Cold Temps and Flu… Winter is Really Here!

Winter temperatures have arrived all over the U.S. On the East Coast we are now in the teens and below– and the flu “epidemic” is in full swing. Teachers are cautioning students to cough into their sleeves if they don’t have a tissue. Appointments for some primary care providers can only be obtained two weeks out…we ask them to call if there are any cancellations.

Even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definitely termed the flu an epidemic, health news correspondents continue to debate whether or not the flu has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. this year. Our entire household has had it even though we got our flu shots! Our doc says it would have been worse had we not received the flu shot. We are simply glad our bouts with it have subsided for now, and we hope that if the flu arrives at your household, you are able to manage it without too much distress. Here are a few more flu-wise precautions:

  • When family members do get sick, remaining home from daycare, school, work and crowded gatherings, is key to not spreading the flu.
  • Paying attention to kids’ temps and whether or not their coughs are productive is important. If a child’s fever seems too high or lasts too long, please call your primary care provider or take your child to the local Emergency Room ASAP.
  • Watch and listen to children’s coughs to make sure the bug doesn’t progress to serious bronchitis or pneumonia. If their coughs are productive check the color of the mucus… clear is good… anything with a yellowish or greenish cast should get a physician’s review.
  • If your child is experiencing difficulty breathing or respiratory distress, call 911.
  • Make sure to keep kids warm and hydrated when they are sick at home. If your child is experiencing repeated bouts of diarrhea with no let-up, call your primary care provider or take your child to the local Emergency Room.Children can become dehydrated quickly and that’s dangerous!
  • Keep track of how well children are eating–if they are not hungry, don’t force them to eat. Lighter meals work better with upset tummies…clear broth, toast, gelatin, ginger ale, salted crackers are in order. It’s probably best to refrain from spicy foods.
  • If children are well and can go out to play, cover their heads with hats, facemasks or scarves, hands (with mittens or gloves) and feet (socks, shoes, boots) when they are headed out doors. This is not the time of year for little toes to walk barefooted–even indoors, vinyl, tile and hardwood floors can be cold.
  • Monitor amount of play time kids spend outdoors–it’s easy when they are bundled up and playing, for them to become overheated under bulky winter snow jackets, etc. Check periodically to make sure children’s clothes and feet are dry and that there are no signs of frostbite on exposed skin. Layering their clothing will help keep them warm.
  • Remember to keep emergency numbers by your telephone.

If the flu bug should arrive at your home, we sincerely hope your family’s experience will be a mild one!

Kids and the Flu Epidemic

Today, throughout America, our population is fighting the flu. Area school systems are discussing whether or not to hold classes due to the flu affecting school children. Merriam Webster‘s primary definition of an epidemic is anything [in this case, a disease] that affects a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time. Dr. Tom Farley, New York City’s Health Commissioner, announced on CNN recently that the flu outbreak has reached epidemic proportions in New York City and he’s not certain if it has peaked!

At this time, 47 states in the continental U.S. are experiencing widespread flu activity, according to CNN, and an incredible increase in the number of visits to hospital emergency rooms by people with flu symptoms, according to Dr. Farley. Some hospitals have set up tents outside their emergency rooms to handle the numbers of “incoming”. A sad and startling reality is, according to the CDC since September 30, 2012, there have been 40 pediatric deaths in the United Statesdue to the flu, at least 20 deaths of children under age ten since January 1, 2013.  “Children are at a higher risk for the flu because their immune systems are not fully developed. Children with chronic health conditions are at even higher risk of getting the flu and experiencing complications.”

Parents and caregivers need to take this year’s flu epidemic seriously. There are several types of flu: Influenza A has been typed in 79% of the specimens and seems to be the heavy hitter with two and possibly three different strains. Influenza B accounts for approximately 20% of the flu specimens which have been typed across the country for the first week of January.

If you and your children (older than 6 months old) have not gotten flu shots, there is still flu vaccine available. CDC says the current flu vaccine is at least 60 percent effective against the flu (CDC, January 11, 2013, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). You can still get the flu even if you get the shot, but, in Dr. Farley’s opinion, you may get a less virulent version. You still may be able to get the flu shot from your primary care physician, but you also may need to make a phone call or two to locate a source of the vaccine in your area if your primary care provider doesn’t have it. It’s still not too late to be vaccinated and to gain some protection against the flu.

With this year’s flu, fever is usually present, chills are possible, along with headache and moderate-to-severe body aches and fatigue. Rapid onset of symptoms is characteristic of this year’s flu with a 3-to-6 hour incubation period. It feels like a cold coming on, only stronger. Coughs are dry and unproductive, and sore throats are less common, according to the Associated Press (“Do You really Have Flu?”, The Daily News Record, January 14, 2013, Associated Press, Harrisonburg, VA).

Children are getting the flu in inordinate proportions, so parents need to watch out for symptoms and keep kids home from school if a fever is present! Sanjay Gupta, MD, (of CNN) recommends that parents also make sure to “Wash, wash, wash hands!”, not just a cursory rinsing of little hands under water but rub them together with real soap, real water–not just hand-sanitizer for a good two minutes. Gupta says he sings the happy birthday song with his children twice while they are washing their hands, and devotes at least two full minutes to hand-washing each time!

This flu is a bad bug, so we hope those who follow take heed and pass on the precautions that could help keep you and your family from getting it.

Seatbelts, Booster Seats and Back-Over Accidents

“Children don’t need to be in a car to be hurt by one” is a phrase that has percolated in my mind over the past week. Where we live in Virginia, I see at least one young child in a car not buckled in a seatbelt or safely protected by a booster seat, perhaps once a week. I rarely, if ever, see young children turned around facing backward in the backseat. Often I want to say something to the drivers–in a thoughtful way–but offering free advice about a hot-button issue like seatbelts or booster seats can elicit a hostile response. So we will continue to raise the issue in ChildSafetyBlog. Here, we are probably as sensitive to this issue as many people who see young adult drivers texting or adults simply using their phone, while driving. Yet, in our view, parents who transport children by car without at least fastening seatbelts or protecting them in a booster seat are clearly not using their best judgment.

To be protected very young children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 20 pounds in weight and a year old. Babies can be vulnerable to head and spine injuries in the case of a car crash, if their car seats are not rear facing. Some parents are concerned that their children may sustain leg injuries if their seats face backward, but thus far, there is no evidence of kids receiving leg injuries because their car seats were facing the back.

We were surprised to learn recently that many parents have actually given up booster seats for children between the ages 4 and 8–even though children can sustain serious injuries without booster seats. Booster seats are especially helpful because the child is raised to a height where the seat belt fits properly across lap and chest. Strapping children snugly in their seats is also a key to safety. If parents loosen the straps for any reason, they need to remember before they go on their way, to tighten them again. One more caution to parents and caregivers is to make sure when you send your child in someone else’s car, that the driver has your child’s booster seat to use for your child. You might even think about purchasing an extra, basic booster seat to use for this purpose.

Back to the earlier statement, kids don’t need to be in cars to be hurt by them. Backing over children is still a terrible tragedy no parent or caregiver should ever experience. The statistics are shocking: Fatal backing accidents kill at least 228 people every year — 110 of them are children under age 10 — and injure 17,000.[1] We have passed the end of 2012, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who pushed back the deadline to publish the new rules for car manufacturers, promised this would be done by the end of the year. The new rules would mandate new manufacturing requirements to improve the visibility behind passenger vehicles and help prevent fatal backing crashes. We want to know why this hasn’t happened? The response of “added costs to the auto industry”-in light of their current profits–is no longer a viable excuse!

Child Safety Tips for 2013

The old year is gone but not forgotten. Many poignant news stories remind us how important child safety is and how we are challenged as parents and caregivers to protect children at home, in school and at play. Our greatest wish is for everyone to have a healthy, happy, safe New Year 2013. Here are a few child safety reminders to help make your home safer:

1) Stay focused on your child. If your young child is at home, keep a close watch. Be on the same floor or in the same room if possible. Don’t spend so much time connected to your devices that you forget your kids are there with you and need your attention, supervision and care.

2) Child proof your home. If you have young ones crawling, climbing and seeking to stand, put things they should not have high up (or lock them away). Cover the electrical sockets and lock the bathroom cabinets. Tablecloths with hot dishes can be pulled. TVs should be attached to the wall–not resting on a cabinet, as kids can pull them over when climbing.

3) Don’t leave dangerous items that might look like edibles about. Children love to put things in their mouths. Carefully put away button or other small batteries, pills, beads, buttons, magnets, and sharps such as scissors, pins or sewing needles, and craft accessories (glitter, glue, glue sticks, glue guns) etc., after use.

