Thursday, February 27, 2014

Differentiating colic from acid reflux

If infants were born with an instruction manual, early parenting would be much less stressful. Unfortunately for new mothers and fathers, tending to a baby is often a system of trial and error. Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for the other. Similarly, a child may be born who is easily comforted and takes to sleep, while its sibling seems to cry all day long. Getting to the root of those crying fits can prove rather challenging.


When crying goes on and on with seemingly no cause, this could be indicative of something more significant than just a fussy baby. Infants use crying as a method for telling their caregivers that something is amiss. Cries can indicate dampness, pain, sleepiness, or other conditions. But crying with no apparent cause is defined as colic.

Colic is not a disease but rather a behavioral condition. Babies with colic cry for seemingly no reason and very often at the same time each day. Nothing seems to comfort them. In addition to crying, the child may thrash around or clench fists.

Some believe that colic has its roots in the digestive tract, where there is the presence of lots of air that may stem from slow intestinal motility. Others believe colic is linked to an overstimulated central nervous system. Still, colic is not a diagnosis, but rather a way to describe how a baby is behaving. The colicky behavior may be indicative of another underlying condition, such as acid reflux.

Acid reflux

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, acid reflux affects more than half of all babies under three months old and usually resolves itself between the child's first and second birthdays. Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, muscle remains open and enables stomach contents to flow back up through the esophagus and mouth. Infants have immature muscle development, and their LES may not open and close only when swallowing, enabling food to come back up. The reflux can occur when the baby cries, strains or eats too quickly.

Symptoms may include excessive amounts of spit-up, crying and pain while eating. An infant may drink breast milk or bottles quickly and gulp the liquid down because it is soothing, only to find that this exacerbates the problem. Infants with reflux may begin to cry when lying down. They may also arch their necks and backs during or after eating or spitting up. Some children have silent reflux, where the acid does not come out of the mouth, but rather the baby swallows it back down. Reflux babies may learn to associate food with pain and can develop aversions to feeding.

Whenever a child is exhibiting signs that go against the norm, parents can talk first to their child's pediatrician. Different feeding or sleeping strategies may alleviate some of the crying. Medication or surgery may be needed in extreme cases, and a parent may be instructed to visit a specialist in gastrointestinal conditions for an accurate diagnosis.

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New rules for LATCH system and bigger kids

For years, the LATCH system standard for vehicles has been the preferred method of safely securing infant and child safety seats into a car. But the LATCH system many parents have grown accustomed to is changing. A new law says it is safer to stop using LATCH with car seats that cater to older, heavier kids.

LATCH, which is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is a system of restraints built directly into the seats and frames of vehicles. The LATCH system was introduced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a new child restraint securement system in 1999 in response to the challenges posed with seatbelt installation of child safety seats. The system has been available in many vehicle models since 2000. With LATCH, the child safety seat attaches to two anchors imbedded in the seats of the car as well as another anchor point located on the rear shelf, seat back, cargo area, or ceiling of the vehicle when used with forward-facing seats. Many safety seats come equipped with LATCH straps that are compatible to the LATCH system in the vehicle.

While the LATCH system has helped maintain the safety of young passengers for more than 10 years, newer safety seats that accommodate larger children could be pushing the LATCH system boundaries. Lower anchors of the LATCH system take the majority of the force in a crash, and many are currently rated to restrain a seat and child with a combined weight of 65 pounds. There is not yet significant evidence to suggest the anchors will hold up in a crash with a heavier seat/child combo. When the LATCH system was developed, many child safety seats maxed out at a 30-pound passenger limit.

Various health and safety organizations have deemed it safer to keep children in harnessed safety seats longer before moving them to belted booster seats, which has propelled the industry to develop seats that can hold older, heavier children. However, whether the LATCH system can handle the larger seats is largely unknown.
As a result, drivers who have a child and a car seat that together weigh more than 65 pounds are urged to stop using the LATCH system to secure the safety seat into the car and rely on the vehicle's seat belts instead. The new law was put into effect in the United States in February 2014 and may be adopted elsewhere as time goes on.

Using the car's seat belts may require a refresher course in safety and how to route the belts properly. Refer to your vehicle owner's manual as well as the instruction guide provided with the child safety seat. Seat belts will need to be fully extended and "locked" before they can be routed through the safety seat. Drivers are advised to still use the top tether of the LATCH system to further secure the head of the safety seat.
Drivers unsure about regulations can consult with their pediatricians and have child safety seat installation checked at various police stations, fire stations and first aid buildings.

Parents and other caregivers need to stay abreast of changes in safety guidelines for their children, as recommendations for child safety seats are always evolving.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bicycle riding tips to give your toddlers more fun

The milestone of riding a bike is a big one for kids and their parents. With new equipment, toddlers can reach that two-wheeled milestone earlier than ever and enjoy many sidewalks and bike paths together.
According to experts, children 12-to-18 months are not bicycle-ready, as they lack pedaling skills and their neck muscle strength is insufficient to allow them to support the weight of a helmet and to endure riding on rougher terrain. Instead, children in this age group can build their strength and balance by using items such as rocking horses.

Trailers are a sound alternative for bringing the baby along. They are lightweight, sturdy and roomy enough for additional items. Parents are advised to make sure the trailer is equipped with a tall flag alerting traffic to its presence. If the trailer's bulky size is daunting, you can opt for a mounted seat instead.

Once a child reaches 18 months, mounted bike seats are sleek, easy to install, and give parents another way to ride a bike with a baby. However, when dismounting, keeping the bike upright can be difficult, experts say. Though front-mounted seats offer better balance, they can interfere with the rider's ability to pedal and steer, so it is recommended to test out both seats before choosing.

Once a toddler wants his own set of wheels, ride-ons and tricycles will help him or her get used to bike riding and will help improve coordination and learn balance. If your child exhibits signs of pedaling and steering abilities, it may be time to graduate to a two-wheeled bike -- and without the need for training wheels.
Nowadays, kids transition straight to balance bikes, two-wheeled bikes without pedals. This concept has parents very pleased by how quickly their little kids learn to ride a real bike. Erin Ruddy, the editor-in-chief of What's UP! magazine, put her three-year-old son on a balance bike and said she was amazed to see him riding with the rest of the family almost immediately.

"It is incredible," says Ruddy. "We now go on bike rides as a family. He picked it up right away."
One example is the PlasmaBike. Free from cables, chains and pedals, it has a sleek design and helps build bike riding confidence at an early stage. PlaSmart tells us no matter which model parents choose, they will be able to enjoy watching their child master the art of gliding, while gaining confidence every 'stride' of the way. 

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Teen Acne Affects Moms, Too

If you're a parent with an adolescent over 12 years of age, that is a teenager, who is facing acne, you know how challenging it can be to watch as your teenager deals with red, pus-filled pimples and blemishes that never seem to go away. While you do your best to answer questions and help your teen understand it may only be a temporary phase, you want to help manage the acne.

