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The Children's Wellness Blog

Camping Safety Tips for Parents

July 3, 2017

Camping Safety Tips for ParentsEvery family needs to take a break from their daily hustle and bustle every once in a while, and everyone does this in a different way. For some families, camping can be an enjoyable and refreshing way to spend a vacation. But before you hop into your RV or tent, our pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center have a few tips to help you keep your kids safe and healthy on your family camping trip.

  • Take plenty of preparation time to learn about the area where you’re going. If you’re not an experienced camper, try starting with day trips and working your way up to a weekend or a full week.
  • Especially during summers in the South, be mindful of the heat. It’s easy for kids to get overheated, so if you plan to enjoy hiking during your trip, plan your hikes in the early morning or evening when the sun is cooler. When the heat is at its peak (10am – 4pm), spend most of your time in the shade. At all times of the day, practice good sun safety for kids.
  • Teach your children safety measures in case they get lost on a hike. For example:
    • Give them a whistle and teach them the universal signal for help (three blows).
    • Teach them how to identify landmarks on the trail. Every so often while you’re hiking, have them turn around and look at the trail they’ve passed, so they’re familiar with their surroundings.
    • Tell them that if they get lost, they should stop, stay where they are, and whistle/yell for help.
    • Dress kids in brightly colored clothing so they can be spotted easily.
  • Pack for all types of weather by wearing layers. Be sure to also pack clothing that protects you against rain and wind, like polyester and lycra instead of cotton. And remember, temperatures can drop significantly at night, even when it’s hot during the day, so make sure you’re prepared with a hat, fleece jacket, or other warm clothing.
  • Insect repellent can protect your child from many pests’ bites and stings, but there are special considerations when you’re using it for children. For all the details, check out our blog about how to use insect repellent for kids.
  • If you’re in an area where ticks are common, tuck the bottoms of your children’s pants into their socks to help keep the ticks from biting. Even with this extra measure, though, you still need to use insect repellent and to check your child for ticks at the end of each day.
  • Be mindful of the animals that live in your camping area. Here are a few tips:
    • Before your trip, research the wildlife in the area where you’ll be camping. Learn their habits, how to avoid disturbing their homes, and what to do if you encounter them.
    • When you’re looking for a place to make camp, survey the area and look for signs that you could be in a highly-traveled area for animals. For instance, bears may be attracted to areas with a lot of berries. You should also look out for evidence of insect nests in the area.
    • Teach your children about the wildlife they may see, and tell them to never approach or try to feed an animal they don’t know.
  • If you’ll be enjoying a lake, river, or other body of water during your camping trip, make sure you have adequate life jackets that are approved by the US Coast Guard. These life jackets will be marked, and they’ll be listed as type 1, type 2, type 3, or type 4. Type 1 is the best option, while type 4 provides the least protection. In addition to having life jackets that fit your kids well, be sure to follow our other water safety tips.
  • Bring your own bottled water. Natural sources of water are often contaminated, so if your supply runs out and you need to drink from a natural source, have a water filter and/or dissolvable iodine tablets. Teach your children to never drink directly from a natural water source.
  • Teach your children what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac look like, and explain that these plants should not be touched. If your kids do come into contact with one of these plants, wash the area with cool water immediately.
  • Explain to your children that even though berries they see in nature might look like the ones you buy from the grocery store, they might be very dangerous, so they should never eat them. Bring plenty of healthy snacks for kids so they’re less tempted.
  • Kids are particularly prone to scrapes and bruises, so be sure to bring a well-supplied first aid kit.
  • If you’re traveling in an RV, remember that your children should use seat belts and car seats at all times when the RV is moving, just like you would in a passenger vehicle.

In our modern era of technological saturation, camping can feel like a breath of fresh air (quite literally). Just be sure to prepare and educate yourself beforehand in order to make your family’s vacation as safe and enjoyable as it can be. For other pre-camping safety questions or to schedule a well check visit for your child before your vacation, contact Children’s Wellness Center. Plus, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Health and Safety Tips for Parents of Adolescents

June 29, 2017

Health and Safety Tips for Parents of AdolescentsAs your children get older and enter the stage of adolescence, they become more and more independent. But, as anyone who has parented teenagers will agree, that doesn’t mean that your job gets easier. At Children’s Wellness Center (CWC), we’re dedicated to keeping your kids safe and healthy throughout all stages of their development, so we’ve gathered a list of tips to help you protect your teenager.

