The New “F” Word: Food Allergies

Two mothers arguingIt seems that food allergies are almost becoming a source of hostility between those who have them and those that don’t. Where have the simple days gone that a screaming match between school mothers was just about where to park in the car line? It’s undeniable that many stories have popped up in the news over the past few years that tell of a school outburst between mothers and miscommunication about a class party. Then it is followed up by outraged crowds of people taking a side, explaining whose child was affected more by the outcome. This has become mainstream- this is our society’s newest form of inadvertently swearing at each other. And for what?

Food is Not the Issue Before you bite my head off for this one, just hear me out. I, too, have found myself asking time and time again why is food always involved – at parties, as rewards, at sports and social gatherings. But food is also something that brings us together and we do use it to celebrate. Food is not the issue – it’s what is in the food or the type of food and the lack of knowledge about how we need to be safe around those foods. Ultimately, yes, it is absolutely safer to have a food-free event but also try to remember that there are so many safe and allergy-friendly foods so why not share those instead? Allow your child to be a child.

Cause and Affect Think about it – what is the root cause of the problem? It’s simple: miscommunication. This is everywhere, all of the time, not just when it comes to food allergies. It can happen at the grocery store when they won’t accept your coupon or when you are driving and someone decides that they need to drive in front of you before you are ready for them to be there. But next time, I ask that you stop and think about it first. Rampaging is easy but preventing the rampage can be even easier.

The Purpose Why take the time to count to ten and try to remain calm? Two words: your children. While you are off ranting and raving (even if it is to be an advocate for them), have you ever stopped to see how it is making them feel? Food allergy mothers tend to be on the defensive all of the time because they have to be – it’s a matter of life and death. But how does your allergic child feel? Do they understand why the argument happened? Are they just as enraged as you are, being pulled out of the classroom in front of all of their friends while you stomp down to the Principal’s office? I am willing to bet that all they wanted to do was stay to play the games that were planned or to see what the craft was. It’s good to be protective but also be proactive.

Protective Vs. Proactive Have you heard the saying “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”? This is what makes the difference between being a protective parent versus a proactive parent. Stop and think first: does this other parent even understand why you are so angry? Maybe they had a mommy morning just like you; completely spaced and forgot to tell you about the M&M’s that are there today. Maybe they had a reminder note but their other child borrowed it to draw on and it disappeared. Or, maybe they didn’t think it was that important. Why would they? They do not live your life and they don’t understand. Either way, explaining and discussing will be better received than an automatic, high-pitched mommy fit. Find out the facts first.

When in Doubt, Be Polite As angry as you may be, try to stay polite. After all, have you ever heard someone complain about a mother who was just too polite? No. Have you seen a mention in one of those articles where the non-allergic mom states “No matter what I did, she was just trying to be nice and I didn’t like it.” Uh, no! Take a deep breath, swallow your pride and discuss it with them. Educate them and work with them. I cannot guarantee that this will work on everyone but I can guarantee that the children around you will never remember that event as the day that turned into front page news. Make it a day when your child will turn and say to you “Mom, do you remember when so-and-so’s mom brought in those donuts and you explained why it was so dangerous for her to do that?”

Words, just like foods, can be life-altering to anyone. Like foods that we are allergic to, there is no taking it back – once an allergic food is eaten or a word is said, the damage is done. We cannot control every situation and we cannot change what has happened in the past but all of us can make what may still happen better. Be careful with your words just as you are with your foods. Nourishment is not just something for our bodies; words can also nourish our very soul.

“How would your life be different if…You were conscious about the food you ate, the people you surround yourself with, and the media you watch, listen to, or read? Let today be the day…You pay attention to what you feed your mind, your body, and your life. Create a nourishing environment conducive to your growth and well-being today.”
~ Steve Maraboli, The Power of One.

I choose to be a healthier person.


Can I Use Bottled Water to Make Up Baby / Infant Formula?

baby with bottle in car seatBottled water is not recommended to make up infant formula feeds for your baby. This is because it’s not usually sterile and may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate (a.k.a. sulfate).

