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How To Use a Car Seat Harness Correctly

It’s Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week and I have decided to talk a little about the car seat harness. The car seat harness holds a child down in the car seat so they cannot slide up, forward and out the car seat in the event of a crash.

There are two different types of harnesses; the 5-point and 3-point harness. What this really means is that the harness comes into contact with your child in 5 or 3 points. The 5-point harness has straps over both shouldres, both hips and one between the legs whereas the 3-point harness only has straps over the shoulders and one between the legs. Not only is a 5-point harness more secure but it also allows the forces from an accident to be distributed more evenly across the body.

Using the harness incorrectly is one of the most common mistakes parents make. In this short post I have outlined 3 really simple steps to take to correctly position your child in a car seat. Please remember to always check the manufacturer’s instructions first before using your car seat.

  1. Place your child all the way back in the car seat

Your child must sit snugly in the car seat with the bum and back firmly against the backrest.

  1. Correctly position the shoulder straps

Rear-facing car seats: the shoulder straps should be at or just below shoulder level (+- 2.5 cm)

Forward-facing car seats: the shoulder straps should be at or just above the shoulder level (+- 2.5 cm)

Image: Diono.com

  1. Tighten harness straps snugly

The straps should be tight enough so there is no excess webbing (check this using the pinch test).

Image: Diono.com

The harness should also not be too tight that it pinches your child’s skin or forces them into an unnatural position.

HARNESS RETAINER CLIPS

Image: safekids.org

Car seats made in Europe, Australia and South Africa do not come with harness retainer clips. You will most likely only see these clips if you are in the United States or Canada. These clips are not for added safety and are not designed to keep your child in their car seat in the event of a crash. In fact they are more likely to open up from the impact and slide down the straps. These clips are positioning devices and used to keep the shoulder straps in position pre-crash.

South Africa adheres to European car seat safety standards so you will not find car seats in this country with retainer clips. European regulation requires all car seat harnesses to be released in one motion and therefore a chest clip is simply not allowed. European car seats use other methods to keep the harness in place.

There are many other gadgets and devices available to use together with your harness to provide added comfort or extra protection. These are generally not safe since most of them are not crash tested and therefore can cause serious harm in the event of a motor vehicle accident.

RESOURCES

https://cpsboard.org/cps/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Technician-Guide_March2014_Module-8.pdf

https://csftl.org/chest-clip-myths-busted/

 

 

Common First Aid Myths

 

I am often surprised by how some of my patients manage their injuries before they come to the emergency room. I think my own mother is also guilty of practising some really strange methods whilst I was growing up. Over the years, medical advice and management has evolved. What may have made sense years ago is now out of date and has been replaced with more sound research and often logic. Here are just a few of the first aid practices and myths that I have seen over the years.

1. BUTTER ON A BURN

The idea behind this myth is not entirely wrong. Butter can help alleviate the initial pain caused by a burn because of its direct cooling effect. This however does not last long because butter, or any greasy substance for that matter, will actually slow down the release of heat from the skin. This means that the trapped heat can continue to burn the skin. Rather run the affected area under cool running tap water for up to 20 minutes immediately after the burn.

2. LEAN YOUR HEAD BACK DURING A NOSEBLEED

This one I see all the time and it is very wrong. If you lean your head back during a nosebleed you will inevitably swallow blood. This blood can irritate the stomach and cause nausea and vomiting. It can also even cause you to choke. Rather pinch the nose closed and lean your head forward.

3. PUT SOMETHING IN SOMEONE’S MOUTH WHEN THEY ARE HAVING A SEIZURE

This is often done to try and prevent someone from biting his or her tongue during a seizure. Tongue biting does happen often, but it very rarely causes any airway obstruction. You are more likely to cause an airway obstruction from whatever you have put in the mouth.

Seizures can look really scary but it’s better to move that person to a flat surface and clear the area around them so that they cannot injure themselves, while waiting for the seizure to end.

4. RUBBING ALCOHOL FOR A FEVER

 Many parents try reduce their little one’s fevers by rubbing alcohol directly on the skin or adding it to a sponge bath. As alcohol evaporates it can significantly cool the skin and potentially help reduce a fever. The problem with this is that rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) is also quickly absorbed into the skin and the fumes inhaled, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

5. STAY AWAKE AFTER A BUMP TO THE HEAD

Parents often ask me if their little one is allowed to sleep after taking a knock to the head. It is no longer recommended to keep someone awake after a head injury. The concern was always that if someone with a concussion went to sleep they would not wake up.

If there are no red flags then it is perfectly acceptable to allow your child to sleep. Sleep is actually really important for the brain to heal. You can read more about head injuries here https://www.oneaid.co.za/a-bump-to-the-head-when-should-you-worry/

6. LIFT YOUR ARMS ABOVE YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU ARE COUGHING OR CHOKING

Someone who has a partial airway obstruction will still be able to cough. You should do nothing else but encourage coughing. When I was a child, my mother used to make me lift my arms up above my head. This can actually be dangerous because when you lift your arms, this movement causes the neck to move as well. The object causing the irritation may then slip further down into the airway and cause a complete obstruction.

