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The Best Foods for Sick Kids

When your kid is miserable with a stuffy nose, fever or stomachache, it’s tempting to feed her what she wants (ice cream!) or let her skip dinner altogether. But research reveals that eating the right comfort foods can soothe her symptoms and strengthen her immune system. Even if your little one doesn’t have much of an appetite, encourage her to eat; in combination with symptom- and age-appropriate OTC remedies, she’ll feel better in no time.

Here are the best foods for sick kids:

For a stuffy nose … feed them soup. “The hot, steaming broth loosens mucus, so your child can breathe easier,” says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietician and the director of wellness coaching at Cleveland Clinic. For even more relief, serve up a bowl of chicken soup: Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that this childhood staple may relieve cold symptoms by inhibiting inflammation-causing cells in the body. “Plus, chicken soup has carrots, celery and onions,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “These veggies provide vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system.”

For a fever … feed them calorie-rich fare. Forget starving a fever! “You’ll only deprive the body of the nutrients it needs to get well,” says Jamieson-Petonic. A feverish child uses more energy, she adds, so they need to consume additional calories. If your kid doesn’t feel like eating, try adding nutritional bulk to every bite he takes: Slip banana slices into a peanut butter sandwich, mix dry milk powder in mashed potatoes or mac ’n’ cheese, and blend flaxseed into a fruit smoothie.

For a sore throat … feed them soft foods. Does it hurt to swallow? Scrambled eggs, oatmeal, soup and yogurt can coat a painful throat while providing nutrition. Another soother for children above the age of one: honey. According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, this sweet substance can also lessen nighttime coughing and improve sleep. So if your child can’t stop hacking, swirl a spoonful into a mug of herbal tea or a glass of warm milk.

For a stomachache … feed them crackers. “Bland foods stabilize digestion and gradually get the system up and running again,” says Connie Evers, a registered dietician in Portland, Ore. Once the worst is over, she recommends moving on to more substantial fare, like bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Also steer clear of colas: The caffeine content can make nausea even worse.

For any type of illness … feed them popsicles. For sick kids, proper hydration is key. “Sleeping for long periods of time — as well as running a fever — can lead to fluid loss,” says Evers. To make sure your child sips often, place a water bottle on her bedside stand. Evers also suggests freezing 100% cranberry and orange juices into homemade popsicles; the treat serves up extra liquids along with a dose of vitamin C.

For recovery … feed them balanced meals. Even if they ask for it, don’t serve them their favorite fast-food meal or sugary dessert. “Foods high in sugar or saturated fat can increase inflammation in the body,” explains Jamieson-Petonic. “That can make kids feel worse — and even slow the healing process.” Fill her plate with vitamin-rich produce, whole grains and lean proteins instead. “These foods strengthen the immune system, which helps fight viruses,” she says. “It can also help lower the risk of complications, like bronchitis.”

Icky Things Kids Do…Should We Worry??

We’ve all been there: Your son drops an animal cracker on the floor, then bends over to pick it up and eat it. You think to yourself, “10-second rule!” No damage done, right? But how bad is it, really? Are you letting your kids pick up germs and bacteria, or are they actually boosting their immune systems? And what about all the other gross things kids do throughout the day? Inquiring moms need to know.

To find out when — and if — being a germophobe mom pays, we talked with Carole Marsh, author of The Here & Now Reproducible Book of a Kid’s Official Guide to Germs: Our Enemies and Our Friends!

Eating a cookie dropped on the floor: How bad is it?

I don’t think you can protect kids from every single thing that appears to be germy. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that kids are going to eat cereal off the floor no matter what you do, so don’t worry about this one!” Marsh says.

Researchers continue to debate the probable risks of eating food dropped on the floor; several studies have come to varying conclusions. A study at Connecticut College found that after hitting the ground, wet food was safe to eat for 30 seconds and dry food was fine after a full minute. However, another study at Clemson University found that food dropped onto surfaces intentionally contaminated with salmonella picked up enough of the bacteria to make a person sick.

While there is a risk of picking up bacteria from a fallen cookie crumb, think of it this way: Many objects you frequently touch — like kitchen sponges, faucets and elevator buttons — can contain significant amounts of bacteria, and you can’t live in constant fear of coming into contact with germs. So when it comes to dropping something edible on the floor, most health experts advise parents not to worry.

