Category: General Health and Safety

American Academy of Pediatrics Update
American Academy of Pediatrics Update

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

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This is the time of year when kids start getting sick. With the start of school and the change of climate, parents and caretakers begin to think about vaccines and Flu prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released an updated influenza vaccine recommending that all children, 6 months and older, receive the influenza vaccine.

The updated policy recommends that children are immunized against the influenza with either the trivalent or quadrivalent vaccine once it is available. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against one additional strain of the virus, but neither vaccine is preferred over the other. The vaccine composition for the 2014-2015 season is unchanged from last year for either strain.

Optimal protection is achieved through annual immunization. Antibodies from previous year vaccinations wittle to 50 percent of their original levels, 6 to 12 months after vaccination. Although the vaccine strains for the 2014-2015 season are unchanged from last season, a repeat dose this season is critical for maintaining protection in all populations.

A special effort should be made to vaccinate people in vulnerable groups, including children with chronic health conditions, children of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage, health care personnel, child care providers and staff, women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, are in the postpartum period, or are breastfeeding, and household contacts and caregivers of children in high-risk populations.

These recommendations from the Academy are just that, it is up to you to choose your plan of flu-preventative action for you and your family. Here are some practical steps that you can take now to prevent the cold and flu in your home:

  1. Cover your cough and sneeze! It starts with a tickle, a prickle, an itch: Achoo! Cover up that sneeze to avoid spreading flu germs.
  1. Wash your hands, the right way! Scrubbing germy hands is one of the top tips for preventing spread of the flu.
  1. Wash your hands frequently, know when to wash. Rubbing your eyes, nose, or mouth is a sure-fire way to get the flu.
  1. Keep in good health, get some sleep, and stay hydrated. When you’re in good health, your immune system is stronger. So keep yourself in top health this flu season — and throughout next year!

Stay tuned for further information and discussions about vaccines and taking care of your family this cold and flu season!

Screening the Sunscreens
Screening the Sunscreens

Finding the Right Sunscreen for Your Family

Sunscreen, sunblock, sun lotion: it all does the same thing, it protects your delicate skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Children are more susceptible to burns because their skin is fresh and unaccustomed to the sun’s rays. Dermatologists say it takes just one severe burn to possibly double your child’s chances of developing skin cancer later in life. Whoa! This is serious business! Every year, sunscreens and tanning lotions stock the shelves, but it seems like the options continue to grow and labels can be confusing. How can you decide which one will suit you and your family’s lifestyle?

Before you Shop

First, there are important tips to take into consideration when shopping for a sunscreen. SPF (sun protection Factor) levels, ingredients, and formulation (lotion, spray, waterproof, sweatproof), are key things to not only consider, but also research before you begin the “screening” process. Another important tip is that sunscreen does expire, so if you have a bottle in your drawer from last summer, toss it, because the ingredients lose effectiveness over time. The lifespan of sunscreen is about one year, so plan on shopping for a new sunscreen each summer.

What to Look For

SPF

SPF factor is the first thing we typically notice, its the large number ranging from 15 all the way up to 75 or even 100.. SPF refers to protection from UVB rays, which cause burns, rather than UVA rays, which cause the long term damage. The number rating is the measure of time it would take for a sunburn to occur without sunscreen, compared to the lotion on. Lotions generally start at SPF 15. You want a sunscreen that will provide adequate protection so choose one with an SPF 30 or higher, depending on your usual sun exposure and where you live. For people who live in higher altitudes or closer to the equator, it is recommended to have a higher SPF. For every 1000 feet of altitude, there is a 4% increase in the sun’s ultraviolet rays! What about SPF’s of 50-100? Do those provide more protection? Not really. Level 15 is shown to block 94% of rays and level 30, 97% of rays; however, level 50 is shown to block 98% so you’re not doubling protection with twice the level. No sunscreen can block 100% of solar energy. So any product labeled higher than SPF 50+ offers less than 1% of additional protection beyond 98%.Opt for a level 30, which is the most recommended by dermatologists. Lower levels also tend to be less expensive for equal amount of protection. Look for a sunscreen that is also labeled “broad spectrum” to block against both UVB and UVA rays. These sunscreens are sometimes more difficult to find, but new FDA standards are making them easier to find then they were even a couple years ago. The find is well worth the extra protection for you and your family’s skin!

Formulation

Most of us applying sunscreen will be sweating or swimming, so it is important to pick sunscreen that is water/sweat resistant. The FDA has recently regulated labels to no longer claim “waterproof” or sweat proof” since no sunscreen is actually “proofed”. Products are allowed, however, to claim 40 or 80 minutes resistant. The FDA defines water resistant sunscreen as having an SPF level able to hold 40 minutes after being in the water, and 80 minutes for those with a higher SPF than 30. With this in mind remember to reapply no matter what type of formula you choose to use!
Spray on sunscreens are convenient, however, Consumer Reports has recently warned against their use due to the risk of inhaling the product. These sunscreens are expelled in a fine mist and may also not provide enough coverage, especially if it is windy. If you opt for sprays, it is recommended to spray it into your hand and rub it into the skin like lotion. Also avoid spraying these into the face. With any formula you choose, follow the instructions for application and be sure to give it time to dry and bond to the skin before heading out to play.

