Children’s Health

The inconvenient truth of vaccine refusal

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The development of vaccines for many once-fatal illnesses has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in the United States. While some parents may have concerns about the side effects of a vaccine, the decision not to vaccinate a child extends the risk of illness to the larger community.

3 reasons the 2016 campaign can be good for kids (parents, it’s up to you!)

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

It’s natural to want to shield your children from the vitriol of this year’s presidential campaign — but think twice before you turn off the evening news. We’ve listed three ways you can turn this year’s campaign into opportunities to teach your children about the political process and even have conversations that can help them — and you — come away with a broader perspective.

The latest on a simple way to help prevent food allergies in kids

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Pediatricians used to recommend that parents hold off on giving their children foods that commonly cause allergic reactions — peanuts, eggs, seafood, wheat — for the first few years of the child’s life. We now know that was bad advice. Recent studies have shown that giving these foods very early in life is perfectly safe — and that it actually decreases a child’s risk for some food allergies.

ADHD medication for kids: Is it safe? Does it help?

Ellen Braaten, Ph.D.
Ellen Braaten, Ph.D., Contributor

Methylphenidate — known as Ritalin and Concerta, among other names — has been the standard medication for ADHD for over 50 years. But until now, there had been no comprehensive, systematic reviews of the benefits and risks of this drug. A recent review has concluded that, if prescribed correctly by a doctor who’s familiar with methylphenidate and its possible side effects, its downsides probably will not outweigh the positives.

10 ways to raise a healthy eater

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Eating healthy is a habit — and, like any other habit, it can be taught and learned. Most kids need guidance as they learn how to enjoy healthy foods and eating patterns. We’ve shared 10 of our best tips for how to help your child become a healthy eater.

Zika, pregnancy, and winter travel: Many unknowns, and a cautious message

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

If you’re planning an escape from the dreary winter weather, and you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to plan your destination carefully. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Zika virus — which is now widespread in several favorite tropical destinations, such as the Caribbean — and its potential pregnancy-related complications. Until we know more, it’s better to be safe and follow the precautions we’ve listed here.

Starting your baby on solids? Here are three new things I tell parents to do

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Over the past few years, research has changed pediatricians’ recommendations for when — and how — to introduce babies to solid foods. For example, many doctors now recommend giving young children peanut products and fish very early, as this actually reduces the risk of developing allergies. Of course, every baby and family is different, so it’s always best to run your baby’s “first foods” by his doctor before giving them.

Protection from the TdaP vaccine doesn’t last very long

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Unfortunately, according to a recently published study, the TdaP vaccine is less effective than previously thought. It could even be a factor in the recent California outbreaks. Other versions of the vaccine offer more protection, but also have more side effects. Protecting kids from pertussis might require a substantial public health effort to get just right.

Is football safe for kids?

Mark Proctor, MD
Mark Proctor, MD, Contributing Editor

Many team sports have tremendous health benefits for children, but youth football, in particular, continues to pose a concern because of the high risks of concussion and other injuries. A recent NEJM article has taken a stance against allowing tackling in youth football. But is this position really the best way to promote the health and safety of youth athletes?

Lead poisoning: What everyone needs to know

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Even though the use of lead has been regulated for many years, tragedies like the one currently ongoing in Flint, Michigan still occur. Exposure to lead in childhood can have health effects that can change a child’s life forever. We’ve listed steps you can take to keep your child — and everyone in your home — safe from lead poisoning.