Insect bites and stings

Insect bites and stings

By www.rch.org.au

 

Most insect bites and stings are not poisonous and come from mosquitoes, flies, fleas, spiders, ticks, wasps, bees and beetles. In Australia it is rare for insects to transmit diseases to people. When it does happen, it usually tends to be in remote parts of the country.

All insect bites are allergic reactions and the size of the reaction depends on the degree of allergy you/your child has. Very occasionally children may have a severe allergic reaction called ‘anaphylaxis’. If this happens it needs to be treated urgently.

As a general rule for repeated insect bites (such as mosquitos), the size of insect bite reactions are larger in early childhood then slowly reduce as the child gets older.

 

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of insect bites or stings can vary a lot depending on how allergic you/your child is to that insect.

The signs and symptoms include:

Minor skin reaction with a painful itchy lesion where the insect has bitten or stung.
Some children have a more significant reaction with swelling and redness larger than 5 cm.
A small number of children (and adults) have a severe allergic reaction – ‘anaphylaxis’. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, itching, stomach cramps, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and swallowing, choking and fainting.
If your child has any swelling of the lips or tongue, or difficulty breathing seek medical help immediately.

 

Care at home

If your child is stung or bitten you may be able to manage them without seeing a doctor. You could try:

Washing the skin where it was bitten
Calamine lotion to help stop itching
Ice packs or cool face washers can help with pain and swelling
If an arm or leg is bitten, rest your child with the limb raised up
If your child continues to scratch the bite you can give some antihistamine medicine, such as Phenergan or Zyrtec. It is given by mouth and be bought at your local chemist
Strong steroid creams applied early and regularly onto the skin that was bitten, can often give relief. These creams can only be bought with a prescription from your doctor.
If your child has been bitten by a bee, try to scrape the sting off. Do not pull the sting out, as this causes more poison to be injected.
See your doctor if:

There are any reactions in other parts of the body, such as hives or breathing problems.
Your child has a lot of pain where they were bitten which does not settle down within a few hours.
If the swelling or itching gets worse after 24 hours.

 

Treatment

If your child has had a bad allergic reaction in the past, your doctor may suggest using an oral steroid drug, such as prednisolone, or a self injection kit called an Epipen.

If these medicines are given to your child they should be with your child at all times.
All people caring for your child should know when and how to give the medicine your child needs when bitten.

 

Prevention

Outdoors

Keep picnic food covered and wipe any spills immediately
Wear long sleeved shirts and pants that fit snugly around the wrists and ankles
Make sure rubbish bins are securely fastened so the contents don’t attract insects
Stay away from pools of stagnant (still) water, which are a breeding ground for mosquitos
Avoid perfumes and scented lotions, soaps and cosmetics
Cover infant strollers with netting

 

Insect repellents

Follow the manufacturers instructions and only use insect repellents sparingly.
In young children, insect repellents are safest if rubbed or sprayed on clothing rather than skin. Don’t spray on the skin of children under the age of one.
The most effective repellents contain the chemical DEET. Choose sprays that contain no more than 10 percent DEET (eg RID, or Johnson’s Kids Skintastic).
Reapply insect repellent after swimming or activities that make you sweat.

 

Indoors

Don’t turn the lights on in bedrooms until the windows are closed (or screened) and the curtains are drawn.
Fit insect screens to windows.
Consider using an electric device which releases insect repellent into the room at night. These usually plug into an electric outlet and the repellent (usually permethrin) is contained either in a bottle of fluid or a small pad.
Insecticide sprays eg Mortein.

 

Follow-up

Seek help urgently if your child has any swelling of the lips or tongue, or any difficulty breathing.
You are worried for any reason.

 

Key points to remember

Any medicine your child needs for insect bites or stings should be carried with them at all times.
See your doctor if your child has reactions in other parts of the body, such as hives or breathing problems.
If your child has been bitten by a bee, try to scrape the sting off. Do not pull the sting out, as this causes more poison to be injected.

