Wednesday, May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024
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Dallas’ Best Pediatricians Share Health Tips

8 doctors offer advice on everything from staying safe while playing sports to navigating puberty.


Nnenna Agim
UT Southwestern Medical Center
5323 Harry Hines Blvd.

“The best sunscreen on the market is one that a child or family will use. Key ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. An SPF of at least 30 is recommended. Brands marketed for babies have fewer potentially irritating agents. Sunscreen, no matter how high the SPF, lasts only a few hours, so it must be reapplied if a child is outdoors for prolonged periods or has toweled off after swimming.”

Adolescent Medicine

Laura Scalfano
6300 W. Parker Rd.
Bldg. II, Ste. 324

“Use creative ways to encourage your teen to eat a balanced diet and exercise. First, get him or her interested in cooking. Suggest watching the Food Network or other cooking channel. Ask your teen to do the grocery shopping or put him or her in charge of one meal a week for the family. When kids cook on their own, they find foods that we as parents may not have offered. They may even cook veggies in a way they like. Next, equate healthy eating with maturity. I often tell my patients that it’s time for them to “grow up their eating habits.” I remind them that chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, and Pop-Tarts are fine on occasion, but they don’t need to make them a regular habit. If a food is a regular item on a children’s menu, maybe it shouldn’t be a regular in the diet of a teenager. Lastly, for those kids who don’t eat breakfast, I suggest a milkshake of skim milk, frozen strawberries, half a banana, honey or Truvia, and a few tablespoons of pasteurized egg white.

“Some teens are naturally inclined to be active. However just like adults, every family has its couch potatoes. I encourage teens to find an activity they like—or don’t hate. This may be kickboxing, Wii Fit, basketball, bar class, even laser tag. Have a schedule for the week that includes these activities at set times. Couch potatoes generally don’t do well with self-motivating to go to the gym. I tell my patients to view exercise like they do any other good habit. Do you wait to feel motivated to brush your teeth? You brush your teeth because it’s morning or because it’s bedtime. Exercise should be no different.”

Susan Sugerman
17300 Preston Rd., Ste. 160

“Any adult knows that puberty can confuse a child’s sense of self and definitely does not feel normal. You can help teens cope with their maturing minds and bodies by teaching them what to expect and by providing additional support when their worlds feel challenged.

“Teach them about puberty early and often. Build a foundation of knowledge about what changes to expect. Map it out in advance in very general terms. Use language they can understand at the time, but circle back to those concepts at a higher level when their brains are ready for more detailed information. Expect your teen to question whether he or she is normal. Whether advanced, delayed, or average in their pubertal development, teens each know someone who is in a different place from them. Acknowledge their feelings of being different but also remind them that all teenagers are ‘differently different’ from each other. During this time, being ‘different’ is really being ‘normal.’ Reassure them that puberty begins and ends for everyone. Remind them that thousands of generations before them have survived it.

“I suggest looking for a book about puberty that is consistent with your values. Keep it in a place at home where your teen can look at it privately and without being self-conscious. It is sometimes easier for him or her to point to a page and ask, ‘Mom, what does this mean?’ than to bring up something embarrassing. Finally, identify and lean on your village. Give your child permission to reach out to certain adults whom you trust, such as friends, teachers, doctors, and other professionals, when he or she needs someone to talk to who’s not you.”