Young Parents

THE ACTIVE KIDS ISSUE suit or a rash vest and shorts will protect their shoulders, back, chest and the tops of their thighs. To prevent damage to their eyes, they should wear sunglasses, too. If your kids have sensitive skin or you worry that regular sunscreens may be too harsh, Dr Low suggests products with physical blockers, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, rather than chemical blockers like avobenzone. Physical sunscreens deflect UV rays before they can enter the skin and tend to be gentler on children’s skin. Keep mozzies and other insects away Most insect repellents contain an ingredient called Deet (diethyltoluamide). It’s safe for use on children, but if you prefer products that are Deet- free, Dr Low suggests looking for ones containing plant oils like citronella, lemongrass, peppermint or cedarwood. She adds that natural- based repellents need to be reapplied more often than Deet-based ones. But don’t confuse “natural” with “safe”, she adds. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is sometimes used in natural-based insect repellents, and while it isn’t harmful if swallowed or applied to the skin, it can hurt the eyes, causing temporary but substantial injury if it somehow finds its way into the eyes. “Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are not approved for use on children under three years old, while products containing Deet can be used on children as young as two months,” she points out. Another ingredient to look for is picaridin, a chemical based on piperine, a compound in black pepper. Although not widely used, it may also cause low levels of eye and skin irritation. Picaridin-based repellents can also damage clothes and leather. On the plus side, it’s just as effective as Deet at repelling mosquitoes and significantly safer, and it’s not associated with the serious problems linked to Deet, such as seizures. And, unlike most insect-repelling chemicals, it’s virtually odourless. “Remind your kids to cover all areas of their skin when applying insect repellent, and to wash their hands right after so that the product doesn’t get into their eyes,” Dr Low advises. “Most repellents remain effective for a while so reapplication is not necessary for the next several hours.” Protect them from common illnesses Not surprisingly, your kids may feel run-down at times, especially if they’ve been more active than usual. When this happens, their immune systems may be compromised, leaving them more vulnerable to certain infections. A healthy immune system will help protect your little ones from common illnesses and infections. That’s why it’s important for them to have balanced meals, regular exercise and adequate sleep. As viral infections are common among children, good hygiene habits are also essential, says Dr Vidya Ramasamy, specialist in Paediatric Medicine and consultant at Raffles Children Centre. Make sure your kids wash their hands thoroughly with soap, before and after meals and after using the toilet and playing outside. If they have an acute infection like a severe cough, infectious rash, ulcers and so on, keep them at home, away from public areas. Vaccines can also help protect them. Besides the routine vaccines your children get as part of the national immunisation schedule, Dr Ramasamy says you may want to consider giving your kids the flu vaccine. Give them downtime Even though sports and games are a great way to relax, your kids should also devote some time each day to unwind emotionally. According to Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, downtime may include a few minutes of deep breathing, reading, drawing or doing crafts. They could also do deep muscle-relaxation exercises that involve sitting in a quiet place and tensing and relaxing each muscle group from head to toe. You could even lie down with your kids and talk about fun things you wouldn’t normally be able to do together, like fly on a magic carpet. And of course, make sure they’re sleeping enough every night. “Don’t allow them to do anything else in bed other than sleep,” Dr Lim says. “Your kids shouldn’t be studying or using their devices in bed. Give them about half an hour before bedtime to wind down and prepare to go to sleep. And set regular times for them to go to bed and wake up.” 26 young parents

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