Category Archives: Kids Health

Articles about Kids health – General information to help children maintain a healthy and fit.

Can You Cure Diseases by Laughing?

Cure Diseases by Laughing

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

In the famous book ‘Anatomy of an illness’, Norman Cousins writes in detail how he defeated a severe, life threatening disease with mega doses of vitamin C and just laughter! Even though rigorous scientific studies on the efficacy of laughter as a healing mechanism is yet to be undertaken, there is consensus in the medical community that laughter indeed augments one’s natural healing powers. It may not be long before doctors prescribe 10 minutes of belly laughter along with 30 minutes of exercise!

Laughing as Exercise

Towards the end of the 20th century, laughter clubs gained in popularity. In these clubs, people get together and engage in laughter on purpose. In fact, deep belly laughter acts as a light workout for your body. When you laugh deeply, your facial muscles stretch, your whole body convulses, your pulse increases like crazy and more oxygen is pumped to your tissues, as you breathing gets faster. It is for this reason that laughter has been called ‘internal jogging’.

Natural Immune Booster

Tickling your funny bones is good for your immune system too. If grief and anger suppresses your immune system, positive emotional expressions such as laughter does just the opposite. It reduces cortisol levels and increases the antibodies that fight against infection, cytokines that regulate immune functions, and natural killer cells that destroy tumor and viral cells.  Studies have shown that infection-fighting antibodies flood your system when you enter into bouts of deep laughter.

Good for Your Heart

A study by the researchers at the Loma Linda University of California found that just one year of watching hilarious TV shows had the effect of increasing good cholesterol in patients by about 26%. The link is very clear. When you laugh genuinely, your stress levels are very low, and people with lower stress have of course fewer chances of getting heart problems.  

Mental Health Benefits

There are well-recorded benefits of laughter for mental health. Laughter releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the body that promote a sense of well-being and relief from stress. In situations where there are conflicting opinions, seeing the humor in the argument and starting to laugh can defuse the tension. Laughter reduces stress by reducing cortisol levels. It also counteracts feelings of anxiety and sadness. Thus, a dose of laughter can significantly reduce the generalized anxiety in a family or any other social group. Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are two mental illnesses that can be positively affected by laughter.

Laughter as Pain Reliever

Laughter has been found to be a non-pharmacological method of reducing pain in a major study involving senior citizens. Scientists believe that the long series of exhalations that characterize true laughter lead to physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles, which in turn releases endorphins. This is the rationale behind the laughter therapy or humor therapy that has gained traction with many people in modern society. In a laughter therapy session, laughter is forced at first, but later on is genuinely produced by the members. It helps people to cope with the pain associated with serious diseases such as cancer. Such therapy sessions make use of comedy movies, clowns, games or impromptu laughter exercises. 

So what can I do to laugh?

Best laughter is spontaneously produced, in the company of friends and family. However, if you are in need of some laughter inducers, there are time-tested comedies that can guarantee results. Examples are White Chicks (2004), Step Brothers (2008), and Girls Trip (2017), to name a few. If you are into comedy shows there are many laughter-inducing ones such as Friends (1994–2004), The Big Bang Theory (2007–2019), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005–), Arrested Development (2003–),Modern Family (2009–2020), and Parks and Recreation (2009–2020). Standup comedians such as Ricky Gervais. Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, Jim Jefferies, Zach Galifianakis and Aziz Ansari will also tickle your funny bones without fail. If you are looking for funny comics and graphic novels, there are plenty in that section too:  I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young and Jean- Francois Beaulieu, Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, and Sarah’s Scribbles By Sarah C. Andersen are a few that are guaranteed laughter inducers. Even good old The Adventures of Tintin by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, (Hergé) has hilarious moments interspersed throughout. Finally, there are websites with jokes pages freely available.  

What Causes Anxiety in Children?

Childhood Anxiety

Anxiety in childhood is very common. It is one of the factors that prevent a child from realizing his full potential as he grows into an adult. There are many reasons for anxiety in childhood as given below.

Parental conflict

Parents are the vessel that holds the children inside. Any crack in the vessel opens the possibility that children may fall and meet with danger. When parents have open disagreements and fights, children get a sense of insecurity that translates into anxiety. Even in the absence of open disagreement and fights, children can sense it if the parents do not love each other. This subconscious sensing often leads them to wonder if the parents will end up divorcing, which, for the children, is their worst fears come true. They might have heard of classmates or friends who had the misfortune to go through parental divorce, and would not want it to happen to them. The fear that it may happen is a cause of anxiety for children.

