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The Magic of Children’s Bath Time

Rubber-duckyOne of the loveliest videos I have ever seen is of baby Sonia receiving her first bath. I get teary just watching it as I remember the first baths I gave my beloved babies. Just as with baby Sonia, they were so relaxed, so calm, so utterly at peace. It made perfect sense to me then, and now. After all, a baby has spent 9 months floating in liquid in a warm and safe environment. How comforting to be back in familiar territory. It’s a feeling that we keep our entire lives.

As parents we tend to forget how important and soothing water is, not just for babies, but to toddlers, teenagers….and adults. Why, just the other day my 11-year old son took one look at my frazzled face and said, ‘maybe you should take a lavender bubble bath tonight’. (That is code in our house for ‘the pin has been pulled on the mom-grenade, we need to minimize collateral damage).

As winter extends, think about extending bath time in your house. Take inspiration from Sonia’s bath. Water gently poured over the face and head, a peaceful environment, a loving touch. Maybe add some bubbles as your child gets older. (I swear by l’Occitane Foaming Lavender Bath – the lavender calms everyone immediately and promotes a restful sleep. It’s pricey, but half a capful gives plenty of bubbles so the bottle lasts a long time). By all means, add some fun bath toys. A simple cup or a few pieces of Tupperware can mean hours of pleasure or Amazon has a huge selection of creative toys. For your teenagers, try not to rip your hair out at the hours spent in the bathroom and the piles of towels on the floor. Remember, calm and in control is good, and if water dampens the hormonal flames, maybe it’s worth the short-term aggravation.

The other bonus? Bathing as a positive introduction to water eases the way for swimming classes, which keeps your child safer in the water their entire life. Naturally you should NEVER leave a child unattended in the bath, not even to run into the other room for a clean diaper. Remember, drowning can happen in 2 minutes in under 2 inches of water. Just as important, young siblings do not make good babysitters when water is around as they don’t understand that little brother or sister lying in the water is not a problem, or maybe they put them there in a moment of conflicted feelings, not knowing what could happen.

Looking for further inspiration for bathing? I recommend that all-time classic, Ernie, singing ‘Rubber Duckie’.

p.s. As I listened to the video my golden retriever, Neptune, came rushing into my office with his ears cocked and a look on his face that said ‘Duck??? You have a DUCK???!!!’ It’s true, everyone loves bath time, especially with Rubber Duckie.

6 Layers of Protection That Keep Your Child Safe Around Water

How many layers of protection does the child in this photo have? Coat to prevent against the elements? Check. Securely buckled into an approved car seat? Check. Extra blanket for warmth? Check. A car that has passed stringent safety tests? Check. But the most important layer is the one you can’t see – he is constantly being taught to always buckle up when he is going in a car – by your actions and possibly by your words. We can make our children’s environment safe by using car seats, safety belts, airbags and cars with good crash-test ratings, but unless we teach a child why those things exist and how to use them, we are only doing half the job of protecting them in the future.

‘Layers of protection’ is the buzzword of choice for drowning prevention. It makes sense for exactly the same reasons we teach children to buckle up. Young children are learning self-control and cause-and-effect – our job is to keep them safe while they are learning, but also to teach them how to be safe, and why, at the same time.

To keep your child safe around water, here are the basic layers of protection you need.

  1. Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. Personally my rule-of-thumb is that they must excel on a swim team or choose to shower instead of bathe before this rule ends.
  2. If you have a pool, fence the pool. Not the yard, the pool. Look at installing self-closing gates, door alarms and pool alarms as an added layer of protection. Safety Turtle is a great portable choice for holidays and trips to Grandma’s.
  3. Always watch your child near water. Assign an adult to be a ‘Water Watcher’ for 10 minutes, give them a whistle, badge or a sign to hold to remind them that their only job is watching the kids, then rotate so that no one loses focus or misses out on the adult fun.
  4. Empty and turn over buckets, wading pools and anything else that can collect water. Think about covering any ornamental pools or bird baths while your children are under five.
  5. Learn CPR, because drowning happens in under 2 minutes in under 2 inches of water. Accidents do happen. Your local Red Cross or Park District will have classes.
  6. The most important layer though is teaching your child how to be safe around water. Talk to them about why there are fences, why you are watching them, why they need an adult around whenever they are near water – back up your actions with explanations. There is a book about water safety that young children (under 5) love, that can help you with this conversation. It’s called ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’.

