An Open, Honest Discussion Is Best To Ease Kids’ Fears

As the community continues to try to make sense of, and mourn the lives lost in the recent Seal Beach shooting, many parents may be left with questions about how to talk to their kids about such a tragic event and help them ease their fears.

In a recent Orange County Register article, Dr. Mery Taylor, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s, addressed this topic and suggests talking openly with your children about what they’ve heard and how they feel, and assuring them that their feelings are normal. She recommends limiting their exposure to media coverage and answering their questions honestly and in an age-appropriate manner.

Parents should also watch for signs that their kids are distressed, irritable or aggressive. Read the full story.

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Keep Your Little Ghosts and Goblins Safe This Halloween

Halloween is just a few weeks away! Have you gotten your costumes? This is such a fun time of year, and to help ensure your kids have a safe holiday, please check out the tips below recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and CHOC Children’s.
• Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.

• Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.

• If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it’s not sharp or too long.

• Obtain flashlights with new batteries for all children and their escorts.

• Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

• To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.

• A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.

• If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.

• Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

• Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.

• Never cut across yards, use alleys, or cross between parked cars.

• Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. An adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

For more Halloween safety tips, please click here:

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Support CHOC, Form Your Own CHOC Walk Team!

Guest blogger, Lisa Robertson, author of the Babes in Disneyland blog and book, and mommy of three, shares her tried and true tips on how to start a CHOC Walk team.

Last year, I laced up my sneakers and walked in the twentieth annual CHOC Walk in the Park held at the Disneyland Resort. It was my first walk and I decided to go for it by not just participating in the walk but by forming and leading a team of walkers.

Whether you are a first-time walker or a long-time CHOC Children’s supporter, forming a team is a great way to become involved in the walk. In order to form my team and raise money for CHOC, I reached out to friends, family members and the readers of my blog and very quickly formed a team of almost 20 walkers who raised more than $2,200.

This year, my team currently has nine registered walkers and we are on track to raise $1,000 and maybe more. If you or someone you know are thinking about forming a team for the CHOC Walk in the Park, here are my top tips for managing your team:

1. Recruit and raise money using social media. I use Twitter and Facebook to reach out to those I know and those I don’t to let them know about my efforts.
2. Get creative! Last year, my youngest son and I created the video below to help raise money for our CHOC Walk efforts:

3. Keep your team members up to date with frequent emails or create a special Facebook event or group page with the latest on your group’s meet-up the morning of the walk, check-in information and lodging information for those who are not local. A page is also a great place for your team to discuss whether or not you want to create signs, shirts or hats for the walk or designate a place to meet up and have breakfast after the walk is over.
4. Encourage members who are local to the check-in for the event in person. If all of your members cannot check-in ahead of time, be sure to set a deadline for each of your team member’s $50 pledges so that they are all paid before you or a member of your team checks in for everyone.
5. Set a meeting spot for your team for the morning of the race and bring something to identify your group. Last year, I brought a huge bundle of red balloons. In theory, this was a great idea…except for the fact that a lot of other groups brought red balloons as well. This year, I’ll be bringing a sign and balloons.

Walking for CHOC is very important to me because I believe in the amazing work done at CHOC and take great comfort in knowing that should my children ever need the expertise of CHOC’s talented doctors, nurses, surgeons or other specialists, that they will be there at the ready. CHOC provides families hope and comfort and patients the opportunity to still feel like kids while dealing with the very adult issues of being sick.

If you are looking for a fun team to walk with at the CHOC Walk in the Park, I happily invite you to join my team, Babes In Disneyland. If you still aren’t sure if the CHOC Walk is right for you, check out my team’s video from last year!

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Celebrate Down Syndrome Awarenes Month

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a great time to learn about this condition and celebrate the achievements and abilities of people with Down syndrome!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year about 6,000 babies in the United States are born with Down syndrome – that’s about 1 of every 691 babies born in the United States each year is born with Down syndrome.

In many cases, educational programs, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

So what is Down syndrome? It is one of the most common genetic disorders. Normally a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes. This extra copy changes the body’s and brain’s normal development and causes mental and physical problems for the baby.

Even though people with Down syndrome might have some physical and mental features in common, symptoms of Down syndrome can range from mild to severe. Some common physical problems associated with Down syndrome include:

  •  A heart birth defect
  • Stomach problems, such as a blocked small intestine
  • Celiac disease, a digestive disease that damages the small intestine
  • Problems with memory, concentration and judgment
  • Hearing problems
  • Eye problems, such as cataracts or trouble seeing objects that are close
  • Thyroid problems
  • Skeletal problems

The name “”Down syndrome” comes from the physician, Dr. Langdon Down, who first described the collection of findings in 1866. It was not until 1959 that the cause of Down syndrome (the presence of an extra #21 chromosome) was identified.

