Children’s Health Facts and Myths Explained
Health myths are sometimes so ingrained in us that we have to question their reality. Myths and fallacies passed down from generations can seep into our thinking.
“Wait 30 minutes after eating before jumping in the pool!” Yes, it’s a myth. But some of us have heard it so often that it makes you doubt its illegitimacy.
Sometimes it’s new age thoughts or conspiracy theories that have us scratching our heads, especially when it comes to our children. It might be a conversation with a friend who relays she heard children shouldn’t eat gluten because it could cause attention deficit disorder. It may not ring true, but the thought may nag at you until you’ve done some research of your own. Asking a trusted pediatrician is the best bet for all health-related questions.
We’ve taken a few of those myths and offered info to help ease your mind – and offered some facts to reiterate what you likely already know. It’s always good to have a refresher, especially when raising kids.
Cold weather makes you sick.
Don’t blame Mother Nature for your kid’s cold. It’s easy to blame the cold weather in part for a cold or flu, but it’s the time spent indoors, in closer proximity to others, that’s to blame. Many of us learned this at the height of COVID.
However, being in extreme cold or in cold for a prolonged period can stress the immune system, making kids more likely to be susceptible to catching a cold or virus.
Natural sugar is better than refined sugar.
Actually, this one is a myth with a caveat. Agave nectar, “raw” sugar, palm sugar and other types all count toward your daily added sugar intake and are metabolized the same, so read labels carefully for all added sugars. The bottom line – sugar is sugar. But sugar in whole fruit is preferred since the fruit also contains vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Kids need at least 10 hours of sleep.
Eight hours may be fine for adults, but it’s not enough sleep for growing kids. Pediatricians suggest up to 14 hours of sleep for toddlers, though at least 11 is important. For preschool kids, ages 3-5, 10-12 hours is recommended. For kids ages 6-10, 10-11 hours of sleep is typically recommended.
Once kids reach the teen years, 9 hours is sufficient, but many teens will go through spurts where they’re sleeping much more than that.
Sticking to a regular bedtime, establishing a bedtime routine and staying away from screens at least an hour before bed can help kids get the rest they need.
For babies and toddlers, playing is learning.
Educational toys aren’t going to make your child smarter. But getting down to your baby’s level, singing and talking, just might. Child development specialists say pointing out shapes and colors, making faces and talking to your baby are more important than any toy you can buy. When babies watch your face, watching your mouth and how you pronounce words, it prepares them for speech. It’s also bonding and fun!
Having interesting and colorful baby toys is great, but narrating your day, reading or singing silly songs is even more stimulating to baby.
Getting more than one vaccine at a time is safe.
Scientists, doctors and researchers have carefully studied children’s vaccination schedules and have determined them safe. In fact, the recommended schedule is reviewed every year and approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Some parents may feel apprehensive about giving their children multiple vaccinations at the same time, but delaying or skipping vaccinations can be deadly. Children’s vaccination schedules are created to be given at the times they will work best with kids’ immune systems.
If you want your kids to eat their vegetables, bribe them with dessert.
It may be a short-term fix, but the bribe will only reinforce kids’ notions that vegetables are gross. Instead, make vegetables appealing by letting kids make food art using broccoli, carrots, snow peas, corn or whatever you have on hand.
Sneaking veggies into your kids’ food (added to ground beef, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese) is a better way to give them the nutrition while they go through a “no-veggie” stage. Keep offering and keep hope. After days and weeks of offering rainbow carrots, cauliflower and cherry tomatoes, one day your kid may surprise you and take a bite!
Gluten is bad for you.
Unless you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, there’s no reason to eliminate gluten from your diet. Myths abound about eliminating gluten to give you more energy and to heal the gut. Some myths go so far as to say gluten causes cancer. There is no scientific research to support these claims. So don’t deprive yourself of an entire food group and one of life’s pleasures, unless you’ve been told to do so by a doctor.
Kids should have no more than one to two hours of screen time a day.
Most experts agree that even for older children one to two hours a day of screen time is the max. Of course, there are times when that feels impossible. Sick days, work-from-home days when you need to keep the kids occupied or lazy weekends when the entire family is binging a favorite show – those are times when you can use your best judgment and do what’s best for the family. But sticking to that one- to two-hour-a-day max is a good rule of thumb.
For kids age 2 and younger, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any media use. But for kids 3 and older, some screen time can be educational – and fun!