Drinking out of the same juice box: How bad is it?

Keeping beverages to yourself doesn’t make you a germophobe. In fact, sharing a beverage with a friend or family member carries multiple health risks, from tooth decay to strep throat and even meningitis.

“Some times of the year, every other kid has a cold, so there’s a good chance that a child with a cold is going to drink out of that juice box. Viruses such as colds can be transmitted through bodily fluids like saliva. And let’s not talk about all the other unmentionable gunky stuff that inevitably gets on the straws,” says Marsh. “Even when everyone’s healthy, it’s important to teach kids good habits — and learning not to drink out of the same cup or juice box as someone else is simply a healthy habit to teach.”

So do your family a favor and keep juice boxes separate at snack time.

Sharing eye shadow: How bad is it?

Kids love to test-drive the pretty things moms wear, but unless you buy makeup specifically for your child, it’s best to keep her fingers out of the pot.

“Children have different skin sensitivities, especially around their eyes,” says Marsh.

Moreover, researchers have found that makeup, especially eye makeup, is often packed with germs, infections and even uber-icky Staphylococcus aureus, a toxic bacterium.

“Different people have different hygiene habits — maybe someone else’s eye shadow has been left open on a bathroom sink and has been contaminated with something,” says Marsh.

Bottom line: It’s simply safer not to share.

Sharing earrings: How bad is it?

You hopefully wouldn’t let your friend stick a finger covered in gunk in your ear — so letting your daughter use a friend’s earrings should induce a similar sense of ickiness. Hepatitis is common in sharing earrings, as well as a slew of other nasty viruses.

“Never share jewelry for piercings of any kind,” Marsh advises. “It just takes the tiniest opening in the skin for an infection to get in.”

Eating your own boogers: How bad is it?

Health experts generally disagree on the benefits of picking your nose: Some say it’s good for you, some say it’s bad — and some say it doesn’t matter.

“This one is really high on the gross-factor list, but it’s most likely harmless,” says Marsh. “Just don’t eat anybody else’s boogers!”

Whether or not digging for nose-gold is actually good for your health, those same experts would agree it’s a gross habit that your kid should kick to the curb.

Drinking bathwater: How bad is it?

When you consider the concoction of stuff in bathwater — shampoo, bacteria and germs — it sounds, well, disgusting. But just like a spilled cookie isn’t the end of the world, a little bath water is also harmless for your tot.

“Kids don’t typically drink 8 ounces of bathwater — they’d probably get a handful or a slurp — so it’s not something to be overly concerned about,” says Marsh. “I just wouldn’t make a regular habit of it, since the soap in the water could cause an upset stomach or diarrhea. Plus, there could be fecal matter in the water, which is obviously not something you want to consume.”

So don’t worry if your child takes a sip of the soapy stuff. Just make sure she goes to the bathroom before taking a bath.

Sharing hats: How bad is it?

This is one problem that’s stood the test of time. Your parents probably advised you not to share hats when you were a kid — and since then, not much has changed.

“These days, there are a lot of lice outbreaks, so it’s best not to share hats. If it’s going to cause a huge headache, why risk it?” says Marsh.

Lice still love any head — whether it’s dirty or squeaky clean — and can lay eggs in any hair they find. Keep your kids safe by asking them not to swap hats with their friends.

At the end of the day, Marsh says moms only really need to worry about getting their kids immunized, making sure they wash their hands and teaching them healthy habits — like the importance of good nutrition and a full night’s sleep. “When you see a child doing something gross, don’t focus on the germs. Focus on what’s good and healthy for all of us. For instance, say: ‘This is what we do to stay healthy and happy.’”



Teaching Your Child The Fine Art of Swallowing Pills and Capsules

For any parent, getting children to take their medication can be a frustrating experience. The flavor of a liquid such as Prednisone may be off putting to a child. You worry about spilling liquid medications or dosing accurately. That’s why I find that teaching children as early as possible to swallow a pill or capsule to be a wise idea.

You may wonder “Why worry about teaching my child how to swallow a pill or capsule now?”

First, some medications only come in solid form. To be honest, there aren’t swallow a pill 3many but there are a few.

Second, pills and tablets are much easier to travel with and don’t require refrigeration. Think about toting around that bottle of antibiotic next summer on your next family trip. Not fun!

