Pertussis: What Parents Should Know


Pertussis has certainly been getting a lot of press lately, but what exactly is it? Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, and young infants are particularly vulnerable. It’s transmitted through close respiratory contact with someone who is infected.

Some of the first symptoms in adults and children include, a runny nose, sneezing, a mild, dry cough, and slight fever.

As of June 30th, in California there have been 1,337 cases of pertussis reported in 2010, including five infant deaths – in what seems to be the worst year of pertussis that our state has seen in more than 50 years.

To protect our community against the current epidemic levels of whooping cough, experts at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated.

In addition to the typical series of childhood pertussis immunizations, CDPH now recommends an adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine (T-dap). Adults who have contact with children under the age of 12 months, particularly new moms, are among those recommended to get the T-dap.

Please visit the Orange County Health Care Agency website for the most up-to-date recommendations and vaccine availability for you and your family.

Get Serious About Playtime

For kids, free time used to mean playtime. They’d come home from school, grab a snack and bolt out the door to run around with friends. In the summer, they’d play all day.

But now, a lot of kids stay home and watch TV, play video games, go online, or talk on cell phones. All the while, they stuff themselves with goodies they don’t burn off in “free play.”

Since the late 1970s, children’s playtime has fallen 25 percent and their outdoor activities have dropped 50 percent, says the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

Children watch an average of three hours of television a day, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Add time spent on TV with time on the computer and with video games, the average time each day that children are sedentary rises to 5-1/2 hours, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A serious problem
Pediatricians say less free play and less physical education in school fuel childhood obesity. The percentage of children who are overweight has more than doubled in 30 years.

It may seem frivolous, but playing “is an essential activity for a kid to grow up,” says Gil Fuld, M.D., an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesman.

Benefits of exercise
In addition to helping keep weight under control, exercise helps young bodies become stronger. It also lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes, and may keep blood pressure and cholesterol at a normal level. Children who get daily exercise sleep better and are less likely to let daily stresses affect them.

Children should participate in physical activities that build endurance, strength and flexibility. How much exercise is enough? Children 2 and older should get an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, according to 2005 guidelines on diet and exercise from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One of the best ways to encourage your kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time they watch TV, use the computer or play video games. The AAP recommends no more than one to two hours of media time a day for children 2 years and older.

Share what you and your family are doing to encourage playtime or exercise. Post your comments below!

CHOC Children’s Celebrates Starlight Fun Center Donation

On July 10, CHOC Children’s had the privilege of hosting approximately 50 members of the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization, Starlight Children’s Foundation and Angels baseball for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of a “Starlight Fun Center” donation to CHOC.  The event was held during the exciting 2010 All-Star Game week. The big game, of course, was held at nearby Angels Stadium of Anaheim.

Patients mingled with future MLB players including Mike Trout, Luis Jimenez and Zack Britton, made crafts and played with the Starlight Fun Center. The Angels Strike Force girls and various team mascots joined in on the fun. CHOC is incredibly grateful for the mobile entertainment unit containing a gaming system, DVD player and flat screen that will provide countless hours of fun for our patients.

A child’s need to play is more than just fun and games. Through play, children learn about the world, expand their minds and stimulate their imagination. The Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment system helps us create a happy and positive patient experience. As a distraction tool, it will help patients forget about their pain through fun play at bed side, before surgery or when in isolation rooms.

We thank the MLB, Angels baseball and Starlight Children’s Foundation for making such a generous and beneficial donation to CHOC Children’s!

Join CHOC in Transforming Pediatric Care in Orange County

CHOC Children's Tower

Did you know that over the past decade, CHOC Children’s has distinguished itself as the fastest-growing free-standing children’s hospitals in the state? This year alone, over 200,000 children will come through CHOC’s doors for inpatient, outpatient and emergency care.

To accommodate our community’s growing needs, while providing state-of-the-art care in a facility designed just for our children and their families, CHOC has embarked on a transformative journey to become a world-class pediatric institution.

To support CHOC on this remarkable journey, hundreds of community members just like you are rallying around the “Change CHOC, Change the World” fund-raising campaign benefiting the children of Orange County. 

The comprehensive campaign will transform CHOC and, with it, the delivery of pediatric healthcare in the region by building a state-of-the-art tower; building a substantial endowment to support recruiting more of the world’s top pediatric experts; and building upon the academic and research affiliation with UC Irvine and its School of Medicine.

