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First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know

No matter how protective you are as a parent, kids are just accident magnets. They scrape knees, bump heads and bust lips in their endless pursuit of exploration and fun. In fact, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign, one out of four children per year sustains an injury serious enough to require medical attention. While you can’t always keep your kids from getting hurt, you can be prepared to provide first aid when they are. Here are some common emergencies and guidelines on how to react:

Emergency Your kids are running barefoot in the backyard, when one of them cuts her foot on a sharp rock.

What to do “The first thing you should do is clean the cut and stop the bleeding,” says Dr. Richard E. Miller, a pediatrician at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Wash it thoroughly with soap and water and then apply firm pressure using gauze or a clean washcloth. “If the cut is superficial, apply an antiseptic ointment and close the wound with a butterfly band-aid,” says Dr. Miller. “But if it’s a deep, open wound that won’t stop bleeding, or if any tissue or muscle is exposed, basic first aid may not be enough – go to the emergency room for stitches.”

Be prepared Always make sure that kids wear shoes when playing outside. And keep adhesive bandages, gauze and antiseptic ointment on hand at all times.

Emergency Your toddler sneaks up to the stove while you’re cooking and burns her hand on the pot.

What to do First aid is needed to quickly to reduce the temperature of the burn and limit the damage to skin. For first-degree burns (red skin, minor swelling and pain but no blisters), remove clothes from the burned area, run cool – not cold – water over the burn for 3 to 5 minutes. Or press a wet, cold compress. If the burn is small, loosely cover it in gauze or bandage. For second-degree burns (blisters, severe pain and redness) or third-degree burns (the surface looks dry and is waxy white, leathery, brown or charred, although there may be no pain or numbness), call 911. Keep your child lying down and elevate the burned area. Remove clothing from the burned area, unless it is stuck to the skin. Don’t break any blisters. Apply cool water over the burn area for 3 to 5 minutes and then cover it with a clean white cloth or sheet until help arrives.

Be prepared In the kitchen, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove while you cook. Never hold your baby while you cook. In the bathroom, always turn the cold water on first and off last, and test bath water with your elbow.

Emergency Your energetic son just knocked his tooth out on the bedpost while jumping on the bed.

What to do To stop the bleeding, firmly apply a piece of wet gauze to the gums until the bleeding stops. If he lost a baby tooth, there’s no need for concern: A permanent tooth will eventually grow in its place. But you should visit a dentist regardless just to make sure none of his underlying teeth were damaged. If the tooth he lost was a permanent one, time is of essence. The faster you act, the higher your odds of saving the tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends holding the tooth by its crown and reinserting it into the socket, pressing it firmly in place with clean gauze. (If that’s not possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk, which will preserve the tooth’s roots.) Then visit a pediatric dentist immediately.

Be prepared Keep a pediatric dentist’s number on your refrigerator and in your cell phone.

Emergency You’re making breakfast when your toddler walks over to show you his new toy: an open bottle of prescription pills.

What to do Any time a child has potentially swallowed a hazardous substance, call your local poison control center immediately. If your child has collapsed or stopped breathing, call 911 first. Each case of poisoning is unique, and treatment varies greatly depending on what hazardous substance your child has ingested. Never take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to poison emergencies. Seek immediate treatment.

Be prepared Poison-proof your home by storing all medication in childproof containers kept out of children’s reach. Post the number of your local poison control center somewhere highly visible, like your refrigerator.

Warning! Your Kids & Grandkids Think Gummy Meds Are Delicious

Mommies and Daddies, Grandmas and Grandpas, listen up. There are many prescription and non-prescription medications kept around the home that could be a danger for your children/grandchildren should they find these and “taste” them.

One of the more common of these “medicines” include the variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements found in homes now. While most vitamins are “benign” when inappropriately ingested, there are some that might cause problems in children who ingest large amounts, such as vitamin D, A, and certain minerals in excess. Not all supplements and “alternative” medical cures have been regulated by our FDA and therefore the correct dosages of these have not been calculated. While ingestion of a single chewable, gummy or regular tablet would probably be OK in a child, it is most of the time impossible to say how many have been consumed. As a result, even in adults, the dosage is not accurate and this is magnified in a smaller lighter- weight child. Therefore, these should be kept out of the reach of children.