7. MAKE SOMEONE VOMIT IF THEY HAVE SWALLOWED A POTENTIAL POISON

Do not make your child or anyone vomit by giving Ipecac syrup or even sticking your finger in their throats. This can be very harmful, especially if the poison swallowed is burning or corrosive.

The substance may get breathed into the lungs when vomited up and cause serious damage. The substance may also cause more damage to the lining of the oesophagus when vomited. The best thing to do is to call an ambulance or head straight to your nearest emergency room.

8. IF SOMEONE FEELS FAINT, MAKE THEM SIT WITH THEIR HEAD BETWEEN THEIR KNEES

If you do this and the person bent over does faint, they can fall out of the chair and get injured. Fainting is usually caused by decreased blood to the brain. If you are seated and put your head between your legs you will only slightly increase blood flow to the brain. It is far better to make that person lie down flat on their back and raise their legs. If the person has already fainted you should also lay them on their back and raise their legs.

9. APPLY HEAT TO A SPRAIN, STRAIN OR FRACTURE

Cold is commonly used for acute injuries and heat for more chronic conditions. Heat causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow, swelling and ultimately pain and cold has the opposite effect. After a sprain, strain or fracture it is better to apply ice to help with the swelling and pain.

Heat is very good for muscle spasms and other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Heat reduces muscle tension and causes muscles to relax. The increase in blood flow caused by the heat also helps remove pain-causing inflammatory cells and bring in healing cells.

10. PUT RAW STEAK ON A BLACK EYE

We can probably thank the Looney Tunes for this one! The only benefit you will get from this myth is the effects of the cold. Meat is often full of bacteria so whilst a big piece of raw steak will help with the swelling, it may cause an eye infection in the process. It is much better to apply an ice pack or even a frozen bag of peas.

There are many other myths. Do you have any others you would like to share with me? Can you remember any first aid tips or tricks that your Mother and even your Grandmother used to practice?

How Safe Are Teething Gels?

Every baby is different but common symptoms associated with teething include, mild irritability, drooling, low-grade fever and loss of appetite. If your baby is inconsolable or has a high fever chances are this is not due to teething. Teething should not make your baby very sick but rather very unhappy.

It’s terribly heartbreaking to see our little ones in pain and we would do just about anything to help ease their discomfort. As a result, parents commonly resort to various teething gels. Evidence has shown that some of the ingredients in these teething gels can be dangerous and that teething gels or creams actually offer very little benefit since they get washed out of a baby’s mouth within minutes. In this post I am going to unpack these ingredients and explain why they can be so harmful.

BENZOCAINE AND LIDOCAINE

Both of these ingredients are local anaesthetics and work by numbing the gums to alleviate pain. Whilst there are differences in absorption and duration of action between the two, their side effects are very similar.

One of the most dangerous and thankfully rare side effects is the development of methaemaglobinaemia. This condition basically leads to a reduction in oxygen in the body, which can lead to death. Children younger than two have a higher risk of developing this condition and therefore benzocaine and lidocaine products are not recommended for use in children under this age, unless prescribed by a healthcare provider. 

Another problem with these products is accidental overdose. It is difficult to dose these medications therefore it’s quite possible you can give too much. Inevitably most of the gel you give ends up being swallowed and if too much is swallowed this can lead to seizures, heart problems and even death. Too much of these gels can also numb the back of the throat and inhibit the gag reflex making it easier for young children to choke.

CHOLINE SALICYLATE

Another ingredient found in teething gels is choline salicylate. Teething gels, which contain this ingredient, work by reducing the inflammation and subsequently the pain.

This is the same salicylate found in aspirin and we know that aspirin is not recommended in children under the age of 16 because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but fatal disease. Because of the theoretical risk of developing this syndrome from teething gels which contain this ingredient, the United Kingdom has completely banned their use in children younger than 16.

As I have mentioned before, it can be tricky to dose gels correctly so there is also a risk of salicylate toxicity when using gels with this ingredient.

WHAT ABOUT “ALL-NATURAL” TEETHING GELS?

With all the hype around the dangerous ingredients mentioned above there has been an increase in so-called “all-natural” teething gels. The problem with “natural” products is that they do not undergo rigorous scientific testing using clinical trials, which aim to identify any potential side effects. Some natural remedies have been around for years and whilst these herbs may or may not be effective for some, they can be dangerous for others.

The FDA has warned against the use of any homeopathic teething gels. The concern has mainly been over compositions that contain the ingredient belladonna, which is extremely toxic in large amounts. Investigations have found that the amount in the teething products exceeds the amount stated on the label. 

Chamomile and Marshmallow root extract are commonly found in natural teething gels. They are mainly used for their anti-inflammatory properties and do have a relatively low risk of side effects. But since you never really know what you are getting with these herbal products it is recommended you simply avoid them. These products are not tested for safety or effectiveness, and you have no way of knowing if the amount of active ingredient is too small to actually have an effect, or too large to result in serious complications.

SO HOW CAN YOU EASE THE PAIN?

