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Hey, someone turn that TV down! I’ve got something important to say! 

                The basic message is- turn off the TV.  Less TV, computer and video game time is better.  One great way to try this is to start small- with Screen Free Week, April 29-May5.  Just 7 short days, anyone can do that, right? Try thinking up fun, family activities instead.  The kids will love playing outdoors, baking, visiting the library, and being creative by painting and drawing.  And then, maybe use screen free week as a transition to a happier, healthier family.  

Research study after research study has continued to show the same evidence about TV- it’s bad for kids!  If something like broccoli was shown to cause things like obesity, poor school performance, inattention, sleep disturbance and emotional problems, who would eat it? Most recently, a study in pediatrics showed that kids who watched more violent TV shows were more likely to have a criminal record!

                As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in front of a computer… a screen! Obviously, there are benefits to some screen time.  TVs bring news from around the world into our living room; computers and the internet have revolutionized our lives.  While there are benefits, there are also many negatives, especially for kids.  So I’m not saying no TV or computer ever, what I’m saying is to make good choices and use moderation.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day, and NO screen time at all for babies and toddlers <2 years old.  It has been shown that for kids, something like reading a story on a computer is not the same as reading a real book. The Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood says, “Operating the mouse while reading a story on the computer requires more executive functioning skills than turning pages of a book, which means that some children are not able to simultaneously operate the mouse and comprehend the story.”  So reading actual books does matter.

                A great place to start is by making sure if your kids are going to watch TV, at least make it quality.  A website like www.commonsense can provide some good information and ratings on the shows and movies your family is watching.  A recent study in Pediatrics looked at groups of kids who essentially watched the same amount of television, but those that watched quality, nonviolent shows had better behavior.  Another idea is to keep the TV off during a family meal.  Eating together allows families to talk to each other and parents find out how things are going in their kids’ lives.  The TV is a distraction that keeps kids quiet.  Lastly, keep the TV out of the bedroom.  Kids with television sets in the bedroom watch much more TV than those without.  It is harder for parents to know what kids are watching if they are in a different room.  

                I know we are in an age of technology, but getting outside, playing and being imaginative is just as important for kids now as it was 30 years ago.  Screens will ever be part of our future going forward, but the time we spend together with family (and the screens off) will be what memories are made of.  Enjoy Screen Free Week!  

December 17, 2012
Category: Dr. Heidi
Tags: Dr. Heidi   Child Safety  

Holiday Safety

Happy December! There are many holidays that are celebrated this month and no matter what you are celebrating, you want to make sure your kids are safe.  A common theme for many holiday decorations is candles.  Candles need to be kept away from the reach of children and away from any paper, decorations or plants such as evergreens.  Not using candles at all may be the right choice if you have a curious toddler at home.  Also use caution with fireplaces, make sure they are clean and the flue is open.

 A few common but potentially dangerous plants that are used in decorations:

Mistletoe: if ingested, can cause blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea; 1-2 berries are probably ok, but definitely best to not have live mistletoe around 

Holly: 1-2 berries can cause abdominal pain, but as few as 15-20 berries can cause death.

Amaryllis & daffodils: the bulbs are toxic if eaten

Jerusalem cherry:  is a species of nightshade, the fruit is most toxic, but the leaf and stem are as well.

Poinsettia: can cause stomach upset but generally are not toxic

Evergreen trees: can be prickly if chewed and potentially problematic if inhaled but generally are not toxic

If there is a question about anything a little one ingests, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.  This is a free number and they are there to help you.  This includes any medications (prescription or over the counter), household cleaners or anything else unusual your kids get into as well.  It’s a good idea to have this number written down by the phone. Our office has stickers and magnets you can pick up the next time you are in.

Real evergreen trees should be kept well watered as a dry tree can lose needles and pose a fire hazard.  Artificial trees should be fire resistant.  Of course, supervise little ones to prevent a tree from being pulled down.  My house will have a baby gate around the Christmas tree this year!  

We wish you a safe holiday season!

October 11, 2012
Category: Dr. Heidi
Tags: Travel  


                Happy Fall! The holiday season is upon us and for many families this means travel…and the fun of travel with small children.  My first trip with a 2 month old included packing an entire box of diapers and more outfits than she could wear in a week.  We had a stuffed car, but were able to have a great time.

               The most common way for families to travel is by car.  The recent car seat recommendation changes have caused some confusion.  In general:

-From birth to 2yo babies should stay in rear-facing car seats

-From 2yo to 4yo toddlers should be in front facing car seats

-From 4yo to 8yo children should be in booster seats

-Kids <13yo should be in the backseat

                But, look at the height and weight limits for your particular car seat and that is the final word.  Lots of parents are concerned that their baby’s legs will get cramped as they get bigger and continue to be rear facing.  It is simply safer for legs to be bent while they face towards the back.  The recommendation changes were based on multiple research studies showing kids <2yo were 75% less likely to die or be severely injured if they were rear facing during a serious car crash.  This is because of their large heads in relation to body size and weaker neck muscles.

               If you are traveling by airplane it is also recommended that babies and children <40 lbs be fastened in a car seat while in the airplane.  Other considerations for airplanes are air pressure changes and the close contact of people during cold and flu season.   Lots of hand washing is the best prevention from getting sick.  Hand sanitizer is a close second.  The low humidity in planes also contributes by decreasing some natural defenses (such as mucous in the nose) so staying well hydrated will also help.  Timing bottle feedings with takeoff and landing will help equalize ear pressure.  Swallowing and chewing opens the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and equalizes pressure.

               There are also special considerations depending on where you are traveling.  Traveling to other countries may have risks of different infections.  There may be medications or immunizations you need.  For example, a meningitis vaccine is required for travel to Saudi Arabia.  A yellow fever vaccine is recommended for travel to sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.  There is a higher risk of measles in India and so a vaccine dose in 6mo-12mo babies is recommended.  Malaria prophylaxis (a prescription medication) is recommended for travel to high malaria risk areas including India, rural Mexico and the Philippines.  Call our office at least 4 weeks before you travel is you have questions.  The website has lots of information also.

               Lastly, packing the right things is important and more is needed for kids.  Medically, it is important to try to be prepared if someone gets sick or injured.  Think about bringing a thermometer, saline, bulb suction, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  First aid supplies of band aids, triple antibiotic ointment and tweezers could be needed.  Also think about diarrhea relief and hydration options if needed.  Pedialyte and florastor can help.  Remember Pepto-Bismol (with salicylates) is not recommended for kids. 

Have a great time on your trip!

Heidi Swanson, DO