Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

A mom, a pediatrician, and her insights about keeping your kids healthy.

Storing Medicine Safely This Summer

How to Store Medicine More Safely

Storing medicines safely seems like a “no-duh,” I know, but it often isn’t…little mistakes here can have big consequences. Safe medication storage is an especially important topic in the summer when children are in their homes during more of the day and sometimes curiously exploring the house. Routines are shaken up and fortunately there’s more travel in the summer (yippeee!) which consequently leads to medicine in purses and travel bags, grandparents coming to visit (with their own medication), or families traveling to other homes where medicines might not be stored safely. This is not meant to be finger-waggy….I’ve just seen too many “if only I’d thought of that” moments after unintended medicine ingestion.

Do 2 things today quickly perhaps — make sure meds are up and out of reach in your own home and car (in a locked cabinet if toddlers around) AND have a designated place for summer guests to store their meds. This won’t take too long.

Check out the Know Your OTC Safety Infographic (here on the left) for data support: children mainly discover household medications when misplaced or on the ground (27% of the time), in a purse (20%), on the nightstand (20%), or in the pillbox that’s in arm’s reach (15%). Who’s coming to your house this summer that may mess this up? Can you make a place to put those lovely purses and beach bags when people walk in that’s up and out of reach? A hook reserved for guests only?


What You Need to Know About Safely Storing Medicine
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Raising A Couple Of Eagles

eagle jumpOn July 4th my 8 year-old little eagle walked up a tall ladder, waltzed across a platform full of teenage girls waiting to leap, and like a veteran champion approached the edge of the platform and jumped off. Arms in the air, feet forward and hardly a beat of hesitation, he took flight. What a gamer move. Next came twenty feet of free fall and a dock full of screaming enthusiasts. It all happened really fast and I think I may not have been the only one with two feet planted whose stomach dropped. Without question I had serious physiologic and neurologic shifts in my body as he leapt and fell, my stomach in my toes by the time he hit the water. What a wonder to see our children step up, look right at their fear, and then just push forward. Talk about leaning in…courage really is one of the most beautiful emotions to see in our children as they grow.

Raising children takes all sort of courage, of course. The odds at times feel stacked against us (overnight relentless wake-ups, temper tantrums, health challenges, worries about mental health, worries about physical health, resource restraints, failures, failures, failures). But nothing is typically stacked against most of us like other species. All parents face big challenges. Read full post »

A Few Thoughts On The 4th Of July

We all know fireworks are dangerous, but outside the obvious hazards (burns, injuries, oh my!), there are other things to be aware of to stay safe this weekend. The 4th of July is a crazy-fun, chaotic day filled with friends and family. Lovely for the time and space to celebrate freedom and lovely for the holiday to celebrate each other. All easy ways to get distracted though, and take your eyes off your children who might be playing in circumstances not typical of your run-of-the mill Saturday. Enter fireworks (which the American Academy of Pediatrics urges families NOT to use) but also swimming, or driving, in ways changed by the holiday circumstances. Read full post »

California Mandates Vaccines Like West Virginia And Mississippi

Illustration by David Rosenman

Illustration by David Rosenman

Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown signed a childhood vaccination bill into law along with a letter stating, “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.” The hash-tagged, much discussed bill (#SB277) was co-authored and proposed to lawmakers by Dr Richard Pan, a pediatrician and CA state senator in Sacramento. The law, SB 277, establishes one of the toughest mandatory vaccination requirements in the nation for school children and those in child-care centers. As imagined, the process of getting the bill into law was not for the faint of heart. Riding on realities of necessary community immunity unveiled during the 2014-2015 Disney measles outbreak, the idea of mandating vaccines for public health still ignited evocative and divisive bullying campaigns on social media.

We can’t forget that these outbreaks are dangerous (over 20 people were hospitalized for measles during the Disney outbreak and 5 children in Chicago got measles while at daycare). Remember that infants are more vulnerable to getting measles and they’re also at greater risk to die from it.

Testimony before the state senate was reported to be passionate, evocative, and compelling from both sides. The law passed the senate by a 24 – 14 vote and went to the governor. By signing the bill into law yesterday, Governor Brown acknowledges a tenet in public health and vaccination: vaccines are for individuals, yes, but they also serve to protect others — those especially vulnerable and not. Read full post »

Love Wins For Children

Orange denotes states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Orange denotes states where same-sex marriage is legal.

While I was out of the country last week there was remarkable progress when it comes to public health and the opportunity for children. It was wild to be so far away seeing the news unfold. First it was The Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) voting to allow subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (facilitating the federal government to provide nationwide tax subsidies to support poor and middle-class people when they buy health insurance). Then just a day later SCOTUS voted 5-4 in majority to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states. With the highest court in the land stating clearly that from here forward, “marriage is a right” we realize it changes the game. These laws are about dignity and rights and care but this is squarely also about families. As a mom and pediatrician this feels MOMENTOUS. Read full post »

Working With Babies Of Any Age

Illustration about what it feels like to go back to work by David Rosenman

Leaving anyone we love is fraught with duplicity. While we feel the tug of distance, we have the fortuitous lens to see two things at once: the treasure of the bond forged and the aching feeling of distance when it’s gone. This binocular into our lives inspires joy but it also occasionally does bear weight. I’ve often said that leaving my babies (now children, but let’s be honest they’re always my babies) and going to work feels a little like walking around without a limb or without a necessary body part. Without them around something essential is glaringly absent. At times thinking on them is wildly distracting, especially right at first.

Up there, look at that graph. Haven’t you had days like this?

The fortune in raising and loving children is that we’re continually reminded of these dual realities. Life after a baby is forever transformed; as parents we are never again simply singular. Or at least as I see it, we’re not entirely whole again when alone. When we meet our babies big real estate in the heart is rapidly taken up by our children and although wandering, working, traveling away, and seeking new experiences is essential to our personal evolution, we do always seem to notice the absence of our babies when we’re apart. I’m coming to know this is true at any age. Read full post »

School Is Out, Head Lice May Still Be Around

Head LiceThey’re a little gross, somewhat annoying and for most parents, inevitable. It also seems to me that for most of us they show up at the most inconvenient times. I’m talking about lice. With school coming to an end this month, you may think your child’s chances of picking up the little bugs will diminish. Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) most cases of lice occur outside school. Between summer camp, sports and play dates there are still plenty of opportunities for lice to take shelter on the head of at least one family member. They’re certainly no picnic to deal with and they can also be unwittingly contagious during the school years. Clearly there’s nothing to be ashamed of when discovering lice but it doesn’t always feel that way. New guidelines from the AAP out last month offer some tips for getting your family lice-free as quickly as possible. Acting fast with a plan often diminishes all sorts of anxiety and discomfort for all. Read full post »

What To Do If Your Child Is Drowning: School-Age & Teens

6-2 boy swimmingThis is part two of the “What To Do If Your Child Is Drowning” series. Read about infants/toddlers here.

The purpose of these posts is to find out what you should do if you realize your child is actually drowning or struggling in the water rather than repeat the warnings of how to prevent it. I want to put a couple thoughts and tools in your hands to know WHAT to do if faced with an emergency.

Dr. Linda Quan, an emergency attending physician and drowning expert at Seattle Children’s shares information on what to do if you come upon a school-age child or teenager who is drowning. Preparing for this can help boost awareness and response if ever you support or discover a child in need for rescue. Read full post »

What To Do If Your Child Is Drowning: Infants & Toddlers

6-1 baby in waterWarm 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 »

Living Into Middle Age

6-1 LunaMaybe forty is middle-age, for me it’s certainly been in the-middle-of-something. I turn 41 later this week and I must admit, my year being 40 felt slightly more rigorous than the ones that came before it. Perhaps just circumstance, but my year was peppered with rare opportunity, great loss, brilliant connection, and perspective-building change. The change and loss has been arduous in ways, each lesson feeling like just another onion layer of innocence peeled away. Hard work to love and to lose. Hard work to try and to fail.

Yet nothing about me wants to be younger.

I’m thankful for the perspectives I’m gaining and the experiences I’m acquiring — even the brutal ones. I also know my experiences aren’t nearly as “brutal” as many. But somehow I feel even more ready to parent my little boys after losing beloved people, saying goodbye to a pet, and enduring challenges unexpected. Finding patience for change and learning more about living, where we have very little control, certainly is quite a gift.

This past weekend we lost Luna, our 13 year-old puppy doggy, which has me thinking again about Mary Oliver’s reminder of this “one wild and precious life” we’re given. Our puppy had a long life but there’s no question saying goodbye and living into the absence of her abundant enthusiasm aches. Her early and steady devotion to me and to our boys was mind-blowing. The lessons she facilitated were somewhat profound, even as I said good-bye to her. I wished I’d done things a little differently; wished I’d rejoiced and sent her off in her very final moment soaring. All I could do was bury my face in her ears. Thankfully pets are tirelessly generous, letting us fail with very little consequence. Messing up with the dog at times certainly improved the strategies I have in juggling all the responsibilities with children and work and loss now moving forward. I’m so grateful. Read full post »