There are many myths about what actually causes acne, such as eating chocolate or fried foods or not cleansing properly, but the main cause is actually clogged pores. While it's certainly important to maintain good skin hygiene and eat a balanced diet, neither dirt nor diet bring on acne.1 Many factors are involved in its development, but one of the main causes is the over-production of sebum, an oil found in our skin. Sebum is produced by glands all over the body, but are mainly found on the face, upper back, and chest. Normally, this oil passes through our pores to the skin's surface. However, when dead skin cells, bacteria or excessive oil block the pore, acne can begin to form by causing oil to pool within the pore and allowing acne-causing bacteria to grow. This causes inflammation, making pimples red, sore, and occasionally full of pus.1

Unfortunately, sebum production is sensitive to hormones, going into overdrive in the teen years.1 Your teen may have tried one or more over-the-counter scrubs and topical acne products to treat moderate to severe red, pus-filled pimples. But, if he or she has not seen improvement, it may be time to see a dermatologist who can determine whether a prescription treatment might be right for your teen's condition.

One popular antibiotic treatment option is specifically approved by the FDA to treat only the red, pus-filled pimples and red bumps of moderate to severe acne in patients 12 years of age and older.2 It is dosed according to how much your teen weighs (between 99-300 lbs.). It is called SOLODYN(R) (minocycline HCl, USP) Extended Release Tablets and is the most prescribed branded medication in dermatology today.2 SOLODYN is an extended-release minocycline which slowly releases medication over time. Your teen takes it only once a day, with or without food.3

Remember all prescription acne treatments have side effects. The most common side effects in clinical studies of SOLODYN were headache, tiredness, dizziness, and itching.3 In rare cases, patients can develop an increased sensitivity to sunlight. Make an appointment with a dermatologist to find out if SOLODYN Tablets are the right treatment option for your teen.

Please see below for Important Safety Information and link to Full Prescribing Information for SOLODYN Tablets.

Indication and Usage

SOLODYN is an oral antibiotic approved to treat only the red, pus-filled pimples of moderate to severe acne in patients 12 years of age and older. SOLODYN won't improve infected acne cysts (nodules) under the skin. In clinical studies, SOLODYN did not work on blackheads or whiteheads. The safety of using SOLODYN longer than 12 weeks has not been studied and is not known. It is not known whether this kind of minocycline will be effective in treating infections. You should use SOLODYN only as directed by your doctor to reduce the chance that bacteria will become resistant to this antibacterial drug and similar drugs.

Important Safety Information for SOLODYN (minocycline HCl, USP) Extended Release Tablets

* The most common side effects were headache, tiredness, dizziness, and itching.

* SOLODYN contains minocycline. Like other antibiotics based on tetracycline, minocycline can harm an unborn child when taken by a pregnant woman.

* Tetracycline drugs should not be used when a child's teeth are forming (during the last half of pregnancy and up to 8 years of age) because they may cause permanent darkening of teeth.

* Severe irritation and bleeding in the colon (pseudomembranous colitis) have been reported with nearly all antibiotics and may range from mild to life-threatening. Talk to your doctor if you have severe diarrhea.

* Light-headedness, dizziness, and a spinning feeling have been reported by patients taking minocycline.

* In rare cases, patients can develop an increased sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity).

* Don't use SOLODYN if you are pregnant. Men and women who are trying to conceive a child should not take SOLODYN. SOLODYN may make an oral contraceptive less effective.

* This drug should not be used by anyone who has had allergic reactions to any of the tetracycline drugs.

* The safety of using SOLODYN for longer than 12 weeks has not been studied and is not known.

* SOLODYN may cause a serious rash and allergic reactions that may affect parts of your body. 

Discontinue SOLODYN immediately if symptoms occur.

Click for Full Prescribing Information for SOLODYN Tablets.

1. AcneNet: A comprehensive online acne information resource. Accessed March 23, 2012.

2. IMS Health. National Prescription Audit (NPA). Data through March 2012. Data on file.

3. SOLODYN Tablets Package Insert. Scottsdale, AZ: Medicis, The Dermatology Company; June 2011.
SOLODYN is a registered trademark of Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation.

SOL 11-015AR2 01/31/13

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Transitioning to a booster seat

The World Health Organization notes that nearly one million children die each year across the globe as a result of unintentional accidents. Car crashes are the leading cause of unintentional accidents, annually causing 260,000 fatalities and around 10 million injuries.

Though invented in 1921, child seats were rarely used in the ensuing decades. When child seats were used, their function was largely one of transportation and not safety. It wasn't until roughly 40 years later that child seats became more prevalent and their focus shifted toward protecting children. In 1962, Denver's Leonard Rivkin invented seats aimed at protecting a child. Tennessee became the first American state to require use by law.

Many safety seats on the market today are designed to keep children safe at different age and weight levels. However, for many parents this can be misleading, considering the purpose of some seats is to raise up a child to a height where the child is able to use the vehicle's safety belts in proper position, as is the case with belt-positioning booster seats.

A booster seat is designed to sit a child who is roughly four years old and weighs at least 40 pounds, though height isn't factored into the equation. Some children exceed the weight or height of a convertible or standard five-point-harness seat, but may not be mature enough or of the age to move into a booster seat. Parents are often left with questions of how to remedy this situation.

It is important to keep a toddler or preschooler in a forward-facing harnessed seat as long as possible. Today there are many safety seat manufacturers that have realized the health benefits that these seats provide, including their capacity to prevent injury. There are seats available that can accommodate children up to 80 or 100 pounds and may be an option before moving to a booster seat.

If a child is mature enough, meaning he or she doesn't try to escape the seat or wriggle around and slump, the child may be ready to move into a booster seat. A high-back booster seat is one that can be used if the car has low seat backs or no head rests. It helps to properly align the shoulder strap of a lap/shoulder strap combination, which may also prevent slouching. Booster seats may start at a minimum weight of 30 to 33 pounds. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends waiting until the child is 40 pounds and four years of age before transitioning to a booster seat. That is unless the child has simply outgrown the car seat, meaning the straps don't fit correctly, shoulders are higher than the harnesses, and feet dangle too far over the edge of the seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also says it is best for children to ride in a seat with a harness as long as possible, at least to four years of age. If your child outgrows his seat before reaching turning four, consider using a seat with a harness approved for higher weights and heights. They also say that all children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached four feet in height and are between eight and 12 years of age. In Canada, children under the age of eight who weigh 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lbs.), and who stand less than 145 cm (57 inches or 4 feet, 9 inches) must travel in a booster seat that meets the requirements of Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Understanding safety seats can be confusing to some parents. When in doubt, check with a hospital, pediatrician or even a police station for determining the right seat for use.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Window guards save kids' lives

The weather is warming and that means windows are being opened to let in fresh air and warm breezes. The advantages to open windows are many. But one particular disadvantage is the safety hazard open windows present to young children.

More than 5,000 American children are injured each year after falling out of windows, says the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. Two-thirds of these children are toddlers, and a quarter of all injured are hurt seriously enough to require hospital admittance. Montreal Children's Hospital says they treat roughly 10 children a year who have fallen from a window. Due to toddlers' high center of gravity (a head that is particularly heavy), most topple over and land head-first, which can have devastating effects.

Falls from windows can cause serious injuries and even death. However, the accidents are largely preventable. Many recall the tragic 1991 incident when musician Eric Clapton's son, Conor, fell to his death from an apartment 49 stories up in a Manhattan highrise. Conor, age 4, allegedly darted past a housekeeper who had left the window open after cleaning and fell out of the window. The song "Tears in Heaven" was subsequently written by Clapton for his son.

Children are often insatiable in their curiosity and desire to see what is happening in the world around them. Goings-on outdoors can be fascinating, and it is not farfetched to see children leaning up against windows and screens to get a better view of outdoors. A window screen can easily dislodge and provides no barrier from a fall.

Parents and guardians of young children should add window protection to the list of safety gear they use to childproof a home. There are many varieties of window guards that attach to windows and provide a measure of security against falls. Some of these safety devices are bars or grills that install into place but can be easily removed by an adult in the event the window needs to be used as an emergency evacuation point. Window gates can be used on larger, swing-out windows to form a barrier for children. There are also locks and latches that restrict how much a window can be opened.

Some areas of the country have made it law to have window guards on second story windows where children under age 10 are in residence, particularly highrise apartment buildings. Even falls from ground-floor windows can cause injuries. It's important to check with a landlord or with a municipal office about the requirements with regard to window guards.

In addition to the installation of window guards, there are other safety steps that help prevent window-related falls.

* Keep furniture away from windows. Children can climb on the furniture and have better access to windows.

* Keep beds away from windows, especially in a child's bedroom. Children may horse around on a bed and bounce through an open window if the bed and window are not far apart.

* Routinely inspect the hardware and construction of the window to ensure it is secure. Periodically check the fit of a window guard to make sure it is properly installed.

* Do not open windows wide in children's rooms. A few inches is all that's needed for fresh air.

* Make sure children know they are not allowed to play next to open windows or to try to climb up to windows.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Make your home safer for kids

According to the Home Safety Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home injuries, half of the children who die before their first birthday die from choking or suffocation. Many times such tragedies can be averted.

Parents of very young children can and should take it upon themselves to safeguard their youngsters from various choking and suffocation hazards around the house. The Home Safety Council offers the following tips to parents hoping to do just that.

* Keep smaller items out of reach. In general, anything that can fit through a tube of toilet paper is big enough to cause a child to choke. This includes hard candies, coins, peanuts, and even latex balloons. Always store these items in closed areas or in places that are beyond a child's reach.

* Make the crib a kids-only zone. Pillows, toys and comforters in a crib can cause a child to suffocate. Make the crib off-limits to these types of items, and always put children to bed on their backs.

* Clip window cords. Window cords, such as those that hang from blinds, can be very dangerous if they make their way into the hands of young children. Clip the loops in these window cords and make sure they are always high up the window where curious kids cannot reach them.

* Read all toy labels. Kids have so many toys that parents can easily overlook toys that might be safety hazards. Parents of especially young children might feel a little run down from raising their youngster and unknowingly let a few toys slip past their radar. However, it's imperative parents read all toy labels before handing the toys over to a child. Pay specific attention to the recommended ages for each toy, as those recommendations are often made with child safety in mind.

* Keep kids at an arm's length at all times when around water. Another potential threat to kids' safety around the house is water. Children can drown in as little as an inch of water, and it might only take a few minutes to do so. As a result, parents must be mindful and attentive whenever kids are around water. Bathtubs, toilets and, of course, pools present serious safety hazards to young kids. Whenever kids are around water, always stay within arm's length.

* Erect a fence around a pool or spa. Many communities have laws in place that require pools to be fenced in. But those laws often only mandate the yard where the pool is located be fenced in. While that might be sufficient, it can also help to erect a fence around the pool itself and keep a lock on the gate to prevent curious youngsters from making their way to the pool unsupervised.

* Turn buckets and wading pools upside down when not in use. Many parents purchase wading pools so their kids have a fun place to relax on hot days. When the kids aren't living it up, empty these pools and turn them upside down. Do the same with any buckets you have around the house. Whenever possible, store empty buckets outside the reach of children.

* Prevent burns. Adults know to be cautious around hot water, but kids often learn the hard way. To prevent burns, keep hot water at or below 120 F.

More information on making your home a safer place is available at

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Kids can make resolutions, too

New Year's resolutions are made so adults can improve their lives in the year to come. But nowhere does it say resolutions are exclusive to adults. In fact, kids can make New Year's resolutions and reap much the same benefits as Mom and Dad.

The following are some kid-specific New Year's resolutions, courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that can improve the lives of children while teaching them a lesson or two along the way.


* I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.

* I will brush my teeth twice a day and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.

* I will be nice and loving toward pets and all animals. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.

Kids, ages 5 to 12

* I will drink milk and water three times each day and limit soda and fruit drinks to once each day.

* I will apply sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I'm playing sports.

* I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity that I like and do it at least three times a week.

* I will always wear a helmet when riding my bicycle.

* I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car.

* I will be nice to other kids. I will be friendly to kids who need friends -- like someone who is shy or is new to my school.

* I will never give out personal information, including my name, home address, school name, or telephone number on the Internet.

* I will never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without my parent's permission.

Kids, ages 13 and older

* I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I will limit the amount of soda I drink, if any at all, to one glass daily.

* I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition.

* I will choose nonviolent television shows and video games, and I will spend no more than two hours each day on these activities.

* I will help out in my community by through volunteering, working with community groups or joining a group that helps the less fortunate.

* I will take a break when I feel angry or stressed out and find constructive ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or discussing my problem with a parent or friend.

* I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust when faced with a difficult decision.

* I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help friends if I notice they are struggling or engaging in risky behaviors.

* I will be careful about whom I choose to date and always treat the other person with respect and without coercion or violence. I will expect the same good behavior in return.

* I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol.

* I will not use a cell phone or text message while driving, and I will always wear a seat belt.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Get the facts on bronchiolitis

Parents have likely heard about bronchitis. But another respiratory infection, bronchiolitis, gets far less attention.

Bronchiolitis is an infection of the small tubes inside of the lungs (bronchioles) that is caused by a virus and generally affects young children during the autumn and winter months.

During normal breathing under healthy conditions, air enters the lungs through the trachea. It then travels down the branching bronchi and into the small bronchiole tubes inside of the lungs. Then the air passes from the bronchioles into the millions of air sacs in the lungs, and eventually into the bloodstream.

When a child suffers from bronchiolitis, most often the bronchioles fill with mucus and experience inflammation thanks to a virus called the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The mucus and swollen tubes can make it difficult for oxygen to reach the lungs and get to where it is needed. The child may wheeze or breathe harder or faster in order to compensate.

In adults, RSV infection isn't generally serious. But in children it can be dangerous, particularly if the virus does not clear up quickly and leads to an acute case of bronchiolitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that most otherwise healthy people recover from RSV in 1 to 2 weeks. Infants and young children may be prone to cases that don't go away and become bronchiolitis.

The best way to prevent bronchiolitis is to reduce the spread of cold viruses through the home with frequent hand-washing and cleaning of shared items around the house. Children that fall into the following categories may be more likely to get bronchiolitis, according to the National Institutes of Health. These risk factors include:

* Age 6 months or younger

* Born prematurely

* Exposed to cigarette smoke, even in the womb

* Bottle-fed

* Born with Down's Syndrome

* Close contact with other infected children

* Have a long-term lung disease

Symptoms of bronchiolitis include a cough that may be dry or produce phlegm. Wheezing may also occur because of inflammation of the airways. Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever, and nasal flaring in infants may be other signs.

Antibiotics do not treat viral infections, so it's unlikely the child will be given an antibiotic prescription for bronchiolitis. Usually supportive therapy, such as breathing in moist air, rest, drinking fluids, and avoiding any exposure to cigarette smoke, are recommended. Rarely antiviral medications may be used to treat very ill children. Some doctors may prescribe the use of a bronchodilator or steroid treatment to ease inflammation in the airways. These may be breathed in by use of a nebulizers or another inhaler delivery device.

