All posts by Maggie Pearson

Swimming Can Be Fun… But Watch For These Summer Visitors!

The summer swimming season isn’t over yet, and kids are coming down with what we used to call, “Swimmer’s Ear.” It’s easy for kids to get swimmer’s ear, otherwise known as “Acute Otitis Externa” — a painful infection of the outer ear canal, usually caused by bacteria. Common symptoms usually include redness and swelling of the ear, and there can be drainage from the ear. Your child may say you sound “funny” as though you are in a cave or as though their ears are “stopped up.” Of course, this affliction is more common in the summertime, when families with children visit the beach, pool or lake to swim, but you will find swimmer’s ear where people swim in indoor pools during other times of the year, as well.

Some basic tips to avoid your child coming home with swimmer’s ear are:

  • Help prevent water from entering your child’s ears by making sure they wear a bathing cap or use ear plugs when in swimming;
  • Discourage your child from ducking their head under the water frequently if they are prone to get water in their ears (this tip is more effective with adults than children);
  • To help water drain from your child’s ear, gently pull on the affected ear’s earlobe in different directions while the child bends their head over (facing their feet);
  • Dry your child’s outer-ears with a towel following swimming (this prevents residue water from running into the ear even after the child gets out of the water).

Swimming is a wonderful sport, and great exercise for children — perhaps the best full-body exercise– but there’s one more thing to watch for if your children swim in a fresh water lake, river or pond and that is: Swimmer’s Itch! Swimmer’s Itch, a.k.a. cercarial dermatitis. It’s a raised, red rash that appears on skin that was exposed to the water, anywhere from an hour to 48 hours following swimming. It’s caused by parasites that live in fresh water–and it usually clears up on its own, but the itching can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription anti-itch preparations sold at the local pharmacy. Make sure to check with the pharmacist for child dosing instructions! If the rash persists longer than a couple of days or there is any pus or other discomfort associated with the rash, please consult your pediatrician or dermatologist or take your child to the nearest emergency room.

Summer is almost over… so soon we can begin to think about other wonderful things to do safely with our kids… like camping, biking, playground activities–and so much more! wishes you a happy and safe end to this summer 2011.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Recalls Lapel Pins Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with Build-A-Bear Workshop, recently announced a voluntary recall of “Love.Hugs.Peace lapel pins.”

The surface paints on the lapel pin contain excessive levels of lead, which is prohibited under federal law.

The 1.5 inch lapel pin features graphics of a heart, bear head, and peach sign all positioned in front of a globe. The words “Love.Hugs.Peace.” appear at the bottom of the pin.

Stop using the lapel pins and return the lapel pin to any Build-A-Bear workshop store to receive a $5 store coupon. If it is not possible to return the pin to a store, you can contact the company for alternate instructions on receiving a refund.

For additional information, call Build-A-Bear Workshop at 866-236-5683 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. CT Saturday, or visit the company’s website,

Children’s Products Containing Lead – CPSC Issues a Ruling… finally!

At least there is some good news in the land, as far as children’s toys and products containing lead, are concerned. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has just issued a ruling which will be effective on August 14, stating: “Children’s products may not contain more than 100 parts per million (“ppm”) of lead unless the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC,” “Commission,” or “we”) determines that such a limit is not technologically feasible. The determination can only be made after notice and a hearing and after analyzing the public health protections associated with substantially reducing lead in children’s products.”

On February 16, 2011, the CPSC’s Commissioners conducted a public hearing “to receive views from interested parties about the technological feasibility of meeting the 100 ppm lead content limit for children’s products and associated public health considerations.” The Commissioners finally voted on this ruling on or about July 13, and it was a 3-2 vote of the Commissioners to publish the notice. “The Commission voted 3-2 to publish this notice, without changes, in the Federal Register. Chairman Inez M. Tenenbaum, Commissioners Thomas Moore and Robert Adler voted to publish the notice while Commissioners Nancy Nord and Anne Northup voted against publication of the notice. One can only wonder why the latter voted against it? CPSC staff’s analysis regarding the technological feasibility of materials and products to meet the 100 ppm can be viewed at this website:

Simply considering the number and extent of lead-contaminated, imported toys, childhood furniture and products–many from China–which had to be recalled from the marketplace in the past several years, this ruling is a good thing, but long overdue. We wonder how many “bad” toys are still in children’s toy boxes–before the tainted toys were recalled and before this notice of ruling was finally issued?