With everyone of these actions you are sending two positive messages that will keep your child safe their whole life: Water is fun and you need to act responsibly and safely around water.

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Jabari, which means “brave” in Swahili, is a cute and lovable lion cub. Like most young children, he’s energetic, enthusiastic, curious, and sometimes even a bit mischievous. But Jabari always wants to do the right thing. Children will easily relate to him and want to emulate his positive behavior. Through Jabari’s stories and adventures, children will learn how to be safe in the water. And parents will learn the biggest lesson of all: Always watch your children while they’re in the water. ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’ is available on Amazon.com.

Water Explorers: Family Fun in the Sun

Water ExplorersFew images evoke the feeling of “getting away from it all” as does a canoe, kayak or raft gliding with the current. But you don’t have to live on water — or own a boat, for that matter — to organize an offshore trip. Nor do you have to sign on to an expensive, multi-day, wild river run to experience the wonders of water travel (sans motor) firsthand. With a little research, you can plan a safe and fun expedition that won’t sink your finances in the process.

Rent, rent, rent your boat: Where there is a lake or river, there are usually clubs, outfitters and/or liveries that rent out small vessels — and of course, life jackets — for several hours. Former river guide and adventure mom Julie Thorner of Bryson City, N.C., recommends using an adventure vacation site and doing a little research to find reputable outfitters. Typically, you don’t have to worry about securing a permit. That’s the job of the organization you rent from, and it’s covered by the small fee you’ll be charged for the rental.

Know your water: What you do need to worry about, says Thorner, are the conditions of the water you plan to travel on. She advises all canoeists, kayakers and rafters to make a point of knowing the water. Rivers and rapids are classified to help paddlers know how challenging a route is. For example, a Class I river has few ripples or obstacles, a Class II has some moderately difficult rapids and so on up to Class V, an extremely challenging river with narrow passages, rocks and violent waves.

Know your limits: Novice paddlers looking for excitement can consider a rough river but only if they invest in the services of a guide to travel with them, says Thorner. The experience of a seasoned paddler will help calm nerves — if not the waters — when the craft encounters Class III or IV rapids. A good outfit will have a policy for determining age-appropriate trips. Just make sure in advance that all members of your group, kids and adults alike, are up for the adrenaline rush that comes when you hit dicier waters.

Take it slow: Prefer to leave the guide behind? Paddling newcomers should stick to lakes, which are flat except during windy weather, or Class I or II rivers. You don’t need a guide to do a day float on a gently flowing river or on a lake, says Thorner. “Plus, it’s a great confidence builder to do it on your own,” she says. If younger children are on board, bring along plenty of snacks and plan to stop several times along the banks of the lake or river, making sure to tie up the boat if you intend to swim or walk along the shore.

A no-tip tip: It doesn’t take much for a heavy canoe or traditional kayak to tip over, and righting them, especially in a current of any kind, can be very difficult. Many outfitters also offer inflatable kayaks (often called duckies) and rafts, which are less tippy and much easier to right should they flip over and you fall out. Patsy Fisher of Etna, N.H., once tipped a canoe on the Connecticut River while paddling on her own, and pulling the overturned craft to shore — forget about righting it — was “incredibly difficult.” That’s one reason she prefers the serenity of canoeing on the lake near her home, especially when she’s with one of her three children. “You can hold a conversation — or not — while you’re skimming across the water,” she says. “It’s physical, it’s peaceful, and you can enjoy nature.” Perfect.

Summer Checklist – Ready, Set, Swim!

Summer’s almost here!!!

The weather is trending towards hot and sunny, the pools and beaches are beginning to open for the season, pandemic restrictions are FINALLY starting to lift and you are thinking it might just be safe to wash the snow pants.

