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Runny noses and disturbed sleep. Tummy bugs and fevers.

Any parent knows how awful it is when their child falls sick. It is even more distressing when children catch illnesses that are more serious, such as the Hand, Foot and Mouth disease  (HFMD), which saw an increase in Malaysia this year.  But other than making sure you teach your child hygienic practices like proper hand washing, how else can you boost your children’s defences as best as you can?

While it is virtually impossible to germproof your child, here are 8 ways to improve your child’s immune system to help prevent those colds, flus and illnesses.

1. Eat a Rainbow

Encourage your children to  eat as colourful as possible, and we don’t obviously don’t mean a rainbow cake!

The more colourful fruit and vegetables they eat, the more wide variety of different vitamins and minerals they are getting. Red, yellow and orange hues are particularly rich in Vitamin C and carotenoids. These phytonutrients are not only antioxidants, they enhance immune response and help the body create more white blood cells which help us fight infections.

You can help them with their rainbow diet by offering smoothies, healthy fruits as snacks or by incorporating them into their main meals in fun and yummy ways! (Baked and crinkley sweet potato fries, anyone?)

2. The Power of Yoghurt!

Maintaining a healthy gut is also important for children as these gut bacteria protect their digestive tract and help control their immune system. It determines whether or not your child fights off a cold virus, so it is a good idea to boost their health gut bacteria!

You can help your children do this by giving them some probiotics – and this can be easily done with the live and active cultures in good old yoghurt. However, opt for plain or Greek yoghurt rather than picking the sugar-laden ones typically marketed at kids – you can add sweetness with honey and fruit.

3. Don’t Give Unnecessary Antibiotics

Yes, antibiotics can be lifesaving, but taking too much antibiotics can mean getting rid of your child’s bad and good bacteria. This relates to the second point above, keeping their gut health healthy.  Researchers are finding that when we mess with our body’s good bacteria, it can increase our risk for chronic illness.

Recent studies show overuse of antibiotics can also impact your children’s long-term health, so it is important for parents and doctors to reserve antibiotics use only for illnesses that require their use.

4.  To Bed, To Bed

We are now aware of the huge importance sleep is to adults, but this is doubly so for children! Boost your children’s sleep time, because sleep deprivation can make them more susceptible to illness. A lack of sleep will suppress their immune system function, and decrease their body’s ability to fight colds or bacterial infections.

How much sleep does your child need? The Sleep Council says that while there are no hard and fast rules, the general guide is that toddlers need around 12 hours of sleep a night, and children aged three to six need 10 – 12 hours. Seven to 12-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours, and teenagers need around 8 – 9 hours.

5. Cut the Sugar

We know that children love sweets, but sugar has been described as a toxin by health experts. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also reports evidence suggesting that sugar lowers phagocytic activity, and phagocytes are cells that protect us by absorbing bacteria and other foreign substances.

So try to only reserve sugary snacks as rare treats at birthday parties, and try to introduce healthier snacks such as fruit, frozen yoghurts or popcorn.

6. Eat more Oily Fish

Many a good thing has been said about Omega-3 fatty acids and the health benefits found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Tucking into these oily fish not only boosts brain development, the high levels of essential fatty acids have also been found to help improve immunity in children.

Your child not a fan of fish? Try making yummy fish pies or fish croquettes which can be a real hit with kids!

7. Keep Stress and Smoke Away

Stress can impact your child’s immunity, so make sure you take time to include quiet, relaxation or mindfulness in your child’s life. Love, laughter and lots of hugs and cuddles can also enhance feelings of positivity and security, so feel free to be generous with these!

Keep cigarettes and smoke away from children,  research has shown that smoke affects their immune systems and can result in them getting more frequent infections.

8. Aid With Supplements

Supplements are great to complement your child’s routine and diet. When your child’s immune system is a bit run down and they seem to always fall sick, there are a variety of supplements that can support the immune system well.  Besides yoghurts and fish oils previously mentioned,  there are also zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D supplements.

Parents can also try Chewies Immunolicious, a great tasting gummy for children ages two and up that will feel more like a treat. Each gummy comes loaded with 50mg of Wellmune®, a natural yeast beta glucan that can trigger human immune defences to protect the body. Wellmune® is clinically-proven to safely enhance the immune system and kills foreign intruders without stimulating immune system, immune boosters or stimulators by activating innate immune body cells.

Kids only need to take 2 a day to keep health threats away, but with a soft, chewy texture and three yummy flavours – Orange, Mango and Strawberry -this is likely to go down well!

 

Available at Guardian, Watsons, Caring, Vitacare, Aeon Wellness and all participating pharmacies. More information, head to the Chewies Facebook page here.

 

This is a sponsored post presented by Chewies.

Your little boy or girl seems to be a happy child. He or she is healthy, growing well and doing all the right things children usually do. So, you take a back seat and enjoy watching them grow at their own pace.

But what if your child is not growing at the rate he or she should be for his or her age?

A Wake Up Call

The Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) is becoming increasingly concerned that many Malaysian children, from all family backgrounds, are experiencing growth problems.

MPA President, Associate Prof Dr. Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin said there are some sobering facts about children under five-years-old. The data from the National Health and Morbidity Survey should serve as a wake up call for parents.

“The prevalence of stunting (low height-for-age) increased from 17 per cent in 2006 to 20.7 per cent in 2016. That’s about two in 10 children. Meanwhile, underweight children increased from 12.9 per cent in 2006 to 13.7 per cent in 2016,” Dr. Muhammad said.

Kids from all backgrounds are affected

Such growth problems can develop in poor as well as affluent families. Unfortunately, parents often miss the signs of sluggish growth. They realise only later that their children have failed to achieve their potential. “They may have also become at risk of associated health, developmental and psycho-social issues,” he said.

According to Dr. Muhammad, many factors contribute to growth problems. Among the more prominent factors are children with feeding difficulties and inadequate nutrition (due to poor diet quality). Frequent illness at a young age, underlying chronic disease and certain developmental disorders are also contributing factors.

“Without intervention, these children risk developing long-term health, cognitive and psycho-social issues,” he said.

Doctors to the rescue

Keeping all these factors in mind, the MPA introduced its first concerted childhood growth screening and counselling campaign. They called it the IMFeD Malaysia – ‘Get Growth On Track’ Campaign, in collaboration with Abbott Malaysia.

Through the programme, paediatricians across the nation will evaluate children’s growth by examining their weight and height. This will then be compared to a growth chart.

IMFeD Malaysia chairman Professor Dr Lee Way Seah said the next five years (2018 – 2023) will see the scope expand to include screening and intervention for feeding and nutrition issues.

This is a timely development in light of data that has revealed an alarming prevalence of poor growth in Malaysia.

“It is an alarming situation but the MPA hopes to make a difference.,” said Prof. Lee. Currently, it has deployed the IMFeD expert panel to train over 150 paediatricians all over the country to detect and manage growth problems.

“The expert panel has also produced educational materials containing vital information and tips for parents,” he said.

Parents, early intervention matters 

Get professional advice so your child can feed well and grow well.

Prof. Lee said parents who are concerned about their children’s growth rate or who want to learn more about this programme should take advantage of it.

Parents can talk to the doctors from participating paediatric clinics about their children’s growth. The doctors would be able to investigate the reasons behind a child’s sub-optimal growth. They can then offer strategies and methods to boost the child’s growth.

If the child has inadequate nutritional intake and where appropriate, the doctor may recommend a complete nutritional supplement. This will help the child catch up and stay on course for optimal growth. There is a limited window of time to correct poor growth and get children back on their potential growth trajectory.

“It is very important that everything is done to help the child catch up to their optimal growth as soon as possible,” said Prof. Lee.

It is also important to continue seeing your doctor regularly to monitor the child’s growth. The doctor would be able to plot the child’s weight and height on the growth chart. Then they will advise parents accordingly if they notice a lag or decline in the child’s growth.

Parents who wish to find out more about the ‘Get Growth On Track’ campaign or locate a paediatrician may contact the IMFeD Malaysia programme secretariat at [email protected]. Telephone: 012-284 1628 or 012-772 1628.

Most women readily anticipate the much touted pregnancy glow and expanding belly. But few realise some unwanted changes during pregnancy are coming their way too. Here we explore how to ride through some of the less known peculiarities.

The most common (and wonderful) change during pregnancy is shiny, voluminous hair. By week 15 or so, you begin to notice your locks look healthier, grow faster and seem thicker than before. Credit goes estrogen, the same pregnancy hormone responsible for morning sickness.

The surge of estrogen in a pregnant woman’s body prolongs the growth phase of our tresses, resulting in less shedding and contributing to voluminous hair. Some pregnant women also report a change in hair texture – from straight to curly and vice versa.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Unfortunately, this increase in hair growth isn’t limited to our mane. Excess body hair is a  common unwanted change during pregnancy. Smooth ears begin to sprout hair; arms and legs can get a little furry. The prospect of wearing a swimsuit in public becomes horrifying. In such instances, by all means, tweeze, wax and shave – these are safe hair removal methods. Do refrain from IPL, electrolysis and other laser hair removal methods till after birth.