There are a few simpler and safer methods you can try to ease your little one’s teething pain:

  1. Massage your child’s gums with a clean finger.
  2. Give your child a firm rubber teething ring that has been chilled in the fridge and not in the freezer.
  3. Give your child a clean and cooled damp washcloth to chew on.
  4. If you need to resort to medicine use paracetamol or ibuprofen (you can read more about these medicines in a previous blogpost of mine: https://www.oneaid.co.za/medications-for-pain-fever-in-children/ ).

RESOURCES

https://www.aappublications.org/content/35/8/32.1

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1009987-overview

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/safely-soothing-teething-pain-and-sensory-needs-babies-and-older-children

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-warns-against-use-homeopathic-teething-tablets-and-gels

https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/oral-salicylate-gels-not-for-use-in-those-younger-than-age-16-years

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/849029_2

https://medsafe.govt.nz/profs/PUArticles/Topical%20oral%20choline%20salicylate%20gels%20-%20safety%20in%20children%20-%20Aug%2009.htm

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/teething

Shouldn’t It Be “Fed Is Best”?

This post is a little different to my others because it is personal. I want to share more of my momlife journey with you so where better to start than at the beginning, with one of the first challenges I had to deal with when becoming a mom.

No one tells you before having kids how difficult breastfeeding really is. The phrase “breast is best” is one I have constantly heard over the years and one that I myself have drummed into my patients. My breastfeeding journey was a time in my life when I have never felt more incompetent. I have spent so much time over the years ‘lecturing’ expectant parents and new moms about the benefits of breastfeeding and even shown some moms how to latch correctly. I would have thought that with all my knowledge I would grasp this breastfeeding skill from the beginning, but I did not.

It took two midwives and three lactation specialists to finally tell me I had flat nipples. Clearly, I have never looked at my breasts properly. With this newfound information I went out to buy a range of different nipple shields thinking this would solve my problem. After 2 weeks of becoming obsessed with breastfeeding I realised my daughter was not gaining any weight and was in fact losing it. So I decided to scrap the shields and embrace my breastpump.

I exclusively pumped for three very long months. I sometimes think that this required even more effort than the breastfeeding. I had to pump at regular intervals throughout the day and night to ensure a good milk supply, since the suction from a pump is not as efficient as the suction from a baby in stimulating milk production. After three months, I went back to work. The pumping was going to be even more difficult and to be honest I was a bit over constantly having to sterilise the parts. And so began my quest to find the best formula.

I remember staring at that formula aisle for a really long time feeling overwhelmed by all the options available. Of course I knew some names like NAN, Isomil and S-26, but there were so many more. I had no idea what the difference between all of them was (they don’t teach us this at med school) so I asked someone for help. You know what I was told? “I am not allowed to tell you anything about formula”. I was now really confused and very angry.

Before the 80’s, women were encouraged to formula feed (obviously to the benefit of the big pharmas). Unfortunately such messages were exploited in underprivaledged communities. This had devastating consequences with rising infant mortality rates in these areas. I won’t go into any detail about the Nestlé formula scandal but it did cause a global uproar and now there is a code in place which restricts the marketing of breast-milk substitutes worldwide in order to protect breastfeeding. South Africa has incorporated this code into legislation and this is why it is so damn hard to get any information about formula. Our former health minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, even suggested formula be banned throughout the world stating it is “no different from skin lightening creams”.  Yes, seriously, this comparison was made.

As if being a mother isn’t hard enough, we now have to find time to do our own research or pay to get this information by going to see our Paediatricians (and I don’t even think they know everything there is to know about formula). If breast is best and if this code is so effective then why are we constantly being bombarded with confusing messages. On one end breastfeeding in public is still very much taboo yet everyone tells us we need to breastfeed. On the other end we should not formula feed our babies yet bottle feeding is easier on the eye and we all need to go out and buy those new self-warming bottles.

Shortly after I stopped pumping I took Eryn to a birthday party. Most of the moms there were successfully breastfeeding either their infants or toddlers. All these women spoke about the entire morning was breastfeeding. I never said a word because I felt ashamed and excluded. In hindsight, I am angry at myself for having felt that way. I was sitting there with a very healthy baby girl on my lap and so what if she was being formula-fed.

I’m sure we can all agree that breast is best but I think we are taking things a little too far. I would like to see the narrative change to “fed is best”. I don’t deny the benefits of breastmilk but this may not work for everyone. The success of breastfeeding is a complex combination of many factors. All it takes is for one wheel to come off and then the whole ride can become very bumpy.

We live in a society where freedom of choice is celebrated. Why then are mothers judged so harshly for the feeding methods they choose? Since becoming a mom I have learnt that mothers are the harshest critics and supreme court judges. We really need to take a step back and start to create a safer all-inclusive space for mothers to exist. A space where single, divorced and widowed moms, breast and formula feeding moms, moms with post-partum depression and anxiety, adoptive and foster moms, working and stay at home moms, biological and stepmoms can all be celebrated as the real mothers they are.

RESOURCES

https://www.who.int/elena/bbc/regulation_breast-milk_substitutes/en/

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/Ban-infant-formula-Motsoaledi-20100513

Is It A Cold Or Is It The Flu?