210,000 Toy Wagons Recalled Due to Laceration Hazard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Health Canada (HC) in conjunction with toy company Fisher-Price of East Aurora, New York, have announced the voluntary recall of  208,000 (in US) and 2,800 (in Canada) Little People® Builders’ Load ‘n Go Wagons. 

The reason for this recall is the handle at the back of the wagon has a “molded-in” reinforcement which makes the handle stiff and can be a laceration hazard if a child falls on the handle.  There have been seven reports of children being injured while playing with this toy wagon, and stitches or the use of surgical glue have been required in several of the cases.

The wagons were manufactured in Mexico and sold at mass merchandise retail stores throughout the U.S. and Canada for approximately $25 from June 2009 through the July 2011. The model number of the Fisher-Price Little People® Builders’ Load n’ Go toy wagon being recalled is P8977.

Consumers are advised not to allow their children to play with or use the wagons, and to contact Fisher-Price at their toll-free number 1(800) 432-5437 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at to obtain a free repair kit.  To view a photo of the toy wagon being recalled, go to the CPSC website:

As always, consumers are also advised that it is illegal to re-sell or attempt to re-sell a recalled consumer product.  The extent and reason for this recall surely begs the question, why is it not illegal to market products which appear not to have been tested sufficiently for the safest use by children?

More China-Manufactured Baby Strollers Recalled!

More China-Manufactured Baby Strollers Recalled!

Recently, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Health Canada, in cooperation with Britax Child Safety Inc., of Charlotte, North Carolina, announced a voluntary recall of 20,000 Britax B-Nimble baby strollers in theU.S. and approximately 800 in Canada, due to the possibility of brake failure.  A ‘clicking sound’ when the brake is depressed might “give a false impression that the brake is fully engaged when it is not.”  There have been seven reports of the brakes failing, but so far no injuries were reported.

The Britax B-Nimble Umbrella Strollers were manufactured in China, imported and sold in the U.S. and Canada from September 2010 to the present for approximately $200. The B-Nimble Umbrella Strollers with the following Model Numbers are recalled: U311771, U311773, U311775 and U311780. They have a manufacturing date of between August 2010 and February 2011.  The CPSC has advised consumers to stop using the B-Nimble umbrella strollers and to contact Britax toll-free at (888) 427-4829 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at  to request an improved replacement stroller.

To view a photo of the Britax B-Nimble Umbrella stroller, go to the CPSC website:

Beyond the Britax Stroller recall, importer phil&teds USA, Inc. in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, has also announced the recall of approximately 8,500 Explorer and Hammerhead baby strollers in the U.S. and Canada, due to another brake failure problem. These recalled strollers have metal frames and the brake mechanism on the strollers can fail, posing an injury hazard to a child. Eight incidents of brake failure (without injury) have been reported. The strollers have been sold as single strollers or with a “doubles kit” to make them double strollers.  The Explorer is a three-wheeled stroller and the Hammerhead has four wheels.

These strollers were sold online from,, and, and could be purchased from Babies R Us and from juvenile retail stores in the United States and Canada for from $475 to $500 from August 2010 through June 2011.  These strollers were also manufactured in China.

Explorer and Hammerhead stroller consumers should stop using the products immediately and contact phil&teds to arrange to receive an upgraded brake assembly. Explorer owners will receive a new frame fitted with an upgraded brake assembly. Hammerhead owners will receive a pre-paid shipping container in order to return the affected stroller.  Consumers can contact the company toll-free at (855) 652-9019 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday, or visit the company’s website at  Again, to view photos of the recalled strollers, visit the CPSC website at

At some point, the U.S. needs to better regulate the quality of the products we import from China and sell for use by children–anywhere–so that they are safer!

