Kids and the COVID-19 Vaccine: What Parents Need to Know

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children ages 5 to 11. Here’s what parents and children need to know about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, the possible side effects, and the benefits of getting vaccinated.
 
We Recommend the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Age 5-11
 
On November 2, 2021, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use for children ages 5-11. It is a 2-dose series taken three weeks apart. Each dose will be 1/3 the dosage of the adolescent/adult vaccine.  
 
The vaccine for children ages 5-11 years is effective:
·    90-100% effective in clinical trials.
·    There were no severe cases of COVID-19 in clinical trials.
·    The vaccine works against Delta and other known variants of concern.
 
IHA Pediatrics has been vaccinating children ages 12 and up since May of 2021, and we have confidence that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for our patients. As of October 2021, more than 11.1 million adolescents have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

Vaccine Appointment Available

IHA Pediatrics is now offering COVID-19 vaccines to current patients aged 5-11 however, availability may be limited. 
 
We are working quickly to begin vaccinating our younger patients and will share more information on how to schedule your child’s COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days. Please continue to check our website and social media for the latest updates. If your child has an appointment scheduled at IHA Pediatrics in the next few weeks and is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, please ask for it at your appointment.
 
We also encourage you to search vaccines.gov to enter your zip code and easily find locations where vaccines are available. 
 
Don’t Forget the Flu Vaccine! 
It is more important than ever to stay healthy and protect yourself against preventable illnesses. It is safe to receive the flu vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Top Ten Questions Parents Ask about the COVID-19 Vaccine

Should I worry the vaccine is too “new”? No.

As of October 2021, more than 6.63 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given worldwide, with more than 416 million doses in the United States. For adolescents alone, over 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine tell us that this vaccine is no longer “new.” Scientists and pediatricians feel confident in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Waiting puts you at higher risk for infection and illness.

The vaccine got to us fast due to: 

  • The vaccine research for mRNA started in 1961 and, in the last decade specifically, was focused on SARS.
  • The vaccine was released more quickly than other vaccines because the production started before the clinical trials. This was due to the pandemic, which provided funding and resources to make that happen.  
  • Due to high disease rates in our community during vaccine development, we didn’t have to wait for a minimum number of cases for clinical trials, as is standard with vaccine development. 

Will we need booster shots every year? We don’t know yet.

It depends on how many people get vaccinated and if the virus continues to spread and change. As the population becomes vaccinated, we reduce the spread of the virus, which helps to prevent it from continuing to change. We won’t need boosters if we are reducing and eliminating variants of COVID-19.

Does it affect puberty or fertility? No.

Based on our knowledge of mRNA, we are confident that the COVID-19 vaccine will not have long-term effects on puberty or fertility. mRNA cannot integrate with DNA or alter cells. 

  • Vaccine ingredients are cleared from the body quickly. mRNA is fragile and breaks down within 72 hours after injection. Ingredients do not linger in the body. 
  • Thousands upon thousands have gotten pregnant after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • mRNA vaccine is not made up of COVID-19. It is only the protein. 
  • There are reports of menstrual cycle changes after the COVID-19 vaccine. This is due to the body mounting an immune response and a temporary side effect, like a fever. 

What are the most common side effects for children? They can vary but are minimal.

  • Side effects that have been reported are mild to moderate such as fever, fatigue, headache, chills, diarrhea, or muscle aches.
  • More children reported side effects with the second dose compared to the first dose.
  • Rare side effects can happen, such as swollen lymph nodes or skin sensitivity, but these are not long-term and resolved in most cases in a few days. 

How do we know about long-term side effects? Decades of research.

Based on our knowledge of mRNA and the human body, we don’t expect long-term side effects since it breaks down in the body in 72 hours.  

  • As with all vaccines, including the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, concerning side effects have occurred 6-8 weeks after injection. Vaccine development is based on decades of research. Scientists have done a rigorous review of all available data before approving for children. Our history of science tells us that if there are no side effects in those first few weeks, we are confident that concerns that arise with any patient decades later are unlikely to be related to any vaccine.  
  • mRNA cannot be converted to or inserted into DNA. It’s not scientifically possible. 

How common is myocarditis for children after vaccination? Extremely rare.

​​​​Myocarditis means “inflammation of the heart muscle.” This can happen due to the robust immune response the vaccine can have on your body.