Winter is here and so are coughs, colds and flu. Common colds and flu are both caused by viruses and share many of the same symptoms however colds are usually milder and do not cause any serious complications. More than 200 viruses can cause a cold whereas the flu is caused by the Influenza virus. This is why there is no vaccine available for the common cold.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

Generally colds affect you from the neck up where the flu attacks your entire body. A cold causes a runny or blocked nose and sneezing. There may be a sore throat with a slight headache because of nasal congestion. A cough can develop but this is mostly because of a post-nasal drip. Cold symptoms usually last for about a week. If the symptoms do not improve after a week it is less likely to be a cold and an allergy or sinusitis should be considered.

The flu on the other hand causes more distressing symptoms. These include fever, chills, body aches, cough, weakness and extreme tiredness in addition to all the symptoms of a cold. Most flu symotoms also improve after a week but it is common to still feel a little weak and tired for up to two weeks.

Pneumonia is a complication of the flu, especially in the young, elderly and those with pre-existing chronic diseases. If your child seems to be getting worse, has difficulty breathing, is extremely lethargic or irritable, is refusing to take in enough fluids and/or has a persistently high fever you need to seek medical assistance.

HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF CATCHING A COLD OR THE FLU

  1. Vaccinate: make sure everyone in your family gets the seasonal flu vaccine every year. It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and offer protection. It is recommended you receive the flu vaccine before the flu season starts but it’s never too late. In South Africa the flu season usually starts around the first week of June but in previous years it has started as early as April.

  2. Hand washing: Make sure you wash your hands frequently and teach your children about good hand washing. Wash with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Cold and flu viruses enter the body through the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes. This means that every time you touch these parts of your body with hands that have the virus you have a high risk of infecting yourself.

  3. Cover up:  teach your children to sneeze or cough into a tissue or their elbow and NOT into their hands.

TREATING A COLD OR THE FLU

Antibiotics do not work against viruses. Therefore they will not work for a cold or the flu unless a bacterial complication has developed. Often I see that antibiotics are prescribed for viral infections to “treat” the parents rather than the children. This is dangerous and will only lead to the emergence of more antibiotic resistance, which is already a major global problem. Some parents will argue and say that their child started recovering after a few days on antibiotics but this is probably because the viral infection has run its course and is coming to an end instead.  

There are plenty of over the counter (OTC) medicines available for cold and flu symptoms targeting both adults and children. However, these are not recommended for use in children under two years of age. Some experts even suggest avoiding them up to six years. There is very little evidence to prove that these medications work at all and some of them can cause serious side effects in younger children such as hallucinations, irritability, restlessness and abnormal heart rhythms. More importantly codeine, which is an ingredient commonly found in cough, cold and flu medications should not be given to children younger than 18 years of age.

There are some antiviral medicines available for the flu. These are typically prescribed to children at high risk of complications, such as children with asthma. These drugs work best if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and help by reducing the length and severity of the infection.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold and flu. It will usually clear up on its own and all you need to do is treat it symptomatically:

Analgesics and antipyretics: you can give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen, NEVER aspirin. To find out more about medicines for pain and fever in children you can read my previous blog: https://www.oneaid.co.za/medications-for-pain-fever-in-children/

Fluids: make sure to give your child lots of fluids to prevent dehydration especially if they have a fever and/or are refusing to eat.

Rest, rest and more rest: allow your child to rest. The body needs rest to recover so keep your child home from school and forget about extra murals for a while.

Nose sprays: the most important nose spray you should use is a saline spray. These help thin the mucus and reduce nasal congestion. There are also other decongestant nose sprays that can be used in older children.

Warm steam and humidifiers: sitting in a steamy bathroom or using a humidifier, which adds moisture to the room, can help loosen mucus in the nose and relieve coughing.

TOP 5 COLD AND FLU MYTHS

  1. Milk and other dairy products make a cold worse
    There is no evidence that dairy products increase mucus production.

  2. “Feed a cold, starve a fever”
    If your child have a fever they need more fluids. Fevers cause dehydration and this happens more rapidly in young children. Provide plenty of fluids when your child is sick and if he or she has an appetite, allow them to eat.

  3. The flu vaccine will give you the flu
    The flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus so you cannot get the infection. People who do get sick after receiving the vaccine got the infection from another source and were going to get sick anyways. Also, some people develop flu-like symptoms after a vaccine. This is a normal immune response to a vaccine. These symptoms never last as long as the flu would.

  4. You can catch a cold or the flu by going outside in cold weather without a jacket, having wet hair in winter or walking barefoot
    Germs make you sick and not the cold. People make this natural association because the cold and flu season happens during winter. The reason for this is that in colder weather people tend to congregate closer together to keep warm and doors and windows stay closed. This allows viruses to spread more easily.

  5. Chicken soup will make you better
    There are no antiviral properties in chicken soup but it can definitely make one feel better. The warm liquid can soothe a sore throat and keep you hydrated and the steam can help break down nasal congestion and reduce stuffiness.

