Recommendations on bicycle safety for kids

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The following are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on bicycle safety:

Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels until he or she is ready.

Consider the child’s coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes. Consider a balance bike with no pedals for young children to learn riding skills.

Take your child with you when you shop for the bike so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new one. Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.

Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many injuries happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you. Set the example: Whenever you ride, put on your helmet.

When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.

A helmet protects your child from serious injury and should always be worn. And remember, wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.

A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head and covers the forehead, not tipped forward or backward. The strap should be securely fastened with about two fingers able to fit between the chin and strap.

The helmet should be snug on the head but not overly tight. Skin should move with the helmet when moved side to side. If needed, the helmet sizing pads can help improve the fit.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

There are various treatment options for childhood cancers

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month.

During the last two weeks, we’ve discussed what cancer is and some of the common types of childhood cancers.

This week, we discuss the various treatment options, how they work and some of the side effects.

Doctors have three main treatment strategies to treat cancer: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Depending on the type of cancer and how much it has spread, the overall treatment may combine several of the different kinds of therapy.

We’ve found it useful to explain cancer treatment with an analogy many people can easily relate to — fighting weeds in your yard.

When you discover a small cluster of weeds in the middle of your yard, you can probably successfully get rid of them by digging around the offending patch and pulling them out by the roots. Continue reading

3 main types of childhood cancer

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 10,000 children younger than 15 years old in the United States are diagnosed with various kinds of cancer each year.

Last week, we discussed what cancer is and how it begins when microscopic cells that make up a normal body part start growing out of control.

This week, we discuss some of the different types of childhood cancer.

Leukemias are the most common, accounting for about one-third of all childhood cancers.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that originates from white blood cells, which normally help fight infection.

Leukemia generally begins in the bone marrow where blood cells are formed, but eventually the cancerous cells are released out into the bloodstream, so there is no distinct tumor. Continue reading

Childhood cancer is random mistake in DNA instructions

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The word cancer certainly strikes a scary and emotional note in our hearts, and when attached to the word childhood, it can be especially frightening.

However, as with many things we fear, we can be empowered by understanding. This week, we explain just exactly what cancer really is.

Every part of the body — the brain, liver, heart, bones, fingernails, muscles and so on — is made up of hundreds of millions of microscopic cells that are specialized for that particular organ.

These cells follow a very complex and highly organized instruction set from their DNA to multiply, grow and eventually die and become replaced throughout our entire lifetimes.

Occasionally, however, the instruction set becomes damaged as it is copied into newly formed cells. Usually our bodies can recognize cells with damaged DNA and repairs or destroys them. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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