Tag Archives: childrens-health

Well-Child Visits: Foundation for a Healthy Life

A Q&A with Dr. Jamie Harms

Dr. Harms explains why children, like adults, should see their doctor for annual checkups.

Q: My child isn’t sick. Why should they get a checkup?

A: A yearly checkup – known as a “well-child visit” ─ helps monitor your child’s development and can spot potential health problems. The visits also help your child develop a positive relationship with their doctor, a relationship that will become the foundation of good health care throughout your child’s life.

Most parents are good about bringing babies and preschoolers in for regular appointments, but after children start school, visits tend to drop off. When that happens, we miss a lot of opportunities to help kids grow up healthy.

Q: What happens during a well-child visit?

A: We track your child’s growth and development, including their vision. It’s surprising how many kids start school with vision problems, which can impact their ability to learn. We can help detect issues so kids can do well in school.

Children change a lot in 12 months, and we can tell you what to expect in the coming year. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, we can answer your questions and direct you to health resources.

We can help teach your child good health habits, like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and balancing screen time with active play time. The annual visit is also a good place for kids to learn how to deal with social pressures they will encounter at various ages, including relationships, drinking and drugs.

Q: What else happens in the appointment?

A: We will make sure your child receives any needed immunizations, including measles, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and influenza (flu). Kids who don’t see their doctor regularly miss these vaccines and are at higher risk for serious illness. In fact, many college-age kids have missed important immunizations, even though some diseases are most likely to occur in the teenage years, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and meningitis.

Q: What problems do you typically see?

A: There’s a big problem with children not getting enough physical activity. With too much time spent watching TV, playing video games or being on their phones, many kids don’t build bone strength or develop good cardiovascular health. Inactivity during childhood can lead to serious problems later, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Also, some of the kids we see don’t get enough sleep. We live a crazy 24-hour society, and children get drawn into that. Kids ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep each night, and teens need 8-10 hours. Lack of sleep can cause emotional and behavioral problems and poor performance in school.

Q: When should my child get a checkup?

A. It’s a helpful reminder to schedule the visit near your child’s birthday each year. And many MPCP offices have extended hours, so you don’t have to pull your child out of school.

Setting good health habits early makes a real difference. The whole idea of staying healthy starts with seeing the doctor once a year. It’s never too early to start building a healthy life.

The Worst Drinks For Kids

Q&A on sugary beverages by Lisa Goldberg Keithley, M.D.

Q: Kids love sweet drinks. What’s wrong with that?

A: Many children’s drinks are loaded with added sugar and have little nutritional value.  According to the CDC, sugary beverages are a main factor in the rise of childhood obesity. And kids who consume a lot of sweet drinks may not be getting enough vitamins, calcium and other nutrients.

Q: How much sugar should kids get each day?

A: Most kids consume too much sugar. The American Heart Association recommends they get no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar per day, but kids ages 4-8 typically consume 21 teaspoons per day.

Q: Do some children’s drinks have too much sugar?

A: There are definitely some popular drinks you should avoid giving to your kids. They are low in nutrients and are loaded with sugar. Here are a few of them:

  • Hi-C®: This longtime favorite is low in fruit juice ─ just 10% ─ but is high in added sugar. One 6.75-ounce carton has 6 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more sugar per ounce than in a regular Coke.
  • Hawaiian Punch®: Not much juice in this drink ─ only 5% ─ but 8 ounces contain 4 teaspoons of sugar.
  • SunnyD®: It may look like orange juice, but it’s really only 5% juice. A 6.75-ounce bottle has almost 3 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Capri Sun®: One little 6-ounce pouch has a big 4 teaspoons of added sugar.
  • Sodas: A 12-ounce can of regular Coke® contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than three times the recommended daily allowance of sugar in just one drink!

Q: If sweet drinks are a bad choice, what’s the alternative?

A: Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives to giving your child “liquid sugar”. They include:

  • Wonderful water: Water is the ultimate thirst quencher and contains no sugar or calories. The Institute of Medicine recommends that kids ages 4-8 get about 5 12-ounce glasses of water each day. Older kids and teens should get 5-8 glasses.
  • Marvelous milk: Milk is rich in nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, which are important for healthy bones and preventing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages 2-5 drink 2 cups of milk daily. However, too much milk can lower the body’s iron stores.
  • Great juice: Pure fruit juice ─ not juice drinks ─ is packed with vitamins and other nutrients. However, juice also contains a fair amount of natural sugar, so mind your child’s daily intake:

6-12 months old: 2-4 ounces

1-6 years old: 4-6 ounces

7-18 years old: 8-12 ounces

And remember, juice shouldn’t replace eating apples, oranges, grapes and other fruits — which are an important and nutritious part of a child’s diet.

