Playtime is officially over!
I hear parents everywhere breathing a sigh of relief while their children moan. As we move into the fall season, it’s time to think about the health of the entire family. That means paying attention such crucial issues as immunizations, heat safety, exercise and food.
While children have their shots for the new year, are your immunizations up-to-date? Shots are not just for children. Adults and the elderly need an annual flu shot to prevent spreading virus to family and co-workers and missing days at work. Grandparents, have you had your pneumonia and shingles (zoster) vaccines? Whooping cough (pertusis) is back. There are whooping cough outbreaks in communities across the country. Adults, talk to your physician about getting a pertussis booster that protects infants, in particular, from risk of death.
If you have allergies to bee/wasp stings, is your epi pen current? Make certain you have refills of daily medications. You don’t want to run out of blood pressure meds, asthma inhalers, or birth control pills—it’s bad for your health. Make your life easier, have your medications mailed to your home.
In many parts of the country it’s still hot out, so heat safety is important. As children return to school, encourage drinking water and playing in the shade to prevent heat stroke. Having a piece of fruit with breakfast is easy and a tasty source of water. Put sunscreen on children as they leave the house and tuck hats in backpacks and encourage their use at recess.
Summer fruits and vegetables are still plentiful and create a colorful, healthy plate. You really are what you eat. Remember to eat 9 fruits and/or vegetables every day. Pack your favorite fruit in lunch bags along with carrots, celery, jicama, or sugar snap peas, for an interesting twist on lunch. Freeze beverages or include freezable ice packs to keep food cold. Avoid lunches with mayo-based sauces and spreads since they can easily become warm and cause diarrhea and vomiting.
After-school snacks are another opportunity for more fruit or veggies. Make sure children drink water when they come in from playing. Jazz up water with citrus fruit or cucumbers to add a bit of interest. Oranges, plums and celery are good sources of vitamins and water.
School schedules can help jumpstart your workout routine and involve the entire family. Walk 10,000 steps every day. Use the “medicine” of a daily walk with your family to reduce the amount of traditional medications you take. Initiate evening family walks to reconnect with each other.
Studies show that families who dine together eat more fiber and vegetables. Plus, children get better grades and have reduced rates of substance abuse in adolescence. Create a tech-free meal policy—no cell phone, iPad, or Gameboy—to foster conversations and strengthen the family unit. Family meals are a perfect time to reconnect at the end of the day and stay engaged in the lives of your children.
Sylvia E. Morris, MD, MPH, is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and holistic medicine. In addition to her clinical responsibilities, she speaks at many community forums and delivers health awareness presentations. Dr. Morris is active in social networking and has made guest appearances on the Weather Channel’s Weekend View and Atlanta’s Fox 5 News.