As parents, we're always looking for ways to keep our children healthy and help them when they aren't. Unfortunately, we don't always know the answers; often, that means calling our pediatrician. But understanding some simple solutions can go a long way. Recently, Dr. Steve Johnson, pediatrician and child psychologist shared ten things that pediatricians want parents to know in this video course.
Here are three of them to get you started:
First, you should know that your child is not considered to have a fever until their temperature reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Your child can’t have a low-grade fever; either they have one, or they don’t. The difference between 100.3 and 100.4 is a checkup then going home and an overnight hospital stay.
If you’re wondering at what point a fever is too high, you might be surprised that it’s not really about the fever itself. In a healthy child who is ill, the body will generate a fever to kickstart the immune system. It becomes more active and powerful when the body is warmer, killing viruses and infections faster.
Just remember, it’s not about the fever; it’s about how your child is acting. So, pay attention to their behavior: Fever combined with signs of issue such as shortness of breath or inability to wake calls for treatment and a trip to the doctor. But a fever alone is not your enemy.
It’s essential you avoid co-sleeping with your baby. There are simply too many ER trips with children not breathing from suffocating while sleeping with a parent. Instead of co-sleeping, no matter how counter-intuitive, the best route of action for your baby is to have them sleep in a crib with a firm mattress and without toys, blankets, or pillows.
Sleep is a learned skill, and babies can learn how to put themselves back to sleep as early as four months of age. When sleep training is done well, parents even find their babies can sleep through the night in 3-4 days. Strategies range from the cry-it-out method (which tends to be the fastest yet most challenging to execute) to more gradual approaches.
As your child grows, the risk of co-sleeping decreases, but the need for consistency in sleep schedule remains. In general, toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep; children ages 6-12 need 9-12 hours, and those over 12 years old should be getting 8-10 hours. Making sure your child receives these essential hours can help improve cognitive function and reduce anxiety and depression.
The key is to foster the right environment and structure the home to complement your child’s sleep. Try to limit interaction with electronics before bedtime – and do your best to keep TVs and other screens out of the bedroom. Studies show that children with TVs in their rooms tend to get less sleep, engage in less exercise, do worse in school, and exhibit higher depression rates.
If your child is in daycare, illness is something that you’re going to run into. The close quarters and young immune systems allow for the spread of many viruses you’ll find yourself combatting. Unfortunately, many of those will be accompanied by colds, coughs, and congestion. While challenging to deal with, there are some things you should know.
First, coughing at night is actually a good thing! When your child lays down at night, mucus drains into their lungs, causing coughing to prevent buildup. Coughing at night is beneficial because the child’s lungs are clearing themselves.
Although the lack of sleep or throwing up as a result can be unsettling, there’s not much you can physically do to stop the mucus and cough. Medicines can suppress a cough, but then when mucus drains into the lungs, instead of your child coughing it out, it sits there, which is a good setup for pneumonia.
A meta-analysis that considered different cough medicines found that honey is the most effective tool you have (although, be sure never to give honey to babies under one). A dose of 5ml of honey can be given to your child every 4-6 hours to help with a cough.
Pediatrician and child psychologist Steve Johnson recently joined ParentMD to create a new video course for you. In “10 Things Pediatricians Want You to Know,” settle in for ten strategies to up your parenting game, featuring topics from physical to mental health. Dr. Johnson’s wealth of experience can help you build upon your parenting arsenal and prepare you for a few of the many hurdles you’ll approach.
You can also catch up with Dr. Johnson to learn more about his passion for child development. Check out this podcast, where he shares some of his favorite lessons from his time as a teacher, his education journey, what parents can do to support their children’s mental health, and more.