Summer Safety Checklist for Parents…From Our Top Paramedic

Attractive young beautiful girl drinking water from plastic bottlesSchool will soon be out, summer will officially be upon us, and the kids will be looking for things to do. All of these things are going to happen soon so it is time to break out the summer safety tip checklist to ensure that we not only have a fun summer but that we also have a safe summer. The two most common emergencies we encounter in summer time are heat related illnesses and water emergencies. Heat related illnesses can range from cramps and dizziness, to fainting and passing out. The key to heat illnesses is to stay vigilant with your kids and hydrate them. If you know they will be outside during the day, then they need to hydrate before, during, and after outside time. Stay aware of the signs of heat problems. Cramps, dizziness, dry red skin, and nausea are just some of the warning signs. If you encounter any of these heat problems with your children, please move them to a cool place with shade or air conditioning, and slowly cool them down with cool towels and water, and if the heat problems are causing your child severe problems, with breathing or blacking out, then call 911 immediately.

Water emergencies can range from falling off a boat to drownings in pools. The key to water safety and children is 100% focus with no distractions. Kids can drown in a very small amount of water and it can happen in what seems like a blink of an eye, so the best strategy is to never let them out of your sight when near or in the water. If your child does not know how to swim then swimming lessons can be a fun summer activity that lasts a lifetime. If you and your children will be on a watercraft of any kind, please remember to wear life-jackets at all times and obey the rules of the water. If your child is going to a summer camp with a pool or traveling to a pool then purchase them their own flotation jacket or shirt to take with them.

If your child is going to camp this summer, please take a little time and do your homework on the camp and its counselors. Finding out things like how many kids will be in the camp, what is the counselor to kid ratio, are all camp staff members certified in CPR, how is the camp set up? Is it near water? Etc. Asking questions like these will let you know how committed the camp is to your child’s safety. If your child is staying home during the summer, the questions are almost the same. Who is watching the child, do they know CPR, can they swim, will they have 100% focus at all times with your child, can they handle an emergency with your child like a fall or something more severe? Having an older sibling stay home and watch a younger one during the summer can both a blessing and gamble, so make sure everyone is clear about what is expected and what to do in an emergency.

The two things we always tell people are

– Nobody is drowning proof, and

– Hydrate hydrate hydrate.

Thank you and have a safe summer.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is an AMC Sensory Friendly Film

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society! This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

New sensory friendly logoAs always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Neighbors2-posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising tomorrow, Tuesday, May 24th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming soon: Alice Through the Looking Glass (Sat, 5/28)


Editor’s note: Although Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising has been chosen by the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Mental Health Month – Be Aware & Stigmafree for Kids Too

Mental-health-month-for-kids-tooMay is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Why talk about this on Pediatric Safety? Because mental health IS an important issue for kids. Data from the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) shows that 90% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness….and suicide is the SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN YOUTH aged 15 to 24 (NAMI’s website has some great infographics with key facts on mental health in children and adults – click here).

In addition, a study which looked at the most common reasons for pediatric visits (up to 18 years old) to Emergency Departments showed that mental and behavioral health conditions ranked #7higher than musculoskeletal issues like broken bones and sprains!

Furthermore, a study by the University of California, San Francisco – reported in this USNews article – found that “nearly 1 in 10 hospitalized children have a primary diagnosis of a mental health problem.” In addition to the fact that mental health hospitalizations are actually quite common, this study showed that hospital stays for mental health reasons increased by 24% from 2007 to 2010 (most recent data that was available for analysis).

Source: NAMI (

Source: NAMI (

Why are mental health issues becoming so common for kids? There are probably many reasons. Increased pressure to achieve – at earlier and earlier ages – in both school and extracurricular activities is certainly playing a large part. Overscheduling of kids, so they can’t just be kids anymore, can also contribute. The everywhere, all-the-time nature of social media today is another likely culprit – driving both the pressure to live up to others’ ideals of a worthy life and the anguish of online bullying. Stressed and overworked parents can also be an element, since parental mental health definitely impacts kids – (check out the NAMI infographic for adults). And, finally, we may also be better at identifying and diagnosing issues in kids – though often not with minority children.

Even if mental health is more recognized today than in past generations – the National Alliance for Mental Health is highlighting the issue of stigma in mental illness this month – which often prevents people from opening up and getting help for their condition. NAMI asks that we be Stigmafree by:

  • Educating ourselves and others on mental health
  • Seeing the person and not the illness….and
  • Taking action on mental health issues – through donation or advocacy

Finally, you can also take the Stigmafree pledge on the NAMI website. I’ve taken the pledge – because I’ve suffered from mental illness before – having had depression both as a teen and in adulthood. But I’ve gotten treatment and it hasn’t limited me OR defined me.

