Many parents and others have often made assumptions about some teen habits and practices, especially where subjects like drugs, smoking and teenage driving are concerned. Without question, much has been written about these three subjects, and often with bleak conclusions. Recent studies in these arenas suggest that reality may be markedly different from what we’ve been led to believe in the past.
Teen drinking deaths are a classic example. Most people think that the greatest number of alcohol-related teen deaths are associated with intoxicated driving. Not so! A recent study conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Nationwide Insurance Company documents that only 32% of these deaths were traffic fatalities. Meanwhile, 30% were homicides, 14% suicides, 9% alcohol poisonings, and 15% allocated to other causes. These numbers were arrived at after analyzing 2010 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducted a National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2011. The survey found that 25% (9.7 million) of people ages 12-20 had used alcohol in the previous month. Of those who didn’t buy the alcohol themselves, 21.4% were supplied by parents, guardians or other family members.
This data leads to another point of real consequence: Young people are influenced by peer pressure and their parents, in that order. Too many parents think that facilitating the home use of small amounts of alcohol by their teens will allow them to try it in a protected environment and will, thereby, keep the teen from using alcohol in other venues. Research has now shown this to be untrue. Drinking at home merely sets the stage for drinking elsewhere, especially with friends. Drinking parties can lead to a number of negative events. One of these is alcohol “chugging” contests wherein a teen drinks an ounce or more of alcohol in several continuous gulps. Too often, this results in fatal alcohol poisoning.
A second area of concern, smoking, has always appeared to be a random function in terms of who became a regular or heavy smoker and who didn’t continue smoking after first trying it. Recent studies at Duke University show that some teens are genetically predisposed to progress from that first cigarette to heavy smoking in their late teen and early adult years. The teen years seem to be the critical window for action. Once those with predisposed genes become adults, the genetic issue no longer seems to play a part. While medical science looks at a way to interrupt that genetic effect during the teen years, parents can talk to their teens about smoking and support anti-smoking campaigns aimed at teens.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
Prescription drug abuse is a third subject that often produces the parental assumption that my teen isn’t using drugs not prescribed for him or her. Meanwhile, use of prescription drugs by tweens and teens is up. Some teens are participating in “skittles parties” where kids raid their parents’ medicine cabinets and mix the proceeds in a large bowl and then choose a few pills at random without knowing what they are taking. A new study just released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org shows that only 14% of interviewed teens had discussed abuse of prescription drugs with their parents. About 81% of this group said they had discussed alcohol and illicit drug use with their parents.
Even more astounding is the response from interviewed parents. Some parents didn’t see a real risk in their kids abusing prescription drugs. One–in-six parents felt that it was better that their kids got high on prescription drugs rather than street drugs. Approximately a third said that the use of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall can improve a child’s academic performance even if the child doesn’t have ADHD!
In short, as parents and grandparents, we can’t afford to make assumptions about what the teens in our lives are doing every day. Rather than assume, sit down with your teens and talk about smoking avoidance, alcohol abuse and usage of both illicit and prescription drugs. Secure your prescriptions and alcohol, and be sure that your teen is taking only the prescriptions medications prescribed by a doctor specifically for him or her. Lastly, we must practice what we preach!
Years ago, if a kid swallowed a small, round iron magnet, it was probably scary for the child and mom, but doctors didn’t have any unusual concerns. They simply waited for the digestive system to pass them.
Things are different today, however, because magnets that we buy now are neodymium-iron-boron rather than just iron. This combination has produced a magnet that is 10 to 20 times stronger than the old ferrite magnets. This relatively new breed of magnets (they were first developed in the 1980s) appear most commonly today in jewelry clasps, novelty desk toys and kids’ toys (either as individual magnets or in toy construction toys). Thus, the opportunity to ingest a choking hazard has increased. But swallowing multiple magnets presents another severe hazard.
Because the magnets are so much stronger than regular iron magnets, if two of them are swallowed at once, they will attract each other and clamp together. They usually attract each other through the walls of the small intestine. This causes irritation and blockage initially. With time, the magnets will eventually perforate the intestinal walls, cause infection and pain, and sometimes even death. Obviously, not something to be trifled with.
While this has been a known problem for a few years, it has resurfaced with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) working in tandem with several major retailers to affect a recall of these toy magnets. In spite of this major effort, there may still be some magnets available in the marketplace, plus all of those in homes across the country (the recall offers a refund from the involved retailer, but inevitably some don’t get returned). Some jewelry clasps will still involve magnets.
