Dr. Richard Saint Cyr
My son Alex is almost 1, an age at which he puts everything in his mouth – especially his bath toys. When he happily munches away on a dayglo orange crab with big Bambi eyes, I’m always a bit nervous about microscopic plastic parts getting into his system.
We know almost nothing about the safety of the 80,000 consumer chemicals created since World War II. As the World Health Organization (WHO) states in a 2012 report (goo.gl/FZMZsx), “the vast majority of chemicals in current commercial use have not been tested at all.”
I used to think that Chinese people were healthier than Americans, mostly from observing the social lives of Beijingers. Every night, you can see locals dancing en masse, singing along to classic tunes, and chatting while walking (often backwards). This fits in with a well-known Chinese proverb: 饭后百步走，活到九十九 (“take 100 steps after eating, live to be 99”).
However, the data doesn’t reflect this casual observation. Only 6 percent of Chinese between the ages of 20 and 39 get at least 90 minutes a week of moderate exercise. In the US, the proportion is 26 percent among ages 19 to 44.
Did you know that only 10 percent of teenage girls in the US get enough calcium? In China, the average calcium intake is less than half the recommended amount. Most infants have no calcium deficiency thanks to breast milk and formula; however, calcium intake drops dramatically after the toddler years. Girls – especially teens – consume much less dairy than boys, putting them at enormous long-term risk for osteoporosis and other diseases related to low calcium intake.
First, how much calcium is required to stay healthy? According to the US National Institute of Health, children aged 1-3 need 700mg of calcium per day and ages 4-8 need 1,000 mg per day. Most adults (ages 19-50) need 1,000 mg per day, while ages 9-18 years need the most to support rapidly-growing bones – 1,300mg per day.
Once again, it is cold and flu season. The most common-sense preventive measure is handwashing. The effectiveness of this simple step has been proven for almost 200 years, ever since pioneering British surgeon Dr. Joseph Lister demonstrated that washing your hands with an antiseptic dramatically cut down on surgical infections. Simple soap and water does the trick but I also like alcohol gels, as they work more rapidly and wipe out a larger percentage of viruses and bacteria.
We’re inclined to feel that too much of anything is unhealthy, but exactly how harmful is screen time? By “screen time,” I mean the total time spent on movies, TV shows, iPads, laptops, and more. There’s a lot of research on the topic that may stir up some interesting family discussions (but hopefully not over a TV dinner). Here’s some scary data to munch over:
For each hour of TV that a 5-year-old watches on the weekend, the risk of adult obesity increases by 7 percent.
The 2013-2014 beijingkids Health Guide is the latest resource for Beijing families dedicated to providing information on family health care, maternity, eating and breathing safety, mental health, emergency care and traditional Chinese Medicine. Articles from the guide will be featured twice a week on our website. Find the full version here.
What’s the best air pollution mask for China? There are quite a few brands out there, and you now can find them at convenience stores and pharmacies. But which ones really work? Many masks have proven that their material is over 99% effective in blocking PM2.5, which is an important first step. But this test is not nearly as important as real world test results, called quantitative fit tests. Even a great fabric is useless if the mask’s fit isn’t snug on your face, and any air leaking around the edges makes your mask worthless, no matter how expensive or trendy it is. Since air pollution is a truly serious problem here in China, you really shouldn’t mess around with inadequate masks when there are a handful that have proven both 99% fabric effectiveness and 95% or higher efficiency in fit tests. This article offers my personal and professional opinions of the four best reviewed masks, all with proven results: 3M, Totobobo, Vogmask, and I Can Breathe.
As parents, we worry about our children getting enough exercise – but what about ourselves? Surveys show that most adults in China and the US don’t get the recommended amount of exercise per week. How can we correct this?
New research shows that short bouts of intensive exercise may be just as good for your health as longer workouts. Even a four to seven minute workout can help. This type of “high-intensity interval training” (HIIT) includes 30 seconds of all-out exercise followed by ten-second breaks, repeated for up to 15 minutes.
What’s the best source of milk for your baby after 12 months? Breast milk is still the best choice and whole milk is the next best option, but many Chinese parents still prefer toddler formula. One way to cut through the hype is simply to ask your child’s doctor: “What would you use for your own kids?” What will I feed my own Alex when he turns 1? Honestly, I am still not sure, but here are my choices:
What’s the best treatment for a stomach infection and dehydration from diarrhea and poor eating? Most infections in children are viral, not bacterial. The majority are mild and do not require any antibiotics or hospitalization. Conversely, babies and toddlers can get dehydrated after a couple of days of severe diarrhea and inadequate fluid and food intake.
The basics of hydration include continuing to breastfeed your child during an infection and having them eat normal foods (if possible). Many parents think that their child automatically needs intravenous hydration at the hospital, but in reality, the majority of cases can be treated orally and at home.
After six and a half years in Beijing, I can say that I have joined the ranks of long-term expats. I’ve seen many friends and patients come and go. But I’m still here with my wife – and now, our new son, Alex. Despite constant stressors from environmental scandals, bad traffic and the all-too-rare perfect weather, we continue to have a satisfying adventure here. What’s our secret? Is there a common thread that separates long-term expats from those who leave earlier?