Working and Learning from Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak

To help contain COVID-19, many schools are moving children to online learning at home. In addition, many parents are being asked to work from home. These forms of social distancing are needed to help slow the spread of the virus and prevent overloading the health care system.

But many families now face new challenges: how do we care for our children while working and schooling at home, and not panic during this unprecedented outbreak? The first step: take a deep breath. Know that we are all in this together. And together we will get through it.

Here are some other tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help you cope with this “new normal” until the virus is under control.

Slow the spread

It may be tempting to get kids together for play dates or sleepovers, but this should be avoided. Social distancing only works if we all participate. And slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus will save lives.

Protect grandparents. This is also not the time to visit grandparents or ask them to help out with child care duties. People who are over age 60 are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and should not increase that risk by being around children who may be ill with mild symptoms. However, they may feel alone or disconnected during social distancing, so keep up communications through phone calls, texting, or video chats.

Keep a routine

Since changes in routine can be stressful, it will be helpful to talk with your kids about why they are staying home and what your daily structure will be during this time. Let them help create a daily schedule that can hang on the refrigerator or somewhere they can see it each day. Be sure to include breaks from tele-work or schoolwork to relax and connect with each other.

Here are some ideas to help you create a daily schedule:

  • Wake up, get dressed and have breakfast at the normal time.
  • Decide where everyone can do their work most effectively and without distractions.
  • List the times for learning, exercise and breaks.
  • For younger children, 20 minutes of class assignments followed by 10 minutes of physical activity might work well.
  • Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches, taking breaks between subjects.
  • Include your hours as well, so your children know when the work day is done.
  • Schedule time for nutritious lunches and snacks. Many schools are providing take-home school meal packages for students who need them.
  • Don’t forget afternoon breaks as well!
  • Have dinner together as a family and discuss the day.
  • Enjoy more family time in the evenings, playing, reading, watching a movie or exercising together.
  • Stick with normal bedtime routines as much as possible during the week to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.

Try not to have the news on all day. It is best not to have the news on while kids are in the room as it can increase their fear and anxiety (and yours!). If they do listen to the news, talk together about what they are hearing and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.

Should I worry about extra screen time right now?

While limits are still important, it’s understandable that under these stressful circumstances, kids’ screen media use will likely increase. Here are some ways to help keep media use positive and helpful:

  • Contact teachers about educational online and offline activities your children should do. Preschool teachers may not have an online curriculum to share, but good options include PBS Kids, which is sending out a daily newsletter with show and activity ideas.
  • Use social media for good. Check in with your neighbors, friends and loved ones. If schools are closed, find out if there are ways to help students who need meals or internet access for at-home learning.
  • Use media for social connection. Social distancing can be isolating. If your kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats or social media to stay in touch.
  • Choose quality content and use trusted sources to find it. Common Sense Media, for example, suggests 25 dance​​ games and other active apps, websites, and video games​ for families hunkering down right now.
  • Use media together. This is a great opportunity to monitor what your older children are seeing online and follow what your children are learning. Even watching a family movie together can help everyone relax while you appreciate the storytelling and meaning that movies can bring.
  • Take your child (virtually) to work. Working from home? Use this time as a chance to show your kids a part of your world. Encouraging imaginative “work” play may be a way to apply “take your child to work day” without ever leaving home!
  • Limits are still important. As always, technology use should not push out time needed for needed sleep, physical activity, reading, or family connection. Make a plan about how much time kids can play video games online with friends, and where their devices will charge at night.

Remember

Staying at home and other social distancing recommendations may feel like an inconvenience, but it’s the best way right now to protect our family, friends, and neighbors who may be vulnerable.

If anyone in your home starts showing symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor to discuss what to do.


Written by Corinn Cross, MD FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Let’s talk about Telemedicine

Hello to all our Pediatrics Plus families! We’ve received a lot of questions about “telemedicine,” so we wanted to reach out with some information for you.

“Telemedicine” (or “telehealth”) is a medical visit that you do online from home on a computer or phone (any device with a webcam will work!). While far from our preferred way to care for our patients, it has become a short-term necessity.

All of our clinicians (including Cristina Zurlis, our social worker) are available for telemedicine visits. We know this is a stressful time for many children and families. If you feel your child would benefit from a few telemedicine sessions with Cristina Zurlis to discuss stress-reduction techniques/coping skills, please do reach out to her. Cristina can be reached directly at (475) 800-8088, or you can leave a message for her through our receptionists (203) 239-4627.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Our clinicians are all available in the office for well visits/physicals. We encourage you to bring your child in for their well visits, especially if they are due for vaccines.
  • We are not able to do a well visit/physical with telemedicine, but we can do almost any other type of visit, including fever, cough, sore throat, ear pain, stomach pain, and rashes.
  • These visits are billed to your insurance like a normal office visit.

To schedule a telemedicine visit:

  • Call our office during normal business hours (currently 9am to 5pm) to talk with our receptionists/nurses.
  • You’ll need to provide our office with the email address you want to use to receive the appointment link, and they’ll also verify your insurance and contact information.
  • You’ll be given an appointment time.
  • At or before the appointment time, you’ll receive an email from Doxy.me with a link to click for your appointment. Click that link at the appointment time.
  • You don’t need a Doxy.me account, and you don’t need to give Doxy.me any personal information. Doxy.me is HIPPA compliant, and the visits are not recorded.
  • You do need a computer, phone, or tablet with webcam and microphone enabled. The patient and parent/caregiver both need to be available at the appointment time and in the same room.
  • It’s very helpful if you have a flashlight to help us better look in your child’s throat (a cell phone flashlight works fine). If you have a thermometer and/or home pulse oximeter, have those handy too.
  • After the visit, your clinician can send any prescriptions they feel are medically necessary (like antibiotics) to your pharmacy or other medically necessary testing such as Covid-19 testing.

To Our Pediatrics Plus Families

We’re taking every step we can to protect you and your children — and our entire community — during this COVID-19 outbreak. We are closely following updates from the state health department and Yale New Haven Hospital and will keep you updated if recommendations change or as new information becomes available. To help ensure the health and safety of our patients, we are making some temporary changes to our scheduling procedure. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience these changes may cause.

For the next two weeks (and longer if needed), we have made the following changes:

  1. We will be seeing well visits only in the morning (physicals, baby weight checks, etc).
  2. Our office will close at 5pm but, as always, a nurse or clinician is available when the office is closed to address any concerns that cannot wait until normal office hours. By shifting our evening clinicians’ hours to earlier in the day, we hope to maximize the number of well visits we can accommodate each day while still having plenty of time available for acute visits.
  3. If you think your child needs an office visit due to illness, injury, or other concerns, please call to speak with one of our nurses to determine if your questions can be answered over the phone, if your child needs a telemedicine visit online with one of our clinicians, or if your child needs an afternoon in-office visit with one of our clinicians.
  4. We have new cleaning protocols in place, especially for commonly-touched surfaces.
  5. We’ve temporarily removed toys, magazines, and books from our waiting room and exam rooms, as they are difficult to clean between patient visits.

Please help us keep our patients and staff healthy by abiding by the following guidelines:

  1. When you arrive for your appointment, please stay in your car and call to tell us you’ve arrived. When a room is available, you’ll be directed to come directly to your clean exam room.
  2. If a patient or parent/caregiver or sibling has ANY potentially contagious symptoms (including fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, or diarrhea) or has been exposed to COVID, please do not come into our office at this time, especially for well visits. If we are concerned that anyone in your family is exhibiting these symptoms when you arrive for your visit, your visit will be rescheduled.
  3. If possible, please leave siblings at home and have only one adult accompany your child for appointments in our office.
  4. If our clinicians (or other staff members) develop any symptoms of COVID, we will have them stay home for the safety of our patients and staff. We apologize if this leads to your child’s appointment being moved or rescheduled.

Children and COVID-19

COVID-19 is a coronavirus, a type of virus that usually causes the common cold. COVID-19 is a new strain of the virus that behaves differently than previous strains, causing severe illness in some. The evidence so far suggests that children have been getting COVID-19 but generally experience mild symptoms with the disease.

We understand that the current situation with COVID-19 can be scary for both parents and children. However, there are some things that we can do to help prevent the spread of this virus. Everyone should follow common sense precautions such as:

  • Staying home when sick
  • Avoiding large events or groups of people
  • Good handwashing
  • Not touching our faces

What is potentially concerning is if children spread COVID-19 to those around them. Older adults and those with significant health concerns are at much higher risk of serious disease. This is why the state health department and medical advisors have been recommending limiting contacts and canceling large gatherings that put older family members at risk.

This website has useful information about COVID-19, including suggestions for how to talk to your child about the virus:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.aspx

We hope to have information for you soon about COVID-19 testing in our area. For now, Yale New Haven Health has started a free COVID-19 hotline to provide information and answer questions about the virus: (203) 688-1700 (toll-free: (833) 484-1200), 7am to 7pm.

Get Outside: Top Things to Do

Now more than ever, we’re lucky to live in Connecticut. Our state is home to hiking trails, parks, forests, nature preserves and miles of scenic New England coastline that are sure to inspire adventure for nature lovers of all ages.

CLICK HERE for some great ways to get outdoor from the Connecticut Office of Tourism

Are Your Kids Hungry or Just Bored?

Children (as well as adults) often use food for reasons other than to satisfy hunger. Children often eat in response to their emotions and feelings. If your child seems hungry all the time, use the following tips to get a better idea of what is really going on.

What Triggers Hunger?
If your child is eating 3 well-balanced meals and 1 snack a day but still claims to be hungry, there may be other reasons beyond hunger that make him or her want to eat.

What You Can Do
Ask yourself this: Does your child sometimes reach for food when experiencing any of the following?

  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Frustration
  • Insecurity
  • Loneliness
  • Fatigue
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Happiness

Does your child eat at times other than regular mealtimes and snacks? Is your child munching at every opportunity?

Do you reward your child with food (does an A on a test sometimes lead to a trip to the ice cream shop)? This can inadvertently contribute to your child’s obesity.

When your child is doing things right, do you tell him or her? Words of approval can boost a child’s self-esteem. They can also help keep a child motivated to continue making the right decisions for health and weight.

How are you speaking to your child? Is it mostly negative? Is it often critical? It’s hard for anyone, including children, to make changes in that kind of environment.

Healthy Alternatives
If you suspect your child is eating out of boredom, you may need to steer him or her toward other activities as a distraction.

What You Can Do
Make sure your child is eating 3 well-balanced meals and 1 snack a day. This will prevent feelings of hunger between meals.

Help your child choose other things to do instead of eating, such as:

  • Walking the dog
  • Running through the sprinklers
  • Playing a game of badminton
  • Kicking a soccer ball
  • Painting a picture
  • Going in-line skating
  • Dancing
  • Planting a flower in the garden
  • Flying a kite
  • Joining you for a walk through the mall (without stopping at the ice cream shop)

Offer healthy snacks such as raw vegetables, fruit, light microwave popcorn, vegetable soup, sugar-free gelatin, and fruit snacks. Snacks such as chips and candy bars have empty calories that will not make your child feel full.

You pick the snack. When children are allowed to pick their own snacks, they often make unhealthy choices. Talk to your child about why healthy snacks are important. Come up with a list of snacks that you can both agree on and have them on hand.

Remember
Your own relationship with food and weight, dating back to your childhood, can influence the way you parent your own child. One of your biggest challenges is to determine whether your child is eating for the right reasons.


Source: Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


A Lullaby for Good Health

​​​Many times, we adults deprive ourselves of the one thing that can help refresh our bodies and minds overnight: sleep. And as adults, we sometimes make choices that cause our sleep patterns to get out of whack.

But do your children have a choice when it comes to the amount of sleep they get? It is our duty to help them adopt healthy sleep habits while they’re young so they can grow into happy, energetic, and healthy adults.