  • It is very rare, about 26 cases per 1 million.
  • Myocarditis has occurred rarely in some people following the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, typically within a week after the second dose.
  • The risk is highest in males 12–29 years of age.
  • The risk of myocarditis after the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is lower than the risk of myocarditis from the actual COVID-19 virus in adolescents and adults.
  • When myocarditis occurs in those with COVID-19 infection, it is more common, severe, and lasts long-term.
  • No cases of myocarditis were reported in the vaccine clinical trial among ~3000 children, ages 5–11 years.
  • Symptoms of myocarditis are most commonly chest pain, difficulty breathing, or a fluttering heartbeat.
  • Adolescents who have had this rare side effect are monitored closely. Most make a full recovery in 3-4 weeks by using anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
  • No children have died of myocarditis after the COVID-19 vaccine.

My child had COVID. Do they need the vaccine? Yes.

  • We know that “natural immunity” can be high at first. However, protection can drop off quickly or change based on circulating variants.
  • Getting a vaccine, even for those who have already had COVID-19, strengthens your immune response.
  • If you had COVID-19 once, it is possible to get a different strain again. The immune response after infection is not as focused. Evidence shows the vaccines protect you longer and for all the variants to date.
  • Most importantly, the vaccine gives protection and prevents hospitalization for several of the COVID variants. 
  • Your child can get the COVID-19 vaccine once they are out of quarantine. There is no “waiting period,” as another strain may come, and the vaccine will protect from getting hospitalized. 

Can children become very sick with COVID? Yes.

COVID-19 disease in children can range from no symptoms to severe illness. 

  • As of October 2021, over 6.3 million COVID-19 pediatric cases have been reported.
  • Only 43% of children under 12 have natural immunity.
  • 30% of hospitalizations for children with COVID-19 had no underlying medical conditionsAs of October 2021, there were 5,217 MIS-C cases linked to COVID-19 in children. This multi-organ system effect makes children extremely ill and requires hospitalization, often in the ICU. 
  • Long COVID, or lingering COVID-19 symptoms, can lead to learning problems, heart problems, exercise fatigue with sports, and respiratory issues. This has been reported in about 8% of children who have had COVID-19. 
  • Since the pandemic began, over 600 pediatric deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported. It is now a top 10 cause of death for children in the United States. 

What are the ingredients? Put simply, it’s fat, salt, electrolytes, and sugar.  

  • Lipids are the “fatty layer” that protects the delicate mRNA so it has time to work before getting chopped up. Polyethylene glycol (PEG), the most famous lipid, is also the main ingredient in MiraLAX (which you know about if your child has ever been constipated).
  • The ingredients are only just salt, some electrolytes, mRNA, fat, and sugar. These ingredients help keep the vaccine stable and are natural preservatives.

Is there less quarantine from school, sports, or activities if vaccinated? Yes.

  • This pandemic has been traumatizing, especially for children. Their lives were abruptly disrupted in March 2020, and their mental and physical health has suffered. Anxiety and depression rates are up. 
  • Based on the State of Michigan’s current guidelines, students who are vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19 can remain in school and wear a mask.  
  • We know that less quarantining will only benefit all children.

Trick or Treat

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

With many adults and older children vaccinated against COVID-19, this Halloween is back to being scary in all the right ways. Still, as COVID-19 continues to spread, celebrating safely remains a priority. There are many households with young children that are not yet eligible for the vaccine, or friends and family that are immunocompromised, and for them it’s important to keep Halloween traditions safe. We pulled together recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure this year’s celebration is all treats, no tricks.

Giving Out Candy

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters and give treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a table with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before handling treats, and in between trick-or-treaters.
  • Non-food items can be a nice change from the usual candy, too. Especially for kids that suffer from food allergies.

Trick-or-Treating

  • Stick with outdoor trick-or-treating when possible and stay in small groups.
  • Avoid large groups of kids huddled around a doorstep. Stand back and wait for your turn.
  • Wear a mask
    • Make the mask as part of the costume (think nurse or surgeon, superhero, ninja)
    • A costume mask is not a substitute for a mask with several layers of breathable fabric or a disposable surgical mask that fits over the mouth and nose snuggly.  
    • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult
    • Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Wash your hands
    • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people
    • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
      • Parents: supervise young children using hand sanitizer
    • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats

Indoor Activities

  • If you or your children do attend an indoor activity, be sure to mask up and keep a social distance. There will be a mix of vaccinated adults and teens as well as unvaccinated attendees and wearing a mask will reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 or other seasonal viruses.

