Prevent birth defects with a healthy diet

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Pregnancy is a time in which nutrition is very important for the health of both mother and baby.

Women who are pregnant are encouraged to eat healthy diets with a variety of food groups. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that mothers who ate higher quality diets had fewer babies with spina bifida and cleft lip or palate.

This study shows the importance of eating a varied high quality diet. Pregnancy is also a time in which certain vitamins are particularly important to promote a baby’s growth and development.

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Reading an easy way to shape a better life

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

I have always been an incessant reader. Throughout my life, the world has entered my mind and experience through words.

New places and persons, extraordinary ideas, philosophies, faiths, art and all the panoply of what is available through literature has been instantly available to me though books and magazines.

It is even more so now through electronic sources. As a kid, summer vacations occasioned biweekly trips to the Phoenix Public Library where I would check out the maximum allowable 10 books.

Biographies of famous people like Thomas Edison, outdoorsmen like Kit Carson and Teddy Roosevelt served to inspire and keep me busy during hot summer days. Novels, nonfiction and hobby themes abounded as well in my reading lists. Continue reading

Practice safety tips to avoid unintentional injuries

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children. About 90 percent of all unintentional injuries in children can be avoided.

The five leading causes of injury death in children younger than 15 years old are motor vehicle injuries, fires and burns, drowning, firearms, poisoning and suffocation.

Practice the following safety tips to protect your child against accidents:


  • Learn CPR;
  • Safety-proof your home;
  • Install and maintain safety devices in your home such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, handrails, safety gates on stairs and covers for electrical outlets;
  • Store medicines, cleaners, chemicals and poisons out of children’s reach;
  • Develop an escape plan in case of fire and make sure that each family member knows what to do in case of fire;
  • If you own a gun, store it unloaded in a locked cabinet and store ammunition separately;
  • Wear seat belts and make sure your child uses an approved car seat;
  • Make a list of emergency phone numbers including local emergency medical services, the number for your child’s doctor, police and fire departments, and your local poison center and keep it in a visible place;
  • Teach your child how to dial 911;
  • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit at home and in your car;
  • Make sure cords on drapes or blinds are out of your child’s reach;
  • Turn pot handles inward when cooking on the stove and use back burners whenever possible;
  • Make sure appliance cords do not dangle so that they cannot be pulled from the counter;
  • Make sure that buckets, tubs or sinks containing water are not left in areas where young children may have access and that toilet lids are kept shut. • Teach your child to swim and supervise children while they swim or play in water;
  • Teach your child not to get near animals he or she does not know;
  • Watch your child at all times when they play on playgrounds. Make sure that they know the playground rules;
  • Have your children wear CPSC-approved helmets and other safety gear when riding bikes, skating, skateboarding or riding scooters;
  • Put babies to sleep on their backs. Make sure their crib sheets fit snugly. Do not put pillows, soft bedding or toys in your baby’s crib; and
  • Do not allow your child to cross the street alone if he or she is younger than 10 and to look both ways before crossing the street. Teach your child to walk on sidewalks.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

Keep children hydrated to avoid heat stroke

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Most people know that the average normal human body temperature is about 98.6 degrees.

This is the temperature at which the body is comfortable and wants to stay.

When the weather gets above 100 degrees, the only way for the body to cool itself and stay at 98.6 degrees is to sweat.

Sweating is effective in keeping the body at its normal temperature, but the body has to have plenty of water to produce sweat. When your body runs out of water, you can overheat quickly.

Your body produces about half a gallon of sweat every hour in a hot environment; unless you are drinking water at the same rate that you are losing it, you will dehydrate and stop sweating. High humidity also can cause the body to overheat because it prevents sweat from evaporating.

If body temperature rises to 106 degrees, a heat stroke can occur. A heat stroke is a life-threatening situation and medical treatment is required to prevent brain damage or even death. Death can occur in as little as 30 minutes.

Symptoms of heat stroke include red, hot dry skin, rapid heart rate, dizziness and confusion. The skin becomes red and hot because the skin blood vessels expand to try to release heat. Dizziness and confusion occur because high body temperature affects the brain. Continue reading

Pack healthier lunches to send with kids

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent pediatricians some information about school lunches.

