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.

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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

Helping Your Child With School Problems

School is almost in full swing and some problems may be beginning to emerge regarding your child’s school performance. Most parents realize how important it is to address this subject but have few ideas how to.

It is important to provide children with all the support they need to succeed in school. All too often we see kids give up and label themselves as “stupid” when they are not successful. This experience can have long-term mental health and career implications.

Children’s brains all process, learn, and retain information in slightly different ways.  Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. As adults, our society benefits from all these different ways of thinking and learning because we need mechanics, doctors, artists, and many other types of people.

However, children are expected to learn in similar ways in school, which cannot accommodate every unique learning style. Differences in learning can sometimes be associated with school problems and should be attended to and addressed to prevent problems.

What are some signs your child might need help?

  • Consistently poor grades or grades below what might be expected
  • A change in performance (this often occurs in years when school expectations increase, like in 3rdgrade, 7th grade, and 9th grade)
  • Complaints from your child that school is hard
  • Difficulty completing homework
  • Anxiety about school
  • Complaints from the teachers about school performance
  • A child who says things like “I can’t do it,” “I hate school,” “I don’t care,” or “I’m stupid”

If your child meets any of the signs, it’s possible they could also have a learning disability. It’s important for children to be screened for learning disabilities so that teachers and families know how to help.  Here are some other tips for helping your child immediately:

What should I do, if my child is struggling in school?

  • The first step is to talk to your child’s teacher(s) to make sure there is nothing going on at school affecting performance that may be easily fixed
  • A tutor can be helpful if there is difficulty in a particular subject
  • A psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment may be warranted to determine where there are weaknesses or differences in order to make a plan to help
    • Public schools are obligated to perform these evaluations for free and then to accommodate any particular needs determined in these evaluations. Talk to your school counselor or psychologist for information on getting these done. There is often a long waiting list for these evaluations.
    • Many private practices in the area conduct these evaluations. Contact your insurance company to see if these evaluations are covered and which providers are covered.
    • Children’s National has two services that specialize in these evaluations. Call the Pediatric Neurology Program at 301-765-5443 or the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder And Learning Disabilities clinic at 571-405-5912

It is very important not to wait too long to address problems. Providing children with support and reassurance that they can succeed can go a long way in helping them feel successful and engaged with school and learning.

Back to School Health Tips

Many children are heading back to school this month. Transitioning from summer to a new school year can be tough to navigate. Here are some health tips for parents preparing for a new school year: 

  1. Practice getting back into routines. Easing your child into a regular sleep schedule is important. According to new guidelines released by the National Sleep Foundation earlier this year, school-aged children need between nine and 11 hours of sleep per night. With many schools starting around 8 am, parents should try to ease their children into an earlier bedtime once school begins. Not having enough sleep can impede the learning process and make it difficult for your child to fully focus on what’s being taught.
  2. Talk about the transition. Take time to sit down with your child and discuss both what they’re excited about, and what they’re nervous about. Do more listening than problem-solving so you can fully understand and acknowledge how they’re feeling. Have your child write or draw what they’re excited about to help them focus on the positive and visualize themselves enjoying their new classroom environment. It may also help to set up playdates with children in their new class so they can make friends and feel more comfortable.
  3. Make sure your child has had his or her annual physical and recommended vaccinations. In recent years, the recommended vaccination schedule has changed due to more disease outbreaks in the U.S. Make sure your child starts the school year healthy and protected from vaccine-preventable diseases with a visit to his or her primary care provider before school starts. Visit the CDC website to make sure your child is up to date on required vaccinations.
  4. Make sure your child’s nutrition needs are met. This includes eating breakfast every day and making sure your child has a well-balanced lunch. Eating right will help your child focus and learn better during the school day. It’s also important to pay attention to how your child reacts to different foods. If you notice something that may be a food allergy, take your child to a primary care provider to be tested. Limiting your child’s food options before officially being tested is not recommended, as you may unintentionally be cutting out an important food group. If your child does have an allergy, make sure their teacher and/or school nurse knows and that you are familiar with the school’s policy. Some food allergies are very serious, and it’s crucial to make sure your child’s teacher knows their restrictions so they can ensure you child stays safe at school.
  5. Talk to the teacher about any health concerns. Many school-aged children have health conditions such as asthma that need to be managed throughout the school day. Make sure you talk to your child’s teacher and to the school nurse so your child knows what to expect. For instance, if your child has asthma; you’ll want to make sure they’ll have access to their inhaler as needed. Many children with asthma need to use their inhaler before physical activities in gym class and/or recess. Know what the rules are so your child will be able to participate with their classmates. Aside from staying safe, it’s important to make sure children with health conditions don’t feel stigmatized from their classmates and can participate just like everyone else. You may also want to talk to the teacher to make sure the classroom environment promotes healthy lungs for all kids. Things like air fresheners, mold and smoke should be avoided.

Playground Safety

More than 200,000 children go to emergency departments across the U.S. each year due to injuries associated with playground equipment. The majority of these are caused by a child falling from the structure to the ground. Here are some tips on playground equipment to help keep your child safe at the playground.

  1. Every playground should have at least 12 inches deep of mulch, wood chips, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety–tested rubber. This can help lessen the impact when the child falls and help prevent injury.
  2. Check to ensure that the protective surfacing is at least 6 feet away from the structure in all directions. For swings, the surface should extend twice the height of the suspended bar in both directions.
  3. Any structures more than 30 inches high should be at least 9 feet apart from one another
  4. Protruding bolt heads and open “S” hooks can lead to dangerous injuries. Check to make sure that there are not any on the structure along with sharp edges.
  5. Any spaces such as guard rails that could trap children should be less that 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches apart.
  6. Try to stay away from tripping hazards such as exposed concrete footings or tree stumps.
  7. Any elevated surface should have guardrails on both sides to prevent falling.
  8. Check that the equipment is in good condition. If it is not maintained properly there is a higher risk of injury.
  9. Always supervise your children on the playground to make sure they’re safe.
  10. If the playground has a net, make sure the perimeter of the opening is less than 17 inches or more than 28 inches. Holes within these dimensions can cause strangulation if a child’s head is caught.