Ingredients

Children and babies have more sensitive skin which is easily irritated by chemicals in some sunscreens. If you’re not a label reader then this is one product you may want to take the time to read. Try to avoid sunscreens with these common chemical irritants: para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). aveobenzone, homosalate and octisalate. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which are minerals. Choosing a children’s sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is the safest bet since they sit atop the skin, without becoming fully absorbed like chemical ingredients.. For babies under 6 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they be kept out of the sun altogether. For children just over 6 months, sun exposure should be limited.

Brand

Try not to get caught up in brands. Spend some time looking at what ingredients each brand uses (Banana Boat, Coppertone, Ocean Potion, Neutrogena, Aveeno etc.) and keep your preferences in mind. Many store name/generic brands cost less and are basically the same product in different packaging, so read the labels!

After Your Purchase

Now that you are equipped with the knowledge you need to buy a safe sunscreen for you and your family, remember that sunscreen is only a small part of keeping safe outside under the sun. Wearing Ultraviolet safe glasses, hats, protective clothing, and staying inside or limiting exposure during peak UV hours (10am – 4pm) is critical in protecting your skin from sun damage!

Swimming and Children’s Safety
Swimming and Children’s Safety

Children’s Safety: Swimming

There is perhaps no better summertime activity than going swimming.  Whether you frequent a community pool or hit the beach instead, there’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in cool water on a hot day.  While a day at the pool is a relaxing activity for most, when you have little ones, being around water can be nerve wracking.  Here are some statistics to illustrate the importance of careful poolside practices along with some tips to help you develop safe water habits with your little ones.

Children Swimming Safety

The Facts:

Children under the age of 14 are at risk for unintentional drowning.  On average, within the United States alone, ten people die from  drowning accidents every day.  About 1 in 5 of those are children under the age of 14.  Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest rate of drowning and, more often than not, these accidents happen in home pools.  The greatest factors contributing to these numbers are:

  • a child not knowing how to swim
  • a home pool being unfenced
  • a lack of supervision
  • failure to wear an appropriate life jacket or floating device
  • alcohol use among supervising adults

Here are some of the most basic and effective ways to ensure that you and your family stay safe whether at the pool or the beach this summer:

Get them into Swim Lessons:

Teaching your child to be comfortable in water is the first step. You’ll  need to assess when each child is ready, but getting them in lessons as early as possible is advised.  Make sure they know how to tread water and float before allowing them in the water by themselves.  Keep them in the shallow end of the pool or in any designated kid’s zones.  Make sure that they know not to go in the water unless an adult is present.  Or, if they’re a bit older and you feel confident in their abilities, teach them to use the buddy system and always have someone with them while swimming.  While it’s important for them to recognize that precautions should be taken, they should also know that water is not something to be afraid of.

If your child has been primarily in pools and is going to a lake or to the ocean for the first time, help educate them on the differences of swimming out in the open.  Teach them about currents, undertow, uneven surfaces, etc. to make sure they’re prepared for the differences.

Actively Supervise:

There is nothing more important than making sure your full attention is on your children at all times when they are near or in water.  If your children are still infants or toddlers, you shouldn’t be more than an arm’s length away from them.  Be sure that you remove any distractions while you’re monitoring children in water so that you can jump in and help immediately if necessary.

Pool parties, while fun, can be some of the most dangerous environments for little swimmers if they are not handled properly.  If there are numerous adults around, it’s important to always have  at least one adult designated to watching at all times.  Don’t make the faulty assumption that someone else is watching your children.     Set up a rotation system so that one parent doesn’t get too worn out.  This will keep everyone’s eyes fresh and still make sure that the kids always have an active watcher.

Teach About the Dangers of Pools:

While pools may seem harmless enough, it’s important to remember that things such as water jets, drains, and filtration systems can pose a threat to hair and little fingers and toes.  Teach your kids to stay away from drains or outlets that may have suction.  Anything that could prevent them from being able to come up for air should be avoided.  Children’s wading pools or smaller pools with only a singular drain pose the greatest threat for hazardous suction.  If you’re installing a hot tub or pool, make sure that the draining systems are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act.

Learn CPR:  

Should an accident occur, nothing is more valuable than proper CPR knowledge.  Mere minutes can make a huge difference if a child has swallowed water.  Local hospitals, fire departments, or community colleges offer CPR classes regularly.  Make it a family outing and have the kids learn CPR as well.  It is an invaluable tool that could save a life!

If you have a Home Pool:

If you already have a pool in your backyard, make sure that every safety precaution possible is in place.  A pool fence should be at least 4 feet high and should have a secure, self-latching gate.  This will keep you from having to remember to latch it every time you leave the pool area.  If all you have is an inflatable pool, make sure you empty out all water after you’re done using it.  Store the pool upside down to ensure there is no water left inside.  Whether you have an in ground pool or merely an inflatable one, consider installing an alarm or attaching a bell to all outside doors to monitor children’s whereabouts .

Being aware of the dangers that pools and bodies of water can pose is the first step to achieving safe water practices.  Take every precaution to ensure that water-focused playtime can remain carefree.  Remember that educating yourself and your children is the most important decision you can make when it comes to maintaining your child’s safety.  Put these suggestions into practice to give yourself some peace of mind this summer.  Happy swimming!