Also among the most common of these are the pain relievers- such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Aspirin, fortunately, is not as popular as it used to be, but was responsible for a good proportion of accidental poisonings in children. This medication in excess caused severe derangements in hydration and acid/base balance in children and occasionally led to death. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) in excess could lead to kidney problems and possibly go on to kidney dysfunction and failure, while acetaminophen, also in excess, has been responsible for liver problems and possible liver failure and death. Treatment for any of these “poisonings” is not 100% effective and so, like all other issues, prevention is the best medicine. The problem with these meds is that they are very common in households and are considered to be “benign” so efforts to hide them are not realized. Also, we can’t forget that “normal dosages” for these drugs vary with age and weight, and children are at much higher risk than adults for complications at much lower doses. This rule holds for all medications and drugs.

The stronger pain medications that could be found around the home after surgery or injury are far more dangerous in that they are almost all depressants and can slow down heart rate and respirations to the point of coma and death.

Specific medications for specific ailments; high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc. should always be kept locked up as, while these medications do a very good job for those who need them, can cause problems of varying nature if taken by those people (children) who do not need them. And again the rule of age and weight applies here also.

Antibiotics are found around the home when they are being used or if they are “saved to be used another day”. This is a very poor practice, but not uncommon, as the price of these drugs keeps going up- throw away any unused antibiotics. Unless a person (child) is allergic to these medications, or consumes very large amounts they do not cause as many problems as the medications mentioned above.

As a rule, keep any medication and vitamins, minerals and supplements out of the reach of children and locked in a safe place- assume that any one or more of these could cause serious problems for your children or grandchildren.

If the child is found near an open bottle of any medication, particularly if there are traces of that medicine in or around his/her mouth or pills are found lying on the floor nearby, assume the worst and call poison control (everyone should have the phone number of local poison control centers nearby) and then the Doctor. Have the bottle of the medicine in front of you when you call (if possible) so that you can answer any questions that are asked. Remember that prevention is the best “cure” for poisonings because there is often no good way of treating these problems after the fact.

US Toll-Free Poison Help Line

1-800-222-1222

Call is free and confidential

Connects you with your local poison control center

Cleaning Your Kid’s Ears: Are Q-Tips Safe?

A friend once told me with great disdain, while watching me wiggle a cotton swab deep in my ear canal with great satisfaction, “I never use Q-tips to clean out my ears.” Apparently a little girl with Q-tipdoctor once told him never to put anything smaller than his elbow into his ear, and he took these words as gospel.

Do you ever have the feeling when someone tells you some great truth, a law of the universe that you’ve been breaking for years in ignorance, that it’s remarkable that you have survived this long, having missed out on some basic manual on life along the way? I often wonder if the parents in my practice feel this way as I spout my wisdom on general health issues, and they look chagrined at having broken the rules with their child. The good news is, it’s hard to break your child. ..especially with things like the management of ear wax.

So what are the rules of proper ear hygiene? Though I think that my friend’s doctor was a bit dramatic, I do agree that for the most part, cotton swabs do more harm than good for children’s ears.

Here’s the lowdown.

Ear wax (otherwise known as cerumen) is icky, and sometimes smells quite foul, but it actually serves several important functions. It is created in the outer half of the ear canal, where it serves to lubricate the skin of the ear canal, and prevents flaking and itching. It also has antibacterial properties and protects the skin of the ear from infections like otitis externa, commonly known as swimmer’s ear.

Ear wax almost always comes out of the ear on its own accord. There are small hairs, called cilia, lining the outer half of the ear canal which act as a conveyor belt, pushing the old wax out as the new wax is formed. And so under most circumstances, ears clean themselves.

