Back to School Health and Safety Tips

School

It’s that time again; it’s back to school time with all the prep and practical planning needed to launch the school year for your child(ren). The American Academy of Pediatrics shares about health and safety tips at the start of the school year in the following release. Hopefully it will make your work a little easier.


MAKING THE FIRST DAY of SCHOOL EASIER

  • Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school.  She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

BACKPACK SAFETY

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.

TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL

Review the basic rules with your student:

SCHOOL BUS

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts.}

CAR

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations,  texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver

BIKE

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

WALKING TO SCHOOL

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Look into what is offered in school vending machines. Vending machines should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice.  Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options to send in your child’s lunch.


BULLYING

Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

When Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
    1. Look the bully in the eye.
    2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
    3. Walk away.
  • Teach your child how to say in a firm voice.
    1. “I don’t like what you are doing.”
    2. “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
    3. “Why would you say that?”
  • Teach your child when and how to ask a trusted adult for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Monitor your child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems before they get out of hand.

When Your Child Is the Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When Your Child Is a Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied.
  • Encourage your child to include children being bullied in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.


BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE

  • During early and middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.
  • Some children need help organizing their homework.  Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.

© 2014 – American Academy of Pediatrics

 

Digital Devices and Eye Problems

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), parents severely underestimate the time eyetheir children spend on digital devices. What follows is a press release issued by AOA that speaks to the need to monitor your child’s use of digital devices and suggests the guidelines to help prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with digital eye strain.

ST. LOUIS (July 22, 2014) — An AOA survey reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. However, a separate AOA survey of parents revealed that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. Eye doctors are concerned that this significant disparity may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, such as digital eye strain.

Eighty percent of children surveyed report experiencing burning, itchy or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Additional symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.

Optometrists are also growing increasingly concerned about the kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light – and how those rays might affect and even age the eyes. Today’s smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and even flat screen TVs all give off light in this range, as do cool-light compact fluorescent bulbs. Early research shows that overexposure to blue light could contribute to eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.

When it comes to protecting eyes and vision from digital eye strain, taking frequent visual breaks is important. Children should make sure they practice the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. According to the survey, nearly one-third (32 percent) of children go a full hour using technology before they take a visual break instead of every 20 minutes as recommended.

Additionally, children who normally do not require the use of eyeglasses may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for intermediate distance for computer use. And children who already wear glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer screen. An eye doctor can provide recommendations for each individual patient.

The AOA recommends every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after 6 months of age and before age 3. Children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, through age 18.

“Parents should know that vision screenings miss too many children who should be referred to an optometrist for an eye examination to correct vision,” added Dr. Roberts. “Eye exams performed by an eye doctor are the only way to diagnose eye and vision diseases and disorders in children. Undiagnosed vision problems can impair learning and can cause vision loss and other issues that significantly impact a child’s quality of life.”

When Furniture Can Tip

furnitureFurniture that can tip is an accident waiting to happen. It a potential source of serious injury for a young child.

In a recent press release, Dr. Alex Rosenau, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, spoke to the need to inventory our living space for potential sources of tipping and falling objects. He said, “Every parent or guardian of a young child should look around their homes and imagine what could tip over, fall off walls, and injure a child.  Imagining it is better than it becoming a reality.”

The nation’s emergency physicians handle tragic situations too often, but few things are more upsetting than the sudden death of a child killed by a piece of a furniture, appliance or a television falling on them.

About 43,000 people annually were treated in emergency departments between 2009 and 2011 as a result of objects tipping over (such as televisions, dressers, file cabinets, large appliances,) according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Sixty-percent of those emergency visits were from children. In that time span 294 children died–ranging from one-month to 8-years-old.

How to Prevent  Furniture Injuries in Your Home:

  • Properly secure all furniture (especially with shelves, drawers and doors) to walls and remove furniture that is top-heavy and cannot be secured.  Check with home improvement stores or child retail stores and ask experts what they recommend.
  • Secure all computer monitors.
  • Keep television and computer equipment low to the ground.
  • Do not place any objects on top of a television.
  • Place heavy and often-used items low to the ground.
  • Secure or remove artwork that could potentially fall and injure a child, like a sculpture or large painting.
  • Secure appliances such as refrigerators, ovens and microwaves, from tipping over.
  • If you have a mounted television, make sure it’s in a place that’s out or reach for a young child.
  • Put up safety gates to keep young children from rooms that have may have greater risks.

“Telling a child not to touch or climb on something is not enough, said Dr. Rosenau.  “You must take the first steps to prevent tragedy from happening in your home – by childproofing each room they are in.”

SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

 

Keeping Your Child Safe From the 3H’s of Heat Illness

heat

It is still hot in many parts of the U.S. and heat illness is a health concern, especially for children.

The following press release speaks to protecting your child from heat induced illnesses.

Source Newsroom: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center want to give tips to parents and guardians on how they can keep their kids safe during the hot weather.

Dr. Eric Kirkendall, Hospital Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s, explains that there are three major illnesses that heat can trigger. “Heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps are reactions caused by exposure to high temperatures combined with high humidity,” he explains. “The most serious of these is heat stroke.”

Heat stroke symptoms include hot flushed skin, high fevers (over 104° F), altered mental states such as confusion, and can be accompanied by seizures. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and needs to be treated promptly.

Heat exhaustion is less severe, than heat stroke but is still dangerous and requires medical attention. Symptoms include pale skin; profuse sweating; nausea, dizziness, fainting, or weakness.

Heat cramps are most common in the abdomen and legs, especially the calf or thigh muscles. Tightness or hand spasms can also occur, but none of these symptoms are accompanied by a fever.

Dr. Kirkendall advises that parents and caregivers should limit outdoor play time when it is extremely hot outside to early morning or late afternoon. “Keep them well hydrated with water, and take frequent breaks to allow them to come inside and cool off,” he says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Dr. Kirkendall give the following tips on how to keep children safe during extreme hot weather:

Treating Heat Stroke

• Call 911 immediately.
• Cool the child off as rapidly as possible while waiting for Emergency Medical Services to arrive. Move the child to a cool shady place or an air-conditioned room; sponge the entire body surface with cool water (as tolerated without causing shivering); and fan the child to increase evaporation.
• Keep the feet elevated to counteract shock.
• If the child is awake, give him as much cold water to drink as he can tolerate.
• Fever medicines are of no value for heat stroke.

Treating Heat Exhaustion

• Put the child in a cool place. Have him lie down with the feet elevated.
• Undress the child (except for underwear) so the body surface can give off heat.
• Sponge the entire body surface continuously with cool water without causing shivering. Fan the child to increase heat loss from evaporation.
• Give the child as much cool, not cold water to drink as is tolerable until he feels better.
• Move the child to a shaded area.
• For persistent or severe symptoms, take the child to be seen by a physician.

Avoiding Heat Cramps

• Monitor the child’s physical activity and make sure that he does not overly exert himself.
• Make sure the child drinks plenty of water and rehydrates often.
• Encourage frequent breaks from physical activity so the child can cool down and gently stretch his muscles.

About Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S.News and World Report’s 2014 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org. Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.

Who is Drinking all the Diet Beverages?

dietGiven all the concerns about drinking sugary beverages, let’s take a look at who is consuming diet drinks across the U. S.

The following information, posted by the Centers for Disease Control , comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2010 describes the consumption of diet beverages among the U.S. population during 2009-2010 by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and income, and details trends in diet drink consumption from 1999-2000 through 2009-2010.

About 20% of the U.S. population aged 2 years and over consumed diet drinks on a given day during 2009-2010. The percentage consuming diet drinks was similar for females and males at all ages except among adolescents aged 12-19. The percentage consuming diet drinks increased with age for both males and females. On a given day, about 3% consumed some but no more than 8 fluid ounces (fl oz) of diet drinks, and 11% consumed 16 fluid ounces or more.

Although 15.3% of non-Hispanic white children and adolescents consumed diet drinks, only 6.8% of non-Hispanic black and 7.5% of Hispanic children and adolescents consumed any diet drink on a given day during 2009-2010. Similarly, 27.9% of non-Hispanic white adults consumed any diet drink on a given day compared with 10.1% of non-Hispanic black and 14.1% of Hispanic adults.

The percentage of higher-income persons who consumed diet drinks on a given day was greater than that of lower-income persons. A total of 18.3% of children and adolescents living in households with income at or above 350% of the poverty line consumed diet drinks, compared with 11.5% of those living between 130% and 350% of the poverty line, and 8.0% of those living below 130% of the poverty line. A similar pattern was observed for adults: Although 32.6% of adults living at or above 350% of the poverty line consumed diet drinks, only 20.1% of those living between 130% and 350% of the poverty line, and 12.2% of those living below 130% of the poverty line, consumed diet drinks.

Summary:

Overall, the percentage consuming diet drinks was higher among females compared with males. Diet drink consumption differed by age, race and ethnicity, and income. For example, the percentage of non-Hispanic white children and adults who consumed diet drinks was higher than those for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children and adults, and the percentage of higher-income persons who consumed diet drinks was higher than that for lower-income persons.

The percentage of females and males who consumed diet drinks increased between 1999 and 2010 and was mirrored by a decrease in consumption of added sugar calories in regular soda over a similar time period. These results suggest that sugar drinks may have been replaced with diet drinks during that time.

Although substituting sugar drinks with diet drinks may promote weight loss in the short term it is unclear if long-term consumption leads to weight loss, weight maintenance, or even weight gain.

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