Why You Should Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands isn’t just good advice. It’s the best advice you and your family can follow to prevent illness on a daily basis. Not only is it tremendously effective in reducing the spread of germs, it’s so simple that even preschoolers can be taught to do it correctly. (We’ll talk about correctly later.)
Scientists estimate that there are more than 1,500 microorganisms per square inch on your hands. Similarly, germs can congregate anywhere people touch – from door knobs and shopping carts to your computer’s mouse and your favorite coffee mug. It’s easy for germs to piggyback from an object you touch, onto your hand and onto whatever you touch next.
Although nearly everyone understands the importance of washing up before cooking or eating, it’s just as important to give your hands a scrub throughout the day. Many people touch their eyes, mouth or nose without realizing it. From there, it’s easy for the bacteria, fungi and viruses to enter a body and make you sick.
When to Wash Your Hands
When in doubt, wash your hands! This instills habits in your family to always lather up after these activities where germ transmission is easiest:
- After using the restroom or changing a diaper
- Before and after preparing raw foods
- Before eating
- After blowing your nose
- After working in dirty environments, such as gardens, garages and basements
- After shopping trips
Wash Your Hands Correctly
Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t wash their hands correctly, with many people rushing it or skipping steps. To properly wash your hands, use warm water to wet your hands, including wrists and between fingers. After lathering your hands, rub them together for 20 seconds – about long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice – making sure to cover all surfaces with soap.
Wash your hands to prevent disease transmission and keep your family safe. An extra 30 seconds at the sink can prevent days of illness!
Managing Fever in Children
Watching your child struggle with fever is an ordeal for any parent, and it’s normal to want to manage fever as effectively as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes a low-grade fever as a sign that your child’s immune system is going its job and fighting off infection.
Fever is defined if rectal, ear or forehead temperature is 100.4 degrees F or greater. Treat with rest and with plenty of age appropriate fluids. For fevers 100 – 102 degrees F, medication is rarely needed as the fever doesn’t typically cause discomfort.
Often when fevers are above 102 degrees F your child will become uncomfortable, and medication can be used. Give acetaminophen OR ibuprofen, using dosing tables available on the Youth Clinic website. Do not use aspirin. The Youth Clinic does not recommend alternating doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen. The goal of the medication is to bring the temperature down to a comfortable level.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Provider If…
- Your child’s fever reaches 105 degrees
- Your child has had a fever of 100.4 degrees F or greater for 72 hours
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Your child develops serious symptoms such as trouble breathing
Common Sports Injuries in Children
Roughly 75 percent of all families have one child involved in youth sports sometime in their childhood. With the sheer volume of children in athletics, it’s inevitable that sports injuries in children occur: More than 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive care in an emergency room every year for sports injuries, and children aged 5 to 14 years account for about 40 percent of all sports injuries treated in hospitals.
Acute Sports Injuries in Children
Many of the sports injuries suffered by children are acute injuries, those caused by a sudden accident or trauma. These injuries range from injured eyes, brain injuries such as concussions, broken bones and connective tissue injuries. Most sports’ rules and safety equipment are designed to protect athletes from acute injury, so a large portion of trauma-based sports injuries in children stem from lack of proper safety equipment or poor supervision.
Some sports are inherently more dangerous than others, however. High-contact sports like football or extreme sports like skateboarding are more likely to produce acute injuries than swimming or running.
Overuse Sports Injuries in Children
As their name implies, overuse injuries are caused by repetitive motions that produce stress on bones or muscles over time. Overuse injuries can impact bone growth, so parents should monitor for them. They’re as common in non-contact sports as contact sports. Common overuse injuries include:
- Pitchers: Caused by repetitive motions involved in throwing a ball, elbows can become stiff and hard to fully extend.
- Swimmers: Stroke recovery places significant strain on swimmers’ shoulders. They may experience pain while swimming or, if untreated, constantly in the back of their shoulders.
- Soccer players: Overextension of the back, known as spondylolysis, is common in soccer players, as is shin splints, caused by overtraining at the beginning of a season.
To reduce the risk of injury:
- Rest. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week and at least one month off per year from training for a particular sport to allow the body to recover. Breaks during practice and games are also important in preventing over heating and injury.
