Thursday, November 20, 2014

Know the Facts and Fight the Flu

One in 6 people in the United States will catch the flu this season. While the timing of the flu is unpredictable, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds citizens that the seasonal flu can begin as early as October and tends to peak between December and February. Those at higher risk for flu complications include young children, pregnant women, elderly, and those suffering from medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or chronic lung disease.

According to the CDC, the most important step in protecting yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated as soon as flu vaccines become available. While children under 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated, it is strongly encouraged that the people who care for them should be vaccinated instead. Aside from being vaccinated, other ways to help reduce the spread of influenza include:
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that could host germs (especially children's toys and cell phones)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as germs quickly spread this way
Symptoms of the flu start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. Unlike the common cold, symptoms of the flu come on suddenly. They may include fevers, chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, muscle and body aches. Additionally,  irregular vomiting and diarrhea is more common in kids than adults. If you suspect that you, or the children in your life, have flu-like symptoms, contact a medical physician. By knowing the facts you can fight the flu!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Organic Versus Conventional: The New Age Debate

Organic food used to be a term heard only in health food stores. Today, organic fruits and vegetables are filling the bins at local farmer’s markets and large supermarket chains.  Now that consumers have the option of organic, or non-organic, while grocery shopping, which is better?
            Organic growing is designed to encourage soil and water conservation while reducing pollution and the use of pesticides. In the US, consumers can choose 100% organic food, meaning that the product must be completely organic. Look for the “100% organic” seal. Alternatively, packages marked organic without the 100% organic seal means that the product must be at least 95% organic.
 Buying organic is a great choice when it comes to healthier options but it can also break the budget. There are also times when, depending on the season, buying organic may not be a feasible option. Edible Philly, a local magazine, just released the 2014 “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” a great guide to help consumers differentiate between which foods are best to buy organic and on which you can save money.

Dirty Dozen: Apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, snap peas, spinach, strawberries, and sweet peppers are best to buy organic. When grown conventionally, these produce items tend to have high concentrations of pesticides. Best to buy organic!

Clean Fifteen: Asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet corn, sweet peas, and sweet potatoes tend to be easier to grow so there is less need for protective pesticides and insecticides. These produce items can be purchased as conventionally grown.

            Organic foods are the new wave of healthy eating. While the organic seal is great to ensure freshness and pesticide-free eating, remember that shopping locally is also a great idea. By shopping locally, the consumer has the opportunity to get to know their farmer’s crops, growing habits, and chemical use. Keep in mind that just because a local farmer is not certified organic, that doesn’t mean that they don’t grow organic!

Excerpt from: edible Philly

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kids’ Sodium Intake On The Rise

New government research shows that more than 90 percent of kids in the US, ages 6-18 years old, eat more sodium than recommended and it’s not coming from the salt shaker. This influx in sodium is coming from everyday foods such as pizza, bread, sandwiches, cold cuts, chicken nuggets and patties, Mexican dishes, pasta dishes, and soups. The concern is that this increase in sodium in young kids will lead to high blood pressure and heart disease in the future.
            According to CDC standards, kids should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Currently, numbers show that kids are digesting about 3,300 mg of sodium per day. Prior to asking for a salt packet or reaching for the salt shaker, sodium is already found in many foods. Based on government research, 65 percent of sodium comes from store foods, 13 percent comes from fast food, and 9 percent comes from the school cafeteria. Here are a few tips to reduce sodium intake:
  • Introduce fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • When cooking, substitute salt with garlic, onion powder, citrus juice, or other salt-free seasonings.
  • Prepare foods from their most natural state, dry or fresh.
  • When buying meals, look for those with less than 600mg of sodium per meal.
  • Ask for no salt to be added when eating out at restaurants or fast food establishments.
Similar to adults, kids consume majority of their sodium from processed foods and meals prepared outside of the home. While the occasional treat is understandable and well deserved, try to keep kids’ sodium intake under 2,300 mg per day. A healthy child foreshadows a healthy adult!

Excerpt from: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Protect Your Charge From A Poorly Packed Lunch

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], about one in six Americans suffers from food poisoning each year. On average, this can result in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 fatalities. Because many of these illnesses occur when food is poorly packaged and maintained, parents and caregivers are urged to pay close attention when preparing lunch for kids.
            If packing a lunch that contains perishable items [lunch meats, eggs, yogurts, refrigerated puddings, etc.], be sure to use freezer packs. This will allow the food to remain cool, disabling the spread of bacteria on food. Another alternative to freezer packs could be frozen juice boxes. By freezing the juice boxes the night before, they become solid enough to keep the food cool and they will have defrosted by lunchtime.
            Aside from using different “cooling” options, be sure that lunches are packed in insulated lunch boxes. This will help maintain the original temperature for a longer duration. While paper lunch bags are common, perishable food items could be dangerous to eat by lunchtime when packed in a non-insulated bag. If packing hot foods, use an insulated container to maintain the temperature. To achieve better results, allow boiling water to sit in the container for a few minutes prior to filling it with food. Don’t forget to remind kids to leave all lids on food until lunchtime to ensure that no outside germs or bacteria sneak into the containers.
            After enjoying a great lunch, remind kids to throw away all leftover food, including plastic bags and disposable containers. Do not reuse any packaging aside from tupperware that will be cleaned when kids arrive home. Bacteria or other foodborne illnesses could linger from the time kids eat lunch to the time their lunchbox gets unpacked. After ensuring that proper protocols are met for a safe lunch, remember to make sure the lunch is healthy for growing kids!