Your mane attraction returns to normal three months post partum.  Then the opposite occurs. Your hair is likely to start dropping. You may end up with bald patches and your cutie patootie of a baby grabbing fistfuls of your hair definitely won’t help. For these, my gynaecologist and hair stylist have advised a diligent consumption of biotin pills and  the application of hair tonic. This will help hair grow back faster, though you may have to bear with regrowth for a year or so.

My skin can do that?

A strange dark line running down the belly. Skin tags. Dry skin. Oily skin. Bad skin. Good skin. Darker armpits, neck and groin. Freckles. Moles. All this and more are normal body changes during pregnancy to affect our skin.  Once again, you can thank estrogen. There’s nothing much you can do to prevent these changes from happening but here are some ways to manage them:

  • Chemical exfoliates such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) are more effective than physical scrubs in reducing pigmentation. If you’re wary of the safe levels of acid contained in a product during pregnancy, stick to glycolic acid (an AHA derived from sugar cane) or lactic acid (from lactose found in milk).
  • Listen to Baz Luhrmann – wear sunscreen. Your body’s pigment-producing cells are in overdrive during pregnancy, so being outdoors (or even near a window) without sunscreen could be a recipe for dermis disaster. Use something with a minimum protection rate of SPF 30 and make sure it hasn’t got oxybenzone – which has been linked to low birth weight.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep skin hydrated and maintain a balanced diet. We’re all grown women. Drink up and eat up your fruits and veggies!

Most, but not all of these skin changes will go away after giving birth. If they persist and bother you, consult a dermatologist. Not all aesthetic procedures are safe for breastfeeding mothers or women who’ve recently had Caesarean surgery.

You’re so vein

During pregnancy the increase of blood coursing through your veins creates additional pressure on blood vessels. This causes the veins to swell, hence the appearance of those purplish spiderweb-like patterns on your legs and for some, the face.

Woman with painful varicose and spider veins on her legs.

Spider veins are treatable but you would have to wait till baby is born. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to reduce the appearance of spider veins:

  • Try not to cross your legs when seated as this restricts blood flow, instead, prop your feet up on a stool
  • Don’t sit or stand for long stretches, Try to break it up by going for a walk or changing positions
  • Compression socks, they rock. They may not be the sexiest item of clothing but they do encourage circulation.
  • Avoid high heels. Yes, first compression socks, and now flats. Fret not, it’s only for a few months.
  • Reduce sodium intake as a salty diet can increase water retention and the swelling of veins.

 

The Belly Itch

Pregnant women are often seen stroking their stomachs but not always out of sheer affection for their unborn baby. As the belly blossoms, the skin on the belly stretches and tightens, causing it to itch. Hormonal changes and dry skin also play a part. Remember to never scratch, as this can irritate skin further and cause the appearance of stretch marks. Here are some measures to alleviate the itchiness:

  • Moisturise. Apply stretch mark oil/cream to your abdomen twice a day. If you have pregnant nose (superhuman sense of smell), you may want to use something fragrance free. Tip: keep the product in the fridge for a cooling relief.
  • Take lukewarm showers. Hot water can further dehydrate skin.
  • If it is unbearable, inform your doctor. She may prescribe a topical cream which you can apply before moisturising.

In for a sweat

Even with the air conditioning set to Arctic temperatures, a pregnant women is likely to complain of being hot and sweaty. This is especially common when nearing the third trimester. Your body is trying to cool off the extra heat generated by the increase in hormones, blood flow and metabolism. This excessive perspiring snowballs after pregnancy, as your body gets rid of the excess fluid and hormones. Gingery foods consumed during confinement also make you sweat buckets. Aside from hanging out in a walk-in fridge, you can manage it by:

  • Using a paraben free, antiperspirant deodorant;
  • Wear loose, light clothing but try to stay away from grey clothing – it is notorious for showing sweat stains. Uniqlo AIRism tops help release heat and evaporate excess moisture. You could pair it with a light kimono jacket or an unbuttoned cotton shirt;
  • Cornstarch powder – helps prevent underboob chafing.

In conclusion, pregnancy may feel like one big sweaty, hairy mess. You may feel like your body has betrayed you because it didn’t immediately snap back to what it was before (how in the world did Giselle Bundchen do it?!)

Lest we forget, it did take nine months to create another human life. Focus on your health and well being after giving birth. Once you’re stronger, you can begin exercising, resume laser hair removal therapy, have your eyebrows embroidered, even bleach your hair blonde. Whatever you need to pamper yourself after all the changes your body has been through!

 

By Chee Su Ning

Life before little humans involved hanging out with beautiful people and styling models for television commercials and photo shoots.  Su Ning now has a gaggle of girls (3!) and she often masks her chagrin at her daughters’ fashion choices. She can often be found at the park with a trio of girls dressed in various shades of pink.