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How to Raise Self-Reliant Kids: Strategies That Work

Parenting strategies to help kids solve their problems, be self-reliant, bounce back from failure and not use us as their managers, arbiters and google maps for life

A mom was running late as she drove her two sons to school. “Can we pleeeease go back?” her six-year-old pleaded. “I forgot my stamps for show-and-tell.”

Any other day, this mom would have made a quick U-turn to retrieve the forgotten item. She’d done just that—more than a few times. But something clicked in her head:

If I’m always rescuing my kids, they’ll just take it for granted that I’ll do it for the rest of their lives.”

So this time her response was different.

“I know you’re upset,” she said, “but we’re not going back. I’m sure we can figure out something else for you to share. Let’s brainstorm some ideas.”

Her son was not thrilled, but by the time they got to school, he did have a plan—and this mother experienced an “aha” moment that would help her children learn to be more resourceful and less dependent on her.


Take a Reality Self-Check

How would you have responded? You might want to take a Reality Check and identify your current parenting style with your kids. I dare ya!

Think about how you usually act when your child seems frustrated, seeks help, fails or isn’t doing a task up to your standards. Here are a few possibilities:

The Parenting Style Quiz

Protector: “If you need anything, I’ll be sitting right here during the party.”

Rescuer: “I’ll figure it out for you, honey.”

Over-involved: “I’m calling that kid’s parent and telling her to invite you.”

Enabler: “You’re tired, sweetie. Go to sleep and I’ll finish this for you.”

Perfectionist: “I’m remaking your bed; you didn’t tuck the corners in just right.”

Or something else?

The truth is, if you want to raise an independent kid who can someday thrive (and survive) without you–and oh how I hope you do!–you need to show some restraint in the “lend-a-hand” department. Data shows that the 21st century parenting style is a lot of protecting, rescuing, helicoptering, over-involving, micromanaging, and enabling and it’s not doing our kids any favors.

If you feel just a tad bit guilty, then make a list of reasons why you should break these habits. Or write yourself a letter and describe how it hinders your child’s independence. Reading it everyday will help keep you motivated. Then take a pledge to stop your habit, and go for it! Breaking old habits is hard work, but it’s doable.

Here are tips to help you move from “Doer” to “Guider.” (Believe me, your child will thank you someday!)

Strategies to Build Self-Reliance

1. Learn to Guide, Not Do

No parents want their children to suffer heartaches and disappointments. Our basic instinct is to try and protect our kids from frustrations and solve their problems for them. But doing so prevents them from developing the very skills they’ll need to deal with the multitude of issues they’ll face in the real world.

If you really want your child to become self-sufficient and thrive without you, your role must be of a guider, and not doer.

That simple twist from doer to guides teaches your children that you expect them to be resourceful by solving their own problems-whatever they may be and that you believe they are capable of doing so.

2. Back Off From What Kids Can Do Solo

Girl helping mother to wash clothesIt may be time for your child to fix his own lunch, make her bed, do some laundry or call for a dentist’s appointment. It depends on your child’s age, maturation, and current capabilities, of course. The goal is to not overwhelm children with new expectations. Gradually introduce only one new task at a time. Here are three the steps to teaching kids any new skill:

Teach, Guide, Step Back

  1. Teach your child how to do the task.
  2. Then step to the side and guide your child (watching to ensure that your son or daughter can do the task.
  3. Finally, step back when your child has mastered the skill. It’s now time to teach another life skill or task.

Think: What is the one new task I can teach my child today using these three steps that will help him on the road to independence?

3. Stop Rescuing

You may have found yourself rescuing your kids a lot lately. And oh the excuses we use: “Kyle’s too busy. I’ll do her chores tonight.” 

One way to change this pattern is to start with a family meeting where you agree together on a new policy about taking responsibility—whether it’s for doing chores or finishing homework—and how any lapses will be handled. That will also help teach children that their actions have consequences.

Your new parenting mantra: “Never do for your child what your child can do for himself.” 

