Spring Allergies

As we welcome the warm weather of spring and watch flowers blossom in our backyards, we also understand that for some, spring is just the beginning of an uncomfortable allergy season. It can be anguish for children, who watch the weather change, and feel the daylight hours extend, only to be held back due to allergies. But there are some simple steps your family can take to help alleviate your child’s springtime allergy symptoms.

  1. Be proactive about body protection.

Prevention is the best way to avoid allergy-triggering stimuli like pollen and dust. Give your children sunglasses to prevent watery, itchy eyes, and avoid wearing clothing made of synthetic fibers, like polyester, nylon and spandex. When returning indoors for the day, take a shower to wash off anything that may trigger a reaction and to prevent pollen from lingering on clothes or in hair.

  1. Administer allergy medication in advance.

Antihistamines will be your go-to for managing allergy symptoms. Some antihistamines are short-acting, and some are on a time release, lasting up to 24 hours. They are safe for kids when administered correctly, so pay close attention to the drug facts on the back. Non-sedating antihistamines can be used during the day without causing drowsiness. Also note that:

  • It’s best to start allergy medication early before the allergy season starts. This will give the medication time to kick in, reducing your child’s discomfort.
  • Nasal sprays and eye drops also are good options. If the allergy symptoms still persist, ask your pediatrician about seeing an allergist to undergo allergy testing and discuss other options, such as prescription medication or allergy shots.
  1. Shut the windows and close the doors. 

It’s tempting to keep the doors and windows open in the springtime, but keeping doors and windows open will attract the outdoor triggers that can cause an allergic reaction. Close the doors once inside, and try to keep the windows shut to minimize indoor pollen.

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Teething

Soothing a teething toddler can be a major concern for parents. Their frustrated faces, loud cries and aching gums all want relief as soon as possible.

Infants typically begin teething when they are 3 to 6 months old, but the “first year molars” usually come when children are 1 to 1 ½ years old. Because these are larger teeth than the first few that come in, they can be a bit more painful. Typical symptoms include an increase in drooling (though kids at this age drool a lot regardless), fussiness, putting things in their mouth (though again, this happens a lot regardless) and trying to chew on things. Often you can see the tooth beginning to break through.

Home remedies for teething pain

Teething tends to seem worse at night or when children are tired, as that is a time when they will be most bothered by discomfort and harder to distract. The gums can be quite sore, especially during the period when the teeth are close to erupting. My personal preference is to try non-pharmacologic remedies first before moving to medication.

What I find most effective is letting toddlers chew on a washcloth soaked in ice cold water. The cold helps with pain relief, and the texture of the washcloth is soothing on the gums. Other cold things can be helpful too – such as drinking ice water or cold fruit, but be careful of small things that could be choking hazards.

Medications and teething toys

There are two main types of teething medication – topical and oral. The topical medicine most used is benzocaine (Orajel). My feeling about this medication is that it is effective but only for a very short period of time. Topical gels can also be dangerous to use because they come with serious risks, such as local reactions or seizures with overdose. Also, benzocaine-containing teething gels should not be used in infants or children under two years of age. For a toddler who is really uncomfortable a teething gel can be a good temporary fix until the immediate pain passes.

Oral medications such as acetaminophen or Ibuprofen are longer acting and can also provide pain relief.

Teething toys can be effective, but are not really necessary. I think the best teething toys are those that you can freeze. If you decide to use teething toys, it’s important to make sure that they really are designed for young children to chew on, without small parts or materials that could break off and become choking hazards.

The most important thing is to remember that the pain and discomfort are only temporary!

True or False?

It is that time of year again. It is cold and flu season and based on TV reports it’s a doozy.

In our home that means hand sanitizers for the kids’ backpacks and lunchboxes. I prefer the ones that hook on the outside so I know my kids see them. Hopefully, they actually use them.

We also make sure that everyone in the family gets their flu vaccine. Oh, and ask my kids about the hand washing lecture. (Insert image of them rolling their eyes and say, “We know. We know” here.) That’s how we arm ourselves in the Horn household. Cold and flu season means helping arm my patients and their families. Sometimes that means I spend a lot of time helping families sort fact from fiction. I’m sharing a little behind the scenes peek at what I tell parents about what is true and what is false.