Parents of children with breathing difficulties should consult with the pediatrician if symptoms of any respiratory illness take a while to clear up. The illness may have gone beyond just the common cold. 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

New SIDS research suggests link to serotonin

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) can be a devastating blow to new parents. Seemingly out of nowhere an infant can lose his or her life. Although SIDS research is ongoing, recent research suggests a link between SIDS and serotonin deficiency.

SIDS remains the leading cause of death for children age one month to one year. Although the rate of fatalities has decreased over the last two decades, no doubt because of increased awareness, there are still some babies who perish despite parents doing everything right in the infant's environment. This could leave people to believe there might be a biological factor at play as well.

Recently, a team led by a Children's Hospital Boston neuropathologist pinpointed a defect in the brain that could be responsible for some cases of SIDS. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in early 2010. The team studied the brainstems of 41 children who had died from SIDS; the brainstems of seven children who died of other causes; and the brainstems of four children who died after being treated for low oxygen levels, a condition thought to contribute to SIDS. The brainstem is the part of the brain that regulates blood flow, controls breathing, regulates body temperature, and controls sleeping and waking.

When the comparison was done, the research team found serotonin levels in 25 of the 41 SIDSinfants were 26 percent lower than the levels in the children who had died from other causes. There was also a 22 percent deficiency in another enzyme that stimulates serotonin production. Binding to serotonin receptors was 50 percent lower in the SIDS babies.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a substance that is designed to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another in the central nervous system. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, sleep disorders and various forms of addiction. Serotonin affects and controls mental and emotional processes, some motor functions, thermoregulation (temperature control), regulation of blood pressure, and some hormonal functions. Serotonin also plays an important role in the onset of sleep.

SIDS is a term medical professionals and scientists use to describe the unexplained death of a child under the age of one. In the past, SIDS was known as "crib death" because parents would put their child in a crib and return to find the child had passed away.

Although scientists are still trying to unlock potential biological factors in SIDS, doctors recommend controlling the environmental and physical factors that may contribute. These factors include:

* mothers avoiding drugs, alcohol and cigarettes while pregnant;

* keeping the house smoke-free after the baby is born;

* ensuring the infant is not overheated in his or her crib;

* placing the baby to sleep on his or her back;

* keeping the crib free of breathing obstructions, such as pillows, heavy bedding or stuffed animals;

* maintaining routine well visits with a pediatrician; and

* having the infant sleep close to mom or dad (but not in the same bed) so that breathing can be monitored.
Eventually, researchers hope to devise a way to recognize serotonin deficiencies in infants so that parents will be aware of the potential SIDSrisk in advance. Until that time occurs, caregivers can simply follow the current, long-standing advice on SIDS.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Fun alternatives to trick-or-treating

Jack-o-lanterns and costumed kids are among the many things people instantly associate with Halloween. So is the tradition of trick-or-treating, where kids go door-to-door asking for treats that may make dentists cringe.
While trick-or-treating is something most kids love, for parents the safety concerns can be overwhelming. Kids innocently knocking on strangers' doors and asking for candy is not necessarily the safest way a child can spend an autumn afternoon. But parents concerned about their children trick-or-treating can embrace several fun alternatives to trick-or-treating that still embody the spirit of Halloween.

* Host a haunted house. A haunted house for kids and their friends allows children to dress up in their favorite costumes and enjoy their favorite treats while being scared witless. Parents can join in the fun by dressing up in their own costumes. At the end of the night, award the child who had the best costume, and be sure to send each child home with a package of goodies.

* Make your own Halloween treats. Invite kids into the kitchen to create their own Halloween treats. Make sure chocolate is a key ingredient and invite kids' friends over for a tasting or even to join in the fun of cooking. Set the tone for the event a week or so before Halloween by hosting a jack-o-lantern carving that encourages kids to carve their own unique designs in their very own pumpkins.

* Go the retail route. Recognizing the safety concerns associated with traditional trick-or-treating, many of today's community centers and malls open their doors to costumed kids on Halloween, providing treats in much the same way kids would get them if they trick-or-treated the old-fashioned way. Once kids complete their jaunts through the mall, they're likely to head home with a bag filled with goodies and maybe even some coupons or gift certificates to their favorite stores.

* Camp out. Another safe and fun alternative to trick-or-treating is to host a campout under the full moon of Halloween. Kids can invite their friends over for some backyard camping, while Mom and Dad make s'mores and share spooky stories. Decorate the yard with fake tombstones and other Halloween-themed decorative items, and make sure each kids goes home the following day with his or her own bag of treats.
Though traditional trick-or-treating gets all the glory, there are several alternatives that are just as fun and much more safe.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Wilms' tumor a lesser known foe to children

The word "cancer" is used to refer to a group of more than 100 diseases. Because of that, it can be hard to keep track of all the different types of cancers, and some are inevitably bound to gain more attention or headlines than others.

One type of cancer that does not garner many headlines is Wilms' tumor, the most common form of kidney cancer in children. Roughly 500 new cases of Wilms' tumor are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, while the Canadian Cancer Society reports that, between 2003 and 2007, 220 new cases of Wilms' tumor were diagnosed in children and youth ages 0-19. (Editor's Note: Wilms' tumor is extremely rare in adults.)

Despite its status as the most common form of kidney cancer in children, Wilms' tumor has no known cause. The CCS notes that 90 percent of Wilms' tumor cases develop sporadically and have no identifiable risk factors. While researchers have yet to link a specific cause to Wilms' tumor, they have extensively studied the formation of the kidneys in a baby and feel that, when something goes wrong during that formation, Wilms' tumor can result. An example of something going wrong during kidney formation is cells not maturing during the process. These cells instead stay like fetal cells, which can cluster and still be there after the baby is born. While these fetal cells often mature by the time a child becomes a toddler, sometimes they never mature and begin to grow out of control, resulting in a Wilms' tumor.

The symptoms of Wilms' tumor can mimic other conditions, meaning the presence of any of the following symptoms does not necessarily mean a child has kidney cancer. Instead, should any of these symptoms appear, parents should take their child to a physician immediately.

* painless lump in the abdomen

* fever

* blood in the urine

* diarrhea

* swelling of the abdomen

* pain in the abdomen

* high blood pressure

* changes to digestion, including loss of appetite, upset stomach, nausea and vomiting

* the appearance of large or distended veins across the abdomen

Because the cause of Wilms' tumor remains a mystery, the risk factors are difficult to pinpoint. But many of the known risk factors are hereditary. A child may inherit an abnormal gene from a parent, increasing the child's risk of Wilms' tumor, but not necessarily guaranteeing the tumor will develop. In fact, the American Cancer Society notes that only a small number of children with Wilms' tumor have a relative with the same cancer. The ACS also notes that Wilms' tumor is slightly more common among girls and African Americans, though the reasons for that are unknown.

Wilms' tumor has also been linked to children with certain birth defects. Roughly 10 percent of children with Wilms' tumor have a birth defect, most of which occur in syndromes, or groups of symptoms or problems that are commonly linked to certain changes in genes. In certain syndromes, part or even all of a gene might be missing, and these missing or abnormal genes can cause Wilms' tumor. Among the birth defects linked to Wilms' tumor are:

* Aniridia: This is a rare condition in which the iris of the eye, which gives the eye its color and controls the amount of light entering the eye, does not form completely.