It’s quite common for children under two to have as many as 8-10 colds a year with prescholars getting around 7-8.  It takes years to develop an immunity to viruses and since there are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold the high rate of infection in our little ones makes sense. Don’t despair, the cold and flu season does eventually end but for now it’s a great reason to give more healing cuddles and keep our little ones loved up and warm this winter.

RESOURCES

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/when-give-kids-medicine-coughs-and-colds

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/10-flu-myths

http://www.nicd.ac.za/influenza-season-approaching/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722603/

When Your Child Eats A Silica Gel Sachet

I’m sure many of you are familiar with those little sachets you find in almost anything these days.  The ones with the massive “DO NOT EAT” all over them. I have seen my fair share of hysterical parents bring their kids into the ER with a history of having swallowed the contents. But are these sachets really that dangerous?

These little sachets contain silica gel, which is silicon dioxide (Si02). The sachet does not actually contain a gel but rather small beads. Silica is a desiccant, which means it absorbs water. It has millions of small pores that hold moisture and can absorb up to 40% of its weight, which is why you find it in products that would otherwise spoil from excess moisture.

IS SILICA TOXIC?

Silica gel is chemically inert and considered to be non-toxic. Silica gel packets contain less than 5g of silica gel. If this tiny amount is ingested, it basically passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed or digested.

While this means that the contents of these sachets are harmless, it would be quite unpleasant if these are handled or swallowed. The mouth, gums and tongue would become parched, and if the contents were swallowed and not spat out, this would result in a few self-limiting side effects. Most notably, dry throat, eyes and mucous membranes in the nose, together with stomach discomfort and depending on the amount swallowed, nausea, vomiting and constipation. If the sachet was opened and the contents handled, it can also dry out and irritate the skin.

FIRST AID FIRST

If you think your child has played with silica gel, practice the principles of first aid. Anywhere the silica has come in contact, will be irritated. Wash whatever parts of the skin have been in contact with the silica and moisturise afterwards. If the eye has been touched, then rinse with running water for up to 15 minutes. If the contents were swallowed the best thing you can do is offer continuous sips of water to relieve the stomach distress. Do not give anything to induce vomiting! You don’t want the silica to be inhaled, because it can cause a very irritating cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms of silica ingestion are self-limiting, meaning that eventually, they will go away on their own.

IF SILICA IS NON-TOXIC WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?

The biggest concern with these sachets is choking. These tiny beads are a choking hazard for small children. Unfortunately, additives, such as moisture indicators, are also sometimes added to the silica which can then make it toxic.

WHAT ARE MOISTURE INDICATORS?

Some silica gel sachets have moisture indicators. These indicator sachets are available in different colours depending on the type of indicator used. You may also find some sachets which contain a mixture of both indicator and non-indicator beads. The blue “indicator” silica gel is the more common one you may find. The blue comes from either cobalt dioxide, methyl violet or some other toxic substance that gets added to the silica. These substances change colour when wet and therefore are a good indicator of a saturated silica gel sachet. Cobalt dioxide, in particular, is a known carcinogen and also affects fertility. The FDA is busy banning this additive altogether, and thankfully, these indicator sachets are not commonly found in consumer products. If your child does, however, come into contact with one of these, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

Always remember to discard these sachets immediately after opening your products. Given the uncertainty of the composition of some of these silica sachets, practice the principles of first aid and keep an eye out for any unusual signs and symptoms whenever your child comes into contact with silica. If there is any concern, head straight to your nearest emergency room and don’t forget to take the sachet with you so that the contents can be tested.

RESOURCES

https://www.productip.com/uploads/CClip_519_SilicaGel_20130827_v1.pdf

https://www.illinoispoisoncenter.org/my-child-ate-Silica-Gel

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3493316/

Should Your Child Be Using Fluoride Toothpaste?

Untreated tooth decay in children is one of the most common conditions worldwide, which is why many toothpaste manufacturers have a wide range of toothpaste aimed at children, available in a variety of sweet flavours with cartoon characters all over the packaging. I wanted to write this post to give parents a little more information about toothpaste because it’s not really about the cute packaging and the taste test (agreed this does help make brushing teeth a lot easier).

Many parents, unfortunately, do not know the proper guidelines when choosing and using toothpaste in children. Majority of mothers start brushing their children’s teeth late, use adult toothpaste and have no idea about the clinical significance of fluoride. Most moms also use a full length of toothpaste on their children’s brushes.

HOW MUCH FLUORIDE IS ENOUGH?

Your body takes in fluoride by swallowing it in food and water. Fluoride occurs naturally in varying amounts in water sources and to a lesser degree in certain foods and drinks. Some countries also fluoridate their public water supply. Another way to take in fluoride is by topical application (in fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes). The fluoride taken in from foods and drink also provides some topical benefits when it becomes mixed with saliva.

We all know that brushing your teeth is vital in preventing tooth decay. It helps remove plaque, and the fluoride in toothpaste makes tooth enamel stronger, and more resistant to cavities. But how do you know which toothpaste to buy for your little ones when the amount of fluoride between brands ranges from zero to as high as that of adult toothpaste?

