Thanksgiving is a unique holiday. For some people, it marks the beginning of the Christmas season. For others, it’s a day to forget work and devote their attention to family, food and football. But for everyone, it should be a day to be mindful of their health because Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day.
Why documenting health history is important
When it comes to your child’s health, ignorance is anything but bliss. Genetic health problems are most likely to become obvious during the childhood years. As family members gather for the holiday this year, take the time to learn what kinds of health conditions run in your family. This information can clue you in on any worrisome signs and symptoms that you should be on the lookout for in your children.
“Communicating these conditions and symptoms with your child’s doctor can help speed up the diagnosis and treatment process, which can prevent, delay, or at least reduce the severity of a condition,” says Faith Callif-Daley, genetic counselor at Dayton Children’s Hospital.
Knowing any health issues that are hereditary in your family is a proactive way of protecting your child.
Some common examples of hereditary conditions
- Vision: Nearsightedness, color blindness and lazy eye are all conditions that can be passed through family genes. If both parents are nearsighted, the odds for their child to be as well are between 25-50 percent. Color blindness is more common in males, but it is transmitted through females. If the mother is the carrier, her son has a 50 percent chance of being nearsighted. Common indicators are squinting, headaches or tearing up when trying to focus.
- Migraines: A child is 50 percent more likely to develop migraines if one parent has a history of them. Common symptoms include throbbing pain, nausea and/or vomiting and sensitivity to light and/or sound. If left untreated, a child dealing with migraines is at a higher risk for emotional, behavior and social problems.
- Allergies: When it comes to allergies it doesn’t matter what the parent is allergic to, as one parent having allergies is enough for a child to develop an allergy to anything. Common symptoms are frequent colds, itchy eyes, rashes and hives.
What can you do now to help your child?
- Compile a record of your family’s health history. Include all your child’s close relatives – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews – and list all the condition(s) that each relative has or has had, along with the age of when they were diagnosed.
- Be sure to update this list regularly as relatives may receive new diagnoses.
- Share this list with your child’s doctor so that he or she can be aware of any conditions your child’s symptoms may be indicating.
- Keep these hereditary conditions in mind if your child is experiencing a health problem – and always be proactive when it comes anything related to their health.
“Children with a family history of chronic diseases can benefit from developing good lifestyle habits early on,” says Callif-Daily. “Additionally, healthy habits can help the entire family.”