Checking the levels of sodium and sulphate

If you have to use bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure the water contains:

  • less than 200 milligrams (mg) a litre of sodium (also written as Na)
  • no more than 250mg a litre of sulphate (also written as SO or SO4)

You may need to use bottled water to make up a feed if:

  • your drinking water has been contaminated because of flooding
  • you’re travelling abroad and drinking the local water is not recommended

Boiling water to make up formula feeds

As bottled water is not usually sterile, it will still need to be boiled, like tap water, before you prepare the feed.

Always use boiled water at a temperature of at least 70°C, but remember to let the feed cool before you give it to your baby.

Find out more about making up infant formula, including a step-by-step guide to preparing a formula feed.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health.

Further information:

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 08-18-2014 to 08-24-2014

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 25 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
How Safe Are Small Children on Airplanes?
Important information about risks for small kids and outdated regulations

“I Dare You”: Internet Challenges and Kids’ Water Safety

 I-dare-you-ice-bucket-challenge“I dare you. I double dare you.” Ever hear those words? Ever utter those words? They were certainly part of my childhood. Even if the words have changed, the idea certainly hasn’t. Taking risks, pushing the limits, is part of childhood. It’s actually an important part of childhood and developing skills. After all, who wants their strong, healthy 23-year old to still be holding your hand to walk or unable to navigate stairs by themselves because they were afraid to fall? The fine line in parenting is teaching our kids to take reasonable risks and expand their horizons and when to say ‘no way’ to the risk and the peer pressure.

The latest craze following the (dangerous) #ColdWaterChallenge is the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS. Although some in the water safety field are concerned about the safety, my common-sense-mom-meter tells me that as long as you don’t drop the bucket on your head and there is no electricity involved, I don’t see real danger. Certainly fewer cases of injury or death than you get with jumping into ice cold water, jumping into abandoned quarries, jumping off trestle bridges, tombstoning (jumping off a cliff into the water), slipping into a neighbor’s pool late at night, or other parental-terror-inducing dares that include water.

You need to help your child, and especially your teenagers, know when to draw the line. A good starting point is to say, “If the dare involves water, understand it has a higher chance of ending badly, with either paralysis, permanent brain damage, or death. Water doesn’t give you second chances.”

The next point is to teach your child to ask “why?” Why should I be the one jumping off the bridge? Why should I be the one to hold my breath the longest? Why should I jump off the rocks? Why should I climb the fence and swim in the pool? Tell them that only a coward does what other people tell them to do. The toughest you can ever be is to look a bully, or even a friend or sibling, in the eye and say “No.” Especially if accompanied by an uncompromising cold stare. Suggest they practice in the bathroom mirror, maybe give them an example, after all all parents have the ‘don’t even think it’ stare down pat.

Once you know the “why”, ask if the “why” is a good enough reason. Is it a fairly harmless way of showing solidarity? Does it hurt you or anyone else? Do you really want to do it?

For the ice bucket challenge, the ‘why’ is explained in this devastating video. My heart goes out to those who are suffering from, or caring for those who suffer from ALS. For myself, the “why” isn’t enough to do the challenge, just not me, but it’s enough to make me spread the word or donate time or money to raise awareness and direct research funding. Which brings me to the last point.

Teach your child that some actions and words speak louder than others. Don’t just dump a bucket on your head or wear the bracelet or the other symbols of support. Donate your time. Donate your money. Speak up. Write letters. Care. And don’t pressure your friends into making bad decisions. Because each action does make a difference.

We’re Teaching Kids to Fear Shots: a Pediatrician’s Perspective

Editor’s Note: As the events in West Africa show, infectious disease epidemics devastate communities, spread fear, and create civil unrest. Vaccinations – when available – protect our children and society. However, as Dr. Amy Baxter explains in this post and accompanying TEDx Talk video, our vaccination approach is creating the unintended consequence of widespread needle fear in children. In honor of our 5 Year Bloggiversary, we are publishing 5 of our favorite posts – one from each year since the day we started. This is our final “look back” post.


mother holding boy while he gets a shot“How do you respond when the place that you trust to keep you healthy hurts you…or ignores your plan…or ignores you?” …”We have had an erosion of empathy in medicine. Somehow we’ve decided to ignore the fact that shots…hurt.” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

As flu season hits, there is a segment of our society whose immune system health won’t be protected this year – those who fear needles. In a 2012 study, 23% of those who don’t get their shot avoid the protection because of a fear of needles. While needle-less options are improving, they better get here soon: 63% of our teenagers are now afraid of needles.