 

For more information

See your local doctor/ GP

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TOP 50 CHALLENGES FACED BY PARENTS

TOP 50 CHALLENGES FACED BY PARENTS (AS TOLD BY MOTHERS)

1. Sleepless nights/sleep deprivation

2. Tantrums

3. Having patience

4. Keeping on top of the household chores

5. Getting children to eat the right foods

6. Potty training

7. Sibling rivalry

8. Juggling childcare

9. Give your child what they want without spoiling them

10. Getting children to clean their teeth properly

11. Dealing with an ill child

12. Leaving your baby for the first time

13. Getting a baby to sleep through the night

14. Getting a baby/child to sleep at night

15. Not constantly worrying and wrapping your child in cotton wool

16. Getting children to do their homework

17. Encouraging your children to concentrate and work hard at school

18. Tackling bullying

19. Going back to work after having a baby

20. Keeping an eye on your child 24/7

21. Encouraging your children to be friends with the right crowd

22. Getting into a routine with a new baby

23. Trying to stop children spending too much time in front of a computer/TV

24. Bed-wetting

25. Getting a toddler to stay in bed

26. Getting time off work when your children are ill

27. Your child?s first day at nursery/pre-school

28. Your child?s first ever day at school

29. Teaching them the value of money

30. Dealing with other people?s opinions on your parenting skills

31. Having to answer constant questions, even when you don?t really know the answer

32. Keeping a lid on bad language

33. Getting to school on time

34. Other competitive mums

35. Helping children to take the right path through their education

36. Keeping your children in clothes that fit when they outgrow things so quickly

37. Teaching them that fighting and hitting is wrong

38. Finding time to do your child?s reading homework every night

39. Keeping an eye on what your children are looking at online/watching on TV etc

40. Children sitting exams

41. Trying to convince doctors to listen and take you seriously

42. Your child?s first day at secondary school

43. Leaving your children with a babysitter for the first time

44. Remembering to fill in all school paperwork

45. Preventing children from smoking

46. Explaining birth, life and death

47. The Birds and the bees chat

48. Coping when you?re child?s first pet has died and knowing what to say

49. Knowing how to react when they use their first swear word

50. Clingy children

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How to keep your child happy

How to keep your child happy

How to keep your child happy with £6 worth of toys: Youngsters are better off with odds and ends than expensive gadgetsxbox joke

By Laura Clark

 

The next time your child pesters you for the latest expensive toy, direct them towards the stationery drawer.

While parents are spending thousands of pounds on hi-tech gadgets to entertain their children, experts say they would be better off giving them an old-fashioned box of odds and ends.

They have come up with a list of eight items, worth £6.12, which they say will stimulate children?s imaginations and be better for their development.

Their conclusion may come as a relief to cash-strapped parents.

In a report on the effect of the modern world on children?s play, child development experts found that the average family spends £10,021 on toys before a child turns 18.

Parents with two children therefore spend more than £20,000 ? enough for a deposit on a house.

By contrast, the report?s ?pocket playground? contains eight low-cost items: Coloured embroidery threads, coloured paper, drawing pencils, wooden shapes or building blocks, Plasticine, beads, cardboard pieces and toy figures.

It can be adapted for at least 50 activities, ranging from making friendship bracelets to building castles.

In the report, Sally Goddard Blythe, a neuropsychologist, said there was now ?less play that develops gross and fine motor skills, less robust, physical play experiences and less social interaction and communication?.

Screen-based activities now ?dominate?, with television, DVDs and electronic gadgets emerging as the most popular forms of entertainment.

It means children may be less likely to develop problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, dexterity and creativity. Only one in 20 older girls, for example, ever make anything with a kit, such as a model plane.

The trend for children to play with expensive toys ? rather than household items or things they have found ? starts as early as three, the report said. These can include toddler-sized motorised cars or mini tablet computers.