There are many ways to commemorate Down Syndrome Awareness Month, including organizing an event, donating books about Down Syndrome to your local school, or simply sharing with your kids and family what you’ve learned today!

To learn more about Down Syndrome, please visit CHOC’s medical library at:

To learn about CHOC Children’s Down Syndrome Program, please click here:

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October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month

October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month – a great time to learn more about this disease and following a gluten-free diet. Jill Nowak, RD, CDE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s, shares her recommendations and the signs and symptoms of this condition.

What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder affecting approximately 1% of the population.  When a person with celiac disease eats gluten an immune-mediated response causes damage to the small intestines and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.  Therefore, the only treatment for celiac disease is following a gluten-free diet.  Over time if left untreated, celiac disease can lead to an increase risk for anemia, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, skin disorders and other health problems.

People with other autoimmune disorders, in particular type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, are at increased risk for celiac disease.  Unfortunately, it may take as long as 11 years to correctly be diagnosed with celiac disease.  By being aware of the symptoms of celiac disease and discussing with your doctor to screen for celiac disease if you have another high risk autoimmune disorder, this time frame can possibly be decreased.

Symptoms for Celiac Disease
• Stomach pain, gas, constipation  and/or diarrhea
• Change in mood
• Weight loss
• Slowed growth in children
• An itchy, blistering skin rash

Following a Gluten-free Diet
A gluten-free diet involves not consuming gluten, a storage protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  Most breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, baked goods and crackers have gluten.  In addition, hidden sources of gluten are found in foods such as soups, sauces, and gravies.  During recent times the gluten-free diet has become somewhat of a fad diet.  Ironically, this diet could lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight gain because many gluten-free products are made with highly processed, unenriched flours and added fat and sugar.  Therefore, it is strongly recommended that a person diagnosed with celiac disease seek nutrition counseling by a registered dietitian.  Eating well on a gluten free diet is possible.  Aim for eating gluten-free whole grains, choose enriched or fortified  gluten-free grains, cook with less fat, and eat more fiber rich and calcium rich foods.  Lastly, cross contamination is a major concern and food handling techniques is crucial in your own kitchen and when dining away from your home.

To find more information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, check these sites out:
• Celiac Disease Foundation ( )
• National Digestive Diseases Information ( )
• Shelley Case, RD  ( )

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CHOC Recommends Flu Preventive Guidelines

Have you seen the movie Contagion? What did you think? It’s certainly causing moviegoers to think twice about the possibility of a virus of that magnitude! Well, while the events portrayed in this movie are fiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infectious disease outbreak with that kind of impact could indeed happen. Luckily, the CDC and other dedicated U.S. and international agencies are working hard every day at preventing an outbreak like that, and keeping the community safe through research, education and prevention efforts.

On a smaller scale, the flu is a common, yet serious contagious disease that we need to stay informed on, especially with the flu season just around the corner in the fall. In the United States, influenza (flu) season usually begins in October and can last until May. The key to protecting your family is prevention.

The most recent flu vaccine recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stress the importance of getting a new flu shot this season. CHOC Children’s Hospital couldn’t agree more. The 2011-2012 flu vaccine will protect against the same three influenza strains as last year’s vaccine, including the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused the first global pandemic in more than 40 years and resulted in substantial illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

It’s recommended that everyone 6 months or older receive an influenza vaccine. Special efforts should be made to immunize all family members, household contacts, and out-of-home care providers of children who are younger than 5 years; children with high-risk conditions (asthma, diabetes, or neurologic disorders); health care personnel; and all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, or breastfeeding during the flu season.

In addition, the AAP recommends the following guidelines for administering the influenza vaccine to children depending on the child’s vaccine history and age at the time of the first administered dose:

• Infants younger than 6 months are too young to be immunized.
• Children 9 years of age and older need only one dose of influenza vaccine.
• Children 6 months through 8 years of age need only one dose of the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine if they received at least 1 dose last season.
• Children 6 months through 8 years of age should receive two doses if they did not receive any vaccine last season. The second dose should be administered at least four weeks after the first.
• An intradermal vaccine has been recommended for people 18 through 64 years of age.

For more tips and guidelines on the seasonal flu, please click here:

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Local Student Spreads Giving Spirit

Guest blogger, Jordyn Berk, shares how she became involved with CHOC Children’s through her organization, Chop for Charity. This amazing young woman has raised thousands of dollars for CHOC, creating lasting memories and learning about her true potential along the way.

I was twelve years old when I decided that I wanted to make a difference. At the time, I was a black belt in karate and wanted to show that having achieved that rank meant more than training in the art. Board breaking had always been one of my favorite aspects of karate. The pure excitement and self-assurance I feel every time my hand slices through a piece of wood is indescribable, and I wanted to share that feeling with others.

