We do have to pick our battles at home. As a pediatrician I’ve never gotten too excited about advising parents to spend a lot of energy trying to rid your child of the thumb-sucking or nail biting habit. In general parents aren’t successful — peers are. Often it’s when friends or peers bring the habits up that children are motivated to stop. We can help support them by reminding them when hands are in their mouth or even having them place socks on their hands while watching television as that’s a common time for the behavior. Although many parents worry about their children sucking their thumbs and fingers, it’s a common habit, with some studies finding almost 25% of children do. Much time is spent thinking about ways to help our children quit, worrying whether germs on their hands will translate to illness and hoping it doesn’t affect their teeth. A new study today this week in Pediatricshighlights perhaps a positive effect of thumb sucking. It’s worth a mention.
Allergy Protection From Thumb-Sucking And Nail-Biting?
The study evaluated children between age 5 and 11 and their later diagnoses of hay fever, allergy skin prick testing and asthma. The premise of the study builds off the somewhat controversial concept of the hygiene hypothesis. The basic premise of the hypothesis is that germ exposure early in life can contribute to how our immune system responds as we grow and develop. We may build up tolerances and immunity that conform us into less allergic people if we have different bacteria and germs around. Basically, living in a sterile environment may not be “safer” as some believe lots of dirt, bacteria, and germs early and maybe not so many sensitivities later…
In the past theories for the hygiene hypothesis have supported a decrease risk of asthma (dirt and germs coming in from and on pets may decrease allergies or asthma later) and a small 2013 study a couple years back found those children who had parents who “cleaned” the pacifier with their own mouth may be less likely to develop allergies (theory was the bacteria transfer from mom/dad’s spit to baby changed their pattern of exposure to bacteria and possibly a tendency away from allergies and asthma later). So some researchers looked a the effects of children who have their hands in their mouths more to see if any protection comes of it — they evaluated data spanning from childhood to adulthood. Read full post »
The role parents play in poison prevention is paramount. The above image shows just how easy it is to confuse medicine with candy. Especially if we message this improperly. When my boys were young I started calling liquid medicines “yum-yums” in an effort to get them to take acetaminophen or other medicine easily only to realize as I was doing it I was advertising the wrong thing…totally novice move as a mom and pediatrician. Clearly as parents we’re always a work in progress.
Safe medicine storage is one of those obvious things we feel we have under control. But numbers for accidental ingestion in the US prove we don’t. Young children are earnestly dependent on us doing this better.
Check out the above image — the packaging of medication earnestly isn’t any different to most of us than the packaging for candy. Imagine a 3 year-old trying to differentiate between the two in a moment of discovery. Pretty easy to imagine a 4 year-old stumbling upon a skittle and seriously impossible to imagine them over-riding their curiosity to explore/enjoy with their mouth. Chances are, that medication/skittle is going into their mouth.
Medication storage isn’t just for your typical over-the-counter (OTC) medications. With our households changing and many people coming though them, we have to think about prescription medications, liquid nicotine, marijuana and household products that all need to be up and out of reach. To that end, safe medicine storage is an important part of family and household safety. This week is National Poison Prevention Week so the perfect time to perfect our homes a little more. This includes any home your child plays in or stays in. Read full post »
Valentine’s Day this weekend….Even if you think it’s a card-store holiday chances are your children LOVE it. So power on Super Mama & Super Papa and learn something that makes it worth it. The American Dental Association declared February National Children’s Dental Health Month (I’m thinking because of the holiday and all those sugar hearts). This may have to do with candy…..but please read on even if you DON’T have a sweet tooth. Setting a good example and teaching children from an early age how to take care of their teeth is worth all of our time. It’s something I’m STILL working on as a parent. This matters because tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in kids age 6-11 and adolescents age 12-19. Additionally, at least 20% of children ages 5-11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Flossing and brushing 2 times a day changes the odds. Boom.
Window falls are a gut-wrenching topic because they cause devastating and preventable injuries in children. This hits home for me; in just 9 years of pediatric practice I’ve had a handful of patients fall through open windows and screens. Every single fall has occurred because of innocence and curiosity — a child just wanting to see, or be involved in, something outside. So many of us don’t get our 2nd or 3rd story windows secured for children and we often just don’t expect a child to push through a screen…
Each year in the United States 15 to 20 children under the age of 11 die, and nearly 15,000 are injured, because of falls from windows. A colleague, Dr. Lauren Wilson, is sharing her story, her perspectives while working in the hospital (Harborview Medical Center), and her ideas for preventing injuries as we close out this hot summer in our town deplete of air conditioners. We’ve included some tips on preventing falls in your home below. Don’t wait!
