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Tried and True Kids' Health Tips

Sure bets that are often ignored: These five pieces of advice from southeast Michigan doctors take family health back to basics

Parents are bombarded with medical advice, tactics and warnings. But when it comes to your children and their health, there are a few "bread and butter" concepts that are worth keeping in mind. Metro Parent goes straight for the essentials with this list of tips, gleaned from family doctors here in southeast Michigan. Find out there top tried and true children's health tips here!

1. Your 'picky eater' will not starve

Worry less about whether your child is eating enough, says Marcus DeGraw, M.D., a certified pediatrician with St. John Hospital and Medical Center. DeGraw says parents shouldn't allow children to dictate what they will eat. He says parents often give in to the child's demands for fear that he's not eating enough. This fosters easy – but perhaps less-healthy – choices.

"Children will not refuse to eat," DeGraw says, adding that parents should make a meal, choosing foods they want to eat. Don't force kids to polish off their plates: Simply end the meal knowing that when they're hungry, they'll eat. Whether that's the next meal – or next day.

DeGraw notes that 9 months to 2 years is generally when catering to a child's food demands begins: "Growth begins to slow, and children do not want to eat as much." But indulging could soon have you preparing two to four meals at a time.

"Children can go a day without eating and it doesn't make that much difference. They will still grow and gain weight," DeGraw says. "If your child eats five really solid meals a week, you've done your job."

2. Early vision check-ups are important

It's estimated one child in 10 is at risk from an undiagnosed eye or vision problem. If left untreated, these problems could lead to difficulties later in school or permanent vision loss. The Michigan Optometrists Association (MOA) says that many children at risk for eye and vision problems are not being identified at an early age, when many of those problems might have been prevented or more easily corrected.

"Many eye conditions have no visual symptoms, so detection by a parent or in a check-up may be difficult," said Jeffrey Kenyon, O.D., Children's Vision Committee chair for MOA. "An early comprehensive vision assessment is the best way to ensure your baby has healthy eyes and appropriate vision development — now and in the future."

At 6 months, the average baby has reached many developmental milestones, making this a good time for the first eye and vision exam. This will test for problems with vision, eye-movement and eye health (like infections).

Another simple, but often overlooked, tip? Wear sunglasses! "Recent studies show that 85% of damage occurs before age 18," Kenyon notes.

3. The No. 1 illness prevention is hand washing

Yep, all those times you've told your kids to wash their hands, you were right on. Hand washing, seemingly so simple, is one of the single most important ways to prevent the spread of illness.

You know the drill: Wash hands often throughout the day. Wash anytime there is visible dirt, before eating, after using the bathroom or touching pets. Use warm soapy water, rub all the surfaces for at least 15-20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the alphabet song). Then, rinse and dry.

"Germs can be anywhere, especially in places where moisture collects," reminds Judy Gula, R.N., infection control manager at Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester. Hand hygiene is key infection control in healthcare settings, daycare facilities, in schools and for food safety.

4. Attention to teeth is worth the trouble

Brushing teeth may seem like a "no brainer" for good health. Yet parents sometimes don't ensure children are brushing correctly. "The child is running the water for 10 minutes, and the toothbrush hasn't touched a tooth," says Sam Shamoon, D.D.S. at Today's Smile Center in Berkley. Once a day, he says, your child should be supervised by an adult until you are sure that the correct techniques are used.

Toothbrushes can harbor bacteria and become worn out. So change them regularly, Gula says – at least every three months, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, for best results.

Also, take care of your children's first teeth. Kids who get cavities in their baby teeth have an increased risk with their adult teeth. Also, be aware that sending children to bed with a bottle of milk or juice is not recommended. "The liquids will sit there, dissolving the tooth enamel," Shamoon says.

5. Make the most out of doctor's visits

"I wish my patients knew that it is best to come a little early for an appointment, rather than a little late," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., pediatrics professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. "I also wish my patients would bring their immunization records and pharmacy labels and/or medications to each visit."

Davis, who also serves as the director of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, adds that he wants patients to remember their children's health is his priority.

"Therefore, when I ask a parent to stop smoking or to buy healthier foods, it is not a criticism of parenting," he explains, "but rather to ensure that my patient is in the best environment possible."

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