What NOT to Share: A Back-to-School List for Food Allergic Kids

boy getting on back-to-school busHow many of you adore hand-me-downs, gently used items or family trades? I admit, I absolutely do. It’s like an untapped resource for unexpected gifts. The anticipation of going though the items to see what will fit and what kinds of items are hiding inside. Many of us love it but few actually own up to it.

But what happens when you have an allergic child who receives these golden goodies? The truth is, there are items that may not be safe to share. Thankfully, with all of the current research and information being passed along, we continue to have better odds at keeping our child’s allergic reactions to a minimum. A simple start is to consider things that you may not have in the past; the back-to-school items that are being distributed as we speak.

Backpacks– Every child needs one but who was the last child to have it? With food allergies, consider what the previous owner housed inside of that bag. After all, snacks and lunches are a daily part of the school day so what’s to say that a previously-owned backpack might not have traces of those foods in them. Bags break, drinks spill and special classroom goody bags tend to open up between the time they were given out and when they actually made it home. If you have a child with food allergies, this might be something that cannot be chanced.

Water Bottles & Thermos– Yes, we all love to get the cute little character thermos or the pink and sparkly princess cup for our children but a sip from these may turn into a drinking disaster. Yes, these items can be washed and even run through the dishwasher but allergens have a sneaky little secret- they like to hide in hard to reach places. These crevices cannot always be made safe enough for your child with food allergies. There has even been reported proof that heat does not always get rid of allergic particles. Instead of getting excited about the brightly colored items, become enthusiastic about keeping your child safe instead.

back-to-school lunchboxesLunchboxes- Same scenario, different shape. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent you cannot help but have an overwhelming need to want to give these items to your child, especially if their favorite new show is plastered all over the front of it. But alas, think back to when your child had their last lunchbox; how many days did it come home with food particles and dripping from the day’s accidental overturn?

Calculators- Yes, your eyes did not deceive you- calculators. Simple fact about calculators- they come with many, many tiny areas that foods can be hiding out. This also includes school issued calculators. If you have a choice, purchase your own and label it clearly with your child’s name so there is no confusion about who it belongs to. If budget is an issue, check the flyers for coupons and ask if you can use someone’s business discount card for an office supply store. After all, the price of your child’s life is still worth more than buying an overpriced school item.

Glue Sticks- And by this I mean those leftovers from the end of last school year that somebody started to use but didn’t finish. Why avoid them? Glue is sticky and it’s another way for food particles to get trapped, literally. And if you are a parent who has attended one of those crafty class parties, you have seen how fast the glue sticks travel to and fro. Luckily, glue sticks are one of the cheaper school items that you can find at any dollar store or even included in the lower sale priced items in back-to-school sales.

Band Instruments- This is a personal pet peeve of mine anyway because as much as someone can tell me they have thoroughly cleaned an instrument, they still cannot tell me that it’s the cleanest thing to share. I know it may silently kill your pocket book when you are weighing the cost of a new instrument versus a used one but stop and look at your child- would you chance saving those extra dollars instead of saving their life? It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Being a parent is always difficult, whether your child has food allergies or not. We all have to spend a lot of time thinking of how we can keep our children protected from anyone and anything. Our hearts go with them each and every day that they leave us. And although we are brought up being told that it’s nice to share, sometimes it’s nicer not too.

Happy 5 Years Pediatric Safety! Time to Celebrate (GIVEAWAY)

July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday PedSafeCan it possibly be 5 years since Pediatric Safety was born? It feels like just yesterday…yet so much has changed since then, and is continuing to change even as we speak.

Back in 2009, our goal was to create a place where everyone who cares about children’s health and safety could get together to stay informed on all the topics that have the potential to affect them and the children in their care. We wanted to make a difference. It didn’t take long to realize that we couldn’t do it on our own.

So we reached out – to parents and doctors and nurses and emergency responders and teachers – to child safety experts around the world – and we asked them for help. And some truly amazing people stepped in to share the journey with us. A pediatrician, a child psychology and bullying prevention expert, a water safety specialist, a family dentist, an EMS safety specialist, a special needs parenting expert, and a food allergy specialist – all volunteered their time to help make this site a community where you can find answers and hopefully give answers to others when they need them. Together we’ve shared almost a thousand posts and ten thousand tweets about child health and safety.

And we are just getting started!

