health & wellness

Health news for the whole family

Holiday Safety Slip-ups

Considering how often we find ourselves rushing, taking shortcuts, or checking e-mail instead of keeping an eye on the stove (what’s that smell?), it’s easy to see how at-home accidents can happen. In fact, 21 million Americans seek medical attention due to home injuries each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. READ MORE

Boost Your Kids’ Iron

By Sarah Toles Yale

Making sure children get enough iron every day, throughout the day, will help them to concentrate on their schoolwork so they will learn more. Low-iron levels lead to memory loss, shortened attention span, tiredness, apathy and reduced performance. Long before iron deficiency shows up in a blood test, people have symptoms of low iron. Serve iron rich foods to your children daily to avoid low iron levels, which can lead to anemia.

Iron Helps the Immune System. Iron is necessary for the immune system to function properly to fend off colds, flu and other illnesses. The body needs iron to make hemoglobin to transport oxygen throughout the body via red blood cells to reach body tissues.

Sports. Athletic kids need more iron due to their increased levels of physical activity. Sore, achy muscles need iron to recover properly after sports and workouts. Low-iron levels can result in decreased athletic performance, weakness, shortness of breath and lightheadedness.

Heme and Non-Heme Iron. Poultry, fish and meat contain heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed 2-3 times faster than non-heme iron which is found in plant-based foods.

Tip. An easy way to increase absorption of iron from plant-based foods, is to eat them along with foods that are high in vitamin C, or to drink orange juice with iron rich foods. Avoid drinking tea or coffee while consuming iron rich foods. Tea or coffee decreases iron absorption.

Choosing Iron Fortified Cereal. Iron percentage in cereal is calculated based on the nutritional needs of women of child bearing age. The U.S. recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for women of child bearing age is 18 mg, which is too much iron for children and adolescents. Serving sizes vary with cereal brands and products. Be sure to read the serving size on the nutrition facts panel. You can give your child a smaller serving, or choose cereal that indicates on the nutrition facts panel, that it has 50-75 percent of the daily value of iron. Remember that cereal contains non-heme iron which is not absorbed fully by the body, so the amount absorbed will probably be less than the percentage indicated on the box.

Getting Enough Iron Daily Is Easy. Choose iron rich foods from the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) lists to add up to the iron RDA for your child’s age group. You will help your children do better in academics, on the playground, in the arts and in sports.

For more info, visit

Get the lead out

Approximately one million children in the U.S. are affected by lead poisoning, and yet lead poisoning is completely preventable, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Without training and proper preparation, home repairs in houses or apartments built before 1978 can harm young children and put families at risk from lead paint chips and dust. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead because their brains and nervous systems are still developing. And with more kids spending more time in the home during the COVID 19 pandemic, their risk of
exposure to lead chips and dust has increased.

It’s important to remember that lead-based paint on walls and other surfaces that is still in good condition is not a health hazard because it can’t be ingested or inhaled. However, improper removal or disturbance of lead-based paint can create lead dust and paint chips that create a health hazard.

If you live in a home or apartment that was built before 1978 and are planning a renovation, repair or painting project, make sure you do the work safely or use a certified lead-safe contractor trained to know how to protect your family. Contractors intending to work on properties built before 1978 must be certified under the program. Failure to do so can result in penalties against a contractor. (For more information about EPA’s enforcement of the Lead renovation, repair and painting program in Alaska, call Bill Dunbar at 206-245-7452.)

Parents and guardians can determine if they or their children have been exposed to lead-based paint by requesting a blood-lead test from your doctor. The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recognize any safe blood-lead level, but the current blood-lead level above which the CDC recommends taking action for any child or person is five micrograms per deciliter or more.

Got questions? Call EPA Region 10 (which includes Alaska) at 1-800-424-4372 and ask to speak with a lead paint specialist, or go to

Preparing for the Next Big One

Although Alaska’s last major earthquake (7.1) is now nearly two years behind us, it is crucial that we be prepared for the next big one. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center and the United States Geological Survey, Alaska is the most seismically active state in the country, and three of the seven largest earthquakes in the 20th century have taken place here. The Red Cross offers some tips to ensure you and your family are prepared when the ground shakes beneath us again

For more info and tips, visit

Happy, healthy hygiene: Helping kids clean up

By Malia Jacobson

When prospective parents dream of their future offspring, they usually picture children who are freshly bathed, perfectly coiffed, and sporting clean, color-coordinated clothing. Sadly, this vista is as fleeting as the “new baby” scent. Real kids are messy, dirt-loving, and generally unconcerned with cleanliness. But parents can teach kids to clean up, and should: Basic hygiene skills are essential building blocks of healthy living and can even support academic success, according to studies linking hand-washing to better school attendance. In today’s germ-conscious world, basic hygiene is even more vital. Read on for age-specific ways to help kids learn to love cleaning up. READ MORE

‘Toxic’ hand sanitizers

The Food and Drug Administration has added more hand sanitizers to a list of products that should be avoided after they tested positive for methanol contamination. Nearly 100 hand sanitizers are now on the updated list of toxic products, some of which have already been recalled while others are being recommended for recalls. According to the FDA, it has seen a spike in the number of hand sanitizer products labeled to contain ethanol but have tested positive for methanol, which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. “Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death,” according to the FDA. If you have any of the listed hand sanitizer products, the FDA says to dispose of them immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour them down the drain.

For a full list, visit

Parenting in the age of screens

Worried about your kid’s screen time? According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than 71 percent of parents with children under 12 said they are concerned their child is spending too much time in front of screens, including 31 percent who said they are very concerned. Two-thirds of parents said parenting today is harder than it was two decades ago, and many blame digital technology and social media.

Some 61 percent of parents of a child age 11 or younger say they have received advice or information about screen time from a doctor or other medical professional; 55 percent say they asked other parents for advice, while 45 percent of parents of a child age 5 to 11 have turned to teachers for help.

Our new reality, with many families shifting to remote learning, is that children will be continuing to spend more time with technology – for work, play and basic interaction. Pandemic life has meant, for many, school via Zoom, FaceTime playdates and more YouTube and Netflix usage. A recent Parents Together survey of 3,000 parents found that, for children, screen time has increased by 500 percent since the start of the pandemic.

A new report from Common Sense Media says parents should worry more about the content children and teens are consuming than the time spent in front of screens. Researchers point out that not all screen time is equal. You might not make the same judgement about a child writing a novel using Google Docs, learning math from an app, FaceTiming with Grandma or using a smartphone to geocache with their friends. The report recommends children consume educational content and programs that stimulate their imagination and connect with friends and family online. Parents should view screen time in context to the rest of a child’s day and stay engaged with children by asking
questions about their games or shows.

Resources: The Common Sense Media website provides research-based information and a rating system for all types of media (apps, games, shows, etc), and a special page to help families during the coronavirus pandemic. Visit For more information on Pew’s study, visit

Note: The Pew study was conducted in early March before the outbreak of COVID-19.

Do little kids need ‘toddler milk’?

After your child turns 1, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing whole plain cow’s milk. But what about that confusing alternate option found on grocery store shelves: toddler milks? These milk-based products, sold by formula companies, are typically marketed as the “next step” or “follow-up” formulas for children 12-36 months old.

Over the last 10 years, formula companies have quadrupled their advertising of toddler milk products, and the sales of these products has increased 2.6 times in the US, according to researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut. But do little kids really need these toddler milks? Is your child missing out if they don’t drink toddler milks? The answer is no and no, according to health experts at the AAP, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Heart Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Toddler milks add no nutritional value to a child’s diet, but they do add sugar. One of the main ingredients in toddler milks is sugar, and it contains more sodium and less protein than regular milk, which is recommended for young toddlers.

“Research shows that what children drink – from birth through age 5 – can have a big impact on their health,” according to a recent Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids report. The report recommends serving only water and plain whole cow’s milk to children after age 1, and water and fat-free or low-fat plain milk after age 2.

Could Your Child’s Reading Difficulty be Dyslexia?

By Sarah Lyons

Children learn to read at their own pace but if your child is struggling to make significant progress as compared to their peers, it may be possible they have a reading disability called dyslexia. According to Mayo Clinic: “Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how to relate to letters and words. Dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language.” READ MORE

Sleep well, stay well: Support immune health with better sleep

By Malia Jacobson

When it comes to staying healthy, all the hand sanitizer in the world won’t make up for lost hours of sleep. Getting enough sleep supports a healthy immune system, while sleep deprivation handicaps your immune response, leaving you, or your night-owl children, more susceptible to viral illness.
During sleep, the body releases infection-fighting proteins called cytokines that play a role in fighting infection and inflammation. During periods of sleep deprivation, infection fighting cells are reduced. Chronic sleep loss can even make vaccines less effective, according to research. Here’s how to build a better bedtime and a stronger immune system, starting tonight. READ MORE

Up Your Safety Game This Summer: Accidents and injuries spike this time of year. Here’s help.

Summers are made for family fun. But when temperatures rise, so do safety risks for kids. According to the National Safety Council, preventable accidental deaths peak during summer from dangers that include drowning, car accidents, and fires. It’s also a time when nonfatal injuries from things like grills, fireworks, and sunburn are more likely. Here’s how to prioritize simple safeguards that keep kids safer all summer long. READ MORE

Low-sugar swaps for healthier kids’ meals

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed most children consume an unhealthy amount of added sugar every day. Researchers found that nearly all of the toddlers in their study ate an average of seven teaspoons of added sugar daily – the equivalent of a candy bar. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that excess sugar consumption can lead to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Children under age 2 should not consume added sugar, recommends the AAP, and children ages 2-18 should aim for less than 25 grams, or six teaspoons, of added sugar per day. READ MORE


Home remedies for nightmares

Nightmares are scary, disturbing dreams that are especially common in children. Episodes are usually short, but they can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and make sleeping difficult. If nightmares are a problem for you or your child, the Mayo Clinic suggests these tips:

• Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime.
• Be patient and reassuring with your child.
• Talk about the dream. Remember that nightmares aren't real.
• Imagine a happy ending for the nightmare instead.
• Provide comfort measures like a favorite blanket.
• Use a night light if needed.
• Consider stress-relief activities or seeking professional help.


Say what?!

Swearing is a common behavior for kids, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and teens often use profanity to impress friends and shock parents.

To help manage your child’s swearing, the academy suggests:

• Establish a rule that there is no swearing allowed in the house.
• Do not respond to a child’s profanity with profanity of your own.
• Do not wash a child’s mouth out with soap. It is extreme and ineffective.
• Reward your child for expressing frustration appropriately.


6 safety spots not to miss

The baby gates are up – check. The electrical outlets are plugged – check. The crib has been checked and double-checked. The house is now safe for young children…or is it? Take a moment to consider these six spots many people miss when child-proofing a home: READ MORE

Vaping: Dispelling the myths

An FDA 2019 survey shows the rate of vaping among high school and middle school students continues to rise. With more than 1 in 4 high schoolers and 1 in 10 middle schoolers reporting vaping use, the need to educate families about the risks of vaping is critical. The misleading and unsubstantiated claims made by vaping companies have left lingering myths about the dangers and use of e-cigarette products. READ MORE

Be my neighbor: Helping kids connect to their community

By Malia Jacobson

Neighborhoods – and connections within local communities – matter. Per research, where children live, play and attend school impacts everything from how much they exercise to their grades. Studies also show that “social embeddedness,” or a strong connection to the social and cultural relationships within the neighborhood, can boost kids’ social, emotional and academic outcomes. Like growing a garden, cultivating a richly connected neighborhood takes time and effort, but families can reap rewards for years. Here’s how to create social connectedness in your corner of the world. READ MORE

Good snackin’

After school or late at night is a prime time for snacking, but it’s also a time when many kids make less than nutritious food and beverage choices. Here are some ideas for delicious and healthy snacks your kids are sure to love:

Potato chips/fries: Cut the potato in the desired shape (round, rectangular, oblong, etc.). Fully coat with egg whites. Season with a touch of salt or other herbs as desired. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Serve with sugar-free ketchup.

