Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-12-2014 to 05-18-2014

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 and Facebook 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 not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 25 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
For Data Miners, Little Kids are Big Business http://t.co/vxlMg7J2mC
Beware! Educational software may be tracking your kids

Reducing Our Kids’ Worries About An Unpredictable World

Worried child in front of graffitiParenting advice to reduce our kids’ worries about a sometimes mean, scary, unpredictable world and curb the growing “Mean World Syndrome”

Bombings. Power storms. Terrorism. War. School shootings. Pedophiles. Recession. Cyberbullying. Kidnappings. Global warming. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Sexual abuse.

It’s a scary world out there for us, but how do you think the kids are faring?

Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. But if you are feeling a bit jittery about violence, turbulent weather conditions, current events, or a troubled economy, imagine how our kids must feel. Talk of uncertain times permeates the world around them. Graphic television images of real disasters and terrifying events just reinforce their fears.

Think about it: this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of war, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and school massacres in their own living rooms.

Make no mistake: the image of the world as a mean and scary place is affecting our kids’ well-being.

In fact, George Gerbner coined the term “Mean World Syndrome” describe a phenomenon when violence-related content in the mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. And that syndrome seems to be one that our kids are catching.

Our Teens Weigh In About the Concerns For Our World

I worked with the schools in Hershey, Pennsylvania recently. It is a glorious Norman Rockwell-type community. Picture perfect. Idyllic. Just plain wonderful. Street lamps are actually shaped like Hershey kisses. I spent time talking to students groups as I always do before addressing the parents, community and staff. It’s my way of getting a pulse on teen concerns.

I always ask the principals to give me a sample of the students so the focus group represents all genders, races, cliques, economics. I end up with a homecoming princess, a jock, a band kid, a theater student, a student council leader, a misfit. Kids. Just kids. And do they ever open up when they know someone is there to really listen.

“What are your concerns?” I ask them. And those teens began to share their worries:

“My grades.” “I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship.” “I don’t want to let my parents down.” “Peer pressure.” “I don’t know if I’ll get into college,” they said.

“And what are your worries outside of this town?” I asked. “What concerns you about the world?”

The kids are in non-stop mode now and I’m running out of space just trying to jot down their concerns:

“Iraq.” “Iran.” “Global warming.” “Power storms!” “Terrorism.” “Violence.” “Prejudice.” “Sexual predators.” “Recession.” “Getting a job.” “Our future.”

Their “worry list” goes on and on. Then one boy stops us all with his question:

“Do you think we’ll ever live to see the future?,” he asks quietly. “I worry about that a lot. I don’t think our generation will.”

The look on every teen’s face says it all. Each child had the same concern. The fear on their faces has haunted me.

The Kids Are Worried Folks

We think kids don’t think about such “big” worries. Wrong. Those teens are no different than the hundreds of other teen focus groups in this country. And here’s proof.

A survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press of over 1300 teens nationwide found that only 25 percent feel safe from terrorism or when traveling.

The vast majority of teens admitted that their world is far more difficult than the world their mom or dad grew up in. Just consider a child growing up today vs. yesterday. In the 1950s, a survey found that our children’s biggest fears were loud noises, snakes, insects, and a parent’s death. Fast forward fifty years later. The most pressing kid stressor today is still a parent’s death, but “violence” has now replaced loud noises and snakes.

But the biggest fear many teens report today: “I’ll never live to see the future.”

It hurts just to hear their top concern.

The New “Mean World Syndrome”

The fact is constantly hearing about troubling world events does more than just increase children’s anxiety.
It also alters their view of their world.

Many child experts are concerned that today’s children are developing what is called “Mean World Syndrome.”
It means our children perceive their world as a “Mean and Scary Place.”

Of course we can’t protect our kids and assure their safety, but we can help allay those fears and see their world in a more positive light.

Studies have shown that about 90 percent of all anxious children can be greatly helped by learning coping skills.

Here are a few parenting strategies you can use to help reduce your kids’ anxiety particularly in these uncertain times and help them develop a more positive outlook about their world.

Tips to Curb Kid Worries About a Scary World

1. Tune Into Your Child – Start by observing your child a bit closer when a frightening event occurs. For instance:

  • Is your child afraid to be left alone or of being in dark or closed places?
  • Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable?
  • Does she react fearfully to sudden noses, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums, or nightmares?
  • Is he bedwetting, withdrawing, crying excessively, or a experiencing a change in eating or sleeping habits?

Each child copes differently, so tune into your child’s behavior. Doing so will help you recognize how your son or daughter deals with life’s pressures and know when you should help to reduce those worries.

