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Parenting

Backyard Chickens and Salmonella Bacteria

1:45

Chicken coops are springing up in backyards around the country. People are into raising chickens for fresh eggs and some are even developing close bonds with their feathered producers.  Unfortunately, many of the new chicken owners don’t have any experience with safely handling and keeping fowl.

While fresh eggs from the backyard may make breakfast more satisfying, there’s also a downside to raising chickens; salmonella bacteria.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says eight ongoing outbreaks of salmonella are linked to backyard chickens. These outbreaks have sickened 611 people, including 195 children under the age of 5, across 45 states since Jan. 4. Because most cases go unreported, the actual number of illnesses may be as high as 10,000, according to the CDC.

“Direct contact with chicks, chickens, ducklings, ducks, geese, and turkeys or contact with their environment can make people sick with salmonella infections,” says Megin Nichols, DVM, a veterinarian with the CDC. “Poultry can have salmonella in their droppings and on their feathers, feet, and beak, even though they appear healthy and clean.”

Salmonella can make you very ill. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. If you’re basically healthy, you’ll most likely get better without treatment.  However, children under the age of 5, adults over 65, people with chronic illnesses, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women have a higher risk of severe salmonella infections.

Experts say salmonella cases are increasing. The CDC says the 2016 outbreaks "involve the largest number of sick people linked to live poultry that we've seen."

The CDC is trying to pinpoint what types of contact caused the most illnesses in the recent outbreaks. In the past, baby chicks have been the source. Keeping baby chicks in the house, snuggling them, and kissing them are no-nos.

Experts say since you can’t be sure that your flock does not harbor salmonella, you should treat it as if it does.

Salmonella is part of chicken and other live poultry’s gut bacteria.  They shed it in droppings as well as onto their feathers and feet. It’s going to be anywhere you keep your birds.

Washing your hands is one of the top ways experts suggest to protect yourself.

After you handle live poultry, feed live poultry, or touch its backyard coop or living space, wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds or more with soap and water, then dry them with a clean towel. Have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy in case you can’t get to a sink right away, says Elizabeth Scott, PhD, co-director of the Center for Hygiene and Health at Simmons College in Boston.

“If possible, wash your hands outdoors, not at the kitchen sink,” Scott says. “You do not want to be rinsing salmonella off your hands and into the kitchen sink, and you don’t want to use the kitchen sponge or dishrag either. The salmonella can proliferate in both.”

You should also clean any feeding dishes or other equipment outside. Do not bring them indoors.

Experts also offer these tips to prevent infection:

Wear proper clothes: Pick out clothing and a pair of boots or shoes that you will wear only when tending your flock, advises Scott, who grew up on a farm. Keep it outside. After cleaning your coop, separately wash the clothes you wore in your machine’s hot water cycle. (Wash yourself as well! A hot shower will do the trick.)

Set barriers: Chickens and other live poultry belong in the yard, not in the house, and especially not in the kitchen or any room where you store, prepare, and serve food, Scott says.

Says Nichols: “The poultry have their area, you have your area, and you keep it that way. That will definitely help prevent infection.”

Supervise your children: Children under the age of 5 should not have any direct contact with live poultry, Nichols says. Their immune systems cannot protect them enough from infection. Also, they are much more likely to put their fingers in their mouths.

Keep a close eye on older children to be sure that they don’t put their fingers in their mouths and that they wash their hands thoroughly after handling poultry.

No kissing: Don’t let a baby chick’s cuteness fool you into thinking it’s free of disease, Scott warns. “It’s better not to kiss them.”

Handle eggs properly: When you collect your flock’s eggs, which you should do at least once a day, rinse them in water that’s warmer than the eggs themselves. The warm water causes the shell to expand slightly, which helps push dirt out of pores on the shell. Don’t let them sit in the water. Use a detergent made for egg washing if your eggs are dirty. Dry them and store large side up in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to eat, make sure to cook your eggs thoroughly. “The salmonella bacteria are actually in the yolk,” Scott says. “That’s why we shouldn’t eat raw or undercooked eggs.”

Story source: Matt McMillen, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/20160719/backyard-chicken-salmonella

Parenting

What Do Kids Need to Succeed in School?

2:00

Does poverty impact a child’s ability to do well in school? Possibly says a new study, but parenting skills play a more important role.