Mrs Goddard Blythe, of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, said parents were ?seduced into thinking that the more they spend, the better their parenting?.

In fact, exploratory play using cheap multi-purpose items is far more beneficial to children?s development than costly toys and gadgets, she said.

The report, commissioned by the makers of Ribena Plus, found that advertising, competitive parenting and peer pressure on children were driving parents to spend more and more on toys.

Despite this, of the 2,004 parents polled, 71 per cent said they thought their own low-tech ?simpler? childhoods were more fun. But 17 per cent said they felt like ?not a good enough parent? if they could not afford to buy their child the latest craze.

Stimulating: Some simple and inexpensive toys, including coloured pencils, enable children to develop with imagination where hi-tech gadgets fail

Hours of fun: Experts found simple items such as embroidery threads, left, can keep children better entertained than the latest expensive hi-tech gadgets

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12 Top Tips: Control TV Watching in Your Children

12 Top Tips: Control TV Watching in Your Children
by PARENTS FOR HEALTH TEAM on JULY 18, 2012
By parentsforhealth.org

 

The average child will spend almost 9 years of their life in front of the telly! Too much TV is bad for health, increasing risk for obesity & type 2 diabetes
Children who watch too much television have disrupted sleep patterns, do less well in school, and have an increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

If you?re worried about how much telly your family is watching, this article should help you to take control over your kids? viewing habits.

 

1. Get the TV out of the Bedroom!

Having a TV in the bedroom may keep your kids quiet, but you lose control over what and how much they watch. A recent study found that children who had a TV in their bedroom watched more TV and performed worse in school tests.

If your child already has a TV in their bedroom, you may have a job on your hands to get it out. We recommend that you just remove the TV and explain your reasons to your child. Be prepared for protests, but remember that you are acting in the best interests of your child, and that you are the boss!

 

2. Don?t have the TV on in the Background

If no-one?s watching it, turn the telly off! TV has an amazing effect on us. We instinctively pay attention to moving images, so when a television is on it is difficult to concentrate on other things. Remember, the ?off? button is there for a reason.

 

3. Don?t Allow Unsupervised Access

Do you really know what the kids are watching? Many studies have shown that children can be exposed to violent and sexual imagery that is inappropriate for their age. Keep track of what your kids are watching, and avoid having loads of TV sets around the house.

 

4. Agree Programmes

Buy a TV guide, and agree in advance which programmes your children will watch. This won?t take long, and will save your children from hours of zombie-like channel surfing. Most Sunday newspapers have a weekly TV guide included. Set rules for acceptable programmes together, and develop a list of programmes to be watched.

 

5. Agree TV Time

Agree with your children how much time the family will spend watching TV during the week. Remember to be firm during the negotiations. Your kids need to know that you are the boss ? much easier with younger children.

If your children are massive telly addicts, you will need to reduce their screen time gradually. The most important thing for telly addicts is to replace TV time with something else, so you might need to think about active hobbies for your kids.

 

6. Assess the Situation

Keep a TV log for a week, and work out how much time you and your children spend in front of the box. Just write down the number of hours of TV you?ve watched ? you may find this surprising.

 

7. Record Programmes

Record movies and programmes that you like, and watch them at convenient times. This can help to minimise the effect that TV has on your family?s sleeping and eating patterns.

 

8. Discuss the Plan

Explain to your children the reason why too much TV is a bad idea, and get their opinions. This is crucial, since you want your children to develop good TV habits that they will take with them into adulthood. Don?t be too dictatorial, and explain your actions. Your children will get into the habit of being discerning viewers.

You?re the boss, and you need to take a lead, but you have to bring your children with you. If your children are very young, this will not be a problem ? they will just accept your rules as being normal.

 

9. Encourage Rebellion!

Your kids are going to rebel against something so why not make this rebellion a positive process? Point out to your child or young adult that the TV keeps them passive and under control. Your children probably won?t like the idea of being passive zombies controlled by others.

