Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS - ANNE DE BRA­GANCA CUNHA (The writer is a Mumbai-based coun­selor)

Your chil­dren spend more time in school than with you, dur­ing term time, at least while they’re awake. On its part the school is meant to pro­vide a safe ‘n’ healthy en­vi­ron­ment for learn­ing. On your part you have the right and re­spon­si­bil­ity to be in­volved in the school and its PTA, as a con­cerned par­ent. Here’s a clutch of things that you need to watch out for and rem­edy.


Th­ese com­mon ail­ments can be picked up by your kids in school and spread like wild fire. Coughs ‘n’ cold The best way to stave off a runny nose or itchy throat is to in­sist on hand wash­ing. Try steam in­hala­tion and nose drops on your doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion to un­block a stuffy nose. Of­fer plenty of liq­uids, esp chicken or onion soup with a pinch of pep­per and gin­ger, and hot milk with turmeric and juice of tulsi leaves with honey to dry up se­cre­tions. Do not self pre­scribe an­tibi­otics and an­ti­his­tamines which can be harm­ful. Hand, foot ‘n’ mouth dis­ease This is a con­ta­gious vi­ral ill­ness that af­fects the un­der fours and is char­ac­ter­ized by itchy rashes on hands and legs (which may look like chicken pox or in­sect bites), blis­ters in mouth and trou­ble in swal­low­ing and fever. It spreads through con­tact with the mu­cus, saliva or fae­ces of an in­fected child. The fever and other symptoms are treated with ap­pro­pri­ate drugs and re­cov­ery oc­curs within 5 to 7 days, dur­ing which there should be no in­ter­ac­tion with other small fry. Im­petigo This bac­te­rial in­fec­tion tar­gets the but­tocks and around the mouth. The rashes look like moist golden crusts, with a spot of red­ness un­der each patch, spe­cially if the crust is picked off. Your doc­tor will pre­scribe an an­tibi­otic cream for about a week, and your child needs to stay away from school un­til there is no more crust­ing or blis­tery. An oral an­tibi­otic may be pre­scribed for fever or swollen lymph glands. Change clothes fre­quently and keep tow­els and bed clothes sep­a­rate. Lice In­spect your child’s hair closely if she is tor­mented by an itchy scalp. Look out for nits and lice, which leap from head to head. Yes, even boys get them too. You need a fine toothed comb to get them out of the hair, af­ter ap­ply­ing a lo­tion like Licel or Mediker sham­poo. Reap­ply seven days later which is the rough life cy­cle of the egg. Slapped cheek syn­drome gets its name from a dis­tinc­tive red rash on the cheeks. Your child may even have a runny nose, fever and a headache. This vi­ral in­fec­tion spreads early, but be­fore the symptoms ap­pear. There’s no spe­cific treat­ment ex­cept flu­ids and pain re­lief for headaches. They don’t re­ally need the stay away from school, but should avoid con­tact with preg­nant women. Thread worm Tiny par­a­sitic worms in the bow­els mi­grate to the anus in the night, lay their eggs and cause ir­ri­ta­tion. Tell tale signs are a very itchy bot­tom. It’s passed from scratch­ing down there, touch­ing the mouth, bit­ing fin­ger­nails, cooking food, through bed­ding. All the mem­bers of the fam­ily, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic help, need to be treated with a sin­gle dose of meben­da­zole (syrup or tablets) with a re­peat dose af­ter 2 weeks. Tummy up­set It can last 24 hours or longer and in rare cases can lead to a child be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized if de­hy­dra­tion is se­vere and the urine is dark and in­fre­quent. The symptoms are vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea and stom­ach cramps caused by a virus. The spread is very fast in a class. Chil­dren need time off and can

go back in 48 hours af­ter symptoms sub­side. Ad­min­is­ter oral re­hy­dra­tion: 1 level tsp of salt, 8 level tsps sugar dis­solved in one litre of boiled and cooled wa­ter. Of­fer ½ to 1 cup for each wa­tery stool.


