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The Children's Wellness Blog

Safety Tips for Over the Counter Medications

October 20, 2017

Safety Tips for Over the Counter MedicationsEveryone knows that prescription medications are prescription-only because they need to be used sparingly and with caution. However, it’s important to also remember that just because a medication is over-the-counter (or OTC) does not mean that it carries no risks. Especially for kids, over-the-counter medicines need to be used correctly in order for them to be safe and effective. Our board-certified pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center want your family to be safe and healthy, so here are a few tips to help you use your kids’ OTC medicines correctly:

  • Don’t be overly quick to give your child medicine. While the right medications can be perfectly safe if used correctly, many childhood illnesses simply need a little rest and time to allow your child’s immune system to do its job.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers, complete with childproof lids.
  • Always read the instructions on the original packaging for the medicine and follow the instructions closely.
  • Be aware that some OTC medicines have minimum ages. For example:
    • Acetaminophen (like Tylenol®) should not be given to infants under 2 months of age unless it is specifically recommended by a doctor.
    • Ibuprofen (like Motrin®) should not be used until 6 months of age.
    • Kids under 6 years old should not take any OTC cold medicines or cough
    • Aspirin (and all medications that contain aspirin) should be avoided for all kids unless your doctor specifically says that it’s okay.
  • Use measuring spoons, droppers or other applicators that are specifically made for the purpose of measuring and administering medicine for kids (in fact, many medicines come with their own measuring cups or spoons). Do not use kitchen teaspoons and tablespoons as a substitute, and don’t try to “eyeball it” and guess on a dosage. The most accurate way to measure dosage is with an oral syringe, which most pharmacies will give to parents for free.
  • Some OTC medicines come in the form of oral drops for infants and syrups for toddlers. Remember that infant drops are usually more concentrated than the syrups, so if your toddler needs, for instance, 1 teaspoon of syrup, do not substitute 1 teaspoon of an infant drop medicine.
  • Store all OTC and prescription medicines alike in a safe, secure place that is out of your kids’ reach. This should be one of your childproofing
  • Keep in mind that some drops, syrups, and tablets include multiple medicines, so be sure to read the ingredient list. For example, if you’ve given your child a syrup that contains acetaminophen, avoid doubling up and giving him/her an additional dose of acetaminophen as well.
  • Many medicines for kids have charts to tell you the correct dosage. If there is a weight chart and an age chart, use the weight chart first, because it will be a more accurate dosage.
  • OTC medications can still cause adverse side effects or allergic reactions. Keep track of these so that you know if you need to avoid certain ingredients in the future. Call your pediatrician if your child vomits or develops a rash. Call 911 emergency services if your child is unconscious and won’t wake up, has a lot of trouble breathing, starts twitching or shaking uncontrollably, or begins acting very strangely.
  • As far as vitamins and dietary supplements go, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplements of 400 IU/day for infants under 1 year of age, and 600 IU/day for kids over 1 year of age. This is primarily for infants who are being breastfed or for kids who are not getting enough vitamin D in their normal diet. Beyond this, only give your kids additional vitamins if it’s specifically recommended by your pediatrician, because large doses of unnecessary vitamins can cause serious adverse effects.
  • Be sure to follow any OTC medication’s instructions about whether the medicine should be taken with certain foods, with water, without food, etc. so that your child’s body can absorb and use the medication the way it should.

When your kids are sick, of course you want to do everything you can to help them feel better quickly, and OTC medicines can be helpful. Just be sure you’re using them correctly and only when appropriate to make sure that they’re truly giving you and your kids the benefits you expect. For more kids’ health tips for parents, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Find the Right Pediatrician

October 12, 2017

How to Find the Right PediatricianFor new parents and parents-to-be, there are so many important decisions that need to be made, including which pediatrician your kids will see throughout their childhood. Whether you’re a first-time parent searching for a pediatrician for your new family, or your kids have had a pediatrician in the past but you’re looking for a new one, our staff at Children’s Wellness Center has some tips to help you jump-start the process.

Look for a “Medical Home” for Your Kids

There are many reasons why a family may need to change pediatricians, like a move, a retirement, etc. Ideally, though, you want your kids to have the same pediatrician throughout their lives. This is what we call a “medical home” – a pediatric office that has all your kids’ histories, knows them well, and serves as your go-to when you have any medical concerns for your kids. This is why it’s so important to take your time and truly get to know a pediatrician before choosing them – because you want them to be with you for the long haul.

How to Get Started

You essentially want to start by assembling a large list of all the potential options. In a populated area like metro Atlanta, this can seem overwhelming, so here are a few sources where you can start:

  • If you have health insurance or another type of managed care plan, your insurance/managed care provider should have a list of all the in-network or approved pediatricians in your area. Many providers have directories on their websites, so this can be a convenient place to start. Keep in mind, however, that these directories change often and can have errors, so if you’re looking for a certain provider, it’s best to call the provider to check whether they accept your insurance.
  • Ask for recommendations from your obstetrician, your own general physician, and other parents you trust.
  • Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website. They offer a directory that lists all the board-certified pediatricians in your area.
  • Contact nearby medical centers or hospitals and ask for lists of the local pediatricians. Specifically, if there is a certain hospital where you’re very comfortable, you can ask for a list of the pediatricians that are affiliated with the hospital.

Criteria to Look For in a Pediatrician

Once you have a comprehensive list of all your options, it’s time to start narrowing them down. Create a checklist of all your desired criteria and find out how many of the pediatricians meet all or most of your checkpoints. Here are a few that you should always have on your list:

  • Board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Admitting rights for local hospitals (so that the doctor can admit your child to the hospital if a kids health emergency arises)
  • Office location (Is the office conveniently accessible to you? If you don’t have a car, can the office be reached by public transportation?)
  • Office hours (Are the hours manageable with your family’s schedule?)
  • Practice format (Many parents prefer group practices because there are likely to be other trusted pediatricians who can help you if your doctor is unavailable. However, make sure that the practice understands the importance of seeing your specific pediatrician whenever possible. For instance, at Children’s Wellness Center, we prioritize our schedule so that patients are always placed with their same consistent provider unless there is a significant scheduling issue or the need for an urgent appointment while the patient’s usual pediatrician isn’t available.)

These criteria (most of which you should be able to find online to make the process easier) can help you narrow your list down to a select few pediatricians.

Interview Questions to Ask

Once you have your “short list,” it’s a good idea to set up interviews with these pediatricians so you can meet them, get a feel for their personality and their office staff, understand the pediatric practice philosophy, and see if they would be a good fit for your family. It may be more convenient to do the interview itself by phone, but it’s a good idea to also pay the office a brief visit at some point as well. For example, at Children’s Wellness Center, we have several Meet & Greets every month with our providers. Held in the evening for your convenience, these relaxed sessions are the perfect opportunity for parents to come in, meet our providers, see our office, and get a sense of our practice personality.

Regardless of how you choose to interview your potential pediatricians, you’ll want to customize the questions based on what exactly your needs and goals are, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • How does the practice handle visits for acute illnesses? In other words, can you get an appointment on short notice if an illness like the flu arises? At Children’s Wellness Center, for instance, we are almost always able to accommodate same-day visits for sick kids.
  • How available is the doctor if you need to call with questions about your kids?
  • What hospital does the pediatrician typically use when necessary?
  • What happens if you have a concern after-hours or on the weekend?
  • What are the costs for typical visits, vaccines, etc.? If you don’t have insurance, how are payments handled?

As a parent, you already have too much to worry about – you shouldn’t be concerned about second-guessing your pediatrician, too. Taking the time to do a thorough search for the right pediatrician from the start can give you invaluable peace of mind knowing that your child’s health is in good hands. To find out if Children’s Wellness Center may be the right medical home for your kids, schedule a pediatrician appointment or give us a call with any questions you may have.

