By Melody Sun, clinical pharmacist at CHOC Children’s
Medications can have harmful consequences if they are not properly handled. The following steps will help you ensure the medication in your home is properly disposed, with minimal chance for discarded medications to cause illness. Consult your local pharmacy, or local garbage and recycling facility with specific questions.
Medicine take-back days are the preferred way to safely dispose of most types of medications. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency holds periodic national drug take-back events, where temporary collection sites are set up in communities for safe disposal of prescription medications. Find out more about upcoming drug take-back days.
If there are no specific instructions in the medication package insert, you can follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the trash:
Pour unwanted or expired medications out of their original containers into a zip baggie.
Pour hot water (over 110OF – about as hot as a cup of coffee) into the baggie.
Insert kitty litter or another inedible product such as dirt or used coffee grounds into the baggie. Seal baggie. Place in trash bin.
Remove all personal information on the prescription label or empty pill bottles. Shred them or use a black marker to cross out label information.
Devices that penetrate the skin to deliver medication are known as sharps. Any medication that requires delivery with a needle, such as an Epi-pen or insulin pen, comes with a high risk of accidental injuries, so it must be properly disposed in a sharps container. Some drug companies provide a red sharps container for using their medications. Please refer to their website for directions on how to obtain it. You can also purchase a sharps container through various approved mail-back services or make your own.
A sharps container is:
Made of heavy-duty plastic
Puncture- and leak-resistant with a tight-fitting lid when closed
Upright and stable when used
Properly labeled to provide caution about hazardous/sharps waste
Example containers to use: plastic detergent bottles, liquid fabric softener bottles, empty bleach bottles
Keep sharps containers closed and stored out of reach from children
Sharps containers should only be filled three-quarters to prevent any needles from sticking out
Dispose of your sharps container at an approved drug disposal site.
Most inhalers can be safely thrown into the regular trash or recycled. Contact your local garbage or recycling facility for specific instructions.
Children may mistake medicated patches as stickers, which can lead to overdoses or even death. When discarding medicated patches, keep in mind the following safety steps to prevent kids from being accidentally exposed to unneeded medicine:
Fold the patch together with the medication side inside
Mix in an undesirable substance such as cat litter or coffee grounds
Place in a sealed container or bag and throw into the regular trash
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Lucie, age 13, is no stranger to performing. The budding pianist started playing piano when she was 6 years old, won her first local competition at 7, first international competition at age 9, and currently takes private lessons in addition to attending a performing arts school.
Earlier this year, Lucie’s piano teacher encouraged her to perform in a solo recital for the first time. Lucie’s first thought wasn’t about which songs she would perform or if she would feel nervous on stage — it was about turning the recital into a benefit concert.
Lucie had briefly been a patient in CHOC Children’s emergency department when she was a baby, but her connection to CHOC runs deeper. Her mom Carolyn has been a clinical pharmacist at CHOC for a decade.
“Lucie has grown up hearing about exciting new treatments we’re continuously offering at CHOC, the new technologies we get in the pharmacy, and the important work done for children in our community,” Carolyn says.
Like many people in her community, Lucie has known family members and friends who have received care at CHOC as well.
All of that made Lucie’s decision to choose CHOC as a beneficiary of her concert an easy one.
“I’m grateful to CHOC for treating my friends, relatives, neighbors, and classmates, and I wanted to give back. And this was the perfect opportunity,” Lucie says.
Her decision to give back to CHOC made her mom very proud.
“As much as I wanted Lucie to choose CHOC, I felt it was important for her to choose a non-profit that was close to her heart. So, when she told me she chose CHOC, I was beyond thrilled,” Carolyn says.
Lucie’s concert raised more than $2,000 in support of KidsCARE, a fund that provides unrestricted financial support to meet the greatest needs of the hospital.
Throughout this experience, Lucie has gained a deeper understanding of the importance of giving back, her mom says.
“When children learn the importance of philanthropy, it helps instill altruistic values and helps them develop empathy for others,” Carolyn says. “By giving back, they learn they can make a difference in society, even at a young age. This experience reminded Lucie of everything positive in her life. She gained an important lesson in humanity that will be helpful for the rest of her life.”
Lucie hopes to inspire others to give back.
“To any other young person who wants to give back, I would say don’t be intimidated. It may seem overwhelming to start your own fundraiser, but it’s not. It doesn’t have to be this grand event; it could be something as simple as a neighborhood bake sale or lemonade stand,” she says. “Think of an activity you will enjoy doing. Enlist your family members and friends to help out. Take advantage of social media to spread the word about your fundraiser. Regardless of how much you raise in the end, know that what you did is important and makes an impact for the patients at CHOC.”