- Protective equipment. Children should wear protective gear such as helmets, mouthpieces, pads, face guards, protective cups, and eyewear. Make sure gear is the appropriate fit.
- Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises can strengthen muscles used in play.
- Stretch. Stretching both after practice and on a regular basis can increase flexibility.
Can I Give Emergen-C to My Child?
Many adults reach for Emergen-C at the first sign of a cold. While that’s fine for adults, when you see cold symptoms coming on for a child, you shouldn’t give your child under 15 Emergen-C or a similar supplement.
Emergen-C is a high dose of Vitamins C, B-6 and B-12 that’s formulated for adults. Each dosage contains 1,000 mg of Vitamin C (about 16 times the USDA recommended daily value). While this is well within safe dosage for an adult, the upper intake level for children is considerably less: Children aged 1- to 3-years old should only consume 400 mg Vitamin C and those 4- to 8-years-old should consume no more than 650 mg.
Adult doses of Vitamin C won’t have severe adverse affects, but they can cause upset stomach in children. In both children and adults, absorption of Vitamin C is best at low dosages: You (and your child) can absorb up to 90 percent of a moderate dosage, while up to 50 percent of a dose higher than 1,000 mg is not absorbed.
Although wasteful, unabsorbed Vitamin C is typically not dangerous. Although excessive levels of the vitamin, which is acidic, can cause upset stomach, unused Vitamin C is passed in urine.
Instead of giving your child Emergen-C or a similar supplement, seek to provide enough Vitamin C though a balanced diet. Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, bell peppers, strawberries and cantaloupe are all rich in Vitamin C. If you’re concerned your child isn’t receiving enough Vitamin C in her diet, supplement it with a kids’ vitamin that contains is.
And the idea of beating back a cold with big doses of Vitamin C? It’s mostly a myth. Treating the common cold with Vitamin C reduces the length of a cold about 14 percent in children and 8 percent in adults.
Can I Take My Baby to Urgent Care?
If you’re like most parents, you’d always rather be safe than sorry when it comes to your child’s health. While that can protect your child from health issues, it also causes some overreactions, particularly when it comes to babies. In most cases, you can take your baby to urgent care rather than to the emergency room.
Common sense and general pediatric guidelines will help guide you when it comes time to take your baby to urgent care. For example, fevers in infants younger than two months are always an ER-worthy trip, for older kids, they’re more routine. Other times when you should take your baby straight to the ER include:
- Head Trauma: If your child hits his head and loses consciousness, take him to the emergency room.
- Seizures: A seizure incident should always be followed by a trip to the emergency room.
- Large Cuts on the Face: Babies and small children may need sedation during suturing.
- Difficulty Breathing: Babies suffering respiratory distress should receive hospital-grade care as soon as possible.
- Severe Dehydration: Including dry lips and lethargy or confusion.
In many other cases, it’s not just acceptable to take a baby to urgent care, but a better health decision. If your child’s illness isn’t severe, she may not receive immediate treatment, as hospitals triage patients and provide the ones with most urgent needs care first. Taking a baby to urgent care instead of an emergency room also eliminates exposing her to the aggressive germs sometimes found in hospitals.
As with older children and adults, taking a baby to urgent care will likely be significantly less expensive than an emergency room visit. You’ll receive the same level of care, but most insurers’ urgent care copay and deductibles are much less than ER visits. If paying cash you’ll avoid the charge for emergency-level care that comes with ER care.
Avoiding Illness on Vacation
It’s a parent’s nightmare: You save for months, spend hours planning and tie up a zillion loose ends before going on vacation. Then on the second day of your trip, your child comes down with an illness. While it’s impossible to avoid sickness altogether, travelers can adopt strategies for avoiding illness on vacation.
Know the risk factors that expose you to germs – often germs you don’t encounter at home – and minimize them. While children’s immune systems usually aren’t as strong as adults’, you can reduce losing time to illness while you’re on vacation by:
- Wash your hands: It’s always good advice, but frequently washing your hands while on the road is extra important. While bottles of sanitizer are a good backup, they don’t replace soap and water. Wash frequently, wash often.
