Author Archives: ChildrensMN

Facts on frostbite

Limit the amount of time spent outdoors during cold temperatures. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Erin Fritz, CNP

Minnesota winters offer many outdoor activities. While we can appreciate the fun of sledding, the thrill of skiing or the labor-intensive task of shoveling, these activities aren’t without risk. Specifically, prolonged exposure to the cold puts our skin at risk for frostbite, or — a lesser version — frostnip.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is the damage to a body part caused by cold. While many instances are mild, frostbite can be quite severe. Typically the cold exposure occurs over minutes or hours, but frostbite can be instantaneous if exposed to cold metal. Frostbite is most common on the ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes.

What should I watch for?

It’s important to recognize the signs of frostbite as quickly as possible. Skin will feel cold, and may even be numb or tingling; it may have a gray or white appearance. Due to the numbness, the affected body part may feel clumsy or be difficult to move. Slightly worse symptoms may include blisters. Severe frostbite will have areas of black skin.

Q4_mighty_buttonWhat to do if I am concerned?

Once symptoms of frostbite or frostnip are identified, the affected area needs to be rapidly re-warmed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the water used to re-warm the skin should be warm, but not hot. Avoid rubbing the area as this could make the pain and tissue damage worse. Pain is commonly a factor with frostbite, and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications or by health care professionals.

How can frostbite be prevented?

Most importantly, frostbite easily can be prevented. Limit the amount of time spent outdoors during cold temperatures. Dress in layers, and cover all areas of uncovered skin with a hat, mittens, face mask and goggles. Warm boots are important. And finally, stay dry. If clothing does get wet, seek shelter and remove wet clothes immediately.

Springtime will bring warmer temperatures. But until then, dress warmly, stay dry and prevent frostbite.

Healthy childhood development important for all

Mike Troy, Ph.D,

Mike Troy, Ph.D, LP, is Children’s medical director of Behavioral Health Services.

By Dr. Mike Troy

I had the honor this past week of participating in a panel discussion about the importance of early childhood development to healthy communities. Hosted by Healthy States, an initiative of American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, the topic of the evening was “Community Responses to Toxic Stress.” As readers may know from our recent report and community engagement work, the subject of early childhood development is near and dear to my heart and a significant focus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

My colleague and friend, Dr. Megan Gunnar, of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development presented scientific research on the essential role of a safe and nurturing social environment for healthy brain development. She also described how high levels of environmental stress in infancy and early childhood can lead to enduring problems in learning, physical well-being and social development. We know that birth to age 3 is an incredibly formative time for a developing mind, with 700 new neural connections made every second. But if a child lives in an environment with persistent challenges (toxic stress) such as poverty, poor nutrition and inadequate housing without the buffer of positive caretaking relationships, it prevents those connections from forming in an effective and efficient manner. Experience shapes brain architecture, and a poor early foundation affects development throughout the lifetime.

Panelists MayKao Hang, president and CEO of the Wilder Foundation, and Sondra Samuels, president and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone, and I discussed how our organizations are helping to mitigate toxic stress and foster healthy child development. I left this lively discussion energized to continue Children’s work with community partners to help foster healthy development in children. Some of my thoughts include:

  • One way parents and community leaders can help is to encourage consistent monitoring of child development. At each well-child appointment and over time, we screen our young patients for normal development and identify challenges. Early intervention is key and can change the trajectory of a child’s life.
  • We can motivate leaders and others to action by educating them about the science of early brain development and the unequaled opportunity for healthy development that is presented during the first few years of life. Behavioral and emotional problems often have their roots in unhealthy conditions (toxic stress) in early, foundational stages of life.
  • What babies need is essentially the same across all communities: attentive and loving relationships, safe and stable environments, healthy food and developmentally appropriate activity.

Healthy development happens in the home and in the community through relationships with families, friends and neighbors. We all can play a role in supporting a strong start. Our collective focus must be on healthy development for all children.

Mike Troy, Ph.D., LP, is medical director of Behavioral Health Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Beat the flu, get vaccinated

fluheader1121

The flu vaccination is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

The flu vaccine is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

By Patsy Stinchfield, PNP

Influenza is a complex, tricky virus that is nearly impossible to predict. From 2013-2014, more than 1,300 Minnesotans were hospitalized with influenza.

And we know that of the 174 kids who died from influenza during the 2012-13 season, 90 percent of them had not been vaccinated. We know that pregnant women are more prone to influenza complications and are a high priority for getting vaccinated, but only half of pregnant women are actually protected.

Q4_mighty_buttonThe flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but it’s still our best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age. It reduces your chance of getting sick. But if you do become sick, it helps reduce the severity.

If not for yourself, vaccinate on behalf of babies who are too young to receive the vaccine (under 6 months of age), women and those with immunity problems or who are undergoing cancer treatment. When you get vaccinated, you protect yourselves and others.

A colleague told me that when her mom was undergoing cancer treatment, she got influenza and died from the infection. My colleague and her entire family were vaccinated that year before flu season and will never miss a chance to protect themselves against the disease that took their loved one.

Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, is the director of Infection Prevention and Control at the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Meet Abbey

When Abbey, 6, grows up, she wants to be a ballet dancer because being a ballet dancer would be awesome (OR because she’s great at turning and leaping).

When Abbey, 6, grows up, she wants to be a ballet dancer because being a ballet dancer would be awesome (OR because she’s great at turning and leaping).

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Abbey

Age: 6

Hometown: Minneapolis

Born five weeks early and with myriad medical issues, Abbey has been a patient at Children’s since birth. At age 4, she underwent open heart surgery to correct a potential life-threatening defect. She continues to visit our rehab clinic on a regular basis.

When Abbey grows up, she wants to be a ballet dancer because being a ballet dancer would be awesome (OR because she’s great at turning and leaping).

Abbey loves everything about Children’s, especially the rehab gyms where she has gotten to know several of the therapists and staff.

Meet Abbey, future ballerina from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Meet Elijah

Elijah loves to come to Children’s because his friends (doctors, nurses and respiratory staff) are great, and he also really likes riding the elevators.

Elijah loves to come to Children’s because his friends (doctors, nurses and respiratory staff) are great, and he also really likes riding the elevators.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Elijah

Age: 9

Hometown: Elk River

Elijah has been diagnosed with Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. He has been to Children’s on multiple occasions, and received care in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), cancer and blood disorders clinics, emergency department and much more.

When Elijah grows up, he wants to be a “money man” so he can buy M&M’s for everyone, or maybe an astronaut or a doctor because they are awesome.

Elijah loves to come to Children’s because his friends (doctors, nurses and respiratory staff) are great, and he also really likes riding the elevators.

Meet Brooklyn

When Brooklyn grows up, she wants to be a teacher.

When Brooklyn grows up, she wants to be a teacher.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Brooklyn

Age: 6

Hometown: Minneapolis

Brooklyn receives treatment at Children’s for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of childhood cancer.

When Brooklyn grows up, she wants to be a teacher.

When at Children’s, Brooklyn loves the fun staff who help her get through the hard parts. She loves working on art projects with the child life team and sharing her stories with her “team.”

Meet Julia

When Julia grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian so she can take care of cute animals.

When Julia grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian so she can take care of cute animals.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Julia

Age: 8

Hometown: Elk River

When she was 5 years old, Julia was taken to Children’s after her mom discovered she was turning blue and feeling extra-tired. He lungs collapsed, and doctors discovered that Julia has a rare asthma, triggered by viruses.

When Julia grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian so she can take care of cute animals.

She likes practically everything about Children’s, so she’s raising $1,000 annually for the next five years to help other kids.

Bullied kids, bullies need our help

Children who are being bullied cannot learn, and children being bullies often need our help, too. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Children who are being bullied cannot learn, and children being bullies often need our help, too. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Kelly Wolfe

October is Bullying Prevention Month: We can learn a lot from a llama.

“It’s not nice to be a bully.” Those were the words my 4-year-old said as we were sitting down for breakfast recently.

Pleasantly surprised that he was aware of this fact, I smiled and said, “That’s right. Who told you about bullies?”

“We read a book at school about the bully goat,” he said. “He was not nice.”

Those few simple words prompted a discussion about what a bully is, why it’s not nice to bully someone and what we should do if we see someone being bullied. And while a little part of me was sad that, at 4 years old, he needed to learn about bullies, a larger part of me was thrilled that education about bullies was happening in his school. The messages we try to teach at home were being reinforced by his teachers and classmates. Everyone was saying the same thing: bullying is not OK.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and this year’s campaign has focused on one basic principle: “The end of bullying begins with me,” a simple premise that if we can all just learn to treat each other with respect, dignity and the same kindness with which we want to be treated, there will be no more bullies.

The PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education Rights) Center spearheaded the campaign and coordinated efforts on bullying prevention, education and awareness nationwide. Their mission is to “expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents,” including issues around bullying.

Subscribe to MightyWe know that 94 percent of children with disabilities report being victims of bullying, and, according to the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey, more than 70 percent of fifth-graders and 90 percent of 11th-graders report being bullied at school during a 30-day period. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act that was signed into law this year aims to address it.

It’s time that the conversation is elevated and that actions are taken to protect all of our kids. Children who are being bullied cannot learn, and children being bullies often need our help, too.

It’s never too early to start talking to your child about bullying. There are excellent books and resources out there. In addition to PACER, the Minnesota Department of Education has some tips for parents if they suspect their child is a victim of bullying.

“Teacher has some things to say: calling names is not OK.” We all can learn from Llama Llama and the Bully Goat. As parents, adults and role models to our children, we all have a responsibility to model acceptable behavior. And we need to do a better job of standing up for our kids, for all of our kids; because the end of bullying begins with all of us.

Kelly Wolfe is senior policy and advocacy specialist for Advocacy and Child Health Policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

On Election Day, stand up for kids

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Kelly Wolfe

Tired of the barrage of campaign literature, TV ads and round-the-clock media coverage about politics? The good news is the end is in sight. Even better news is that on Tuesday you finally get the chance to decide who should represent you in local, state and congressional offices. On Tuesday, you get to make a decision about who best represents you and your priorities. And on Tuesday, Children’s Advocacy and Health Policy department will be watching closely to see how the election will impact kids in our state.

Why does a children’s hospital care about elections? There are many decisions made at the state and federal levels that directly and indirectly impact our patients, organization and children in general. They range from the mundane but critically important – Medicaid, medical-education funding and access to pediatric specialty care – to those issues that impact many other children and families – early childhood development and education opportunities, school nutrition and mental health. The point is that on almost any issue that impacts kids the outcome of Tuesday’s election will matter.

So, what can you do? Learn about the candidates and cast a ballot for elected officials who will best serve and protect kids and go to the polls Tuesday. Your vote makes a difference. In 2006, there were several races that were determined by fewer than 100 votes. In one race, the outcome was determined by 37 votes.

Here is some information to help you make a difference. And if you need more, we always are here to help.

We want to know how your first experience at the polls went. Tweet us @ChildrensMN and @childrenspolicy or post on our Facebook page with a photo of you wearing your “I voted” sticker and let us know what it was like.

Subscribe to MightyContinue to be a voice for children

After Election Day, you can stay engaged by joining Children’s Advocacy Network. We make being informed easy: You’ll get an alert whenever your involvement can make a difference. You’ll also get periodic updates on progress on issues and how your elected officials voted on measures before them.

Kelly Wolfe is senior policy and advocacy specialist for Advocacy and Child Health Policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.