Medication Safety and Your Child

01/28/2012

from the Family Health and Wellness Guide

We all know that medications can help our children live healthier lives, but when medicines are misused or stored improperly, they can also be dangerous. You will want to follow all the medication safety guidelines for adults, but if you have infants or children in your home, here are some special medication safety reminders just for you:

  • Avoid accidental poisonings. This applies to medicines and many household substances. Some common household items and everyday medications are surprisingly dangerous. For example, flavored toothpastes can be tempting to kids, but if children swallow a few mouthfuls, the fluoride can cause serious problems. Another surprising danger is automatic dishwasher detergent. It’s strong enough to clean your dishes without you scrubbing them. If a child swallows a mouthful, it could burn his throat. Fragrances like lemon or orange make cleaning products more tempting to children. Children’s vitamins can also tempt young children to eat them like candy—but they aren’t. And too many vitamins can be dangerous. Keep everything out of reach or securely locked so that kids under the age of five cannot get to things that could poison them. If your child does get into something, or if you think that he might have gotten into something, stay calm and call your regional poison control center.
  • Use child-resistant caps. Make sure all medicines in homes where children live or visit have child-resistant caps. Be sure to put the cap on correctly and tighten it when you’re finished taking or giving the medicine or a child could still get into it.
  • Keep a list. Make sure your child’s health care professionals know all the medications your child is taking, whether prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines, like vitamins or dietary supplements. When it’s time for your child’s annual checkup, bring all of your child’s medicines and supplements with you to the appointment. This serves as a reminder to talk about the medicines and discuss any problems.
  • Mention allergies and reactions. When your child is getting a new prescription, make sure the health care professional is aware of your child’s allergiesand reactions to medicines.
  • Make sure you understand. When the medication is prescribed and when you pick up the prescription, make sure you understand this important information: What is the name of the medicine? What is it for? Is this the right dose for my child’s weight? How often should my child take this medicine and for how long? Should I give the medicine throughout the night or just during the day? Is this medicine safe with my child’s other medicines? Are there any foods, drinks or activities my child should avoid while taking this medicine? When should my child start improving?
  • Take measure. Make sure you understand the proper dosage before giving medication to your child. Medications for children are sometimes dosed by the “dropperful” or by the teaspoon. The definition of a dropperful may not be clear. It may mean to the upper mark on the dropper or filled to the top. Or some parents may use a dropper other than the one that came with the product, which may not be the same size. Even small variances in dosage can be critical in small children, so make sure you understand the directions. Keep the product dropper with the product, and use only the dropper that was supplied. If it calls for a teaspoon or tablespoon measure, don’t use a household spoon. Use a measuring spoon or a marked plastic syringe provided by your doctor or pharmacist. Remember that some infant medicines may be more concentrated than similar medicines for older children or adults. Don’t assume that you can give a baby 2 teaspoonfuls of infant medicine, just because you give your older child 2 teaspoonfuls. Always read and follow the label instructions.
  • Know the side effects. If you know what side effects could occur, you will be better prepared if something does happen. If your child experiences side effects, alert the doctor and pharmacist right away.
  • Create a chart. Children’s medicines often taste good, so if you ask a kid if he’s had his medicine, he may say no—just to get another dose. Create a chart or list to help you track which medicines were given at what times. This is especially important if your child is taking several medicines or several people are involved in the caregiving. But it’s not a bad idea in any busy household—and what household with kids isn’t busy?

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Medication Safety: www.healthywomen.org/condition/medication-safety
Allergies: www.healthywomen.org/condition/allergies

Family Health and Wellness Guide: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/family-health-and-wellness-guide

© 2011 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


Natural Ways to Prevent and Manage the Flu

01/15/2012

from the Flu and Cold Health Center

The best defense against illness is a good offense. Smart health habits can go a long way in preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu. Protect yourself and your children from getting sick by practicing these healthy habits:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Ordinary soap is sufficient. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Antibacterial soaps add little protection, particularly against viruses. In fact, a study suggests that although hand washing with soap reduced the number of pneumonia-related infections in children under five by 50 percent, there was no difference in the results when antibacterial soap was used instead of regular soap.
  • Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, or cover your mouth and nose with your upper sleeve, not your hand.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Refrain from touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs often spread when you touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Remind your kids not to share cups, eating utensils and school supplies, such as pens and pencils.
  • Stay home if you or your children are sick to avoid spreading the virus to others. Additionally, staying home and getting adequate rest will help you get back on your feet faster.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people when possible. If your child attends day care or school, make sure children and staff are encouraged to stay home when they are sick. If your child’s play date is sick, reschedule. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Add germ-fighting foods to your diet. Click here for ideas.
  • Practice other good health habits and keep your family’s immune system strong throughout the year:
  1. Prepare low-fat, balanced meals packed with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein like fish, soy and beans.
  2. Choose natural, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Exercise regularly.
  5. Get active as a family and plan fun activities.
  6. Manage stress.

Symptom Relief Reminders. While a cold or flu must run its course, there are things you can do to ease the symptoms. If your child gets sick, encourage him or her to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, preferably water and noncaffeinated drinks. This will help with hydration and the ability to fight the infection.

