5-tips on the use of hand sanitizers for kids

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My kiddo comes home from each of her birthday parties with a small gift bag. The gift bags usually contain small toys, coloring stuff, a mug, and a few pieces of candy. Few months back, I was surprised to find a small container of hand sanitizer wrapped in the bag. I knew everyone was obsessed, but I hadn’t realized that we were so obsessed with the supposed “miracle germ remover” that bottles are now replacing toys in gift bags. Not only gift bags, the sanitizers  have been successful in making a place for themselves in the purses of mums also.  Such “germophobe” mums try their level best to keep their kids out of danger zone of bacteria. They carry sanitizers everywhere, to the play area, to birthday parties. They also pack it in their kids school bag.

The question is that is there anything wrong in doing that? 

Before we come up with an answer, let us find out little more about hand sanitizers from medical point of view.

What are hand sanitizers? 

 -Hand sanitizers are products that can reduce microorganisms on the skin. They are categorized under consumer antiseptic products. An antiseptic product is a substance that kills germs and harmful bacteria.

When are they indicated for use?

– They are recommended to be used when soap and water is not readily available for hand wash.

What do these antiseptics contain?

– Hand sanitizers usually contain alcohol. The concentrations ranges from 45% to 95%. It is the same alcohol found in beer, wine and other liquors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or a combination of both in concentrations ranging from 60 to 95 percent. Other ingredients  include water, fragrance, and glycerin. Other non-alcohol based hand sanitizers contain an antibiotic called triclosan or triclocarban.

What is the current status of hand sanitizers?

– These products have not been shown to be more effective at preventing illness than plain soap and water.  Additionally, emerging data have raised concerns that long-term, daily use of these products may outweigh their presumed benefits.

The long-term, daily use of these products may outweigh their presumed benefits. How is that possible?

The obsession and failure of therapeutic effect: “Germophobe” mums fall victim to compulsive use of hand sanitizers rather than teaching kids about the benefit of hand wash using soap and water. Such kids very often fall sick.  There are studies that concluded that ultra clean environments during the early stages of a child’s life lowers their immunity. It makes them vulnerable to various diseases. Also, alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill ALL types of germs, such as a stomach bug called norovirus, some parasites, and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea. Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead. Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. Knowing when to clean your hands and which method to use gives the best chance of preventing sickness. Also, non-alcohol based antibiotic sanitizers may cause drug resistance.

Toxic effects due to misuse: Recent reports have identified serious consequences, including shortness of breadth, acidic blood and other body fluids, and coma in young children who swallowed alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  According to CDC, the majority of intentional exposures to alcohol hand sanitizers occurred in children aged 6–12 years. Alcohol hand sanitizer exposures were associated with worse outcomes than were nonalcohol hand sanitizer exposures.

There are a lot of concerns on the use of hand sanitizers. But, in this era of bugs, parents always look for safety solutions. As there are a lot of positive and negative discussions on various forums about hand sanitizers, here are 5-tips from a doctor:

1. Use a hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.

2. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Use non-alcohol based sanitizer only if soap and water, and alcohol-based ones are not available.

3. Donot use hand sanitizers for kids less than 2 years.

4. Always monitor the use of sanitizer. Put a dime-sized amount on dry hands and have children rub their hands together until completely dry. Make sure youths do not put hands wet with sanitizer in their mouth. Teach kids the right way to use sanitizer, so that they use it safely in school. Use a hand sanitizer a very few times a day only and if skin is not damaged.

5. Store hand sanitizer out of children’s reach. Although a lick of sanitizer probably won’t make kids sick, they could swallow enough to cause alcohol poisoning.

Final message is that for kids, washing hands can be a fun and entertaining activity. It is simple enough for even very young children to understand. Handwashing gives kids a chance to take an active role in their own health.

Image courtesy: https://www.flickr.com/commons

 

 

 

 

What lobsters teach about adversity

 

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At a BloomBrite interactive session with primary kids, I was addressing them about “Our Body”.  During discussions, I asked them to visualize themselves as adults. And asked them why they would love to grow up into adults. Here are the answers:

Kid 1: Will be able to travel and visit many countries like his dad.

Kid 2: Will be a doctor, and able to do surgeries and treat people.

Kid 3: Will not be required to study, but watch a lot of TV.

Kid 4: Will be playing cricket.

Kid 5: Will have an ATM card, buy whatever he likes.

There were such interesting answers from other kids too except one. That kid mentioned he wants to stay as a kid, as life is stressful for adults. Stressful for adults? Why do you say so? His answer was alarmimg! “”…

I told them the story. They say the humble hard-shelled animal can teach us about how to cope with stress. The story of lobsters that I remind myself during adversities. Here it goes:

Lobster is a soft and mushy animal that lives inside of a rigid shell. That rigid shell does not expand. As the lobster grows the shell becomes very confining. The lobster feels itself under pressure, and uncomfortable.Well how can the lobster grow? The  lobster casts off the shell and produces a new one.

-This process repeats many times during the life time.  It goes under a rock formation to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off the shell and produces a new one. Eventually, that shell becomes very uncomfortable as it grows. And the lobster repeats the process. The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. So,  we have to realize that times of stress are also times of  signals for growth. And if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity.

The kids were amazed “Stress for growth? And the lobser handles it so wisely?”…….

I am no one to judge the level of stress of the parents of that kid. But we are the role models for our kids. They observe us.  They must not get a negative judgment about life. Afterall, life is to live….

Brush, Book, Bed: The 3 B’s of sleep hygiene for kids

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Sleep is very important for the overall health and well-being of kids. In fact, good sleep habits start from birth. And it’s sort of a custom for friends and family to suggest sleep tips to new parents. However, getting young children to sleep, and to stay asleep is often one of the most daunting tasks of parenthood.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) mentions that adequate sleep duration for age on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm.

No one knows for sure why we sleep, but here are 2 basic theories:

1. Sleep has a restorative function.

2. Sleep has an adaptive function.

The restoration theory suggests that sleep helps the body recover from all the work it did when awake. The adaptation theory suggests that sleep may have developed because of the need of animals to protect themselves. For example, humans search for food and water during the day because it is easier to see when the sun is out. When it is dark, it is best to save energy, avoid getting eaten, and avoid falling off a cliff.  Whatever are the theories, it is an well accepted fact that sleep is vital for any life form.

There is an Irish proverb that says “The beginning of health is sleep”… And recent studies identified a lot of sleep related healh hazards in kids in this digital era.  Between 20 and 30 percent of kids experience sleep problems. Because of this increased risk, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has come up with the Brush, Book, and Bed program – The 3 B’s of sleep hygiene for kids! This 3-B program has a simple and clear message for parents:

1.Each night, help your children to brush their teeth.

2.Read a favorite book (or two)!

3.Get to bed at a regular time each night.

The program advocates a total of 11-14 hours of sleep every 24 hours for kids aged 1-2 years; 10-13 hours, for 3-5 years; and 9-12 hours, for kids aged 6-12 years.

As sleep hygiene is advocated as part of the 3-B’s, parents can play a major role by  instilling the 3-B’s as a routine skill in kids. The correct brushing techniques routinely can help prevent cavities, and provide a good oral health. Reading bed-time stories  can benefit kids socially and educationally. For toddlers, parents can read stories. As kids grow up, hopefully they will form their own reading habits. Finally, regular bed time each night  is important as kids thrive on consistency and routine.

 

 

The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity

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“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity” got reminded of the lines by George Carlin.

– A beautiful one, isn’t it?

-Yes meem, replied my 12 year old. Its a butterfly invitation card. Its Angel, my friend’s birthday tomorrow.

-She should have verbally invited. Why do you think she spent time on this? Anyway nobody gives credit to the caterpillar…In this case its Angel. You just mentioned such a nice butterfly card. A compliment to the card, but not the hard work of your friend.

