruses to move easily between the nasal passages and the sinuses.
Your child may feel run down, have a low-grade fever, post-nasal drip and a sore throat. So is it a common cold or a sinus infection? Typically, a cold can definitely morph into a sinus infection, but there are some classic symptoms for each illness that can help distinguish between the two.
The Common Cold
With a cold, there is a cluster of symptoms that your child might be experiencing, including:
- Nasal congestion
- A run-down feeling
- Runny nose with clear discharge
- Sore throat
- Post nasal drip
- Fever may be seen in children, but not often in adults
If your child has a cold, they may even experience a cough or a headache, and it can often last from three to seven days with or without any treatment. Your child develops a cold from a virus in which the symptoms usually build slowly over the course of a day or two, peak by days three or four, then slowly improve around the fifth or seventh day.
With a cold, treatment might include supportive care, fluids and chicken soup. Drinking plenty of water is also beneficial as it helps to hydrate your child. By hydrating your child through water consumption, you can help to flush out the infection because it liquefies the mucus. There are also medications available to help make your child more comfortable as the cold passes.
Sometimes colds can set in the sinuses and cause swelling, which then prevents the flow of mucus and turns the cold into a sinus infection. Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses that can be caused by a cold, an infection or allergies. Any swelling of the sinuses can produce symptoms such as:
- Pressure or pain behind the eyes or cheeks
- Pain in the top teeth
- Green or yellow nasal drainage
- Post nasal drip
Your child may also complain of being tired, having a difficult time breathing through his or her nose, decreased sense of smell and restless sleep. If your child develops a cold every month or every other month, this is because his or her sinuses are flaring up and it is probably not a cold, but chronic sinusitis.
The main difference between a common cold and sinusitis is that a cold comes around once a year and lasts for three to five days, and then is gone and your child most likely will not experience it again until next year. Acute sinusitis typically lasts less than four weeks, with chronic sinusitis lasting more than 12 weeks. So if your child’s symptoms last more than a week, odds are they are experiencing a sinus infection and should visit your pediatrician.
By visiting your child’s pediatrician, you can help your child breathe easy once again. Whether it is a common cold, or a more serious sinus infection, your child’s pediatrician is available to help relieve their symptoms.
Bedwetting is a common childhood problem. Many children who master toilet training during the day, usually between the ages of two and four, continue to experience episodes of bedwetting through the night. In many cases, the nighttime bedwetting incidents will gradually decrease until they have completely ceased around the age of five or six.
So, when should parents worry about their child’s bedwetting behaviors? Most pediatricians agree that it’s quite normal for children to experience occasional “accidents” and that most children will outgrow it on their own.
When to Visit Your Pediatrician
Bedwetting is rarely a serious problem. In fact, wetting up to a year after the child has successfully been toilet trained is normal. Children gain bladder control at different ages, and while most kids quit wetting at night by the age of 6, others may take a little longer. In the majority of cases, wetting does not have a medical cause.
According to the AAP, you should contact your pediatrician if your child continues to have frequent “accidents” or if you notice any of the following signs:
- Wet clothing and bed linens, even when the child uses the toilet frequently
- Unusual straining during urination, a very small or narrow stream of urine, or dribbling after urination
- Cloudy or pink urine
- Abnormal redness or rash in the genital area
- Trying to conceal wetting by hiding clothes or underwear
- Daytime wetting in addition to nighttime accidents
Parents should remember to be sensitive to their child’s wetting behavior so not to cause additional embarrassment or discomfort. Never punish the child for bedwetting. Instead, show support and encouragement by reassuring the child that it is not his or her fault and that the problem will get better.
Remember, even though childhood wetting is frustrating, it is very normal. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s bedwetting behaviors.
Too many parents wrongly assume that the sun is only dangerous when it’s shining brightly. The fact is, the sun’s rays are dangerous no matter what time of the year, and too much exposure during childhood can lead to serious problems later in life.
Parents should pay special care to protect their kids when playing outdoors. Here are a few simple tips to prevent overexposure to the sun:
- Protect infants
Keep babies younger than six months out of direct sunlight, protected by the shade of a tree or an umbrella.
- Seek shade
When possible, find a shaded area or take a break indoors to avoid sun exposure for extended periods of time.
- Limit outdoor play
UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s best to avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun during midday.
- Cover up
Protective clothing that cover the arms and legs and wide brim hats can keep kids protected from sun damage.
- Always apply sunscreen
Choose a sunscreen made for kids with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Apply to all areas of the body and reapply every few hours.
Sunburn is an obvious sign of sun damage, but a child doesn’t have to get a burn to experience the negative consequences of too much exposure to the sun. The effects of chronic sun exposure can also contribute to wrinkles, freckles, toughening of the skin and even cancer later in adulthood. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person's chances of developing skin cancer later in life.
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By setting good examples and teaching kids the importance of sun safety now, parents can significantly lower their child’s risk of developing skin cancer and other signs of sun damage as an adult.
Always talk to you pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about sun safety and prevention.
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