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Smart shopping can help keep children safe.

When it comes to toy safety, shoppers should remember that some products can create a health hazard. The number one concern is choking: several dozen U.S. children died from choking or aspiration between 2005 and 2009. The risk is highest for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3.

To reduce the dangers of choking, aspiration, or other health hazards, keep these guidelines in mind when shopping for toys this holiday season.

Consider the Child’s Age

  • For children under three, don’t buy toys with parts less than 1.25 inches in diameter or 2.25 inches long.
  • If buying balls for children under six, the balls should be at least 1.75 inches in diameter.
  • Uninflated or broken balloons are a choking hazard for young children.
  • For preschoolers, if a toy or other gift has a string, it should be 7 inches or shorter.
  • Young children should not have toys that contain small, powerful magnets.

Watch for These Health Hazards

At any age, children can be at risk from a variety of items:

  • Toys that produce loud noise
  • Toys that contain lead or other harmful chemicals
  • Toys with sharp edges or projectiles with sharp points
  • Art supplies not labeled as nontoxic

Follow These General Tips

  • Read labels to make sure the toy is age appropriate.
  • Before a child uses the toy for the first time, follow all safety instructions.
  • Periodically check toys to make sure they are in good condition. Look for such things as:

    • Rust on metal toys
    • Splinters on wooden toys
    • Exposed parts or split seams on stuffed toys
  • Check the list of recalled toys and other items maintained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

At North Hills Hospital, we care about the health and safety of our youngest patients. If your child is ever injured in any way, our emergency room is ready to help. For outpatient surgical procedures, the staff at the Texas Pediatric Surgery Center is specially trained to keep kids calm and safe before, during, and after an operation. For more information about the center, call (817) 255-1010.

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Learn how to keep your baby safe in the heat this summer.

During the hot summer months, it’s especially important to monitor your baby’s temperature and avoid heat exposure. Get started with these tips.

Use caution with infants and parked cars
Under no circumstances should you ever leave a baby or child in a parked car. Even if the windows are cracked or fully open, temperatures can quickly rise to levels that will cause severe disability or death in a matter of minutes. If you’re concerned that you may forget your child in the back seat, come up with ways to remind yourself and check in with your partner or other loved ones who are transporting your infant in the car.

Dress Baby in appropriate clothing
In hot weather, you may find yourself walking a fine line between keeping your baby’s skin out of the sun and keeping your baby dressed appropriately for the heat. Dress infants in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you use a baby carrier or sling, make sure your baby is not becoming overheated under heavy fabric.

Be aware of warning signs
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to be aware of the signs of dehydration. Warning signs include fussiness, redness, excessive crying and lack of urination. Feed your baby more frequently when your baby is warmer areas.

Avoid sunscreen and sun exposure
Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under six months of age. During this time, use shade from canopies or umbrellas or stay completely out of the sun. The midday hours are especially dangerous for newborns and their sensitive skin.

If your infant or child shows signs of dehydration, visit kid-friendly ER at Alliance. If you would like help finding a doctor, give our physician referral line a call at 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Learn how to boost your kids’ safety.

During Safe Kids Week, discover easy ways to keep your kids safe. We’ve put together a list of quick tips to help you keep your kids safe and healthy year-round.

  • Buckle up all the time. Make sure your kids always use a safety belt in the car and that they use it correctly. If your children are still in a car seat, make sure it’s installed properly. Drop by your local hospital or police station for help installing it.
  • Keep medications out of the reach of children. Be smart about medication. Keep it away and locked from kids. Always use the correct dose. Check the dose twice.
  • Use smoke alarms. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. Check batteries frequently.
  • Talk about strangers. No matter what age your kids are, talk to them about the dangers that strangers can present. From teens at parties to school-aged kids walking home, children need to know how to protect themselves.
  • Talk about bullying. Be a resource for your kids when it comes to bullying online and at school. Look for warning signs of depression, anxiety and anger.
  • Be safe in the sun. All year long, it’s important to keep your kids safe in the sun. Use sunscreen, hats and UV protective clothing on your kids when they’re outdoors. Consider mineral-based sunscreen if you’re concerned about chemical exposure.
  • Use safety equipment. When your kids ride bikes, skateboard or ride on other moving toys, make sure they’re wearing helmets. Use appropriate sports safety equipment and make sure it fits right.

Get the facts when it comes to kids' health. To find a doctor to speak with, please call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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This post is part of our series meant to encourage women in various stages of their lives and to remind each other that as women, we’re all in this together. I hope this series will provide you with new ideas, or at least the reassurance that not everybody’s home looks like those pictures on Pinterest

Meet Rachel – wife and home-schooling mom of four.

Hi Rachel! Tell us a little about your family.
My husband David and I have been married for nearly 12 years. Now we have 4 rambunctious kiddos to keep us on our toes, and we live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. The last few years have been a roller-coaster ride for us. After my youngest was born, I taught high school English for one year, and then had the unexpected opportunity to open my dream business: a retail store for babies and kids. For two years, I sacrificed family time and sanity to keep the business afloat. We were all commuting an hour each way to work and school.  It was grueling for all of us.  When the business closed this past summer, we made some drastic life changes, and I started homeschooling my rugrats.  It was a big shift, but one we are all ecstatic that we made.

As a mom, how do you find balance?
The single most important thing is realizing that it isn’t possible to do everything.  It’s not realistic. I can’t have a perfectly clean house, perfectly behaved children, perfect meals, perfect outfits, perfect school room….you get the drift.  Once you cut yourself some slack, things miraculously seem to be going OK!

What steps do you take to maintain your own health?
To be honest, this is an area I have spent many years struggling with.  But I am finally coming to learn that it is perfectly fine for me to prioritize my own health.  In fact, it’s necessary to prioritize my own health!  These little people that I’m in charge of are watching me.  They want to be like me.  I want them to have a mom who eats right and exercises regularly as an example to base their own life habits on.  While this is still a work-in-progress in my family, we try to make this a family affair.  I don’t have the luxury of running to the gym, so we run across the pasture!

Are your kids picky eaters? How do you create healthy eating habits for your children?
I have one picky eater, but for the most part my kids eat very well.  We have always had a firm rule:  you eat what you are given.  The kids are required to try at least one bite of a new food.  If they TRULY don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it.  I always make sure there is at least one vegetable or fruit at every meal that they do like, so they always have a healthful choice that they enjoy.

How do you promote exercise with your kids?
One of the benefits of homeschooling my kids is that we have P.E. every day!  We go for a jog or a hike, we play outside and ride bikes, and we jump on the trampoline.  We also are lucky to have lots of room to roam around, so I usually kick the kids out of the house once or twice a day and tell them to run around outside!  We also limit TV and video game time, so it’s a real treat for them when they get it.

What tips do you have for managing your time in the midst of so many responsibilities?
You have to have a battle plan. For school, I create detailed lesson plans so that I know exactly what each kid is supposed to be working on. We have a chore chart for the kids, and we require them to help so that our house runs smoothly. I make a menu every week so I know exactly what I’m cooking for dinner.  Pre-planning these things keeps me from having to make a zillion decisions in a day, and keeps me from feeling so overwhelmed!

What mistakes did you make that you wish you could go back and fix?
I wish that I had not spent so many years worrying if I was doing everything “right.”  I wish I could’ve given myself a break a lot sooner.  It’s much easier to enjoy your family and your life when you’re not worrying if you’re screwing things up.

What is the hardest part of maintaining balance in your life?
The hardest part of maintaining balance is keeping a realistic picture of what balance really looks like.  It is not perfection.  Balance is contentment with what you have and where you are, and knowing you have done your best to get there.  It is striving for your best self every day, and giving yourself grace when you don’t quite live up to what you think you should be.

What does a balanced life for you look like?
For me, a balanced life is having the wisdom to focus my energy on the things that are important to me, and to let the other “stuff” in life go.

What advice do you have for fellow women?
My biggest piece of advice is to just stop judging yourself and comparing yourself to others.  We can never live up to the hype, no matter how amazing we are.  There will always be someone with a better job, a nicer house, more money, better behaved kids, whatever.  But behind closed doors, any mom will tell you, we’re all just trying to keep the house and the kids in one piece!

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If you or somenoe you know should be featured in our Balanced Women Series, leave us a comment and we may just feature you!

