Health and Wellness Archive

It’s the Great (Teal) Pumpkin!

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teal-pumpkin

Halloween trick-or-treat alternatives for kids with food allergies

I vaguely remember this movement last year, but never actually saw it in execution. To be fair, we live in a rural area where you can’t exactly trick-or-treat farm to farm, but even at the many trunk-or-treat events we went to I didn’t see anything regarding teal pumpkins. I saw it all over Facebook, but that was about the extent of it. It seemed like a cool idea, and I was hoping it would gain popularity.

Apparently it did, because this year I see the tell tale teal pumpkins everywhere! In the places you’d never expect…the local grocery store, our farmers market, sitting at the end of a dirt road on the drive of an old farm straddling the border of North and South Carolina. It has arrived. The Great Teal Pumpkin is here!

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The Teal Pumpkin Project focuses on bringing the joy of Halloween to kids with food allergies. Although it took awhile to reach our neck of the woods, the Teal Pumpkin Project was actually started back in 2014. According to foodallergy.org, 15 million Americans have food allergies, which accounts for about 1 in 13 children. How many kids are in your child’s class? Usually 20+…so it’s safe to say you have at least one, if not two, kids that have a food allergy.

To participate, all you do is place a teal pumpkin (or a sign) outside. That’s it. This indicates that you have non-food treats available for children who cannot have candy. Suggestions for non-food items are bubbles, stickers, pencils, tattoos, crayons, and bouncy balls. I was at Costco last week and saw a giant bag of tiny containers of Play-doh that would be absolutely perfect!

Halloween is a magical day. It can also be crushing to a child when their magic is ruined. Kids with food allergies face a struggle every day of their lives. Let’s give them a day off to just be kids.

 

The Incredible (little?) Plasticman!

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If you know me, you know one of my peeves is when people try to swing my kids around by their arms or lift them up by their hands. I’m always the bad guy to ruin the fun for all. But here’s why:

Kids, especially the under 5 set, are pretty much just running around connected by rubber bands. It sounds crude to say, but it’s true. The ligaments holding their joints together are still fresh, and aren’t as strong as they will be later in childhood. One of the most common minor injuries of childhood is known as the “nursemaid elbow”. It occurs when a child is pulled hard by the arm, falls on it wrong, or is picked up or swung by their arms/hands. The weight is too much for the immature ligaments to handle, and the joint of the elbow partially or completely dislocates. It’s pretty painful for the child, and you’ll know right away if it happens. Kids will cry and refuse to use their arm.

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It’s pretty scary but fortunately it’s benign and a simple fix. Your pediatrician or the doctor at urgent care or the emergency room can quickly pop it back into place by doing a maneuver known as a reduction. It hurts for a split second but there’s immediate relief. The downside is if this happens to your child once, the odds of it happening again are pretty high, so you may be making multiple trips before your child’s ligaments firm up a bit after the age of 5 or 6.

I swear sometimes my 2 year old does look like this.

I swear sometimes my 2 year old does look like this.

You can prevent this from happening altogether by always leading your child gently by the arm (I know this is hard when you’re holding their hand and they are doing spaghetti legs and flailing around!), only lifting them by their armpits, and avoiding rough play that involves swinging them around by their hands or wrists. Sometimes it just happens regardless, but following those basic tips greatly reduces the chances that your toddler will have to go through the pain.

But if it does happen, don’t fret. It’s very common and sometimes it’s just another bump in the roller coaster of childhood.

How to toss your cookies but not your sanity.

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Let’s talk about one of our absolutely favorite things about being a parent. Something that makes childless people totally jealous, makes you cry tears of joy, inspires the angels to sing, and brings that rhetorical unicorn to continue defecating glorious sparkling rainbows all over your home.

Your child comes to you. They have that look in their eyes- the look of true love and need for you. You open your arms to accept them and “GAHHHHGKSJHDJHERUIGTGSJGJAJSHJFDH*#$^&#^$@%#@^#&@”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The stomach runneth over. You look down at the coating on your shirt. The puddle collecting in your lap. The smell invading your brain.

No? Not your favorite?  Well that’s a bummer because ‘tis the season!

toystory puke

Anyway, a common misconception is that this is a “stomach flu”. Actually it’s not the flu at all. Influenza is characterized by sudden onset fever, chills and body aches, runny nose, cough, etc. Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestine, causing nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, low grade fevers, aches, and general ickiness. It’s definitely no fun.

So what can you do when you or your little one is lucky enough to contract this? Honestly, the less you do, the better. The first thing people worry about it dehydration, which is a valid concern, but it really only becomes a danger when the vomiting or diarrhea becomes excessive (think more than once per hour and continuing this way for a long period of time). The stomach is purging because it is irritated, so you want to give it a rest. Resist the urge to give your child fluid after they vomit. It will continue the cycle and prolong the misery. Let them rest and once they’ve been vomit free for more than an hour or two, allow a few SIPS of water or electrolyte drink. No drinking full glasses no matter how hard they beg! Once they’ve been vomit free for longer than that, they can nibble on crackers or something bland. If they throw up again, start back at square one with nothing by mouth again. Sometimes this lasts for just the day, sometimes a few.  Avoid giving sugary drinks like Gatorade and juice since it can irritate the stomach more. You don’t need to follow the BRAT diet- typically once kids aren’t throwing up anymore they can resume normal eating patterns but do avoid fatty, fried, or spicy foods. Avoid dairy as much as possible during this time, most irritated stomachs cannot tolerate lactose.  Breastfeeding is always ok! If you are nursing, encourage them to breastfeed as much as they want. Resist the urge to give medications. Ibuprofen can irritate the stomach and any kind of anti-emetic and anti-diarrheal is preventing the purging of the virus from the system. Just let it ride- the best medicine is rest and love.

Typically a stomach virus doesn’t require a visit to the pediatrician. Viruses are not treated with antibiotics. However, if your child is showing signs of dehydration (dry skin, dark urine or not urinating, crying without tears, sunken soft spot in infants, listlessness, or high fever) then they should be seen. Rotavirus and norovirus can cause severe dehydration, so if your child shows any of these symptoms or is vomiting/having diarrhea uncontrollably then swift action is needed.  Also if you notice red blood or dark coffee ground-looking stuff in their vomit or diarrhea, get them seen right away.

Remember to wash wash wash! Hand sanitizer is not effective in killing stomach viruses. Good ol’ soap and water is your best bet. Make your child wash their hands constantly and remember to wash yours too even if you aren’t sick! Also remember that even if they stop vomiting or having diarrhea, their stools will still be contagious for several weeks, so be vigilant with those diapers and disinfecting the bathroom/house.

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Even if this isn’t your magic parenting moment, you will make it through. I have faith in you. Although may I suggest investing in a good carpet/upholstery cleaner?

Bicycle Helmet Ratings: Giro, Bell, Schwinn and Scott

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Comparison of Safe Bike Helmets for Older Kids and Adults: Bell Piston Review, Giro Revel Review, Schwinn Merge Review, Scott ARX Plus Review

In our previous blog on bicycle helmets, we covered some of the statistics involving brain injuries to cyclists.  While serious injuries are not uncommon for adults or kids, fatal injuries tend to be much more likely with increasing age.  That’s not only a big deal for tweens and teens, but especially for parents!  But how do you pick a helmet?  Here are a few tips:

  • Select one with a CPSC certified label.  This means it passed basic requirements and testing.
  • Make sure it fits correctly.  If it is too hard to adjust or doesn’t stay in place correctly, it may not be in the right spot to protect well after shifting around during a long ride.  Most helmets should fit snugly and should not move much front-to-back, side-to-side or twisting.  Have a question?  Try shopping at a local bike store and have an expert help you!
  • Select one for comfort.  If it is too hot, or pokes you or gives you a headache, you won’t wear it and it won’t protect you.  Ventilation and padding differ greatly and it’s not always the priciest models that are the best ones for you, because everyone has a different head and preference.
  • Choose a helmet for cycling or one labeled for dual or multi-sport use. Models specifically for other sports like skateboarding may not be as suitable for cycling use.
  • Select one you like.  Fashion may seem irrelevant for safety, but if you aren’t going to wear it, it won’t protect you.  Styles vary a lot, from motorcycle style with drab colors  to ultralight racing models with fancy designs.

Much like carseats, independent testing is difficult to find.  To my knowledge, only Consumer Reports® has done additional safety testing of select models in the USA.  Their ratings of 22 models are available to subscribers online and can be found in the June, 2015 issue of the magazine.  I don’t know if their testing is consistent with industry expert analysis, but much like carseats, it appears to be the only independent testing out there.

Consumer Reports also tested youth helmets.  Their top choice was the Bontrager Solstice Youth at $40, available online and at local bike stores and Trek stores.  For tweens, teens and adults, you probably need an adult sized helmet. Below, I have quick reviews on a few budget models that were recommended in CR’s ratings.  In addition to being best buys, all three received very good impact absorption scores.  All three have dial adjustments that ratchet to tighten and loosen the helmet.

Quick Reviews:

Giro Revel (Left), Schwinn Merge (Center) and Bell Piston (Right):

HelmetComparsionSide HelmetComparisonBack HelmetComparisonInside

I recently tested four helmets, ranging from $15 to $150.  Do you need to spend a fortune to protect your head, or does a bargain model work just as well?