Medication Safety and Your Child


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?

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


Natural Ways to Prevent and Manage the Flu


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.

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

6 Common Myths About Aging


from the Aging and Memory Health Center

Think you know the facts about growing older? Think again.

1. Myth: Dementia is an inevitable part of aging.

Fact: “Dementia should be seen as a modifiable health condition and, if it occurs, should be followed as a medical condition, not a normal part of aging,” said Patricia Harris, MD, a geriatrician and associate professor at Georgetown University Medical Center. In other words, if you or your loved one becomes forgetful, it could be related to medication, nutrition or modifiable medical issues, she said. Don’t assume Alzheimer’s.

Just consider that when doctors examined the brain of a 115-year-old woman who, when she died, was the world’s oldest woman, they found essentially normal brain tissue, with no evidence of Alzheimer’s or other dementia-causing conditions. Testing in the years before she died showed no loss in brain function.

Not only is dementia not inevitable with age, but you actually have some control over whether or not you develop it.

“We’re only now starting to understand the linkages between health in your 40s, 50s and 60s and cognitive function later in life,” said Richard Powers, MD, who chairs the medical advisory board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Studies find that many of the same risk factors that contribute to heart disease—high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity—may also contribute to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

For instance, studies on the brains of elderly people with and without dementia find significant blood vessel damage in those with hypertension. Such damage shrinks the amount of healthy brain tissue you have in reserve, reducing the amount available if a disease like Alzheimer’s hits, Dr. Powers says. That’s important, he says, because we’re starting to understand that the more brain function you have to begin with, the more you can afford to lose before your core functions are affected.

One way to dodge the dementia bullet? Exercise your body and your brain. Physical activity plays a role in reducing the risk of diseases that cause Alzheimer’s. It also builds up that brain reserve. One study found just six months of regular physical activity increased brain volume in 59 healthy but couch-potato individuals ages 60 to 79. Other research finds people who exercised twice a week over an average of 21 years slashed their risk of Alzheimer’s in half.

Then there’s intellectual exercise. “I encourage regular intellectual stimulation,” says Dr. Powers. It doesn’t matter what kind, just that you break out of your comfort zone. Even writing letters twice a week instead of sending e-mail can have brain-strengthening benefits, he said. That’s because such novel activities stimulate more regions of the brain, increasing blood flow and helping to not only build brain connections, but improve the health of existing tissue.

2. Myth: If you didn’t exercise in your 20s, 30s and 40s, it’s too late to start in your 50s, 60s or 70s.

Fact: It’s never too late! In an oft-cited study, 50 men and women with an average age of 87 worked out with weights for 10 weeks and increased their muscle strength 113 percent. Even more important, they also increased their walking speed, a marker of overall physical health in the elderly.

3. Myth: Sex ends when you age.

Fact: A survey of 3,005 people ages 57 to 85 found the chance of being sexually active depended as much if not more on their health and their partner’s health than on their age. Women who rated their health as “very good” or “excellent” were 79 percent more likely to be sexually active than women who rated their health as “poor” or “fair.” And while fewer people ages 75 to 85 had sex than those 57 to 74, more than half (54 percent) of those who were sexually active had intercourse two or three times a month. Just remember: Sexually transmitted diseases do not discriminate based on age. If you’re not in a monogamous relationship, you or your partner should use a condom.

4. Myth: Getting older is depressing so expect to be depressed.

Fact: Again, says Dr. Harris, no way! “Depression is highly treatable. If older people could just admit to it and get help, they could probably live a much more active and healthy life.” That’s because studies find that older people who are depressed are more likely to develop memory and learning problems, while other research links depression to an increased risk of death from numerous age-related diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, stroke and pneumonia.

5. Myth: Women fear aging.

Fact: Not so! A survey conducted on behalf of the National Women’s Health Resource Center found that women tend to have a positive outlook on aging and to be inspired by others who also have positive attitudes and who stay active as they grow older. Women surveyed were most likely to view aging as “an adventure and opportunity” and less likely to view it as depressing or a struggle.

6. Myth: The pain and disability caused by arthritis is inevitable as you get older.

Fact: While arthritis is more common as you age, thanks to the impact of time on the cushiony cartilage that prevents joints and bone from rubbing against one another, age itself doesn’t cause arthritis. There are steps you can take in your youth to prevent it, such as losing weight, wearing comfortable, supportive shoes (as opposed to three-inch spikes), and taking it easy with joint-debilitating exercise like running and basketball. One study found women who exercised at least once every two weeks for at least 20 minutes were much less likely to develop arthritis of the knee (the most common location for the disease) than women who exercised less.

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

Aging Well:

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Aging and Memory Health Center:

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

Water Wisdom


from the Healthy Living area

You’ve heard all the advice: Drink eight glasses of water a day. Stay properly hydrated while exercising. Sports drinks aren’t just for professional athletes.

Yet you’re still unsure whether you’re drinking the right amount for good health.
How much fluid should you really be taking in daily? Do you need to add extra when you’re physically active? And is too much water dangerous?

Everyone’s body needs water. We lose it by sweating, excretion, or simply not taking in enough through foods—like fruits and vegetables—and drinks. Mild dehydration (losing less than two percent of your body weight due to inadequate fluids) can cause health problems, including dizziness and headache.

To keep your body supplied with the fluid it needs, especially when exercising, follow these tips:

  • Get the basics. Most women need eight to nine cups of total fluids a day, including all beverages and the water in foods.
  • Increase according to the weather. High temperatures or humidity outside, heated indoor air and high altitudes all cause you to need more fluids.
  • Add when exercising. Drink one cup of fluids every 15 minutes during physical activity, advises Werner W.K. Hoeger, Ed.D., FACSM, professor of kinesiology and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Boise State University. He recommends sports drinks over water when exercising because they contain electrolytes—important to provide the minerals necessary for proper cellular metabolism—which is disrupted during physical exertion. Electrolyte replacement also helps maintain proper muscle contraction and cardiac function.
  • Add more for big events. If you’re going to be in a race or charity walk, make sure you drink enough to be well-hydrated the day before, Hoeger adds. Also, drink a glass of fluids an hour before the event.
  • Drinking for two? Pregnant and nursing women need additional fluids. Talk with your health care professional about what’s best for you.
  • Still thirsty? If drinking fluids doesn’t relieve your thirst, you may have a health condition such as diabetes. See your health care professional right away.
  • Too much of a good thing. In very rare cases—chiefly among marathon runners—drinking too much fluid leads to a life-threatening illness, hyponatremia. This occurs when sodium levels in the blood fall too low. It happens chiefly to athletes who have run for more than four hours and gained a lot of weight during the race from drinking.

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

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New CPR Guidelines Released


The American Heart Association announces its new Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) guidelines today. Released only once every five years, these guidelines — driven by the latest in scientific research — are critical to the treatment of hundreds of thousands of cardiac arrest victims every year. The guidelines are the basis for CPR training for organizations around the globe.  

For more than 40 years, the American Heart Association has been setting the guidelines for worldwide CPR training. Today’s updated guidelines release focuses on getting more people to take action and save lives.

The facts show the importance of a ready public, trained to administer CPR:

  • Last year alone, the American Heart Association trained more than 13 million people in CPR worldwide.
  • Less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive, but immediate, effective CPR can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.
  • Research shows that good chest compressions can help save more lives — that’s why they are now the first step in the CPR. Compressions, Airway and Breathing (C-A-B) is our new recommendation.
  • CPR resources are available at AHA website

The release of these guidelines is a great opportunity to connect with readers of all CPR skill levels. For the novice, it could inspire them to learn the technique for the first time, take a refresher course or have the confidence to do step in and do something in an emergency. For the healthcare professional, it is an opportunity to delve into the science behind these new guidelines.

Essential Tips for Maintaining Healthy Skin


from the Skin Health Center

When is the last time you thought about your skin beyond worrying over a wrinkle or praying that a pimple would be gone before an important event? The reality is that your skin is far more than just a top layer to be washed, creamed and made up. Your skin is your body’s primary defense system against disease. As such, it might be time you treated it with more respect.

Skin: the basics

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It provides a thin, yet very effective, barrier to billions of health threats (called pathogens) found in the world that would love nothing more than to sneak past your skin’s defenses and make you sick. But if you don’t take care of your skin on a daily basis, it may become dry, rough and chapped, providing an opening for pathogens that could harm your health.

Skin plays other roles in your overall health, as well. It helps keep you cool or warm, insulates you, stores energy and provides sensation through touch so you can interact with the outside world beyond what you see and hear.

Maintaining skin health

Numerous things in the environment are harmful to your skin. Environmental pollution, ultraviolent light (sunshine), extreme temperatures, wind, sweating and using the wrong skin products can all damage that important outer layer.

The good news is that you have the power to maintain healthy skin. Among the steps you can take:

  • Protect your skin from the sun. That means using an SPF 30 sunscreen on your face every day, even on days you don’t plan to leave the house or office and even on days the sun doesn’t shine. That’s because you’re still exposed to damaging ultraviolet rays through windows and clouds. Thankfully, today it’s easy enough to ensure sunscreen coverage; many moisturizers and even liquid and powder makeup contain sunscreen.

    When you are in the sun, slather on the sunscreen. You should use enough to fill a shot glass each time you apply it (in fact, how about keeping a shot glass in your beach bag?). And wear a broad-brimmed hat; those baseball caps might be cute, but they’re not doing much to keep the sun off your ears and the back of your neck.

  • Protect your skin from dryness. The epidermis is made up of about 30 percent water, much of which is bound in the lipids that help prevent the water from evaporating. You can increase your skin’s ability to bind water by using a good-quality moisturizer. Natural moisturizing ingredients include citrate, various minerals, urea, lactate and amino acids.
  • Clean your skin properly. Water alone won’t do it. You need something to clear out the oily residue that can clog pores and lead to pimples. Compounds that do this are called surfactants. But stay away from soap; most soaps are alkaline, which can change the delicate pH balance of your skin and cause itching, redness, flaking and dryness. Instead, opt for liquid cleansers and cleansing creams with natural ingredients like beeswax and mineral oil to dissolve dirt. Other moisture-replenishing ingredients include vegetable and fruit oils and less-irritating surfactants such as coconut oil (cocamidopropyl), amphoteric surfactants, alkyl ether sulfates and alkyl glyceryl ether sulfonate.

    Also chill out on how you wash your skin. Ditch the rough exfoliating buffer or washcloth and opt instead for just splashing warm water on your skin to remove the cleanser or using a soft cloth. You also don’t need to wash your face more than twice a day. And make sure you wash with warm—not hot—water.

  • Check your skin carefully. If you’re 40 or older, you should have a health care professional perform a total body scan every year to look for any signs of skin cancer. If you’re younger, you should get a body scan every three years. And all women should examine their own skin periodically.

Remember, your skin is one of the most important components in your quest for good health. Just as you take care of your body from the inside out by eating well and exercising, you need to take care of your body from the outside in, by protecting your skin as that all-important barrier.

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© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: