by Beth Wallace
Every day, we hear something on the news about the obesity crisis in this country. And every day, parents, grandparents, doctors, dietitians, and the First Lady try to find a new way to encourage kids to eat healthy. In my profession, we preach that being an example to kids, parent encouragement, and filling your home with healthy options are some the keys to help your child know how to make the best choices when they are on their own. But a new study published by researchers at Cornell University shows we have been missing a “super” important piece of the puzzle.
One of my summertime goals was to take more walks in our woodsy neighborhood with my daughter. We both need the exercise; walking together also gives us a chance to connect, relax and talk about things that we might not get to when things are busy at home. It’s working! So I was happy to read about a brand-new study finding that, indeed, kids are more active when their parents are.
Researchers from National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo., followed 83 families who had signed up for a family intervention program aimed at preventing excessive weight gain in overweight kids, ages 7 to 14. Families received pedometers and were asked to increase their daily step counts by about 2,000 - roughly a mile. The results:
- On days when mothers reached or exceeded their 2,000-step goal, children took an average of 2,117 additional steps.
- On days when moms didn’t hit their goals, kids got about 1,000 fewer steps.
- The activity levels of fathers had a similar effect.
- Kids and parents both increased their step counts on weekends, when families had more time to have active fun together.
- Yesterday’s steps didn’t help today’s totals. A parent’s higher activity level one day didn’t translate into a lot of extra steps for kids the next day. It’s an of-the-moment kind of thing.
"It has long been known that parent and child activity levels are correlated," said lead researcher Kristen Holm, Ph.D. "This is the first intervention-based study to prospectively demonstrate that when parents increase their activity, children increase theirs as well. The effect was more pronounced on weekends."
by Sari Harrar
Every extra hour of weekly TV that little kids watch translates into more abdominal fat and lower fitness levels years later, say University of Montreal researchers. In a new study, scientists asked the parents of 2- to 4-year-olds about their kids’ TV-watching habits. They checked back when the kids were in fourth grade. Here’s what they found:
- More TV at age 2 ½ meant lower jumping ability by fourth grade. Every hour of TV kids watched at a young age meant their jumps were 1/10th of an inch shorter -- a small difference researchers say reflects lower leg-muscle strength and less time spent running around and having active fun.
- More TV meant wider waistlines. Kids who watched 18 hours of television at age 4 ½ had waists that were 1/3 of an inch bigger -- a sign they had more abdominal fat, which can raise risk for diabetes and heart disease later in life.
How much TV is your kid watching? The antidote? Experts widely recommend limiting kids’ screen time to 2 hours a day -- with less for younger kids. But in the real world, two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day; kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs; and kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
by Sari Harrar
If your child’s got a sports camp, summer practice for school sports or will be tooting a horn, twirling a baton or waving a flag at summer marching-band rehearsals, here’s some advice from Christopher Haines, DO, FAAP, FACEP, Director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children: Get them acclimated to outdoor temperatures before they go.
“You can’t spend most of the summer in air-conditioning, then suddenly start long outdoor and feel good,” says Haines. “Every summer we see several kids in the emergency room who weren’t acclimated before sports or band camp -- especially before summer football practice. They get dehydrated and can even have a breakdown of muscle tissue if they’re overexerting in heat without enough hydration.”
It’s hot out there, and it looks like this weather might stick around for a while. In these extreme temperatures, making sure your family stays well hydrated is critically important for everyone’s safety.
Even if your kids aren’t playing back-to-back Little League games, their bodies will lose increased amounts of fluid during regular activities just to stay cool. Our bodies need enough water to function properly. Not replacing the amount of water lost throughout the day can cause mild or even severe dehydration.
How can you tell if your child is becoming dehydrated? Most children will be able to tell you if they are thirsty, and can regulate the amount of water they need just by responding to thirst. Being a watchful parent will help in cases where a child cannot tell you that fluids are needed. In cases of dehydration, a child may become dizzy, lightheaded, tired, have a rapid heartbeat, and decreased or dark urine.
Pennsylvania’s brand-new Safety in Youth Sports Act aims to help adults respond better to sports-related head injuries in middle school and high school athletes – so that a kid’s brain can fully recover. As Inquirer writer Kathy Boccella noted in this story on Monday, the law is a response to an alarming rise in reported traumatic brain injuries in high school and middle school sports.
The act requires that athletes suspected of suffering a concussion be removed from play right away and bars them from returning until cleared by a physician. It penalizes coaches who don't follow the rules, requires yearly training in concussions for high school coaches, while parents must sign an information sheet on brain injuries. And it requires that schools grant kids the crucial downtime their little gray cells need for recovery.
I asked Christina Master, M.D., an attending physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) whose work includes caring for kids and teens with concussions at the hospital’s Sports Medicine and Performance Center. I wanted to know why brain rest is so important – and so challenging for kids and their families – after a concussion.
With temperatures soaring in the region, this week's Healthy Kids Minute looks at how to protect children from the heat. Richard Brodsky, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, discusses the warning signs for heat-related conditions and what to do if you see them.
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., Pediatrics Professor- Thomas Jefferson Univ. & Director, Hospital Pediatrics- TJU Hospital
by Gary A. Emmett, M.D.
The obesity ”epidemic” is now old news, but it is scaring the heck out of medical practitioners since we know that the very heavy children we are now seeing will have chronic illnesses such as Type II diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver, gall bladder disease and chronic hip problems 20 to 30 years earlier than their parents did.
This change in disease patterns will change society. Although all economic levels and all racial and ethnic groups are affected by trend toward being overweight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that risk may be higher for kids from lower-income families. And University of Pennsylvania childhood obesity experts report that nearly a quarter of Mexican American adolescent boys were obese in 1999–2002, compared to 19 percent of African Americans and 15 percent of whites. And among teen-age girls, 24 percent of African Americans, 20 percent of Mexican Americans, and 13 percent of whites were obese.
Swimming season has arrived, when families head to the pool, the lake or the beach. If Memorial Day is just the start of a long season of fun in the water – or even if your child, like almost every kid, will find herself near a body of water this summer – it’s time to brush up your water-safety know-how.
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on childhood and teen accidents, 983 kids ages 0 to 19 drowned in 2009. The organization Safe Kids USA says
- Swimming pools are the most common site for a drowning to occur among children between the ages 1 and 4 year.
- Approximately 72 percent of pool submersion deaths and 55 percent of pool submersion injuries happen at a home.
- Eighty-four percent of drowning deaths among children ages 5 and under occur at a home, while 45 percent of fatalities among children ages 5 to 14 occur at a public pool.
- In one national study of drowning-related incidents involving children, a parent or caregiver claimed to be supervising the child in nearly nine out of 10 child drowning-related deaths.
- Two-thirds of drowning deaths occur in the summer, between May and August, and most commonly on the weekends.
The increasing intensity of organized sports has led to more and more children being treated for repetitive sports injuries. In this week's Healthy Kids Minute, Alfred Atanda, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, offers advice on how to prevent such injuries, including the importance of a few days of unstructured, free play each week.