Toxic Chemicals in Car Seats? Oh No!

At, we had to take a step back when we heard this sound bite on yesterday’s news from several sources, including CNN’s Kyra Phillips. Toxic chemicals have been found in children’s car seats. We thought we must have misheard or the commentator must be mistaken. Toxic chemicals? Which chemicals and which car seats? Are the car seats being recalled?

A news station in Michigan ( ) reported today (again) that a study of car seats sold in Michigan revealed that 60 percent of the 150+ car seats tested contained toxic chemicals.  “The Ecology Center tested over 150 infant, convertible, and booster car seats sold in Michigan and found that while some are virtually free of the most dangerous chemicals, others are saturated.”[1]The chemicals apparently are related to flame retardants used in/on the car seats and include bromine, chlorine (in PVC), and other chemicals, whose toxic effects can be accelerated by heat (i.e., solar heat produced by sunlight coming through the car windows and windshield).  “The study also found brominated flame retardant chemicals, that are either deemed toxic or lack adequate health safety data, in 44 percent of seats tested.”[2]

According to the Ecology Center’s Michigan study “the most toxic car seats” are:

  • Infant Seat: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black & Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey;
  • Convertible Seat: Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set & Britax Marathon in Platinum;
  • Booster Seat: Recaro Pro Booster in Blue Opal & Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Misty.[3]

The Ecology Center reported the “least toxic car seats” are:

  • Infant Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 in Limonata, Graco Snugride 35 in Laguna Bay & Combi Shuttle 33 in Cranberry Noche;
  • Convertible Seat: Graco Comfort Sport in Caleo, Graco MyRide 65 in Chandler and Streamer, Safety 1st OnSide Air in Clearwater, and Graco Nautilus Elite 3-in-1 in Gabe; and
  • Booster Seat: Graco Turbo Booster in Anders.[4]

HealthyStuff, a website that posts safety test results of children’s products says: “Overall, car seats are improving. Between 2008 and 2011:

Yet some companies continue to use more potentially hazardous flame retardants in their products than others in the industry, and HealthyStuff says those are: Baby Trend (100%), Recaro (100%), and Britax (84%).

Given that because babies who are still growing are the most vulnerable population, and many babies and young children sit in car seats for long periods of time daily, we don’t understand why these products were either not tested for the presence of these chemicals-or if the manufacturers/ importers were aware, why they did not report the presence of these chemicals– prior to placing the car seats on the market.   Thus, far, no recalls of the above-listed car seats have been announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of the car seats listed above due to the findings of the Michigan study.  It has been found since 2008 that toxic chemicals could be found in children’s car seats. HealthyStuff says overall, car seat manufacturers are “getting better about this”–and car seats are very important for child passenger safety. asks, “At what price?”

[1] Tampa Bay News Leader, an affiliate of CBS News, August 4, 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Op.Cit.

[4] Op. Cit.

Measles Are Back Again!!!

Recently, various medical publications have been discussing the fact that outbreaks of measles are occurring in some states in the U.S. and in other countries, especially, presently, in France.  Measles–for parents and caregivers who may never have seen or have had the disease–is an infectious disease, communicable through respiratory droplets (sneezing, coughing, spitting, etc.) or by touching a person who is infected with measles (or an object a person infected with measles may have touched).

Measles is not solely a childhood disease–adults get measles too!  What does measles look like?  For people who have never seen the measles, it’s not pretty!  Measles is accompanied by a red rash that may first appear on the face and/or tummy and may spread all over the body. The rash may itch and bring with it a high fever. Here’s what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says about measles :

“Measles is an acute, highly communicable viral disease with prodromal fever [in this case, a fever that appears before the rash appears], conjunctivitis [inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye], coryza [inflamed mucous membrane of the nose], cough, and Koplik spots on the buccal mucosa [small white spots in lining of the mouth characteristic of early measles]. A characteristic red blotchy rash appears around the third day of illness, beginning on the face and becoming generalized. Measles can be accompanied by a middle ear infection or diarrhea.” Measles can be severe, and occur with bronchopneumonia or brain inflammation (encephalitis) leading to coma and death in approximately 2 of every 1,000 cases or in 0.2 percent of the population.