Magnet Ingestion On The Rise
Emergency room visits for magnet ingestion by small children have more than doubled over the last year, according to the North American Society for Gastroenterology. Each one of those cases could have lethal results! As every parent knows, small kids pick up everything they can lift and then put it in their mouths.
Rather than panic, here are a few suggestions to help prevent a severe accident with your kids:
Don’t buy any toy magnets in the future.
- Return any toy magnets you have for a refund from the retailer.
- Let friends and relatives know that toy magnets are not toys for your kids.
- If older siblings who are old enough to use a magnet responsibly have some of these small magnets, we suggest returning them to the retailer as well. If you choose not to do so, then they should be secured and stored in a location high above the floor.
- Ensure that your day care facility has removed all magnets from the premises.
- Follow the manufacturer’s age guidelines on all toys you consider buying to ensure that they don’t provide any magnet or choking hazards.
- While you’re at it, check the house for other small items that could become choking hazards.
- Examine jewelry to ensure that all magnetic clasps are securely fastened. Repair those that aren’t.
So, clean out the magnets by returning them to the retailer for a refund, and make sure that your day care and the grandparents don’t allow any magnets. Check your jewelry to be sure it is in good shape, especially the clasps.
Every kid seems to have childhood allergies of some kind. I was allergic to strawberries when I was in grade school…. but maybe that came from having to pick too many of them each summer. At any rate, that allergy went away as I got older, as many childhood allergies seem to do. Obviously, some allergies are more serious and present greater exposure to the child. Peanut allergies and being allergic to corn syrup can present life-threatening scenarios that must be guarded against constantly. Because they represent such an exposure, they also heavily impact the entire family environment, especially when travelling or attending a birthday party. Corn syrup further complicates the issue because it occurs in all kinds of processed foods. So, parents can never drop their vigilance.
Antibiotics and Vitamin D Deficiency Can Lead to Childhood Food Allergies
Thankfully, from time to time, medical research makes some breakthroughs to provide insights into what can be done to reduce the allergy potential. Two such occurrences have recently been reported through the American Academy of Pediatrics. The first established that increased use of antibiotics in the first year of a child’s life leads to higher incidence of food allergies. This is thought to occur because the antibiotics disrupt the bacteria (good as well as the bad) that are growing and forming a functional relationship in the child’s gut. Disturbing the balance allows for food allergies to gain a foothold.
The second insight is that a vitamin D deficiency can also set the stage for food allergies. An extensive study in Australia (a country with high child food allergy rates and extensive vitamin D deficiencies) has demonstrated a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and the propensity for food allergies. These study results suggest, then, that vitamin D sufficiency is a real protective factor in preventing food allergies in the first year of a child’s life.
Two Basic Solutions
The vitamin D deficiency issue is one more easily solved. Have your pediatrician check your child’s vitamin D level. It’s done through a simple blood test. Any deficiency can be corrected with medication. A vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon. We take vitamin D supplements on doctor’s orders every day. Vitamin D is important for many reasons, so don’t overlook this simple test. Avoiding a food allergy will make life much more pleasant for your child and much easier for you.
The antibiotics question is another issue altogether. If the medical situation warrants and your pediatrician says your baby needs an antibiotic, so be it. We have antibiotics to be used when they are needed. On the other hand, don’t try to talk the doctor into administering an antibiotic when it is not needed. This only builds resistance to the drug and disturbs the bacteria counts in the baby’s system.
So, by following that straightforward guidance of checking vitamin D levels and not abusing antibiotics, you and your child can reduce the potential for food allergies for your child. Your child will be happier and your life will be easier.
When we were kids many moons ago, it was not uncommon for boys to play around streams and lakes and come home with a frog, turtle or small water snake. Of course, they wanted to keep them as pets. I had a small mud turtle for about a week, and then decided it was only fair to return him to the nearby stream. We didn’t think anything about having such an animal as a pet, nor about the wisdom of handling such an animal.
At some point, frogs in particular became even more popular, and free enterprise being what it is, individuals began importing and raising amphibians and frogs as pets. This was especially true with frogs, paramount among them the African dwarf frog. These frogs are raised and sold as good pets for children. But here’s the kicker: Amphibians and reptiles, especially the African dwarf frog, are prone to carry salmonella.
In fact, a recently published study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traces several salmonella outbreaks across the United States in recent years as the direct result of children handling pet amphibians and reptiles, especially the African dwarf frog. As it turns out, all reptiles and amphibians (e.g., snakes, turtles, frogs, lizards, alligators and crocodiles) are potential carriers of salmonella.
Salmonella is primarily associated with contaminated food for most of us. Several years ago, a major fast-food restaurant was failing to cook its hamburgers to a minimum of 165 degrees F, and was almost immediately blessed with a major salmonella outbreak. The chain’s management and local health authorities took quick action and the problem was corrected and the firm survived unscathed. Some of its patrons were not as fortunate, however. Several went to the hospital and were critically ill. As you probably know, salmonella can be life-threatening if not treated promptly and properly.
Besides undercooked meats, many vegetables and fruits can carry salmonella as well. Thus, we periodically hear of lettuce or other recalls due to detected outbreaks of the disease. Ergo, also the reason for washing all of these things before we use them. Certainly, sanitation for restaurants, food plants and employees of both is critical.
Meanwhile, a more recent salmonella outbreak was traced back to an African dwarf frog farm (say that three times fast) in Madera County, California. The operator stopped sales, and instituted cleaning procedures throughout his operation. So it would seem that the crisis has been averted, and the incidence of salmonella, especially in children, the elderly and those with depressed immune systems (the most susceptible), has decreased. There is one caution, however: The CDC warns that the African dwarf frog can live for 5 to 18 years which means that disease-carrying frogs can still be pets in homes across the country and can still present a potential hazard. The exposure, again, is greatest for children, the elderly and those with depressed immune systems. Salmonella is not only transmitted by handling the animals, but by cleaning a cage or tank. Water should be changed regularly and should be well filtered.
Besides the aforementioned cleaning procedures, anyone handing the animals or cleaning their tanks should be outside the three categories of people most susceptible, should wear gloves and should wash thoroughly after each procedure. Further, it parents have any concerns or questions about pet frogs, they should contact a veterinarian familiar with reptiles and amphibians. Better yet, buy a puppy for your kids.
With inquisitive toddlers and grade school kids who aren’t paying attention, medication poisonings are always an issue. We’ve always advised locking up medications so that kids can’t get into them, and while this is still good advice, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds us that unsecured medications aren’t the primary source of child medication poisonings.
In 2011, 67,000 children, age four and under, were admitted to an emergency room in the U.S., an increase of 30% over the last ten years. Of these, 88% of the pharmaceuticals came from the floor (27%), a purse bag or wallet (20%), left out on dressers, nightstands and tables (20%), pill boxes or bags of pills (15%), and from a cabinet or drawer (6%). The remaining 12% came from yet other sources. This includes prescription and non-prescription drugs, both of which are poisonous to little guys. The vast majority (86%) of these meds belonged to adults, with moms and grandparents being primary contributors.
It’s just too easy to leave a pill bottle out on a counter or to drop a pill on the floor never to be seen again…until your toddler finds it. Grandparents, not uncommonly, leave their myriad pill bottles on a bathroom counter. It’s far too easy for pills to wind up within easy reach of toddlers and others (tweens and teens can be looking to experiment with drugs too). This tells us that we must redouble our efforts to secure prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
The CDC has a new campaign to help prevent medication poisonings. It uses the catch phrase “up and away” to remind us to put our medications away and to store them high enough to prevent access by little guys. To follow this urging, here are a few guideline reminders:
- Secure both prescription and over-the-counter medications in a locked cabinet. This not only ensures that toddlers and grade school age kids will not be able to access them, but it also prevents tweens and teens from sampling them.
- It’s also wise to store meds in a higher cabinet so that toddlers will not be able to access them. This is especially important when you are travelling as a family where there may not be a lockable container available.
- If you drop a pill, take the time to find it because if you don’t, your toddler will. And, as you know, everything that a toddler picks up goes into his mouth.
- Don’t leave purses or other containers where they can be reached by little people.
- Ask visitors to place their pills in a secure place while they are sharing your home.
- Ask grandparents to secure their meds when your son or daughter is visiting. They may not be excited about doing this, but it will protect their grandchildren.
- If you or another adult are worried about not taking a pill on time, then set the alarm on your cell phone or travel alarm.
Remember, small children are involved in medication poisonings resulting from pills left in easily-accessible places. Lock up the meds and place them high above the floor. Get visitors and family members to do the same thing.