If you decide not to take your kids trick or treating this year, here are some ideas how you can enjoy Halloween safely.

  • Decorate and carve pumpkins
    • Decorate your home for Halloween.
    • Carve pumpkins with members of your household or outside with neighbors or friends.
    • Walk from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.
  • Visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. Attend a scavenger hunt.
    • Go on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt.
    • Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples.
    • Go to a one-way, walk-through haunted forest or corn maze.
  • Other Ideas
    • Hide Halloween treats in and around your house. Hold a Halloween treat hunt (think like an Easter Egg hunt) in the house and yard. Try turning off the lights and hunting with flashlights!
    • Hold an outdoor costume parade or contest so everyone can show off their costumes.
    • Host an outdoor Halloween movie night with friends or neighbors or an indoor movie night with your household members.

If you have any concerns around upcoming holiday gatherings or general questions about your child’s health, contact your pediatric provider. They can help.


For more helpful information about kids and Halloween, check out these articles from the American Academy of Pediatrics:


Think Outside the [Lunch] Box!

Sometimes school lunches can get boring – both for parents to make and for kids to eat. It’s pretty easy to fall into a lunch rut when packing lunch is just one of many tasks to check-off every morning. As you wrap up a month of another school year, we’ve got the recipe to keep boring lunches at bay.

Ditch the same old PB&J and try something new. We’re not suggesting rolling sushi in the wee hours of the morning. Keep it simple. Here are some of our lunch-time favorites:
• Hummus with pita bread and veggies for dipping
• Turkey slices rolled around a red pepper strip and cheese stick
• Whole grain mini bagel with cream cheese and sliced strawberries
• Tuna (with the pop-off lid) with cucumber slices and whole grain crackers
• Kebabs:
o Meat (cooked) with cheese and veggies
o Pieces of granola bar with fruit
o Waffles and fried chicken
o Grape tomatoes with mozzarella and basil leaves (don’t forget the balsamic vinegar drizzle!)
• Whole grain cereal, yogurt and blueberries
• A sliced hard-boiled egg, Canadian bacon and cheese on a whole grain English muffin
• Leftovers from dinner or soup in a thermal container


Include a note. Who doesn’t love a surprise? Wish your child good luck on a test, give them a pat on the back for a recent accomplishment, a note of encouragement or send a sweet message just because!


Use a fun lunch box. If the lunch box features your child’s favorite character or color they will enjoy bringing it to the table each day. Individual plastic containers are fun to fill and are a great tool to teach portion control, and keep things separated – Bento Box containers are a great option.


Be cool. Use a cold pack to keep food fresh and safe. They even come in fun colors!

Create a weekly meal plan. Have your child help plan their lunches each week. The planning process will help understand healthy eating by including a variety of food groups as well as encourage your child to try new foods (fingers crossed!). Get your weekly school lunch planner template here.


If you have any concerns around your child’s eating habits, connect with your pediatric provider. They’ll give you some food for thought.

Overloaded

Backpack Safety 101

Does your child pull their backpack off as soon as they step off the bus or out of school, and request that you carry it for them? As a rule, a child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10% – 15% of their body weight, but many kids are carrying bags much heavier than that. If your child is complaining of a sore back, they struggle to put their backpack on or they learn forward to walk once they get it on, their backpack is most likely too heavy. Read on for some tips to ensure they have the right backpack for their needs and their body type, and they are packing light.

Get the right backpack.

  • Discuss what will need to go in the backpack to ensure you get the right size
  • Your child’s backpack should not be wider than their torso
  • The backpack should not hang more than 4 inches below your child’s waist
  • Padded shoulder straps are a necessity
  • A padded back will help prevent objects from poking your child in the back
  • Waist and chest straps will help your child distribute the load of their backpack when it’s packed
  • Consider the weight of the backpack itself and choose one made of a lightweight material

Carry smart.

