Heart-Healthy Eating for Young Children

The American Heart Association recently published a promotional piece in Good Housekeeping (June 2010), supporting the magazine’s  “Cook Your Heart Out” campaign, which underscores heart-healthy eating even by those with ” The Littlest Hearts.” We couldn’t agree more!  Their “8 Ways to Help Children Eat Better” paraphrased here are ideas parents of young children can consider doing:

1.         Acting as a good role model.

(Childsafetyblog.org suggests we must always try to do this!) So if you eat unhealthy snacks in front of your child, why should your child feel he or she shouldn’t do the same?  Eat nutritious snacks and your child will be more apt to follow suit!

2.         Get children involved.

Ask your children to do simple, low-risk tasks in the kitchen (not around the stove!), such as rinsing veggies before you cook them or setting the table.  Gradually increase their responsibilities as they grow.

3.         Cook smart and healthfully!

Show your children how their favorite dishes can be prepared in a healthful way… If you have any doubts about cooking or proper measurements or portion sizes, check the American Heart Association Cookbook to learn how to trim the fat and other empty calories. Incorporate more vegetables and fruits in your meals. Bake, broil, and steam–instead of frying!

4.         Set food boundaries but give children choices too!

You determine the time and place meals and snacks will be served. Let kids know what will be served.  Give them a few options within the menu.  Show them what an acceptable portion size is when they are young… that will help cut down on “eyes that are bigger than stomachs!”

5.         Bring your entire family to the table!

The family that eats together… you know the drill–well, it’s true! Make the family table a happy, healthy, and memorable place to be together.

6.         Read food labels… Make it a game!

Just understanding food labels can be quite a chore. The American Heart Association suggests you make it a game.  I can honestly say childsafetyblog has difficulty spelling “polyunsaturated” and “monosodium glutamate”…

7.         Outreach–Don’t Just Talk About it–Do it!

It’s important that you contact your children’s school to learn what they are eating while in school–Request healthy food options.  Also let daycare caregivers know what you would like your child to eat.  If they don’t have it, you provide it!

8.         Be upbeat!

Who likes to hear what we aren’t permitted to do?  Most kids want to know what they can do to look, feel, and be their best.  Praise them when they do a good job with words and healthful snacks.

For additional information about heart health in children, please visit:  www.heart.org/healtheirkids

With thanks and credit to the American Heart Association for all they do to keep us healthy and to Good Housekeeping for helping promote the campaign for healthy hearts in children!

ALERT: Children, Eggs and Salmonella!

Yesterday and earlier last week, there was a recall of shell eggs due to probable contamination with Salmonella.  This is one of the largest egg recalls ever, so it’s time to take a hard look at your egg cartons to see where the eggs you may have recently purchased were produced!

About Salmonella enteritidis (SE), once this bacteria is introduced in the human body, it is difficult to get rid of successfully.  The young and the frail are the most vulnerable to its damage.  The bacteria multiplies in the intestines causing inflammation and sometimes bloody diarrhea. In infants, dehydration causing severe toxicosis is a major problem.  SE can be fatal.

So don’t be shy about asking your grocery store managers, “Are these eggs among the ones which have been recalled?”  Your grocer or supermarket manager should have a list of stock/lot numbers of those eggs for you to view so you may compare with the lot/plant numbers of those egg cartons on the shelves. If not, you can check these websites:  www.foodsafety.gov  and www.eggsafety.org

According to the FDA, the eggs you should look out for are:

“Eggs affected by the expanded recall distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. These companies distribute nationwide.” and “…are packaged under the following brand names: Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons, and loose eggs for institutional use and repackaging) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942. Dates and codes can be found stamped on the end of the egg carton or printed on the case label. The plant number begins with the letter P and then the number. The Julian date follows the plant number, for example: P-1720 223.”  As well as the lot numbers, sometimes the supplier’s company name and plant number will be on the egg carton.

To date, the possibly contaminated eggs have come from a single egg-producing source company, Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa.  Generally speaking, food products from the heart of the Midwest, especially from Iowa, are usually good, clean, quality-controlled and safe to consume,  so, we need to ask exactly what is happening to our U.S. food sources vis à vis quality-control?

