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The ABCs of raising safe and healthy kids

Baby Steps

Wednesday, April 09, 2014    

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Here is a shortened version of an ABC list for raising healthy children, provided by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Alcohol-free pregnancy

Alcohol consumed during pregnancy can lead to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). There is no safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant. Therefore, it is recommended that women abstain from drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy.


Back to sleep

Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, even for naps. This is the safest sleep position for a healthy baby to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies placed on their stomachs to sleep are much more likely to die of SIDS than babies placed on their backs to sleep.


Cover up

Covering up to protect the skin from the sun can lower the risk for sunburn and skin cancer. To protect your kids from too much sun exposure, be sure they wear a hat, shades, and sunscreen; seek shade; and cover up. A few serious sunburns can increase your child's risk of skin cancer later in life.


Dental health

Dental decay is one of the most common chronic infectious diseases among children. This preventable health problem begins early and by the age of eight, approximately 52 per cent of children have experienced decay, and by the age of 17, dental decay affects 78 per cent of children. Children and adults who are at low risk of dental decay can stay cavity-free through frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride. This is best gained by drinking fluoridated water and using a fluoride toothpaste twice daily.



Exercise (physical activity) helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints; control weight; build lean muscle; lower fat; prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure; and lower blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension. It is recommended that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most, preferably all, days of the week.


Folic acid

Insufficient folic acid (a B vitamin) in pregnant women can lead to spina bifida (spine defects) and anencephaly (brain defects) in infants. All women who could possibly become pregnant should take a vitamin with folic acid every day. Take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily both before pregnancy and during the first few months of pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine.


Growth and development

Do you know all the ways you should measure your child's growth? We naturally think of height and weight, but from birth to five years, your child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks and acts.



The most important thing that you and your kids can do to help keep from getting sick is to wash hands, especially after coughing and sneezing, before preparing foods or eating, and after using the restroom. By washing your hands often, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people, from contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal waste. Everyone should wash their hands for 20 seconds (about the length of a little tune) to remove germs.


Install and maintain smoke alarms

Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home. Be sure to place smoke alarms near rooms where people sleep. Test all of your smoke alarms every month to ensure they work properly.


Watch for signs of jaundice in your young baby. When a baby's blood contains excess bilirubin (a yellow-coloured pigment of red blood cells), jaundice will occur. Jaundice is characterised by a yellow discolouration in a newborn's eyes and skin, and is common in babies born before full term. It usually occurs because the liver is not mature enough to remove bilirubin from the blood. If a baby has severe jaundice, there's a risk of bilirubin passing into the brain causing brain damage from high bilirubin levels called kernicterus. In rare cases, it can also cause cerebral palsy or deafness.


Know your child's risks and family history

Know if you or your child is at risk for certain conditions or diseases because of family history, medical history, environmental concerns, or other issues. Collect and record your family history and talk to your health care provider if there are conditions or diseases that may place you or your child at risk. Take steps to lower risk where appropriate.


Learn more about your child's life

Get to know your children's friends, interests, and hobbies. Learn if any of them are placing your children at higher risk for injuries or bad habits. Get involved in your children's lives and talk to them about making positive, healthy choices. Spend time together having fun and doing healthy things.


Motor vehicle safety

Nearly half of children under age five who were killed in motor vehicle crashes were riding unrestrained. Child safety seats lower the risk of death by about 70 per cent for infants and by about 55 per cent for toddlers ages one to four.


Nutritious food

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fibre, and other substances that are important for good health. Most fruits and vegetables are filling and naturally low in fat and calories. Leave the high-fat, high-sugar snack foods at the store. Serve child-sized portions.


Other caregivers

Ensure that others caring for your child (including family, friends, neighbours, day care, and schools) have your contact information, know what to do in case of an emergency, and have appropriate policies in place to handle problems. Determine if caregivers are screened and provided training.



Pets provide many benefits to humans. They comfort us and give us companionship. However, some animals can also pass diseases to people. Infants and children less than five years old are more likely than most people to get diseases from animals. Children should wash their hands thoroughly with running water and soap after contact with animals. Adults should supervise children while they are washing their hands.


Quit smoking

Half of all adult smokers have quit, and you can too. There are millions of people alive today who have learned to face life without a cigarette. Quitting smoking is the best step you can take for a healthier life.


Recreation and sports safety

Swimming can be fun. But certain precautions should be taken to protect your children and other swimmers from getting sick. Don't let your children swim if they have diarrhoea. Don't swallow the pool water. Wash hands.


Safety checks

Store all medicines, household products, personal care products, and other dangerous substances in locked cabinets that are out of reach of small children.


Take a break

Take a break from a situation if you feel yourself losing control. Ask a friend or relative to watch your children for a little while. Offer to help other parents so they can take a break.


Use antibiotics wisely

Use antibiotics only when your health care provider has determined that they are likely to be effective. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. They also have the highest rate of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.



Vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines. Vaccine-preventable diseases have many social and economic costs: sick children miss school and can cause parents to lose time from work. These diseases also result in doctor's visits, hospitalisations, and even premature deaths. It's important to keep vaccinations up-to-date.


Watch your kids

It only takes a second for small children to get into something they shouldn't get into. To prevent injury, be aware of common causes of injury in the home, at school, and on the move.


eXplain the facts of life

Talking about the birds and bees is important. Also, talk to your kids about some of the issues we don't often want to talk about, such as violence, abuse, what's inappropriate, and what to do if something happens.


Yearly exams and screenings

When they are less than a year old, babies should usually be seen by a health care professional every few months for routine exams, vaccinations, and screenings. Around one year of age, children may be seen every six months to yearly. Some children may need to be seen more often and others less often. Ask your health care provider how often your child should be seen.



Make sure you and your family gets plenty of sleep (ZZZZs). If you are rested, then you are in better shape to deal with the joys and challenges of raising safe and healthy kids and teens.





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