By Mary Sowa, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s
Looking for help to plan healthy meals for your family? Choose My Plate, a program of the USDA, is a great place for recipe ideas and tips for meeting your nutritional goals.
Start Simple with MyPlate:
This page offers tips on how to incorporate each food group into your diet. You can also find information on the foods that should be limited in our diets, including salt, saturated fats and added sugars.
More tips include ideas for preparing meals ahead of time, snack ideas for kids, and how to incorporate different foods to help meet vegetable goals.
On this portion of the website, you can enter gender, weight, height and activity level, for a calculation on your specific energy needs. Once you have that information you can select the calorie level, along with the servings and suggestions for each food group to meet those calorie requirements. You can also enter information on behalf of your child, to see their specific calorie needs. See an example MyPlate Plan.
Action guides are specific to adults, parents/caregivers, kids/teens, and teachers/health educators. These guides offer tips for enjoying local foods, growing your own food, tips for picky eaters, activity sheets for kids, recipe ideas and more.
Healthy eating on a budget
This section will help you create a grocery store game plan and stick to your budget and help you prepare healthy meals. The kitchen timesavers tip sheets offer advice for organizing your kitchen, clearing the clutter, chopping extra, doubling your recipe and more tips to help you maximize your time in the kitchen.
These are just four features of Choose MyPlate to explore. This resource offers endless tips, plans and recipes to help improve or maintain healthy eating habits.
Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox
Kids Health, delivered monthly, offers “healthful” information for parents.
By Cindy Baker-Fox, registered nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant at CHOC Children’s
In addition to the proven health benefits for mom and baby, breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience that ...
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Each year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in early August to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. This year’s ...
If your child experiences a concussion, it can be scary to think about the effects on their developing brain. The good news is, more than 85% of concussions heal well if managed properly early on.
“Early, appropriate treatment prevents kids from having to come see me as a neurologist,” says Dr. Sharief Taraman, pediatric neurologist and director of the CHOC Children’s Concussion Program. “It’s important to do as much as we can to prevent kids from getting a concussion, prevent reinjury, and treat them as aggressively and appropriately as possible in the early intervention stages.”
Follow these do’s and don’ts for proper prevention and treatment of concussion. If your child does sustain a concussion, be sure to see your pediatrician as soon as possible.
Do protect a young brain
Athletes should be taught safe playing techniques, equipment maintenance and to follow the rules of the game. Always wear a helmet while playing contact sports like football, hockey and lacrosse, and during activities like horse riding, biking, skateboarding or snowboarding. Helmets should fit correctly and be in good condition.
Don’t miss the signs
A concussion isn’t always obvious. Watch for these signs in your child or teen, especially while they are participating in sports. Symptoms may take up to a day to appear after an incident.
Nausea or vomiting
Fatigue or drowsiness
Sensitivity to light or noise
Numbness or tingling
Dazed or stunned
Trouble falling asleep
Feeling mentally “foggy”
Feeling slowed down
Confused about recent events
Sleeping less or more than usual
Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Forgetful of recent information or conversations
Answers questions slowly or repeats questions
Seek emergency care immediately if your child or teen has experienced unconsciousness for any amount of time or has changes in alertness, convulsions or seizures, muscle weakness, persistent confusion, repeated vomiting, unequal pupils, unusual eye movements or walking problems.
Do sit on the sidelines
The most important thing your child should do if they are injured during a sports activity is to immediately stop playing. It’s crucial that they avoid more hits, jolts, shakes or bumps to the head or spine. Getting back in the game is not worth the risk. Remember, the signs of concussion aren’t always clear, so when in doubt, sit it out.
Athletes may not want to tell their coach if they had a concussion. Encourage them to come forward if they have an injury, or if they notice a teammate is injured. Young athletes should never ignore a head injury or impact to the head.
Don’t skip treatment
Even a mild concussion should be evaluated by a doctor. Get in to see your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible.
When a concussion is severe or symptoms won’t go away, talk to your doctor about a referral to the CHOC Children’s Concussion Program, which includes pediatric sports medicine specialists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists and rehabilitation therapists who are all trained in concussion management.
Don’t rush recovery
Rest is important immediately following a concussion. For 24-48 hours, your child should stay home from school and get plenty of quiet time and mental rest. This includes limiting activities like:
Attending loud events
After the first 24-48 hours, light activities may help speed up recovery. Most children should be able to tolerate some school after a few days. If they need to miss more school than that, contact the school and your doctor to help intervene with short-term adjustments. Before returning to sports, be sure that symptoms have resolved and get medical clearance from your child’s doctor.
Do prevent future injury
Parents, coaches and athletes should be extra cautious to prevent future concussions. One concussion is rough enough, but additional injury is even worse. Research has shown that repeated jars to the head can have long-lasting effects on the brain. And, if a child or teen suffers a second concussion before the first concussion heals, they are at risk for Second Impact Syndrome, a life-threatening condition.
“The CDC has called concussions an epidemic in the United States,” Dr. Taraman says. “Kids really do get into trouble if a concussion is not recognized, and if we don’t take the proper steps to get them better and avoid those second injuries, which can be catastrophic.”
Athletes and other adolescents with mild to severe concussions who experience symptoms such as dizziness, feeling unbalanced on their feet, blurred vision or trouble focusing on objects, may be good ...
One in five students age 12-18 in the U.S. have experienced bullying, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice. More than 70% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools. Kids and teens who are bullied can experience physical and mental health issues, and problems at school.
CHOC Children’s teen advisers share their own experiences observing and dealing with bullying, and what they do to cope. CHOC experts also weigh in on what parents can do to support a child who is being bullied.
Talk openly about bullying
One of the best ways to protect your child from bullying is to talk openly about it, says Dr. Heather Huszti, CHOC’s chief psychologist.
“Have a discussion about why some kids might be bullies. You can explain that most bullies have low self-esteem and that they bully other people to try to feel better about themselves,” she says.
CHOC teen adviser Heather Bisset, age 14, has seen this play out firsthand.
“When someone bullies another person, it is often because they are insecure and do not know how to emotionally handle it,” she says. “A bully does and says things to make others feel hurt or down, and if you do not show a response, they will most likely leave you alone.”
Dr. Huszti also recommends parents ask open-ended questions of their children such as, “Is there anything going on at school?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?”
She adds that this approach usually works better than firing off a list of specific questions and can facilitate a bond between parent and child that will encourage them to open up to you when something is affecting them.
Find a trusted adult to talk to
CHOC teen adviser Zoe Borchard, age 15, knows the benefits of having someone to talk to when you have been bullied.
“At a high school football game, a girl that I don’t even know called me stupid along with a bunch of other nasty words behind my back. When I heard what she had said, I thought it wouldn’t affect me at first, but it started to eat away at me. I walked away to a quieter area during halftime and called my mom. I told her what happened, and it made things a million times easier to process and even let go,” she recalls. “To this day, I’ll call my mom every time I need help. If you can find someone you trust to share your problems with, it lightens your emotional load and gives you room to breathe and feel better.”
Teens can look beyond their parents in finding someone to talk to.
“The best advice I could give someone who is being bullied is to talk to an adult you trust and know is willing to help you,” says CHOC teen adviser Carina Alvaro, age 16. “This could be a teacher who has openly expressed willingness to help, or another trusted adult who can help you resolve these problems.”
Teens and cyberbullying
Nearly 15% of high school students have experienced cyberbullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cyberbullying can include text messages, instant messaging and other apps, social media or gaming.
CHOC teen advisers see a clear link between social media and bullying.
“Social media plays a part in bullying because it’s a lot easier to target someone and attack them online,” says Sanam Sediqi, age 16, a CHOC teen adviser. “On social media, everyone is hiding behind a phone or computer screen, so they more freely throw out hurtful comments towards the victim, often without actual consequences.”
CHOC teen adviser Layla Valenzuela, age 14, agrees.
“Having the power of technology comes with responsibility. When you send a message, people can’t see your face or hear your voice, so there is no way of conveying sarcasm or playfulness,” she says. “A simple joke could be interpreted in an unintentional, harmful way. Being responsible for everything you do online is a huge part of being considerate and staying away from bullying.”
Social media and technology use contributes to a rising number of mental health concerns in young people, says Dr. Christopher Min, a CHOC Children’s psychologist.
“Technology is great, but it has consequences, especially on our younger population,” he says. “it’s made teenage culture very unstable.”
Tips for staying safe online
Dr. Min offers the following tips for parents on how to keep kids safe online:
Monitor teens’ social media use
Encourage teens to get together in person
Remember that parents control access to social media
For teens, his advice includes pausing before posting.
“When you’re ready to post something, pause for five to 10 seconds to consider your actions, the post’s meaning and the possible consequences,” he says. “This will help you avoid posting things you don’t want cemented on the internet forever.”
What to do if your child is being bullied
There are several things parents can do if they learn their child is being bullied, Huszti says, including:
Inform your child’s school about bullying
Talk to the bully’s parents about the behavior
Help your child build up their self-esteem. The more solid their self-esteem, the less impact a bully’s behavior will have on their overall well-being.
Monitor your child’s online activity.
Remind your child of the trusted adults in their lives in whom they can confide.
Pay attention to signs in your child that show something is wrong, such as acting withdrawn, irritable or sad; or changes in appetite or sleep. Some children will show none of these signs, so an open dialogue with your child is key.
If your child needs additional support, ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric psychologist.
Stay Informed about Mental Health
CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.