But there is some good news and that is Measles is preventable. It can be prevented by vaccinating children with the Measles/Mumps/Rubella disease vaccine, known as MMR.    Children are usually vaccinated with the MMR vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old (first dose) and again at 4 to 6 years old (booster dose).  Prior to 1989, booster doses of MMR were not given, so there are individuals in the population who may be at least 20 years old and who have never received a booster dose of MMR.

Who can be considered at risk for measles?

  • infants before they get their first MMR vaccination;
  • toddlers and preschoolers who are only partially immune following their first MMR vaccination and until they receive a booster MMR shot;
  • immuno-compromised children, even if they previously received the MMR vaccine, including children receiving cancer chemotherapy; and
  • people who are incompletely vaccinated (never received the booster dose), or have never been vaccinated with MMR, or who have never been exposed to the disease and who have never had the disease.

Some measles cases–up to 20%– require hospitalization.  In many cases, parents take children to a doctor or the Emergency Room (ER) due to the high fever–this also may expose other people and children to the disease. The best thing to do is to call your doctor or hospital first and ask advice if you suspect your child has the measles. Here are a few tips to help reduce your family’s risk:

  • Check your child’s vaccination record to make sure they received their first and second doses of MMR;
  • Check your own vaccination records to make sure you have received the MMR booster (as people born before 1990 may not have received it);

If you and your family are planning any international travel, make sure your vaccinations of MMR are in order before you travel!

Children and… Passive Smoke!

It’s been almost 35 years since Joseph A. Califano, Jr.[1], former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) which became the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), announced the government’s Initiative on Smoking and Health.

This was an amazing event, considering so many people in the United States smoked. At that time, people smoked at work, at home, in restaurants, in hospital waiting rooms and movie theaters, in public buildings and even on airplanes. Cigarettes cost in the neighborhood of 50 cents a pack.  Respiratory diseases, lung cancer and heart disease were on the rise, as were the insurance and lost-time costs to employers of sick employees with smoking-related ailments–but there was little discussion of the effects of  “passive smoke” and the damage it inflicts on the very young.

Recently, it struck me how concept-changing that announcement was. Mr. Califano, a lawyer (and former senior partner of the law firm of Williams, Connolly and Califano), on leaving DHEW/DHHS didn’t let the argument stop with his departure from the Carter administration. He took on the big tobacco companies in the real world and aimed in legal battles to change the laws that permitted smoking in public buildings, with the express purpose of lowering the numbers of people who suffer from respiratory ailments due to smoking, including the very young.

On June 21, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled the final graphic warning labels it will print on cigarette packs for sale–a far cry from the mild warning of yore: “The Surgeon General says, “Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.'”

Yet during the past 35 years, it has taken more than mild warnings to get people to focus on what happens to kids in smoking environments, and I’m not sure we haven’t understated the warnings. When out and about, I frequently see young mothers holding baby and a cigarette.

And I wonder, what can they be thinking, and do they know that young children and toddlers are especially sensitive to the effects of secondhand smoke? Their bodies are still growing and developing and they breathe faster than adults and therefore inhale proportionately more smoke. So moms and dads who smoke around their kids are essentially setting up their children for possible smoking-related breathing problems.

Research shows that kids who grow up in households where one or both parents smoke have twice the amount of respiratory and lung disorders, and in some cases have been hospitalized due to smoking-related disorders.

They also experience greater absenteeism and there have been studies which suggest that children exposed to more passive smoke may have more behavioral problems than children who are not exposed to passive smoke.  It’s taken more than 35 years to realize that smoking is related to cancer, that smoking causes health problems in formerly healthy individuals.

As parents, caregivers, family members, and babysitters, it’s important that we connect the dots between smoking and respiratory problems, so that eventually people will stop smoking around kids and even find it offensive to smoke around kids, and so that all our kids can expect to grow up with fewer respiratory difficulties than they may be experiencing now, in 2011.