Banana “ice cream”: Slice a banana and freeze overnight. Then put the slices in a blender for a creamy, healthy snack that tastes like ice cream.

Apple slices: Add a side of peanut butter for dipping.

Popcorn: Air pop popcorn and drizzle a moderate amount of powdered butter substitute, light parmesan cheese, or even honey for a tasty twist.

Pizza: On a fat-free/low-calorie/low-carb whole grain tortilla, smear tomato paste or sauce and top with fat-free cheese, whatever veggies the child likes, and even lean meats like diced ham or turkey. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted with a few brown spots on top.

Tortilla chips: Cut Chinese wonton squares in half diagonally so they become triangles. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet, lightly spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle on a dash of salt. Bake at 350 degrees until crunchy. Eat alone or serve with fat-free salsa or the below-described Mexican bean dip.

Mexican bean dip: Drain and food process two 14-ounce cans of black beans. Add 3/4 cup of fat-free salsa and 1/2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and blend until completely smooth. Top with a dab of fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped green onions, etc. as desired.

Fruit smoothies: Simply blend either plain or flavored fat-free/sugar-free yogurt with skim milk, ice cubes, and either fresh or frozen fruit chunks. For added sweetness, add a little honey or an artificial sweetener, such as stevia.

Parfait: In a cup or bowl, simply create thin, alternating layers of non-fat yogurt, low-fat granola (or other heart-healthy cereal product), and fruit slices or whole berries.

Practice Your Plan

American Red Cross of Alaska urges everyone to practice their home fire escape plan and test their smoke alarms. For free home fire safety resources, visit or download the free Red Cross Emergency App (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).

Here are some tips from the American Red Cross:

Helping kids adjust to a move

Job loss, promotion, a transfer and other life changes can force families to move. For children, a move can be stressful and accentuate negative aspects of their personalities, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

To help a child adjust to a move, the academy encourages parents to:

Emphasize the positive aspects of what awaits at the new location.
Let your child express his or her feelings and acknowledge sadness.
Take your child to the community where you will be moving.
Give the child the chance to participate in decisions, such as the new room color.
Become involved in the new community yourself.
Maintain contact with the old community.

6 Family New Year’s Resolutions Supported By Science

By Shannon Dean

As this year ends, the promise of new possibilities emerge with the coming of a new year. In addition to personal goals, many parents set family resolutions. After all, most of us consider the health and happiness of our family as important as our own. And, because the family functions as a unit, it makes sense to set a few resolutions for the benefit of everyone under your roof. READ MORE

Protecting Teen Drivers

By Christa Melnyk Hines

From the time they are infants, we take the necessary precautions to protect our kids, but how can we keep them safe once they start driving? READ MORE

Got a picky eater?

Research shows that it can take 10-15 tries for a child to decide he likes a new food. So keep serving broccoli – and even allow a child to touch it or play with it to learn about how it might feel in their mouth. Always ask that they take one bite. Don’t want to introduce new foods at lunch or dinner because it could ruin the meal for the whole family? Try offering them during snacktime instead.

Source: American Heart Association

Free apps: Gateway for cyber criminals

Many free apps contain excessive ads with aggressive prompts for your child to download other apps or games. Many of these free apps, and the secondary games they advertise, have invasive permissions that gain access to sensitive info on your devices, such as your contacts, camera, microphone, files, text messages, email, browsing history and location. From Angry Birds to Super Mario and Hot Wheels to Fruit Ninja, cybersecurity firm Rubica has ranked the top free mobile games from “safe” to “unsafe” and explains how deceptive ads and in-app downloads open the door to cybercrime and privacy risks for kids.

Rubica recommends avoiding these apps and the secondary apps they insistently encourage your kids to download:

Parents can protect their kids by being mindful about which free apps they download. Check out Rubica’s quarterly index of “safe” and “unsafe” apps at

Back-to-school health

To help your child get a smart start on the academic year, send them back to school in tip-top health.

Be sure to schedule an annual well-child exam and review any missed or new immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics website ( explains childhood vaccinations, advising which ones are needed at what age. All children attend­ing school in Alaska, including preschool, must be immunized against certain diseases. For specific immunization information in Alaska, visit

Vision tests
As much as 80 percent of learning is visual, so ensuring children can see properly will help them reach their full potential in the classroom. And while eyesight plays an essential role in learning, many children have a vision problem and aren’t aware of it (such as eye coordination, lazy eye, and near or farsightedness). Have your child’s vision tested before he starts kindergarten (ideally by age 3) and annually until age 18.

Hearing/Speech screening
If you suspect your child may have a hearing or speech problem, check with your doctor for a re­ferral to an audiologist and/or speech specialist. An undetected problem could interfere with your child’s learning.

Dental checkup
More than 40 percent of kids have some form of tooth decay by the time they start kindergarten, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Regular dental checkups should begin by age 3. A yearly checkup before school starts is a good way to detect and prevent dental problems.

Healthier snacking

What are the keys to healthier snacking? Moderation and choosing your munchies wisely, says the American Heart Association. Here are some AHA recommendations: Crunchy foods, such as apples, carrot and celery sticks, cucumber circles, rice cakes, popcorn, nuts, whole-grain crackers, baked or air-prepared chips. Low-sugar drinks, such as sparkling water (add some fruits and herbs for pizzazz), fat-free milk and veggie juice. Filling foods, such as whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter, veggies with hummus, low-fat cheese and low-sugar Greek yogurt. Snacks to curb your sweet tooth, such as fruits, raisins and homemade banana-nut bread.

Timely Parenting Research

The Low-Down on Shots, Soaps and Sports READ MORE

How to Keep Track of Your Health Records with Less Hassle

Not long ago, patients rarely got a peek at their personal health records, thick files tucked in medical offices’ weighty file cabinets. Today patients can access personal health information in minutes, thanks to online “patient portals” offered by a growing number of hospitals and clinics. READ MORE

Pelvic Pain?

Summer is on its way, and many of us are excited to get out and enjoy our wonderful Alaskan outdoors. But for some of us pelvic pain (often known as pelvic girdle pain) can limit our ability to do the things we love. READ MORE

5 Ways to Help Keep Your Toddler Out of the ER

Toddlers are wonderfully curious and active little people. But that means they're also prone to injury and illness. Here are five ways to help keep your youngster safe and out of the emergency department – and a few tips if you find yourself there anyway. READ MORE

10 Easy Ways to Cut Kids Screen Time

Tablets, smartphones, television and video games play a major role in our daily lives. Technology can be a positive thing, but when it dominates our kids’ free time, it’s time to start limiting it. With these easy tips, even reluctant kids may not notice they are cutting down their time spent with technology. READ MORE

Energy Drink Safety

Nearly one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drinks energy drink regularly. While these drinks are promoted as products that increase energy and enhance performance, they also can put users at risk. Each year, thousands of emergency room visits are linked to energy drink use. Overconsumption of energy drinks can have serious health effects, particularly in children, teenagers and young adults, the U.S. National Institutes of Health says. Most energy drinks have lots of sugar and caffeine – sometimes as much caffeine as in one to three cups of coffee. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids between the ages of 12 and 18 should not consume more than 100 mg (a cup of coffee, a couple of cups of tea or about two sodas) per day.

Too much caffeine can cause: jitteriness, nervousness, anxiety; upset stomach; headaches; trouble concentrating; trouble sleeping; and frequent urination, dehydration.

Caffeine isn’t the only substance in energy drinks that gives consumers a jolt – many of these drinks also have other stimulants, including herbal supplements, guarana (a source of caffeine), and taurine (an amino acid thought to enhance performance and caffeine's effects). With all that's in energy drinks, the AAP recommends that kids steer clear of these drinks altogether. Many of the ingredients have not been studied in kids and teens and could be harmful.

Tips for getting kids to eat healthier

Need some ideas for encouraging your child to eat more fruits and vegetables? Here are suggestions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

5 Tips for Getting Outdoors with Your Little Ones

Whether you are new to Alaska or new to getting outside with children in tow, spending time outdoors with small children can be challenging and even intimidating. As we all prepare for more daylight and longer hours to play, here are a few tips to help make your outdoor time eco-friendly and easy READ MORE

healthy sleep for children

It is common knowledge that adequate, good-quality sleep is important in the development of children and translates to better quality of life for children of all ages. Yet, childhood insomnia is the most common sleep complaint from parents. Although certain sleep disorders may cause insomnia, the difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep may be due to poor sleep habits or suboptimal sleep environment. READ MORE

Meet JUUL: What Every Parent Needs to Know Now

When Julie Urban started going through her son's belongings in his bedroom, she wasn't sure what she was looking for. She only knew that her 17-year-old wasn't acting like himself.

"He had been acting strange for several months – staying out late, missing classes, getting in trouble at school," Julie says. "His personality had changed quite a bit. He had gone from very shy and reserved to active, outgoing and always busy. He was constantly fidgeting and would be caught up in lies from time to time." READ MORE

Keep indoor air safer

Indoor air may actually harbor more hazardous pollutants than outdoor air, the National Safety Council says. These may include cigarette smoke, chemical odors, lead, mold, radon and pesticide residues, the agency says. Here are the council’s recommendations for ways to keep your home's air safer:

Handling Holiday Stress

Parties to attend, errands to run, gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, and trees to trim are just a small part of our holiday to-do list. For some, the most wonderful time of the year quickly turns into the most stressful time of the year. Many of us kick off the holiday season with plans to enjoy some quality time with family and friends, but as the to-do list grows we find ourselves quickly overwhelmed. How can parents handle the holiday stress while still enjoying the season? READ MORE

Sneaky veggies

So your kids won’t touch a vegetable with a 10-foot pole? Don’t give up. Research shows that it can take more than 10 tastes before a child will learn to appreciate a new flavor. In the meantime, try sneaking vegetables into some of their favorite foods and regular staple dishes. It’s simple to do, and you will feel better knowing they are getting their proper nutrition. Here are some ideas:

Heavy metals in baby food

Many baby foods contain alarming levels of lead and other heavy metals, according to new lab testing by Consumer Reports. The researchers at Consumer Reports analyzed 50 packaged baby and toddler foods, specifically testing for heavy metals such as inorganic arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. At least 68 percent of the products had what Consumer Reports calls “worrisome” levels of a heavy metal. Products containing rice or sweet potatoes were more likely to have higher heavy metal levels. The tests also showed that 15 of the items that were tested, including organic foods, could pose health risks at levels of one serving or less per day. But parents who have already been feeding their children these products should not panic, says chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports, James Dickerson, Ph.D. He notes that eating foods containing heavy metals may increase health risks, but they don’t guarantee it. Of the products tested, 16 had what Consumer Reports deemed “less concerning” levels, suggesting that baby food manufacturers should be able to create a low-metal product.

To see how your favorites fared, check out the full list of all 50 baby and toddler foods tested at Consumer Reports’ website:

Home Safe Home: Preventing Accidents and Keeping Kids Safer

Today’s children may be the most supervised generation yet, with less time away from a caregiver’s gaze than kids enjoyed a few decades ago. But all this supervision hasn’t changed a simple fact – kids are accident-prone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental falls and injuries are still the leading cause of death for children under 14, and most accidents occur in or around a child’s home. “While we can’t eliminate every possibility, our best defense is to make our homes as safe as possible,” says childproofing expert Kenny Lynerd. Here’s how to keep kids safer, from birth through the teen years. READ MORE

Backpack safety

Shopping for a new school backpack? Keep in mind these safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Juuling teens?

Parents, wondering if your teenagers are “juuling” in school? Consider checking their Twitter accounts. That’s what researchers at the University of Southern California did, and after sifting through more than 80,000 tweets, they found almost 1 in 25 detailed using the tiny e-cigarette device during class hours. Some posts even included videos showing the kids “juuling” while in a classroom. About the size of a pack of gum, Juul is an e-cigarette device that contains a USB port for charging, making it easy for educators or parents to mistake the device for a USB thumb drive. In a statement, the company said, “Juul is intended for adult smokers only. No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try Juul.” Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health, said that monitoring and studying social media posts may be a useful way to learn about the popularity of some products.

The study was published recently in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Taking big sib steps

Bringing home a new baby the second time? The transition from being an only child to being a big brother or big sister can be a difficult one. Here are some tips to help the older sibling adjust:

Source: The Nemours Foundation

Childhood obesity epidemic: Moms to the rescue

Kids are less likely to be obese if their mothers follow these five healthy habits, according to a recent report from Harvard: eating a healthy diet; exercising regularly; maintaining a healthy body weight; not smoking; and drinking alcohol in moderation.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on more than 24,000 children, aged 9 to 18, who were born to nearly 17,000 women. Children whose mothers followed the five healthy habits were 75 percent less likely to become obese than children of mothers who didn't follow any of the habits, the investigators found.

Some of those healthy habits had a significant impact on their own. For example, children of women who maintained a healthy weight had a 56 percent lower risk of obesity than children of women who didn't maintain a healthy weight. And kids of moms who didn't smoke had a 31 percent lower risk of obesity than kids of mothers who smoked.

One in five US children aged 6 to 19 is obese, increasing their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems later in life.

Back-to-school bullying

As children start a new school year, parents often check in with them about their classes, homework and new teachers. But there’s another important back-to-school conversation: bullying. Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal or through social media. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

Each year in Alaska, between 1800 and 2000 suspensions or expulsions are related to bullying. Six percent of students report skipping a day of classes because they feel unsafe at school.

What to do when your child is bullied:

– Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

What Parents Should Know about Teen Depression and Suicide

By Jan Pierce, M.ED.

The controversial television mini-series 13 Reasons Why, based on the book by Jay Asher, has brought the topic of teen depression and suicide to the forefront. The graphic nature of this show and concerns of health professionals that the issue will be glamorized, has caused many agencies and school districts to issue warnings about the dangers of viewing the show. READ MORE

Your Family Needs a Fire Safety Plan

By Jan Pierce, M.Ed.

Every family needs to think seriously about keeping safe, and one of the biggest safety needs is a clear and well-rehearsed fire safety plan. The plan itself can be very simple – simple enough for the youngest member of the family to follow. The key is to intentionally make plans, practice the routine and establish a time each year to update it and make any necessary changes. READ MORE

Kids Worried Sick

By Christa Melnyk Hines

Like many active 10-year-olds, Ava* is involved in competitive cheerleading, enjoys playing the flute in her school's band and loves spending time with her group of five close-knit friends. But daily life is a struggle for this fifth grader, who is haunted by debilitating worries about her personal safety, her health and being alone. READ MORE

Dental Drama

By Malia Jacobson

Keeping kids’ smiles healthy takes more than regular dental checkups (which should begin around 18 months) and brushing twice daily. In addition to the normal loss of baby teeth and a cavity or two, many children will experience some type of tooth-related trauma, like a chipped tooth or one that suddenly turns grey, at some point. While childhood dental dramas are common, experts warn against ignoring them, because problems with baby teeth can affect the developing permanent teeth below. Read on for help with dental problems, from minor mishaps to true emergencies, to keep baby teeth beaming and big-kid grins gleaming. READ MORE

Veggie swaps

Trying to cut back on calories? Consider swapping a high-carb food with a vegetable. These swaps aren’t just lower in carbohydrates, they’re also lower in calories, higher in fiber and packed with nutrients. For example, replace rice with cauliflower “rice” (find “riced” veggies in the freezer aisle); swap bread for a lettuce wrap; replace pasta with spiralized zucchini or butternut squash noodles (which takes on the flavor of the sauce); replace pizza crust with cauliflower crust. It’s comfort food flavor minus the comfort food caloric guilt.

According to the USDA nutritional database:

Exercise boosts brain health

A lack of exercise puts kids at risk for very adult problems, like obesity and diabetes. Now there’s also research that shows exercise helps boost young brains. Turns out that active children do better in class and on tests because exercise seems to lead to larger brain volumes in areas associated with memory and thinking functions, such as behavior and decision-making, according to a study published in Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. These findings appear to be true for children with special needs as well. Physical activity can benefit children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or an autism spectrum disorder.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 60 minutes of exercise for children at least five days of every week. With the demands of school and homework, this daily goal can be hard to achieve without a parent’s help. Consider encouraging your child to discover physical activities he or she would enjoy – from the more involved (like joining a sports team) to the more casual (like bike riding, swimming or simply having fun at a local park with friends before starting homework). Kids also copy their parents’ behavior so if they see you working out and having a good time, they’ll be more likely to embrace exercise as a regular lifestyle habit. Exercise as a family, and everyone will benefit.