This post is part of our series meant to encourage women in various stages of their lives to tune out the noise of society’s demands and find a balance that works for them, which in turn makes their whole families much healthier.

Meet Jennifer – single mom of two, full time physical therapist and community volunteer.

Hi Jennifer! Tell us a little about your family:
I am a physical therapist full time at North Hills Hospital and single parent to two daughters, ages 14 and 11.  I regularly volunteer at River Legacy Living Science Center and Mission Arlington.

What tips do you have for managing your time in the midst of so many responsibilities?
I make lists and keep a detailed calendar.  The list will show what needs to be done today and what can wait.

What are your best tips (or tricks) to get your family to eat healthy?
My daughters help with meal planning and grocery shopping.  When we go to the store, they each get to choose one item.  Last time the older one chose asparagus and the younger daughter cauliflower.  I encourage them to try different things and we find new recipes to try.

How has being a mom made you view sleep/rest differently?
I still make time to get plenty of rest so I can take care of what tomorrow will bring.  This might mean that something may not get done that day, but I will feel better the next day. Rest helps me to stay healthy and avoid illness.

What does a balanced life for you look like?
Having enough time for family, exercise, work and volunteering. 

What advice do you have for fellow women?
Make sure and make time for yourself to do the things you want.  Find out what is important to you.  This will help keep the balance and maintain your sanity.

In honor of organized women like Jennifer, we wanted to give you a free meal planning and grocery list download. Just click on the image to download your very own! This is only intended for personal use – not for resale.

What about you? What other tools do you use to stay organized while running a busy house? We’d love for you to share in the comments, or linke to your own blog post with some good tips.

If you are expecting a child soon, you are probably in the market for car seats, carriers and a slew of baby-proofing gadgets to keep your new infant safe at home. While you research and consider what is best and safest for your child, you may have also come across some negative press about vaccinations. We are here to put your fears to rest. Just as you know that a safe car seat could save your child's life, we want to assure you that infant immunizations have the potential to do the very same thing. Here are five important reasons to have your infant immunized.

1. Vaccinations are safe and effective. After years of studies and careful review by healthcare professionals, the vaccine safety system ensures that vaccinations are safe and effective. While the media has questioned the link between vaccinations and autism, the CDC reports that there are no studies to prove this link. Some children do experience slight tenderness and swelling at the site of the vaccination, but the benefits of the vaccination's protection far outweigh the risk of these minor reactions.

2. Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist. In the past, vaccines have eradicated certain life-threatening diseases such as polio. However, when vaccine use declines or when those exposed to disease elsewhere are not vaccinated, less common diseases that are preventable return and affect those who are vulnerable. A good example of this is the whooping cough, which has seen a recent comeback in certain communities.

3. Vaccinations protect your entire community. Vaccinations not only prevent your child from becoming very sick, but they prevent the potential spread of disease to anyone you or your child comes in contact with. Vaccinations keep your entire family and those they care about safe.

4. Vaccinations save your family time and money. When children or other family members become sick, especially with one of the diseases vaccines protect against, they will need to stay home or have medical treatment to recover. This can cost families time and money, as they will spend more time away from work paying for medications and care.

5. Your questions about vaccinations can be answered. If you have questions or concerns about certain vaccinations, their side effects or long-term effects, be sure to bring these to your child's physician. He or she will spend the time answering your questions so that you are well informed about each vaccination offered, and will also share a detailed information sheet about each vaccination that you can take with you for future reference.

This week is National Infant Immunization Week, and we at North Hills Hospital hope that you will take the time to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations so you can protect your new child and your community from every vaccine-preventable disease. If you would like a physician referral, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

March 18-24 is National Poison Prevention Week. Take this time to familiarize yourself with basic poison prevention and what to do if you think your child has been exposed to something dangerous. Before you do anything else, consider programming the Poison Help phone number into your telephone or in a very prominent place. The 24-hour Poison Help Hotline is 1-800-222-1222.

Proof Your Home
Regardless of your child’s age, it’s important to poison proof your home. Most parents consider the obvious sources of accidental poisoning, such as medication and household cleaners. But it’s also important to be aware of potential toxins such as poisonous plants, uncooked food and craft supplies. PoisonPrevention.org warns not to store chemicals in unmarked containers, especially food containers. Make yourself aware of any poisonous insects and animals that are common in your area. According to Poison Help, kids less than six are the most likely to be poisoned.

