Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 12-23-2013 to 12-29-2013

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:

Obamacare has unintended loophole in kids’ dental care

Combating Tween Phone Entitlement

The spirit of Christmas can easily get lost within a sense of entitlement. And nothing seems to drive a sense entitlement among tweens more than the desire for a smartphone. At least that’s the recent experience in our family. Elliott, our 11-year old has been begging and negotiating for a phone for a couple of years now. Age nine seemed a little young, both to have such an expensive electronic “toy” and also to handle the risks and responsibilities. But as he went off to middle school, the concept of phone ownership began to make more sense. Certainly many of the kids his age now have one (he maintains all but him!), but more importantly, there is now some utility to him having a phone, such as when he misses the bus home from school or needs to contact me at work, when texting would be less disruptive.

However, we felt that a step of this magnitude required him to earn the privilege of phone ownership to some degree. So this past fall I put together a plan for him to earn “grades” for good behavior and for doing things around the house – including a tracking sheet to monitor his progress. With the goal of him getting a phone for Christmas. Unfortunately the whole thing fell apart….Elliott was extremely indignant that he had to step through our hoops to earn a phone – and especially that I was “tracking” his actions. And we got tired of having to hover over him and nag him to do the things on the list (the original idea being that his desire for the phone would finally compel him to do all these things WITHOUT us nagging). I finally gave up on the whole tracker. In hindsight, I think it was too complicated, with too many vague elements of behaviors that were difficult to measure.

As time marched on towards Christmas, my husband and I were increasingly concerned about the phone decision. Not only did we feel that he hadn’t really done anything to “earn” it – but we felt his sense of entitlement (shown through his complaints and comments about other kids’ phones) would persist once he had the phone – possibly making him resist our plans to heavily monitor his use and activity on the phone.

In the end we decided that none of us were yet ready for the big phone adventure. While we knew Elliott would likely see our actions in a very bad light, we decided he would not get a phone for Christmas. We are instead putting in a shorter and simpler requirement: one month without ANY late homework – and we will go phone shopping with him. But we are also going to have a detailed talk during that month about how things will work in the brave new phone-owning world:

  • ANY late homework and he loses the phone for a couple of days (other very bad behavior will also have a similar outcome)
  • We will always need to know his password – and will regularly check his phone including texts/etc – inappropriate behavior could risk lost phone privileges
  • We will be running parental controls and monitoring remotely on his phone
  • He will have to pay himself for the running of the phone – which he can do by earning allowance

I’m not sure how well this plan will work either, since we haven’t had much luck to date and our only child does tend to think that the same rules that apply to adults (e.g. our phones are personal and private) should also apply to him. But in the end, we can keep sticking to our guns and refuse to buy the phone at all. He may not like it, but in the end I hope he will learn a valuable lesson.

Nine Ways to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is scary to think about! It may even cause you to spend a lot of time hovering around your baby’s sleep environment during her first few weeks at home. While experts don’t know all the causes of SIDS, they do know that it’s rare — and that there are plenty of things parents can do to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Here’s what you need to know:

Baby sleeping safety1. Precaution starts during pregnancy. Give your baby a head start by getting proper prenatal care. It’s also essential to refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, or spending time in smoky environments.

2. Place your baby to sleep on her back. Whether it’s naptime or nighttime, babies under 1 year should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. The exception: If she rolls onto her side or stomach, it’s OK to leave her like that. She probably has the ability to roll herself back.

3. Place your baby on a firm sleep surface. Your baby’s crib should meet current sleep safety standards (find out more at – new crib safety standards were introduced in 2011) and her mattress should be covered with a fitted sheet.

4. No extras in the crib. That means no stuffed animals, loose bedding, pillows, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters, or any other objects that could potentially suffocate your baby while she sleeps.

5. Sleep near your baby. Keep her crib or bassinet within arm’s reach. But don’t let her sleep in your bed, which can actually increase the risk of SIDS.

6. Breastfeed and immunize. Doing both can reduce the risk of SIDS, according to research.

7. Keep your baby cool. Signs your baby might be too hot include sweating or a hot chest or forehead. As a rule of thumb, you only need to dress her in one more layer than you would wear to keep warm.

8. Offer a pacifier. Pacifiers given during sleep or naptime may reduce the risk of SIDS. But if your baby isn’t interested, that’s okay — you don’t have to force it.