  • Two straps distribute the weight of the backpack evenly, be sure your child is using both
  • Adjust the straps to ensure a good fit for your child (remember the backpack should not hang more than 4 inches below the waist)
  • Help decide what should come home every day, and what can be left in their locker
  • When they must bring home a full pack, encourage your child to use their chest and waist straps
  • Pack the heaviest items on the bottom, and make use of the multiple compartments to better distribute the load

To ensure you child is carrying a sensible weight, pick up their backpack once in a while, or weigh it on the bathroom scale. Make adjustments as needed to help keep your child’s back in great shape!

If your child is complaining of pain that doesn’t go away, make an appointment with your child’s pediatric provider.  They’ve got your back!

Originally published October 2019

Busting Myths: Breastfeeding as a working mom

by Lisa A. Hammer, MD, IBCLC

You’ve heard about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. You know breast milk is best for your baby (the antibodies!). But let’s face it, returning to work after weeks of cozy breastfeeding sessions creates a lot of anxiety and pressure (pun intended) for mom. There’s so much information out there online and from every woman you know that’s ever had a baby. We’re here to breakdown some of the most common concerns around returning to work and continuing to provide breastmilk for your baby. Read on to learn how some common myths around breastfeeding while working are, well, busted.

Myth: Nursing less often will create more milk when I do nurse.
Actually, the more you nurse (or pump), the more milk you will produce. Your body is creating your milk supply based on demand. Feed your baby when they ask (in their own way), and your body will produce the milk they need. If you are returning to work, this will help in ensuring you are producing what your baby needs while pumping.

Myth: My baby won’t breastfeed once they get used to bottles.
You will always be your baby’s favorite way to get their milk. When your baby is with you, they will expect to be breastfeed. If your baby has a predictable feeding schedule, when you return to work ask your caregiver to hold-off on giving them a bottle close to your arrival, so you can breastfeed your baby when you return home. Also, be sure you drink plenty of fluids, avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Staying hydrated is important in general, but especially while breastfeeding.

Myth: I need a freezer full of milk to return to work.
Just when a new mom or dad feels like they are adjusting to life as parents, it’s typically time to return to work. For a mother who is breastfeeding, this transition can be especially difficult. A few weeks before your re-entry into the working world, start mixing some pumping and bottle feeding into your baby’s routine. This will help in two ways; your baby will get some practice with and be more willing to take a bottle and you will have some milk stored for backup. We recommend a minimum supply of two days’ worth of breastmilk for a smooth transition. As you pump at work, you will get into a rhythm of producing what your little one needs. You don’t need a freezer stocked full of milk in order to return to work.

Myth: I can’t breastfeed and pump at the same time.
There’s a balance between pumping and breastfeeding. Once you find it, your body will respond and produce the milk required. To start working pumping into your feeding schedule, pump between breastfeeding your baby. Pump about an hour AFTER you feed, and at least an hour BEFORE your baby’s next feeding. If you are returning to work, take note of when your baby typically eats, and pump based on that schedule. Continue to demand milk consistently and your body will get the signal to produce enough breast milk for your little one.

Myth: I will have to stop breastfeeding when I return to work.
Every mother has a legal right to take breaks from work to pump. That said, many women may still be anxious about taking this time. While you are pregnant and before you go on maternity leave, chat with your boss about a pumping schedule. That way, your boss will know what to expect upon your return and you will have some peace of mind knowing there is a plan in place to ensure you can continue to provide breast milk for your baby. Also, be sure to understand the accommodations available to you in the work place for pumping. Where is the room? Where will you store the milk you pump throughout the day? To get your questions answered, chat with a human resources rep or a colleague that recently transitioned from maternity leave and pumped at your office, to get your questions answered.

Myth: I won’t be successful at work if I have to stop and pump.
For a mother that wants to continue providing breast milk for her baby, taking the time to pump will create peace of mind, and allow you to be more focused when at your desk. You may even want to use the time you spend pumping to catch up on some emails, or read through an article or report that you can’t seem to work into your day while sitting at your desk. Some of your colleagues will understand when you excuse yourself a few times a day to pump, and others may not. The fact is, it’s your right to take time to pump during the work day, so try to focus on your baby and not the opinions of those around you. If you have concerns, talk to a manager or supervisor.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to take care of your baby, but it can be a struggle too. If you are feeling stressed about producing milk for your baby, make an appointment to chat with a provider. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to breastfeeding, and they can provide the support you need as you work through challenges that come with being a new mom.