Frequently moving house or school

Children need a certain degree of predictability and stability in their life. When the family moves house, often the child has to change schools, and this can cause at least a moderate degree of anxiety on both kids. It is most problematic for kids who are naturally introverted, and whose personalities are inclined towards anxiety and worry. With each move, the child has to face a new school environment and different rules from the previous school. These problems are particularly serious in puberty, when friends become very important. Having to make new friends is a challenge for the kid who moves frequently. All these upheavals can give rise to anxiety.

Parental anxiety

Some children ‘learn’ to be anxious from their parents. Kids learn how to deal with ambiguous situations from their parents. If parents are anxious when there is a sudden change in schedule, or when there is an unexpected knock on the door, children learn that this is how the reaction to such stimuli should be. If the parent is often anxious and fearful, children will soon determine that the world is a very unsafe and fearsome place. There is also the genetic factor: children of anxious parents are likely to develop anxiety themselves.

Environment of criticism

If children are constantly criticized for every single thing that they do less than perfectly, they are likely to grow up with anxiety. In time, such children become anxious to do anything, for fear of making a mistake. This environment of criticism can be at home or in school. Such anxiety can create a vicious cycle. The more a child is criticized, the worse he might perform, and the worse the performance is, the stronger the criticism gets. Thus the cycle continues on and on.

Bullying at school

One of the most common triggers of school-related anxiety is bullying. Kids who are bullied can experience Social anxiety which, in severe cases, can lead them to avoid social situations altogether. A fear of being humiliated and judged negatively will haunt them often into adulthood. Children are bullied for a variety of reasons: for being un-athletic, being a slow learner, or having some disability etc.

Examinations

Another common anxiety trigger is exams. Most children are anxious about exams and to an extent such anxiety is healthy, as it leads them to make sure they will do well. However, for some children, it crosses that point, and makes them so fearful of the exams that they are unable to do well. They may have butterflies in the stomach, and their mind go blank while looking at the questions.

Unrealistic parental expectations

Perfectionist parents may often have children who are afraid to make mistakes, and thus may avoid doing something altogether, anxious that they will not be able to do it well.  High achieving parents usually expect their kids to do equally or better than them. Even if parents do not verbalize it explicitly, the message will get conveyed to the children in a multitude of ways, that the expectations are high. If the children think that they can never reach those expectations, anxiety can be high.

Genetics

It is an old debate whether it is nature or nurture that is responsible for how a child turns out to be. The consensus so far in the scientific community has been that both play a role. A child born in a family in which parents or other relatives have anxiety, is more likely to be anxious than a child with no such family history.  

Brain chemistry

According to modern science there are brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that play a role in how a person feels and acts. When some of these brain chemicals are in short supply or are not working well, anxiety can result.  This is the rationale behind prescribing anti-anxiety medication to people with anxiety disorders. However, such medications are rarely used in children due to potential side effects.

Physical Exercise for Kids During COVID-19 Lockdown

Physical Exercise for Kids

Kids are typically restless and movement-oriented. Any prolonged period of time cooped up in a confined space is equivalent to a death sentence to a normal child. With the advent of the digital revolution, the tendency to move has largely transferred to online games and videos, with increased danger of childhood health issues. With the Lockdown imposed due to COVID-19, what little exercise kids used to get by means of playing at school or doing exercise during Physical Education lessons is non-existent now. Therefore, it is important to understand what physical exercise can be had at home during this Lockdown time, without it becoming another boring chore.

1. Take breaks during online learning

Most schools have moved online during this time, and are conducting classes using platforms such as Google Classroom and apps such as Zoom. Encourage your kids to walk during the time in between lessons, play with a ball or with a pet. At any cost, avoid continuous sitting in one position for a prolonged period of time. It is commendable that some schools still continue their PE lessons online, even asking students to wear PE attire for the duration of the class.

2. Engage in domestic chores

With parents also mostly working from home, it is beneficial to all to have some time devoted to house chores such as cleaning, folding clothes and gardening. The body gets moving once you decide to have a tiny vegetable garden by the side of the kitchen area with your kids. Many young kids love to vacuum their own room, and this is another chore that could be done on a daily basis.

3. Follow an online exercise class

This is an ideal time to take advantage of scores of online classes available, many of which are free and easily found on YouTube. There are exercises suitable for the whole family that can be done together without getting anyone particularly exhausted. One advantage of doing exercise together is increased motivation. Alone, it is more difficult to exercise. For kids, it is enjoyable to see their parents doing the same exercise as themselves.

