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Keeping Kids Safe: Common (& Not So Common) Choking Hazards

Keeping kids safe is top on the minds of most parents, but sometimes hazards are just not that obvious. Introducing foods to infants and toddlers can be great fun, but it also brings opportunities for danger. A little knowledge about how to avoid choking can go a long way in avoiding serious emergencies.

I wrote in a previous post about using pixie stix to get kids to take their medicine. I am going to co-opt this old favorite treat for our lesson about choking hazards. What does a powdered candy have to do with choking hazards, you might ask?

The text and photo from this blog demonstrates that kids can make nearly anything into a choking hazard:

pixie_stix

“Looks like fun, right? Probably. But a tube of powdered candy of that size might as well be a loaded gun. It’s frickin dangerous. I know.

When I was thirteen and tried putting the whole mega-Pixie Stick worth of flavored sugar in my mouth, I laughed and inhaled and the moisture in my throat hardened the sugar into a moist sugar ball lodged squarely in my trachea.

One my friends knew the Heimlich maneuver and managed to dislodge the bright blue coagulation into a psychedelic pool of vibrantly scarlet regurgitated Big Red Cola. It was the [last] time I touched either Pixie Stix or Big Red.

It wasn’t my time but I think, when I’m ready, that is exactly how I want to go.”

I love this post for several reasons…

  1. This photo is a pediatrician’s nightmare.
  2. That someone could avoid impaling himself with the sharp plastic tube but instead manage to obstruct his trachea with powdered candy is a mark of real talent. It’s amazing that we have any children left unharmed.
  3. I love the word “frickin” and will try to use it as often as possible in this blog and in my real life. Not to worry, I will avoid using it around kids.
  4. Speaking of near-death-by-food, I almost poked my eye out with a loaf of bread once. That story will probably never make it into this blog, so contact me directly if you’re interested. It is as embarrassing as it sounds….
  5. Though the Olympics was more than a year ago, swimming boys still make me think of Michael Phelps. I love Michael Phelps. I’m not the only one.

Seriously though, while pixie stix are not usually cited as top choking hazards, choking is a real hazard for children, and food is the number one culprit.

It’s amazing what a mostly-toothless little one can manage to eat. Starting at about 9 months of age, babies can begin to manage foods of a variety of textures and shapes. But remember, kids less than 4 years old may not chew, grind, or gum food well and are at great risk for choking. The most common choking hazards are round firm foods (hot dogs, grapes, nuts, popcorn), and sticky/gooey foods like peanut butter or sticky snacks and candies. Chunks of uncooked vegetables and fruits can also make their way down the wrong tube. Candy and gum top the list of foods that send choking children to the emergency room.

Tips for Parents:

How can you prevent choking? Here are a few tips…

  • Take an infant and child CPR class: if you did not take one before your child was born, try to do so by 6 months of age, before your little one starts solids. If you have taken the class, review the course materials as a little refresher.
  • To avert the need to perform these life-saving maneuvers on your child, avoid potentially hazardous food until your child is four to five years old. Cook foods well or cut firm foods into pieces less than 1/2 inch in size.
  • Give your child small portions, adding to his plate as he finishes.
  • Make (and enforce) a household rule that all food is eaten at the table. In a chair. And no eating while running (with scissors). Or playing. Or lying down. Or in a car (or a bus or a taxicab or hot air balloon).
  • Limit distractions (tv, pets, games, clowns) at mealtime.
  • Watch out for “chipmunking”: hoarding food in the cheeks of an eager eater. Kids really do this.
  • Keep helpful older sibs from feeding the little one. They will not provide the same level of supervision that you will.
  • And most importantly, NEVER leave a young child alone while eating.

Useful Links:

Kitchen Safety for Families: Do You Know What to Do If…?

Steaming tea kettleTypical, isn’t it? You’re flying between cooktop and cutting board, prepping dinner while the kids finish homework. In a moment of distraction, you grab a scorching saucepan handle or slice the tip of your finger with a paring knife … or the budding young chef in your family does. Whatever the kitchen slipup, chances are the remedy is within arm’s reach, says Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency medicine specialist at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Here is her advice for treating everyday kitchen injuries.

1. Cuts
Food prep simply can’t happen without a sharp knife or two, not to mention a cheese grater or potato peeler — hence the packet of plastic bandages in every cook’s cabinet. In the event of a cut or abrasion, run plenty of tap water over the wound to rinse out dirt and bacteria — the source of infection — that may have been on the instrument or your skin. (Don’t use hydrogen peroxide: The solution kills contamination but can also destroy the clotting and healing cells the blood carries to the wound). Bleeding will likely stop on its own. If not, apply gentle but steady pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or bandage and keep the wound elevated. After bleeding stops, apply antibacterial ointment, and bandage the cut securely. Seek medical attention if the cut is deep, you can’t get dirt out of the wound or blood spurts from the wound or continues to flow after applying steady pressure for more than five to 10 minutes.

Watch out for swelling or redness. The wound could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

2. Small Burns

We’ve all touched the back of our hand to an oven’s heating element, accidentally placed fingers near hot steam or been splattered with sizzling oil. If the burn covers the palm or crosses over a joint, seek immediate medical attention. The same holds if the burn — even a small one — is on the face. A trip to the doctor may help prevent scarring. Otherwise, you can treat it at home.

First, run the affected area under cool tap water for a few minutes to stop the burning process and remove any bits of burnt skin. Smooth on a layer of antibiotic ointment to create a barrier against infection and wrap loosely with gauze or a small bandage. Be sure to rinse the wound with water and change the dressing twice daily for a few days, says Avegno, so that it remains covered and protected until the scab is gone.

Watch out for increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. The burn could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

3. Scalds

Burns from scalding water tend to cover larger areas, such as arms, feet, legs and stomach, which may make them harder to treat at home. And if the scalding is to a child, whereby a large percentage of the body is affected, call an ambulance or go to an emergency room immediately. Otherwise, start by treating the affected area the way you would a small burn: run under cool water (or use a wet towel) to stop the burning process and to clean the area, layer with antibiotic ointment, and dress with gauze or a large bandage as best you can. Even a clean and loose-fitting white T-shirt over the burn area will add some protection if you don’t have large enough bandages. Blistering is to be expected, but avoid popping the blisters, as doing so adds entry points for infection. These burns are often more painful than smaller ones, so take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If that doesn’t block the pain, seek medical care.

Watch out for continued or worsening pain, or signs of infection (see above). In these cases, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Injuries to the Eyes

Lovers of spicy food know the painful power of capsicum, or cayenne pepper: Contact with the eyes causes a strong burning sensation. Flush out any material in the eye with water and then splash milk in the area to stop the burn. Steam, pokes to the eye or spattered oil are more serious and can cause eye damage. Rinse the eye right away to cool the area and clean out debris.

Watch out for pain, oozing or a change in vision after a few minutes of blinking and rinsing, any of which might indicate damage to the cornea. Seek immediate medical attention.

Given the increased risk of infection with cuts and burns, Avegno advises a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in five to 10 years. Even a shot administered within a day or two after the injury will be effective, she says. Of course, when extreme injuries happen — especially when small children are involved — emergency care is critical for preventing even greater harm.

Research Reveals the Myth of Family Dinner Time as Cure-all

benefits-of-family-dinnersThe clock is approaching 6:00 pm and your household is frazzled. Half the kids are still at soccer practice. You have to pick them up in 20 minutes. The younger kids are in “witching hour” mode and running around crazy and begging for snacks. You haven’t yet considered what will be on the menu for dinner.

Does this sound like your house? Many times family dinner time can easily turn into stressful time. Yet, we hear all the time that families who eat dinner together reap great benefits for themselves and their children.

Most of us have heard all the research about how important family dinners are to kids’ long-term outcomes. Just a few years ago, journalist and filmmaker Miriam Weinstein wrote a book entitled, The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier, in which she outlines the research that supports the role that family dinners play in kids’ lives.

Reading this research, it really sounds like family dinners are the magic bullet of family life. Family dinners have been associated with all sorts of positive outcomes for kids, such as less teenage delinquency and drug use, lower rates of obesity, greater emotional stability, and even better preparedness for reading. It sounds a little too good to be true. Something as simple as family dinners could make all these great outcomes appear in your family?

Well, it turns out that the “magic bullet” of the family dinner may be a little too good to be true. New research is delving deeper into the role that family dinners play in the lives of children. This research is not only compelling because of the insight it offers into family life, but it also illustrates a perfect example of the difference between correlation and causation in social science research.

In this new research, scientists used a huge national survey of adolescents. They consider the relationship between family dinners and three main outcomes:

  • Teen depression,
  • Teen alcohol and drug use, and
  • Teen delinquency

At first, the study seemed to replicate previous work, with there being a strong correlation between family dinners and less teen delinquency. Then, however, researchers went one step further.

They controlled statistically for other factors that might explain these differences in families such as:

  • How well parents monitor their children,
  • How many activities parents do with their children, and
  • Family resources

Not surprisingly, when these factors are included in the mix, the correlation between family dinners and teen outcomes drops dramatically. In other words, these other factors, not family dinner itself, can explain much of the effects we see. Family dinner time is “masking” these other factors.

So it turns out that family dinners are not the “magic bullet” that they were once considered to be. As is often the case in social science, the strong correlation between family dinners and teen outcomes did not mean that family dinners were the sole cause of this relationship. As this new research shows, the family dinner is really just a proxy for other positive things parents do with their children such as talking and engaging with them on a daily basis. The key component that seems to be influencing kids is this: connection and communication with parents.

