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Can Your Lovable Pup Help Your Child Grow Educationally?

Last month we talked about the value of a child with special needs having a service dog with them in the classroom at all times. We also talked about some of the pro’s and con’s for the child without disabilities. But what if there was an area that your child struggled with that maybe wasn’t severe enough to require the services of a full time, highly skilled and trained animal? Can your every-day run-of-the-mill pup still be able to help your child in educational ways? In many cases….yes!!

As adults, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, just as children do! The difference is, our weaknesses are not often exposed, all day, every day, to our peers. Imagine how difficult it would be if you worked in an office, with the same people right next to you, no cubicles or dividers between you and them, and part of your job was a task that you had to perform daily, that you really struggled with…. Yet it seemed to come so easily and naturally to all those around you. How frustrating would that be? How embarrassing? Sure, you could ask for help; but that would get old, really fast…. Especially if it was something that you just ‘didn’t get’.

I know from personal experience, having struggled with learning disabilities, especially with numbers and math, how trying this can be… and what a hit my self esteem took time and time again! (I remember being a child sitting in the classroom and they were going up and down the rows, each child taking the next math problem in the book, trying to very quickly figure out which would be mine, so I could work it out before it was my turn and avoid looking foolish. This rarely worked and, being in a panicked state, quite often I miscounted and worked on the wrong problem…. And felt like an idiot anyway!)

As an adult, I have learned to kind of make light of it (I tell my clients, “Boy, I wish my talent with the dogs transferred to other areas of my life, like Math and a sense of direction!) For me, that statement always lessens the embarrassment when writing out a receipt for a client, when I cannot do the simple math to add it up in my head…. And forget about adding on the tax! But after that statement, I can grab a calculator. Tools like that aren’t always available when you’re a kid.

And let’s face it…. School is a tough place at times! Kids can be horrible…. Especially once they see a weakness in another child…. That child can suddenly become an easy target for taunting and bullying! And in that kind of atmosphere is it any wonder the child will become more insecure and not want to ask for help?

In 1999, a group in Minnesota called Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) who specialized in providing animal-assisted-therapies in the areas of physical, occupational, speech, psychotherapies, as well as special education developed and launched a program called R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs.) The premise and purpose behind this program was to provide a safe environment where a child can sit down and read out-loud to a dog without any fear of judgment or ridicule. The immediate successes they saw encouraged the growth and popularity of this program, and the organization quickly branched out to include visits to numerous libraries, schools, and many other venues. It has helped thousands of children to improve their reading and communication skills. Here is a link to their site, which can obviously explain everything they do a bit better than I can, and they also provide a calendar of events (click on the ‘ATTEND” box on the right hand side of the screen) where you can see if they are going to be in your area… http://www.therapyanimals.org/READ.html

On this site are also numerous ‘how to’ videos where they show you what you can do if you would like to become a ‘R.E.A.D. owner/handler volunteer team’ in your area. But I want to simplify it a bit and mention a few things you can do to see if your own personal dog can accomplish this task for your child at home.

I want to mention here that although the program itself is very familiar to me, the ins-and-outs of how it works were not, so this has been a wonderful learning experience for me as well! All of the tips and feedback I am going to give you are a culmination of my training skills and experiences, mixed with highlights from the many videos I have watched that came directly from this organization. As I mentioned before, I wanted to simplify this so that you can see if your dog is a good candidate to provide this service for your child, and if so, how to best accomplish this task.

So to begin with, Part One would be to see if your dog can possess the skills needed to help your child. (I recommend doing this when your child is not around. If it turns out your dog is not a good candidate for this, we do not want to raise your child’s hopes and then have them disappointed.) What are those skills? According to the ITA videos, the basic skills required are:

  • A firm “DOWN/STAY” command
  • The ability to lie still for however long you choose to hold your reading ‘sessions’ (note: If your dog is not good at staying still for an hour at a clip, do not be discouraged and think this will not work for you. Try shorter durations.) This is important because we want to set up an atmosphere of a non-judgmental space for your child. If they are embarrassed already about their reading skills, or have ever been teased because of their reading difficulties, the dog getting up and walking away may be interpreted by your sensitive child as a form of rejection.
  • A good “Touch” command. This is important because it helps your child to really feel like the dog is involved in the reading when your dog periodically ‘touches’ the page with their paw or nose. This task becomes especially valuable when your child comes to a word they are having difficulty with or do not understand. You can signal the dog to touch the page, and then say something like, “Fido is having trouble understanding what that word is. How about we look it up so we can explain it to him.” Again, this is a very non-judgmental way to help your child….. Similar to when child therapists use dolls to help children speak about difficult things without it being in the ‘first person’.
  • A not-so easily distracted dog. This kind of goes hand in hand with the solid DOWN/STAY. It is very important because again, the last thing you want is your child sitting down to read with the dog, someone walks by, and the dog gets up and leaves. Again, we do not want to risk your child feeling not-important or rejected by the dog in any way, which can happen if the dog suddenly gets up and leaves.

Part Two – what skills and tools do you personally need to work with the dog and your child?

  • Patience
  • A sense of humor
  • A non-perfectionist attitude (remember, we want to encourage, not discourage! So ITA recommends it is very important that you not get ‘bogged-down’ on mistakes and be careful of the way your correct them.
  • Do not be over-exuberant in introducing this concept to your child. While this may be an exciting new venture, I encourage you to first work with your dog consistently when the child is not around until you are relatively comfortable that this will succeed. Again, we do not want to raise your child’s hopes, and risk them feeling like this is their failure if the dog is not appropriate for this task.
  • A PLACE set up specifically for this task. A private room or corner can work. A place where there are no distractions such as people going by, phones ringing, TV’s on in the background, etc. In this space you can set out blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, a lamp, a bookshelf with plenty of books you will take on together…..whatever you would like that does not cause distractions, but will be a comfortable place for you, your child, and your dog to work in. Make sure this place always remains the same, and is SOLELY used for this specific task. Remember that dogs and children both respond well to familiarity and routines. If this place is only used for this purpose, your dog will always automatically know what to expect and how to behave while there.
  • Plenty of children’s books. Make sure they are appropriate to where your child’s skills are at. You do not want to use material that is too advanced, causing frustration for them. At the same time, you do not want to use books they may see as ‘babyish’. It will insult their intelligence and possibly make them feel that you think they are stupid. While you know your child is not stupid, if they have been previously made to feel that way by other kids, the last thing you want is for them to believe you think that way of them! Also, when choosing your books for them and your ‘place,’ pick numerous books about subjects and topics they are interested in. For example, start off with books about dogs.

So, you have now determined that you and your dog both have the skills needed to help your child, now it’s time for Part Three – very important – practice this consistently when your child is NOT around. Call the dog over to the ‘space’ you have created, get them into the DOWN/STAY, pull out a book, and start reading. The ITA also recommends adding a “LOOK” command to this. They state that it really helps your child to feel like the dog is very involved, and it is a simple task to teach!!

Before calling your dog over to the space, insert small treats into numerous pages of the book. Every time you get to a page with a treat in it, you say the command “LOOK!” and allow the dog to take the treat from the book. This essentially conditions your dog to expect something good to be on the page and to use his nose to ‘look’ for it every time you say the word “Look”. But again, this must be accomplished before your child joins you in this. You want your child to believe the dog is really involved…. Not that the dog is looking for a treat or reward!

Once you are sure you have done all the necessary foot-work needed to successfully accomplish this, invite your child to join you. You can say something like, “You know…. The other day I was reading out loud and I noticed that Fido seemed to really enjoy it!! I think it might be fun to see if this was a fluke, or if he really likes being read to!” or something along those lines. You know your child best, and what would peak their interest in being open to trying this. Keep the session relatively short in the beginning…. 10 or 15 minutes at most. Make it fun, be enthusiastic, laugh when the dog paws the page, you can even act surprised at how involved the dog is!! And always end the sessions on a positive note…. Such as, “WOW! You and Fido did amazing!!! I think he deserves some treats…. And you should be the one to give it to him!!” Make sure you use words like ‘teamwork’ (ie: “What a great team the two of you make!” This will be very encouraging to a child that was initially ostracized and made to feel separate or not a part of.)

And the last thing (which can also be the hardest part) once you have established this new and exciting journey with your child, try not to make this a ‘if you don’t do this, this will be the consequence’ type of thing. We want this to always remain an enjoyable thing for your child. I know firsthand when I do something I enjoy, once it becomes mandatory, I often quickly lose interest. So think about different ways to keep your child interested and engaged. Here are a couple you might want to consider:

  • Weekly trip to the library with your child to pick out a new book she and Fido might enjoy reading together
  • To keep it light and fun, make a sign out of some of the more difficult words your child figured out and/or looked up during the week’s readings, and then plan a ‘treasure hunt’ trip to locate those items and label them with the sign your child made. Be willing to be silly with them! If the word was “Mother”, go along with it and wear the sign!
  • Find and set aside some “special treats” – for your pup and for your child that they get to enjoy together.
  • Anything that makes this a special time your child looks forward to.

With both kids and dogs, there is no such thing as a ‘cookie-cutter’ way to learn! Each kid learns and responds differently… So if you have some additional ideas for us to try, please add them to the comments below!! We’d love to hear your ideas!

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer…How to Keep Your Family Safe

As the winter months rapidly approach and the cold starts to set in, It is inevitable that people will start to break out the heaters. It is around this time of year that you will start to see an increase in the number of Carbon Monoxide stories in the news and especially in the hospitals. It’s the Carbon Monoxide I would like to talk about today.

What is Carbon Monoxide and how can I tell where it is?

Carbon Monoxide or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is created from unburned Fuel Sources such as gas, oil or coal. So any appliance that uses fuel can create carbon monoxide. Heaters, Furnaces, Dryers, Cars, Fire Places, Chimneys, Generators, Barbecues, etc.. all have the ability to create carbon monoxide. Please make sure that any fuel burning item in your home has been properly installed and sealed, and that all manufacturer instructions for doing so have been followed.

Items that use electricity do not burn a fuel and do not emit carbon monoxide. While these items may pose a significant risk of fire when used improperly or left unattended, they do not burn fuel and do not pose a risk of Carbon Monoxide.

Common Locations of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Automobile Garage – Cars warming up or left running in a garage will cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Laundry Room – Laundry machines that run on natural gas or propane can emit propane.
  • Basement – Furnaces and Heaters located in a basement or enclosed area can cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Kitchen – Gas Appliances like ovens can emit Carbon Monoxide.
  • Bedroom – Fuel burning heaters such as gas lamps and heaters can emit Carbon Monoxide.

What are the Signs of CO Poisoning?

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty Breathing.

How Can I Detect CO In My Home?

While CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas it can be detected with Carbon Monoxide monitors that can be bought at many stores. Things to know about CO detectors before you purchase:

  • CO detectors come in many sizes.
  • CO detectors are NOT all the same. Some detect non-lethal low levels of CO while others only detect potentially lethal high levels of CO. Please read the package on the detector you purchase.
  • Some can be hardwired to your house alarm system and some use batteries AA or 9volt batteries.

Where In My Home Should I Place CO Detectors?

  • CO detectors should be placed in areas of the house you spend the most time in. The living room, Family Room areas are great places to put them and they should also be placed outside the bedroom areas to alert occupants Before it reaches the bedrooms.
  • CO detectors should not be placed next to or near items that emit a lot of heat as it may cause the device to malfunction. As always, please read and follow the instructions on whichever device you purchase.

What should I do if my CO detector is activated OR someone in my home begins to have the symptoms of CO poisoning?

  • If the detector is activated you should immediately open doors and windows and go outside.
  • Once outside, assess to see if anyone is having symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If anyone is having symptoms CALL 911 AND Follow the instructions they give you.
  • If the alarm continues to sound call 911 and let the fire department clear the home.

For more information on Carbon monoxide you can contact the following:

  • Your local Fire Department
  • Underwriter Laboratories – 1-847-272-8800
  • Utility Companies in your area. The Gas company for example.

As always, I urge everyone to err on the side of caution and CALL 911 if any concern exists about CO in your home. Please be safe and use your items carefully. Here in South Florida during hurricane Irma there were fatalities due to CO because people ran generators and motors inside of their homes while they slept and succumb to CO poisoning. Always run motors and any fuel burning device in an opened, ventilated area!

Be Safe and stay warm.

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.

Reducing Our Kids’ Worries About A Scary, Unpredictable World

Worried child in front of graffitiAs parents, we can reduce our kids’ worries about a sometimes mean, scary, unpredictable world and curb the growing “Mean World Syndrome”

School shootings. Bombings. Power storms. Terrorism. War. Pedophiles. Recession. Cyberbullying. Global warming. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Sexual abuse, COVID-19.