[1] This piece is dedicated to my friend, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., for whom I worked and from whom I learned a great deal about how laws affect the development of American society and the way we think.

A Potpourri of Child Safety Notes!

Flu Vaccinations for Pregnant Women Protect the Child Too

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released a brief announcement about vaccinations for pregnant women and “second-hand” protection for babies in the womb last week.  A recent study appearing in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, has drawn the conclusion that

“Babies of mothers who get flu vaccinations seem to pick up protection in the womb. The study, referenced previously, found this in data on 1,500 babies younger than 6 months who had been hospitalized for flu-like symptoms in the 2002 to 2009 flu seasons. Those babies are too young for their own vaccination, but received protection from their mothers who obtained vaccinations while pregnant.

Safest Place for a Child on a Plane

Did you know that the safest place for a child flying with you on an airplane is not in your lap, but in a child safety restraint system (CRS)? “A CRS is a hard-backed child safety seat that is approved by the government for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft.”  Apparently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also has approved a harness-type restraint for children who weigh from 22 to 44 pounds. This is an alternative to using a hard-backed seat but is approved only for use on aircraft, not for use in motor vehicles.  The FAA urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate restraint based on a child’s weight and size.  According to the FAA, keeping a child in a CRS during the flight is the smartest thing to do.

What’s a Pool Safety Kit?

Recently, published Water Safety-Parts I and II, but we continue to pick up more good tips for parents of kids who are going swimming.  Here are a few things you might want to keep near your residential pool in case of emergency:

Keep a pool safety toolkit near your home pool or spa containing:

  • A first aid kit
  • A pair of scissors to cut hair, clothing or a pool cover, if needed
  • A charged portable telephone to call 911
  • A flotation device.

And what should we, parents, caregivers and babysitters do if we are caring for kids who are in and around the water:

  • Always watch children when they are in or near a pool or spa!
  • Teach children basic water safety and observe those cautions yourself.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Have a portable telephone close by at all times when you or your family are using a pool or spa.
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa right away!
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors and caregivers!

And please have a safe, happy, healthy summer.

Wooden Swing Sets Recalled Due to Fall Hazard!

240,000 (est.) Adventure Playsets Wooden Swing Sets were recalled last week (June 29) by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the manufacturer, Adventure Playsets of Pittsburg, Kansas.  This recall is in addition to the previous recall of Adventure Playsets Swing Sets in November 2009 (which listed 275,000 swing sets in the U.S. and 6,800 swing sets in Canada).

The reason for this recall is that the wood in the posts of the fort sections on the swings can weaken due to rotting, posing a possible fall hazard for a child or children using the swing set.

Adventure Playsets has received more than 500 complaints about the weakened wood used in the Swing Sets, that were manufactured in the U.S.  A report of a fall by a child was received when the ladder failed.

The particular swing sets being recalled include swings, slides and ladders. Each set comes with a fort structure that has green or cranberry colored plastic-coated 2″x 4″ upright wooden posts and a green nylon fabric-covered shade. The sets sold under the brand names: Bellevue, Bellevue II, Belmont, Durango, Durango II, Sedona, Tacoma, Tacoma II, Ventura, Venture II and Yukon, were sold at Academy Sports (the Yukon); Mills and Menards (the Ventura/II) all from 2005 to 2007; Mills (the Belmont) in 2004; Toys-R-Us (the Bellevue/II); and Walmart (the Tacoma/II, Durango/II, and Sedona). The swing sets sold for from $300-$600.

Consumers should stop using the recalled swing sets immediately and contact Adventure Playsets for a free repair kit which will include the appropriate angled or vertical upright posts for each model with instructions for dissembling and reassembling each set.

Consumers should contact Adventure Playsets toll free at (877) 840-9068 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, visit the firm’s website or email the firm

As always, the USCPSC continues to remind consumers that it is illegal to sell or attempt to resell any recalled product.  To view the list of model numbers involved and photos of the various recalled swing sets, go to: