health & wellness

Health news for the whole family

Grandparents help shape kids views on aging

Here’s more proof that quality time with the grandparents is good for your kids. According to a new study by the Society for Research in Child Development, kids who have a good relationship with their grandparents are less likely to become prejudiced against old people. That prejudice, known as ageism, is fairly common in children, even in those as young as 3, noted the researchers. However, the study found that ageism tends to dwindle at about ages 10 to 12 and that, when it comes to their grandparents, it's the quality rather than the quantity of time together that makes the most difference. The study found that the better the grandparent/grandchild relationship, the less likely the child was prejudiced against people based on age.

– The study was published in the December 2017 journal Child Development

Don’t let illness linger

Flu viruses live on some surfaces for about 24 hours, and norovirus, a common cause of stomach bugs, can live for days or even weeks. But don’t let illness linger in your home. Wiping down the counter with soapy water can get rid of some germs but to destroy the flu or stomach bug germs, you’ll need to disinfect. Look for a cleaner that specifically says “disinfectant.” Or mix a quarter-cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of hot water. The CDC recommends bleach to kill the stomach bug-causing norovirus on surfaces but if that will damage your counter or you’d rather not use it, look for “phenolic solution” on the label of a concentrated disinfectant. To kill the germs, the EPA suggests you use two to four times the recommended amount. Flu viruses can also be killed with hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners.

These cold meds and kids don't mix

Given the epidemic of opioid addiction, cough and cold medicines containing opioid ingredients, such as codeine or hydrocodone, should no longer be given to children of any age, according to the Food and Drug Administration. New language being added to warning labels on all prescription cold medicines will indicate that the risks of using the products outweigh the benefits in children and should be used only by adults ages 18 and older. Labeling changes also address safety information for adults, including an expanded boxed warning indicating the risks of using opioid medications, such as misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death. The FDA also recommended against the use of these medications by women who are breastfeeding.

Constipated kid? Think prunes

Prunes are powerful: This small, dried fruit has earned a big reputation as "nature's remedy" for constipation. Prunes (also called dried plums) are rich in insoluble fiber, as well as sorbitol, a natural laxative that works by drawing water into the large intestine. Children who don't like prunes might like eating prune juice ice pops or sipping prune juice mixed with another juice (like apple or pear juice) to hide the taste. While prunes seem to work the best, other fruits that start with the letter “p” – peaches, pears and plums – also exert a natural laxative effect.

Sources:; Mayo Clinic

Bust out of that Hyperactive Lifestyle

If you’re struggling under the mantle of an unforgiving schedule, now is the time to re-evaluate. Your health and the overall well-being of your family depend on it. READ FULL STORY

“A child’s learning and development process is largely dependent on their vision,” says Dr. Sheryl Slentfer with Katmai Eye and Vision Center in Anchorage. In fact, up to 80 percent of a child’s learning is visual, making it vitally important to detect and treat vision problems as early as possible.

Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” commonly develops in infancy and early childhood and affects about three out of every 100 children in the US. Lazy eye typically occurs when one eye becomes stronger than the other, causing the brain to disregard the images of the weaker eye. Treatment for lazy eye can correct the way the eye and brain work together and strengthen vision.

Common learning problems with visual impairments like lazy eyes include:

• Poor tracking skills, which makes it hard to keep your spot when reading

• Words moving or becoming blurry and jumbled

• The mind suppressing images to the point that where they seem like they don’t exist

Parents can spot lazy eye or other eye problems when a child:

• Favors one eye

• Tilts the head to see better

• Has one eye that drifts or wanders when he/she is tired, sick or in bright light

• Tends to close one eye, especially in sunlight

• Often rubs the eyes

• Seems to blink too much

• Holds things close to his/her eyes

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), up to 25 percent of all children have a vision problem significant enough to affect their school performance. A lazy eye diagnosis may be alarming, but with proper treatment, academic success and good vision are achievable. Beginning treatment is simple – schedule a visit with an ophthalmologist that includes binocular vision function testing, says Dr. Sheryl. From there, your child may need glasses and/or vision therapy to help their eyes and brain communicate.

The AOA recommends that children receive their first eye exam at 6 months of age, and then additional eye exams at age 3 and at age 5 or 6, just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade.

Help for new moms

During the first weeks after delivery, about 50 to 85 percent of new moms struggle with a short-lived period of mild depression, or “baby blues,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). With the surge of childbirth hormones coupled with physical exhaustion and the stresses of new motherhood, these moms may feel teary, overwhelmed, irritable or impatient. Getting over this early hump is crucial for establishing a healthy family dynamic going forward, says the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For about 10 to 15 percent of new moms, however, the “baby blues” develop into postpartum depression, which is more serious, according to the ACOG. If not recognized and treated, it can last up to a year or even longer. Contact your health professional if you have symptoms of depression that last longer than two weeks or if you have troubling or dangerous thoughts.

Here are some tips from NIH’s National Child & Maternal Health Education Program:

• Connect with other moms in your community or online. It’s helpful to share experiences with others who are going through the same issues.

• Make time for yourself.

