Posts Tagged ‘ health ’

Make a Habit of Sun Protection

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

My mom will tell you she’s “allergic to the sun.”

But this wasn’t always the case. She grew up basking in the Florida sun. Those days, however, caught up with her when I was in elementary school. Doctors found basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, on her nose.

I remember coming home one day in first grade to my mom’s face covered in gauze following her first surgery. “She looks like a mummy,” I would tell my friends on the playground, as I thought of my mom in pain.

With the first day of summer just days away, beach day invitations are starting to roll in. With every response I give, I think of my mom and the subsequent surgeries she’s undergone to remove more BCCs from her face. And when I pack my beach bag, I’ll think of a new study published in Nature on June 11.

The Institute of Cancer Research found sunscreen inadequately protects from melanoma. Researchers found mice exposed to UV rays still suffered damage to the p53 gene despite having sunscreen on. The p53 gene typically helps defend skin from UV rays, and when it’s damaged by the sun’s radiation, risk of melanoma forming increases. Sunscreen is essential because it helps slow impairment to this gene; however, its sun defense isn’t absolute. That’s why it’s key to take precautions beyond SPF to guard us from the harmful effects of the sun.

Nowadays, my mom has changed her sun protection habits. You’ll find her decked out in her favorite cowboy hat, wraparound sunglasses and long-sleeved cover-up dress. She’s a pro at finding the shadiest spot at the pool or beach and highest SPF on the market.

And by her side, you’ll find me wearing the biggest, floppiest hat and Jackie O shades.



Test your sun protection habits with this quick quiz!

Image: Mother And Daughter Under Beach Umbrella Putting On Sun Cream (ShutterStock)

How to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat
How to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat
How to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat

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Should Schools Ban Sunscreen?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen, especially during the summer.  Children are particularly vulnerable; it only takes one blistering sunburn to potentially double your kid’s lifetime risk of melanoma.

So I was shocked to hear about the North East Independent School District in Texas banning sunscreen from 72 schools. Local mom Christy Riggs is protesting the policy after her daughter suffered a bad burn from a field trip. The students were out in the sun for more than six hours, but the school district argues that sunscreen can cause allergic reactions, so it must be treated like a medicine–which means only kids with a doctor’s note are allowed to use it at school.

Choose a new sunscreen from Shop Parents.

I understand the good intentions behind this decision. Allergies are a hot issue right now, and if students were to share sunscreen, it’s possible that a few might end up with reactions. But the risks of all the students suffering from severe burns while being out in the sun without protection are far higher. Applying the lotion before school is not enough, as it will wear off after a few hours. It seems absurd to focus on healthier school lunches and increasing kids’ physical activity, but then put children in jeopardy of serious damage from the sun’s rays.

Keep your family entertained this summer with our Activity Finder.

Surely, there’s a safer, healthier way to handle this situation. Many schools simply ask for parental consent to apply sunscreen to kids. Others provide a specific sunscreen and let families send in their own if they want a different kind. I hope the school district reexamines their policy at the end of the year and comes up with a better method. Until then, San Antonio parents will need to apply sunscreen generously in the mornings, and dress their children in proper clothes to protect bare skin outdoors.

Do you support the sunscreen ban?

Baby Care Basics: Baby Sunburn Treatment
Baby Care Basics: Baby Sunburn Treatment
Baby Care Basics: Baby Sunburn Treatment

Image: Girl anoints her face via Shutterstock

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Protecting the Planet From Pollution for Our Children’s Future

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzEditor’s Note: This guest post was written by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who  is also the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She has been working to help implement he President’s new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon emissions, in order to reduce child asthma that has resulted from carbon pollution. 

As the mother of three children, there is nothing more important to me than ensuring that we leave the next generation a world that is safe and prosperous. Making sure that our children have clean air to breathe is an essential part of that mission.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency took an important step in the right direction. Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the EPA released new guidelines that will, for the first time ever, limit carbon emissions from existing factories. While the EPA has regulated dangerous toxins like arsenic, mercury, and lead for years, they still allowed power plants to release as much carbon pollution as they wanted. That was not responsible, and it was not smart.

Illnesses like asthma that affect millions of children are aggravated by air pollution, and in the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled. For any mother who knows how helpless it feels to see her child struggling to breathe during an asthma attack, it is encouraging to know action is being taken to help alleviate this health crisis. The rules will help us avoid up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

Hundreds of scientists have made clear that climate change is no longer a distant threat but an imminent and dangerous reality. These tough new rules will regulate the sources of carbon emissions that not only pollute the air we breathe, but contribute to climate change. If there is something we can do to prevent our children from getting sick, to reduce the number of times they end up in a doctor’s office or emergency room, and to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change in their lifetimes, then we have a moral obligation to do it.

There is no question that now is the time to act.

The common sense changes will put us on the right track towards a cleaner and brighter future for generations to come. However, if we are serious about leaving our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged, we must recognize these new EPA rules are just the beginning. We must do more.