2. Monitor Scary News – Limit your child’s viewing of any news that features an alarming event (such as a kidnapping, pedophiles, war footage, bombing, etc). Monitor. Monitor. Monitor!

Studies show that seeing those violent images exacerbates anxiety and increases aggression in some kids and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in others.  And don’t assume because your kid is older, the news does not affect him.

A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescents said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them.

If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. Be there!

Also, monitor also your conversation with other adults so your kid doesn’t overhear your concerns.

3. Keep Yourself Strong – Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check.Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing – be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.

4. Be Emotionally Present – Don’t assume because your child isn’t talking about the latest news tragedy or the recession, that he isn’t hearing about it. Chances are he is and he needs to get the facts straight. You are the best source for that information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his feelings with you and that it’s normal to be upset.

You might start the dialogue with a simple: “What have you heard?” or “What are your friends saying?”

You don’t need to explain more than your child is ready to hear. What’s most important is letting your child know you are always available to listen or answers his concerns.

5. Do Something Proactive As a Family – One of the best ways to reduce feelings of anxiety is to help kids find proactive ways to allay their fears. It also empowers kids to realize they can make a difference in a world that might appear scary or unsafe.

  • Put together a “care package” to send to a soldier overseas (sunscreen, writing paper and pens, CDs, magazines and a hand-written note of appreciation).
  • Adopt the elderly neighbor and bring her a batch of homemade cookies.
  • Or have your kids help you send “hugs” (a teddy bear, crayons, coloring book) to a child who has just lost all her earthly possessions in a flood, tornado, fire or other natural disaster.

6. Pass on Good News Reports – Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that seem to always be on the back page of the paper). Find those uplifting stories in the newspaper and share them with your child.

A wonderful time to review them is right before your child goes to sleep. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call these “Good News Reports.”

It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.

7. Teach Anxiety-Reducing Techniques – Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but in times like these those worries can be overwhelming. Here are just a few techniques you can help your child learn to use to cope with worries:

• Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the worries. Here are a few:

“Chill out, calm down.”

“I can do this.”

“Stay calm and breathe slowly.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go away worry. You can’t get me!”

• Worry melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the worry slowly melting away. Yoga or deep breathing exercises seem to be helpful for girls.

• Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of an actual place he’s been where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes, imagine that spot, while breathing slowly and letting the worry fly slowly away.

Final Thoughts

These are tough times for everyone — but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all the news. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn strategies to cope and those tools will build our children’s resilience to handle whatever comes their way.

Anxious kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and, as teens, are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.

Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years.

If your child shows signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks or if you’re concerned, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Please.

Now take three slow deep breaths. What’s your first step to help your family?

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr 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.

Emma’s Inspirations

When our daughter Emma was an infant, we moved into our new house. As parents of six children, we were very excited about getting to this new house and getting some much needed unloading done! Pulling into the driveway, we all became very excited and quickly left the car to see the house. There was so much to do – everyone went off in different directions.

I had assumed that my husband or one of the older kids had taken Emma from her car seat emmas dog and cat-small(as that was almost ALWAYS the case) and he thought that it was me who had brought her inside. Making the assumption that everything was okay, we went about unpacking and arranging our new home.

In a sudden moment of panic, I realized that our baby girl wasn’t even in the house. Nearly 45 minutes after we had arrived, I rushed to our car for Emma.

The sun was hot for a spring day. I cannot tell you the thoughts and fears, and the horror that welled up inside of me as I was sure I had harmed our baby girl! I thank God every day that my older son had opened the back window on the ride up because he felt car-sick, or Emma may not have become the vibrant six year old she is today!

From that point on we left notes in all the cars. “Where’s Emma?” was our catch phrase. We were determined to always check the seats and never let this happen to us again.

When my daughter and I read about the school principal who, out of routine, left her baby in a closed car all day, and the dad who forgot the baby was in his back seat because he didn’t ‘usually’ drop him off at child-care, we were sad and sickened by their tragedies… yet we knew how ‘routine’ oriented we all are today… and how easy it is for this tragedy to take place:

  • An average of 40 children die each year in closed vehicles… and numerous others have been left alone in closed cars by adults who assume the car is a ‘safe place’ for their children…
  • How many bus drivers do we read about who fail to “check the seats”!
  • What is typically not realized is how quickly the air inside our vehicles can become saunas for our precious little ones… with temperatures escalating 20 to 30, or even 40 degrees higher INSIDE the car than the air OUTSIDE the car! According to an article in New Science Magazine (July 5, 2005) , a study done out of Stanford University re-echoes these facts: cars become ovens, even while outside temperatures are on the ‘cool’ side!
  • Children’s bodies’ heat up 3 to 5 times faster than adults, and a child can be critically injured or tragically dead within minutes!
  • In 2001, according to Kids N Carsthere were approx 20 child deaths due to hyperthermia.  In 2011, there were 33.  In 2010 there were over 49 (the highest number of fatalities in one year – ever)

My daughter and I remembered our ‘notes’. I thought of easy ways to leave a ‘note’ affixed to car windows, in key spots, to help remind us to “check the seats before we leave”. We decided to design decals to help save lives, as well as awaken our awareness of the dangers of vehicle suffocation for small children and pets! This is how we came up with Emma’s Inspirations.