4. Teach Organization Skills

Use picture reminders for young kids

Is your child misplacing library books? Unable to find  sports gear? Losing teacher notes? Instead of bailing your child out, ask: “What can you do to solve this problem?”

For instance, kids might hang up a special calendar on which they mark library due dates, music lessons, field trips and tests. Even a young children can draw “picture reminders.”

Learning to organize is an important skill all children need for managing their own lives-so they rely less and less on you as time goes by.

5. Teach Brainstorming

Want your child to be able to solve problems someday without you? Then you must teach the skills of brainstorming. The first step is to identify the problem and express confidence that your child can work it out. You might need to help kids at first understand that brainstorming means coming up with lots of different ideas, no matter how silly those ideas may sound.

The next step is to identify the best ideas and figure out a plan for how to try them. With practice, children can use brainstorming to solve many issues that arise—without your help.

6. Teach How to Negotiate

Teach tie-breaking skills like “rock-paper-scissors”

Take turns listening to each other without interrupting. No put-downs. Only calm voices are allowed.Do your kids expect you to always be the arbiter who will end their battles? Try a new tactic: Teach your kids how to negotiate. Explain that the purpose of negotiation is to work things out so all sides are satisfied. Then establish clear negotiation behavior.

Take turns listening to each other without interrupting. No put-downs. Only calm voices are allowed

Then practice using this skill as a family. Another negotiation skill kids can do by themselves is to use tie-breakers such as “rock, paper, scissors,” drawing straws or following the rule that “Whoever went first last time goes last this time.” Kitchen timers can also reduce squabbles over sharing.

7. Talk About the Future

Encourage children to think beyond the here and now, as appropriate for their age. For example, with a young child you might take about the next day or with an older child, the coming summer. This is particularly important because, as author Mel Levine has written in A Mind at a Time, we are experiencing an epidemic of “career unreadiness.” Levine believes there are four major qualities common in young people who make success life transitions:

  1. They are self-aware,
  2. They are keen observers of the outside world,
  3. They possess certain “tools” (the ability to master skills, develop work efficiency, and think productively), and
  4. They are strong communicators.

Final Thoughts (from who could be better) Confucius

My favorite parenting quote is from Confucius:

“The most beautiful sight in the world is a child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown the way.”

Tape it to your mirror so you don’t forget your real goal in parenting!

*********************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

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:

 

How to Help If Your Child Has a Seizure: Call EMS and Don’t Panic

Some children are prone to seizures and having met many of these parents and taken many of these children to the hospital, I know these parents are acutely aware of what to do and how to do it in the event of another seizure.  It’s the children that have never had a seizure before and you the parents that have never had to deal with one before that we will focus on. The type of seizure most commonly encountered by children having their first seizure is the febrile seizure. The American College of Emergency Physicians published a number of great findings about febrile seizures and stated the following:

Simple fever-related (or febrile) seizures are common among children under age 5. Although these seizures can be frightening to parents and other caretakers, they are generally harmless. Annals of Emergency Medicine, the scientific journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians, published the following advice for parents and caretakers about simple febrile seizures.

Children at Risk

  • Febrile seizures tend to run in families and are not preventable. Children of parents with a history of these seizures are about four- and one-half times more likely to experience a febrile seizure, and if both parents had febrile seizures as children, their child is 20 times more likely to experience one.
  • About 30 percent of children who have a febrile seizure will have another one, usually within a year of the first seizure.
  • Simple febrile seizures are common among children ages 6 months to 5 years.
  • Febrile seizures have been associated with viral infections, Roseola, and Shigella, which is a bacteria that causes bloody diarrhea.
  • There are no risk factors for febrile seizures related to geography, race, or ethnicity.