Third, you will never have to worry about spilling or dripping a liquid again. Plus the dosing on a pill is accurate. How many times have you gotten to the bottom of the bottle of liquid medication and not had the full teaspoon?

In my experience, children as young as age 3 or 4 can learn to swallow a pill. I taught my own daughter who was not yet 3 to swallow pills. While a few teens can’t seem to master the skill, children are quick learners and repetition and patience along with some simple tips can help if you start children young.

It’s also a good idea to teach your child these techniques before they really need them. A sick little child is not great student!

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

  • Multi-colored round candy balls called mixed decors found in the cake-decorating section of a supermarket
  • Tic Tacs (I think the fruit flavor works best)
  • Mini M&M’s
  • Reese’s Pieces or M&M’s

THE TECHNIQUE

  • Start with the smallest candy ball from the cake decorating kit. Explain to your child that you are going to teach him a simple way to learn to swallow pills and that it starts with learning to swallow candy balls. (Now is a good time to explain that medication is NOT candy but that you are using candy because it is an easy substitute. Explain that you should NEVER take medicine without permission of Mom or Dad).
  • Parent should demonstrate by putting a single candy ball as far back on your tongue as possible, use the straw technique, and take three gulps of water.
  • Tell your child it’s their turn. Also tell them that if the candy doesn’t go down the first time, they have to try at least two more times. If it doesn’t go down by the third try, they can chew the candy ball and take a break before trying again.
  • Repeat this until they get comfortable with a candy ball, usually about three successful tries. Then move up to a slightly larger candy (I like to use the bigger cake decorating sprinkles, then move up to mini M&M’s) and repeat the procedure until there is success at this level.
  • After three to five successes with the mini M&M’s, move up to a larger candy like an M&M or Reese’s pieces. After they have mastered that, compare it to a pill size wise. At this point they should be able to swallow most pills with minimum problems.
  • Remember to limit the “session’ to 15 minutes. This will be a Process that requires days, perhaps weeks depending on your child.

SOME TIPS

  • Have your child take a few sips of water before beginning. It is very difficult to swallow a pill or tablet with a dry throat.
  • These tips works best if your child is thirsty. He/She may be drinking quite a bit, practicing their pill swallowing technique.
  • Session should last no more than 15 minutes and be fun.
  • Room should be free from distractions. Leave toys in another room and turn of the television.
  • Stay calm and positive.
  • Be patient, this is a task that will require some time.
  • Demonstrate pill swallowing to your child in matter of fact way. When they see you do it calmly they will want to emulate you.
  • Use lots of Positive Praise! Avoid negativity. This is not going to motivate your child to learn to swallow pills/tablets.
  • Be consistent.
  • Have your child put the pill on his/her tongue. Then using a straw, suck down three big gulps of water. With a straw there is no pill floating around in your mouth like there is if you just try to swallow a pill with a big mouthful of water.
  • If water isn’t working try milk, a fruit smoothie, Pediasure, a milkshake, or fruit juice or nectar. Thicker fluids create more bulk, making it harder for the pill to separate itself from the fluid during swallowing.
  • Always end with a success. If your child has difficulty swallowing a large piece of candy, end by having him swallow a smaller piece or even a gulp of liquid. Always end on a positive note.
  • When swallowing a pill, have your child tilt their head back slightly. With capsules (which float), you do just the opposite. Have your child look down at the floor and swallow the capsule while still looking downward at the floor. The capsule should just float to the back of his mouth and slide down his throat with his drink.
  • Make sure you have your child place the pill or capsule in the center of their tongue rather than to the right or left, especially if they are going to be swallowing an oval-shaped pill. An oval-shaped pill should be placed so that the length is parallel to their throat. Otherwise, the pill may go into the throat “sideways” and create discomfort.

DON’T

  • Don’t break a tablet in half if it is too large. When you do this the rough edges can be scratchy and even more difficult to swallow than a larger smooth tablet.
  • Don’t take pills with a dry mouth. It’s more difficult to swallow when your mouth is dry, and capsules and tablets may even stick to a dry tongue.
  • Don’t bargain or bribe your child. After all you don’t bargain or bribe your child to brush his or her teeth or comb their hair. This is a skill they WILL learn. It just takes time and patience.

The techniques I shared with you should help you, help your child become proficient at swallowing pills and tablets. This is a skill that is a necessary part of life and when learned early can really be a very handy tool for a child to possess.

Remember to be consistent, patient and use positive praise and these techniques will have your child swallowing pills, tablets and capsules in a reasonably short time!

Kids Will Get Sick: 5 Facts a Pediatrician Wants You to Know

girl_high_fever_mom_checking_tempThe warnings you were given as a child about not going out with your hair wet or you’d catch pneumonia, don’t sit too close to the television or you’ll damage your eyesight – it’s probably safe to say what they lacked in accuracy they made up for in good intentions. But as we enter into the time of year when colds and other infections seem to thrive, it seemed like a good opportunity to set the record straight, debunk some of the myths and provide you with some useful information to get you through the worst of it…just in case you or someone else in your family starts to feel sick…

Fallacies vs Realities:

  1. Being out in the cold or wet weather can lead to a “cold” in a child. A “cold” or an upper respiratory infection is almost always due to a viral infection which, aside from certain colds being more prominent during certain seasons, is unrelated to the outdoor temperature. A cold happens when a viral agent attaches to the inside of the mouth nose or eyes. The viral particles enter the very specialized cells in these areas and replicate in to more of the same particles and even fever which then can invade further causing the associated symptoms. The same is true for the fear of “catching pneumonia” when one gets cold and/or wet.
  2. When the mucus in one’s nose green it automatically signifies the onset of sinus infection or contagious disease. A sinus infection is not contagious for the same reason that it occurs. Inflammation or possibly bacteria works its way into the sinus cavities, set up shop and cause the symptoms of the resulting pain and sometimes swelling. The reason, as with ear infections, that these are not contagious is that both of these occur in fairly small closed spaces and the inner contents cannot get out; concurrently antibiotics have a difficult time getting in, so it usually takes c little longer to cure these infections. For a frame of reference, consider the rapid “cure” that occurs when one contracts strep throat, an easily accessible area, after antibiotics are used.
  3. Once the fever is down after the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen during an illness, that illness is over and the concentration should be placed on “breaking” the fever. In fact each illness has its own symptoms, including how high the fever goes or how long it lasts. Some fevers do come and go within the same illness and the use of medications to” cure” the fever and hence the illness is fallacious. Certainly one will want to give their child some relief from the symptoms and these medications are good for that reason.
  4. A child who has a “high” fever will get brain damage. In fact, fever itself is merely a symptom of an illness such as other symptoms; runny nose, cough, headache, etc. While high fever itself is seldom ever responsible for brain damage some very rare but very significant illnesses for which the fever may be an accompanying symptom may result in brain damage: e., meningitis, encephalitis and others. But to be complete, and fair to all parents worrying about their child with fever, fever by itself is not the only symptom one sees with such serious illnesses. If there is a very high fever, contact with your Doctor will help sort through the causes.
  5. High fever will cause seizures in my child. There is a small population of children who will, in fact, develop a mild, non-harmful seizure during the initial rise in that fever. Although these seizures are not harmful to your child, it is important to know if there might be another reason for such seizures, and your child should be seen by a physician immediately- usually an Emergency room Doctor. Also a little known fact is that the seizure will only seldom repeat itself during the same illness. Again the parents will want to use a medicine for fever because of the discomfort your child will have and the fact that another seizure is possible.

These are just a few; more to come down the road…

Is Your Indoor Air Good for Your Family’s Health??

Let’s clear the air: Dry indoor air during cooler months may be contributing to your seasonal sore throats, congestion and other respiratory infections. To be sure, cranking up the thermostat causes the humidity level in your house to drop. When it falls below 35 percent, mucous membranes dry out, making you more susceptible to inhaling fine particles that may carry viruses. But a humidifier can be a breath of clean air for your health — and your home. First, buy a quality hygrometer (available at hardware stores, from $5) to constantly monitor your in-house humidity level, which should stay between 35 and 50 percent. Too much can contribute to mold-spore growth and be bad for your health, too. If the humidity is too low, consider purchasing a room humidifier.


Which Type of Humidifier Is Right for You?

