Matters of the Heart: Setting a Heart-Healthy Example for Your Children

Thursday, February 26, 2015 9:21 AM comments (0)

child on bikeParents, it starts with you. You are the first and most important influence on the current and future health of your children. The example you set could put your children on a course for a lifetime of healthy living, especially when it comes to heart health. The health risks posed by a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and obesity are immediate because heart health matters at any age, even in young children. 

David Najman, MD, Cardiology at NorthShore, shares some easy ways that parents can set a heart-healthy example for their children while also improving their own health:

Healthy diet. If you want your children to eat fruits and vegetables, you need to set the example by eating fruits and vegetables yourself.  Include your children in the decision making and help guide them by discussing the benefits of the delicious fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you will eat together as a family every night.  If children grow up eating healthy foods together with their parents, eating those same foods as young adults and adults won’t feel strange or difficult at all; those same foods will be what they ate growing up. 

Exercise. Show your children that exercise is important by maintaining a regular workout routine. And, as often as you can, get every member of the family involved in a fun, physical activity. Jog together as a family; ride bikes together as a family; go on a brisk evening walk together as a family. Children experience the same health benefits of exercise as adults—strong bones and muscles, maintenance of a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and a regular exercise routine reduces one’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and more. Get your kids moving now and they will likely maintain that active lifestyle later in life. Lead by example!

Smoke-Free. If you quit smoking, your kids are less likely to start. Smoking is more common in teenagers whose parents smoke. If you are still smoking, quit. Secondhand smoke is linked to lung cancer but it also increases the risk of multiple types of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and many other medical issues as well. 

Maintain a healthy weight. Today in the U.S., one child out of three is considered obese or overweight. Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, once common health issues encountered only in adulthood, have developed in children as young as seven.  Obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, increasing their risk of developing heart disease later in life. Don’t focus on weight with children; instead, shift to leading a healthy lifestyle as a family. Lifestyle changes like eating right as a family and exercising can make all the difference. 

What do you do to set a heart-healthy example for your children?

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Managing the Meltdown: How to Handle Tantrums in Children

Monday, December 29, 2014 12:02 PM comments (0)

tantrumsEvery parent has been there at one point or another—at the mercy of his or her child’s tantrum in the checkout line at the grocery store, in a crowded restaurant or at home.  In a matter of minutes, your child goes from quiet and well-behaved to completely inconsolable. 

The good news is that temper tantrums are entirely normal, especially in toddlers. For toddlers, tantrums are often brought on by a young child’s inability to understand and cope with his/her emotions, emotions related to hunger, tiredness or feeling overwhelmed and over-stimulated. 

While it’s not possible to prevent every single emotional meltdown, there are ways to manage them. Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, discusses some of the best techniques for approaching tantrums:

Don’t overschedule. Try not to overexert your child by packing too much into the daily schedule. This is not to say that every day needs to be the same, but when possible try not to push your child to the limits with errand running. A hungry or tired child is much more likely to act out. If you know you have a long day ahead, let your child know in advance so he or she will be better prepared for the change of pace.

Be consistent with your approach. Try your best to manage your child’s behavior during every tantrum. Encourage communication during a tantrum. Say, “Use your words” or ask clear questions to better understand what might be causing your child’s frustration. Lastly, do not give in. Letting your child have his or her way during a tantrum won’t help break the cycle, even if it ends the immediate tantrum. Ideally, you don’t want to give your child any attention—positive or negative—while he or she is having a tantrum. So, as long as you are not in public and your child is not going to hurt him or herself, the best approach is to completely ignore your child until the tantrum stops.

Distract. Distract. Distract. If you can, try to divert your child’s attention away from what may have prompted the tantrum in the first place. Be sure that you recognize that he or she maybe be upset by a situation, but then offer different options or new activities. For example, if your child has a tantrum over wanting a new toy or treat at the store, you can suggest that you find the “new” toy she got most recently when you go home. A similar approach can be tried with treats. If necessary, try to avoid going down aisles at stores that might prompt meltdowns.

Celebrate (and embrace) the good times. Let your children know when they are behaving well and encourage this type of behavior. Tell them how happy it makes you when they listen and follow the rules. Along with acknowledging good behavior (and even rewarding it), be sure your children know how much you love and care for them. Much of what triggers tantrums is children wanting to express their emotions and wanting attention.

Have questions about tantrums? Get answers from other parents and our team of experts in our new online community The Parent 'Hood. Find out more here: The Parent 'Hood

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Sick Days: What Are Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and Herpangina?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 12:56 PM comments (0)

hand foot and mouthHand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a typically mild but highly contagious viral infection most common in children under seven years of age. The illness is characterized by mouth or throat pain (due to sores), fever and a rash (typically involving the hands, feet, buttocks, arms and legs). The infection is caused by enteroviruses—most often coxsackie virus A16—which are transmitted from person-to-person by oral contact with stool, saliva, fluid from skin lesions or respiratory fluids via coughs or sneezes. Herpangina, also caused by enteroviruses, is a cluster of symptoms characterized by fever and mouth lesions (but no rash).  These illnesses are particularly common in child-care settings because of the frequency of contact and germ sharing between children and inadequate handwashing—especially after diaper changes or toilet use. The viruses can also be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, like toys.

Outbreaks occur most often in summer and fall but can happen anytime, especially if your child is in daycare. Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares symptoms parents should watch for and outlines ways you can make your child more comfortable while the virus runs its course: 

Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease:

  • Small, painful sores in the throat or mouth, including cheeks, tongue and gums 
  • These lesions cause pain and difficulty swallowing
  • Small blisters or red spots classically located on hands, soles of the feet and between fingers and toes 
  • Fever
  • Decreased energy and appetite
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Respiratory symptoms like congestion, cough and “pink eye” (conjunctivitis)

Symptoms of Herpangina:

  • Fever
  • Painful red sores in mouth/throat (as above)
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache

Fever and mouth/throat pain usually last three to five days. Other symptoms, like mouth sores and rash (with HFMD) can last up to seven to ten days. The virus is shed orally for one to three weeks and in stool for two to three months after infection. While there are no cures for HFMD or herpangina, there are things you can do to make your child more comfortable during those first few days, as well as reduce the risk for dehydration which can occur because of pain and difficulty swallowing. 

What can parents do?

Keep little ones hydrated. Try Pedialyte or Gatorade to keep their electrolytes up. Also popsicles, ice chips and other frozen treats can replenish fluids while also helping with pain. 

Reduce pain or fever. Use Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen but check age-appropriate dosages before administering. 

Make swallowing easier. Eliminate salty, spicy or acidic foods to avoid further irritating mouth sores. Consider providing a variety of soft foods, like yogurt, pudding and rice. And always rinse mouth after meals. 

While it is not always possible to prevent your child from contracting hand, foot and mouth disease, you can reduce his or her risk, and your own. Here are some ways to keep your kids healthy and prevent the spread of HFMD in your home:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for 15-30 seconds and dry with disposable towel after using the toilet, changing diapers; after touching another child, the floor or contaminated surfaces; before eating meals or snacks; after coming in from outdoor play; after sneezing, coughing or wiping nose or eyes 
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces and toys more than once a day
  • Avoid or prevent close contact like kissing, hugging, sharing utensils or cups 

If your child does get hand, foot and mouth disease, watch for these signs of complications:

  • Dehydration (dry mouth, pale skin and nails, no tears or urine, lethargy)
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Mental status changes (inconsolable crying, confusion, poor balance, difficulty walking)

Have questions about hand, foot and mouth disease or any other pediatric illness? NorthShore's new online community, The Parent 'Hood, has answers. Join today to connect with other parents in the community as well as our expert physicans.  Click here to start now

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Breaking the News: How Katie Clarke Told Her Children About Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:20 PM comments (0)

Katie Clarke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital, followed by four months of chemotherapy and a year-long course of Herceptin treatments at Evanston Hospital. 

Before her own diagnosis, and in memory of her best friend who lost her own life to the disease in 2006, Katie and her family would make a point of cheering on the participants of the three-day breast cancer walk in Chicago armed with motivational signs and licorice. This, and her own breast cancer journey, would later inspire Katie and her sister to found The Licorice Project, an organization devoted to spreading joy during a difficult time and bringing together breast cancer patients, survivors, families and friends. 

In part two of her NorthShore patient story, Katie shares one of the most difficult but important moments following her breast cancer diagnosis:

Katie ClarkeI’m often asked, “How and when did you tell your kids you had breast cancer?” My husband and I agreed that we wanted to be open and truthful about everything as soon as my diagnosis was confirmed. We turned to my breast surgeon, Dr. Winchester at NorthShore University HealthSystem, for advice on what to say to our three middle school-aged boys. We planned a family meeting and decided that I would do the talking.

I began the conversation by telling them that I’d found a lump in my chest, to which my youngest shouted, “You’re pregnant!?” When I said, “No,” he answered, “Phew!” I told them that the lump was in my breast and they wanted to know immediately if it was cancer. When I said that it was, they all began to cry. It broke my heart to see them so sad and frightened. Holding their hands, I assured them that the doctors were very encouraged and had given me a good prognosis since the lump was very small and I had caught it early. I explained to them that there would be many steps, tests and procedures. I explained that it would take time and patience but that when I finished the therapy, I would be okay. Of course, many questions followed:

“Are you going to die?”
“Will you lose your hair?”
“Will you get a wig?”
“Who knows about this already?”
“Can we tell people?”
“What should we say?”
“Does this mean we can get breast cancer?”
“Are people going to bring us dinners?”

My husband and I answered the questions as best as we could, which, of course, led to even more questions. Since school was about to end for summer vacation, we assured the boys that all their summer plans would stay intact. We wanted to keep their lives as “normal” as possible. The family meeting concluded with lots of hugs and kisses.