Greenish mucus means your child has something worse than a cold.
FALSE. It’s just the body doing it’s work. Even though green mucus appears when a child is ill, it does not mean things are getting worse and does not determine the type of infection.

Colds and flu are most contagious before symptoms appear.
FALSE. It’s not that people are more contagious, they’re just spreading illness before they know that they’re sick. A person is just as contagious the day before symptoms appear as they are when the first symptoms arrive.

Colds cause ear infections. 
FALSE. You have something called a Eustachian tube that connects the sinuses with the nasal passages and the middle ear, and colds and congestions can cause that tube to fill and bacteria to grow. The reason kids get more ear infections is because that tube is longer when you’re younger and the angle makes it more likely to get an infection, but when you’re older, it changes so the fluid can drain better.

Not taking care of a cold leads to the flu.
FALSE. The bug that causes a cold is not the same as the bug that causes the flu. Flu is caused by the influenza virus; a cold is caused by a rhinovirus.

Don’t get a flu shot, it will give you the flu.
FALSE. Each year, the influenza vaccine protects against three different strands of influenza as determined by researchers based on the prior year’s outbreak. It is possible to become infected by a strand not covered by the vaccine, even if you get a shot.

Breathing the same air as a sick person, will make you sick.
FALSE. Illness is spread through droplets, not through breathing the same air. Those droplets need to be shared from someone through an act like sneezing or coughing, this is why it’s important to wash hands regularly and use proper hygiene.

Hand Washing!

Handwashing: Best Defense Against Illness

Colds, viruses, and flu abound during this time of year. Keeping hands clean may be one of the most important things you and your child can do for disease prevention.

Hand washing regularly is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of illness and infection.

To help head off avoidable illnesses, you and your children wash your hands:

  • After using the bathroom
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
  • After changing a child’s diaper or cleaning a child who has used the bathroom
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after touching someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After working and playing with your hands

In terms of how long, the longer the better when it comes to washing.

Cover your palms with soap and water, rub your hands together and scrub. It can take 15 to 30 seconds to scrub. To help a child remember to scrub for awhile encourage them to hum the Happy Birthday song or the ABC song twice.

The right way to is to make a lather and scrub, making sure children scrub the back of their hands, between fingers and under their nails.

Healthy Family Holiday

During the holiday season, it’s likely you and your family will be attending numerous holiday parties and possibly even hosting one. So how can you make the festivities a little healthier for your children?

While it’s important to make sure the holiday festivities are fun for the whole family, here are 10 tips to ensure children have a healthier experience at holiday festivities.

  1. Bring healthier snacks. If you’re going to someone else’s house, try a recipe that incorporates fruits and vegetables with a low-fat dip, make homemade pizzas on whole wheat, or bring a fruit salad with a yogurt dip.
  2. Incorporate healthier substitutes. Find ways to swap out ingredients in holiday recipes for healthier alternatives to lower the amounts of fat, added sugar, and calories children consume.
  3. Make healthy drinks easy to grab. Parents should make sure water is easy to grab for children. To make the healthier options a little more appealing to children, parents could make some fun ice cubes out of 100 percent fruit juice or offer seltzer water.
  4. Don’t bring ravenous children. Never take children to a holiday party on an empty stomach because it leads to less self-control and more overeating on empty calories. Parents should aim to keep children on a regular schedule with three meals a day and healthy snacks.
  5. Involve kids in the preparation. Parents can involve children in the holiday food preparation as early as their toddler years. It’s always a good idea to involve your kids in food preparation, but remember to make it appropriate for their skills and age levels.
  6. Be a healthy role-model. Show your children that you eat a variety of foods and monitor your own portion sizes at holiday celebrations. Families and parents are the number one role models for these behaviors.
  7. Shift the festivities’ focus. Make the holiday festivities more about enjoying family, traditions, and activities, rather than the food.
  8. Encourage kids to get moving.   Emphasize that exercise is even more important during the holiday season and recommended that children get an hour a day, every day. Try to balance out some of the increased treats with increased activity.
  9. Keep sleep schedules consistent. With all the holiday excitement, it can be difficult for children to unwind from the festivities and get a good night’s rest. It is recommend that parents stick to their child’s regular bedtime schedule as often as possible.
  10. Reinforce regular hand washing. To help keep children from spreading germs or contracting an illness at the holiday celebrations, all children should regularly wash their hands. Children should wash their hands for 30 seconds or have them sing happy birthday twice while washing and then dry with a clean towel.

The Flu Vaccine

Reasons to Get Vaccinated!

Every year, I give the flu vaccine to dozens of kids. Most parents are happy to have their child get the flu shot, but some have questions about side effects, safety of the vaccine and if it’s really effective. I reassure parents by telling them that there’s a unified voice amongst healthcare prviders: The best way to protect your child from getting sick from the flu is to get them vaccinated against the flu each year.

I also proudly show my patients the colorful Band-Aid on my arm the day I get my flu vaccine each year, and I share with them why my husband and young daughter also get the flu vaccine.

Here’s why the flu shot is essential for children – even for those who are generally healthy:

The Flu Makes Kids Very Sick

Flu season runs from October to May and the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children over the age of six months should be vaccinated. Why? The flu isn’t just a bad cold; it’s a deadly and highly contagious illness that causes the most harm to kids.

The flu can have your child in bed for a whole week or more with a fever, painful cough and body aches. Even worse, the flu can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, hospitalization and severe dehydration.

Every year, about 20,000 kids younger than five-years-old are hospitalized with complications from the flu.

The Flu Isn’t Just Very Dangerous, it’s Smart and Constantly Changing

Every flu season is different. Just because your son didn’t get the flu last year, doesn’t mean he can’t get it this year. That’s why at least six months prior to flu season, scientists determine the strains of the virus that are most likely to spread and develop a new flu vaccine.

The flu shot is about 60% effective – not 100% – so it’s possible that your child can catch a strain of the flu virus not covered in the latest vaccine. However, if your child is vaccinated and still catches the flu virus, his or her illness will likely be less severe than someone who hadn’t been vaccinated.

In fact, the flu vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying or ending up in the intensive care unit from the flu.

Healthy Kids Can Get Very Sick from the Flu and Spread it to Others

Your daughter may overcome the flu fine, but she will likely be surrounded by other kids and adults who are sick during fall and winter. This might lead to a newborn who is too young to get the vaccine or a child with a chronic disease such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease to fall ill, which could lead to long-term complications and hospitalization.

Bottom line: You can pass the flu virus on to someone else even if you don’t get sick.

You are Your Baby’s Best Protection

Babies, who are especially vulnerable to illness, have a lower risk of getting the flu if their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, the antibodies that you make in response to the flu vaccine are passed to your baby, and that protection can last for several months even after the baby is born.

Getting the flu vaccine is the best defense to protect yourself and your baby from harm.

Kids Aren’t Miniature Adults

Children under two years old are at high risk of getting the flu since their immune systems are still developing. Young children don’t have the same ability as adults to fight off severe infections so they need an extra boost of immunity to protect them against illness. Flu complications at such a young age can lead to dehydration and hospitalization.

Making sure that your child gets the flu vaccine is the best way to keep him or her from getting sick with the flu. And we adults should get the flu vaccine for our own health and to keep from spreading the flu to those around us. Let’s all do our part to protect our children

Skateboard Safety

Skateboarding has become an increasingly popular sport that many youth enjoy. With any sport there are serious injury risks that could happen. The No.1 rule of skateboarding is always wear your protective gear. A helmet, elbow and knee pads, wrist guards, and sturdy shoes help reduce injuries. Helmets especially help prevent concussions and damage to the face and head. Athletic gloves are also recommended to keep hands safe, if your child falls.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children under age 5 years old should never ride a skateboard. Children aged 6 to 10 years old need close supervision from an adult or trustworthy adolescent whenever they ride a skateboard. Parents should supervise their children at skate parks and choose parks that are away from busy streets and highways.

Helmet safety    

A properly fitted helmet should meet the standards of the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or Snell Memorial Foundation. Properly fitted helmets should:

  • Be worn flat on your head with the bottom edge parallel to the ground
  • Sit low on your forehead
  • Have side straps that form a “V” shape around each ear
  • Have a buckle that fastens tightly (there should be room to put only two fingers between the strap and your chin)
  • Have pads inside that you install or remove so the helmet fits snuggly
  • Not move in any direction when you shake your head
  • Not interfere with your movement, vision or hearing