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Summer Camp Health Tips – a Pediatrician’s Point of View

Summer camp experiencesLetting go of your child for a day, a week or even a month of camp during the summer is often a very difficult thing for parents to do, and initially, might be very difficult for the child. Most children, however, when they return from such an experience almost invariably have enjoyed themselves and gotten the first taste of living without parents. This can be an extraordinary experience for your child as he or she learns to live and be accountable for certain rules and restrictions.

Of course, you as a parent will worry the first couple of times your children go off “by themselves”. It may help to know that every camp is equipped with fairly up to date equipment and at least a very experienced nurse or Doctor. I myself did this (physician for an overnight camp for a 6 week period) just as I completed my Pediatric Residency and prepared to enter the Air Force. It was a rewarding experience for me and my family.

Most incidences of a medical nature are minor although very rarely a serious issue may occur. When you first apply for the camp for your child they will ask for a complete medical history including chronic or serious conditions that your child may have and any and all allergies, medication or non-medication related. This is an extremely important bit of information so try to be as specific as possible.

Teach your child ahead of time about the importance of such simple things as the proper use of insect repellents and sun blocks as these constitute the causes of the majority of the “problems” in the camp setting. They must also need to be taught the importance of reporting to the nurse or physician any issues they are worried about or are experiencing, as some children will do all they can to avoid seeing these people. If your child has a chronic disease such as asthma, he or she must be aware of the problems they can experience as a result of their illness and report such occurrences to the medical staff. Of course, the medical staff will also be familiar with such individual problems. They should also know about how to self-medicate (inhaler, etc.) if necessary.

Poison Ivy is also a very common occurrence as children spend more time outdoors, they should be told what it looks like and feels like so they can see the medical staff when necessary.

Other “problems” are injury-related and should be brought to the attention of the medical staff – fortunately the majority of these are also of a minor nature.

Finally, they will likely be taught about insects and other critters that can be encounter in the wild during the first days or weeks of camp; snakes, small mammals, spiders, etc. The camp staff will be very particular and complete when describing such encounters and will err on the side of conservatism while they are in charge of your child.

Wishing you and your kids a happy, healthy, and safe summer.

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 to Include The Family Dog In Summer Trips & Activities

Right around Christmas time, I wrote an article about safely traveling for the holidays with your pet. We touched on many things from car safety (using proper harnesses and seat-belts and being in the back seat) to night-safety guidelines and which ‘tools’ were the best to use and which ones to leave at home (with respect to leashes and collars). If you missed this article, here is the link so you can get up to speed on some important safety information.

While all of those same suggestions apply now, there are other things to take into consideration during the hot summer months if you’re planning to include the dog in your activities. Whether you are going for just a day trip, or an extended vacation by car or RV, here are some things you are going to want to keep in mind for safety this summer.

For Prolonged Car Rides, RV Trips AND “Detours” Along The Way:

  • Never leave your pet in the car: Just like you’d never leave your child unattended in the car, never leave your dog in one either. It heats up and becomes a furnace very quickly… and since most pets have a ‘built-in’ fur coat, they can over-heat that much faster! Oftentimes we think ‘we’re only running in quickly, they’ll be fine just for those few minutes’. But let’s face it, when traveling with kids, those few minutes can turn into much longer than you expected just trying to corral them back into the car! And don’t forget that Fido might need a bathroom break and to stretch his legs too!
  • Sight-seeing and tourist attractions along the way: If you plan on doing some sight-seeing along the way, map out your trip in advance, and figure out the spots you want to stop at and go sightseeing.
    • If they are indoor spots (like a museum) or a theme or water park, unless your dog is a Service Dog, they are generally not permitted inside. Do your research way in advance, and get some suggestions on local kennels or pet-sitters in those immediate areas, and find out what their availability is, and if you need to make a reservation. *Note: Many of the theme parks such as Disney and Epcot Center have on-site kennels. This way your time with the kids is not rushed and you know your pooch is safe while you enjoy some quality family time together.
    • If they are outdoor spots, like walking or nature trails, a lake to swim in, or picnic spots, and your dog is welcome there (call in advance just to make sure this is still the case) make sure you bring plenty of fresh water for them as well as for yourself and the kids. You never know what kind of bacteria or microorganisms might be living in any specific lake or body of water, so providing frequent drinks for your pet will reduce their ‘natural instinct’ to drink from any source available if they are thirsty. Many pet stores (and Amazon) offer collapsible water dishes that even have a carabineer to attach to your belt-loop.

Full Day Outings

  • A full day of hiking: If you will be hiking for several hours, you’ve probably packed snacks for the kids. Make sure to bring some food for your dog to snack on too. Think about it- after an hour, we often feel hungry… not necessarily for a full meal, but a quick ‘pick-me-up snack’. Your dog is no different. So make sure you bring some extra kibble along, or some milk bones for them to snack on. Avoid training treats and small chewy snacks… as they are very high in sodium content, and will make your dog dehydrate faster, and be thirstier. Another type of collapsible dish offers food AND water capacity
  • Be aware of signs / symptoms of heat exhaustion AND heat stroke for both your children and your pets…

  • Hot pavement and rocky terrain: Another thing to take into consideration when hiking with the kids and pets…. Consider for a moment all the reasons you wouldn’t have your child hike barefoot. Those same reasons apply plus a few more. On top of the potential for possible cuts from rocks, and burns from hot pavement (some trails are partially paved), while dogs primarily ‘sweat’ through excessive panting, they also have a small amount of sweat glands that are prominently in the paw pads. If the pads get burns, or dry out and crack, it can cause your dog to overheat that much faster. Besides the boots your dog can wear for winter or rain, some new ‘“ultra cool” – breathable boots’ boots were created with a ‘cool down’ feature which will protect them from overheating as well as prevent cuts and scrapes. I also like to use a product called ‘Musher’s Secret’. This is a wax that goes on their paws and protects them from the heat.
  • Sunburn: Beyond packing water for everyone (kids and dogs) and making sure they get shade, many people do not realize that their dogs are just as susceptible to sunburns – and even skin cancer – as their kids are! Here is a link to a very informative article to learn more about which dogs are more prone to sunburns, which areas on the dog’s body are more apt to be affected, how to treat it, and more importantly, how to avoid it…and don’t forget to bring sunscreen for your kid’s delicate skin too!
  • Keep your dog on leash at all times: I know, I know…. The point of being out in nature is to explore and be free! And it is fun to give them the chance to be free and watch them explore new things! But what if the ‘new thing’ they want to explore can potentially be dangerous? Like another dog that comes by that is not so friendly? Or a wild animal that they decide to suddenly chase after? Or worse: A child who is AFRAID of dogs, that does not know your dog is a sweet and friendly outgoing mutt that just wants to say hello? Oftentimes, in their panic, they run, and can get hurt. I will be the first to say that as a professional dog trainer, my dog has an amazing recall…. But he is still a dog… not a robot! This is not his every day environment…. and when new and exciting things are all around him, can I 100% guarantee that he will listen to me when I call him back? Nope – not unless I have him on a leash. And please…. Leave the retractable leashes at home! The purpose of the leash is to give you full control at all times. Retractable leashes cannot guarantee that. I recommend nothing longer than a 6 foot leash. One last comment on this: If your dog is friendly and sweet with those he knows but not very social with unknown dogs and people, they may not be a great candidate for hiking trails. Your dog will smell, hear, and see others long before you do. This is your vacation, but others want to enjoy a peaceful quiet walk on their vacation too! A dog that barks or yaps incessantly, or growls and snaps at others can ruin your vacation and spoil it for others too! Be aware of your dog’s temperament and be considerate of others.
  • Vaccinations and flea and tick preventative: It is important to remember that this is not your backyard… and diseases can be found in many species of wild animals… disease that can immediately affect and harm your dog: and ultimately harm your kids. (see my article about how regular vet visits can help keep your child safe….parts one and two). Also, Make sure your dog is on flea and tick preventative!! Last thing you want are those critters ‘hitching a ride’ on your pet or your kids!! Make sure you do a nightly check of both the kids and pets after a long day of hiking to make sure they are both free of any free-loading cling-ons!!
  • Dog friendly parks: I am going to add one last link that I found to be very informative. A ‘Dog’s guide to visiting National Parks’. It has some great information on some of the National parks and their rules and regulation regarding dogs.

And finally, I’ll end this by saying there are many pet-friendly places to take your whole family (dog included) this summer, but it is vital that you really know your dog and pay close attention to his body language. Unlike your older child who can verbally communicate with you that they are tired and/or hungry… or a baby who gets cranky to convey the same message, your dog cannot tell you what they need or what they are feeling. Being aware of them at all times will enable you to determine when they are enjoying their time with the family, and when they have had enough and need a break. A grumpy tired dog can quickly become an unpredictable one. Don’t forget to do your research in advance, make whatever plans and reservations you need to make, and this will ensure that you, your family, your dog, and others around you will all have a safe and enjoyable summer together!

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Reference: Information for the Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke charts were compiled from the following sources

Summer Camps are “Serious Fun” for Special Needs Kids

Paul NewmanSummer is in the distant future in my mind, but the buzz at my school’s pick-up and drop-off area has already turned to camp. Working parents (as well as stay-at-home parents) are scrambling to find programs that will keep their kids engaged and challenged and also give them great social skills and memories. Children with special needs may have serious medical conditions or need support with daily living skills, but that doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on the camp experience …thanks to Paul Newman.

Yes, the handsome man on the spaghetti sauce jar (and amazing human being and actor) started a camp in Connecticut for seriously ill kids back in 1988. He thought all kids deserved some time to have some “serious fun” and just be kids. We all know that laughter is the best medicine, and the campers have the opportunity to find new strengths and make new friends – all the while being cared for in a safe environment.

Active disabled five year old boy playing on the monkey bars with his fatherThe program has seriously grown, with participating camps and programs nationwide. Now the actor’s legacy is even being shared globally – and don’t let me forget to mention that for kids who are accepted there is no charge. Yup, thanks to grants, donations and other amazing connections this is all free for the campers and their families! As you can imagine, they always need volunteers, too.

Find your closest program, camp or volunteer opportunity here.

Are Your Children At Risk for Dehydration This Summer?

Welcome to summer, the kids are out of school, summer camps are in full swing, family trips all over the country have begun and just in case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot outside. It is turning out to be one of the hottest summers on record with temperatures reaching triple digits in many parts of the country. As it heats up, summer safety becomes a serious issue. With all this fun and traveling going on please don’t forget to ask yourself one very important question, “are my children hydrated well enough to handle this heat?” the answer is most likely no.

Thousands of children each year are admitted to hospitals with heat-related illnesses and most go home, but there are the cases every year where children end up overheating and dying because they were not hydrated properly. As I write this, it’s a beautiful 94 degree Saturday here in Miami with all the humidity you can handle and that means one thing for us here at the fire department. A huge increase in the amount of heat illness related calls we are going to run and most of them will be on children.

As parents when we think of dehydration, we think of our children being sick and having a bout of diarrhea and or vomiting, and the doctor tells us to keep them hydrated with plenty of fluids. That is all well and good and as good parents we make sure our little campers get plenty of fluids and are back healthy A.S.A.P., But the kind of dehydration I am talking about is the kind we as parents tend to overlook in the rush of our day to day lives and that is the everyday dehydration of our very active children. By the time a child says he is thirsty, he is already dehydrated, and with studies finding that 50% of children participating in sports activities were already dehydrated we need to be hydrating our children before, during, and after physical activity as well as keeping an eye out for the signs of heat-related illnesses.

Recommendations for hydrating children ages 6 to 12 include:

  • 4-8 ounces 1 to 2 hours before activity
  • 5-9 ounces every 20 minutes of activity
  • After activity, replace lost fluids within 2 hours

Recommendations for hydrating young athletes ages 13 to 18 include:

  • 8-16 ounces 1 to 2 hours before activity
  • 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before activity
  • 5-10 ounces every 20 minutes of activity

Being able to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses is critical and should be done by us the parents as well as the coaches. A basic awareness of the signs of heat-related illnesses could make all the difference, so here are some key points to be on the lookout for as recommended by Susan Yeargin, PhD, ATC.

Types of heat illnesses

Athletes who exercise in hot or humid weather are particularly at risk of heat illnesses:

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Symptoms of impending heat illness

In addition to educating young athletes about both the importance of hydration and the dangers of heat-related illness, ensuring that they are drinking enough fluids, and taking precautions to reduce the risk of heat injury in children in hot and humid weather, you need to watch your child for symptoms of impending heat illness:

  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Goose pimples on the chest and upper arms
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Faintness
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle cramping
  • Reduced or cessation of sweating

A child continuing to exercise when experiencing any of these symptoms could suffer a heat illness.

Heat cramps

Symptoms:

  • Thirst
  • Chills
  • Clammy skin
  • Throbbing heart
  • Muscle pain
  • Spasms
  • Nausea

Treatment:

  • Move child to shade
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Have child drink 4 to 8 ounces of fluid with electrolytes (sports drinks) every 10 to 15 minutes

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Reduced sweating
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Dry mouth
  • Rectal temperature less than 104?F.

Treatment:

  • Move child to cool place
  • Have child drink 16 ounces of fluid containing electrolytes for every pound of weight lost
  • Remove sweaty clothes
  • Place ice behind child’s head
  • Seek medical attention, if no improvement

Heat Stroke

Symptoms:

  • No sweating
  • Dry, hot skin
  • Swollen tongue
  • Visual disturbances
  • Rapid pulse
  • Unsteady gait
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shock
  • Excessively high rectal temperature (over 105.8F.)

Treatment:

  • Call 911
  • Remove sweaty clothes
  • Immediate and continual dousing with water (either from a hose or multiple water containers) combined with fanning and continually rotating cold, wet towels on head and neck until immersive cooling can occur.

As parents we tell our kids to study and do their homework so they will be prepared, well we as parents need to do our homework as well when it comes to recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses and staying on top of hydration. Luckily for those parents who live and breathe on their iPhone there is help. iHydrate is an app that reminds you to hydrate yourself and your children before, during and after activities. App or no app, stay alert, keep those children hydrated and please remember, when in doubt call 911.

Summer and Beyond: How to Get Your Special Needs Child To Read

Many schools have started assigning Summer Reading to keep kids in good habits and also to avoid the dreaded summer brain drain, where they lose some of the skills learned during the academic year due to lack of practice. Sometimes the reading assignment can be fun, like a competition to see who reads the most pages or books or minutes. Sometimes it can be a straight assignment like a project or a report. But even if your school doesn’t specifically assign any reading, it’s a good idea to encourage your kids to keep reading all summer long.

I know many kids with special needs or learning challenges absolutely hate reading. It is truly unpleasant for them, so who can blame them? For now there are other ways to make books appealing. When my kids were little we used them to play games like The Floor is Lava and Dominoes. Then I read the books to them after play time. Reading to your child is important even if you think they are “too old” for it – they are not. Something as simple as “Hey, this is interesting, listen…” may get them motivated to explore (or listen) further.

Ideas to keep kids reading – or get them reading

  • Let them read whatever they want – manga, movie novelizations, comic books all count. I even let my daughter read a toy catalogue once because it was the only thing that motivated her.
  • Let your child be your tour guide. This works on vacation or locally. Let them do research on a location that interests them and pick out some place to visit. This also works with restaurants and reading menus.
  • Take them to the library. Check your local locations for puppet shows, clubs or events…and hey, look, there are lots of books, too! Maybe one will catch their eye. Again, let them choose. You may not want to read a novel with a gory zombie on the cover but if it gets them interested, so be it.
  • Bring books to places where you will be waiting, like doctors and dentists appointments. Put baskets of them in the bathroom.
  • Audio books can also help kids with visual processing and other challenges. Many are free online through your local library or other sites – just do a quick search.
  • Who are your child’s heroes? There are biographies on every historical figure, sports star and celebrity.
  • Yes, it’s okay to let them reread Harry Potter again – as long as you get them thinking about what they noticed this time that they never did before.

Another way to get kids with special needs or challenges interested in a book is if the story is about a kid with challenges. Students will recognize their own struggles and situations and pick up some new strategies. Feel free to read the books yourself – grownups may learn some of the clever ways these kids avoid work and play their teachers.

Here are some reading suggestions about children with special needs for teens. Ask a bookstore employee, teacher or librarian for other suggestions.

  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper features a girl with cerebral palsy
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt follows a girl and her older brother as they discover they have dyslexia
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell, a graphic novel about a girl with a clunky hearing aid

Have you or your child read a great book lately? Let us know about it!

 

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