Sick Kids and Sage Advice

Some days it seems that nearly every television commercial is for a dot-com. New Web sites with new frills are popping up everywhere, and it can be fun to check out the latest and greatest. But there are times--in matters of children's health, for instance--when you want the reliability of the tried and true.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (http://www.AAP.org) is a good example. When I need to know how high my child's fever should be before I take her to the emergency room, its members are the people I trust. It seems natural to turn to their Web site as well.

Here, I know I'm not going to get herbal remedies for asthma or expensive bells and whistles. With AAP, you get the traditional, the conservative. But you also get peace of mind about the health and development of your child.

The site is basic, so it's easy to move from section to section. I stayed primarily in "You and Your Family," which has the majority of AAP's consumer-focused content.

If you want to find free information quickly, then check out the public education brochures. Choose from subjects like breast-feeding, bed-wetting, sleep problems and single parenting.

You can also find guidance on which TV shows your kids should watch, plus video programs on nutrition and mastering asthma.

Be forewarned that the videos and some other offerings, such as the parent resources, are for sale. (But for $5, I may order a directory of more than 700 high-quality--no gratuitous violence or sexual behavior, no abuse, no bias--videotapes and CD-ROMs.)

One of the best parts of the site is the reading checkup guide, which tells you what young children should be doing at each age to prepare for reading and how you can help them.

"Media matters" is another favorite. Among its advice is a recommendation not to let your children watch more than two hours of TV per day. It also offers valuable insight on the impact of media.

Other helpful sections include "How to Use Your Managed Care Plan Effectively" and "The Injury Prevention Program," which has a "TIPP" of the month. Bike, water and street safety were some of the highlights under the 5-year-old section (particularly helpful since I just spent the weekend teaching my son to ride a two-wheeler).

On the home page, you'll find hot topics such as immunization, soccer safety and car-seat safety. There's also "A Minute for Kids," a library of audio files from the syndicated radio program. The segments cover health and development topics from infancy through young adulthood. It's a bit high-tech, so make sure you have an audio player.

On the downside, the site's pediatrician referral service is low-tech. You have to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you're seeking a local pediatrician or specialist recommendation, which can be too time-consuming for someone trying to choose a physician quickly.

Also, why have "A Guide to Organizing and Promoting Your Health Fair" (for physicians) in a family section? I shouldn't have to scroll through physician content to find content for me. Are these sites for me or not? It's a bit confusing.

I'd like to see some free articles from Healthy Kids, AAP's monthly magazine. But you can read a free synopsis of AAP's reference books for parents, "Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5," and other well-known titles. And you can order these books online.

Who's Behind It? Established in 1930, the AAP has about 55,000 members in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Members include pediatricians and pediatric specialists.

The history of the organization and the extensive research that goes into what it promotes is the main reason I visit the site. I'm not saying I don't browse the Internet for additional advice and information, but when it comes to a child's well-being, there are times when only the tried and true will do.

Advertising: There is no advertising per se; the journal abstracts include the journal advertising.

And I did notice that the Reading Checkup Guide was sponsored by Visa. The content, however, is written by "Reading Is Fundamental," the nation's oldest and largest children's literacy organization.

The Look: It's a clean, colorful magazine approach on the home page and a few other pages, then the rest of the site is primarily black and white.

In the Works: Not much that I could find out. Although there are plans for the pediatrician referral service to go online, it won't happen any time soon.

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Marla Bolotsky is managing editor and director of online information for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. She can be reached at marla.bolotsky@latimes.com. Cathy K. Purcell contributed to this column.

* Your Health Online runs every other Monday.

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