• Set realistic, helpful goals. Allow dishes to pile up in the sink if it means that you can get a quick nap.

• Ask family and friends for help.

• Rest when baby rests. You need sleep as much as baby does.

• Don’t spend all of your time with baby. When possible, make it a point to be with people your own age.

Nearly 40% of adults and 19% of children ages 2-19 are obese – that’s up from 30.5% of adults and 13.9% of children in 1999-2000.

— US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Too young for whole foods?

Maybe not. Baby-led weaning has been a hot research topic for years, and it’s steadily growing in popularity. Instead of feeding pureed foods to babies 6 months and older, parents following a baby-led weaning approach sit babies at the table, encouraging them to join in the same meal, in its whole form. READ MORE

Avoid weighty topics

Want to help your teenager live a healthy lifestyle by losing weight? The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some advice: Don’t mention their body or talk about their weight. Researchers have found that commenting on a teenager’s weight, their appearance or telling them they need to lose weight could have dangerous effects on their health and even lead to an eating disorder. To keep kids healthy, the AAP suggests that parents should instead encourage healthy eating habits and fitness goals. Some tips include parents role-modeling a healthy lifestyle, helping teens learn to cook simple healthy meals, and increasing activity/decreasing screen time.

Young athletes in need of sleep

Children who participate in scholastic sports are at greater risk of injury if they don’t get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night are 1.7 times more likely to get hurt while playing their sport, compared with those who get eight or more hours of sleep. The right amount of sleep benefits the young athlete’s speed, accuracy and reaction time, the foundation says.

Stop swabbing

Nearly 263,000 children were treated in emergency departments for cotton swab ear injuries between 1990 and 2010 – that’s 34 injuries a day, according to research by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. About 77 percent of the injuries (including perforated ear drums and soft tissue damage) occurred when children were using cotton swabs by themselves. Most children were treated and released, but permanent damage such as irreversible hearing loss was reported. For cleaning ears, cotton swabs should only be used on the outside of the ear and never in the canal itself. Not a fan of earwax? Know that our bodies produce it to keep our ears protected: Dirt and dust that enters our ears gets stuck to the wax, which keeps any such particles from moving farther into the ear canal. For cleaning earwax, which naturally comes out of the ears, use warm water in the shower or bath to soften the wax and then dry off with a clean towel. Impacted earwax can occur when an ear’s self-cleaning is not working well (and can be a result of using swabs to “overclean” the ears), according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Earwax blockage is best addressed by a healthcare professional.

Back-to-school exams

Help your child get a healthy start on the academic year with these checkups:

Immunizations: Be sure to schedule an annual well-child exam and review any missed or new immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics website ( explains childhood vaccinations, advising which ones are needed at what age. All children attend­ing school in Alaska, including preschool, must be immunized against certain diseases. For specific immunization information in Alaska, visit

Vision tests: As much as 80 percent of learning is visual, so ensuring children can see properly will help them reach their full potential in the classroom. Children’s eyes change rapidly, and a vision problem (such as eye coordination, lazy eye and near or farsightedness) may not be immediately identified. (such as eye coordination, lazy eye, and near or farsightedness). Have your child’s vision tested before he starts kindergarten (ideally by age 3) and annually until age 18. Invest in eye protectors if your child will participate in contact sports.

Hearing/Speech screening: If you suspect your child may have a hearing or speech problem, check with your doctor for a re­ferral to an audiologist and/or speech specialist. An undetected problem could interfere with your child’s learning.

Dental checkup: More than 40 percent of kids have some form of tooth decay by the time they start kindergarten, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Regular dental checkups should begin by age 3. A yearly checkup before school starts is a good way to detect and prevent dental problems.

Banned, but still lingering

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made the decision to ban Triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical, from soaps because of concern that it is neither safe nor effective. Research shows that using plain soap and water is just as effective at killing bacteria. The FDA gave companies until September 2017 to get triclosan-containing hand soaps off the market. Despite this move, the ingredient can still be found in a range of personal care and household products, including toothpaste, shampoos, cosmetics, acne products and children’s toys. More than 200 scientists and health professionals published a statement in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that outlined several concerns about triclosan, triclocarban and other antimicrobial chemicals. These chemicals build up in the body and are long-lasting in the environment, the group noted. The compounds interfere with hormone and reproductive systems, and contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. The group urged consumers to avoid antimicrobial chemicals and for government to tighten rules on the substances.

Mental Illness and Kids

By Julia Moore

Up to one in five children experience a mental illness in a given year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite this high prevalence, parents may easily overlook or misunderstand the signs and symptoms children display. Learn about the common mental illnesses in kids and the signs – sometimes surprising – that you should look for. READ MORE

Avoid ‘overuse’ injuries in young athletes

Over the past 20 years more children and teens are participating in athletic programs – and injuries are common. Half of all sports medicine injuries in children are from overuse. These younger athletes are at an increased risk for overuse injuries because their growing bones are less resilient to stress. To prevent these injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips:

Teens and tanning beds

Did you know that Alaska is one of seven states without any restrictions on tanning bed use for minors?