Does this mean that you should give up on family dinners? Of course not!

Dinner time is still a great opportunity to connect with you kids, but it’s not the only way. In his popular book, The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More, Bruce Feiler discusses different ways in which families can connect throughout the day, not just a dinner.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • If after school activities make dinner time difficult, have an early “dinner” at 4:00 for all who can join. Then later at night, have a family dessert for everyone.
  • Family time does not always have to center around a meal—how about a walk when everyone gets home from school and work.
  • Family storytelling and asking kids questions is key. Every family has stories from grandparents or funny tales from relatives.
  • Start a “themed” conversation that happens most times the family is together. Ours is sharing “joys and challenges” of the day or week. Each person shares something that was a “joy” and “challenge” for that day. It is amazing all the good conversation this can start.

Research is clearly showing that “family dinner” is really just a proxy for family connection. Kids that feel safe, connected, and valued by their family are less likely to participate in dangerous activities like drug use, extreme risk-taking or delinquent acts. Furthermore, these kids tend to be happier and are less likely to be depressed.

Take the pressure and stress out of family dinner. Just aim to find a few minutes every day to connect with your family, in any way you can.

Holiday Food Allergy Wish List: From Our Family To Yours

pretzel-lightChances are most of us knows someone with a food allergy. With the holidays practically beating down our door and food arriving from every direction, what steps can we take to ensure that everyone is kept out of harm’s way? After all, the holidays are about giving, eating, sharing and loving. How can we accomplish all of this when some of us are still unsure of the safety rules? I feel that I am safe to speak on behalf of most families who have food allergies; we all have unspoken wish lists that fill our hearts with joy whenever anyone abides by them.

  • Include Us We understand that this can be tricky and even cause extra work for many of you. We know that your lives are just as busy as our own. We also know that many people truly want to include people with food allergies in their plans but they just don’t know how. Begin by including us in your plans rather than making us feel as if we are invading your plans. We will help you every step of the way because the mere fact that you care for us enough to offer means so very much to all of us.
  • Listen to Us This might be the most difficult part for you; your mind is already spinning in multiple directions. If you want to include us, listening is an absolute necessary part of planning for safety. If you ask a question about menus or foods or products, realize that whatever we tell you is for a precise reason. Write it down, ask us multiple times if you have too but please be sure and listen to what we say.
  • Consider Our Journey Remember that none of us with food allergies asked to have a food allergy. No matter what you think we say, do or request is some secret way to cause aggravation that is not our purpose at all. Our food requests are not about you- they are all about us. Is this a bit selfish- yes but it can mean life or death so it must be this way.
  • Be Honest With Us If you feel unsure at any time with what we have told you to stay safe, tell us. Many of us are still trying to figure out all of the rules about our allergies so we absolutely don’t expect you to understand them either. Tell us you want us there but that you don’t feel that you can offer us safe foods. Honesty is like a safety hug.
  • Discuss the Menu with Us Go over the menu and ask us if there is anything that we are able to eat. We do ask that you be patient with us when we ask what may seem like thousands of questions. This is how our lives are and we are just used to investigating every single detail about our foods. You may learn things that you didn’t even know about your foods from us.
  • BYOF It’s perfectly fine to ask us to bring our own food! In fact, many of us travel with foods most of the time so that we are safe and there is no added pressure to us or to our hosts. We love our food just as much as you do but in the end, being safe and spending quality time with our friends and family is what counts the most.

There are just a few more wishes for the people who visit us in our homes as well. You might even say it is just part of our routine rather than wishes. Remember not to be offended or think that we are exaggerating- we will welcome you with open arms but it’s our house and our rules. These were put into place because this is what our home needs to avoid an allergic reaction. Remember – it’s my child’s life – I can’t care if people get offended – he could die, period. It’s not my job to make everyone else feel comfortable – only to keep my son safe and alive. That trumps everything! Trust me when I say that nothing turns a holiday into a bad memory faster than watching an allergic reaction. So all that said, I think you’ll understand a little more clearly why we insist on the following:

Wash your hands Do not stop to shake hands, do not touch my child’s face, do not touch any of our foods until you have washed your hands please. We are not afraid of germs- we are afraid of what allergic ingredients are hiding on your hands. That candy bar that you moved around inside of your purse to get to your lipstick? That could be fatal to us.

Please Don’t Debate Washing your hands or following our safety rules is not up for discussion. Our family has special needs and you must follow our request. You do not know all of the reasons and you don’t need too. We don’t need to know why you don’t agree with some of them. Please respect us enough to keep us safe- we will do the same for you.

