Archive for April 2014

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The Link Between Vaccines And Optimism

Yesterday morning there was a public Freudian slip. It was perfect. During an interview on the Today Show about “hot button” health issues the team addressed concerns about myths related to the causes of autism. Autism spectrum disorder, now estimated in 1 of 68 children, is a brain condition causing challenges with how children communicate, behave and relate with others. Autism spectrum disorder is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic risk, potentially starting inutero, and potentially influenced by environmental factors. There is so much more research needed to understand causes (for cures). In the past some have pointed to vaccines as a cause of autism although that theory has been debunked, disproven, and refuted again and again. But here’s what happened on the show. The interviewer addressed the topic and said, “We hear a lot about it in the media, that is, vaccines causing optimism….”

Now it was a misspeak, which of course happens to us all, all the time. But it got me thinking, we need to share this real link  like wildfire — the link between vaccines and optimism. We moms, we dads, we pediatricians, we nurses, we family doctors, we community members, we must speak up. Share this incredible fortune, peer-to-peer, the reality that indeed living now in the 21st century that yes, vaccines are linked to optimism.

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What To Do With That Old Bottle Of Meds?

Drug-Take-Back-InfographicRaise your hand if you have a cupboard full of partially used medications, expired acetaminophen, and old anti-histamines. We do! Conveniently, there is a way to safely get rid of the unused medications in your life. Don’t leave them around the house and don’t put them back into the water supply (via flushing them or putting them improperly in the garbage)….both carry risk.

April 26 is the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day. Conveniently, this is the perfect time to quickly clear out some of that clutter. As we ready our lives and our homes for summer (yes, please!) it’s a perfect time to clean out the medicine cabinet. No question getting rid of medications isn’t as straight forward as we’d like (ie it’s not like getting rid of an old banana peel).  And we really don’t want Cousin Judy’s anti-depressive  in our drinking water nor do we want any antibiotics in our soil. And who really wants a guest rummaging through your medicine cabinet at next year’s holiday party looking for drugs!

When we buy over-the-counter (OTC) medications at the pharmacy using them safely for our family demands 3 skills:

  • Reading and following the labels, dosing them properly for our kids.
  • Figuring out what is actually in the bottles of meds! Knowing the active ingredients in OTC medicines really matters.
  • Safely disposing of expired or unwanted medicines when we’re done with them.

The FDA provides clear instructions on getting rid of your unwanted OTC meds:

  1. Mix unwanted over-the-counter meds with other substances like coffee grinds or kitty litter. The meds will bind up in the coffee and/or kitty litter and be less likely to disperse, leak, or get out of the garbage. In addition, kids, pets, and those in the garbage looking for meds will be less likely to get into them.
  2. Place them in a sealable bag (think Ziploc style) or an empty can before disposing of them.
  3. Throw your combination in the trash.

If you’re uncomfortable disposing of medications with the above instructions or have a large volume of OTC or any prescription meds to get rid of, this Saturday between 10am and 2pm April 26th there will be sites all over the US where you can just drop off unwanted meds in bottles or packets. Just click here and search for a drop-off site (by zip code) near you to find the National Take Back Collection Site. Show up between 10am and 2pm and they will take all of your unused OTC or prescription medications. Voila — you’ll be clutter free come Sunday morning!

This post was written in partnership with OTC In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @OTCSafety #OTCSafety for more info on health and wellness.

Earth Day: My Mom’s Great Lesson

purple skyMy parents were never hippies but when I detail what they’ve done with their lives most people eventually inquire if they were. This isn’t a post about how my family’s deep respect for the planet made me an awesome environmental steward. It’s Earth Day and I’m here to say I haven’t done enough. I feel I fail nearly every day in regards to my role in conserving renewable resources but I certainly didn’t lack great modeling. In fact, I’d suggest I work hard to do things on a daily basis that protect the planet and I do think I am above average in my efforts (here in Lake Wobegon) but I do know I can still do more. I’m fairly certain the actions of my mom are the primary reason I think about the earth when I do. Perhaps this is a nod to parents everywhere.

This is a post about choices, the extreme power of example, and the opportunity we all have to help our children protect planet Earth. Just this past week a lovely article, Raising Moral Children, begged us to remember that our actions scream out loudly during our children’s time growing up. Detailing research about generosity, responsibility, shame, guilt, and opportunity Professor Adam Grant reminds, “Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.”

One thing I know for certain: I like being outside more than anywhere else. And I know this is because of how I lived as a child.

One thing every parent can do today for Earth Day is go outside and play with their children. Learning to love the planet will harness an inpatient need to protect it.

Be in a place with no ceiling today for as long as you  can.

My parents have spent the last 20+ years developing and sustaining a business committed to conservation, environmental sustainability, and purpose. Although it’s taken quite a bit away from them personally, it has gifted the world with a profound example: what we do with our time on earth really can change it.

But it may be what my mom did long before she made it to the tropical rainforest that causes me pause nearly every day. It happens anywhere — I think about reusing a bag, refolding a piece of tin foil, turning off the car while it idles in line. She never would buy a juice box (all because of the packaging) and it’s hard for me to do so now.

The reality and impetus for this post is that I remember not a single lecture (as a child) about sustainability, recycling, renewable resources, and “saving the rainforest.” But I really do remember all of this: Read full post »

Go, Dad, Go! Daniel Murphy’s Accidental Heroism

Not that I want these guys to get much more attention, but this is worthy of a mention and possibly a view (see video below). I mean it isn’t every day that we’re teed up to talk about fatherhood. Motherhood, sure, we’re constantly fed information about the elusive “balance” we all seek, but fatherhood and the incredible gifts/mentorship men bring to children’s lives, that seems only to be a sexy topic when it has to do with a sports star [read: I’m guilty of the bait here]. Or it’s Father’s Day.

Enter a new hero.

Earlier this week Daniel Murphy became an accidental hero for child and maternal health. His actions speak far louder than any words (or the words of others). His heroism and moment in time for children’s health is all thanks to these jokers on the radio. Now we get to make note of the incredible decisions parents make every day.

The story is this: a man with a career (he happens to play baseball) took time to support his family. He was at his partner’s side during the birth of his child and stayed there to bear witness, provide support, and be a father. He used time provided to him by his employer (that happens to be federally protected) for paternity leave.

But because Murphy is a real deal professional athlete with an opening season game to be played and because people like to talk on the radio there are numerous reminders for parents everywhere thanks to this story:

  • Paternity leave is a federally protected right. In California, Washington, and New Jersey, there are even laws for paid paternity leave.
  • Elective C-sections for convenience increase health risks to mom and baby. C-section deliveries require major surgery for mom and can put infants at risk for respiratory problems. A 2013 statement from ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) outlines the scientifically-backed opinion against these elective surgeries. The suggestion from the radio host is rubbish.
  • Paid parental leave is an area where Americans just don’t do so well; the below example a quirky reminder. Protected parental leave is clearly a place the US pales on the world’s stage (see this infographic on global parental leave).
  • Dads everywhere provide everyday, exceptional value for their children, Murphy’s decision is just one example. Parenting is hard work. The national focus on parenting centers on the work of mothers while fathers play roles of equal impact. All parents, of course, have vital roles in shaping earnest opportunity and health for children. Let it be clear that Murphy says it best, “that’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice. My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay.”

Something In The Air: It’s Measles

Something is in the air right now. There’s a strange mix of vaccine-preventable illness sweeping the country (measles) and a strange bump in media coverage for celebrities and vocal opponents to tested and recommended vaccine schedules. Part of me thought we might be done with that but pageviews, clicks, and views all sell.

My hope is the coincidence of coverage and outbreaks is just that, a coincidence. But as a mom, pediatrician, author and media reporter, the view from here is unsettling. We can’t prove that mishandled media coverage is changing the way we immunize our children (or at least I haven’t seen the data) and how parents protect them, but there are moments like this it feels it’s possible that trust is simply being eroded with this 24-hour online/TV/print news cycle. Parents might be vulnerable to bad medicine when gowned as good business. A couple of examples:

Two weeks ago Kristin Cavallari (a wife to an NFL player and reality TV star) went on Fox News to discuss her career (and parenting) and ended up discussing her theories on a group of vaccine refusers and autism. Perhaps talking about medical theories is a really good model for accelerating a career? Next up was Huffington Post where she dropped the bomb, “’I’ve read too many books’ to vaccinate my child.” I suspect she’s yet to read mine. Particularly chapter number 57 entitled Measles In America. Read full post »