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 714-509-8887.

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.

Hello Hospital Program Helps Reduce Patient Fears Prior to Surgery

Did you know CHOC Children’s has a “Hello Hospital” program designed to help children and parents learn what to expect when a child is scheduled for a procedure or surgery at CHOC?

Through a tour, a Recreation Therapist/Child Life Specialist will introduce future patients and their families to the hospital environment, procedures, and equipment with the goal of reducing the child’s anxieties.

CHOC understands that the experience of your child undergoing surgery can be stressful. The Hello Hospital program provides a non-threatening way for children to become familiar with CHOC before hospitalization. To learn more, click here:

How to Decrease Performance Anxiety in Young Athletes

Q & A with Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton, Pediatric Psychologist at CHOC Children’s

Q: What is performance anxiety in sports? Could this have an effect on my child’s physical performance or well being?

A: Performance anxiety is related to what we know as “stage fright.” This is often used to describe the anxiety, fear, or persistent phobia, which may be induced in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of a crowd. In sports, the worry or fear is directly related to being evaluated about his/her performance in competitive sports. Some people describe it as that moment when the athlete freezes. The fear of failure becomes so overwhelming that the skill level of the athlete appears to diminish because they feel nervous or insecure.

It is important to remember that a normal degree of anxiety will be present in children whenever they participate in competitive sports. However, some common causes of sports performance anxiety are being very critical and making comparisons. Overly critical parents and coaches can place extra pressure on the child and lead them to believe that they are not very good. When children hear coaches or parents comparing them to other players it can cause children to feel as if they disapprove of their performance.

Common symptoms include: refusal or fear of participating, low self-esteem, making negative comments about their skills, saying that they don’t belong on the team.

Q: Do girls differ from boys in the way they cope with performance anxiety?

A: Research shows that girls tend to report more anxiety than boys and that they have slightly more elevated sports performance anxiety than boys. These differences tend to be present in older children. 

In general, younger children have limited sports skills, make mistakes more often and showcase less worry. However, once they become more aware of other’s skills and they begin to compare themselves then it is possible to begin seeing anxiety symptoms.

Studies have shown that boys tend to seek out information to help them take direct action about how to cope with the stressful event. Girls on the other hand, tend to avoid appraising the situation, which can lead to not doing anything about the situation. If the athlete does not learn coping strategies for these symptoms, regardless of gender, the athlete could experience “burn-out” and may ultimately quit sports.

Q: What advice do you have for parents to help their young athletes cope with performance anxiety?

A: Praising children for the good things they do rather than focusing on the things they do wrong and avoiding comparisons are two common ways to combat performance anxiety. Witnessing the progress they make is invaluable to children and is a self-esteem builder. Encouraging children to have fun and being on a team that has a strong bond and team spirit can also help.

Parents and coaches should also set reasonable expectations and try seeing the game through the eyes of the child. Surveys of kids in all age groups and sports showed that winning was actually the last reason they participated in sports. Keeping this information in mind could help parents maintain their child’s perspective rather than focusing on winning.

If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, or feel that the symptoms mentioned appear to be having a serious effect on your child, please talk to your child’s pediatrician, who may then refer you to a pediatric psychologist.

To contact CHOC Children’s Psychology Department, please call 714-532-8481.

Common Surgeries in Children – What Parents Should Know

Facing surgery can be a scary time for children and their parents. Dr. Ali Kavianian, M.D., surgeon-in-chief at CHOC Children’s explains what some of the most common surgeries in children are, and when to know when your child may need surgery.

Inguinal Hernia

An inguinal hernia is one of the most common conditions in infants and children, and it is usually more common in boys, according to Dr. Kavianian.

A hernia occurs when part of the abdominal organ pokes through a weak area of abdominal wall muscles. Dr. Kavianian says an inguinal hernia can be present from birth to adulthood and usually does not cause any symptoms except for a bulge in the groin or scrotum.

When the hernia content gets caught and can’t return to the abdomen, it is called incarcerated. If this happens, you should take your child to the emergency room immediately. Alarming signs include severe pain at the hernia site. Younger infants usually just cry.

If you discover a lump or bulge in or around the groin area, you should see your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. A simple outpatient surgery by a pediatric surgeon can resolve the problem.


Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, a small tubular-shaped organ that is connected to the large intestine, becomes swollen and infected. Pain usually starts in the middle of the abdomen and then moves to the right side and lower part of the abdomen. The child may develop a fever and start vomiting.

If you think your child has appendicitis, take him or her to the pediatrician or emergency room without delay. If the operation is done before the appendix is ruptured, surgery is minor. A ruptured appendix usually requires five to seven days in the hospital.

Necrotizing Fasciitis

Necrotizing fasciitis is becoming more common so parents should be aware of this serious condition. It starts with a red pimple which can be seen around the buttocks or belly and can be mistaken for a diaper rash. But, within a very short time it becomes very red, swollen, and painful, and the child will develop a fever.

If you observe such a condition, take your child to the emergency room immediately. He or she will then likely be admitted to the hospital. Good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, can reduce the risk for this infection.

Learn more about surgery at CHOC by visiting

Immunize To Protect Your Children Against Disease

It’s National Infant Immunization Week, April 24-May 1, and CHOC Children’s would like to remind parents about the importance of getting their babies fully immunized by age two.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infants and young children need to be immunized because the diseases prevented by vaccination can strike the unprotected at an early age. These diseases can be far more serious among infants and young children.

Although children receive the majority of the vaccinations, adults also need to stay up-to-date on certain vaccinations, including tetanus and diphtheria.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched “Protect Tomorrow,” an awareness campaign that educates parents on the importance of childhood immunizations. To view the AAP’s public service announcement, click here:

To make sure that your child is protected against all vaccine-preventable diseases, call or visit your child’s pediatrician to find out if your child’s vaccines are up-to-date. Also, check out these resources below:

For more on immunizations, and to hear what CHOC’s experts are saying, please click here:

For a schedule of immunizations from the CDC, please click here:

Celebrate Earth Day – April 22!

It was forty years ago when the first Earth Day was celebrated, and today it has remained a time to join together and stand up for our planet! Getting your kids involved in helping the environment is not only good for the planet—it’s also good for your family’s health. Talk to your kids about recycling, source reduction, and other simple ways to help battle the issues affecting our planet today.

To get your family started, here are a few, easy tips:

  • Avoid waste by letting your child pick out a favorite lunch box and thermos to reuse every day at school.
  • Turn off the tap! Turning off the water while you brush your teeth can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals to 240 gallons a month.
  • Use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags.
  • Save energy (and money!) by replacing incandescent bulbs in your home with an Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL).
  • Walk more. If possible, walk your child to school or to after school activities.
  • Set up a recycling center in your home. Have your child decorate labels for separate bins for glass, plastics and paper. 
  • Plant a garden with your child. Whether inside or outside, plants clean the air.
  • Turn used tires (not steel-belted) into children’s swings or other playground equipment.
  • Turn a giant cardboard box into a child’s playhouse.
  • Transform a plastic ice cream tub into a flower pot.

Let us know what green or waste-free ideas your family is doing to protect our environment!