No parent in his or her right mind would want to outlive their children. If anything they’d want to do their best to keep their offspring healthy and happy. We have all seen and heard of people succumb to diseases like heart attack, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and such. These, unfortunately, are no longer confined to older or aged people only. Young children are being diagnosed with shocking diseases, all caused by poor health habits and inactivity. One would be surprised to find out just how many diseases that affect youngsters today.
Here are some of them and how proper nutrition and health habits play a role in preventing them from afflicting your kids.
Kids’ Heart Disease – How Healthy is your Kid’s Heart?
Globally, every 60 seconds or so, an adult dies of some form of heart disease. The starting place for cardiovascular fitness is during a child’s formative years. Luckily some of the elements or “factors” that play a role in determining a person’s chances of developing heart disease can be modified or treated while our kids are still young.
Problems that can be encountered with poor cardiovascular fitness are:
- Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis)
- Fat or Plaque build up in the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Chest pains in the heart area (angina)
- Blockage of flow or ruptured heart muscle (heart attack)
- Clotting that can cause a blood vessel in the brain to burst (stroke)
Risk factors and points to ponder:
Cigarette smoke: If you or your partner are smokers, do be informed that second-hand smoke will, like actual smoking, take a toll on your family’s heart health, so you know what to do! Quit now and encourage quitting among your family members.
Obesity: Sedentary ways of life and lack of proper nutrition leads to obesity. Other factors in play include easy access to video games, unhealthy snack foods and fast-food chains. From kids left at day-cares during the day to kids who look after themselves at home after school while mum and dad are at work, the main concern these days among parents is the safety of their kids, and we don’t blame them! Re-evaluate your kids’ lifestyle and take necessary actions so that both safety and their health coincide for their overall well-being.
Physical Inactivity: As parents, we end up leaving our kids at home when we go to work. This is usually accompanied with instructions to not leave the house. Gone are the carefree days of our youth when we’d meet up with the other kids in the neighbourhood to ride bikes or play a pickup game of basketball or football.
High cholesterol intake: Not all kids, when left to their own devices, will opt for the lunch meat and raw veggies in the fridge. Let’s face it, what do they know about kids heart disease? Often times they’ll go for the chips, cookies or anything else that doesn’t require a lot of effort to acquire. These foods are generally high in saturated fats and have the propensity to raise the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”. It’s the oxidation of this cholesterol that causes it to stick to the walls of the arteries.
Maintain healthy blood pressure: Even with relatively poor eating and exercise habits, most kids will likely check out okay on the blood pressure. If their blood pressure rises above 140/90mmHg, then there is cause for concern.
Children learn what they live and if parents teach their little ones early on to eat healthily and stay active, chances are they will carry this lifestyle with them through life. Limiting the number of sedentary activities and going outside more is an easy way to keep children active. When the whole family participates in outside play this reinforces the importance of healthy living and allows time for bonding as well. Even regular walks are fun and easy.
Some ways to help maintain a healthy heart are:
- Explaining to your kids about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight
- Encourage regular exercise
- Ensure proper dietary intake for your kids
- Discourage high salt intake
Allergies, in general, are commonly explained as an exaggerated reaction by the immune system to something that is normally harmless to the body. When an allergic reaction occurs, the immune system identifies the matter as a threat and reacts incorrectly. This then results in an allergic reaction. When the allergic reaction occurs, the body creates allergy cells that emit chemicals such as histamine to defend the body against the perceived threat.
The most common causes of kids’ allergies are:
- Insect stings or bites
- Animals and pets
- Dust Mites
- Cleaning chemicals
How to tell if your child is suffering from an allergy?
Many kids’ allergy symptoms are very much like typical child illnesses, making it difficult to differentiate between allergies and childhood illnesses. Here are some of the most common typical indicative signs and symptoms of allergies.
Kids with nasal allergies tend to pull faces or have facial twitches because they are trying to make the itching go away.
Most allergies cause noses to itch. When your child frequently rubs his nose with the palm of his hand, especially in an upward movement, it is likely that he suffers from this irritating symptom of an allergy.
Sometimes kids appear to not hear properly or have a short attention span because of a condition called glue ear.
This is often found amongst kids with nasal allergies where some blocking of the ear canal causes them to have difficulty with hearing.
The common name is allergic shiner. It looks just like the start of a black eye and is the result of congested veins underneath the delicate skin surrounding the eye area. It has a dark blue darkening under or around the child’s eye. It can affect both or only one of the eyes.
Continuous postnasal drip caused by allergies often leads to coughing and a sore throat. Many times these symptoms are confused with cold and flu symptoms.
Small fine lines around your kid’s eyes are significant indications of the chest and nasal allergies.
When to Visit Your Doctor?
A rule of thumb with children’s health is, if you are in doubt, you should visit your doctor to rule out any kind of allergy but also other conditions that may affect his or her health.
Common Food Allergies in Children
The most common food-related kids’ allergies affect about 8% or approximately two million children in the United States. There are six particular foods that are known to cause allergic reactions in children.
2. Fish and shellfish
4. Peanuts and tree nuts
Treating and Dealing with Child Allergies
It is not really possible to cure kids’ allergies, but there are ways to relieve the symptoms. The best way to deal with or treat child allergies, in general, is to try to avoid or reduce the allergens.
It is also important to make sure that teachers, caregivers, family members, and your child’s friends and their parents know about your child’s allergy and how to deal with it.
