Preparing a Healthy Home for the Winter Months

Fall cleaningBack-to-school is a season for fresh starts — and that includes your home. At the first signs of spring, most of us open the windows and pull out the cleaning bucket for a full-on assault on dirt, dust and clutter. We should do the same at the start of fall, says cleaning expert Donna Smallin, author of Cleaning Plain and Simple and the One-Minute Cleaner. “Fall is when you’re going to be closing the windows and preparing to be cooped up for a few months – and you want to be cooped in a clean house.”

Here are Smallin’s essential fall cleaning tips:

Detox the Bathroom

Now’s the time to bring out the heavy-duty cleaning products that remove layers of soap scum and mildew in the shower and tub. With the bathroom window open, spray the cleaners inside the shower door, on the walls, and on the tile ceiling. Then walk away for a few minutes.

While your shower virtually cleans itself, take stock of what’s in your medicine cabinet. Toss out any old or expired medicines, lotions and makeup. Medications and sunscreens have expiration dates on the bottom – they usually have a shelf life of one or two years. Lotions last only a year. And to avoid contamination, you should replace eye makeup every six months.

Once you’re done, go back to the shower and tub and rinse with a hand-held shower nozzle. Or turn on the overhead showerhead and use a long-handled scrubbing wand to mop up the cleanser. Help keep things clean and fresh by using daily shower sprays.

Prep the Kitchen for Holiday Hosting

Two areas need special attention before the start of the holiday cooking and baking marathon: The outside of the cabinets and the inside of the fridge. Using paper towels or a clean dishcloth, rub wood cabinets with oil soap, and wipe knobs and pulls with straight vinegar. Completely empty the fridge and do a thorough cleaning with soapy dishwater or all-purpose spray cleaner. Take out the bins and wash in the sink with soapy water … but watch the temperature. Hot water can crack the plastic. Dry and line them with a paper towel before putting them back in.

Turn on the oven self-cleaner, and while it goes to work, drag the step stool over to the fridge. Armed with all-purpose cleaner and paper towels, scrub the top to get rid of built-up grime. Go through your pantry and gather up all the unopened food you know you won’t use to give to your local food pantry. (Anything you donate before the end of the year is a tax write-off, says Smallin.) While you’re at it, toss out any spices that have overstayed their welcome; check online for how long specific spices keep their potency.

Detail the Family Room

It’s time to face whatever’s lurking behind all your heavy furniture. Move everything away from the wall and wash the baseboards with oil soap. (The room will smell great!) Use a magic sponge to remove scuffmarks from the walls. Vacuum behind the curtains and between the cushions. And have your carpets professionally cleaned (or do it yourself) if it’s been a year or more.

Weather-proof Your Bedroom

Change out summer bedding and curtains for colder-weather ones. Wash everything before you store it for the season; dirty clothes can attract insects, according to Smallin. Bring out your fall and winter clothes, but before you put away your summer stuff, go through it carefully. Store only the things you loved wearing this past season, and donate the rest. And if you haven’t done it in the past year, clean the carpet – including inside the closets.

De-bug the Fixtures

Last but not least: Take down your lighting fixtures and ceiling fans, and see what’s been living inside them all summer. Bugs and spiders love it up there (guaranteed you’ll find a web or two), so give your fixtures a good wiping and cleaning.



Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-09-2013 to 09-15-2013

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

“A Fighter’s Lullaby”:  wonderful song created as a fundraiser to support CHERUBS research (children born with CDH)   http://t.co/1X9X01Bhe5

Is Your State On Board with the New Epi Pen Laws?

EpiPen4Schools ProgramIn 2013, Oklahoma, Florida and Tennessee joined 13 other states in passing laws that will enable schools to keep a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors on hand that hasn’t been prescribed to a specific student in their schools who has a severe allergic reaction. The other states include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. To date, this means 30 states now allow schools to keep undesignated epinephrine, but only four states require it. In an ideal world, every child who has known allergies would have access to prescribed epinephrine during school hours. But any parent who’s ever made a special trip to school to drop off some item forgotten at home — a preschooler’s favorite nap time blanket, a fourth grader’s lunch or a sophomore’s soccer uniform — knows that few of us live in an ideal world – therefore it becomes even more important to allow schools to keep auto-injectors on hand in case of an emergency.

So how does this affect your child while they are at school? While having a child with a known allergy is nerve racking enough while planning for a new school year, disturbingly, a significant portion of severe allergic reactions at school occur among students with no prior allergy diagnosis. During the 2012-13 school year, of the 38 people in Chicago public schools who were injected with undesignated EpiPens provided through the EpiPen4Schools program, 21 did not previously know they had an allergy. (The youngest student was 3, the oldest was 19, and two recipients were school staff members.

As far as who can administer the epi pen, while some students are able to administer their own epi pens, the laws vary from state to state with some school districts choosing to have certain people trained to administer it and some choosing to have everyone on staff and who will be in contact with the children trained. For example: “In the Edmond schools, the policy is students who need an EpiPen are on a medical plan specifying the need for it,” said Susan Parks-Schlepp, public information officer. “Parents supply the EpiPen and staff is trained appropriately.”

Deer Creek Public Schools District’s current policy allows students to carry their own EpiPen with them on their person after their physician signs an order to do so, said Carol Ashby, RN, district nurse.

“Most students keep a back-up EpiPen in the clinic that can be used if necessary,” Ashby said. “EpiPen would be administered by the student if possible. If not, a trained employee of Deer Creek would administer the EpiPen and then call 911.”

Learning how to use an EpiPenAshby went on to say the district plan is to look at the current policy and update the policy in alignment with the new House bill.

Until every school has the medication on site, a parent can take steps before the bell rings to ensure that everyone is prepared to prevent problems and handle emergencies but parents need to become familiar with their state’s policies regarding food allergy education, prevention and emergency care at school and how these new laws help all children.

“A Fighter’s Lullaby” for CHERUBS (children born with CDH)

Baby RAs my second child is about to be born with the birth defect congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), I can’t help but think about the lack of research funding for this not so rare birth defect. CDH occurs in 1 in every 2,500 pregnancies or 1,600 per year in the US . This translates to over 50,000 annually worldwide. With a 50% survival rate, that means there are over 25,000 children per year who die from CDH. The chance of having one child with CDH is .04%. Even though the geneticists don’t think it’s genetic in our case, the accepted probability goes up to 2% after your first child with CDH. So my family had a 98% chance of having a CDH-free child, but unfortunately we fell into the 2% of those who have an additional CDH child.

CDH occurs when the diaphragm fails to form fully allowing organs from the abdomen to float into the chest. When this happens, the abdominal organs such as stomach, intestines, and often liver put stress on the lungs and cause the lungs not to develop properly or at all. This is pretty much a given. But there are so many other organs that can be affected plus children diagnosed with CDH have a higher likelihood of having other chromosomal abnormalities.

Figher no1 and another on the wayCDH is not technically rare, but it feels rare because so few have heard of it until it affects them directly. My family has been affected by it twice now. I have no idea what the next few months hold for us, but I do know that I will keep fighting to raise awareness of CDH and in turn the need for CDH research as long as I can.

To that end, I just launched a CDH research fundraiser. A good friend of mine, Ross Crean offered to write and perform an original lullaby inspired by the fight so many have to face when dealing with CDH. I am “selling” this song as a way to help fund much needed CDH research. The minimum price for “A Fighter’s Lullaby” is $1.89 but you are more than welcome to donate more at the time you “purchase” the song. All proceeds from the song will go towards CDH research. You can see the official video and purchase the song on the CHERUBS Illinois blog. I hope you appreciate and enjoy the lullaby as much as I do

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite! Really!!

Don't let the bedbugs biteFor many of us, the bedtime warning, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” was just a silly thing grown-ups said. Now it’s a real and rising threat in many parts of the country.

After more than 50 years of virtual elimination in the U.S., bedbugs have made a roaring comeback over the last decade, spreading most rapidly in the last six years, according to Richard Cooper, a research entomologist and vice president of BedBugCentral.com. The nocturnal feasters come out of the woodwork (literally), the mattress and the bedding to sink their teeth into sleeping humans and suck their blood. And they hitchhike on people from one location to another.

“Bedbugs don’t discriminate,” says Cooper. “They’re not a sign of poor hygiene, but people still say, ‘I wouldn’t get bed bugs.’ That attitude has fostered the spread.”

Once bedbugs settle into an environment, they’re very tough to stop. Bedbugs typically first install in sleeping areas, but they eventually move into closets, dressers, even behind picture frames. The key is to catch an infestation when it’s relatively new — which is easier said than done.

In small numbers, bedbugs are hard to spot, and by the time you’ve got rows or clusters of itchy bites on your body, they’ve been making themselves at home in your house for months. By then, says Cooper, “they’re very difficult and very costly to control … too costly for many people. If you find them in the first few weeks, it would cost under $500. Later on, it would be $500 to $1,500, and sometimes more.”

To keep ahead of a possible infestation, Cooper recommends taking the following steps to stop bedbugs in your home:

1. Get educated.

Read up on bedbugs and how they spread. Know what the bites and the bugs look like.

2. Start snooping.

When was the last time you turned over your mattress and inspected the underside? Probably never. But that’s the first place you’re likely to find bugs.

As parents prepare for another school year, there’s one routine they should add to their daily repertoire – checking their child’s backpack and other school items for bed bugs.  …from Expert Tips for Parents to Stay Bed Bug Free as They Prepare for Back to School

3. Save a sample.

If you think you see a bedbug, grab it with tweezers and put it in a small container with rubbing alcohol. Or pick it up with clear tape, and tape it to a piece of paper. Before you spend money ridding your home of bedbugs, you want to make sure you actually have them.

4. Call the pros.

They can do what you can’t: treat your home and furnishings with a variety of techniques, including chemical sprays, targeted vacuuming, commercial steam-cleaning and structural heat processes. Make sure the company uses a multifaceted approach rather than just chemicals, warns Cooper, because bedbugs are becoming resistant.

5. Turn up the heat.

“Heat is the Achilles’ heel of bedbugs,” says Cooper, so wash your clothes in hot water whenever possible, and dry them on high.

6. Invest in gear.

There are a number of products that can limit the access of bedbugs to your sleeping areas, including mattress encasements and the ClimbUp Interceptor, which keeps bugs from scaling your furniture legs.

It may take awhile to complete treatment to stop bedbugs, but once you’ve made it for 60 days with no new bites, you can finally rest easy.



Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-02-2013 to 09-08-2013

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Healthy Kids: Recognizing mood disorders in children and adolescents  http://t.co/RzNC0PaHOl