How I protect my kids’ health

From left: Being physically active helps my kids keep healthy—scooter time with my kids when they were preschoolers; my husband with my son finishing a fun run when Marcus was seven; games like Sequence and art activities like this Cling Creator are good ways to occupy our kids’ time at home now that we need to avoid crowded places

MANY of us parents worry if we are protecting our children’s health enough. Most of us worry the most when they are babies. Thanks to the efforts of many groups on breastfeeding awareness, most moms, including myself, now opt to breastfeed as much as they can. Aside from breast milk providing the ideal nutrition for babies, according to www.healthline.com, it contains important antibodies that help your babies fight off viruses and bacteria.

When my kids reached their toddler years, my pediatrician advised me that the correct milk and diet should be sufficient. She did not prescribe a daily multivitamin. She only advised me to take multivitamins with zinc when my kids were sick, or had been exposed to situations where there was a risk of getting sick like maybe when there were many kids in school who had colds. I was also personally not too fond of giving medicine right away. I would usually try salinase first.

As early as when they were a year old, I allowed my kids to “get dirty.” I have wipes usually for eating time but when they play, I allow them the freedom to run around the park and play in the sandbox. I also take them to “real” crowds. At times they would catch something, but I feel it’s better they develop their immune system.

My son had underdeveloped lungs when he was born. He also had slight skin asthma. I think as a result, he would often throw up in the car. I wanted him to overcome this over time and not allow this to limit his activities in the future. So I took him to more car rides and road trips. I would stock up on airplane barf bags. It was inconvenient to have a smelly car every now and then, sure, but I think it was worth it especially now that I see my son so active in basketball, futsal and fencing.

Filipinos are currently facing the risks from the coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  The issue is real but the hearsays and posts in social media can be confusing. It is good that the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a “myth buster” section on its web site. Below are a summary of some of these.  You can visit the web site to view the more thorough explanations:

Can pets at home spread the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)? At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets, such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible? People of all ages can be infected by the virus. Older people, and people with preexisting medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus? No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus? To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus. However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care.

The advice that is most important for me is my pediatrician’s advice because she knows my kids’ health history the most. Also, she is best to contextualize it in the Philippine setting.

Below are her advice and how I currently apply it:

1. Most important is frequent handwashing by anyone with cough and colds, as well as those in close contact with the sick person. I use antibacterial wipes. I also keep alcohol now in all the cars and at the kitchen counters in the house for everyone’s use.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth with unclean hands.

3. Face masks may help reduce transfer of a respiratory virus if worn by the sick person, as well as the close contacts. Wearing masks in crowded places may also be worthwhile. I was initially planning to stock up on masks because of the coronavirus.  It was good that WHO released a guideline on when we should wear a mask. According to this bulletin:

YES—If you have respiratory symptoms—cough, difficulty breathing.

YES—If you are providing care to individuals with respiratory symptoms.

YES—If you are a health worker and attending to individuals with respiratory symptoms.

NOT—needed for the general public who do not have respiratory symptoms.

4. Avoid unnecessary overseas travel and limit crowd exposure. We try to avoid going to crowded places so we spend more time at home. So I am starting to stack up on art supplies, games and the like to avoid too much screen time.

5. Also, stay well hydrated, eat healthy and get enough sleep.

6. Vitamin C (with zinc), multivitamins and DHA/Omega 3 supplements will do very little if one is already in good health, but may add to above measures.

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