Water Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

To beat the summer heat, many families will be heading to the pool to cool off this summer. To ensure your kids have a fun – and safe – time in the water, check out this Q&A with CHOC Children’s Community Education Coordinator, Michelle Lubahn, for some must-read tips.

Q: What is the most important thing you can tell parents about water safety?
A: Make sure you keep an eye on your kids even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Children need constant supervision in and around water. Designate an official “water watcher” to make sure someone is keeping an eye out at all times.

Q: What are some effective pool protection measures?
A: It’s important to have multiple layers of protection. Kids are fast and can get into things in a matter of seconds. You may want to consider investing in fencing, gates, alarms, and covers for pools and spas.

Keep in mind other sources of danger too, such as bathtubs, toilets, buckets, ice chests, even dog dishes! A child can drown in as little as two inches of water; it happens quickly and silently, too. Latch the toilet seat, and never leave your child alone in the bathtub. Be sure to empty buckets and ice chests as soon as you’re finished with them.

Q: What about water safety tips while at the beach?
A: Watch for and adhere by rip current and weather condition signs posted at the beach. Swimming in the ocean should only be allowed when a lifeguard is on duty.  Also, never swim alone – even good swimmers need buddies!

For more tips, check out this video: http://www.choc.org/video/index.cfm?vid=50.

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Tips To Help Kids Avoid Heat Stress During Physical Activity

Keep your kids safe this summer with the following tips on heat stress, from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

• The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels.

• At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 7 to 14 days to acclimatize to the heat, particularly if it is very humid.

• Before prolonged physical activity, children should be well-hydrated and should not feel thirsty. For the first hour of exercise, water alone can be used. Kids should have water or a sports drink always available and drink every 20 minutes while exercising in the heat. Excessively hot and humid environments, more prolonged and strenuous exercise, and copious sweating should be reasons for children to substantially increase their fluid intake.

• Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated shirts should be replaced by dry clothing.

• Practices and games played in the heat should be shortened and more frequent water/hydration breaks should be instituted. Children should seek cooler environments if they feel excessively hot or fatigued.

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What Parents Must Know About Prescription, OTC Drug Abuse

The source of our country’s fastest-growing drug problem may be as close as the home medicine cabinet. More people now die from prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication abuse than from cocaine, heroin and ecstasy combined.

And that includes teens and young adults who would never dream of using illegal drugs. One reason is the easy availability of these medications. In fact most of them are free and accessible from the medicine cabinets of friends, relatives – or even in their own home.

Teens and young adults often raid their parents’ medicine cabinets before going to “pharm parties,” where a pocketful of pills is the price of admission. The pills that go into a bowl for sharing can be a mixture of anything, including medications for pain, high blood pressure or depression.

During 2009 and 2010, 61 local teens were admitted into the CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit as a result of overdose on prescription and over-the-counter medications, illegal substances and alcohol, as well as combination mixes of these substances. CHOC nurses noticed and decided to find out why. As part of their investigation, they reviewed the pain medication prescriptions that hospital physicians were writing for patients undergoing minor procedures. They discovered that these prescriptions were often written for larger amounts than actually needed.

Our nurses started a community health campaign that reached out to physicians and nurses in addition to local parents and teens. Part of their goal was to reduce the availability of excess pain medication sitting in home medicine cabinets within the local community.

“When we showed our physicians how many kids were being admitted and what they were taking, they were very surprised,” said Karen Caiozzo, R.N. “More than 90 percent said they would change how they write prescriptions as a result.”

CHOC nurses also developed a hospital form tracking how many pain pills are actually taken during the 24 hours prior to discharge. This tool helps physicians better estimate the amount of pain medication actually needed later at home.

Now our nurses are sharing their results with the rest of the country. This past spring, they were invited to give poster presentations to both the Society of Pediatric Nursing, in Houston, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), in San Antonio. Additionally, this presentation has become an online continuing education course on the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, a website for certified nurses and nurse practitioners across the country.

What You Can Do Now

  • Talk to your teen about prescription and OTC drug abuse. Be sure your teen understands that buying or using prescription medication without a doctor’s order is dangerous — and illegal.
  • Take charge of all medications. Keep your family’s medications in a secure location. Set clear rules about taking the correct dosage at the right time. Ask friends and family to keep their prescription and OTC medications in a safe place, too.
  • Explain the purpose of each prescribed or OTC medication, including possible side effects. Stress that it is both illegal and dangerous to share these medications with friends.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to drugs, alcohol and medications.
  • Check with your teen’s school. Are they including prescription and OTC medications when teaching about substance abuse?
  • Discard all old and unneeded medications. Mix discarded medications with either used coffee grounds or kitty litter, add hot water, then place in the garbage. Never flush them.

“You’ll be amazed when you look through your own medicine cabinet,” Karen Caiozzo, R.N., said. “People tend to save drugs thinking they might need them later and forget about them, but that’s where 70 percent of these abused medications are coming from. It’s a scary statistic.”

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Wildfire Safety Tips Every Family Should Know

A red flag fire warning was issued today across Southern California including Riverside County mountains and San Diego County mountains, among other areas. The warning signaled strong winds and low humidity.

Each year, wildfires threaten people living near, or visiting, wildland areas. Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases, as well as fine particles from burning trees and other materials, which can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Those at greatest risk from wildfire smoke include people who have heart or lung diseases, older adults, and children.

As the summer begins to heat up in Southern California, take a moment to check out these guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to decrease your family’s risk from wildfire smoke should you live in an affected area.

  • Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI). In addition, pay attention to public health messages about taking safety measures.
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
  • Prevent wildfires from starting. Build, maintain and extinguish campfires safely. Comply with local regulations if you plan to burn trash or debris. Check with your local fire department to be sure the weather is safe enough for burning.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating the area if you are having trouble breathing. Call for further advice if your symptoms worsen.
  • Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Follow the instructions of local officials about when and where to evacuate. Take only essential items with you.

For more tips, please visit the CDC website.

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Six Ways to De-Stress Your Next Family Vacation

Wednesday, June 20th marks the first day of summer! Many families may already be planning or looking forward to their summer vacations.

“Vacation stress” may sound like a contradiction in terms. But any kind of change even a fun one—can trigger stress. Add children to the mix, and you have a recipe for more work than relaxation. Some preplanning, however, can help keep everyone smiling – check out these easy tips:

  • Involve older children in decisions about where to go and what to do on vacation.
  • Let kids be kids. Plan at least one child-oriented activity a day, such as a visit to the zoo.
  • Don’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money.
  • Plan fewer activities than you think you have time for. Rushing to reach a destination or catch a flight can add unwelcome stress to your family vacation.
  • Schedule time for stress-busting naps and exercise along the way.
  • Accept that some arguments are a natural part of family life. To keep anger to a minimum, let your children win on minor issues that aren’t worth fighting over.

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Will Your Kids Be Mowing the Lawn this Summer? – Must-Read Safety Tips

As the school year comes to an end, many kids will be taking on summer chores, including the ever so popular chore – mowing the lawn.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), three national medical organizations are warning families that the routine task of lawn mowing can be extremely dangerous to children, the operator, and those nearby if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.

Alarmingly, 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010 — nearly 17,000 of them children under age 19, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports.

To keep your kids and family safe, please read the following lawn mower injury prevention tips by the AAP:

  • Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
  • Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
  • Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects (such as stones or toys) by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
  • Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawn mowers.
  • Keep lawn mowers in good working order.

Check out more safety tips.

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Talk To Your Kids About the Risks of Texting While Driving

A new survey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that most teens admit that when they drive, they’re also texting and emailing.

The CDC surveyed 15,000 high school students about a variety of at risk behaviors. According to the survey, one in three high school students reported they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous 30 days.

A similar study, part of a project called Generation tXt, was presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston.

Thirty students ages 15-19 participated in the study. Using simulators, the teens drove under three conditions: 1) without a cell phone, 2) texting with the phone hidden so they had to look down to see texts and 3) texting with the phone in a position of their choice. The simulators recorded unintentional lane shifts, speeding, crashes/near crashes and other driving infractions.

Be sure to talk openly with your kids about the laws and risks tied to using their cell phone and texting while driving – officials say texting is the cause of about 16 percent of fatal car crashes involving teenagers. Moreover, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Discuss these safety tips with your teens and set a good example by practicing these guidelines too.

  • Most important, let your kids know they need to obey the law. Texting is prohibited in most states. For more information on the texting laws in California visit the DMV website.
  • Make it clear – never text and drive. Let your teen know he should turn off his cell phone before he drives if necessary, to avoid temptation.
  • Check with your phone service provider and its app store. There may be an app you can download that prohibits sending and receiving texts when a car is in motion.
  • Have your teen to pull off the road, away from traffic, to use a cell phone to talk, text or use the Internet.
  • Let your teen know that if they’re riding in a car with a driver who is texting, they need to ask him or her to stop or not ride with that person again. Teens may be afraid to speak up to their friends – stress the importance of their safety, and how that should be their biggest concern.
  • Make consequences. If you catch your teen texting while driving, take away his or her driving privileges. Setting those ground rules will make them less likely to do it.
  • Discuss the major risks of other driving distractions too, such as grooming, eating, drinking or trying to reach something that has fallen on the floor.

For more on this timely topic, please visit the DMV website.

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Don’t Let Flying be a Pain in the Ear for your Family!

If your summer vacation includes a plane ride, read up on tips for avoiding ear pain as a result of changes in air pressure…

While flying, air pressure decreases as you go higher and increases as you go lower. If the pressure isn’t equalized, the higher air pressure pushes on one side of the eardrum and causes pain. That explains why so many babies cry during those last few minutes of the flight, when the air pressure in the cabin increases as the plane prepares to land.

But the pain is only temporary — it won’t cause any lasting problems for kids and usually will subside within a few minutes.

Some simple things to try during air travel can help equalize the air pressure in your child’s ears and eliminate, or at least decrease, ear pain.
• Drink plenty of decaffeinated fluids (water is best) throughout the flight. Drinking a lot is very important, not only because it encourages swallowing (which makes the eustachian tubes open), but also because airplane air is dry, which thickens nasal mucus, making it more likely for the eustachian tubes to become clogged.
• Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen about a half hour before takeoffs or landings if you know your child has ear pain when flying.
• Chew gum or suck on hard candy (only if your child is over 3 years old).
• Take a bottle or pacifier or breastfeed. If you bottle-feed, make sure your baby is sitting upright while drinking.
• Yawn frequently (if your child can do this intentionally).
• Stay awake for takeoff and landing. During sleep, we don’t swallow as often, so it’s harder to keep the air pressure in the middle ear equalized.
• If your child is taking medications that contain antihistamines or decongestants, talk to your doctor about whether to continue them during the flight.

In some cases, a child may continue to have ear pain for longer periods (up to several hours) if the ears don’t “pop.” You can continue to give your child pain relievers according to the package directions until the pain eases. If it continues for more than several hours, call your doctor for advice.

With a little patience and some simple precautions, though, you can make your next family flight less stressful and more comfortable for both you and your child.

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    Coping with Food Allergies

    Food allergies can be rough on children and their families. Children, especially if they are older, may feel depressed or angry about having foods taken away from them. Younger children may feel frustrated about not being able to eat the things their friends are eating, and may not fully understand why they have been put on special diets.

    Parents and family members of children with food allergies deal with a full range of emotions, as well. They often feel worried about how their child will feel and be accepted by others. Some feel sad or guilty about taking foods, especially those the child enjoys, away. Others experience varying degrees of stress or anxiety. If you have a child with a food allergy, consider these tips to help your child and other family members cope with some of the challenges:

    • Education is the key. Sit down with family members, teachers, friends, coaches and other people important in your child’s life. Explain the allergy and why it is so important that your child stay away from his or her suspected allergens.

    • Be an advocate for your child at school, church, sports or any activity they may be involved in.

    • Join a support group, online forum or talk with someone going through the same situation.

    • Seek out reliable resources such as apfed.org, foodallergy.org and kidswithfoodallergies.org.

    • If your child is on a “formula only” diet, make the formula as cold as possible to minimize its strong odor and taste. Consider making it a smoothie with ice in the blender.

    • Change family outings to things that are not food- related. Consider arts and crafts, hiking, swimming, music and games.

    • When preparing meals for the rest of your family, try to stay away from making your child’s favorite dishes that contain his or her allergens.

    • Remove, from the house, treats and snacks that contain your child’s allergens so that they are not reminded of them. Encourage siblings and family members not to eat foods containing the allergens as well – at least not in front of your child.

    • Children with extreme allergies may have all foods removed from their diets and may struggle with the idea of celebrating their birthdays without cake. Make the child a “cake” out of something that isn’t edible. This way they can still blow out the candles. Encourage your child’s siblings to select birthday party themes and the like that do not center around food.

    The most important thing a family can do to help a child with food allergies is to stay united and supportive. By being careful about what is eaten in front of the child and changing the way the entire family relates to food—as nutrition, instead of a means of celebration or emotional support—life with allergies will be a little easier for both your child and the family.

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    Wheat Alternative Carbohydrates & Grains

    If your child’s allergist has suggested a wheat-free diet, there are a variety of grain and carbohydrate alternatives. It is important when choosing alternatives to include some whole grains because many wheat-free mixes and prepared baked goods contain refined flours with little nutritional value.

    Amaranth is a tiny seed from a plant. It is sold as flour, a thickener or puffed (like pop corn). Amaranth flour can be used in combination with other flours to make wheat-free breads and baked goods.  Puffed amaranth can be used as a cold or hot cereal, added as a topping to salads or desserts, used for breading meats or in baked desserts.

    Arrowroot Starch
    Arrowroot starch can be used as a thickener for sauces, soups, puddings and baked goods. It is tasteless and can replace – measure for measure – cornstarch in recipes.

    Buckwheat is actually classified as a fruit and is safe to consume while following a wheat-free diet.  It has a slightly sweet flavor, and can be cooked the same way as rice and used in grain salads or as a side dish.  Buckwheat can be ground into grits and used as a hot cereal or ground into flour and used to make pancakes or pasta (often called Soba noodles). (It is important to note that some brands of flour mixes and pasta also contain wheat so always read the label.)  Buckwheat is a good source of fiber, riboflavin and niacin.

    Millet is a widely used grain in India and Africa.  It has a mild flavor, and can be boiled and eaten as a side dish, breakfast cereal or used in making polenta. The flour can be used in all baked goods in combination with other flours. Millet has also been used to make cold cereal products such as millet flakes or muesli. Millet is a good source of B vitamins and fiber.

    Quinoa is a seed that is a staple food source in South America. It is available as flour, flakes, pasta and quinoa puffs. The grain can be boiled like rice and is similar to couscous when prepared.  Quinoa has an excellent nutrient profile.  It is a complete protein source, containing much higher amounts of high quality protein than other grains. It is also high in iron, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber.

    Tapioca Starch:
    Tapioca starch comes from the root of the cassava plant.  It can be used with other flours in baked goods or as a thickening agent instead of cornstarch.

    Teff is a small African grain.  It can be used to make hot cereal. It is also often used to make a crepe-like flatbread called injera, a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. (A recipe for injera is available at www.bobsredmeal.com).  Teff provides a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

    Sago is produced from the inner trunks of sago palm trees.  It can be purchased in the form of starch or flour, and can be used in baked goods or as a thickening agent in puddings, desserts and sauces.

    Sorghum is a cereal grain with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.  Sorghum can be used in soups, casseroles and side dishes.  Its flour can be used in combination with other flours to make baked goods.

    For more information and tips for baking delicious wheat-free recipes, check out the following sites:


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