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Childrens Primary Care Pediatric Health Network

The Children's Primary Care Medical Group provides pediatric medical care for children in San Diego County. We have highly trained pediatric doctors and nurses in over 20 location all over San Diego County.

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VITAMINS AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: ARE THEY SAFE FOR CHILDREN?

Retail shelves are packed with bottles of vitamins, alternative and herbal supplements that boast claims of aiding sleep, improving digestion, increasing energy, building muscle mass and more. It’s a $37 billion dollar industry in the United States operating without regulations for safety, quality or effectiveness.

Children are not immune from this industry, with companies packaging easy-to-chew, fruit- and candy-flavored gummy multivitamins and supplements into brightly colored containers with popular cartoon characters. With names like “kids extra strength brain supplement” and “kids fiber complete” coupled with concerns that their child might not be getting enough vitamins, parents might be compelled to pick up a bottle or two.

Recent survey results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Studies found that a third of U.S. children and adolescents take dietary supplements. The rate of kids taking herbal or alternative supplements has almost doubled from 3.7 percent to 6.3 percent between 2003 to 2014.

But do kids really need a daily multivitamin or other alternative supplement?

According to Dr. Natalie Muth, pediatrician at CPCMG La Costa and director of CPCMG’s WELL clinic and Walk with a Doc, the answer is typically no.

“The best source of vitamins and minerals for children is a healthy diet,” she says. “Eating the actual food is going to be far superior to any supplement. “

The majority of parental health concerns can be addressed through behavior and schedule changes. For children struggling with quality sleep, Dr. Muth recommends establishing a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities, turning off electronic devices and cutting back on sugary, caffeinated beverages. Melatonin is an option that is used as a last resort, she says.

Instead of relying on vitamins or supplements, Dr. Muth says parents should concentrate on offering healthy foods and encouraging their children to try new things. What they eat will include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and other important vitamins and minerals that they need.

More information about the study can be found in a recent Wall Street Journal article. If parents are concerned that their child has a vitamin deficiency, illness or issue, be sure to consult with your CPCMG pediatrician to discuss next steps.

A nice child girl enjoys sunny morning. Good morning at home. Child girl wakes up from sleep.

THE BENEFITS OF BETTER SLEEP FOR KIDS

Did you know sleep is actually as important as nutrition and physical activity when it comes to children’s health? Unfortunately due to early school start times, increasing amounts of homework and technological distractions like TV, tablets, video games, and phones; it can be difficult for kids to get enough sleep.

Research suggests that sleepy kids are more than just grumpy. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are prone to serious health concerns. By creating healthy sleep habits, and ensuring your kids are getting enough sleep, you can prevent the following health problems.

  • Lower immunity: Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus.
  • Anxiety: Inadequate sleep is related to anxiety due to increased stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Obesity: Lack of sleep is associated with overeating, and can also affect hormones that relate to appetite.
  • Behavioral Problems: Overtired kids have reduced executive function, which means a decreased attention span and emotional control.
  • Lack of sleep can affect motor skills potentially leading to accidents and injuries, which can be especially dangerous for sleepy teens driving.

How can you encourage healthy sleep habits?

Limit screen time before bed. Turn the screens off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This makes it easier to start winding down. Research has shown that the light from screens makes it difficult for the brain to get ready to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping screens out of kid’s bedrooms.

Routines are important in preparing to rest at night. Using the same routine every night (for example, bath, brush teeth, read a book, then bed) can also be helpful in winding down and preparing to sleep. Try to keep bedtime the same time each night, and avoid a much later bedtime on the weekends. Big shifts in bedtime on the weekends can make it harder to have an early bedtime on school nights.

Getting physical activity during the day can make it easier to sleep at night, and activities like yoga can be beneficial in relaxing before bed.

If you find your older kids are feeling anxious before bedtime, research shows that journaling can be helpful in reducing stress before bed. For kids not old enough to journal on their own, discussing a few positive things that happened during the day can help them to relax and get ready to sleep.

How much sleep do your kids need?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following sleep hours (per 24 hours, including naps).

AgeSleep Recommendation
Infants 4 months-12 months12 to 16 hours (total, including naps)
Children 1-2 years11 to 14 hours (total, including naps)
Children 3-5 years10 to 13 hours (total, including naps)
Children 6-12 years9 to 12 hours
Teens 13- 18 years8 to 10 hours

Remember, adequate sleep can improve behavior and emotional regulation and decrease the risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes, and injuries. Similar to nutrition, starting good sleep habits early (while not easy in the moment), will pay off in the long run.

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