* Hemihypertrophy: An overgrowth syndrome, hemihypertrophy occurs when one side of the body grows larger than the other.

* Hypospadias: This occurs in males when the urinary opening is not at the tip of the penis but on the underside instead.

* Undescended testicles: A condition that occurs when one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum.

Treatment is successful for many children with Wilms' tumor, but the survival rate, as is the case with all cancers, varies depending on the stage of the tumor.

Wilm's tumor gets its name from Dr. Max Wilms, who wrote one of the first medical articles on the disease. More information on Wilms' tumor is available at and

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Digestion troubles often linked to autism

Digestion problems could play a role in a child's susceptibility to autism or the severity of the condition. A new experimental drug is being fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration and could prove helpful in the fight against autism.

Doctors and specialists have long suspected a link between a child's ability to digest certain foods and autism. A new drug trial is being conducted in 12 study sites across the U.S., including Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The study involves a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial involving a drug that affects ancreatic enzymes.

Participants in the study will mix the drug, called Luminez-AT(TM), into their food. It purportedly helps the body digest protein. It is believed that many children with autism cannot digest protein from foods. This would cause them to lack the necessary amino acids that are critical in producing neurotransmitters in the brain. Various symptoms of autism and behavioral issues may result.

The new phase of the study will look at children with autism between the ages of 3 to 8. The participant will take the actual medication or a placebo for 12 weeks. The medication is a tasteless drug sprinkled on food. The participants are required to come in for six clinical visits during the 12-week period.

In earlier studies of the drug that involved almost 500 children, few had side effects. Results of the new study will take about a year, but many people involved in the study already feel hopeful about the results for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

According to Curemark, an organization spearheading the research, "A variant of the MET gene involved in brain development and gut repair has been implicated in autism." This could be the reason behind the low level of the pancreatic enzyme to digest protein in those with ASD.

Penn State University Hershey Children's Hospital, one of the sites where the phase III study is being conducted, offers this summary of the drug Luminez-AT:

LUMINEZ-AT(TM) is a lipid-encapsulated pancreatic enzyme concentrate (PEC) designed to release chymotrypsin and other proteases in the small intestine without extreme degradation. Research conducted by Curemark has indicated that digestive enzyme therapy with LUMINENZ-AT(TM) may lead to increased neurological function and a concomitant reduction in autistic and gastrointestinal symptoms. This study will further quantify the changes in the target population as measured by standardized behavioral and quality of life tests, physiological measures, as well as characterize the efficacy and safety of the product. The data from this study will help determine safety and efficacy of LUMINENZ-AT(TM) in pediatric patients with autism.

The digestion connection with autism could help the thousands of children who have ASD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that currently one in 110 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Many children are not diagnosed with autism until they reach school age, and because autism diagnosis is largely based on a child's behavior, diagnosis is not an exact science.

Children with ASD have some similar symptoms:

* Problems developing nonverbal communication skills, such as eye-to-eye gazing, facial expressions, and body posture.

* Failure to establish friendships with children of the same age.

* Lack of interest sharing enjoyment.

* Lack of empathy.

* Delay or inability to learn to talk.

* A need for sameness or routine.

* Repetitive use of language.

If diagnosed early, symptoms of ASDmay be lessened through therapy. Others are hopeful that the new drug trial will provide another avenue for alleviating symptoms.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Simple saving tips for families

Though the economy is on the mend, many families forced to make sacrifices during the downturn will continue to look for ways to maintain more control of their finances in the event another period of economic struggle surfaces down the road. It's safe to assume no family wants to find itself in the position millions of families did during the downturn, dealing with unemployment, a nonexistent job market and the specter of foreclosure on the family home.

While there's no telling what the economic future holds, there are steps families can take to gain greater control of their finances and put themselves in a better position to handle whatever the economy throws at them down the road.

* Start saving receipts. Nowadays, more and more people use debit cards for daily purchases, including smaller purchases like cups of coffee. While this is more convenient, it also makes it easier to lose track of spending. Families should start saving receipts for all purchases, not just big-ticket items. At the end of the month, examine the receipts to see how much frivolous spending is going on. A close examination of receipts can help reign in spending on items that aren't generally large, but can add up over time.

* Make a grocery shopping list. Another tradition of yesteryear that has seemingly fallen by the wayside, the grocery list can help families save substantial amounts of money over time. Men and women who grocery shop without a list are more likely to spend more money than they had intended, buying extra food they don't need and making impulse buys as well. If you have a list of what you need when you go to the store, you'll not only save money but also you're likely to spend far less time at the store as a result.

* Re-examine your commute. Men and women might prefer driving themselves to work. Driving to work alone is more convenient, but it's almost never more cost-effective. Consider public transportation where it's available. Public transportation can remove the stress from traffic jams, as men and women can bury their noses in books or watch a movie on their iPads rather than stare at the vehicle in front of them. If no public transportation is available, propose a carpool to co-workers. Both of these alternatives can save individuals money on gas (the cost of which is once again on the rise) while adding years to their vehicle's life expectancy, helping commuters get more out of their vehicle dollars.

* Reconsider your cable provider. Whereas cable television was once a novelty, nowadays cable television or satellite service has become the norm in households across the country. Though it might be hard to imagine a household without cable or satellite television, Web programming and DVD subscription services have made it much easier for men and women to continue to follow their favorite shows without committing to a costly monthly cable or satellite service.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pros and cons to keeping multiples together in school

Parents of multiples have to make decisions regarding their children in duplicate or triplicate. Once multiples reach school-age, one of the questions parents must face is whether to keep their children together in the same class during the early elementary years or separate them into two different classrooms.

The classroom assignments of multiples is largely the decision of parents. But in some cases, educators may simply assign classes to students on a performance-based or random system. If parents of multiples have specific requests about whether their children are together or separate, these will need to be brought to the attention of school personnel.

There are advantages and disadvantages to keeping kids together or separating them in the classroom. Although there are no statistical benefits or detriments to the multiples classroom decision, common sense and personal sentiments can help parents come to a consensus on which way to go.


The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) and other experts advocate keeping multiples together, especially in early elementary years. Those who are not twins can relate to the desire of entering school with a close companion. Think about how much easier the first days of kindergarten might have been if you had a buddy that was guaranteed to be in the same class.

Many studies have been conducted on multiples, and there is some evidence that they have a unique bond and may even be able to communicate with one another on a level different from other types of siblings. This relationship can be comforting in the school setting. Also, if separating the children means it will cause undue stress, there's no point in separating them. Others say that it may be discriminatory. Forcing multiples to separate may give the children the sense that there is something wrong with being a multiple.

Having multiples together is also easier on the parents. Students are assigned the same work, the lessons are the same, and the children can help each other with homework and projects. This can make it easier for parents to manage the responsibilities of having children of the same age in school at the same time.

Whether they like it or not, twins and other multiples often garner a lot of special attention. Having one another there can take some of the pressure off of being the center of attention.


All of the things that make being together in the classroom advantageous can also be detriments, depending on an individual's point of view.

Young multiples spent all of their time together as youngsters. Forcing them to do so in school may hinder their abilities to develop as individuals or make friends outside of their immediate circle. Just as it is often advisable not to dress multiples exactly the same, the same concept applies to keeping kids together in the same classroom.

If keeping multiples together raises behavioral concerns, it may be best to separate kids at school. Sometimes multiples, as with any other siblings, tend to be partners in crime. Having two in cahoots in a classroom setting may put a teacher at a disadvantage. It can also distract the siblings and may hinder learning.

