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Your Baby

“Furry Pets” May Help Kids Avoid Some Allergies


You might think that having pets would be a nightmare if you have small children with a family history of allergies. A new study says that furry pets may actually help protect children against some allergies.

The infants’ mothers had a history of allergy, so the babies were at increased risk too, and it was once thought that pets might be a trigger for allergies in such children, the authors point out in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“Earlier it was thought that exposure to pets early in childhood was a risk factor for developing allergic disease,” said Dr. Merja Nermes of the University of Turku in Finland, who coauthored the research letter. “Later epidemiologic studies have given contradictory results and even suggested that early exposure to pets may be protective against allergies, though the mechanisms of this protective effect have remained elusive.”

Adding pet microbes to the infant intestinal biome may strengthen the immune system, she told Reuters Health by email.

The study team collected fecal samples from diapers when the babies were one month of age and these were tested for the DNA of two types of Bifidobacteria that are found specifically in animal guts: B. thermophilum and B. pseudolongum.

One third of infants from the pet-exposed group had animal-specific bifidobacteria in their fecal samples, compared to 14 percent of the comparison group. It’s not clear where the infants without furry pets at home acquired their gut bacteria, the authors write.

When the babies were six months old they had skin prick tests to assess allergies to cow’s milk, egg white, flours, cod, soybeans, birch, grasses, cat, dog, potato, banana and other allergens.

At six months of age, 19 infants had reactions to at least one of the allergens tested. None of these infants had B. thermophilum bacteria in their fecal samples.

Other studies have pointed out the connection between kids exposed to farm animals and household pets and building a better immune system.

“When infants and furry pets live in a close contact in the same household, transfer of microbiota between pets and infants occurs,” Nermes said. “For example, when a dog licks the infant´s face or hand, the pet-derived microbiota can end up via the mouth into the infant´s intestine.”

Human-specific Bifidobacteria have beneficial health effects, and animal-specific strains may also be beneficial, she said. It is still unclear, however, if exposure to these bacteria protects against allergies later in life, she said.

“Future research is needed to assess if these infants develop less atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergic rhinitis later,” she said.

Nermes also noted that she believes pediatricians should not discourage pregnant women or parents of infants from having pets in order to prevent allergies.

“If a family with a pregnant mother or an infant wants to have a pet, the family can be encouraged to have one, because the development of allergic disease cannot be prevented by avoiding pets,” she said.

Source: Kathryn Doyle,



Your Child

New Flu Vaccine for 2015-2016


Last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t as effective as previous vaccines, but this year’s vaccine should be a much better match according to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

Typically, the vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective, making your chances of getting the flu reduced by as much as 60 percent if you get a flu shot.

This year’s flu vaccine contains the H3N2 strain, Frieden said. Last year's vaccine was only 13 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. As a result, "more seniors were hospitalized for the flu than ever before."

What's more, 145 children died from the flu, Frieden said, adding that the actual number was "probably much higher since many flu deaths aren't reported."

About 50 percent of the American population gets vaccinated every flu season. That includes pregnant women. More people, including pregnant women, need to be vaccinated, Frieden said.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year.

Frieden said there's an adequate supply of flu vaccine this year. Companies are expected to make 170 million doses of vaccine, of which 40 million have already been distributed, he said.

People at risk of flu-related complications include young children, especially those younger than 2 years; people over 65; pregnant women; and people with chronic health problems, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, as well as those with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.

Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

The CDC encourages people to get a flu shot preferably by October. Those children aged 6 months through 8 years who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.

During this flu season:

•       Intramuscular (IM) vaccines will be available in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulations. (High dose vaccines, which are IM vaccines, will all be trivalent this season.)

•       For people who are 18 through 64 years old, a jet injector can be used for delivery of one particular trivalent flu vaccine.

•       Nasal spray vaccines will all be quadrivalent this season.

•       Intradermal vaccine will all be quadrivalent.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

It’s hard to believe that we’re about to head into the flu season, particularly with so many states still experiencing summer like weather. But we are, and getting a flu shot early can help protect you and your family from a virus no one wants to get.

Sources: Steven Reinberg,

Your Teen

Good Family Relationships Helps Teens Avoid Obesity


Two of the most valuable resources a teen can have are a stable family and a good relationship with their parents. Adolescents that have these two important components in their lives are more likely to develop healthy habits that may protect them from obesity, according to new study.

"A high level of family dysfunction may interfere with the development of healthful behaviors due to the families' limited ability to develop routines related to eating, sleep or activity behaviors, which can lead to excess weight gain," said the study's lead author, Jess Haines, of the University of Guelph in Ontario.

For the study, the researchers reviewed information on about 3,700 daughters and 2,600 sons, aged 14 to 24, in the United States.

About 80 percent reported having close and stable families. The findings showed that 60 percent of daughters and 50 percent of sons said they had a good relationship with their parents.

Researchers also found that teens with good family relationships are more likely to be more active and get enough sleep. Two factors, in addition to a healthy diet, that contributes to reasonable weight control.

The daughters in these families ate less fast food, and were less likely to be overweight or obese, the researchers discovered.

They also noted that fathers play an important role in helping their sons develop better choices that allow them to maintain a healthy weight.

"Much of the research examining the influence of parents has typically examined only the mother's influence or has combined information across parents," Haines said in a university news release.

"Our results underscore the importance of examining the influence fathers have on their children, and to develop strategies to help fathers support the development of healthy behaviors among their children," she said.

"It appears the father-son parent relationship has a stronger influence on sons than the mother-daughter relationship has on young women," said Haines.

As kids grow into adolescents, a tug of war between independence and parental control often develops. Research has shown that ongoing positive family relationships offer protective influences for teens against a range of risky behaviors. Sometimes it may feel like as our teens mature, family influence begins to wane - but that’s not the reality. This study points out how important a stable home life and good relationships are in helping teens develop a lifetime of healthy habits.

The study was published recently in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas,

Daily Dose

The First Newborn Visit

I know the office will be busy with many new babies born at the end of last week.Monday morning heading to the office and I know the office will be busy with many new babies born at the end of last week. This is one of my favorite times when young parents bring that precious your-baby in after being home for a few days. Now the questions begin, not usually as many when you are in the hospital and the your-baby has nurses helping as caregivers.

The most common response after I ask, "how things are going as a family", is "we are tired, but elated", and "I don't know babies could make that much noise". IT is amazing that even while sleeping babies do make a lot of little squeaks, burps, snorts and toots! The biggest thing to review at this visit is how the your-baby is feeding, stooling and wetting and making sure that they are not too jaundiced. Physiologic jaundice of the newborn is normal, but occasionally a better develops high levels of bilirubin and may need to have it treated with phototherapy. Lastly, sleep position. Tired parents will do almost anything to get their newborn to sleep. The only condition is that they must sleep on their backs. The "back to sleep" program has drastically reduced the incidence of SIDS, so all infants should be put down to sleep on their backs. Babies do need tummy time while they are awake, but it is tempting to let them sleep that way if they seem more comfortable. The answer when I am asked this is NEVER, until your your-baby is old enough to roll over on their tummy by their self. The best part of the visit is that I get 15 minutes of holding a newborn! That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

Your Child

CDC Warning: Dangerous Pool Parasite


With temperatures in the high 80s and 90s, lots of families are cooling down with a swim in the pool. It’s pretty much become a summer tradition over the decades and can be a great way to have fun, exercise and beat the heat.

However, there is a parasite outbreak that parents should know about before allowing their children to swim in public, private or even their own pool.

The parasite is Cryptosporidium and it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps. You can become infected with cryptosporidium by touching anything that has come in contact with contaminated feces.

The parasite is encased in a tough shell and is not easily removed by typical pool treatments like chlorine or bromine. It can survive for several days after a pool treatment, whereas e-coli is typically eliminated within minutes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a warning about the dangers of Cryptosporidium in pools and hot tubs.

CDC's Healthy Swimming Program chief Michele Hlavsa said that the outbreaks commonly affect children.

"With these outbreaks, we see they disproportionately affect young children," Hlavasa said, "They're the ones who can go to a pool and young children tend to carry lots of germs."

The parasite can be cleared from the body in about two to three weeks, Hlavasa said, but in a person with a weakened immune system the condition may become chronic or even fatal.

Pool owners can help reduce the risk to their family and guests by insisting people shower before diving into the water, the CDC stated. This practice could assist in preventing the microorganism from contaminating hot tubs or pools. It is also a good idea for anyone experiencing diarrhea to stay out of pools, the national public health agency recommended. Parents of young children are advised to change diapers well away from pools, in order to prevent contamination of the water by human waste.

For families visiting public pools, the CDC recommends that parents look to see their pool's most recent inspection was posted through their local health department or even look into buying their own chlorine tests that can be used to test if the water is properly treated.

The CDC also provides several sets of tips to help prevent water-borne illnesses:

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

•       Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.

•       Shower before you get in the water.

•       Don't pee or poop in the water.

•       Don't swallow the water.

Every hour—everyone out!

•       Take kids on bathroom breaks.

•       Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool.

•       Reapply sunscreen.

•       Drink plenty of fluids.

Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.

•       Pools: Proper free chlorine level (1–3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) levels maximize germ-killing power.

•       Hot tubs/spas: Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2–4 parts per million or ppm] or bromine [4–6 ppm]) and pH (7.2–7.8) maximize germ-killing power.

•       Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool test strips.

Enjoying the benefits of swimming is something that families everywhere will be taking advantage of this summer. Remember, we share the water—and the germs in it—with everyone. Take these few steps ahead of time to help make sure summer pool fun doesn’t turn into a summer illness.


Gillian Mohney,




Your Child

Zip Lining Safety Tips


From the mountains of Costa Rica to over waterfalls in Hawaii, zip lining has become a vacation acivity destination. Zip lining operations can also be found in  summer camps, zoos, fields in the middle nowhere, people’s backyards and lots of other exotic and not-so- exotic locations.

Here’s how they work. A zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, typically made of stainless steel and mounted on an incline. A rider sits in a harness attached to a pulley. At the top of the slope, the user propels forward and gravity does the rest. Depending on your location, it can be quite a thrilling ride to the base.

One of the keys to a safe zip lining experience is knowing something about the company and the operator of the ride. Before you harness your child into a zip line at camp or during a family vacation, ask the operator questions about the ride’s safety and look around. Not every company follows the same safety rules. Though there are currently no national standards for zip line construction and operation, many states have them, and any legitimate operator should also adhere to the standards set by the Association for Challenge Course Technology or the Professional Ropes Course Association.

Here are some questions you can ask:

·      If the operation is inspected, how often and by whom.

·      What is the company’s safety record?

·      What training the operators have.

·      Is a safety demonstration included?

Check the area out once you arrive. Do the operators look professional? Look at the equipment provided, including carabiners, ropes, harnesses and helmets. Are they well maintained? Look at the course itself. Do the lines look free from wear and tear? How about the platforms? Do they look sturdy? Do they have guardrails?

Once on the course, make sure you're strapped onto a safety line at all times — not just while you're zipping through space. (Some places require that you have two safety lines hooked on.) Many accidents occur by a simple step off a platform. So if you're on the course (which often means many feet off the ground), you should be safely attached to a line that will catch you if you fall. Also, watch out for other adventurers and the guides. Don't get in their way.

Make sure everyone in the family who is zip lining wears a helmet and has closed-toe shoes.

Nearly 17,000 zip line injuries were treated in emergency rooms from 1997-2012, and most of those injuries were in the last four years, according to a 2015 study by Gary A. Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., FAAP, and colleagues at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. About half the injuries involved children under 10 years old. Another 33% involved children ages 10-19 years. The study noted that many zip lines are not regulated, and there are no uniform safety standards.

