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BHIA Childrens Health Articles

The ABCs of Protecting Your Children’s Health

Parents know it. Their children’s health is more important than their own. They’ll hold off eating to give their sons and daughters bread. They’ll work two jobs, seven days a week, to provide everything that their children need to succeed and be happy in life.

But when it comes to children’s health, a lot of things can seem out of a parents’ control. Even minor illnesses, such as colds and “24-hour flus,” can seem terrifying to a parent. No matter how well you care for your children, it doesn’t seem to matter in protecting them from ailments.

For parents of small children, one of the most challenging and frightening decisions revolves around children’s inoculations. Shots, as children not so affectionately refer to them, are said to be essential in protecting your children’s health from deadly disease.

On the other hand, some experts out there claim that these immunizations actually put your children at risk for disease and harm. There have been persistent rumors in the media about potential links of immunizations and such conditions as autism. What can you believe?

The Truth about Immunizations

The truth about immunizations is that they have been one of the most wonderful medical findings of modern times. They have saved millions, if not billions, of children from such past scourges as measles, mumps, tetanus, and a host of other diseases.

Amazingly, the science behind their success is simple, far simpler than, say,

Vaccines are actually dead or weakened versions of bacteria or viruses. Normally, these miniature “germs” would wreak havoc in your child’s body if they were at full strength. But weakened, they serve more like a war game for his or her body. They train the body for future “wars” against the germs.

Then in the future, if this bacteria or virus comes into contact with your child, his or her body has the proper weapons and know-how to beat this enemy. In the scientific parlance, these weapons are white blood cells called antibodies. The know-how are actually provided by other cells called memory cells.

This “training” keeps your child’s body in fighting shape for years, sometimes for a whole lifetime. That’s where the word immunity comes from. Your child is virtually immune, or free, from this disease.

Children especially need this immunity. They entered life with a supply of their mother’s antibodies and memory cells. But after only a year or less, this free pass wears off. Children are left essentially without any protection from that point on.

A Class Full of Coughers

Then imagine your unprotected children as they begin school. That puts them in contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of other children. Multiply that number by the millions. That’s how many germs each children brings to school with them.

No wonder a classroom of children is full of runny noses, wracking coughs, and other signs of illness. Some of these germs may be minor colds, coughs, and sore throats. But others may be whooping cough, hepatitis, or other more

Unprotected, your children may not be able to fend off these bacteria and viruses. This explains why, before immunizations, thousands of children died from preventable diseases like measles and polio.

Unprotected, your children also endanger the health of other children around them. For instead of these diseases being eradicated by immunizations, they are allowed to linger in the occasional boy and girl who do not get immunized. The germs, then, live another day.

Weigh the risks

Of course, it’s up to you, the parent, to decide what is right for your children’s health. But do not make this decision without the help of your pediatrician, along with the advice of other experienced mothers.

The thought of your poor little ones getting stuck with a half dozen needles is not the most appealing image to a mother. Then again, having these same little ones come down with the hepatitis or tetanus is far less attractive an option.

Walking Gaits in Children

I am often asked to evaluate the gait (walking pattern) of small children. Parents usually report that they mentioned this problem to their pediatrician at some point, and were told that the child would “grow out of it”. Simple observation became the treatment, despite the child’s increasing trips and falls. In some cases, parents describe their child as refusing to “come down off their toes”! There is much debate about this very subject between differing groups of specialists. To make matters somewhat more questionable is the different rates at which “normal” children develop.

We know that there is a time line for baby’s to crawl and walk but many perfectly normal children are doing so at certain time intervals in their lifespan. How do we know when our children are on schedule? Can we be missing an opportunity to treat some of these problems by relying upon simple observation alone? The answer, is just as clear, yes and no!

A famous article was published many years ago by a pediatric orthopedist that declared that roughly 90 % of walking abnormalities are normal physiological changes in the bone structure of our small children. For example, in-toeing, or walking with the toes pointed inward, is commonly seen during the 2-4 year old stage, and especially in the females. It usually regresses by age 7-8 years, and often the children can trip while running until this problem corrects itself naturally. The same could be said for out-toeing, or walking with the toes pointed outward. It is normal for infants to begin walking like this, with a broad base of support underneath them. As they reach age 2 their limbs rotate inward at the ankle area and they start to walk a straight line. As you can see, the child’s gait goes through constant change as the bones adapt and grow, which continues into adolescence.

A general rule of thumb is this…

• Toe walking is always abnormal, sometimes habitual, and should be evaluated for further problems by a qualified specialist.

• By the age 8 the child’s feet should progress fairly straight, or slightly outward. The arches of the feet should be apparent while standing.

• Curvatures of an infant’s foot, a “c” shaped foot, should be examined by a specialist early in life. Often this is an easily treatable condition known as Metatarsus Adductus, which responds nicely to stretching and serial casting of the legs and feet for 1-2 months.

My last peace of advice….relax… most likely your child’s walking and bone structure are normal! Don’t be afraid to seek a professional opinion if you have concerns, if for no other reason than the peace of mind. But remember, one cannot always expect a treatment plan! Sometimes observation is the best treatment.

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