A state-by-state comparison from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), released April 10, 2017, found that at least 43 states regulate indoor tanning for minors. Fifteen states ban minors from using tanning beds altogether. Tanning – indoor and outdoor – may be a summer pastime for teens, but it’s time to learn myth vs. fact and break the tradition. CLICK HERE FOR TANNING MYTHS AND FACTS >>

Avoid dosing errors

What’s the best way to give liquid medication to your kids? And are you giving them too much?

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that parents dole out the wrong dose 43 percent of the time when using a dosing cup, compared to 16 percent of the time when using an oral syringe.

Research has shown that syringes are the best and most accurate tool for measuring liquid medication, especially for administering small doses. If your child’s medication doesn’t come with a syringe, ask your pharmacist for one. Review the correct measurement with the pharmacist before leaving the pharmacy so that you will know exactly how much medication to give to your child.

If you think your child has taken a too-large dose of medicine, call poison control immediately at 800-222-1222.

Stranger danger?

by Christa Melnyk Hines

Chances are your child may, at some point, need to seek help from a stranger. But, who should your child approach for help and how much information should your child give? And what about those individuals who your family only "sort-of" know? Although abduction by strangers is statistically rare, the media sensationalism of such events makes the ordeal seem all the more likely. CLICK HERE for 10 smart strategies to help keep your child safe.

Mealtime makeover: grilled cheese

Love a gooey, grilled cheese sandwich but not all the fat and calories? For a healthier version, lighten it up with these tips:

Go take a hike!

Can you hear it? The outdoors is calling you right now. This is the perfect time of year to take a day hike with the family.

Not only does Alaska have a wealth of trails along which to explore the natural beauty of the region, but hiking is also a great form of exercise. A 150-pound person burns about 500 calories in 6 miles, and walking can help guard against many chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It’s also a great way to teach youth to appreciate and enjoy nature.

But a healthy hike is a safe hike, so it’s a good idea to know basic safety tips before you set foot outdoors. CLICK HERE

Caution: Sleep less, eat more

Preschoolers need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep each day (including a nap), but about 30 percent of preschoolers do not get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In turn, sleep-deprived preschoolers are inclined to consume more calories, according to a recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder, published in the Journal of Sleep Research. During the day of lost sleep, on average, 3- and 4-year-olds consume about 20 percent more calories than usual, 25 percent more sugar and 26 percent more carbohydrates. The study shows sleep deprivation may be linked to obesity risk. For adults, the same principle applies: When you skip sleep, you eat more – about 300+ more calories the next day, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So, if weight loss is a goal, sleep more.

Careline: Alaskans helping Alaskans

Alaska’s suicide rate is now at its highest since at least 1996, according to recent records from the state health department. With 200 suicides in 2015, it is the fifth leading cause of death in the state. Currently, Alaska suffers the second-highest rate of suicide in the nation, and it is our youth who are the most likely to die by suicide. With rates at a high, it’s important to hold onto hope. Always ask if someone needs help, and know that there are resources available statewide. Careline is Alaska's suicide prevention and “someone-to-talk-to” line, offering free and confidential help to anyone in the state at 1-877-266-HELP (4357). Trained counselors are available at any time -- 24/7 -- to provide intervention to those who are considering suicide and provide information to those who are concerned about someone else. The Careline also has a texting service available (Tuesday-Saturday from 3-11 pm) for those who are not comfortable on the phone -- simply text 4help to 839863.

Know who is at risk for suicide, the signs and how you can help.

Who is at risk?
People most at risk of suicide are those who feel helpless, trapped or alone. Having firearms in the home, binge drinking or increasing use of alcohol, having attempted suicide in the past, and having been exposed to the suicide of another are all factors that increase risk of suicide.

What are the signs?
Warning signs may include acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, withdrawing from social activities, losing interest in hobbies, giving away highly valued personal items, making a will, or telling others how their affairs should be handled.

What can we do?
If you are seeing the warning signs from someone you know, do not leave them alone – talk to them. If asking someone “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” feels like you are “planting” that idea in their head, you are not. A suicidal person already has the idea. Giving a person the chance to talk helps them vent their frustrations; you don’t need to say much and there are no “magic words” to make things better. Just listen and take them seriously. Call someone to help you, whether it’s the Careline, a trusted family friend, a mental health clinic or 911.

According to Careline, “studies have found that 75 percent of those who committed suicide did or said things in the few weeks or months prior to their deaths to indicate to others that they were in deep despair.” Know the signs, keep communication open, and spread the word. If you are a survivor, feeling down, in crisis, concerned, or if you’re grieving, Careline is there for you as a free, confidential and judgment-free lifeline. Call 1-877-266-HELP or text 4help to 839863.