Educate Your Kids
From late toddler stages on up, it’s important to talk to your kids about hazards in the home. In addition to making sure that kids know not to play with dangerous cleaning, yard and household chemicals, talk to kids about poison first aid. Make sure kids know to talk to an adult. The last thing you want is for a child to hide accidental poisoning from you out of fear of being in trouble.

Educate Your Family
Poisoning can occur many ways. Talk to adults and caregivers in your family about poison. Be aware of cleaning vapors in the air, dispose of and store medication properly, and make sure that only competent adults dispense medication to kids. Keep doses clearly labeled and never give a child someone else’s medication or the wrong dose. When you’re traveling, make sure your lodgings are poison safe and if you stay with family, talk to them about keeping medication and poisons out of the reach of children.

Respond Immediately
Call Poison Help as soon as you think your child may have been exposed to something poisonous. Remember, poisoning can occur through ingestion, in the eyes, on the skin and by inhalation. In many cases, parents are simply told to be watchful. But this call can be life saving. Poison Help has access to information that can quickly let you know how to respond to an accidental poisoning.

If a family member is exposed to an unknown substance or poison, be sure to call the Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. If they determine that your family member should receive immediate medical attention, bring them to North Hills Hospital or the ER at Alliance. We are here to help administer emergency care any time of day or night. For a physician referral, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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We know what you’re thinking. “Not my kid. My kid doesn’t have an eating disorder.” And, while that may be the case, did you know that out every 100 teens in the U.S., one or two do have an eating disorder? Don’t be fooled, either. The signs of an eating disorder aren’t as apparent as you might think. Here is some information about eating disorders and signs you should keep in mind as you help your child navigate those unpredictable teen years. The earlier you can spot a disorder—and the earlier you get your child the help he or she needs—the healthier your child will be in the long term.

Types of Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia. Individuals with this disorder refuse to consume a healthy number of calories because they are unreasonably fearful of becoming fat.
  • Bulimia. This condition includes regular and excessive binge eating, followed by vomiting or the use of laxatives to stop any possibility of weight gain.
  • Binge eating. Those who binge eat will consume excessive amounts of food on a regular basis but not purge via vomiting or laxative use.

What to Look For

Eating disorders can lead to very serious health problems for teens. Since many have a distorted body image, it is extraordinarily difficult to convince a teen with this condition that he or she must gain or maintain a normal weight. An eating issue is a psychological disorder that dangerously affects a teen’s health and well-being. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Excessive eating and then leaving the table suddenly
  • Eating at strange hours, eating in private or hiding food
  • Playing with food or losing interest in eating, saying he or she has already eaten
  • A constant and unusual focus on dieting, calorie intake and body image
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Wearing clothes to conceal weight losses or gains
  • Compulsive exercising, choosing to exercise over seeing friends or being social
  • Missing periods regularly
  • Dental issues that result from excessive vomiting
  • Spending frequent and extended periods of time in the bathroom

How to Help

If you notice that your child may have any of these symptoms, get help. Your child may require psychological counseling and outpatient care. More serious cases will require hospital-based care or residential care in a facility that specializes in eating disorder treatment. Please call the National Eating Disorders hotline for more information at 1-800-931-2237.

The medical staff at North Hills Hospital is here to help answer any questions about eating disorders and can offer a physician referral assistance. Please call (817) 255-1000 or visit our website.

Sources:
Eating Disorders
Binge Eating Disorders
14 Signs That Your Child or Teen May Have an Eating Disorder
NationalEatingDisorders.Org

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From the moment you decide to have children, there will always be factors beyond your control that might affect your child. But, with careful attention, parents can educate themselves about what to expect and put their child’s safety above all else. While children under one may be at greater risk of SIDS, parents can reduce those risks with some understanding of this syndrome and by following a few recommendations.

What is SIDS?

SIDS, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the sudden, unexplained death of a child under one. It usually occurs while the child is sleeping. While its cause is unknown, research has uncovered a number of ways to reduce the risks.

How can you prevent SIDS?

