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Tips for keeping young athletes safe and healthy

We all know exercise is an important factor in maintaining an active and healthy life. However, over-exercising can lead to a rare, but serious complication known as rhabdomyolysis – a medical team that literally means ‘dissolution or destruction of skeletal muscle’. There has been a recent increase in rhabdomyolysis amongst teen athletes so it is important to recognize the warning signs and learn how to prevent them.

The classic triad of rhabdomyolysis is dark urine, muscle weakness or fatigue, and muscle pain. Although exercise can be the primary factor, other key contributing elements such as dehydration, genetic conditions (e.g. sickle cell), metabolic disorders, nutritional supplements, drug use, and heat stress can exacerbate muscle damage. Without appropriate medical evaluation and care, rhabdomyolysis can cause permanent damage to the kidneys and may even be life-threatening in severe cases. Here are some tips to help your young athlete remain active and healthy:

  1. Maintain adequate hydration – preferably with plain water.  Sports and energy drinks may often contain caffeine and excessive amounts of sugar which can cause dehydration.  On average, children that are 6-10 years old should have about 1L of fluid a day, children 10-14 years old should have 1.5L/day and teens over 14 years should have at least 2L of fluid a day. It is important to increase fluids with increased activity due to the additional fluid losses that occur.
  2. Eliminate protein supplements. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found ...

What parents and teens should know about marijuana

In 2012, Washington passed legislation to legalize marijuana use for people 21 and over.  While still illegal for those under 21, it is important to understand how this might affect adolescents and children.

Facts about marijuana and teens:

  • In a 2009 national study, 32.8% of 12th graders had used marijuana in the last year, and 20.6% within the last month.
  • One in eight adolescents who start using marijuana by age 14 become dependent.
  • When prolonged marijuana use starts in the teen years it is linked to a significant drop in IQ points - and the decrease is irreparable.
  • Marijuana can affect memory and concentration, cause or exacerbate depression/anxiety/hallucinations, and negatively affect asthma and other chronic lung diseases.
  • Marijuana is much more potent now than in the past.  In 2012 the average concentration of THC in marijuana was 15% (compared to just 4% in the 1980s).
  • Harmful effects occur whether marijuana is smoked, ingested, or vaporized.  “Edibles” are becoming more popular, and present unique risks.  It may take longer to feel the effects when ingested rather than smoked - this often leads to users consuming more than intended and experiencing severe side effects.
  • Adults cannot “share” with teens - it is felony to provide marijuana to a minor.

What you can do as a parent:

  • Start the conversation early - begin talking to your child about marijuana and other substances by about age 10.
  • Set clear expectations that marijuana is like any other drug, and is illegal for anyone under 21.  For example ...

How to give safe gifts to children during the holidays

As the holidays approach, parents often wonder what toys are safe for their little ones.  When making your list and checking it twice, here are some tips to ensure that toys are appropriate for the age and developmental stage of your giftees.

For younger children/infants:

  • Make sure all parts are larger than the child’s mouth.  Most children age 3 and under consistently put toys in their mouth, and some older children do as well.  A small-parts tester, or “no-choke tube” is about the size of a small child’s airway and can be purchased to test parts if you are unsure.  If a part or toy fits inside the tube, it’s too small to be safe.
  • When buying stuffed toys, look for embroidered or secured parts rather than pieces (such as eyes or noses) that could be removed and swallowed.  Remove all loose strings and ribbons.  Avoid animals with stuffing made of small pellets or material that could cause choking. Be aware that stuffed toys given away at carnivals, fairs, or in vending machines are not required to meet safety standards, so be especially careful with these!
  • When buying hanging toys for cribs, ensure that the child cannot grab any portion, and that strings or wires are short.  These types of toys should be removed when the infant can push up onto his or her hands and knees.
  • Keep plush toys and loose, soft bedding out of the cribs of infants and young children as these can cause suffocation.

For all children:

  • Look for labeling on the package that indicates what ages the toy is appropriate for.  Remember that this doesn’t have to do with how smart your child is, it is based on physical and developmental skills for his or her age group and should be followed.
  • Ensure that batteries are  ....

