Currently browsing Community

Seven Sun Safety Facts Your Teen Needs to Know

For many of us, lying in the sun is the ultimate relaxation. But too much sun can give you wrinkles, sunburn and put you at risk of skin cancer.

Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research answers seven important questions about the effect of sun on your skin and the importance of sunscreen.

1. How long can sunburn last?
seven-sun-facts-for-teensDays. You can get sunburnt in just 10 minutes even in the UK. If you overdo it at a festival or on holiday, skin can be red, painful and peeling for a week or more.

Sunburn also damages your skin for life and doubles your risk of skin cancer.

2. What suncream should I use?
Use factor 15 plus with UVA and UVB protection, and apply regularly (every two to three hours). Use more after swimming. The paler your skin is, the greater care you need to take. If you’re blonde, a redhead, have fair skin or lots of moles or freckles, you have a higher risk of skin cancer and need to take extra care.

3. I’m black. Is sun exposure still dangerous?
Yes. Black skin can burn too – it just takes more heat to do it. Although very dark black skin has a natural SPF, we still advise using an SPF of 15; although skin cancer is less common in black people, it tends to be more aggressive. Take particular care of the soles of your feet and palms of your hands, as they’re more prone to skin cancer.

4. Sun makes me feel good. What’s so bad about it anyway?
Right now the worst thing about it might seem like sunburn and strap marks, but give it a few years and you could have wrinkles, moles, freckles, brown patches and, sometimes, skin cancer. Every year, 2,000 people die from malignant melanoma, and skin cancer is the second most common cancer in 20- to 39-year-olds.

5. Is sunbathing really worse when you’re a teenager?
Yes, younger skin is more easily damaged than older skin. And you can’t undo the damage. Once you’ve been sunburnt your skin will age prematurely.

6. I’m still not persuaded. Anything else to put me off?
The most common kind of skin cancer is rarely fatal. But it can be seriously disfiguring. If skin cancer is found on the face it has to be cut out and may even need plastic surgery. There is a risk of permanent scarring, or part of your nose may have to be cut away.

7. Are sunbeds safer?
No. Getting a tan on a sunbed will increase your risk of getting skin cancer and make you look old.

It is now illegal for under 18s to use sunbeds (*in the UK). Find more information on the Cancer Research website.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

Click here for a US state-by-state assessment of tanning restrictions for teens.

 





Childhood Illnesses – Are We Winning The Battle?

As with any illness, it is best to prevent than to treat.  Our progress in battling some devastating childhood illnesses over the years has centered on the introduction and efficiency of our existing vaccines and effective preventive medications.

One of the first notable vaccines was that produced to prevent paralytic polio.   Early on this was an oral vaccine and we (of a certain age) can remember the sugar cubes given out in school followed in rapid order by oral and then injectable types of the vaccine. These obviously were very effective in eliminating the most dreaded form of polio- that which produced paralysis in children and young adults.  Again, some of us remember trying to fall asleep at night thinking of that terrible disease and the pictures of “iron lungs” (a type of whole-body respirator) lined up in the hallways of hospitals.  There was no treatment and as of today there is still no treatment.  However the severe clinical outcome has been erased.  Polio virus is still around today and is not uncommon but is such a mild illness that affected people may not even realize they might have it. (Very similar to many of our common every day illnesses)

Many of us also remember smallpox vaccine that left a puckered, stippled scar on the top of our shoulders.  As it began disappearing from the US due also to better and newer isolation techniques, it was noticed that there were more bothersome reactions than actual cases of small pox in this country.   Also worldwide there were fewer and fewer outbreaks that became controllable with the above mentioned isolation techniques.  Smallpox vaccine was discontinued.

With the advent of improved TB testing and effective medicines, a vaccine became unnecessary although the disease still exists, it is controllable and treatable.

Measles, mumps and German measles used to take its toll on primitive peoples of the world until there were effective vaccines that prevented the illnesses and sometimes the birth defects that would arise in babies born to women who had had German measles during pregnancy.

Hemophilus influenza is a common bacterium causing some illnesses in this country and around the world but the most dreaded of these was a virulent kind of meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, leading to some life-long neurologic deficits in children and even death).  While I was in my training to become a Pediatrician a vaccine was developed to eradicate this illness and within a very short time the incidence of hemophilus meningitis dropped severely – today it is a rarity.

More recently we have seen the development of effective and efficient vaccines to help prevent influenza, chickenpox, hepatitis, meningitis, rabies, and the list is constantly increasing (this is not a complete list).  Along with this ongoing effort is the continued development of medications to help treat the rare illnesses that still crop up occasionally.

The bottom line is that we have many weapons at our disposal to defeat our viral and bacterial contagious diseases in children and adults but those who ignore the value of immunizations at an early age are not only placing their own children at risk but the childhood and adult population of the entire country.  Many of these illnesses are highly contagious and infectious but we must all work together to control and hopefully eventually eradicate these deadly microscopic enemies.

