Sunday, September 23, 2012

Make Your Own Greeting Cards

Yes, you can easily make your own greeting cards.  To help you start, reach for Easy Greeting Cards by Better Homes and Gardens! 

By making a card for a friend or family member you send a message that you care.  You not only remember the special occasion that the card calls for but also put a thought and effort into creating a special greeting.  Whether it is a birthday, wedding, or baby arrival, Easy Greeting Cards will help you start the project.  The book includes a wide collection of favorites from the editors of Scrapbooks Etc.that will give you a jump start and supply many super-easy yet one-of-a-kind cards for your loved ones. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Understanding Asthma

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

Asthma is one of the most chronic illnesses in children. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, 1 out of 7 children have asthma. Although it is unclear why, the prevalence of asthma is on the rise. Some say it may result from climate change, increased exposure to allergens, or even inadequate exposure to childhood illnesses that in the past would prepare the immune system to fight off offenders better. 

According to the National Institute of Health, boys are more likely than girls to get asthma, but girls are more likely than boys to have asthma as adults. Up to 75% of children with asthma will outgrow it in adolescence. In many other children, symptoms become less severe as they grow older. 

How do lungs work?
Your child breathes air in through the nose or mouth. The air then moves from the throat into the trachea, a windpipe leading to the lungs, where it divides into branches called bronchi. Bronchi divide further into bronchioles that end in alveoli (sacs surrounded by blood vessels). In the alveoli, oxygen exchange takes place. Oxygen that is breathed in passes into the bloodstream and gets distributed through the blood flow to all organs. On the other hand, carbon dioxide passes from the blood stream into the lung and gets exhaled.

Click here to watch a video on how lungs work. 

What happens in lungs with asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs. Inflammation within the bronchioles results in a swollen airway that restricts airflow to the lungs. In addition, mucus is produced inside the airway, creating a mucus plug that partially blocks them, and muscles that line the airway may constrict, thus restrict the airflow even further. These reversible inflammatory changes in the lung result in coughing at night, as well as coughing, running out of breath, or wheezing with crying, laughing, and physical activity.

The inflammation of the airways makes them sensitive, resulting in spasms that may be brought on by various triggers. The most common triggers are allergens, smoke, pollution, exercise, cold weather, humidity, and respiratory illness. 

What are asthma symptoms?
Many children with asthma have no daily symptoms. They become symptomatic only when they are exposed to a trigger. These asthma flare-ups may come on suddenly and be severe. Other children have daily symptoms that require daily medication that keeps the inflammation in the airway under control. 

If a child persistently starts to cough, run out of breath, complains of chest tightness, or wheezes after coming in contact with a pet, after or during exercise, or when he/she goes outside when it is cold, these symptoms are suggestive of asthma. A child with asthma might cough at night when not sick, he or she might cough, run out breath, or wheeze with crying, laughing, or physical activity.

How is asthma treated?
Identifying asthma triggers allows eliminating or decreasing exposure to the known triggers, thus decreasing the frequency and severity of symptoms. All children with asthma should have a bronchodialotor available to them at all times, a rescue medication in an inhaler or a nebulizer that reverses a bronchospasm, narrowing of the airway due to the muscle spasm brought on by a trigger. Since bronchospasms may happen suddenly and unexpectedly, a bronchodialator might be life saving. 

Children who exhibit daily symptoms of asthma should see an allergist for identification of allergic triggers of their symptoms. They may need a daily anti-inflammatory medication to keep their lungs healthy.

Asthma resources for parents:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The MMR Vaccine and Autism: What’s the Connection?

Anna Tielsch-Goddard CPNP-PC

Worldwide vaccination of our children has provided major advantages to protecting against infectious diseases that in the past 100 years has claimed the lives of millions.

Diseases that are preventable by vaccines still occur throughout the United States. It is a myth though that just because we do not see these diseases as much anymore, we need to stop vaccinating against them.

