Overweight Children: Advice For Parents

If your child is overweight, there’s lots you can do to help them become a healthy weight as they grow.

mother-and-daughter-unhealthy-snackingAs a parent, it can sometimes be difficult to tell that your child is overweight. A child may not look particularly heavy to be overweight. And, because more children are becoming heavier at a younger age, we’ve become used to seeing bigger children.

There’s a lot you can now do to help your child reach a healthy weight.

Research shows that children who achieve a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and more self-confident. They’re also less likely to have low self esteem and be bullied. And they’re much less likely to have health problems in later life.

As a parent, there’s lots you can do to help your child become a healthier weight. Getting them to be more active and eat well is important. Here’s lots of practical advice to help you.

Steps for success

Here are five key ways you can help your child maintain a healthy weight. You can read this whole page or click on the links below to go directly to the topic you want to know about:

1. Be a good role model

One of the best ways to instil good habits in your child is for you to be a good role model. Children learn by example. One of the most powerful ways to encourage your child to be active and eat well is to do so yourself.

Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV, or surfing the internet. Playing in the park or swimming with your children shows them that being active is fun, and it’s a great way for you all to spend time together.

2. Get active

Overweight children don’t need to do more exercise than slimmer children. Their extra body weight means they will naturally burn more calories for the same activity.

All children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for good health, but it doesn’t need to be all at once. Several short 10-minute or even 5-minute bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as good as an hour-long stretch.

For younger children, it can take the form of active play, such as ball games, chasing games like “it” and “tag”, riding a scooter, and using playground swings, climbing frames and see-saws.

For older children it could include riding a bike, skateboarding, walking to school, skipping, swimming, dancing and martial arts.

Walking or cycling short distances instead of using the car or bus is a great way to be active together as a family – and you’ll save money too.

3. Child-size portions

Try to avoid feeding your child over-sized portions.

There’s very little official guidance on precisely how much food children require so you’ll need to use your own judgement.

A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they are still hungry.

Try not to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to. And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.

It may also help if you encourage your child to eat slowly and have set mealtimes. You can use mealtimes as an opportunity to catch up on what’s happened during the day.

  • Explain to your child how to get the balance of their diet right using the eatwell plate. It shows how much they should eat from each food group.
  • Read more about what counts as a balanced diet.
  • Knowing the calorie content of foods can be useful. Here’s information to help you and your child understand calories
  • Get ideas for healthy packed lunches

4. Eat healthy meals

Children, just like adults, should aim to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables everyday. They’re a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Getting 5 A DAY shouldn’t be too difficult. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5 A DAY including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried. Juices, smoothies, beans and pulses also count.

Discourage your child from having too many sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals and soft drinks. These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.

Aim for your child to get most of their calories from healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice (preferably wholemeal). And switch sweet drinks for water.

5. Less screen time and more sleep!

Alongside the advice to get them moving more is the need to reduce the time they spend sitting or lying down in the day.

Help your children avoid sitting and lying around too much as this makes them more likely to put on weight.

Limit the time your child spends on inactive pastimes like watching TV, playing video games and playing on electronic devices.

There’s no hard and fast advice on how much is too much, but experts advise that children should watch no more than two hours of television each day. And remove all screens (including mobile phones) from their bedroom at night.

It also helps children stay trim if they sleep well. It’s been shown that children who don’t have the recommended amount of sleep are more likely to be overweight. The less children sleep, the greater the risk of them becoming obese. Lack of sleep can also affect their mood and behaviour.

If your child has a medical condition then the advice in this article may not be relevant and you should check first with their GP (pediatrician) or hospital doctor.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-06-2014 to 10-12-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Does the flu vaccine give you the flu? | Confessions of a Dr. Mom http://t.co/LaLICTMBU

Beyond Basics: Trick or Treat Tips from our EMS Safety Expert

halloween-kidsBreak out the costumes and face paint because it’s almost that time of year again, Halloween. While Halloween may be the superbowl Sunday for candy hungry little monsters and superhero’s, it can be a time of worry and anxiety for parents.   Aside from having to find the right costume and gear for the kids, the preparation for the activities is of the utmost importance.  The following is just a small list of things to consider before Halloween to help everyone have fun and ease some worry.

Plan to go with your child or children.  This may seem like a ”no brainer“ but it would surprise you how many people just send children out with a group.

If you are going to go in a group, try to make it a small but manageable group.  Groups with large amounts of children can get confusing and problematic, so try to keep the group ratio at 3 to 4 children per adult if possible.

Having the children carry AND wear something lit such as a flashlight, glow bracelet or necklace, or flashing attire for visibility. Light-up shoes are also practical and ever-so-noticeable on a dark Halloween night. Remember, you want them to be seen by cars driving by and you.  This goes for parents as well.  Parents should be the guides to both kids and cars passing by and that is best accomplished by being easily seen.