What should you do to make sure your eggs are safe to consume?  If you have eggs in the above-numbered egg cartons at home, DO NOT cook or eat them, but take your grocery receipt (if you have it) and the shell eggs in the carton (as many as you may still have) to the store where you purchased them for a full refund.  Don’t take a chance on cooking the eggs or using them in food preparation and getting salmonella!

About eggs in general, don’t leave them out on the kitchen counter for prolonged lengths of time.  Cook them thoroughly when you do cook them.  If you use eggs in cakes, cookies and other food dishes, make sure you bake or cook those dishes as soon as possible after initial preparation and thoroughly as well.  Practice safe food handling always, separating raw foods from cooked ones, chilling and cooking eggs thoroughly and making sure cutting boards, measuring and cooking utensils are squeaky clean when you use them.

August Is Back to School Safety Month and Immunization Awareness Month!

This month–and it’s more than half over–is Back to School Safety Month. Most parents are considering all the things their children need for a great start of the first weeks of school. Parents are especially focused on the requirements of young children and those who will attend school for the first time: how to keep them safe on their journey to and from school and how to keep them safe around other children in school.

Immunizations are a hot topic of conversation. Which vaccinations do children attending school in your state’s school district require in order to enter school? Before calling your local physician or primary care provider to make an appointment, it is a good idea to call the school your child will attend. Simply ask for the school’s nurse or the principal’s office and request the vaccine requirements for your particular school for your children’s age(s). Since this is a frequently asked question by parents, the answer may even be found on your school’s website!

Much having to do with the administration of vaccines has changed in recent years. At one time, only the DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) vaccine was required in addition to small pox and polio vaccines. The small pox vaccine was an injection and the polio vaccine was administered on a cube of sugar! There were tine tests for TB, and that was the sum total of the required precautions fifty years ago. It’s little wonder that until the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine was developed, there were epidemics of measles, mumps, and rubella in children.

Now, the DPT vaccine is more effective than ever and there are vaccines against Hepatitis as well as Haemophilus Influenza type b (or Hib). “Hib” is an important one, especially for parents of young children, to learn about. According to Pediatric’s Vincent Ianelli, MD, children should receive the Hib vaccine at:

  • 2 months of age
  • 4 months of age
  • 6 months of age
  • And 12-15 months of age.

The reason it is important for children to receive the Hib vaccine is that your child can get Hib simply by being around other children or adults who have it. Your child may not become visibly sick, but if Hib bacteria remains in a child’s nose and throat and proceeds to the lungs or bloodstream, serious problems can occur. Before the Hib vaccine, Hib was the principal cause of bacterial meningitis in children. Meningitis, a disease affecting the brain and spinal cord, can cause permanent brain damage and even death. Prior to the development of the vaccine, more than 20,000 children under 5 years old became ill in the U.S. annually, and approximately 1,000 people died from disease-related to Hib each year.

As with any vaccine or medication given to children, parents need to be aware there can be a reaction and should closely monitor children following vaccination. If parents or caregivers observe any high fever, behavioral changes, change in skin pallor (to pale or red), rash or redness of the skin at the injection site, hives, swelling of the airway, difficulty breathing or wheezing following a vaccination, take your child to the Emergency Room immediately or contact your physician. Adverse reactions to any vaccine should be reported to your child’s physician.

The Risks and Benefits of Going Online, with Kids!

As parents have come to know, the advent of the Internet accessed through computers from home, school, or from local libraries presents a lot of advantages and a number of risks, especially for young children.  The accessibility of the Internet is like having the world’s most complete informational and entertaining library available at hand.  My first thought when I realized what the Internet could be and do was, “Wow, what an amazing teaching tool!” Only too soon parents are learning, however, that there are some real disadvantages to children as well.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Education’s Rates of Computer and Internet Use by Children in Nursery School and Students in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade noted that “23 percent of nursery school children in the United States were already using the Internet and that 32 percent of the children in kindergarten” at that time had already gone online.  It’s 2010, we can be sure the trend in computer and Internet use is definitely on the upswing!

Parents, family members, guardians and caregivers should know that when exploring the Internet, children may find websites containing images that are adult in content or that may contain racist, sexist, violent, demeaning, or false information–or just information unsuitable for children’s consumption.  It’s often difficult for children to be able to differentiate reliable from unreliable information.  As with everything in the print medium that wasn’t and isn’t always true, so it is with the Internet.  Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean you don’t need to check the facts.

Parents need to know that the search engines children use should be chosen with care.  There are several search engines designed especially for children and with some safety options.  Parents need to make sure that children tell them, too, if they see something on the Internet that makes them feel scared, confused, or uncomfortable.  When possible, parents should help their children navigate the Internet and learn which sources of information are reliable and suitable for children to use.  Parents may want to contact their Internet service providers directly to learn if they offer filters to prevent children from accessing websites that are not appropriate for children.

Email and Instant Messaging (IM) contain advantages and disadvantages to children also.  While email provides quick communication and easy transmission of documents and photos, there are risks. Children should only be using email services that require parental permission.  Spam, the unwanted “junk” mail no one wants to receive, is still considered a risk. And there are people who send emails disguising themselves as someone children may know and trying to strike up a friendship with kids for illicit or illegal purposes.

While social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook have proliferated and allow kids to connect with their friends and other users with the same interests, parents need to be aware of what their kids are posting online before too much information is “out there” and things get out of hand.  If your children are IM-ing, tell them to IM only people they know in real life who have been pre-approved by parents!  Use privacy settings to restrict contact to only those people you have approved on your child’s friend list.  If possible, make sure other users cannot search for your child by using their email address and/or user name.  The same is true of sending text messages by cell phone.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children urges parents to go to www.NetSmartz.org where parents can educate themselves to provide safer navigating of the Internet for children!

(With special thanks to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Send for their pamphlet on “Keeping Kids Safer on the Internet”. It is available in English and Spanish from http://www.ncmec.org)

Toy Recalls and Another Look At Lead in Children’s Jewelry!

In accordance with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the well-known children’s toy manufacturer, Fisher-Price, voluntarily recalled another children’s toy this past week.  Little People Play ‘n Go Campsite™ looked like a very attractive toy for kids.  Fisher-Price, based in East Aurora, New York, has produced and sold generations of parents their colorful, sturdy, good-looking toys for children; however, on August 5th, CPSC found it necessary to urge Fisher-Price to immediately recall 96,000 of the toys which were manufactured in China and exported to the U.S. and sold in the U.S. and Canada (14,000) from October 2009 through August 2010, for approximately $15.

The recall is due to the presence of small parts which may represent a choking hazard.  For a visual of this toy, go to the CPSC recall website located on the web at: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10313.html

The particular small parts found in the Play n’ Go Campsite set’s “Sonya Lee” doll, which bends at the waist, are the specific potential hazard.  The doll can break at the waist causing small parts to be exposed.  CPSC notes: “The seven-piece plastic play set includes Sonya Lee, a tent and other accessories. Product number R6935 is printed on the toy’s packaging. The name, Sonya Lee, is printed on the underside of the figure. The remaining pieces of the Little People Play ‘n Go Campsite are not affected.”

As parents, caregivers, and family members, we know small children love to put things in their mouths which don’t necessarily belong there and we must continue to remain vigilant about what they put in their mouths.  At the same time, this child safety blogger notes that it is a disappointment to see toys that are less than safe arrive from China for sale to parents of America’s children!

Recently, Good Housekeeping (June 2010, p. 128) published a brief article entitled “Lead in Kids’ Jewelry.” GH’s investigative reporters spotted some jewelry that actually bore warnings that the jewelry was “not for children under ages 7″- despite the jewelry’s obvious appeal directed to small children.  Good Housekeeping became suspicious and had a variety of children’s earrings and necklaces they purchased at Wal-Mart and Target analyzed: “All 7 items contained lead well above the legal limit for children’s products.” Most of the products also contained cadmium (another heavy metal which can be poisonous if consumed)”!

So again, we need to be more than vigilant when visiting the children’s jewelry counter.  According to GH, one small stud earring from Wal-Mart contained “124 times the permissible lead level for kids.”  Along with Good Housekeeping, ChildSafetyBlog.org recommends:  Keep all jewelry away from young children! While ingesting an item containing heavy metals may not cause immediate harm or death, parents and caregivers need to immediately call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) if your child swallows such an item!