-Guess she wants to make more memories. Doing crafts with mom is fun meem. And its not hard work, its spending time together. Remember that day, the printer stopped working! And instead of print outs, we had to draw the maps. It took time to finish the project but loved it a lot to get to spend time with you. Everybody in school said that the project was nice. No body complimented the hard work.

– Nobody complimented the hard work? The perseverance? The caterpillar of all success? Angel’s mom is so much forward thinking I thought. Through a small craft project she taught her daughter 5 important skills. They are the following:

1. Bonding and fun: Kids love to spend quality time with parents. And especially, they love any event related to their birthday. Preparing birthday cards is a great way of making memories.

2. Perseverance: Craft projects are effective tools for illustrating  perseverance to kids. Completing a craft requires  the kid to stick to the task over an extended period of time. It requires a good deal of patience and concentration. And provide hands-on opportunities for developing this important moral value.

3. Self esteem: It is important to help kids discover their own unique talents and qualities. Also, to learn to value their own strengths. Completion of birthday invitation cards for friends would definately boost her self esteem.

4. Completion of short term goal: Angel must have learnt to work towards a goal. Making the cards would have given her a sense of accomplishment.

5. Reliance on self: Its an important skill in today’s world. One must let kids do what they’re capable of doing on their own. This boosts confidence.

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity”… its ok. Because the butterfly is the creation of the caterpillar!

A lazy eye!

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Dolly studies in first standard. She is a bright child. She concentrates well in the class. Finishes her home work on time. Plays well with other kids. Overall, she is a healthy and happy child. One day, her mother notices some changes in her handwriting. The letters seemed to be jumbled together. The sentences were well beyond the straight lines. She expresses her concern to Dolly. But, Dolly seemed to be ignorant of the changes.

During PTM, mom requests teacher to let Dolly occupy the front seat. The idea is to have a pair of vigilant eyes. So that her daughter doesn’t get distracted in class. And it works. But to her mom’s surprise. The reason is something different. Dolly comes back home, and mentions of the ease of understanding words written on the blackboard. Mom decides to take her to an ophthalmologist.

After a series of tests, Dolly gets a patch for her left eye. She also gets a pair of spectacles. Doctor announces that her right eye is lazy. And needs to work independently. The patch on the left eye makes the right eye work harder. That is expected to make the right eye muscles stronger. Though initially it is a struggle, Dolly adheres well. She continues the treatment for few months. And becomes absolutely alright.

Vision is essential to success in school. When a child’s vision suffers, chances are his/her schoolwork does, too. According to an estimate, a whopping 41% children in India suffer from vision problems. If left untreated, it can affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school. Parents, as well as teachers, should be aware of these 5 symptoms that indicate that the child requires evaluation:

1. Holding books too close

2. Frequent eye rubbing, excessive tearing, or headache

3. Handwriting going bad

4. Lack of attention at school

5. Receiving lower grades than usual

Refractive errors are the most common cause of vision problems among school-age children. Also, some children with learning difficulties exhibit specific behaviors of hyperactivity and distractibility. They are often labeled as having “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD). It is important to note that, undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD. Due to these similarities, some children may be mislabeled as having ADHD.  They actually might have an undetected vision problem.

So, what’s the standard eye check up protocol  for kids?

-All children need an eye exam at the time of starting Schooling.

-All children need an eye exam once in two years.

-All children need an eye exam if one of the above 5 symptoms are present.

So, what steps are required to take care of eyes in kids?

A healthy diet: A diet with emphasis on fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts is a must. For non-vegetarians, eggs and a small amount of fish delivers the nutrients. Kids require awareness to avoid addictive sweets as well as junk food. And take more of natural, unprocessed foods. These helps preserve circulation to the retina, rods, cones and lens.

Ocular hygiene: Reading in good light and keeping the book at a minimum distance of 12 to 14 inches are basic requirements. Playing sports is one of the best ways to increase blood circulation to the eye. Kids require awareness to restrict the use of TV and gadgets to a maximum of 2 hrs daily.