Signs and Symptoms

Here are the signs and symptoms associated with simple febrile seizures:

  • Simple febrile seizures generally occur in the first few hours of a high fever or rapid rise in body temperature.
  • These seizures generally occur only once in a 24-hour period and usually last less than a minute, but can last 15 minutes or longer.
  • May cause loss of consciousness.
  • May cause rhythmic muscle contractions.
  • May cause child to clench teeth or bite cheek or tongue.
  • Child may stare or become unresponsive.
  • May cause face, arms, and legs to twitch, and arms or legs to jerk.
  • Eyes may roll back.
  • May cause difficulty breathing.
  • May cause child to lose bladder or bowel control.

Advice to Parents

Parents should seek immediate medical attention for a child or infant experiencing a febrile seizure, even if the seizure does not appear life-threatening (e.g., child’s breathing is not constricted). Although the seizure may end before medical helps arrives or before the child reaches the emergency department, it is important to have a physician rule out other causes for a first-time seizure, especially meningitis. While the child is experiencing a seizure and until help arrives, parents should:

  • Protect the child from injury.
  • Lay the child face-up on the floor. If the child vomits, turn on the left side to prevent inhaling vomit or mucus into the lungs.
  • Do not place anything, including your fingers, in the child’s mouth.

After a Seizure

  • In the emergency department, a child who has had a seizure will be evaluated for serious diseases, such as pneumonia or meningitis. This may require diagnostic tests such as blood work, urinalysis, x-rays, or a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Most children who experience a simple febrile seizure will not require admission to the hospital.
  • Medicines generally are not given to prevent simple febrile seizures. In addition, medicines given for fevers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, have not been shown to prevent febrile seizures, but are often recommended because they relieve body aches and fever.
  • After a seizure, a child may be sleepy or experience memory loss, headache, or confusion.
  • Febrile seizures can recur if the child has another fever.

The final thing I would like to add to this is that there is no reason to delay calling 911 if your child starts to have a seizure or you think they are having one please call and allow the professionals to help.

Good luck and Be Safe.

How Can Regular Vet Visits Help Keep Your Kids Safe Too? Part2

Last month I discussed with you many of the diseases that we vaccinate our pets against and how they can or cannot affect our children. This is the link to the first article just in case you missed it, because I feel this is very important subject for anyone who has kids and pets in the same household.

In this article, I want to continue with this important topic, and discuss other diseases that our beloved furry family members can contract, such as intestinal worms and parasites, and the effects that these can have on your family.  I once again feel it is important to remind that I am NOT a licensed veterinarian, so I am writing this post based solely on information I have been able to compile to help inform you as best as I can. I have tried to use only the most reliable sources available, and as always, please consults your pet’s veterinarian and your child’s pediatrician for the ‘final word’ on all of this.

So let’s begin by saying that every six months most vets will ask you for a fresh stool sample. As gross and unpleasant as this is to collect, this is very important. There are many things they can test for in a single fecal exam. (Here’s a useful tip….. I use empty pharmacy medicine bottles. I peel off the label and clean the bottle and cap with soap and water to remove any medicine remnants, and then store them in a drawer until I need to collect samples for the vet. The cap is air-tight, so it won’t smell and will stay ‘fresh’ until you drop it off. The caps are also child-proof… to keep away from curious hands.  I write my dogs name, my name, the date of collection, and my phone number on it and affix it to the bottle with tape. This way the sample will not get mixed up with any others accidentally.)

So, what are they looking for in that lovely pile of poo you brought them? I’ll break down some of the things the vet will be looking for:

Giardia

  • What is it? Giardia is a common, microscopic (intestinal) parasite that commonly affects humans, dogs, and cats.
  • Signs your pet may have it: Often times in cats and dogs you will see signs such as distended stomachs (bloating) and/or watery diarrhea that may have some drops of blood in it or even a jelly-mucus type of film on it. Sometimes you may see some vomiting or loss of appetite, and other times they may show no symptoms at all! This is why a regular fecal exam is very important.
  • Can Your Child Catch it? The risk of your family members contracting Giardia is actually pretty small, as the strain that animals get is typically different than the strain that humans get. However, even though the risks are small, there are still risks. You can get this intestinal parasite by coming into direct contact with the animal’s feces. If your dog eliminates on the grass outside, in the same area your child plays, they can be at risk.
  • How Dangerous Is This For your Child: The risks are small. Since many of the signs do not seem to show up for weeks after the initial contact of infected poop, (if they show any signs at all) and seem to mostly resemble those of a stomach virus, most people seem to chalk up the symptoms to ‘something they ate that did not agree with them.
  • How Can I Avoid This? Your best defense is prevention. I would highly suggest choosing a specific area and teaching your pet to only eliminate there (such as a dog run or gated area). This makes your daily clean-up chore much easier, and keeps your kids and their friends safer. Make sure you clean up after them pretty regularly, and wear gloves when gardening and cleaning up. Also, dump out any buckets and pails that have filled with water after rain. This becomes a breeding ground, especially over the summer when your dog is running around outside and becomes hot and thirsty.

To read more in-depth information on this, you can go to: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/

Coccidia (Coccidiosis)

  • What is it: It is also an intestinal parasite. The most common causes for these parasites are being in close proximity to other infected animals and also severe stress seems to bring it to the surface and cause problems. It is relatively common in dogs…. Especially young puppies.
  • Signs Your Pet May Have This: Its early warning signs are usually watery or mucousy stools, lack of appetite, lethargy, foul-smelling gas, and even some bloody stool.. It is relatively easy to treat with medication, and a full recovery is usually easy to obtain as long as it is not left untreated.
  • Can Your Child Catch It: According to PetCareRx…. ‘Most coccidia are host-specific. In other words coccidia that can live in dogs cannot usually live anywhere else.’  
  • How Dangerous Is This To My Child: As of now there are no reported cases of Coccidia jumping from one species to another, so your children should be safe.
  • How Can I Avoid This: By regular fecal exams at the vet to make sure your dog is and stays negative, and also by making sure you clean up their poops regularly, preferably immediately. And by regular hand-washing and keeping your pet away from other dogs that may possibly be infected.

INTERNAL PARASITES SUCH AS WORMS: I will focus first on the ones that CAN be transferred to people, making them (in my opinion) the most dangerous ones for your family, and then talk about a few other ones.

Whipworms

  • What Is It: They are parasites that live in the intestines. The eggs are often found in the ground, soil, and even fertilizer if the feces from an infected animal were used. They are so named due to their shape…. Which often resembles a whip.
  • Signs Your Dog Might Have It: Loss of appetite, foul smelling poop, lethargy and anemia (pale gums and a general weakness)
  • Can Your Child Catch It: . This parasite CAN cross between humans and animals.
  • How Dangerous Is This To My Child: Very. Usually a prescribed treatment of medication for 1 – 3 days is sufficient to clear out this problem, but according to the CDC:  People with heavy infections can experience frequent, painful passage of stool that contains a mixture of mucus, water, and blood. The diarrhea typically has an acrid smell. In children, heavy infection may be associated with growth retardation and impaired cognitive development.
  • How Can I Avoid This: Your best defense to avoid this is frequent hand-washing, wearing gloves while gardening, especially if you use fertilizer, and thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables before consumption. Also, make sure your dog’s elimination area is kept separate from your children’s play area. But also, by using a monthly de-wormer that you can get from your vet, such as Interceptor.

You can read about this in more detail here:  https://www.thespruce.com/whipworms-in-dogs-and-cats

Roundworms

  • What Is It: According to Lianne McLeod, DVM, Roundworms are intestinal parasites that are common in dogs. There are two species of roundworms that infect dogs, one of which can cause health problems in humans, too. Roundworms are round, up to seven inches long, and white to pale brown in color (they look a little like spaghetti noodles). They hang out in the intestines, soaking up nutrients from the dog’s diet. They complete their life cycle in an animal’s intestines, but they can also move throughout a pet’s body, infecting the throat and lungs
  • Signs Your Dog Might Have It: Failure to gain weight, you may see live and/or dead worms in their feces. They may vomit up worms as well. Especially in puppies, they have a pot-bellied appearance (very bloated belly) They often have diarrhea, or be blocked and unable to poop, and often have a very dull looking coat.
  • Can Your Child Catch This: The larvae of roundworms can infect people, as well as dogs. This happens when eggs are ingested, and it is most common in children who may not practice the best hygiene, and may pick up eggs on their hands when playing in the yard, for example.
  • How Dangerous Is This To My Child: Again, according to the same site listed above, ‘The larvae don’t develop into adult roundworms in people, but the larvae migrating through the tissues can cause inflammation, especially in young children. Most cases are not serious, but in serious cases, organ damage is possible as result of the migrating larvae (e.g., liver, lung, brain), and sometimes the larvae can reach the eyes, leading to visual disturbances and possibly blindness.’
  • How Can I Avoid This: Again, the best defense is practicing good hygiene…. Hand washing, keeping the kid’s play area separate from the waste area, using gloves when gardening, thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables if you use manure as fertilizer. But also, by using a monthly dewormer that you can get from your vet, such as HeartGuard Plus, or Interceptor.

Hookworms

  • What Are They: Hookworms are small thin worms usually about an inch long. They also tend to live in soil and are transmitted through feces. However, unlike the roundworm, these guys actually attach themselves to the lining of the intestines according to Lianne McLeod, DVM and they feed on the blood and tissues of pups. They can detach themselves from one spot, and move on to another, but leave sores and ulcers behind. Here is the really scary part…. They can also enter through the skin, usually through the paws.
  • Signs Your Dog Might Have Them: According to petwave.com  They can get diarrhea or constipation, dark, tarry types of stools, loss of appetite, causing loss of weight, poor coat condition, a dry hacking cough, Sores on the paws, especially between the toes (red; infected; presence of pus; caused by the parasites directly penetrating the skin) and sudden unexpected death.
  • Can Your Child Catch This: The intestinal form of this disease can be contracted the same way as the others…. Through contaminated animal feces and poor hygiene. There is a strain of this disease that used to be widespread in poor areas of the United States, but on further research I found this strain can only be contracted by direct contact with human feces on the ground (i.e.walking barefoot through a contaminated area).
  • How Dangerous Is This To Your Child: Hookworm infections are generally treated for 1-3 days with medication prescribed by your health care provider. The drugs are effective and appear to have few side effects. Iron supplements may be prescribed if you have anemia.
  • How Can I Avoid This: By using the monthly preventive you can purchase from your vet, not allowing your child to walk barefoot in any area where there could even possibly be waste, and also following all of the guidelines above regarding good hygiene and washing all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

Important Note: While I mentioned a few different types of de-wormers and preventative medicines that you can get from your vet’s office, it is important to be aware that not every medicine is right for every dog in every situation.  Your vet will consider your dog’s age, breed, the area of the country you reside in (i.e. what parasites are local), etc. in choosing the right medication to prescribe.  

Although the following will not transfer between animal and human,  I still felt they were worth mentioning, with a quick little note about each one of them, because while they will not hurt your human child, they can still hurt your furry one.

Parasitic worms that do NOT transfer to humans are:

Heartworm

Heartworm can only be transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms. And there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why prevention is so important. It can only be passed on by mosquitoes. It’s a specific parasite that only affects dogs and cats and ferrets and other mammals. In rare cases, heartworms have infected people, but it does not complete its life cycle.

You can read more about heartworms here: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/heartworms

Tapeworm

Tapeworm infection by a dog is extremely rare, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. In order for a human to be infected with a tapeworm from a dog, the person must ingest a flea from the infected dog that contains the larvae of the tapeworm.

There are a few other types of worms and parasites out there, so I suggest doing your research. There is so much information available online today from reputable sources such as the CDC, PetWebMD, and a few other sites. I included many links for you to reference…. Remember: forewarned is forearmed!!

I will end this the same way I ended the last article…. By reminding you that most of this is PREVENTABLE and/or treatable!! Following a monthly regimen of the oral (usually chewable) Heartworm tablets as your vet prescribes, and getting routine veterinary visits and fecal exams is just as important as taking your child to the pediatrician, because many of these diseases cannot be detected without a microscope.