Technology Could Rescue Children in Hot Cars!

In the realm of facts that are really hard to digest, we find that the number of deaths from children being left in cars and subsequently suffering and expiring from hyperthermia remains fairly constant, despite frequent warnings provided by the media.

The University of San Francisco’s Department of GeoSciences maintains a statistical chart of the number of deaths per month of young children left in cars due to hyperthermia (heat stroke). Demonstrations by various SafeKids USA (national organization whose mission is to reduce and prevent childhood injuries and deaths) chapters have shown cookies can be baked on a dashboard and a child can expire in less than 15 minutes from having been left in a hot car!

A study published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, illustrates the statistics below:

“To date there have been twenty-eight deaths in 2010 of children due to hyperthermia (heat stroke) from being in hot vehicles.  Last year there were a total of at least 33 such fatalities in the United States due to hyperthermia after they were left in hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s.  Since 1998 there have been at least a total of 473 of these needless tragedies.  This study shows that these incidents can occur on days with relatively mild (i.e., ~ 70 degrees F) temperatures and that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly.”

This morning, we learned from viewing an NBC news clip featuring safety expert Janette Fennel that sensor technology has been developed to alert parent and caregiver drivers that there is still a child or children in the car seat(s) in the car after the driver (parent or caregiver) has shut the car doors and walked away from the car.  If the driver bearing that sensor (which can be toted like a key fob) proceeds approximately 30-40 feet from the car, the sensor causes the key fob to beep loudly to warn the driver that there is still a child or children in the booster seat in the car.

According to NBC News Channel 29 (Charlottesville, Va.), General Motors Corporation and Volvo are more than aware of the sensor technology, but have not been successful gaining approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to market the car seat sensor, and apparently the technology is so developed that even National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) is involved in helping to improve the technology.  NHTSA, however, believes that the technology is not ready and its Administrator, David Strickland, has stated that parents must continue to “remain vigilant.”

Childsafetyblog.org is aghast: The NHTSA’s response is not responsive or adequate.  Could the 28 children who died in hot cars this year have been saved?

The Nap Nanny

Just when we think perhaps accidental death in children may be on the wane and products, such as drop-side cribs, which have been determined to be less than safe for infants and toddlers have been removed from the marketplace, another less-than-safe product pops up! Baby Matters’ (Berwyn, PA.) Nap Nanny, appeared on the oscilloscope of unsafe for baby in a big way earlier this week when 30,000 of them were voluntarily recalled from the child product marketplace.  The Nap Nanny is sort of like a “recliner” for baby and was developed to provide a hedge against “acid reflux” in children.

Consumers with questions should contact Baby Matters, LLC,  Box 811, Devon, PA 19333, 866-664-4008,  info@napnanny.com. Also you may contact the CPSC’s  toll-free Consumer Hotline at 800-638-2772  for product safety and to report unsafe children’s products.

One child’s death has occurred which has been determined to have been directly related to the use of the Nap Nanny.  We feel for the parents.  There but for the grace of God go we.

We do not understand how an idea for a child product could go so incredibly wrong–aren’t there engineers who– before patenting and manufacturing– determine the safety and efficacy of these products for a child’s use?  Don’t children’s products, furniture and toys have to go through a process of approval by some higher authority than a company president to meet standards of excellence?  Is it because babies can’t “talk back” or stand up for themselves that they and their parents become the perfect targets for child product manufacturers out for the almighty dollar?  The question is rhetorical, but it should give us all food for thought.

Certainly, moms and dads want to provide the best products for their children’s use that they can.  The child product marketplace–even in this economy– is gigantic.  Go to any Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and you see child products galore, from dolls to bicycles, to strollers and baby furniture, child medicines, infant seats, gates, swings and slings!  If you have any doubt that toy and child furniture manufacturers make money, look up the parent companies’ standings on the various stock exchanges.  Look at the retailers’ standings in today’s marketplace and examine the marketshare these retailers have.  So, it would seem to this blogger that as purchasers, buyers, parents, family members, caregivers and protectors of children… that we have the right to expect the safe and healthy use of child products by our children.  And nothing less.

You may wish to check the CPSC recall notice for the Nap Nanny in July Recalls at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10309.html