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Only Half of U.S. Children Get Enough Sleep: Why That’s a Serious Problem

5 Our children aren’t getting enough sleep. Early school start times, screen related distractions, and other external pressures have contributed to 52 percent of American children ages 6 to 17 getting less than the 9 hours per night recommended by pediatricians. That lack of Zzz’s has effects for a child’s development, according to a new study being presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2019 National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. The study hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal. The health effects of too little sleep The dangers of not getting enough sleep go beyond mere academic performance, experts say. For one thing, lack of sleep combined with greater exposure to germs at school makes it more likely a young person will get sick. Developmentally, a lack of sleep is also problematic. The effects can be more than memory lapses, too. In addition, too little sleep can increase a child’s risk for health problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and diabetes. How to help kids sleep better If you want to help your children sleep better, start at home. Parents and caregivers play an outsized role in ensuring children and teens understand the importance of sleep and receive an appropriate amount of it, experts agree. Some potential rules include agreeing to turn off devices an hour before bedtime, leaving those devices off until after breakfast, leaving devices outside bedrooms overnight, and leaving devices in non-blue light “night mode” from dinner until breakfast. Here are the steps for helping kids sleep better:

  • Caregivers should talk about the importance and benefits of sufficient sleep early and often with young children. Have conversations about the value of sleep during the day, not at nighttime or while trying to get a tired child to bed.
  • Never use going to bed early as a punishment or staying up late as a reward. Don’t use the bedroom for timeouts.
  • Optimize the sleep environment for your child and teen. A dark, quiet, and comfortable bedroom with a comfortable mattress and pillows are just as important for children as they are for adults.
  • Going to bed should always be cast in a positive light. Instead of telling children that they “have to go to bed,” say instead, “You get to go to bed.”
  • Kids should have a media curfew, and parents should try and keep screens out of a child’s bedroom.

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All Your Back-to-School Vaccination Questions Answered

4 Pencils, notebooks, backpacks, new clothes — parents have a lot to stock up on before their child returns to school for another year of learning. An essential part of any parent’s back-to-school checklist should also include making sure their child’s vaccinations are up to date. A report from medical director of the Montefiore School Health Program answers some of the most commonly asked questions about immunizations to help parents prepare their kids for optimal health in the new school year and beyond. What are the benefits to vaccinating my child? Vaccination can protect infants, children, and teenagers from harmful diseases. Some of these can be very serious and may lead to hospitalization or death, especially in infants and young children. “Some of the vaccine-preventable diseases cause deaths in children every year — these are diseases that are still around,” the report said. “The vaccines that we have can prevent a child from getting sick and from needing hospitalization.” The number of children and adults who get sick or die from vaccine-preventable diseases has decreased greatly since doctors started vaccinating Americans, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have schedules of recommended immunizations for everyone from children to adults. Which vaccinations does my child need to go to school? All states and the District of Columbia require students to meet minimum vaccination requirements in order to attend public schools. These vary from state to state. reports that as of July 23, 2018, all 50 states and D.C. require the following vaccinations:

  • diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP)
  • polio
  • measles and rubella
  • varicella (chickenpox)
In addition, 49 states require the mumps vaccination, and 43 states and D.C. require the hepatitis B vaccination. Some states also require hepatitis A, flu, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), meningitis, or pneumococcal vaccinations. To find out which vaccinations your child needs for school, you can check your state’s department of health website, the CDC’s website, or call your child’s school directly. Even if you have older children, you need to be aware of the vaccination schedules. “People sometimes don’t realize that middle school and high school kids need certain kinds of vaccinations and boosters,” the news release said, such as meningitis, HPV, and the tetanus booster. She also recommends that parents have their child vaccinated each year for the flu, even if their school doesn’t require it. “A lot of people think the flu is like having a bad cold, but it’s actually much more severe than that,” the news release said. “It can hospitalize your child, or put them out of school for a week or two — which also means putting parents out of work.” If your child hasn’t been vaccinated for whatever reason, they may still be able to “catch up” with some vaccines. “For most of the vaccines, you can start late and still complete the series,” the news release said. “But there are a few that we only give to babies.” Talking to your child’s pediatrician about which vaccines they’re eligible for is recommended.  

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These Food Allergy Tips Will Keep Your Kids Safe at School This Fall

3 Back-to-school season is a notoriously stressful time for parents. And for parents of children with food allergies, the stress goes beyond getting the right supplies and resetting bedtime routines. For example, one 7-year-old reported has severe allergies to multiple common allergens such as dairy, eggs, and shellfish. After two allergic reactions happened at home, the child’s parent was anxious about sending the young boy to school. “I was terrified when he went to school because I prepared all of his food for him. He was always with me, you know, [and] if he had a party or a hangout with friends I would always bring food. So, I started to read a lot of blogs from allergy moms and that’s kind of where I got all my tips of the trade I guess.” Some safety tips The following are some strategies for keeping children safe.

  • Wear a T-shirt that lists your child’s allergies.
  • Label your child’s food containers and lunch box with a custom “Allergy Alert” sticker.
  • Wear an allergy indicator bracelet.
“I make sure I go to the school in person,” she said. “I typically speak to the nurse. I always go the Meet the Teacher night. I meet his teacher and I make sure that I talk to her personally and tell them what his allergens are, the signs he’s exhibited in the past, [and] what to look for.” According to an allergist and immunologist and spokesperson for the Allergy & Asthma Network said: “Make sure everyone who comes in contact with the child is aware — from teachers to coaches to nurses to principals. “Make sure all forms are filled out and you have plenty of your emergency meds, such as epinephrine, auto-injectors, and quick-relief inhalers.”