Sources: Alaska Vital Statistics 2015 Annual Report; The Careline

Trouble sleeping? The blue light emitted by electronic devices suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. For better sleep, power down at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

– National Sleep Foundation

Say what? Turn it down

As children get older and are introduced to personal electronic devices, loud stereos and movies, video games, and even noisy city streets and events, their hearing may be at risk. Nearly 13 percent of children ages 6 to 19 have permanent hearing damage due to exposure to loud noise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To help keep noise at safe levels, never set the sound above half volume with headphones, TVs, video games and movies. Limit time spent around loud noises as much as possible. Wear earplugs if you're going to a loud concert (you'll still hear the music) or other loud events, like a car race, or while operating a lawn mower or leaf or snow blower. If you suspect any hearing problems, see your doctor right away, and consider getting hearing tests on a regular basis.

How to talk with your children about alcohol

By Tiffany Hall, executive director of Recover Alaska

Having the “alcohol talk” with your child can be a daunting milestone. It’s difficult to know how to go about it, when to bring the topic up and how to convey a certain level of seriousness without alienating your child. However, the bottom line is that no matter what, your kid has questions about alcohol. If you don’t answer those questions, they will find the information (factual or not) from a different source. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one in three 15-year-olds has tried alcohol – which means two out of three teens have not! Waste no time. Opening a conversation early on and establishing a firm foundation of trust will play a critical role in their decision to experiment with alcohol. Not saying anything can sometimes be the biggest statement of all. FULL ARTICLE

Keep an eye on your child’s vision

Babies can’t tell you that their vision is blurry, but there are ways you can tell. If your baby never seems to focus on objects or seems to have a hard time finding close objects like your face or hand, let your pediatrician know. For school-age children, watch for signs like squinting, difficulty reading, constant eye rubbing or sitting too close to the TV. If your child is struggling at school, make sure to ask if they can see the blackboard (or whiteboard). Students may give up on their classwork rather than admit they can’t see what their teacher is writing on the board. They might even be labeled “poor students” or “disruptive,” or be diagnosed with ADHD, when really they just have unidentified poor vision. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade – at about age 5 or 6. For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required.

Diversifying the plate of a picky eater

By Christa Melnyk Hines

Variety is the spice of life – unless you're a toddler demanding dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and mac 'n cheese at every meal. Picky eating isn't uncommon among youngsters, but that doesn't make the issue any less frustrating for parents. What are some ways we can make healthy foods more attractive to a selective child? FULL ARTICLE

Bulky coats and car seats don’t mix

Winter coats help keep baby warm but did you know that it’s not safe for baby to be wearing one while in a car seat? A study showed that the bulkiness of winter coats, which often lead to parents loosening the car seat straps, can eject a baby in the event of a car crash. As a result, Consumer Reports recommends that winter coats not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. Here is a simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their harness:

Smooth move

Moving to a new city, a new home and a new school can be tough on all family members, but the adjustment can be especially hard for tweens and teens. Children who moved between the ages of 12 and 14 had higher rates of attempted suicide, mental illness, substance abuse and criminal behavior later in life, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. But more than the physical move itself, the circumstances and environment can cause a greater negative impact, such as moving due to the loss of a job, divorce or death.

Here are some tips for parents to help children prepare for and adjust to a move:

Breast is best – for 2 years

Nearly 77 percent of mothers breastfeed initially after birth, with only about 16 percent doing so exclusively six months later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization encourages mothers to breastfeed their child up to 2 years old with the addition of other foods, as it enhances your toddler’s immune system so that he’s less prone to colds, ear infections, allergies and other common ailments.

Too young for a smartphone?

The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now around age 10, down from age 12 in 2012, according to the research firm Influence Central. Some children are getting smartphones even sooner, as young as 6 and 7, according to internet safety experts. Common Sense Media polled 1,240 parents and children and found 50 percent of the children admitted that they were addicted to their smartphones. It also found that 66 percent of parents felt their children used mobile devices too much, and 52 percent of children agreed. Nearly 40 percent of parents said they argued with their children daily about device use.

Avoid buying EpiPens online

The rising costs of pharmaceuticals has been a hot topic, most recently with the price hike of the allergy medication EpiPen. This trend has caused some people to seek prescription drugs outside of pharmacies by hunting online and across the border. In Alaska, medication prices, including the EpiPen, can be significantly higher than the rest of the country. And distances from health clinics and the non-existence of a road system for most of the state can make an allergic reaction even more critical. According to Dr. Jeffrey Demain, director of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska at Providence Hospital, online isn’t always less expensive and “quality can’t be validated.” Demain suggests patients use the app goodRx. It gives quotes on medications from pharmacies in your area and online.

Here’s what you need to know when looking to bypass a pharmacy:

It might be illegal. A prescription is needed to buy an EpiPen so only retail pharmacies or medical practitioners may be licensed by states to distribute the medication.

Expired prescriptions. Some of the EpiPens being sold online are expired. This is a cause for concern because drugs are typically ineffective after they pass their “sale by date.” Check expiration dates even when buying medications from a pharmacist.

The dosage could be wrong. There’s a reason you need a prescription to buy drugs. Doctors have to determine the dosage, which can vary from patient to patient. There’s risk to the patient if the dosage is too high or too low.

The makers of EpiPen have announced they are coming out with a generic version that will be half the cost of the original.