What is the harm of a little friendly assistance? There are several potential problems caused by good intentions. Often, especially in children’s small ear canals, using a cotton swab actually pushes the wax deeper into the canal, to the far recesses where there are no hairs to help remove it. In children who make a thick, moist wax, their ears often become so clogged with wax that their hearing becomes dulled, which can impact speech development in younger kids and learning and behavior in older kids.

And then there are those over-eager toddlers who wiggle a little too hard and deep and puncture their eardrum. This common injury usually heals very well, but sometimes the tiny bones that are essential for proper hearing are damaged or the membrane fails to heal and an innocent cleaning exercise can have profound impact on the life of a child.

In the end, though I was chagrined myself when I first heard this advice, I too now recommend avoiding q-tips or cotton-tipped swabs for ear hygiene.

Tips for Parents:

  • The secret to clean ears is to use a wash cloth only on the outer, visible part of the ear to clean the wax as it naturally comes out. Internal cleaning is not necessary, and may be harmful.
  • If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, visit your doctor to see if they have ears plugged with wax.
  • Never allow your children to play with cotton swabs or place anything else (carrots included) in their ears.
  • Itchy ears are often caused by over-zealous cleaning habits. A few drops of mineral oil can help soothe them while you wait for the ear’s natural lubricant to return.

Keeping Your Food Allergic Child Safe At The Grocery Store

toddler girl sit in shopping cart in supermarketWhen someone becomes a food allergic parent, this changes every single aspect of your daily routine. Allergy triggers are everywhere and must be avoided as much as possible. This means preparing ahead of time to ensure minimal risk of exposure. This may also mean that your new routines will be forced to change as your allergic child grows and goes through new stages of their childhood. One of the trickiest, most nerve-wracking stages can be the years that your child is touching everything to seek out their new environment. How does a parent keep their child safe, allow them to process their newest childhood developmental stage but also be able to tackle a simple chore such as going to the food store? Luckily, it can be done.

When my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, going food shopping became a new area of terror for me. We were surrounded by food and the worst part- most of his high allergy triggers were placed in open barrels throughout the store where anyone could touch them. We survived with little or no injury and I wanted to share my tips to make sure everyone else does the same. Food shopping for food allergy menus is stressful enough so let me help you focus your energy in other areas.

Always Have Medications

I cannot repeat this enough- ALWAYS have any necessary medications with you, no matter where you go. Always have two epinephrine auto injectors, antihistamine, and asthma inhalers- anything that you may need at a moment’s notice. Many people assume that they can avoid allergic triggers but there is no definite way of telling what, when or where an allergic reaction can happen. Being prepared means always being one step ahead of a possibly fatal incident. Your child’s life is worth so much more than not taking 20 extra seconds to pack these items up with your belongings for your venture out.

Stress Doesn’t Help Your Child

I know this may seem like a given but it’s a fact; the more stress you show your child, the more they see it, feel it and react to it. The calmer you are in the way you approach situations, the calmer your child will also be. Not only does this teach your child to go into multiple situations with a more focused way of thinking but it will show your child to always begin in a more positive frame of mind. Stress can also trigger some people’s allergies so it is best avoided as much as possible. Not to mention anyone who is stressed too often does not treat their immune system to function as optimally as it should. Less stress within a child’s behavior is better health for the child and better health for parents.

Use Wipes

We have been deemed as the “germophobe” generation – use it to keep your child safe. Many food stores offer free sanitizing wipes at the entrance, use them. This may not remove all traces of possible allergens from the previous person who used your shopping cart but it will be better than risking a simple touch of a handle bar that was just grabbed with a handful of a food. Children eat all of the time and children touch everything all of the time- this includes your shopping cart. If you prefer a gentler wipe due to chemical or ingredients, pack your own. There are natural brands such as Water Wipes or you can even bring a bag that has your own wet wash cloth with a gentle soap on it.