It can in­volve teas­ing, taunt­ing, push­ing, pum­mel­ing, beat­ing, grab­bing things, ex­clud­ing, iso­la­tion and can make school a place to fear. If it af­fects your child, you have to take ac­tion. Your child may suf­fer an­guish whether one child yells “Caro­line, Caro­line dirty swine” or the whole class won’t speak to her; whether one child pulled his hair or a group beats him up. Bul­ly­ing is al­ways a big deal, and sadly some­times your child won’t even tell you be­cause of em­bar­rass­ment. Watch out for th­ese signs: torn dam­aged clothes or books cuts, bruises, scalds iso­la­tion from class­mates afraid of go­ing to school and/or on the school bus per­forms badly in school is teary, de­pressed and loses ap­petite has headaches and stom­ach aches rushes to the bath­room on re­turn, and is afraid to use the school loo bul­lies smaller chil­dren or hits an­i­mals For starters don’t dis­miss his fears with a“Don’t be a scaredy cat, beat him back.” You need to dis­cuss with your child how to deal with it be­fore it goes too far. Stud­ies sug­gest 75% chil­dren are bul­lied be­cause of ap­pear­ance. See that your child is well groomed be­fore school, washed, combed and tidy with neat nails. Change to in­ter­est­ing look­ing spec­ta­cles. Help lose weight, if too chubby, and put on weight if too skinny. Teach your child to look con­fi­dent, make eye con­tact and walk away. Help get a buddy, so that your child is not alone. In­vite other chil­dren over to play, and ar­range ac­tiv­i­ties in other groups. Raise self es­teem with pos­i­tive strokes. If all else fails you need to talk to the school.


Granted that school buses are a boon for busy par­ents and a great many schools make buss­ing com­pul­sory. But this doesn’t mean that you can rest easy, pre­sum­ing that your chil­dren are safe. Romir (7) pep­pers his din­ner ta­ble chat­ter with ugly ex­ple­tives. His hor­ri­fied par­ents who make sure that they keep it “clean” at home, ask “where is this com­ing from?” Romir replies “All the big boys in the bus talk like this. I wanna be just like them!” Ak­shata comes home with scratched arms for re­fus­ing to share her cook­ies. Some­how rules that ap­ply in class­room do not hold good in the school bus. All the pent up en­ergy of the day is let loose. When you pass a school bus you will hear rau­cous yelling. On your part check that the bus com­pany is re­puted, keeps its buses road wor­thy. the ve­hi­cle is fit­ted with CCTVs to mon­i­tor be­hav­ior. the younger chil­dren sit in front, and the older ones at the back. it has stu­dent mon­i­tors to main­tain dis­ci­pline and watch the bus at­ten­dants. there are fe­male war­dens, if the bus is car­ry­ing girl chil­dren. your younger child is handed over to a known per­son with an ID card. in­form the school of any mis­be­hav­ior on the part of the stu­dents or at­ten­dants. ex­plain to your child that no­body – teacher, bus at­ten­dant, stu­dent – can touch any part of the body that is cov­ered by a swim suit.


Ayush (12) com­plained of a chronic backache. Af­ter a se­ries of tests, the cul­prit was IDed. The school bag! ASSOCHAM (As­so­ci­ated Cham­bers of Com­merce and In­dus­try of In­dia) found that 79% of our kids be­tween 5 and 12, carry more than 35% of their weight on their back. This de­spite the Chil­dren’s School Bag Act of 2006, that pro­vi­sioned stu­dents should not carry more than 10% of their body weight and that nurs­ery/ KG stu­dents should have no bags at all and that schools should pro­vide lock­ers. Schools vi­o­lat­ing th­ese laws can face a penalty of upto Rs.3 lakhs and be dere­c­og­nized. Need­less to say this hasn’t hap­pened as yet. Mumbai and Delhi have the du­bi­ous distinc­tion of top­ping the list of over­weight school bags. In Mumbai 58% of kids be­low 10 have

mild back pain which can be­come chronic and lead to per­ma­nent hunch­ing. 86% carry bags through the day, tot­ing atleast 21 books. There is an ex­tra bag con­tain­ing kits for cricket, roller skat­ing, swim­ming, PE clothes, art kit and such. Ali Irani, Con­sul­tant Phys­io­ther­a­pist and Health & Nu­tri­tion pan­elist says that droop­ing shoul­ders, back­aches, bad pos­ture, tired mus­cles, com­pressed spinal cord, spinal prob­lems, sco­l­io­sis, poor chest ex­pan­sion, and de­creased lung ca­pac­ity can all be blamed on a heavy school bag. He sug­gests that a school bag should not be more than 10% of your child’s body weight. a back­pack is prefer­able as it puts less strain on grow­ing spines. padded waist straps trans­fer weight from the lower back to the hips. The pack should not be car­ried on only one shoul­der, but the load must be bal­anced and aligned with the child’s nat­u­ral axis. your child should prac­tice yoga at home. Tadasana, for e.g., stretches the whole spine.