 

10. Cut the Cable?

?or get rid of the dish. Why not get rid of your satellite TV and with the money you save, rent the odd movie that you?re really keen on? You?ll be able to watch your movie at a more convenient time, you won?t be bombarded with adverts, and you will probably save money.

 

11. TV Dinners

Don?t eat in front of the telly! When you are looking at the box, you find it harder to keep track of how full you are. For this reason people tend to overeat when they are watching television.

When children routinely eat meals in front of the TV they are more likely to become overweight. The odd bit of popcorn during a movie is OK, but in general don?t let your family eat meals in front of the TV.

 

12. Keep Perspective

You don?t have to ditch the TV completely, although believe it or not some people take this option and live perfectly normal lives. TV isn?t all bad?you can see great movies, there are fantastic educational documentaries, and there are great comedy and entertainment shows. Just make sure that you control the TV, and the TV doesn?t control you!

 

Are YOU A Telly Addict?

If we parents watch too much TV, our children will too. Some scientists think that you can become literally addicted to TV. If you find yourself doing any of the following, maybe it?s time to cut back on your own TV habit:

You cut short social events to go home and watch TV
You watch television out of habit, not interest
You turn the TV on in the morning, and leave it on all day
You channel-surf
You cut short intimate time with your partner to watch a TV show

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Winter Snow Man Ideas

Winter Snow Man Ideas

Popcorn Snowmen

By www.familyfun.go.com

popcorn-snowmen-recipe-photo-260-1195-FF11007X


It’s tons of fun and a perfect indoor activity that kids can munch on once they’re done!
Ingredients
15 cups popped popcorn
1 stick of butter or margarine
Two 10 oz. packages marshmallows
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Pretzel sticks
Raisins
Candy corn
Mini jawbreakers
Gumdrops or red hots
Fruit leather

 

Instructions
1. Put the popcorn in your largest mixing bowl and set aside. Melt the butter or margarine in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat. Add all the marshmallows to the pan, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until they’re completely melted. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir to coat evenly. As soon as the marshmallow is cool enough to touch, rub a little butter or margarine in your hands and make popcorn balls (about 1 cup of popcorn per ball).
2. Build and decorate your snowmen on sheets of waxed paper. For each one, stack three popcorn balls atop each other. Push pretzel-stick arms into the sides of the middle popcorn ball. Add raisins for eyes and a candy corn for a nose. Arrange a row of mini jawbreakers into a broad grin. For buttons on the snowman’s chest, use gumdrops or red hots.
3. If your popcorn balls aren’t sticky enough to hold the decorations, mix up a small batch of stiff white icing by adding water, a few drops at a time, to 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and stirring until smooth. Use this to glue the candy in place. For snowmen’s scarves, cut rectangles out of fruit leather and fringe the ends. Makes 5 snowmen.

 

Pom-pom Snowmenpom-pom-snowmen-winter-craft-photo

 

You can easily build a whole bunch of these no-melt snowmen no matter what the weather in your area.

Materials
Needle
Thread
White pom-poms in 2 sizes: 1-1/2 inches and 1 inch
Colored felt
1/4-inch jump rings
Glue
Orange felt
Black fabric paint
Yarn
String

 

Instructions
1. For each one, thread a needle with a 2-foot length of thread, then double it and knot the end. For the snowman’s body and head, pass the needle through the centers of 3 white pom-poms: first a 1-1?2-inch pom-pom, then two 1-inch pom-poms.
2. To add a hat, sew through the centers of a 1-1?2-inch circle of colored felt and a matching 1-inch pom-pom. Slip the needle through a 1?4-inch jump ring (found in the beading aisle of craft stores), then secure the snowman by scrunching the parts together slightly and sewing back through the hat and the head. Tie the thread to itself between the two 1-inch white pom-poms and trim any excess.
3. Glue on a small orange felt triangle for a nose and add dots of black fabric paint for a face and buttons. Finally, tie on a yarn scarf and a loop of string for a hanger.