Multiples who are identical may look so similar that it is difficult for teachers and those outside of the family to tell them apart. This can cause undue stress on the multiples who are frequently mistaken for their brothers or sisters. Teachers may insist on the children wearing something to distinguish themselves from one another, which raises the discrimination issue again. Separating the twins makes this a nonissue.

Almost from birth, multiples are often compared to each other. Having the siblings in the same classroom opens them up to direct comparison. They'll be directly compared on every test and assignment. While this can promote healthy competition, it can also create feelings of animosity against each other, particularly in the multiple who is falling behind the other.

Having multiples is a unique experience. As the children grow and enter school, there are new challenges to face. These may be accomplished as a team unit by having the children in the same classroom or foster individuality by separating them.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

How to Add a Magical Touch To Your Child's Bedroom

From the tiniest of tots to tweens and teenagers, a child's bedroom is a reflection of their identity. Kids often have strong opinions about their likes and dislikes when it comes to their rooms, which can pose decorating challenges for parents: one year, the little one is all about Winnie the Pooh; next Buzz Lightyear may capture his imagination. It's hard for parents to keep up, let alone create an environment that reflects their children's taste -- and do so within a budget.

A solution can be found in a new collection of wallpapers, murals, borders and wall decals from Disney, the company that has brought beloved characters to life for generations. Best of all, this particular collection was created like building blocks that both capture the magic of the Disney Universe, and allow favorite characters to be added and subtracted according to a child's changing whims.

The foundation of the collection is wallpaper, since nothing creates an environment more quickly and affordably than covering all four walls. Designed to remain relevant as the child grows, the wallpaper patterns feature enduring classic stripes, scrolls and geometric shapes in a range of soft pastels and rich, saturated colors. Certain patterns, such as a whimsical Mickey Mouse silhouette, are subtle and sophisticated interpretations of iconic Disney motifs that also work well in other rooms of the house.

Disney characters make wonderfully grand appearances on murals, borders and peel-and-stick wall decals. Borders and wall decals can layer on top of the coordinating wallpapers or stand on their own. Murals (starting at $149) are 6' x 10' and make a delightful decorating statement as a feature wall design. Versatile wall decals (starting at $12.99) can be repositioned, removed and reused and are great for toy chests, cabinets and headboards as well as walls. Adorable and affordable, they won't break the bank when a new character strikes the child's fancy.

Visit to view the Disney collection, order samples or purchase Disney wallpapers, wall decals and murals. The site also offers photos of decorated rooms with instructions on how to get the look.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

What to look for in a student's tutor

Parents of children who are having difficulties grasping school lessons routinely turn to tutors to provide the added measure of instruction some students need to succeed. When selecting a tutor, parents should ask questions and keep important things in mind.

Tutors provide a much-needed service to students and can be welcome helpers for teachers. According to reports from state and federal government tutoring advisors, close to $10 million dollars annually is spent on tutors in the United States alone. Although many teachers try to tailor lessons to students with various learning capabilities, there may be instances when some students still fall behind. What's more, some students perform better with the one-on-one teaching style of tutors than they do in a group setting.

There are certain signs a student may need a tutor. These include students consistently earning failing grades, complaining about or giving excuses why they don't want to do homework, behaving badly at school, or complaining that they simply don't want to go to school. All of these issues may be a child's way of masking difficulty grasping lessons. A tutor can step in to catch a student up with lessons and help him or her find a system of learning that works.

The first step to finding a tutor is working with the student to determine what type of tutor may be ideal. Tutors come in different forms:

* Students who volunteer their time helping fellow classmates. There are also alumni who provide tutoring services for low or no cost.

* Teachers who may offer tutoring after school hours.

* Some churches or other organizations offer tutoring availability.

* There are online services where students can get homework help or assistance in different subjects.

* Private tutors that come to the student's home and provide instruction.

* Tutoring companies and franchises where tutoring may take place in a learning facility.

Selecting a tutor

* When interviewing prospective tutors, parents and students should be sure the tutor is qualified. Experts suggest finding a tutor who has five or more years of experience. If the tutor will be offering lessons in a particular subject, certification or a degree in that area is very helpful but not always necessary as long as the tutor is effective.

* Students often meet with a tutor one to three times a week per session. The tutoring arrangement can stretch on for several months. With this in mind, the tutor-student relationship should be a good one. The child should feel comfortable with the tutor.

* Tutors should know the material but also be able to explain it in layman's terms to the student. A good tutor will outline a plan on how he or she will help improve performance but also how the tutor will check up and be sure the student maintains improvement.

* Find a tutor who will be open to interaction with the student's primary teacher. This way lessons can be geared around schoolwork and coincide with what's already being learned.

* Parents will need to be hands-on and take an interest in what the tutor and the teacher have to say. Observing the tutor in action can help determine whether the fit is right or a new tutor needs to be brought in. Parents can wait for five to eight sessions to pass before determining if the tutor is clicking with the child.

* Select a tutor who agrees to periodic progress reports. It is not too ambitious for parents to expect marked academic performance after a month or more of tutoring.

* Cost is always a factor when selecting a tutor. A higher hourly rate isn't always indicative of a better tutor. Depending on the subject matter and certification of the tutors, costs can range from $20 an hour to $50 or more. Shop around for a tutor and remember to emphasize the tutor's relationship with the student more than what the tutor charges per hour.

Tutoring is often a helpful way for students who are falling behind in the classroom to redeem themselves. Hiring a tutor should be done at the first signs of learning difficulty, not when it seems things are too late to institute change.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to help kids find the right extracurricular activity

Today's kids are busier than ever before. Be it the increasingly competitive nature of scholastic life or the increase of two-income households where kids need something to do other than come directly home after school, children today are much busier than their school-aged counterparts of yesteryear.

While it can be fun and beneficial for kids to participate in extracurricular activities, finding the right fit isn't as easy as it sounds. When helping kids find an extracurricular activity, it's best to consider a host of factors. Especially keep in mind that not all kids are the same with respect to interests. And what was enjoyed by their parents won't necessarily be enjoyed by them.

Getting Started

The best place to start is to speak to kids about their interests. Just because Dad loved playing football doesn't mean Junior is destined to be a gridiron great. Kids have their own interests, and those interests can be cultivated with the right extracurricular activity. For example, a creative child might enjoy an after-school art class a couple of times per week. Parents should also consider extracurriculars that can help kids grow as people. For instance, a child who's shy in public but loves hamming it up at home might embrace an after-school theater program.

Once options have been discussed with kids, take in a session or two before committing to anything. The shy youngster might visit the local theater program and enjoy it thoroughly, or he or she might decide against it. Either way, a visit will give kids and parents a sense of what the program is like and whether or not it's the right fit. When visiting, observe the nature of the program. Is it an encouraging, vibrant environment? Do the adults and kids involved appear to be having fun?

Get the 411

Parents want their kids to be as safe after school as they are during it. When looking for an extracurricular activity, inquire about the staff-to-child ratio and about the staff's professional background. Any staff-to-child ratio that is greater than 12:1 likely indicates a program that is understaffed, which could mean kids won't get the attention they need. Also, ask for the staff's references and work history in the field of child care. If certification is necessary or recommended, make sure the staff meets all requirements.

