School Age

All Articles in the Category ‘School Age’

End Of School

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 3.40.58 PMLast day of school this week. The backpack is nearly as big as his body; that’s no optical illusion and the body-to-backpack proportionality serves up a dutiful reminder for me that my little boy is still small. To me it feels like he’s perfectly diminutive amidst the big surroundings of his school– it’s boards and doors towering high enough to accommodate the 8th graders yet inclusive enough to welcome him gently into grade school.

It’s clear that as Kindergarten lands in the rear-view mirror my hearts aches. I know I’m supposed to celebrate his growth and accomplishment for finishing. And I do. Yet all I can think about today is the reality that now that he’s technically a first grader he is also a bona fide “school-aged boy.” In pediatrics that does mean something altogether different. In fact once a child is 6 years of age, we often tell families it’s fine to come in for well child care check-ups every other year, absent concerns, until a child is 11 years of age. Growth typically is steady and stable, children advance in school, and routines are made–this is “school-age.” Fortunately even though some of this time between 6 and 11 may be very routine, even in 1st grade, a friend reminded me last night, “They are still made to believe they are the center of the universe.”

Every parent ahead of us warns us about the speed of travel through parenthood. They reflect on the g-forces of time and the flash of light between Kindergarten and the day they find themselves standing in an archway with a mature child at the end of high school. Often those ahead of us couple the warning about the velocity with an instruction. “Savor this time,” they say. And so many of us do. We savor, we relish, we reflect, and we love. It isn’t always perfect and pretty, there are tantrums and accidents, mess-ups and failures, but we do savor and we really are present in the moment so often.

Sometimes I want to scream out that we parents (of young children) –we get it, too.

I’ll admit though that amidst the myriad of moments this past year that I have felt mindful and present, I’ve also had plenty of others where I lacked attention.

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Hepatitis A Outbreak: A Vaccine For That

frozen smoothie berriesThe CDC declared an outbreak of Hepatitis A over the weekend that has affected over 30 people in 5 states. Preliminary information confirms the source of the outbreak stems from organic frozen berries that were sold at Costco stores (including stores in Washington) yet sickened people thus far are in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. No cases have been reported in Washington to date. The berries: Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix, have now been pulled from shelves and people who purchased these berries from February through May are being contacted.

The amazing thing about this outbreak: there’s been no reported cases of Hep A in children under age 18.

In the United States, Hepatitis A typically spreads through contaminated food handled by someone with the infection. Rates of Hepatitis A infection tops 5,000-10,000 cases annually in the US while they are far higher in the developing world because city water sources can get contaminated (see below). Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended before international travel.

The lack of children with infections from this outbreak is logical and potentially illustrative.

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Love The Sun, Protect Your Skin

Sun protection is essential in childhood. Here’s 3 golden rules, backed by science, for you to use when purchasing, applying/re-applying sunscreen, and protecting children from the sun. Remember, more important than any ingredient or any particular SPF number or brand is the way you use a sunscreen: the best sunscreen is one used early and often.

Sun-protective clothing (those UV shirts, shorts, and hats) is an awesome, affordable, and easy way to protect children from sun without the hassle of sunscreen. Risks for skin cancer increase with sun exposure, family history, and sunburns in particular. Protecting your children from excessive sun exposure and sunburn is an anti-cancer move. That’s power.

3 Rules For Protecting Children From Sun Exposure

  1. Respect the brilliant sun; know your local risk. Enjoy the sun but be smarter. After surviving melanoma, I’ve been forced to change the way my family lives with the sun to decrease our risks. I’ve learned a ton about letting the UV index guide me. UV index is a measure of the radiation you are exposed to when outside. Radiation from the sun increases cancer risk, increases skin aging (wrinkles!), while it decreases eye and immune health. UV index varies with the time of year, the type of weather, the latitude, and the time of day. Check out your UV index today (by zipcode) and download the free app (search “UV index” in your smartphone). Make a habit to check the UV index every day to get a sense of your family’s exposure–I guarantee it will surprise you. Even on cloudy days, the UV index midday can rise to levels that will encourage you to protect your skin. Don’t be scared of the sun, just be smarter. Read full post »

The Lunchroom, ADHD, And Obesity

 

ADHD Diagnosis Prevalence in The United States : http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/prevalence.html

Last week I served lunch at my son’s school. It was a hoot, really, serving an entire K-8 school lunch. Dishing out lasagna, broccoli, pizza, and grilled cheese provided all sorts of insight into what lunch is like in 2013. My son didn’t choose exactly as I’d predict (see below). When a 33-year prospective study published today which connects childhood ADHD with adult obesity, it got me thinking we need to be more involved in how (not just what) our children eat at school. For those children with and without attention challenges.

Previous studies have found that ADHD may increase risk for unhealthy weight because researchers theorize inattention and compulsive behavior in life changes eating patterns. We’re clearly dependent on regulation for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The study published today followed boys from age 6-12 years into adulthood, spanning 33 years. Results in this small sample suggest childhood inattention and hyperactivity conferred a two-fold increase in being obese as adult. The study included only Caucasian boys. The development of obesity in those men was found regardless of their ADHD continuing into adulthood or not.

