Sniffle-Fighting Snacks for You and Your Kids

Snacks to fight snifflesAh, fall. The leaves are changing, the mercury is dropping and … the air is filling with the sound of sneezes and coughs. With the average kid coming down with a cold eight to 10 times a year, it’s no wonder that you’re trying your hardest to keep your family healthy.

Along with enforcing hand-washing rules, also try adding immune-boosting nutrients. Snacks are the perfect opportunity to sneak in an extra serving, so stock up on the following foods – so you can sidestep those sniffles this season.

1. Yogurt: This creamy treat is packed with healthy probiotics, the “good” kind of bacteria. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, students who had a probiotic drink daily for three months as half as many sick days as those who got a placebo drink.

2. Oats: A bowl of oatmeal is a quick and filling snack. Plus, oats are high in beta-glucans, a compound that can fend off the sniffles. According to German scientists, those who were given beta-glucan daily for 26 weeks had 13 percent fewer sick days than those who weren’t. Want your kids to gobble up their oats? Bake them into delicious low-fat cookies.

3. Pumpkin seeds: Half a cup of these crunchy seeds deliver 41 percent of all of the zinc you need in a day. Research shows that zinc may stop viruses from spreading in the body, shortening the duration of the cold or flu. Try mixing them into yogurt, adding them to trail mix or whipping up a homemade granola bar, such as this five-minute recipe.

4. Berries: Not only are they high in vitamin C, but berries are also loaded with antioxidants. These nutrients protect against the damage that can wear down the immune system. Eat those berries out of hand, or add them to that bowl of yogurt or oatmeal.

5. Tea: Whether you prefer green or black, or iced or hot, brew up some benefits with this drink. In a study from Harvard University, people who sipped black tea for two weeks had 10 times the amount of a cold-fighting protein called interferon than those who didn’t. Experts believe that a type of antioxidants in tea, catechins, may kill of viruses. So put on that kettle!

6. Spinach: It’s no secret that this dark leafy green is good for you. But it packs a particular punch against colds, containing vitamins C, E and B6 – three nutrients shown to rev up your immunity. Can’t get your kids to eat spinach? Think again: Try whipping up a tasty smoothie from a frozen banana, orange juice and a handful of spinach. Except for the green color, they won’t even realize they’re sipping up their greens!

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-21-2013 to 10-27-2013

twitter thumbWelcome 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:
Know the Risks for Children: Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts!

Africans Are the Best Swimmers…At ANY Age

Little swimming champFor many years, conventional wisdom has held that blacks can not swim. (I use the term ‘black’ to apply to anyone of African descent. The term is meant with respect to encompass the broad range of cultures descending from the African continent) A widely discredited academic report years ago stated that the physiology of a black person leads to their sinking which explained why blacks couldn’t swim. Prejudice dressed up with academic credentials to support entrenched beliefs, accepted as fact, all real evidence to the contrary. Such is the insidious nature of prejudice.

I had the great pleasure of meeting with Bruce Wigo, President of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We discussed how cultural norms have kept African-Americans out of swimming lessons. The ISHOF, well worth a visit, has an excellent exhibit which explains how history really worked. The exhibit begins as: “In 1451, Europeans began their explorations of the west coast of sub-Saharan Africa and discovered that African people were by all accounts expert watermen and “the best swimmers in the world”. The Europeans attributed these extraordinary swimming skills to constant exercise and “from being brought up, both men and women from infancy, to swim like fishes.” The exhibit goes on to explain how valued Africans were in the Navy and on fishing fleets. During the period of slavery in the U.S., in the 18th century it was estimated that 80% of blacks could swim and only 20% of whites could swim, until it was determined that swimming allowed slaves to escape and was banned, relegating an entire cultural group to a higher risk of drowning deaths for many generations. If you’d like the full text, just e-mail me at

Indigenous people and minorities consistently drown at higher rates than whites in virtually every country, and yet many of these groups come from a rich heritage that understood and respected water. Native Americans. Maori. Aboriginals. Inuits. And Africans. There is no rational reason. Please tell your kids this…and then teach them to swim.

Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it – and die.

Know the Risks for Children: Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Did you realize your dream of raising your family in an older home or urban area with “character”?

Do you have or oversee children in a school or daycare built before 1978?

Are you concerned about the health and welfare of kids living in older, disadvantaged (and often industrial) areas of your community?

Then you need to be concerned about lead poisoning.

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 20-26, 2013

Prevent lead poisoning. Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts!

Lead Poisoning Prevention WeekRates of childhood lead poisoning have fallen dramatically over the past few decades after the removal of lead from gasoline, yet it is still considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, with approximately half a million U.S. children having elevated blood lead levels. Children under age 6 are most at risk for lead poisoning and its effects due to their rapidly developing bodies and brains and their tendency to put things in their mouth. According to Dolores Weis, Executive Director of Improving Kid’s Environment (IKE), an Indiana-based non-profit focused on reducing environmental health threats for children, contamination with just a small amount of lead can lead to permanent, lifelong health issues including behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity), slowed growth, hearing problems, and aggressive patterns of behavior. These are real and serious issues with effects felt across our society:

  • Childhood lead poisoning can reduce IQ levels by 4-7 points and these deficits have been shown to persist through adulthood – meaning more kids needing special help to succeed in school and more adults who may struggle finding work in today’s high-skill economy
  • Significant data now shows a strong correlation between childhood lead levels and adult violent crime rates, both across the U.S. and internationally – elimination of leaded gas has had a significant impact on reducing crime rates over the past 30 years

A Legacy of Contamination

Peeling paint lead hazardThe biggest source of ongoing childhood lead poisoning is lead-based paint. “We have a legacy that must be addressed – the legacy of deteriorating lead-based paint” says Weis. And, as outlined in two videos produced by IKE and WFYI, central Indiana’s public TV station (with support from the Indiana and Marion County Public Health Departments), this is not just an issue for blighted neighborhoods, but is also a real risk for middle and higher-income families renovating an older home. These videos make the issue very clear and real and are worth the 15 minutes viewing time.

