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Kids' Health

May 14, 2021

The Top 10 Urban Legends About Kids: Are They True?

Istock_000000815564xsmall_2 Are evil-doers really lacing kids' fake tattoos with LSD? Did a certain "Pokemon" episode actually give Japanese kids seizures? Find the answers to these and eight more urban legends (or are they true?...) on a terrific post by Amy S.F. Lutz over at Strollerderby.

With websites like Snopes and Urban Legends & Superstitions and T.V. shows like MythBusters, it's getting easier to figure out whether the stories we read about, in too-frequent crazy e-mails from certain friends and relatives, are true. (And you know you have someone in your life who just loves to send you these.)

So are Webkinz really being murdered online? I love how this blogger brought together 10 of the most-heard urban legends about kids and got to the bottom of things. Check it out.


March 21, 2022

Hey, Doc — Can You Talk With My Kid About Sex?

When we bring our wanna-be-teen and teenage kids to the doctor for routine check-ups, many of us are hoping our kid's doctor or nurse practitioner will do more than just check blood pressure, listen to our child’s heart and keep the vaccination record up to date.

We also want the doctor to talk with our kids about sex, diet, drug abuse and smoking, says a new report from the University of Michigan.

The poll — which asked parents of 11- to 17-year-old kids to rate 18 health-related topics for healthcare providers to address during an adolescent’s routine check-up — found that diet/nutrition, exercise/sports and the physical changes of puberty were the overall top three issues parents want discussed, followed by drugs, tobacco, sexually transmitted diseases and depression/suicide.

Doctors have heard it all, and they know how to talk with teens and pre-teens about these potentially touchy topics. So if there’s something on your mind that you’d like your child’s doctor to discuss during an upcoming office visit, call her in advance and let her know.

P.S. This all leads me to a question our family is considering right now: When to switch 12-year-old Matt from our much-loved pediatrician to our family doctor, who is also terrific. Matt has been seeing the same doctor since he was a toddler, but lately when we enter the waiting room, he looks pretty out of place, at 5'6," surrounded by those tiny chairs and Thomas the Tank Engine books.

If you've made the switch and given up your pediatrician, how old was your child when you did it? And are you happy you switched?

February 01, 2022

Infant-Hearing Screening Recommended by 1 Month

Is there a new addition to your family? If so, you'll want to hear this.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that all infants be screened for hearing loss by 1 month of age, diagnosed with hearing loss by 3 months and engaged in full intervention services by 6 months.

Since 2000, when the AAP’s Joint Committee on Infant Hearing first recommended that all infants be screened for hearing loss, the number of screened newborns increased from 38 to 95 percent. However, almost half of the children who failed hearing-screening tests did not receive appropriate, timely follow-up care. Intervention during the first year of life is needed to enhance the speech and language development of infants with hearing loss, says the AAP.

The new guidelines recommend that pediatric offices, typically a child's first medical home, ensure timely screening, diagnosis and coordinated medical and educational care for infants with hearing loss, preferably beginning at a newborn's first office visit. Ongoing checking for developmental milestones is suggested for each visit, and an objective, standardized screening is recommended at ages 9 months, 18 months and between 24 and 30 months or anytime a doctor or parent is concerned about possible hearing loss.

January 12, 2022

You'll Poke Your Eye Out!

The next time your kids complain about having to wear eye protection during sports, show them this:

More than 40,000 people a year suffer eye injuries while playing sports, according to Prevent Blindness America.

For all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in baseball, basketball and racquet sports.

The good news: Almost all of these eye injuries can be prevented by taking the following steps:

    ° Wear proper safety goggles (lensed polycarbonate protectors) for racquet sports or basketball.

    ° Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for youth baseball.

    ° Use helmets and face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association when playing hockey.

    ° Know that regular glasses don't provide enough protection.

Of course, if the entire team wears the proper equipment, that goes a long way toward making protective gear cool. So talk with your child's coaches about this important safety issue.

January 04, 2022

Sleep and Overweight Kids: What's the Connection?

Is your child having trouble with obesity? It might help to make sure he's getting enough sleep.

Kids who get less sleep in third and sixth grades are more likely to be overweight in sixth grade, according to the results of a new study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The data focused on kids’ sleep problems, how long they slept each night and their Body Mass Index (BMI).

Sixth graders who slept fewer than nine hours per night were more likely to be overweight. And third grade students who got less sleep, regardless of their BMI at the time, also were more likely to become overweight when they reached sixth grade. For every additional hour of sleep in sixth grade, a child was 20 percent less likely to be overweight. Every additional hour of sleep in third grade resulted in a 40 percent decrease in the child's risk of being overweight in sixth grade. That's a big difference.

Getting a good night's sleep can also lead to better grades, less-cranky kids and even a little time alone for mom and dad in the evenings. "Bedtime" is not a dirty word!

January 02, 2022

Yes You Can(!) Teach Your Baby to Love Veggies

Want your baby to learn to like fruits and veggies? If you’re breastfeeding, you can start by eating these healthy foods yourself, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers also suggest offering your baby plenty of opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables as she makes the transition to solid foods, by repeatedly exposing her to these healthy foods — regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or using formula.

“The best predictor of how many fruits and vegetables children eat is whether they like the tastes of these foods. If we can get babies to learn to like these tastes, we can get them off to an early start toward healthy eating,” says study author Julie A. Mennella, Ph.D.

The researchers studied 45 infants between four and eight months old, 20 of whom were breastfed. The results revealed that breast-feeding confers an advantage for a baby’s acceptance of foods during weaning — but only if the mother regularly eats those foods.

“It’s a beautiful system,” says Mennella. “Flavors from the mother’s diet are transmitted through amniotic fluid and mother’s milk. So a baby learns to like a food’s taste when the mother eats that food on a regular basis.” Babies are born with a natural dislike for bitter tastes, explains Mennella. “If mothers want their babies to learn to like to eat vegetables, especially green vegetables, they need to provide them with opportunities to taste these foods.”

Apparently a look on a baby’s face that says “yuck!” doesn’t mean all that much, the researchers note. They found that babies’ facial expressions did not always match their willingness to continue eating a particular food, noting that infants innately display facial expressions of distaste to certain flavors. They urge parents to provide their baby with repeated opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables, focusing on the infant’s willingness to eat the food instead of on negative facial expressions during mealtime.

December 19, 2021

Now Here's a Healthy Grocery List

I don’t know about you, but I get a little weary of hearing about all the things my family and I shouldn’t do, health-wise.

That’s why I’m all over a new book, Longevity Made Simple (Williams Clark Publishing; $13.95) by Richard J. Flanigan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of cardiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Kate Flanigan Sawyer, M.D., MPH, a medical officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Together, this father-daughter team presents simple strategies that focus on preventing the top 10 diseases that kill more than 75 percent of Americans. The good news: Exercising just 30 minutes a day can help prevent all 10 of them. Try finding a pill that does all that.

Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be all that complicated, either. The authors recommend these “superfoods” for your family:

Almonds and walnuts
Bell peppers
Citrus fruits
Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy
Fat-free or 1-percent milk
Garlic and onions
Olive oil
Red wine (no more than one 5-ounce glass per day for women)
Sweet potatoes
Tea (green or black)
Vegetable juice (try reduced-sodium juice or make your own with whole veggies in a blender)
Whole grains

OK, this I can do. Today I’ll grab my son and we'll walk the dog for 15 minutes, I'll do 15 minutes of an aerobics DVD and I'll make a 15-minute family dinner of broiled salmon, spinach salad and microwaved sweet potatoes.

Check out the book for more simple ways to improve your family's health. It's easy, I promise. Even during this crazy-making time of year!

December 17, 2021

Hey Kid, Strap on That Helmet!

Every time I see a kid riding on a bike or a skateboard either without a helmet or with a helmet that's not strapped on, I want to stop him and say "Are you nuts? Do your parents know you're doing this?"

So many kids seem to think that wearing an unstrapped helmet fulfills the letter of the law. But it's buckling that strap that will help keep a 12-year-old's brain intact if he gets hit by an SUV.

In fact, in our town, a seventh-grade boy is recovering right now from being hit by an SUV while riding his bike. His injuries were severe, and he has a long recovery ahead of him, but the doctors say he would probably have been killed if he hadn't been wearing a helmet.

"Each year about 300 children are killed and more than 400,000 children go to hospital emergency rooms due to bicycle injuries," says Consumer Product Safety Commission chairperson Ann Brown. "Children between 5 and 14 have the highest injury rate of all bicycle riders, and bicycle accidents are the leading cause of death in this age group."

The greatest tragedy is that many of these injuries could be prevented if riders wore their helmets. "In fact, young bicyclists can reduce the risk of head injury or death by up to 85 percent if they wear a helmet," she says.

Talk with your kids today about wearing a helmet — and buckling it — whenever they're on wheels. The life you save may be your child's.

November 09, 2021

"Made in China" — Time for a Toy Boycott?

Like a whole bunch of steaming parents today, I'm angry.

Aqua Dots, a craft-bead kit for kids, has been yanked from U.S. stores because the coating on the beads, which causes the beads to stick to each other when water is added, contains a chemical that can turn toxic. Children who swallow the beads can become comatose, develop respiratory depression or have seizures. A number of kids have been hospitalized after playing with the beads.

Apparently the company in China that makes Aqua Dots decided to switch out the glue on the product, substituting a (less-expensive, of course) substance that can kill when ingested. Gotta love their concern for kids.

The parade of Chinese-made toys that have been recalled due to safety issues has become a huge, scary issue for parents of young kids. And with the holidays on the way, I have to agree with Meredith Vieira, who, on the Today Show yesterday, suggested that parents might want to just stop buying toys made in China. In fact, Vieira's off-hand suggestion, at the end of a news piece on the recall, seemed more helpful than that from a Bush-administration rep who said something to the effect of "We recommend buying toys from someone you trust."

How is a parent supposed to know which major toy manufacturers to trust when even Mattel, whom parents have trusted for years, has ended up on the wrong end of the stick, more than once lately, when it comes to inadvertently selling toys that contain dangerous amounts of lead?

I guess President Bush is telling us we're on our own on this one. So who can blame the woman who came into a Southern California store yesterday and told the clerk, "I just want to look at toys that aren't made in China."

Good idea. If our leaders can't protect us any more than they have been from toys containing lead and other toxic substances, I guess we'll just have to look out for our own families — and vote with our wallet this holiday season.


November 07, 2021

Superbugs: How to Protect Your Family From MRSA

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm a journalist who often writes about kids' health issues. But I rarely post an entire article as a blog post. I think this new one, however, is important enough to share in its entirety. MRSA is in the news constantly right now, and while experts say parents don't need to freak out, there are important things you can do — and that you can teach your children to do — to help avoid these superbugs.

Copyright 2007 Kathy Sena

Superbugs: How to Protect Your Family From MRSA

By Kathy Sena

If you’re like most parents, recent news reports about temporary school closings, and even deaths, from so-called “superbugs” have probably left you feeling a bit unnerved — and concerned about how to keep your child safe, whether at daycare, school or the football locker room. Here’s the info you need to protect your family.


Several decades ago, a new strain of staph bacteria showed up in hospitals. It was resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to zap it, according to the Mayo Clinic. Named methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), it was one of the first germs to defeat all but the most powerful drugs.

About 30 percent of the population carries regular staph bacteria on their skin or in their nose, according to Gregory Moran, M.D., a professor of medicine at UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles and a physician with the emergency-medicine and the infectious-diseases departments at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. About 1 percent of the population carries the MRSA bacteria, he says.

Continue reading "Superbugs: How to Protect Your Family From MRSA" »

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