Website: Visit Dear Santa website.
You've probably been busy thinking of everyone else's wish lists, so take a break and join us for some holiday fun. We want to know what YOU want for Christmas this year. Let us know by posting your comments on the Dear Santa page.
Ask an Expert
Find Us on Facebook
In the Kitchen
In the Kitchen
Website: Visit our site
Click here to see what delicious dishes Anne Fulton is sharing today.
Tributes and Publications
Ask an Expert Archives
Category Archives: Ask an Expert
The average American consumes about 200 mg of caffeine a day. Based on current studies, this level of caffeine consumption is probably OK and may even have health benefits. So you can breathe a sigh of relief. I am not writing this column to encourage parents to give up their coffee … I’m not that crazy.
What we do need to do is pay attention to our children’s caffeine consumption. There are so many different sources of caffeine bombarding our children today: drinks, candies, bars and even shots of caffeine. They come with promises of “Strength,” “Energy,” “Performance” and even “Style.” These companies slap their logo all over NASCAR races, NFL games and skateboard competitions. Their products show up in school vending machines and at sporting events. I can’t prove this, but I am pretty sure they increase their Internet pop-ups during prime exam/studying times. Despite claims, these products do not deliver on any of their promises.
The major energy drink companies recently issued a statement saying they do not market specifically to children. Go to their websites and see if you agree. I do not.
This is a $12 billion industry. A U.S. Senate committee in July discussed if judicial efforts are needed to ban energy drinks from sponsoring high school events or other marketing measures aimed at teenagers. I suggest we let our Senate worry about more important things and handle this as parents.
So what can a kid who drinks energy drinks count on getting for his $2.50 a bottle? Enough caffeine to equal at least two cups of coffee, almost twice the sugar of a soda and loads of ingredients that they need advanced placement chemistry to be able to pronounce.
“So what,” right? “It’s not gonna kill me … and it gives me a little kick when I am soooo tired.”
Q: I recently had my 4 year old at the dentist, and he has one small cavity. They recommended putting him under full anesthesia (sedative to put him to sleep and then IV to put him completely under) to fill the cavity. This seems extreme to me. Is it safe for a child that age to go under anesthesia?
A: Dentists have many different options to choose from to provide their patients with pain and anxiety control. There are lots of important details that enter into a dentist’s decision on pain control and anesthesia. The following information is taken into consideration before deciding on the appropriate way to treat a dental cavity (or caries) in a child.
Medical Complications: There are risks involved with every single type of sedation. The risks increase with the amount of sedation and with the length of time. Certain risk factors make anesthesia more dangerous, including underlying medical problems like seizures, heart disease or lung disease. When these problems are present it is sometimes safer to do a procedure in an operating room which has more options in terms of monitoring and oxygenation. In the absence of other preexisting conditions
it is usually best to go for the lightest form of anesthesia possible that will still provide the pain control needed.
“Hey boys! Want some chocolate chip cookies?” And just like that, I had my focus group. But I’m getting ahead of myself …
At the request of a reader, I am going to attempt to shed a little light on the vast choices of milk products available to purchase these days. For this column, I looked at cow’s milk (whole, 2 percent and skim), goat’s milk, and hemp, coconut, soy, rice and almond milks. All varieties were the original or unsweetened version. It is easier to think about them in terms of the various nutrients found in milk.
To put it into perspective, depending on their age, children are recommended to get between 13-59 grams of protein each day. Milk serves as a major source of protein for most American children. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk and soy milk are the big winners as sources of protein, with between 7-8 grams per serving. Coconut, rice, hemp and almond milk all have very small amount of protein, 0-3 grams per serving.
To help you judge this one: there are 10 grams of sugar in a Tootsie Pop. This gets tricky when judging milks, because many of them come in flavored options like vanilla, or just “sweetened.” The unsweetened versions of these milks obviously have much less sugar.
Goat and cow have the most sugar, at about 10-12 grams per serving. However, rice milk has a lot of sugar as well, at 10 grams per serving. Hemp, soy, almond and coconut milks all have low levels and even sometimes zero sugar in them. However, if you buy the flavored versions of these milks, 10-15 grams of sugar per serving are added.
There are different types of sugars, and they may affect your ability to digest a milk product. For example, cow’s milk has higher content of lactose, a type of sugar, than does goat’s milk. Coconut milk contains fructose, which is hard for some people to absorb.
Incidentally, there are 16 grams of sugar in the same serving size of human breast milk, so it’s not necessarily true that sugar is a bad thing when it comes to milk.
Calcium and vitamin D
Milk serves as the major source of calcium and vitamin D for kids in our country, and all of the these milk sources are pretty equal when it comes to this essential mineral and vitamin. The non-animal sources often are calcium- and vitamin D-fortified, added during processing. For that reason, many of these products actually beat cow’s milk in their amount of calcium.
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health study shows steady sleep patterns affect children’s learning abilities even more than how much sleep they get.
School is back in session, and many parents and teachers are focused on creating a routine which allows for the most academic success possible. You need only ask a second-grader who recently took the DIBELS test, or a seventh-grader who is playing on the school soccer team for the first time, or a 10th-grader who is taking their SATS about stress to understand that there is a lot of pressure on our children. It is a good time to remind everyone about our two biggest weapons in battling stress: sleep and family dinner.
There is some new information on these topics to share, and to save me from sounding like a broken record. However, the message is the same: We all should practice proper sleep hygiene and we should make time to sit down and share a meal several times a week.
Two things have become clear that make these goals easier to obtain:
1. The amount of time your child is asleep is not as critical as the quality of the sleep, and
2. Healthy eating is important for physical health and eating together is important for emotional health.
A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health proved that a consistent bedtime correlates with higher academic scores. This study has been featured in many places lately, including the Wall Street Journal, because it conclusively shows that sleep patterns have huge effects on a child’s ability to learn and function efficiently.
Q: My son just started all-day kindergarten. He is allergic to peanuts. The school refuses to mandate that the building be peanut-free. How do I fight this decision?
A: Never “fight” your child’s school. Work with them. Don’t approach the situation with anger; you probably won’t get very far. The principal, teachers and staff do not want to deny your child his needs, they only want to be sure that they are supporting a plan that is fair to everyone and that does not interfere with educating their students. So don’t get angry, just get working. Try to apply your energy and passion toward a cohesive relationship with your school.
Sending a food-allergic child to school or daycare can be terrifying. Around 10 percent of fatal food reactions occur in a school setting. It is estimated that 1 in 25 children has a food allergy.
Based on available evidence, making a school peanut-free does not eliminate reactions and has several disadvantages. Mandating that a certain food be unavailable or not allowed in a school is a very divisive decision. Children who are allergic to other things, like dairy, soy, etc., may ask for the same treatment, and eliminating all of these things in a building is impossible. More importantly, it contributes to the development of a lackadaisical attitude about your child’s food allergy. The assumption that since the school is peanut-free there are no risks has proven to be a dangerous one.
But there are techniques you can try to break the cycle
by Dr. Pia Fenimore
A very attentive grandmother in my office asked me if I would cover the topic of night terrors in children.
Night terrors, or sleep terrors, are when a child appears to awaken out of sleep and be terrified. They might scream, jump out of bed or flail their arms. They may even speak in phrases like “go away,” or “get off.” They will appear scared by sweating, breathing fast or facial expressions.
These can be very upsetting for the caregiver, but they are very benign to the child and have no long-term consequences. In fact, most children have no idea that they even occurred.
Another type of sleep disturbance, similar to a night terror, is “confusional arousal,” when a child sits up in bed and cries, moans or appears confused.
The above occurrences fall under the classification of parasomnias, or things that disturb sleep. Specifically, night terrors and confusional arousals are parasomnias associated with non-REM sleep. This gives them the following characteristic qualities.
Night terrors are isolated to the very young, preschool-age child (ages 2-6). They are very common and occur in 40 percent of kids in this age group. By age 7, the incidence is down to almost zero.
Q: I have a grandson with some issues. I am not sure if he is autistic or
not but am looking for some support groups in my area. He has problems with loud noises, food textures, swings. He is 4 and not potty trained yet. I have him every other week. I had him tested by the IU but
haven’t heard anything yet. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks.
A: Your grandson is very lucky to have you so keenly involved. I am sorry that you are worried about him hopefully you can find some help to get on the right track. There are two things to stay focused on when approaching a child with developmental or behavioral difficulties. 1. Finding the right diagnosis and 2. Getting the right support services. Both of these goals are often attained in different manners and one is not necessarily more important than the other.
My personal bias is always to prioritize finding treatments that will help over finding a diagnosis. However, in the case of developmental or behavioral problems it can be very helpful to do testing to pin point where the problem is coming from. Giving a child the label of a developmental disability, like autism, has very different ramifications than the label of a behavioral disability like oppositional defiance disorder, even though, in many cases, they are treated with similar interventions. To help discern what exactly is going on with your grandson you may want to have him evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. These are pediatricians who after their 3 year pediatric residency do a fellowship in developmental pediatrics. They become experts at diagnosing autism, cognitive delays, metabolic delays, and behavioral delays. There are developmental pediatricians at Hershey Medical Center, The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Lancaster, Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, DuPont Hospital for Children, and many more. It can often take 9-12 months to get an appointment with these physicians as they are in high demand, but for the goal of diagnosis it is worth the wait.
It’s spring, which means all the little critters of the world hatch and come out … and that makes pediatricians think of pinworms. That’s what you were thinking of, right?
Pinworms, or Enterbiasis Vermicularis, are a parasite for which humans are the only host. This means you cannot get them from the dirt, your cat or your dog. You can, however, get them from your children and your friends. Infection occurs most commonly in children ages 5-10 and does not discriminate among race or socioeconomic backgrounds.
You become infected by ingesting (eating, swallowing, breathing in) eggs or larvae. These eggs are most commonly found in the fingernails and bed linens of an infected person. At night, the female worms migrate from the small intestine, outside of the body to the anal skin folds. They do this to lay their eggs (our body temperature would kill the eggs if laid inside and, like a good mom, she is just protecting her young). The eggs become “infective” within a few hours and when they do, they become very itchy. The infected person scratches, gets the eggs under their fingernails and on their fingers, touches their mouth or eyes and — just like that — the life cycle of the pinworm has been propagated.
The eggs are able to survive for several hours on surfaces and linens (several weeks in cool, humid environments). This means that an unsuspecting family member or friend can then acquire them on their fingers and infect themselves.
Savvy little things, aren’t they?
The No. 1 symptom of infection is a very itchy bottom at nighttime. This affects sleep and can even lead to skin infections from scratching. While most pediatricians will make the diagnosis based on history alone, you can confirm the presence of pinworms by doing a “Scotch Tape test.” This is performed by taking a clear piece of tape and pressing it against the anal skin folds, thus picking up the eggs on to the tape. The tape is then placed under a microscope, where it is very easy to see them and confirm the diagnosis.
Q: My grandson will be 5 years old in August. In the afternoon he says “I need a bottle.” He drinks milk out of it. He doesn’t drink milk from any other source. What do you think about this? His grandpa and I think mom and dad should just say no more bottles.
A: I agree with Grandpa and Grandma. He is way too old for a bottle. It is recommended that parents begin taking away bottles at age one and be completely finished with bottles by age two. This is based on several health and developmental needs. Once children have the oral motor skills to chew and speak they do not need to suck down their nutrition. It is better for them to eat a variety of foods and avoid filling themselves up with large volumes of milk. As teeth come in it is important to begin phasing out bottles because the nipple places milk on the upper back side of teeth which can promote the development of “bottle rot” or decayed front teeth. And finally it is vital that children move beyond using a bottle for comfort: this is part of developing a normal independence.
Q: My 6 year old son has just recently begun to tell me that he feels his heart tingle. When I ask more about it he says it’s when he’s nervous, excited, worried or about to “attack” the girls clubhouse at recess. He says it’s not thumping and not like a sleeping foot waking up but more like tickling from the inside. I know not to mess around with heart issues but is this an issue I need to worry about or just him getting excited/nervous?
A: Chest pain, tingling, or pressure in a child is something that should always be seen by a health care provider. That said, most of the time, the cause is completely benign. Symptoms in the chest cause much anxiety among parents because they think of heart disease. However, in children chest symptoms are very rarely cardiac in origin. Let’s think about all of things that are located in our chests: the esophagus and stomach, ribs and muscles, the lungs, the breasts, and oh yeah the heart too. And we cannot forget the almighty brain who when nervous or stressed sends signals to the chest.
To pin down the source of the pain, it’s helpful to think in terms of these systems and the things that go wrong in them. In preparation for the appointment with your pediatrician think about answers to the following questions:
Is this a chronic problem that comes and goes or is this something that came on fast and is persistent? Does the pain occur during exercise? Does the child describe the sensation of