Contaminated soil is also a major source of childhood lead poisoning. “Lead dust gets into the soil around homes from paint on the house, windows and porches and children ingest the lead when playing in the yard or when leaded soil is tracked into the house on shoes” say Weis. Improving Kid’s Environment has received several EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) grants to do home lead testing and repairs and Weis notes that the highest soil lead levels are along the edges – or dripline – of houses, and close to roads where decades of leaded gas emissions have built-up. But it is important to be aware that lead contamination can be found in a variety of sources including those below.

Lead Exposure Sources:

Paint in homes, schools and daycares built before 1978.

Older painted playground equipment.

Water pumped through leaded pipes.

Imported items including clay pots and painted toys.

Certain consumer products such as candies, make -up and jewelry.

Certain imported home remedies.

What can you do?

According to the CDC, “stopping a child’s exposure to lead from leaded paint, house dust, or any other source is the best way to prevent the harmful effects of lead.” Testing young children at high risk for lead poisoning is one important step and the CDC has a short checklist to help parents assess the risk to their family. Ideally testing should happen by age 1 or 2. However, there are a number of steps parents can take to minimize potential lead exposure:

  • Talk to your state or local health department about getting your home/paint lead tested
  • Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces to prevent paint deterioration
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint
    • Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls and apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or other sources of lead
  • Wash children’s hands, pacifiers and toys often
  • Use only cold water to drink and prepare food or baby formula
  • Do not use containers, cookware or tableware to serve or store food that are not certified lead-free
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil around your home
    • Plant shrubs next to the home and cover exposed soil with grass or mulch
  • Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes and wash hands after playing outdoors
  • Pregnant women and children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation
  • Ensure that home renovation contractors are lead-safe certified and follow lead safe work practices

Finally, if your family has been contaminated with lead or you are concerned about possible exposure, make sure your children are eating frequent well-balanced meals containing rich sources of iron, calcium and vitamin C which together can help reduce the absorption and harmful effects of lead. This CDC brochure provides more detail on how a healthy diet and protect your children.

For more information on Improving Kid’s Environment’s efforts to alleviate health risks to children – or to make a needed donation for this important work – please visit IKE’s home page.

Did You Know Creativity Enhances Your Child’s Developing Mind?

Give your kid a creative edgeChildren are naturally creative: Their napkins become hats, their drinks are magic potions, and ketchup turns into paint. But aside from being endlessly entertaining, creativity is also critical to their developing brains. Creative and artistic experiences help kids express their feelings and come up with new ideas and ways to solve problems. Studies show that involvement in the arts boosts test scores and promotes academic achievement across the board.

These discoveries may explain why children’s art studios are popping up across the country, giving kids a chance to let their imaginations run wild with paint, clay, and in the case of Make-a-Messterpiece in Glenview, Ill., even bubbles. In addition to private studios (such as KidsArt in California and Washington) and foundations (such as Creative Art Space for Kids in New York), many YMCA branches and local art museums offer art programs.

You can also get your child’s creative juices flowing at home with some very basic art supplies and the right attitude. Bring out the creative genius in your children with these simple tips.

Start With a Blank Slate

Leave projects open-ended so kids are free to imagine the endless possibilities. For example, if you’re painting pumpkins, don’t paint one first as an example, because your kids are likely to try to copy it, quashing their creativity. Instead, simply give children paint and paintbrushes and let them begin. Keep in mind that there are no wrong ways to paint a pumpkin.

Forget Perfection

Focus on the creative process rather than the finished product. For example, your child may find tremendous fun and fulfillment in shaping, squishing, pounding and poking at clay for an hour – even if the end result is a shapeless lump.

Don’t Mind the Mess

Art is not a neat business, and nothing stifles creativity faster than a wet mop or a dustpan underfoot. Let your child get dirty – that’s how she’ll learn to take risks. (Plus, it’s fun!) You can wipe up the glitter later.

Mix It up

Spice up your at-home art projects by using different materials instead of the usual paint, felt, pipe cleaners and beads. Challenge your children to find art supplies in their environment: a sponge, chopsticks, gum wrappers, bottle caps and egg cartons, for example. Head outside and collect leaves, sticks, acorns and small pebbles. Supply children with glue and paper and give no other direction. Be ready for anything.

Expose Them to Diversity

Take trips to museums and zoos; see plays and concerts; attend an African drumming circle, a Mexican fiesta, a Chinese New Year celebration. Every experience your children have with people or situations outside their normal routine widens their range of creative expression.

Make Music

Encourage experimentation with musical instruments without showing how it’s done. Let her play piano with her toes or beat the drum with maracas if she wants. You can make your own instruments too. Dried beans in a toilet paper tube make a great shaker; waxed paper secured over a coffee can is a drum; rubber bands stretched over a shoebox make a guitar. Grab an instrument and play along for a fun family hootenanny.

Allow for Unconventional Ideas

Thinking outside the box is what creativity is all about. When kids come up with a new way of doing things – making a sculpture out of plastic hangers, for instance – go with it (as long as it’s safe, of course). Your support will encourage more creative thinking and problem solving down the road.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-14-2013 to 10-20-2013

twitter thumbWelcome 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 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

On Wed the 16th, Facebook Made 2 Major Changes to Its Privacy Policy for Teens – Here are the details