9. Avoid SIDS-reducing products. Despite what the package’s label might say, wedges, special mattresses, and sleep positioners have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. In fact, they could cause suffocation.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 12-16-2013 to 12-22-2013

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:

Thin ice can be dangerous! Find out how to stay safe & what to do in an emergency

Keep Your Family Warm AND Safe: The Best Present You Can Give

Family game of cards by the fireIts winter, those words do not strike fear into the hearts of many down here in sunny south Florida, but as for the rest of the country, I am sure it means a whole lot more. No matter where you are or how cold your area may become, staying warm in the winter is a must and doing it in the safest possible way should be a priority for you and your family. According to the N.F.P.A. (National Fire Protection Agency) heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Almost half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Test Carbon Monoxide Monitors as well. Some heaters put off Carbon Monoxide.
  • Have a Family Approved and Practiced Emergency escape and meet plan in case a Fire or other emergency should occur.

So as you can see, these are just a few tips to keep us all warm and safe through this winter season. Please feel free to add to this list and check your warming equipment every year before its put into use.

Thank you and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the beach here in Miami.

Processed Food Facts for Your Family’s Health

Facts about Processed FoodDecisions that we make when it comes to food and nutrition can often be very emotional. It’s emotional in the sense that people have strong opinions one way or the other on a given topic when it comes to food choices. And for good reason – food is literally the fuel that keeps us alive. In my practice, many tell me that they avoid processed foods, and avoid giving them to their children. This is one of many topics in nutrition that I challenge you to think more critically about because not all topics are as cut and dry as they seem. And our emotions can keep us from thinking logically on a subject.

I heard Mario Ferruzzi, PhD and food researcher from Purdue University, speak about this subject at a food conference recently. He systematically explained food processing in the United States, and it was so informative that I wanted to share it with you here.

What is food processing?

Food processing is a set of methods and techniques used to transform raw commodities and ingredients into finished food products for human consumption. That definition basically tells us that everything we eat is processed. Unless you are picking food right out of the field and putting it in your mouth, you are eating processed foods!

Why do we process foods?

Food Safety. We want food to be safe from high bacteria levels that would cause us to get sick. There are many ways that food is processed in order to make it safe for people. One example is thermal processing like infrared heating, blanching and pasteurization. Thermal processing can degrade heat sensitive vitamins, but it can also help preserve and aid in the bioavailability in others.

Another way is through non-thermal processing like fermentation, freezing or using ultraviolet light In the formulation of products, they might add antibacterial components to the foods to ensure a safe product.

Food Quality and Shelf-Life. We want our food to look and taste palatable, and we want those foods to hold their nutritional components. The food industry will add things like flavors, chelators (slows the degradation), buffers (controls the pH) and antioxidants to processed foods to ensure that over time those products will maintain a high quality look, feel and taste.

Product Conversion. Foods need to be processed into something that most consumers will actually eat. That means you need to make sure the food looks good and edible. In the case of produce items, the processing begins at harvest. The farmers must harvest the crop and transport it to a plant where it can be properly washed, cut and then packaged for transport. Even organic, free-range meats must be processed for human consumption. You are getting the idea of product conversion here.

The government conducts regular studies on the nutrition status of Americans, and they make nutritional modifications to the food supply in cases where nutrients are chronically low. An example would be the addition of iodine to salt in the 1920’s to address the issues of goiter. Another example is the fortification of iron and folate in flour, bread and ready-to-eat cereals. The addition of nutrients would also be a form of processing.

Salts and Sweeteners. Salt is added to food for a variety of reason. One major reason is because salt is a flavor enhancer. Another reason is that it helps preserve a product by lowering the water activity and keep bacteria growth low. Salt also helps maintain elasticity in products such as dough.

Sugar is also a flavor enhancer. But sugar is also widely used as a bulking agent, so if you remove sugar from a product, something else must be put in its place. Sugar also helps control the moisture and structure of a food product.

As you can see, salt and sugar provide more than just flavor. There are structural and antibacterial functions as well. But either way, eating too many foods with added salts and sweeteners can negatively impact your health.

Fats. Many products use added fats to increase not only flavor, but also shelf life. Partially hydrogenated fats, or trans fats, are often used in processed foods to increase their ability to sit in your pantry without molding. Trans fats have been shown to increase cholesterol and contribute to heart disease. We certainly want to minimize foods with added fats, particularly trans fats.

There are varying levels to processing of foods. Here it is broken down:


Minimally processed foods – like bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — are often simply pre-prepped for convenience.


Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned beans, tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.


Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.


Ready-to-eat foods, like crackers, granola, and deli meats.


The most heavily processed foods often are frozen or pre-made meals like frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.

The Bottom Line

You cannot say that all food processing is bad because everything we eat is “processed” in some form or another. We do want to encourage the consumption of foods in their most wholesome form when possible. On the level scheme provided above, eat mostly from the lowered numbered levels and choose foods without added salts and sugars.