November is Prematurity Awareness Month

In recognition of Prematurity Awareness Month in November, please check out some of the life-saving treatments and care being offered at CHOC Children’s to babies, including some of the tiniest of them all!

The nursery at home may be prepped; prenatal classes passed with flying colors; and mom’s bags packed and ready to go for baby’s delivery.  But, all the planning in the world rarely prepares parents for having their precious newborn admitted into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  For families in Orange County and beyond, the CHOC Children’s NICU provides leading-edge care in a family-centered environment dedicated to securing healthy futures for the community’s youngest, most fragile children.

CHOC’s 54-bed Level IIIC NICU – the only one in the region – offers the highest level of neonatal intensive care available.  Providing world-class expertise and cutting-edge technology to treat the most complex conditions affecting newborns, the unit features a two-bed Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) unit. Often used for infants suffering from respiratory or cardiac failure due to birth defects or a severe infection, ECMO is a life-saving therapy that mimics the natural function of the heart and lungs, allowing the patient to rest while natural healing of any affected organs take place. CHOC’s ECMO unit is the only one of its kind in Orange County.

CHOC’s NICU is the first hospital in the region to offer the Olympic Cool-Cap System to prevent or reduce the severity of neurological injury associated with moderate or severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). (HIE is damage to the brain and spinal cord as a result of inadequate oxygen.)

Clinical trials have shown that temporarily lowering brain temperature by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius within six hours of birth may reduce the risk of death or disability in infants with moderate or severe HIE.  CHOC experts utilize the cool-cap technology to cool the newborn’s brain for 72 hours and then slowly re-warm the patient for an additional four.

CHOC also opened a special unit within the NICU that focuses on caring for the unique needs of the smallest and sickest babies. The Small Baby Unit, staffed with highly-trained staff, is designed for babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation or who weigh less than 1,000 grams, and is the only one of its kind in the Southern California area.

The unit has been designed to be as womb-like as possible to aid in an infant’s development. The lighting is dimmed, and voices and other noises, including the hospital’s overhead paging system, are reduced to “library level.” The unit has noise-absorbing tiles on the floor and ceiling. Even the walls curve away from each other in order to deflect sound.

CHOC understands the fear and anxiety experienced by parents of NICU patients.  It’s one of the reasons mom and dad are part of the care team, and are encouraged to spend as much time at their baby’s bedside as possible.  Parents are also encouraged to provide skin-to-skin “kangaroo care” – even in the Small Baby Unit – as soon as it’s safe for the baby.

No parent wants to imagine a baby in a NICU.  But, if a newborn requires life-saving neonatal care, there’s no place like CHOC.


To learn more about the NICU at CHOC Children’s, please click here:

Related articles:

  • CHOC’s Surgical NICU Offers Pioneering Coordinated Treatment
    Infants needing surgery require special attention, and a unique feature of CHOC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides just that. CHOC’s Surgical NICU, a dedicated space within the NICU, uses a ...
  • Birth Defects
    Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United ...
  • Testing for Birth Defects
    Advances in medicine have allowed doctors to diagnose birth defects and genetic conditions before a baby is born. Pregnant women older than 35, those with a history of miscarriages or health ...


Tips for Preventing Scary Tooth Decay this Halloween

Halloween sweets don’t have to wreck havoc on the teeth of your little trick-or-treaters.  Children can enjoy some Halloween candy and still avoid sugar-related tooth decay. The key to preventing tooth decay lies in limiting the amount of candy children eat, and reducing the time sugar remains in the mouth.

Brushing teeth as soon as possible after eating candy may keep harmful bacteria from developing.

Children and parents can take additional steps to protect their teeth:
• Parents should examine their children’s candy and remove anything they consider unacceptable before allowing their kids to eat it.
• Avoid candy that is too tacky or gummy, which can stick to teeth and cause decay.
• No matter what time of day children eat candy, they should remember to have good dental hygiene.
• Before Halloween rolls around, a dentist can put sealants into the grooves of children’s teeth to protect them against corrosion caused by too much sugar.   Ask your pediatric dentist if sealants would be good for your child.

For more information from the American Dental Association, visit

Related articles:

  • Flossing Tips for Your Little Ones
    Bet you didn’t know it was National Children’s Dental Health Month? Check out these reminders on flossing to help your little ones keep a bright smile. Brushing teeth properly and consistently ...
  • Protect Your Little One’s Smile
      I bet you didn’t know that in addition to Heart Month, February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month! This is a great time to teach your kiddos about the importance ...
  • Enjoy the Holidays, Skip the Cavities
    ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’… especially for holiday treats and candy! While it’s quite nice to enjoy this season’s treats, keep these tips in mind to ensure ...

CHOC Expert Discusses Support Services For Down Syndrome Patients

Ira T. Lott, M.D. is a Pediatric Neurologist at CHOC Children’s. His research has focused on the many aspects of Down syndrome, most recently on the relationship between aging and development. Dr. Lott serves as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Down Syndrome Society in New York.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs in one in every 691 births, according to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). The NDSS asserts that individuals with Down syndrome learn and develop at their own rate and in their own way, just like all people.  However, they face medical challenges that can include heart defects, digestive diseases, as well as skin, hormone and vision problems. These unique health care and developmental concerns often require integrated services from a multitude of health care, social and educational services.

To address these concerns, Dr. Lott recommends a child with Down syndrome undergo a general evaluation to determine their specific needs. Then, a bridge must be created between the primary care physician and the specialty care providers. Collaboration within the various providers is needed to ensure the patients reach their potential as they join community life and go through school. The following support services are recommended to ensure a Down syndrome child’s needs are being met:

• Comprehensive medical assessment, from birth to age 18, including continued follow-up care coordinated with between the providers and the patient’s family
• Referrals, as required, to other sub-specialists and ancillary services as identified by the primary care physician and specialists
• Supplementary medical care and case management services should complement primary care physician efforts

Although people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses. Children with Down syndrome learn to do most activities a child without the condition would, only somewhat later.

“I find children with Down syndrome a joy to work with – they are very social and have a positive effect on the healthcare provider,” says Dr. Lott. “Many do great in the Special Olympics and even become big T.V. stars.”

For more information please visit the National Down Syndrome Society at

Related articles:


Less TV Time Is Still Best For Kids

A recent article by The New York Times, titled “Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest,” reminded parents of infants and toddlers to limit the time their children spend in front of the TV, computers, and self-described educational games, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

While the topic of the effects of media exposure on children may be old, pediatric experts continue to educate the public on new guidelines, especially in this highly-digital dominated time.

According to the AAP, video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, such as interacting with others and playing. So far, there is no evidence that exposure to these mediums causes long-term developmental problems, experts said. Still, research shows that young children learn more from real interactions than from situations appearing on video screens. Some learning can take place from media, but it’s a lot lower, the article said.

Recently in a separate AAP study, where over 200 middle school students were surveyed, the results showed a direct link in the viewing of media with high profanity and subsequent aggression. Moreover, the findings provided continued support for ratings and content warnings surrounding profanity use in the media.

Check out the following tips on media exposure, from the experts at CHOC:
• Encourage alternative activities for entertainment for children (reading, drawing, outdoor games).
• Decrease the dependence on television as a babysitter.
• Identify normal media habits for your family (hours, usage and monitoring).
• Praise children for making good viewing decisions.
• Discuss non-violent problem solving techniques (talking, walking away).
• Limit using TV or other electronic gadgets as a reward for good behavior. Instead, try a trip to the park, or a visit to a friend’s house.
• Be a good example to your child by not watching too much TV, or over-using your cell phone and computer. Be involved in other activities, such as reading or walking. Read to your kids.


Related articles:


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.

  • Preparing Your Child for an Active Shooter Scenario
    Chances are you have taught your children what to do in emergencies, such as fires and earthquakes.  But what about an active shooter scenario?  According to Deputy Mike Perez, SWAT ...
  • Helping Children Cope with Tragedy
    It’s hard for grownups to make sense of a tragedy, so consider how difficult it must be for children. Depending on their age and media exposure, children may know more than ...
  • Earthquake Preparedness Tips For Your Family
    It’s Earthquake Preparedness Month. To help keep you and your family safe during an earthquake, check out these important guidelines. Be sure to talk to your kids about the importance ...


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:

Related articles:

  • Ten Trick-or-Treating Safety Tips
    As your family prepares for the fun tradition of trick-or-treating, keep in mind these easy Halloween safety tips, from the CHOC Children’s community education team and Safe Kids Orange County, ...
  • All Dressed Up For Halloween
    Halloween is about a week away! Have your kids picked out their costumes? Before they head out in their cutest and spookiest attire, check out these costume safety tips recommended ...
  • Tips for Preventing Scary Tooth Decay this Halloween
    Halloween sweets don’t have to wreck havoc on the teeth of your little trick-or-treaters.  Children can enjoy some Halloween candy and still avoid sugar-related tooth decay. The key to preventing ...

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!

Related articles:

  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Meet Team Timmaree
    By Debbie Hicks, CHOC Walk in the Park participant  At 7 years of age, our daughter Timmaree was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called orbital rhabdomyosarcoma. In the ...
  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Justin’s Helpers
    As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, CHOC “Walk in the Park” has raised more than $24 million to fund education, research and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to ...
  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Insider Tips for Event Day
    The 25th annual CHOC “Walk in the Park” is around the corner. With 15,000 Walkers expected at this year’s Walk, here are some tips to help teams and individual walkers ...


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:

Related articles:


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  ( )

Related articles:

  • FDA Defines Gluten-Free for Food Labeling
    By: Jill Nowak, RD, CDE, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods On August 2, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a long awaited final rule defining “gluten-free” ...
  • 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 ...

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:

Related articles:

  • Flu Season Approaching, Take These Preventive Steps
    Don’t be caught off guard, beat the flu this season! Flu season can start as early as October. CHOC Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge that all children ...
  • Protect Against the Flu to Keep Children’s Learning on Track
    Between fever and body aches, your child really suffers when flu-stricken – but the virus affects more than just your child’s health. Did you know that staying home with the ...
  • Kids and the Flu
    How do you distinguish a common cold from the flu (influenza)? When late fall rolls around, the flu usually rolls in with it. “The first few days with a ...