Originally Posted August 2019


Did you know IHA offers Breastfeeding Medicine? While breast milk is felt to be nature’s first food, breastfeeding does not always come naturally. Breastfeeding is a physiological process that involves both the mother and baby. We provide specialized breastfeeding care for both mother and baby. Learn more about IH Breastfeeding Medicine below.

Kid’s Mental Health

How to help your children navigate anxiety and depression brought on by COVID-19

As we head into the final month of summer, the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine surround us as life begins to feel more normal. For many children and adolescents, it’s a time to get back to sports and activities, hang out with friends and family, and soon return to school. Unfortunately, re-entry into “normal” is not as easy as it may seem for many youth in our community. Fifteen months of social isolation during the pandemic has magnified issues in children and adolescents who have struggled with anxiety and depression.

There have been studies regarding the relationship between loneliness and mental health in healthy children and adolescents. We know social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of depression even a decade later. Throughout the country, pediatricians are concerned that the loneliness experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely affect the future mental health of our youth.

Patrick Gaulier, Senior Clinical Social Worker at IHA WestArbor Pediatrics, notes that “many adolescent patients have talked about feeling isolated and separated from their friends and other supportive groups.” Children and teens have turned to social media as their primary source of maintaining a connection with their peers. In many cases, this online-only environment has ended friendships which, in turn, causes many adolescents to become reluctant to return to in-person learning. During a recent appointment, Patrick recalls a 10-year-old describing deeply disliking in-person learning because he “doesn’t know anyone anymore” and worries he will not be able to make friends again.  

What to look for

With the return to activities, symptoms of anxiety or depression could show up at any point. Some children may initially seem fine, with parents noticing signs several weeks later. Other children will exhibit symptoms right away. Not all children will be able to express their feelings of depression or anxiety in an obvious way. Instead, they will show complaints of physical symptoms or behavior changes. Parents and guardians should learn to recognize signs of mental illness, as it isn’t always obvious. Children and adolescents may express their worries through behaviors such as withdrawal from family and friends, irritability, argumentativeness, and aggression. Some may try to avoid activities that they previously enjoyed. Or, they may show physical symptoms like stomach aches or headaches. 

How to help the children and teens in your life

Checking in with kids about their mental health may be one of the most important things we do to help our youth out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes, it’s as easy as saying, “Hey, I see you are having a hard day today. Is something making you worried?” 

Encouraging children and adolescents to participate in physical activities and spend time outdoors with peers is an excellent step in helping improve physical and mental health. Kids will experience positive emotional benefits with increased safe socialization as we continue to vaccinate and cases continue to decrease. 

Of course, when in doubt, you should always reach out to your child’s pediatrician. Pediatricians routinely evaluate patients for mental health concerns. They can make recommendations such as healthy lifestyle changes or connect you with a mental health professional who has experience and expertise in treating children. 

We cannot ignore the negative impacts on mental health on the development of children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that parents, family, friends, pediatricians, and therapists can all help address the mental health needs of children and adolescents. The earlier we intervene for our youth, the better chance we have of making a positive impact. If you would like to speak to a pediatrician about your child’s mental health, IHA Pediatrics is available for same or next-day appointments in-person or via video to determine the next steps. More information can be found online at then link below.

Celebrating Safely

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Holiday safety tips for a fun and festive 4th of July

This Fourth of July, more than ever, we are looking forward to celebrating with family and friends.  Although some of the restrictions around COVID-19 have been relaxed, there are some other health concerns to consider.  Follow these safety reminders to keep yourself and your family safe this holiday weekend.

Firework Safety

Fireworks are a favorite tradition and for the Fourth of July, but they can cause death and injury, including burns, cuts, bruises, and foreign objects in your eyes.

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Designate the people who will be responsible for igniting fireworks.
  • Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper, which often means they were made for professional displays and could be dangerous for consumers.
  • Make sure you and your family watch fireworks displays from a safe distance. Draw a line using chalk or string, so children have a visual indicator not to cross and get too close to where the fireworks are being launched.
  • Call 911 immediately if someone is injured from fireworks.

Food Safety

Hot weather and food that’s been left out a little too long are a recipe for a stomachache. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the summer months typically see a spike in reports of foodborne illness.  Whether hosting or attending a 4th of July picnic or BBQ, follow these tips to ensure you and your family

  • Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry and ready to eat foods, like raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours – one hour if the outside temperature is over 90 degrees. Keep perishable food in an insulated cooler packed with ice or ice packs. If you are not the host or hostess and are unsure about how food is being handled, consider bringing your own cooler of food.

