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Category: Blog


Flu Season 2017-2018 Is Here

It’s that time of year again: time to get inoculated against the flu. Influenza infects a portion of the population each year, and getting vaccinated is the best way to not only protect your family, but to protect vulnerable members of our population. Even if you and your kids are blessed with stellar immune systems, making sure you don’t catch the flu means you don’t pass it on to infants, pregnant women, the elderly, the chronically ill, and others for whom influenza is a truly dire condition.

The exciting thing about influenza is it’s a little different every year. Mother Nature gives us new and improved viruses, complete with symptoms you’re sure to hate. So, we give you a new and improved vaccine researched and designed to immunize you from influenza’s charms.

Another important reason to get vaccinated: there’s no cure for viral influenza. If you get it, we can’t prescribe anything but rest and fluids. Most people recover after a few days to a couple weeks. Some develop complications such as pneumonia or ear infections.

It’s important to understand that when we recommend treatments, we feel based on our expert opinion that the benefits outweigh the risks. You might be wondering, is the flu vaccine safe?

  • Pregnant woman may safely receive the flu vaccine, and definitely should get it in order to protect the developing fetus.
  • Children six months and older can safely receive a form of the vaccine. Another form is available for children five years and older.
  • Everyone, but especially smaller children who require two doses of the vaccine, should get the first dose as soon as possible because it takes time for antibodies to develop.

Your pediatrician can answer your questions about this year’s flu vaccine. He or she will explain the likely side effects and alert you to any reactions you should watch out for. You will also receive an informational printout at your appointment.

Posted in Blog on September 28th, 2017

Front-Facing Car Seat Safety: Use Tethers

Safe Kids Worldwide recently launched a campaign to educate parents about the use of tethers on front-facing car seats.

Until your child turns two years old or exceeds the height and weight limits, he or she needs to ride in a rear-facing seat. Chances are, as expectant parents, you prepared for baby’s first ride home from the hospital by making sure you knew how to properly secure the rear-facing car seat. But as babies become toddlers, many parents find themselves less prepared to properly use a front-facing seat. 64% of parents do not use the tether on a front-facing car seat.

What is a Car Seat Tether?

There’s a strap with a hook dangling off the back of your child’s car seat. The hook needs to be secured to an anchor located in your vehicle. The location of the anchor varies depending on your vehicle’s make and model, but there will be a symbol showing a car seat and a ship’s anchor. Look on the back of the seat, on the ceiling, or on any surface behind the seat. Then, attach and tighten the strap.

Why Use a Tether?

The tether works kind of like an upper seatbelt strap for the chair itself, to prevent it from lurching forward. The tether strap tightly secures the front-facing car seat to the vehicle. When used properly, the tether prevents the car seat from tipping forward when your vehicle stops suddenly. This prevents your child from hitting their head.

You can check out the infographic, and if you want to be sure that your car seat is installed properly, find a car seat safety check near you.

Posted in Blog on September 20th, 2017

10 Tips for Healthy Participation in Fall Sports

We say it all the time: get some exercise! Go play outside! Fall sports give our kids a great opportunity to do just that, while developing social skills and learning values like teamwork, healthy competition, and discipline. In the spirit of raising healthy and balanced kids, preventing obesity and associated health issues, improving moods and behaviors, and having fun, we fully endorse fall sports.

Of course, participation carries some risk. Here are some safety tips:

  1. Make sure the coach and assistants know about any conditions your child has, such as asthma.
  2. There’s been wide coverage lately concerning concussions in tackle football. Many parents are opting for flag football as an alternative to avoid long-term health risks associated with tackle football.
  3. For any sport, football not least among them, make sure your child wears the proper protective equipment in the correct size.
  4. Before any athletic activity, kids need to warm up their muscles with appropriate exercises.
  5. After long periods of exercise, stretch and cool down.
  6. Be sure to take water breaks every 15-20 minutes.
  7. Watch for signs of exhaustion and pull kids to the sidelines if they need to rest.
  8. Set an example by practicing safety in your own health and fitness routine.
  9. If you aren’t comfortable with how the coach or instructor practices safety, voice your concerns. Advocate for your child and his or her teammates, even if it makes you the “uncool parent.” It’s okay to ask questions and make sure coaches prioritize safety.
  10. If you’re looking for leagues for your child to join, Raising Arizona Kids publishes a list of local sports programs. Dance studios around the valley attract girls, but they often offer discounts for boys. If you’re a foster parent (or a family member fostering a child in kinship care), you can receive grants for sports and other activities.

