30 August 2023
How to help keep your children healthy
Our paediatrician Dr Maryam Tasbihi is offering advice today on how to keep your kids in the best of health, in both body and mind. She runs regular paediatric clinics in Gibraltar to help families with all aspects of health and wellbeing, and to provide developmental checks and vaccinations. If you have any concerns about your child’s health or development, please contact us to make an appointment with Dr Tasbihi.
Here are Dr Tasbihi’s top tips for child health:
- Encourage a balanced and nutritious diet with a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy products. Limit sugary and processed foods and promote healthy eating habits.
- Encourage regular physical activity and outdoor play to support physical development, improve fitness, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Ensure children get enough sleep according to their age. Suﬃcient sleep is crucial for growth, development, and overall well-being.
- Ensure children are up-to-date with all recommended vaccinations to protect against preventable diseases.
- Teach children correct handwashing techniques and encourage regular handwashing, especially before meals and after using the bathroom.
- Educate children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
- Limit screen time and promote activities that encourage physical movement, social interaction, and creativity.
- Childproof the home environment to prevent accidents and injuries. Use appropriate safety equipment, such as car seats and helmets, when necessary.
- Pay attention to the child’s emotional needs and provide a nurturing and supportive environment. Encourage open communication and address any emotional concerns.
- Schedule regular well-child check-ups with a paediatrician or healthcare provider to monitor growth, development, and overall health.
- Promote positive behaviours like good hygiene, brushing teeth, and wearing seatbelts to instill healthy habits from an early age.
- Avoid close contact with sick individuals and keep children home from school or daycare if they are unwell to prevent the spread of infections.
- Ensure that your children have the opportunity for socialisation by encouraging interaction with other children and participation in social activities to develop social skills and build friendships.
By following these guidelines, parents can help keep their children healthy, support their growth and development, and reduce the risk of illness and injuries. Regular communication with a paediatrician can also provide valuable guidance and ensure that children receive appropriate medical care and preventive measures for their individual health needs.
How much sleep do children need?
You mentioned the importance of getting the right amount of sleep for the age group, could you specify the amount of time they require?
- The recommended amount of sleep for children varies with their age. Here are the general guidelines:
- Newborns (0-3 months) typically need around 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day, with irregular sleep patterns due to feeding and nappy changes.
- Infants (4-11 months) need about 12 to 15 hours of sleep per day, including daytime naps.
- Toddlers (1-2 years) require about 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day, including one or two daytime naps.
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) should aim for about 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day, with most children transitioning to a single daytime nap or no nap at all.
- School-Age Children (6-12 years) children need approximately 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night.
- Teenagers (13-18 years) should aim for about 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.
Regarding bedtime, it’s essential to consider the child’s age and wake-up time. Ideally, children should go to bed early enough to allow for the recommended amount of sleep based on their age. Consistency in bedtime routines is crucial, as it helps establish healthy sleep patterns. Create a calming bedtime routine, which may include activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation exercises.
Here’s a general guideline for bedtime based on age:
- Newborns to Infants: Around 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
- Toddlers: Around 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
- Preschoolers: Around 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm
- School-Age Children: Around 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm
- Teenagers: Around 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Remember that individual sleep needs can vary, and it’s essential to observe your child’s behaviour to adjust bedtime accordingly. Additionally, limit screen time before bedtime and create a sleep- conducive environment to promote quality sleep for your child.
How can we deal with head lice?
A common problem for school age kids is head lice, can you give us some advice on how to prevent getting head lice?
Dealing with head lice at school can be challenging, but there are eﬀective strategies to manage and prevent infestations. To lessen the risk of catching head lice I recommend the following actions:
- Teach children about head lice, how they are spread, and the importance of avoiding head-to-head contact with others.
- Conduct regular head checks on your child, especially after potential exposure to lice, like sleepovers or playdates.
- Advise children to keep their hair tied back or in braids to minimize the risk of contact with other children’s hair.
- Consider using lice repellent products, such as shampoos or sprays, when your child is in environments where head lice infestations are more likely.
- Reinforce the importance of not sharing personal items that come in contact with the head.
- Be aware of school policies on head lice, including how they handle infestations and when children can return to school after treatment.
By taking these preventive measures and being proactive in dealing with head lice, parents can help minimise the risk of infestation and reduce the spread of head lice in the school setting.
If your child does get head lice, we’d advise taking prompt action for treating the head lice and inform the school to prevent the spread of head lice. During treatment, regularly comb the child’s hair with a fine-toothed lice comb to remove lice and nits (eggs). Wash clothing, bedding, and recently used items in hot water and dry on a high heat setting to kill lice and nits. Keep in mind that head lice infestations are common and do not reflect poor hygiene or cleanliness. Encourage empathy and understanding among parents and children to avoid stigmatising those aﬀected.
We know we need to take care of our children’s mental as well as physical health, what advice would you give with any family concerned about their child’s mental health?
- Encourage open and honest communication with your child. Let them know that you are there to listen and support them without judgement. Learn about the specific mental health issues your child is facing, as understanding the condition can help you provide appropriate support and empathy.
- Create a safe and supportive environment at home where your child feels loved and accepted. Encourage positive coping mechanisms and emotional expression.
- Establish a consistent daily routine, including regular mealtimes, sleep schedule, and time for relaxation. Predictability can be comforting for children struggling with mental health challenges.
- Promote healthy habits, such as regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and suﬃcient sleep. These lifestyle factors can positively impact mental well-being.
- Be patient with your child as they navigate their emotions and feelings. Healing takes time, and it’s essential to oﬀer continuous support.
- Encourage your child to engage in social activities and maintain connections with friends and supportive peers.
- Keep track of your child’s progress and any changes in their mental health. Share this information with mental health professionals to assist in their evaluation and if your child is struggling with mental health issues, communicate with their school and teachers. They can provide support and advice to help your child succeed academically and emotionally.
- Talk openly about mental health to reduce stigma and normalise seeking help for emotional well-being.
If you notice signs of mental health struggles in your child, consider seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a child psychologist, counsellor, or psychiatrist. Early intervention is essential for eﬀective treatment.
About the expert
Dr Maryam Tasbihi is a paediatrician in Gibraltar who trained in the UK, completing both paediatric specialist training and further training in paediatric diabetes. She has 15 years of experience as a paediatrician, starting work in the UK in 2008 and moving to Gibraltar to practice in 2020. She is able to support families with all general paediatric problems including the files of gastroenterology, allergies, endocrinology, diabetes, infections, asthma and respiratory problems.
Paediatric clinics at the Specialist Medical Clinic start on Tuesday 5th of September and will run every Tuesday evening in the first instance, with more frequent clinics planned in future months.