Fluoride in toothpaste is expressed as parts per million of fluoride (ppmF). According to the UK Department of Health, children under three years of age need to use a toothpaste with 1,000 ppmF. Older kids and adults need to use 1,450 ppmF. Young children need less fluoride to reduce the risk of fluorosis.

WHAT IS FLUOROSIS?

Fluorosis is the change of appearance of permanent teeth where they develop white lines or streaks. This happens when the developing teeth under the gums in younger children are exposed to excess fluoride. Too much fluoride affects the mineralisation of the teeth, and children younger than six years are at highest risk. The severity of Fluorosis is dose-dependent.

Image Source: health2blog.com

Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition and not a disease. It does not increase or decrease the risk of cavities. While the majority of cases of Fluorosis are mild, it can still have a significant psychological effect on your child.

HOW MUCH TOOTHPASTE IS ENOUGH?

It can be challenging to get your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing without swallowing, especially if the toothpaste tastes like candy. It is therefore essential to use a small amount of toothpaste until your child has learnt to spit after they brush since inevitably your child will end up swallowing about half of what’s on the brush.

To prevent too much fluoride from being swallowed, you have to be vigilant about the amount you put on the brush. It is recommended that children under three years of age use no more fluoride toothpaste than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children three to six you should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Teach your child from an early age to spit. They don’t need to rinse. It’s also a good idea to not let them eat or drink anything after they have brushed their teeth so that the fluoride can do its job overnight.

KEY POINTS

  • Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as you see them come through.
  • Brush your child’s teeth morning and night with an age-appropriate brush.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste with the right amount of fluoride recommended for your child’s age. It is no longer recommended that children start using fluoride toothpaste only after the age of two.
  • Use the correct amount of toothpaste for your child’s age.
  • Children under six years of age should never use a fluoride mouthwash.

Fluoride toothpaste is generally safe and recommended for babies and young children provided you use it correctly. The most important thing you need to worry about is the amount of fluoride in the toothpaste. The next time you go out shopping for toothpaste take a look at the ppmF. You will be quite surprised since many of the “children’s” toothpastes have exactly the same amount of fluoride as adult toothpaste. Therefore it really only boils down to cost and taste and whether or not your little is a fan of Barbie.

How To Clean A Wound: The Controversy Of Antiseptics

What do you do when your little one scrapes their leg? Do you rush off to your medicine cupboard to grab your bottle of Dettol of Savlon? This may actually not be necessary. Whilst it’s important you clean a wound as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk of infection, what you clean it with has been an area of debate in the medical world for years. Research has shown that running tap water over a wounds is just as effictive in cleaning a wound. Antiseptics may actually damage the skin and slow down the healing process.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ANTISEPTIC AND A DISINFECTANT?

A Biocide is the general term for a chemical agent that inactivates microorganisms and depending on their activity they can either inhibit the growth of, or kill microorganisms completely.

Both antiseptics and disinfectants inactivate microorganisms. These terms are often used interchangeably but there is a very big difference. Antiseptics are biocides that are used on living tissues and disinfectants are biocides used on inanimate objects or surfaces. So for example in your kitchen, you would use an antiseptic to wash your hands and a disinfectant to wash the countertops.

HOW SHOULD I CLEAN A WOUND?

Before you clean a wound you have to stop any bleeding. This is done by applying direct pressure. Of course the wound may still continue to bleed a little for a while and/or when you clean the wound it may start to bleed again. As long as the wound is not bleeding excessively you can proceed to clean it.

For most simple wounds I would simply recommend rinsing them under cool running water. In the ER and in theatre we always clean wounds with lots and lots of water. If you are out and about and don’t have running water, you can always use bottled water. If this weren’t available then I would rinse the wound with a diluted antiseptic such as cetrimide or povidine-iodine (if of course there are no known allergies). If you are going to use an antiseptic, use it only once to initially clean and never chronically. When you clean the wound again after a day or so use water. Don’t ever use rubbing alcohol or peroxide to clean an open wound.

You can gently rub off any foreign material using a piece of gauze soaked in water. Use tweezers to remove any debris that may still remain. Remember to disinfect the tweezers before use.

Once the wound is clean you can then apply a moist dressing. You can use petroleum jelly or what I love to use is a lanolin ointment such as a nipple cream. To find out more about moist healing you can read my previous blog: https://www.oneaid.co.za/picking-scabs-popping-blisters/

WHAT ABOUT ANTIBIOTIC CREAMS?

These include creams such as Supiroban, Fucidin and Neosporin. I do not recommend using an antibiotic cream for a simple wound. Most wounds heal very well on their own.

The problem with using these creams is the possibility of developing bacterial resistence. If the wound were to get infected later on and you have been applying an antibiotic cream since day one, this cream would not be very effective against the infection.

Technically you can develop resistence towards antiseptics but this is very unlikely since antiseptics have a broader spectrum of microorganisms they inactivate than antibiotic creams. If the wound was very contaminated and has a high chance of infection then I would rather apply a very thin layer of an antiseptic cream.