Source: Better Business Bureau Northwest. Anyone that has fallen victim to these or other scams are encouraged to report their experience to the BBB at 907-562-0704 or at

Built-in portion control

Average food portion sizes have increased over the past several decades, and many children are eating much larger portions (and more calories) than they need to maintain a healthy weight. Food portions in restaurants, for example, have doubled or tripled over the last 20 years, according to the National Institutes of Health. One way to keep calories in check is to create portion-controlled meals. Enter the muffin pan! Sure, you could use a muffin pan to make muffins, but you could also use one for baking perfectly portioned egg breakfast, chicken pot pies, mini meatloaves, and more. The muffin-size portions make for an easily packable lunch both for adults and tykes alike. Kids love the fun muffin shape and it’s a great way to serve a kid-friendly portion of a healthy meal.

Feed your child’s brain

According to recent research, certain foods may help boost a child’s brain growth – plus improve brain function, memory and concentration. Help your child get the most from school by serving more of these “brain foods” in their diet.

Sources:, American Dietetic Association

How to Stay Cold-Free This Winter

By Laura Krupicka

The person before you at the grocery checkout coughs, then sneezes before swiping their credit card. You pay cash to avoid touching a contaminated card reader. You have no desire to catch what they have.

With more than 200 viruses known to cause it, the common cold can seem unavoidable, especially if you have kids. But there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of being infected.

Hand washing. The most effective method for preventing infection by a cold virus is to scrub your hands with soap and water frequently – especially when you have been out in public, or in proximity to another person suffering from symptoms. In a pinch use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Don’t touch. Avoid touching areas of your body that absorb the virus into your system – your eyes, nose and mouth. It can be difficult to remember, especially if you are seized with a sudden itchy eye; this underscores the importance of hand washing.

Wipe down. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases notes that “rhinoviruses can survive up to three hours outside the nasal passages on inanimate objects and skin.” They suggest cleaning surfaces in your home or office space with a disinfectant when someone is sick with a cold to prevent the spread of infection.

Sleep well. Researchers found that those who slept more than 7 hours each night were less likely to succumb to colds. Their sleepless counterparts saw a three-fold increase in colds over those who got enough Zs. Give your body the immunity boost of a good night’s rest.

Exercise regularly. Studies show exercise does more than make you strong. It can also reduce the occurrence (and intensity) of colds. One study by Dr. David Nieman, a professor at Appalachian State University, recorded a 43-percent reduction in sick days due to colds and a reported 40-percent drop in symptoms experienced among those who walked briskly for 35-45 minutes, 5 days a week.

Exercise smarts for teen brains

By Lara Krupicka

Keep your teen moving! Studies show that aerobic exercise increases the volume of the hippocampus – that portion of the brain responsible for transferring information into memory. In other words, by being active, a teen can actually impact the structure and performance of their brain. And researchers found that in addition to regular exercise, being active right before performing mental tasks can yield improved results.

Some schools have put these findings to work by scheduling physical education classes for struggling students right before their most challenging subject. Your teen might not have that option at school, but they can put the same strategy to work at home. Here's how:

• Rather than sitting right down to homework after walking in the door, encourage your teen to do something active: jog or walk around the block, ride their skateboard, or take a bike ride. Just like priming an engine, they will be warming their brain up for mental work.

• Does your teen get frustrated or stressed out over homework? Blowing off steam just might be the answer. Next time your teen hits a roadblock with an assignment, don't scold them for stopping. Instead let them engage in something physical that takes their mind off the frustration and gets their heart pumping.

• During seasons of intense study, such as prior to final exams, standardized testing or college admissions tests, help your teen incorporate movement into their study breaks. Suggest they plan intervals of exercise into their study sessions like going outside to shoot hoops with a friend after a couple of hours.

• Help your teen find an activity they can stick with on a regular basis. Scientists have found that the impact of exercise on the brain is sustained over time. Fitter bodies coincide with fitter brains.

Let the kids cook!

Want to cook more healthy meals? Watch and learn – with your kids! A new series of online cooking videos produced in Alaska show how kids can take charge in the kitchen and prepare meals with healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The series was produced through the Children’s Healthy Living Program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Cooperative Extension Service. Each short video, filmed in the UAF Cooperative Extension kitchen in Fairbanks, features an Alaska child helping to prepare and cook foods that are readily available in most parts of Alaska, like beans, kale, oatmeal and vegetable fried rice. You can watch the videos at For more healthy ideas, visit

No more nasal spray vaccine?

Your child’s flu vaccine routine may be changing. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee recommended recently that the nasal spray influenza vaccine FluMist shouldn’t be used for the 2016-2017 flu season. The CDC committee reviewed data from previous flu seasons and compared the nasal spray with the standard flu shot. They found it provided basically no measurable protective effects against influenza. In the 2015-2016 flu season, the nasal spray’s protection rate was a mere 3 percent, which means that no protective benefit could be measured, the panel explained in a release. The traditional flu shot, on the other hand, was 63 percent effective with kids ages 2 to 17. The CDC conducts vaccine effectiveness studies each season to look at the value of different vaccines. The decision still needs to be approved by the CDC director before becoming CDC policy.

