The Importance of Regular Pediatric Doctor Visits

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

Pediatric-AppointmentsDoes it seem like you make a lot of trips to see your pediatrician? Regardless of the reason—the sniffles, a high fever, an infection or something else—it is a good idea to make regular visits to the doctor. These appointments, along with any “back-to-school” check-ups, are not only important to your child’s well being, but also can help physicians identify health risks and preventive measures.

Alison Galanopoulos, MD, NorthShore-affiliated Pediatrician, identifies some of the common health concerns that a pediatrician can often identify during regular visits:

  • Behavioral Issues. Some behavioral issues may be hard for a parent to pinpoint. Something as simple as snoring, for example, can sometimes signal serious problems, such as sleep apnea, bedwetting and even ADHD.
  • Growth and Development. Your pediatrician can monitor patterns to help determine your child’s growth and development. He or she should also be able to ask the right questions during appointments to help identify any problems.
  • Obesity. Preventive health is key. With the rise of childhood obesity, having regular appointments that can track your child’s weight and height are essential to help determine a potential weight problem. Your pediatrician can work with you to establish healthy eating habits and promote exercise from a young age.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies. Many children have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to future health problems. The best way to combat this is to have your child (depending on age) eat 2-3 servings of calcium a day.
  • Vaccinations. There are many required immunizations, and it can be overwhelming for a parent to keep track of what is needed. You can work with your pediatrician to confirm your child is up to date.

How frequently do you take your child/children to the pediatrician?

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Guide to Buying and Giving Age-Appropriate Toys

Thursday, December 06, 2012 5:37 PM comments (0)

Now is the time when our shopping lists for holiday giving may include items for children of varying ages. While walking through the aisles, you’ll see plenty of new toys along with many of the tried-and-true classics (like building blocks and dolls). With all the options out there, how do you know which toys are best suited for what ages?

The most colorful or cute toy on the shelf doesn’t always make it the best choice. It’s worthwhile to recognize that children of varying ages have achieved different development milestones.  Just as you wouldn’t give an infant a LEGO® set, you also wouldn’t buy a four year old a teething rattle.

Kenneth Fox, MD, a pediatrician at NorthShore, gives the following recommendations when shopping for age-appropriate toys:

  • Safety first. Choose sturdy toys with washable surfaces. Watch out for small parts, sharp points or edges. Make sure attached pieces (eyes, buttons, etc.) cannot be torn or bitten off to create choking hazards. Avoid toys made of or decorated with toxic substances or chemicals (paints, dyes, glazes or other embellishments). As much as possible, try to understand where toys or other gifts are made and avoid untrustworthy sources even if they appear to be bargains. Make certain batteries are not accessible to curious and nimble little hands and mouths. Battery- or electric-powered toys should be  labeled “UL approved.” For more detailed information on specific toys consult Consumer Protection Safety Commission website (www.CPSC.gov).
  • Read the packaging information. Most toys include a recommended age on the packaging. These labels, based on a typical child’s abilities and skills at a particular age, should serve as guidelines. But remember, every child is different and develops at his own pace. Ask yourself the basic question: “Is this toy right for this particular child, given his particular developmental stage?”
  • Resist buying toys that a child can “grow into”. Age guidelines on toys exist for a reason. As nice as it may be to stock up on new toys for the growing child, it’s often hard to keep these toys out of reach until they are age appropriate.
  • Choose usefulness over fad, “must-have” toys. Every year there are countless new toy trends and gimmicks. It often is best to stick to options that have been around long enough to be dependable and tested. The best, most fun toys often have an unstructured aspect. They invite and engage the child’s imagination and creativity.
  • Kids learn a lot both by receiving and by giving. Basic capacities for empathy emerge in childhood through experiences with gift exchange and through symbolic play. Kids learn to be generous givers and gracious receivers of gifts through practice, guided by caring adults. From choosing, wrapping and presenting gifts to others, a capacity for empathy is nurtured, supported and reinforced. Also, modeling how to show one’s appreciation is a great gift in itself. “Thank you” goes a long way, even in today’s world of rampant consumerism.
  • Set limits on gifts and keep things simple. How often have you noticed that young children are often more entertained by gift wrapping and packages—like big empty boxes—for creative play? Art supplies are often the most treasured, enduring and useful gifts.
  • As much as possible, try to connect a gift with an experience. For example, handmade or homemade gifts or cards in which the child participates creatively make for heartfelt and memorable experiences. A book about or memento of a particular activity, thing or place that a child can then have direct experience with in a hands-on way, makes for a wonderful, cherished gift.

Play is essential to a child’s physical, cognitive, social and moral development. Toys, books and experiences that enrich creative play make wonderful gifts for the season and support healthy child development all year long.

Can you remember a time when one of your children received a toy not well suited for his or her age? What did you do?

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Fertility and Acupuncture

Thursday, June 28, 2012 8:48 AM comments (0)

Fertility AcupunctureConception difficulties and infertility aren't as uncommon as one might think; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 10 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 in the United States have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.

There are many fertility treatment options available, including conventional biomedical treatments, such as fertility medications, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, and traditional methods, like Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. Many couples have found great results with a combination of treatments.

Ultimately, the right choice is the one that works. While there is no preferred method for everyone, in many cases, the age-old treatment of acupuncture has been shown to help enhance fertility and increase a woman’s chances of conceiving.

Nicole Hohmann, Acupuncturist with NorthShore's Integrative Medicine Program, shares some of the health benefits of fertility acupuncture treatments:

  • Regular periods. Menstrual cycles and ovulation often regulate with acupuncture treatment. Studies have shown that when menstrual cycles are predictably regular a woman has a much higher chance of conceiving.
  • Fertility Improvement. Acupunture has been shown to increase fertile cervical mucous, which can help predict ovulation and the best time periods for conception.
  • Better health. Overall signs of enhanced health may be experienced throughout acupuncture treatment, including reduced premenstrual symptoms, increased energy and an improvement in sleep patterns.
  • Herbs tailored to your cycle. Acupuncture might be combined with Chinese herbal medicines as well. Different herbal formulas may be given at different points in a woman's cycle to help support follicle development, ovulation and uterine lining, and implantation.
  • Benefits for men, too. Acupuncture also treats low sperm count and poor morphology in men.
  • Stress reduction. Fertility challenges can increase stress. Acupuncture can enhance one's sense of well-being and reduce stress, which are essential when trying to conceive.

Has acupuncture worked for you or someone you know? 

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Beyond the Baby Blues – Recognizing Postpartum Depression

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:26 AM comments (0)

Postpartum DepressionBaby has arrived – and sometimes with that arrival come feelings of anxiety, mood swings and depression. For many new moms, the baby blues (occasionally feeling down during the first few weeks after birth) are common and not a cause for concern. However, some women suffer from more prolonged, severe depressive symptoms.

It’s important to remember that having a baby in itself can be an emotional journey, and feeling down once the baby is born is not something that should cause embarrassment. In fact, one in eight women is affected by postpartum depression after birth and may require treatment.  For some women, these difficulties can begin during pregnancy.

If you’re a new or expectant mom struggling with depression or anxiety it’s important to know that you are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help, you can feel better.  Psychotherapy, medication, support groups, and diet and exercise modifications are some of the options that are effective in treating depression during pregnancy or postpartum.

Jo Kim, Ph.D., of the NorthShore Perinatal Depression Program, recommends new moms be aware of the following symptoms that may signal postpartum depression:

  • Loss of interest and enjoyment in social activities and interactions
  • Lack of energy
  • Extreme exhaustion and fatigue
  • Change in mood – extreme irritability, sadness, anxiety or guilt
  • Lack or loss of interest in your baby
  • Inability to concentrate and make decisions
  • Thoughts that you’re not good enough, you’re a bad mother or that the baby would be better off without you
  • Feeling hopeless, like things are never going to get better
  • Suicidal thoughts

What tips did you use for staying positive and healthy after your baby was born? What adjustments in your lifestyle were the hardest to make?

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NorthShore offers a free, 24-hour crisis hotline at 866.364.MOMS (6667). This confidential line is staffed by licensed mental health professionals.

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Spoon-Fed to Self-Serve: When to Transition Your Baby

Thursday, May 17, 2012 8:07 AM comments (0)

baby foodThe first year of your baby’s life will involve various dietary changes. For the first three to four months, your infant will only need breast milk or formula.

As your baby begins to hold his head up, is teething and shows interest in food (at around four to six months), you can start to introduce pureed foods and cereals (iron-fortified) into his diet.