Newer research has found that the body’s surface actually supports wound healing on its own. We all have bacteria that live on our skins that cause us no harm. These bacteria help protect us from pathogens in the environment. Using creams and solutions that have antimicrobial activity will upset the balance of organisms on our skins and interfere with this defense system.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN INFECTED WOUND?

After you have cleaned the wound and applied a dressing it’s important to monitor the wound for any signs of infection over the next few days:

  • Swelling;
  • Redness;
  • Increasing pain;
  • Bad smell from the wound;
  • Warm skin around wound;
  • Wound is leaking pus; and/or
  • Body temperature > 38 degrees Celsius.

If you notice any of these above changes, go straight to the emergency room.

If you are anything like my mother you probably have very old big bottles of antiseptics lying around. One of my microbiology Professors at University once told us that microorganisms can grow on the surface of these antiseptic liquids after a while. Also the antiseptic components of these solutions deteriorate after some time so always check the expiry dates. Rather buy smaller bottles and don’t keep them too long after they have been opened.

RESOURCES

https://emj.bmj.com/content/19/6/556.1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88911/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1743919117305368

https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/1585

https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/1586

https://www.woundsresearch.com/article/sams-dodd

https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10355/3613/DoTopicalAntibioticsImproveWound.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45149036_Benefit_and_harm_of_iodine_in_wound_care_A_systematic_review

Tips For Choosing The Right High Chair

Before going out and buying a high chair it’s important to know the safety requirements. A US study found that more than 9 400 children, aging three years and younger, were treated each year for high chair related injuries in emergency rooms from 2003 to 2010. That’s one child every hour!

Nearly all of these injuries were as a result of a fall where the child either climbed in or out of the chair or stood in it. Majority of the injuries seen were head injuries (37%) then bumps and bruises (33%) followed by lacerations (19%). Most of us use our high chairs in the dining room or kitchen where the flooring is usually hard, so you can imagine the impact this has on a small brain.

This has prompted the US to update their safety standards (unfortunately there are no available statistics for South Africa). From mid-2019 all high chairs in the US will have to have a passive crotch restraint and a three-point restraint system, which means there has to be a fixed post that sits between a child’s legs and restraints that are fixed to the high chair in three different places. They found that children were able to slip out the bottom of a high chair and hope a fixed post will prevent this.

High chairs are not recommended for children younger than 6 months of age. A child is only ready for a chair once they have good head and neck control and are able to sit up on their own. If one is used too early a child could experience positional asphyxia. You may however, be able to start a little sooner with a reclining high chair (see my previous blog, ‘How safe is your car seat?’). https://www.oneaid.co.za/how-safe-is-your-car-seat/

CHOOSING THE RIGHT HIGH CHAIR

Framework: choose a high chair that is sturdy. Put some weight on it and see if it squeaks, deforms or moves or collapses.

Gaps: make sure there are no gaps your child can slip out of. Also check for gaps that little fingers can get caught in.

Harness: choose a high chair with either a three-point or five-point harness that includes a crotch strap or a post. The restraint should go over the shoulders, around the waist and if a five-point harness then between the legs.  

Wide base: a high chair becomes top heavy when your child is in. Choosing a chair with a wide base will make it more stable so that it does not tip easily.

Wheels: if you choose a high chair with wheels, make sure they can be locked when the chair is in use.

Folding locks: if the high chair folds check that the locks work well enough so that the chair cannot fall or collapse when in use.

Joints: choose a high chair with metal joints. These are stronger than plastic, which can crack after time.

Safety standards: make sure the high chair meets current safety standards and has been approved by an international safety authority.

BOOSTER SEATS AND HOOK-ON SEATS

Please be careful when you use these chairs. If not used correctly these seats can be dangerous.

Hook-on seat: These chairs are mounted directly onto a table and should only be used once your baby has good head and neck control and can sit upright. The mounts must be slip resistant and because this seat carries the entire weight of your baby the table has to be strong so that it does not tip over.

Booster seat: These seats are attached to normals chair by straps to raise a child’s height. They are usually used when a child has outgrown the high chair but is not quite tall enough to sit at the table unaided. They should also have straps to keep your child in the seat.

KEEPING YOUR CHILD SAFE IN A HIGH CHAIR

  • Never leave your child unsupervised when they are in a high chair.
  • Always use the safety straps when your child sits in the chair, even if only for a few minutes. The tray is not a restraint.
  • If the chair folds, make sure it is locked each time you set the chair up.
  • If the chair has wheels, make sure they are locked each time you set the chair up.
  • Never allow your child to stand in the high chair.
  • Do not place the high chair near a counter or table. Your child may be able to push against the surface and cause the chair to tip over.
  • Don’t allow older children to climb or play on the high chair while another child is seated in it because it could tip over.
  • Position the high chair at its lowest possible height if this is adjustable.
  • Make sure potential hazards such as hot food, drink and sharp cutlery are out of reach.

When choosing a high chair opt for an age-appropriate one with plenty of safety features. It’s also important to check often for recalls once you have purchased your chair. High chairs are commonly recalled because of their safety issues. Recent recalls include the Skip Hop Tuo convertible high chair and the Graco Table2Table 6-in-1. You can check http://www.recalls.gov to see if your high chair has been recalled.