Over the next couple of months you’re going to see some wonderful changes here at PedSafe, starting with our most exciting addition – the inclusion of NHS Choices articles on Pediatric Safety. NHS Choices is the UK’s biggest, most comprehensive health information website. The articles we will be sharing with you span the full range of child health and safety issues: from living with disabilities to surviving childhood bullying; from adoption and fostering to puberty and talking about sex; from asthma and allergies to health and fitness.

We are also thrilled to announce that over the next couple of months Pediatric Safety will be getting a “makeover”. I could tell you what our plans are but then we’d have to kill you but we’d rather show you. What I will say is that we’ve listened to what you – our readers – have been telling us you need, and our goal is to make sure you know you’ve been heard. Hopefully you’ll see that as we roll out the next generation of Pediatric Safety.

For now, we’d like you to invite you to join us as we celebrate our 5 Year Bloggiversary

In honor of our 5 years together, we’re going to take a “look back” at our favorite stories from the past 5 years, and a “look ahead” with a little giveaway to celebrate our future together. Now the “look back” part is pretty self-explanatory…but our “look ahead” could use a little more explaining – so here goes

Introducing Pediatric Safety’s “TIME TO CELEBRATE” Giveaway

PedSafe girls Square Button Final5 Prizes to Celebrate 5 Years 🙂

  • For 4 runners-up – to thank you for sharing these past 5 years with us, we’d like to give you each a $10 Starbucks gift card.
  • And for our first place winner – in honor of our next 5 years together, we’d like to give you a $30 Amazon gift card.

Here’s How it Works:


  • Follow the Pediatric Safety Community


  • Tweet about this contest
  • Like our Facebook page
  • Leave a Comment on this Post
  • Leave a Meaningful Comment on one of our “Look Back” posts
  • Blog about this giveawayy

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Finally we’d like to thank all of you who have taken this journey with us. At its heart, Pediatric Safety is a place where people can support each other – the village needed to raise a child. If we’ve been able to accomplish even a little of that, then this has been 5 years well spent. We look forward to sharing the days ahead. – with love and gratitude from Stefanie, Audra and Jim

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 07-07-2014 to 07-13-2014

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 and Facebook 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 not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Drowning: What Every Parent NEEDS to Know! http://t.co/QL4hEBkaag

Counter the Risks of Over-Sexualized Images On Young Girls

How to counter “Too Much, Too Soon, Too Sleazy” ads aimed at our daughters and raise healthier girls from the inside out

Thongs undies for toddlers.
Push-up bras for eight-year olds.
Sneakers to “tone” legs for preschoolers.

Two pretty girls lying on white floorMarketers keep pushing that “too sexy, too soon” envelope on our young daughters, and we are seeing the impact on our daughters’ self-esteem and body images. Keep in mind that it isn’t just one advertisement or one commercial that affects a young girl’s self-concept, but the constant slew of images pushing a “too fast, too soon” look. And that’s exactly what our girls are exposed to these days. The “constant” seeing or hearing over-sexualized messages can be damaging to a young girl’s mental, emotional or moral well being.

The extent of that damage depends upon each particular girl, but we do know younger girls (especially those seven to twelve years old) and those with lower self-esteem are more vulnerable. But let’s be clear: these “too much, too soon” messages are not healthy for any girl’s self-image or body image, and it’s why we should be concerned about the onslaught of these sexualized messages on our daughters. They are having a negative impact. Here are a few dangers, and why we should be outraged.

1. Pushes a Wrong Message on How to Achieve Happiness
Children’s self-beliefs, values, and attitudes are formed through repetition. Continual messages that stress “thin, looks, tone, sexy” can cause girls to believe that they should be pushing their childhoods ahead. For instance, a young girl can translate those messages as:

“I should be acting and dressing like a teen even though I’m in grade school.”
“I should be dieting.”
“I should be wearing makeup.”
“I should be worried about if my legs are toned.”
“I should be ….”

The problem is her “should bes” are unrealistic, unhealthy, and damaging. Is there any wonder why 80 percent of fourth grade girls worry they will be fat? This morning my local newspaper contained this interesting fact….and I quote: “One study found that 80 percent of all U.S. women admit to being dissatisfied with their figures.” Concerns about our “shoulds” don’t seem to improve with age.

2. Develops a “Flimsy” Self-image that Endangers the Development of Resilience
Authentic self-esteem is a fine balance between a “feeling of worthiness” and a “feeling of capableness.” Developing both of those essential feelings is what helps our daughters handle stress, cope with life, and bounce back when the going gets tough. And those crucial school years are when our daughters are doing serious work in shaping their self-concepts and forming their “Who I am?” opinions about themselves.