Posted in Blog on September 13th, 2017

Melinda Gates Discusses Kids and Technology

How do Bill and Melinda Gates handle technology with their kids? If you think they were plugged into Microsoft products from infancy, you would be incorrect. Like those of us who aren’t billionaire tech giants, Bill and Melinda apparently don’t know any better than the rest of us how to keep their kids healthy and safe in an increasingly connected world. Nevertheless, they’ve discovered some tools to help parents and families along the way. Melinda Gates took to the Washington Post to share resources with parents concerned about kids on social media.

Interestingly, she says that she would have waited a little longer to give her kids smartphones. While every parent needs to consider their own values in deciding what’s best for their children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to one hour per day for children 0 to 5 years old. Medical recommendations for screen time are spotty at best for a few reasons:

1. Technology emerges at a rapid pace, whereas carefully designed studies take time (especially studies concerning long-term effects).

2. Not all technology is the same. Watching Sesame Street benefits children who would not benefit from watching shows that aren’t carefully designed for their age group. The same principle applies to games and apps.

3. Not all children and families are the same. The AAP recommends coming up with a unique family media use plan. You can download resources on their website to help you consider the role media plays in your family, and how you can achieve the best balance.

If you are concerned about children and screen time, or teenagers on social media, check out the list of resources Melinda Gates provides in the article. Tell your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your child’s mental, emotional, and physical development.

Posted in Blog on September 5th, 2017

Start the School Year Healthy

How do you start the school year healthy?

Well-rested and Well-fed

It helps to start establishing routines before the first day of classes, such as adhering to a regular sleep schedule and eating a healthy breakfast daily. The fewer changes you have to make, the easier it will be to adjust.

Protected from Illnesses

Arizona requires immunizations for children attending day care, preschool, and grades K-12. You can download the Arizona immunization requirements in English or Spanish. If you have any questions or concerns about vaccines, please speak with your pediatrician. We know you want the best for your kids.

With a Positive Attitude

Some kids feel excited to go back to school, and others dread the return of the academic year. If your child doesn’t want to go back to school, ask them why. Perhaps they feel nervous about making friends, or perhaps they feel bored in class. Communicate to identify the problem and talk about how to make it better. Focus on things they’re looking forward to as well.

If your child’s anxiety persists beyond the first week or so and you can’t determine the cause, consider involving the school counselor or, for older children, discuss coping mechanisms and ask if they’d like to see a counselor. Mental health is part of whole health, and there is no shame in asking for support.

Prepared

In addition to the list of school supplies, make sure your child picks out an academic planner he or she likes. Have them get into the habit of writing down their homework, when permission slips are due, and other important dates. Make note of extracurriculars so that they can learn to manage their time when they have to balance homework with clubs and activities.

Do your kids seem hyper at night and groggy in the morning? If so, make getting ready for school part of your nighttime routine. It will help them wind down and reduce the tasks they need to focus on in the morning. Have them double check to make sure they did all their homework, pack their bag, and set it by the door with their shoes. Have them pick out clothing for the next day, and pick out what they want for breakfast, before going to bed.

Focused

Make homework a distraction-free activity, and screen-free if possible. If your child has homework on the computer, consider using an app like StayFocusd to temporarily block distracting websites. Never do homework for your child, but help them work through any challenges they might be having.

Balanced

Your child’s school years are about academics, social skills, and developing interests. All of these areas prepare them to lead a balanced adult life. Each child will have different strengths and challenges. Let them know you’re not demanding perfection, but encouraging them to do their best. Work on personal goal-setting and good work/study habits to prepare them for a successful, happy future.

Speaking of balance, don’t forget to weigh your child’s backpack and adjust the straps periodically. More about backpack safety

With Clear Expectations

Every household has different rules. When your child goes to school, they might come home and report that other kids are allowed to do or have things they are not allowed to have or do. Perhaps some of their third grade friends have smart phones, or some of their eleventh grade peers have a late curfew. Ultimately, you are responsible for deciding what’s best for your child, and we’re here to answer your questions. We can’t decide for you, but we can share our professional opinions based on resources like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Posted in Blog on August 31st, 2017

Back to School Breakfast Tips

During the morning rush, it can be easy to forget the most important meal of the day. However, breakfast is a really important part of your daily routine.

Eating Breakfast Improves Academic Performance

Research shows that eating breakfast every day improves test scores. It also improves behavior and mood, leading to fewer disciplinary problems and better focus. Eating breakfast helps trigger the body’s metabolism, which helps to prevent obesity. Children who eat breakfast daily have stronger immune systems, helping them ward off illness and miss fewer days of school.

Back to School Breakfast Tips

  • Choose foods containing fiber, protein, and whole grains. Don’t forget the calcium. You can prepare cereal or oatmeal with milk, or serve yogurt to the milk-averse.
  • Plan ahead by prepping what you can the night before.
  • Avoid sugary cereals and pastries. Fresh or dried fruit, yogurt, and nut butters can add sweetness to breakfast.
  • If your child isn’t hungry in the morning. take a short walk or get them moving to wake up their metabolism. You could also try having them drink water before eating.
  • As with any healthy habit, it’s important to set an example. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, too.
  • If you run out of time in the morning, streamline your routine to make time for breakfast. Lay out clothes the night before, and make sure your child’s backpack is packed and ready.

Assistance for Low-Income Families

If your family needs nutritional assistance, you are not alone. One in four Arizona children suffers from food insecurity. For help meeting your child’s nutritional needs, you can:

Posted in Blog on August 23rd, 2017

Backpack Safety 101

As kids go back to school, it’s time for a review of backpack safety. Heavy or improperly worn backpacks can cause pain and injury.

What Type of School Bag is Safest?

The best backpack distributes weight evenly, comes with wide, padded straps, and contains compartments. Messenger bags, tote bags, purses, and briefcases are less ideal because they do not distribute weight evenly. Bags with wheels may not be allowed at your child’s school, and they still need to be lifted when your child climbs stairs or boards the school bus. Look for a lightweight backpack with adjustable padded straps.

Backpack Dos and Don’ts

Do organize items in the backpack so that large, heavy textbooks are closest to the spine.

Do weigh your child’s backpack. It should not exceed 10-15% of your child’s body weight, depending on their strength and build.

Do check your child’s posture while carrying the backpack. If they are arching their back or slouching forward, it might be too heavy.

Do teach your child about organization and planning. They should not be bringing every book home with them every night. Have them write their homework assignments down in a lightweight planner and teach them to take home only what they need.

Don’t sling backpacks over the shoulder. This can cause muscle strain in the shoulders, neck, upper back, and lower back.

Don’t let the backpack sag, as this can strain muscles. Tighten straps so the middle of the back and the abdominal muscles are doing the work.

Do talk to your child’s teacher if you follow all these tips and still have concerns about backpack weight. They may be able to adjust homework assignments.

Proper backpack use prevents spinal compression. Do backpack checks periodically throughout the school year to make sure your child hasn’t accumulated unnecessary items.

Posted in Blog on August 16th, 2017

Laws to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

Parent and caretaker education is our greatest tool when it comes to preventing hot car deaths, especially in Arizona. Still, two preventable deaths have occurred so far this summer. Child welfare advocates have proposed laws written to help parents avert tragedy. Here are two:

HB 2494: Passed, in effect August 9th, 2017

This bill protects Good Samaritans from being sued for damaging a vehicle, if the damage is a result of rescuing a child or pet trapped in a hot car. The person must believe the child or pet to be in imminent danger, and must make sure the car doors are locked before they are legally authorized to break the windows. They must also call the authorities before causing property damage.

If you see a child in a hot car, call 911 so that medical responders can arrive as soon as possible. If you determine that you have to break a window to rescue the child, break the glass furthest away from the child to avoid injury. Then, by law and for safety’s sake, stay with the child until authorities arrive. If the child is alert, offer them water. If the child is not alert, dab their skin with cool water (not ice).

S.1666: HOT CARS Act of 2017, Introduced July 27

This proposed law would require car manufacturers to install back seat alarms in vehicles, which would alert drivers to the presence of passengers in the back seat. Like seat belt sensors, weight would activate the alarm and reduce the chance of drivers accidentally forgetting a child in the car. The law would also outline sanctions for caregivers who ignore the alarm.

The death of a child due to being left in a car devastates parents and families. While we wait for progress on S.1666, it’s a good idea to come up with your own system to remind yourself that your child is with you in the car. For example, you can place a teddy bear in the passenger’s seat, or loop a lanyard around your interior door handle. And never leave your child in a hot car, not even for a few minutes.

Do you have a system for remembering your little passengers? Share in the comments below.

Posted in Blog on August 10th, 2017

Food Safety Tips for Summer Grilling

Did you know foodborne illnesses increase during the summer? It’s the peak of grilling season in the U.S. You might be hitting backyard pool parties around Phoenix, or you might be visiting family out-of-state. Either way, outdoor meals require you to be even more mindful of food safety. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Raw Temperature

At the market, pick out meat, chicken and seafood items last so that they stay cool for as long as possible. Refrigerate the items until you are ready to cook them. If you are marinating items, let them marinate in the refrigerator.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

When checking out at the store, place proteins in separate plastic bags. Wash your hands, utensils and all prep/cook surfaces before and after using them. Discard any sauces or marinades that have touched raw meat. Use different cutting boards for different types of food, such as meat, fruits/veggies, and poultry.

Cooked Temperature

Check this guide to proper cook temperatures for different types of protein. Don’t leave cooked food out too long. You should store leftovers in the refrigerator no more than an hour after cooking when it’s over 90 degrees out.

Dairy, Fruit and Veggies

Wash fruits and vegetables before prepping or serving. Dairy-based salads, fruits, and vegetables should be kept cool in a refrigerator or well-insulated cooler. When serving, do not keep the food out for more than an hour.  Consider serving perishable foods indoors if you are able to keep the room significantly cooler than the outside.

Beverages

In addition to keeping drinks cool, bring a marker to mark cups and water bottles to help avoid “sharing” pathogens.

As always, don’t forget to hydrate and use sun protection! Check our guide to pool safety for backyard pool parties. Have fun!

Posted in Blog on July 25th, 2017

Free Sunscreen Dispensers Improve Public Health

According to the CDC, fewer than 15% of men and 30% of women wear sunscreen on their exposed skin. This is bad news for preventing skin cancer and painful burns. Children are more sensitive to the sun’s damaging rays, so it’s especially important to practice sun safety. Because children learn by example, and because your health also matters to your children, parents need to wear sunscreen, too.

Free Sunscreen Dispensers in East Coast Cities

Citylab reports that free sunscreen dispensers have been popping up from Boston to Miami. They’re funded by community organizations, nonprofits on an anti-cancer mission. As a public health initiative, these dispensers are comparable to hand sanitizers in public buildings or wipes available for shopping carts.

What do these East Coast cities have to do with Phoenix? Well, skin cancer rates have been increasing nationwide over the past decade, except for in the Northeast, where prevention efforts like these are credited with the reduced instances of cancer. It’s worth looking into public health initiatives in the Southwest.

Sunscreen Dispensers in Phoenix?

Although you should apply sunscreen before even going outdoors, it’s often an afterthought. Public availability serves as a reminder, and supplies sunscreen for those who forgot to put it on at home. So far, we haven’t seen free sunscreen dispensers in Phoenix. One of the challenges is the heat, since sunscreen will degrade at temperatures above 77 F.

If you encounter any dispensers in Phoenix, please let us know! If you travel down to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, you can find sunscreen dispensers in the restrooms.

For now, shop for sunscreens rated with an SPF of 30 or higher. Try products until you find one you’re most likely to put on every day. Make sure you store sunscreen properly and throw it away if it’s no longer effective.

Posted in Blog on July 20th, 2017