As I mentioned in my last article, I began researching some of this stuff in order to answer some questions for my clients, but I have learned so much myself, I thought it was important to share this information with all of you, who have children that could be directly affected as well! So I hope you got some valuable information, and I am also going to end this by again adding the link to the A-Z list of diseases that can cross between animals and humans.

We all strive to make our homes a happy one…. let’s do all we can to make our homes a safe and healthy one too!!!

Can Dining Out Be Fear-Free With A Food Allergic Family?

Too often, we allow our fear of unknown ingredients to limit out lives with food allergies. Understandably, this could literally be life or death in some cases. But at what point is it time to decide to use that fear to empower us? How can we overcome the endless what-ifs and begin to piece together a safety net for our dining needs? Face it- food is a huge part of everyone’s life and it’s something we simply cannot escape.

Join Them Remember that saying If you can’t beat them, join them? This can also be true in regards to setting up your dining strategies, even with food allergies. Today’s support and technology allows for a huge assortment of allergen and ingredient research even before you step foot inside of any type of eatery. There are multiple places to go and safe lists to see so why not utilize what’s out there?

  • Pick a Safety Zone– before you even leave your home, start your research. Never go out to a new restaurant on a whim, not even if someone else assures you that they are pretty sure it’s safe. You need to be your own food detective and advocate to remain as far from your allergens as possible.
  • I’ve said it before and I will say it until the day I cannot speak anymore- Always, Always Have All of Your Necessary Allergy Medications With You At All Times. You know it takes seconds for a reaction to happen so being prepared is always the smartest and most proactive way to stay one step ahead of a reaction.
  • Try a Test Run– always lean towards less is more. Obviously, the less you ingest of a possible allergic food the less the reaction would be compared to devouring an entire meal full of allergens. Start with a sample and work your way up. Don’t want to waste money? Enlist a friend who doesn’t have any food allergies to share your meal item.
  • Don’t Go Alone– when trying new foods, it’s better to be with someone else in case of an emergency. Often people who have an allergic reaction that comes on rapidly are not able to communicate their needs or administer their epinephrine as needed. The buddy system is also a safety system (plus eating alone is never as much fun as eating with friends).

Options At Your Fingertips Are you not quite sure how to explain your allergy needs to your restaurant staff? Why not order custom dietary allergen cards. This is a discreet and easy way to ensure all of your allergens are communicated to your wait staff in more than eighteen different languages. Clear and concise communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page and ready to work together for utmost safety with your meals.

Just about every person has access to some type of portable information (phones, laptops, etc.) allowing us to gain the information that we need anywhere, anytime.  Use your technology to see what other people are saying about their dining experiences. Food apps, such as DineSafeApp have become one of the best ways for both restaurants and their patrons together.  It’s no wonder that with the current estimate of 1 in every 3 people being diagnosed with a food allergy warrants up-to-date and precise ingredient and menu information.

Make it Personal Being your own advocate also means being your own concierge. Do not wait until you arrive to talk about your specific dining needs- make an appointment. Chefs are almost always more than happy to set up an appointment to speak with you before you even try their meals. This also gives you the added benefit of reading the body language of the person that will potentially be feeding you. Are they hesitating? Do they answer your questions without really giving you a complete and educated answer about food safety? Do they seem as if they may not have as much food allergy knowledge as you were hoping? All of these are signals for you to pick up on prior to your meal and before your food even touches your lips. If you have any doubts, you may consider seeking out a different location that will feel as if the chef knows what you need them to know. It’s your life- you are allowed to be picky.

Listen To Your Heart, Not Your Stomach The fact is, we all want to desperately feel normal. We all want to be able to get into the car and eat somewhere that everyone else eats without thinking twice about it. We all just want to have that meal that we see on television or on the menu. What you are feeling is completely normal but it may not be safe. Simply put, is the price of that meal truly worth the price of your life?

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