How to Avoid Your Child’s Advertising-Fueled Nag Factor

I’ll admit it—the first brand name my son recognized was Starbucks. This probably says something about the coffee habits in our family. However, it also says something about the advertising and branded world we live in. At the time of this recognition my son was about 2 or 2.5 years old. It just goes to show how powerful branded messages and advertising are for even the youngest members of our society.

After reading this disturbing article that explained that the 0-3 year old age range is now the prime target for advertisers, I started to delve more into the research on advertising to children.

kids advertising and the nag factorWhat I found was not encouraging. It seems clear that advertisers focus a lot of their time and money on ads for food products targeted to kids, most of which are quite unhealthy. A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that advertising on children’s television (aimed at kids under age 12) had the highest proportion of food ads (50% of all ads) compared to all other genres of TV. What types of foods do these ads promote? Much like you might expect, these food ads targeted toward children primarily focus on candy and snacks (34%), cereal (28%), and fast food (10%).

Unfortunately, this type of advertising works. Studies show that children who watch more ads for food products on television are much more likely to prefer unhealthy foods when offered a choice.

So why is this advertising to children so effective? One factor, of course, is the advertisers are smart—they have harnessed the knowledge of psychology and marketing to be able to market products (especially food) to children in just the right way to make it very appealing to little minds.

Additionally, as we all know, children are relatively impressionable. Young children, in particular, have very little power to resist advertising when they see it. They do not yet have the skills to understand the advertisers’ persuasive tactics.

Lastly, and perhaps most disturbing, advertisers are aware of and have harnessed the power of “the nag factor.” We all know what that means. Kids nag their parents incessantly for products that they’ve seen advertised, usually on TV. One recent study looked at the “nag factor” and found that kids who are more familiar with commercial television characters are more likely to nag their parents for the products associated with those characters.

For me, one of the most problematic aspects of all this advertising to children is that the advertisers are really trying to indoctrinate kids into the idea that life should be all about purchasing and getting material things.

The good news is that parents are not helpless in this battle with advertisers for their children’s minds (and stomachs). Although advertising, particularly related to food items, is very persuasive to children, parents can be quite persuasive too as long as they promote a constant message of healthy food choices.

In a new study just published, several researchers considered the role of parents’ messages in the food choices made by children ages 3-5 just after watching advertising for food products. In one part of the study, children watched a commercial for French fries and were then given the option to choose French fries or a healthier food option for a snack. Parents looked on and one group was told to encourage their children to make the healthier choice, while the other group of parents was told to remain neutral about the food choice. When parents remained neutral, 71% of the children chose the French fries over the healthy option. However, when parents encouraged a healthier choice, the percentage of kids choosing French fries dropped to 55%. While this is not a dramatic drop, it does show that parental influence does have power, even in light of direct advertising for unhealthy products.

I think it’s unlikely that this type of marketing will end or even slow down, but this research offers encouragement that we as parents can influence good choices by our children, as long as we adhere to a clear, consistent message. It is obvious that advertising has a strong impact on children, so limiting children’s exposure to commercials will most likely make your children’s choices better in the long run and perhaps your life a little easier as a parent (e.g., less nagging).

Additionally, as children get older, I could see it being helpful to explain to them how advertisers play their game. If kids can understand why and how advertising is so persuasive, they might be more likely to resist it.

With my older son, I have begun explaining how some things we see on TV or the internet are a “trick.” The people making the product are trying to “trick” us into spending money on something that is either unhealthy or useless (like a junky toy). I have been reminding him of times when he bought a cheap toy and was bored with it after a day or two. These lessons are starting to sink in but it is an ongoing battle with advertising.

Here are some good resources available for helping kids learn media literacy:

 

Your Teen and Invisalign: a Smile That Will Last a Lifetime

Between juggling classes, hormones and extracurricular activities, your teen doesn’t have time to worry about straightening his or her smile. When it comes to wearing metal braces, an overwhelming 92% of teenagers feel orthodontic treatment would prevent them from fitting in with their peers.

We understand metal braces may not be an option your teen is willing to consider right now – and younger patients finally have an orthodontic treatment option for a more convenient, comfortable smile…

A brand new smile can make a world of a difference, and unlike traditional braces, Invisalign® aligners are virtually invisible. Manufactured from a smooth, clear plastic, this orthodontic option can be removed at your teen’s convenience to eat, drink, brush or floss. These alignment trays allow patients to easily maintain oral hygiene, eliminate irritating brackets or wires and eat whatever they’d like, all while creating a brand new smile.

Correcting teeth alignment is important, not just cosmetic wise, but for overall health as well, including:

  • Aligned jaw positioning
  • Easier maintenance care (brushing, flossing, etc.)
  • Lower risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay
  • Higher self-esteem

Wearing the comfortable, customized aligners will gradually shift your teen’s teeth into their correct position.  Invisalign offers the best of both worlds: comfortable, efficient straightening with an essentially invisible appearance.