Messages over-loaded with looks, appearance, weight, dress size, and toned legs (all addressing the “Am I worthy?” side of the self-esteem quotient) don’t allow girls to develop positive images for their “feeling capable sides.” Too much emphasis on looks can also cause girls to miss out on those crucial opportunities that help them figure out their strengths, interests, likes, hobbies, values, etc. A flimsier self-esteem is also likely to mean a girl has a weaker “Resilience Quotient” (that crucial commodity she’ll need to handle life) due to an unbalanced acquisition of self-esteem.

3. Decompressed Childhood
“Too fast, too soon” messages push girls to grow up too quickly for their age and maturity. Growing up “before their time” also means missing out on developmentally appropriate activities, rituals, and games that are such an integral part of growing up. Instead of playing, discovering, learning, creating, relishing, or just being, they are devoting priceless energy wondering how they should look or weigh or act. There is no rewind button on childhood, folks.

4. Boosts Health Risks
Do you know the new hot “Sweet 16″ birthday gift request? It’s Botox! (Yep, Botox… I still haven’t quite figured that one out or found a sixteen year old girl with a wrinkle). Breast implants are now on our girls’ high school graduation “wish lists.” According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 36,800 cosmetic surgery procedures were performed last year on girls eighteen and under. There is always a risk with surgery, but what about the risk to a young girl’s body image? And why?

5. Increases Mental Health Risks
Research also shows that the proliferation of sexualized images in advertising, merchandising and media are indeed harmful to a young girls’ self-image and health. A five-year study of 2516 teens by the American Psychological Association found that girls who frequently read those dieting and weight loss articles are far more likely to fast, vomit, or use laxatives to lose weight. In fact, the data found that the more frequently a girl sees those over-sexualized, images, the more likely she is to resort to extreme weight control behaviors.I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that we’re also seeing a tragic increase of eating disorders in girls who are seven and eight years of age.

6. Increases Odds for Risky Behaviors
Those “too fast, too soon” images can also push our girls into those “teen” years sooner. (From the looks of things eight has become the new 13). Growing up faster also means the potential for earlier drinking, earlier promiscuity, earlier peer pressure-and those all add up to taking more unhealthy risks.

There are dangers on all those too sexy, too much, too soon negative images on our girls’ physical, mental, emotional and moral development. So how do we counter those negative media images and raise healthier daughters? Here are a few ideas.

Countering Negative Media Images To Raise Healthy Girls from the Inside Out

“Up” Your Outrage!
These products are sold because they are purchased. A collective parental “NO!” would send a clear message to advertisers. Write your concerns to distributors and product developers. Those complaints do work…several of these companies have reconfigured their advertisements and even removed them from their websites. “Outrage” petitions are also gaining signatures by the minute. Speak out and keep your wallets shut. Also, share your concerns to your daughter to help develop her media literacy.

Three happy, well-adjusted tween girls standing togetherCheck Your Attitude
Kids who see and hear their parents (especially moms) worrying about their appearance usually adopt the belief that “being young and thin” is the standard to achieve. So watch your comments (please!!) and tune into your own behavior. Your daughter is watching and listening more than you may realize! And you are also far more influential on her development than you may be giving yourself credit for.

Build Self-Esteem from the Inside Out
A positive, authentic, well-rounded sense of self-esteem and healthy body image are essential for our girls. So find ways to help your daughter gain competence in physical, social and academic endeavors. Help her realize her innate strengths and wonderful personal qualities. Focus your praise on her deserved inside qualities-a kind-heart, optimistic spirit, stick-to-it attitude-so she realizes “who I am is more important than how toned my legs are or what I look like.”

Watch Her Media Diet, Please!
Control your remote, get her a subscription to healthy magazines, and find her healthy outlooks that don’t require wearing sexy attire. And while you’re at it, put down those celebrity magazines…at least when your daughter is in the room!

Check her Friends
Tune in a bit closer to what your daughter’s friends are talking about. If the focus is all about the latest “diets” and “dress size” it may be time to steer your child toward others friends with healthier outlooks.

Find Like-Minded Parents
Consider talking with parents of your teen’s friends and hear their views. Chances are they share your standards. Standing together will reduce those, “You’re the only parent who feels that way.” I’m betting you’re not. Find parents who share your values and join forces so you can stop this craze together.

Find Positive Role Models
Tune into those so-called role models. Make sure their examples are ones you want your daughter to copy. Let’s offer our daughters female role models who feel comfortable in their own skin and don’t need to rely on Botox, breast implants, dieting, and designer labels to feel attractive. Expose your daughter to authentic, confident women, and then tell her why you admire them. Our girls need strong, resourceful female examples to emulate.

Our best hope is to help our daughters learn—and as early as possible—that real happiness isn’t borrowed or copied, but lies within. That’s exactly why we need to help our girls become strong from the inside out. Doing so is what will help our daughters feel comfortable in their own skin.



Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

Brecker Bunny Safety Books

You don’t leave the hospital with an instruction manual on how to protect your child…you learn only by doing. I would do anything to not have learned this lesson the way we did, but it is our reality. Laying on the hospital gurney, cradling my 21-month-old, I sang our favorite lullaby, “Gentle Breeze” through tears. I tried to wish away the moment, but his screams and cries of, “Mama hurts, mama hurts” kept Front cover of book showing bunny familyme firmly grounded in the heartbreaking reality…this was happening…and it was happening to my baby. All the wishing and singing could not ease his pain.

On April 6, after returning home from a walk, I received a frantic call from my husband. He was in the ER. Our son had been badly burned in the tub. Now, my initial thought, before I reached the hospital, was that it couldn’t be too bad. Like all concerned parents, upon moving into our newly constructed home, we made sure to have our son’s tub installed with a device to prevent him from turning the water on too hot. We also had asked to have our water temperature set appropriately. After seeing our son in the hospital, I knew something had gone horribly wrong.

In the time it normally takes for our son to go upstairs and get his blanket and then come back down, my husband heard screams. Rushing up the stairs with our one-week-old in his arms, my husband found our son sitting in our master bath whirlpool tub, crying frantically as the skin peeled away from his legs and feet. His diapers and overalls provided some insulation for the rest of his body, but his feet were horribly damaged. After three weeks in the hospital and skin grafts, our son was allowed to come back home. But care was not over. He had compression socks for over a year and another surgery as well. And the time it took for this to happen?

Less than 10 seconds…

After careful investigation, it was discovered that our water temperature was set above 135 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause third degree burns for a child in 10 seconds. At 126, third degree burns can occur in under two minutes. Legally, all water heaters must be set by the manufacturer at 125 degrees Fahrenheit, however, it is best if temperatures are set at 110 when there are small children in the house.

Sitting in the hospital and feeling helpless and like a failure did nothing to help Breck or heal the emotional wounds my husband and I had, so we began the process of reaching out. What could we learn? What could we do to teach our child and ourselves about safety? We were disappointed by what we found. We decided to do something about it.

It became our family’s mission to find out the top reasons why toddlers get burned and create a book that was a bedtime story with a purpose. Brecker Bunny Learns to Be Careful was born. It is the loving collaboration between burn nurses and doctors at University of Madison Hospital and Clinics , Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety (WAFS) www.wafs.org and me, the mom. After meeting with experts from the Burn Center in January of 2005, much research, finding an illustrator, a partner (WAFS), funds, a printer, and learning the publishing ropes, the first printing of Brecker Bunny Learns to Be Careful! A Lesson in Fire and Burn Safety was handed out to survivors and supporters at the WAFS Camp for Burn Survivors in August of 2007.

To date we have delivered over 120,000 of this title alone. We printed it in Spanish and Brecker has a lighter safety book called Brecker Bunny Asks for Help too! Next on the agenda…the rest of the safety series: water safety, passenger safety, bicycle safety, even stranger danger. All books with real lessons, about real kids (now bunnies), made easy and fun to read at bedtime. I wish that my Breck never had to experience his burns, but seven years later, my eight year old has helped to keep many children a little safer…and he even has the thank you letters to prove it!


1. Tips when reading a safety book:

  • Sit in close proximity with your child while reading. A snuggle goes a long way to help children’s brains chemically calm making them more receptive to what they are learning.
  • Choose one to three things to emphasize each time you read a safety book. To stop and point something out on every page is confusing and overwhelming.
  • Don’t be afraid to get up and move the book. Most kids and adults learn best by moving their lesson. If you are learning to stay three feet away from a fireplace…pace of three feet and practice.
  • Make children partners in safety, rather than merely the recipient of the lesson. Look for opportunities to ask them how they can make a room or situation safer.

2. Tips on Burn Safety in and around the home (based on the top 3 accidental reasons toddlers in my area end up in the Burn Centers):

  • Keep children 3 feet away from stoves, ovens and microwaves. There are so many children in burn clinics who have been scalded by caramel, coffee or hot water spilling as it comes out of the microwave. Usually these burns occur on little ones’ faces.
  • DO NOT TRUST YOUR HAND TO TAKE THE TEMPERATURE OF THE BATHTUB! Test your water temperature by holding a water thermometer or candy thermometer under the stream of water after it has had the opportunity to heat up. If it is over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, change your water heater immediately. Consider setting the temperature below 110 degrees Fahrenheit if you have very young children or elderly people in your home. Their skin is thinner and easier to burn. Also, it is more difficult for them to get out of tubs quickly to avoid a burn.
  • Candles and fireplaces should never be allowed to burn unattended.
  • Keep a three foot rock perimeter around campfires and do not allow children within the ring. I get letters from moms telling me that they thought if they were standing next to their child, the child would be safe; yet, one quick trip or fall and hands and feet can end up in a fire.
  • Most importantly, stay vigilant. Periodically do safety checks around your house. There are many great checklists online and of course, in the back of Brecker Bunny!

Be Bunny Buddies and keep your family safe!


Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in April of 2010. The story of Brecker Bunny provides an excellent opportunity for parents to learn and teach a variety of safety messages in an entertaining and attention-getting format. We hope that reading this post again will help save more children from the pain and suffering of an unintended burn.

Stress Reducing Foods to Support Family Health

Editor’s Note: Kid’s suffer stress too and stress reducing foods are also very important for their health. So these tips are also relevant for your children. Additional perspectives on foods to reduce stress in kids can be found here.


Mother Feeding Kids With VegetablesA rough day at work, a houseful of chores and bickering kids can leave you feeling frazzled. You’re tempted to reach for the pretzels or chocolate, but you know it’s not good to reach for something to eat when you’re totally stressed out, right? Not always! Nutrition experts say that certain foods can actually help us stay calm. Here are some of their stress-combating suggestions:

Start the Day With Breakfast
Missing meals, especially the first one of the day, can leave you with cravings and extreme hunger that actually fuel your stress, says Alison Acerra, RD, national manager of nutrition and wellness for Guckenheimer, a national food service organization. Tip: Reach for a balanced breakfast, complete with high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat. Try whole-grain cereal atop Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.

Avoid Blood Sugar Spikes
“When your blood sugar levels are unstable, your stress hormones go haywire, as does your mood,” says Susan Barendregt, a functional nutritionist in Viroqua, Wis. “You want to reach for foods that will provide you with minerals and other nutrients needed to fuel the body’s natural processes that keep it in equilibrium.”

To keep blood sugar levels in check, avoid sugary refined-carbohydrate foods like cookies, cakes, white bread and muffins. Instead, go for foods with protein and healthy fats, which are satisfying without spiking your blood sugar. Have a salad with grilled chicken breast and sliced avocado for lunch, and snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips. Plan to eat small meals (every three to four hours) that include a good source of protein, fiber and healthy fats.

Sip Tea
If you’re stressed, skip the coffee and soda. In addition to giving you the jitters, the high level of caffeine in these drinks can interfere with your normal sleep cycles, which will only exacerbate the stress you’re already feeling, says Ivy Branin, a naturopathic doctor in New York City. Instead, turn to tea, a study-proven remedy for stress symptoms. Black tea has been shown to lower levels of cortisol, the brain’s “stress hormone,” while compounds in green tea can help lower blood sugar levels. And researchers have discovered that passionflower tea is as effective at curbing anxiety as a well-known prescription medication.

Think Vitamin C and B
Foods such as citrus fruits and leafy greens can help reduce the stress you’re experiencing because they support your adrenal glands. These are the stress-handling glands that often get taxed after repeated and chronic stress, says Jenny Westerkamp, a registered dietitian-nutritionist at CJK Foods, a Chicago-based chef-crafted healthy meal delivery service.

Stock up on Fish
Your seafood counter is another place to go for stress reduction. Salmon has high stores of protein and omega-3 fatty acids that help promote brain health and decrease production of cortisol. Meanwhile, tasty shellfish — such as oysters, clams and crabs — are a great source of zinc, which helps support the immune system and adrenal glands.

Choose Whole Grains
Whole-grain items, such as brown rice, oats and wheat contain L-tryptophan, the amino acid essential in serotonin production (an essential substance that helps with relaxation and happiness) and key B vitamins. Another great serotonin-boosting food: sweet potatoes, which are loaded with vitamin B6.