There are many more Dollys around. We’ve got to identify them, and help them tide over their vision problems early on.

5-tips to adhere to parenting resolutions for the new year

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Its raining like crazy here. I was having some “me time” post dinner. Somehow, the rhyme “Rain, rain, go away” was echoing in my ears. The smell of fresh earth, and the rhyme mixed with nostalgia dragged me to my childhood. I used to sit near the window, extend my hand to collect drops of rain on my small palm… The childhood days never come back. Still I lingered on with my memories. Hopped onto a boat, and set sail to my imagination. Felt a gust of endorphins rush into my veins. And then I felt mom. Her presence all around me despite her having bid goodbye forever. Felt her counseling me on, guiding my sail. And it was then that it suddenly dawned. My boat of the year was sailing to its conclusion. The new year was awaiting me.

One more boat to hop onto…and it better be a lovelier boat than the one of 2016. And to make it lovelier, I need to have some resolutions…

-Meem, why did you get so angry with me in the evening?

My kiddo walked in. She came and hugged me. We conversed for a while. The conversation and the hug led me think about my parenting resolutions. We feel blessed to be with our kids. But sometimes long for “me times” too. Especially, when we feel too tied up because of our chores. My first resolution should be to manage my frustrations. As frustrations lead to anger. And many a times, kiddo has to take the brunt. Just wanted to check if other mums too are sailing in the same boat. I logged into an FB group of mums. Wrote a post “Mums, what are your parenting resolutions for the new year?”

Sharing few of the comments here:

-Mum 1: To give more hugs and kisses to both my daughter. Time is flying and they are growing fast so don’t want to waste time in shouting, screaming…… will give loads kisses and hugs when I get angry.

-Mum 2: Kids grow up very fast. Have to make use of every minute we spend with kids in a positive way. They are God’s blessings to us. We should respect that.

-Mum 3: Practice the art of patience with my kid

-Mum 4: To make more beautiful memories then previous year

-Mum 5: To Be a gentle parent…

-Mum 6: To live by example!

-Mum 7: Stop using the mobile and spend more time with the kid…

-Mum 8: Go for martial arts, swimming or music with my son…

-Mum 9: To make kiddo independent…

From the above comments, its very clear that parents want to give their best to kids. They want to be good with kids, spend quality time, and connect with them in a positive way. This is important as spending just 10 minutes per day of uninterrupted, one-on-one time with kids builds emotional connections, reduces negative behaviors, and makes them more cooperative throughout the day. kids learn how to behave, act, and deal with life situations by watching their parents. If mom screams, or treats people with no respect, her kids eventually will follow the same. If dad sits on the couch all day, and doesn’t help with housework, chances are that the kids will grow up believing this is how people are supposed to act. Kids watch the work ethics, health awareness, and all details of handling day to day activities of parents with a magnifying glass. So it is important for parents to become role models, and lead kids by their examples.

Here are my 5-tips how one can adhere to the resolutions:

1. Write it Down: Seeing resolution clearly articulated in ink, on paper can have a tremendous effect on feeling of commitment to it. The other ways of reminders are typing it out on laptop, or with sticky notes, or saving in mobile with google keep.  This will work as automatic reminder daily when device is turned on. Alternatively, the resolutions can be pasted on the wall, or fridge door.

2. Share with a friend: Its said that a workout buddy can help motivate you to hit the gym. The same concept can extend here too. A friend or family can help one adhere to resolutions by reminding! Reminding about progress. Teasing about non-progress to hurt ego.

3. Take smaller steps at a time: Set a goal. Break the goal into smaller steps. For example, to become  a gentle parent one need to identify the pointers. These are active listening, involving kids in decision making, to take time outs with kid, and to learn to judge a kid’s behavior not the kid. One can start with active listening first, and then slowly climb up the ladder.

4. Make it a team effort: Success requires a team effort. So its better to discuss about resolutions with one’s partner, and involve in supportive coparenting. Kids do better in coparenting environments. And, the team involvement ensures adherence to goals.

5. Take care of self: Much like the “Oxygen Mask Rule” on an airplane, a parent who takes care of self is a better parent. Say No to one more extra job requirements,  hit the gym, treat yourself to a pedicure, plan “me times” to pursue hobbies, and take time off the routine chores.

Kids watch the work ethics, health awareness, and all details of handling day to day activities of parents with a magnifying glass. So it is important for parents to become role models, and lead kids by their examples!

5-benefits of having pets

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Kids love their pets. I guess babies feel they are stuffed toys that can move, toddlers play with them just as a friend. And with time, kids learn consider pets as their family. A family member with whom they can spend some quality time.

As a kid, I had fishes, ducks, and goats as pets. We had ponds at our ancestral home. Once a week, the fishermen used to come to clean the weeds, and to catch fishes. I and my cousins used to stand at the bank with empty bottles. The fishermen used to gift us small colored fishes to keep as pets. The bottle with two or three fishes used to decorate our living room. I remember providing food twice to them, and cleaning the bottle twice a week with the help of my dad. I used to squeeze some puffed rice, and serve as food to my dear pets! We had a duck house close to one of the ponds. As a kid, I used to love directing them towards the water in the morning. Then along with my cousins used to collect the eggs. Sometimes, we used to collect small snails for the ducks. In the evening, we used to call them home. My dad had got two goats home when I was very young. He wanted me to have goat’s milk. It seems goat’s milk is more easily digested and less allergenic than cow’s milk. It seems I used to love them a lot. Other than these pets, stray cats and dogs were frequent visitors to the house during meal times.

Today, I had a discussion with my colleague regarding pets. Her neighbor is an old lady. She lives alone with her pet dog. I somehow got reminded of my friends dog ”Bruno” who passed away last month. Bruno and the memories of my childhood pets led me to think about 5-benefits of having pets!

1. Companionship: Pet provide constant companionship through the ups and downs. They help relieve stress. Between studies, I used to look at my fishes at mid-night.  The thought that there was life around was an inspiration for me to stay awake for my exam preparations.
2. Responsibility: Kids learn empathy and compassion by caring for their pet. They also develop self esteem, and a sense of well being. I used to feel good to see my pets eating the food that I used to provide.
3. Learning: Caring for pets provides an active way of learning about their lifestyle. One learns to respect all living beings.
4. Health benefits: Children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma. Studies shows that kids who had a dog during the first year of their life had higher immune response. And had fewer respiratory tract infections than those without.  Pets also help in various aspects of emotional development in kids. They encourage kids for outdoor play.
5. Deal with a loss: Pets teach that life is short, but precious.  Pets can teach kids how to deal with personal loss. I remember I was sad for many days when my first fish failed to breathe.  I had stopped feeding the other fishes too. But then my mom told me not to deprive the living ones from my love and care. Pets, thus help a kid to deal with the loss of a near and dear one, to move on in life.

Growing up with pets can enrich the lives of kids in so many ways.  They help develop social skills, and provide social and emotional well being. A time spent with them is never wasted!

 

 

Hop-Skip-Jump!!!

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Hopscotch was one of my favorite games as a child. I played the game with cousins and friends at home, and with friends at school during lunch break. This game was like an addiction. I remember collecting broken chalk pieces from the floor of our classroom, and storing them in a box. Those chalk pieces used to be my most valuable possessions!

Later when my daughter started playing the game with her friends, I learnt that playing hopscotch  has lots of benefits for a child’s overall development.

  1. Hopping on one foot helps develop physical coordination.
  2. Leaping helps in strengthening the muscles.
  3. The game overall instills spatial awareness. 
  4. The game is a natural motivator for eye/hand coordination.
  5. Planning and strategizing are life-long skills learned through the game.
  6. Hopscotch creates the framework for learning about peer relationships.
  7. The game has hidden benefits like cognitive, emotional, and social growth.

Hopscotch is thus not only a lore of the playground. It is a simple game that has so many benefits for kids: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. Overall, fun for kids!.