After-School Safety Tips

October 6, 2017

After-School Safety TipsFor working parents, the day your kids are old enough to start going to school can bring so many advantages, like no longer needing to pay for a full day of child care and knowing that your child is spending his/her days learning productively. But in millions of homes across the country, those few hours between school release and the end of your workday can create a problem. In some families, the kids are old enough and mature enough to be home alone until their parents get back from work. For others, the kids are supervised by a babysitter, grandparent, or other adult, while other families fill the time gap with after-school programs. Whichever choice works for you, there are steps you can take to make sure your kids are safe and out of trouble.

For Kids Who are Home Alone

  • Make sure your child is actually old enough to stay home alone (or to take of his/her younger siblings alone). The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that most kids can stay home alone by age 11 or 12, but it’s all dependent on your child’s own maturity level and behavioral health. If you think your child is ready, it’s a good idea to start with very short periods (like a run to the grocery store) and gradually increase the time they can be home alone.
  • Only allow your kids to be home alone for about three hours or less.
  • Consider whether your neighborhood is one where your kids will be safe and will be around other supportive adults before allowing them to be home alone.
  • Have a list of emergency phone numbers next to every phone in the house – your cell phone, your work number, 911, the local police department, poison control, etc. Make sure you child knows when to use them.
  • Tell your kids to never tell anyone they’re home alone. If they’re allowed to answer the phone, make sure they say “Mom/Dad is in the shower” or “Mom/Dad is busy right now,” rather than telling people you’re not home. This also goes for any communication online.
  • Have a well-stocked first aid Make sure your kids know where it is and how to use all the supplies.
  • Plan several ways to escape your home in the case of a fire or other emergency, and practice them with your kids so they know all the possible routes.
  • In the case of a power outage, make sure you have several flashlights available with spare batteries.
  • Teach your kids how to shut off the water valves on all toilets and sinks in the case of a leak or overflow.
  • Set specific limits on whether your kids can cook and what appliances they can and cannot use while home alone. Even if your children aren’t allowed to cook, teach them how to put out a cooking fire.
  • Make sure your kids know their names, addresses, pediatricians’ names, and parents’ phone numbers.
  • Have a family meeting, establish rules your kids must follow, and post these rules on the refrigerator or in another prominent place.
  • Require that your kids call you when they get home so you know they’re safe.
  • Have several nearby adults that your kids can call if they need help, like grandparents, neighbors, friends, etc. – adults you trust. Post their phone numbers near each phone as well.
  • To keep your kids from having so much free time that they’re tempted to get into trouble, give them jobs to do before you get home from work, like doing their homework or completing certain chores.
  • If you have an older child that will be watching younger siblings, consider enrolling him/her in a babysitting course.

For Kids Who Have After-School Childcare

  • If your kids go to a babysitter’s home (or a friend or family member’s home), make sure the home is safely
  • Check the babysitter’s credentials and make sure they know how to handle emergency situations.
  • Just as you would if your kids were home alone, provide the babysitter with all the contact information he/she needs in the case of a minor or major problem, like emergency services, all your phone numbers, nearby adults you trust, etc.
  • If you’re using a new babysitter, consider setting up time for you, the sitter, and your kids to spend time together so you can see how the sitter interacts with the kids and so the kids can become comfortable with the sitter.

For Kids Who Attend After-School Programs

  • Take your kids’ interests into account and look for programs that will be both fun and useful for their healthy child development, so they’re not tempted to “play hookie.”
  • Thoroughly investigate the programs before signing up your kids. Make sure you’re comfortable with the activities your kids will be doing and with the adults who will be caring for them.
  • If the program doesn’t take place at your child’s school, make sure you have a safe transportation plan in place.

As a parent, of course you want your kids to be safe and secure at all hours of the day whether you’re with them or not. This is absolutely possible regardless of whether your kids spend their after-school hours in a special program, in childcare, or home alone as long as you take the right precautions. For more advice on keeping your kids safe after school or for any other health and safety questions you may have, contact Children’s Wellness Center and our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to help. To keep up with our future blogs and more, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Does My Child Need Stitches?

September 26, 2017

Does My Child Need StitchesEvery time you hear that tell-tale cry of your child tripping and falling or getting hurt, there’s a moment of panic before you’re able to actually know how severe or minor the injury is. With cuts or lacerations in kids, it’s helpful that the damage is on the surface so it’s fairly easy to assess your child’s injury. Still, it can be a challenge to know where the line is between a minor scrape you can treat at home and a more substantial cut that needs medical attention. At Children’s Wellness Center, our pediatric nurse practitioner and board-certified pediatricians are here to offer a little advice.

