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The Flu Is Now an Epidemic, Says CDC

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

girl getting flu shotThis flu season is so bad that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially classified the illness as an epidemic, reports ABC News. This year’s strain of the virus, H3N2, has already proven to be deadly. Fifteen children have died from flu complications, and hospitalizations are on the rise, especially among seniors and young children.

So far, Tennessee has been hit the hardest from the flu outbreak. At least six children in that state have died from the illness, and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has seen 442 children with flu symptoms in this month alone. The most-affected states are in the South, Midwest, and West. However, everyone is at risk of contracting the flu. Twenty-two states are reporting high levels of  ”‘influenza-like’ illness activity,” and every region of the country has suffered from outbreaks. Every season, the flu can be deadly for children and the elderly. “Every year about a hundred children die from the flu,” says ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. The flu season has been starting earlier and earlier, he added, which is a worrisome trend.

If you or your child hasn’t gotten the flu shot yet, it’s not too late. Even though the current vaccine hasn’t been a very strong defense against this year’s severe subtype of the flu, it can still help. “Get a flu shot. It doesn’t matter what kind of flu is going around, if you get a flu shot you do have protection against the strains of flu that is in the shot, and if you get a case of the flu it is usually not as bad,” advises East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Director of Infection Control Darci Hodge. Something to keep in mind: children under the age of 8 may require two doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart to get the maximum protection from the shots.

How Safe is the Flu Vaccine?
How Safe is the Flu Vaccine?
How Safe is the Flu Vaccine?

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The Biggest Toy, Clothing, and Gear Recalls of 2014

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Millions of products were recalled this year, so it is important to stay on top of what your family owns. Learn about the biggest recalls of 2014 that directly affect babies and children. This year, car seats made up nearly half of our top 10 list, which also includes mass-market items such as a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy and a popular Walmart doll.  If you have any one of these products, be sure to click on the link provided and follow the guidelines for return or repair. Sign up for our recall newsletter so you are alerted when something is recalled that could affect your family.

Combi10. Combi Child Restraints

Date: January 3, 2014

Company/Brand: Combi USA, Inc.

The danger: The harness webbing fails to meet minimum breaking strength requirements. In the event of a crash, a child may not be remain adequately secured, increasing the risk of injury.

Sold at: Nationwide

H&M leggings9. H&M Girls’ Leggings

Date: May 15, 2014

Company/Brand: H&M Hennes & Mauritz L.P.

The danger: A metal part on the belt can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. There has been one report of a choking incident in the United Kingdom, but no reports of consumer incidents or injuries related to the use of these products in the U.S.

Sold at: H&M stores nationwide and online at HM.com from August 2012 to April 2014 for between $3 and $15.

Vera Bradley Rattle8. Vera Bradley Bear Ring Rattles and Bunny Toys 

Date: March 19, 2014

Company/Brand: Vera Bradley Designs Inc.

The danger: The pom-pom tail can detach from the body of the bear rattle and the bunny, posing a choking hazard to young children. Vera Bradley has received two reports that the pom-pom tail detached from the product. No injuries have been reported.

Sold at: Nationwide from September 2012 to January 2014.

Walmart Doll recall7. My Sweet Love/My Sweet Baby Cuddle Care Baby Doll

Date: March 25, 2014

Company/Brand: Tak Ngai Electronic Toys Co., LTD

The danger: The circuit board in the chest of the doll can overheat, causing the surface of the doll to get hot, posing a burn hazard to the consumer. Walmart has received 12 reports of incidents, including two reports of burns or blisters to the thumb.

Sold at: Walmart stores nationwide from August 2012 through March 2014 for $20.

Brita Water Bottles6. Brita Children’s Water Bottle 

Date: August 19, 2014

Company/Brand: BRITA LP of Oakland, Calif.

The danger: The lid can break into pieces with sharp points, posing a laceration hazard. There have been 35 reports of lids breaking or cracking. No injuries have been reported.

Sold at: Alaska Housewares, Associated Food Stores, Bartell Drug, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Quidsi, Royal Ahold, Shopko, Target, US Navy Exchange, Walmart Stores, and online at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com and Target.com. Hello Kitty bottles were sold from February 2014 through July 2014. Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob Square Pants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bottles were sold from June 2013 through July 2014. The bottles sold for about $13 to $19.

Evenflo booster seat5. Evenflo Child Seat Buckles 

Date: April 4, 2014

Company/Brand: Evenflo Company

The danger: The buckle may become stuck in a latched position, making it difficult to remove a child from the seat. This could prove critical to a child’s safety in the case of an emergency. No injuries have been reported.

Sold at: Nationwide.

Graco Snug Ride recall4. Graco Rear-Facing Child Restraints

Date: June 30, 2014

Company/Brand: Graco Children’s Products

The danger: The defect involves difficulty in unlatching the harness buckle. In some cases, the buckle becomes stuck in a latched condition so that it cannot be opened by depressing the buckle’s release button. It may be difficult to remove the child from the restraint, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a vehicle crash, fire, or other emergency, in which a prompt exit from the vehicle is required.

Sold at: Nationwide.

Hello Kitty Whistle3. Hello Kitty Birthday Lollipop Whistles 

Date: November 10, 2014

Company/Brand: McDonald’s Corp., of Oakbrook, Ill.