Healthy Sleep

Because their bodies are growing, children need more sleep than adults. An important part of a child’s healthy sleep is a steady bedtime routine. At the end of the day, both the body and mind need to wind down, relax, and prepare physically and mentally for sleep. A bedtime routine is the best way to make sure that there is enough time to make that transition.

The body’s natural cycles of sleeping and being awake are sometimes called circadian rhythms. These sleep patterns are regulated by light and dark. Children begin to develop a cycle around six weeks of age, and most have a regular pattern by three to six months.

Troubled Sleeping

What is keeping our children awake? Some of the most common include the following conditions and occurrences:

  • Insomnia occurs when a child complains of having trouble falling or staying asleep, or of waking up too early in the morning.
  • Nightmares occur late at night during REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep and awaken a child.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder that includes uncomfortable feelings in the legs, which cause an overwhelming urge to move.
  • Sleep terrors (also called night terrors) occur early in the night. A child may scream out and be distressed, although he is neither awake nor aware during a sleep terror. Sleep terrors may be caused by not getting enough sleep, an irregular sleep schedule, stress, or sleeping in a new environment.
  • Sleeptalking occurs when the child talks, laughs, or cries out in her sleep. As with sleep terrors, the child is unaware and has no memory of the incident the next day.
  • Sleepwalking is experienced by as many as 40 percent of children, usually between ages 3 and 7.
  • Snoring occurs when there is a partial blockage in the airway that causes the back of the throat to vibrate, creating the noise we all know. About 10 to 12 percent of normal children habitually snore.
  • Sleep apnea occurs when snoring is loud and the child is having trouble breathing. Symptoms include pauses in breathing during sleep caused by blocked airway passages, which can wake the child up repeatedly.

Lack of Sleep = Health Problems

Sleep deprivation in children has been linked with potentially serious health issues. These can include some of the most pressing illnesses facing American children today.

  • Anxiety and Depression: Insomnia can contribute to anxiety by raising levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Sleep problems can also make other symptoms of depression worse and are much more common than oversleeping in people with depression.
  • Obesity: About two-thirds of the children diagnosed with sleep apnea in our clinic are overweight or obese. Obese children tend to have more fat tissue around their neck, which puts more pressure on the airway and further block air from getting through to the lungs.
  • Diabetes: Research from the American Diabetes Association showed that inadequate sleep may prompt development of insulin resistance, a well-known risk factor for diabetes.
  • Immunity problems: Several nights of poor rest can hamper the production of interleukin-1, an important immune booster. A good night’s sleep helps your child’s body fight off illness and stay healthy.
  • ADHD: Children who often snore or have sleep problems are almost twice as likely to suffer from ADHD as those who sleep well. Other research has shown that children who don’t get enough sleep tend to have more problems concentrating during the day.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Talk to your pediatrician if you notice any of the following symptoms:
  • An infant who is extremely and consistently fussy
  • A child having problems breathing
  • A child who snores, especially if it’s loud
  • Unusual awakenings
  • Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, especially if you see daytime sleepiness or behavioral problems

Sleep Tips

Here are some important things you can do to help your child get enough sleep.

  • Set a regular bedtime for everyone each night and stick to it.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as giving your child a warm bath or reading her a story.
  • After one year of age, let your child pick a doll, blanket, stuffed animal, or other soft object as a bedtime companion.
  • Do not allow a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom.
  • Avoid giving children anything with caffeine within six hours of bedtime, and limit the amount of caffeine children consume.
  • Keep noise levels low, rooms dark, and indoor temperatures slightly cool.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if your child has symptoms of RLS. There are several options for treating this condition.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if your child is showing signs of sleep apnea. There are proven treatments for this condition, as well.

Source: Adapted from Healthy Children Magazine, Summer 2007. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatric

Helping Children Handle Stress

How can we help our children handle the stresses of everyday life?