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6 Winter warm drinks

6 Winter Warm Drinks


Hot Lemonade

 

As kids, we’d be so eager for lemonade that we’d try to speed the process by melting frozen Minute Maid in boiling water, leading us to discover hot lemonade. Nowadays we go natural, thanks to this preparation.

 

1/2 lemon
2?3 tsp. sugar or honey
Sprig of mint (optional)
Paper-thin slice of ginger

1. Pour lemon juice and sugar or honey to a cup of hot water, then add mint sprig of ginger (if using).

 

Hot Cranberry Drink


Ingredients
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
6 cups water, divided
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup red cinnamon candies
7 whole cloves
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

 

Directions
1. In a saucepan, cook cranberries in 2 cups water until they pop. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving juice and discarding skins; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, candies, cloves and remaining water. Cook until candies are dissolved. Add orange and lemon juices and reserved cranberry juice; heat though. Remove cloves. Serve hot.

Hot Cranberry Cider

This simmering berry-and-apple drink was created by Land O Lakes for a Halloween gathering but I think it sounds like a great tailgating drink for this weekend’s game between the Patriots and Redskins. Don’t forget the hot cups!

 

HOT BUTTERED CRANBERRY CIDER

 

5 cups apple cider or apple juice
4 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons honey
Cinnamon sticks, if desired

 

Combine apple cider, cranberry juice cocktail and cinnamon stick in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil (8 to 10 minutes). Continue cooking until heated through and flavors are blended (8 to 10 minutes).

Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick; discard. Add butter and honey; stir until butter melts.

To serve, ladle into heated mugs. Garnish with cinnamon stick, if desired.

 

Cherry Cordial Hot Chocolate


5 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 cups chocolate syrup
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice, divided
1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
maraschino cherry, with stems

 

Directions:
1 Heat the milk, half-and-half, chocolate syrup, and 7 tablespoons cherry juice in a large pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
2 Beat whipping cream using an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar and remaining cherry juice; beat until soft peaks form. 3 Pour hot chocolate into mugs and serve with whipped cream on top; garnish with a cherry.

 

Caramel Milk recipe


2 cups milk
5 tbsppacked brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Pour milk into microwave-safe, medium glass bowl. Heat on HIGH (100% power) in microwave until hot, about 80 to 90 seconds.

Carefully pour milk into 2 mugs. Stir half of the brown sugar and vanilla extract into each mug.

 

Hot Caramel Apple Cider

 

Winter weather coming your way? Do not be afraid. Arm yourself with apple cider, caramel, and whipped cream; you are ready to battle the nasty weather.

 

This drink is one of the simplest hot drinks to make this season. What you want from the apple cider is to get one that is fresh, just pressed, and from a mix variety of apples. The next time you drive through an orchard, do not leave without a gallon of fresh apple cider. Keep one in the fridge for a at home luxurious indulgence. Besides making hot apple cider, the cider can be used for making donuts, candy caramels, and everything else tasty. But that is another story?

Serve 4-6
24 ounces fresh apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons caramel syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Caramel sauce for drizzling

Heat apple cider in medium saucepan until quite hot but not boiling. Add the caramel syrup. Whip heavy cream with the sugar until stiff peak. Ladle the cider into some mugs, top with sweetened whipped cream, drizzle some caramel sauce. Enjoy!

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Your Toddler’s Dry Skin

Your Toddler’s Dry Skin

By www.whattoexpect.com

 

Whether your tot’s skin is scratchy all the time or she just hits the occasional rough patch, here’s what to do about dry skin in toddlers.

 

Your toddler?s skin may be supersoft (and oh-so-kissable) most of the time, but it?s bound to get dry now and again. And for some tots, dry may be their complexion?s default setting ? they?re just naturally predisposed to dry skin or other skin conditions. But there are plenty of other culprits that might contribute to your toddler?s dry skin, like sitting too long in the tub or splashing too long in the pool, being outside in cold weather and inside in dry heat, as well as sensitivity to chemicals and fragrances in some soaps and lotions. Toddler teething-induced drool and irritating foods that end up smeared across those apple cheeks can also trigger a rough patch. Don’t know what to do about dry skin? Fortunately, there are lots of simple toddler grooming strategies that?ll help restore the smooth, silky skin little kids are famous for. Start with these:

 

Keep baths short and sweet. Even though water is?well?wet, too much time in the tub can actually be drying, so skip those hour-long soaks. To heal already-dry skin, abbreviate bath time even more or skip it altogether if your tot?s not majorly messy. (A quick wipe-up with a washcloth may be enough for non-bath days.)

 

Get soap-smart. It?s hard to resist the temptation of sweet-smelling soaps or the promise of a cleaner clean, but a cleanser that?s soap-free and fragrance-free is best to retain moisture in your toddler?s dry skin. You don?t need gobs to get the job done ? a little goes a long way. And remember not to scrub kids clean, but to wash gently and pat (not rub) dry with a soft towel.

 

Hydrate on the inside (drink water!). Though sitting in water will make a toddler?s dry skin worse, drinking it has the opposite effect, so be sure your tot takes in plenty of H2O. It?s especially important ? for dry skin and otherwise ? to load the little one up on water when it?s hot out, if your child?s been ill, or if she?s just been weaned. And don?t forget that a nutritious diet full of healthy meals is also important for a good complexion (for tots and grown-ups), especially one that includes some healthy fats like avocados and salmon.

 

Hydrate on the outside (moisturize!). Moisturizers can be enormously helpful in preventing and treating your toddler?s dry skin. For kids with very dry or sensitive skin, stick to products that contain both water and oils but not fragrances or too many chemical additives. Brands like Eucerin, Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Lubriderm, Aveeno, Moisturel, and Neutrogena tend to work well, but just as with your own moisturizing regimen, what you use depends on how well each individual?s skin responds, so be prepared to change it up if necessary. For the best results, apply moisturizer after the bath when your child?s skin is still slightly damp, and slather it on again as needed. (Can’t figure out what to do about dry skin with particularly rough patches or hard-to heal cases? Use a super-emollient ointment instead of lotion or cream.)

 

Don?t overheat the house. Winter weather is public-enemy number one for parched skin because of the big dip in temperatures (low temps lead to chapped skin) and the chilly winds a-blowing (ditto on the wind). To combat the cold, you may be tempted to make your house super toasty with a turbo-blast of heat, but it’s not what to do about dry skin. Overheated air can dry out skin even more. Keep the house comfy but cool enough that your child will want to bundle up a bit for sleep, and her skin (and yours too, for that matter) will thank you.

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7 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

7 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

By www.parents.com

 

What can you do to protect your child from the endless array of germs and viruses he’s exposed to every day? Unfortunately, in some ways, getting sick when you’re a kid is simply part of the job description. “We all enter this world with an inexperienced immune system,” says Charles Shubin, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland, in Baltimore. Slowly, children prime their immunity by battling an ongoing series of germs, viruses, and other organisms — which is why many pediatricians consider six to eight colds, bouts of flu, or ear infections per year normal. But there are healthy habits you can adopt that will give your child’s immune system a boost.

 

1. Serve more fruits and vegetables. Carrots, green beans, oranges, strawberries: They all contain such immunity-boosting phytonutrients as vitamin C and carotenoids, says William Sears, M.D., author of The Family Nutrition Book (Little Brown, 1999). Phytonutrients may increase the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferon, an antibody that coats cell surfaces, blocking out viruses. Studies show that a diet rich in phytonutrients can also protect against such chronic diseases as cancer and heart disease in adulthood. Try to get your child to eat five servings of fruits and veggies a day. (A serving is about two tablespoons for toddlers, 1¼ cup for older kids.)

