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10 Secrets to Helping Your Kids Breathe Better With Allergies

AllergiesWarmer weather triggers trees, flowers and grasses to bloom, beckons kids back outside and sets off seasonal allergy suffering for 40 percent of those kids. Pollens, which have been dormant all winter, are abundant from spring to fall. These irritants gang up with existing indoor allergens (such as dust mites, pet dander and mold) and bully your child’s immune system, causing itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, sniffling, sneezing and coughing.

“While allergens are unavoidable, there are things you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to them,” says Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Center in Dallas.

Try these tricks for keeping allergens to a minimum:

  1. Make plans based on pollen counts. Plan indoor activities when outdoor pollen counts are highest – every day before 10 a.m., on windy days and after it rains. Check pollen.com for the daily allergy forecast in your area.
  2. Control the spread of allergens. After a day of fun outside, have the kids take showers, wash their hair and put on clean clothes before they’re allowed to play in their rooms. You don’t want them tracking pollen into their bedrooms since allergy symptoms are often worse at night.
  3. Manage indoor air quality. Keep windows closed during pollen season and crank up the air conditioning to help filter the air in your home. An indoor air temperature between 68 F and 72 F inhibits mold and dust mite growth and helps the indoor humidity level stay at an ideal 30 to 40 percent.
  4. Keep bedding healthy. Dress your child’s bed using linens made of cotton or synthetic materials as opposed to bedding filled with feather or down, which can trap moisture and invite dust mites to spread. Dust mites produce a protein that can irritate the nasal passage and cause sneezing and a runny nose. To get rid of them, wash your child’s sheets once a week. Wash the comforter, mattress pad and blankets once a month. And never hang linens or clothes to dry outside, where they can gather pollen.
  5. Clean stuffed animals and toys. Only buy washable stuffed animals and throw them in the laundry with the bedsheets every week. And when they’re not being loved, store stuffed animals — and all toys — in sealed, dust-free plastic containers.
  6. Use allergen-resistant covers. Wrap the mattress, box spring and pillows in allergen-resistant covers to reduce your child’s exposure to dust mites by as much as 80 percent.
  7. Keep floors free of irritants. Vacuum the floors in kids’ rooms twice a week using a cyclonic machine or one outfitted with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Keep kids out of the bedroom for at least 30 minutes afterward, since vacuuming kicks up allergen-filled dust that can irritate allergies.
  8. Move moisture out of the bathroom. Bathrooms tend to accumulate water around the shower, tub and sink areas, keeping the room moist and susceptible to mold growth. Control moisture by making sure wet towels and clothes are hanging so they’re able to dry. After showers, allow the curtain or door to air-dry before pulling it closed. And to keep air flowing and remove moisture, leave a fan on after showers and baths.
  9. Prevent pet allergens. Pets produce more allergens than the great outdoors. Don’t let your furry friends into the kids’ rooms. Wash and brush Fido — outside — once a week to decrease the dander inside.
  10. Equip bedroom with a HEPA air filter. If your child has severe allergies, consider putting a HEPA air filter in the bedroom. Check the CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) label, which indicates the size of room it’s best for.

This Summer, Help Your Kids Fight the “Common Mold” Allergy

The term “hay fever” brings to mind pollen and ragweed allergies, but mold can be the sneaky culprit behind summer sneezing, sniffling and itchy eyes. “Many allergy sufferers assume their symptoms are caused by pollen, when they’re actually allergic to mold,” says Dr. James L. Sublett, section chief of the pediatric allergy department at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Louisville, Ky.

The mold truth: Forty million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis (aka hay fever), and mold is one of several triggers — especially in summertime. Mold allergy symptoms peak in July and late summer; as humidity rises, the fungi, which flourish in damp, warm conditions, grow on dead grass and leaves, straw and other plants. Once they’ve set up camp in an adequately damp spot, they reproduce by sending spores (or tiny seeds) into the air. Inhaling these particles triggers a reaction in those who are allergic to mold. “Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, which can cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis,” says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

So how do you know if you suffer from a mold allergy? Pesky allergy symptoms are a good indicator, but an allergist can confirm the source with a skin test, pricking the skin with extracts of different types of fungi to identify an allergic reaction.

Such medications as antihistamines and decongestants can help ease symptoms from mold. But the only surefire route to relief is avoiding mold both inside and outside your home. Follow these summer tips to allergy-proof your surroundings.

Inside Your Home

Mold is an unwelcome houseguest, and it’s hard to send the fungi packing. It lurks in rooms where humidity levels are high (the basement, kitchen and bathrooms), and it can grow on anything from houseplants to old newspapers. Luckily, our targeted plan of attack will help you get rid of the fungi for good.

Keep It Clean

  • Zap kitchen hot spots. Mold loves to hang out in trash cans, refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans. Use a cleaning product formulated to kill the fungi.
  • Don’t let laundry pile up. Damp laundry (in the machine or out) is the perfect spot for mold to grow.
  • Scrub your shower. Clean your shower with a solution of diluted beach at least once a month.
  • Tidy up the fridge. It may seem obvious, but make sure to throw out old food from your pantry and fridge as soon as it expires.

Clear the Air

  • Get hip to HEPA. Be sure your central heating and air-conditioning is fitted with a high-efficiency particulate accumulator (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters can trap very small particles, including pollen and mold spores, and are sold online and at numerous home improvement stores.
  • Minimize moisture. Use a dehumidifier, especially in damp areas like the basement and the bathroom, suggests Sublett. Don’t forget to empty the water and clean the appliance regularly to prevent creating a breeding ground for mold.
  • Air out the shower. After hot showers and baths, run a fan or open a window. In bathrooms without windows, keep the door open when the room isn’t in use.

Target Mold Zones

  • Bag the shag. Remove carpeting in the basement, laundry room and bathrooms.
  • Clear the walls. Wallpaper can trap mildew in the bathroom; a cheery shade of paint is a better bet. Look for mold- and mildew-resistant paint at the hardware store.
  • Let there be light. Since most mold grows in the dark, install a light on a timer in dark rooms like the basement or closets.
  • Store carefully. Don’t put newspaper, old books, clothes, bedding or other items in damp areas where mold will latch on.
  • Water with care. Mold loves potted soil, so don’t overwater household plants.

Outside Your Home

It’s more of a challenge to eradicate mold outside your home, where it thrives on dead grass, dead leaves, straw and other plants. These five strategies will keep the fungi under control in your great outdoors.

  • Rake and mow. The lawn should be regularly mowed and raked. It’s best to have someone else do the dirty work if you’re allergic; otherwise, wear a face mask when you’re cutting the grass, digging, weeding or raking.
  • Chop and remove. Store firewood away from your home.
  • Patch the roof. Be proactive: Repair any leaks in your roof immediately.
  • De-clutter the gutters. Always keep rain gutters clear of leaves and debris.
  • Relocate compost. A compost pile is good and green — but it’s also a major mold breeding ground. Keep it as far away from your house as possible.

Emma’s Inspirations

When our daughter Emma was an infant, we moved into our new house. As parents of six children, we were very excited about getting to this new house and getting some much needed unloading done! Pulling into the driveway, we all became very excited and quickly left the car to see the house. There was so much to do – everyone went off in different directions.

I had assumed that my husband or one of the older kids had taken Emma from her car seat emmas dog and cat-small(as that was almost ALWAYS the case) and he thought that it was me who had brought her inside. Making the assumption that everything was okay, we went about unpacking and arranging our new home.

In a sudden moment of panic, I realized that our baby girl wasn’t even in the house. Nearly 45 minutes after we had arrived, I rushed to our car for Emma.

The sun was hot for a spring day. I cannot tell you the thoughts and fears, and the horror that welled up inside of me as I was sure I had harmed our baby girl! I thank God every day that my older son had opened the back window on the ride up because he felt car-sick, or Emma may not have become the vibrant six year old she is today!

From that point on we left notes in all the cars. “Where’s Emma?” was our catch phrase. We were determined to always check the seats and never let this happen to us again.

When my daughter and I read about the school principal who, out of routine, left her baby in a closed car all day, and the dad who forgot the baby was in his back seat because he didn’t ‘usually’ drop him off at child-care, we were sad and sickened by their tragedies… yet we knew how ‘routine’ oriented we all are today… and how easy it is for this tragedy to take place:

  • An average of 40 children die each year in closed vehicles… and numerous others have been left alone in closed cars by adults who assume the car is a ‘safe place’ for their children…
  • How many bus drivers do we read about who fail to “check the seats”!
  • What is typically not realized is how quickly the air inside our vehicles can become saunas for our precious little ones… with temperatures escalating 20 to 30, or even 40 degrees higher INSIDE the car than the air OUTSIDE the car! According to an article in New Science Magazine (July 5, 2005) , a study done out of Stanford University re-echoes these facts: cars become ovens, even while outside temperatures are on the ‘cool’ side!
  • Children’s bodies’ heat up 3 to 5 times faster than adults, and a child can be critically injured or tragically dead within minutes!
  • In 2001, according to Kids N Cars, there were approx 20 child deaths due to hyperthermia. In 2011, there were 33. In 2010 there were over 49 (the highest number of fatalities in one year – ever)

My daughter and I remembered our ‘notes’. I thought of easy ways to leave a ‘note’ affixed to car windows, in key spots, to help remind us to “check the seats before we leave”. We decided to design decals to help save lives, as well as awaken our awareness of the dangers of vehicle suffocation for small children and pets! This is how we came up with Emma’s Inspirations.

I came up with the idea of static-cling decals to adhere (but not STICK with adhesive) to the car windows. I wanted to add a couple of ‘check’ marks to the decals with a stick figure boy and girl (some with a cat and dog added as well) and add a phrase that rhymed to increase the ease of remembering the dangers of suffocation for adults… and to educate children as well. I thought the phrase would help develop a new mindset for everyone… and help educate our children about automobile safety- the same way we educate them about outlet and toaster safety.

I thought 3 decals for each car was a good idea so I put them together in packages of 6 … enough for two cars. One could be placed just above the driver’s side window door-lock, another just below the rear-view mirror, (or the left corner of the windshield), and one for the back window corner. Some moms stick one on the kitchen window as well; to remind them to keep any cars outside LOCKED from little hands or hide and seek players! Others place one on or above their house alarm to remind them to check the seats.

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post wrote a painfully candid article on this subject on Sunday, March 8, 2009. He recounts the tragedy of three families as they endure the heartache of recognition that their children died a horrifically “modern” death; they suffocated in seats their parents never took a second glance in! These are situations no family ever would have anticipated.

Emma’s window decals are that little reminder you need when things are moving at a fast pace. By sticking these decals in the right places you will have a simple and affordable reminder to check again. A reminder so simple …yet one that could save your child’s life!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

Many parents are unaware of the dangers lurking around parked cars. According to the Kids N Cars national database, there are a number of injuries that can happen in a ‘MOMENT’ to children left unattended in or around motor vehicles. Here are just a few things to watch for:

  • A child can suffocate in unattended vehicles;
  • Children can get their heads and hands caught in power windows;
  • They can inadvertently shift the car into gear…or fall out windows and doors;
  • “Frontovers” and “Backovers” are responsible for approx 61% of non-traffic fatalities for children under the age of 15;
  • We must be of a mind to NEVER LEAVE OUR CHILDREN ALONE IN OR AROUND CARS.

The decals from Emma’s Inspirations are an accident prevention tool to remind us to DOUBLE CHECK our seats, REMOVE any passengers, and LOCK our EMPTY parked cars from curious little ones. Other areas where safety stickers can keep your children safe from harm:

  • ID stickers for child safety seats – if you were ever in an accident, it would provide key information about your child to caregivers that you may be unable to communicate. You can usually get these at your local pharmacy or stationery store…
  • You might want to place a decal or sticker on a house or apartment window or door to alert emergency personnel to the presence of children in the home.
  • Poison Control stickers should be placed on phones themselves or next to the phone and/or on an inside cabinet door.
  • Medical alert bracelets or anklets or stickers or decals on a child’s seat or diaper bag or person to warn of potentially life-threatening allergies.
  • Decals and stickers are good to remind ‘no metal’ in the microwave or toaster.
  • Stickers and decals are small, yet significant aids in helping us keep track of the never ending flow of “things to remember to mention” or ”do” or “watch out for”… as we manage the literal “ins” and “outs” of our days… and care for the people, who at the end of our day, we do it ALL for… our children!

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Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in November of 2009. With the weather warming up and National Heat Awareness Day on Friday the 23rd, we wanted to take a moment to share it with you again as a reminder to Please Check the Seats Before You Lock!

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.

Summer Hazards 2012: Part II – Insects & Spiders & Snakes Oh My!

Summer Hazards Part I focused on counteracting the effects of the sun: remaining well hydrated during the time of the year when fluid loss through activities can cause significant problems and minimizing the potential harm that can be caused by direct exposure to the sun. Part II focuses more on keeping your family healthy and safe this summer from the pests that come around summer – the insects, spiders and snakes – and the problems that often come along for the ride.

Insect bites: Most insect bites are benign unless one is allergic to that particular insect. Unfortunately it is not possible to tell who is allergic prior to the first episode of reaction, however, most reactions are of a minor nature, e.g.: hives, general itchiness and red itchy eyes. These can easily be treated with an antihistamine by mouth such as Benadryl and cold compresses to the skin or the eyes. Of course the more serious reactions (usually due to vespids- bees, wasps and hornets) can be fatal but fortunately, they are rare, and usually do not occur with the first reaction. If you are one of the unfortunate few who are known to have serious reactions you will carry with you medicines that can significantly change the outcome of the reaction, e.g.: epipen or epipen jr. which is a form of epinephrine injected just under the skin for maximum (what can be life-saving) effect.

Other insects known to produce reactions or painful side effects include spiders and small insects such as ants. There are certain species of ants, such as fire ants, that are responsible for a painful bite that usually occurs after someone has stepped on a nest. Cold water or ice on the area along with such antihistamines as Benadryl, will help the stinging sensation. Certain large black ants can also bite but are usually not found in this country.

Only 2 spiders in this country should be avoided: Black widow, notable for an hourglass orange imprint on the abdomen, is responsible for a very painful bite that can cause muscle spasm notably in the abdomen- usually not deadly but very painful. The other spider of note is the brown recluse spider which although looking very benign to the naked eye yields a very painful and tissue destroying toxin that can cause problems over the next several weeks. Ideally, the best treatment is avoidance as is true of everything discussed prior to this point.

Snake bites also tend to occur when a human being inadvertently steps on or disturbs the animal. Although most snake bites are non-venomous in this country all bites can be painful and if you plan to spend any prolonged time outdoors (camping etc.) It would be well worth your while to study up on types of snakes and animals indigenous to the area and be prepared for a plan of action if an incident occurs. In general, an imprint consisting of two rows of teeth are usually from a non-venomous snake while 2 prominent puncture wounds are produced by a fanged snake usually producing a toxin of some kind. These bites tend to be very painful from the onset and only get worse with time. Other side effects can be very nasty and at times life-threatening. This person needs medical attention as promptly as possible.

6 Summer Illnesses You Need to Know: How to Spot & Treat Them

You may not think of summer as a major season for sickness, but there are a number of illnesses that occur only in the warm months — and most often in kids. These viruses and bacteria live and breed where kids like to hang out: in lakes, pools and wooded areas.

The main culprits are enteroviruses (which are transmitted through the digestive tract) and viruses carried by deer ticks, says Dr. Jeremias Murillo, an expert in pediatric infectious disease at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel.

There are no vaccines for these viruses, so parents need to be vigilant and prudent, advises Murillo. Steer clear of dirty-looking lakes and overcrowded pools, which can be contaminated with infected feces and sewage. Avoid wooded areas where tick-carrying animals live. And if you’re going hiking, wear white clothing with long sleeves and pants, and check frequently for ticks.

Here’s how to spot and treat the six most common summer ailments:

Summer Sickness No. 1: Enteroviruses

Enteroviruses include Coxsackie viruses; ECHO virus; and hand, foot and mouth disease.

  • Source: Water contaminated by human feces, such as lakes and under-chlorinated pools.
  • Signs: Upper-respiratory infection; diarrhea and vomiting; pinkeye; skin rashes; and blisters in the mouth and on the hands and feet. Can lead to viral meningitis. Symptoms develop three to seven days after infection.
  • Treatment: None. Clears up after a few days.

Summer Sickness No. 2: Lyme Disease

  • Source: Bacteria spread by infected ticks.
  • Symptoms: A single bull’s-eye rash, body-wide itching, fever, chills, muscle pain, stiff neck and headache. Symptoms come and go. If not treated, Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart, and joints.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 3: Babesiosis

  • Source: Parasites spread by infected deer ticks.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, chills, very high fever, loss of appetite, and a type of anemia that can lead to jaundice and dark urine. Often misdiagnosed as malaria.
  • Treatment: Antimalarial medications and antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 4: Ehrlichiosis

  • Source: Bacteria spread by infected ticks.
  • Symptoms: Fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, diarrhea, flat red rash, and tiny areas of bleeding on the skin. Can also cause anemia and blunt the immune system, leading to other infections. Symptoms develop seven to nine days after the bite.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 5: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

  • Source: Bacteria spread by wood.
  • Symptoms: Prominent, generalized rash that starts in hands and feet and spreads to the rest of the body. Also, chills, fever, severe headache, muscle pain, mental confusion. Can affect organs if not treated immediately. Symptoms develop two to 14 days after the bite.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 6: E-coli

  • Source: Bacteria found in sewage-contaminated lakes and other water
  • Symptoms: Sudden, severe and bloody diarrhea. Also, fever, gas, loss of appetite, and stomach cramping. Symptoms develop 24 to 72 hours after infection.
  • Treatment: None. Sickness disappears in a few days.

Most cases of these illnesses are fairly mild, but some can lead to serious complications — and very rarely, death. Being aware of the causes and signs can help you protect your kids — and ensure your summer fun.



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