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Grin And Bear It

Pediatric tips for raising babies in LA

Los Angeles is consistently ranked as one of the worst places in America for raising children. But since we’re not about to let a little smog run us out of town, we asked two of the city’s top pediatricians, Jay N. Gordon, MD, FAAP and JJ Levenstein, MD, FAAP, for tips on keeping our kids safe from the unpleasantries.

StrollerTraffic LA: How dangerous is it for babies to breathe the air in Los Angeles, given the fact that this city has the highest levels of air pollution in the country?
Dr. Gordon: “Los Angeles air is rated either the worst in the nation or in the worst two or three. It increases the incidence of asthma, allergic rhinitis and other illnesses in kids. Parents’ anxiety about their kids breathing this air is a big stressor, too. Air filters help, as does minimizing exposure to other indoor pollutants and toxins—and moving to the parts of town with the best possible air.” (n.b., Huntington Beach reportedly has some of the cleanest air in the Los Angeles area.)
Dr. Levenstein: “I advise parents to live a bit of a distance from freeways or industry, especially if their child has asthma or breathing problems. Surprisingly, the air in Los Angeles is fairly clean most of the year. We have offshore breezes from the Pacific and large green land masses from parks and mountains that sweep a lot of smog offshore. Of course, like any city, the air quality near industrial areas and freeways does suffer, especially during the hottest dog days of summer.”

StrollerTraffic LA: What’s the best way to help kids process the stress that comes from living with traffic jams, noise pollution, and a general sensory overload?
Dr. Levenstein:  “I advise parents to check their own behavior while driving on freeways: avoid shouting at other drivers, and create a positive environment inside the car. Closing windows, playing relaxing music or engaging kids in car-based games and good conversation is a way to defuse a stressful driving experience. As far as sensory overload is concerned, delaying the introduction of peripheral electronic devices reduces unnecessary input into young minds prematurely. Itʼs far healthier to interact with your child than to plug them in.”
Dr. Gordon: “Physical exercise and meditative techniques minimize stress better than any drug ever invented for children.” (You can take your tot to a yoga class geared toward babies and toddlers at Golden Bridge LA or Silverlake Yoga, for a healthy dose of Zen.)

StrollerTraffic LA: How should parents explain earthquakes to a young child who has never experienced one . . . or should that conversation take place at all?
Dr. Gordon: Earthquake preparedness is crucial in this town. Age-appropriate explanations can include a simple discussion of what we do when the earth shakes. The key part of any discussion about this is telling kids that they’re always safe with Mom and Dad and with the teachers and caregivers Mom and Dad trust.”
Dr. Levenstein: “I donʼt believe a parent has to unnecessarily put a child on notice for the consequences of a natural disaster. But for children in preschool or younger, I do recommend formulating a clear family emergency plan and stocking emergency supplies.”

StrollerTraffic LA: Is there anything else you’d like to add with regard to raising kids in LA?
Dr. Gordon: “Raising children in a town with amazing income and material good disparities is tricky—I admire the care parents put into teaching their children compassion even while giving them all the comforts they deserve.”
Dr. Levenstein: “Los Angeles has one of the most diverse populations in the US. My child was raised knowing all cultures, all economies, and was exposed to a variety of daily social challenges and as a result, became a more knowledgeable, empathic citizen of the world. To bring up a child anywhere in a healthy manner, we as parents must actively seek out environments, people, and education that feed our childrenʼs hearts, minds and souls.”

For more top tips from the good doctors, follow Dr. Gordon on twitter @JayGordonMDFAAP, or subscribe to his newsletter; follow the helpful tweets of Dr. Levenstein and fellow MD Mom Diane Truon, MD, FAAP @mdmoms or visit their site at mdmoms.com.