4. Walk in small spaces

Help your child take advantage of every little chance to walk. It could be fetching a glass of water for each of the parents from the kitchen, for example. Walking the family pet dog even in a small, confined space gives some movement for tiny muscles. With very young kids, walking can be turned into a game for the mother and the child, with each walking from opposing sides of the room and hugging in the middle.

5. Invest in a standing desk

Learning at home during Lockdown time need not be done glued to the chair in front of the computer. You could invest in a standing desk or simply make one up using a high table or a pile of books. The aim is to reduce sedentary sitting time as much as possible. Ideally, every 30 minutes of sedentary sitting time should be interrupted by a brief walk-about or standing and stretching.

6. Physical games indoors

There are many games and game-equipment that can be bought which can be invaluable for an active life indoors for very young kids. A few examples are a mini-trampoline, twister, a balance beam, indoor obstacle course and scavenger hunt. If you would like to go easy on spending, some of these games can use simple household items. For example, an indoor obstacle course can be easily made by rearranging furniture.

7. Active family time

There are many families who decide on a particular time to be active together. It may be a morning Yoga session or evening basketball game. It could even be just getting out of the house in the evening for a walk around. When it is done as a family together, there is greater family bonding, in addition to the much-needed physical activity.

8. Screen shut-down time

In a lot of households, the inactive time is mainly the time spent in front of the television or on the mobile phone, chatting and watching videos or playing online in the case of kids. It is of enormous benefit to physical and psychological health to switch off access to the internet between 5 pm and 7 pm every single day. This will in effect release everyone from the bondage to the screen and give them freedom to move outside, or engage in physical activities indoors. The key to this strategy being successful is that everyone in the family should agree on this, and parents should be consistent in enforcing it.

Immunity-Boosting Foods for Kids

Immunity-Boosting Foods for Kids

As the world is grappling with COVID-19, the one question that is on every parent’s mind is ‘how do I protect myself and my family’. Is there a way for the human body to get natural immunity to the Corona virus? While there is no proven way in which we can get natural immunity to the Corona virus, it does help to have a top-notch immune system that can hold the fort, come what may. Kids are less likely to get infected from Corona virus compared to the elderly, but still it makes sense to boost up their immunity so that they are armed well against the virus. Read on to find out the best immune-boosting foods that your kids should be having at this time. As you would imagine, these are typically foods that kids do not like to eat, but there are ways to make kids eat healthy food that you may find out from many sources.

Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid which is its scientific name, is sometimes called the ‘Immunity Vitamin’. It boosts immunity by stimulating the production and function of different types of white blood cells and antibodies. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, kiwi, lemon, guava, papaya, and strawberries. Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and capsicums are also rich sources of vitamin C.

Sources of Beta carotene

Beta carotene, a red/orange pigment found in some fruits and vegetables, gets converted to vitamin A in the body, which is vital for a strong immune system. Vitamin A works by helping antibodies respond to foreign substances and toxins. Good sources of beta carotene are mangoes, onions, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, kale, broccoli, spinach, squash and cantaloupe.

Sources of Vitamin D

A deficiency in vitamin D can result in greater susceptibility towards infections, especially upper respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D helps to activate ‘T cells’ in the body, which detect and destroy foreign pathogens like viruses. Exposure to sunlight can lead to the manufacture of vitamin D in the body, but to rely on this source alone may not be wise in areas of the world where continuous sunlight is a scarce commodity. Good food sources of vitamin D include eggs, cheese, tofu, mushrooms, fatty fish like salmon and sardines and fortified milk and plant milk products.

Sources of Vitamin E

Vitamin E, as an antioxidant in the human body, is critical for the optimal functioning of the cells of the immune system. Vitamin E deficiency results in increased risks of infection. Good sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, avocadoes, spinach and trout.

Sources of vitamin B6

A deficiency of the B6 vitamin may reduce your body’s production of white blood cells, including the killer T cells, which help regulate the immune functions of the body.  Good sources of vitamin B6 include milk, beef, tuna, eggs, salmon, sweet potato, green peas and spinach. In fact, roasted chickpeas are a nutritional storehouse to be given to kids as a viable substitute to store-bought chips.

Sources of zinc

Zinc is a mineral known to play a vital role in the immune system. People who are deficient in Zinc develop susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Taking zinc supplements or foods that are good sources of zinc at the start of a cold has shown to reduce its severity. Good sources of zinc include tofu, nuts, wheat germ, chickpeas, lentils, beans, crab, oysters, beef, pork chop, yogurt and dark meat poultry.

Sources of protein

Proteins are key building blocks of antibodies and immune cells, and play a vital role in helping our immune system function well against invading pathogens. Protein rich foods come from both plant and animal sources. Fish, beef, poultry, milk, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, seeds, nuts, beans and lentils are good sources of protein.

Sources of prebiotics and probiotics

Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber that functions as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria present in our guts and stimulate healthy digestion and boost the immune system. Good sources of prebiotics include whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks, whole grains, asparagus, and beans. Good sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, miso and tempeh.

Hydrating foods

Water flushes out toxins from the body, so drinking more of it can prevent toxins from building up and harming your immune system. The most common recommendation is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water or two liters per day. However, it need not be in the form of water alone. You can make up the required amount of hydration by having other fluids and water rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and soups.

Skin Care For Kids

Skin Care For Kids

Advice on general health care for kids is found aplenty around us. However, do we have enough information on specific health issues like skin care? What kind of skin care is needed for kids and at what age should it start? Should kids use sunscreen? What are skin problems they are likely to suffer from? Questions like these trouble young parents often. Read on for a comprehensive answer. Continue reading Skin Care For Kids

How to Handle Dental Emergencies in Children

Dental treatment

Dental emergencies can be alarming especially when they affect your own children. They often happen at unexpected times so it can be easy to spiral into a panic especially if you don’t know how to handle them. Dental emergencies are actually more common than you may think and knowing what to do when they happen is extremely important. If your child faces a dental emergency, be sure to find an emergency dentist in your area quickly, like by visiting www.emergencydentistsusa.com.

It’s important to note that it’s usually best to visit an emergency dentist as opposed to the emergency room as dentists are better equipped to treat tooth-related issues. However, if there have been any head injuries or other trauma you should go to the emergency room immediately. This article will go over some of the most common dental emergencies seen in children and how to handle them before you visit an emergency dentist.

Knocked-Out Tooth

If one of your children’s teeth gets knocked out, it’s important that you try to preserve it as best as possible, even if it’s a baby tooth. However, do not try to reinsert the tooth on your own. Call to schedule an appointment with an emergency dentist so they can confirm the entire tooth is out and that no other teeth were affected. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Before your child’s appointment, you can rinse the tooth with warm water and keep it in a cup of water or milk. If your child is in pain, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers to help manage it until the dental appointment.

Broken Tooth

A broken or cracked tooth is serious and it’s important to get into a dental office quickly to help save the tooth and prevent infection. If this happens to your child, rinse their mouth with water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Also, try to find the broken pieces of the tooth and place them in a cup of milk or water to bring to the dental appointment with you.

Loose Teeth

It’s common for children to have loose teeth as they grow their adult teeth. However, a loose tooth may be a cause for concern. If your child has a loose tooth, it should be removed so your child doesn’t swallow or inhale it. You can call an emergency dentist and they can remove it for you if you’re having trouble doing so at home.

Toothache

Toothaches are an uncomfortable, yet common, dental emergency that children face. Schedule an appointment with an emergency dentist so you can quickly find the root cause of the toothache and come up with a plan of action. Most toothaches aren’t serious and can easily be remedied. It’s important for your child’s overall dental health to see a dentist quickly if they are experiencing a toothache.

Before your child’s appointment, you can comfort them by rinsing their mouth with warm water and using over the counter pain relievers. Sometimes a cold compress can help relieve some of the discomforts as well.

Objects Caught in Teeth

If your child has an object caught in their teeth, it may or may not require a trip to the emergency dentist. Most times, you can remove the objects by using dental floss to gently remove it. Don’t ever use a metal, plastic, or sharp tool to try and remove the object as it can lead to injury. If you are having trouble removing the object you can call an emergency dentist and they will schedule an appointment to get the object removed.

Dental emergencies happen quite frequently so most dentists are prepared to deal with them when patients arrive. However, it can still be alarming especially if your child experiences it. As mentioned, an emergency dentist will be best equipped to treat tooth-related injuries, but if there has been any head trauma or another injury you will want to visit the emergency room quickly.

Knowing how to handle a dental emergency can help you avoid panic if your child experiences one. There are many ways to manage pain and avoid infection at home before your child’s emergency dental appointment. Remember to try and stay calm and call your dentist immediately before the situation gets worse.

Mental Health Check-In: How to Talk to Your Child About Depression & Anxiety

Mental Health Children

Talking to children about mental health can be difficult. Many parents don’t want to expose their children to something so complicated and overwhelming; however, opening the conversation can remove the stigma and much of the stress associated with it. Continue reading Mental Health Check-In: How to Talk to Your Child About Depression & Anxiety