Grandparents help shape kids views on aging

Here’s more proof that quality time with the grandparents is good for your kids. According to a new study by the Society for Research in Child Development, kids who have a good relationship with their grandparents are less likely to become prejudiced against old people. That prejudice, known as ageism, is fairly common in children, even in those as young as 3, noted the researchers. However, the study found that ageism tends to dwindle at about ages 10 to 12 and that, when it comes to their grandparents, it's the quality rather than the quantity of time together that makes the most difference. The study found that the better the grandparent/grandchild relationship, the less likely the child was prejudiced against people based on age.

– The study was published in the December 2017 journal Child Development

Don’t let illness linger

Flu viruses live on some surfaces for about 24 hours, and norovirus, a common cause of stomach bugs, can live for days or even weeks. But don’t let illness linger in your home. Wiping down the counter with soapy water can get rid of some germs but to destroy the flu or stomach bug germs, you’ll need to disinfect. Look for a cleaner that specifically says “disinfectant.” Or mix a quarter-cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of hot water. The CDC recommends bleach to kill the stomach bug-causing norovirus on surfaces but if that will damage your counter or you’d rather not use it, look for “phenolic solution” on the label of a concentrated disinfectant. To kill the germs, the EPA suggests you use two to four times the recommended amount. Flu viruses can also be killed with hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners.

These cold meds and kids don't mix

Given the epidemic of opioid addiction, cough and cold medicines containing opioid ingredients, such as codeine or hydrocodone, should no longer be given to children of any age, according to the Food and Drug Administration. New language being added to warning labels on all prescription cold medicines will indicate that the risks of using the products outweigh the benefits in children and should be used only by adults ages 18 and older. Labeling changes also address safety information for adults, including an expanded boxed warning indicating the risks of using opioid medications, such as misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death. The FDA also recommended against the use of these medications by women who are breastfeeding.

Constipated kid? Think prunes

Prunes are powerful: This small, dried fruit has earned a big reputation as "nature's remedy" for constipation. Prunes (also called dried plums) are rich in insoluble fiber, as well as sorbitol, a natural laxative that works by drawing water into the large intestine. Children who don't like prunes might like eating prune juice ice pops or sipping prune juice mixed with another juice (like apple or pear juice) to hide the taste. While prunes seem to work the best, other fruits that start with the letter “p” – peaches, pears and plums – also exert a natural laxative effect.

Sources:; Mayo Clinic

Bust out of that Hyperactive Lifestyle

If you’re struggling under the mantle of an unforgiving schedule, now is the time to re-evaluate. Your health and the overall well-being of your family depend on it. READ FULL STORY

Seeing Eye to Eye

“A child’s learning and development process is largely dependent on their vision,” says Dr. Sheryl Slentfer with Katmai Eye and Vision Center in Anchorage. In fact, up to 80 percent of a child’s learning is visual, making it vitally important to detect and treat vision problems as early as possible.

Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” commonly develops in infancy and early childhood and affects about three out of every 100 children in the US. Lazy eye typically occurs when one eye becomes stronger than the other, causing the brain to disregard the images of the weaker eye. Treatment for lazy eye can correct the way the eye and brain work together and strengthen vision.

Common learning problems with visual impairments like lazy eyes include:

• Poor tracking skills, which makes it hard to keep your spot when reading

• Words moving or becoming blurry and jumbled

• The mind suppressing images to the point that where they seem like they don’t exist

Parents can spot lazy eye or other eye problems when a child:

• Favors one eye

• Tilts the head to see better

• Has one eye that drifts or wanders when he/she is tired, sick or in bright light

• Tends to close one eye, especially in sunlight

• Often rubs the eyes

• Seems to blink too much

• Holds things close to his/her eyes

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), up to 25 percent of all children have a vision problem significant enough to affect their school performance. A lazy eye diagnosis may be alarming, but with proper treatment, academic success and good vision are achievable. Beginning treatment is simple – schedule a visit with an ophthalmologist that includes binocular vision function testing, says Dr. Sheryl. From there, your child may need glasses and/or vision therapy to help their eyes and brain communicate.

The AOA recommends that children receive their first eye exam at 6 months of age, and then additional eye exams at age 3 and at age 5 or 6, just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade.

Help for new moms

During the first weeks after delivery, about 50 to 85 percent of new moms struggle with a short-lived period of mild depression, or “baby blues,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). With the surge of childbirth hormones coupled with physical exhaustion and the stresses of new motherhood, these moms may feel teary, overwhelmed, irritable or impatient. Getting over this early hump is crucial for establishing a healthy family dynamic going forward, says the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For about 10 to 15 percent of new moms, however, the “baby blues” develop into postpartum depression, which is more serious, according to the ACOG. If not recognized and treated, it can last up to a year or even longer. Contact your health professional if you have symptoms of depression that last longer than two weeks or if you have troubling or dangerous thoughts.

Here are some tips from NIH’s National Child & Maternal Health Education Program:

• Connect with other moms in your community or online. It’s helpful to share experiences with others who are going through the same issues.

• Make time for yourself.

• Set realistic, helpful goals. Allow dishes to pile up in the sink if it means that you can get a quick nap.

• Ask family and friends for help.

• Rest when baby rests. You need sleep as much as baby does.

• Don’t spend all of your time with baby. When possible, make it a point to be with people your own age.

Nearly 40% of adults and 19% of children ages 2-19 are obese – that’s up from 30.5% of adults and 13.9% of children in 1999-2000.

— US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Too young for whole foods?

