Healthy kids: “Lunch Lessons”

kids nutrition lunch lessonsSchool lunch is important

Since the school year began last month, I’ve been watching and listening with some bemusement to the furor over the new school lunch standards in this country. Kids and parents are Tweeting and Instagramming (is that a verb?) pictures of some pretty unappetizing fare.

Cupcakes are banned! Kids who share their lunch get detention! What, no pizza?

Well, I can afford to be amused because I don’t have kids depending on the public school system for a healthy and satisfying lunch.

But childhood obesity—which leads to adult chronic disease—is not funny. And while … Continue reading

Disease outbreaks and vaccinations

book vaccinationsLast week there was another warning in our local newspaper that a person diagnosed with measles had traveled through our airport. The article advised anyone who was at the airport during that particular time frame, and who might not be vaccinated and/or might be pregnant, to talk to their health care provider.

Measles is very contagious and can be especially dangerous to pregnant women.

In light of continuing misinformation about vaccinations, and the possibility that more unvaccinated children will be in our schools due to the influx of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, I decided to republish this post Continue reading

First aid for heat exhaustion

first aid for heat exhaustionHere comes the sun!

Summer is in full swing and the days are long and hot! It seemed like a good time to republish a post from last year about how to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses. Take care! FN

Living in the Pacific Northwest,  we rarely have to worry about heat exhaustion—that lousy feeling you get when your body starts to overheat.

But over the next few days the temperatures here are expected to hover around 90°F, which is pretty hot for us. Most of our homes don’t have air condtioning. Why bother when it’s truly hot only one … Continue reading

First aid for the Fourth of July

This is a reprint from last year’s post. Happy and safe Fourth to everyone! FN

Every year around the Fourth of July, hospital emergency departments and fire departments get ready.

By July 5, most large communities have reported property damage—fires, mostly—and bodily damage—burns, missing fingers, blindness.

As a reminder to everybody to be careful around fireworks—my preference is to avoid them altogether—the San Diego Fire Department put together this great public service video demonstrating the danger of explosives fireworks.

I would also refer you to some of my relevant first aid posts:

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Be informed – 100 vaccination resources

vaccination resourcesMore outbreaks of preventable diseases

Always disturbing to me are the news stories about outbreaks of deadly, crippling diseases—pertussis, measles, polio—that can be safely and effectively prevented by vaccination.

The most recent measles outbreak is in Ohio.

The Ohio outbreak, like ongoing outbreaks in California and elsewhere, has been linked to unvaccinated travelers bringing the measles virus back from countries where the disease remains common. In Ohio, all of the cases have been among the Amish, health officials say. The outbreak began after Amish missionaries returned from the Philippines. The Philippines is experiencing a large, ongoing measles outbreak with

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Kids, coughs and codeine

Codeine not recommended for children

Parents take note.

The medical journal Pediatrics last week published a report that said emergency room physicians are prescribing codeine too frequently for children.

Codeine is commonly used as a cough suppressant, but since 1997 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended against its use in children. Studies have not shown it to be effective in children, and the risk of over dosage or other negative side effects are too high. In other words, the benefit does not outweigh the risk.

Codeine works in the central nervous system and suppresses the urge to … Continue reading

Protect your eyes from the sun

protect your eyes uv raysUV rays are damaging

Just as the sun can injure your skin, it can hurt the delicate tissue of your eyes, too.  Long-term exposure to UVA and UVB rays contributes to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Cataracts, cloudy areas on your eye’s lens, can be corrected with surgery; there is no effective treatment for macular degeneration, and it can lead to blindness.

Did you know you can also get melanoma of the eye? Unprotected UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of this type of cancer. And, of course, squinting against the sun’s glare … Continue reading

Concussion assessment apps

There’s no such thing as a “mild” concussion

Last week I posted about first aid for concussions, which is important because head injuries in kids are a growing concern in the medical and public health communities.

Of particular importance is avoiding the potentially fatal “second impact syndrome”; if a young athlete suffers a “mild” concussion and then sustains another within a few weeks, “diffuse cerebral swelling, brain herniation, and death can occur.” Luckily, it’s rare.

But even minor concussions need to be recognized and treated, and it can be difficult because symptoms are often subtle and most parents … Continue reading

First aid for concussions

first aid for concussionsRest, rest and more rest

Gone are the days of the middle school football coach telling a player to “Shake it off and get back in the game.”

Proper first aid and treatment of concussions has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the alarming increase in long-term neurological problems—memory loss and behavior changes—suffered by professional athletes and soldiers.

Concerned pediatricians and public health officials are pushing schools, youth sports organizations and parents to be more aware of head injuries in young athletes.

Childrens’ brains are still developing, after all, and are especially vulnerable to Continue reading

Choosing Wisely for kids

choosing wisely for kidsEducating patients and doctors

I’m a big fan of the Choosing Wisely® campaign sponsored by the ABIM Foundation, a non-profit group established by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Why? Because the campaign’s objective is to reduce the number of unnecessary and potentially harmful (not to mention expensive) medical procedures being done in the US.

Choosing Wisely® aims to promote conversations between physicians and patients by helping patients choose care that is:

  • Supported by evidence
  • Not duplicative of other tests or procedures already received
  • Free from harm
  • Truly necessary

In response to this challenge, national organizations representing medical specialists

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Use essential oils with caution

They are drugs, after all

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, How NOT to whiten your teeth, I enjoy Pinterest. What I don’t enjoy is the poor health advice that gets pinned and re-pinned hundreds of times over. Like putting acid (lemon juice) on your teeth and then brushing with an abrasive substance (baking soda). Bad idea if you like your enamel. But I see variations of this “recipe” pop up dozens of times every day.

Essential oils are another frequently-used ingredient on the home remedy boards. There are hundreds of home remedies using essential oils to treat … Continue reading

Acetaminophen overdose – Easier than you think

acetaminophen overdoseSeveral years ago, the Food and Drug Administration set a January 2014 date for drug manufacturers to limit the amount of acetaminophen (generic Tylenol) they put in prescription pain meds. 

Examples are Tylenol with codeine, Vicodin, and Percocet, which often contain 500 mg of acetaminophen per tablet. The FDA is recommending no more than 325 mg per tablet.

They are also recommending health care providers don’t prescribe these combination pain meds with 500 mg of acetaminophen, and if a pharmacist receives such a prescription, they are advised to call the prescribing physician to discuss a lower dosage.

Why the fuss? … Continue reading

Outbreaks and vaccinations

childhood vaccinationsThe canary in the coal mine

Late last week I read the troubling story about a recent polio outbreak in Syria. Although polio, thanks to the vaccine, has been almost eradicated in most parts of the world, it is still present in several middle eastern countries.

Because of political unrest and the huge numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, world public health officials worry about more widespread outbreaks of this crippling, and deadly, disease.

Outbreaks of highly contagious, but preventable, diseases have become more common because of the anti-vaccination movement. And as these like-minded individuals tend to settle … Continue reading

In favor of vaccines

vaccinesYes, I support vaccines. It’s simple.

Vaccines save lives. Vaccines prevent illness. Illness prevention saves money.

I was happy to see read an article this morning by mom and Huffington Post journalist JJ Keith also speaking up in favor of vaccines: “I’m coming out…as pro-vaccine”

Ms. Keith tells the story of two children, Jack and Clio, who are both being treated for leukemia and therefore cannot be vaccinated against measles. Because other children (by their parents’ decision) are not vaccinated, this puts Jack and Clio at even higher risk of contracting and dying from this very preventable disease.

An increasing Continue reading

Is “screen sightedness” for real?

screen sightednessAn epidemic of nearsightedness?

A story making the media rounds this month is that more children and young adults are being diagnosed with myopia, or nearsightedness, and smartphones might be to blame.

I couldn’t find the actual study online, but it came out of the UK where a laser eye surgeon claims there has been a 35% increase in nearsightedness–screen sightedness, he has dubbed it–since 1997. He believes smartphones are a cause, and warns that the problem will only get worse.

Without being able to see the actual study, it’s difficult to assess this claim. Perhaps as a Lasik surgeon, … Continue reading