Fol­low the ba­sics for fam­ily health

The Prince George Citizen - - Health - Lisa KANAREK

Dur­ing grade school and mid­dle school, I en­vied my friends who were snug­gled in their warm, fluffy beds as they re­cov­ered from a cough, a virus or a sus­pi­cious “get out of a test” ill­ness. Less than a mile away, I sat at my cold class­room desk with the wooden seat, seething. As the daugh­ter of a pe­di­a­tri­cian who al­ways seemed to cure my sib­lings and me by morn­ing, I rarely missed a day of school. It wasn’t un­til I had my own chil­dren and was able to use his tech­niques my­self to keep them healthy, that I ap­pre­ci­ated these habits my dad had passed along.

To each his own cup

My dad’s med­i­cal of­fice of­ten over­flowed with fam­i­lies who passed colds, coughs and the flu to one an­other, sim­ply by drink­ing from the same glass. He asked lit­tle of my sib­lings and me, but the ban on shar­ing a cup was non­nego­tiable. He gave the same ad­vice to his pa­tients’ par­ents. “Cer­tain germs may not af­fect you,” he would tell them, “but they can af­fect oth­ers.” Some lis­tened. Oth­ers ig­nored his rec­om­men­da­tion and soon af­ter found them­selves cart­ing their en­tire in­fected brood back to his of­fice for treat­ment.

Heed­ing my dad’s rule, I gave my two tod­dler sons dif­fer­ent col­ored cups from which to drink, to elim­i­nate con­fu­sion. My sons didn’t hes­i­tate to share their books and toys with friends, but they un­der­stood that shar­ing a glass was off lim­its. Both boys were rarely sick, and if ei­ther one caught a cold or a stom­ach bug, it was never at the same time.

Take what you want, eat what you can

My dad didn’t be­lieve in forc­ing chil­dren to eat. There were no Mom­mie Dear­est fin­ish-your-liver episodes at my house. My mom placed the food on the ta­ble, then we served our­selves and fin­ished what we could. When anx­ious par­ents com­plained to my dad about a finicky child, he said, “In­clude at least one food they like at each meal, or let them make a sand­wich.” He as­sured them their child wouldn’t starve.

One of my sons was a pick­ier eater than the other, yet meal­times typ­i­cally weren’t a bat­tle. If they didn’t fin­ish what was on their plate, no one mus­cled them into it. Most of our meals were sim­ple – I was no gourmet cook – yet as my sons grew, so did their range of ac­cept­able foods.

Don’t ban treats

My dad al­ways en­cour­aged par­ents to make healthy snacks avail­able to their chil­dren, but to al­low oc­ca­sional treats as well. “If you deprive your child of treats,” he would tell them, “they’ll crave them more or find them some­where else.” My par­ents kept a large ce­ramic bowl on our kitchen ta­ble stocked with fruit, while at least one pantry shelf held our most-de­sired choco­late treats from the Hostess or Lit­tle Deb­bie fam­i­lies. The cream-filled, choco­late snacks were read­ily avail­able, but my sib­lings and I didn’t overindulg­e be­cause our fa­vorites weren’t re­stricted or hid­den.

Tak­ing a cue from my child­hood, I kept fruit in a bowl on the ta­ble and stored the chips, cook­ies and snacks within reach in the pantry. My lit­tle guys didn’t un­der­stand their friends’ fas­ci­na­tion with for­bid­den fruit roll-ups or banned baked chips they sought ev­ery time they vis­ited our house. Within min­utes of walk­ing through our door, they headed straight for the pantry. My sons, as my sib­lings and I, didn’t load up on un­healthy snack food be­cause they al­ways had ac­cess to it.

Get a flu shot

As adamant as my dad was about not shar­ing a glass, he was even more per­sis­tent about rec­om­mend­ing the flu vac­cine. “The vac­cine is not 100 per­cent,” he ex­plained to his pa­tients’ par­ents, “but it could min­i­mize the symp­toms of the flu and po­ten­tially pre­vent other com­pli­ca­tions.” Un­til we were old enough to drive our­selves, my mom shut­tled us to my dad’s of­fice an­nu­ally, where the dreaded “shot nurse” wiped our arms with an al­co­hol pad and ad­min­is­tered the flu vac­cine.

One of the times I took my then-tod­dler sons to get flu shots was par­tic­u­larly stress­ful and emo­tional, mostly for me. My el­der son climbed on the exam ta­ble and vol­un­tar­ily held out his arm for the nurse. Be­hind him, my younger son yelled re­peat­edly, “I don’t want a shot!” He stood with his arms crossed and protested un­til his brother hopped off the ta­ble and said, “That didn’t hurt.” His older brother’s non­cha­lant at­ti­tude – and my prom­ise to visit the toy store on the way home – helped his brother calm down.

Be pre­pared

Al­though he wasn’t a Boy Scout, my dad kept the nar­row hall closet stocked with ad­he­sive ban­dages, oint­ment, eye drops and other ba­sic first-aid sup­plies.

While my sons no longer run through boxes of ban­dages, I con­tinue to fol­low my dad’s lead and keep bug-bite lo­tion, pain re­liev­ers and al­lergy medicine, among other sup­plies, in a con­tainer tucked in a kitchen cabi­net. I, too, want to be pre­pared. I also want to avoid search­ing for a 24-hour phar­macy at mid­night.

My dad, now 92, re­tired from his prac­tice four years ago. He con­tin­ues to feed his deep love of medicine with ar­ti­cles he finds on­line and in the med­i­cal jour­nals stacked in a bas­ket near his read­ing chair.

He es­pe­cially en­joys dis­cussing the lat­est re­search and clin­i­cal find­ings with my youngest, who will start med­i­cal school in a year.

I imag­ine that at some point when my son has his own chil­dren, they’ll com­plain about their (al­most) per­fect at­ten­dance record and blame their physi­cian dad for be­ing able to cure them overnight.

I’ll be dis­ap­pointed if they don’t.

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