Maybe not. Baby-led weaning has been a hot research topic for years, and it’s steadily growing in popularity. Instead of feeding pureed foods to babies 6 months and older, parents following a baby-led weaning approach sit babies at the table, encouraging them to join in the same meal, in its whole form. READ MORE

Avoid weighty topics

Want to help your teenager live a healthy lifestyle by losing weight? The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some advice: Don’t mention their body or talk about their weight. Researchers have found that commenting on a teenager’s weight, their appearance or telling them they need to lose weight could have dangerous effects on their health and even lead to an eating disorder. To keep kids healthy, the AAP suggests that parents should instead encourage healthy eating habits and fitness goals. Some tips include parents role-modeling a healthy lifestyle, helping teens learn to cook simple healthy meals, and increasing activity/decreasing screen time.

Young athletes in need of sleep

Children who participate in scholastic sports are at greater risk of injury if they don’t get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night are 1.7 times more likely to get hurt while playing their sport, compared with those who get eight or more hours of sleep. The right amount of sleep benefits the young athlete’s speed, accuracy and reaction time, the foundation says.

Stop swabbing

Nearly 263,000 children were treated in emergency departments for cotton swab ear injuries between 1990 and 2010 – that’s 34 injuries a day, according to research by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. About 77 percent of the injuries (including perforated ear drums and soft tissue damage) occurred when children were using cotton swabs by themselves. Most children were treated and released, but permanent damage such as irreversible hearing loss was reported. For cleaning ears, cotton swabs should only be used on the outside of the ear and never in the canal itself. Not a fan of earwax? Know that our bodies produce it to keep our ears protected: Dirt and dust that enters our ears gets stuck to the wax, which keeps any such particles from moving farther into the ear canal. For cleaning earwax, which naturally comes out of the ears, use warm water in the shower or bath to soften the wax and then dry off with a clean towel. Impacted earwax can occur when an ear’s self-cleaning is not working well (and can be a result of using swabs to “overclean” the ears), according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Earwax blockage is best addressed by a healthcare professional.

Back-to-school exams

Help your child get a healthy start on the academic year with these checkups:

Immunizations: Be sure to schedule an annual well-child exam and review any missed or new immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics website ( explains childhood vaccinations, advising which ones are needed at what age. All children attend­ing school in Alaska, including preschool, must be immunized against certain diseases. For specific immunization information in Alaska, visit

Vision tests: As much as 80 percent of learning is visual, so ensuring children can see properly will help them reach their full potential in the classroom. Children’s eyes change rapidly, and a vision problem (such as eye coordination, lazy eye and near or farsightedness) may not be immediately identified. (such as eye coordination, lazy eye, and near or farsightedness). Have your child’s vision tested before he starts kindergarten (ideally by age 3) and annually until age 18. Invest in eye protectors if your child will participate in contact sports.

Hearing/Speech screening: If you suspect your child may have a hearing or speech problem, check with your doctor for a re­ferral to an audiologist and/or speech specialist. An undetected problem could interfere with your child’s learning.

Dental checkup: More than 40 percent of kids have some form of tooth decay by the time they start kindergarten, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Regular dental checkups should begin by age 3. A yearly checkup before school starts is a good way to detect and prevent dental problems.

Banned, but still lingering

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made the decision to ban Triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical, from soaps because of concern that it is neither safe nor effective. Research shows that using plain soap and water is just as effective at killing bacteria. The FDA gave companies until September 2017 to get triclosan-containing hand soaps off the market. Despite this move, the ingredient can still be found in a range of personal care and household products, including toothpaste, shampoos, cosmetics, acne products and children’s toys. More than 200 scientists and health professionals published a statement in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that outlined several concerns about triclosan, triclocarban and other antimicrobial chemicals. These chemicals build up in the body and are long-lasting in the environment, the group noted. The compounds interfere with hormone and reproductive systems, and contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. The group urged consumers to avoid antimicrobial chemicals and for government to tighten rules on the substances.

Mental Illness and Kids

By Julia Moore

Up to one in five children experience a mental illness in a given year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite this high prevalence, parents may easily overlook or misunderstand the signs and symptoms children display. Learn about the common mental illnesses in kids and the signs – sometimes surprising – that you should look for. READ MORE

Avoid ‘overuse’ injuries in young athletes

Over the past 20 years more children and teens are participating in athletic programs – and injuries are common. Half of all sports medicine injuries in children are from overuse. These younger athletes are at an increased risk for overuse injuries because their growing bones are less resilient to stress. To prevent these injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips:

Teens and tanning beds

Did you know that Alaska is one of seven states without any restrictions on tanning bed use for minors?

A state-by-state comparison from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), released April 10, 2017, found that at least 43 states regulate indoor tanning for minors. Fifteen states ban minors from using tanning beds altogether. Tanning – indoor and outdoor – may be a summer pastime for teens, but it’s time to learn myth vs. fact and break the tradition. CLICK HERE FOR TANNING MYTHS AND FACTS >>

Avoid dosing errors

What’s the best way to give liquid medication to your kids? And are you giving them too much?

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that parents dole out the wrong dose 43 percent of the time when using a dosing cup, compared to 16 percent of the time when using an oral syringe.

Research has shown that syringes are the best and most accurate tool for measuring liquid medication, especially for administering small doses. If your child’s medication doesn’t come with a syringe, ask your pharmacist for one. Review the correct measurement with the pharmacist before leaving the pharmacy so that you will know exactly how much medication to give to your child.

If you think your child has taken a too-large dose of medicine, call poison control immediately at 800-222-1222.

Stranger danger?

by Christa Melnyk Hines

Chances are your child may, at some point, need to seek help from a stranger. But, who should your child approach for help and how much information should your child give? And what about those individuals who your family only "sort-of" know? Although abduction by strangers is statistically rare, the media sensationalism of such events makes the ordeal seem all the more likely. CLICK HERE for 10 smart strategies to help keep your child safe.

Mealtime makeover: grilled cheese

Love a gooey, grilled cheese sandwich but not all the fat and calories? For a healthier version, lighten it up with these tips:

Go take a hike!

Can you hear it? The outdoors is calling you right now. This is the perfect time of year to take a day hike with the family.

Not only does Alaska have a wealth of trails along which to explore the natural beauty of the region, but hiking is also a great form of exercise. A 150-pound person burns about 500 calories in 6 miles, and walking can help guard against many chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It’s also a great way to teach youth to appreciate and enjoy nature.

But a healthy hike is a safe hike, so it’s a good idea to know basic safety tips before you set foot outdoors. CLICK HERE

Caution: Sleep less, eat more

Preschoolers need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep each day (including a nap), but about 30 percent of preschoolers do not get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In turn, sleep-deprived preschoolers are inclined to consume more calories, according to a recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder, published in the Journal of Sleep Research. During the day of lost sleep, on average, 3- and 4-year-olds consume about 20 percent more calories than usual, 25 percent more sugar and 26 percent more carbohydrates. The study shows sleep deprivation may be linked to obesity risk. For adults, the same principle applies: When you skip sleep, you eat more – about 300+ more calories the next day, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So, if weight loss is a goal, sleep more.

Careline: Alaskans helping Alaskans

Alaska’s suicide rate is now at its highest since at least 1996, according to recent records from the state health department. With 200 suicides in 2015, it is the fifth leading cause of death in the state. Currently, Alaska suffers the second-highest rate of suicide in the nation, and it is our youth who are the most likely to die by suicide. With rates at a high, it’s important to hold onto hope. Always ask if someone needs help, and know that there are resources available statewide. Careline is Alaska's suicide prevention and “someone-to-talk-to” line, offering free and confidential help to anyone in the state at 1-877-266-HELP (4357). Trained counselors are available at any time -- 24/7 -- to provide intervention to those who are considering suicide and provide information to those who are concerned about someone else. The Careline also has a texting service available (Tuesday-Saturday from 3-11 pm) for those who are not comfortable on the phone -- simply text 4help to 839863.

Know who is at risk for suicide, the signs and how you can help.

Who is at risk?
People most at risk of suicide are those who feel helpless, trapped or alone. Having firearms in the home, binge drinking or increasing use of alcohol, having attempted suicide in the past, and having been exposed to the suicide of another are all factors that increase risk of suicide.

What are the signs?
Warning signs may include acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, withdrawing from social activities, losing interest in hobbies, giving away highly valued personal items, making a will, or telling others how their affairs should be handled.

What can we do?
If you are seeing the warning signs from someone you know, do not leave them alone – talk to them. If asking someone “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” feels like you are “planting” that idea in their head, you are not. A suicidal person already has the idea. Giving a person the chance to talk helps them vent their frustrations; you don’t need to say much and there are no “magic words” to make things better. Just listen and take them seriously. Call someone to help you, whether it’s the Careline, a trusted family friend, a mental health clinic or 911.

According to Careline, “studies have found that 75 percent of those who committed suicide did or said things in the few weeks or months prior to their deaths to indicate to others that they were in deep despair.” Know the signs, keep communication open, and spread the word. If you are a survivor, feeling down, in crisis, concerned, or if you’re grieving, Careline is there for you as a free, confidential and judgment-free lifeline. Call 1-877-266-HELP or text 4help to 839863.

Sources: Alaska Vital Statistics 2015 Annual Report; The Careline

Trouble sleeping? The blue light emitted by electronic devices suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. For better sleep, power down at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

– National Sleep Foundation

Say what? Turn it down

As children get older and are introduced to personal electronic devices, loud stereos and movies, video games, and even noisy city streets and events, their hearing may be at risk. Nearly 13 percent of children ages 6 to 19 have permanent hearing damage due to exposure to loud noise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To help keep noise at safe levels, never set the sound above half volume with headphones, TVs, video games and movies. Limit time spent around loud noises as much as possible. Wear earplugs if you're going to a loud concert (you'll still hear the music) or other loud events, like a car race, or while operating a lawn mower or leaf or snow blower. If you suspect any hearing problems, see your doctor right away, and consider getting hearing tests on a regular basis.

How to talk with your children about alcohol

By Tiffany Hall, executive director of Recover Alaska

Having the “alcohol talk” with your child can be a daunting milestone. It’s difficult to know how to go about it, when to bring the topic up and how to convey a certain level of seriousness without alienating your child. However, the bottom line is that no matter what, your kid has questions about alcohol. If you don’t answer those questions, they will find the information (factual or not) from a different source. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one in three 15-year-olds has tried alcohol – which means two out of three teens have not! Waste no time. Opening a conversation early on and establishing a firm foundation of trust will play a critical role in their decision to experiment with alcohol. Not saying anything can sometimes be the biggest statement of all. FULL ARTICLE

Keep an eye on your child’s vision

Babies can’t tell you that their vision is blurry, but there are ways you can tell. If your baby never seems to focus on objects or seems to have a hard time finding close objects like your face or hand, let your pediatrician know. For school-age children, watch for signs like squinting, difficulty reading, constant eye rubbing or sitting too close to the TV. If your child is struggling at school, make sure to ask if they can see the blackboard (or whiteboard). Students may give up on their classwork rather than admit they can’t see what their teacher is writing on the board. They might even be labeled “poor students” or “disruptive,” or be diagnosed with ADHD, when really they just have unidentified poor vision. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade – at about age 5 or 6. For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required.

Diversifying the plate of a picky eater

By Christa Melnyk Hines

Variety is the spice of life – unless you're a toddler demanding dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and mac 'n cheese at every meal. Picky eating isn't uncommon among youngsters, but that doesn't make the issue any less frustrating for parents. What are some ways we can make healthy foods more attractive to a selective child? FULL ARTICLE