Addressing the biggest challenges we face as a nation, and as a planet, requires bold solutions. And yes, bold solutions can be difficult; they require tough choices, and there will always be those that oppose progress and the change that comes with it.  But as a Member of Congress, and more importantly, as a mother, I am committed to doing what is necessary and what is right for our children. As President Obama said, we must work together towards “a future where we can look our kids in the eye and tell them we did our part to leave them a safer, more stable world.”

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Does Your Toddler Need “Special” Milk?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Surely you’ve heard the phrase “breast is best.” While formula is a good option for some moms, breastfeeding offers a host of benefits to baby including an immune system boost and reduced risk of asthma, diabetes, and obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies nurse for the first 12 months of life, and for years doctors, the federal government, and advocacy groups have been urging new mothers to breastfeed whenever possible. Happily, the message seems to be sinking in. In the United States 77 percent of newborn babies are now breastfed.

However, what has been baby’s gain has been formula makers’ loss, since of course when babies drink more breast milk they drink less formula. But, now formula companies have seen an opening in the milk market.

Doctors and pediatric nutritionists advise that 12 month-olds can safely switch to full-fat cow’s milk.  But you may have seen other products on the store shelves: special powdered “milks” marketed to parents of toddlers. The colorful packaging touts their supposed health benefits, such as such as immune system support, growth promotion, and increased brain and eye health. And, indeed, these powders are frequently fortified with a host of vitamins and minerals.

But, is toddler milk really necessary for good health? According to New York-based pediatric dietitian Natalia Stasenko, the answer is simple: no. “Toddler milks are a way to add some nutrition to toddlers’ diets that is perfectly possible to obtain from foods for the vast majority of children.”

Besides, she adds, since science still doesn’t completely understand how synthetic vitamins and minerals are absorbed by the body, real food is still the best way to obtain them. “Plus, the amount of added nutrients toddlers milks contain is very often quite small. For example, one brand touting its benefits for brain development contains about 10mg of DHA per 8-ounce serving, about one-fifth of the DHA in approximately one bite of wild salmon.”

While these drinks can be a boon to parents whose children are malnourished or failing to thrive, what about run-of-the-mill picky eaters? Many parents of toddlers are concerned that their children aren’t getting adequate vitamins and minerals and hope that by providing these beverages they’re making up for any nutritional gaps. Stasenko suggests that, actually, toddler milks are likely to make kids more choosey. “Since these drinks are very palatable, thanks to added sugar and flavoring, it is likely that they will replace other nutritious foods and possibly even exacerbate picky eating habits.”

Toddler milks are especially popular in Asia and the United Kingdom. The UK newspaper The Guardian reports that almost half of mothers with young children used a toddler milk, “despite health professionals regularly advising parents that a healthy diet including cows’ milk provides a young child’s required nutrition.”

Compared to cow’s milk toddler milks are also significantly more expensive, weighing in at around 17 cents an ounce, as opposed to 3 cents an ounce for conventional milk and 7 cents an ounce for organic milk. That may not sound like a huge difference, but if your child is drinking 12 oz. of milk a day, that is a difference of about $50 a month for conventional milk and $35 a month for organic.

Of course as parents we want the best for our children, and when products suggest that they’ll make our children healthier, stronger, or smarter it’s tempting to snap them up. But, as Stasenko notes, “At age one, a child is ready to join the family at table and does not need any special foods.”

What do you think? What kind of milk does/did your toddler drink?

What kind of behaviors can you expect from your growing toddler? Take our quiz to find out!

Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating

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Kindergarteners’ Weight May Predict Future Weight Issues

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Mother and daughter eating fresh vegetablesA new study released this week by The New England Journal of Medicine, which tracked children’s weight fluctuations over time, found that a child’s weight in kindergarten was a strong predictor of his or her weight by eighth grade.

Of the 7,738 children studied, roughly three-quarters of those who become obese between the ages of 5 and 14 had been above the 70th percentile for body-mass index when entering kindergarten. With each passing year, the chances that a child would break away from their current weight trajectory decreased—meaning children whose weight was in a normal range stayed that way, while those who were heavy remained so. These findings suggest that a parent’s efforts in his or her child’s early years to encourage healthy food choices and instill a fitness-focused mentality can help set a child up for a lifetime of successful weight management.

But will harping on “eating right” and “staying active” at such a young age backfire and make future generations even more body image-obsessed than they currently are? Studies show that even young children are aware of body image and feel tremendous pressure to live up to images portrayed by the media. This creates a challenge for parents to strike a balance between advocating for good health and encouraging a positive self-image, despite outside appearances. To downplay body image concerns while still inspiring a healthy lifestyle, try the following:

  • Emphasize nutrition rather than weight.
  • Describe food as energy for the body.
  • Encourage the formation of exercise habits now, which research shows are likely to continue into adulthood.
  • Get active together. Sign-up for our “12 Weeks to a Healthier Family” newsletter to get started.

Image: Mother and daughter eating fresh vegetables via Shutterstock.

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