It’s a scary world out there for us, but how do you think the kids are faring?

Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. But if you are feeling a bit jittery about violence, turbulent weather conditions, coronavirus, or a troubled economy, imagine how our kids must feel. Talk of uncertain times permeates the world around them. Graphic television images of sickness and terrifying events just reinforce their fears.

Think about it: this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of school massacres, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and hospitals filled with sick and dying coronavirus patients from their own living rooms.

Make no mistake: the image of the world as a mean and scary place is affecting our kids’ well-being.

In fact, George Gerbner coined the term “Mean World Syndrome” to describe a phenomenon when violence-related content in the mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. And that syndrome seems to be one that our kids are catching.

Our Teens Weigh In About the Concerns For Our World

Several years ago I worked with the schools in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a glorious Norman Rockwell-type community. Picture perfect. Idyllic. Just plain wonderful. Street lamps are actually shaped like Hershey kisses. I spent time talking to students groups as I always do before addressing the parents, community and staff. It’s my way of getting a pulse on teen concerns.

I always ask the principals to give me a sample of the students so the focus group represents all genders, races, cliques, economics. I end up with a homecoming princess, a jock, a band kid, a theater student, a student council leader, a misfit. Kids. Just kids. And do they ever open up when they know someone is there to really listen.

“What are your concerns?” I asked them. And those teens began to share their worries:

“My grades.” “I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship.” “I don’t want to let my parents down.” “Peer pressure.” “I don’t know if I’ll get into college,” they said.

“And what are your worries outside of this town?” I asked. “What concerns you about the world?”

The kids are in non-stop mode now and I’m running out of space just trying to jot down their concerns:

“Iraq.” “Iran.” “Global warming.” “Power storms!” “Terrorism.” “Violence.” “Prejudice.” “Sexual predators.” “Recession.” “Getting a job.” “Our future.”

Their “worry list” goes on and on. Then one boy stops us all with his question:

“Do you think we’ll ever live to see the future?,” he asks quietly. “I worry about that a lot. I don’t think our generation will.”

The look on every teen’s face says it all. Each child had the same concern. The fear on their faces has haunted me.

The Kids Are Worried Folks

We think kids don’t think about such “big” worries. Wrong. Those teens are no different than the hundreds of other teen focus groups in this country. And here’s proof.

A survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press of over 1300 teens nationwide found that only 25 percent feel safe from terrorism when traveling.

The vast majority of teens admitted that their world is far more difficult than the world their mom or dad grew up in. Just consider a child growing up today vs. yesterday. In the 1950s, a survey found that our children’s biggest fears were loud noises, snakes, insects, and a parent’s death. Fast forward fifty years later. The most pressing kid stressor today is still a parent’s death, but “violence” has now replaced loud noises and snakes.

But the biggest fear many teens report today: “I’ll never live to see the future.”

It hurts just to hear their top concern.

The New “Mean World Syndrome”

The fact is constantly hearing about troubling world events does more than just increase children’s anxiety.
It also alters their view of their world.

Many child experts are concerned that today’s children are developing what is called “Mean World Syndrome.” It means our children perceive their world as a “Mean and Scary Place.”

Of course we can’t protect our kids and assure their safety, but we can help allay those fears and see their world in a more positive light.

Studies have shown that about 90 percent of all anxious children can be greatly helped by learning coping skills.

Here are a few parenting strategies you can use to help reduce your kids’ anxiety particularly in these uncertain times and help them develop a more positive outlook about their world.

Tips to Curb Kid Worries About a Scary World

1. Tune Into Your Child – Start by observing your child a bit closer when a frightening event occurs. For instance:

  • Is your child afraid to be left alone or of being in dark or closed places?
  • Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable?
  • Does she react fearfully to sudden noses, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums, or nightmares?
  • Is he bedwetting, withdrawing, crying excessively, or a experiencing a change in eating or sleeping habits?

Each child copes differently, so tune into your child’s behavior. Doing so will help you recognize how your son or daughter deals with life’s pressures and know when you should help to reduce those worries.

2. Monitor Scary News – Limit your child’s viewing of any news that features an alarming event (such as a kidnapping, pedophiles, makeshift morgues and tents setup in convention halls to treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients, etc). Monitor. Monitor. Monitor!

Studies show that seeing those violent images exacerbates anxiety and increases aggression in some kids and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in others. And don’t assume because your kid is older, the news does not affect him.

A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescents said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them.

If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. Be there!

Also, monitor also your conversation with other adults so your kid doesn’t overhear your concerns.

3. Keep Yourself Strong – Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check.Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing – be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.

4. Be Emotionally PresentDon’t assume because your child isn’t talking about the latest news tragedy or the recession, that he isn’t hearing about it. Chances are he is and he needs to get the facts straight. You are the best source for that information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his feelings with you and that it’s normal to be upset.

You might start the dialogue with a simple: “What have you heard?” or “What are your friends saying?”

You don’t need to explain more than your child is ready to hear. What’s most important is letting your child know you are always available to listen or answers his concerns.

5. Do Something Proactive As a Family – One of the best ways to reduce feelings of anxiety is to help kids find proactive ways to allay their fears. It also empowers kids to realize they can make a difference in a world that might appear scary or unsafe.

  • Put together a “care package” to send to a health-care hero (a supermarket gift card, home-made masks and a hand-written note of appreciation).
  • Adopt the elderly neighbor and leave a batch of homemade cookies outside her door.
  • Or have your kids help you send “hugs” (a teddy bear, crayons, coloring book) to a child who has just lost all her earthly possessions in a flood, tornado, fire or is quarantined at home with a parent in the hospital.

6. Pass on Good News Reports – Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that seem to always be on the back page of the paper). Find those uplifting stories in the newspaper and share them with your child.

A wonderful time to review them is right before your child goes to sleep. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call these “Good News Reports.”

It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.

7. Teach Anxiety-Reducing Techniques – Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but in times like these those worries can be overwhelming. Here are just a few techniques you can help your child learn to use to cope with worries:

• Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the worries. Here are a few:

“Chill out, calm down.”

“I can do this.”

“Stay calm and breathe slowly.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go away worry. You can’t get me!”

• Worry melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the worry slowly melting away. Yoga or deep breathing exercises seem to be helpful for girls.

• Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of an actual place he’s been where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes, imagine that spot, while breathing slowly and letting the worry fly slowly away.

Final Thoughts

These are tough times for everyone — but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all the news. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn strategies to cope and those tools will build our children’s resilience to handle whatever comes their way.

  • Anxious kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and, as teens, are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.
  • Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years.

If your child shows signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks or if you’re concerned, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Please.

Now take three slow deep breaths. What’s your first step to help your family?

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Thrivers Book CoverAcross the nation, student mental health is plummeting, major depression rates among teens and young adults are rising faster than among the overall population, and younger children are being impacted. As a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years, Dr. Michele Borba has never been more worried than she is about this current generation of kids. In THRIVERS, Dr. Borba explains why the old markers of accomplishment (grades, test scores) are no longer reliable predictors of success in the 21st century – and offers 7 teachable traits that will safeguard our kids for the future. She offers practical, actionable ways to develop these Character Strengths (confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism) in children from preschool through high school, showing how to teach kids how to cope today so they can thrive tomorrow. THRIVERS is now available at amazon.com.

Kids Get Headaches Too. What To Look For…

Middleschooler and headachesChildren certainly are capable of getting headaches at all ages; the younger the child the more difficult it is to know these are occurring. Under age two it may be impossible to know if your child has a headache but whatever the age, it is important to answer certain questions regarding the overall health of your child.

  • Mild Infection: If we are talking about a single headache that is non repetitive in nature, the most common reason is usually a concurrent mild infection (usually viral). Your child might also have signs and symptoms of a cold or mild fever, and is otherwise normal in behavior and activity. It is always good not to use medicines unless absolutely necessary for the cold symptoms as well as the headache, which is merely another symptom like runny nose, cough and low grade fever. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used short term in appropriate doses if you child seems very uncomfortable.
  • Sinus infections can also cause headaches: this is usually in older children and tends to be in a facial or forehead distribution. Again your child will generally not be very ill but the complaint might occur during or after a cold.

Of course, there can be more serious reasons for headache in all children. The next two are less common, but still important to note:

  • Brain Tumor: Headache due to a brain tumor can occur but there are usually other findings and symptoms. But if your child is complaining about headache that is getting worse over time and might be associated with vomiting, weight loss, unusual behavior, and might very well be worse first thing in the morning you will want to take him or her to the Pediatrician as soon as you can.
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and occasionally the brain itself) is a very serious and rapidly progressive illness associated with severe headache, and changes in level of consciousness, with fever and possibly seizures occurring in rapid progression. Your child may start off only mildly ill but in a very short time will be rapidly get worse. Go directly to the emergency department.

While most headaches are mild and due to mild concurrent illnesses, if your child is acting very sick with or without fever, call your Doctor for instructions.

  • Concussions: Of course a topic of relevance for quite some time now is concussions and this is another discussion to be taken up in the future. Concussion however can result in recurrent headaches for some time (occasionally measured in months) after an injury as part of a post-concussion syndrome.
  • Migraines: Chronic or long term headaches also occur in children and if there is a history of migraines in the family, your child is having severe headaches on one side of his/her head, associated with vomiting or nausea, and followed by a period of sleep after which the child feels fine, he/she might very well have migraines and should be seen by your Doctor- if only to rule out some of the illnesses mentioned above.
  • Tension and/or anxiety: In older children a very common reason for recurrent headaches of a benign nature is tension or continued anxiety. Still other illnesses (like those mentioned above) must be ruled out and communication with your child is required to delve in to the reasons for a tension type headache. Most of the time a diagnosis of tension headache is made after ruling out other causes

Moms: How to Sleep Soundly, Even When You’re Sick

Sore throat. Stuffy nose. Wheezing cough. When you’re sick with a cold or flu, all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a week or two. But your pesky symptoms make it impossible to rest easy. When bedtime finally rolls around, you actually feel worse than you did during the day.

“When you have a cold or the flu, congestion worsens at night,” says Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Cold and Flu. “When you lie down, the airways are more likely to become clogged with mucus.”

Here’s how to stop tossing and turning, and get a restorative night’s sleep.

  1. Have a tea party. Before you go to bed, sip a mug of decaffeinated black tea. The antioxidant-rich beverage contains theobromine, which is a natural cough suppressant, and the heat thins mucus. Add lemon to help cut through congestion and honey to soothe the throat.
  2. Rinse away congestion. Wash away gunk that’s interfering with your breathing by doing regular nasal rinses. Nasal rinse kits can be found at most drugstores and are easy and painless to use. Essentially, you are rinsing your nasal cavity with a mixture of distilled water and sodium. This helps to clear passages and keep them moist. If you’re uncomfortable with a nose rinse, try a saline nasal spray instead. This also helps to flush out the nose, which makes breathing easier, says Dr. Schachter.
  3. Pamper a sore throat. “The throat feels sore during an infection because the mucus that is lining the throat is filled with inflammatory compounds,” says Dr. Schachter. Add half a teaspoon table salt to warm water, gargle for 10 seconds and spit out. Removing the virus-laden mucus relieves both sore throat and coughing.
  4. Darken your bedroom. It’s important to create a healthy environment that promotes quality sleep. Since incoming light tells the brain to wake up, try to block morning light from reaching your eyes. You can accomplish this by hanging dark curtains or by wearing a comfortable sleep mask that covers your eyes. Also, if you have a brightly illuminated alarm clock, make sure it’s not facing you during the night.
  5. Keep it cool. In your bedroom, set the thermostat low. When your body temperature drops, your brain goes into sleep mode. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 54 F and 75 F.
  6. Take a hot shower. Before bed, muster the strength to take a hot shower. When you get out, the drop in body temperature helps prepare your brain for sleep. Bonus: Steam loosens congestion and hydrates your nasal and throat passages.
  7. Slip on socks. Put on a pair of cozy socks before you get into bed. According to a Swiss study, warming your feet helps your body relax and puts you in the snooze zone.
  8. Silence symptoms. Some common symptoms, such as a cough and congestion, can make restful sleep a real challenge when you’re sick. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate these uncomfortable obstacles to a good night’s sleep.
  9. Elevate your head. When you’re sick, sleep with your head elevated. Prop yourself up with a few extra pillows or the plump cushions from your sofa. Sleeping elevated helps ease sinus pressure and makes breathing less difficult.
  10. Quiet your mind. Even when you’re exhausted and not feeling well, sometimes you can have a mental block that prevents you from falling asleep. To get into the right frame of mind, try one of these calming pursuits: meditate, jot your thoughts into a journal, listen to soothing music or read your favorite book.

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