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It’s Fall: What Can I Expect As Far As My Child’s Allergies?

fall allergies - runny noses and itchy eyesWe are currently in the middle of the allergy season created by ragweed. We had thought we had made it through the spring and summer allergy season with our immune system health in good shape when all of a sudden it seems to return with a vengeance: watery, itchy eyes, constantly clear runny itchy nose, clearing your throat and trying in vain to scratch the back part of your palate with the back of your tongue. Here we are again, but in the spring/ summer seasons this was due to trees and grass. Every season has its own list of usual suspects to create allergy symptoms.

The end of summer and beginning of fall sees the end of the ragweed season and the onset of more indoor things to spark the symptoms of allergy. When families start to close up their homes for the colder weather to come, many allergens are trapped indoors such as molds and dust. Many people are allergic to just these factors, made worse by the onset of school and the ability of children to begin bring home the “bug of the week”. Colds become more frequent and the onset of asthmatic symptoms add to the coughs, runny noses and itchiness, along with such factors as spending more time indoors with your furry pets. The leaves are beginning to fall and the wind is beginning to whip the leaves around and fragment them causing a different kind of dust.

Added to that, as families begin to turn the heat on in their homes, two things happen; all the dust that has collected in the ducts now is blown into the indoor environment to mix with all the other allergens and the indoor air begins to dry out. This potpourri of particles is just about everywhere, just waiting to irritate your respiratory tract if you happen to have allergies.

The symptoms of allergic problems do not necessarily change with the seasons and probably the same medications your Doctor recommended in the Spring will also be effective, but if you have difficulty controlling the problem, get in touch with your healthcare provider – they can help you make sure your children are not bothered with these symptoms in school.

5 Things Not to Say to Your Tween Daughter

The tween years are all about developing a positive self-image, good decision-making, healthy self-discipline and better mood regulation. What you say to your tween and how you use your nonverbal language to communicate with her may have a lasting impact on her view of herself. As conflicts arise you might find yourself blurting things out that you wish you could take back. Reflect on some common parent-daughter foibles to help yourself stay on the path to positive communication with your tween.

If you catch yourself being judgmental or shaming breathe through it, after reading these five things not to say to your tween, you’ll make better choices next time.

“Your dad noticed.” Tweens can be nervous about what other people see and notice about them, especially their dads. The father-daughter relationship is an important one. Your tween’s first line of dealing with boys who become men is in the relationship between father and daughter. If a tween’s dad is going to notice things about a tween, it’s time for him to speak directly to her. The tween years can feel uncomfortable to a dad, at times. Help your husband to talk openly with your tween about her relationships, her body and her friendships. The more comfortable dad is the more comfortable your tween will be.

“I don’t like that friend.” The tween years are a time when children move from practicing in their relationships to making choices about whom to befriend and who to avoid. If you feel your tween could be making better choices in her friendships help her to identify what makes a good friend. Talk with her about what kinds of friendships make her feel happy, safe and “lifted up.” Open-ended questions that allow self-reflection and not self-judgment such as “How do you like your friends to talk with you?” and “When you share something private with a friend, what are you hoping she does with that information?” will help your tween to develop the skills to observe and reflect on her relationships and improve her decision-making skills.

“You’re too young to like a boy.” With the changes occurring in a tween’s body and brain, developing attraction to boys is a natural process. Often in fourth and fifth grade tweens begin to notice boys. Having crushes can be expected, although not required. Instead of telling your tween how she is allowed to feel guide her to develop attractions that are based on honesty, caring and compatibility. Part of the growing communications with her girlfriends will be drawing comparisons about whom they like. Encourage the freedom to feel differently than her friends without making the object of their affection out to be a “bad guy”. Discussing what they like in boys and what they do not like is the beginning of sorting out whom they will date in high school and college. The tween years are when you lay the groundwork for healthy choices and good decision making about courting behavior. Open communication is the first line to healthy decision-making and problem solving.

“I never want to hear you say that again!” As your tween begins to define herself as a person independent of how you think and feel, she’s going to say things you wish had not come out of her mouth. Instead of being directive and setting up a control struggle wonder aloud about what she meant and help her to understand that what she says in the world reflects on whom she is inside. Gentle direction will win almost every time over bossy intimidation.

“You’d be beautiful if…” You were a tween once. How did it feel when others told you to lose weight, hide your big ears or wear different clothing? Research shows that the developing self-image of a tween persists through adulthood. So help your tween love herself as she is. If she needs to get more exercise, to eat better or choose less revealing clothes, show her the path to success with loving guidance not shameful embarrassment.

Hey mom, you might be new to this whole ‘tween-thing’, your tween is as well, so open-up, talk it out and seek advice from friends you trust. You’ll get the hang of it, just as your tween will.