In middle childhood, pressures may come from a number of sources-from within the child herself, as well as from parents, teachers, peers and the larger society in which the child lives. Pressure can take many forms that challenge children and to which they must respond and, often, adapt. Whether these are events of lasting consequence like the divorce of their parents, or merely a minor hassle like losing their homework, these demands or stresses are a part of children’s daily existence.

Children welcome some events and are able to adapt to them with relative ease. They perceive other events as threats to their own or the family’s daily routines or general sense of well-being, and these stresses are more troublesome. Most stress faced by children is in the middle, neither welcomed nor seriously harmful, but rather a part of accomplishing the tasks of childhood and learning about themselves.

Youngsters may also worry about making friends, succeeding in school, combating peer pressure or overcoming a physical impairment. Whatever its form, if stress is too intense or long-lasting, it can sometimes take a toll on children. Clusters of stressful events seem to predispose children to illness. Major events, especially those that forever change a child’s family, like the death of a parent, can have lasting effects on children’s psychological health and well-being. Minor daily stresses can also have consequences. They can contribute to loss of sleep or appetite. Children may become angry or irritable or their school grades may suffer. Their behavior and their willingness to cooperate may change.

How Different Children Cope with Stress

Children’s temperaments vary and thus they are quite different in their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles. Some are easygoing by nature and adjust easily to events and new situations. Others are thrown off balance by changes in their lives. All children improve in their ability to handle stress if they previously have succeeded in managing challenges and if they feel they have the ability and the emotional support of family and friends. Children who have a clear sense of personal competence, and who feel loved and supported, generally do well.

Certainly, a child’s age and development will help determine how stressful a given situation may be. Changing teachers at midyear may be a major event for a child in the first grade and merely an annoyance for a sixth-grader. Being short may be a minor issue for a 5- or 6-year-old boy but a source of daily embarrassment for an adolescent. How a child perceives and responds to stress depends in part on development, in part on experience, and in part on a child’s individual temperament.

Ironically, many parents believe that their school-age children are unaware of the stresses around them and are somehow immune to them. After all, their children not only have all their basic needs met, but perhaps they also have a roomful of toys, friends to share them with, plenty of playtime, and a full schedule of extracurricular activities.

Yet children are very sensitive to the changes around them, especially to the feelings and reactions of their parents, even if those feelings are not communicated directly in words. If a parent loses a job, children will have to adjust to their family’s financial crisis; they must deal not only with the obvious family budgetary changes but also with the changes in their parents’ emotional states. Children may have to cope with a bully on the playground, a move to a new neighborhood, a parent’s serious illness or the disappointment of a poor sports performance. They might feel a constant, nagging pressure to dress the “right” way, or to achieve the high grades that can put them on the fast track toward the “right” college.

Stress and Today’s Middle-years Child

Some psychologists believe that today’s middle-years youngsters actually are faced with more stress than the children of previous generations were and have fewer social supports available. The change in family structure from the large, supportive, extended families (including both parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents) of previous generations, to the present high incidence of divorced families, single-parent families and stepfamilies has drastically altered the experience of childhood. Millions of youngsters must adjust to such changes.

Even in intact and stable families, the growing number of households with two working parents often forces children to spend more time in after-school programs or at home alone. For some children this loss of time with their parents is quite stressful. So, too, is the responsibility for caring for themselves and the family home and sometimes for overseeing a younger sibling after school.

Many children and their families are stressed by the multiple activities that fill children’s “free time.” Overscheduled children with inadequate “down time” can become exhausted.

Today’s children are also being raised in an era in which they are exposed to violence and peer pressure about sexual activity and drug use and are warned to be cautious about kidnapping, sexual abuse and other crimes. This sense that they are living in an unsafe world is a constant source of stress for some children. In short, today’s youngsters are regularly confronted with challenges to their coping skills and often are expected to grow up too fast.

Good and Bad Stress

Not all stress is bad. Moderate amounts of pressure imposed by a teacher or a coach, for example, can motivate a child to keep her grades up in school or to participate more fully in athletic activities. Successfully managing stressful situations or events enhances a child’s ability to cope in the future.

When the stress is continuous or particularly intense, it takes a toll on both the psyche and the body. Sudden stressful events will accelerate your child’s breathing and heartbeat, constrict her blood vessels, increase her blood pressure and muscle tension and perhaps cause stomach upset and headaches. As stress persists, she might be more susceptible to illness and experience fatigue, nightmares, teeth-grinding, insomnia, tantrums, depression and school failure.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Managing School Holidays and Vacations

Not surprisingly, some single and working parents have grown to dread school vacations, legal holidays (like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Washington’s Birthday), and “teacher in-service days.” These are days when the child is out of school but parents usually have to be at work. To make matters worse, care givers whom you might rely on at other times of the year often ask for time off during holidays, and community activities like art classes and Scouting often are cancelled too.

The good side of these situations is that you know they are coming and can plan for them. To help in that process, get copies of your child’s school schedule as early as possible so you are aware of vacations several months in advance. Children’s vacation schedules often dictate family vacation plans. With sufficient advance notice, you may be able to block out your own vacation time to coincide with that of your youngster.

Few parents have as much vacation time available as do their children, so arrangements have to be made for child care and supervision within the frame work of the demands of the parents’ jobs. If your spouse has some flexibility in his or her work schedule, divide the home responsibilities so one of you takes time off during different parts of the children’s vacation. Some couples are able to work out a plan where Mom is home in the morning, and Dad replaces her in the afternoon; perhaps one or both can work flexible schedules (6 A.M. to 2 P.M.; 2:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M.) So that at least one parent is home at all times.

Fortunately, businesses are becoming more sensitive to the family needs of their employees. The federal Medical and Family Leave Act of 1993 is helpful to parents upon the birth or adoption of a child, or when a child is ill, but it does not have any provisions covering school holidays and vacations.

Sometimes neither you nor your spouse will be able to get off work. Or you will need a backup or alternative strategy for unexpected job demands or the sudden loss of a caretaker, both of which require some last-minute juggling of schedules. It is important that school-age children are always supervised, directly if possible and indirectly if not. Indirect supervision means providing a safe environment and a structured schedule of activities, including regular times to check in, even by phone, with a responsible adult. This latter option should be considered only for mature preteenagers and is never the preferred alternative.

When you can’t break away from the office, another option is to call upon extended family members to help. Some parents are able to work out a timetable with several families, where each assumes the caretaking responsibilities for all the children one day a week, or they trade hours of babysitting with each other. Some high school and college students, or after-school child care employees, are willing to work on holidays, perhaps coming to your home to assume the care of the children from several families. (Many high schools and colleges have job-placement offices to find employment for students on vacation; ask for and check references before hiring these young adults for child care.) You may also inquire about special holiday programs and camps that might be planned by local YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other com munity organizations. If none exist, gather some parents together and, as a group, urge local organizations or city leaders to provide holiday activities for children.

For some parents of school-age children, the best long-term solution is to work at home all the time, often in a small home-based business of their own. However, while this can be an ideal option, it is not available to everyone, and working at home poses problems of its own.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Sipping, Snacking and Tooth Decay


February is National Children’s Dental Health Month


Many parents across the country will issue a common refrain at dinnertime tonight: You’d better eat that, it’s good for you! There’s another old favorite in the parental arsenal of dietary admonitions: Don’t eat that, it’ll rot your teeth! Now more than ever, kids are faced with a bewildering array of food choices — from fresh produce to sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. What children eat and when they eat it may affect not only their general health but also their oral health.

Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. It’s clear that junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. For example, in the U.S., on average, individuals consume approximately 50 gallons of sugary beverages per year! Alarmingly, a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day. Common activities may contribute to the tendency toward tooth decay. These include grazing habitually on foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary drinks. Consuming too much sugar can also affect your overall health, such as becoming overweight/obese, or getting heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth.

Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids. Reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:

  • Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption. Children should make healthy beverage choices such water and low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits

Public Service Announcement, ©2020, American Dental Association