4) Make sure to stow away household chemicals and cleaners after use– especially ammonia, chlorinated cleansers, toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, and drain cleaners which can cause chemical burns, eye and respiratory irritations and worse. They need to be on a shelf high up in a lockable cabinet–where even the most curious climbers cannot get to them.

5) To minimize more than one household hazard, dispose of trash regularly. Take old newspapers, magazines and other periodicals to the local recycling area or dump. Dispose of any chemically soaked cleaning rags that can spontaneously combust.

6) Dress young children warmly for outdoor winter play, layering their clothing–but making sure clothing as well as shoes and boots, are not so tight that they cut off the circulation. Kids need to be warm and able to breathe well. Bring them in doors for a juice or snack break when you feel they’ve been out long enough.

7) Pay attention to your children’s exposure to the sun. Playing out of doors is wonderful, but make sure their tender skin is not exposed to too much sun which may cause them skin problems in the future. Keep fresh sun block on hand for those noses, cheeks, ears, arms and hands–even in the winter.

Dangerous Toys of 2012

If you have been wondering about the safety of children’s toys on the market this holiday season and whether certain toys are safer than others, there is an organization which has done some of the homework for you. The consumer watchdog, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), has examined the array of toys for sale this season, and is pleased to note that “toys today are safer than they’ve ever been before, [but] there are still dangerous and/or toxic toys on store shelves.”

The group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report reviewed 200 toys purchased at toy retailers, such as Toys R Us and Target and dollar-type stores. The report issued shortly before Thanksgiving noted that there weren’t as many toxic toys on the shelves as expected. Nasima Hossain, a public health advocate with PIRG recommends parents still watch for common hazards in toys when toy shopping. Common hazards in toys can be:

  • Toys that contain sharps–anything that could cut, puncture or stick a child;
  • Toys with small detachable parts that could pose a choking hazard;
  • Toys that contain toxic chemicals, such as lead or phthalate levels higher than allowable limits;
  • Toys that require heat or electricity and could pose a fire/burn hazard;
  • Toys that explode or implode, or smoke–again, watch for a fire or inhalation hazards;
  • Toys that shoot projectiles, such as the “Dart Zone Quick Fire 12 dart gun” which was identified as having a potential to produce eye injuries;
  • Toys that could become unsafe for young children that might be safer for older children;
  • Toys that contain high-powered magnets, sold as “Bucky Balls” or toys that contain button batteries that can be swallowed;
  • Water absorbing toys that can expand if ingested, such as the Water Balz toys by Dunecraft (94,700 of these were recalled yesterday by the CPSC);
  • Toys or child furniture that are flimsy or that appear not to be well put-together (and may collapse on a child, such as the toy wooden puppet stages recalled during the year); and
  • Toys that are too loud and can be harmful to children’s ears because they exceed the current noise standards.

The PIRG identified specific toys as containing hazards, including the Dora Backpack, by Global Design Concepts Inc., for its apparently high phthalate levels, and the Dora Tunes Guitar for its excessive loudness. Another toy, “Snake Eggs” made by GreenBrier International Inc. was found to be an ingestion hazard, and the Morphbot toy, also by GreenBrier, was identified as having high lead levels. The “Just Like Home 120-piece Super Play Food Sets” sold by Toys R Us, were identified as containing choking hazards for small children, as were the “Pullback Dragster Cars by Z Wind Ups” found to have choking hazards and warning labels too small to be easily read. wishes you a safe and healthy holiday season!

How to Minimize the Spread of the Common Cold and Flu Virus

If you have small children at home or children in school, cold viruses can be a big bump in your family’s routine. A cold virus can certainly cause discomfort to the child or adult who is sick, and cause missed pre-school, school and activity time for children, as well as missed working hours for parents. Add to that uncomfortable, sleepless nights, worry (for parents and caregivers) and everyone just feeling down-in-the-dumps. Colds are no fun at all.

There are ways, however, to help keep colds from being spread rampantly throughout the family and beyond your home to school and the community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 80 percent of infectious disease viruses are spread by touch. From your child’s hands, to his mouth and eyes… to the hands of others, and so forth.

