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Kids need check-ups, good foods

 Austin Lewandowski, 8, of Wisconsin gets an ear exam from Dr. Brian Yagoda, a pediatrician. Physical exams are important for all children, not just those with an illness.
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Date published: 5/16/2010



Parents listen to pediatricians when a child is sick, but what do pediatricians want parents to hear when the goal is to keep children well?

We posed that question to three doctors--Dr. Joel B. Steinberg, attending physician at Children's Medical Center Dallas; Dr. Chris Straughn, a pediatrician at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas; and Dr. David Goff, a pediatrician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.

Here's what they said:

Pay attention to nutrition from the start. Childhood obesity is easier to prevent than it is to rectify.

Obesity is harmful on every level, increasing a child's chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even cancer.

Steinberg said 80 percent of kids younger than a year old regularly eat french fries--a food he'd like to see less of in children's diets, along with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, fried and other high-fat foods, and high-sugar drinks.

Straughn would like parents to eliminate high-fructose corn syrup from their children's diets.

The doctors agree on the importance of exercise from the earliest possible age. Straughn noted that a March study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that children who eat meals regularly with their family, get adequate sleep and limit their television time to no more than two hours a day had a 40 percent reduction in obesity compared with kids who had none of these routines.

Don't be afraid of immunizations. The doctors expressed concerns that too many parents forego lifesaving vaccines against measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox, influenza and meningitis.

Steinberg said he respects the anxiety that some parents express about possible links between vaccines and autism, even though no such connections have been proven. He suggested discussing concerns with your child's pediatrician, who should be up to speed on the latest research.

Steinberg said that because autism is typically diagnosed at 18 months, he will delay some vaccinations until age 2 if parents prefer. He will also stagger immunizations for parents concerned about too many immunizations given at once, or he will offer vaccines that have no preservatives.

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