Every Kid Healthy Week

By Olivia Lehane, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine Resident, PGY-3

What is Every Kid Healthy Week? Every Kid Healthy Week, April 22 – 26, is an event held every year at the end of April to encourage health and wellness in schools. It celebrates all of the great efforts your child’s school makes to improve the lives of their students through healthier lifestyles. Since Every Kid Healthy Week started in 2013, more than 7,000 schools across the country have participated in the event. The goal of these events is to reinforce a healthy lifestyle, such as proper eating habits and the importance of physical activity, through fun and interactive events.

Why is a healthy lifestyle important for my child?  About one out of every three children in America is overweight or obese.  In order to change this, it is important to teach our children how to live healthy lives. Additionally, healthier lifestyles will lead to better performance in school. What better way to promote healthy habits than with a week of fun activities at school that you and your child can both participate in?

How can I encourage a healthy lifestyle?

  • Include a rainbow in your meal with plenty of fruits and vegetables (the more color the better!)
  • Limit sugary beverages like sodas, juice, fruit punch
  • Place limits on screen entertainment  such as TV, video games and tablets
  • Avoid skipping meals or restrictive diets
  • Involve the entire family in fun physical activities
  • Be a good role model for your child with healthy eating and activity habits

For more information, please visit http://www.everykidhealthyweek.org.

Reflecting on Earth Day

Maria Perez-Johnson, D.O.

Emergency Department physician, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine  

On this Earth Day, “Nature is my medicine,” Sara Moss Wolfe said, and, yes, it is mine as well.  As Albert Einstein stated, “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” Some days that reassurance is all it takes to relax and make things better.  Indeed, after a long shift of 12 hours all I ever want to do is go outside.  It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night my shift ends, just coming out of this institutional building yields relief.  Taking a deep breath the minute I walk outside into the real world takes me away from any pain or suffering that I may have encountered and I can sense the release of stress and tension lift away and yield clarity.  I am sure most can agree that after a stifling day at work the drive home can be relaxing.  Seeing the sunrise, the blue sky, the clouds or even rain can put all things into perspective and instill in us the wonder of how small indeed we are in the grand scheme of this fabulous world we live in.

In observance of Earth Day, medical providers can express to patients the value of spending time in the great outdoors.  We comprehend the medicinal value of 15 minutes of sunlight and the need for that Vitamin D.  We know that longevity is tied to exercise and better health, and we all have personally experienced the relief of stress as we sit on the beach and watch the waves come in repetitively.  Yet, the emphasis of health care can often overlook the simple pleasures that nature can bring and for many of our patients it is an all or none response. 

For example, I personally have a bad right knee. After arthroscopic surgery a few years ago, I gave up running.  While this lack of exercise has had some impact in the size of my jeans, I have yet to find another activity that gives me as much pleasure and one that is as effective as running was for my soul and waistline. I do, however, walk regularly albeit probably not as much as I should.  These brief encounters around my neighborhood are a fabulous reprieve from the indoors.   “A vigorous walk will do more good for an unhappy, but otherwise healthy adult, than all the medicine or psychology in the world,” said Paul Dudley White, MD. And as reaffirmed by Hippocrates: “Nature is the healer of disease,” we know that these moments are necessary for health. So how do we encourage our patients to take part in the great outdoors?  I personally had to change the perception that I had to run five miles in order to be healthy. Now I look for other venues to encourage health.

Last year, I moved into a home that had raised garden beds, I started gardening and found it has great unexpected medical benefits and in fact it has been shown to be just as effective as exercise (WebMD).  Some proven benefits include the following:

  • Increased exposure to vitamin D – required 15 minutes of daily sunshine is easy to acquire
  • Improves mood – satisfaction with obtaining fresh home grown vegetables
  • Decreases dementia risk
  • Aerobic exercise – pulling weeds is hard!
  • A sense of connection to the Earth
  • Goal setting – finding something to look forward to. Gardening has given me a connection to the world. 

“She dances between worlds with her healing medicine, bridging the gap between mankind and mother Earth” – Shikoba.

Indeed, gardening, has made me appreciate the beauty of the Earth, how it yields fruit and sustenance with the help of my hand, and allows me to marvel at the cycle of life.

The Earth is our mother and our healer, without her, lost would be countless cures.  Indeed many have yet to be discovered, but we punish and exploit Mother Earth as we clearly do not see the impact our civilized world has on her.  So how can we make an impact and what simple things can we do or ask our patients to do?

  • Turn off the lights every time you leave the room
  • Unplug devices and turn off electronics when not in use
  • Buy locally grown produce 
  • Try carpooling or public transport instead of driving
  • Use reusable shopping bags 
  • Fix leaky taps and turn off water when not using it
  • Switch from disposable to reusable
    Recycle and reuse as much as you can
  • Find a way to plant a tree in your neighborhood
  • Upgrade your appliances to energy-efficient ones
  • Learn more about climate change, advocate for our Earth and its people, attend a farmers’ market, support ethical trade, be the change.

For “the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth” – Chief Seattle

And remember any time in the outdoors experiencing the beauty of nature and its glory is time well spent.

Occupational Therapy Develops Skills for Daily Life

By Sandra Ramirez, OTR, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

April is Occupational Therapy Month! And though the term “occupational” may throw you a bit in regards to children, occupational therapy is a vital part of many children’s therapy regimens.  A pediatric occupational therapist focuses on helping children develop the skills they need to grow into functional and independent adults. There are many different areas that occupational therapy focuses on such as:

  • cognitive skills (problem solving, using judgment, completing higher level tasks)
  • fine motor skills (using smaller muscle groups such as hands and fingers)
  • gross motor skills (using larger muscle groups such as those necessary for sitting up, crawling, walking)
  • sensory integration (exposing stimulation in a structured repetitive way so the brain will adapt and allow kids to process and react to sensations more efficiently whether that be noise, tactile, taste, or visual sensations)
  • self-care tasks (dressing oneself, buttoning shirts, brushing teeth, self-feeding)
  • social skills

When working with children, pediatric occupational therapists often incorporate play as a way to motivate and reduce anxiety and fears children may have. Each session is made to target a new goal, build self-esteem, and build confidence when it comes to their capabilities.