Evaporative cool-mist humidifier. The most widely available and least expensive among humidifiers, evaporative humidifiers use a fan to pass dry room air through a water-soaked wick filter in the base of the unit. The water evaporates into the air while the wick filter traps any impurities and minerals in the water. The cool air lowers the room’s temperature, making it easier for you to breathe, which is why evaporative humidifiers also tend to be a physician favorite. “Think about it this way: When you go outside on a cold day, your nose usually runs because the cold shrinks your mucous membranes,” says Dr. Amy Guiot, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The cool air from an evaporative humidifier has a similar effect.”

Warm-mist humidifier. Quieter than evaporative humidifiers (there’s no fan), warm-mist models heat water to a boil and disperse a hot, impurity-free steam into the air, making a cool room feel considerably warmer. But Guiot says she wouldn’t recommend warm-mist humidifiers to those suffering from any respiratory infection, since heat causes mucous membranes to swell rather than shrink and drain.

Ultrasonic humidifier. Often dubbed the quietest humidifier around, ultrasonic models use high-frequency sound waves and a demineralization cartridge to break down water into an ultrafine, mineral-free vapor. Some ultrasonic humidifiers are also equipped with a heating option.

Features to Think About When Shopping for a Humidifier

  1. Tank size and shape. A humidifier should be sized appropriately for the room. Typically, removable tanks range from 1- to 4-gallon capacities (which refer to the gallons of moisture the humidifier will expel into a room daily). Humidifiers are rated for square footage, so measure your room before settling on a model. If the humidifier is too large for the room, condensation will appear on the interiors of the windows and invite bacteria and mildew to grow. Too small, and you won’t reap any of its benefits. If you want to avoid the fuss of lifting and carrying potentially heavy refill containers, opt for a unit with an easy pour-in feature.
  2. UV anti-microbial humidifiers. Some humidifiers — both cool- and warm-mist models — now feature UV light designed to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, germs and viruses in the water before they enter the air you breathe.
  3. Indicator lights. Look for a model equipped with a light to signal when the tank needs to be refilled or — better yet — a humidifier that automatically shuts off when the refill container is empty.

Maintenance

Once you have a humidifier, make sure to take care of it! It needs to be cleaned and dried regularly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for filter changes and cleaning guidelines; improper care could pump bacteria and mold spores into the room.

Your Child Has Summer Sniffles …Is It a Cold or Allergy?

child sneezing during the summerSummer time is the time for fun and family enjoyment. The early and late parts of summer are, however, noticeable for stirring up allergic symptoms due to grass and trees in May and June and such plants as ragweed during August and September. Symptoms such as burning, itching eyes and runny, itchy nose with or without cough are typical symptoms of environmental allergies. There is no fever as this is not an infection. Symptoms of a summer cold however can mimic those of allergy, but usually itching is not a major part.

A cold, or upper respiratory infection, is, as the name implies an infection by viral agents that usually invade through mucus membranes (inside of nose, mouth or eyes), set up shop and multiply to some extent. The multiplication is usually self-limited as the body’s natural defense systems go to work. When the defenses are working, there may be fever, achiness, headache and a variety of other minor symptoms. Allergic symptoms do not usually include the systemic symptoms mentioned above.

Unfortunately sometimes, cold and allergy symptoms occur simultaneously, causing some confusion among parents, patients and Doctors in terms of diagnosis. Sometimes, also, it is impossible to tell them apart even to the most trained eye.

The bottom line is even though there may be no telling them apart, there is no cure for the common cold, and the combined symptoms can be treated similarly.

If a child has known environmental allergy, he/she may be treated with an antihistamine such as Benadryl for short term (4 – 6 hrs) or Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra for long term (once or twice every 24hrs) for the symptoms; no response may indicate a cold and not allergy, while the concurrent symptoms of fever, achiness, headache and others may strengthen the diagnosis of a cold.

Certainly it is worthwhile to use a humidifier in his or her room to moisten irritated mucous membranes, drink plenty of fluids, and use Tylenol or Advil in the appropriate dosages for poorly tolerated symptoms. Important to note that controlling fever with the use of these medications is not necessary unless your child is very uncomfortable. Using these medications will not get rid of the fever in the long run, but it will make him or her feel more comfortable in the short term. The fever, remember, is there because the body is fighting off the infection and therefore is a relatively good sign in a healthy child. The fever will persist until the cleansing process is finished.

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