At this age and stage of their life, preteen kids will begin to experience what, to them, is the end of the world…acne.
Thanks to the hormonal flair-up that is inevitable (and essential) at this stage of their life, preteens and teens will enter the world of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and cysts. To them, it’s all just zits. Luckily for most, the acne will subside by the time they reach their twenties. The extent of a child’s acne tends to depend on genetics. To some extent, you can predict how severe your child’s acne might be by the experience you and your partner had when you were younger.
It’s all got to do with hormones and glands…sebaceous glands, to be exact, which are under the control of androgens (sex hormones). Sebaceous glands are located in the pores of your skin and secrete oil, or sebum, which reduces water loss from the skin and protects against bacterial or fungi infection. There are anywhere from 400 to 900 glands per square centimeter on the mid-back, forehead and chin. The glands in these areas of the body are larger than in other areas. Sebum quantities produced can be affected by pituitary disorders, malnutrition, and diseases such as Parkinson’s. Overactive sebum production is known as seborrhoea. When pores become clogged with dead skin cells, excessive sebum, and bacteria that is typically found on skin, swelling and redness and acne occurs.
A clogged pore that bulges without opening is called a whitehead, mostly due to its appearance. A clogged pore that opens and darkens is called a blackhead because of its darker color. When sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells migrate under the skin via the pore, you’re left with a red bump called a pimple. Some clogged pores open up and leave a deeper opening than usual, causing infections under the skin that create lumps or cysts.
Food & Acne – Fact or Fiction?
Do certain foods make acne worse? The common theory held is no. However, Valori Treloar, M.D., who also studied to become a certified nutrition specialist, found that this thinking was skewed. Dr. Treloar explains, “A good way to improve the health of your skin is to eat in a manner that keeps your blood sugar steady, she tells WebMD. Some foods make your blood sugar quickly soar. This triggers your body to make a burst of the hormone insulin to help your cells absorb the sugar.”
Some research suggests that insulin may play a role in acne. In a 2007 study, researchers explored a possible link. The study included 43 teenage boys and young men with acne. For three months, some ate a diet including foods with a low glycemic load (which is a measure of how foods affect people’s blood sugar), and others ate a carbohydrate-heavy diet without being concerned about their glycemic index. Those who ate the special low glycemic load diet had more improvement in their acne. 1
Best approach here is the personal approach; if your child notices more breakouts after eating certain foods, cut them from his/her diet for a while and see if it makes a difference. But don’t cut them completely because that can cause a craving for them. Remember, everything in moderation. Just know that, after your child eats these foods, a breakout is likely. For more information on the glycemic index, CLICK HERE. To read the full article on skin and food, CLICK HERE.
Cleansing and Cleansers
While it might be tempting to scrub your face, please don’t. That can only lead to torn skin, scars, and increased oil production. The fact is, the more you wash, the more your skin thinks it needs to moisturize, so it increases the sebum production. Gentle washing twice a day, with a soft cloth, warm water, and gentle cleanser, should do the trick. Gentle washing is always the gold standard; never try to manipulate a pimple manually – it can leads to infection and scarring.
Hearing Loss and Teens
For the young ladies, never go to bed with make-up on…it’s just asking for a break out. Don’t forget the moisturizer! Try to find one that is oil-free and light weight. Hair spray and gels can clog pores as well so wipe your forehead with a warm cloth after putting on hair spray. If your hair is long and has oil issues, try and keep it away from your face. And some good advice for everyone…try and keep your hands away from your face; despite your best efforts, they’ll always have dust, dirt, and bacteria on them.
“Turn that down!” Ever wonder if all that loud music can lead to hearing loss? After all, we listened to some pretty loud music when we were kids, didn’t we? Did you ever go to a concert and then have hearing issues for days afterward? Here’s the difference…kids of today have ear buds and portable devices that can hold thousands of songs, allowing for long periods of use. If used incorrectly, both can lead to hearing loss .