Adults should try and plan a route in advance and check it during the daylight for such obstacles as broken sidewalks (or no sidewalks), construction or other obstacles that could trip up trick or treaters.  Trick or treating in familiar neighborhoods or areas will make everyone more comfortable and in the event something does happen, it is always best to be in familiar surroundings.

Try to have the children wear well fitting, comfortable shoes, preferably sneakers. While adorable in the store as a costume accessory, kids planning to go trick or treat should wear sturdy shoes and not the princess high-heel, too-large boots, or other types of shoes often shown with costumes. Save those types of shoes for costume parties and not when a child is going to trick or treat. Their feet–and most likely you who may end up carrying either the shoes or the child and you – will both be thankful. Also avoiding costumes that drag on the ground can help as well. While cute initially, costumes that drag can trip up little feet, get caught on bushes, and create a tussle that sometimes results in the child wanting to remove the costume. Remember, kids who trick or treat want to be costumed AND comfortable.

The parent should always go with the child to the door to see what is being handed out (and who is doing the handing out).  If what is being handed out looks old, suspicious, or just plain wrong, then move on to the next house or Immediately remove it from your child’s stash and get rid of it or keep it for reporting if necessary.  But the most important part is that the child will not have it.

Allergies are on this list too.  If your child has food allergies, then it is critical that you inspect everything they have received and do your best to weed out possible problems before your child ingests anything.   Bringing along a child EPI-PEN can really do wonders here to give you a little more piece of mind.

Now the staples of Halloween safety will always apply to this list.

  • Only approach well lit houses,
  • Inspect ALL candy and items in your child’s bounty BEFORE they have a chance to eat it, separate it with friends or hide it somewhere.
  • Try and go at dusk before it becomes too dark and much harder to see children and
  • Try to walk and not run and
  • Always have a cell phone handy in case of emergency.

The list of tips for safety on  Halloween can go on forever and when it comes to your children, you can never be too safe, but by using some pre planning and basic safety techniques, you and your monsters, superhero’s and princesses will have a great and safe Halloween.

Halloween is Scary, But Food Allergies Don’t Have to Be

halloween-and-kids-memory-magicAs a child, there are certain times of the year that you always remember. It’s almost as if those moments are what all of your inner magic is made from. All of those fleeting moments in time are wound up into a life-long vision that helps to shape us as adults. For me, trick or treating was one of those momentous times of the year. So what happens when we try to share the same moments and traditions with our children with the added snafu of food allergies?

Fear not- I can tell you that Halloween is scary but food allergies don’t have to be. As with many other situations, there are always ways to enjoy anything while being cautious and allergy-safe. As a food allergy parent, I have learned that trying to be as mainstream as possible is very important in shaping my son’s future abilities to do anything that he wants to do safely. It can be a bit overwhelming but here are some easy tips to get you started:

  • Start out Slow- When my son was too young to grasp the entire concept of Halloween, we started off by having him help us answer the door at home. He got dressed up, he loved to see all of the other costumes and he would run to the door every single time the doorbell rang to offer out goodies. Of course, our goodies were allergy-friendly to avoid any possible reactions but it gave him the beginning notion of what Halloween was all about as well as keeping him safe. As long as he was safe and happy, so were we.
  • Choose a Costume Carefully- Think about how your child’s Halloween costume can also double-up as an allergy barrier. By adding gloves, your child will not be touching candy or goodies as they sift through the offerings. It’s an easy way to keep your child safe as well as warm not to mention budget-friendly as the gloves can be washed and reused throughout the cooler weather. And, dare I say, a bit sneaky as a proactive parent.
  • Read Your Labels- As always, label reading is a part of this process too. This also includes your child’s costume, especially if there is a latex allergy involved. Although latex is not as common as other allergies, I recommend you still be vigilant and always double-check to keep that memory as a positive experience rather than a negative one. Teaching your child at a very early age to look for possible allergens and warnings encourages them to take responsibility of their allergies. Even at the beginning stages of reading, showing your child words to avoid on labels will keep them one step ahead of a possible reaction.
  • Keep a Parent Stash- Grab a handful of some safe treats and store them in your purse or pockets. Chances are that along the Halloween route, your child will either be hungry or see other children eating and will want to do the same. You will be the superstar parent when you announce to your child that they can eat too. I know that we all try to say that it shouldn’t always be about food but sometimes, it is and sometimes for your child, it really is!
  • Don’t Forget Your Meds – This should be a given but it’s always good to remind everyone that having your necessary medications with you could be a life saver. As we all know, an allergic reaction can happen anytime, anywhere so always be prepared. In a flash, a fog machine could trigger an asthma attack, a balloon could put your child’s allergies into overload or someone could unknowingly hand them an unsafe treat. It’s also important to get your child into the habit of carrying their medications at all times so that they will do it out of habit rather than as a reminder.
  • The Big Switch- At the end of the night, you are left with a big bag of items that will most likely be unsafe for your child. This means that it’s time for mom and dad to be prepared to avoid watching your child’s heart break into two. I can recommend two options that will add to that moment I am talking about.
    • Our family has always had a special bag of items (edible and non-edible) waiting for my children when we got back home. We donate all of the items that are unsafe for our family to a local buy-back program (who donates it to our US Troops, win-win!) and my children still have plenty of things to enjoy. Most of the time, they brag to their friends that what they got is far better than what everyone else got that night. Need a starter list of what to get? Simply click here.
    • Another similar option was shared by Lisa Rutter, the founder of No Nuts Moms Group called the Halloween Fairy. Very much like the special bag ready and waiting but this also gives your children an extra bonus of magic for Halloween. And who knows, this is such a cute idea, this may even catch on with non-allergic children.