Idea from: HealthDay

Friday, August 22, 2014

Caring For Kids In A Gluten-Free Environment

Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for healthy living. The damage is caused by a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, possibly oats, and hidden in foods that you wouldn’t have even guessed. While the disease can begin at any age, it usually appears during early childhood. In the midst of kids being picky eaters, restricting their diet further can make meal planning more difficult. Below are a few tips to help care for a child with celiac disease.

      1.      Monitor junk food. There are now gluten-free Oreos, s’mores, cake mixes, and donuts. Just because these foods do not have wheat in them, that doesn’t mean they are healthy choices. They are compatible for a gluten free diet and give opportunity to have a treat.
      2.      Monitor iron intake. Kids on gluten-free diets are at elevated risk for iron deficiency because a great source of iron is usually found in wheat flour. Newly diagnosed people suffer from iron deficiency because of intestinal damage. Red meat, dark meat poultry, beans, baked potatoes, and shrimp are good iron-enriched foods to try.
      3.      Stock the pantry with gluten-free essentials. A quick lunch or easy dinner can always be prepared by keeping gluten-free pasta, soy sauces, and a bag of chickpea flour for breading chicken or fish in the cabinets.
      4.      Plan for playdates and birthday parties. Kids with celiac disease can’t enjoy a standard slice of pizza or piece of cake. Before outings, contact the host and ask what kinds of food will be served. If possible, volunteer to bring a dish so that there will be something gluten-free on the menu.
      5.      Make sure the school has a 504 plan. 504 plans are written agreements between families and the school to ensure that appropriate accommodations are made to suit the student’s nutritional needs. Sample plans are available online.

Excerpt from: US News

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Hot Car Is No Place For Kids

Think about the last time you had a hectic day. You were probably changing plans, adjusting schedules, and you may have forgotten a thing or two. Believe it or not, these are some of the distractions that have caused people to forget children in the back seat of the car. In some cases though, an adult left a child in the car purposefully while running into a store for a quick errand. Since the early 2000’s, more than 600 child heat related fatalities have occurred. Tragically, we have seen seemingly competent parents have a chaotic day and forget a child in the back of the car or miscalculate the time needed to “quickly” run into the store. Is this a risk when being pulled in so many directions?
            It only takes 10 minutes for a car to heat up 20 degrees. While some assume that cracking a window helps, partial ventilation does little to keep a car cool. With temperatures even in the 60s, the car can reach well above 110 degrees quicker than one thinks. Unfortunately, a child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s and once a child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, heat-related death may result. Heatstroke can happen when the temperature outside is as low as 57 degrees.
            The legal consequences for leaving a child in the car vary state by state. Each state has a law for the duration of time a child can be alone in a car depending on their age. In PA, “A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight.” If a child is harmed while left alone in a car, punishments include, but not limited to, a $500 fine, or imprisonment.
            Some helpful tips to help remember a child is in the back seat include, placing a stuff animal in the front seat, leaving your purse or cell phone in the back seat next to the child, or keep a musical toy playing in the back seat to maintain awareness. Even if you think your errand will be a quick transaction, it is never a good policy to leave kids of any age unattended in a car.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Drowning: A Summertime Danger

Drowning is a summertime liability, especially for kids. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second most common cause of death in children and ranks fifth overall for unintentional injuries in the US. Uninformed bystanders assume that someone who is drowning will draw attention to themselves; however, drowning can be eerily quiet. When children are in water, they tend to make noise. A quiet child, therefore, should be the focus of attention. Here are some signs of what drowning could look like
  •  A drowning person’s mouth bobs below the surface, with little time to come up for air 
  •   A drowning person won’t speak because breathing is the priority
  • When drowning, the arms are pushing down against water, making it hard to wave 
  •  Drowning struggles happen in 20-60 second intervals, before going back under

The second form of drowning that is rarely discussed is called dry drowning. People with asthma or breathing problems are more at risk. Dry drowning occurs after a problematic incident where water has been forced into the lungs. Severe cases can result in death within 1 to 24 hours. Here are some signs of what dry drowning could look like:

  • Continued coughing for many hours after the water incident
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  •   Chest pains
  • Extreme fatigue or tiredness
  • Paleness of face

Dry drowning can occur when someone has been knocked down by a wave or jumped into the water with their mouth open. If diagnosed early, the treatment involves supplying oxygen to the lungs and jump starting the breathing process.
Effective ways to avoid drowning accidents include teaching proper swim techniques such has holding the nose when jumping into a body of water, the importance of arm and leg coordination, and breathing styles. The most effective way to avoid a drowning accident is to never take your eyes off the kids, especially when they are in water. That also means, no texting while with children near, or in, water.

Excerpt from: