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Children’s growth and development
A healthy child’s development actually begins before conception with the parents’ health and their genetic legacy. It continues on to conception and through the prenatal period. During this time, there is naturally considerable overlap between pediatric concerns for the fetus and obstetrical concerns for the mother.
Once the baby is delivered, there are new and important matters to address, such as breastfeeding, newborn screening tests, and sleeping safety. All too soon, there are health care appointments to be kept for well-baby checkups and vaccinations. These are followed by other issues such as when and how to introduce solid foods, toilet training, and when to see the dentist.
The field of pediatrics recognizes classic stages in growth and development, but these are not absolute since a child’s growth and development constitute a continuum. A baby changes at an astonishing rate during the newborn period and early infancy. Before you know it, the baby becomes a toddler, next a child and, after a little more than a decade, enters adolescence. It is a busy, challenging period for both child and parent.
Unfortunately, even the healthiest baby can get sick. It is worth knowing the signs and symptoms of the common childhood illnesses as well as the treatment and prevention of these illnesses. There are a number of common childhood conditions such as ear infections and tonsillitis which may be unavoidable. But children are also subject to other preventable diseases such as the serious and potentially lethal infectious diseases prevented by immunizations and dental caries (tooth decay), which can be prevented by ongoing oral care and fluoride treatments.
Children may be born with health problems. For example, a cleft lip or palate is evident at birth. But some equally common birth defects, such as some heart malformations, may not be immediately apparent. Birth defects of all kinds are a consequential concern for children and their parents.
It may not be possible to prevent a specific birth defect or an illness, but it should be possible to protect a child from an accident and injury, such as from common cuts, burns, and accidental poisoning. Considerable progress has been made in the safety arena (such as in the rapid recall of dangerous toys). The mandated uses of car seats, safety belts, bicycle helmets, tamper-resistant closure systems, and the establishment of national and regional poison control centers are also examples of advances in child safety.
But other major areas of safety concern remain — such as the all-too-frequent drownings of children in swimming pools, their accidental swallowing of household cleaning products, their being burned by a hot stove or heater, or being accidentally shot with a firearm. The list is endless. All of us must exercise continued vigilance and make every effort to be sure that a child’s environment is made as safe as it possibly can be.
Children’s mental illness
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death during the teen years. (Auto accidents and homicide are the first and third causes respectively for teen death.) Major depression and bipolar disease may underlie suicide attempts and suicide.
It was once thought that children were not subject to these mental illnesses because children had not yet developed the ability to feel hopeless and helpless about the future. That is clearly untrue. It is now widely acknowledged that children are susceptible not only to major depression and bipolar disease but also to anxiety disorders, phobias, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Recent studies have highlighted the acute and long-term effects of bullying on children, noting higher rates of depressive symptoms and suicide in children who have been bullied. Here again the treatment must be appropriate for use in the pediatric age range.
children’s Health Tips
Your choices as a parent begin before your child is even born. From what to feed them to how to discipline, parenting seems to be one choice after another. The choices you make regarding your child’s health will affect them throughout their life. These are decisions best made with plenty of thought and information. Here are some general tips on making healthy parenting choices.
Make a Breast-Feeding Decision
Breast-feeding is a wonderful way for you and baby to bond while you give them the most all-natural nutrition possible. But breast-feeding isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of time, dedication, devotion to healthy eating, and all-hour feedings. Work with your doctor to make a decision about what’s best for you and your child.
Provide Natural Foods
Processed foods are often full of sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, and calories. Avoid making meals for your children using the fake stuff, and opt for:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- lean cuts of meat
- fresh fish
- fiber-rich foods like beans and leafy greens
Here’s a tip for grocery shopping: Shop the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are. Avoid the inside aisles where many of the processed foods reside.
Eat the Alphabet
Nearly all children get plenty of vitamins — A, B, C, D, etc. — in the foods they eat every day. A multivitamin is not generally necessary for children. Simply pack meals with vitamin-rich foods. Talk to your pediatrician about a daily multivitamin if you are concerned.
Avoid the “Clean Plate” Rule
Your grandmother had the best intentions for you when she wouldn’t let you leave the table before you finished your broccoli, but the truth is that your child knows when he or she is full and needs to stop eating. When children say they don’t want any more, they probably aren’t trying to skip out on their vegetables; their bodies are just letting them they’ve had enough. Overeating could lead to unwanted weight gain.
Get Them Off the Couch
According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, nearly 18 percent of children in the United States ages 6 to 11 were obese. Physical activity is very important for children. It sets the stage for a lifetime of health and nutrition. Public health experts recommend 60 minutes of daily physical activity for children.
Team or individual sports are a great way to encourage physical activity. Outside a structured sports setting, motivate your children to spend more time playing than sitting. Plan family activity nights or set up play dates with neighbors.
Baby Their Skin
Summers are for kids, but summer sun isn’t. Ultraviolet (UV) light can damage the skin and increase chances for developing skin cancer later in life. Babies younger than six months should avoid direct sunlight if at all possible. (If being in the sun is unavoidable, use sunscreen with formulas designed for babies or kids.) Babies over six months and all children should wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if your child is sweating or in the water.
Create a Healthy Smile
Good dental and oral health goes beyond cavity-free teeth. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. Tooth decay can lead to problems with speaking and learning if left untreated. Fluoride can almost completely eliminate tooth decay in young children., Your children should receive a fluoride treatment at each of their semiannual cleanings. If your tap water doesn’t have fluoride, ask your dentist about other ways to get fluoride.