Allergies affect about 40 percent of children. Nationwide, it is the leading health issue among kids and results in about 200,000 emergency room visits each year.

– Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Back-to-school health checklist

To help your child get a smart start on the academic year, send them back to school in tip-top health.


Be sure to schedule an annual well-child exam and review any missed or new immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics website ( explains childhood vaccinations, advising which ones are needed at what age. All children attend­ing school in Alaska, including preschool, must be immunized against certain diseases. For specific immunization information in Alaska, visit


Food Mythbusters

Here’s the real story about some of the things we eat and drink.

Myth #1: Turkey makes you sleepy

Fact: If you’re feeling sleepy after a Thanksgiving feast, don’t blame the turkey. Turkey does have tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin -- a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. But turkey does not make you any sleepier than other foods. In fact, cheddar cheese has more tryptophan than turkey does, and people aren’t passing out after every grilled cheese sandwich. Chicken and ground beef each contain about the same amount of tryptophan as turkey per ounce, and pork and Swiss cheese contain higher levels. Eating any large meal heavy in blood sugar-raising carbohydrates is what makes you sleepy.


Myth #2: Drinking coffee stunts your growth

Fact: No, coffee doesn't stunt your growth. But coffee does contain caffeine (also found in sodas and energy drinks), which stimulates the central nervous system and too much can cause other problems, such as anxiety and heart palpitations, as well as irritability in children. For most people, a cup or two of coffee a day doesn't do any harm.


Myth #3: Always feed a cold and starve a fever

Fact: Good news: Starving is never the answer. According to recent medical science, the old saying is wrong. It should be “feed a cold, feed a fever.” What your body needs most when you're ill is hydration, but there's no reason to deprive yourself of solids if you have an appetite. There’s no medical reason to limit foods when you’re feverish. While you may have less of an appetite, you should eat whatever you can tolerate. In fact, when you’re sick, your nutritional needs increase because your metabolic rate goes up.

–Source: WebMD

Myth #4: Fresh is always better than frozen

Fact: Not always. There’s evidence that frozen produce can be as nutritious as fresh. As a general rule, fruits and veggies are flash-frozen shortly after picking, reducing their chances of losing nutrients. Plus, frozen often costs less.


Distracted walking

Teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths among kids ages 19 and under. And injuries among older teens are on the rise – an increase of 25 percent over the previous five years. The likely reason? Distraction. Distracted walking is another cause for injury due to the growing popularity of electronic handheld devices, like cell phones and portable music players. Distracted walking happens when you take your attention away from where you are walking or from what you can hear while walking. According to a recent report by Safe Kids Worldwide, 20 percent of high school students and 13 percent of middle school students were observed crossing the street while distracted. Students were most often texting on a phone (39 percent) or using headphones (another 39 percent). Girls were 1.2 times more likely than boys to be walking while distracted.

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5-second rule: Myth or fact?

Almost everyone has dropped food on the floor and still wanted to eat it. Some people apply the “5-second rule” – that random saying about how food won’t become contaminated with bacteria if you pick it up off the floor in five seconds or less. That saying has become such a part of our culture that scientists actually tested it – and that “rule” is mostly myth: Bacteria can attach to food even if you pick it up super fast – and it can make you sick.

Still feeling tempted by the 5-second rule? Consider this:

1. A clean-looking floor isn’t necessarily clean. It may look shiny and clean, but dry floors can harbor bacteria. Newly washed floors are only as clean as the tools used to wash them. Even with a brand-new mop or sponge, germs can still remain on the floor after cleaning.

2. Fast is better – but it may not be fast enough. It’s true that a piece of food will pick up more bacteria the longer it’s on the floor, but bacteria can attach to it instantly, especially if the food has a wet surface, such as an apple slice.

While some bacteria are not harmful, others can torture you with miserable stuff like diarrhea. When in doubt, toss it out! Source:

Top 10 poisons for pets

Did you know that many substances commonly found in and around your home can be potentially dangerous to your animal companions? Here is a list of the top 10 toxins most commonly ingested by pets, as reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in 2015.

If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately. For specific information on items that can be poisonous to your furry friends, visit

Care enough to call

Nearly five children in the US die every day as a result of child abuse, according to Childhelp, a national organization dedicated to child abuse prevention. “Preventing the devastating and lifelong impacts of child abuse and neglect must be a priority,” said Christy Lawton, director of the Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services. If you are aware of or have a reasonable suspicion of the existence of abuse or neglect, you are urged to report that information to the nearest office of the Department of Health & Social Services, Office of Children’s Services (OCS). It is essential that you take some action to protect the child from further harm. A child’s physical and emotional well-being, even that child’s life, can be at stake. If you suspect a child was abused or neglected, immediately contact one of the OCS hotlines in your region. You can call at any time, any day of the week.

Anchorage: 1-800-478-4444 |

Southcentral: 1-855-352-8934 |

Northern Alaska: 1-800-353-2650 |

Southeast: 1-888-622-1650 |

Western Region: 1-800-557-3141 |

How to Motivate Your Kids (Without Bribery!)