If your child is suffering from airborne allergies, you can take the following steps to reduce contact or lessen the reaction thereof:
- Clean all areas frequently
- Do not allow pets in your child’s bedroom
- Bathe pets frequently
- Remove rugs and carpets
- Stay especially away from heavy drapes
- Keep areas prone to mould such as bathrooms, laundries, and basements clean and dry
Asthma among school-age kids is quite common and affects 1 or 2 in 10 kids. It is highly likely that asthma runs in the family. This is not a contagious disease but the symptoms can very closely resemble that of a cold with the coughing and wheezing that comes on.
Kids’ asthma makes a child’s airways very sensitive. When their asthma flares up, their airway becomes swollen and narrows. This narrowing makes it harder to get fresh oxygen into their lungs and getting the carbon dioxide out. This can also be complicated further because the swollen “pipes” will produce mucus, making things sticky.
Always have your child checked by a physician so that they get the proper medication. Almost always the airways will return to their normal state after a flare-up episode.
What Sets An Attack In Motion?
Every child is unique and so are the different elements that will set off an asthma attack. Sometimes it’s the household pet. Their dander (think dandruff) can be very irritating for a child’s airway.
Some kids are sensitive to dust, dust mites, mould and pollens.
Other times an infection can be the reason for the flare-up for a kids’ asthma. An asthmatic kid’s airways can become more sensitive than usual when they come down with a cold or the flu.
The most obvious form of treatment is avoidance. But that’s not always realistic, given our modern lifestyles today. If your child is very sensitive, you should make sure that they have medication on them at all times.
Not all treatments are the same. Doctors will evaluate what causes your child’s particular flare-up, how fast it comes on, and how serious it is. From this information, the doctor will decide on the appropriate medication. Most asthma medicines are taken via an inhaler.
If you or your child knows that they’ll be in an environment that could possibly trigger a reaction, they should take some medication ahead of time to open up their airways.
Acute inflammatory arthritis is what many young children develop after a viral or bacterial infection. The condition, though quite severe, usually vanishes in a few weeks or months. However, another type of arthritis among kids is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which will persist for months or years at a time.
Arthritis is often perceived as an old person’s disease. Since we don’t expect kids to get arthritis, many will suffer for months or years before diagnosis and proper treatment.
There are three forms of arthritis that affect kids:
• Pauciarticular – This means less than four joints affected
• Polyarticular – Four or more joints affected
• Systemic-onset – Inflamed joints accompanied with high fever and rash
Pauciarticular arthritis: Often shows up as a swollen knee or ankle that appears without reason. This is a very mild form of kids’ arthritis and can be treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. More serious conditions may involve an inflammation of the eye. This isn’t a painful type of inflammation but can lead to scarring of the lens and possibly permanent visual damage. In its early stages, only an ophthalmologist using a special instrument will be able to detect it. Children with juvenile arthritis should have their eyes checked every six months.
Polyarticular arthritis: This is a more severe form of arthritis because it affects a greater number of joints and it usually gets worse over time. Those children that have this form will require active aggressive treatment.
The aim is to bring the inflammation under control as the first course of action. They will typically use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and possibly some very strong drugs. The necessity behind this is to reduce the symptoms and reduce any permanent damage.
Systemic-onset juvenile arthritis: This is one of the more difficult ones. It is also referred to as Stills Disease. Usually, the first signs of this type are on/off high fevers and rashes. As arthritis progresses, conditions may become severe. While it is not a life-threatening disease, it can affect internal organs.
Again, the main form of treatment initially will be non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
A great, naturally occurring anti-inflammatory cure is grape seed extract. This should be taken along with a full spectrum of multi-vitamin and minerals.
Diabetes in Children
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood. Glucose, which comes from the foods we eat, is the major source of energy needed to fuel the body’s functions. To use glucose, the body needs the hormone insulin. But in people with diabetes, the body either can’t make insulin or the insulin doesn’t work in the body as it should.
The two major types of diabetes are:
1. Type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells that make insulin
2. Type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas can still make insulin, but the body doesn’t respond to it properly
In both types of diabetes, glucose can’t get into the cells normally. This causes a rise in blood sugar levels, which can make someone sick if not treated.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. Doctors can’t even tell who will get it and who won’t.
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. In most cases, a child has to be exposed to something else, like a virus, to get type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes isn’t contagious, so kids and teens can’t catch it from another person or pass it along to friends or family members, and eating too much sugar doesn’t cause type 1 diabetes, either.
There’s no reliable way to predict who will get type 1 diabetes, but blood tests can detect early signs of it. These tests aren’t done routinely, however, because doctors don’t have any way to stop a child from developing the disease, even if the tests are positive.
Type 2 Diabetes
Unlike its type 1 cousin, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented. Excessive weight gain, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In the past, type 2 diabetes almost exclusively affected adults, but now, more children and teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which experts say is related to the rapidly increasing number of overweight kids.
Although kids and teens may be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by managing their weight and increasing physical activity, other risk factors for type 2 diabetes can’t be changed. Kids with one or more family members with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing the disease.
Steps that help prevent type 2 Diabetes
These simple strategies can help reduce your kids’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other associated health problems:
• Make sure kids eat a healthy diet.
• Limit sugary foods and beverages.
• Encourage increased physical activity.
If you think your child may be overweight and, therefore, at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you determine what your child’s weight goals should be and how to reach them. It’s important for growing kids to get enough calories and nutrients for normal growth and development while preventing the excessive weight gain that can set the stage for type 2 diabetes and other health problems.