WPKeithley8884Dr. Keithley practices in MPCP’s  Arnold office. She received her medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine, and completed her residency program in Family Practice at Chestnut Hill Hospital. She is certified by the American Board of Family Practice.

Teen Stress: Tips for Parents

By: Lisa Meade, PA-C

A recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA) confirms what I see weekly in my practice: Teens feel a great deal of stress and anxiety, but often don’t have the proper coping strategies to deal with these feelings.

The APA report “Stress in America” included data on American youth (teens ages 13-17) for the first time this year. The report found that teens feel higher levels of stress than they think is healthy, but don’t necessarily try to adopt healthy coping strategies, or don’t know what those strategies are.
When I talk to my teen patients, they say trying to juggle school, their social life, and home life can be overwhelming. Expectations and pressure about college are particularly tough for older teens. Plus, we can all remember how important friends and “fitting-in” are at this age– which makes all of the social media and online chatter an extra stressor.

Parents can be a huge help in teaching teens healthy coping strategies and how to keep things in perspective. Here are some suggestions:

1. Know the signs of stress overload in your child. Common results of teen stress can be: Increased physical illness (headaches, stomachaches, chronic fatigue, muscle pain); “shutting down” or withdraw from people and activities; increased anger or irritability; difficulty sleeping or eating; increased tearfulness or feelings of worry; difficulty concentrating.

2. Be willing to listen and model stress coping skills. It’s important for teens to know that stress is part of life and sometimes admitting you are “stressed out” helps. Try to help your child identify what’s really giving them anxiety and then come up with some coping strategies together.

3. Encourage healthy lifestyle habits and reinforce those at home. Here are the things I tell my teen patients to try:

– Get enough sleep! Teens still need 8-10 hours of sleep a night, especially during the school week. Prioritize homework, social or sports activities, phone/TV time. You may not be able to do it all.

– Focus on your strengths. Think about the things you are really good at- or that make you happy- and find ways to spend time doing those things. It will build your confidence and you will find people with like interests.

– Get some exercise. Physical activity is a proven stress reducer. If you’re not on a sports team, find any activity that you enjoy and try to do it at least 30 minutes a day.

– Eat right! Skipping meals or drinking energy drinks will make you feel more stressed in the long run. Try to eat three healthy meals a day and don’t rely on caffeine to keep you going.

– Don’t try to be perfect! Remember that we all make mistakes and a bad choice now and then. Try to keep things in perspective and not focus on the negative. The ability to learn from mistakes and move on is a sign of maturity.

– Talk to someone. It’s much easier to manage stress with a helping hand. Talk to a parent, teacher, doctor, or other trusted adult. They may be able to help you find a way to manage a problem, such as practicing a response to a social situation, getting a tutor in a class, or dealing with a difficult transition such as moving or divorce.

If you feel that your stress is making you depressed, or you find yourself using drugs or alcohol to cope, please tell someone. It might be time to talk to a psychologist or trained professional.

Helping your teen learn healthy ways to cope with stress now will prepare them for a healthier adulthood. Part of the great challenge- and reward- of parenting!

Lisa Meade, PAC
Lisa Meade, PA-C joined Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health Education from Towson University. She received her Physician Assistant certification from Essex Community College in 1987. Ms. Meade has over 25 years of experience as a certified Physician Assistant in primary care medicine.

Easing Back-to-School Anxiety

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

It’s hard for most of us to see the more relaxed days of summer come to an end. For our children and teens, back-to-school time can be exciting, but it can also create anxiety and stress. Here are a few tips to make this transition easier for the whole family:

  1. Map out the morning routine. Discuss how the mornings will work, from wake-up times to setting out clothes the night before to whether your child will be making lunch or buying it at school, etc. Do a practice run—show them how long it takes to walk to the bus stop, or drive to school so they are prepared the first day.
  2. Early to bed. Kids need 9-11 hours of sleep every night, depending on age. Once you know how early they need to be up, plan a regular bedtime and start sticking to now so the first week of school is easier.
  3. Healthy food fuels the body and mind. Let your kids help you shop for healthy foods they enjoy and encourage them to start the day with a good breakfast, especially one containing some healthy protein.
  4. Prepare a “homework space.” Clear out a designated area, complete with supplies of pencils, markers, tape, etc. so your child has space to work. Depending on his or her age, you may want to make this space in a common area of the house so you can be available to help with homework.
  5. Be a bit empathetic. Adjusting to a new school, trying to make friends, dealing with a heavier work load—all of this can be very stressful for kids. Try to be a support during these first few weeks of transition back to school.