We need to know that these issues are common, they are ILLNESSES and that there can also be a genetic component. A susceptibility or predisposition for depression and other mental health conditions can be passed down through families. My father had depression for a lot of his adult life – which was tied up with chronic health conditions he had – so I may have a genetic component to my issues. And my son might also have a genetic tendency.

If you have any family history of mental health issues, don’t discount the idea of your kids or other young relatives suffering from these conditions. The NAMI infographic for children and teens includes a section on warning signs for mental health concerns in youth, which are good to know. These are also included below:

Source: NAMI (

Source: NAMI (

Boys, Bodies and Puberty – Frequently Asked Questions

Puberty can be a confusing time because your body and your feelings are changing as you grow up. Here are answers to some of the questions that boys often ask about their bodies.

At what age do you go through puberty?

Puberty describes all the physical changes that children go through as they grow into adults. Most people start to notice changes at around 11 years old, but there’s no right or wrong time to start puberty. It might be sooner or it might be later, and this is normal.

Child in bathroomRead more on boys and puberty.

What’s the average penis size?

Penis size varies from man to man, in the same way that everyone is a different height, weight and build. Most men’s penises are somewhere around 9cm (3.75in) long when they’re not erect, but it’s normal for them to be shorter or longer than this. Some things can make your penis temporarily smaller, such as swimming or being cold.

Most penises are roughly the same size when they’re hard, between about 15 and 18cm (6-7in) long. You can’t make your penis larger or smaller with exercises or medication. Find out more about penis size.

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is an operation to remove the piece of skin (the foreskin) that covers the tip of the penis. In the UK, it’s usually done for religious reasons, and is most common in the Jewish and Muslim communities. If you have been circumcised, it’s nothing to worry about. It won’t affect your ability to have sex.

Female genital mutilation (also called female circumcision) is illegal in the UK. It involves cutting off some or all of a girl’s external genitals, such as the labia and clitoris.

I have spots on my penis and it itches. Is this normal?

If you’ve recently had sex without using a condom you may have picked up a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic, GP, nurse, young people’s clinic or a community contraceptive clinic. Find a sexual health clinic near you.

Lots of boys have normal lumps and bumps on their penis, and spots can also be caused by an allergy or irritation. But if you’re worried, seek advice from a doctor or clinic. Medical people see problems like this every day, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Is it normal for my penis to smell fishy and have white bits behind the tip?

This can happen naturally from time to time. To prevent it happening, wash gently behind the foreskin if you have one (men who have been circumcised don’t have a foreskin) when you bath or shower. Use water, or water and a mild soap. Find out more about washing your penis.

If you’re washing carefully and the symptoms don’t go away, and you’ve had sex without a condom, you may have an STI. See a doctor, or visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic, young people’s sexual health or a community contraceptive clinic. Find a sexual health clinic near you.

What is sperm?

Sperm is produced in the testicles (balls) and released in fluid called semen during sexual activity. Every time a man ejaculates (comes) he can produce more than 100 million sperm. But it only takes one sperm to get a girl pregnant, and that can happen before the boy ejaculates. This is because the fluid that comes out of the tip of his penis before he ejaculates (called pre-ejaculatory fluid) can contain sperm.

If you’re having sex with a girl, always use contraception and condoms to prevent both pregnancy and STIs. Talk to your partner about what contraception she’s using, and make sure that you use condoms too.

If you’re having sex with a boy, always use condoms to stop yourself getting an STI or passing one on.

Is it normal to get an erection when you wake up in the morning?

Yes, most boys have an erection when they wake up in the morning, and they can get one when they’re not expecting it during the day, even when they’re not sexually excited. This is a normal part of sexual development and growing up.

Is it normal for one testicle to hang lower than the other?

Yes, this is normal and nothing to worry about. One theory is that it stops your testicles banging together when you run.

How do I know if I have testicular cancer?

Check your testicles every month by gently rolling them, one at a time, between your thumb and fingers to feel for any unusual lumps or bumps. You’ll feel a hard ridge on the upper back of each ball. This is the epididymis, where sperm is stored, and it’s normal to feel it here.

If you feel any lumps, it probably isn’t testicular cancer, but get it checked by a doctor. Other warning signs include:

  • one ball growing larger or heavier than the other
  • an ache in your balls
  • bleeding from your penis

If you notice any of these, see your doctor. If caught early, testicular cancer can usually be treated successfully.

What is premature ejaculation?

This is when a boy or man ejaculates (comes) too quickly during sex. This is fairly common, especially among younger men, and can be due to nerves or over-excitement. Some people don’t worry about it, and some find that using a condom can help to delay ejaculation. Find out more about premature ejaculation.

If it bothers you, see your local doctor, nurse, or visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic, young people’s clinic or community contraceptive clinic. These places will give you free and confidential advice whatever your age, even if you’re under 16. Find a GP or sexual health clinic near you.

Can you pee while having sex?

No. During sex, a valve shuts the outlet tube from your bladder so that only sperm can pass through the tube (urethra), which you use to pee.

Why is it harder to ejaculate when you have sex a second time soon after the first?

If you have sex a second time straight after the first, it can take longer for you to reach orgasm (come). This is normal. If you’re worried about this, take a longer break after sex before you start again. Whether it’s the first, second or tenth time you’ve had sex that day, always use a new condom to protect against pregnancy and STIs.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-09-2016 to 05-15-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: New online scam that could seriously hurt your teen son’s future

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 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 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
How The Zika Virus Damages The Brain

Recognize a Dog’s Body Language Before Your Child Gets Bitten

Editor’s Note: It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week. In honor of that – and all the outdoor “pets allowed” festivals coming up just around the corner – we wanted to share with you once more this very important post, written in November 2015 by PedSafe Kids and Canine Expert Suzanne Hantke.


little girl annoying dogAs a professional dog trainer, I can’t tell you how often, when called in to work with an aggressive dog, I have heard, “He showed no warning! He just bit!” While on the rare occasion, this may be the case, more often than not, your dog showed several warning signs that he was annoyed or not in the mood to be bothered at that moment. But many times, those signs are very subtle and oftentimes, overlooked. Even the most calm and gentle dog has its limit. So how can you know when your dog has reached their limit, giving you ample time to remove your child from them prior to them ‘snapping’ at your little one? Since dogs can’t verbally warn us, it is up to us to understand what their body language is saying… because that is the primary way they communicate… and not all dogs do the ‘growl, snarl, curl your lip, and show your teeth’ thing first.

Note: The intent of this article is to build people’s awareness of what a dog’s body might be saying, and hopefully educate you enough to keep you and your family safe around them. It is not intended to be a ‘crash course’ in making you an expert. Thousands of adults and children get bitten every year, most often by their own family pet, so this is a very serious issue. If you are not sure, but think your dog may be showing signs of aggression, regardless of their age or breed, please consult a professional and get help. A great resource to locate a professional near you is the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP).

Last year, at a family get-together my sister brought her dog Shayna with her and the kids. I knew from prior conversations with her that the dog, while usually very sweet, would on occasion snap at the kids ‘without warning.’’

After dinner, all of the kids were in another room except for one of my nephews. Shayna was on the floor near the kitchen entertaining herself with a toy, and the adults sat around the table talking. In the midst of a conversation with my cousin, I saw my nephew out of the corner of my eye walking towards her. Apparently, Shayna saw it too, and from across the room, I saw her entire body change. She was on alert; and no one else seemed to notice. In mid sentence, I flew across the room and grabbed Shayna just as she opened her mouth to snap, missing my nephew by mere millimeters.

The question I was asked over and over again that night was “How did you know?” And honestly, at first, I was not sure how to answer this. I couldn’t really explain it at that time. I just knew. But I quickly realized I needed to be able to explain it if I was going to keep my nephews and niece safe. And then it also dawned on me….. if I could figure out exactly what it was that I saw, the subtle ‘markers’ she was emitting, then I can help others to keep their kids safe as well

I. KNOW THE MARKERS: The subtle signs that “mark” the dog’s reaction to something

  • WATCHING – This is the first phase of what we call ‘resource guarding’ or the guarding of their possession and it is a very subtle ‘shift’. When a dog is chewing on a bone, eating their food, or playing with a toy, they are 100% in that moment. Their eyes may glaze over, they may seem like they’re in another world, but everything is about that item for them. However, for a dog who is resource guarding, when they become aware that a potential ‘threat’ is nearby, they will continue to chew, but their eyes are now locked on the approaching intruder. Their head does not move, just their eyes… and they are watching every move the person (or potential threat) makes.
Sharing - but watching - small

Photo: Ralph Dally, CC License

Note the difference in body language when a dog is “watching”

  • An important fact was reiterated at the last IACP conference by a trainer named Brenda Aloff who lectures on canine body language. A dog’s body language was really meant for other dogs to be aware of, which is why sometimes it seems so subtle to us. It was not really meant for us.
  • That being said, the average person would look at this and say, “Oh, how cute… 2 puppies sharing a toy.” Look again. Notice the difference in body language with the two dogs. The one on the left is happily chewing on the toy, not really caring about the other dog being there. Unaffected by the presence of the one on the right, it is relaxed, and hunkered down over the toy with his paws wrapped around it..
  • Now, notice how the one on the right is still chewing on the toy, but the eyes are wide, and very alert to its surroundings. The body is more rigid, and it is closely WATCHING for a ‘potential threat’ at the same time. This is referred to as being ‘reactive’ and ready to defend its territory if the need arises.
  • FREEZING IN PLACE – The next thing I saw shift in Shayna’s body when my nephew approached was also VERY subtle… but to me, very obvious. She stopped chewing on the toy completely. Essentially, her body ‘froze’ in position. Since dogs cannot multi-task, she could not calmly continue chewing on the toy and watch as my nephew got closer to her at the same time, so she chose at that moment to watch his every move. Her body freezing at that moment told me that she was waiting to see if the ‘threat’ was going to keep on moving by, or stop and possibly take her toy.
Dog guarding bone - med

Photo: Debra and Ron Sprague; © All Rights Reserved

A perfect example of a the “freezing” body language

  • In the picture above, notice again the eyes are not on the object the dog is chewing, it is watching the other dog very closely in its peripheral vision and yet still has both bones in it’s line of sight. The dog is very still, and the body is very rigid. He has angled himself not only over his bone, but slightly over the second one as well. His body language is telling me very clearly that he is ready to spring into action should that other dog get an inch closer. (This was Shayna as my nephew approached). The second dog wants that other bone, and is looking at it very longingly.… but just like me, it is also reading the other dog’s body language VERY clearly, so it is not making a move toward it.
  • Photo: •Ashley Sheppard; CC License

    Photo: Ashley Sheppard; CC License

    Now, look at the difference in the second picture. The Bernese Mountain Dog is very relaxed, eyes are soft and the face is open and inviting, and she is digging into that bone, but there is no sign at all that she is on alert. I would feel comfortable approaching this dog with her bone unless her body language changed as I got closer to her.


Now unlike what we did in the last pictures, where I showed you contrasts to see the differences, in the next two I want you to see the similarities….which is why I placed them side by side.

Photo: Cassandra Karas, CC License

Photo: Cassandra Karas, CC License

Terrier - small

Photo: Shek Graham; CC License

I seriously hope that no one would ever have to tell you to stay away from the Rottweiler on the left, who is showing all the obvious signs of all-out aggression… you do not have to look any further than the teeth. And I am sure the breed alone would have many people leery to begin with.

But now, look at the Terrier with the bone on the right. It is not snarling, growling, or showing any teeth…. But barring that, do you see ANY difference in their bodies? Because I sure don’t.


  • EYES: They are both doing a dead-on stare. Their eyes are fully opened and round.
  • TORSO: They are both frozen in place, rigid from head to toe, and other than the growling that I am sure the Rottie is doing, and the jaw muscles flexing, they are pretty much not moving a muscle.
  • MOUTH: Jaw is set and tight as a drum.
  • HEAD: Very low… almost equal to their torso, in a ‘Don’t mess with me” position.
  • FRONT PAWS: Spread wide apart splayed to the side, both guarding their possession , and ready to spring into action.
  • BACK PAWS: Rigid… you can almost see the muscles flexing and tense. Both of them have their ‘toes’ curled in obvious annoyance.

I thought it was important that people see a dog does not necessarily have to be showing teeth for parents to be aware that their dog is showing signs of what we call ‘possession aggression’ or ‘resource guarding’.


Let’s see how much you have learned so far. Would you approach either of these guys?

Little Dog Attacks

Photo: Jetteff; CC License

Little Dog Owns this Bone

Photo: Thomas Stromberg; CC License


So now we are going to play a quick ‘game’ of ‘Can you tell what this dog body’s language is saying now”, to give you a chance to test your new Canine Body Language Recognition skills

NOTE: My explanations of these pictures do not just apply to the guarding of resources. If you are out with your child, and someone walks by with a dog, even if you had asked if your child could pet the dog and the owner has assured you that the dog is friendly, if you see any of these ‘guarded’ signs, walk away. That dog, for whatever reason, is not in the mood to be approached.

I hope some of this has been educational for you, and maybe given you a slightly different perspective than you had before you read it. Just to reiterate, this article is not intended to be a ‘crash course’or make you an expert when it comes to pet behavior. It is simply to make you aware of potential threats to you and your loved ones. The unfortunate fact is that thousands of adults and children get bitten every year, most often by their own family pet. Even the sweetest, most loving of animals can have a bad day and it’s up to us to recognize the signs so that all of us, kids and pets included, can stay safe.