The keystone of the campaign is a new, patient care tower set to open on CHOC’s Orange campus in Spring 2013. The seven-story tower will bring an additional 88 patient beds to the hospital by 2013 and provide space for further growth in later phases. Most importantly, it will be a place where sick kids and their families find serenity, hope for healing, and people who understand their unique needs.
As members of our community, you have a voice in defining the heart of Orange County. With your support, we can take CHOC Children’s to world-class status and create a future where Orange County is one of the medically safest and healthiest communities for children in the nation.

To learn more about our “Change CHOC, Change the World” campaign, please click here:

Video Games and TV Associated With Attention Problems In Children

School’s out and for many kids this means more TV and video game time during their summer vacation. While these forms of entertainment can be a fun distraction, experts say too much of it can be harmful to children.

A new study, “Television and Video Game Exposure and the Development of Attention Problems,” recently published on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website, found that children who exceeded the 2 hours per day of screen time recommended by the AAP were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems. Early adults showed a similar association, suggesting that early video game exposure may have lasting consequences.

Researchers assessed 1,323 children in third, fourth and fifth grades over 13 months, using reports from the parents and children about their video game and television habits, as well as teacher reports of attention problems. Another group of 210 college students provided self-reports of television habits, video game exposure and attention problems.

As children grow and develop, they can be easily influenced by what they see and hear. While some television programs and video games can be educational, others have harmful effects, such as an impact on a child’s academic performance. Parents can help decrease these harmful effects by screening the type of programming and video games their kids are viewing and limiting the amount of screen time.

For suggestions on setting good television viewing habits, please click here:

For tips on media violence, please click here:

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Summer Safety Means Water Safety

At CHOC, we’re passionate about keeping your kids safe–especially around water. Children and water can be a fatal combination. Drowning is a quick, silent event. A child can drown in as little as two inches of water. Please watch the above video for tips about how to be water safe to ensure a safe and memorable summer:

  • Never leave children alone in or near water, even a shallow wading pool.  Children can drown in as little as two inches of water and it can happen in a matter of seconds. A child will lose consciousness two minutes after submersion, with irreversible brain damage occurring within four to six minutes.
  • Assign a “water watcher” who knows how to swim and can provide supervision of children in the water.
  • Place pool safety barriers, such as isolation fences, self-closing and self-latching locks, and pool covers, between your child and the pool.
  • Never assume your child is “drown-proof,” even if the child has had swimming lessons.
  • Place a phone, life-saving ring and shepherds hook at poolside.
  • Remove toys in and around the pool when it’s not in use to avoid any temptation for your child.
  • Drain waters from wading pools and water buckets when not being used.
  • Flotation devices, such as water wings, are considered toys and are not a substitute for adult supervision.
  • Water safety also includes sun safety.  Make sure your children are wearing waterproof sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
  • Protect feet from hot sand and sharp objects by having them wear water-safe shoes.

To learn more about water safety or to have a staff member from CHOC Children’s Community Education Department come to your group of parents and caregivers of children under the age of 5, please call 714-532-8887.

Summer is Here – Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen!

Summer is officially here! As the weather warms up and you and your family start spending more time outside, it’s important to keep sun safety in mind to ensure a healthy and happy season. Check out the following Q & A with CHOC Pediatrician, Mark Colon, M.D., for some great tips about sunscreen.

Q:  At what age can I begin putting sunscreen on my child, and what SPF is best for young children?

A:  A child is never too young for sunscreen. But it’s wise to keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight altogether. Their thin skin can burn after just minutes in the sun. Dress infants in lightweight cotton pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a broad-brimmed hat for added protection.

Before using sunscreen, test a patch on your child’s back to make sure there’s no allergic reaction. Look for sunscreen that includes:

  • “Broad-spectrum” on the label. This means it will screen out both UVB and UVA rays.
  • SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 for UVB protection, and 45 for babies.
  • The new UVA “star” rating. Four stars is the highest protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen, and the best for children

For sensitive areas, such as the nose, tops of the ears and the shoulders, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

While there are sunscreens made particularly for babies and toddlers, the most important thing to remember is that the higher the SPF and UVA stars, the better. For best results, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. And remember to re-apply every two hours and after swimming.

A final note – just because your children are using sunscreen doesn’t mean they can stay in the sun all day. It just means they’re lessening the risks of sun damage.

Do you have any great sun safety tips? Post a comment and share!

State-Of-The-Art Fertility Options Available at CHOC

Oncofertility is a relatively new field that studies how cancer treatments affect fertility. After all, chemotherapy and radiation may be crucial tools for beating cancer. However, they can also damage reproductive organs. One of the biggest problems cancer survivors face is fertility preservation. Some of the most advanced oncofertility services in the world are available right here in our community – at CHOC Childrens’s, as part of its Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program.

The program has long offered fertility solutions for males. Female patients, however, face a more difficult challenge. “For a long time, we didn’t understand how chemotherapy affected the ovaries,” says Leonard Sender, M.D., medical director of CHOC Children’s Cancer Institute. “Over the last few years, however, the science has advanced considerably.”

One option for older adolescent patients is egg harvesting, similar to that used for standard infertility treatments. However, the procedure takes at least two to three weeks, before chemotherapy can begin. Most teens (who often have aggressive cancers) can’t wait that long.

Fortunately, there’s a new option for female patients who have started their period (typically 12 years old): ovarian cryopreservation. Here, doctors remove and freeze one of the ovaries. In the future, the ovary may be re-implanted and then “jump-started” to begin producing eggs again. It sounds like science fiction, but the procedure has been successful in older women. As part of an ongoing research program with the national Oncofertility Consortium, CHOC now offers this option to AYA patients.

“These young girls may only need to think about fertility 10 years from now, but in that time the technology will improve, and re-implantations will be even more successful,” says Dr. Sender. “What we know is that we have this brief moment before we start chemotherapy to preserve a patient’s fertility. We are very excited to be participating in this cutting-edge research, and I believe it will become a major part of our survivor program.”

To find out more about the oncofertility program at CHOC, please call 714-456-8025.

Melanoma Begins In Childhood

Did you know melanoma – the most common and deadliest form of skin cancer – is linked to excessive sun exposure during childhood? Studies indicate that as few as four severe sunburns before age 16 greatly can increase the risk of melanoma in later life.

The number of reported cases of melanoma is rising in epidemic proportions, says oncologist Leonard Sender, M.D., Medical Director of the CHOC Cancer Institute. The disease is being increasingly diagnosed in younger adults.  Given the popularity of tanning among young people, it is important that parents educate their children about too much exposure to the sun and the effects of tanning beds.

A new study from the University of Minnesota, featured on the American Cancer Society’s website, found that people who use tanning beds are more likely to develop melanoma, than those who don’t. The study also found that the risk of getting melanoma is associated more with how much a person tans and not the age at which a person starts using tanning devices. Risk rises with frequency of use, regardless of age, gender, or device.

Fortunately, there’s quite a lot you can do about it. Sunscreen is very important, but it does not completely protect your child from the sun. To fully protect your child, long sleeves, pants, sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat are a must. Try to avoid outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the brightest part of the day.

Also, Dr. Sender advises parents to make sunscreen a morning habit, rain or shine, every day of the year. Apply it liberally to the face, top of the ears, back of the neck, and then to any other parts of the body that will be exposed. At the beach or the pool, reapply sunscreen whenever your child comes out of the water. For more sun safety tips, click here:
To learn more about CHOC Children’s Cancer Institute, click here:

Keep Your Kids Active This Summer

Although the official first day of summer is still a couple weeks away, kids in Orange County are already gearing up for summer, with school out starting next week! For parents this could mean trying to keep your little ones busy throughout their vacation. For some kids, summer can also be a time for packing on extra pounds if they don’t keep active.

A recent study suggests that for the youngest students, summer months may be worse than the school year when it comes to weight gain. Researchers think children may eat more during the summer, when the days are less structured. Also, physical education during the school year may help kids burn extra calories.

Just like adults, kids need to balance the calories they eat with the calories they burn to prevent extra pounds. That means healthy eating and an hour of physical activity on most days of the week.

Luckily, summer’s sunshine offers the chance to get out and get moving. Follow these tips to help keep your kids happy – and healthy – this summer:

  • Plan active vacations. Take a trip to the mountains and hike. Or, bike around your neighborhood.
  • Limit screen time—including TV and video games—to two hours a day or less. Encourage your kids to go outside and play. Hopscotch, swimming, tag and hide-and-go-seek all count as exercise.
  • If they’re interested, sign your kids up for a summer sports league.
  •  Walk with your family instead of driving to visit friends or run errands in the neighborhood.
  • To help strengthen your muscles, try working in the garden together.