Category Archives: Parenting

6 tips for safe fireworks use on Fourth of July

For many families, the Fourth of July celebration includes fireworks. It's important to take the proper safety measures when using fireworks (iStock photo / Getty Images)

For many families, the Fourth of July celebration includes fireworks. It’s important to take the proper safety measures when using fireworks (iStock photo)

Luul Mohamed and Alicia Youssef

The Fourth of July is a day filled with fun, excitement and celebration. Across the nation, families and friends gather to celebrate our nation’s independence. Follow these tips to ensure maximum fun and prevent injuries.

subscribe_blogFirework safety tips

Each year in the U.S., thousands of adults and children are treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.

The safest way to enjoy fireworks and avoid a visit to the emergency room is to attend a public fireworks display. However, if you choose to light them yourself, here are a few ways to enjoy the fun while keeping you and your children safe:

  • Keep fireworks of any kind away from children, even after they have gone off. Parts of the firework can still be hot or even explosive after fireworks have been lit.
  • Older teens should only use fireworks under close adult supervision.
  • Keep fireworks far away from dense areas where there are a lot of buildings and/or people.
  • Do not light fireworks around flammable items such as dead leaves, gas-powered equipment or fabrics, and be sure they’re pointed away from people, animals and buildings.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher, water bucket and/or hose readily available in case of an accidental fire.
  • After you have enjoyed your fireworks, be sure to pick up any debris or pieces of the firework that may be left in the area. These small pieces may pose as a choking hazard for young children.

The Fourth of July weekend also is a great time for travel and spending time in the water. Please view these articles for tips on water safety and traveling:

Fireworks references: The National Council on Fireworks Safety, Parents: Fireworks Safety

6 tips to stay hydrated in hot weather

Follow these quick tips to keep your kids safe from dehydration when they’re out playing in hot temperatures.

Summertime definitely is here, and what kid can’t wait to get outside and play? But staying safe in the sun, and avoiding dehydration, is important.

We believe in Making Safe Simple. Here are some quick tips to help your kids avoid dehydration:

  • subscribe_blogOn hot days, make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The human body requires at least 1 liter of water, daily.
  • Dehydration means that a child’s body doesn’t have enough fluid. Dehydration can result from not drinking; vomiting, diarrhea, or any combination of these conditions. Sweating or urinating too much rarely causes it.
  • Thirst is not a good early indicator of dehydration. By the time a child feels thirsty, he or she may already be dehydrated. And thirst can be quenched before the necessary body fluids have been replaced.
  • Signs of dehydration in children include the following: sticky or dry mouth, few or no tears when crying, eyes that look sunken into the head, lack of urine or wet diapers for six to eight hours in an infant (or only a small amount of dark yellow urine), lack of urine for 12 hours in an older child (or only a small amount of dark yellow urine); dry, cool skin; irritability, and fatigue or dizziness in an older child.
  • If you suspect your child is dehydrated, start by replenishing his or her body with fluids. Plain water is the best option for the first hour or two. The child can drink as much as he or she wants. After this, the child might need drinks containing sugar and electrolytes (salts) or regular food. Also, the child should rest in a cool, shaded environment until the lost fluid has been replaced.
  • Call your doctor immediately or take your child to the nearest emergency department if there is no improvement or condition is worsening.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.

Join Children’s trauma expert for Twitter chat

mn_Trauma_chat_880x440_Twitter

David Hirschman, MD

David Hirschman, MD

David Hirschman, MD, co-medical director of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota’s emergency department, will answer the questions you have about trauma, emergencies and the emergency room in a Twitter chat, courtesy of Children’s and the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

The hour-long Minnesota Trauma Chat takes place at noon Wednesday, July 8. The chat’s hashtag is #MNTraumaChat. Dr. Hirschman will tweet from Children’s account (@ChildrensMN), and the Twin Cities Moms Blog will host from its account (@TCMomsBlog).

A $50 Starbucks gift card will be given at random to one chat participant. Be sure to use #MNTraumaChat in your questions and comments to be eligible. Feel free to RSVP to the event and check out some Twitter chat 101 from the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

 

Food that gets kids required vitamin D

Molly Martyn, MD, is a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s.

Molly Martyn, MD

Getting enough vitamin D is an important part of staying healthy. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and thus is a critical part of how our bodies make and maintain strong bones. Research shows that it also plays a role in keeping our immune systems healthy and may help to prevent certain chronic diseases.

Many of us get our vitamin D from the sun and drinking milk, but families often wonder how to help their children get enough vitamin D to meet daily requirements.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive 400 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D. For children older than 1 year, the recommended amount is 600 IUs per day.

Vitamin D is found in a number of foods, some naturally and some through fortification. Foods that are naturally high in vitamin D include oily fish (such as salmon, sardines and mackerel), beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms and cheese. Below are some estimates of vitamin D levels (per serving) of a variety of foods.

TYPE OF FOOD IUs OF VITAMIN D PER SERVING
Salmon, 3.5 ounces 360 IUs
Tuna (canned), 1.75 ounces 200 IUs
Shrimp, 4 ounces 162 IUs
Orange juice (vitamin D fortified), 1 cup 137 IUs
Milk (vitamin D fortified), 1 cup 100 IUs
Egg, 1 large 41 IUs
Cereal (vitamin D fortified), ¾ cup 40 IUs
Shiitake mushrooms, 1 cup 29 IUs

subscribe_blogAll infants who are breast fed (and even many who are formula fed) should receive a daily vitamin D supplement.

In addition, the majority of children do not eat diets high in foods containing vitamin D, so a vitamin D supplement or multivitamin may be an important part of helping them meet their daily requirements. Talk to your child’s health care provider about recommendations.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) has more information on vitamin D, including vitamin D recommendations for all age groups.

Molly Martyn, MD, is a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Life jackets greatly reduce risk of drowning

A life jacket will provide significant protection for your little ones in and around water. (iStock photo)

A life jacket will provide significant protection for your little ones in and around water. (iStock photo)

Dex Tuttle

According to the Minnesota Water Safety Coalition, it’s estimated that half of all drowning events among recreational boaters could have been prevented if life jackets were worn.

As a parent, it doesn’t take much to convince me that the safety of my daughter is important, and more specifically, directly my responsibility. This statistic is alarming. Especially since drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and younger.

My daughter, Quinnlyn, loves the water. It’s easy to get caught up in her excitement and joy as she splashes around and giggles that addicting toddler laugh, so much so that I often forget the dangers inherent in water for a child who is oblivious to them.

subscribe_blogStill, as an attentive parent, it’s hard for me to believe that drowning is an ever-present danger for my little one. That’s why it’s important to consider the staggering statistics around near-drowning incidents.

Since 2001, an average of 3,700 children sustained nonfatal near-drowning-related injuries. To spare you the details, check out this article.

When protecting your children around water, there’s little to nothing that can supplement uninterrupted supervision. However, a life jacket will provide significant protection for your little ones and help instill a culture of safety in your family. Here’s how to know if it fits right (thanks to the United States Coast Guard):

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved on the label on the inside of the jacket.
  • Ensure that the jacket you select for your child is appropriate for his or her weight, and be sure it’s in good condition. A ripped or worn-out jacket can drastically reduce its effectiveness.
  • Before you know it, football season will be here again (YES!), so consider the universal signal for a touchdown — after the life jacket is on and buckled, have your child raise his or her arms straight in the air. Pull up on the arm openings and make sure the jacket doesn’t ride up to the chin; it’s best to find out that it’s too loose before getting in the water.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.

When it’s critical, so is your choice – Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Minneapolis.

Dex Tuttle is Children’s injury prevention program coordinator.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Car seat safety with Dex Tuttle


subscribe_blogDex Tuttle, Children’s injury prevention program coordinator, answers questions about car seat safety and provides information about rear-, front-facing and booster seats; the factors that go into choosing the proper car seat for your child and vehicle, as well as how to properly install a child safety seat.

Children’s is sponsoring a car seat checkup at the Roseville Fire Station (2701 Lexington Ave. N.) from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday (June 20). The event is free, but you must schedule an appointment. To schedule a car seat check, please contact Esther DeLaCruz at (651) 207-2008 or [email protected]

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

12 tips to keep kids safe around dogs

Teach kids to respect your animal’s space. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Dex Tuttle

Even before the pitter-patter of toddler feet, our house was plenty busy. My wife and I jokingly referred to our dog, Sprocket, and cat, Harvey, as training for parenthood. By the time our daughter, Quinnlyn, came around, we already had learned to keep valuables out of reach and close the doors to the rooms where we didn’t want roaming paws. And we quickly learned the value of eating our meals after distracting the animals to avoid begging eyes.

In addition to providing safety challenges, animals have an uncanny way of creating rules for your house, with or without your approval. Regardless of your expectations of them, they almost always get their way. (Those with toddlers will recognize the similarity here.) In our case, for example, we insisted that Sprocket not be allowed on the furniture — and he most definitely would not be allowed to sleep in our bed. He had different plans, though, and now I’m regularly curled up in the only free corner of our king-sized bed and rarely leave the house without fur-covered pants.

After we introduced the pets to Quinnlyn, Harvey disappeared for what seemed like the better part of a year while Sprocket was quite concerned about losing out on time with us. What remained to be seen was how these interspecies siblings would get along once Quinn became more mobile. We had two animals who thought they owned the house and a new queen who demanded nearly all of our attention. Naturally, there was some ruffled fur.

subscribe_blogOne instance was when Sprocket was lying comfortably on the couch while I was typing away in the recliner near him. Quinn recognized the quiet, relaxing vibe and felt it needed a little chaos. She grabbed her step stool, crawled up on the couch and tried to climb up on Sprocket’s back, hoping to get a free doggie ride. Sprocket alerted me with the warning signs — he first tried to move away then let out a little growl before licking Quinn’s face. Thankfully, I was able to intervene before he got increasingly upset, but his behavior understandably is confusing to Quinn, so she continued to try to climb aboard.

Therein lays the challenge: No matter how well trained, animals are instinctual beings that are territorial, protective and usually inflexible on changing the rules they created. Young children are curious beings who discover their world by poking, prodding, throwing, climbing and chasing. Pairing children and pets can be simultaneously developmentally rewarding and potentially dangerous.

Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe around dogs:

Household pets

  • Dogs typically don’t like hugs and kisses, particularly when it’s not on their own terms. Teach kids to respect your animal’s space.
  • Don’t stare at a dog in close proximity to its face as this can be interpreted as an act of aggression.
  • Dogs that are tied up, cooped in or curled up (sleeping or relaxing) may be more agitated if approached — they either want to get out or be left alone.
  • Know that dogs don’t only attack when they’re angry (growling, barking, hair standing up); they can attack because they’re scared; a dog with its mouth closed, eyes wide and ears forward may indicate that it’s scared or worried.
  • Recognize these behaviors in your family dog to know it’s time to stop playing and give your pet some space:
    • Avoidance: hiding behind something or someone or turning its head away
    • Submission: rolling on its back, licking, or leaving the room; even though the dog is giving up now, it may not some day
    • Body language: tail between legs or low with only the end wagging, ears in a non-neutral position, rapid panting, licking its chops, or shaking out its fur
    • Acting out: tearing up or destroying personal possessions such as toys or other items your family uses frequently, or urinating or defecating in the house; these may be signs that your dog should be seen by a behavioral professional — don’t delay!

Pets outside of your family (tips courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Michigan)

  • Always ask an adult’s permission before approaching or petting a dog. Start by letting the dog sniff you, then gently pet under its chin or on top of its head, but never its tail, back or legs.
  • Never run or scream if a dog comes up to you.
  • Never try to ride a bike away from a dog; they can run faster than you can bike
  • Always be calm around dogs and don’t look them in the eye; they may see this as an act of aggression.
  • Stand still like a tree or rock and let the dog sniff you. If a dog starts biting, put whatever you have (backpack, stick, toy, etc.) in its mouth.
  • Avoid dogs that are eating, playing with toys, tied up in a yard, or behind a fence; also avoid dogs who look ill or angry.
  • Never tease a dog by throwing things at it, barking at it, etc.

Dex Tuttle is the injury prevention program coordinator at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Missy Berggren on food allergies

Missy Berggren the Marketing Mama

Missy Berggren, aka “Marketing Mama,” with kids ages 9 and 7

On Episode 7 of “Children’s Pedcast” and in recognition of National Food Allergy Awareness Week, we get a parent’s perspective on food allergies. Mother, blogger, marketing pro and food-allergy advocate Missy Berggren, also known as “Marketing Mama,” joins the show to share her experiences raising a child with severe food allergies.

Whether or not you’re a parent of a child with a food allergy, Missy provides answers related to school, restaurants, play dates and parties that others may find helpful. We also learn the eight most common food allergies in the U.S.

Food-allergy resources:

Follow Missy Berggren on Twitter @MarketingMamaFacebook and MarketingMama.com. “Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Tanning turmoil: Why getting ‘bronzed’ is hazardous to teen health

For teens, one visit to a tanning bed increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent. (iStock photo)

Gigi Chawla, MD

Every spring, many of us weary from a long winter head south to warmer climes; teens across the country attend prom with their sweethearts. And what do kids tend to do before events like these?

Hit the tanning salon.

Looking “pasty white” in a swimsuit or a new dress just won’t do, right? Think again.

Gigi Chawla, MD

Gigi Chawla, MD

Here’s a brief warning to help dispel the myth of “getting a base tan” before these events. Or ever.

Currently, 35 percent of 17-year-old girls in the U.S. are using tanning beds and 55 percent of college-aged kids have used one at least once.

In 2014, the Star Tribune reported “a third of white 11th-grade Minnesota girls have tanned indoors in the past year, according to a state survey … and more than half of them used sun beds, sunlamps or tanning booths at least 10 times in a recent 12-month period.”

What isn’t immediately clear to our kids is that during a tanning-bed session they may receive up to 12 times the ultraviolet (UV) exposure as they receive being outside in the natural sunlight. This UV radiation exposure from tanning beds is dangerous and linked to three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Here’s the potential damage that one tanning-bed session can cause a teen:

  • The risk of developing melanoma increases by 20 percent.
  • The risk of developing basal cell carcinoma increases by 29 percent.
  • The risk of squamous cell carcinoma increases by 67 percent

subscribe_blogFor people younger than 35 using a tanning bed, the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer of any type increases by 74 percent.

Specifically, it increases the lifetime risk of:

  • Melanoma by 75 percent
  • Basal cell carcinoma by 150 percent
  • Squamous cell carcinoma by a whopping 250 percent

Moreover, skin cancer now is the leading form of cancer in 25- to 29-year-olds.

Another startling fact: More skin cancer cases arise from tanning-bed use than lung cancer cases do from smoking; yet, in our culture, bronzed skin is seen as a form of beauty.

Some advice to parents: Remember to reinforce to your teens that they are beautiful or handsome no matter the shade of their skin. What’s important is what’s inside. I like to think that we live in an era in which we can look past skin color, where we are not judged by skin color and we should not see beauty based on skin color.

It’s time to remind your kids to “go with your own natural glow.”

Gigi Chawla, MD, is a pediatrician, hospitalist and the Senior Medical Director of Primary Care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Her areas of interest are the care of complex special needs patients, premature infants, ventilator dependent children and care of hospitalized patients.

Sources: The Skin Cancer Foundation, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

4 ways to monitor your kids’ social media use

Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits. (iStock photo)

Maggie Sonnek

If Jennifer Soucheray had a Twitter handle, it probably would be something clever like @JentheMamaHen or @MrsSouchRocks. But this third-grade teacher and mom of three teens doesn’t have a Twitter account.

Or Instagram.

Or Snapchat.

But her three kids do. So, she and her husband, Paul, have had to find ways to monitor their social media use without being, “like, totes uncool.”

I asked Soucheray, along with a few others, to share a few of their tips and best practices when it comes to kids and social media. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits

Whether it’s texting, tweeting or using Facebook, these parents tout the benefits of putting limits in place early. According to the Soucheray household, texting and Twitter are the most common ways their kids communicate digitally.

“We know their phones are lifelines to their friends,” Soucheray said. “They need these tools otherwise they’ll be ostracized. But as parents you have to develop parameters for what’s acceptable use.”

One way these parents have put boundaries in place? All devices are turned in to Mom and Dad before bedtime.

2. Validate kids every day, offline

Soucheray, who taught middle school for 12 years, says it’s extremely important to validate your kids every day. She said that’s one reason why Facebook and other social media tools are so popular — because we’re all looking to be validated. (Author’s note: Not going to lie; there have been times that I’ve fallen into this trap and checked in on a status update or picture I posted to see how many “likes” it has received. And when the number is higher or the comments are positive, for some reason, I feel a little better.)

“If a kid doesn’t hear she’s pretty or smart by someone who cares about her, she’s going to look for that somewhere else,” Soucheray said.

Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-teen-development specialist and body-image expert, agrees.

“Teens are defining themselves during adolescence,” she wrote on her blog. “They are figuring out where they fit into their social world and hoping that others look at them favorably.”

Soucheray and Silverman say it’s important to talk about your kids’ true gifts.

“Make sure your children understand that their strengths — such as their kind heart, conscious nature or musical ability — are recognized,” Silverman said, “and really make a difference.”

subscribe_blog3. Use the tools for good

One thing that surprised me as I chatted with parents and teachers is: Kids are using social media more than just a platform to post “selfies.” They’re also using it as a homework-helper.

Dan Willaert, a geometry and AP statistics teacher and Cretin-Derham Hall wrestling coach, tweets out reminders and practice problems to his followers on a regular basis.

“I’ll write out a problem, snap a picture and then tweet it,” Willaert said. He has a Twitter account for wrestling, too, and often sends updates about tournaments, schedule changes and snow days.

4. Be present

Soucheray admits she doesn’t have the right answer or the perfect balance for monitoring tweets and texts, but her one piece of advice is something all parents can take with them. And that’s simply to be present.

“Dig in and be there with them… be in the moment,” she said.

Maybe someday @JentheMamaHen will tweet out that advice to her followers. But for now, she has papers to grade and dinner to make. Her Twitter days will have to wait.

Maggie Sonnek is a writer, blogger, lover-of-outdoors and mama to two young kiddos. When she’s not kissing boo-boos or cutting up someone’s food, she likes to beat her husband at Scrabble.