The Real Danger of Chicken Pox Parties

Kids’ parties can be competitive (Pin the Tail, anyone?), but a little healthy competition doesn’t hurt anyone. But one party idea that gets the thumbs-down from medical experts is the “chicken pox party,” which is popular among parents who don’t want their children vaccinated against chicken pox. Party rules? Invite an infected child so kids can pick up the illness the “natural way.”

That’s wrong on so many levels, says Dr. Tara Smith, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa. “Chicken pox is more than an innocuous childhood disease,” says Smith, who lost two relatives to chicken pox complications. “Most kids get a fairly mild infection, but as many as 150 kids die each year from complications, including brain swelling, pneumonia, and bacterial infections including flesh-eating disease.”

Plus, she says, there’s no guarantee that your child will be infected, and there’s every risk that adults – who have a rougher time with the disease – might be. A pox on another trend as well: sending lollipops or other items infected with saliva from a child with the disease through the mail. Parents are using Facebook to spread the word.

Shipping a biohazard is crazy (and illegal) enough, but scientifically speaking? “Chicken pox won’t even live that long outside the body,” says Smith.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 01-07-2013 to 01-13-2013

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 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Facebook’s New Privacy Settings: fantastic step by step walk-thru by Internet Safety Expert Mary Kay Hoal must read for parents!

Do Your Kids Drink Too Much Soda?

When I was 9, my daughter’s age, I remember coming home from school, popping open a Pepsi can and starting my homework. I’d also have soda at dinner, and by the time I got to high school, I was drinking it at lunch too. Times may have changed, but our children’s soda habits have only gotten worse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that consumption of sugar-filled drinks (like soda) has increased over the last 30 years, and that preteens and teens get more than 200 calories per day from the sweet stuff. “These extra calories contribute to childhood obesity and displace healthy beverages like milk, which contains the calcium and vitamin D that this age group vitally needs,” says Melinda Johnson, dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Chances are you didn’t need Johnson to tell you that soda is bad for kids’ health – and that with all that acid and sugar, it’s also pretty stinky for teeth too. But what really seems daunting is how to get your kid to cut back … or not have it become the default drink in the first place.

How to Break Your Child’s Soda Habit

My daughter got her first taste of soda at a birthday party when she was 4. The lovely staff at Chuck E. Cheese’s poured all the kids huge glasses of Sprite. Kate happily drank it all, claiming it was “the best water ever,” and then asked if we could get some for home. Thus, my battle over soda began – a lot earlier than I hoped it would. But here are the tactics I learned over the last five years (much of which seems to be backed up by a new Belgian study published in the journal Appetite):

  • Don’t give kids an ultimatum about soda (or any other food or beverage). Demanding that kids never drink soda again only seems to make them want it more. Yes, you can control whether your 6-year-olds have soda or not. But you’re probably out of luck when they reach 16. It’s more important to teach your kid that soda can have a small place in healthy diet rather than nix it altogether. “Give your kid guidance on how to fit in soda while still being healthy – maybe one or two sodas a week, for example,” says Johnson.
  • Save soda for dessert. The study also found that not offering soda at mealtimes made a huge difference in how much a child consumes. Johnson suggests offering soda as an alternative to dessert, because that’s essentially what it is. “When we serve soda with meals, it sends the message that soda is a food item, when really it’s more similar to candy,” she says. Think about it: Would you allow your kid to eat M&M’S with her dinner?
  • Finally, boot soda out of your fridge. The study found that kids whose parents kept pop in the house drank a lot more of it. (That’s a no-brainer, right?) Instead, keep milk, water and a small amount of 100 percent fruit juice in there. Our favorite family beverage: sparkling water. It has all of the fizz and none of the sugar!

Children’s Defense Fund Proposes New Gun Safety Laws: Is it Time?

Some chilling new statistics have just been released by the Children’s Defense Fund (Protect Children, Not Guns: Key Facts). A child or teen dies or is injured from guns every 30 minutes. The number of children under five who have died from guns was more than the number of law enforcement officers who died from guns in the line of duty in 2010. And between 1979 and 2010, 119,079 children and teens dies from guns…more than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam, Korean, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.

These facts coupled with the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy have prompted the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) to release a new federal policy agenda aimed at protecting children from the continued rise in gun violence in America. Their goal: to “keep guns out of the hands of children and those who would use them against children”. To that end, there are four gun safety laws in CDF’s agenda:

  • Require consumer safety standards and childproof safety features for all guns. Subject guns to the same consumer product safety regulations that cover virtually every other consumer product. Currently the production and manufacture of guns is exempt from oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Every gun made in this country should be childproof and equipped with child safety locks and authorized user identification technology. Federal law also is silent on child access prevention. Congress should provide incentives for states to require gun owners to store their firearms and ammunition in a manner in which children and teens cannot access them.
  • Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Enact a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and fix the loopholes in the 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban (which ended in 2004) that undercut its effectiveness.
  • Require background checks on anyone purchasing a gun. Close the gun show loophole. Federal law currently requires federally-licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on every sale. A loophole in the law allows private dealers to sell guns without a license and allows buyers to avoid background checks. More than 40 percent of all guns in this country are sold with no background checks.
  • Provide resources the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal agencies need to keep our children and communities safe. Establish a national federal gun registry to help officials track guns when they are produced and purchased. Get rid of legislative barriers that prevent data collection on firearm ownership by law enforcement officials. Eliminate restrictions on gun violence prevention research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.

“The heartrending massacre of 20 six- and seven-year old children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut must galvanize all of us to take action to protect children instead of guns,said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. “Gun violence saturates our children’s lives. More children and teens die from guns every three days than died in the Newtown massacre. What’s it going to take…?”

But are these new gun safety laws the right answer? Some will say yes, others no. I will bring one more piece of data into the picture before leaving you to decide.

None of us will forget what happened on December 14th. It also happened to be my birthday…another reason it will not be easy to forget. But some of you may not know one other thing happened that day:

On December 14th, at Chenpeng Village Primary School in China’s Henan province a 36-year-old man by the name of Min Yongjun stabbed an elderly woman and then proceeded to break into the elementary school flailing a knife, attacking and stabbing elementary school children, severing ears and fingers.

By the end of his rampage, 23 children were wounded. There was no connection between these two tragedies – between these two men other than the date and the fact that they targeted the most innocent of victims. There was however one important distinction. Min Yonguin had only a knife…and no child died that day.

(note: story coverage provided by and the

So, I ask you once again – with what I am discovering is a less impartial heart than I thought it was. What do you think of these proposed gun safety laws? Do you think they are what we need?

Do you think they will keep our kids safe??




# # #

For more information on the CDF Policy Agenda contact Patti Hassler, Vice President of Communications and Outreach, at (202) 662-3554 or

Follow the conversation on Twitter #ProtectChildrenNotGuns.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 12-31-2012 to 01-06-2013

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 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Starting Jan 1st, Medicaid payments rise for child health care to at least the same level as Medicare for immunizations & primary care

Chase Away Your Little One’s Winter Blues

Maybe you’re one of the lucky parents who is having a snowy winter and your children are worn out from sledding, ice skating and snow ball fights. Or maybe you’re like me and it’s too cold to play outside but no snow in sight. Or maybe you have babies or very young children who are still at the point where the time spent outside before they are freezing cold is roughly half the amount of time you spent bundling them into snow pants, coats, boots and mittens. So how do you keep your children active, happy and worn out at the end of the day? Try a quick trip to your YMCA or Park District pool or even just a mid-day bath to soothe your savage beasts and chase away the winter blues.

There are a number of fun water safety games you can play with your child, starting as infants and adding as they get older – because they are fun, you are making a good experience even more positive while you are teaching them to be safe – it’s a win-win!

  • Bath time: Start first by being positive with your baby in the bath. Toys, songs, allowing them to splash are all important ways of making your baby comfortable in and around water which will lessen their fear later on. It’s especially good for your baby to gradually get used to having water poured over their face – it’s the first step to putting their face in and blowing bubbles. Splashing may make a mess but it also lets a baby control water getting in their face. Talk to your baby, tell them you will always be near them when they are in water – and then do it – never leave your child alone in the tub. I still check regularly and my daughter is 9.
  • Humpty Dumpty: Start playing ‘Humpty Dumpty’ when your child can first sit up, even if it’s only with your help. The child sits on the side of the pool while you hold them, you sing ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and when Humpty does a big fall you help your child ‘fall’ forward and then say ‘turn around and hold on!’ Their head doesn’t go under water and at first they probably can’t even grasp the side, so just put their fist on the side of the pool. But over time you graduate to having their head go under and eventually letting go of them, but always, ‘turn around and hold on’. Young children love the repetition of the familiar rhyme and the actions, as in I’ve played this game at least a thousand times with my two children.
  • Monkey Hands: When your child has the physical coordination, have them hold on to the side of the pool with both hands, with feet against the wall and ‘walk’ their hands around the pool. At first they may only be able to go a couple of feet – to the ladder or steps, but over time they’ll want to try going around the whole pool and then pulling themselves out on the side – no ladder or steps. If you’ve got older children, challenge them to go one length of the pool or all the way around – and watch them. You’re helping them build strength and confidence, if they ever fall in they won’t panic if they can’t immediately pull themselves out, they will know to do ‘monkey hands’ to the nearest step or ladder or just to hold on until help arrives.
  • For Older Kids: Holding a child’s hand and having them push down to touch the bottom of the pool, then where the pool slopes, is also great once they get a bit older and have mastered Humpty Dumpty and Monkey Hands. Again, it will help them internalize the correct reaction if they fall in – ‘oh yes, I just push up from the bottom and grab the side’. You are teaching them to just react correctly to save themselves. I moved on to jumping in the deep end and swimming the length of the pool, diving for rings, and ‘coral reef dives’ – they have to swim between my legs without touching the coral (my legs) or the coral will scrape them. My son, the future marine biologist, loved this one.

The idea with all these games is the same, give the child confidence, let them learn their limits in the water gradually, and most importantly, teach them what to do if they ever do fall in the water unexpectedly. You are teaching them to rescue themselves, or at worst, not panic for at least a crucial minute or two until you notice they are missing, because babies usually drown in bathtubs and children ages 1-5 usually drown in swimming pools. Don’t be surprised when each of your children progresses at a radically different rate. My son was diving and swimming competently at four, my daughter didn’t really connect until seven – but now they both love water, understand safety and their own limitations.

If you can get out and enjoy the frozen water (snow), remind your children to stay away from frozen ponds, lakes, streams and ponds unless the local authorities have declared them safe for ice skating. Water safety really is a year-round concern.