Health Tips / Children's Health / Health and Safety

Health and Safety 

A healthy childhood is a happy childhood. The early years are the most important to children's development because that's when children grow the fastest and learn habits that could last a lifetime.

Below are resources to help parents support their children's health and safety. Your child's primary care provider (PCP) is another great resource of information. Be sure to ask them any questions you have about your child's development. You can also call HPSM's Nurse Advice Line any time: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes health and fitness. Compared to those who are inactive, physically active youth have higher levels of fitness, lower body fat, and stronger bones and muscles. Physical activity also has brain health benefits for school-aged children, including improved academic performance and memory and reduced symptoms of depression. Encourage your child to be physically active every day. Use these tips to get started: 

  • Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine. Take family walks or play outdoor games together.
  • Go to places where children can be active such as public parks. 
  • Make physical activity fun. Fun activities can be any activity your child enjoys, such as walking or going to a playground. 
  • Instead of watching television after lunch or dinner, encourage your child to do activities on their own or with family or friends, such as riding bikes or playing tag. 
  • Always provide protective equipment such as helmets for activities where there is a risk of injury, such as skateboarding or bike riding.

Good nutrition is vital for healthy growth and development. Starting good nutrition practices early can help children build healthy patterns. Talk to your child’s PCP about what your child eats and any questions you may have. If you need access to healthy food, visit HPSM’s Food Assistance Programs in San Mateo County webpage. Here are other ways you can support your child in eating healthy: 

  • Feed your child plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain foods. 
  • Serve low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt. 
  • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein. 
  • Limit sugary drinks and encourage your child to drink water.
  • Limit high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks. 

Visit My Plate to get more tips on what and how much to eat.

Talk with your child’s PCP before giving your child medicine. If your child’s PCP prescribes medicine, use it the way they tell you to. If there are side effects, call your child’s PCP and discuss the problem. You and your child’s PCP are partners in taking care of your child. 

Children are curious and put many different things in their mouths. To help prevent poisoning, follow these tips: 

  • Keep medicine and cleaning solutions where your child cannot reach or see them.
  • Always relock the cap on a medicine bottle. 
  • Program the poison control number 1-800-222-1222 into your home and cell phones in case you need to call them in a hurry.

No level of lead is safe for children. Even small amounts of lead have been shown to reduce learning ability and attention span. Children can be exposed to lead in many ways, like:

  • Living in a home built before 1978 containing lead-based paint.
  • Swallowing paint chips or breathing in lead dust (especially during home repairs).
  • Chewing on toys, jewelry or other items containing lead.
  • Playing in soil containing lead.
  • Touching the skin, work clothes or shoes of a family member who works with lead-based products.

To protect children from lead poisoning:

  • Regularly wash your baby’s hands, pacifiers and toys.
  • Take off your shoes or wipe soil off your shoes before entering your home.
  • Repair chipping or peeling paint in your home.
  • Regularly wet mop areas around your home where your child plays.
  • If you work with lead-based products, shower and change your clothes before going home.

Talk to your child’s primary care provider (PCP) about getting your child tested for lead.

  • A blood test is the best way to know if your child has been exposed to lead.
  • Children should be tested at one and two years old.
  • Once your baby is tested for lead ask their PCP to explain the test results. If your baby’s blood lead level is high, work with their PCP to make a plan for follow-up tests and visits.

Knowing how to prevent child injuries is key to keeping children safe. Here are some tips to prevent child injuries.

  • Make sure your child always uses a seatbelt or a child safety seat.
  • Keep medicine and cleaning solutions where your child cannot reach them.
  • Make sure that your child always wears the proper safety gear when engaging in outdoor activities, like wearing a helmet when riding a bike.
  • Make sure that surfaces under playground equipment are soft and safe.

Hand washing prevents the spread of germs. It is important to teach children to wash their hands often. Hand washing is also important before eating, after using the bathroom and after blowing one’s nose or coughing. Teach your child fun songs they can sing to make sure that they scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds. It can also be fun for you and your child to make up your own hand washing songs!

It is good for children to spend time playing outdoors. To help prevent the risk of skin cancer, make sure to protect your children’s skin from too much exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.  Follow these tips to help protect your family: 

  • Keep babies younger than six months old out of direct sunlight. Seek shade under a tree, an umbrella or other shelter.
  • When possible, dress in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body. This includes lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats. 
  • Wear a hat with brim all the way around that shades the face, ears and back of the neck.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection. Look for youth-sized sunglasses with UV protection for your child. 
  • Use sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher. Apply to all exposed skin areas. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or drying off with a towel. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies who are six months old or younger. Make sure to keep babies who are six months old or younger out of the sun. If they have to be in the sun, put protective clothing on them.

Children can drown in a few minutes, even in a few inches of water. Watch your children all the time when they are in or near water. That includes bathtubs, swimming pools or lakes.

Keep guns out of children's reach. It is safest if guns and children are never in the same home. But if they are, guns should be in a locked box and stored separately from any ammunition. The gun should have a trigger lock, be unloaded and be stored in a place where children cannot find it.