One of the largest recent measles outbreaks took place in 2008 in San Francisco, California and was routed to one patient, an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy. He traveled to Switzerland where he contacted the measles and then returned to California. Subsequently, he infected 836 children. Vaccinating your children protects not only them, but also other kids who come in contact with them (a concept in epidemiology known as "herd immunity").
There is a common misconception that the MMR vaccine causes or is linked to Autism or the Autism Spectrum Disorder. This erroneous belief began after a physician, Dr. Wakefield, published a study in a journal called The Lancet (which was ran on the first page of the journal) that claimed that there was a correlation (meaning a connection, NOT a cause and effect) of the MMR vaccine with autism.  Dr. Wakefield was being paid money by a law firm to “prove” that vaccines caused harm to patients.  In 2004, the co-authors that published this article requested to take their names off the paper. Finally, in 2009, The Lancet retracted the article and Dr. Wakefield's medical license was revoked for falsifying data.  Both the retraction of an article by a distinguished journal and taking away a physician’s medical license are huge offenses that do not commonly happen in the health care field. Unfortunately, the article's retraction, the claims of data falsification, and the revocation of Dr. Wakefield's license for misconduct, was ran on the 12-th page of the journal and did not receive nearly as much press as the initial 1998 claim. This contributed to the continued public misconception and fear of the correlation of MMR vaccine and Autism.
Some parents might report seeing regressive autism symptoms shortly after the administration of the MMR vaccine. This is coincidental, because autism symptoms start to emerge around 12-18 months of age, and the MMR vaccine is administered right after the first birthday. Numerous research studies done by scientists, both nationally and internationally, have shown that autism symptoms are not caused by vaccines. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has also stood behind these very thorough assessments and rigorous research efforts. More than 1,000 research articles have been published and reviewed by the Institute of Medicine that have not found vaccines to cause autism.
Many people argue that they have found “proof” and “claims” that vaccines cause autism from the Internet or Google research.  The public needs to be very careful when finding information in non-medical or non-health care sites or articles that are available through the World Wide Web, specifically if they have not been reviewed by medical professionals.  Although the Internet has provided society with instant access to information, not all of this information is correct, it can also be misleading and provide false claims.
All current evidence shows that vaccines do not cause autism, so delaying or withholding vaccines will not lessen the risk of autism; it will only increase the period of time during which children are at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.
Article References and to Find More Information, visit:

Andrews N, Miller E, Grant A, Stowe J, Osborne V, Taylor B. (2004). Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics. 114:584-591.

Centers of Disease Control (CDC): Immunization Safety and Autism – Thimerosal and Autism Research Chart. Available at:

Center for Disease Control (CDC). Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine Safety: Available at:

Center for Disease Control (CDC). Vaccine Safety Centers of Disease Control and Prevention: Available at:

Center of Disease Control (CDC). Outbreak of Measles --- San Diego, California, January--February 2008 MMWR February 22, 2008 / 57 (Early Release);1-44. Available at:

DeStefano F, Bhasin TK, Thompson WW, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Boyle C. (2004). Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta. Pediatrics; 113:259-266.

DeStefano F, Chen RT. (1999). Negative association between MMR and autism. Lancet. 353: 1986-1987.

Farrington CP, Miller E, Taylor B.(2001).  MMR and autism: further evidence against a causal association. Vaccine. 19: 3632-3635.

Fombonne E, Chakrabarti S. (2001). No evidence for a new variant of measles-mumps-rubella-induced autism. Pediatrics. 108: E58.

Honda H, Shimizu Y, Rutter M. (2005). No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study. J Child Psychology Psychiatry. 46:  572-579.

Heron J, Golding J. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a prospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association.

Pediatrics. 2004; 114: 577-583.
Hubbard, S. (2011). Autism and Vaccine Details. The Kids Dr. Available at:
Infectious Diseases in Children. October 2011. IOM: Vaccines do not cause autism. Available at:
Kimerblin, D. (Oct 2011).  The wars of the world: Saving lives through vaccination.  Infectious Diseases in Children.  Available at:
Stehr-Green P, Tull P, Stellfeld M, Mortenson PB, Simpson D. (2003). Autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines: lack of consistent evidence for an association.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  25: 101-106.
Vaccine Education Center at the University of Pennsylvania: Vaccines and Autism. Available at:

Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Available at:
Anna Tielsch-Goddard CPNP-PC is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for Children’s Medical Center Dallas at Legacy. She practices on the Perioperative Surgery teams in both presurgical assessment and pediatric-surgery.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cool School Lunches

