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ARTICLE Children's Health

Children's Health

The period between age 3 and 12 can be a busy one. As the little ones grow bigger, stronger and more independent, their needs and wants can change dramatically. Make sure you're doing everything you can to help keep your child's mind and body healthy.

Asthma | Colds and flu | Diabetes | Obesity | Screenings and immunizations


17.3% of African American children under 18 are diagnosed with asthma compared to 8.4% of Caucasian children.1

Worried your child might have asthma? Talk to your doctor if you observe any of the following asthma symptoms:

  • Frequent colds or sinus infections
  • Whistling sounds when exhaling
  • Coughing that lasts more than a week
  • Coughing during exercise, in cold air or around perfume, smoke and animals

Children with asthma can typically still lead normal, active lives. Help your child live with asthma. These tips can help:

  • Avoid asthma triggers like smoke, perfume, hairspray, molds, dust, furry or feathery animals and strong-smelling cleaners
  • Limit playtime outdoors when pollution or pollen counts are high
  • Teach your child how to use their asthma medication correctly and quickly
  • Help your child follow their asthma management plan as recommended by your doctor

Colds and flu

Not sure if your child has a cold or flu? Check to see if he or she has a fever, a tell-tale sign. Remember, age and thermometer type can affect reading. In general, your child has a fever if their temperature is:

  • 100.4F or higher by rectum
  • 99.5F or higher by ear
  • 99F or higher under arm

Other signs that your child may have the flu include:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Headache and body aches
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

If you think your child has the flu, it's a good idea to call your doctor's office or the NurseLine. Get help deciding when to bring your child to the doctor. Even if it's just a cold, ask about ways to alleviate symptoms, which may include:

  • Making sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of fluids
  • Giving your child over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms – but nothing with aspirin in it

Children under 5 are at a higher risk of serious flu-related complications. Talk to your doctor about getting your child vaccinated when he or she is old enough – generally around 6 months.


Type 1 diabetes – also called juvenile diabetes – is the most common type of diabetes in children. Symptoms can come on suddenly. Consider calling your doctor immediately if your child experiences:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness, lethargy or unconsciousness
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fruity or sweet-smelling breath
  • Heavy breathing

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. The body either does not produce enough insulin or the body's cells ignore the insulin.

33% of African American adolescents and young adults (age 10-19 years) have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.2

If your child has diabetes, it's important to learn how to manage it. Blood sugar levels can be affected by:

  • Certain foods, especially sweets
  • Meal times
  • Exercise or other physical activity
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Periods of growth
  • Medications
  • Illness or infection

Your doctor can help you manage your child's diabetes through blood glucose monitoring, insulin therapy, diet and exercise.


Childhood obesity is on the rise. According to a 2008 National Center for Health Statistics report, 18.6 percent and 24.0 percent of African American boys and girls, respectively, between the ages of 6 and 11 from 2003 to 2006, were overweight. This same report cited that 28.5 percent and 27.7 percent of 12-year-old to 19-year-old African American boys and girls, respectively, were overweight. Being overweight puts your child at risk for becoming obese.3

It's important you keep an eye on your child's weight. Childhood obesity can lead to heart disease, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and other serious illnesses. Plus, overweight children are more likely to become victims of playground harassment and develop low self-esteem.

Help your child maintain a healthy weight and promote self-confidence. Consider the following tips to get you started:

  • Prepare balanced meals. Make sure your kids get plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grains. Choose low-fat dairy options and lean meats.
  • Serve small portions. Don't pile on the food. Give your kids enough to eat, but not enough to overeat.
  • Limit snack time to the kitchen. That way, your kids won't be tempted to eat empty calories when they're bored.
  • Sweeten the deal. Instead of candy, offer kids fat-free treats like yogurt and fruit.
  • Swap out soda. Instead, make water or juice fun with shaped ice cubes, crazy straws and other garnishes.
  • Get going. Bowling, dancing, tag and jumping rope are fun activities to get kids moving. Encourage playtime outdoors with friends.

Screenings and immunizations

Keeping your child healthy is a top priority. Regular preventive care allows your doctor to prevent and detect disease, if it occurs, so treatment has the best chance of success. Use UnitedHealthcare's online tool to get recommended immunization and screening schedules for each member of your family. It is important to attend all well-child visits and ensure that childhood immunizations are administered on time. Talk to your doctor about your specific questions and concerns regarding your child's health, and use these guidelines, along with the advice of your doctor, to help your child stay healthy.

Screenings & Immunizations for Children Aged 3 to 12

74.2% of African American children aged 19 10 35 month are fully immunized versus 77.8% of Caucasian children.4

Immunizations are often given as shots. Screenings are tests given to detect a health condition. Together, they can help your child stay protected from disease and maintain wellness.

Keep good records

Ask your doctor for a screening and immunization record. This keeps track of your child's tests and shots. Keep this record in a safe place. Child care providers and schools will ask for it. Bring the record to every doctor visit.

Immunization tips

Most shots are given by the time your child is 2 years old. But some are given into the teen years. Consider these tips to help ensure your child gets proper immunizations:

  • Ask your doctor what shots your child needs and what age your child should get them.
  • Follow your doctor's schedule. When your child is getting one shot, make an appointment for the next.
  • Don't miss your child's doctor visit. If you have to cancel, set up another one.
  • Your child may run a fever or have swelling in the shot location after getting a shot. Check with your doctor about giving your child over-the-counter pain medication. And if you do, follow the directions carefully.
  • Ask your doctor about giving aspirin to children younger than age 19. It's been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but sometimes fatal condition.

Use UnitedHealthcare's preventive care tool to get recommended immunization and screening schedules for each member of your family. Talk to your doctor about your specific questions and concerns regarding your child's health, and use these guidelines, along with the advice of your doctor, to help your child stay healthy.