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health tips

Seasonal

The following health and safety information has been gathered from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Websites. For more information, go to CDC.gov or AAP.org.

SPRING

April showers bring May flowers, pollen and the first signs of seasonal allergies. Common symptoms of allergies are nasal congestion, itchy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, dark rings under the eyes, cough, sneezing, rashes or itchy throat or mouth. The nasal symptoms are collectively known as Allergic Rhinitis. Approximately 15% of the general population present with these symptoms in response to airborne allergens. In children, allergic rhinitis is uncommon before the age of 3.

Children with persistent allergy symptoms are at risk of having recurrent ear infections, mouth breathing, sinus infections and fatigue. Bloody noses are also common. The nasal discharge is clear in allergic rhinitis. Allergy symptoms differ from colds by the color of the nasal secretions and absence of fever or body aches. Treatment consists of over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medicines to start and prescription medicines if OTC medicines fail. Salt-water/saline rinses may relieve runny noses. Lastly, if all medications fail to control symptoms, an allergist should be consulted. The allergist may decide that immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be necessary to quiet the reaction to the environmental allergen.

Any child with a history of seasonal allergy symptoms should always bathe before bed or after outdoor play to rinse off any pollen residue on the skin and in the hair. When the pollen counts are especially high, car windows and house windows should be shut. Use central air-conditioning when possible. Outdoor play should be avoided before 10 a.m. when counts are highest.

SUMMER

School is out and the weather is nice so children are likely to spend a lot more time outside.  Here are some summer safety tips to remember:

  • Children 6 months and above should cover up with lightweight, cotton clothing when possible.  Limit sun exposure during peak intensity hours (10am – 4pm).  Use sunscreen on cloudy and sunny days with an SPF of 15 or higher.  Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
  • Children under 6 months can prevent sunburn by dressing in long sleeves, long pants and brimmed hats.  When shade and protective clothing are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with SPF 15 or above to small areas.
  • Encourage periodic drinking before, during and after strenuous activities to avoid heat stress.
  • Never leave a child alone in or near the pool or other body of water. 
  • Do not allow children to play barefoot outside.
  • Don’t use scented soaps, hairsprays, perfumes or flowery prints that will attract bugs to children.
  • Insect repellant should not be reapplied.
  • DEET containing repellants should not be used for children over 2 months of age.  Use 10-30% DEET products for children over 2 months.
  • Parents should supervise children on play equipment.  Do not allow children to attach ropes, leashes etc. to play equipment.
  • Children should wear a helmet for every bike ride.  Make sure that the helmet fits properly for optimal protection.
  • All skaters, skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear a helmet and other protective gear.  Do not allow children to construct their own ramps and jumps.
  • Children under the age of 12 should not use push mowers and children under the age of 16 should not use ride-on mowers.  Make sure that they use protective hearing and eye-wear.  Sturdy shoes should be worn, not sandals, flip-flops or sneakers while mowing.


FALL

As the summer ends, kids head back to school.  Here are some tips to make the new school year better for all:

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.  Make sure the child always uses both straps to carry their belongings.  Consider a rolling backpack for children whose load is more than 10-20% of their body weight.
  • If your child rides the school bus make sure to reinforce these rules:  Use lap/shoulder seat belts if provided.  Do not move around while the bus is moving.  Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.  Make sure to remain in clear view of the bus driver.
  • All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.  Younger children should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the child is approximately 4’9”. This is when the child is tall enough to sit against the seat back with legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck.  The lap belt should be snug across the thighs, not the stomach.
  • Plan to prepare healthy lunches for your children.  Restrict your child’s soft drink consumption. One can of soda per day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%.  Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices in the vending machines.
  • Teach your child how to respond to bullies, when and how to ask for help and alert school officials to any problems that you are concerned about.
  • Create environments that are conducive to doing homework.  Set a household rule that the TV stays off during homework time.  Supervise computer and internet use.  Be available to offer assistance and answer questions but do not do the child’s homework.  If your child is having difficulties with a subject that you cannot help them with, speak with the child’s teacher to arrange for additional help or tutoring.


WINTER

The winter months bring frequent colds, school absences and ill contacts.  Several viruses are in season such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and the Influenza Virus.  These viruses cause fever, wheezing, body aches, persistent cough and malaise.  Children with chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes are at high risk of developing serious complications.  Each season varies in severity; however some children will die from flu each year.  The single best way to protect your children against seasonal flu is to get them vaccinated!

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.  The children at higher risk of complications are those under the age of 5 years and all children with chronic diseases such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, immune suppression and asthma.  Close contacts of these children high risk children (parents, siblings, caregivers, teachers and health care workers) should also be vaccinated annually. 

Vaccination should begin as soon as vaccines are available, usually in September-October, and continue throughout the flu season.  Children between 6 months and 8 years who are being vaccinated for the first time will need to get 2 doses, 4 or more weeks apart.

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