The Invisalign® Treatment Process

  • Initially, your teen will have a consultation to discuss if Invisalign is right for him or her and address any questions or concerns you and your teen may have about the treatment, insurance or costs
  • Once your teen is ready to proceed, x-rays and impressions are administered to create an individual treatment plan – including the position of your teen’s teeth and how they will align with treatment
  • Using your teen’s treatment plan, clear aligners are created customized to your teen’s teeth. He or she will simply wear them every day, taking them out to eat, brush and floss
  • Your teen will advance in the treatment by switching out aligners every two weeks for a fresh set. Your teen will also meet with his or her dentist every six weeks or so to examine his or her progress
  • Full treatment usually lasts around six months to one year for teens

Advantages of Invisalign®

  • Clear aligners are virtually invisible as opposed to metal brackets and wires
  • Aligners are customized to fit your teeth, eliminating discomfort and irritation
  • Aligners are conveniently removable for brushing or cleaning
  • No food restrictions
  • Helps in avoiding periodontal disease, which can stem from misaligned teeth
  • Can alleviate issues such as bite problems, mouth sores and speaking/chewing difficulties

Give your teen the gift that keeps on giving – a brand new smile that will last a lifetime.

Video: How Big a Concern is Fever and Vomiting in Children?

In this short video, Dr Rupal Shah explains how to tell if your child’s fever and vomiting are a sign of a serious illness requiring medical attention or the result of a common virus with no cause for alarm.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • Fever and vomiting are common symptoms in childhood and there are many possible causes
  • fever-and-vomiting-in-kidsThe most important thing to consider is how well your child appears to be….
    • For example, if they’re quite drowsy and floppy or if they’re not eating, then there’s a higher chance that they could be seriously ill with a nasty infection and you should see your doctor
    • If your child appears fairly well and is still eating and drinking, is still playing and interested in their environment, then it’s less likely they are suffering from a serious illness
  • Also, if your child isn’t managing to tolerate any fluids you should take them to the doctor, since children get dehydrated quite easily
  • Fever and vomiting can be caused by fairly common viral illness, like a rotavirus infection – or tummy bug – and generally the child is relatively well and cheerful despite throwing up at times
  • However, there are more serious causes of fever and vomiting – ranging from a bladder infection all the way to meningitis
  • If you’re worried that your child is less responsive, more floppy, not themselves – then it’s always worth seeking urgent medical help





Parents, 5 Fun Facts About Colds: Bet 3 Surprise You

Some surprising facts about colds, including what causes symptoms such as a blocked nose, and why mucus turns thick and yellow.

1. Cold viruses don’t make us feel ill

“It’s your own immune response that makes you feel ill,” says Professor Ron Eccles of the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, where experts have researched the common cold for more than 20 years. When you get a cold, the virus attacks the nose and the back of the throat, and it doesn’t take long for the body’s natural defences to start to work.

“The immune system detects the virus and floods the area with white blood cells and chemical messengers, and these trigger various symptoms such as headaches and a blocked nose.”

2. A blocked nose is due to swollen erectile tissue

“During a cold, the lining of your nose is the battlefront,” says Professor Eccles. When your nose feels blocked it isn’t because it’s full of mucus, but because the blood vessels in your nose are inflamed.

The nasal lining is made from erectile tissue (similar to the tissue in the sexual organs). When you have a cold, the blood vessels swell up as infection-fighting white blood cells flood to the area. This narrows the air passage in your nose and restricts the airflow as you breathe.

decongestant spray can reduce the swelling and allow you to breathe more easily.

3. You can catch a cold through your eyes

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release droplets of mucus into the air, or into their hand if they use their hand to cover their mouth. If you get these droplets on your hand (for example, by shaking hands or touching contaminated objects such as doorknobs), you can pass them into your eyes or nose when you touch them.

Most of us touch our eyes and nose more often than we realise. A duct links the eyes and the nasal cavity, and the virus travels easily from the eye to the nose and throat, where it can cause infection. You can help to avoid being infected by washing your hands thoroughly.

4. Women get more colds than men

“Women have more colds than men, and this is probably due to increased interaction with children,” says Professor Eccles. Children get around seven to ten colds a year, compared with two to three for adults. So people who spend a lot of time with children, such as childminders, nursery teachers or school teachers, are more likely to pick up the viruses.

5. Yellow mucus is caused by white blood cells

When your immune system is fighting a cold virus, one of the first symptoms is clear, runny mucus from the nose. As the cold develops, mucus usually becomes thicker and yellow, then green. White blood cells cause this change in colour and texture as they flood to the nasal area and increase in number as the cold progresses.

“Many people think that yellow or green mucus is caused by bacteria, but this isn’t the case,” says Professor Eccles. “It’s because there are billions of white blood cells in the mucus.”