Healthy Back to School Lunches Kids Will Want to Eat

For many kids across the country, school is starting and that means kids will be eating lunch away from home. Proper nutrition is important for physical health and brain function.

A child who does not get enough nutrients in her lunch or has a sugar crash shortly after lunchtime may have a harder time focusing and learning. But how do we get kids to eat healthy at school whether they are choosing from the cafeteria foods or taking a lunch from home?

Here are some ideas I shared on Oklahoma City’s KOKH Fox 25 morning show to help your kids choose or take healthy lunches they will actually want to eat and won’t trade with their friends.

Get Kids Involved in Choosing What to Eat

Kids who are given choices about what goes in their lunchbox will be more likely to eat what is packed. The key is giving two or three choices among healthy options. Would he prefer whole grain bread or a whole grain tortilla or pita pocket? Broccoli or carrots? Grapes or an apple? Milk or water?

Teach your kids what different foods do for the body and how our body needs nutrients offered by these foods to fuel it so we can do the things we need to do and the things we enjoy. Does your kid like sports or have a favorite athlete? Point out how athletes (such as all our great Olympic champions) eat healthy foods and avoid junk foods so they have the energy and the strength to participate and excel at their sport. When kids understand how healthy foods can benefit them (make them stronger, faster, and even smarter) then they will be open to eating those foods.

If your child eats the school cafeteria’s food, get a menu for the week or month and have your child make some choices from the menu before going to school. This way, you can help guide the choices. If there is not a healthy option listed for a certain day, you can plan to pack a lunch that day.

Packing a Balanced Lunch

A balanced lunch is one that consists of a serving of protein (think lean meats, low-fat cheeses, nuts or nut butter, beans), a vegetable, a fruit, a serving of whole grains (whole grain bread, whole grain tortilla or pita pocket, whole grain rice, etc.), and a dairy serving (if able to have dairy).

Let your child help choose the foods he will take to school and help assemble his lunch. Kids who make their own lunch will want to eat it. Guide the choices when needed and praise healthy choices. And remember, it is okay to pack a little sweet treat too. A small cookie, fun-size piece of candy, or other small treat helps kids learn that these foods are okay in small portions and not with every meal. All things in moderation! As long as it is a small treat, even if she eats it first, she’ll still have room for the rest of her healthy lunch.

Add some WOW Factor to Make Lunch Fun

Another way to get kids to enjoy eating healthy lunches is to make them visually appealing and fun. Think outside the boring sandwich box! Cut foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters or fun-shaped sandwich cutters. Or consider making lunchtime kabobs using wooden skewers or thick big pretzels and alternating meat cubes, cheese cubes, and cherry tomatoes or a variety of fruits and veggies. Mix up some healthy trail mix to eat instead of chips or fries or pack some pita chips, wheat crackers, or crunchy carrot sticks. The more colorful the fruits and veggies, the healthier they are, so make a colorful lunch salad with dark leafy lettuces, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and pack a side of a low-fat, low-calorie dressing.

Do your kids love pre-assembled lunchable-type lunches? Make your own healthier version with whole wheat crackers, lean meats and low-fat cheeses cut down to size and in fun shapes. Do they like to dip their foods? Veggies and fruits can be dipped into low-fat yogurt or veggie dip. Do they like bite-sized foods? Cut up everything and pack them into separate compartments or put them in small snack-sized sandwich bags. Love a variety of fruits? Cut them up and mix to make a yummy fruit salad. Like to grill or cook-out? Make “campfire” foil packets with their favorite lean meat and veggies, grill until done and pack for lunch. Make it fun and they will be excited to eat their lunch and won’t be tempted to trade!

5 Strategies to Conquer Your Kid’s Doctor Phobia

Parents aren’t always naturals at soothing their children’s fear of doctors or dentists. But there are things they can do to make the visits less upsetting, says Meghan D. Kelly, M.S.Ed., C.C.L.S., director of the Phoebe H. Stein Child Life Program at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Besides staying calm, keep this advice in mind:

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 5: Be up front. “Believe it or not, I’ve seen some kids coming in for surgery whose parents told them they were going to Toys”R”Us,” says Kelly. Not helpful. If you’re going for a routine checkup, explain to your kids that in order for them to have strong bodies and healthy teeth, their doctor needs to check if everything is working well. Describe what the doctor might do: look in his ears, listen to his chest, etc.

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 4: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Promising “no shots” is a bad way to get kids through the door — unless you’re 100 percent sure there won’t be any. An artful omission is OK, though. “You can say, ‘I’m not sure what’s going to happen today, but I trust the doctor to decide what you need,’” says Kelly.

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 3: Acknowledge the fear. Denying that something might hurt or telling your crying child to “be a big girl” will only make her feel ashamed and more anxious, says Kelly. Instead, validate what she’s feeling and offer coping strategies, such as “If you want, I can count to three. When I’m done, it will be over.”

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 2: Use comfort strategies. Giving kids choices makes them feel a bit more in control,

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 1:  Use low-key language. If a shot is unavoidable, stay away from words like “sting” or “burn.” Instead, Kelly suggests saying, “You’re going to feel the doctor pressing on your arm. It might feel warm, and then it will be finished.”which ultimately eases anxiety. Let them decide where they’d like to sit during the exam — on the table or on a chair. Use the art of distraction. Chat about a favorite show or read a picture book you’ve brought along.

If your pediatrician seems insensitive to your child’s fears, set up a time to address your concerns. If she still doesn’t get it, it may be time to move on.

6 Healthy Makeovers for Summer Snacks

The school year ends, and the parties, barbecues, vacations, carnivals and festivals begin — not to mention a kitchen that’s open 24/7. “It’s harder to get kids to eat healthy snacks in summer because of all the high-calorie temptations,” says Portland-based pediatrician Stephen Ames, M.D. It gets a lot easier when you’ve got healthy substitutions for their favorite treats. Your child won’t even miss the sugar.

Old Summer Snack: Ice Cream

New Summer Snack: Frozen Coconut Bar

Try “ice cream” made from coconut milk. “Coconut milk has germ-fighting and heart-protective properties,” explains certified health counselor Beth Aldrich, “and it may actually stimulate metabolism.” Another healthy frozen treat is mashed frozen bananas with your choice of toppings: Try crushed peanuts (they’re packed with protein and healthy fats) and dark chocolate chips (they contain antioxidants).

Old Summer Snack: Slushies

New Summer Snack: Watermelon Ice Pops

They’re easy to make and loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, says Aldrich. Puree watermelon chunks in a blender till smooth; pour into ice pop molds and freeze. (Add plain low-fat yogurt for a hit of extra calcium if you like.) Also try pureed strawberries, oranges and grapefruit with mint.

Old Summer Snack: Kettle Corn

New Summer Snack: Seasoned Popcorn

High in fiber and low in calories, air-popped popcorn can make a fun, filling snack –without the heavy sugar. Dress it up with a drizzle of fat-free chocolate syrup; a mix of cinnamon and stevia (a natural plant extract that has no calories); or combine with a handful of peanuts and toss with a blend of melted coconut oil and stevia (or agave) nectar for caramel-corn flavor.

Old Summer Snack: Hot Dog

New Summer Snack: Nitrate-free Turkey Dogs

You won’t have to worry about chemicals or bad fats with a nitrate-free turkey dog. Plus, the protein will keep kids satisfied for hours. Wrap the turkey dogs in all-natural, whole-wheat crescent rolls and top with mustard for a hearty, savory snack. Or try Tofurky Franks, made with tofu, for a meat-free ballpark taste.

Old Summer Snack: Packaged Potato Chips

New Summer Snack: Homemade Veggie Chips

Peel fresh carrots, parsnips, beets and sweet potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch slices. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet; spray with vegetable oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 375 F. Kids can’t resist the colorful crunch — no dip needed!

Old Summer Snack: Lemonade or Cola

New Summer Snack: Fruit-infused Water

Slice fresh fruit — lemon, berries, watermelon or even pineapple — and let it float in a water dispenser or pitcher, suggests Aldrich. Sweeten to taste with Stevia; studies show that it may even prevent tooth decay by fighting the bacteria that cause it. Let kids choose the fruit and name the drink; they’ll think they came up with the idea themselves!

How Do You Treat Your Child’s Sunburn If It’s So Bad it Blisters?

Sunburns can be more serious than most believe, especially on a child.

Seek treatment from your physician if the sunburn has blistered over a large portion of your child’s body or if it is extremely painful. Also call your doctor if your child experiences facial swelling, a fever, chills, a headache, confusion or faintness. Other symptoms that signal the need for medical attention are signs of dehydration — such as increased thirst or dry eyes — and signs of infection on the skin, such as increasing redness, swelling or puss.

To minimize the damage caused by sunburn, the most important thing is to remove your child from the sun immediately after seeing the burn.

You can then treat symptoms by placing the child in a cool shower or bath, or by applying cool compresses several times a day. It’s also important to push extra fluids for the next two to three days to avoid dehydration and promote healing. You can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, but do not use aspirin in children or teenagers. Don’t break blisters, which will increase the risk of infection. It’s also important to keep sunburned areas covered from the sun until they’re healed.

Serious sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

The key to avoiding the pain and minimizing the risk is to keep burns from happening in the first place. You should avoid the sun if possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when it is strongest. If you must be in the sun, use a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15, even on cloudy days. You should put sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before heading outside and reapply every hour or so if your child is sweating or swimming. For even greater protection, cover your child’s skin with protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat. Be careful on the water and the beach, where cool breezes can lull you into a false sense of safety from sunburn.

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