Ask Before You Bring Food Don’t take this the wrong way- again, we love our foods. We appreciate that you want to share with us and feed us. But chances are, we won’t be able to eat what you have spent your time and effort to make for us. If you are thinking of bringing food, ask us what products we like and make us a gift bag of those items (keep them in the package- even preparing allergy-friendly items has its own set of safety rules).

Every family has a holiday routine and we would love to learn yours. This year, spending time with each other can be the best gift we are given. Take pictures, swap recipe ideas and cook with each to learn new methods of cooking and how to use new ingredients. If you are wondering what you should bring to the table, kindness is always an absolute winner.

Holiday Decorations & Kids: Hidden Dangers You Need to Avoid

the baby around the Christmas tree playing with lightsThe holidays are fast approaching and the preparation has already begun for Thanksgiving and eventually Christmas. Family will be coming over to your home or you will be traveling to theirs for food and festivities. While this time of year is a joyful one please keep in mind the little things that pose a danger to the children. Things like electricity from lights and decorations, breakable objects that can be knocked over onto a child or create sharp edges. Choking hazards are greatly overlooked during the holidays. While we are all aware of toys having choking hazards and warning labels , holiday decorations can have parts that are easily swallowed if found by a child such as small light bulbs, parts from battery operated decorations, holiday village scenes, snacks in snack bowls, and a host of other things that need to be secured and checked.

When I teach CPR classes for new parents, soon to be parents and even grandparents, I encourage everyone to go home and lie on the floor and see the world from a child’s perspective and see what a different world it is. I do this to emphasize a point that there are hidden dangers under furniture and that the children will find anything you have lost like pills, money and other objects. I encourage this around the holidays as well because it will give you a perspective of your home that will allow you to see how easily the holiday decorations and electrical cords can be reached by small children. Give it a try, I promise you it’s an eye opening experience.

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season!

Have No Fear – Allergy Safe Food is Here

Wherever there is a diagnosis of food allergies, there is also a fear of food.
The thought of social events, eating meals that are not from your own kitchen and trusting that someone else is giving you something that will be safe can be almost just as crippling as the diagnosis itself. Walking into a room of food can set off all sorts of internal struggles and anxieties that may simply make it unbearable to even attempt for some people. But what if that room full of food wasn’t scary or dangerous? What if that room full of food was actually a safe haven where all of the foods were clearly labeled, everyone handing out food had gloves on and answered each and every allergy question that you have about that food?GlutenFree Expo

Jen Cafferty, Founder & CEO of The Gluten Free Media Group shares a personal experience: “There was a family that came to the Secaucus, NJ GFAF Expo and when they walked in, their son had tears in his eyes. He was about 10 years old and was crying. I was worried that something was wrong but then he said ‘This is better than Disney! I can eat everything!’”

With multiple locations across the United States, the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo is the largest event for foodies with food allergies. Seeing the immediate need to offer more products for those with Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivities/ auto-immune/inflammatory disease and Autism, this expo is nothing short of a great way to regain your trust in food and to find new items that you didn’t even know were available for you.

For the price of an expo ticket you get:

  • 1 Day or Weekend entry to the vendor area with 100+ brands
  • A free reusable bag that has a bunch of wonderful items inside to add to it
  • Gluten free samples from the vendors
  • Discounts on many of the products at the event
  • Vendor coupons to help you save after the expo
  • Free classes to help you with a gluten free and allergen-friendly lifestyle
  • You also get to meet your favorite product vendors, authors and bloggers (like me!)

Why I Go

We all need a sense of community to strengthen our food allergy journey. I have personally found that attending these expos allows me to connect with other people on so many different levels. Being able to meet and talk to the product vendors about why they do what they do, what your family needs them for or even to recommend some new ideas brings about a newfound voice that many of us don’t know how to share. Bumping into other attendees and just having a conversation makes us realize that we are all in this together and regardless of how long we have known each other, what we do know is that someone else’s family is instantly our family in any allergic scenario. You may enter with caution because you are so used to fearing what these foods can do to you but when you leave, this will be the same food that GF Pastawill empower you to get through all of those difficult days. Between the delicious never-ending samples of food, the goody bags followed by even more goodies being handed out to you along the way and the personal touches of the expo, you will be reminded that food is fun. How long has it been since you felt comfortable saying that? Where else can you walk, talk, eat and have a picture taken with a giant fork? Whether you go alone or as a family, there is something for people of all age groups to pick up, pick at and pose for.

Our family has been to the Atlanta, GA Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo twice: once as a family (shared here) and this time I was honored to be a part of their press team. The only difference between the two trips- it got even better. Why am I sharing? Because it’s part of my passion to help others with food allergies and I want everyone to feel good about their food allergies. When you feel out of control or lost, there are places to go and people to meet who will help you. Why not enjoy the journey along the way?

For more information on the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo visit http://gfafexpo.com/.

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