2008-12-25 / Family

Preparation Is Key For Kids' Holiday Health Issues

A combination of a frenzied pace and poor eating habits can result in a number of ailments come the holidays — just when you don't want them to rear their ugly heads and put a damper on festivities. A combination of a frenzied pace and poor eating habits can result in a number of ailments come the holidays — just when you don't want them to rear their ugly heads and put a damper on festivities. The holidays are full of fun, but calendars packed with events and activities, and indulgence in extra snacks or not-so-healthy foods can turn any family's routine on its head. It's no wonder that the holidays are often prime times for illnesses, with kids especially susceptible. However, preparing for what could happen and practicing healthy habits can keep some conditions at bay.

Tummy Troubles

"It's easy to let good habits like eating fiber-rich foods slide during the holidays," said Belinda Basaca, M.D. of New Health Pediatrics in Glen Cove, NY. "When you add in a busy schedule and a change of routine due to holiday travel, it can lead to constipation."

While it's difficult to avoid the holiday traditions, parents can take steps to make sure that stomach issues don't ruin their child's holiday season.

Keep holiday treats in check, especially fatty foods or dairy products like cheese and ice cream, which can compound constipation. Each year, pediatricians treat more than 20 million cases, and a recent survey revealed that 71 percent of moms of 2- to 11- year-olds have a child who has suffered from constipation in the last year.

Make time for bathroom breaks. Young children especially can get swept up in festivities and forget to "go." Take time out for bathroom breaks, especially after meals.

Incorporate nutritious, highfiber foods into children's diets as much as possible. And also have children drink plenty of noncarbonated, sugarless drinks. This will keep the stomach and intestinal tract operating well.

If your child becomes ill or constipated, relieve symptoms quickly by keeping the medicine cabinet stocked with must-haves. Anti-gas products work well for stomach discomfort. Over-thecounter medicines such as Pedia- Lax(R), the first complete line of laxatives made just for kids, can alleviate constipation. Pedia-Lax offers options that work quickly, overnight or gradually and comes in kid-friendly formulas and flavors, including the first quick dissolve laxative strip. For more tips on recognizing and managing children's constipation, go to www. Pedia-Lax.com.

Cold and Flu

Cramped quarters, dried out nasal passages and throat due to cold winter air, and a compromised immune system from holiday stress can be the recipe for contracting colds or the flu. Take measures so children can stave off these viruses or recover quickly.

Frequent hand-washing is the single most important thing children can do to prevent contraction of cold and flu viruses. Have children wash their hands several times a day, and especially be- fore eating meals to prevent the spread of germs from hands to mouth and nose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends routine flu vaccinations for all children ages 6 months to 18 years.

A tired, worn-out body may be more susceptible to illness. Encourage children to get enough rest during the day and sleep at night.

Studies indicate that there may be something to the homespun chicken soup remedy for colds. The warm broth combined with antioxidant-rich vegetables is good for the body and may lessen the duration of colds.


A fever is the body's natural defense to a foreign invader, usually an infection, and generally should be left to run its course. In fact, a child's fever would have to be 107.6 before it could cause brain damage.

Still, fever can put a damper on holiday festivities. Unfortunately, fever is not something you can avoid or predict. Therefore, it's best to be prepared for fever treatment.

Treatment for fever is intended to make the patient more comfortable rather than bringing down the fever, which is counter-productive to fighting the infection. Use a lukewarm wash cloth to help cool your child and do not over-dress him or her. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen should be used sparingly only if the fever is very high.

Plenty of fluids should be given to keep your child well hydrated. Sweating from fever can dehydrate a child quickly.

Contact your pediatrician when your child has a fever so that you can develop a strategy that is best for your child's illness. You must call your doctor immediately if your child's fever is accompanied with vomiting, diarrhea, a stiff neck, and/or skin spots or a rash.

"The last thing you want during the holidays is for your child to be feeling miserable," said Dr. Basaca. "Parents have the opportunity to address common holiday illnesses proactively so that everyone can have a happy and healthy holiday."

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