  • Get prenatal care. Premature births are a major risk factor for SIDS. Mothers who have prenatal care, and give special attention to their health and nutrition as early as the first few months of pregnancy, are more likely to carry their babies full term.

  • Position babies to sleep on their backs. Studies have shown that babies who sleep on their sides and stomachs have a much higher rate of SIDS deaths. While babies may sleep more soundly in those positions, the risks certainly outweigh the benefits.

  • Have babies sleep on a firm mattress. The risk of SIDS increases when babies sleep on soft pillows and other soft surfaces. Be sure to purchase a safety-approved crib mattress for your child.
  • Avoid co-sleeping. Dr. Karen Smith, a Family Practitioner affiliated with North Hills Hospital, explains this danger:

“We know that throughout history parents and children have slept in the same bed, on the same mat, or on the same floor. What is different now is the quality of our mattresses. They are simply too soft to be safe for an infant. A young infant doesn’t have the head and neck strength to protect their nose and mouth from soft surfaces.”

  • Avoid extra clothing or loose bedding. Keep all loose blankets, pillows and stuffed animals out of the crib while your baby sleeps. Dr. Smith comments:

“I challenge my families to create a really, bare, unfriendly-looking crib with no pillow, no bumper pads, and only one or two thin blankets. This is a safe environment for a baby, at least until the baby can roll over.”

  • Do not overheat your child. Keep the temperature in the room comfortable. If it is cold, put your child in a zip-up sleep outfit that will not come loose.

  • Do not smoke or use drugs. Smoking and using drugs during pregnancy, or exposing a baby to second-hand smoke, can increase the risk of SIDS significantly.

  • Breast feed babies when possible. Studies show that breast-fed babies have a lower occurrence of SIDS. Breast milk will also decrease the possibility of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.

  • Discuss any breathing issues with your pediatrician immediately. If your baby tends to gag or spit up frequently, this may interrupt his or her breathing at night. Some babies also run the risk of sleep apnea for various reasons, which can interrupt a baby’s breathing during sleep. If your child shows any signs of breathing difficulty during sleep, discuss these issues with your child’s pediatrician immediately.

If you are concerned about your child’s SIDS risks or would like to learn more about SIDS prevention, we suggest that you schedule an appointment with a pediatrician. To find a physician at North Hills Hospital, please go here. For information about other services we offer, please visit our website or call (817) 255-1000.

Sources:

Reducing the Risk of SIDS (American SIDS Institute)

Preventing SIDS (American Lung Association)

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There are a few things my (very lovely) friends failed to mention to me at my baby showers: 1) teething is about as awful as anything on this planet and 2) so are vaccinations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t vaccinate your child, but when you do, the simple act of doing so kind of stinks. We are talking a needle and your baby. So, even if it’s for your child’s own well-being, it’s still not much fun to get through.

It was important to me to vaccinate my children, but that didn’t make it easy. As with all things in life and parenting, though, I have some insights (in hindsight, of course), and I’d like to share them with you. Here they are!

1. Clear your calendar. After my son’s two-month shots, he slept the entire day (I’m talking a FOUR-HOUR NAP, which was unheard of before and since, and that was just one nap of several that day). I became very disillusioned about immunization-induced naps and thought this was just how vaccinations went, so I expected the same for his four-month shots. Yeah, he didn’t sleep a wink then. Make sure you have the day completely cleared, in case one or the other happens.

2. Have back-up. Don’t go to a doctor’s appointment solo, especially the first couple, if you can avoid that. I was shaken up something fierce those first few immunization appointments, and Kyle (my son) has been shaken up the last few, so the more support you have, the better.

3. Talk, talk, talk. Sure, my two-month-old couldn’t understand what I meant by “shots,” but my two-year-old can. I explain to him everything I can, even the complicated, adult-type stuff, because even if he doesn’t quite understand the technical ins-and-outs, he’s at least not blindsided when we arrive at the doctor’s.

When you do vaccinate your child, it might not be fun, but it can be bearable. And, just like every other semi-difficult parenting situation, I’m convinced this is why ice cream was created. Add an extra scoop for both you and your child the night after.

You can follow Jennie Canzoneri on her personal blog, She Likes Purple. Have a question or a comment? She’d love to hear from you!

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