Other suggestions to keep in mind include:

  • Gargle with salt water to soothe a sore throat.
  • Use a humidifier to moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to clean the filter often so that mold doesn’t grow.
  • Several studies have found that zinc lozenges may reduce the length and intensity of colds and flu, and that nasal zinc gel appears to reduce the length and intensity of illnesses related to those viruses. Zinc nasal spray does not show the same effects, however. Consult with your health care professional for more information.

Click here for five more tips on fighting a cold naturally.

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Flu and Cold Health Center: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/flu-and-cold

Flu/Colds: www.healthywomen.org/condition/flucolds

Family Health and Wellness Guide: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/family-health-and-wellness-guide

© 2011 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


Could it Be Menopause?

01/04/2012

 

from the Menopause Health Center

 

You’re 40 and suddenly it seems as if you’re falling apart. You wake in the morning soaked in sweat, despite the ceiling fan above. You can’t lose those last five pounds no matter how hard you try. Your interest in sex has gone the way of…well it’s just gone. And suddenly you’re spending more time browsing the face cream aisle than the ice cream aisle.

 

Could this be the start of menopause?

 

Before we try to answer that question, let’s get the nomenclature right. First, there really is no “start” to menopause. Menopause is actually just one day — the day on which you’ve gone twelve consecutive months without menstruating. Normal menopause can occur any time between ages 40 and 58, although the average age is 51.4.

 

The day after that magical day of menopause, you’re considered postmenopausal. The day before: premenopausal. Then there’s this other phase called perimenopause. And that, my friend, may be the realm you’ve entered.

 

Perimenopause refers to the transitional time before menopause. It can last a few months or, most likely, a few years. It usually starts in your forties, although it can begin earlier in some women. The primary cause is loss of follicles in the ovaries, leading to slowly declining estrogen levels as your ovaries age. This decline isn’t consistent, however, which is why your symptoms may come and go as often as your college-aged children.

 

Tests Not Available

 

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive test that can tell you that you are, indeed, in the menopausal transition. No, not even those over-the-counter tests that purport to pinpoint your hormone levels. That’s because those tests, with names like Estroven, Menocheck and RU25 Plus, are designed to measure levels of a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH. Your body releases this hormone when estrogen levels drop, because it signals the ovaries to produce more estrogen. So, the thinking goes, if FSH levels are high, it means estrogen levels are low, ergo you’re approaching menopause.

 

And indeed, for years gynecologists used this hormonal measurement as an indicator of menopause. But it turns out that estrogen levels fluctuate nearly as much as the stock market — not only day-to-day, but from morning to night. So a single FSH measure, even a couple, is really no indication of menopausal status.

 

Instead, you’re better off evaluating your status by your symptoms. These include:

 

  • Hot flashes and night sweats.
    Called vasomotor symptoms, we’re still not sure what causes them. Somehow, it seems, declining estrogen plays havoc with your body’s temperature controls, increasing your core temperature and triggering your body’s cooling attempt — sweating. Hot flashes are the second most common menopause-related symptom, affecting about 75 percent of women. It’s also one of the most bothersome. The bad news: In some women, they continue even after menopause itself.
  • Irregular periods.
    Fluctuating hormone levels mean strange things may be happening to your periods. You may find them coming more often — every 24 days instead of every 28 days, for example — or less often. You can even skip several periods in a row only to have them return on a regular basis. You may also find that your periods are considerably heavier or lighter than they used to be, and that they last longer or shorter than they used to.
  • Problems sleeping.
    We don’t really know if fluctuating hormone levels contribute to the sleep problems women say are so common during this time of life. It could be that the night sweats interfere with sleep, or that the stresses of this time of life, including teenaged children, aging parents and career transitions, keep you awake. Regardless, studies find that more women report insomnia as they move through midlife, primarily the type that involves waking up in the middle of the night.
  • Headaches.
    You may find you’re having more headaches, particularly around your period. And if you’ve always been prone to premenstrual headaches, you may find they’re more severe and last longer. The good news? Once you reach menopause, you should experience far fewer headaches.
  • Mood swings.
    There’s good evidence that perimenopausal women experience more irritability, fatigue and “blue moods,” during the perimenopausal transition than before. Again, this could be related to shifting hormonal levels, but is more likely related to midlife stressors. If these mood swings become so intense they interfere with your normal life, however, you should seek professional help.
  • Vaginal dryness.
    Estrogen plays a key role in maintaining the moistness and flexibility of the vagina. So as levels drop, you may find you feel “drier” down there. You may notice other changes, such as a discharge or odor, and you may even find you have problems with some urine leakage.

 

Although all the symptoms listed above are representative of perimenopause, they can also be caused by numerous medical issues. So regardless of whether you think your symptoms are from this midlife transition, it’s important to see your health care professional for a complete medical and psychological evaluation. He or she can rule out any other medical conditions and confirm whether you are or aren’t in the menopausal transition.

 

 For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit

 

the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

 

 

 

Menopause: www.healthywomen.org/condition/menopause

 

 

 

Menopause Health Center: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/menopause

 

 

 

 

 

© 2011 HealthyWomen.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.