Child development experts say that there are lots of things parents can do to help their young child grow into a successful adult. This study examines the importance of parents, especially those in the low-income bracket, having high educational expectations for their child as well as reading to them and providing computer access and training.

The path to success begins before your child heads off to kindergarten. These findings point to the importance of doing more to prepare children for kindergarten, said study co-author Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The good news is that there are some kids doing really well," he said. "And there are a lot of seemingly disadvantaged kids who achieve much beyond what might be predicted for them because they have parents who are managing to provide them what they need."

The researchers wanted to examine what it takes to help a child succeed in school. The team began by examining statistics to better understand the role of factors like poverty. "We didn't want to just look at poor kids versus rich kids, or poor versus all others," Halfon said.

Conventional thought is that "you'll do better if you get read to more, you go to preschool more, you have more regular routines and you have more-educated parents," Halfon added.

Researchers examined results of a study of 6,000 U.S. English and Spanish- speaking children who were born in 2001. The kids took math and reading tests when they entered kindergarten, and their parents answered survey questions. The investigators then adjusted the results so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of certain types of kids.

Parental expectations played a role in how the children’s future scholastic goals were perceived. For example, only 57 percent of parents of kids who scored the worst expected their child to attend college, compared to 96 percent of parents of children who scored the highest.

The results showed that children who attended preschool scored higher on the tests than children who didn’t. Computer use at home was also more common for the higher scorers -- 84 percent compared to 27 percent. Parents also read more to the kids who scored the best, the findings showed.

Halfon noted that the parent’s own attitude about preschool had a big impact on whether their child attended or not.

Karen Smith, a pediatric psychologist with the University of Texas Medical Branch, praised the study and said it points to the importance of helping poorer parents develop parenting skills and start believing they can really support their children.

"Parents from more affluent families know what to do when it comes to reading to their kids, probably because they've been read to," Smith said. Poorer parents "may not even have the money for books, and maybe they weren't read to themselves."

The study points out that preschool attendance is crucial for helping children develop better learning skills, however, it’s not the only factor that plays an important role.

Smith and Halfon agreed that it's crucial to teach poorer parents how to be better at parenting. Still, Halfon said, "there's no single one magic bullet that's going to solve the problem," not even widening access to preschool. "That's necessary," he said, "but it's probably not sufficient."

Parents that make their child’s education an important part of their childrearing help their children succeed most. Reading to children is a key part of developing a child’s attitude towards studying and expression.  A child that is excited to learn new words and is able to understand the flow of a story learns how to express their own ideas better with less frustration. New challenges aren’t as daunting.

Computer use is essential in this day and age. Libraries can provide access to computers for families that cannot afford to buy one. It takes time and commitment and when money is scarce it’s often twice as difficult, but it can make an enormous difference in a child’s ability to keep up with changing technology as well opening up a new world of opportunities.

Children rely solely on their parent’s guidance and this study points out how much that guidance can change the course of their little one’s lives.

The study is online and comes out in print in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/family-income-expectations-key-to-kindergarten-performance-695515.html

 

Parenting

Breast Feeding

1:30 to read

I recently read an editorial in The New York Times entitled “Overselling Breast Feeding”. It was written by Courtney Jung who is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.  It was quite interesting to me as she stated “the moral fervor surrounding breast feeding continues unabated, with a steady stream of advocacy and education campaigns”.  The WHO (World Health Organization) developed “ten steps to successful breast feeding” in hopes of increasing breast feeding initiation and duration around the world. Hospitals have been designated “Baby-Friendly”  (aren’t they all supposed to be?)  if they adhere to these steps as well. But the United States has done well with breast feeding rates as 79% of mothers initiate breast feeding.

Most, if not all of the new mothers I make rounds on are proponents of breast feeding. They have read the books, gone to classes and are determined to be successful at breast feeding. But, in my experience over the last several years, I have actually seen more and more new mothers becoming over-wrought and wary of breast feeding fueled by the “rules” that they are being required to follow. With that being said, having someone “tell you that you must breast feed your baby in the first hour after birth”, and that “your baby must remain in your room 24 hours a day“, and that they “may not have a pacifier”, “and should “breast feed on demand” is actually anxiety promoting and leaves many a new mother exhausted and tearful within a day or two of having a baby. 

While breast feeding is “natural” it also requires some practice and the only practice is really “on the job” training.  Some babies just latch on quickly and are pros immediately, but not all babies will become proficient at breast feeding in the first day or two. The mothers are told to “let the baby nurse on demand” and some mothers have had their babies at the breast for hours on end and are exhausted, with sore and bleeding nipples. I have walked in to too many hospital rooms with a mother in tears and a fretful baby, and a “helpless” new father.  Some feel as if “they are failures” as mothers before they even are discharged, and at the same time are having serious doubts about continuing to breast feed.  They are sure that their baby will catch serious illnesses and have a lower IQ if they don’t breast feed, but how can they maintain this constant breast feeding and no sleep and never put a pacifier in their baby’s mouth??? Is there only one way to be successful at breast feeding?

I loved breast feeding but it was a long time ago and we were instructed by caring nurses “to just go home and put the baby to the breast every 2-3 hours”. While that may not have been the best education has the pendulum swung too far?  Will giving the baby one bottle when a mother is having postpartum anxiety and sleeplessness really harm the baby?  Should a mother have to sign an order allowing her baby to have a pacifier??   While guidelines for breast feeding are helpful should they be so rigid that a mother “gives up” on breast-feeding because she can’t follow 10 steps in the first 24-48 hours?   

The New York Times article was quite interesting and I had to agree with many of the author’s  points. Supporting a woman’s choice to breast feed is admirable and “policy changes promoting maternity leave, and flexibility” are definitely needed to encourage women to continue to breast feed. But as she states “is all of this breast feeding advocacy crossing the line?”   A mother should choose to breast feed because she wants to, and that does not mean if her baby does not breast feed in the first hour that she will never bond with her baby or be successful at breast feeding.  Some woman are unable to breast feed for a multitude of reasons and that decision should not label her as a “bad mother”.  Again, breast feeding, like a woman’s breast, is not “one size fits all”. 

 

Parenting

An Apple A Day Could Make You Sick

2:00

While having an apple a day is normally considered a healthy food choice, federal investigators have confirmed that there is a correlation between a California apple processing plant and a strain of listeria bacteria responsible for killing seven people and making more than 30 others very sick.

An earlier warning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked consumers not to eat any pre-packaged, commercially produced caramel apples, including those with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate or sprinkles, until the source of the outbreak was pinpointed. Most of the people infected by listeria fell ill after eating pre-packaged apples.

Reuters reports that tests performed by Food and Drug Administration investigators on samples from the Bidart Bros. processing plant and apples the company supplied to retailers found a connection between the produce and two strains of Listeria monocytogenes responsible for the deadly listeria outbreak.

Bidart Bros., the company supplying the Granny Smith and Gala apples, has issued a voluntary recall of all shipments of the apples – caramel coated or not- still available in the marketplace. The last shipment was made on December 2.

The company advises that consumers should not eat the Granny Smith and Gala apples.  Affected apples can be sold under the brand names “Big B” and “Granny’s Best,” but could also be sold under other brand names or with no brand at all.

Consumers who are buying or have recently purchased Granny Smith or Gala apples should ask their retailers if Bidart Bros. supplied the apples, the company says.

Three other companies – Happy Apples, California Snack Foods and Merb’s Candies – have each announced recalls of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples since news of the contamination began in late December.

Listeria is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.

According to the Mayo clinic website, symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.  If listeria spreads into the nervous system, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion or change on alertness, loss of balance and convulsions.

During pregnancy, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother. The consequences for the baby, however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.

If you have consumed any food that has been recalled or connected with listeria, pay close attention to any possible signs or symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above – contact your doctor.

Sources: Victoria Cavaliere, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/12/usa-california-listeria-idUSL1N0UR0P120150112

Ashlee Kieler, http://consumerist.com/2015/01/12/california-apple-plant-issues-recall-after-tests-find-link-to-deadly-listeria-contamination/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/symptoms/con-20031039

Parenting

Norovirus Prevention: Tips for Swimming in Untreated Waters

2:00

With summer around the corner, lots of families will be headed to the lake for picnics, fishing and swimming. And not to rain on anyone’s parade, but every parent should be aware that the Norovirus loves untreated waters just as much as you and the kids do.

What is Norovirus? Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining. They are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S.; In other words, severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Noroviruses are the same viruses that give you food poisoning – but they can also be active in waters that are untreated with chlorine such as lakes and ponds.

A norovirus outbreak in July 2014 was linked to a lake near Portland Oregon, and sickened 70 people. Those who swam in the lake were 2.3 times more likely to develop vomiting or diarrhea than those who visited the park but didn’t go in the water. More than half of those who got ill were children between 4–10 years old.

Experts believe the outbreak began after a swimmer infected with norovirus had diarrhea or vomited in the water and other swimmers swallowed the contaminated water. To prevent other people from getting sick, park officials closed the lake to swimmers for 10 days.

“Children are prime targets for norovirus and other germs that can live in lakes and swimming pools because they’re so much more likely to get the water in their mouths,” said Michael Beach, Ph.D, CDC’s associate director for healthy water. “Keeping germs out of the water in the first place is key to keeping everyone healthy and helping to keep the places we swim open all summer.”

Swimmers can help protect themselves, their families and friends by following a few easy and effective steps: 

Keep the pee, poop, sweat, and dirt out of the water!

•       Don’t swim if you have diarrhea or have been vomiting

•       Shower before you get in the water

•       Don’t pee or poop in the water

•       Don’t swallow lake or pool water

Every hour—everyone out!

•       Take kids on bathroom breaks

•       Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–to keep germs away from the water.

Noroviruses, like other viruses, don't respond to antibiotics, which are designed to kill bacteria. No antiviral drug can treat noroviruses, but in healthy people the illness should go away on its own within a couple of days.

Children and the elderly are most susceptible to dehydration. Children should be given an oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte) to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Avoid giving your child sugary drinks, which can make diarrhea worse, as well as caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate them further.

Norovirus is very contagious and can be spread through contaminated food, water, or surfaces.

Summer is a time when families have more opportunities to have fun and spend time together. You can help make sure your picnic or day at the lake doesn’t include the side effects from a norovirus by adhering to the health safety prevention tips listed above.

Sources: http://www.physiciansbriefing.com/Article.asp?AID=699479

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/a0514-norovirus-from-swimming.html

http://www.webmd.com/children/norovirus-symptoms-and-treatment

Parenting

The Magic of Music

2:00

“Where words fail, music speaks,” wrote Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson and he was so right. Music is the universe’s official language where old and young share its beauty and complexity.

Alzheimer’s patients have been known to respond with joy and excitement when played their favorite music after being non-responsive to other stimulus.

Children jump in rhythm and clap their hands when they hear the sounds of instruments playing. Hundreds of YouTube videos show how quickly tears can turn to smiles and giggles as the first notes of Disney’s  “Let It Go” spring forth. 

Is there really anyone who isn’t deeply affected by music?

Research has shown that particpating in music benefits children when learning other subjects and offers kids a variety of skills they can use throughout their life. 

“A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Can particpation in music make a child smarter? There’s a difference of opinion about that. However, it’s safe to say that it takes an assortment of specific skills to sing or play an instrument or do both simultaneously.

For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Children have learned how to sing and speak in other languages by listening to cross-culture songs. I even picked up a little French from the Beatles’ “Michelle” when I was a child. “Michelle, ma belle, Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,Tres bien ensemble.”(These are words which go together well, together well.)

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a non-musician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.

Playing music makes your brain work harder, but what about just listening to music? While some studies have noted that learning to play music can enhance your brain, listening to music just makes you feel good. But really, isn’t that wonderful too?

Music enriches your life. It’s captivating and has the power to make you smile or cry. Most of all, it’s universal.

Introducing children to music at a young age opens the door to new adventures. Whether it’s classical or hip-hop, country or rock, bluegrass or blues, jazz or Dixieland, African rhythms or Mongolian throat-singing; borders and politics may separate people, but nations and communities will share their music.

“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”

Yes, music is the official language of the universe and a beautiful gift to share with our children.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown, http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education

Parenting

“Live Long and Prosper”

2:00

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the iconic character Spock in the Star Trek television series and films, passed away last week from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, also known as COPD.  He was 83.

Spock’s Vulcan salute, accompanied with the phrase “live long and prosper”(LLAP), was recognized around the world as a symbol of friendship and good wishes.

So what does the passing of an elderly movie star have to do with kid’s health?  Kids, teens and adults were fans of Nimoy’s beloved character, Mr. Spock. In his final months, he reached out to his fans with a farewell warning. 