Want to encourage a picky eater to try new veggies? Choose one from the supermarket that neither of you have ever had before. Go home and figure out a recipe. Or, give your older child or teen a selection of healthy ingredients, like on a cooking show. Let him decide how to turn them into dinner. Being invested in how it turns out may spur him to try new foods.

Instead of bribing your child with video game time or a movie (or any sedentary activity), make active time together a reward. Go mini-golfing. Take a bike ride together. Why this works: Kids crave your attention. Never underestimate how much one-on-one attention means to your kids -- even your teen.

Trying to get your kids to do some chores? Instead of ordering them, give them options. Ask if they want to do a task now or in a few minutes. Ask if they would prefer to take out the trash or empty the dishwasher. Kids fight back when they feel like they have no control. Resisting you becomes a way of asserting themselves. Giving them some say will help motivate them. Plus, giving them choices now teaches them how to make healthy choices later.

- Source: WebMD

Summer Greens: Raising a baby who loves veggies

By Malia Jacobson

Planning to start your baby on solid food this season? Think green: Research shows that babies who eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits before their first birthday are more likely to be veggie-lovers at age 6. Here’s how to get more of summer’s best produce on your baby’s plate. READ MORE >>

Common Childhood Rashes - from itchy and perplexing to kind of creepy...

By Christa Melnyk Hines

Alarmed by that angry red rash splashed across your child’s body? Rashes run the spectrum, signaling anything from a mild viral infection to a chronic or even life-threatening illness. Since the list of rashes and their causes is extensive, you may wonder what’s what and when to call the doctor. READ MORE >>

Get the lead out

Lead in toys and other sources can cause significant developmental problems in children. Here’s what to look out for: Use caution with toys that are made of metal and plastic. Be leery of imported toys, toy jewelry and antique toys. Sign up for Consumer Product Safety Commission recall alerts to notify you if a toy is found to contain lead. Remove any toy that you suspect may contain lead. Talk to a pediatrician about having your child’s blood tested for lead, if you suspect exposure. Make sure that if your child plays with toy jewelry, she does not put it in her mouth.

Source: CDC

Kids & cholesterol

One in five American children have unhealthy cholesterol levels, according to a recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol are known to be unhealthy, while high levels of good cholesterol are preferred. More than 13 percent of the surveyed youths had low levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol which helps remove the bad cholesterol from the arteries. Having low levels of the “good” cholesterol was five times more common among obese children and adolescents than for those of normal weight. The good news? High cholesterol in children that’s not caused by genetics can be easily treated. Simple lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and regular exercise can help lower a child’s cholesterol and ultimately improve his or her heart health. Some tips for parents: Get familiar with nutrition fact labels to make more informed choices, try eliminating foods with trans fats entirely, and cut back on saturated fats. It’s also advised that parents follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, which recommend all children between 9 and 11 years old get screened for high cholesterol levels.

{Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease: It’s 4 times more common than childhood obesity, 5 times more common than asthma, and 20 times more common than diabetes. — American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry}

Why Backyard Bouncing is Risky

By Sue LeBreton

With the warm weather comes the pleading in my house for a backyard trampoline. For years, I have used the stance of pediatricians against trampolines as the solid medical pillar for my refusal. However, I now see families who had previously banned trampolines cave to the trend, relenting because they believe that the new spring-free trampolines are safer, so I needed to investigate. Despite the addition of nets and the introduction of spring-free models, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its position that backyard trampolines are a high-risk activity. Thanks to gravity, what goes up must come down, and it is the impact from landing improperly that results in injury. The most commonly reported injury is ankle sprain. Michelle Perkins, an ER nurse, says most injuries she sees occur because multiple children are jumping and the smaller child takes the brunt of the fall. She explains that because children are still growing, they are susceptible to growth plate fractures, the area of growing tissue near the ends of the long bones. In an adult, the same impact might result in only a sprain. What differences will you experience at a facility with trained gymnastics instructors? According to Brett MacAulay, director of a gymnastics center, the top three rules at his facility are: 1) Control before height; 2) One person at a time on a trampoline; and 3) Learn how to stop before you start. “In our setting, we have highly trained coaches who know how to hand spot children as they learn each skill. These coaches also know how to use the safety tools, which include throw mats, overhead belts and foam pits.” Of course, it is your choice whether you allow your child to participate in a risky activity. Before you say yes to bouncing on the backyard trampoline, assess the risks and ask yourself if you have the knowledge to intervene to prevent an injury or recognize risky behavior.