The increase in the number of zip line injuries in children is “an epidemic by any definition,” according to Dr. Smith, past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

“If kids are using them, you really need to make sure they’re using them in places where people are trained, they know what they’re doing and the zip lines have been constructed in a way that they’re not going to fail,” said Dr. Smith.

Backyard zip line kits sold online and in stores also have been linked to injuries. Earlier this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled a backyard zip line kit ( because of a design flaw that made it easy for the cable to separate from the line, causing riders to fall. Riders suffered head injuries and bruises. Another recall was issued in 2014 for backyard zip line trolleys ( that released unexpectedly. No injuries were reported. Authors of the 2015 study warned against buying and installing backyard zip lines.

The AAP does not have a policy on zip lines and children. However, Dr. Smith suggested the following safety precautions:

·      Requiring riders to wear a helmet, harness and gloves;

·      Training operators;

·      Inspecting and maintaining equipment regularly; and

·      Posting rules and requiring participants to follow them.

“If done correctly, these and other types of outdoor amusements that are there for the thrill … can be done in a safe enough way that it’s reasonable for children to use them,” Dr. Smith said.

Story sources: Trisha Korioth,

John Donovan,


New Year’s Resolutions for the Whole Family


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,

Daily Dose

Start a ‘Thanksgiving Box’ For Your Family

If you have young children start a Thanksgiving blessing box, what a wonderful way to make family memories.I was walking with my "five women walking group", a ritual that occurs most weekdays at 5:30 am. I am telling you we could solve many world problems! But I am digressing. We share many stories of our families, as our children have grown up together despite going to various schools. One most recent one was about "the blessing box". This was a 3x5 index card box that her family had. Every year she and her husband and their two daughters would write down a Thanksgiving blessing (with a little coaxing by Mom) something that they were each thankful for.

Every year the cards were read at Thanksgiving dinner and put away in the box until the following year. This tradition continued and the mother, in anticipation of Thanksgiving and her girls returning home from college, had just pulled out the blessing box. She recounted this to us this week during our walk. She also had us laughing out loud (LOL, as her girls would text) at some of the blessings that had been written over the years. We also laughed as she told us to guess which daughter had written which quotation (one wrote, " I am thankful for my cat" while the other wrote, "I am thankful for pink fingernail polish"). Of course, we knew who wrote what. The point of this story is if you have young children start the Thanksgiving blessing box, what a wonderful way to make family memories. I only wish someone had told me about this tradition 20 years ago rather than last week! That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Parent-Teacher Conference Time

It is that time of year when parents have the privilege of meeting with their children's teachers to discuss academic progress and the fall semester.Now that I have finished doing homework with the younger set, I have returned to the office and ALL of my 27 messages are related to school conferences. It is that time of year when parents have the privilege of meeting with their children's teachers to discuss academic progress and the fall semester. From preschool through high school, conferences are in full swing. I loved getting to sit down with my children's teachers to discuss their progress and really to compare notes, parent to teacher, as to how our boys were progressing in school. You may have heard me say that I believed in the "no news is good news" perspective, and did not call the school etc, unless summoned.

But conferences really are a time of gathering information and discussing this information with your children, whether there is good news or "bad" news to discuss. This is the time of year when attention issues seem to become evident. It may be inattention, impulsivity, excessive talking, lack of focus or incomplete work, but all of these problems deal with attention. Many younger children may be in their first classroom and are still adjusting to a full day of school, following directions, and completing work. But, if you child has been in school and is not showing maturation on these fronts, and teachers continue to discuss your child's attention, focus and concentration, it is important to follow up with your pediatrician. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is common in up to 10 - 15% of children of school age and is usually diagnosed in elementary school. If your child has symptoms suggestive of attention issues, call your pediatrician to discuss further workup and evaluation, beginning with teachers and parents rating scales. It is important to note any concerns with your doctor and to continue evaluating your child as needed. Remember, there are more conferences in the spring, and this is a good time to set goals with your child. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.


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