Winter is Here…And So Is the Flu: What You Should Know

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 08:48 pm

sick is no funWith the recent polar vortex creating havoc over significant portions of the US and Canada it’s hard not to notice that winter is truly here. Which makes it a good time for an update on another common winter character: flu season.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes weekly reports on the flu during the peak season, usually December through March. One month into the 2013-2014 season, the virus is steadily increasing, with 25 states – spread across the country – reporting widespread flu activity (see table below). So far this season, 1,583 flu-related hospitalizations have been confirmed and 6 children have died due to complications associated with influenza. While high, these levels are below epidemic proportions according to the CDC. Google’s flu trends report, which analyses the number of online mentions of the flu, indicates that the 2013-2014 season is high but below last year’s exceptional level.

Nevertheless, the current flu season is still a risk, particularly for young children and pregnant women. This is because the year’s major flu strain is H1N1, known for the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010. This is a recently-mutated flu strain so many people, especially young children, do not have innate immunity. And H1N1 has previously resulted in high rates of complications for pregnant women and their babies.

The silver lining is that this year’s vaccine is a very good fit with the strains currently circulating across the country. Different flu strains tend to be prominent each year, so public health officials use worldwide surveillance data to identify the most likely strains for each year’s vaccine. This year they made a particularly good guess. And although the season has already begun, we haven’t yet reached peak flu activity, so it’s not too late to get protected. There is still plenty of flu vaccine available, including the nasal mist variety, which is great for children (and adults!) who want to avoid a shot.

States Reporting Widespread Flu Activity (Week ending December 28, 2013)

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Looking For A Stress-Free Way to Get Your Toddler to Bed?

Last updated on January 13th, 2014 at 10:37 am

grinding while sleepingBy the end of the day, you’re wiped out. But your energetic toddler is still up and about — and fighting your every attempt at getting him to sleep.

It’s normal for toddlers to resist bedtime. They want to continue the fun, and they don’t want to separate from you. But getting enough sleep is essential for your toddler’s healthy development, not to mention your sanity. Here’s how to help your child slow down, switch gears, and head off into the Land of Nod.

Create a routine

Start each night with a relaxing routine that will set the stage for going to sleep. Changing into pajamas, brushing his teeth, and washing his face every night will help establish that these are the things that happen before bedtime. Other calming activities include listening to quiet music, reading a story, or giving him a bath. Resist the urge to play with your toddler at this hour, since it will only get him more excited than relaxed.

Be consistent

Stick with the same routine every night, so your toddler learns to expect that bedtime is coming. Soon he’ll know what’s expected of him, too.

Make it comfortable

Let your child take her beloved teddy bear or blanket to bed with her. Allow one drink of water. Turn on a nightlight before closing the door. Taking care of your toddler’s comforts will make it easier for her to relax — and give her fewer excuses for climbing out of bed again.

Pause before answering a call

Children this age are likely to call out to you after you leave the room. Resist the urge to respond every time your toddler cries out, and wait several seconds before answering. With each time she calls for you, wait a few seconds longer, which will give her the chance to fall asleep before you respond. When you do answer, remind her that it’s bedtime. If you go into her room, don’t turn on the light or stay too long.

Be patient

Teaching a toddler good sleep habits doesn’t happen overnight. And it isn’t easy, since toddlers love your companionship. But keep doing the same thing every night. Eventually, your toddler will learn to go along with the plan.



Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 12-30-2013 to 01-05-2014

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 02:39 pm

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 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:
When One Little Boy Said NO to Bullying… a message for 2014: http://t.co/JyfkDlTBoM

Kids’ Cavities: Nature or Nurture?

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 04:04 pm

End brushing battlesI know of an interesting family, and I am sure there are many like them. The wife has never had a cavity, and no one in her family ever did. The husband, though his teeth are straight and white, had to have fillings at a young age and still deals with cavities as a grown man, despite good hygiene. Their two preschool-aged children eat the same diet, drink the same fluoridated water, go to the same dentist for checkups and cleanings and have the same parents brushing and flossing their teeth every night and at naptime. Yet, one of the children has already had several fillings and a silver crown, while the other has perfect checkups every time. This scenario prompts an important question. Are cavities a matter of nature or nurture?

As with any great debate, the answer is hardly one or the other. Let’s take a look at the roles both nature and nurture play in oral health. By nature, I mean heredity, or genes. By nurture, I mean habits and diet. Can a parent with “bad teeth” pass along the propensity for cavities? Is it worth it to get cleanings and brush regularly if you have “bad teeth”?

The truth is, nature does play a role. Our heredity influences about everything about us, including our oral risk factors like how our saliva is composed, how much of it our bodies make and the composition of our teeth. Some people may be more prone to problems like enamel defects, crowding, early or late eruption of teeth, bite issues or dry mouth, but careful maintenance can usually overcome them. “Bad” genes are hardly a death sentence, and caring for your teeth is far from futile, no matter how blessed or disadvantaged your smile genes may be!

That’s because nurture is hugely important in oral health. Whether you inherited “strong” teeth or “weak” ones, how you care for yourself is the number one factor in your oral health. You may have to work harder to avoid cavities and gum disease than others, but good habits do pay off.

So what things can you do to make the most of “nature” and “nurture” your family’s smiles?

  • Watch your mouth. You may have the germs that cause dental caries in your mouth, but you weren’t born that way and neither were your kids. The bacteria that feed on sugars in our mouths, producing acid and ultimately leading to tooth decay, are passed from person to person. Don’t share utensils, drinks or extra sloppy kisses with your kids to avoid sharing these cavity-causing cooties.
  • Set the example. You may know by now if the genes fairies blessed you with good teeth, but it’s likely you won’t find out until later with your kids. Either way, you and your kids should be drinking plenty of water, brushing, flossing and seeing the dentist regularly. People with good teeth still only get one (adult) set, just like everyone else!
  • Pay close attention. If you already know you or your spouse has a family history of dental problems, be on the lookout for similar symptoms in your kids. If you see crowding, irregularities in enamel or another problem, be sure to mention your concern and the family history to your dentist. These days, with dental sealants, interceptive orthodontics and so many other preventive treatments, a little vigilance can go a long way to keep smiles healthy.

Car Seat LATCH Rules to Change in January 2014

Last updated on August 19th, 2015 at 11:52 pm

A new rule that goes into effect in January 2014 will require car-seat makers to start using labels LATCH rules are changing in 2014that warn parents NOT to use the Latch anchor system to install a car seat if the combined weight of the child and the seat is 65 pounds or higher.

The LATCH anchors (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) were designed to make child seats easier to install and have been required in vehicles since 2001, but child-safety seat advocates say the strength of the anchors can’t be guaranteed because they don’t take into account the weight of the child seat, which typically weighs 15 to 33 lbs.

In a USA Today article, according to Joseph Colella, one of five child-safety advocates who petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a change to the rule, “the anchor requirements are based on old child seats and outdated recommendations on how long kids should be in child seats“.

But children are getting heavier and staying in child seats longer. In 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA issued enhanced new guidelines on booster seat use for older children, recommending that children ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, typically when the child is somewhere between 8-12 years old and about 4 feet 9 inches tall. Colella says “car makers aren’t able to guarantee the safety of heavier kids given the strength of LATCH anchors”.  Very important to know!

So what does this mean for you?

Transportation Department spokeswoman Lynda Tran told USA Today: “While Latch makes it easier to properly install car seats in vehicles, it’s important for parents and caregivers to know that securing a child seat with a seat belt is equally as safe — and that they have the flexibility to use either system.”

So…if you have a child that weighs around 30 lbs, double check the weight of your car seat with the manufacturer. Make sure the weight of your child + the weight of that seat does not exceed 65 lbs. And while you’re having that conversation with them, double check the weight their LATCH anchors are rated to support. And if you have any doubt – use a seat belt instead of the LATCH to secure the seat. And have it checked at a NHTSA Car Seat Inspection Station. Use this locator to find the one that’s closest to you.

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Editors note:  this post was originally run in June 2012, when the decision to change the LATCH rules was originally made.  It is re-published here with minimal edits as very little has changed since then. Personally, I find it immensely disappointing that we would wait a year and a half to implement a  change to a warning label when the lives of children are at risk.  

Would love to hear your thoughts if you’d like to share them…

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy 2014!!

Last updated on January 7th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

New_Year_Baby 2014

Thank you to all of our followers!

We’re honored you’ve let us be a part of your lives.

Have a wonderful New Years!

Stefanie, Audra and Jim