Image
Putting a Bandage Post Vaccination

Don’t Forget Immunizations Before Going Back to School

As another school year begins, the world still feels anything but normal. Coronavirus cases are expected to surge once again this fall, leading to a greater risk of infection – including for kids in classrooms.

Vaccine boosters protect children from a variety of serious diseases, not just COVID-19. So before back-to-school shopping and first day pictures, make sure your family has the right protection to start the year safely.

Girl Getting Vaccinated

Stick to the Schedule

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a recommended vaccination schedule for newborns. After all, children are most vulnerable in the first year of their life. But going to school means they’ll need some boosters for things like measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), varicella (VAR), and an annual flu shot.

Other important vaccines include tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap), human papillomavirus (HPV), and the meningococcal shot.

Not Over Yet

COVID-19 is still with us. While we hoped to be through with the virus that causes COVID-19, eagerness to return to “normal,” new variations, and reluctance to get vaccinated have kept the virus around longer than we would like.

Unlike the start of the school year last August, vaccines have been approved for children as young as 6 months. There is a three-dose primary series of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years old and a two-dose primary series of Moderna. Children 5 to 17 years old can get a two-dose primary series of both Pfizer and Moderna. The J&J/Janssen has not been approved for children by the FDA.

Because the risk remains high in our area, it is important that kids have good habits to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That means reinforcing daily activities like:

  • Wearing a mask over the nose and mouth when around people
  • Washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoiding close contact with others, especially those who are sick
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of an arm
Kids Boarding to a School Bus

The New Routine

Please make sure your child’s school or care facility has your most current contact information in case of an emergency.

You should also:

  • Check children for signs of illness every day, especially a fever over 100.4, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, or body aches.
  • Be aware of whom children interact with - in case someone tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Learn whom to contact at the school if your child has been exposed.
  • Stay prepared by ordering free COVID-19 testing kits from the federal government. Families can place up to three orders for a maximum of sixteen tests.
  • Review and practice proper hand-washing techniques at home and explain why they’re important.
  • Develop daily routines of what to pack for school (sanitizer, extra masks, a water bottle) and what to do when they get home (washing hands and masks immediately).

After school, you’ll also want to ask questions that go deeper than, “How was your day?” Ask if everyone was in class and wearing their masks, including teachers and staff, and if anyone talked to them about staying safe and practicing good habits. Find out if anyone coughed a lot or had to leave the classroom or school. It’s important to be aware of what is happening in their environment at school because it could affect your environment at home.

Coping with Change

AltaMed is available to help you with resources for dealing with COVID-19, including free vaccines. We also provide counseling services to help navigate the stress children may be coping with as they return to school.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at(888) 499-9303.

For more information about the vaccine or testing, please visit AltaMed.orgor call our vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232.

Sign Up for COVID-19 Updates

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

Sign Up Now

Image
Childrens Mental Health

7 Ways to Support Your Child’s Mental Health

Our children and teenagers are suffering the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the civil unrest that has shaken our nation, just like we are. Even if they and their immediate families have stayed healthy, these crises have taken a toll on young people. From the outrage over the murders of countless unarmed Black people at the hands of the police and the racism it put on display, to the sadness of missing important life milestones, and the anxiety they surely feel from all of the bad news out there, our youth need our support more than ever.

It’s natural that many of our children are sad and grieving, but increasingly, health experts worry about long-term mental health issues. While it’s true that children are often tougher, smarter, and more resilient than we give them credit for, we need to take their mental health seriously. Here are a few ways you can support your children.

Let Your Kids Be Sad and Grieve

Mother Hugging Her Daughter

As a parent, it’s natural that you want to protect your child from pain. However, denying them or trying to distract them from their sadness is actually doing them a big disservice. According to AltaMed’s Director of Behavioral Health, Sandra Pisano, PsyD, this can make your child less resilient, which means they may have a harder time bouncing back from future sadness and disappointment. To help your child develop this important resiliency, help them participate in creative and playful activities. “Creativity and play stimulate the “pleasure” and “calming” parts of the brain, which in turn prevents or reduces sad and fearful reactions,” Dr. Pisano says. You might consider challenging your child to draw or write a story about what they’re feeling. This will stimulate their creativity while allowing them to honestly process their thoughts.

Communicate Honestly but Optimistically

Mother and Daughter Holding Hands

Even if your first instinct is to protect your kids from the harsh realities of current events, this could backfire. To some degree, your kids know what’s going on – and if they aren’t getting the full picture, they are probably imagining that things are much worse than they really are.

Communicate with them honestly and frequently, including discussions about the impact of recent events, especially if your family or friends have been directly affected. Be straightforward and include reasons for optimism, too – for example, point to how individuals and communities across the country have pulled together to offer support for one another during these uncertain times.

Introduce Them to Mindfulness

Children Relaxing on the Couch

Maybe you’ve heard about mindfulness at your job or from a social media influencer. It’s the practice of being present: slowing down, doing one thing at a time, and focusing on living in each moment.

Mindfulness can help kids deal with anxiety and negative emotions, but it also has many other positive benefits, such as helping them make better decisions and improving their self-esteem. And, if they learn mindfulness at an early age, they can use it for the rest of their lives.

If you’re new to the concept, there’s a simple exercise you both can practice together. When you or your child find yourself in a stressful or uncomfortable situation, just STOP:

S: Stop. Whatever you’re doing, take a time-out.
T: Take a breath. As you breathe, tune everything out but the feeling of pulling air into your body.
O: Observe. Notice what is happening, and your thoughts and feelings, too.
P: Proceed. Whatever you do next, think about what you’ve experienced in this moment.

Some people who practice mindfulness combine it with meditation, but you don’t have to – and neither do your kids. The best way to teach your kids mindfulness is to practice it yourself, and then together.

Limit Their Intake of News

Father Talking to His Son

Thanks to social media and being home all the time, we’re all seeing more news than ever – and many of us are finding that it’s terrible for our mental health.

An easy way to limit the intake of news is by limiting device usage and screen time. Think about creating device-free zones or times – for example, no devices at the dinner table or an hour before bedtime. You can also make time for your family to watch or read the news then talk about it. Try to speak about the news honestly, while also emphasizing any positive aspects, and discuss what you can do to keep your family safe, healthy, and connected to loved ones during this time.

Keep Providing a Healthy Environment

Happy Family in Bed Smiling

One of the best ways to support your child is by continuing to maintain a nurturing, stable environment.
 

Recognize the Signs that Something’s Not Right

Mother Worried About Her Daughter

We all know kids – especially teenagers – can be moody. However, look out for these clear signs that there could be a bigger problem.
 

  • Noticeable changes in personality and temperament
  • Fatigue or claiming to be tired all the time
  • Anger or acting out – children often mask their depression with aggressive behavior
  • Socially withdrawn
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Expressing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Talk of self-harm or suicide

Get Them Help If They Need It

Father Talking To His Teenage Son

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are real, and they can have serious consequences for children if left untreated. If you believe something is wrong, talk to your pediatrician. They may be able to give you additional guidance or refer you to a Behavioral Health specialist.

Our pediatricians are taking appointments now – your child may be able to have a virtual visit, but in-person visits are required for immunizations. Your and your child’s mental health matters to us, and we want to help!

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

Image
Adult Eating Better Digestion

Fueling up for Maximum Health

Your body is a spectacular example of bioengineering genius. It is the human equivalent of a finely tuned, world-class automobile.

At least, that’s what it was intended to be. Finely tuned, world-class automobiles also require proper maintenance (regular check-ups) and the right fuel (diet).

Your digestive system is the equivalent of the fuel system on a car. High-octane fuel goes in and the fuel injectors get that gas through the engine, burning at peak efficiency for either the greatest gas mileage or highest level of performance.

If your fuel is garbage, your car slows down and you reduce the efficiency of the whole machine. It’s the same with how you fuel your body. Highly processed foods like fast food, chips, snacks, canned foods, and foods with added sugars will kill the good bacteria that work to keep you at your best.

Child Eating

Gut Basics

Between your mouth and anus are 30 feet of tubing that moves everything you consume by mouth through your body. Along the way that food and drink is broken down and absorbed into your blood stream as fuel. Whatever isn’t absorbed is eliminated as waste.

Given the twists and turns along that route, it’s common for some problems to arise. Conditions like acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome affect as many as 70 million Americans. Stress and genetics play a factor in those conditions, but so do poor sleep habits, a lack of fiber, how often you eat, when you eat, and not drinking enough water.

Some things you can do to improve your gut health:

  • Eat slower — Chewing your food well can help you swallow less air and help you know when you’re full.
  • Eat smaller meals — Packing your stomach can cause reflux and slow digestion.
  • Set a cutoff time — Your digestive system works better in the morning and during the daytime, so limit eating at night.
  • Manage stress — Digestion is tougher when you’re stressed out.
  • Make it routine — Sometimes your gut reacts better to a schedule.
  • Consider probiotics — These are fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut which supplement your gut bacteria. Talk to your doctor.
Vegatables Better

Dietary Boosts

It might be great if there was one thing you could eat to keep your diet healthy and digestive system working the way it should. That would also be boring. Variety is the spice of life, after all. So, it’s good to know there are several foods that will help you stay healthy.

  • Beans — Black, kidney, red, and garbanzo beans are great sources of fiber. So are peas and soybeans. They are easy to add to recipes.
  • Berries — Eat them plain or add them to cereal. They’re just as nutritious frozen.
  • Fish — Eat it fresh, frozen, or canned. Salmon, tuna, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines are all good options.
  • Leafy greens — Collard greens, spinach, kale, and mustard greens are all good sources of fiber. You can add them to soups or stews, and of course, salads.
  • Nuts — Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts are good sources of plant protein and healthy fats.
  • Olive oil — Use it instead of butter in recipes or when sautéing food.
  • Tomatoes — They’re high in vitamin C and can be used in salads, sauces, and soups. Just limit the ketchup which is loaded with sugar.
  • Vegetables — We’re talking about fibrous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, radishes, and turnips. They are full of fiber and vitamins. Steam them, stir-fry them in olive oil, or buy them frozen and use them in soups and casseroles.
  • Whole grains — Whole wheat bread and oatmeal can give your gut bacteria something to break down for a while, which is good. It gives sustained energy.
  • Yogurt — Look for low-fat or no-fat. It’s rich in calcium and protein and it also has good bacteria which helps maintain gut health. You can use it as a substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise in dips.

We’re Here for You

AltaMed can help you answer questions about getting on a healthy regimen. We have registered dieticians to assist with creating a healthier diet for you. We can also help put together an exercise plan, and our Behavioral Health Services can help you with techniques to deal with stress. Learn more by calling (888) 499-9303.

Don’t Forget Immunizations Before Going Back to School