- Change clothes after air travel: Airplanes are an incubator for germs, and avoiding exposure to your fellow travellers’ germs is difficult. Minimize your family’s risk by bathing and changing into fresh clothes as soon as you’re in your hotel room.
- Drink bottled water: When traveling abroad, particularly to Mexico or Latin America, avoid tap water, which can contain bacteria that causes stomach problems. Be wary of drinks that contain ice as well, as they’re often made with tap water.
- Don’t overdo it: Getting ready for a vacation can be stressful, with last-minute to-dos, late nights and hurried trips to the airport. Likewise, it’s easy to want to cram as much as possible into each day. That’s a great way to weaken immune systems. Avoid overextending yourself or your kids before or during your trip.
- Consult your doctor: Are you headed to an exotic locale? Talk with your doctor about precautions and other strategies based upon your destination.
Avoiding illness on vacation does require a bit of luck in avoiding being exposed to germs. That doesn’t mean you can’t stack the deck in your favor and adopt habits that extend your chances of staying healthy.
Staying Safe at Summer Camp
Summer’s here and for many children, that means summer camp is right around the corner. While camp provides adventures that lay the foundation for memories that last a lifetime, some of those adventures come with slight risks not associated with daily activities. It’s no reason to keep your kids home! Just ensure they know all about staying safe at summer camp before they head off into the wilds.
Start by selecting a camp that’s best suited to keep your kids safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends every summer camp have written health policies and emergency procedures. You’ll need to do your part by providing the camp with complete information about your child’s health history, including special circumstances like allergies, medication schedules and health conditions.
Good summer camps will provide supervision from instructors or counselors with training or certification in CPR, first aid and life jackets, but don’t rely on camp staff to keep your child safe. Educate your child about ways she can keep herself safe while at camp:
- Stay hydrated: Campers can get so excited about activities that they forget to drink enough water. Remind your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if he doesn’t feel thirsty.
- Protect against the sun: Teach your child to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before any activity in the sun, and to reapply sunscreen every few hours.
- Be water safe: Regardless of your child’s swimming ability, she should stay out of pools and open water without adult supervision.
- Watch out for ticks: Ticks live in many wooded areas in Colorado. Teach your child what a tick bite looks like – as well as the importance of not trying to remove it themselves. Ticks should be removed with tweezers to prevent detaching their heads below the skin.
- Let wildlife be: Some campers may get an up-close glimpse at wild animals – and shouldn’t confuse them with pets. Wild animals may attack if they feel threatened, so caution children to remain a safe distance from all critters.
Staying safe at summer camp is usually easy for children who go to camp aware of the dangers it poses as well as strategies to avoid it. With a little preparation on your part, you can rest easy while your kids are away.
Protecting Against West Nile Virus
The West Nile Virus is a permanent part of the Northern Colorado ecosystem. The blood-borne virus is spread by mosquitos that feed between dusk and dawn. While 80 percent of people infected with WNV have no symptoms, about 1 in 150 suffers a severe neurologic disease, which can cause inflammation of brain tissues and require months of recovery. Luckily, parents can take easy measures for protecting against West Nile Virus.
Preventing transmission of WNV is largely a matter of controlling the mosquito population around your home and protecting your family from bites.
- Use EPA-Registered Insect Repellents: Safe for children older than two months and breastfeeding and pregnant women, EPA-registered insect repellents are your best line of defense against WNV. Look for repellents that contain DEET, 2-undecanone , Picaridin, IR3535, OLE or PMD.
- Limit Exposure: The culex species of mosquito that transmits WNV is most active at dawn and dusk. Remain indoors during these high-activity times of day.
- Dress Appropriately: Shorts and T-shirts may be the summer uniform for many children in Fort Collins, but they leave a lot of exposed skin for mosquitos to bite. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants reduce risk exposure, and can be comfortably worn after dusk when mosquitos are most active.
- Mosquito Netting: It’s not safe to apply insect repellents to infants, so use physical barriers such as mosquito netting on cribs and strollers.
- Reduce Breeding Areas: The fewer mosquitos that are around you house, the fewer mosquito bites your family suffers. Help control mosquito populations by removing standing water where they lay their eggs. Don’t let standing water collect around your home, and drain buckets, planters, tires and toys. Landscaping items, such as birdbaths, fountains and wader pools should be drained and refilled every seven days to eliminate eggs.
Bites infected with WNV typically have a red area around the original bite that expands as the infection progresses. First symptoms typically occur between three and 14 days after the bite. More extreme symptoms include nausea, fever or disorientation. Speak with a physician if you think a family member may be infected.
WNV is a part of Larimer County’s summer ecosystem, so everyone who lives here should take measures for protecting against West Nile Virus. Make them part of your summer routine, and your family can enjoy both the outdoors as well as peace of mind that they’re protected.
Removing Asthma Triggers from Your Home
May is national asthma and allergy awareness month, and The Youth Clinic of Northern Colorado wants our patients to breathe easier. Your child’s asthma can be unpredictable, but it can also be brought on by exposure to asthma triggers, substances that cause onset of asthma or intensify symptoms. While every patient is different, removing asthma triggers from your home can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.
Work to identify your child’s individual asthma triggers, but start by creating an asthmatic-friendly environment by controlling the most common triggers:
- Cigarette Smoke: Don’t smoke in your home or in your car, and don’t allow visitors do light up.
- Cleaning Products: Reduce irritants and improve your indoor air quality by selecting unscented cleaning products, including mothballs and scented candles.
- Dust Mites: Cover your child’s mattress in a dust-proof slipcover, and wash bedclothes in hot water every week, and choose washable pillows and other bedding materials. Mites may also be found in curtains, carpets and upholstery, so regular cleaning may reduce attacks.
- Mold: Mold grows in damp areas of the home, so ventilate all areas of your home well, even if it requires adding additional fans. Clean mold outbreaks with water and detergent. In Colorado, mold outbreaks are most common in damp bathrooms.
- Pets: Many asthmatics are triggered by the fur and dander from dogs and cats. Keep pets out of asthmatics’ bedrooms, off beds and other furniture to control dander. In severe cases, the pet may need to be removed from the home.
In addition to controlling common asthma triggers, you can also help control environmental factors such as pollen and air quality in your home. Use high-efficiency heating and cooling system filters, and change them quarterly. Placing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your child’s home can also reduce the amount of triggers in the air.
While you can’t completely control your child’s asthma, removing asthma triggers from your home can be a major step in reducing your child’s asthma symptoms. Our sister clinic, The Youth Clinic’s Healthy Lungs program is available year round to help families treat and manage asthma, and our providers are always available for one-on-one consultations.
Open Water Safety
In Northern Colorado, outdoor recreation is a part of many families’ lifestyles, and enjoying Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir are favorite spots for activities. While they’re a great way to enjoy an afternoon, parents should be familiar with open water safety to protect children.
Children above the age of five are more likely to drown in natural water, such as a lake or a river, than in a pool, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Two thirds of those deaths occur between May and August. Even strong swimmers can struggle in natural water, so parents should be aware of the hazards associated with open water.
- Hypothermia: Even on hot days runoff can be chilly enough to be harmful. In standing water such as lakes, water temperatures in water under the top 12-18 inches can still be extremely cold. Be wary of cold-related issues such as hypothermia or cramping when enjoying open water.
- Mind Your Footing: Walking in a pool is simple because of its flat, stable surface, natural bodies of water are far more unpredictable. Rocks in riverbeds are uneven, often unstable, and sometimes slippery, while debris such as stumps, water plants or garbage can make wading in rivers and ponds treacherous.
- Current: Colorado’s open water doesn’t feature the threat of tides, but water currents can still be deadly. River currents, swiftest in the spring and early summer, can make even relatively shallow rivers dangerous to experienced swimmers.
- Drop-Offs: A particular danger for children with poor swimming abilities, drop-offs can transform a stroll through waist-deep water into dangerous depths in just a step.
- Exhaustion: Even strong swimmers can bite off more than they can chew in natural waters. Distances are often greater than they appear outdoors, and currents can challenge even competitive swimmers.
Keep your family safe in the outdoors by minding basic open water safety measures. Respect “no swimming” signs, and stick to established swimming areas when you venture into the water. Wear properly fitted personal flotation devices for all river activities, even wading. Stick to maintained trails next to rapids, and avoid wading upstream from waterfalls.