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Getting Young Athletes Ready for a New School Year

2 As a new school year begins, many students return to their favorite sports or try something new. Encouraging kids to make physical activity part of their lives has lifelong benefits, a college news release from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said. The news release offered some tips for getting children ready to start fall sports or any physical activities at any age. His advice comes at a time when many youngsters may be losing interest in organized sports. The news release recommends giving the youngest kids opportunities to explore many activities to see what they like best. Create an environment in which a child feels encouraged to be active with routine free play at home, family walks or trying out the latest exercise trend. "Keep it fun and interesting. The goal is to cement the idea of exercise as an enjoyable and healthy habit," the news release said. "Once your child latches onto something they like, then you can then work together to begin mastering the fundamentals of the activity they choose to pursue in the long term." Kids and teens who have already participated in organized sports at school or in community leagues should be given opportunities to stay active during their off-seasons. Appropriate drills or training camps can get them ready for a new season and help prevent injury. In hot regions, the need to beat the heat is key. "It's important for athletes to adjust to heat and sun exposure," the news release said. "Even a week of regular exercise before group training sessions begin can be beneficial. Additionally, ensuring young athletes are properly hydrated is vital to preventing serious heat-related illnesses." Make sure kids get the chance to recover from workouts with proper diet and sleep. Keys are a healthy sleep schedule and diet rich in unprocessed foods, such as fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and vegetables, plus complex carbohydrates and proteins. Young athletes' diets should be tailored to the sport they do. Those who have heavy training loads, such as competitive swimmers, for instance, may need to eat throughout the day to get all the calories they need. "Above all, their activity should be healthy and enjoyable," the news release said. Always take a child's complaint of pain seriously, he stressed. Children do not tend to exaggerate symptoms of injury, The news release said. A young athlete having trouble running, throwing or performing in the way that's normal for the child should see a sports medicine professional. "Some of the most common injuries young athletes experience are a result of pushing too much too fast too quickly," the news release noted.

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How to Prevent Gardening Hazards

1 Gardening is relaxing and gratifying, but there are still things to watch out for. Here's a rundown of common gardening hazards, along with some tips to help you avoid them: Stretch before you start work. Backs, shoulders, arms, and hands get the brunt of the abuse from tilling the soil all day. A good routine of stretching exercises before you begin will help to get your muscles ready and prevent serious injury. Use proper lifting, squatting, and reaching techniques. When lifting from the ground, start from a squatting position and bend from the knees. If you're lifting from a truck bed, brace yourself against the bumper and try to get as close to the object you're moving as possible. Many gardeners also suffer sore knees from constant kneeling and lifting, so a good pair of kneepads or a portable foam pad you can move from place to place are a must. Rotate your tasks to give different muscle groups a rest, switching positions at least every 15 minutes. Know your physical limitations and when you should ask for help or use a wagon or cart. For heavier jobs that involve backhoes, augers, and other digging and trenching devices, get the proper training and follow safe operating procedures. US Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics show that some 230,000 people receive emergency room treatment each year from being injured by lawn and garden tools. Wear safety glasses and face shields when you're trimming the lawn and hedges to protect your eyes from wayward pebbles and stems. Some hearing problems are caused by the constant drone of leaf blowers and lawn mowers, so wear earplugs to reduce the risk of hearing loss. Sunscreen, sunglasses, long sleeves, and a hat are your primary weapons against the sun. Drink lots of water, as much as a cup every 15 to 30 minutes on a sweltering day. If you feel hot, protect yourself from heat exhaustion by taking plenty of breaks and going to cool off if necessary. Minimize the use of pesticides by using integrated pest management techniques and natural alternatives. If pesticides are necessary, always read the entire label before using them and follow the written precautions to the letter. Wear a respirator and skin protection while spraying, and make sure no one -- especially children -- enters the sprayed area before it's safe to do so. To avoid home contamination and exposure after pesticide use, always change your clothing before entering your home. (Wash your work clothes separately before re-using them.) Finally, wash your hands before and after leaving the garden or greenhouse. Itchy eyes and occasional skin rashes are common, but if allergies get more serious, see a doctor. Allergies change over a lifetime, and they can react to seasonal growth patterns. So just because you weren't allergic to something last month doesn't mean you won't be this month. In addition to wearing heavy gloves to protect yourself from cuts and scrapes, keep your first-aid kit well-stocked and make sure you get your tetanus booster shot every 10 years. The old adage "don't bother them and they won't bother you" usually works for bees. But if a bee or wasp does sting you, don't try to dig out the stinger with your fingers -- use tweezers or a needle. If you can't see it, use tape to pull out the stinger. (Carry a bee-sting kit with a syringe and epinephrine if you're allergic and might develop anaphylactic shock if stung.) If you know you're allergic or develop symptoms of a dangerous allergic reaction such as a severe rash, facial flushing, and shortness of breath, call 911. Nothing could seem much more innocent than potting soil, but National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is looking into reports that some vermiculite, the white material in potting soil, may be contaminated with dangerous levels of asbestos. Meanwhile, the agency urges people to treat vermiculite with caution. Remember, it's a dirty job. Microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi live in the ground, so before eating or wrapping it up for the day, wash your hands often with warm, soapy water. Finally, make sure your clients' children are indoors and supervised if you're using power equipment outside, and watch carefully when going around corners or backing up. Keep anything dangerous, like sharp tools or pesticides, locked out of reach.

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