Health Tips

  • Although it’s popular for teens to want a suntan, do not allow them to tan purposefully or to use a tanning bed. You should also demonstrate and enforce healthy sun protection for both boys and girls. Starting these habits at a young age will help your kids to carry them into adulthood.
  • For girls, explain to them that tampons should be changed every three to four hours. If a tampon is left in for too long, it can cause toxic shock syndrome with potentially very serious complications.
  • Sleep is highly important for your teen’s health as well as his/her ability to perform well in school, extracurricular activities, etc. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 8-10 hours of sleep for teenagers. But you should also keep in mind that teens’ sleep-wake cycles will shift as they get older, so they naturally stay awake later. Help your teen enjoy better sleep by creating a healthy sleep environment (lacking electronic devices like TVs and tablets), keeping them active enough during the day to tire them out by the end of the night, and making sure that they have enough time to get all their homework, chores, and other responsibilities done and still get a good night’s sleep.
  • Teens are at particularly high risk for meningococcal diseases (including meningitis). Keep their pediatric vaccines up-to-date, and speak with your pediatrician at Children’s Wellness Center about the two available types of vaccines at your teen’s next well check.
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important for both the physical health and the mental health of your teen. Parents of teens need to be particularly concerned not only about their children being overweight but also about teens developing eating disorders and becoming underweight. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers a number of teen nutrition tips to help you enforce healthy eating habits.

Safety Tips

  • Maintain open communication lines with your child about drugs and alcohol. As much as you may trust your child, you can’t always control the situations they find themselves in, so help them understand why they should say “no” and how to get out of these tempting or dangerous scenarios.
  • Get to know your child’s friends as well as those friends’ parents, so that you know how to make sure your child will be in a safe and supervised environment.
  • Adolescence offers an entirely new set of potential dangers at home, so review our home safety tips for adolescents so you can make sure your house is a safe haven.
  • When your teen begins driving, establish a set of very specific rules, including when they can and cannot drive, whether they need to text you when they arrive at their destination, where they need to put their cell phones and other devices so they don’t use them while they are driving, and more. With all of the temptation for distraction on your teen’s cell phone, one of the most important rules to establish is that your teen is not to use their phone while driving. Not only is this illegal in Georgia, but it dramatically increases the risk of an accident, especially for inexperienced drivers. Explore the websites of organizations like the Georgia Department of Driver Services and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia for more teen driving safety tips.

Mental Health Tips

  • The adolescent brain is very different from that of an adult. Educate yourself about the hormonal and physiological changes your teenager is going through so that you can understand their behavior and how to communicate with them.
  • Maintain a relationship with your child which makes them feel like they can talk to you candidly about anything that may be bothering them. Here are a few tips to help you communicate and build trust with your teen:
    • Make a point to just listen as a friend and confidante. Turn off your “parent radar” for a moment, and listen and empathize rather than reacting too quickly with judgment or restriction.
    • Don’t go too far empathizing. You want to show your teen that you understand and sympathize, but if you get overly emotional, it may just make your teenager more upset. Instead, keep calm and be the voice of reason.
    • Stay rational. Teens have a tendency to over-dramatize, but when your child comes to you, he/she wants to have a calm discussion with reason, so keep an even keel.
  • Be observant of your teen’s behavior and keep an eye out for signs of emotional issues, such as:
    • Excessive sleeping
    • Low self-esteem
    • Loss of interest in the hobbies and activities they used to enjoy
    • Significant weight loss and/or loss of appetite
    • Sudden and dramatic changes in personality
    • Sudden drop in academic performance
  • Be mindful of your teen’s media usage. Social media in particular can have a strong impact on your teen’s physical and mental health. Talk to your teen about the difference between how things are presented online and how they are in reality. You can also take other safety tips:
    • Keep your teen’s profiles “private” so they can only be seen by people your teen chooses to connect with.
    • Educate your teen about personal info they should not be posting, like their phone number, address, social security number, etc.
    • Keep a close eye on what your teen posts, and make sure he/she knows what content is appropriate to share and what is not.

