Laundry Pods…A Convenience, Yet a Danger for Young Children

pods

In a recent nightly news report, Brian Williams spoke about the serious danger in using the colorful, candy like, laundry detergent pods if you have young children in your home. He cited a recent new study in the journal Pediatrics that stated these detergent pods can pose a serious poisoning risk to young children.

He went on to say that just about once an hour a child is reported to have ingested one of these colorful pods that are small enough to fit into a young child’s mouth.

Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, also reported on this serious threat in MedlinePlus. She shared that study researchers analyzed records from the National Poison Data System and found that more than 17,000 children under the age of six were exposed to laundry detergent pods from 2012 through 2013. Nearly 80 percent were exposed through ingestion, most of them one and two years of age.

Half of the children, who put the pods in their mouths, were treated at home, about a third were treated at a health care facility and released, and around 4 percent were hospitalized. While most of the young patients experienced minor injuries, more than 7 percent suffered a moderate to major medical outcome. One child died.

The researchers say since the pods have a colorful, candy-like appearance that they may attract children, especially during developmental periods when children commonly place items in their mouths. They are asking pediatricians and other health care providers to educate parents and other caregivers about the dangers of these products, as well as the importance of safe storage and careful use.They strongly recommend that households with young children use traditional laundry detergent. The study authors also say a national safety standard is needed to improve product packaging and labeling.

Brian Williams concluded his report by sharing that, as a result of this study and the attention it is getting, the manufacturers of the laundry pods are working on an education campaign to promote the safe storage of laundry pods and their use in homes with young children.

 

Writing: Storytelling on a Page

storytelling

Storytelling is a key building block for developing writing skills in young children.


The common cry a parent is sure to hear from their child at one time or another is, “I have to write about what I did over the summer and I don’t know what to say. I hate writing! I can’t write.”! Translation…I am not comfortable writing.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t prepare our children to write the way we prepare them to know the alphabet, to count and to develop other learning skills during their preschool and kindergarten years. Yet, writing is a skill that most of us will need and use for the rest of our lives. Being comfortable writing and writing well is critical to our academic and employment success.

I am not talking about grammar, punctuation or understanding sentence structure. These skills will be taught in school. I refer to the ability to describe something on paper that was seen, heard, read or told about.

It’s about storytelling.

Not just the stories you read to your child from a book but the storytelling that comes from sharing family history or events or making up stories about everyday activities as you spend time with your child. While being read to captures a child’s interest, expands his/her knowledge and fosters creative thinking, which are all building blocks of writing skills, the ability to tell and write a story must be practiced like any other skill.

Most of my life I’ve earned an income from writing…a biography, articles, technical writing, reports, recipes, programs for children, grants,web content and blogging. I owe my comfort and enjoyment of writing to my extended family. By the time I was two years old, my godmother and grandparents were telling me stories and helping me to tell stories about the things I saw when out walking or visiting with them. Even before I could write, they encouraged me to tell them stories and they wrote them down for me. Then the stories were scotch taped to their refrigerator for all to read. I couldn’t wait until I had the skills to write my own stories. It was all the motivation I needed to learn the alphabet and begin writing.

There is no more undivided attention a child can have than time spent with an adult or older sibling exploring something new, talking about it, making up a story about it. It can be as simple as a trip to the supermarket, a walk in the park, helping to wash the family car or assisting in preparing a meal.

As important as talking about what you see or hear or are doing is guiding your child through making up a story about what he or she is seeing or doing. At first, you will need to ask your child questions to trigger storytelling. After awhile that won’t be necessary.

Storytelling is a family affair and one that offers a role for grandparents and other relatives. Photo albums, attics full of stuff, and scrapbooks are just some of the things that can spark stories. Recording the story is a critical part of the process. Being able to look at and refer to his or her story, in writing, builds a child’s confidence and establishes a comfort level about writing.

If a child can view writing as storytelling on a page, be it paper or computer, he or she is on track for enjoying and not dreading writing.

The FDA Ensures Foods from Animals Are Safe

animals

In case you were wondering, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to know that it ensures foods from animals are safe.

If you eat meat or drink milk, you want to know: Are there trace amounts of the veterinary drugs used in food-producing animals entering your diet? And if they are, are the amounts safe for human consumption?

Those questions—among others—are the concern of the Division of Residue Chemistry, which is part of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Sick food-producing animals such as pigs, cows, and chickens can be given antibiotics or other drugs to treat diseases. (Some farms also give animals antibiotics to help them grow faster, a practice FDA is working to eliminate by promoting the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.) Producers must then wait for the drug to leave the animal’s system before they can slaughter it for consumption. It’s important to ensure that any remaining trace amounts of the drugs are safe to eat by the time the food reaches our plates.

“Our job is twofold,” says Division Director Philip Kijak, Ph.D. “We validate the methods drug companies use to test for drug trace amounts in foods from animals, and we help develop newer and better methods for testing.”

On the first point, the sponsor—usually, the animal pharmaceuticals company—of a drug to be used in a food animal must complete required testing that establishes the drug’s tolerance (a measure of safety), and develop a method to show whether the trace amount in the animal food product is within that tolerance.

“Then we are responsible for validating that method—making sure not only that it works and is accurate, but that it’s a practical method any standard chemical laboratory can use,” Kijak says.

Making Sure Milk Is Safe

For example, the Division examines the methods used to test milk for trace amounts of veterinary drugs used in dairy cows.

Under the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance standards issued by the FDA and the U.S. Public Health Service, all milk must be tested for beta-lactam antibiotics, the most common drugs used by dairy farms. FDA’s role is to evaluate Animalsand approve the data and methods submitted by companies that manufacture rapid-screening tests for these drugs. Rapid screening is important because milk is perishable, and results are needed on the spot.

“Think of these as off-the-shelf kits, like those consumers buy for pregnancy testing,” Kijak says. It’s up to the individual dairies and state regulators to choose the approved kits they want to use. Since 1994, when FDA began evaluating test-kits, the amount of milk containing beta-lactam drugs has dropped from 0.15 percent to 0.014 percent—more than a tenfold decrease, Kijak adds.

Developing Methods to Test Meat

In addition, FDA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) and state regulators to monitor meat, poultry, eggs, and milk for trace amounts of unapproved or unsafe drugs. FSIS tests the foods for a variety of these medications and reports violations to FDA, which follows up with regulatory action when needed.

“To do this job, we had to focus on developing new methods to detect trace amounts of penicillin and other antibiotics,” Kijak says. “With the older method, we were able to tell if penicillin or penicillin and other drugs were present, but we were unable to measure the exact amount of the penicillin when the sample contained more than one drug.” Without this specific information, it was possible for products with unsafe amounts of penicillin to pass inspection. The newer method, which was developed in close cooperation with USDA, enables inspectors to determine if multiple drugs are present, and the amount of each.

Testing for Fungus in Animal Feeds

Recently, the division has become increasingly involved in developing methods to detect mycotoxins and other contaminants in animal feeds. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds made by fungi that grow on grains. Poor growing methods and improper storage conditions can promote the development of these compounds, which that can enter our diets in meat from animals that consumed the contaminated feed.

“While these fungi are almost always present in grain, it’s the amount of mycotoxins that can make the difference between safe and unsafe foods from animals,” Kijak explains. “The new methods enable us to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure the tested products are safe for consumers.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

November 3, 2014

The Online Collection of Personal Information of Kids Under 13

information

OnGuardOnline.gov wants you to know that as a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used.

What is COPPA?  

The COPPA Rule was put in place to protect kids’ personal information on websites and online services — including apps — that are directed to children under 13. The Rule also applies to a general audience site that knows it’s collecting personal information from kids that age.

COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents directly and get their approval before they collect, use, or disclose a child’s personal information. Personal information in the world of COPPA includes a kid’s name, address, phone number or email address; their physical whereabouts; photos, videos and audio recordings of the child, and persistent identifiers, like IP addresses, that can be used to track a child’s activities over time and across different websites and online services.

Does COPPA affect the sites and services my kids use?

If the site or service doesn’t collect your child’s personal information, COPPA is not a factor. COPPA kicks in only when sites covered by the Rule collect certain personal information from your kids. Practically speaking, COPPA puts you in charge of your child’s personal information.

How does COPPA work?

COPPA works like this: Let’s say your child wants to use features on a site or download an app that collects their personal information. Before they can, you should get a plain language notice about what information the site will collect, how it will use it, and how you can provide your consent. For example, you may get an email from a company letting you know your child has started the process for signing up for a site or service that requires your child to give personal information. Or you may get that notice on the screen where you can consent to the collection of your child’s personal information.

The notice should link to a privacy policy that’s also plain to read — and in language that’s easy to understand. The privacy policy must give details about the kind of information the site collects, and what it might do with the information — say, if it plans to use the information to target advertising to a child or give or sell the information to other companies. In addition, the policy should state that those other companies have agreed to keep the information safe and confidential, and how to contact someone who can answer your questions.