This transition may be messy at first. Over time your baby will become more independent (and interested!) in feeding himself. When do you know it is a good time to hand the spoon over?
 
Sharon Robinson, MD, Pediatrician, at NorthShore provides some tips on how you can transition your child from being spoon-fed to beginning to eat on his own:

  • Encourage your baby to hold, touch and sample food on his own.
  • Let your baby help you put the spoon into his mouth during feedings. Once he is comfortable on his own, let him do it by himself.
  • Offer your baby finger foods. You can then gradually transition to a spoon.
  • Plan to eat your meal at the same time as your baby. This will reinforce correct behaviors and encourage independence.
  • Be patient and don’t rush your baby. At first more food may end up on the ground than in your baby’s mouth. Over time your baby will learn how to eat properly with making such a mess.

When did your kids start eating solid foods? How old were they when they began feeding themselves? What were some of their favorite foods?

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Safety First – Infant Car Seat Safety

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 9:18 AM comments (0)

Car Seat Safety

From the moment you take your newborn home from the hospital to every time you get in the car to run errands, it is essential to make sure that your infant is safe, well supported and secure in his car seat. Proper seating can help greatly reduce your child’s risk for permanent injury if you were to get into an accident.

However, just because you have proper seating for your infant, doesn’t ensure that it is being properly used or was installed correctly. It is important to practice installing your new car seat and/or seek professional assistance before your infant rides in the car for the first time.

Anne Middaugh, RN, MSN, CPS Technician, Community Health Specialist at NorthShore offers her insight on proper child safety seat installation:

  • Read both the instructions that come with the child restraint and the owner’s manual of your vehicle. The owner’s manual can be very informative as to the best place to use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. For example, usually the best place for an infant seat is in the center of the back seat. Many vehicle manufacturers do not put LATCH points in the center seat because it is narrower than the side seats. The owner’s manual will tell parents whether they may use the side LATCH points or if they have to use the vehicle seat belt for the center position.
  • Do not use both the LATCH and seat belts for securing the car seat. Believe it or not, it is more dangerous to use both than only one. Whenever we stop fast in our vehicles, there are three stops the body goes through:
  1. The car stops.
  2. Objects inside the car keep moving until something stops them. This would be a seat belt for adults, children in belt-positioning booster seats, and the child restraint itself. If LATCH is used, then it is the restraint harness holding the child in the seat.
  3. For infants and children, if you were to use both the seat belt and the LATCH, an additional stop is added to the series. Instead of allowing for the seat belt or LATCH to “stretch” to lessen the shock of a rapid stop, the seat belt stops the child seat, the LATCH stops the seat again and the harness stops the child. It is safer to allow the LATCH or the vehicle’s seat belt to do the job alone.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend that all children be rear-facing until they are two years old or until they reach the highest weight/height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. At the very least, children should remain rear-facing until they are at least one year old and 20 pounds. This means that once your infant outgrows the car seat carrier, the next seat should be a convertible seat that is placed rear-facing. The child should continue to ride rear-facing until he or she is at least two years old or reaches the height/weight limits imposed by the child car seat manufacturer for rear-facing passengers.

Where did you install your child’s car seat? What resources helped you determine the best place to put it?

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Childhood Autism – Know the Signs

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 8:36 AM comments (0)

AutismMore and more children are being diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders —a range of neurobiological disorders that are best managed when they are diagnosed early. It is estimated that one in 110 children is affected by autism and that boys are four times more likely than girls to have the condition.

Some signs of autism can be detected in very early childhood. It is important for parents and other caretakers to be aware of concerning signs and behavioral patterns so that children can be evaluated as soon as possible.

Sara Wiemer, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, identifies some of the signs of autistic spectrum disorders in children:

  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Lack of normal nonverbal skills like making eye contact with others, using facial expressions and gestures like pointing
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings and expressing their own feelings
  • Repeating words or phrases
  • Strict adherence to routines - getting very upset about minor changes
  • Having obsessive interests
  • Unusual body movements, such as flapping hands, rocking or spinning
  • Lack of make-believe play or imitating other people when playing
  • Inability to form relationships with peers

Have you noticed any of these signs of autism in your child? Don’t hesitate to bring your concerns to your child’s pediatrician.

