Every parent wants to give their kids the best start in life. We know that healthy kids are most likely to become healthy adults. In this difficult time of the pandemic, when everything feels so topsy-turvy, how do you keep your kids healthy and happy? Basically, you do what you have always done – provide healthy food, keep them active, and be aware of what is going on in their lives.
Here are some stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- 20.6% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have obesity.
- 1 in 4 students has a chronic condition, such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.
- 31.2% of high school students use at least one tobacco product. This includes vaping with a product that contains nicotine. In addition, about 12 of every 100 middle school students currently use a tobacco product.
- Less than half of children aged 6 to 11 have dental sealants on their back teeth to help prevent cavities.
Good health begins at the beginning
What is a parent to do? Begin at the beginning says Cindy Gilliam, OB Educator with The Medical Center at Bowling Green. “Staying healthy during pregnancy by eating a balanced diet of nutritious food and being active is a great way to start these kid’s lives,” she says. “These healthy habits could also make for better labor and breastfeeding, especially during the pandemic. Breastmilk contains great antibodies to help keep your baby’s immune system strong.”
Med Center Health offers a Newborn Care and Safety Class that will help parents learn important baby skills. They can also discuss safety issues for newborns. The class includes a demonstration of infant CPR and what to do in an emergency. You can find the next class at MedCenterHealth.org/events.
One of the best ways parents can protect their kids from a variety of different diseases is to get them vaccinated. The CDC offers an easy-to-follow online schedule of when to get kids vaccinated and why. You can find it at CDC.gov/vaccines/parents.
- Birth to 6 Years – you can protect your kids from many different viruses, including hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, influenza, tetanus, whooping cough and others.
- 7 to 18 Years – older kids benefit from vaccinations against the flu, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, human papillomavirus (HPV), meningitis, pneumonia, hepatitis A and B, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.
If your children missed their usual vaccines because of the pandemic, it’s important to talk with your pediatrician about getting them caught up. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your kids’ vaccinations. You can get a vaccine tracking card from your child’s doctor or your state health department. You can also ask your doctor or school to enter your child’s vaccinations in the Kentucky Immunization Registry.
“Missed childhood vaccinations are a major concern during this COVID pandemic,” says Suman Shekar, M.D., with Med Center Health Primary Care. “A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield analysis indicates childhood vaccinations have decreased by 26%. This would put our children at a potential risk for another major disease with the pandemic already going on. It’s important to not risk going to the hospital for vaccine-preventable diseases while the pandemic is occurring.”
Healthy lifestyle, healthy kids
Obesity among children is increasing at an alarming rate. Inactivity, too much snacking and stress are just a few things that can lead to children gaining weight. Med Center Health offers a class just for kids on how to stay healthy. The Kids Be Healthy Class offers ways for healthy eating, plenty of sleep, regular exercise and stress management. The class is for kids ages 6-16. A parent or guardian is required to attend. Check MedCenterHealth.org/events for the next available class or call The Medical Center Health & Wellness at 270-745-0942.
“Raising healthy, happy kids is a dream for all parents,” says Sarah Widener, Director of Community Wellness with Med Center Health. “Each child is different in what they need day-to-day, but the basics are still there. Good sleep habits, physical activity and healthy eating are the places to start. Whether you’re making big changes or small changes in daily activities for a healthier lifestyle, talk to your child about why it’s important to make and maintain these habits.”
Be a role model
One of the best ways to keep your kids healthy is to model healthy behavior for them. If you eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and lead an active life, chances are your kids will follow your example to become healthy adults.