Telling our children that I had cancer was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; however, it was also one of my proudest moments because of the strength and composure that I maintained during such a difficult conversation. There’s no right or wrong way to explain a cancer diagnosis to children. Each family will deal with it in their own unique way and to the best of their ability.

 

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Proper Dosage: Medication and Children

Friday, March 15, 2013 10:48 AM comments (0)

Peds-DosageWhen children get sick, the simple solution isn’t always just a pill or spoonful away. Aside from the fact that many medications are not recommended for children, it's also much easier for a child to overdose on medication than an adult.

In most cases, the amount of medicine a child should receive is determined by age, weight and height. When it comes to children and medication, reading labels is very important.

Dirk Killelea, Manager of NorthShore Evanston Hospital Pharmacy, shares the following “must-know” tips for giving children medications:

  • Do not give your child a reduced dosage of a medication meant for adults. Most medicine labels provide a recommended dosage that is based on age. If your child’s age isn’t reflected on this label, then it is not appropriate to give to him or her. Even liquid medication for infants is more concentrated than liquid medication meant for older children. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist or physician.
  • Avoid giving your child over-the-counter cold medicine. Cold medicine should definitely be avoided in children under the age of two, and the same may also be true for older children. These medications can cause more harm than good, and home remedies--humidifier, steam baths and elevation--may prove more effective.
  • Steer clear of some medications. Unless otherwise instructed by a physician, avoid giving children Aspirin, over-the-counter laxatives, herbal or natural supplements and expired medications.
  • Use appropriate measuring devices. Don’t use a household teaspoon or tablespoon to measure doses of liquid medication.  Ask your pharmacy for an oral syringe or graduated measuring spoon. These devices measure the appropriate amount of medication and don’t vary in size like household silverware.

The best remedy for most kids is rest and hydration. If your child has a fever or cold, keep activities to a minimum and make sure they aren't too strenuous. Coloring, drawing or reading stories is a great way to spend time until he or she feels better. If your child is experiencing loose stools or diarrhea, make sure to provide plenty of water or electrolyte-containing drinks like Pedialyte to prevent dehydration.   

How do you manage your kids’ illnesses? What remedies work best for you?

 

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Don’t Sleep through the Signs: Recognizing Sleep Disorders in Children

Friday, March 08, 2013 11:00 AM comments (0)

pediatric-sleep-disordersA good night’s sleep can be the difference between night and day with children. Frequent lack of sleep can greatly impact a child’s physical, mental and social well-being. It's also hard on the entire family.

It's recommended that children between the ages of six and twelve get 10-11 hours of sleep each night. This allows them to be better rested for school, and to further their growth and development. The challenge with childhood sleep disorders is that they aren’t always easy to recognize. In fact, since the symptoms are so similar to other conditions (such as ADD and ADHD), sleep disorders often go misdiagnosed.

Mari Viola-Saltzman, DO, Sleep Medicine specialist, who sees both pediatric and adult patients, identifies some of the secondary effects childhood sleep disorders may have:

  • Lack of focus in school work. This may lead to poor performance, impaired learning/memory and an inability to concentrate on academic tasks.
  • Short temper and moodiness. Children may not “act like themselves” if they are not getting enough sleep. This can often be misidentified as a behavioral problem or depression.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness. Children with sleeping disorders often have a more difficult time sleeping through the night, which can lead to drowsiness during the day and also slower reaction times to daytime activities.
  • Appetite and metabolic changes. Studies have indicated that sleep disorders in children may cause obesity, likely due to sleep deprivation affecting the part of the brain called the hypothalamus that regulates hormonal changes, metabolism, hunger and energy expenditures.

How many hours of sleep do your children get each night? Do they have a nightly routine?

 

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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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Itchy Scalp – Could It Be Lice?

Monday, October 29, 2012 3:24 PM comments (0)

If you’ve had young children, you’ve probably received a note from their teachers or administrators saying that there has been an outbreak of lice at school. Head lice are a very common problem for preschool, kindergarten and elementary students. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 6-12 million infestations occur a year among children ages 3-11.

While typically not known for spreading disease, these parasites can be a nuisance to identify, treat and exterminate. Felissa Kreindler, MD, shares her insight on warning signs for detecting and treating head lice:

 

 

  • Avoid close head-to-head contact whenever possible. This can be done by not sharing hats, personal clothing and hair items, combs and brushes.
  • Stay clear of areas that have recently been infected. Don’t sit on couches and chairs that have been in close contact with someone who has recently had lice. Also be mindful of pillows, blankets, bedding , towels and other items that may have been exposed.
  • Know the symptoms of lice. These include: itching, sores on the head and feelings of something moving through the hair on the head. Combing through your or your child’s hair with a fine- toothed comb may help identify them.
  • Treat the person and the living area. It’s very important not just to treat the person with lice –this can be done with various over-the-counter treatments—but also the areas and items that this person has been in contact with, such as  clothing , bedding and towels listed above. Family members and others should also check for lice and follow similar treatment methods, if needed.

Have you or your kids ever had lice? What did you do to get rid of them?

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