Being a part of the occupational therapy profession has been so rewarding and has brought such joy to my life. I knew that being an occupational therapist would be rewarding when I first came into this field.  Helping medically fragile children become strong, independent people during their stay and be discharged from the hospital knowing they can do anything they put their mind to is the greatest gift. Being a part of this field has allowed me the opportunity to be a part of these kids and their families’ stories and it has helped me grow as a clinician and as a person. My greatest joy is when children and their families return to the hospital and they want to find me to show me how well they are doing! What can be better than that?

Being an occupational therapist is not just a job; it is a lifestyle and who we are. People who want to help, people who want to advocate, and people who want to do whatever is best for their patients and families. Growing into a self-sufficient adult may be easy for some. Others, though, need a hand. Whether that hand teaches them to write better, to gain specific motor control, to perform their self-care with increased independence, it helps them reach maturity with strength and confidence. These qualities are vital to making it on their own.

For more information about occupational therapy, visit https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/occupational-therapy.html.

Talk to your teens about STDs

With STDs on the rise among teens, it’s important for parents to discuss the risks openly and honestly.

Celia Alviso, RN, CPNP-PC

Pediatric Primary Care Clinic

Center for Children & Families

April is Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness month. It is also a time to take action and start a conversation with your teenagers.

What are STDs? Diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact (vaginal, oral, anal). These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV. Many of these STDs do not show symptoms for a long time and you often do not know that you have a disease unless you get tested.  (cdc.gov)

The Facts:

  • Newborn syphilis cases have more than doubles since 2013 with 918 cases being reported in 2017.
  • Gonorrhea diagnoses increased 67 percent overall and nearly doubled among men.  Increases in diagnoses among women, and the speed with which they are increasing, are highly concerning, with cases going up for the third year in a row.
  • Chlamydia remained the most common condition reported to CDC. More than 1.7 million cases were diagnosed in 2017, with 45 percent of these cases being among the 15 to 24 year old females. (cdc.gov)

What to do if you are a parent of a teenager?

Sit down with your teenager/adolescent and have an open and honest discussion with them. Remind them that you were once a teenager yourself.

Create an environment of approachability. Leave the door open to them and remind them that there is nothing to be embarrassed about and that talking about sex is never a one-time conversation.

Remind them that the best way to prevent an STD is to not have sex and that some people with an STD have no signs or symptoms. An STD can be spread the first time they have sex.

Schedule an appointment with your pediatrician for a well-child visit and encourage your teenager to ask any additional questions. This is a great opportunity for your pediatrician to reinforce information and provide further education.


Where can you get more information?

  • CDC How You Can Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • STD information and referrals to STD Clinics CDC-INFO
    1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
    TTY: 1-888-232-6348
    In Englishen Español
  • GirlsHealth.gov Straight talk about sexually transmitted diseases
  • Kidshealth.org Talking to your teenagers about STDs
  • American Sexual Health AssociationTeens and Young Adults

FAQ About Infant Vaccines

Your little bundle of joy has arrived and you have taken every measure to make their health and safety a priority.  An important part of this includes protecting them from the unseen dangers of communicable diseases through immunization. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies that can provide a defense against various diseases.

How do I know when my baby needs vaccines?

Your health care provider can guide you to the vaccine schedule.

  • The first vaccine (Hepatitis B) is given at birth.
  • Your child should get vaccines at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 15 months of age. These vaccines are given at the same time as the health supervision exam.

Which diseases do vaccines prevent?

  • In the last few decades, scientists have made strides in developing safe vaccines to fight against 16 diseases that used to have serious consequences.
  • Immunizing your baby with vaccines protects against serious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, polio, meningococcal disease, tetanus, rotavirus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chickenpox, influenza, and more.
  • Vaccines won’t protect children from minor illnesses like colds, but they can keep children safe from many serious diseases.

What if my baby has a reaction to the vaccines?

  • One can expect some fussiness, fever, local redness and pain in the area for a few days but these are easily treated.
  • If the reaction is more severe like excessive crying for hours or very high fever, communicate with your health care provider immediately.
  • Having a reaction does not mean that your child will not be immunized anymore; it just means that more precautions will be taken with the second set of vaccines. It is very unlikely that the child will have another serious reaction.

Why are there outbreaks of diseases like measles?

  • An outbreak for a disease will occur mostly in people who are not vaccinated. 
  • Measles is a disease that is common in many parts of the world including some countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
  • Travelers with measles bring it to the U.S and when they reach groups of individuals in the communities who are not vaccinated, it spreads quickly.

Do vaccines cause autism?

  • Childhood Vaccines do not cause autism.
  • Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism.

Can I delay vaccines?

 No. Delaying the vaccines is like driving with your child in the back seat without a car seat or a seat belt.  You may be a very safe driver but you just don’t know when another driver may take a misstep and come crashing into your car.  It is just not worth taking that risk. Similarly, you may be very conscientious about good personal hygiene in your house but you cannot control all the virus and bacteria lingering in the environment outside.

Studies show that delaying vaccines does not offer any added benefit and does not decrease the risk of illnesses.

Your child’s health care provider is equipped to address any concerns you may have regarding vaccines.   If you need to identify a pediatrician for your child, please visit http://www.chofsa.org/findadoc