health & wellness

Health news for the whole family

Eyes on health

Do you wonder how extended screen time is affecting your child’s eyes?

Due to the increasing hours of virtual learning and time spent focusing on small screens, Myopia (nearsightedness), has become one of the fastest growing eye issues among children, both in the US and globally. In 2020, in the US, it was reported that approximately 40 percent of the population is myopic compared to only 28 percent in 2000. “The incidence of myopia has increased more than 60 percent in the past three decades,” says Dr. Kevin Chan, OD, MS, FAAO, “and the condition is worsening rapidly.”

To help protect children’s eyes and vision, the American Optometric Association (AOA) advises encouraging kids to engage in eye-hand coordination activities (such as puzzles and painting) and outdoor activities (playing sports, going for walks, riding bikes, etc). The natural outdoor light also helps lower the risk of myopia. And people of all ages should follow the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes of reading, computer or close work take a 20-second rest break by looking at things at least 20 feet away. It is also advised to hold books and devices at the Harmon working distance, which is the distance from the elbow to the fist. Having an annual comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist is the best way for all adults and school-aged children to know what will be best for each of them, the AOA advises.

To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on children’s eye health and vision, visit aoa.org.

Anchor It! Toppling TVs, furniture can injure or kill kids

It only takes a second. Experts are warning that unsecured televisions, bedroom dressers and other heavy furniture can crush, maim and even kill curious children, and the risks may only worsen during stay-at-home lockdowns. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), between 2000 and 2019, 451 kids aged 17 years and younger died in tip-over accidents. And an average 11,100 per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms for tip-over-related injuries from 2017 through 2019. About eight in 10 tip-over deaths involved kids under age 6, and 75 percent of fatalities for children involved a TV, according to the new report.

A CPSC survey last year found that many parents and caregivers considered anchoring furniture and TVs unnecessary as long as they watched their children — a potentially deadly misconception.
The CPSC offers these safety tips:

Even in rooms with TVs and furniture anchored, adult supervision is recommended, the agency said.

The CPSC has more tips, including instructions on anchoring TVs and furniture properly, at anchorit.gov.

Let it Go: 7 Things to Stop Worrying About

Worrying, it’s something all parents do. I am guilty of it, especially when I lie awake at 3 am, with the silence of the house ringing in my ears. I worry about what I forgot to do, what I need to do, what I should have done, and what I already did. READ MORE

Juice: Good or bad?

For children (over age 1), it’s OK to drink juice in small amounts, but whole fruit and plain water are better choices, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends against giving children fruit juice at bedtime or to treat dehydration or diarrhea. However, a small amount of juice can be given to treat constipation.

Here are AAP’s recommended amounts of juice for children:

Under age 1: Avoid giving juice to this age group, since it offers no nutritional benefits. Juice also might increase the risk of tooth decay and cause your baby to prefer sweeter flavors instead of plain water.

Ages 1 to 6 years: Limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day. Juice should be given as part of a meal or snack. Avoid allowing your child to sip juice throughout the day.

Ages 7 to 18: Limit juice to 8 ounces a day – half of the recommended daily fruit servings.

If you do offer juice, choose 100-percent fruit juice instead of sweetened juice. Drinking small amounts of 100-percent fruit juice won’t affect a child’s weight; however, just like any other food or calorie-containing drink, too much fruit juice can contribute to weight gain. While 100-percent fruit juice and sweetened fruit drinks might have similar calorie counts, your child will get more nutrients and fewer additives from 100-percent juice. Adding water to 100-percent fruit juice can make a little go a long way.

One cup of 100-percent fruit juice equals 1 cup of fruit. Juice lacks the fiber of whole fruit, however, and can be consumed more quickly. Although a small amount of fruit juice each day is fine for most children, remember that whole fruit is a better option.

50+ Things to Fill Easter Eggs (That Aren’t Candy)

Our family loves an Easter egg hunt. It is always fun to see the kids running through the yard rushing to find the most eggs. As a mom of a child with food allergies, it is always a challenge to find items to fill all those plastic eggs that are not candy. Having a variety of egg sizes helps you be able to stuff all your new ideas into the eggs without frustration. Whether your child has a food allergy, or you would just like to cut down on sugar overload, here are some non-candy ideas to fill all your eggs for the annual hunt.

Small toys. There are numerous ideas for small toys that you could fill eggs with: bouncy balls, small craft items, playdough, tiny cars like Micro Machines, Shopkins, whistles, mini kazoos, hand stamps, Polly Pockets, Barbie accessories, mini rubber ducks or other bath toys, finger skateboards, marbles, jacks and a ball, fake bugs and worms, pirate patches, play money, stickers, tops, Legos, sticky hands, or just for fun – confetti! When choosing small toys to fill your eggs, please consider the age of the children participating in the egg hunt. Small toys may pose a choking hazard for young children.

Something practical. Practical items can be fun too. Try filling eggs with erasers, pencil sharpeners, key chains, magic towels, cute adhesive bandages, travel size lotion, or hand sanitizer. My kids favorite practical Easter egg filler is money!

Something to wear. Your kids can have fun and accessorize with these ideas: barrettes, hair ties, socks, nail polish, Chapstick, lip gloss, silly shoe laces, bracelets, earrings, rings, temporary tattoos, zipper pulls, or bead necklaces.

Snacks. If you are avoiding candy try these little snacks that are the perfect size for Easter eggs: Goldfish crackers, pretzels, grapes, soup crackers, cuties (oranges), veggie straws, berries, animal crackers, bite size graham crackers, nuts, raisins or other dried fruit.

Happy Family, Happy Life

Happiness can vary depending on our personal circumstances. But why are some families more resilient and happier despite the obstacles life throws their way? READ MORE

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 ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron-consumer.

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 epa.gov/lead.

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 redcross.org/Alaska.

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 fda.gov/drugs.

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 commonsensemedia.org. For more information on Pew’s study, visit pewresearch.org.

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

Source: Kindercare.com

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.

Source: Healthday.com

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.

Source: Healthday.com

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 redcross.org/homefires 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