Pool Safety

According to the CDC, drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1 to 4 years old than any other cause except birth defects.

  • Designate a responsible adult to watch all children swimming or playing in or around water. Drowning occurs quickly and quietly, so adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity while supervising children. If there are multiple children swimming, have multiple adults to supervise, each assigned to monitor specific children.
  • Teach kids to swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning.
  • Always swim with a buddy. Whenever possible choose swimming sites that have lifeguards.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.

Heat Safety

From parades to fireworks, the Fourth of July typically means a lot of time outdoors and in the sun. In hot temperatures your body may be unable to properly cool itself. This could lead to serious health problems.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Stay in the shade when you can, and when you can’t, create your own shade. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher – the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.

Bug Safety

Uninvited party guests like mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies can spread diseases like Zika, dengue and Lyme disease. They’re also really annoying and their bites can cause pain, itching and in some cases, an allergic reaction.

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain at least 20% DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs. Remember always follow product instructions. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection, especially if walking in a grassy area.
  • Check yourself and your children for ticks. Learn more about ticks and how to remove one from your skin: blog.ihacares.com/tick-tick-boom/

Despite taking precautions, illness and injury can still happen. IHA and St. Joe’s Medical Group Urgent Care locations will be open this holiday weekend to care for you and your family. Click below to save your spot in line at an urgent care near you.

Watch Less, Play More: Setting limitations on screen time

Omkar Karthikeyan, MD

How did anyone ever parent before smartphones? We all know the scenario: a family is sitting at a restaurant eating dinner and a young child gets restless. A parent hands over a phone or a tablet to keep them occupied while they finish their meal and have a nice conversation. This seems innocent enough, but we are learning that when we hand over screens or place a child in front of the TV, we are doing it at the expense of their language and socio-emotional development as well as physical exercise.

Time that a child spends staring at a digital device, or screen time, is time they are not interacting with other people. Learning to bond and interact with others is crucial for children starting at a very early age. Now, I’m not saying that parents need to engage in deep conversations or read books every time they interact with their child. Simple conversations with a young child, even narrating your activities helps. Screen time is a strictly passive activity. Kids are rarely, if ever interacting with a screen in a meaningful way. However, even the most basic of activities, such as building and knocking down towers of blocks, doing puzzles together or scribbling with crayons on a piece of scrap paper (or a napkin) help teach kids cause and effect, and foster human interaction. These are invaluable for stimulating language development and creating a healthy emotional foundation.

A child that has more than the recommended exposure to screens at a young age is more likely to lead a more screen-filled, sedentary lifestyle as a teenager and beyond. This often goes hand in hand with mindless, unhealthy eating. Kids playing video games all day aren’t usually reaching for apples and carrots. People with active lifestyles that include regular exercise and exposure to the outdoors tend to be more physically and mentally healthy in the long run. My recommendation to parents is to turn of the television and put handheld devices away. This is true for both kids and adults. It’s hard to ignore a TV that’s on or a phone that’s blinking with a notification. Parenting without screens is certainly more challenging, especially in the early years, but it’s definitely worth the investment in the long-run. Teaching your child to entertain him/herself without the aid of screens will benefit them throughout their childhood.

So, what are the age-based recommended limitations on screen time? Below are the recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics. Remember though that at ALL ages, less is more, especially in preschool/early elementary-aged kids.

Under 2 years of age: No screen time

Ages 2-5: Limit to one hour of screen time per day

Ages 5 and up*: Consistent limitations on screen time, ensuring children have healthy physical activity and sleep schedules as well as personal relationships and interactions.(*Notice this says “and up”. Screen time limitations are for everyone, not just children. It’s important for adults to limit the amount of time they spend plugged-in, not only for their own well-being, but to set a great example for children).You can start by being aware of just how much time your family is spending in front of a screen. Jot down the number of minutes per day on a piece of paper on your refrigerator, or try this tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to create a customized family media plan: Family Media Plan


Originally posted July 2019

Kids + Sports

Why playing organized sports is good for kids

by Melissa Ayoub Heinen, DO, MPH

After a year of COVID-19 restrictions, school closures and sports cancellations, we’re finally seeing steps back to “normalcy” amidst the chaos.  For young athletes, it’s time to get back on the soccer field, tennis court, football field or baseball diamond.   It’s a time to get active, connect with friends and enjoy some friendly (or fierce) competition.