And Seven Tips To Prevent Severe Fatigue
Does your teenager always want to sleep in the morning? Does he or she mope around in the morning? Do they drag to school? Most do. It turns out that there’s usually a valid reason for this behavior.
According to the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders, tweens and teens need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep each day. Between homework, part-time jobs and social activities, teens rarely seem to reach that ideal amount. Consequently, tweens and teens can become irritable and moody. Admittedly, it can be difficult to tell whether it’s sleep deprivation or teen hormonal changes that are the cause of the moodiness. Just know that the lack of sleep may be contributing to the problem.
Seven Signs of Sleep Deprivation
So how do you know? Here are seven signs that your child might be sleep-deprived:
Moods. As mentioned, the teen can be moody or irritable and barely moping around the house. Sluggishness is the characteristic that differentiate from regular teenage moodiness.
- Falling asleep in class. If a teacher lets you know that your daughter or son has been falling asleep in class, this is a real red flag. Some classes can be boring, but this is a sign of real exhaustion.
- Poor appetite. Too often, teens eat less at a meal or skip a meal altogether (frequently, breakfast). This sets them up to snack on carbohydrates and sweets. Unhealthy snacking (carbs and sweets rather than protein and veggies) can lead to side effect number four.
- Weight gain. Increased use of carbs and sugar, especially without a corresponding amount of protein, usually results in weight gain.
- Insulin sensitivity. Trouble balancing insulin levels can set the stage for a range of metabolic issues such as Type 2 diabetes and, the old standby, weight gain.
- Concentration. The ability to concentrate begins to fade. This means teens have trouble focusing on what’s being said in class or the details of homework.
- Academic performance. Without the ability to concentrate or the motivation to seriously address homework, academic performance will suffer. Pulling a late-night cramming session makes most students all the more tired the next day and leaves them with reduced recall for the big exam.
Seven Tips To Reduce Sleep Deprivation
- Keep a regular study schedule. Stay with homework and reading on a daily basis so that he or she doesn’t get behind. Schedule homework when they get home and/or right after dinner so that they can finish before it is time for bed.
- Homework should take priority over TV, music, texting, etc.
- Turn off all electronic gadgetry earlier in the evening, even when the homework is done. Try to shoot for an hour before bedtime. This gives the mind time to unwind and slow down from friends’ social activity and action TV or video games. This, in turn, allows the mind to relax and focus on resting.
- Constant bedtime. While it may sound a little juvenile to a teen, establishing a regular time to crash for the night is healthy. It gets mind and body into a rhythm that allows for a more defined sleep cycle.
- Caffeine. No caffeine after about 2 p.m. because it takes the body about eight hours to thoroughly metabolize any caffeine intake.
- Food. Kids shouldn’t eat after about eight at night so that the heavy digestion is complete before it is time to sleep. If the body goes to bed with a full stomach, it spends effort and blood flow on digestion rather than sleep. Be especially careful of sugar because it can act as a stimulant much like caffeine.
- White noise. If a teen has trouble falling asleep or if an adjacent area of the home is noisy, try a white noise device of some kind. The sound of a flowing stream or falling rain will often lull a person to sleep. Please note: I said “white noise,” not a rap tape.
In short, watch for the signs of sleep deprivation in your tweens or teens. If they’re moping around, then measure their world against the suggestions above. Better yet, make sure these routines are in place now.
Our homes are full of child poisons, even though we don’t think of them that way. Think about it. We have clothes and dish washing detergents, pest sprays, silver and copper polishes, some gasoline and an extra quart of oil for the mower, rubbing alcohol, nail polish and nail polish remover, just for openers. But what about those things in our homes that we, as adults, don’t consider to be poisonous? Things like prescription and over-the-counter medications, toothpaste, spices and a zillion more are all things we use daily without concern as adults. Yet all of them could be poisonous to a baby, toddler or young child. Read More→
Winter has hit! Many areas across the country are suffering from severe snowfall and windchill conditions. While winter can bring fun activities like skating and skiing, it can also present serious exposures to cold. Read More→
When we were in high school, lo those many years ago, every teenage girl was a baby sitter. They spent a few hours watching the neighbors’ kids. The watched TV or did homework while the kids played and the parents went out for a movie. There were no special requirements to be a baby sitter; the parents just had to consider them responsible enough to keep an eye on their kids.
Today, it’s a little different Read More→