We all want the best for our children and that includes getting them started on a regular schedule of preventive care.
It is literally never too early for parents to begin thinking about what their child will need to enjoy a healthy life.
Prenatal care (medical care during pregnancy) is important for the mother and the child. Your doctor will discuss an appropriate diet, any supplements you should take and other medical concerns such as weight gain and high blood pressure.
You will be encouraged to avoid tobacco use and alcohol consumption during the pregnancy.
Following birth, your doctor (pediatrician or other medical specialist) will schedule regular checkups for your infant and monitor growth indicators and general health.
The most important step you can take toward protecting your child from serious illness is to stay current on the vaccination schedule your doctor prescribes.
Vaccines for childhood illnesses are safe and prevent potential complications from even mild diseases. No credible medical study has linked autism with childhood vaccinations.
Although death rates are very low in the United States (thanks to high levels of vaccinations), childhood diseases kill hundreds of thousands of children each year in countries where vaccination levels are lower.
Vaccinations protect your child from a variety of diseases ranging from some that are usually mild (such as chicken pox) to the deadly (such as polio, tetanus and others). Follow this schedule to keep your child safe.
Protecting your child from possible complications of childhood diseases also protects your community.
This protection extends beyond children. For example, if a pregnant woman is exposed to rubella (also known as German measles) it can cause serious birth defects or death to the fetus.
Beginning at birth and extending through childhood, your doctor will schedule a series of vaccinations and boosters to protect your child.
Your doctor may expand this regular schedule of vaccinations to include such immunizations as the seasonal flu or unexpected problems such as the H1N1 flu outbreak that began in the spring of 2009.
Unless there are extenuating medical circumstances, it is never a good idea to skip any of the vaccinations. If there is a medical reason your child should not receive a particular vaccination, your doctor will discuss the alternatives, if any, with you.
Most counties have health departments that may offer vaccinations free or at a reduced cost.
In addition to protecting your children with vaccinations, parents should take steps to provide a safe environment.
Accidents of all types account for 40 percent of all deaths of children in ages 5 to 9 years. The most common form of accidental death is automobile accident.
You can protect your child by insisting they use appropriate restraint systems while riding in any vehicle for any length of time.
The rear seat is the safest place for your children especially those under age 12. Your state may have different laws concerning children and vehicle safety restraints.
Infants and toddlers require constant adult attention to avoid injuries and death from common household situations. Taking a bath, reaching for items on a stove and many other situations can be dangerous for this age.
Older children may not require constant supervision around the house, but they are still vulnerable to accidents.
Children raised or visiting a farm face a special set of dangers. Farming is one of the most dangerous professions and children are particularly at risk around a working farm. The National Farm Medicine Center at Marshfield Clinic urges caution on the farm.
Childhood obesity is a critical problem that mirrors the same concerns for adults.
Childhood obesity can lead to health problems now and in the future. Obesity is tied to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems.
Overweight children often come from overweight parents.
The best way to address childhood obesity is for the family to adopt healthy diets and regular exercise. It is not realistic to expect children to eat a healthier diet if parents don't.