Cover Everything

As mentioned before- children touch everything. When they are teething, they also taste, lick, bite and try to put everything in their mouth as well. For a child with food allergies, a shopping cart can be a disaster waiting to happen in the blink of an eye. One of the best items I ever found was a reusable shopping cart seat cover. This is a cloth item that you can bring with you and fits most sizes of shopping cart seats. There are multiple types available but I recommend one such as Infantino because:

  1. Walker -shoppingcartcoverYou want a seat cover that will completely cover the entire shopping cart seat, including the handle bars.
  2. You want something that is thicker and more padded to keep your child comfortable (some products are very thin and less padding causes a cranky child).
  3. Your cart cover should include its own seat belt because those also go into your child’s mouth, which is another cross-contamination threat.
  4. Other options to look for are attachable sippy cups or areas to attach your child’s snack container, teething ring or pacifier. All of these items will fall on the floor if not attached and this poses another allergy threat as well as an unhappy child who looks to these for comfort.

Travel With Food

The best way to entertain my child and keep him seated so I could get my shopping done was (plain and simple) food. I always brought safe snacks for him to have. I even made an effort during our food shopping trips to see what other children were eating or what types of samples the store was giving out. If my child wanted to try it because he saw it, I would bring a similar food item so that he felt like he was also getting to try new foods like the other kids in the store.

It’s never about giving in to your child- it is about safety and planning out your routine as effectively as possible. Having a child with food allergies should never seem like something that cannot be a part of whatever you and your family do- there is always a way to do anything, you just need to find a new way to do it.

Home Alone After School? Top 8 Safety Checks for Parents

little boy opening doorWe are now a few weeks into the new school year and along with all the new fresh faces roaming the halls during school, there are fresh faces staying home alone after school for the first time. Now I’m pretty sure that if you have made the decision to leave your child home alone after school that they are what you deem to be old enough and a responsible person. Yet even the most responsible adult can run into problems or have emergencies when home alone, so a little pre-planning and forethought can go a long way to your child’s safety and your peace of mind.

Let’s start with the basic safety checks:

  • Emergency contact numbers, are they known or preprogrammed into a phone or highly visible place near the phone?, Parents, friends, neighbors ,poison control ?, the best case scenario would be to have someone close to your home whom you trust to be aware of the situation and willing to be on call.
  • Safety gear, Next we can get all of our safety gear such as flashlights, candles, and a fire extinguisher all together and know how to safely use each. As a little side note, any fire station will gladly teach you how to properly use an extinguisher.
  • Medications, these can be anything from pills that parents take to needed medications for the child like Insulin or any type of med available in the home. Medications that parents take should be kept locked up and medications the child may need to take while home alone should be clearly taught and understood and closely monitored by the parents upon coming home.
  • Household cleaners should always be locked up if there are little ones around and if they are not, it should be understood the dangers they present when used and how to take proper precautions, such as opening a window for ventilation and hand and eye protection.
  • Major emergencies, It cannot be understated how important it is to call 911. It should be understood that calling 911 is not embarrassing and should not get anyone in trouble. It is what we are here for. Should anything happen in or around the home when your child is home alone that makes them feel unsafe, please instruct them to call 911 right away! ,They could be cooking and accidentally start a fire or smell smoke in an odd place, hear electrical buzzing, maybe they see or hear someone outside or anything that makes them feel unsafe, please make it ok for them to call 911. If it turns out to be nothing, that is fine. You can talk about it when you get home and everyone is alive, safe and well.

Three of the biggest things we worry about with children that are home alone are Fire, Strangers and Weapons.

  • In the case of fire, it is a great idea to have an escape plan from your home. Escaping from a single story window or door may not be hard but a second or third story may require an emergency ladder or alternate route in case of stairs blocked by fire.
  • When it comes to strangers, there is no shortage of bad people. That being said, it is a good idea to have a do not answer the door policy and even a do not acknowledges anyone at the door policy. If it is at night, the house should be well lit and should the person at the door not go away or make your child feel unsafe then 911 should be the next call. A police officer recently told me it’s a good idea to have a second alarm control keypad in the upstairs area that can be activated with a panic button in case of an intruder or strange noise.
  • When it comes to Weapons it goes without saying that they should be respected and understood. Your child is home alone and if there are weapons in the home they should be safely stored, locked and secured as to avoid the awful accidents we see on the news every year. If your child is old enough, trained and certified with a gun, then it is your decision to give them access to it, but be warned because accidents happen. I would think it would be a better and much safer thing to do the things that deter unwanted guests, such as outdoor lighting, cameras, alarm company signage, a dog, anything that does not put a loaded weapon in your child’s hands.

I hope these safety checks give you something to think about and I hope it keeps all the kids safe.

When One Little Boy Said NO to Bullying… a Message for 2019

say no to bullyingHave you noticed…it’s hard to go a week without hearing or reading a story about bullying. There’s the “traditional” bullying we all knew growing up – and perhaps dismiss a bit too easily because of that. The skinny kid being shoved in the hallway…the mean rumors spread about one kid by the “in-crowd”.

And then there’s the new “flavor” of torment –cyber-bullying. Where leaving school no longer brings relief but often just opens the door to a whole new world of abuse. By email, by phone, on social networks, the insults, the hurt just keeps coming.

We read about it…

We read the sad stories – after the fact – when bullying contributes to the death of a child:

  • Rebecca Ann Sedwick – the 7th grader from Florida – who jumped to her death from an abandoned cement silo after enduring a year of online and in-person bullying.
  • Jordan Lewis – a sophomore in high school – who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. In a note, he blamed his suicide on bullying… and more recently
  • Brandy Vela – the 18 year old Texas teenager – who put a gun to her chest and killed herself in front of her family after being relentlessly bullied.

A 2013 Huffington Post article announced that bullying is starting to become recognized as a public health issue. According to Dr. Jorge Srabstein, medical director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to Bullying at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), “Bullying is linked to a wide range of health issues, both physical and emotional symptoms.“ It’s four years later, and that same sentiment is echoed in a 2017 article published by CNN:Bullying is a ‘serious public health problem,’ experts say.”

How do we enter 2019 with this hanging over us? Can we change this scary direction we’re heading in??

Email can be a help line

To answer that, I’m going to share with you a story…well actually it’s an email, but the email itself tells the story. It was written by an ELEVEN year old, to his school principal.

Email Subject: I have found out about a serious bully situation – Benjamin E.

Dear Mr. C.

I began writing this e-mail as soon as I got home, I was on my bus and I found an eighth grade boy, I forgot his name already, but he is in eighth grade and is black and rides bus 115. Anyways, he was crying so I talked to him. He looked so depressed and sad and nobody was paying him any heed. The first thing he said to me was “I’m a loser”. I tried to comfort him and all, but nothing worked I told him to tell his parents about his being bullied but he said that his dad was out of the state and he thought his mom might have moved, he has a grannie though. He says that he doesn’t know the bully’s name, but the bully is male, white, an eighth grader, and is not on bus 115. He say he has no friends, he also says his mom did this to him and that his parents are awful people. I tried to get him to make friends with someone else on the bus but he says they don’t follow him at school so they can’t be his friend…or something like that. I have notified the bus driver of bus 115 and he said “oh, yeah, he does that” so I e-mailed you. I am very worried about him since he said this is my life which made me think he really hated himself.

If you want, I would be happy to talk to you about this boy being bullied. if you need to get ahold of me, my classes are….xxxxx

Sincerely, Benjamin E., 6th grade

So, to answer the question I asked before… can we change this scary direction we’re heading in??

I have to believe if an eleven-year old could write this email, we have a chance.

Starting with one child… and parents who care enough to teach that bullying isn’t ok (and neither is just standing by and watching it happen) …and a school system that reinforces that message and teaches kids what to do if they see someone being bulled…

I think we can

…it only takes one Benjamin to jump in and care and make a difference in one child’s life…and a whole bunch of people to share his story…and hopefully before long, there are two kids…and then four.

That is my wish for all of us for 2019

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Note: For some wonderful anti-bullying resources, please go to the National Bullying Prevention Center

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