Parenting - The Ride of a Lifetime
by Ali Javanbakht, MD
Parenting is a non-stop rollercoaster of emotion and responsibility. The burden of everything from clothing and shelter to college funds and hobbies fall squarely on a parent’s shoulder. This burden also includes healthcare decisions. While your local primary care provider may not be able to offer great advice on which college investments yield the best return in a mixed long term aggressive mutual fund, they can help with the medical decision making.
As infants and children go through their frantic and fast-paced developmental stages, there are some very well established procedures and interventions that have been proven to keep them healthy and growing. In the newborn phase, the main concern is nutrition, weight gain, physical and social development and protection from infectious diseases. Growth charts, developmental questionnaires and vaccines can help ensure that an infant is growing and developing appropriately and is adequately protected from dangerous diseases. There are well visits and vaccines at 2,4,6,9, and 12 months of age.
From 1 to 5 years of age, the vaccination schedule is not as busy, but growth and development continue to be an area that is monitored. It is recommended that children in this age group get a flu shot yearly since they are at higher risk of hospitalization and death from the flu. It is also a time where developmental delays such as Autism Spectrum Disorders can be diagnosed. With early diagnosis and intervention with therapy, many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can make great strides in their development. This age range is capped off with the “kindergarten” vaccines at 4 years of age which includes tetanus, whooping cough, chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio boosters.
The next scheduled vaccines are not due until 11 years of age except for the annual flu vaccine. During the 5-11 year age range, most healthy children need a physical every other year. However, children with chronic conditions such as asthma and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) should have yearly evaluations. This age range is capped off with the 11 year old vaccines which includes a tetanus and whooping cough booster, the meningitis vaccine and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) series. The HPV vaccine is a series of three injections spread out over 6 months which prevents getting infected with dangerous strains of the HPV virus which have been shown to cause genital warts in boys and girls, rare cases of penile cancer in men, and cervical cancer in women.
Some parents are not entirely comfortable with the idea of their child getting vaccines aimed at preventing a sexually transmitted disease. However, the HPV vaccine works best if it is given long before an individual becomes sexually active. Given that all of our children will remain abstinent until they are 26 years of age as we parents have requested, getting the HPV vaccine at 11 years of age will ensure that they are well protected 15 years down the line.
The teenage years are another time of great change in a child and parent’s life. The child begins a transformation into adulthood which can be rather trying for both parent and teen. It is recommended that teens have yearly well visits. The crux of these visits is still appropriate growth, but also addressing a teens’ health risks which primarily consist of accident prevention and lifestyle choices. Accident prevention measures, such as wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboard, scooter, etc. and wearing a seatbelt in the car are emphasized. Teens are asked about body image issues, smoking, alcohol, and drug use, and sexual activity. Most providers will interview a teen in private to address these topics.
Then before we parents know what has happened, the childhood and teen years are over. Our little babies whom we coddled and wiped from head to toe have become strapping young men and women whom we attempt to coddle and wipe from head to toe.
While we may not have much control over how many corkscrews and loop the loops the roller coaster has, your local healthcare provider can at least act as a motion sickness patch behind the ear, dampening some of the strain associated with the ride of a lifetime.
Dr. Ali Javanbahkt is board certified in Family Practice by the American Board of Family Medicine. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin and is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Santa Barbara County Medical Society. In addition to English, Dr. Javanbahkt speaks fluent Spanish, French and Farsi and has been with Sansum Clinic since 2001.