I came up with the idea of static-cling decals to adhere (but not STICK with adhesive) to the car windows. I wanted to add a couple of ‘check’ marks to the decals with a stick figure boy and girl (some with a cat and dog added as well) and add a phrase that rhymed to increase the ease of remembering the dangers of suffocation for adults… and to educate children as well. I thought the phrase would help develop a new mindset for everyone… and help educate our children about automobile safety- the same way we educate them about outlet and toaster safety.

I thought 3 decals for each car was a good idea so I put them together in packages of 6 … enough for two cars. One could be placed just above the driver’s side window door-lock, another just below the rear-view mirror, (or the left corner of the windshield), and one for the back window corner. Some moms stick one on the kitchen window as well; to remind them to keep any cars outside LOCKED from little hands or hide and seek players! Others place one on or above their house alarm to remind them to check the seats.

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post wrote a painfully candid article on this subject on Sunday, March 8, 2009. He recounts the tragedy of three families as they endure the heartache of recognition that their children died a horrifically “modern” death; they suffocated in seats their parents never took a second glance in! These are situations no family ever would have anticipated.

Emma’s window decals are that little reminder you need when things are moving at a fast pace. By sticking these decals in the right places you will have a simple and affordable reminder to check again. A reminder so simple …yet one that could save your child’s life!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

Many parents are unaware of the dangers lurking around parked cars. According to the Kids N Cars national database, there are a number of injuries that can happen in a ‘MOMENT’ to children left unattended in or around motor vehicles. Here are just a few things to watch for:

  • A child can suffocate in unattended vehicles;
  • Children can get their heads and hands caught in power windows;
  • They can inadvertently shift the car into gear…or fall out windows and doors;
  • “Frontovers” and “Backovers” are responsible for approx 61% of non-traffic fatalities for children under the age of 15;
  • We must be of a mind to NEVER LEAVE OUR CHILDREN ALONE IN OR AROUND CARS.

The decals from Emma’s Inspirations are an accident prevention tool to remind us to DOUBLE CHECK our seats, REMOVE any passengers, and LOCK our EMPTY parked cars from curious little ones. Other areas where safety stickers can keep your children safe from harm:

  • ID stickers for child safety seats – if you were ever in an accident, it would provide key information about your child to caregivers that you may be unable to communicate. You can usually get these at your local pharmacy or stationery store…
  • You might want to place a decal or sticker on a house or apartment window or door to alert emergency personnel to the presence of children in the home.
  • Poison Control stickers should be placed on phones themselves or next to the phone and/or on an inside cabinet door.
  • Medical alert bracelets or anklets or stickers or decals on a child’s seat or diaper bag or person to warn of potentially life-threatening allergies.
  • Decals and stickers are good to remind ‘no metal’ in the microwave or toaster.
  • Stickers and decals are small, yet significant aids in helping us keep track of the never ending flow of “things to remember to mention” or ”do” or “watch out for”… as we manage the literal “ins” and “outs” of our days… and care for the people, who at the end of our day, we do it ALL for… our children!

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Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in November of 2009.  With the weather warming up and National Heat Awareness Day on Friday the 23rd, we wanted to take a moment to share it with you again as a reminder to Please Check the Seats Before You Lock!

Family Have a Sugar Habit? Kick It with These Health Tips

Mother shocked by kids eating sugary foodsTrying to cut down on sugar in your family? Maybe you’ve heard all the health warnings for children and adults from doctors and government officials, or maybe you’re trying to look better in your swimsuit.

Whatever the reason, you’re on the right track – Americans are still eating and drinking two or three times the amount of sugar recommended for optimal health. Scientific studies have linked sugar overloads to obesity and health concerns including diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, stroke, pancreatic cancer and cognitive decline.

Sugar, which can fuel the brain and temporarily boost energy, occurs naturally in many nutritious fruits, vegetables and dairy products. But it also gets added to a number of foods we may eat every day. The American Heart Association advises women consume no more than 100 calories’ worth of added sugars per day, which comes out to about six teaspoons. But we often get more of the sweet stuff than we realize; manufacturers inject different forms of sweeteners to heighten taste and improve texture in a surprising variety of products.

To gain more control over your own sugar cravings – and your family’s – try these health tips from registered dietitian Elisa Zied, mother of two and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips.

Learn Label Language

Sugar takes many forms, but all of them work in the same way in the body. And even if your family skips dessert and you take your coffee black, everyone may still be eating extra sugar in items like pasta sauce, ketchup, salad dressings and frozen dinners without realizing it.

When you shop, check labels closely for things like corn syrup, honey, molasses and nectar, as well as words in the “ose” family: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, maltose and glucose. The higher up these words appear on the ingredient list, the higher the sugar content. (Check what’s in your family’s favorite foods at the USDA Database.)

Be Skeptical of “Health” Foods

Don’t assume that products touted as “low-calorie” or “fat-free” are good for you: To make them more palatable, many manufacturers compensate by boosting their sugar content. For instance, one particular brand of “light” whole-wheat bread boasts that it has just 45 calories a slice, but if you look at the ingredient list, you’ll see it contains not only high fructose corn syrup, but also honey, molasses, brown sugar and sucralose — hardly a dietary bargain! Watch the labels and choose fresh foods as often as possible.

Do Sugar Swaps

When sugar cravings hit, satisfy your family’s sweet tooth with healthier substitutes. For instance, top oatmeal with half a baked apple instead of brown sugar, and freeze banana slices or grapes for a sweet snack.

If you’re baking cookies or cakes for the family, use unsweetened applesauce to replace some of the sugar in the recipe. And when you serve ice cream, spoon a small portion into the bowls and then top them with lots of fresh berries.

Serve Better Beverages

Sweetened beverages – including fruit drinks – are the No. 1 source of added sugar in our diets. Just a 12-ounce can of regular soda packs 8 teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories, while adding no nutrients. Stock your fridge with healthier options, such as water or seltzer with a squeeze of lime, or a blueberry-banana smoothie straight from your blender.

Leave Yourself Some Wiggle Room

It’s okay to indulge in an occasional sweet treat as long as you’re watching the total calories and everyone is filling up with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins. “Sometimes it’s okay to have something simply because you want it and it tastes good,” says Zied – whether that means a glass of low-fat chocolate milk for your kids or an ice pop on a hot summer day for you.



Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-05-2014 to 05-11-2014

twitter logoWelcome 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 and Facebook 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 not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week: Words Wound: New book gives students skills to prevent cyberbulling and how to react if they’re ever a victim http://t.co/xdGuQlYnAk

Nitrous Oxide at the Dentist – Does My Child Need It?

Child receiving nitrous oxideDental procedures can cause anxiety in anyone, but they can be especially scary for young children. Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” is often administered to relax patients and ease them of their anxiety during the treatment. If your child has troubles during dental treatments, or has to undergo a lengthy procedure, nitrous oxide is a safe and effective way to calm their nerves and ensure that the procedure goes smoothly and successfully.

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, non-flammable gas with a faint sweet smell. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry confirms that nitrous oxide is completely safe for children to use. Not only is it an effective technique in reducing anxiety, it also acts as a pain reliever, reducing any discomfort that can come with certain procedures as well.

Generally, children undergo the administration of nitrous oxide with acceptance and ease. The recommendations for use of nitrous oxide, as stated by the AADP, include:

  • Patients who are fearful or anxious
  • Rambunctious patients
  • Patients whose gag reflex interferes with dental care
  • Patients with special health care needs
  • Patients who are unable to obtain numbness from a local anesthetic
  • Patients (especially children) undergoing a lengthy procedure

If your child falls under any of these categories, your dentist may recommend the use of nitrous oxide during a procedure. Your child’s medical history will be reviewed before given nitrous oxide to ensure there will be no complications. Only a licensed practitioner can be responsible in administering nitrous oxide. The administration is done in a safe and controlled manner:

  • First, the practitioner finds the proper sized nasal hood to fit over the patient’s nose
  • The flow of nitrous oxide is released at a controlled rate, easing the patient into sedation
  • The patient is continuously monitored to ensure safe administration until the procedure is done

Don’t be alarmed if your child acts a little loopy because of the nitrous oxide. The gas puts the patient in a euphoric state of mind, hence why it is often referred to as “laughing gas.” These effects go away quickly after the gas is removed.

Sedation dentistry, especially nitrous oxide, is quite common and is a safe solution to performing dental procedures on children who might not be able to undergo certain procedures otherwise. Talk to your dentist and see if nitrous oxide is a good choice for your child’s next dental procedure.