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

Any Benefits From Eating Your Own Placenta?

2:00

Here’s a medical study I never thought I’d read –“Are there health benefits associated with eating your own placenta after giving birth”?

Well…no, according to a research team from Northwestern University in Chicago. In fact, there may be a few health risks associated with ingesting placenta.

As I read the study’s findings, I began to wonder; who thought this was a good idea in the first place?

It turns out that throughout history there have been some cultures in which women ate the placenta after giving birth. It’s called placentophagy.

Some animals are known to also eat their afterbirth.

Apparently its’ also become the thing among a few celebrity mothers. While some believe that fresh placenta provides the most benefits, others elect to make a smoothie or have it dried, processed and made into pills.

However, the question still remains – is there any real benefit from eating placenta whether it’s raw, processed, made into a smoothie or pill, grilled or baked?

Scientists from Northwestern University pored over accumulated research that has been done on the topic.  The bottom line is that they could not find any evidence that there are any health benefits to placentophagy and that there may be unknown risks to mothers and their infants.

"Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants," study lead author and psychologist Cynthia Coyle said in a Northwestern news release.

In the study, Coyle's team reviewed data from 10 published studies. They found no data to support that eating the placenta -- either raw, cooked or in pill form -- protects against postpartum depression, reduces pain after childbirth, increases a woman's energy, helps with lactation, improves mother-child bonding, replenishes iron in the body, or improves skin elasticity. All touted as reasons many of the celebrity moms chose to give it a try.

The researchers also said that there are no studies examining the risks associated with eating the placenta, which acts as a filter to absorb and protect fetuses from toxins and pollutants.

Coyle noted that "there are no regulations as to how the placenta is stored and prepared, and the dosing is inconsistent. Women really don't know what they are ingesting."

If placentophagy appeals to you, be sure and check with your hospital or birthing center first. Many hospitals dispose of the placenta as bio-hazardous waste along with the other medical waste that occurs during birth (needles, blood, gloves etc.). You’ll most likely have to make arrangements ahead of time or find a more accommodating provider.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20150604/new-moms-gain-no-benefit-from-eating-placenta-studies-show

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

Parental Suicide Attempts Linked to Increase Risks in Kids

2:00

Currently, there’s a recharged debate on whether suicide should ever be considered an acceptable option for someone. Some people say that it is never acceptable. Others believe that there are times when suicide is a valid option depending on the circumstances of the person’s life.

Whatever your personal belief, suicide happens; and when it does it often leaves a messy trail of depression and heartbroken sadness with those left behind.

Studies have shown that suicide can run in families, but few studies have looked at the pathways by which suicidal behavior is transmitted in families.  Those studies suggest that families, who have a history of mood disorders such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder, have an increase in suicide attempts and suicide.

A new study looked at what other factors could also be instrumental in family-related suicide attempts. It found that a suicide attempt by a parent increases the odds nearly 5-fold that a child of that parent will also attempt to take their own life.

But exactly why that happens still needs more exploration say researchers involved in the latest study.

"What that really means is that there is still part of this (family) transmission that we haven't figured out," said Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Brent and a team of coauthors followed the children of parents with mood disorders for nearly six years.  The study included 701 offspring  (ages 10 to 50) of 334 people with mood disorders, 191 of whom had also made a suicide attempt.

Researchers found that of the 701 children, 44 (6.3 percent) had attempted suicide before the study and 29 (4.1 percent) attempted suicide during the study follow-up.

Brent and his colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that parental history of a suicide attempt conveys a nearly five-fold increased odd of suicide attempt in children at risk for mood disorder, even after adjusting for the familial transmission of mood disorder.

The good news, according to Brent, is that there are treatments for mood disorders and impulsive aggression that may help some people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 million American adults report having made a suicide attempt within the last year.

The CDC also says that among young people ages 15 to 24, there are 100 to 200 suicide attempts for every one completed suicide.

Brent said that the children of people with a history of suicide attempts should not be excessively concerned about the study's finding of increased risk to them. "It's still extremely rare," he said.

"I think it's just a wakeup call," Brent said. "Just like if you have a family history of breast cancer or colon cancer. You'd be vigilant of that."

Children’s suicide attempts and suicide are always a serious matter. These days there are a variety of reasons why adolescents and young adults consider suicide; everything from being bullied to losing a first love. This research specifically looks at children that have mood disorders and suicide attempts within the core family.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), more than 90% of people who take their own lives have an underlying mental disorder at the time of their death. Many times, that disorder was never identified.

The disorders most often associated with suicide are depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Substance abuse, either on its own or in combination with another mental disorder, can also be a factor when someone takes their own life.

Their website, https://www.afsp.org, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, both offer excellent background articles and resources for families who are experiencing this situation.

Sources: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/31/us-suicide-parent-children-risk-idUSKBN0K917E20141231

http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2048844

Parenting

Be Kind, Give Thanks

2:00

In the spirit of this holiday season and throughout the year, I shall try and follow the example of Perri Brackett. Who is Perri Brackett? She’s a Dallas Morning News Community Voices volunteer columnist that wrote a wonderfully thought-provoking column the other day on losing patience and finding kindness.

The act that changed her perspective happened last December. She was shopping at Sprouts and had two coupons for free products. I’ll let her tell you what happened next.

“ I got to the checkout, and I pulled out my coupons. The checker was first confused with the “free product” on the coupon. She did her job and read the fine print. At this point, I started getting frustrated. Why couldn’t she just take the coupons that I knew were good?

She then decided to scan the coupons, and they didn’t work. My impatience was rearing its ugly head as she called over a manager to help. And what did I do? I grabbed the coupons, paid my bill and stormed out. Nothing free that day.”

I can’t even begin to count the times that I’ve let myself get frustrated in a line or with the person checking me out, so I understand how quickly it can happen.

However, I don’t usually take the follow-up action Ms. Brackett took.

She went home, sat down and wrote a letter of apology to the checker.  She returned to the store the next day, but the checker was off. She gave the letter to the manager and apologized for her behavior. He remembered her from the day before. After hearing her out, he hugged her and said in all his years of managing, this was the first time a customer had apologized for being rude.

I’ll let her pick it up from here: “I decided right then and there, I was going to be nicer to people I didn’t know who were trying to help me. Have you noticed yourself being just flat-out nasty to people who are trying to help you? Losing patience? If so, try being nice to people; you’ll be happier.

I now thank the checkers for their help each and every time I check out from a store. I’ve even started thanking the janitor in the women’s bathroom, if I see one. That’s an interesting one — do that and watch their face light up. Talk about a thankless job that isn’t easy that people do with pride.” Brackett wrote.

I’ve found that being patient with people feels much better than feeling frustrated or angry with them. Having said that, I admit that there have been too many times when I’ve lost my patience with someone.  Granted, not every sales person or checker is helpful or nice to me. Sometimes, my anger may even be considered justified.

But you know what? Kicking a hornet’s nest doesn’t help any situation. There’s enough anger and ugly actions taking place these days without my contribution.

Which brings me to setting an example for our kids. Children seldom pay as much attention to what we say as we think they should, but they watch what we do. They learn how to respond to situations by watching how we respond.

As the classic Crosby, Stills and Nash song says, “Teach your children well”, by showing them that love, kindness and patience are the most positive ways to respond when life’s irritations creep up and get under our skin.

Particularly during this time of year, there are lots of opportunities to be a good example. As Bracket so eloquently writes at the end of her article; “As the year winds down and shopping season speeds up, it might be a nice time to remember to take a deep breath and thank someone for their help. It might become a habit.”

While Thanksgiving is a special day that rolls around once a year, giving thanks and being kind are actions we can take every singe day.  

Source: Perri Brackett, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20141121-perri-brackett-its-not-easy-being-nice-but-try-it.ece

Parenting

Flour with Added Folic Acid Is Reducing Birth Defects

2:00

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is known to help prevent certain types of birth defects in newborns. In January 1998, the FDA added a requirement that folic acid be added to breads, cereals, and other products that use enriched flour. These fortified foods include most enriched breads, flours, corn meals, rice, noodles, macaroni, and other grain products.

Since then, a new report shows that serious birth defects have fallen 35 percent. While that is certainly wonderful news, a 2014 study found that as many as 25 percent of American women are still not receiving even the minimum amount of recommended folic acid from either their diet or through supplements.

Women who don't get enough folic acid have an elevated risk of giving birth to a child with conditions called neural tube defects, the best known of which is spina bifida, which often causes paralysis.

Health experts began recommending that women of childbearing age take folic acid in 1992 because studies showed that taking 400 micrograms a day could reduce spina bifida and related birth defects by up to 70%.

Doctors now recommend that women who are considering having children start taking folic acid before trying to get pregnant. Since some pregnancies are not necessarily planned, many doctors recommend that women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid.

The benefits of folic acid have been researched for quite some time and since food producers began adding folic acid to grains, that simple step has prevented more than 1,300 babies a year from being born with spina bifida or related conditions, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Authors of the new study found that Hispanic women are more likely to have a baby with spina bifida or a similar birth defect.

That's partly because the "masa harina" corn flour used in tortillas and other Hispanic foods isn't fortified with folic acid, the study says. The March of Dimes has petitioned the FDA to require that folic acid be added to corn flour. Adding folic acid to corn flour would prevent another 40 cases of spina bifida or related conditions each year, the report says.

"Even with fortification, there will be some women that do not get the recommended amount of folic acid every day," says Candice Burns Hoffmann, of the CDC's National Centers for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "We still have more work to do."

If you’re considering having a baby, talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant about the benefits of folic acid and how much you may need.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/15/folic-acid-birth-defects/21784019/

http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org

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

Kidde Recalls 4.6 Million Fire Extinguishers

1:30

A lot of families have fire extinguishers in their homes in case of a small fire. Kidde makes one of the more popular brands and is recalling 4.6 million of their plastic valve disposable fire extinguishers.

A faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency, posing a risk of injury.

This recall involves 31 models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers with Zytel® black plastic valves. The recalled extinguishers are red, white or silver and are either ABC or BC rated. The ratings can be found to the right of the nameplate. 

Manufacture dates included in the recall are July 23, 2013 through October 15, 2014. A 10-digit date code is stamped on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom. Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format.

Date codes for recalled units manufactured in 2013 are XXXX 20413 X through XXXX 36513 X and 2014 are XXXX 00114 X through XXXX 28814 X.

A complete list of the nameplate affixed to the front of the fire extinguishers is located on their website at  www.kidde.com.

Kidde has received 11 reports of the recalled fire extinguishers failing to discharge as expected. No injuries have been reported.

The fire extinguishers were sold at Home Depot, Menards, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide, and online from August 2013 through November 2014 for between $18 and $65, and about $200 for model XL 5MR.

Consumers should immediately contact Kidde for a replacement fire extinguisher at Kidde toll-free (855) 283-7991 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.kidde.com and click on Safety Notice for more information.

Parenting

Recall: Cracker Barrel’s Animated Toy Monkey Due to Burns

1:45

Giggles International is recalling about 13,000 of their Animated Sing Along Monkey toy due to the possibility that the battery compartment can reach temperatures up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, posing a burn hazard for children.

This recall involves Giggles International Animated Sing-Along Monkey toys. The monkey is made of brown and beige plush material and is about 9 inches tall. The toy is designed to hold a songbook titled "5 Little Monkeys" and to sing the song when activated. A red music note is on the bottom of the monkey's right foot and the face of a child with its hands covering its eyes are on the bottom of the money's left foot. Recalled sing-along monkeys were manufactured between 6/7/2014 and 7/5/2014 and have batch code GP1410028.  

The manufacture date in the M/D/YYYY format and batch code are printed on the bottom of a white fabric label attached near the base of the monkey's tail. The monkey toys came in a tan colored box with words "Animated Sing-Along Monkey," "Sing along with me!" and "I play peek-a-boo with you!" on the front. The age advisory "For ages 3+" and the warning that batteries are included are also on the front of the box.

Giggles International has received two reports of toys overheating and melting their battery compartments.

The toy is sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores nationwide from September 2014 to October 2014 for about $25.

Consumers should immediately take the animated monkey away from children, remove the batteries and return the toy to any Cracker Barrel Old Country Store or contact Giggles International for a full refund.

You can contact Giggles International at (800) 738-6018 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.LoveMyGiggles.com and click on Recall at the top of the page for more information.

Toy monkey recall

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