That notice also should have directions on how to give your consent. Sites and services have some flexibility in how to do that. For example, some may ask you to send back a permission slip. Others may have a toll-free number you can call.

If you agree to let the site or service collect personal information from your child, it has a legal obligation to keep it secure.

What are my choices?

The first choice is whether you’re comfortable with the site’s information practices. Start by reading how the company plans to use your child’s information.

Then, it’s about how much consent you want to give. For example, you might give the company permission to collect your child’s personal information, but not allow it to share that information with others.

Once you give a site or service permission to collect personal information from your child, you’re still in control. As the parent, you have the right to review the information collected about your child. If you ask to see the information, keep in mind that website operators need to make sure you are the parent before providing you access. You also have the right to retract your consent any time, and to have any information collected about your child deleted.

What if it looks like a site or service is breaking the rules? 

If you think a site has collected information from your kids or marketed to them in a way that violates the law, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

 

Over the Counter Medicines and Driving

medicines

The Food and Drug Administration shared the following release about the use of over the counter medicines and how they may impact on your driving.

Anyone who operates a vehicle of any type—car, bus, train, plane, or boat—needs to know there are over-the-counter medicines that can make you drowsy and can affect your ability to drive and operate machinery safely.

Over-the-counter medicines are also known as OTC or nonprescription medicines. All these terms mean the same thing: medicines that you can buy without a prescription from a healthcare professional. Each OTC medicine has a Drug Facts label to guide you in your choices and to help keep you safe. OTC medicines are serious medicines and their risks can increase if you don’t choose them carefully and use them exactly as directed on the label.

According to Ali Mohamadi, M.D., a medical officer at FDA, “You can feel the effects some OTC medicines can have on your driving for a short time after you take them, or their effects can last for several hours. In some cases, a medicine can cause significant ‘hangover-like’ effects and affect your driving even the next day.” If you have not had enough sleep, taking medicine with a side effect that causes drowsiness can add to the sleepiness and fatigue you may already feel.Being drowsy behind the wheel is dangerous; it can impair your driving skills.

Choosing and Using  Medicines Safely

You should read all the sections of the Drug Facts label before you use an OTC medicine. But, when you know you have to drive, it’s particularly important to take these simple steps:

First, read the “active ingredients” section and compare it to all the other medicines you are using. Make sure you are not taking more than one medicine with the same active ingredient. Then make sure the “purpose” and “uses” sections of the label match or fit the condition you are trying to treat.

Next, carefully read the entire “Warnings” section. Check whether the medicine should not be used with any condition you have, or whether you should ask a health care professional whether you can use it. See if there’s a warning that says when you shouldn’t use the medicine at all, or when you should stop using it.

The “When using this product” section will tell you how the medicine might make you feel, and will include warnings about drowsiness or impaired driving.

Look for such statements as “you may get drowsy,” “marked drowsiness will occur,” “Be careful when driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery” or “Do not drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery when using this product.”

Other information you might see in the label is how the medicine reacts when taken with other products like alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers, and other effects the OTC medicine could have on you. When you see any of these statements and you’re going to drive or operate machinery, you may want to consider choosing another medicine for your problem this time. Look for an OTC medicine that treats your condition or problem but has an active ingredient or combination of active ingredients that don’t cause drowsiness or affect your ability to drive or operate machinery.

Talk to your healthcare professional if you need help finding another medicine to treat your condition or problem. Then, check the section on “directions” and follow them carefully.

Here are some of the most common OTC medicines that can cause drowsiness or impaired driving:

  • Antihistamines: These are medicines that are used to treat things like runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose or throat, and itchy or watery eyes. Some antihistamines are marketed to relieve cough due to the common cold. Some are marketed to relieve occasional sleeplessness. Antihistamines also can be added to other active ingredients that relieve cough, reduce nasal congestion, or reduce pain and fever. Some antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, can make you feel drowsy, unfocused and slow to react.
  • Antidiarrheals: Some antidiarrheals, medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea, can cause drowsiness and affect your driving. One of these is loperamide, the active ingredient in Imodium.
  • Anti-emetics: Anti-emetics, medicines that treat nausea, vomiting and dizziness associated with motion sickness, can cause drowsiness and impair driving as well.

“If you don’t read all your medicine labels and choose and use them carefully,” says Dr. Mohamadi, “you can risk your safety. If your driving is impaired, you could risk your safety, and the safety of your passengers and others.”

Please visit, Over-the-Counter Medicines and Driving, for the audio and slide presentation for more about driving and OTC medicines and with practice looking at Drug Facts labels.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

October 7, 2014