Parents should also inquire about program costs. Though many programs are upfront about fees, some have hidden fees that can add up. Such fees can be for uniforms, equipment, class trips, etc. Extra fees don't have to exclude a program from consideration, but it's better to know about them in advance than have them come as a surprise.

Consider a Child's Grade Level

A child's age and grade level should also be considered when choosing an extracurricular activity. Consult teachers about finding an age-appropriate extracurricular activity. For example, less competitive activities that emphasize fun might be more appropriate for kids in kindergarten and the first grade. For second graders, activities not offered at school, like learning to play an instrument, can help cultivate a child's interest in a noncompetitive environment. As kids reach third grade and beyond, consider more rules-based activities, including team sports, as kids at that age are more capable of understanding rules and handling losing than younger kids. As children get older and move on to middle school, look for activities that reinforce learning and help develop a young person's character, including their ability to interact with others.

When looking for an extracurricular activity for kids, parents should consider a host of factors, including the child's interests and age.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kids' outdoor fun can be eco-friendly

The warm weather is tailor made for children who want to enjoy some fun in the sun. As the kids get ready for summer, parents can find activities that are fun and beneficial to the environment.

Consider the activities that fill warm days: Pool parties, water balloon tosses, bicycle riding, and afternoons spent on a swing set are just a few ideas that come to mind. Small changes can add up to big benefits for the planet.

* Bye, bye balloons:What's more fun that getting sprayed with cold water on a hot day? Instead of purchasing disposable latex balloons that will end up in the trash after the first pop, look for reusable absorbent balls that can be dipped into a bucket and then tossed to a partner. When he or she catches the ball, splashes of water will fly out.

* Pool vs. sprinkler: Sure it's fun running through an icy-cold sprinkler, but leaving a sprinkler running for a while is a waste of water. Plus, it can drown surrounding plants and other landscaping items. Instead, take a dip in the pool or fill up a child-sized pool and later use the water to give a drink to potted plants.

* Go safe with swing sets: Safety is often the name of the game when erecting a swing set in the yard. It's a good idea to surround the ground surface with a material that will cushion falls. There are mulches and rubber pellets for this purpose, but these may be treated with chemicals and not be good for the environment. See if a local lumberyard or building supply store can drop sand in the area. It's all-natural and can be a good shock absorber.

* Recycle toys: While on the subject of swing sets and play materials, check out consignment shops or tag sales for gently used play items rather than brand new toys. Or initiate a toy swap in the neighborhood where once a year neighbors swap toys with one another so the kids have something "new"to play with.

* Jump on a bike: Bicycles remain one of the greenest modes of transportation. Children clamoring for a new bike this season may be pleasantly surprised at how well a used bike or a hand-me-down may ride and look. Sometimes all it takes is a little elbow grease to tune up a tired bike.

* Enjoy nature: Instead of plastic toys and electronics, kids with creative imaginations can turn items outdoors into nice play props. Twigs can serve as dueling swords while rocks and leaves can be piled to make an impromptu fort or home base. Kids may enjoy themselves exploring parks and caves right in their own neighborhoods. Just be sure to stress the "carry in, carry out policy" whenever enjoying nature. That means not to leave trash behind and to disturb natural wildlife the least amount as possible.

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Remedy vision impairment in children

Childhood can be an exciting time filled with growth and change. For youngsters experiencing vision trouble, childhood can also be a challenging time. While there are many eyesight problems that can occur during childhood, some are more common than others.

It can be difficult for parents and caregivers to diagnose a child's vision difficulties before the child is able to communicate successfully. That's why vision ailments in younger people may go undiscovered until a child has reached toddler age or enters preschool.

Eyesight conditions can hinder children in the classroom. Many common vision problems are easily remedied if caught early on.

* Strabismus: Strabismus is a condition where a person cannot align both eyes properly. This may cause the eyes to cross. According to, as many as 5 percent of all children have some type or degree of strabismus. Strabismus is not a condition that children will simply outgrow; it requires treatment that can help mitigate symptoms. With strabismus, the misalignment of the eyes causes two pictures to be sent to the brain. This can cause double vision. Eventually, a child will adapt when the brain ignores one image and suppresses it, using only vision out of one eye.

* Amblyopia: This is the medical term for "lazy eye." When children have amblyopia, the brain has a defect that prevents it from processing the images from both eyes, as is the norm. Instead, it prefers images from one eye and essentially "turns off" the other eye. The lazy eye will then fail to offer clear vision. Treatment for lazy eye generally involves putting a patch over the strong eye to force the lazy eye to work. An optometrist may also prescribe eyeglasses.

* Color blindness: Color blindness is more accurately called color vision deficiency. It is very rare for a person to be completely blind to any type of color and see only in black and white. Rather, color blindness is often a condition of having difficulty discerning between different shades of colors. There may be deficiencies in different hues, especially red and green. Scientific data indicates that males are more inclined toward color blindness.

* Conjunctivitis: Children are exposed to all different types of germs in a typical school setting. Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva or the clear mucous membrane that covers the eyeball. Conjunctivitis can be contagious and noncontagious depending on the cause. Pink eye caused by an allergic reaction or from irritation by a foreign object in the eye is not contagious, but when it is the result of a virus or bacteria, it can be quite contagious. Medicated drops and other remedies to lessen the irritation of the eye are often prescribed.

* Myopia and Hyperopia: Nearsightedness and farsightedness are conditions where the eyeball is too long or too short for the normal focusing power of the eye. Images in the distance or even those nearby can appear blurred. Corrective lenses can help with the problem and sometimes fix it.

* Astigmatism: This results from an irregular shape in the front surface of the cornea. This condition can make it difficult to see vertical or horizontal lines clearly or can produce blurred vision.

Children who are experiencing vision problems can have their symptoms alleviated quite easily with a trip to an optometrist. Prescription eyeglasses are often the first step in having vision trouble corrected.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Explore Foster Care and Help a Child

Many people make the choice to become foster care parents and open their homes to children in need. Being a foster family can provide a host of benefits. Prospective foster parents should learn what is required before starting the process.

The Administration for Children and Families offers that there are approximately 115,000 children waiting for adoptive families in the United States foster care system. Although the system handles children from birth to age 21, the median age of foster children is 7.5.

Children enter foster care primarily after being removed from birth families due to neglect. Some return to birth families if they are once again deemed competent. Other children become available for adoption if the birth parents' rights are terminated due to the inability to parent safely.

Many times children in the foster care system have been in neglectful homes or raised in poor conditions. As a result, they may harbor psychological or emotional issues, including trouble trusting adults. Foster care parents will need to be patient and willing to understand a child's background and situation to make the relationship work.

The ethnicity or race of children awaiting adoption in foster care systems is mixed depending on the state. According to the most recent national report from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, the majority of children are Caucasian (38 percent), African American (30 percent) or Hispanic (22 percent).

Individuals who decide to become foster parents should realize that they may face difficulties, including emotional issues, stemming from the child's past. Parents should be willing to work closely with a foster agency on a regular basis. In the event that a birth family will be reconsidered to take back the child, the foster family may have contact with the biological family as well.

Although a person doesn't have to be married or have prior child-rearing experience, there are some criteria that may have to be met to be a foster parent. Keep in mind that regulations vary from state to state and could be very different outside of the country. A training, screening and licensing process is often required, in addition to these criteria.

* Individuals must be 21 years or older. Some states will not accept people who are older than 65.

* The foster parents must have the financial ability to provide for their own family.

* There must be room for a child in the home. Some programs require a separate room for the foster child or at least his or her own bed and storage space.

* The home must meet certain safety standards.

* Foster parents must be in good physical and mental health.

To start the foster care process, individuals can request an information packet from the Division of Social Services in their state. It will offer information explaining requirements and the steps to take. Those who are still interested can fill out an application.

If the application is accepted, a social worker will start a home study and background investigation. The process can take several months. At this point, a training course may be recommended.

If the certification and training goes well, a person will become a certified foster parent and an agency will try to find a child that is a good match and can enter the home. The child can stay for several months, some up to a year or more.

Becoming a foster parent can be a rewarding experience for both the parent and the child.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Afterschool Program

According to the United States Department of Education, millions of children are left home unsupervised every day after school. While it's hard to pinpoint an exact figure, estimates range anywhere from 7 to 15 million children are going home from school every day and finding an empty house.

Much of this is due to the spike in two-earner households. Despite an unemployment rate that still hovered around 9 percent in the opening month of 2011, many households are still bringing in two incomes, which leaves no one home to greet the kids after a day at school.

The growing number of latch-key children, those who arrive home to an empty house after school, has led to an increased popularity of after-school programs. Designed to give kids something to do after school, after-school programs can vary greatly and parents should carefully consider a program before choosing one for their children. When choosing an after-school program, parents can make note of several factors.

* Condition of the facility: A rundown facility that does not appear clean is not the ideal place for a child to spend time after school. A good facility will have adequate ventilation and light. What's more, children should be visible to the staff at all times. Avoid facilities in which children can easily sneak off.

* Staff interaction: How the staff interacts with children is of the utmost importance. A welcoming atmosphere should be among the program's goals, and the staff should embody that goal. Staff should be encouraging toward the children and know each child's name. Many after-school programs also have a philosophy with respect to behavior toward children within the program. Parents should discuss this philosophy before choosing a program.

It's also important for parents to inquire about the staff's credentials. What is their educational and employment background? Is anyone on the staff trained in handling emergency medical needs?

* Environment: The environment both inside and outside the facility should be closely examined. How much space is there for children indoors? Since much of the school year takes place during the colder winter months, the inside environment should have enough space for kids to relax comfortably as well as sufficient space where children can quietly do their homework.

As for the facility's external grounds, look for one that has ample and safe play equipment. Facilities with a wide expanse of property can ensure kids won't be confined to a single blacktop but given some room to roam and enjoy warm afternoons.

* Activity schedule: A good after-school program should have a host of activities available for the kids. Children often tire of doing the same thing every day, and not all activities are ideal for every child. A facility with an array of activities will ensure every child has something to look forward to. The activities should also be stimulating. Watching television, for example, would not make for a stimulating activity. In addition, activities should be suited to the child's age.

When choosing an after-school program for children, parents should exercise due diligence to find a facility that's both fun and stimulating for kids.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Celebrating More Than Moms on Mother's Day

Every spring individuals celebrate their mothers on Mother's Day. It has evolved from a day to honor mothers to one that recognizes all special women. Therefore, if there is a woman in one's life who isn't a biological mother -- but special nonetheless -- Mother's Day can be a time to tell her how much she is appreciated.

There are many reasons a person may want to honor a woman that is not his or her mother. Perhaps the person's own mother has passed away or is not prominent in this individual's life. Maybe there is a grandmother or aunt with whom one is especially close. There may be a teacher or mentor that has touched the life of a person in a special way.

Although Mother's Day is built around giving thanks to Mom, it's certainly acceptable to thank women in addition to dear old Mom. Furthermore, one needn't wait until a specific day in May to honor a notable woman. This can be done all year long with certain gestures and sentiments.

For those who are celebrating all women on Mother's Day, here are some ways to set the day apart.

* Create a handmade card with personalized sentiments that reflect the unique relationship with this special woman. This can mean more than a prepurchased card that may not offer the right words.

* Find out her interests and spend a day doing entirely what she wants to do. It doesn't necessarily have to take place on Mother's Day. A trip to a museum or a day at the park -- whatever it may be -- can be a nice outing.

* Treat her to a special dinner. Ask about favorite foods and create a meal at home. If dining out is a must, choose a day other than Mother's Day to avoid the crowds and have intimate moments with just the two of you, especially if you are also honoring your own mother on Mother's Day.

* Find something you both enjoy and then go and do that. Maybe you met up due to a hobby or interest. Remember the first day you met and reminisce by heading to that place for a celebration.

* Have an extended family fiesta. Host a Mother's Day party at home and single out all the special women in attendance. Serve cocktails and enjoy the time spent together. Mother's Day is a special time of the year to honor not only a person's mom but also any other notable woman in his or her life. The holiday can be customized any way a person sees fit.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Techniques to Help a Child Learn to Swim

Techniques to Help a Child Learn to Swim

Teaching a child to swim can enable him or her to enjoy a life filled with fun in and around the water. It is also one of the ways to prevent water-related injuries or death.

Water safety is nothing to take lightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that in 2007 there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging 10 deaths per day. An additional 496 people died from drowning and other causes in boating-related incidents. Also, more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children ages 14 and younger.

Although teaching a child to swim does not negate the necessity to carefully watch young children whenever they are around water, it does offer a measure of safety. A boy or girl who knows how to swim may be able to prevent an injury or get out of harm's way better than one who is floundering in the water. In fact, the CDCrecommends it as one method of preventing water-related injuries.

Teaching kids to swim requires some patience and general knowledge of swimming techniques. Parents or caregivers unsure about their teaching abilities can enroll their children in swimming courses offered in their towns and cities.

Adults choosing to teach swimming on their own can try these techniques.

1. Start with teaching the child to blow bubbles out of his mouth and nose. This teaches the youngster how to prevent water from being inhaled. With only his or her mouth and nose under the water, the child can blow out and create bubbles. Once this technique is mastered, he or she may be less frightened about water going up the nose.

2. Have the child hold onto the side of the pool or a floatation device if out on a lake or in the ocean. The child should extend his or her legs outward and practice floating and kicking. Begin by kicking any which way, eventually evolving to a control kick once he or she is more comfortable.

3. The next step is to practice a few strokes. A breast stroke may offer more propulsion and buoyancy than a simple doggy paddle. Have the child stand in the water and practice pushing water out of the way in the desired stroke. Then he or she can practice doing it while floating with an adult providing some added support under the belly. With time he can learn to float and stroke at the same time.

4. Once the separate elements are mastered, it's time to put them all together. He can choose to simply launch off of the pool bottom or kick off of the side. It's important to stress that the kicking motion is like the accelerator of the car; it will keep him moving and also keep him afloat. Swim strokes will simply steer him and provide propulsion assistance. Knowing that each motion has its own importance will help the child remember that all are needed to swim and stay afloat.

Once the child has become comfortable swimming above the water, he or she may eventually want to learn to swim below the water, which many people find to be less tiresome and allows one to cover more ground faster. Swimming underwater employs the same techniques as above, but the child will need to be comfortable holding his or her breath for a long period of time. This can be practiced standing in the water and dunking the face or body (with supervision nearby) underwater. Don't encourage kids to hold their nose because both hands will be needed to swim underwater. After the child has grown accustomed to holding his her breath stationary, he or she can try doing it underwater and swimming.

Swimming is an important skill to learn, one that's both practical and fun.

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