My grandfather has Type 1 diabetes and although I am not diabetic, the disease has always had a presence in my family. CHOC had always stood out in my mind, and when I decided to hold a fundraiser for a charity, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) was the other obvious beneficiary.

My original idea behind Chop for Charity was to combine my interest in karate with helping sick kids in my community. At Chop for Charity, individuals paid an entrance fee to break a board with the help of an experienced instructor and watch board-breaking demonstrations. The event also included a raffle and silent auction with prizes donated by local businesses. The website,, was an important asset to fundraising.

Chop for Charity impacted who I am in more ways than I could have ever dreamed possible. Planning the event taught me to be responsible, organized, and efficient. Five years ago, I did not know what to expect with the first annual Chop for Charity. I will never forget the moment my brother ran up to me near the end of the event to tell me we had raised over two thousand dollars. At the time, that seemed like a huge number and I could not contain my excitement.

The next year, I hesitated before setting a goal because I was afraid of failure, but one of my mentors convinced me that I could never reach higher if I let my fear of falling short stop me. Each year, my goals have grown and I have exceeded them. To date, Chop for Charity has raised over $50,000 for CHOC and JDRF, but more than that, it taught me to be unafraid to let myself feel vulnerable in order to succeed.

Taking the initiative and founding Chop for Charity taught me leadership and has led to amazing opportunities. I toured CHOC in the summer of 2009 and was fascinated by the doctors I met and conversations we shared. In addition to Chop for Charity, I have since volunteered at various JDRF events.

Whenever I am asked about Chop for Charity, I give the same response. Chop for Charity was the best, most fulfilling experience of my life. I absolutely loved putting in all the hours each year planning the event, and I loved when people were excited to participate and spread the giving spirit.

To find out how you can help support CHOC, please click here: 

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Treating Head Lice

September is National Head Lice Prevention Month. Lice is a common, uncomfortable problem that can be a nuisance to both your children – and you! To help fight these unwelcome critters, check out the tips below:

Head lice are tiny parasites that live on a person’s scalp, neck and behind the ears. They cause itching and scratching, because the lice live off blood and their bites itch. Lice are hard to find, but their eggs or nits, can be seen attached to hairs.

Shampoos containing a class of pesticides called pyrethrins are used to kill lice. Creams are available that loosen nits, the lice eggs that are firmly attached to the base of the hair. According to the National Pediculosis Association, however, no over-the-counter or prescription treatment is totally safe or totally effective. The best way to remove nits is with a fine-tooth comb. If you have difficulty removing them, you may want to try using a nit-removal cream. Also, be sure to:

• Teach your children to never share hats, combs, brushes, hair pieces or pillows.
• Watch for scratching.
• Don’t confuse nits with dandruff or dirt.
• Consult your pharmacist or health care provider before using lice treatments.
• Use any product correctly and with caution.
• Remove nits with a half-vinegar, half-alcohol mixture and a fine-tooth comb or fingernails. Commercial nit-removal creams are available.
• Wash bedding and recently worn clothing in hot water and dry it in a dryer for at least 20 minutes on the hot setting. Seal items that cannot be washed in plastic bags for two weeks.
• Avoid lice sprays. Keep your home vacuumed.
• Notify your child’s school, camp, care provider and friends that your child has lice.

Have you heard of other effective tips? Please share!

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Kids and Concussions

Concussions are a common occurrence in children – especially when engaging in play or sports. If you are a parent, teacher, or coach, it’s important to keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms indicative of a concussion. Dr. Chris Koutures, Pediatric and Sports Medicine Specialist at CHOC Children’s, describes the symptoms you should look for with kids and concussions. Click here:

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Bibliotheraphy for Biters – By Nancy Brashear, Ph.D.

As an educator and literacy expert, I’ve often used books to help address events that life unexpectedly throws our way. Last week, I bought Teeth Are Not for Biting (by Elizabeth Verdick) for my grand-daughter, Ellie (age 2) who had pretty much been an angel until she suddenly bit her sister, twice!

Of course, Ellie’s mother talked to her in between bites, but we now have reinforcements with the rescue book for the no-biting regime. Written for toddlers, it’s informative with its brightly colored illustrations, clever descriptions of the functions of teeth, and clear instructions about chewing food slowly and using words instead of teeth! The publisher also carries other books that deal with socio-emotional issues (with some books for parents and professionals). For more on the series, visit Free Spirit Publishing at

I know there are many of you who have also reached for books along with band-aids. Which ones would you recommend for life’s little troubles?

A special contributor to the blog, Nancy Brashear, Ph.D., is a CHOC grandma and an expert specializing in literature for children and adolescents. You can read more at

The official blog of CHOC Children's