Moms aren't expected to have everything magically figured out by the time their child turns 5, but there are certain things that pediatricians want parents to know by the time their child starts kindergarten. Don't get me wrong, doctors are great resources, but moms and dads should be expected to take an active role in their child's health and well-being throughout their lives. Doctors can preach about car seat safety all day, but it's the parents who are buying the seat and strapping their kids in. Pediatricians can give dietary advice until they're blue in the face, but they're not the ones making the meals every night.
The point is, parents need to ask questions, do their research, and make wise decisions for the sake of their children. Learn CPR, keep the number for poison control on your fridge, sign your child up for swimming lessons. Arm yourself with valuable, trusted information from medical professionals and take this parenting bull by the horns. Not every medical situation requires a trip to the ER or a frantic call to the pediatrician's office. Pediatricians can answer parents' questions, but what they do with that information is up to them.
Here are 20 things pediatricians want moms to know by the time their child turns five.
20 A Fever Isn't Dangerous
First-time parents often freak out when their little one gets a high fever, but unless your child is three months or younger, a high fever isn't always dangerous. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic number at which a temperature becomes too high (105 degrees doesn't immediately lead to a febrile seizure, for example).
"We advocate treating fever to decrease the chances of dehydration and to make a child feel better, but a temperature that doesn't lower to normal range with the administration of antifever medications is no more dangerous than one that does,"
says Dr. Sarah Dumond, a pediatrician and a mother herself.
19 There Is No Healthy Juice
We've all seen the "healthy" juice box options in the stores (Honest Kids, for example), but all juice is packed with sugar no matter how natural or organic it is. According to a study published in Pediatrics, children who drank at least one sugary drink per day were 43% more likely to become obese than children who drank less on average or none at all. “Juice is just like soda,” says pediatric obesity specialist Robert Lustig. “There is no difference.”
In the end, all children should be drinking more water. According to the results of a new study from researchers at Harvard, more than half of the nation's children and teens are dehydrated (and 25% don't drink water at all).
18 Vaccinations Are SAFE and NECESSARY
Many parents express concerns about vaccine safety, but vaccines are proven to save lives and protect against the spread of disease.
Thanks to vaccinations, some of the most devastating diseases that affect children have been greatly reduced or eliminated completely.
Every parent needs to base their decision to vaccinate on scientific facts rather than stories they've heard on TV, the internet, or word-of-mouth. All vaccines are licensed by the FDA and tested to ensure quality and safety. Any side effects are monitored and reported to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) by doctors, the FDA and the CDC.
17 Reading To Your Kid Is Important
According to the American Academy Of Pediatrics, parents should read aloud to their infants every day and continue to do so at least until their children enter kindergarten. “Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” the academy’s report said. That, in turn, “builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”
Pediatricians recommend reading because it works, it's simple, and it has lasting, long term health benefits for children. Unfortunately, 40% of children do not get a daily dose of reading.
16 Teach Kids To Wash Their Hands The Right Way
“Frequent hand washing with soap and water is the best way to limit the spread of infectious illnesses between household members,” says Jack Maypole, MD, a primary-care pediatrician, member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School, and director of the Comprehensive Care Program at Boston Medical Center.
In other words, hand sanitizer or a quick rinse in the sink just isn't going to cut it when it comes to preventing illnesses.
“In my family, we say, ‘Front, back, fingertips, fingertips, in between, and all around’ while washing to make sure we cover every part of the hands,” says Katherine O’Connor, MD, a pediatric hospital medicine doctor at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, NY.
15 Consider The Flu Shot
While the CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, it’s particularly important for kids ages 4 and under. Although pediatricians hope that parents will be familiar (and comfortable) with the flu vaccine by the time their child turns five, the flu shot is still hotly debated among parents.
“First of all, the flu shot is not a live vaccine, so it’s impossible to catch the flu from it,” says Katherine O’Connor, MD. “My three kids have all received the vaccine annually since they were 6 months old, and fortunately — whether it’s because of the shot or just pure luck — none of them have gotten the flu.”
14 Create And Keep Routines
Establishing daily routines is strongly encouraged by pediatricians, particularly before a child reaches kindergarten. Not only do routines set rules and expectations, children also flourish when they know what to expect. Important morning routines include using the bathroom, brushing their teeth, getting dressed and eating breakfast. Night time routines (or "rituals," as some people call them) often involve taking a bath, brushing their teeth, and reading a story.
When these routines are in place before the age of five, it makes kindergarten a much easier transition.
Daily routines can offer stability, help with bonding, decrease anxiety, build confidence and encourage independence.
13 Encourage Independence
Any parent will tell you how maddening it can be to wait for their child to put on their own shoes or manage their own bath, but pediatricians say that practicing a certain amount of independence is extremely important for a child (particularly before they start school). Yes, it's faster and more efficient to do it yourself, but it's crucial for them to master certain routines on their own. Ask your child to dress themselves, for example, or practice tying their own shoes. Even if it doesn't get done correctly, independence comes with practice and guidance (and a lot of encouragement from you).
12 Every Child Learns Differently
We've all met those moms who truly believe their child is the next Einstein because they walked at nine months or talked in full sentences at one year, but how quickly children reach certain milestones has absolutely no bearing on how intelligent they are. Hitting milestones (like walking, talking, or reading) can be influenced by a variety of different factors, including temperament, natural strengths, siblings, environment, premature birth, etc.
Most of the time, kids who are slow to develop in one area catch up just fine.
Also keep in mind that there are seven different types of learning: visual, aural, physical, verbal, logical, solitary and social.
11 Kids Need A Good Night's Sleep
Pediatricians want parents of babies and children (and even teens) to know that kids need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development. Unfortunately most parents don't know just how many hours kids require, and their kids are losing out on more sleep than they realize. It's also important to remember that unlike their parents, drowsy children don't slow down, they wind-up (making exhaustion hard to spot). As a rule, infants need 12-15 hours, toddlers need 11-14, preschoolers need 10-13, and school-age children need 9-11.
10 Children Learn Through Play
Parents should never underestimate the value of play time!
Playing pretend or playing with puzzles can help children develop their cognitive skills, physical abilities, vocabulary, social skills and literacy skills.
While playing "pretend restaurant," for example, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and make out checks. Play time has also been proven to reduce stress in children by providing a much-needed outlet for anxiety and stress. In addition to all these benefits, play time gets children off the couch and into the fresh air where they can burn off some of their excess energy. Don't limit their play time, encourage it!
9 Healthy Eating Habits Start Early
Trust me, there's a good reason pediatricians ask parents about their child's meals during every check-up! Healthy eating helps children maintain a healthy composition, improves their learning capacity, stabilizes their mood and energy levels, and even helps prevent certain mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety and ADHD). Healthy eating habits are also one of the simplest and most important ways to prevent the onset of disease in adulthood, so it's important to start healthy eating habits early. Buy apples instead of fruit snacks, for example, since they are more effective than coffee at waking you up in the morning (it's true). All kids should be eating a variety of fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and a variety of protein and oils.
8 Have An Appropriate Carseat
Everyone makes a big deal out of car seat safety for babies, but toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children all need the right car seat as well. Keeping your child safe while you're driving is one of the biggest responsibilities you have as a parent, no matter what their age.
The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including your child's age, size, and developmental needs.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children whose weight or height exceeds the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 through 12 years of age.
7 Teach Your Child How To Swim
Water-related accidents happen, and sometimes they can be serious, so it's extremely important that you teach your child how to swim (preferably before the age of five). 80% of water-related incidents happen right in front of the parents, but there's an 88% reduction in risk if the child takes swimming lessons, so it's definitely worth the investment.
Swimming also builds endurance, muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness and provides an all-over body workout. One Australian study even reported that kids who swim are more advanced than their non-swimming counterparts. Research revealed that 3-to 5-year-olds who took swimming lessons scored higher in mathematics, reading, oral expression, story recall, visual motor skills (cutting paper and drawing shapes and lines), and understanding directions. Pretty impressive, right?
6 Limit Screen Time
According to a study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, limiting kids' recreational screen time to less than two hours a day, along with sufficient sleep and physical activity, is associated with improved cognition.
Not only that, but a scientific statement published by the American Heart Association says that smartphones, tablets, TVs and other screen-based devices are making kids more sedentary (which is contributing to childhood obesity). The American Academy of Pediatrics have guidelines in place to help with the management of children's screen time, suggesting setting guidelines, knowing who your child is talking to, knowing what they are doing, and encouraging physical playtime and creating "tech-free zones," such as bedrooms.
5 How To Deal With Poisoning
Children can get very sick if they come in contact with medicines, household products, pesticides, chemicals, etc., so quick action is necessary. If your child comes into contact with one of these products, don't waste valuable time calling your pediatrician and possibly getting put on hold. Trust me, they would just tell you to call poison control anyway (I've been there when my daughter decided she loved the taste of children's Tylenol).
The toll-free nationwide number is 1-800-222-1222. Feel free to call even if you're unsure if it's harmful at all (they'll tell you), and definitely don't wait until your child is having symptoms. If they're not breathing, having seizures, or are unresponsive, call 911.
4 Avoid Google
We've all done it, both with ourselves and with our children. Oh, your kid has a rash? According to Google, they may only have 9-12 hours to live! *Cue frantic call to the pediatrician*
'The reality is you’ll never stop parents looking up their child’s symptoms. But if you're worried, print out what you’ve read and take it to your GP," advises Dr. Stephen Rose, a consultant pediatrician at Spire Parkway Hospital.
"Parents are looking at it from a standpoint of limited medical knowledge. At least the doctor can look at it with you and go through it."
If you do insist on dramatically increasing your anxiety level by googling symptoms, at least make sure you're on a reputable website with accurate information.
3 Germs Can Be A Good Thing
Don't get me wrong, pediatricians aren't suggesting that children forego washing their hands properly, but trying to keep kids and their toys too clean could actually be a bad thing.
"I specialize in allergies and there is the hygiene hypothesis – that there are more allergies now because children aren’t exposed to as wide a variety of viruses and bacteria that they used to be,"
says pediatrician Dr. Murtuza Khan, from Doctify. ‘This means our immune system is responding in a skewed way – in an allergic way, rather than treating it as an infection. For example, if your child has eczema there’s evidence that giving them a bath every day could worsen it."
2 Antibiotics Aren't Always The Answer
According to Dr. Kahn, "resistance to antibiotics is a huge, global problem and we should all work towards reducing the use of unnecessary antibiotics."
Sure, we all want our kids to feel better immediately, but antibiotics aren't always needed. Pediatricians often prescribe antibiotics to appease parents, but the more often a child takes an antibiotic, the greater the chance that a resistant strain will colonize in their system.
Antibiotics can also have terrible side effects, including diarrhea, thrush, and, in some cases, severe allergic reactions. Children who take broad-spectrum antibiotics (meaning those that target a wide variety of bacteria) four or more times before age 2 are 16% more likely to be obese by age 5, according to the online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.
1 Routine Check-Ups Are Important
Your child might be the healthiest kid on the planet, but routine yearly check-ups are STILL very important.
Check-ups are there to pick up on issues that might potentially have more long-lasting problems, even if they aren't necessarily causing the child difficulty at the time (detecting scoliosis early, for example).
Yearly check-ups are also a great way to make sure your child is up-to-date on all of their vaccinations and is growing at an appropriate rate in comparison to their peers. Well-visits are also a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have and are usually 100% covered by insurance.