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Snack Time – Giving your Kids a Healthy, Energy-packed snack

Thursday, April 12, 2012 8:32 AM comments (0)

Healthy Snacks

Walk down the snack food aisle at a grocery store and you’ll find the aisle packed full of chips, cookies, crackers and candies. With all the snack options available, it’s often too easy to overlook nutritional facts and the healthiest choice. Despite this, it’s important to know what foods will best restore energy without spoiling appetite and off-setting a diet.

Michael Rakotz, MD, gives some quick, healthy snack alternatives for kids (and adults too!)

  • Skinny Pop Popcorn. At 35 calories per cup, you can’t beat this delicious snack for kids.
  • Sliced vegetables. Use either a pureed vegetable (such as peas or carrots) for a dip. You can also use a yogurt dressing, as they often have half the fat and calories of other brands.
  • Hummus is packed with protein and makes for a great snack. Serve it with veggies instead of bread or crackers.
  • Mixed nuts are high in protein and require no preparation. When eaten in moderation, they contain the fat that is good for a balanced diet.
  • Sweet potatoes are very nutrition dense, making for a great alternative to white potatoes.

 What are some of your favorite snack choices? What is your go-to healthy snack?

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High-Risk Pregnancy: Healthy Baby, Healthy Mother

Wednesday, March 07, 2012 8:11 AM comments (0)

High-risk pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about many changes—both for the mother and baby.  While most women have normal, healthy pregnancies, everyone is at some risk for problems.

Issues during a pregnancy can range in severity—from poor nutrition, nausea or fatigue to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infectious diseases or premature birth. With the proper planning, education and physician involvement, many risks can be greatly reduced or avoided.

Scott MacGregor, D.O., gives his recommendations about what women can do both before and during their pregnancy to ensure a healthy self and baby:

  • Prior to pregnancy begin prenatal vitamins or folate to reduce the risk of birth defects.
  • Exercise and eat a balanced diet.
  • Consult with your physician or midwife before pregnancy if you have medical problems, such as diabetes or hypertension.
  • Consider genetic screening or testing if you are concerned about problems, such as Down syndrome.
  • Optimize maternal and fetal surveillance for medical problems, such as maternal heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
  • Optimize obstetric management and fetal surveillance for obstetric problems, such as multiple gestation and prior preterm delivery.
  • Consider fetal testing and surveillance during pregnancy to improve outcome.

What are some things you’ve done to prepare for a healthy pregnancy? What have you done during your pregnancy?

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Have high-risk pregnancy questions? Join Dr. MacGregor for a live medical chat on Friday, March 16 at 1:30 p.m. He’ll answer your questions about risk factors, treatments and signs of high-risk pregnancy. Save the date and submit your early questions today.

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Childproofing your Home – Keep your Kids Safe

Monday, February 13, 2012 2:16 PM comments (1)

Child Proof

Accidents involving children happen. The good news is that most of these accidents can be prevented by proper childproofing and preparation. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, accidents disable and kill more children than disease, drugs and kidnapping combined. It’s important to childproof your home early and to make adjustments as they get bigger and become more active and mobile.

Julie Holland, MD, pediatrician at NorthShore shares a few key tips for childproofing your home:

  • Cover all electric outlets. Be sure that cords for small appliances/electronics (radios, coffee makers, toasters and computers) are not within reach.
  • Secure all furniture and large electronics. Bookcases and shelves should be fastened and anchored to the wall, so they cannot be pulled or tipped over.
  • Be sure that televisions are properly installed to the wall and/or are properly positioned on a console. When selecting furniture to place your TV on, confirm that the weight limit is sufficient and appropriately sized for your TV. Make sure that your child cannot reach the TV or the electric cord, as either of these can cause the TV to topple over.
  • Place all small objects, trinkets and decorations out of reach. A good test for height is to go on your hands and knees. If you can reach it, so can your child.
  • Put soft covers on all furniture that has sharp edges. Cover any areas (especially fireplaces) with screens or pads.
  • Store all cleaning supplies, alcohol and other hazardous materials in a top cabinet. Be sure that all cabinets and drawers are properly secured and locked.
  • Confirm that all window blinds and curtains do not have cords hanging within reach, as these can be a choking hazard for young children. Do not place furniture too close to windows.

What have you done to childproof your home? What other child safety tips would you like to learn more about?

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For more household safety lists, visit:
•    KidsHealth
•    Safe Kids USA

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