The danger: Components inside of the whistle can detach, posing choking and aspiration hazards to young children. McDonald’s has received two reports of children who coughed out pieces of the whistle that they had sucked into their mouths, including one child who received medical attention.

Sold at: McDonald’s restaurants nationwide from October 2014 through the first week of November 2014 with Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals.

Graco logo2. Graco Toddler and Booster Child Restraints

Date: February 10, 2014

Company/Brand: Graco Children’s Products 

The danger: There has been difficulty in unlatching the harness buckle. In some cases, the buckle becomes stuck in a latched condition so that it cannot be opened by depressing the buckle’s release button. It may be difficult to remove the child from the restraint, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a vehicle crash, fire, or other emergency, in which a prompt exit from the vehicle is required. There have been no injuries reported.

Sold at: Nationwide.

Graco stroller1. Graco Strollers 

Date: November 20, 2014

Company/Brand: Graco Children’s Products

The danger: The folding hinge on the sides of the stroller can pinch a child’s finger, posing a laceration or amputation hazard. Graco has received 11 reports of finger injuries including six reports of fingertip amputation, four reports of partial-fingertip amputation and one finger laceration.

Sold at: Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and other retail stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and other online retailers for about $40-70 for the stroller and about $140-170 for the Travel System

Product Recalls: What to Do
Product Recalls: What to Do
Product Recalls: What to Do

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Could Common Antibacterials Be Harmful to Pregnant Women and Their Babies?

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Pregnant women and their babies-to-be are being frequently exposed to antibacterial compounds that could be harmful, according to a new study from Arizona State University being presented at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The compounds—triclosan and triclocarban—are found in more than 2,000 household cleaning and personal care products, as well as school supplies and toys. There’s growing evidence that exposure to triclosan and triclocarban could lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals, and that the danger could extend to humans, too. While we have the ability to dilute these antibacterial compounds, the fact is, they’re so prevalent that we’re at risk of universal exposure, according to ASU’s Rolf Halden, Ph. D., the lead investigator of the study. More from Science Daily:

Laura Geer, [Ph.D., of the State University of New York], says the study yielded a link between women with higher levels of another ubiquitous antimicrobial, butyl paraben, which is commonly used in cosmetics, and shorter newborn lengths. The long-term consequences of this are not clear, but Geer adds that, if this finding is confirmed in larger studies, it could mean that widespread exposure to these compounds could cause a subtle but large-scale shift in birth sizes.

Luckily, some state policymakers and companies have already taken steps to remove triclosan from products. Minnesota will prohibit its use in certain products starting in January 2016. And companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble are taking out the antimicrobial in some of their products. At the federal level, the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency are conducting additional research on these compounds, too.

Are you pregnant? Keep track of your medical records in one spot.

Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

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Babies’ Brains Gear Up to Speak Way Before First Word

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Even if your baby isn’t speaking yet, her brain is developing speech skills—and you’re helping the process along whenever you talk around her. It turns out that babies age 7- to 12-months have stimulation in the brain whenever other people in the room are talking, according to a new study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. The infants were monitored using a brain scanning technique.

Most babies are only babbling at that age and don’t start talking until after they turn one. However, areas of their brains are already planning and coordinating for those first words. They’re preparing how to talk back even if they aren’t actually saying anything coherent. More from HealthDay News:

“Hearing us talk exercises the action areas of infants’ brains, going beyond what we thought happens when we talk to them. Infants’ brains are preparing them to act on the world by practicing how to speak before they actually say a word,” Patricia Kuhl, author of the study and co-director of the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a university news release.

Use our milestone tracker to record Baby’s first words, first steps, and much more!

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Breast Cancer Drug Shown to Help With Common Infertility Disorder

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who are having a hard time conceiving may consider switching to a new fertility drug after a large study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study, which included 750 infertile women, found that letrozole (Femara), a breast cancer drug, may be more effective at helping women with PCOS get pregnant than the currently preferred medication, clomiphine (Clomid). Letrozole produces better results in ovulation, conception, and birth rates. Clomiphine, the most-used treatment today, has an increased probability of multiple births. More from HealthDay:

Researchers found that almost 28 percent of the women taking letrozole had babies after five cycles, compared with about 19 percent of those taking clomiphene.

Also, women taking letrozole had fewer twin pregnancies, compared with those taking clomiphene — about 3 percent versus 7 percent, the study found.

“Clomiphine may be trumped,” [lead researcher Dr. Richard Legro, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State University's College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn.] said. “To see a 40 percent improvement in birth rate is a huge difference.”

For now, doctors such as Dr. Avner Hershlag, an infertility specialist at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y., are prescribing both letrozole and clomiphene to their patients. The choice of which prescription to use for a patient is based on several factors, such as insurance coverage and cost.

Roughly 5 to 10 percent of reproductive-age women in America have PCOS, making it the most common cause of female infertility. Symptoms include high levels of the male hormone androgen, irregular periods, and small cysts on the ovaries.

Trying to conceive? Our ovulation calculator can help.

Trying to Conceive: 5 Common Fertility Mistakes
Trying to Conceive: 5 Common Fertility Mistakes
Trying to Conceive: 5 Common Fertility Mistakes

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