How to Know if a Cut Needs Stitches

The majority of kids’ cuts and scrapes are minor enough to be treated at home, but some do need stitches or other types of medical care in order to heal properly and avoid a potentially serious infection. Here are a few indicators that a cut may need stitches:

  • The cut goes all the way through the skin
  • The cut is gaping (meaning that the sides are pulling away from each other, showing dark red or yellowish tissue beneath, rather than lying flat). Particularly, be sure to get medical care for a cut that is both gaping and longer than ½ inch in length.
  • The cut won’t stop bleeding after a full ten minutes of applying pressure.

What to Expect if Your Child Needs Stitches

In this day and age, there are actually a number of ways to treat a cut for kids in a medically safe and sterile way. Traditional stitches are still used in some cases (especially if the cut or laceration is in an area where there is a lot of tension and movement in the skin), and may or may not be absorbable. If your child’s stitches are not absorbable, the doctor will tell you when you should have them removed. This will vary based on the type and location of the wound. However, our providers at Children’s Wellness Center can remove stitches so that you don’t need to return to the emergency room.

For wounds in the scalp, staples are generally used instead of stitches. Another highly popular option, though, is medical glue. Since its approval in 1998, medical glue has been used successfully for straight cuts because it’s done in a quick and painless procedure. However, this specialized glue cannot be used for wounds in areas where muscle usage will create tension in the skin, so physicians are very selective in deciding when it is an appropriate option.

Steri-strips are an option that is essentially halfway in between medical glue and stitches. Sometimes called “butterfly” bandages, steri-strips are small pieces of medical-grade adhesives that are placed across a cut (criss-crossing the cut like a “t”) to hold the edges of skin together. This allows the cut to heal more smoothly while keeping dirt out to avoid infections in kids. While they can apply a bit of tension for gaping cuts (unlike medical glue), steri-strips are not as secure as stitches and typically aren’t used in highly mobile areas of the body, like the knees and elbows.

If your child gets a cut that you believe may require stitches, bring your child to a nearby emergency room or urgent care clinic, such as those provided by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The providers will be able to identify the best way to treat your child’s cut and safely and swiftly. Please remember that while we offer a wide variety of services at Children’s Wellness Center, we do not have the equipment necessary to provide stitches or other emergency treatments for kids, so please seek a form of urgent care regardless of whether or not the injury occurs during our regular business hours.

How to Treat Minor Cuts at Home

If your child’s laceration doesn’t look severe enough to need stitches, there are a few simple steps you can follow at home to prevent infection and help your child heal:

  1. Examine the wound for any materials. If the object that caused the cut (like a nail) is still in place, apply pressure and seek medical care (which may include a tetanus shot depending on the object that caused the cut) – do not try to remove the object on your own.
  2. Clean the wound carefully by flushing it with cool water. Make sure your hands are clean first, and then ensure that you get all dirt and debris out of the cut. Wash the area around the wound with mild soap and water to clear away any nearby bacteria.
  3. Cover the wound with dry gauze (or a clean towel if you don’t have gauze available) and apply pressure for 5-10 minutes to stop the bleeding. If blood soaks through the gauze or towel, simply place a new piece on top of it rather than removing the piece that’s already in place.
  4. After the bleeding has stopped, apply an antibacterial ointment and a dry, clean bandage. Some cuts, like those in areas that are unlikely to get dirty, can be left to heal in the open air, although you should still apply antibacterial ointment.

As a parent, there’s nothing that can fully take away the worry and heartbreak you feel when your child gets hurt. Still, being knowledgeable about how to handle these situations can certainly help to put your mind at ease and give you guidance in an emergency. When it comes to keeping your kids safe and healthy during all those non-emergency times, our providers at Children’s Wellness Center are honored to provide the top-notch care your family deserves. Give us a call to schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for all our latest blogs and other helpful health tips for kids.

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