According to the Journal of Pediatrics, 12.5% of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from loss of hearing as a result of using ear phones turned to a high volume. Young people are actually vulnerable to hearing loss due to their excessive use of listening at overly high volumes. The CDC reports that “being exposed to more than 85 decibels of sound (the sound of city traffic from inside a car) for 8 hours can damage young hearing.”2
So what’s a kid to do? Well, first, switch to headphones. While earbuds deliver sound directly into the ear canal, headphones are usually of better quality than cheap earbuds, drown out more of the background noise, thus making the music sound better so it doesn’t need to be played at such a high volume. (Try convincing your kids of that! – but it’s true.) And second, remember to take a break now and then. Extended periods of loud noise damages hearing.
Over and above having to deal with acne, some teenagers have to deal with eczema. Not a commonly known fact, eczema is actually quite common among teens. And, at a time when teens have to deal with intense social pressures, this double whammy can have an effect on their self-esteem. Young ladies like to try and hide the effects of acne on their skin, however a teen with eczema quite often cannot use make-up and skin products like other girls. The good news is that, with the proper treatment, a full sixty percent of teens’ symptoms can be managed quite nicely.
Eczema is a term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema. “Atopic” refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.3 Researchers have also identified a possible blood circulatory disorder as a cause as well as eczema being the body’s natural immune response to irritants and/or stress. When your primary health care provider comes to make the diagnosis of eczema, he/she will also most probably test for other allergies at the same time. Patches of eczema most often appear on the face, ears, hands, inside the elbows and behind the knees, but can emerge on any part of the body. One of the most annoying symptoms associated with eczema is the extreme itching it can cause. The affected skin can appear dry, thickened, scaly, turning from reddish to brown. A flare-up can be caused by something as simple as coming into contact with rough fabrics or household cleansers, heat, cold, or animal dander.
Eczema is generally managed with creams and/or antihistamines to dull the itching and moisturize the skin, hydrocortisone cream to lessen inflammation, and antibiotics to deal with an infection if the need arises. For individuals who don’t respond to these treatments, there are also prescription drugs. The best plan of action is to try and avoid flare-ups by using moisturizers in generous amounts right after bathing. Acclimatize to changes in temperature gradually (wear layers of clothing) and try to avoid getting overheated and sweating. Stick with soft, natural fabrics such as cotton and avoid fabrics that hold in moisture. Include a de-stressing routine in your day, every day. Wash with a gentle, natural cleanser, warm water, and a soft cloth and try to avoid make-up. Watch for foods that might lead to flare-ups and take these out of your regular diet.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
If you ask someone what they know about arthritis, they’ll probably tell you it’s an inflammatory condition that affects older people. And they’d be right…but not completely. Arthritis can strike children as well; for a while or forever. The most prevalent form of juvenile arthritis is JIA (aka juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or JRA).
Current medical thinking is that JIA is an autoimmune condition (when the body attacks itself) and can appear in children as young as 6 months old, up to and including 16 years of age. The first signs include swollen joints (with heat and pain at the site), a rash that defies explanation, or a fever, or all three. These signs can be as subtle as a sore neck or as noticeable as a limp. A rash may appear, then disappear, only to reappear in another area of the body. A joint may swell for no apparent reason and stay swollen for an unexplainable length of time. When only a few joints are involved, it’s more likely that the condition will go into remission. Only your primary health care provider can make a certain diagnosis of JIA.
Luckily, a diagnosis of JIA rarely means a life of inactivity. On the contrary, it involves treatments which include physical therapy and exercise which will help to slow the destruction of joints and restore use and function to them. Medication is used to control the inflammation and pain, typically NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.
Always follow your health care provider’s advice on how much your child can do and for how long. Logically, when your child hurts, all they want to do is sit still. But this is truly a case where, within reason, they should try and keep moving with gentle activities such as walking, swimming, and bicycling. A stationary indoor bike is also a good option. Even a gentle program of yoga can help keep the joints supple and in good shape. Make sure to follow the rules that apply to all exercise; stretch and warm up first, then exercise, then cool down. Nutter’s has a couple of articles on yoga and working with a personal trainer. If you’d like to read more on these two topics, CLICK HERE. Nutter’s also has a full article on arthritis, including which supplements and nutrients are important to help manage this condition.