Nimoy attributed his COPD to years of smoking, even though he quit three decades ago around the age of 50.  A few months ago he tweeted a simple but cautionary warning to young adults and teens, “Don’t smoke. I did. Wish I never had. LLAP.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, chronic lower respiratory disease, most of it COPD, killed 149,205 Americans in 2013, making it the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Chronic respiratory disease killed more people than accidents, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

I personally know how COPD can slip into your life and kill you, even years after you’ve crushed out your last cigarette butt. My mother died of COPD 20 years after she quit smoking. She smoked from the time she was in her teens till her 60s. While she did live to be in her 80s, many of those years were spent gasping for air and hooked to an oxygen tank. She also warned her kids and grandkids not to smoke. Like so many other teens, they didn’t listen.  Now, they wish they had.

An online article by Forbes’ Matthew Herper, eloquently states the difference in the fictional character of Spock and the man, Leonard Nimoy, and how we can honor both.

“It’s ironic — bitterly so — that a man who became famous playing a character who was the epitome of logic and clear thinking died because of one of humanity’s most illogical flaws: our propensity toward addiction and for risking our health for momentary pleasure. It would be a fitting way to honor him if we could approach the problem of smoking with the kind of logic that Spock would have. As we deal with a whole lot of tobacco-related issues, including how to deal with e-cigarettes which are putatively safer than traditional cigarettes but whose manufacturers seem intent on proving no such thing, we could use some Vulcan clarity.”

As much as the phrase “ this is a teaching moment” has been misused and over used, I think it applies in this case. Many pre-teens, teens and young adults know and appreciate the Spock character and the man who played him all these years. What they probably don’t know much about is what killed him.

As they say, the door is open and this might be an excellent time to talk about smoking with your child. Whether it’s cigarettes, e-cigarettes or chewing tobacco. They are all highly addictive and each holds it’s own serious health issues.  E-cigarettes are still being studied for health complications. More in-depth research is beginning to expose the chemicals used to vaporize the nicotine that is inhaled into a user’s lungs.  The findings are not good.

It’s hard for many kids to care about the possible long-term health effects of something that feels so good at the moment. But irritating symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and loss of stamina will start adding up. If you smoke, you will experience all of these symptoms at some time.

COPD is incurable. There is nothing that can reverse it. Typically it occurs in people 65 and older, however, 2 percent of COPD cases involve men aged 18 to 24 and 3 percent involve women in the same age group. The numbers increase slightly for people aged 25 to 44 with 2 percent of cases in men and 4.1 percent of cases in women.

My niece-in-law died from COPD at the age of 48. She first showed symptoms at age 22 – she started smoking at age 12.

People who have never smoked can develop COPD from second-hand smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust. However, smoking accounts for 9 out of 10 COPD –related deaths.

Now is a good time to use some of Spock’s clarity of details to talk with your child about smoking, whether it’s with cigarettes, e-cigarettes, paperless tobacco, hookahs or anything else that is inhaled into the lungs.

Nimoy’s last tweet reminds us that life is bittersweet, “"A life is like a garden," he wrote. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP"

Not smoking doesn’t guarantee a long life, but it certainly helps one live a healthier life and that’s a blessing every child deserves. 

Sources: Matthew Herper, http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2015/02/27/want-to-live-long-and-prosper-dont-smoke/

Kristeen Cherney, http://www.healthline.com/health/copd/age-of-onset#Overview1

 

Parenting

Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

1:45

Millions of American families will enjoy the beauty and fun of decorating a Christmas tree and hanging lights this Holiday season.  Whether you choose an artificial tree or a fresh tree, there are steps you can follow to make sure that your tree and decoration space are safe.

Many house fires occur during November and December when Christmas lights and candles are pulled out and used. Not only are fires a hazard, but plenty of people end up in an emergency room due to injuries from falls, lacerations, back strains and children ingesting foreign objects.

The Consumer Protection Safety Commission has a great list of tips to help you make safety a priority.

1. Take special care with sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Lacerations were among the top reported decoration–related injuries last year.

2. Avoid trimmings that resemble food or candy that may tempt a child to mouth or swallow them.

3. Place decorations with small removable parts that can pose a choking hazard to young children out of reach.

4. Purchase only holiday light sets that bear the marking of a safety-testing laboratory. Fires sparked by holiday lights caused 10 deaths last year.

5. Examine new and old light sets for damage. Discard sets with cracked or broken sockets, frayed or exposed wires, and loose connections.

6. Keep burning candles in sight and away from places where kids and pets can knock them over. Between 2010 and 2012, candles were the source of an estimated 6,500 residential fires annually, causing 80 deaths, 650 injuries, and $237 million in property loss per year.

7. Place lighted candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.

8. Look for a label that reads “fire resistant” when purchasing an artificial tree. Check live trees for freshness. If the tree is fresh, the needles should stay in place and not break. It should be hard to pull them off the branches. Check the trunk to see if it is sticky. If so, it's definitely fresh. Check for loose needles by banging the tree up and down on the ground. Expect some needles to fall off but if a lot fall off, move to another tree. One that loses a lot of needles is no longer fresh and could be dry enough to be a fire hazard.

9. Place live Christmas trees away from heat sources, and keep trees well watered.

10. Read “Ladder Safety 101” for tips to prevent ladder falls this season. You may think you know everything there is to know about using a ladder, but even the “experts” can make mistakes and wind up in the ER.

It’s easy to get complacent when decorating for the holidays; it’s something a lot of families do year after year often using the same decorations. After a certain amount of time, these decorations can become worn and damaged. Make sure your holiday doesn’t turn into a visit to the emergency room or worse by brushing up on some simple safety tips.

Source: http://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2015/12/07/tis-the-season-to-decorate-safely/

 

Parenting

New Year’s Resolutions for the Whole Family

2:00

For many people, the new year is symbolic for fresh beginnings or a clean slate. Resolutions are abundant as we reflect on where we are now and where we want to be. A new year can bring individual changes and family changes as well.

We not only benefit from New Year’s resolutions; our children can also learn a lot about self-discipline and the value of making goals.

Start by making New Year’s resolutions a family tradition. Sit down each December and reflect on the past year, discussing your accomplishments and goals, as individuals and as a family. In your resolution conversation you can each talk about what worked this year and what didn’t.

Dr. Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, suggests saying, “Each one of us is going to state a few things that we want to continue to do and things we’d like to change that would make us feel better about ourselves and how our family works.”

Everybody gets a chance to weigh in. Everyone gets a turn at sharing something they are proud of and something they want to improve about themselves. Parents can go first- setting the tone for the rest of the family. One way to express feelings is to write down your thoughts. If your children are old enough to write, have them write about their accomplishments and goals. If your child is too young to write or just beginning, you can help them out by writing what they want to say.

One option is to save the writings and next year you can pull them out and talk about them before making new resolutions. Your family can also use them as a guide throughout the year. 

Try to limit the resolutions to those that are do-able. It’s easy to get swept up in the possibilities of out lives- make sure that for the next year, you keep it simple- one step at a time. One hundred resolutions are way too many for anyone to tackle!

You can make a master list to hang in a public spot, like a bulletin board in the kitchen. Dr. Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, suggests making a resolution box, in which each family member can drop in his or her resolutions, then pull them out at a later date to review them.

Each family member is a different personality and age. For younger children, something as simple as spending 15 minutes cleaning their room is an achievement. As younger children age, they can be more active in coming up with goals, which will mean more to them as they are achieved.

For preschool-aged children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends resolutions that focus on cleaning up toys, brushing teeth and washing hands and being kind to pets. However, parents who consider these behaviors part of their regular expectations may want to provide resolutions that focus on higher goals.

Clarke-Pearson suggests preschoolers be encouraged to work on listening and helping skills. A resolution could be “I will be a better listener when Mommy or Daddy asks me to do something” or “I will help out more when Mommy or Daddy asks me.” If you keep it simple, your child is more likely to understand the concept as well as succeed.

Of course, the best way to help your children learn the value of achieving goals is to be a good example. Just as with everything else you do, your child is watching. “Parents should be reflective about how they wish to be in the coming year,” Siegel says. “It’s a good opportunity to promote good mental and physical health.”

When the time comes to review resolutions, make sure it’s a positive experience. This is not the time for punishment. It’s important to be flexible and understanding, especially if the child is making the effort. “You don’t penalize if you don’t fulfill a resolution,” Clarke-Pearson says. “The resolution is not written in stone. It’s a guide.”

However your family arrives at resolutions, the best part is that you’re doing it together and learning how to manage your role not only in the family but also in the larger world.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown, http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/making-new-years-resolutions-child/

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