Grandma was right

Have a cold or upper respiratory flu? Evidence suggests that chicken soup may ease your discomfort. The best-known published research, by pulmonologist Stephen Rennard, M.D., found that chicken-vegetable soup inhibited the movement of white blood cells that trigger cold symptoms such as a stuffy nose. In the study, published in the scientific journal CHEST, Dr. Rennard tested his grandmother’s actual recipe (shown here), used for generations to help ease the symptoms if a family member did catch a bug.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup Recipe
(Note: Other chicken soup recipes also are effective, including many store-bought soups)

1 5- to 6-pound stewing hen or baking chicken
1 package of chicken wings
3 large onions
1 large sweet potato
3 parsnips
2 turnips
11 to 12 large carrots
5 to 6 celery stems
1 bunch of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean the chicken, put it in a large pot and cover it with cold water. Bring the water to boil. Add the chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips and carrots. Boil about 1 1/2 hours. Remove fat from the surface as it accumulates. Add the parsley and celery. Cook the mixture about 45 minutes longer. Remove the chicken. The chicken is not used further for the soup (but makes for good eating). Put the vegetables in a food processor until they are chopped fine or pass through a strainer. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: This soup freezes well.)

Sources: Consumer Reports; University of Nebraska Medical Center

Take a dip

Are your kids getting bored with lunch? Let them take a dip with some healthy foods that are also fun to eat. The American Heart Association suggests:

Confusions about concussions: 6 myths unmasked

When my teenaged daughter came off the soccer field at the end of a game complaining of a headache, I brushed it off – even when she mentioned another player had hit her in the head during a scuffle for the ball. The blow had been mild enough not to disrupt play, so I gave her Ibuprophen and encouraged her to rest. When the headache persisted, I chalked it up to migraine tendencies. FULL STORY >>

Unhealthy rainbow

Artificial dyes may make foods look more appealing, but the fake coloring could be harming a person’s health. The dyes have been linked to cancer and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to Healthy Child Health World, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on protecting children from harmful chemicals.

In addition, a study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest examined nine common food dyes made from coal tar and petroleum. The researchers discovered that three of these common dyes were linked to serious health issues.

They include:

Red 40 – The most-widely used dye in foods can be found in baked goods, fruit snacks and breakfast cereals. It may cause tumors in the immune system and allergic reactions.

Yellow 5 – A dye which may trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects. It is commonly used in potato chips, jams, candy, drinks, pet food, shampoo and cosmetic products.

Yellow 6 – It can cause tumors and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some common places to find the artificial color is American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already banned Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 from all food because of the side effects from artificial coloring. Kraft Foods recently announced plans to remove artificial yellow dyes from all macaroni and cheese products by January 2016.

Not all doctors believe food coloring causes a significant health risk. Either way, medical experts view good nutrition as central to avoiding health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

- Source: Advocate Health Care

9 out of 10 smokers started before they were 19. Raising the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 would result in nearly 250,000 fewer premature deaths from smoking among people born between 2000 and 2019.

- Institute of Medicine

A cleaner cleaner

Keeping toys clean is a challenge for all parents, especially with the risks of harmful product residue that can be ingested by babies and toddlers. Attitude’s Toy & Surface Cleaner allows parents to clean toys the safe way. It’s derived from all-natural ingredients and free of cancer-related chemicals found in most conventional cleaning products. Great for cleaning sticky messes on toys, highchairs, car seats, strollers and more. The cleaner received the highest score from the national Environmental Working Group for its non-toxic and safe ingredients. Available at Target or visit

Are you over-sharenting?

For parents of young children, social media offers ways to seek and share advice about parenting challenges and to help friends and relatives stay in touch with their child. But when does this so-called “sharenting” cross the line and put children’s privacy at risk?

Nearly 75 percent of parents who use social media know of another parent who has shared too much information about a child on social media, according to a recent C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s National Poll on Children’s Health. Included in this oversharing were parents who gave embarrassing information about a child (56 percent), offered personal information that could identify a child’s location (51 percent), and shared inappropriate photos of a child (27 percent).

Many parents use privacy settings on social media to control who can see their personal information; however, privacy settings are not well understood by all users. Privacy policies of social media can change, so what is shared privately today is not necessarily guaranteed to be private in the future.

“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the Mott Poll.

Another concern for parents who share online: “digital kidnapping.” This is when strangers “steal” images of children and share them online as their own. Cyberbullying can also be fueled by kids’ embarrassing online photos.

“Parents are responsible for their child’s privacy and need to be thoughtful about how much they share on social media so they can enjoy the benefits of camaraderie but also protect their children’s privacy today and in the future,” Clark says.

Go outside and play!
(It may benefit kids’ eyesight too)

A new study adds to the evidence that outdoor activity may reduce the risk for myopia (nearsightedness) in children. “The American Optometric Association (AOA) has long been concerned about the increased incidence of myopia and the impact of the increased visual stress caused by digital eye strain,” says AOA President-elect Andrea P. Thau, OD. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found among 6-year-old children in Guangzhou, China, the addition of 40 minutes of outdoor activity at school compared with usual activity resulted in a reduced incidence rate of myopia over the next three years. To help protect children’s eyes and vision, the AOA advises encouraging them to engage in eye-hand coordination activities and to play sports and other outdoor activities. And people of all ages should follow the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes of reading, computer or close work take a 20-second rest break by looking at things at least 20 feet away. It is also advised to hold books and devices at the Harmon working distance, which is the distance from the elbow to the fist. Having an annual comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist is the best way for all adults and school-aged children to know what will be best for each of them, the AOA advises.

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