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Help Stop Your Child’s Ear Pain on Planes

My family and I flew to Orlando last month to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios — my 9-year-old is obsessed with the book series. The long weekend was spectacular on all fronts except one: My husband, who had a cold, came down with severe ear pain about halfway through the flight. By the time we landed, he could barely hear anything, and it took almost 12 hours for his full hearing to return!

The whole experience freaked me out, so when we got back, I called Gordan J. Siegel, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Chicago, to ask him if what happened to my hubby was normal — or whether I should drag him into the doctor’s office. “It’s common for people who have a cold or allergies to experience ear pain during a flight because the Eustachian Tubes (which help equalize pressure changes) are inflamed,” he told me. “Even when, well, children under 6 are also particularly vulnerable because their Eustachian Tubes may have not fully developed yet.”

Indeed, I remember seeing some babies and toddlers start to cry during the end of the flight.

“Is there anything a person with a cold or allergies could do to avoid the pain?” I followed up. “You may been able to ward off the problem — or at least reduce the severity — by taking a decongestant before the flight,” said Siegel. “But I only recommend this for people who don’t have high blood pressure.”

Siegel also pointed out another option: special travel ear plugs (one brand is EarPlanes) that help protect your hearing from changes in air pressure. Children and adults can pop them in their ears before takeoff, remove them when the plane reaches maximum altitude, and then put back in an hour before landing. Siegel also noted, of course, that if a cold is severe you just might want to postpone your trip.

Since my conversation with Siegel, I picked up the EarPlanes at my local drugstore; they were only $10 for a three-pack. I tucked them into my luggage carry-on, where I stash my trip essentials like travel-size toothpaste and instant stain remover (because my daughter always spills when we’re days away from doing laundry). Now we’re one step closer to being ready for our next vacation!



Car Seat LATCH Rules to Change in 2014: Please Read This Today

A new rule that goes into effect in 2014 will require car-seat makers to warn parents NOT to use the  Latch anchor system to install a car seat if the combined weight of the child and the seat is 65 pounds or higher.

The LATCH anchors (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) were designed to make child seats easier to install and have been required in vehicles since 2001, but child-safety seat advocates say the strength of the anchors can’t be guaranteed because they don’t take into account the weight of the child seat, which typically weighs 15 to 33 lbs.

In the June 6th USA Today, according to Joseph Colella, one of five child-safety advocates who petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a change to the rule, “the anchor requirements are based on old child seats and outdated recommendations on how long kids should be in child seats”.

And children are getting heavier and staying in child seats longer.  Just this past year the American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA issued enhanced new guidelines on booster seat use for older children, recommending that children ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, typically when the child is somewhere between 8-12 years old and about 4 feet 9 inches tall.  Colella says “car makers aren’t able to guarantee the safety of heavier kids given the strength of LATCH anchors”.  And that to me, sounds a bit risky

So what does this mean for you?

Transportation Department spokeswoman Lynda Tran told USA Today: “While Latch makes it easier to properly install car seats in vehicles, it’s important for parents and caregivers to know that securing a child seat with a seat belt is equally as safe — and that they have the flexibility to use either system.”  Very good to know.

So…if you have a child that weighs around 30 lbs, double check the weight of your car seat with the manufacturer.  Make sure the weight of your child + the weight of that seat does not exceed 65 lbs.  And while you’re having that conversation with them, double check the weight their LATCH anchors are rated to support.  And if you have any doubt – use a seat belt to secure the car seat.

In my opinion, waiting until 2014 to require car seat manufacturers to warn parents about a potentially dangerous situation is being overly “nice” to car-seat manufacturers…but when the safety of a child is even a question, “nice” should not be an option.
I’d prefer we start notifying parents today. What do you think???

On the Road Rx for Healthy and Safe Travel with Your Kids

When it comes to family vacations, you can plan for the good stuff — cool campsites, great restaurants, awesome attractions — in advance. A bad turn of events, however, can strike without warning, especially when you’re traveling with kids. When you’re away from your daily routine and focused on having fun, you’re not thinking that your child may fall and break a leg, come down with a nasty virus or get lost in a museum. But accidents and mishaps can occur anytime, anywhere. Keep your family as healthy and safe as possible while on vacation by taking these simple precautions.

Smart Health Moves

  • Bring medical supplies For starters, bring enough of any prescription medication to last through your entire vacation — you can’t count on being able to get refills — plus one more day’s worth, in case your flight gets cancelled. Also tote along remedies for any chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, migraines and upset stomach. Add basic first-aid supplies like pain relievers, fever reducers, bandages and antibiotic ointment. Carry antibacterial wipes or lotion for when washing hands isn’t an option.
  • Know your insurance Find out from your health insurance company how to go about getting urgent or emergency care while you’re away. Following your health care plan’s protocol for out-of-area coverage can get you the medical attention you need faster — and save you a bundle.
  • Get your shots Fend off illness in advance by ensuring that you’re up to date on your vaccinations. Ask your doctor which shots you and your kids may need, or check with the travelers’ health Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Find your closest embassy If you’re going abroad, learn about travel warnings and any health issues affecting the area you are going to. Visit the Department of State’s Web listing of U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions worldwide and jot down contact information of the U.S. embassy nearest to your destination. The embassy staff can help you find good medical care and notify your family in case of an emergency.

Smart Safety Moves

  • Stay in contact Bring cell phones if possible — or even walkie-talkies — to find one another in crowds or outside the hotel. Since reception isn’t guaranteed and calls get missed, always designate a spot — say, the fountain in the hotel lobby or the lifeguard chair at the beach — where family members should go if they get lost.
  • ID your kids Unless you’re investing in a family GPS system, arm your children with identification. Write down your child’s name, your name, your or your spouse’s cell phone number, and the phone number of your hotel on a piece of paper. (Even older kids don’t always remember where they’re staying.) Slip it into a shoe tag, luggage tag or even your child’s pocket. Always keep a current photograph of your child on hand in case you have to show it to the authorities.
  • Discuss safety measures with your kids Advise them not to talk to strangers or go anywhere with a stranger — even a mom or another kid. Stress the importance of staying within sight at all times (a theme park is not a good place to run ahead of the group), and though it may be fun for the kids to explore a hotel, they shouldn’t do it alone. Your main message: Vacations are the most fun and relaxing when families stay together, and kids have an important role to play in making that happen.



Keeping Your Child Healthy on Airplanes

Many cold and flu viruses are transmitted when you touch surfaces. And when you’re on airplanes, you’re touching armrests and tray tables that may not be very clean. Since so many people are touching the same surfaces, it’s all too easy to pick up germs on your hands.

So always have your child wash hands thoroughly before and after using the bathroom on a plane. And when you can’t get access to a sink and soap, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. If you’re worried about the drying effects of alcohol, use a hand sanitizer that has added moisturizers, like aloe.

And since the air on planes is so dry and uncomfortable, you might also want to bring along some saline nasal spray, which you can use to help keep both yours and your child’s nasal passages well moisturized.

It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water — that goes for you and your child.

Finally, try to avoid sick people when possible. If you’re sitting next to someone who’s coughing and sniffling and the flight is not full, speak up and politely ask a flight attendant if you can move to different seats.



I’m 9 Years Old – Do I Really Still Need a Booster Seat?

My son doesn’t want to use a booster seat anymore. I can see his perspective: none of his friends use one any longer and he thinks the seat belts in our cars fit him just fine. So why bother?? Because he’s just nine. And because crash studies and child safety guidelines from experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics indicate that  he still needs to be using one. Although he thinks he’s so smart and grown up, he’s just a kid – and I’m the parent. And I actually know what it feels like to be injured in a car crash.

Guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 recommend that kids use a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall (57 inches) and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. This will likely be around the ages of 8-12 years. But it’s the physical dimensions that matter most. Kids need to be large enough to fit properly in the seatbelt – and mature enough to ride without slouching down and defeating the whole purpose of the belts. Focusing on the age of the child to guide booster seat decisions can be misleading. Last spring – at 9-years of age – my son measured in the 75th percentile for both weight and height at his annual pediatric visit (meaning he was taller and heavier than 75% of other nine-year olds)….and he STILL DIDN’T meet the criteria for graduating from a booster seat – he’s not yet 4’9” and weighs only just over 80 lbs. So why are we in the minority in our community in still using a booster seat?

The problem is that many state laws – and therefore local communications about what constitutes safe car travel for older kids – haven’t caught up to these recommendations (click here for a summary of state laws on child passenger safety). Many states – like Alabama, Colorado, Iowa and Nebraska (to name just a few) focus exclusively on age – without the all-important height and weight requirements. This list includes my state of Indiana which allows children over age seven to shelve the booster seat, no matter how big they are. My son’s best friend – also nine – stopped using a booster seat last year. He’s fully THREE INCHES shorter than my son. How can he possibly be safely restrained by an adult seat belt during a crash? And this isn’t just a theoretical issue. Safe Kids USA reports that children seated in a booster seat in the rear of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash as compared to those using a seat belt alone.

While this is bad enough, some states – like Florida, Arizona and South Dakota don’t even have booster seat laws. In these states it is legally permissible for children as young as age 4 and 5 to use adult seat belts. Is there some reason why the children in these states are less likely to be involved in a traffic accident – or that they are somehow more resilient in a car crash?

Let’s face it – the process of proposing and passing laws is complicated and time-consuming. Hopefully all these states will eventually get on par with the guidelines, joining states like Georgia and Maine. However, in the meantime it’s our children riding in the back seat and I would rather base my car safety approach on best-practice guidelines than rely on the timeline and politics of my state judicial process.

So, in our house the 4’9” rule prevails. We even got out the measuring tape recently and determined my son has an inch to go. He’s counting down every day. And he understands that I’m following new expert recommendations to keep him safe – and that his friends’ parents probably just aren’t aware of these guidelines, which is too bad.

Halloween 2011: Tips From the Experts to Keep Kids Safe

It’s that time again…

What is your little one going to be for Halloween this year?? A ghost, a gorilla…maybe even Gaga (…Lady Gaga that is)??? Well whatever he or she chooses to be this year, one thing we want them ALL to be is SAFE! With that in mind we’ve gathered up the best Halloween tips and tricks that we could find from the most reliable safety sources we know.

Full credit…and our thanks go out to them.

1. DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION: (AAP)

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. They can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.

2. OUT TRICK-OR-TREATING: (AAP and SafeKids)

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
    • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
    • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks. Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
    • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • If you’re out driving:
    • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
    • Anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day so you can spot children from greater distances.
    • Remember that costumes can limit children’s visibility and they may not be able to see your vehicle.

3. FOR THOSE WHO CAN EAT CANDY…: (AAP and AAPD)

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Remind kids to brush before (and after) eating candy: Tooth decay and cavities occur when sugar reacts to bacteria and dental plaque. Brushing before candy consumption reduces the amount of bacteria and plaque on the teeth.
  • Watch out for hard candy: Don’t just monitor the amount of sugar a child consumes, but also how long they keep sweet treats in their mouths. Kids should eat the candy right away, limit chewy candies that stick to teeth, as well as hard candies, which will be slowly eaten.
  • Monitor overall candy consumption: There are two recommended options.
    • Keep candy consumption limited to a few pieces a day given with a meal or a snack.
    • Alternatively, have the child eat whatever the amount the adult decides at one setting, and then have them brush their teeth afterwards and give or donate the remaining candy.

4. …AND FOR THOSE WITH FOOD ALLERGIES WHO NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS: (KFAF)

  • Plan an alternate activity, such as going to the movies, hosting a slumber party, or having a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood for safe treats or other items.
  • When trick-or-treating, carry your child’s emergency medicines.
  • Let the kids dress up and run house to house, while you carry a safe snack in case they want one. Bring wipes to clean the little hands first!
  • Give neighbors safe Halloween treats in advance to hand out to your food allergic child.
  • Prepare a container filled with safe treats in advance, and then swap it for the treats collected.
  • Try a variation of the Tooth Fairy: Sort through unsafe candy, then leave it in a safe spot for a “Sugar Sprite” or “Candy Fairy” who exchanges it for a small gift, toy, or money. [
  • Trade unsafe candy for allergen-safe treats or age-appropriate non-food items once your children return home. Non-food ideas include coloring books, storybooks, pencils, stickers, stuffed animals, toys, cash and play dough.
  • If permissible, donate leftover candy to children who may not be able to go out and trick or treat.
  • Check all ingredients. Remember that treat-size candy may have different ingredients or may be made on different machinery than the same regular-size candy.

5. FINALLY, MAKE SURE TO STAY IN TOUCH (AT&T)

  • Make sure wireless phones are fully charged.
  • Pre-program contact information of parents, neighbors and emergency services into your and your child’s speed dial, and be sure they know how to access these numbers with ease.
  • Establish boundaries – Families should have in place a familiarized route for children to follow while out on the town. Consider a small tracking device that can easily slip into your child’s candy bag like the Garmin GTU 10 and follow them via PC or mobile phone.
  • Set up periodic alarms with Halloween-themed tones as a reminder for trick-or-treaters to text or call home between candy collecting stops.

Wishing you and your family a safe, happy and healthy Halloween!!

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Resources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics:  Halloween Safety Tips
  2. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: AAPD Offers Halloween Tooth To-Dos For A Fun and Healthy Holiday
  3. Kids with Food Allergies Foundation:  Take the Tricks Out of Treats
  4. Safe Kids  Halloween: A Night for Treats, Not Tragedies
  5. AT&T: Halloween Safety Tips for Parents

 

AAPD Offers Halloween Tooth To-Dos For A Fun and Healthy Holiday

 

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