The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that from age 3 children get an annual well-child checkup. It should cover everything from how much you read to your child, the risk of lead paint contamination in your home, hearing, dental care, physical and cognitive development to potential familial health problems such as elevated LDL (lousy) cholesterol. The AAP suggests the doctor talk directly to preteens about drug use, alcohol and sexual activity.
These guidelines are important: View year-by-year info at healthychildren.org. If your pediatrician isn’t talking to you about these issues, bring them up yourself! But don’t stop there. Here are some other important ways to protect your child from risky accidents, unnecessary illness and life-long health challenges.
Home Safety: Childproofing
1. Did you know that more than 700 children in North America 14 and younger die annually from unintentional drowning, many in pools that lack secured fences and gates? And for every child who drowns, another five end up in the emergency room for submersion injuries.
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To do: If you have a pool, make sure it’s surrounded with an isolation fence and secure gate.
2. Laundry pods — those super-concentrated detergent balls — are a major risk for kids, even though the industry adopted voluntary, improved standards in 2015.
A study released last spring in the journal Pediatrics revealed that from January 2013 through December 2014 poison control centers in the U.S. received 62,254 calls related to laundry and dishwasher detergent exposures among children younger than 6. And recently, in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers reported on 480 kids who in 2015 received ocular burns when liquid in the pods squirted out into their eyes.
To do: The researchers suggest if you have kids younger than 6, stick with traditional laundry detergents.
3. Guns in the home are a major childhood hazard. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, 1,500 kids a year die from gun violence. But many docs are reluctant to bring up the topic. Help change that!
A 2011 Florida law that targeted pediatricians said that doctors could be punished with a fine of up to $10,000 and lose their medical licenses for discussing guns with patients. It was just overturned (whew!). Now the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians have joined the American Public Health Association to issue a “call to action” to address firearm-related violence as a major public health problem. The American Medical Association is encouraging members to inquire about household firearms as a standard part of childproofing the home.
To do: If you have a gun at home, keep gun and ammo locked up separately; when visiting friends and relatives with your kids, ask if there are unsecured guns in the home.
Other Serious Health Risks
1. One study found that docs bring up a child’s excess weight only 22 percent of the time.
To do: Ask your doc to determine your child’s BMI (if 6 or older) and discuss immediate and long-range health repercussions. Early overweight increases chances for premature heart disease, diabetes, social and emotional problems and more.
2. Most docs advocate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended vaccination schedule for kids. So ...
To do: Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro promised $100,000 if you prove vaccines are safe. We spent a month reviewing every study on vaccine safety and interviewing 150 experts on all sides of the issue. Our conclusion: Vaccines aren’t perfectly safe, but the chance of significant disease-preventing benefit is more than 40,000 times the risk. That’s a pretty impressive degree of safety. That research is out there for everyone to look at and is summarized in our book “YOU: Raising a Child.” If you win the prize, please make a donation jointly in our and your names to the American Academy of Pediatrics!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit www.sharecare.com.