Cheryl Tallman 

As you know by now, all parents have a different idea of what is healthy food and what is not. For years, you have had the opportunity to hand select and monitor what your child eats for lunch. Now it is time to test their ability. It is only natural for your child's eyes to wander and notice, and be envious of, what the other kids are eating. Here are a few tips that may help your child's lunch be healthy, fun and get noticed by the other kids. 
The lunchbox: It is important to have the right gear and the lunchbox is an important asset. Consider letting your child pick out his own lunchbox or purchase one and let him decorate it with paint or markers. Make sure your child's name is on it with a permanent marker or paint. Most schools will not provide a refrigerator to store lunchboxes, so you should select an insulated one with a re-usable freezer pack to keep the lunch fresh. Or, instead of using a freezer pack, you can freeze a bottle of water, and add it to the lunch box.  It will keep the lunch cold and fresh during morning classes and by lunch time it will have thawed and be ready to drink. 
More gear - containers: Those gimmicky, salt, fat and sugar-filled, "Lunchables" trays are very popular with kids. Not because they taste so good, but because look so cool. There is no reason a homemade lunch needs to look dull and unappetizing. Buy colorful containers in different shapes to pack your child’s lunch. They are better than plastic bags and less wasteful too. If your child is drawn to characters, buy some stickers and decorate the containers. Put your child's name on the containers, but it is inevitable that some containers may not make their way home. Another option is to purchase inexpensive or "semi" disposable containers that will not disappoint you if they accidentally end up in the trash.
Offer plenty of choices: Provide small servings and many choices -- variety is a key to healthy eating. Providing your child with plenty of variety is not hard or time consuming. Many lunch foods can be prepared, in advance, in large quantities. Each morning, simply fill up small containers with different foods. Quick lunchbox food suggestions include: 
Dried fruit 
Fresh fruit pieces or a piece of whole fruit 
Applesauce (no sugar added) 
Celery sticks filled with cream cheese and raisins, or white bean dip 
Sugar snap peas with Ranch dressing for dipping
Yogurt or a smoothie
Lunch meat roll-ups with cream cheese and an asparagus in the middle 
Hard boiled egg
Cheese cubes or string cheese logs 
Peanut butter (or sunflower butter) and apple slices or crackers 
White bean dip or hummus with carrots and mini pita breads 
Whole grain crackers or pretzels
Trail mix made from cereal, nuts and dried fruit
Talk to your child about lunchtime: Don't assume that your child's uneaten lunch is sign that he did not like the food. If you ask a few questions, you may find that your child does not have enough time to eat lunch or that he is spending more time socializing with his friends than actually chewing. Asking questions will give you the opportunity to help him learn other important skills such as managing his time and selecting times to socialize. 
Simple lunch box recipes:
Pineapple Kabobs
Ingredients: Makes 4 mini-kabobs
4 Fresh Pineapple Chunks (1/2-inch pieces) 
2 ounces Colby Jack Marble cheese cubes (½ inch pieces) 
2 ounces deli ham (1/4 inch slice, cut into 1-inch squares 
Using toothpicks, assemble the mini-kabobs on a toothpick in the following manner: 1 ham square, 1 pineapple chunk, 1 ham square, and a cheese cube. 

Per Serving: 66 Cal (17% from Fat, 16% from Protein, 67% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 1 g Tot Fat; 12 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 9 g Sugar; 14 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 131 mg Potassium; 48 IU Vit A; 0 mg ATE Vit E; 48 mg Vit C
Veggie version: Substitute teriyaki-flavored baked tofu for the ham/cheese. Baked tofu can easily be sliced into small cubes and is very tasty with the pineapple. 
Per Serving: 54 Cal (11% from Fat, 11% from Protein, 79% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 1 g Tot Fat; 12 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 9 g Sugar; 34 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 116 mg Potassium; 48 IU Vit A; 0 mg ATE Vit E; 47 mg Vit C
Trail Mix
Combine any or all of these ingredients in an airtight container and toss gently to mix. Store airtight. Lasts for weeks. 
Dry snacks: cereal (low in sugar – under 5g per serving), small pretzels, graham cracker or rice cake pieces, or animal crackers.
Dried fruits: Cherries, apricots, raisins, mangoes or coconut flakes (Tip: big pieces of dried fruit can be cut up easily using kitchen shears).
Nuts and seeds: sliced almonds, pecan pieces, cashew pieces, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or peanut pieces. 
Kiwi Wraps or rolls
These wraps can be served as a traditional wrap sandwich or slice it into pieces (like a sushi roll) for bite sized treats. 
1 tablespoon peanut butter or sunflower butter
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1/2 kiwi
Tortilla -- whole wheat or plain (squared) 
Remove the skin from the kiwi and slice it into thin rounds. Spread peanut butter over half the wrap and cream cheese on the other half of the wrap. Arrange the kiwi slices evenly over the cream cheese. Beginning on the cream cheese end, gently roll up the tortilla forming a log shape. The peanut butter will act as the glue to keep it together. Serve. 
Per Serving: 323 Cal (46% from Fat, 12% from Protein, 43% from Carb); 10 g Protein; 17 g Tot Fat; 35 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; 5 g Sugar; 92 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 308 mg Potassium; 235 IU Vit A; 52 mg ATE Vit E; 42 mg Vit C

About the author: 
Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week and So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at to learn about her latest creation, the Kid’s Portion Plate.