A study of 3581 school kids con­ducted by the Ad­vanced Eye Hos­pi­tal and In­sti­tute, Navi Mumbai, turned up that 52% were not even aware that they had de­creased vi­sion. 68% of chil­dren with poor vi­sion did not wear spec­ta­cles reg­u­larly. 24% of th­ese kids did not wear the pre­scribed glasses at all be­cause they could not play games, were teased by oth­ers, felt that they looked ugly wear­ing them. 17% broke their glasses and were fright­ened to tell their par­ents. Did you know that the first eleven years in the life of a child are the most vi­tal where eyes are con­cerned? That if left un­cor­rected vi­sion prob­lems can have last­ing con­se­quences? What’s more, kids who do not wear glasses when they need them de­velop low self es­teem, fare badly in school be­cause they can­not see the black­board, or have dif­fi­culty in writ­ing. Your child’s eyes should be checked at 6 weeks, 3 years, be­tween 8 and 9, be­tween 14 and 16. En­cour­age eye friendly vi­ta­min A rich foods such as car­rots, green leafy veggies, drum­stick, beet­root, mango, pa­paya.


Your daugh­ter’s bestie is mean, dis­rup­tive in class, plays hot ‘n’ cold with her, pokes fun at her. When Chunky comes over he jumps on the sofa un­til it wob­bles, opens the re­frig­er­a­tor and helps him­self to food, swears like a trooper. But your son adores him. And sud­denly, your an­gelic lit­tle mop­pet changes track to mimic the cho­sen com­pany. Like ev­ery par­ent, you want your child to be sur­rounded by good in­flu­ences and right at­ti­tudes. You don’t want him to hang out with the wrong crowd or some­body who will lead her off your beaten path. Look how she has stopped read­ing and how he won’t help around the house. But whoa, go slow. Ban­ning a pal will make them sneaky, re­bel­lious, feel that the re­la­tion­ship is more ex­cit­ing or that you don’t “get it”. In­stead List pros and cons of friend­ship and talk about the mean­ing of friend­ship with­out nam­ing names. Build up other re­la­tion­ships. In­vite other chil­dren over. En­roll your child in classes such as swim­ming, sports, singing where he can find peo­ple with com­mon in­ter­ests. Dis­cuss bad be­hav­ior – again no names. Seek help from the child’s teach­ers, but be pre­pared that you may hear some­thing nasty about your own child. Try to get to know the other child’s fam­ily. And do re­mem­ber there’ll al­ways be friends that you don’t like ••• ••• the mop­pet in nurs­ery school who eats / takes your child’s good­ies. ••• the boy who copies all your child’s homework. ••• the team who plays tru­ant and smokes. But some­how th­ese same chil­dren show ap­pre­ci­a­tion, loy­alty and help in a cri­sis. So un­less there’s dan­ger in­volved let them pick their own friends. They’ll soon learn if they’re bad enough, depend­ing on the val­ues that they’ve grown up with.


When Amish had to re­peat Std.VII he was filled with an­guish. He re­mem­bers: “To go to class with my ju­niors and to watch my class­mates grad­u­ate into long trousers was de­flat­ing, I didn’t want to go back to school.” He was seated with two other re­peaters in the back row. And worse: “The teach­ers sar­cas­ti­cally pointed us out to the oth­ers, ad­mon­ish­ing them not to be like us.” When a child fails there is the hu­mil­i­a­tion of los­ing his old friends, the anx­i­ety of fit­ting into a new set, the pres­sure of prov­ing to his par­ents and teach­ers that he’s not a loser. Ac­cord­ing to the Right to Ed­u­ca­tion Act no child is al­lowed to be kept back un­til Std. IX, yet some schools do it, cit­ing their own rea­sons. You need to be gen­tle with your child. Don’t taunt or flaunt your own blem­ish­less aca­demic record. dis­cover why she was kept back, by talk­ing to the teach­ers with­out be­ing de­fen­sive. iden­tify sub­jects which were the bug-a-boos and of­fer help in them. help him make new friends by invit­ing them over.

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