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Health Expert Q&A 

Dr. Marie Agnew, FNP-C, DNP & Dr. Ashley Gish, WHNP, DNP at Shift Functional Medicine of Bend

QI know this topic gets a lot of attention, but I seriously need help. My four-year-old son does not sleep through the night and wakes us up every night! He goes to sleep around 8pm, then wakes around midnight and says he has a stomach ache. It is quite a process to get him back to sleep. Any advice?

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A Is he saying he has a stomach ache as a way to receive midnight snuggles or does it seem that his stomach really hurts? If there's any diarrhea, constipation or if he appears to be in physical pain bring him in to be evaluated ASAP.

If there are no other physical symptoms, I recommend finding ways to connect more throughout the day. Find one-on-one time away from distractions and carve out more cuddle time prior to bed. Consider rubbing his belly with some warm sesame oil or essential oil (my kids love DigestZen by doTerra) and set the expectation that this will calm his tummy through the night. 

When he wakes, keep lights and voices low and put him back down without extra interaction. Be loving, but firm, that this is the time to sleep. Our bodies have strong circadian rhythms. Once we get up regularly at a certain time, our bodies continue to wake us habitually. His rhythm needs to be reset.

Lastly, if you are discussing adult concerns in front of him, keep those conversations lighter. Anxiety levels are generally high; our wise littles pick up on it. 

—Marie Agnew

(L to R) Dr. Ashley Gish and Dr. Marie Agnew. - SUBMITTED
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  • (L to R) Dr. Ashley Gish and Dr. Marie Agnew.

QMy kindergartner loves to swim at Juniper. However, she has recently developed eczema on her right arm. I'm worried that the chlorine may be causing this. Is chlorine dangerous for kids?

A Juniper is the best! My kindergartner loves it there as well. Chlorine can cause dry skin, which can exacerbate an underlying eczema. I recommend kids rinse off after swimming in any chlorinated water. If prone to dry skin, I then recommend they apply a thick moisturizer. I have found Cerave cream often works best for eczema, twice per day.

When it comes to making decisions for your child's health, I believe it's important to look at health holistically. The joy your daughter gets from playing and socializing in the pool likely outweighs some chlorine exposure. I would promote up to every other day exposure with an emphasis on rinsing afterward and effective moisturizing. 

I also recommend trying to uncover the root etiology. Eczema doesn't appear with zero cause. I often think about causes for inflammation and potential food intolerances and gut/microbiome health. This may or may not fit your daughter; but it's worth a mention and further investigation if it fits. 

—Marie Agnew

QEvery year my two kids (pre-school and 2nd grade) spend the majority of the winter with running noses and coughs. I hate to see them sick most of the time. Is there any way to go into this year differently?

A There's a reason that pediatricians have bulletproof immune systems. Between touching everything and fingers constantly in noses and mouths, school-age kiddos can pass around ALOT of germs. But that definitely does not mean you have to give in to a winter full of non-stop runny noses. The old adage, "the best offense is a good defense" comes to mind here. There's nothing like good sleep to keep little bodies healthy. Just like eating well and staying active play an important role in maintaining a strong immune system, quality sleep plays an important role in how well our bodies are able to fight off infections. Encourage them to "eat the rainbow" by focusing on lots of nutrient dense fruits and veggies; getting outside to play and washing hands frequently are also helpful. I also find it worthwhile to diffuse some essential oils and keep a humidifier going during the winter months for any extra immune support we can get. 

—Ashley Gish

QI am a vegetarian and want to raise my kids the same way. However, my husband does not think this is a safe diet for children. Will their growth be affected? Are there supplements you'd recommend if they don't eat meat?

A As long as you are conscious about including a wide variety of different foods including nuts, beans, whole grains and plenty of colorful fruits and veggies, it is perfectly safe for children to eat a vegetarian diet. A stricter vegan diet that excludes all animal products can be a little more difficult to obtain all of the nutrients that growing bodies need. Iron, zinc and vitamin B12 tend to be the most common nutrients missing from a vegetarian diet, although all are more common with strict vegan diets. As long as you are focusing on eating real foods and not just meat substitutes and other processed foods, they will likely get what they need. And if you're worried, a quality multivitamin can always help fill in the gaps. 

—Ashley Gish

email us your questions: angela@bendnest.com

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