As a pediatrician, I was called four times last week to help care for young children with severe head injuries due to falls from windows.
Each time my pager goes off to mark a potentially devastating injury, I mourn. Not just for the family whose life is changed in that moment, but also for our city’s failure to make basic efforts to prevent these falls. I also know each time I am called that this will not be the last.
Despite reporting on these injuries, children continue to be injured at alarming rates. Since January 1 this year, Harborview Medical Center has treated 42 children with fall-related injuries in the hospital. Dozens of other fall-related injuries are cared for in primary care clinics and emergency departments. Read full post »
Even here in the cool Pacific Northwest the summer months can send temperatures soaring into the 80’s, 90’s and 100’s. Hot for any average adult, but potentially even more dangerous for young children. Our country is currently experiencing rolling heat waves. Thing is, children heat up faster than adults (five times faster) because they have fewer sweat glands, their body-to-surface ratio is different (their sweating would never do as much good) and this combination makes it more difficult for children to regulate internal temperatures. Couple this physiology with children’s inability to tell us they’re HOT (infants/toddlers) or the instincts of a child or teen athlete (who may not know limits or want to regulate activity) and it can sometimes lead to overheating.
Heat is different for children than adults. They are at particular risk for two reasons: their dependency and their judgment.
Warm weather is here and summer is approaching and if mother nature is kind, we’ll have plenty of sun-filled days over the next few months to spend by the pool or at the beach. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when drownings increase. Young children are especially high-risk because of their profound curiosity around water and lack of awareness of danger.
Drownings are preventable deaths but even the thought of them spooks most of us. Often, a drowning event looks, sounds, and appears unlike we’d expect. I’ve written before about the silent danger of drowning, but rather than reiterate the warnings of how to prevent drowning, this year I wanted to find out what you should do if you realize your child is actually drowning. Put a couple thoughts and tools in your hands to know WHAT to do if faced with an emergency.
I tapped Dr. Linda Quan, an emergency attending physician and drowning expert at Seattle Children’s for information on what to do if you come upon a infant/toddler, school-age child or teenager is drowning. Preparing for this can help boost awareness and response if ever you support or discover an infant or young toddler in need for rescue. Read full post »
Feeding a toddler is hard work because of all sorts of normal shifts that happen after the first birthday. But new data out this past month (see below) reminds us how pre-packaged baby food isn’t the best food source, despite package claims. Whole food, the food your family eats, and the fresh stuff is the way to go.
Infant hunger matches their rapid growth; we’re used to our babies ravenous and near consistent basis from day one yet as infancy progresses feedings space out and form meals. By a year of age most children go 4 hours or more between eating. Toddlerhood is a completely different story; growth slows after a year of age and toddlers start to test limits in profound ways. Food is no exception. It can be tempting to reach for whatever’s convenient that you know your kid will eat (fish crackers, anyone?) but in the long run making good nutritional choices for whole food regularly will exceed the nutritional detriments of pre-packaged “toddler” food. In fact, a new policy statement released by the AAP this month is urging parents (and schools, daycares etc.) to take a “whole diet” approach to kids’ nutrition, namely focusing on a mix of foods from the five food groups and avoiding highly processed foods. Read more about the policy here from my friend Dr Claire McCarthy. These “fresh is best” ideas aren’t new to you I suspect but the data about food being marketed to us (and our children) is: Read full post »
New data presented at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics meeting found 93% of parents to newborns incorrectly positioned and buckled their infants into their car seat on their first trip home. A little more proof that perfectly buckling a car seat isn’t an innate early-parenting skill! Even Prince George’s royal family didn’t get it right. I’m certain I didn’t do this perfectly either on our maiden voyage home (I remember using a zip-in blanket in the seat) nearly 8 years ago. As The Car Seat Lady reminds, “products that have a layer that goes under the baby’s body can make the baby unsafe. This is true even if the product is designed with slots for the harness straps to fit through.” Most of us clearly mess this up and although the first trip is just one trip, it may be emblematic of our everyday use.