Type 1 Diabetes
Boston Children’s Hospital defines Type 1 Diabetes as “an autoimmune disease – a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism in which the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (called beta cells).”
More simply put, diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose. Glucose is a sugar that the body uses for fuel. The pancreas produces the hormone insulin which is responsible for getting the glucose into your body’s cells. From there, your body gets the energy it needs. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas either has a severely diminished capacity for producing insulin or can no longer produce it at all. That leaves all that glucose in the blood stream and no way for it to get into the cells, which spikes blood sugar levels and causes health problems.
The medical community isn’t sure what causes type 1 diabetes but they do agree that genetics plays a role and that it does run in families. The specific gene for type 1 diabetes could sit dormant forever. However, something like a serious viral infection could switch it into high gear. It is estimated that one in every 600 children in the U.S. will develop type 1 diabetes, with the onset occurring between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. There is nothing that can prevent type 1 diabetes and no way to tell who will fall victim to it. Some of the telltale signs of type 1 diabetes include:
- Frequent urination.
- Unquenchable thirst.
- Incessant eating (the body’s way of trying to get energy).
- Weight loss (the body cannibalizes its own tissue for fuel).
- Extreme fatigue (no glucose getting into the cells for fuel).
Type 1 diabetes is treated with regular insulin shots or with an insulin pump. Your primary health care provider will know which of the two is more appropriate for your child’s situation. Other considerations include checking blood sugar levels on a regular basis, following an appropriate diet to keep blood sugar levels in check, regular exercise, and regular medical checkups.
Eating at regular intervals during the day is so important to keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel. Try and eat approximately every six hours, even if this means carrying small meals and snacks around in a backpack or in a desk or locker. Teachers and school nurses/administrators should be made aware of your child’s situation to allow them to access these foods when the need arises. It’s also important that teachers know about your child’s diabetes so that they can watch for signs that all may not be right with your child.
Signs of Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia)
Your child gets sick with a viral infection. Your first reaction is to give them something to relieve the pain and possibly to bring down a fever. The only thing you have in the house is aspirin, so that’s what you give your child. The cold/flu goes away, but very soon after you notice vomiting, lethargy, agitation, possibly screaming for no reason, and staring off into space. These are all signs of Reye’s syndrome and the sooner it’s diagnosed the better. Be sure to tell the attending physician that you’ve given your child aspirin, or other salicylate-containing medication, as Reye’s has a habit of being misdiagnosed as meningitis, poisoning, or a drug overdose.
The medical community has yet to find the absolute cause, or cure, for Reye’s but research has established a link between Reye’s and the use of aspirin (a salicylate compound).
The U.S. Surgeon General, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics the National Reye’s Syndrome Foundation, and WHO recommend that aspirin and combination products containing aspirin not be given to children under 19 years of age during episodes of fever-causing or viral illnesses.4
Aspirin is not always the culprit as Reye’s can occur without taking acetylsalicylate (another word for aspirin).
Reye’s Syndrome is most commonly associated with infants and aspirin. However, if not monitored, a preteen or teen may decide to self-medicate and decide that “more is better” and end up over-medicating. If you allow your child to use medications without having to consult you, it’s best to instruct them as to how and when to use products which do not contain acetylsalicylate. When choosing a product for your child to use, avoid products with the following in their list of ingredients: acetylsalicylate, acetylsalicylic acid, salicylic acid, or salicylate.
Keeping Up Appearances
Although it may seem shallow and a little short-sighted to an adult, appearances are everything to a preteen or teen. Their weight, their height, their hair, their muscles, their athletic abilities, their popularity, who their friends are; nothing misses the discerning teenage eye. Even tweens (kids between the ages of 9 & 12) are inching into this sphere. When you think of a teen who is obsessed with their appearance, it’s usually the girls who come to mind, but don’t dismiss the boys just yet. If they’re worried about catching a young lady’s eye, a teenage boy won’t spare any expense either. And while there’s nothing wrong with being concerned about your appearance, it’s when you’re more concerned about being thin than being healthy, or when appearances trump everything else, that the problems can start.
At this sensitive age, kids don’t want to be fat. However, Mother Nature often has other ideas when it comes to teens, hormones, genetics, and fat. It’s only the lucky few who inherit the genes to be naturally slim. So, more often than not, teens will decide to diet. After all, the minute-by-minute media messages showing “successful”, “happy”, thin people can’t help but make them question their own body. Only through a little education on proper nutrition and a whole lot of support can a teen make it through these trying years.
There’s no reason a teen should have to diet! Plenty of foods can be consumed in a day to keep the tummy full without loading on the pounds so long as certain rules are followed. Make sure to include all foods groups, choosing:
- Lean proteins
- Low-fat dairy
- Lots of raw fruits & veggies (no or low-fat dips)
- Plenty of water
- Whole grains over white flour
- Mono and polyunsaturated fats
So what’s wrong with dieting? It doesn’t work, plain and simple. As a matter of fact, you’re liable to gain back all the weight you’ve lost and then some. And, a teenager’s body is still growing so it’s important that it receive a consistent and varied supply of nutrients to develop properly. It’s better to establish a regular, healthy eating plan and stick with it. The U.K.’s National Health Services website Choices reports that “the average amount of energy that young people of different ages need per day is:
- 2,220 calories a day for boys aged 11 to 14
- 1,845 calories a day for girls aged 11 to 14
- 2,755 calories a day for young men aged 15 to 18
- 2,110 calories a day for young women aged 15 to 18″
If dieting can make you feel hungry, distracted, tired, edgy, cold, foggy-brained, dizzy, and deprived, then why would you choose to feel that way when you can eat all this in one day while maintaining your body’s daily requirements (all fresh
Glass of water with lemon, 0
1 poached egg, 74
1 slices mixed grain bread, 65
1 cup fresh orange juice, 112
2 cups strawberries, 52 calories
2 slices mixed grain bread, 130
100 grams lean deli ham, 120
100 grams low-fat cheddar cheese, 192
1 cup 2% milk, 128
1 cup yogurt, fruit on bottom, 2%, 177
Large glass of water, 0
Chicken breast (no skin), 141
2 medium carrots, 70
1/2 large baked potato, 110
|Snacks throughout the day: 3 stalks celery-18, 1C sliced, peeled cucumber-14, 1 medium apple-82, 1 banana-105, 1/2C blueberries-43, 20 grapes-72, 20 cherries-100, popcorn, plain-0.|
If your teen is physically active, he/she will need even more calories to help build and repair muscle they’re using while exercising.
Today’s world for teens consists mainly of screens: on computers, phones, TV’s, or tablets. It’s too tempting to sit indoors with a screen rather than getting outside and being active. Try and encourage your teen to take part in sports. Remember, a sport doesn’t necessarily mean a “team”. There are plenty of individual sports that your teen can take part in where they won’t feel like they’re being compared to others such as swimming, bowling, and karate. Challenge them to beat their own personal best. If your teen likes to be part of a team, then the sky’s the limit!
Keep the lines of communication open with your teen and have meaningful conversations about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. Try to keep it light and conversational rather than heavy and confrontational. Ask them if there’s anything they’d like to ask you about. Offer small pieces of information rather than lecturing on one subject. Suggest taking cooking classes together or hitting the gym after work/school together. There’s only so far a teen will let you into their life, but if you can maintain that connection, it’s likely they’ll have a better view of themselves and the world if they feel your support is available and at the ready when they need it.
Have frank conversations about friends; what you can and can’t expect from them and where to draw the line when it comes to what others will ask of you. Talk about the meaning of a true friend and what that kind of behaviour might look like. If a friend asks you to do something that doesn’t feel right, they’re not a friend. Talk about how a preteen or teen can “stick to their guns” without alienating themselves. Sometimes you get more respect by being the example that others will want to follow. These are lessons that might be tough to learn or carry out, but it’s better that they’re learned now than later in life.