RESOURCES

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0009922813510599

http:// https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/newsroom/news-releases/2013/12/new-study-finds-24-children-a-day-are-treated-in-us-emergency-departments-for-high-chair-related

How Safe Is Your Car Seat?

We all know how long it can take for a child to fall asleep. So when you reach your destination and your little one has finally fallen asleep you couldn’t feel more relieved. You wouldn’t dream of disturbing them by removing him or her from the car seat. Instead you do what is the most convenient, and move your child from your car into a pram chassis or straight into your home without ever moving them from the car seat.

Whilst car seats have saved many lives, they do have some hidden dangers. A study in 2015 found that out of all the sitting and carrying devices for young children, car seats were responsible for the most number of deaths. Hypoxia and suffocation from either poor positioning in the car seat or strangulation by the straps and buckles was the cause of death in all these cases.

HYPOXIA

This is when there is a loss of oxygen in the blood which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues. When there is an extreme loss of oxygen a child will suffocate.

The developing brain is very sensitive to a decrease in oxygen. Loss of oxygen can cause brain injury and result in a range of developmental problems as well as seizures.

POSITIONING

The position of your car seat is important. The Recline Angle of a rear-facing car seat is critical and an angle between 30-45o from the vertical is recommended. A recline angle more than 45o offers very little protection in the event of a crash.

A newborn or young infant’s head is heavy and the neck muscles are weak. If the recline angle becomes less and the car seat more upright, the head will flop down and obstruct the airway. A newborn should therefore be positioned in the lowest possible position, which still offers crash protection. As babies grow their neck muscles get stronger and the angle of the car seat can become more upright since their head and neck control improves.

 

The recline angle of a rear-facing car

 

A number of studies have looked at the level of oxygen in an infant’s blood whilst in their car seat. A level of oxygen less than 90% is considered dangerous. It was shown that children’s oxygen levels dropped as far down to 83.7% when in incorrectly positioned car seats. The authors also found that the longer the child remained in the car seat the lower the oxygen level would drop.

Another study found that a child in a correctly placed rear-facing car seat is still at risk of suffocation. The vibration produced by a car could cause newborns and young children’s head and shoulders to fall forward, despite correct use of the straps and buckles. This risk was also similar for both term and preterm infants.

Some specialists recommended that young babies spend no more than 30 minutes to an hour in a car seat at a time. If a long journey is unavoidable it may be wise for someone to sit in the back with your child to keep an eye out.

STRAPS AND BUCKLES

Always make sure your child is properly securely in a car seat. If the straps are too loose a child can easily slip or even wriggle down far enough to become strangled by the straps. If the child falls lower down in the seat the child may also suffocate from an obstructed airway if the head falls onto the chest.

NEVER

  • Never place your baby in a car seat on a soft surface such as a bed or couch. This type of surface could cause the recline angle to change resulting in your child’s head falling forward and obstructing the airway.
  • Never loosen or unbuckle any straps if you do decide to keep your baby in a car seat outside of the car. A child can wriggle and slip down far enough to be strangled by the straps and even fall out of the car seat altogether.
  • Never leave an infant or young child unsupervised in a car seat if they are asleep or even if they are awake.
  • Never place your baby in a car seat on an elevated surface such as a table. A baby can wriggle enough to cause the seat to move and fall off the surface.
  • Never place your baby in a car seat on the floor without looking at the recline angle. Some car seats may become more upright when placed on the floor.

Always make sure your car seat is installed correctly. Most car seats come with a built-in indicator that allows you to see if the seat is installed at the proper angle.

Read the manual carefully and if in doubt contact the local manufacturer or distributor. You can also contact Julie at Precious Cargo (www.preciouscargo.co.za) to book a professional car seat installation.

RESOURCES

Arya, R., Williams, G. and Kilonback, A. et al. (2017) Is the infant car seat challenge useful? A pilot study in a simulated moving vehicle. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, [online] 102, pp. 136-141. Available from: https://fn.bmj.com/content/fetalneonatal/102/2/F136.full.pdf [Accessed 13 September 2018].

Batra, E.K., Midgett, J.D. and Rachel Y. Moon (2015) Hazards Associated with Sitting and Carrying Devices for Children Two Years and Younger. The Journal of Pediatrics, [online] 167, pp. 183-187. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.03.044 [Accessed 13 September 2018].

CPSBestPractice (2018). Rear-facing restraint recline angle. [image] Available at: https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/cpsbestpraci/resources/rear-facing-child-restraints [Accessed 14 Sep. 2018].

NHS (2016) Warning over babies sleeping in car seats. [online] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/warning-over-babies-sleeping-in-car-seats/ [Accessed 13 September 2018].

Rholdon, R. (2017) Understanding the Risks Sitting and Carrying Devices Pose to Safe Infant Sleep. Nursing for Women’s Health, [online] 21 (3), pp. 225-230. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28599744 [Accessed 13 September 2018].

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