 

2. Boost sleep time. Studies of adults show that sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing natural killer cells, immune-system weapons that attack microbes and cancer cells. The same holds true for children, says Kathi Kemper, M.D., director of the Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research at Children’s Hospital, in Boston. Children in day care are particularly at risk for sleep deprivation because all the activity can make it difficult for them to nap. How much sleep do kids need? A newborn may need up to 18 hours of cribtime a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours. “If your child can’t or won’t take naps during the day, try to put her to bed earlier,” says Dr. Kemper.

 

3. Breast-feed your baby. Breast milk contains turbo-charged immunity-enhancing antibodies and white blood cells. Nursing guards against ear infections, allergies, diarrhea, pneumonia, meningitis, urinary-tract infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. Studies show that it may also enhance your baby’s brain power and help protect her against insulin-dependent diabetes, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and certain forms of cancer later in life. Colostrum, the thin yellow “premilk” that flows from the breasts during the first few days after birth, is especially rich in disease-fighting antibodies, says Dr. Shubin. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breast-feed for a year. If this commitment isn’t realistic, aim to breast-feed for at least the first two to three months in order to supplement the immunity your baby received in utero.

 

4. Exercise as a family. Research shows that exercise increases the number of natural killer cells in adults — and regular activity can benefit kids in the same way, says Ranjit Chandra, M.D., a pediatric immunologist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. To get your children into a lifelong fitness habit, be a good role model. “Exercise with them rather than just urge them to go outside and play,” says Renee Stucky, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Missouri Medical School. Fun family activities include bike riding, hiking, in-line skating, basketball, and tennis.

 

5. Guard against germ spread. Fighting germs doesn’t technically boost immunity, but it’s a great way to reduce stress on your child’s immune system. Make sure your kids wash their hands often — and with soap. You should pay particular attention to their hygiene before and after each meal and after playing outside, handling pets, blowing their nose, using the bathroom, and arriving home from day care. When you’re out, carry disposable wipes with you for quick cleanups. To help kids get into the hand-washing habit at home, let them pick out their own brightly colored hand towels and soap in fun shapes, colors, and scents.

 

Another key germ-busting strategy: “If your child does get sick, throw out her toothbrush right away,” says Barbara Rich, D.D.S., a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. A child can’t catch the same cold or flu virus twice, but the virus can hop from toothbrush to toothbrush, infecting other family members. If it’s a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, however, your child can reinfect herself with the same germs that got her sick in the first place. In that case, tossing the toothbrush protects both your child and the rest of your family.

 

6. Banish secondhand smoke. If you or your spouse smokes, quit. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 toxins, most of which can irritate or kill cells in the body, says Beverly Kingsley, Ph.D., an epidemiologist with the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta. Kids are more susceptible than adults to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke because they breathe at a faster rate; a child’s natural detoxification system is also less developed. Secondhand smoke increases a child’s risk of SIDS, bronchitis, ear infections, and asthma. It may also affect intelligence and neurological development. If you absolutely can’t quit smoking, you can reduce your child’s health risks considerably by smoking only outside the house, Dr. Kingsley says.

 

7. Don’t pressure your pediatrician. Urging your pediatrician to write a prescription for an antibiotic whenever your child has a cold, flu, or sore throat is a bad idea. Antibiotics treat only illnesses caused by bacteria, “but the majority of childhood illnesses are caused by viruses,” says Howard Bauchner, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine.

 

Studies show, however, that many pediatricians prescribe antibiotics somewhat reluctantly at the urging of parents who mistakenly think it can’t hurt. In fact, it can. Strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have flourished as a result, and a simple ear infection is more difficult to cure if it’s caused by stubborn bacteria that don’t respond to standard treatment. Whenever your child’s pediatrician wants to prescribe an antibiotic, make sure she isn’t prescribing it solely because she thinks you want it. “I strongly encourage parents to say, ‘Do you think it’s really necessary?’ ” Dr. Bauchner says.

 

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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