Back to School Health Tips

The last days of summer are counting down!  Here are some timely tips to help ensure the school year goes well.

To and From School Safety:

  • The school bus is a great way for children to get to school.  To ensure safety, make sure young children are supervised at bus stops.  Parents trust bus drivers to keep our kids safe, therefore it is very important for children to know and follow bus safety rules.
  • Carpooling?  Buckle up!  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in a booster until the seat belt fits correctly, typically when they are 4’9” (age 8-12). Use the seat belt fit test to determine if your child still needs a booster. (For safety reasons, it is against the law in Washington for a child under 13 to ride in the front seat.)  

  • Supervise young children and make sure well-fitted helmets are worn when riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard.  And, don’t forget to review pedestrian safety rules for when they are commuting.

  • In case of unforeseen circumstances, ensure your child knows your phone number and address.  An ID with this information in your child’s backpack can be helpful in case of emergency.  (A review of “stranger danger” is also a good idea.)

Nutrition:

  • Provide your children with ...

Beware: Magnets May Be Hazardous To Health!

Magnets, a common household object with which we are all familiar, can be surprisingly dangerous, especially to children.  If this statement is startling to you, here’s what you need to know. 

Beginning in the 1970s and 80s, scientists discovered a new type of magnet, the so-called “rare-earth magnet”.  Made from some of the “rare earth” metals of the periodic table such as “Neodymium”, these new magnets are not only the strongest, most powerful magnets known to man (magnetic forces up to ten times that of other magnets), they are also permanent and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.  These properties revolutionized the production of many household products, even toys.  Basically, magnets we find in everyday items today are no longer made using old-fashioned magnets from a generation ago!

As a pediatric gastroenterologist, I am writing this blog to warn you of the dangers, should these powerful magnets be accidentally swallowed.  If more than one magnet is swallowed, or if a magnet is ingested along with another metallic object, the formidable strength of these magnets can attract 2 pieces of bowel to stick together with such great strength, it results in serious injury, even death.

This video ...

Three summer safety tips - sunscreen, heat exhaustion, water

Summer is in full force! With sunny weather, long days, and loads of activities it can be easy to forget the basics to keep you and your children safe this summer. Here are an additional 3 summer safety tips (see Dr. Lee’s blog for tips on helmets, open windows, and fires):

1. Sunscreen

All children of any age need sunscreen if they’re going outside in the summer, even if it’s for a short period of time on an overcast day. Sunscreen is the best way to prevent sunburns and future skin cancer. Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight as their skin is thinner and more sensitive. Sunscreen should be greater than 30 SPF and applied 30 minutes prior to exposure. Be sure to read the label to ensure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Most products need to be reapplied at least every 3 hours or sooner if your child has been wet or in the water. A “waterproof” sunscreen should be reapplied every 30 minutes while your child is in the water.

2. Heat exhaustion

Heat reactions in children are caused by high temperatures and excess water loss. Here are a few things you should remember:

Three summer safety tips

Summer is a wonderful time of year to be active outdoors. Sunny days provide so many fun activities for children to get exercise and stay healthy. While enjoying the warm weather, it’s important to be aware of potential injuries and take the necessary precautions to keep kids safe. Here are three summer safety tips to keep in mind:

Helmets

Kids should always wear a helmet while riding a bike, skateboard, scooter or in-line skates. Helmets can prevent traumatic brain injury and save lives!  A child should wear a helmet on short or long rides (no one can ever predict when an injury may occur).

Make sure the helmet meets safety standards and fits appropriately.  The helmet should be worn level on the head, covering the forehead.  The strap should be tightened enough to allow only two fingers between the chin and strap.  As a parent, make sure to be a good role model for your child and wear a helmet.

Open Windows

It is common to open windows during hot days to allow for cool fresh air.  For kids, the screen is a misleading barrier between the indoors and outdoors.  Screens are meant to pop off easily in the case of an emergency.  A child leaning against a screen ...

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