Burb's Eye View: Lessons in prevention at the YMCA

The girl opened her mouth wide, eyes wider and plunged backward into the unknown.

Angelina Clark, 9, tumbled over the large, round cushion and ended upside-down. The YMCA volunteer at the other side ensured her safe landing.

Her mom was elsewhere, likely hearing about how best to help her daughter avoid tooth decay or how they can keep her risk of developing allergies low.

This was the yin and yang of the Burbank Y’s annual Kids Day event, which helps parents mentor, teach and raise healthy children while also providing the means for those children to plunge headlong into the high-energy activities of youth.

This year’s event focused on prevention. While kids tested the spring-loaded gymnastics equipment of the Y’s large play space, doctors and dentists explained how childhood has changed since their parents experienced it.

“There are absolutely more allergies,” said Dr. Marine Demirjian from the Allergy and Asthma Treatment Center in Burbank. “There’s more pollution, and we’re cleaner.”

It’s called the “hygiene hypothesis,” and it ascribes the rise of allergies in the United States to excessive cleanliness, which disrupts the immune system. According to the UCLA Food and Drug Allergy Care Center, up to one in five adults in the U.S. has an allergic condition.

That condition can be linked to asthma, which like allergies can start any time in life and can be triggered by inhaled irritants such as smoke and fumes from scented candles.

“Avoidance is the key with allergies,” Demirjian said.

It’s also the key to combating cavities.

Across the room, Dr. Sanah Sohrab from Star Kids Dental & Orthodontics talked to parents about the simple things their children can do to avoid early-age cavities.

To avoid rapid tooth decay Dr. Sohrab said kids should avoid sugars, but kids are also kids.

“Once in a while is OK, but brush or rinse with water after,” he said.

A nearby snack table was full of fruits and nut bars — healthier alternatives to chips and candy. Healthy eating is a major component to educating families at the Y, said volunteer coordinator Jodi Lyn Reneaud. For birthday parties, they’ve replaced the traditional cakes and ice cream with healthier alternatives.

“Kids will get onboard. You just have to believe in it and be committed to the idea of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Occasionally, the harried parent will arrive at the Y with kids and fast food in tow. Reneaud tells those parents, “If you’re thinking of bringing McDonald’s here, just say no.”

Angela Clark and her daughter, Angelina, visited the snack table between runs on the gym equipment. They’ve been coming to the Y together since Angelina was born, and it helped her mom lose 50 pounds after her birth.

“Now she’s older and she’s doing Zumba, yoga, karate,” Angela Clark said.

They’re also able to do activities like yoga together at the Y — though on Saturday mom left the tumbling activities to her daughter.

“What’s great is I can be a role model for her for exercise,” Angela Clark said. “It’s really a big part of our life.”


BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. He can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.

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