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Be Your Family’s Health Advocate

Keeping your family healthy

Ask questions, do research

Each day our bodies are being polluted with toxic chemicals and it happens when we least expect it — when we shampoo our hair, when we brush our teeth and even when we take medication intended to improve our health.

Current legislation is clearly not enough. What we really need is to restructure the system that regulates the way these chemicals make it on to the market. The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976, is the only law of its kind and has never been amended.

The TSCA declared 62,000 chemicals on the market safe, despite a lack of evidence. Since then, another 20,000 chemicals have been put on the market with little or no studies about their safety.

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect public health and the environment, the pollution in people is increasingly associated with a range of diseases and conditions, including childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, learning deficits, infertility and birth defects. Despite the growing knowledge about the links between chemical exposure and human disease, the government remains essentially powerless to protect us.

What Can You Do?

No one knows your child better than you do. You must be his chief protector. Do your own research so that you don’t unknowingly expose your child to potentially dangerous chemicals.

While claims about a link between vaccinations and autism recently were declared false, parents still should do their own research and talk with their child’s pediatrician about any concerns. Vaccines still are a large part of keeping children healthy. However, misinformation could deter parents’ abilities to make the right decisions. The first step is finding a doctor that you are comfortable with and can trust.

Faith in Your Physician

Our lives and the lives of our loved ones often lay at the hands of doctors. However, the trust we place in physicians is only half the puzzle, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It suggests that when patients or their parents are active in the health care process, quality goes up and errors go down. The agency recommends that you keep these questions in mind when visiting the doctor.

  • What is the test for?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • When will I get the results?
  • Why is this treatment recommended?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Which hospital is best for my needs?
  • How do you spell the name of that drug?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will this medicine interact with medicines that my child or me already is taking?

Doctors spend many years training to heal, but as parents we also must research everything from diet and exercise to vaccines to better understand our physicians’ opinions and information.

In recent years, tools such as Web MD have empowered us to self-diagnose and self-soothe. Nonetheless, there’s no replacement for a good physician. Therefore, we must place a lot of trust in whomever we choose as a primary caregiver for our family. How do you find a good doctor, you ask?

  • Ask around. Ask people you trust for referrals. It is unsettling how many people continue to go to doctors they are unsatisfied with.
  • Schedule an introductory appointment.
  • Take notes when you meet with people and ask a lot of questions. Make sure you have these question prepared ahead of time.
  • If you feel a question was not addressed adequately, don’t be afraid to rephrase and ask again. There are no stupid questions when it comes to your family’s health.

Common Misunderstandings

Antibiotic resistance or the ability of one’s immune system to resist antibiotic treatment is a growing problem. When you pump antibiotics into your system or that of your child, bacteria are given the opportunity to develop immunity, hampering future antibiotic treatment. The problem is particularly prevalent in young children and babies. Furthermore, when babies are exposed to antibiotics at a young age, their immune systems may not learn to fend off colds. Here are some tips for keeping your baby safe from the harsh effects of antibiotics.

  • Try to avoid giving them to your child whenever possible.
  • If they do take antibiotics, ask your physician about probiotics as well. Probiotics can help prevent some of the side effects of antibiotics.
  • Never use leftover antibiotics. Using leftover antibiotics actually helps bacteria become resistant.
  • Don’t request an antibiotic if your physician thinks it’s not needed. And when your physician does prescribe one, ask what you’re getting and why.

Immunizations

The debate surrounding vaccinations and autism rages on among concerned parents, despite the controversy surrounding the physician who first claimed a link that has now been declared false. So what are vaccinations and immunizations?

Vaccines prepare your body for illness by infecting you with a portion of the germ. This way, your body will have time to accustom itself to the germ and teach itself to fight it off. If your body is ever exposed to the disease it will be prepared to fight it off and you will have immunity.

It is a common misconception that vaccines deter the body from fighting off future illness. The vaccine simply does to your body what it would naturally do if you had the disease. The germ you’re being infected with when you get a vaccine is either dead or merely a fraction of the germ and therefore would not cause you to experience the disease.

The key is to find a balance, between questioning prescribed treatments and accepting health care that is necessary. With the multitude of information we are flooded with, it can be overwhelming to sift through it all. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do for your family is read and ask questions. Reading this article was a great first step. Now, I challenge you to question every word.

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