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?

A Sugar High – Knowing When Too Much is Too Much

Thursday, January 03, 2013 11:01 AM comments (0)

It’s hard to avoid the temptation of having something sweet—whether it’s an after- dinner treat, a mid-afternoon snack or something you indulge in to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. Like most things, in moderation, sugar shouldn’t lead to any long-term health concerns. However, when consumed in excess—both in its natural form and processed form—sugar can lead to some very serious health conditions.

Mary Bennett, RD, LDN, CDE, a diabetes educator at NorthShore, identifies some of the health concerns that excess sugar can lead to:

  • Obesity – Sugary foods are usually higher in calories and can leave you not feeling full. A diet high in sugar can lead to excess daily calories, and if not burned off through exercise can lead to increased weight.
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease – A diet high in sugar doesn’t necessarily lead to the onset of diabetes, but it can increase your odds. The same holds true for developing heart conditions, as a diet high in sugar can often increase cholesterol and fat levels (triglycerides) in the blood.
  • Added calories – Sugar adds calories and displaces nutritious foods. It is important to note that there is no difference between honey, maple syrup and molasses. Sugar is sugar.

The American Heart Association has set a limit for consumer consumption of sugar, which includes:

  • 9 teaspoons daily (150 calories) for men  
  • 6 teaspoons daily (100 calories) for women

How do you control your cravings for something sweet? What is your favorite alternative snack?

Start the Year Off Right – Set Reachable Goals

Thursday, December 27, 2012 9:03 AM comments (0)

Reachable-GoalsI am going to work out for an hour every day. I will lose 20 pounds in the next three months. I’ll be back down to my weight in high school by the end of the year. Do any of these goals sound like your own for the year?

If so, and you have a thoughtful plan on making it a reality – good for you! If you tend to say the same thing every year and don’t see the progress you’d like, this year try to set an attainable goal with key milestones to keep you on track and motivated.

Thomas Hudgins, MD, a physician at NorthShore and a triathlete, gives the following suggestions for setting health and weight goals you can stick to this year:

  • Choose activities and exercise routines that you enjoy. You will find that you’ll be much more likely to stick to a routine if it involves doing something that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy running, choosing a weight-loss routine that focuses heavily on running probably isn’t going to be something that you’ll stick to long-term. Remember, activities as simple as walking and going up the stairs can help get you on track.
  • Don’t stress out about the numbers. While it is good to check your progress on a scale from time to time, don’t let the numbers rule your success. Getting into shape may involve weight loss, but it also involves muscle strengthening and toning.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to change things up, if needed. It’s great to have a reachable goal in mind, but it’s just as important to be able (and willing) to make adjustments to your routine to help you get there.
  • Partner up. Working out with someone else can help keep you motivated. If you don’t have a family member or friend that can join you, consider participating in a class or group workout activity.
  • Set short-term goals. While keeping your long-term goals in sight, don’t forget to set short-term goals and reward yourself periodically for reaching those closer milestones.

What goals do you have this year? How do you plan to stick to them?

Bundle Up, Avoid Getting Frostbite

Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:21 PM comments (0)

Avoiding-FrostbiteBlustery winds, snow banks and icy paths don’t always make for pleasant trips outdoors to run errands, participate in winter sports or shovel. And, although there isn’t anything we can do to change the outdoor temperatures, we can be sure to dress appropriately when outside to avoid getting too cold or suffering from frostbite.

Ernest Wang, MD, Emergency Department physician at NorthShore, provides his insight on how to stay warm and safe this winter season:

  • Cover your head and ears by wearing a hat. You lose a lot of your body’s heat from your head, so wearing a hat will help keep you warm and comfortable.
  • Dress in layers. Wearing layers will allow you to change and remove clothes if necessary. On particularly cold days you may want to consider wearing long underwear. Don’t forget to put on gloves or mittens.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and when to seek medical attention. These signs include:
    o    Pain – stinging, burning, throbbing or aching
    o    Numbness
    o    Discoloration of the skin—often appears gray, white or yellow
    o    Blistering of the skin
  • Limit the amount of time you’ll be outside on very cold days. If you are starting to get very cold, go indoors and warm up. If your face, hands or feet start feeling numb it may be a sign that you’ve been outside too long.

What are some of your favorite outdoor winter activities? What do you do to stay warm?

Give the Gift of Life – Donate Blood

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:08 PM comments (0)

Every year at our four NorthShore hospitals we give patients more than 18,000 blood components. Keeping in mind that a single trauma patient in the emergency room may need more than 20 units of red blood (the equivalent of 20 donations), the need for donors is always present.Donating-Blood

Why not consider giving someone the gift of life this holiday season? Donating blood is a quick, safe and painless process that can help to make a big difference in someone’s life. Not to mention, one pint of blood can save up to three lives.

Not everyone is eligible to donate blood. In general, donors must be healthy, at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and not have a medical history of certain cancers, diseases or infections. A full list of guidelines for eligibility can be found on our website: http://www.northshore.org/community-events/donating-blood/donor-eligibility/.

Jim Perkins, MD, Director of NorthShore’s blood banks, offers the following advice on donating blood:

  • Be sure to eat something in advance of donating blood and to be well hydrated.
  • Know what medications you are currently taking. There are a few medications that will prohibit you from donating blood and it’s important to have this information ready in advance.
  • Try to be well rested before donating blood.
  • Relax. Think about how your donation will impact the life of someone in need.
  • Confirm your eligibility to donate before your appointment. If you’ve recently traveled outside of the country, you may not be able to give blood. It’s always a good idea to double check before making the trip in to donate.
  • Be a repeat donor. The shelf life of red blood cells is six weeks and platelets last only five days. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for the Chicago area to have a shortage. You can donate blood every eight weeks and platelets every two weeks.
  • Platelet donation has a special impact on cancer patients. Donating platelets on a blood cell separator allows a patient who would normally be exposed to six donors to get all their platelets from only one, you. For more information about platelets and donor criteria, visit our website: http://www.northshore.org/community-events/donating-blood/platelets/.

Did you know?
You don’t have to travel far to donate blood. In fact, you can conveniently donate blood and platelets at Evanston Hospital. For more information about donating blood at NorthShore, visit our website.

Do you know your blood type? Have you ever donated blood?

Eating for Exercise – Fueling and Replenishing Your Body

Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:50 AM comments (0)

Author: April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist

Workout-SnackEating before you exercise is like fueling up your gas tank to get you from Point A to Point B. It allows you to get through your workout from start to finish with enough energy. A pre-exercise meal serves a variety of purposes, including:

  1. Helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of lightheadedness , needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness.
  2. Helps settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices and ward off hunger. 
  3. Fuels your muscles and feeds your brain. Any carbohydrates you eat far enough in advance of working out will help to release stored glycogen and carbohydrate into your blood stream to keep you going.
  4. Gives you peace of mind in knowing that your body is well fueled.

What to Eat Before Working Out
What you should eat prior to working out will vary from person to person. It will be trial and error to determine what works for you and your routine. As a rule of thumb, you should look for foods that are easily digestible, and often high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as: toast, bananas, dried cereal, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and/or small servings of peanut butter, jam or honey.

What to Avoid Eating Before Working Out
There are many foods that should be avoided before you exercise. You will want to limit high-fat sources of protein, such as greasy foods like fries and cheeseburgers. Instead, choose smaller portions of turkey, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat milk. Be careful with sugary foods and beverages as they can give you a sugar high prior to exercise and may leave you without the necessary energy to finish your routine. Stay away from anything that is high in fiber, as this type of food could cause gastric upset during your activity.

What to Eat After Working Out
Eating after you exercise can help you recover faster from your workouts. Chocolate milk or yogurt is a perfect post-workout option because each contains carbohydrates and protein. The protein will help build and repair muscle, and the carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen stores that were used in your workouts.  Some other options to help refuel your tank could include: fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk and a handful of pretzels, juice with string cheese and some crackers, or bowl of your favorite cereal and a banana.

What are some of your favorite snacks for before and after workouts?

