At What Age Are They “Old Enough” to Swim Unsupervised?

Last updated on July 6th, 2018 at 01:08 pm

When should you allow your child to go to a pool or beach without adult supervision? How old is ‘old enough’?

Stefanie (from PediatricSafety.net) alerted me to an interesting article last week that prompted the question – a 14-year old girl saved her 10-year old brother from drowning while the two played at a hotel pool, unsupervised. No charges were filed against the parent because 10 was deemed ‘old enough’ by the local police to be in the pool without adult supervision.

But there was no mention of either child’s swimming abilities. Could the 10-year old swim? Could he truly swim or just paddle a bit? How responsible was the younger brother? Was he a dare-devil or a cautious kid? How deep was the water? Was he tired or jet-lagged? Did he have any physical, emotional or mental issues that would have impaired his abilities or judgment? There are plenty of guidelines that tell us what age and weight our child has to be to change car seats. Laws dictate when our child can drive, drink and vote. But water safety is the great unknown – so many variables that are hard to measure.

So how do parents determine if a child is ‘old enough’ to be unsupervised at a pool or beach? Broward County in Florida is on the cutting edge of water safety and they recommend a minimum age of 12, though some experts believe it should be even higher.

Until national standards are developed, as a parent I’d set 12 as the minimum age (though I’m feeling better with 15), but I’d also look closely at all the other variables. Is your child a truly competent swimmer? (ask their swim teacher, don’t rely on your judgement or your child’s) Who else will be in the pool? Are they competent swimmers or could your child get in trouble with a panic-stricken friend who could pull someone under? How many children? More children = more adrenalin = more potential trouble. Is it a pool or open water? If it’s open water does your child have experience in that particular kind of open water? A river is different from a lake which is different from an ocean.

As parents, if we do our job right our child grow up to self-regulate their behavior and make responsible decisions, but it’s also our job to keep them safe until those skills are in place. Besides, volunteering for pool patrol is a pretty nice way to spend the summer!

I’d love to know your thoughts!

FDA Warns of Health Threat from Using Benzocaine

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:56 am

Could your baby’s teething gel be dangerous? Could using benzocaine spray or lozenges for a sore throat lead to a potentially fatal condition? Maybe, according to a new safety announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released late last week.

Commonly found in over-the-counter products for the relief of mouth and teething pain, as well as many other pain and itch-relief products, benzocaine has been widely used for over a hundred years as a local anesthetic. Many popular teething gels and liquids, as well as products sold for canker sore and adult tooth pain relief, contain benzocaine. But the FDA is warning consumers and healthcare professionals to be cautious about the use of any oral benzocaine product because it can cause a rare condition that reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream which can be fatal, and can occur even if you’ve used benzocaine without any side effects in the past.

According to the FDA:

Methemoglobinemia has been reported with all strengths of benzocaine gels and liquids, including concentrations as low as 7.5%. The cases occurred mainly in children aged two years or younger who were treated with benzocaine gel for teething. People who develop methemoglobinemia may experience pale, gray or blue colored skin, lips, and nail beds; shortness of breath; fatigue; confusion; headache; lightheadedness; and rapid heart rate. In some cases, symptoms of methemoglobinemia may not always be evident or attributed to the condition. The signs and symptoms usually appear within minutes to hours of applying benzocaine and may occur with the first application of benzocaine or after additional use. If you or your child has any of these symptoms after taking benzocaine, seek medical attention immediately.

The FDA is now recommending benzocaine-containing products should not be used on children less than two years of age, except under the advice and supervision of the child’s doctor or healthcare professional. Adults who use benzocaine products should talk with their healthcare provider before using and follow all label directions and of course, should always keep these products out of the reach of children.

For more information, read the FDA’s benzocaine safety announcement and talk with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about using benzocaine products.

A Parent’s Guide to Cold Medicines

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:57 am

When your child’s under the weather, you probably head to the drugstore to pick up a remedy. But with shelf after shelf filled with over-the-counter medications, the vast selection may be enough to give you a headache. How do you know which one is the right one? We asked the experts for a guide to cold medicine that helps clear up the confusion.

1. First, consider your child’s age. “It’s recommended that you avoid giving oral cold medications to children under the age of 6, unless otherwise directed by a pediatrician,” says Maria Marzella Mantione, an associate clinical professor at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions and a national spokeswoman for the American Pharmacists Association. Some topical medications are OK for use in children 2 years and older, but always check the label for age restrictions and be sure to follow the directions for proper application — they should not be ingested or applied where they can accidentally enter the nose, mouth or eyes.

For younger kids, soothe their cold symptoms with non-medicinal methods: Encourage plenty of fluids and rest, and run a humidifier to relieve congestion and to moisten dry nasal passages. Mantione also advises using saline drops and an aspirator for a stuffy nose, and a spoonful of honey for cough (but only for children over the age of 1).

2. Next, take note of her symptoms. Don’t automatically reach for that all-in-one remedy. “You should only treat the symptoms that your child is experiencing,” says Mantione. “Giving her unnecessary medication may lead to unpleasant side effects, like nausea or dizziness.” If your little one is suffering from more than one complaint, however, using the appropriate multi-symptom formula is a smart move.

3. Check the active ingredients. Once you’ve pinpointed your child’s symptoms, read the label to ensure that you’re buying the correct medication. This cheat sheet can help you make the right choice; make sure that you follow the age and dosing requirements on the package.

  • Your child has a: Fever
    The box should say: Fever and pain reliever (acetaminophen, ibuprofen).
    “Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are safe to use for fever or pain, such as an earache or sore throat, in children who are at least 6 months old,” says Mantione, who also advises checking in with a pediatrician. Steer clear of aspirin, which has been shown to cause Reye syndrome — a rare but dangerous complication — in children with the flu or chickenpox.
  • Your child has a: Dry cough
    The box should say: Cough suppressant or antitussive (dextromethorphan) or topical cough relief (camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil).
    These types of medications reduce your cough sensitivity by suppressing receptors in the respiratory tract or, for dextromethorphan, in the brain’s “cough center.”
  • Your child has a: Productive cough or chest congestion
    The box should say: Expectorant (guaifenesin).
    Expectorants thin mucus, which makes it easier to cough up. “A productive cough is good for you, so you don’t want to quiet it with a suppressant,” says Mantione.
  • Your child has a: Stuffy nose
    The box should say: Decongestant (pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine).
    This medication works by reducing swelling in the nose. But don’t use it for more than three days in a row, since decongestants can make stuffiness worse with repeated use. You can find pseudoephedrine-based products behind the pharmacy counter; Mantione believes they have fewer side effects.
  • Your child has a: Runny nose
    The box should say: Antihistamine (brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine).
    Antihistamines work by blocking histamine, compounds that attach to cells and cause fluid leakage. Most of these are sedating and can cause sleepiness, so they’re best used before bedtime.

4. Consult the pharmacist. If you have any questions or want a little guidance, find the in-store pharmacist, says Mantione. “She can also help you figure out the right dose for your child.”



Help Your Kids Welcome The Newest Family Member

Last updated on June 11th, 2017 at 03:48 pm

The arrival of a new baby brother or sister is exciting for your family. But it can also be anxiety provoking. No worries, that’s part of the process of change that comes with new life experiences.

Things are about to change in your home and on some level, everyone knows it. Attention will need to be divided. More tasks demands are imminent and you’re about to be sleep deprived, at least for a little while.

What can you do to make the transition peaceful and calm?

  1. Spend time with your other children before the delivery. When the baby arrives you’ll be busy feeding and diapering round the clock, so take the time now to be present and mindful with your children. Fill them up with your love.
  2. Talk with your children about what to expect. Tell them how big the baby will be, what he’ll do most of the time and how they can touch him while being safe and careful.
  3. Talk with your children about how they can help out. Your children will want to be with you and the baby, so make a list of tasks, hang it on the fridge and get ready to include your kids not shut them out.
  4. Most importantly, get your support team ready. Research shows that sleep deprivation and lack of maternal support can lead to post-partum depression. So ask for home-cooked meals to fill your freezer before baby arrives. Make sure that the car-pool schedule is clear, ask a family member to come over and help with your older kids daily and say YES! to help before and after the birth.

With some organization and planning, bringing baby home can be such a joy. Don’t wait ‘til the last minute, start planning now. Happy Baby to You!

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This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice for a number of years, and released for publication just this past September. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.

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

Last updated on March 18th, 2017 at 04:47 pm

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.

Overweight Children are NOT Adequately Protected in Car Seats

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:59 am

For the past ten years, the news media has consistently focused our attention on the fact that obesity is on the rise; that it has become a major problem in the United States, and that childhood obesity, in particular, has put young children at-risk for a multitude of health-related issues.

One surprising health-related issue stems from the fact that many infants and toddlers are being transported in car seats that are not safe for them to be riding in, and I am not referring to the improper installation of those seats. The problem I AM referring to is the fact that when car seats are crash-tested, the crash-dummies that are used to simulate the effects of an accident impact do not reflect the overweight child population being transported.

With so many young obese children today, common sense should dictate that the crash-dummy’s weight and dimensions more closely match that of the children using the car seats being tested.

In an article on the ThirdAge.Com website, March 29, 2011, under Boomer Health and Lifestyle, Katherine Rausch highlights a problem that although acknowledged for some time, has been awaiting a solution since 2004, but researchers have not come up with a product. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is using smaller adult version dummies for child crash-testing. Why? According to a recent article in the Washington Post, it’s because crash test dummies are expensive to develop and funding is not readily available to develop larger “life-like” child test dummies. This leaves child safety seat manufacturers self-regulating their own products.  It also means that seats made just a few years ago to hold 65lb children are now marketed for those up to 85lbs.

It appears that heavier-weight crash-dummies have been in development for adults for decades now. Why haven’t overweight children been given the same attention?

With so many recent news reports about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and NHTSA’s “new safety seat guidelines”, are we deluding ourselves into thinking our kids are safe?