Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-22-2012 to 10-28-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 25 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Child Poisonings From Eye Drops and Nose Sprays in surprisingly small amounts if swallowed, warns the FDA

Kids Have Food Allergies?? Put This in YOUR Trick-or-Treat Bag

From the time we are first taken out trick-or-treating as kids we are told about the dangers of Halloween. Look out for cars, take a flashlight, stay together and as kids we hear nothing and think about having fun and eating candy. As a parent though, there are a whole host of new things to worry about. Now instead of being the ones taking the advice, we are the ones giving it. Are the costumes on right? Does the flashlight work? Is it a school night? Don’t eat the candy until we get home Etc.., It’s this last one that I would like to focus on for all the parents out there… but for other reasons than we all have been taught.

Don’t eat any candy until we get home. I remember hearing this my whole life and when I asked why? I was told that there were bad people out there that poison candy and put things in the candy to hurt people. Naturally I was scared and of course I did not listen and was lucky that nothing ever happened to me, but thinking as an Emergency Responder and a parent, I now have a new reason to give people and kids in particular the same advice. The reason I have is this: Allergic Reactions.

When you think of kids eating candy on Halloween it seems harmless, kids running from house to house and munching on candy bars and sour candies while they do it and you as the good prepared parent are following in tow making sure everything is going well and that you have brought everything you need. But have you brought everything you need? If you are one of the millions of parents out there that has a child who suffers from allergies or if you yourself suffer from allergies then we need to add some things to the take along list.

Does your child suffer from asthma and need an inhaler? Or does your child have violent ”anaphylactic” reactions and is prescribed an Epi Pen? If the answer is yes to either of these questions then my question to you is where is the inhaler or the Epi pen? When I pose this question in all the classes I teach the answer is very rarely the right one. The answer is usually that the inhaler or the Epi pen is at home or in the car or I don’t know where but my spouse does. These types of answers are unacceptable and have an easy solution. Bring them with you.

If your child has an inhaler and needs it while out trick or treating because they are having trouble breathing you now either have to leave them there and go get the inhaler or race them back home to get it which will add to the difficulty breathing and make the situation worse. What if your child who is allergic to something in the candy such as nuts or oils starts to have the very reaction the Epi pen was prescribed for? Having it at home does nobody any good at this particular time and we wind up in the same situation of either leaving them there or racing them back home. Neither of these scenarios is pleasant to think about but both can be avoided with the easy solution of adding them to your take along items on Halloween.

Remember Epi pens and inhalers provide instant relief and were prescribed for that purpose so keeping them close by at all times is a must.

And if you are ever put in a spot to use these devices, I ask that you NOT be afraid to call 911 right away, just in case things don’t work as they are supposed to. As the saying goes …Better to have the help and not need it than need it and not have it.

I wish you all a Safe and Happy Halloween


4 Essential Sleep Habits for Kids

A good night’s sleep for grade-schoolers and teens means at least 10 hours of solid shut-eye, according to the National Institutes of Health. For preschoolers, it’s 11-12 hours, and for babies it’s up to 18. But many kids are falling short … and paying the price.

New research from The University of Chicago suggests that youngsters who don’t get enough rest are more than four times as likely to be obese as their well-rested counterparts; sleep deprivation has been shown to disrupt levels of chemicals that regulate appetite. And Spanish researchers recently found that kids who don’t log an adequate amount of shut-eye are more likely to struggle in the classroom, where poor sleep habits hinder their motivation and compromise their ability to concentrate, memorize, write and spell.

One of the biggest sleep-snatchers is electronics, according to Timothy F. Hoban, director of pediatric sleep medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. “Thirty years ago, there were no game systems, personal computers or mobile phones. This technology is now commonplace and often available in the child’s own room,” he says. But bad sleep habits are also to blame.

Here are Hoban’s top tips for getting your kids’ sleep situation under control:

Keep a regular bedtime schedule: Not just on school days, but seven days a week. “Children who are weekend night owls or sleep in on the weekends will often have a very different sleep pattern than they do on weekdays, increasing the likelihood for insomnia during the week and making it more difficult for them to fall asleep at an appropriate time on school nights,” says Hoban.

Establish and follow a regular bedtime routine: Easing the transition to nighttime sleep is almost as crucial for older kids as it is for young ones. About 15-30 minutes before bedtime, try to establish a calm atmosphere in the house. Pry kids away from electronics and encourage them to chill out for a while and read. Make it clear that computers, handheld games and phones must be turned off for the night.

Balance and prioritize: After-school activities are great. But if your child is so overscheduled that she’s up late doing homework and tossing in bed over all she has to do, it’s time to identify what’s really important … and eliminate the activities that aren’t.

Walk the walk: No need to hit the sack at 8 p.m. However, parents who have regular sleep patterns and healthy sleep habits are important role models for their kids. That means not keeping the house hopping till the wee hours on an ongoing basis. And maybe even moving the television out of your bedroom. You might just end up better-rested yourselves.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-15-2012 to 10-21-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

27 minutes of extra sleep: how much a school-aged child typically needs per night to be brighter & more productive the next day.

Are Your Kids at Risk from Lead in City-Grown Produce?

I am currently about halfway through completion of my Masters in Public Health and I am fascinated and motivated by everything I am learning and doing in the program. According to the website What is Public Health?, this discipline is “the science of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention.” Basically we look at potential risks to the health of whole populations and try to prevent problems before they occur.

Unfortunately, sometimes the policies and interventions we promote can have unintended consequences. This was brought home to me by two recent news reports about urban gardening that I saw shortly after attending an inner-city community meeting about neighborhood soil lead levels.

After learning from geology professor and lead expert, Gabriel Filippelli, from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, that most urban soil has elevated lead levels, often as much as 2-10 times the levels acceptable for children’s play areas – I was concerned to hear on the local radio that our city has seen great success with recent inner-city gardening initiatives, with produce from these gardens now making their way into local farmers’ markets. While it’s great to see efforts to improve the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, the problem is that soil lead levels in these areas can be dangerously high; particularly if the gardens are in areas with pre-1978 housing, are located near major roads or freeways, or are situated within a few miles of former industrial areas. And the perils of lead in community gardens are not just an issue in my backyard. An article last week in The New York Times reported on a recent New York State Health Department study showing that about half the eggs they sourced from community gardens in the NY boroughs had detectable lead levels.

So What’s the Issue?

High lead levels are toxic to the brain – particularly for young children whose brains are rapidly developing. The damage to the brain from chronic lead poisoning – including reductions in IQ, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating – is permanent.

While much of the lead hazard these days is from residual lead paint in and around older homes, the soil in most urban areas has become permeated with lead over the decades due to our past use of leaded fuel and paints, and any former urban industrial activity. As a result, digging around in or eating food grown in city soil can potentially increase your family’s lead exposure. This becomes an even bigger concern if you shop at local farmers’ markets that may be sourcing produce from city gardens.

What Can We Do?

Getting the soil in your yard tested is a good place to start to determine your own risks – for your garden and your family. Many local health departments, university research centers and private labs will do soil tests for reasonable fees. However, if you know you have high lead levels – or are just concerned about the possibility – there are efforts you can make to reduce the hazard, including where you locate your garden, mulching, and creating raised garden beds with clean-sourced topsoil. The National Gardening Association provides a good overview of precautions you can take. An Australian website, Lead Action News, also provides good advice on dealing with lead contamination.

If you are worried about produce in local farmers’ markets, ask sellers about out the source of their fruits and vegetables. Are any of the gardens located within city – or even suburb – boundaries? What steps have been taken in these gardens to minimize lead contamination? If they can’t provide you with these details, then you may want to avoid buying produce that tend to absorb more lead from both soil and city air – such as root crops and leafy vegetables. The box below, from Lead Action News, gives an overview of lead absorption across different types of crops. And for crops that have low lead uptake, be sure to carefully clean all soil from the produce before storage and use.

HIGH uptake of lead: Lettuce, Spinach, Carrot, Endive, Cress, Beetroot

MODERATE uptake: Onion, Mustard, Potato, Radish

LOW uptake: Corn, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Celery, Berries

VERY LOW uptake: Beans, Peas, Melon, Tomatoes, Fruit, Paprika

Health Hazards of Paper Receipts for You and Your Family

The next time a cashier asks you if you want your receipt in your hand or in the bag, opt for the bag. Better yet, if you don’t need the receipt for your records, opt out of it altogether. And pay by credit or debit card so you don’t have to handle money either.

Why the drastic measures? A new study, done in part by the New York State Department of Health, found that thermal receipts, paper currency and other paper products from the U.S. and three other countries contained high levels of bisphenol S (BPS) – a substitute for the compound bisphenol A (BPA), which has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in baby bottles and sippy cups because it’s been linked to infertility, cancers and genetic mutations, mainly in animal studies. (Read more about BPA here – and updated FDA guidance on BPA in food contact here.)

BPS: A Poor Substitute

Many manufacturers are switching over to BPS in such products as receipt paper to comply with restrictions and regulations around the world. But there’s still a big problem. Researchers have discovered that like its cousin BPA, BPS is what’s called an endocrine disrupter. That means it mimics our own natural hormones, particularly estrogen, and like BPA, it’s absorbed directly through the skin.

Although BPS might be less potent than BPA, it also may be less biodegradable. While further study is needed, BPS is being introduced into the environment – and into your hands and the recesses of your wallet – every day.

In the current study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, all of the receipt paper, 87 percent of the paper currency and 52 percent of the recycled paper contained BPS. The study also suggests that people may be absorbing BPS in large doses through the skin. (Read more about the study here.)

So What Should You Do?

You can avoid the potential threat by asking for e-receipts and handling paper receipts and money as little as possible. Or “wash your hands soon after touching” the tainted paper, says researcher Kurunthachalam Kannan of the Wadsworth Center at the New York State Department of Health and the State University of New York at Albany.

There are other good reasons to avoid receipts. According to Market Watch in The Wall Street Journal, ATM receipts are one of the top sources of planetary litter. They estimate that if everyone in the U.S. would refuse one receipt, it would save a roll of paper more than 2 billion feet long. That would circle the equator 15 times. And that’s one paper trail we don’t want to follow.