Enjoying the Holiday Season: Managing and Reducing Stress

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:16 AM comments (0)

Holiday-stressThe holiday season is often an exciting and much anticipated time of year. This season—for all its fun and festivities—often comes with long lines, burdensome traffic, inclement weather and various pressures leaving you to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

For many of us the holidays are nerve-wracking.  Some attribute the stress to having to spend time with family, travel and excessive spending.  But, in reality, the holidays are difficult because our self-talk, that never-ending commentary going on in our heads that manages to rob us of joy and happiness.  Below are three habits you can practice before, during and after family gatherings that will help with the process.  Remember, it's not that people and situations make us feel badly, it's our self-talk about people and situations that cause our negative emotions.

Robert Farra, PhD, Psychologist at NorthShore, provides the following strategies to help make the holidays truly merry:

  1. Practice non-judging.  Evaluation often makes our experiences less than enjoyable. Judging is labeling or evaluating something as good or bad, as valuable or not, as worthwhile or worthless. Judging sees the world as black or white, good or bad.  Harshly judging self and others is for many of us an extremely bad habit. Henry James wrote, “Three things in life are important: The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and third is to be kind.”  We don’t know the circumstances behind the person or thing we are judging including ourselves. Give your family, your friends and yourself a break.  Practice non-judging.

  2. Practice patience.  Becoming impatient with self and others is a destructive habit.  If you need to learn how to practice patience in preparation for the holidays, I recommend you go to any large grocery store between the hours of 5 to 7 p.m.  Buy a few items and consciously choose to wait in the longest line.  Be present in the moment and notice how your mind starts creating misery for you as you wait.  Practice patience.  I know, you could move much faster than the clerk who, according to you, is moving in slow motion.  But that’s not the point.  Becoming irritated about something over which you have no control is fruitless.  As you reach the conveyer belt, excuse yourself and choose the next longest line.  Repeat until you are able to relax and enjoy the moment.

  3. Practice gratitude. Focus on the wonderful people in your life.  Consciously think about how grateful you are for them.  No they are not perfect!  But, neither are you!   Consider there are people and things for which you can be grateful in adversity as well as those times everything seems to be going smoothly.

Do you get stressed out during the holidays? What do you do to reduce it?

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?

Wash Your Hands, Improve Your Health

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 4:15 PM comments (0)

Walk into any public restroom and you’re certain to see a sign stating that employees must wash their hands before returning to work. Hopefully you know that this sign applies to more than just employees—you should be washing your hands after going to the bathroom, too!

Not only does washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds help wash away the dirt and grime, it also helps remove germs including viruses and other potentially harmful bacteria.

Becky Miller, MD, Infectious Disease Physician at NorthShore, gives the following tips on the importance of washing your hands:

  • Washing your hands can help decrease your chances of getting sick, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice for an easy way to remember how long you should wash your hands.
  • Don’t forget to rub soap and water over all surfaces of your hands – it is the mechanical action of cleaning that helps eliminate most of the germs.
  • If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub to kill germs, remembering that it will not be effective for cleaning visibly soiled hands.
  • Remember to wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing to help avoid spreading germs to others.

How many times a day do you wash your hands? Do you wash them more frequently when you’re sick?

Medicine Cabinet Clean Up – The Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Disposal

Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:54 PM comments (0)

How often do you purge your medicine cabinet? You should plan to clean through your cabinet and properly dispose of any medications every six months. Using expired medications can be hazardous to your health. Therefore, you should not be saving unused prescription medications for later use, nor be saving expired prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Tina Zook, Pharmacy Manager, provides the following instructions for properly disposing of medications:

  • Do not flush medications down the toilet. Most medications should be disposed of in other ways. For a complete list of medications that can be flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, refer to the FDA website.
  • Follow any specific medication disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information.
  • Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling services for locations to return your unwanted medications (Drug Take-Back Programs). Find out if there are any restrictions on the types of medications that can be returned.

There will be instances where instructions are not given on the drug label and a drug take-back program is not available. In these cases, you follow the following steps for disposing of medications:

  1. Take the medication out of the original containers (do not crush tablets or capsules) and mix the medication with an unpalatable substance (kitty litter or used coffee grounds).
  2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag or empty container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  3. Throw the sealable bag or other container in the household garbage.

How often do you clean your medicine cabinet? What has your process been for disposing of medications?

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