Car seats and booster seats are important for child safety; our habits for their use begin the moment we leave the hospital or birthing center. Although those “bucket” infant car seats are safest (we’d all be safer in the car facing the rear, and in a bucket) we move away from them when our infants are around 9-12 months of age. But do remember, with every graduation to a new seat, you decrease protection. For example, when you move from a a rear-facing infant seat —> rear-facing carseat—>forward-facing carseat—>booster seat—>seat belt—>front seat at age 13, each time you advance the child safety seat, you’re decreasing protection you provide. Don’t rush the transition! Keep your child rear-facing until at least age 2 years and in a booster until they are at least 4 foot 9 inches (57 inches) tall.
The No-Duh Importance Of Car Seats
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the US. Creating safe habits from day one matters…don’t blow off importance of car seat safety as helicopter parenting. Using the child car seat well every time is an easy way to layer protection and channel your bursting baby love.
Infant car seats, rear-facing seats and boosters all hold equal import. Only two states require car or booster seats until age 8 (WA is not one of them) even though children should be in booster seats until they are both 4 foot 9 inches and between age 8 and 12 years.
Car seats reduce risk of death by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers if used properly: “Results of several studies have indicated that misused child safety seats may increase a child’s risk of serious injury in a crash.” (Page 9)
There have been 4 teen drownings around here just in the last week. I’m left with a pit in my stomach that as the sun shines and our region heats up we lose children to preventable injuries at rapid-fire pace. This happens every year; drowning is the 2nd leading cause of injury-related death in childhood (and the #1 cause of injury death in toddlers between age 1 to 4). In general there are two groups of people who drown the most: toddlers and teens. The spaces and places (and circumstances) for typical drownings for those groups are different but the foundation is the same: water, especially cold water, is always lovely on a hot day but always poses unacknowledged dangers.
This really isn’t meant to be a finger-waggy post. This is meant to inform us all with refreshers to the opportunity we all have when living near water with children in our midst. Forward these reminders to anyone you can think of who may benefit. We may never know if we prevent a death but it sure is worth the effort to keep trying…
Drowning Statistics & Risks:
Drowning is second leading cause of injury-related death in children in our country following motor-vehicle crashes. In general, the risks come from improper attention to the risks of water, improper supervision, and surprise (i.e. the current moves faster than expected, the water is colder, the child toddles into the pool while no one sees in a matter of seconds).
Toddlers AND teens are the most likely groups of people to drown; risks are higher for boys than for girls. Toddlers drown because of improper supervision, teens tend to drown because of improper awareness of risks. In fact it’s also where you are that matters. Data has found, for example, that you’re at a 6-fold increase risk for drowning when visiting a friend’s home with a pool.
Cold water, alcohol & drug use (for teens or supervising adults), and distractions increase risk for a drowning or near-drowning event.
The boys and I read two extra books last night — we almost skipped it altogether as it was late and we were beat from a long day and yada, yada, yada…you know the drill. But reviewing this data changed me, yet again. I knew some of the value of reading to young children before I had kids because of my experiences being a teacher and my training in pediatrics but the refreshers provided this week only compound my interest in screaming the value of reading from the rooftops.
It’s NEVER too early to start reading to your baby. Reading aloud before bed is always the right thing to do.
This week The Clinton Foundation with Too Small To Fail, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Reach Out And Read, and Scholastic got serious about ensuring our country takes reading seriously right out of the gate. For the first time ever the groups have come together to proclaim that parents should start reading to children “as early as you can” after birth. The new policy and partnership emphasizes the need for early reading to all infants and children while also emphasizing the necessity that all pediatricians promote this healthy habit at birth and through all preschool doctor visits. Profound health disparities currently exist for US children and book time. I suspect the numbers will surprise you.
It’s a no-brainer to most parents I talk with that reading books enhances development, literacy, and school readiness. What may surprise you is that reading has also been found to enhance the relationship between a child and parent. Reading books (or even the newspaper) to your infant from day one can have profound effects on how they live, how they talk, and how they learn — the impact extends well into adulthood. From the very beginning, though, some children are missing out. Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by 3 years of age creating the “word gap” early in their lives. The more words a child hears during early, critical times for language development, the more they’ll know. And although reading books can be a great resource to introduce an expansive, enriched vocabulary, less than 1/2 of children are read aloud to in this country every day.
All families face issues of limited time, limited parental understanding of the key role of reading aloud, and competition for the child’s interest and attention from other sources of entertainment ~ The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications And Media ( 2011)
Seattle Children’s provides healthcare for the special needs of children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex (gender), sexual orientation or disability. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho.