Monday, 23 February 2015

Caring for Infants and Toddlers

Infants are children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months and are usually unable to “speak or speechless”. While Toddlers are children between 1 and 3 years and can walk unsteadily and have great cognitive, emotional and social development.

As infants and toddlers are at a critical and vulnerable developmental stage, special care and attention should be given to them to enhance their proper growth and development.

If you have a child, niece, nephew, grandchild etc. who is age 3 or younger, this article is meant for you. The information below will help you learn how to give your child a healthy start to life.

1. Breast feed new born babies and infants exclusively for 6 months, as required by the World Health Organization. There are however exceptions in extreme cases such as mothers living with HIV/AIDS who may not be able to breast feed. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect your baby from infections and diseases, lowers mother’s risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, and builds a strong physical and emotional bond between a mother and her baby.

2. Share a room with your baby. Place your baby’s crib in your own bedroom instead of in a separate nursery. This helps with the baby’s feeding especially at late hours and also allows the infant to be close to you to hear, smell and sense you. Sharing a bed with your baby increases his or her risk of suffocation or strangling and in some instances, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

3. Choose skin care products specially made for babies such as fragrance-free and tear-free bath gels, shampoos and lotions for your infant. With each one you use, look out for any signs of allergic reactions in the little one.

4. Introduce one new food at a time for infants during weaning (transition from milk only diet to a mixture of drinks and solid foods). This will enable you to identify any foods that may cause allergies in your baby. Timing of weaning is important to achieve a successful transition to a healthy eating pattern.

5. Do not take something off the menu if your toddler doesn’t like it. Kids are slow to accept new tastes and textures, so if he spits out the fish in the stew the first time, make them again the following week as you may be surprised rice and fish stew is his new favourite food.

6. Offer toddlers nutritious foods in the form of fruits, vegetables, milk, fish and meat during meal and snack times, as they will provide them with lots of nutrients and ensure normal growth and development. Instead of giving your toddlers fizzy drinks, cakes, chocolates and biscuits for snacks, give them fruits and yoghurts. Refrain from giving toddlers foods high in fat and sugar, they contribute to tooth decay and childhood overweight/obesity thereby increasing a child’s risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.

7. Eat together as a family and make meal times relaxed, happy occasions for toddlers. Toddlers eat better in a relaxed, happy atmosphere and do not eat well if they feel anxious, rushed or forced to eat foods they don’t want to try. Toddlers learn to eat a variety of foods and improve on their self-feeding skills as they watch adults and other family members eat. This way, they also get to exercise a little independence.

8. Teach your toddler the importance of hand washing, and how to properly wash hands with soap and water. Ensure they wash their hands properly before handling food and when they come inside from playing. This will help to prevent the spread of germs and will keep toddlers from getting sick from common colds and infectious diarrhoea.

Promoting the health of children is essential as children’s experiences in their early life are central to shaping their health and well-being in the long term. Good nutrition is important for everyone but particularly important for infants and growing kids as it is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development. Instilling proper nutrition trends in your children will help to promote a better quality of life for them and help them to take part in more activities with greater enjoyment.

Get more tips from the book, Become A Healthier You.

Photo Credit: Kofimusings

About Contributor
Ama Konadu Appiah holds a BSc Home Science from the University of Ghana, Legon and an MSc Nutritional Sciences from the University of Nottingham, UK. Ama specialises in health promotion activities, nutrition & metabolism and public health nutrition.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Constipation, its consequences, causes, solutions and use of laxatives

Constipation is the infrequent or difficulty in emptying the bowel due to stool remaining in the large intestine for long, consequently becoming hard and dry to pass out and/or muscle spasm. Constipation occurs in all age groups.

The consequences of constipation may include; loss of appetite resulting in underweight individuals in most cases, discomfort, pain, bad flatulence and bad breaths. In the long term constipation can also lead to faecal impaction (pool of hard stools in the rectum), haemorrhoids (piles), and bowel incontinence (the leakage of liquid stools). These consequences, affect our quality of life and prevent us from becoming healthier us to enjoy life to the fullest.

As the contributing factors of constipation include
1. Little or no fruits, vegetables, cereals intake and/or change in eating habits.
2. Drinking little or no fluids
3. Little or no physical activity
4. Ignoring the signal to pass stools and having limited time when using the toilet
5. Medication such as antacids, calcium and iron supplements
6. Conditions such as pregnancy, underweight, overweight, anxiety, depression, fever

One can prevent and get relief from constipation and its associated negative effect to become healthier us to enjoy life, fully, an individual must take these steps;
1. Include more fruits, vegetables cereals in everyday diet. These foods will help in drawing water into the large intestine helping form a bulky, soft fecal output for emptying.
2. Drink more fluids to soften stool for easier emptying of bowel
3. Engage in physical activities to improve muscle movement in the intestines to aid stool ‘transportation’.
4. Respond to the signals to empty bowels, so stool do not stay long in the intestine to become hard.
5. Develop regular bowel habits; the same time each day for a bowel movement. This can help train the large intestines to respond routinely and prevent one from postponing bowel time and also help one have enough time when using the toilet.
6. Rest feet on a stool so the knees are above the hips when using the toilet to help stool to easily pass out.
7. Relax to remove less stress on your body (large intestine muscles).
8. Consult your health professional if it is a side effect from a medication. Often when the dosage is completed, one can be relieved.

Use of Laxatives
Laxatives can help one get relief from constipation by irritating the intestinal muscle to move or by drawing water into the large intestines. However, regular use of laxatives can decrease muscle action in the large intestine – in time, causing constipation. The intestine can even become dependent on laxatives. It is thus recommended to consult a health professional before using laxatives. Bed-ridden or the elderly might need to use laxatives periodically for the relief of constipation but it should per health professional advice.

Get more tips from the book, Become A Healthier You.

Photo credit:

About contributor
Irene Danquah, ANutr holds a BSc Biochemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and an MSc Public Health Nutrition from the University of Southampton, UK. Irene is member of the UK Association for Nutrition (AfN) and the Ghana Nutrition Association. She is on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) as an Associate Nutritionist. Like the World Bank, Irene also believes "Nutrition is an investment issue and improved nutrition is one of the major drivers of economic growth - World Bank, 2006". 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Food Safety at home

Food is essential for life and a good and healthy food is very much important for a healthy living. The best and safest of foods is the one prepared and served hot at home. Unfortunately there might be actions and inactions concerning food preparation and storage at home that might make our foods less safe for consumption. Let’s look at four simple steps to food safety at home.


  1. Keep the kitchen clean. At best the kitchen should be the cleanest place in the entire household. Wash and clean surfaces (kitchen counter and sink) after each use with hot soapy water.
  2. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and under running before handling food. Do well to wash in-between your fingers, back of your hand and nails.
  3. Wash fruits and vegetables preferably with salty solution even if you intend to peel them as bacteria can be transferred from outside to inside during peeling or cutting 


  1. Keep fresh meat and eggs separate from fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator and when shopping
  2. Use separate cutting boards, knives and utensils for raw meat, fish and eggs and for raw and uncooked produce such as fruits and vegetables
  3. When you need to use same cutting surfaces and utensils, do well to wash and clean with hot soapy water before usage.


  1. Make sure foods are well cooked. Do not overcook as this destroys important nutrients in the food.
  2. Always serve and eat food when hot


  1. Leftover foods should be refrigerated quickly. At best within two hours or less.
  2. Pack food into neat shallow plastic containers as this will chill the food faster
  3. Meat, fish, eggs and milk do spoil quickly and hence should be kept refrigerated
  4. Do well to thaw food in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter or the sink
  5. Immediately take out and properly dispose of food upon signs of spoilage or when expired.
Image Credit: Fairfax County

About contributor
Ernest Amoah Ampah holds a BSc Biochemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and a Master of Public Health  from the University of Belgrade, Serbia. Ernest specialises in occupational health & safety, environmental health, epidemiology, health policy & management and biostatistics.  

Monday, 2 February 2015

Cancer: Q & A and useful tips to prevent or reduce its burden

Cancer, one of the leading causes of deaths (8.2 million deaths were related to cancer in 2012 alone) in the world, is a term used in referring to a group of diseases, which can affect any part of the body . There are about 100 types of cancers and among men, the popular ones are; lung, stomach, liver, colorectal and oesophagus while among women breast, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical are popular. (WHO, 2014)

What are the risk factors?

The risk factors include;
1. Unhealthy behaviour, which includes; smoking, unsafe use of alcohol, poor diets and physical inactivity.
2. Infections such as viral (e.g. Hepatitis B Virus, Human Papilloma Virus) and bacterium (e.g. Helicobacter pylori).
3. Environmental pollution such as air pollution (e.g. tobacco smoke, smoke from domestic coal fire), water pollution (e.g. arsenic water), food contamination (e.g. aflatoxin, dioxin).
4. Occupational hazards that involve exposure to agents (e.g. asbestos) at the workplace.
5. Exposure to radiation such as ionizing radiation, radon gas and UV.

Am I at risk?
Yes you are. From the risk factors stated above, everyone is at risk regardless of age. However, age increases the incidence of cancer.

Wow! If everyone is at risk, can one prevent or reduce the burden of cancer?
Yes you can, through preventive actions and early detection. Here are ways to prevent and detect cancer early.

Preventive actions
a) Changing unhealthy behaviour - no smoking, safe use of alcohol, including more fruits and vegetables in the diet, cutting down on; salt intake, sugar intake, red/processed meat consumption, becoming physically active.
b) Getting vaccinated against the viral infection, avoiding unprotected sex, not having multiple sex partners, not sharing sharp objects (e.g. needles) with someone.
c) Avoiding smoking areas, using clean energy such as gas (LPG and biogas), electricity to cook, drinking treated water and ensuring the safety of food.
d) keeping the workplace safe and observing safety rules at the workplace.
e) Using clinically tested sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and if possible avoiding exposure to radiations.

Early Detection
f) Conducting self-examination to identify lumps, sores that fail to heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion, and chronic hoarseness.
g) Attending health centre for tests such as mammography and Pap smear.

Is there a cure for cancer?
Cancers can be treated but the success of the treatment often depends on early detection and accurate diagnosis. The main goal of treatment is to cure or prolong life. Improving the quality of life of the cancer patient, which often involves palliative care or psychological support, is also an important goal in cancer treatment. There are specific treatments for each type of cancer. See your health professional for advice.

As we mark World Cancer Day on 4th February, 2015 remember cancer is not beyond us and keep this acronym PDT (Prevent, Detect early and Treat cancer) in mind as you go through 2015

Get more tips from the book, Become A Healthier You.

Facts: WHO
Photo Credit: World Cancer Day

About contributor
Irene Danquah, ANutr holds a BSc Biochemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and an MSc Public Health Nutrition from the University of Southampton, UK. Irene is member of the UK Association for Nutrition (AfN) and the Ghana Nutrition Association. She is on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) as an Associate Nutritionist. Like the World Bank, Irene also believes "Nutrition is an investment issue and improved nutrition is one of the major drivers of economic growth - World Bank, 2006". 

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