If everyone obeys the state-mandated rules, our youth can safely compete again.

Getting involved in a youth sport allows kids to learn physical and social skills in a team-based environment.   With a plethora of choices available, it can be hard to choose the right sport for them. Parents should follow the child’s lead and interests when enrolling them in a new activity. The emphasis should be on the enjoyment of the sport, not on winning. You may find it takes your child a few tries to find a good fit, but with some research and a good sideline cheer section, you’ll find one that best fits their interests and the family schedule and budget.

Health Benefits of Sports for Kids

Reduced risk of obesity.  For many kids screentime has replaced physical activity. Getting involved in an organized sport with a schedule, a coach and a team create accountability and motivation to show up and be physically active. Pediatricians are finding that children who are physically active outside of school are more likely to maintain a normal, healthy weight.

Physical development. Participation in a sport will help your child with coordination, motor skills and muscle development. Kids also learn new skills or how they can use their bodies in different ways depending on the sport.

Social skills. Communicating using text has become the norm for most young people. Being part of a team means learning to communicate verbally and non-verbally with other people. Learning to work with others and support people on a team are skills that will provide lifelong benefits.

Confidence. Children develop self-confidence when they find success in something they enjoy doing. Sports provide many options for a child to find their niche and excel as an individual and as team.

Sportsmanship. Learning to be fair, how to handle defeat with grace and respect for coaches, referees, teammates and opponents are valuable lessons for people of all ages.

Have fun! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “When children have fun playing sports, they are more likely to remain involved in athletic programs and stay physically active throughout childhood, realizing lifelong health benefits for the developing body, brain and self-worth.” It’s important for coaches and parents to remain positive, encourage the team to try hard and create positive team dynamics.

Friendship. Participation in any extra curricular activities can result in forming life-long friendships. Encourage your child to talk to their teammates. To help your child begin to forge relationships, encourage them to play catch before practice starts, meet on off-days to work on skills, or get together to play at each other’s houses.


If your child is in middle school or older or is in a cheerleading or football program, and they plan to play an organized sport, they will need a sports physical this year. IHA Pediatrics performs Sports Physicals 6 days a week.  You do not have to be an IHA patient to schedule. Visit ihacares.com/pedsappts and select an “office visit” appointment at a time that works for you and your family.

We are also offering extra availability on the following Saturdays. Call your IHA Pediatric Practice to schedule:

• Saturday, June 12, 2021 | 8:30 am – 12:00 pm

• Saturday, July 17, 2021 | 8:30 am – 12:00 pm

Active Kids!

Age-based physical activities for children

Kids need physical activity to grow up strong and healthy! All children should be physically active every day, and kids over 6 years old should be moving enough get their heart rate up at least one hour a day. Read on for guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics on how often your child should be active based on their age.

Infants:
Activity: Tummy time while awake.
Frequency: 30+ minutes throughout the day.

Toddlers:
Activity: Neighborhood walks or free play outside.
Frequency: 3+ hours throughout day.

Preschoolers:
Activity: Tumbling, throwing and catching.
Frequency: 3+ hours a day including 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity.

Elementary Students:
Activity: Free play and organized sports focused on fun.
Frequency: 60+ minutes of activity most days. Muscle/bone strengthening activities 3 days a week.

Middle Schoolers:
Activity: Activities that encourage socialization. Avoid specializing in one sport.
Frequency: 60+ minutes of activity most days. Muscle/bone strengthening 3 days a week.

Teenagers:
Activity: Activities that encourage socialization and competition when appropriate.
Frequency: 60+ minutes of activity most days. Muscle/bone strengthening 3 days a week.


It’s time for sports physicals

IHA Pediatrics performs Sports Physicals 6 days a week. You do not have to be an IHA patient to schedule. Visit ihacares.com/pedsappts and select an office appointment at a time that works for you and your family.

We are also offering extra availability on the following Saturdays. Call your IHA Pediatric Practice to schedule: ihacares.com/pediatrics

• Saturday, May 22 | 8:30 am – 12:00 pm

• Saturday, June 12 | 8:30 am – 12:00 pm

• Saturday, July 17 | 8:30 am – 12:00 pm