So, what do you need to be ready for summer?

  • Swimsuits and goggles – check to make sure last year’s still fit and they aren’t falling apart from the sunshine, salt and chlorine. And if you have a child who won’t put their head in the water, goggles might be the answer.
  • Sunscreen. Do what the Australians do – keep a bottle by the back door and have everyone slap on a bit more every time they go out.
  • Water toys. The more interesting the toys in your beach bag, the less of the teasing/fighting/whining as the ‘toy’ becomes a younger sibling. I love splash bombs, the small torpedoes, diving rings and self-propelled sharks. Not only are they fun, but they keep your child diving and playing in the water which builds confidence and strength. I also have an entire basket of splash bombs in my basement for battles during the cold winter months – a great way to burn off steam safely.
  • Flotation device. What is a parent to do when you are at the pool with more than one child and they aren’t truly accomplished swimmers? We know ‘always watch your children’, but having two active kids myself I can tell you it’s not humanly possible, especially in a crowded pool. Either an approved life vest or, my favorite invention, the Swim Fin. It looks like a shark fin, so it’s totally cool, and it keeps beginner swimmers afloat. What I like best is that it keeps arms and legs completely free to practice their skills, safely, and kids love wearing them – it gives new meaning to the game ‘sharks and minnows’. Also amazing for helping good swimmers improve their stroke, especially butterfly. Contact www.swimfin.co.uk to find out where to buy them near you.
  • Rules. Number one rule: Never go near water without a grownup. Summer safety is very important. Train your kids to tell you ‘I’m going into the pool’. I’m going to the water slide’ ‘I’m going to be near the fountain’ ‘I’m going down by the lake’, and then make sure you are watching them. Teach your kids how to be safe near the water, to self-regulate their behavior so they are safe for a lifetime, not just a minute. The best rule for adults? Assign a water-watcher – an adult whose only job for 10 minutes is to watch the kids, and only watch the kids – no chatting, no texting, no magazines – and then ‘tap’ the next adult so that you can all have a good time and your kids will be safe.

HAVE FUN!!!! My pool/beach bag is packed, bring on summer!

Another Ear Infection…What Can I Do – Part II??

Since we now understand how ear infections occur (see Ear Infections – Part I), it’s time to deal with the child who seems to get repeated ear infections. Ear infections, particularly the middle ear type, are responsible for providers ordering more prescription antibiotics than any other childhood disease.

There are a certain number of children who just seem to get an outer ear infection (otitis externa) every time they get their ears under water, usually during the warmer months of the year. There are even some who get this when they do not get their ears under water, but usually these episodes are also in the warmer months. I spoke about the treatment of the sudden or acute ear infection, but what to do about the repeated episodes. The best answer to this is using either a prescription medication or better yet, one not costing you anything at all. Mix ½ to ½ mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol and place a couple drops of this into your child’s ear as soon as they get out of the pool or lake or ocean and try to limit the time those ears remain submerged. This has a way of drying out the external ear canal and helping to change the acid content of the eardrum. Ear plugs may be effective under certain circumstances but in general if you force a plug into the ear it may just irritate the skin which is exactly what we wish to avoid.

Middle ear infections (otitis media) are a different matter entirely. Remember that these are primarily due to a blockage in the normal valve system of your middle ear, with resultant pressure, fluid and infectious results. (Please refer back to part I if this is confusing). These changes happen in a progression that can occur suddenly or can develop over time.

While the obvious answer would be to use a “cold medicine” early on in the process this does not seem to influence the course of events as outlined, when looked at in controlled studies. The other end of the spectrum for treating the occurrence of multiple recurrent middle ear infections is to alter the normal anatomy in such a way as to prevent buildup of pressure in that small space which can then lead to fluid accumulation and bacterial secondary infection. This is accomplished through the use of very small tubes that can be surgically inserted through the eardrum and will serve to equalize the pressure on both sides of the eardrum. The system will calm down and the incidence of new infections will drop tremendously.

But that is a surgical procedure under some type of anesthesia, and even with tubes in the proper place, there can still be fluid production which then drains out of the ear chronically. Also, the mere act of making a hole in the eardrum through which a tube can be put in place, can slightly damage and scar that eardrum. Depending on the type of tube implanted in the eardrum, it usually comes out by itself after six to twelve months and the eardrum heals. Occasionally, the ear drum fails to heal completely and there is a perforation that might need to be surgically repaired in the future.

We treat middle ear infections for one of several reasons: to control the pain, to prevent any further extension of the infection into sensitive areas, and to preserve speech and hearing in your child.

Fortunately there are other approaches to the treatment of recurrent middle ear infections. Each significant ear infection should recognized and treated appropriately and the fluid buildup behind the eardrum monitored for resolution.

  • Fluid constantly in touch with the ear drum will dampen the usual vibrations and dull the hearing while it is there. Hearing testing can be run routinely to follow any changes in hearing.
  • All types of medications have been tried at one time or another: preventative doses of antibiotics have and still are being used for several weeks to months in an effort to prevent the bacterial infections, but the increasing number of bacteria becoming resistant to common antibiotics have caused physicians to re –think the use of long term medication.
  • Cortisone preparations by mouth have been tried to help with the middle ear inflammation, with varying results.
  • Occasionally, when all forms of treatment fail it is up to the ENT surgeon to place those tubes and let the middle ear system calm down.

So, there are many things to consider in finding a course of action for your child with recurrent ear infections and your Doctor will be familiar with each of the methods and can discuss them with you.

How did my child get an ear infection – Part I ??

Ear infections come in two basic varieties; external, commonly occurring in the warm weather and referred to as “swimmer’s ear”, and internal or middle ear infections occurring mainly in the colder weather. The designation of external or middle is dependent on which side of the ear drum the infection is located. The outer ear canal, seen from the outside if you try to get a look in an ear, is a narrow bony channel covered with skin leading to the eardrum which is totally air tight and seals the chamber. On the other side of the ear drum lies the middle ear cavity containing specialized bones and small organs that allow sound frequencies entering the outer ear to be converted to impulses that eventually reach the brain and are interpreted as sound. This space would also be a closed space if it were not for the Eustachian tube which goes from the back of the nose to the middle ear cavity and keeps the pressure the same as the external canal.

The frequency of sounds represents a pulsed pattern and each frequency has its own pulse pattern. As the sound, usually consisting of different frequencies, reach the ear drum they set the eardrum vibrating at different rates; these vibrations are transferred from the outer ear to the middle ear by way of the eardrum, and then picked up on the other side by a connected series of small bones or ossicles that transmit the information to the auditory nerve and then on to the brain.

Now that we know how the ear works as relates to the anatomy we can discuss more fully what ear infections are all about:

External otitis is caused by a damp, warm environment in the outer ear canal which breaks down the skin and causes irritation leading to possible mild bacterial infection. There is swelling in the skin lining that narrow canal and very little space to allow for that swelling. As a result there is more irritation and resultant pain which can be quite severe at times. As this occurs there is a change in acid content of the external ear leading to more discomfort.

The first thing to do is to prevent any further fluid or moisture from entering that ear canal, no swimming or diving for several days. If there is mild pain a ½ to ½ mixture of vinegar and alcohol can be used in that ear for several days, along with mild pain killers such as Tylenol or Advil. If the pain is severe go to see your Doctor who may prescribe further treatments. In general this is not a dangerous problem even though it can be very painful.

A middle ear infection starts with a pressure change in the middle ear cavity from congestion and narrowing or complete blockage of the Eustachian tube. AT this point the child may say he/she cannot hear well or the ear “feels full”, or even hear the sloshing of fluid. After some period of time there is a collection of clear fluid with more pressure buildup and resultant pain. As the fluid builds up, bacteria can migrate into that space and begin growing leading to more pressure, pain, discomfort and sometimes fever. Your Doctor will suggest treatment methods that will greatly decrease pain and help heal the infection.

Some children tend to get repeated episodes of ear infections and I will deal with that problem in Part II of this post.

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