While shopping in any grocery store you will notice many neatly compartmentalized prepackaged foods designed to make packing a child’s lunch fast and easy.

With the threat of childhood obesity, these convenience products might help contribute to obesity.

It is important to make sure your children are getting nutritious lunches instead of refined and processed foods like chips, cookies and roll ups.

Processed foods keep well, but the process of making them stable strips the nutrients away and all that remains are sugars and artificial flavors.

The academy recommends that children consume a good balance of foods from the five major groups — vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy. Continue reading

Prepare child for going back to school with safety tips

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

A new school year is about to begin. As you prepare your child for his or her time in the classroom, remember there is more to getting ready for school than just buying supplies.

If your child will be walking or riding a bicycle to school:

Teach your child to obey all traffic signals and signs and to look left, right and left again for moving vehicles before he or she crosses the street, to cross at an intersection and to never dart into the street from behind objects such as bushes or parked cars.

Make sure your child knows to look out for cars because even though adults in cars should be sure to look out for children while driving through school zones, this does not always happen. Don’t allow your child to wear headphones or play hand-held video games while walking to school. Continue reading

Insect bites, stings cause problems for children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Summer is here and with it comes warm weather, more daylight and bugs.

Many insects have bites or stings that can cause problems, but what is the difference between a bite and a sting?

Venomous insects inject painful, toxic venom through their stingers. The stings are painful, red and can swell up to 12 inches from the site of the sting.

This is called a local reaction. A person who is allergic to the venom of the insect might have a systemic or whole-body reaction.

Redness, hives and swelling might occur, and this type of reaction can affect airways, as well as circulation and might become life-threatening if not treated in time.

Nonvenomous insects bite in order to feed on your blood. Allergic reactions do occur from nonvenomous insect bites, but severe allergic reactions are rare. Continue reading

TV, media has impact on children, adolescents’ health

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

By the time an average child finishes high school, he or she will have spent thousands of hours in front of the television set.

Today, many pediatricians believe excessive television viewing by youngsters reinforces such destructive behaviors as alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking.

According to a study published in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, television and other media represent one of the most important and underrecognized influences on child and adolescent health.

“American media contribute more to adverse health outcomes than to positive or prosocial ones,” according to authors from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Young people average 16 to 17 hours of television viewing weekly, beginning as early as age 2, the article states. When video game and videocassette usage are added, some teenagers may spend as many as 35 to 55 hours in front of the TV.

Citing more than 150 references, the authors note the following: Continue reading

Bacteria, viruses causes of foodborne illnesses

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Food-borne illnesses are caused by germs or harmful chemicals we eat and drink. Most are caused when certain bacteria, viruses or parasites contaminate food.

Others occur when food is contaminated by harmful chemicals or toxins. Since these infections or chemicals enter the body though the stomach and intestines, the most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.

Around 100 years ago, typhoid fever, tuberculosis and cholera were some of the most common food-borne illnesses.

Now with improved food processing, pasteurization of milk and water treatment, these diseases have been almost eliminated. Today, other bacteria and viruses have become common causes of food-borne illnesses.

  • Camplyobacter is the most common bacteria causing food-borne diarrhea in the world. These bacteria live in the intestines of birds and often contaminate raw poultry such as chicken.

Eating undercooked chicken or eating food contaminated by juices from raw chicken is a common way to swallow these bacteria.

It causes a diarrhea that is often bloody with fever and cramps. Most people recover without any special treatment. There are rare complications such as arthritis. Continue reading

Book offers advice for dealing with children with ADHD

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Dr. Michael Reiff, editor, explores Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder myths and realities in the book “ADHD: A Complete and Authoritative Guide.” Reiff and his colleagues note that some of the most prevalent misconceptions are these:

  • “He’s just lazy and unmotivated.” A child who finds it almost impossible to stay focused at school or complete long tasks may try to “save face” by acting as if he or she doesn’t care or doesn’t want to do the task. That is masking a serious difficulty in his ability to function.
  • “He’s a handful or she’s a daydreamer but that is normal. They just don’t let kids be kids.” All children are impulsive, active and inattentive at times. But a child with ADHD has a serious problem fitting into family routines, keeping friends, avoiding injuries and following rules. Continue reading