Here are a few tips to help keep cold viruses to a minimum and to help your family survive the cold and flu season better:

  • Hand-washing. Supervise little ones, making sure they use warm running water and soap. Hand-washing should be done after sneezing, touching or blowing the nose, and going to and the bathroom, and before eating anything! If you don’t have soap at hand, use hand-sanitizer–and then use soap and water when available.
  • Washing and changing bed linens, towels and children’s clothing is important; wash towels and bed linens frequently that are used by your sick child separately from other children’s things in hot water and detergent.
  • Emptying bathroom and bedroom trash baskets (full of tissues) into plastic garbage bags that are tied and deposited in the garbage. Make sure also to dispose of diapers of children with colds immediately. Flu viruses can spread via feces too.
  • Making sure the surfaces of kitchen counters, bathroom counters, toilets, hand railings, etc., are disinfected with wipes at least once a day.
  • During the duration of your child’s cold, use paper cups in the bathroom that can be trashed, instead of plastic bathroom glasses where germs can reside more permanently.
  • If a child is very small or is teething and has a cold, make sure to wash their pacifier, teething toys and other washable toys in hot water after they use them; and wash their face and hands after a sneeze, thoroughly patting them dry to avoid chapping.
  • Teach children who are old enough to learn to cover their cough or sneeze with their elbow or a tissue–and to place that tissue in another one and then in the trash.
  • Touching the nose, mouth or eyes can spread that cold through the tiniest amounts of mucous, sputum or tears. Often this is the way children pass colds to others.
  • We know it can be nearly impossible, but keeping a very sick child temporarily away from well children is a big help in restricting the spread of a cold virus.
  • Once a cold is over, ditch your child’s contaminated toothbrush and give them a new one, along with clean towels and washcloth.
  • Parents, don’t forget to wash your hands and cover your coughs and sneezes too! You don’t need to be the next target for the flu.

Meanwhile, please try to have a happy, healthy holiday season!

Four More Infant Deaths Due to Nap Nanny Infant Recliners

Those who follow may be as sad and disappointed as we were when they learn that there have been four more deaths of babies in Nap Nanny infant recliners. In July 2010 we published a post to alert parents and caregivers about this dangerous piece of child furniture, so hearing this news is difficult. Perhaps if there were more thorough scrutiny of these products before they arrived on the market shelves…perhaps if more people paid attention to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls…

There are a million questions one could ask–but their answers don’t change the results. Nothing will bring these children back to life. Their lives were cut short by the use of less-than-safe baby products. My question from July 30, 2010, still stands: Aren’t there engineers who look closely at children’s products to determine whether they are really safe before they arrive on the market shelves?

The company that produced and sold the Nap Nanny infant recliners is bankrupt. The federal government is suing. Unfortunately, this is too little, too late. A loud public outcry… now… may save more children from this dangerous piece of baby furniture… but parents, caregivers and the public still need to be cautioned:

  • If you think a piece of children’s furniture, product or toy might not be safe, it probably is not. Check for recalls, safety standards for children’s furniture and products–including cribs and baby beds;
  • Please pay attention to children’s product, toy and furniture recalls online and in the news–and if you see a child’s toy, baby furniture, or children’s product at a yard sale, DO NOT BUY IT unless you check it first on the list of recalls on, to learn if it has already been recalled;
  • If you own recalled children’s furniture, toys or baby products, please don’t re-sell them. Selling or attempting to sell a recalled item is illegal. Much of the time, consumers can contact the manufacturing company for a refund or an exchange. If you cannot get a refund or a replacement item, then it’s best to destroy the recalled item, place it in a black plastic bag and deliver it to the dump, so it can never be used again or harm a child!

Holiday Toy Safety

This week, holiday toy catalogs are loading up mailboxes throughout the country. Having reviewed several of them and the toys they advertise with mixed feelings, I believe parents, caregivers and family members need to watch out for some unsafe toys on the market this season.

There are brightly colored, attractive plastic toys–sold under reputable brand names that bear little or no warnings about having possibly detachable parts. And it’s not only children’s toys to watch out for: Adult desk toys can easily get into the hands of little ones and sometimes contain magnets or small balls. There are quite a number of toys that look cool but could create dangers for young children. If you think a toy could be unsafe, it probably is. Some toys which are okay for older children can create trouble for a little one, such as toys with small parts or balls that could get lodged in a throat or windpipe, toys that use heat or electricity to run them, or contain chemicals, or coins. If there are toddlers in the home, you can expect them to be curious, so you need think about the safety of the entire family when purchasing toys.

Many people not only buy toys for their own children but often for the children of friends and relatives. One helpful hint when buying toys for other children is to contact their parents to learn what they already have in their toy chest and, not only what they like, but what type of toy their parents would approve of them receiving. Beyond the type of toy, parents also need to think about what children are ready to play with–stretching a child’s capabilities can be good, but giving a child a toy that is far beyond the level of their hand-eye coordination, for example, or for which they have not reached a certain level of learning could create a safety disaster as well as disappointment.

For young children, toys to avoid are toys with sharp edges, small detachable parts, “bucky” balls, small magnets, attachments, or batteries that can be swallowed, and toys with lead paint or that contain toxic materials. Plush toys that are too big for small children and toys with plastic or rubber masks also present the danger of suffocation, and they are on the market. KidsHealth from Nemours[1][1] suggests the following when going to purchase toys:

  • If purchasing toys made of fabric, they should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant;
  • Stuffed toys need to be washable;
  • Toys that are painted need to be painted with lead-free, non-toxic paint;
  • Art supplies need to be labeled “non-toxic”;
  • Crayons and paints should say “ASTM D-4236 on the package which means they have been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials;
  • Avoid older toys which are hand-me-downs, or worn out toys that can break and become hazardous;
  • Make sure if a toy makes sounds that the sounds are not too loud for your child–especially when a little one holds it close to their ears!

We hope these hints are helpful to you as you shop for safe toys this season!

PeaPod Travel Beds Recalled

As we get close to the holidays and parents and family members begin to shop for safe toys and gifts for families with young children, will highlight some children’s products which, due to safety factors, you may wish to avoid. This one was brought to our attention by a mother with a young child, which, after having been on the market since 2005, is only just now being recalled.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and KidCo Inc. of Libertyville, Illinois, have announced a voluntary recall of 220,000 PeaPod and PeaPod Plus Travel Beds because an infant or young child could become trapped between the inflatable air mattress and the fabric sides of the tent-type bed and suffocate. In December 2011, a 5-month old child found in this type of tent could not be revived. There have been at least six reports of children who have become entrapped or who experienced some physical distress while they were in this tent.

This type of product has been marketed for use by infants from birth to over three years of age. The tents were sold in several colors and have an inflatable air mattress which fits in a zippered pocket beneath the floor of the tent. A zippered side opening permitted parents and caregivers to place the child in and take the child out of the tent. The tents fold and come with a storage bag for convenience in transporting the tent. Model numbers are located on a tag on the underside of the tent; models/colors of tents being recalled are: P100 Teal, P101 Red, P102 Lime, P103 Periwinkle, P104 Ocean, P201 Princess/Red, P202 Camouflage, P203 Quick Silver, P204 Sagebrush, P205 Cardinal, and P900CS Green. The tents were manufactured in China and sold by children’s stores throughout the country and online by from January 2005 to the present, for from $70 to $100.

The CPSC is advising consumers to stop using the tents immediately and to contact KidCo for a free repair kit. The repair kits depend upon the model, so consumers will need the model number to arrange for the proper repair kit.

Consumers can contact KidCo by calling their toll free number (beginning in December) 1-855-847-8600 from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by visiting the Firm’s website at

To view photos of the recalled tents, please visit the CPSC website:

Kids and Hand-washing

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the United States. Shigellosis is frequently begun and spread by the infamous bacteria E. Coli, with which we have become all too familiar in recent years with respect to food and food handling safety.

The symptoms of shigellosis are diarrhea, cramping and fever. The illness can last a week or months–and if it lasts too long, it can become dangerous to infants, children, the elderly and those who are already ill or have weakened immune systems. The disease often occurs in child care settings, such as daycare, or in families with small children.

Shigellosis is particularly common and repeatedly causes problems in settings where there is often poor basic hygiene. It can affect entire communities and is more prolific in the summer than in winter. The biggest target for shigellosis is children from age 2 to 4–not to mention the caregivers and family members who care for them. Shigellosis can occur where water or food have been contaminated by the bacteria, it can be spread by consuming contaminated produce–fruits or vegetables. Making municipal water supplies safe and treating sewage are effective measures communities can put in place to combat shigellosis. Washing hands, especially when children have been toileted, is one way parents and caregivers can make sure the disease doesn’t get started or spread. Currently, there is no vaccine against shigellosis, although there is active research toward its development.

CDC suggests the following things parents and caregivers can do to help prevent the spread of Shigellosis:

  • Wash hands frequently and carefully with soap, especially after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, and before and after preparing foods and beverages;
  • Dispose of soiled diapers properly;
  • Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them;
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings;
  • Supervise hand-washing of toddlers and small children after toileting;
  • Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea;
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

Shigellosis can be a very big problem– and hand-washing is an important part of the solution.