More than 90 percent of the calcium in your bones was accumulated before the age of 22, so consuming milk products is very important during childhood and adolescence. Calcium is one of the most important minerals for the growth, maintenance and reproduction of the human body, and is essential for the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and strong teeth. Bones incorporate calcium. Like other tissues in the body, they are continuously being reabsorbed and re-formed. Teeth incorporate calcium in a manner similar to bones. Calcium is also involved in other functions, such as food coagulation, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and relaxation, normal heartbeat, stimulation of hormone secretion and activation of enzyme reactions. Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and Chinese cabbage are good sources of calcium, but certain green vegetables are less effective because their fiber and oxalic acid content interferes with the absorption of calcium. Other sources are salmon and sardines canned with their soft bones. Almonds, Brazil nuts and dried beans are also sources of calcium, but it is difficult to eat enough of these foods to achieve optimal calcium intake. Nevertheless, Israeli parents are not aware of the importance of calcium and where to get it, according to a new survey conducted by Clalit Health Services that found nine out of 10 parents don't know the amount of daily calcium recommended for children. From birth to age five, children should be getting 500 milligrams of calcium daily, while those up to nine should be getting 800 mg. Between 10 and 18, youngsters should get 1,300 mg. daily. One glass of milk has 200 mg. of calcium. But according to the survey, only 42% of Israeli children consume one or two milk products daily. Only one in 10 of the parents queried said their children's favorite drink is milk. Nevertheless, 70% of those polled said they thought their children had good dietary habits. Irit Poraz, Clalit's chief dietitian, says a diet rich in calcium is very important during the early stages of life. As the body ages, it loses bone mass every year, and this can lead to fragile bones due to osteoporosis. "Parents are confident about their children's diets even though most of them have no idea about the recommendations for healthy nutrition at this age, especially regarding calcium consumption." IN THE SWIM The trend of teaching infants and toddlers to swim has been accepted by Jerusalem's Alyn Orthopedic Hospital, which has opened its pool on Fridays to parents and healthy as well as disabled babies. The new service costs NIS 240 (with proceeds going to support the voluntary hospital's rehabilitation efforts). The pool is specially heated to 33.5 C so babies feel comfortable. The classes, aimed at children three months to three years old, are run according to age groups. Alyn experts note that research has shown this period is the most significant in a person's development, and is a "window of opportunity" for learning to swim. At this age, babies and toddlers learn spatial ability, body movement and muscle coordination, and being in a liquid environment makes this even easier. Osnat Riji, a hydrotherapist and baby swimming teacher at Alyn, says swimming helps babies with balance and coordination, and improves self image. When they practice with their parents, special parent-child bonds of trust develop, she adds, and the children learn to become more independent. RESEARCHERS SNIFF AT OTC COUGH REMEDIES Most over-the-counter cough syrups and lozenges - both expectorants (that are supposed to help you cough up phlegm) and suppressants (supposed to reduce the urge to cough) - do not treat the underlying cause. Therefore, new guidelines issued by the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) recommend that for adults with acute cough or upper airway cough syndrome (previously called postnasal drip syndrome), an older variety antihistamine with a decongestant is the preferred therapy. "There is no clinical evidence that over-the-counter cough expectorants or suppressants actually relieve cough," said Dr. Richard Irwin of the University of Massachusetts, who headed the guidelines committee. "There is considerable evidence that older types of antihistamines help reduce cough, so unless there are contraindications to using these medicines, why not take something that has been proven to work?" The ACCP has issued the most comprehensive evidence-based recommendations so far for the management of cough in adults and children; they appeared as a supplement to the January issue of Chest. "Cough is the number one reason why patients seek medical attention. Although an occasional cough is normal, excessive coughing or coughing that produces blood or thick discolored mucus is abnormal," said Irwin. The guidelines also include more than 200 recommendations for diagnosing and managing acute cough (a cough that lasts for less than three weeks), subacute cough (three to eight weeks) and chronic cough (more than eight weeks) in adults and children. They make a strong recommendation against the use of OTC cough and cold medications for children under 14. "Cough is very common in children. However, cough and cold medicines are not useful in children, and can actually be harmful," said Irwin. "In most cases, a cough that is unrelated to chronic lung conditions, environmental influences or other specific factors will resolve on its own."