Parenting a teenager requires a delicate balance—they still need supervision and guidance, but it’s also important that you help them learn how to be independent and prepare them for adult life. If you have any other questions about your teenager’s health and/or safety, give us a call at Children’s Wellness Center. Or, to schedule an appointment, log into our convenient pediatric patient portal, available 24/7.

Common Myths about Childhood Nutrition

June 22, 2017

Common Myths about Childhood NutritionFor children and adults alike, what you eat plays an incredibly large role in your overall health. But kids have their own unique set of nutritional needs, and as a parent, your goal is not only to give them the healthy food they need today, but also to teach them how to eat healthy when they become independent, too. There are countless sources of pediatric nutrition advice floating around, but not all of these sources are correct or reliable. To answer your questions and guide you in your efforts to keep your kids healthy, our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center are responding to some of the most common childhood nutrition myths that you may have heard.

Myth #1: When you start introducing your baby to solid foods, begin with vegetables rather than fruits, because the baby will be less likely to develop a “sweet tooth.”

If only it were that easy to prevent your child from ever craving unhealthy foods! In reality, it doesn’t matter in what order you introduce your child to fruits, vegetables, and grains. But when introducing your baby to solid foods, we do recommend that you begin by introducing one single food at a time, and waiting three days before switching to another single new food, and continuing in this manner until your child has tried at least ten individual foods. This will allow you to keep an eye out for reactions and to know which food caused it if it does happen.

Myth #2: Growing children need all the calories they can get, and any baby weight will be lost in puberty.

Childhood obesity has, sadly, become an epidemic in our country. While it’s true that kids need plenty of nutrients because of the many changes their bodies are going through, it’s crucial that they get them from the right sources to maintain a healthy weight for kids, like produce and healthy meats rather than processed foods and “junk food.”  At Children’s Wellness Center, we measure your child’s body mass index (BMI) at every well-child visit starting at age two, and can offer you guidance about whether your child’s weight is healthy and any changes you may need to make.

Myth #3: Breast milk and formula do not have enough protein for babies, so you need to supplement it with pureed meat.

Fortunately, formula and breast milk both contain as much protein as your infant needs. We typically recommend starting to introduce other sources of protein, like meat, beans, cottage cheese, and yogurt, at around 8-9 months of age, after your child has already become familiar with solid foods.

Myth #4: If it looks like my child is overweight, I should put them on a calorie-restricted diet.

Because children need all types of nutrients for their unique development, it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose your child as overweight or obese, or to design a weight loss diet yourself. If you aren’t sure whether your child’s weight is healthy, schedule a Well-Child Visit at Children’s Wellness Center, and we will be happy to evaluate your child’s health to determine what changes (if any) should be made to his or her diet and exercise regimen.

Myth #5: Babies should always remain on breast milk and/or formula until they are six months old.

While six months is a common age for infants to be ready to start trying purees, it’s all a matter of your baby’s individual development. As a general rule of thumb, your child is probably ready to start with purees when he/she can sit in a high chair and keep his/her head up independently. If your child starts to open his/her mouth when others are eating nearby, reach for others’ food, or get hungry more often, it may be time. In some babies, this happens closer to four or five months. Ultimately, because this timeline varies so much from baby to baby, you should speak with your pediatrician for more information. But don’t force your infant to pick up purees too quickly. If you try it and your baby doesn’t seem ready, simply wait a week or two and then try again.

Myth #6: My kids don’t need to eat or drink Vitamin D because they’re getting as much as they need from the sun.

The importance of Vitamin D is highly underestimated, especially when it comes to kids. So as a parent, if your child is no longer on formula or breastfeeding, you should be sure to incorporate Vitamin D-rich foods and drinks like fortified milk and yogurt, as well as eggs, canned tuna, salmon, and fortified cereals. And remember, too much sun exposure can also have plenty of health risks, so it’s best to apply sunscreen every time your child goes outside, rather than intentionally exposing your kids to the sun to produce Vitamin D. For more information, read up on sunscreen safety tips for kids.

Myth #7: If my child is a picky eater, I just need to wait for him/her to grow out of it.

In many cases, “food defiance” is a phase that kids outgrow, but sometimes the bad habits can stick around, and as a parent, you just need to know what tricks to try. First of all, lead by example so that your child can see you getting a balanced and varied diet. Children also tend to want to eat what is on their parents’ plates, so this is a great way to get them to try new foods, too. Second, help your children get excited by and interested in food by letting them help you cook. And finally, try mixing in the foods you want them to eat (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) with foods they already like, such as peanut butter, yogurt, and more.

Every stage of your child’s life comes with a new set of nutritional requirements, and we certainly understand how difficult it can be to keep tabs on it all, especially when you have multiple kids who are in different age groups. But our providers at Children’s Wellness Center are always here to help and to answer your questions. To talk more about how to give your child the best nutrition you can, call Children’s Wellness Center or schedule an appointment for your child. Plus, for more pediatric health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 4: Attics and Basements

June 12, 2017

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 4 Attics and BasementsChildproofing your home is no quick job. Our board-certified pediatricians and other providers at Children’s Wellness Center (CWC) have written a series of blogs with helpful tips to make your home safer for children of all ages. But today, we’re highlighting some childproofing tips for lesser-considered areas of the home: attics and basements. Even if these spaces are rarely accessed, they should be arranged and protected in a way that keeps your child safe.

  • Attics and basements are common places to store tools. Regardless of whether you store them in your basement, attic, garage, or an outdoor shed, make sure that power tools are always unplugged when they aren’t in use and that you store them in a locked cabinet that your child can’t reach. It’s also a good idea to set a border your children are not allowed to cross, so that the area with the tools and any other dangerous equipment is off-limits to them.
  • Basements are common places to house laundry areas and to store cleaning supplies and other household chemicals. It’s important that all potentially dangerous products be stored in a latched or locked child-safe cabinet that is out of your child’s reach. Items to look for include (but are not limited to):
    • Any type of cleaning products, like all-purpose cleaner, bleach, drain cleaner, laundry detergent, and more
    • Automotive fluids (antifreeze, motor oil, spare gasoline, etc.)
    • Pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers
    • Paints, stains, and varnishes
  • Be very cautious about single-use laundry detergent packets (often called “pods”). The detergent they contain is highly concentrated, so it’s more dangerous if a child ingests it, and unfortunately, their bright colors and compact packaging make them look like candy to some children. If you use these products, keep them stored in a locked cabinet that is out of your child’s reach, and be careful to put them away between every use. However, many parents prefer to stay on the safe side and use traditional laundry detergents instead, while following these same storage precautions as well.
  • Don’t forget to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your attic and basement—these areas are easy to overlook when families don’t spend as much time in them. Make sure to check the batteries at least twice per year, too—try putting it on your calendar so you won’t forget.
  • Both attics and basements have some type of staircase or ladder leading to them, so protect your child from falls and injuries with these tips:
    • Ideally, have your stairs carpeted so that it’s less likely that your child will slip and fall.
    • Install a childproofing safety gate until all of your children are old enough and have the motor skills to go up and down stairs safely. Look for gates that are not accordion-style and that firmly attach to both sides of the doorway.
    • When your child has reached an appropriate stage of development (usually around 18 months), teach him/her how to climb stairs (using the handrail) and how to crawl down stairs backward on his/her belly. Then, when he/she is old enough, teach him/her how to walk down stairs (using the hand rail).
  • Just as in the rest of your home, make sure any large pieces of furniture are anchored to the wall so that they will not tip over.
  • Keep a child safety latch on the trash can, especially if you’re throwing away potentially dangerous items.
  • Use child safety locks on washers and dryers, to prevent your child from climbing inside.
  • If you have a laundry chute, install it out of your child’s reach if possible. If the chute is already installed, use child locks to prevent your child from opening the doors and falling down the chute.
  • If you have windows in your attic or basement, don’t forget to install childproof locks on them, as well as on all other windows in your home.

In blog articles such as these, our goal is to inform patients about childhood health and safety measures they may not know about or think about otherwise. But the purpose is not to make you panic about potential dangers in your home. Instead, we simply hope to give you the information you need to make your home as safe as possible, today and at each stage of your child’s development. If you have additional questions about childproofing your home or about other aspects of your child’s health and safety, contact Children’s Wellness Center and we will be happy to help. Or, to access your child’s records or schedule an appointment, log into our pediatric patient portal for a convenient choice.