The important thing to remember is that food allergies keep you on your toes but they should never keep you sheltered. No matter how terrifying the thought is of dealing with new situations when it comes to food allergies, remember that you can find solutions most of the time. Be courageous, be willing to learn new techniques and welcome new traditions.

In the words of Erin Hanson “What if I fall? O, my darling but what if you fly?”

What to Tell Your College Kid About Smoking, Alcohol & Drugs

Studies show that students are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and take drugs than the general population.

Peer pressure, cheap student bars and the freedom of living away from home all contribute to the choices students make.

Be aware of the dangers associated with smoking, drinking and taking drugs so you can make an informed decision about the way you live your life and care for your health.

Students and alcohol

College-students-pizza-and-beerStudent life can seem to revolve around alcohol, with the student bar and local pubs often the centre of the college social scene.

Drinking in moderation is an enjoyable and usually harmless feature of student life. Getting drunk regularly can have potentially serious physical, social and academic effects. Even drinking to excess just occasionally can be damaging.

In the short term, drinking too much can impair academic performance because it affects concentration and makes you more likely to miss classes, hand in work late and do badly in exams.

It can also put you at immediate risk of serious harm, ranging from date rape to car crashes. If you’re drunk, you’re also more likely to be a victim of violence or to have unprotected sex, which carries all the associated risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.

In the longer term, regularly drinking too much can cause liver disease, an increased risk of heart attack, weight gain and a number of different cancers. These problems are now occurring at younger ages as alcohol use has increased.

The healthy choice in the short term is to take just a little extra care to protect yourself and your friends when you are going out drinking. For example, know your own limits and make sure you know how to get home safely.

If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, you should remain alcohol-free for a full 48 hours to give your body time to recover.

Over the longer term, you need to have an idea of how much you’re drinking on a regular basis, in units of alcohol, so you can keep your risks low. The NHS recommends that:

  • men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day
  • women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day

Use this alcohol tracker tool to check how much you’re drinking.

Read more about alcohol and how to cut down.

Students and smoking

As with alcohol, there can be a lot of social pressure for students to smoke.

Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It prematurely ages the skin and triples your chance of getting wrinkles around your eyes and mouth. It also causes impotence and reduced sperm count in men, and reduces fertility in women.

It can lead to gum disease, makes the body store fat around the waist and increases the risk of cellulite.

Don’t assume that smoking will help you through the stress of exams. Medical evidence shows that smoking doesn’t actually calm you down. It’s simply the case that nicotine cravings between cigarettes make you feel stressed and anxious, so when you have one you feel temporarily calm. You’ll feel less stressed once you quit and no longer have cravings.

If you’re already a smoker, becoming a student could be the ideal time to quit. Going to university or college is a fresh start and a new way of life, and this is your chance to start your new life in a positive, healthy way.

Read how the NHS can help you stop smoking.

Students and drugs

Almost half of 16 to 24 year olds in England and Wales have tried drugs at least once, most commonly cannabis. Experimenting with drugs can sometimes be presented as part of the “student experience”.

But drugs are illegal for a reason. As well as the risks to your mental and physical health, using them can make you more likely to have unprotected sex, which in turn can increase your risk of being infected with an STI and having an unplanned pregnancy.

A small but significant proportion of regular drug users can come to rely on cannabis or become addicted to drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Any such addiction can have a disastrous effect on studies and health.

The legal penalties for drug possession can be severe for some drugs. Possession of a class A drug, such as cocaine, can lead to up to seven years in prison. Also, your university will not look kindly on you if you’re arrested for drug possession. Many universities would ban you from campus, or drop you from your course.

It’s not just illegal drugs that you need to be wary of. There are legal substances for sale with potential health risks. Read more in our article about legal highs.

The best way to minimise your risk from drugs is not to use them. Failing that, find out as much information as you can about any drugs you’re using, including the risks, the potential for addiction and what happens when you mix one drug with another or with alcohol.

Read more about drugs and their effects.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-29-2014 to 10-05-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Innovative Urine Test Detects Pediatric Sleep Disorder Often Misdiagnosed as ADHD http://t.co/Re7wjjam3G