It’s well established that children who are overweight have a higher risk of being overweight or obese adults. And what makes this research important is that unlike previous studies, it didn’t matter if the boys ADHD remitted in adulthood. Meaning that even if boys outgrew their ADHD, their risk of adult obesity persisted. Researchers theorize that those eating habits and attention challenges of childhood may change lifetime risk. Because the findings go against previous data that unlinked obesity and ADHD in adulthood, it will likely trigger more research. Read full post »

Delicious Screen Time

Common Sense Media Screen Image http://www.commonsensemedia.org/mobile-app-reviews/roxies-maze-ing-vacation-adventure

Common Sense Media Screen Image http://www.commonsensemedia.org/mobile-app-reviews/roxies-maze-ing-vacation-adventure

It’s been a relief to realize that there is great online content for my 6 year-old. He still doesn’t use the computer (outside of school). The main reason, I’ve not been in a rush to enmesh him in technology. It’s clear he’ll catch on fast when it becomes important to him. Previously when reading up about apps and games, I always felt like nothing suited his timid-conflict-averse mentality. So when we found a couple beautiful apps last night, I was pumped. Screens can be delicious. Later this week, my 6 year-old and I set off on a trip alone, just the two of us. He’s joining me on a work trip to The Netherlands (speaking here) and although real books will tide him over at times, there is somewhat of a saving grace in the fact that the iPad exists.

I’m seriously thrilled. I can’t wait for this special trip with my son and this time together.

But I’m also normal– there are parts of me very cognizant of the 10+ hour plane trip ahead of us. As a working mom on a working trip, he’ll be stuck amidst a few meetings. On the plane, we’ll read books, work on his journal, yet ultimately I’ll need to plug into my work for a few hours. When I do so, I’m thrilled that the iPad will be on his lap. Living in 2013 does have unique parenting luxuries and one of them is some of the brilliant screens out there. Screens can be great fun for us all when we do it right.

Last night, my husband and I spent some time online reading about good apps to load. We were sincerely delighted to find a couple gems (see below). We ended up completely entranced by 2 apps, in particular. I can’t wait to show these to my 6 year-old on Thursday.

Thoughts On Apps For Young Children:

  • I love using Common Sense Media to learn about new apps, games, movies, and books. Not only do they provide age-based filters for search, they detail enough about the platforms that I can really cater to my kids’ individual interests and limitations (my 6 year-old is scared of most movies and really hates any kind of conflict). You can search by ages (if you’ve got more than 1 child with access to a device) or by interest (dinosaurs, sports, or magic) and you can also just quickly browse the “editor’s picks.” Read full post »

Salmonella From Food, Frogs, And Fido

African dwarf frog fr CDCSalmonella infections affect children more frequently and more severely than adults. Although most salmonella infections arise from contaminated or undercooked food (chicken, eggs, beef, and dairy typically), reptiles, pet foods and now amphibians are an important source of infection to keep in mind for our children.

Today, a new study published in Pediatrics links Salmonella infections to pet frogs here in the US. This is the first study to detail amphibians as an important source of Salmonella infections. 8 tips for preventing Salmonella are at the end of this post.

New research tracked an outbreak of a particular strain of Salmonella between 2008 and 2011. In 44 states, researchers identified 376 cases of Salmonella in children and adults with an average age of 5 years. Over 2/3 (69%) of the cases were in children under age 10. The source of these salmonella bacteria was tracked to a breeding facility that shipped an aquatic frog, the African dwarf frog, to pet stores and people around the country. Although the African dwarf frogs are not always handled, many people were presumably infected from touching the frog’s contaminated water bowl or may have been infected when aquariums and equipment were cleaned in sinks also used for food preparation.
The study uncovered an important truth:

Few patients and families were aware that Salmonella could be spread from reptiles and amphibians.

Even when we parents are aware, some children still get infected. It’s essential that children who handle reptiles and amphibians always wash their hands after playing with the pets or help clean or care for their aquariums. This data hits close to home as my son had Salmonella gastroenteritis when he was just 4 months of age after a trip to Central America. Read full post »

Is It Really An Ear Infection?

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 9.46.22 AMEar infections cause significant and sometimes serious ear pain, overnight awakening, missed school, missed work, and lots of parental heartache. For some children, infections in the ear can be a chronic problem and lead to repeated clinic visits, multiple courses of antibiotics, and rarely a need for tube placement by surgery. For most children, ear infections occur more sporadically,  just bad luck after a cold. Fortunately the majority of children recover from ear infections without any intervention. But about 20-30% of the time, they need help fighting the infection.

Ear infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria when excess fluid gets trapped in the middle portion of the ear, behind the eardrum. When that space fills with mucus or pus it is put under pressure and it gets inflamed causing pain. Symptoms of ear infections include pain, fever, difficulty hearing, difficultly sleeping, crankiness, or tugging and pulling at the ear. This typically happens at the time or soon after a cold—therefore the fluid in the ear can either be filled with a virus or bacteria.

The most important medicine you give your child when you first suspect an ear infection is one for pain.

Antibiotics only help if bacteria is the cause. When a true infection is present causing pain and fever, antibiotics are never the wrong choice. Often you’ll need a clinician’s help in diagnosing a true ear infection.

Three’s been a lot of work (and research) over the last 15 years to reduce unnecessary antibiotics prescribed for ear infections. There has been great progress. Less children see the doctor when they have an ear infection (only 634/1000 in 2005 versus 950/1000 back in the 1990’s) and they’re prescribed antibiotics less frequently. Recent data finds that less than half of children with ear infections receive antibiotics (only 434 of every 1000 children with ear infections). However, the far majority who go in to see a doctor do still receive a prescription for antibiotic (76%).

The American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) just released new guidelines to help physicians do a better job treating ear infections. Sometimes children really benefit from using antibiotics and new research has led to an update on the 2004 previously published recommendations. Over-use of antibiotics can lead to more resistant and aggressive bacteria so we want to use them at the right time. These recommendations may help improve care for children.

In my opinion, NPR published the best article I’ve read covering the new recommendations. I especially liked the balance provided: Read full post »

Preschoolers Can Learn Good Things From TV

tv watching when 4Television programming for children is abundant. Screens are a luxurious fixture in most of our lives and I’m not here to tell you to turn them off. Well, at least not today. In fact, that tactic, the one where we pediatricians urge families to turn off the TV, really isn’t working. Children tend to increase their TV viewing time as they age and preschool-aged children in the United States spend over 4 hours per day watching television at home and in day care. My good friend, Dr Claire McCarthy, offers up her opinion in this week’s Pediatrics.

Television viewing is only on an upswing over the past 5 years as more and more devices interdigitate into our children’s lives. I’m a perfect example. When my first son was born 6 years ago we had one television in our home and one computer. Today, we have a smartphone, an iPad, a computer, and a television. The screen choices continue to grow, the television shows continue to become more alluring, and the opportunities for viewing with new convenience is abundant. It’s true: some of the stuff out there designed to delight our children is awesome.

But not all of it.

So as our children continue to tug on our sleeves and hang on our pant legs asking for the iPhone just after they beg for TV time before dinner, we need to think clearly about an action plan. We need to make a thoughtful “media diet.” We need to think ahead of time what time we’ll offer up the devices and what content we want them to see. We should care–it really changes how they think and what they do. When we use a media diet, I suggest we’ll improve both our own satisfaction as parents and our children’s lives. Dr Dimitri Christakis, a pediatric researcher here at Seattle Children’s suggests:

We often focus on how much kids watch and don’t focus enough on what they watch

New research out today by Dr Christakis finds that our time and energy working to improve what our children watch, not just how much they watch, can have a positive impact on their behavior. Even for children as young as 3 years of age. Read full post »

The New Norovirus

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 10.27.08 AMNorovirus is a nasty one. It’s the leading cause of epidemics of vomiting/diarrhea and causes over 20 million cases of gastrointestinal disease (“stomach flu” with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and achiness) in the US each year. Our experience with Norovirus historically is worse in years with “novel” or new strains of infection. Unfortunately there’s an new strain circulating around the globe. “Sydney 2012” was discovered in Australia last March and just last month the CDC officially announced it’s causing the majority of Norovirus infections. Over 1.2 million people in the United Kingdom have had it and the FDA reports this strain may potentially cause more hospitalizations. Time will tell if we have more Norovirus this year, too.

When new strains arrive, we tend to see a 50% increase in the number of cases of “stomach flu.” Norovirus is remarkably potent and contagious. It often isn’t killed by hand sanitizer (see #3 below). You touch the virus and touch your mouth and you could get it. We can get Norovirus multiple times in our lives because our immunity wanes after infection and new viral strains develop which cause unique disease. We get Norovirus from contaminated food, contaminated surfaces we touch, and from other people who vomit or have diarrhea and spread the virus. This is the cause of the stomach bug that you often associate with cruise ship outbreaks or daycare outbreaks when everyone starts vomiting one afternoon…

Around the holidays a stomach bug swept through our home. It did so for many of my patients, too. During the first week of January, I had a day in clinic where approximately 75% of the families I saw in clinic mentioned someone in their home had been vomiting over the past week. Unusual. I can’t tell you what virus it was (I didn’t test any child’s stool or vomit in the lab), but my bet is on Norovirus… Read full post »

Help Your Anxious Child: Blow Colors

This is a little trick I use to help coach anxious children whose minds just seems to “spin.” Patients have given me great feedback over the years that “blowing colors” really helps. Sometimes it’s for children and teens who can’t drift off to sleep, sometimes for those who are worriers, and sometimes for those who get anxious or overwhelmed at school. Blowing colors is a great exercise to return to regular belly breathing patterns, buy time and space for mindfulness, and improve control over feelings of overwhelm. See if it helps…

Greatest thing is–this is a good tool for a child or teen to regain control.  They can use the exercise anywhere, at any time. Lots of children and teens who get anxious feel ashamed of their anxiety and don’t want to reach out for help. Reassure them that no one will ever know they’re blowing colors or changing the hue of a room. Practice at home before bed, in school during moments of overwhelm, or even remind a child or teen they can blow colors while out with friends or at a sleepover.