Because the immune systems of children are not fully developed, and because children are often in close proximity to one another in environments such as day-care centers, classrooms, and on school buses, the transmission of contagious diseases is particularly easy. Contagious diseases are often caused by the spread of bacteria (such as in scarlet fever) or viruses (such as in chickenpox, measles, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and several others) in droplets of saliva and mucus, especially when coughing or sneezing. Contagious diseases can also occur by coming in close personal contact with another infected person or even by sharing personal items, as in infestation caused by insects (such as with scabies) or a fungal infection (such as in ringworm). Many childhood diseases, once contracted, result in lifelong immunity, but this is not always the case. Vaccinations also provide immunity to some of the diseases below. Unfortunately, many of these diseases are most contagious before the infected child has any symptoms of the disease, making transmission even more likely.
Immunizations (vaccination) protect us from serious diseases and also prevent the spread of those diseases to others. Here, you’ll learn more about which vaccines children need and find the latest immunization schedules. Babies are born with protection against certain diseases because antibodies from their mothers were passed to them through the placenta. After birth, breastfed babies get the continued benefits of additional antibodies in breast milk. But in both cases, the protection is temporary.
The first year of life is a time of astonishing change during which babies, on average, grow 10 inches (25 centimeters) in length and triple their birth weights. Given all the growth that occurs then, new parents might be surprised when their child doesn’t continue to grow through the roof after the first year. But no child continues the rate of growth experienced during infancy. After age 1, a baby’s growth in length slows considerably, and by 2 years, growth in height usually continues at a fairly steady rate of approximately 2½ inches (6 centimeters) per year until adolescence. No child grows at a perfectly steady rate throughout this period of childhood, however. Weeks or months of slightly slower growth alternate with mini “growth spurts” in most children. Kids actually tend to grow a bit faster in the spring than during other times of the year! A major growth spurt occurs at the time of puberty, usually between age 8 to 13 years in girls and 10 to 15 years in boys. Puberty lasts about 2 to 5 years. This growth spurt is associated with sexual development, which includes the appearance of pubic and underarm hair, the growth and development of sex organs, and in girls, the onset of menstruation. By the time girls reach age 15 and boys reach age 16 or 17, the growth associated with puberty will have ended for most and they will have reached physical maturity.
Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients — such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fat. What’s different about nutrition for kids, however, is the amount of specific nutrients needed at different ages.A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes.Parents should learn about their children’s nutrient requirements. Some of them, such as the requirements for iron and calcium, change as your child ages. They also should aim to limit their child’s calories from solids fats and added sugar, such as butter, cake, soda and pizza. Looking for ways to replace solid fats with vegetable and nut oils, which provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Oils are naturally present in olives, nuts, avocados and seafood.