Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance, Part II

zero tolerance bullying policies do more harm than good

zero tolerance bullying policies do more harm than goodA few months ago, I wrote a column entitled “Why We Need Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance,” which talked about how the current practice of suspending or expelling chlidren from school may be doing more harm than good. In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees, adding that removing a child from school should be a rare last resort and not a routine punishment for bullying, drug use or other infractions.

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Breaking News to Absolutely No One: Recess Is Important

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just came out with a policy statement entitled “The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools,” which concluded that “both recess and PE in schools promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, and should be a daily break for young children and adolescents.“ Geez, I sure as hell hope so. And there’s more.

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Standing up to Depression: Kids with Depressed Moms are Shorter

A few weeks ago I did a post about how depressed new moms are less likely to breastfeed than less-depressed women. A lot of studies show that breastfed babies do better in a variety of areas–lower risk of obesity, ear infections, and pneumonia, stronger immune system, and even increased IQ. But even though depression affects breastfeeding, which in turn affects babies’ health, it’s not accurate to say that depression is responsible for poorer outcomes.

So here’s another interesting study that links mothers’ depression with their children’s health–in this case, if their height. In a just-published study, children of moms who were depressed nine months after giving birth were more likely to be short at age three and beyond than kids whose mothers were not depressed.

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Preventing child poisonings: it’s up to us

National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW) is March 19-24. According to NPPW, more than two million children are poisoned every year – 90 percent of the time it happens at home.

NPPW has some great resources for poisonproofing your home, keeping your home safe, locating poison centers, and a lot more here: http://www.poisonprevention.org/materials.htm

In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests some important tips to prevent and treat poison.
Prevention-safety measures

  • Store medicine, cleaners, paints/varnishes and pesticides in their original packaging in locked cabinets or containers, out of sight and reach of children.
  • Install a safety latch – that locks when you close the door – on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products.
  • Purchase and keep all medicines in containers with safety caps and keep out of reach of children. Discard unused medication.
  • Never refer to medicine as “candy” or another appealing name.
  • Check the label each time you give a child medicine to ensure proper dosage.
  • Never place poisonous products in food or drink containers.
  • Keep coal, wood or kerosene stoves in safe working order.
  • Maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Secure remote controls, key fobs, greeting cards, and musical children’s books. These and other devices may contain small button-cell batteries that can cause injury if ingested.

Treatment:

  • Swallowed poison – Remove the item from the child, and have the child spit out any remaining substance. Do not make your child vomit. Do not use syrup of ipecac.
  • Skin poison — Remove the child’s clothes and rinse the skin with lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Eye poison — Flush the child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a steady stream of room temperature water into the inner corner for 15 minutes.
  • Poisonous fumes – Take the child outside or into fresh air immediately. If the child has stopped breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and do not stop until the child breathes on his or her own, or until someone can take over.

The APP also urges those in need of help to contact the helpline to get immediate assistance.

For emergency cases like the child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizure due to poison contact or ingestion, call 911 or your local emergency number. For mild symptoms call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Here Comes—or There Goes—the Sun(screen)

Dear Mr. Dad: I thought I was doing the right thing by slathering my 1-year old with sunscreen when we go outside, but I just read that the chemicals in sunscreen could be more harmful than the sun. Now what are we supposed to do?

A: Summer is winding down, but there are still plenty of sunny days ahead, so your question comes at a good time. For years, we’ve been programmed to practically marinate our kids in sunscreen before sending them outside. But recently, as you point out, the effectiveness—and safety—of that strategy is in question.

Before we get to the actual ingredients of sunscreen, let’s talk about the vocabulary, which can often be contradictory, confusing, or both. In June 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to deal with this issue by coming up with new regulations for sunscreen labeling, including requiring a “drug facts” box, forbidding claims such as “sunblock” or “waterproof,” and clarifying which products can be labeled “broad spectrum” (meaning that they protect against both UVB and the more deadly UVA rays). Unfortunately, these requirements don’t go into effect until summer 2012.

Okay, back to ingredients. In a 2010 study, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit watchdog, reported that only 39 of the 500 sunscreen products they examined were safe and effective. The study claims sunscreens flaunt false sun protection (SPF) ratings, that one commonly ingredient, oxybenzone, is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can affect puberty, and another, retinyl palmitate (a derivative of Vitamin A), could actually accelerate some cancers instead of preventing them. But the emphasis needs to be on the word “could” as the research is hardly definitive.

The American Academy of Dermatology, for example, maintains that sunscreens—even those with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate—are safe for most people over the age of six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees, but recommends that babies under six months be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn’t wear sunscreen except in very small areas, such as their hands. For babies over six months, the AAP recommends sunscreen but says the best protection is limiting sun exposure—especially around midday—and wearing protective clothing, including a hat.

If you’re concerned about sunscreen chemicals, look for “chemical-free” or “mineral-based” brands that don’t contain oxybenzone. These mainly use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient, both of which form an actual barrier on the skin without being absorbed and start working immediately upon application.

But don’t go overboard. In small doses, the sun is actually healthy. Those UVB rays help our bodies produce vitamin D which is essential for healthy immune systems and bones. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a few hours, you and your children need protection; if you’re just running around for 10 minutes, you should be okay (but check with your pediatrician to be sure).

Here’s how to protect babies and toddlers from the sun:

  • Limit exposure to direct sunlight, especially between 10am and 4pm when rays are strongest.
  • Use protective lightweight clothing to cover up, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (if they pull them off, keep putting them back on).
  • If you’re not using a zinc or titanium blocks, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside so it has plenty of time to get absorbed into the skin. But regardless of the type of sunscreen, reapply every two hours or after swimming (no sunscreen is completely waterproof.)
  • Don’t fear the sun. A little every day is good for you.