For most people, the fear of needles develops around age 4-6 years of age. That’s the age when kids born since 2000 are getting 4-5 shots on one day. Before 1983, people only got 6 shots total, and mostly before age two, so not as many adults remember…and consequently, not as many fear needles. Not the same for their kids…

“Last year a paper came out and now 2 out of 3 children have a severe fear of needles. What happens when they grow up? The fear of needles doesn’t usually go away by itself. And adults who are afraid of needles are less likely to get health care, they are less likely to donate blood…and they’re even less likely to vaccinate their own kids. So when these children who were born in 2000 or later are old enough to drive themselves to the doctor…what if they don’t??” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

Given the group of kids growing up now, if we don’t start addressing this, the problems for public health are only going to grow.

“The number and the way we’re giving shots is causing needle fear …and needle fear causes people to avoid healthcare as adults. In order to keep our communities safe, doctors need to own the problem of needle pain…the solution is not to stop vaccinating…it’s to partner to start making the 4-6 year old shots better” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

There are ways to advocate to decrease pain for kids getting shots, as seen here. But to hear more about the rise and consequences of fear of needles and some of the solutions we can pursue, watch my full TEDx Talks presentation below:

How Can I Look After My Child’s Teeth?

Mom and Daughter Brushing TeethYou can take care of your child’s teeth by:

  • Making sure they brush their teeth regularly
  • Taking them to the dentist regularly
  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks such as soft or fizzy drinks and sweetened juices

Brushing Your Child’s Teeth

Brushing your child’s teeth is an important part of their daily routine, so they continue the healthy habit as they get older.

Start to brush your baby’s teeth using a baby toothbrush as soon as their teeth begin to come through.

Your child’s teeth should be brushed twice a day: last thing at night before bed and at least one other time. Nothing should be eaten or drunk in the last hour before they go to bed, except plain water.

The amount of toothpaste used depends on your child’s age. For children under three years, use a smear or thin film of toothpaste that covers less than three-quarters of the brush. For children aged three to six, use no more than a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.

When your child has finished brushing, encourage them to spit out the toothpaste that’s left, but not to rinse their mouth with water or mouthwash. Children younger than six should not use a mouthwash.

Don’t let your child eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.

Help your child to brush their teeth, or supervise them until they’re at least seven years old.

Fluoride Toothpaste

All children should use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride can be measured in parts per million (ppm) and this is stated on the back of the toothpaste tube.

Children under three should use toothpaste containing no less than 1,000 ppm fluoride.

Children between three and six years can use a toothpaste containing up to 1,350 ppm fluoride.

Older children can use family fluoride toothpaste that contains 1,350-1,500 ppm fluoride.

In certain circumstances, your dentist may recommend higher ppm fluoride toothpaste for your child.

Visiting the Dentist

Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. NHS dental treatment for children is free.

Your child should have regular dental check-ups as often as your dentist recommends.

Sugar Causes Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by the amount of sugar in sweet food and drinks, and how often teeth come into contact with sugar.

Swap sugary drinks such as squash and fizzy drinks for water, lower-fat milks, diet, sugar-free and no-added-sugar drinks instead.

You should also limit fruit juice and smoothies to a small (150ml) glass a day. Remember to limit fruit juices to mealtimes as they can cause tooth decay. Watch out for drinks that say “juice drink” on the pack as they are unlikely to count towards your 5 A DAY and can be high in sugar.

For more information, see Which foods and drinks containing sugar cause tooth decay?

Cutting Down on Sugar

Try cutting down how often your child has sugary food and drinks by limiting sugary foods to mealtimes. Your child shouldn’t have food and drink with added sugar more than three times a day.

Drinks containing sugars – including natural fruit juices, milkshakes, smoothies and “no added sugar” cordials that can be diluted – should be avoided between meals. Water or milk should be given instead.

For children aged up to three years, don’t add sugar to their weaning foods when you introduce them to solids.

If your child needs medicine, ask your pharmacist or GP if a sugar-free version is available.

Find more information, read common questions about baby food and what foods to avoid.

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

Further Information: