Archive for ‘Health’

December 8, 2011

How Can I Keep My Toddler from Getting Sick this Winter?

Many common winter viruses are airborne, so if your toddler takes a breath within, say, 4 to 6 feet of someone who’s sick, he can easily catch the bug himself.

What’s more, most people stricken by winter viruses are contagious before they develop symptoms. So pulling your child away from a sniffling, coughing, or sneezing pal doesn’t guarantee that he won’t come down with similar symptoms himself.

Still, don’t give up without a fight. There are several simple steps you can take to help fend off germs and keep your toddler as healthy as possible this winter.

So what should I do?

While it’s practically inevitable that your toddler will get a few colds this winter no matter what you do, it won’t hurt to try these germ-fighting strategies:

Make sure your child washes his hands:

Regular hand washing is the simplest, most effective way to get rid of cold and flu bugs. So help your child wash his hands with soap and warm water after he uses the toilet, before meals and snacks, and as soon as he comes home from daycare, the playground, or a friend’s house.

You wash up, too, especially before preparing food and after you change a diaper or wipe a runny nose. No need to pay extra for fancy antibacterial soaps — any soap will remove germs from the skin’s surface.

Make sure your child’s caregivers are vigilant about hand washing, too. If your toddler’s in daycare, ask what the official hand-washing policy is. If it’s less than satisfactory, don’t be shy about requesting a change and reminding caregivers that this protects their health as well.

Teach your child not to touch his eyes or nose:

At any given moment, the unwashed human hand is covered with thousands of germs. When a child rubs his eyes or nose, he’s depositing those germs directly onto his mucous membranes, where they’re rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

So in addition to having your toddler wash his hands frequently, remind him not to touch his eyes or rub his nose. Instead, begin teaching him to use a tissue — or at least a clean sleeve — to dab at teary eyes or an itchy nose.

While you’re at it, you can start teaching him to use tissues when he sneezes or coughs — or to “catch” his coughs and sneezes in the crook of his arm. This won’t prevent him from getting a virus, but it will help keep him from giving one. Of course, he’s only a toddler, so expect this process to take a while.

If your child’s in daycare, check the “sick-kid” policy:

Make sure your child’s daycare center has a reasonable policy on keeping sick kids away from healthy ones. Many facilities require a child with a fever, the flu, vomiting, diarrhea, or an eye infection to stay home until these symptoms subside.

If you notice obviously sick kids at your child’s daycare on a regular basis, it’s probably time to chat with the caregiver or director about enforcing the rules on sick kids more stringently. (Of course, these kids were contagious before their symptoms showed up, but you still don’t want them sneezing or coughing around your toddler.)

Do what you can to boost your toddler’s immunity naturally:

Offer your child a variety of healthy foods so he gets the nutrients he needs. Make sure he gets plenty of sleep each night as well as lots of physical activity every day.

Since children average eight to ten colds a year, it’s a good bet that your toddler will bring home a few bugs this winter — no matter how hard you try to prevent it. When that happens, the best you can do is make him comfortable until the virus works its way out of his system. A few tips:

Try saline nose drops:
You might get some complaints about this one, but saline drops help to thin and clear nasal mucus and relieve congestion.

For best results, try using a bulb syringe: If your toddler will let you, tilt his head back slightly, then gently squeeze the bulb to deposit the saline drops in his nose. Next, use the bulb to remove the mucus. Repeat this process several times a day.

Make sure your child gets enough rest:
While this may be easier said than done, the more rest your child gets, the sooner he’ll feel better. Even if he no longer naps regularly, encourage a siesta or two each day.

When your child’s not resting in his crib or bed, find some quiet activities to share — read to him, watch a video with him, or play with puppets together.

Hook up the humidifier:
This is especially important at night and during naps, when a persistent cough or difficulty breathing can prevent your child from getting the rest he needs. The moist air from a humidifier or vaporizer will thin your toddler’s mucous secretions, helping to calm his cough and relieve congestion.

Urge your child to drink up:
Children lose body fluids quickly when they’re sick — especially if they’re running a fever or have diarrhea. To replenish these fluids, encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids, such as water, juice, an electrolyte solution, or milk. (There’s no scientific proof that dairy products make congestion worse.)

If your child balks at slugging down a tall drink, try offering extra-juicy fruit (such as watermelon or oranges) or even a frozen juice pop. One old wives’ tale that is worth taking to heart: Warm chicken soup helps relieve cold symptoms by soothing a sore throat and thinning nasal secretions.

Know when to call the doctor:
While most winter viruses clear up on their own within several days, some can turn into more serious conditions that require prompt treatment.

Call the doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Ear or face pain, which can signal an ear infection
  • A very sore throat that interferes with drinking enough fluids
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing (a possible sign of a bronchial infection or pneumonia)
  • Diarrhea or vomiting, which can lead to dangerous dehydration
  • A fever of 103 degrees or higher, or a milder fever that lasts for more than three days

Make time to snuggle:
When kids are feeling under the weather, they need a little extra TLC. So in addition to cooking chicken soup, running for the tissue box, and keeping a constant watch on your toddler’s temperature, make time to simply snuggle with him.

Give him plenty of hugs and time on your lap during the day, and if you normally have a “no kids in the big bed” rule at night, think about temporarily relaxing the policy. (Of course, you may soon be sniffling yourself, but such is the price of parenthood.)

Keep it all in perspective:
When you’re taking care of a sick, miserable toddler, try to remember that most winter illnesses pass in a week or so — and all of them will ultimately help strengthen your child’s immune system.

As your toddler gets older and builds up immunity to viruses, including many of the 200 that cause the common cold, he’ll log fewer and fewer sick days. In the meantime, keep up the hand washing — and stock up on tissues.


November 5, 2011

Getting Prepared for the Winter Months…

By Dr. Natalie Geary, MD

Winter months tend to bring on more illness for your children, but in fact just being at school or daycare can significantly impact on your child’s overall health risk, especially when they are first starting out. This is because children do not know how to practice health hygiene( many adults do not either) and many children are sent to school sick because of childcare issues.
In children who are vaccinated, most Infections in children are caused by common viruses. Imagine a crowded classroom, where children wipe their noses with their hand and then play with a toy, or sneeze and cough onto the activity table where others are sitting. The germs then land in the area and are easily spread to other children.

Similarly, a child who has diarrhea uses the toilet and returns to the classroom without washing his or her hands. Then anything the sick child touches can become contaminated with microscopic amounts of feces spread to other children who play with the same toy and then put their fingers in their mouths.

As always, prevention is the best form of medicine. Teach your children some very basic rules and reinforce them with the teacher.

Encourage the teacher to make visual clues such as pictures and signs about covering your nose and mouth, washing your hands and wiping down the shared objects frequently.

Bring hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes to the classroom

  • Do not allow your child to share food, glasses and water bottles, or hats and combs.
  • Remind your child not to touch his or her eyes and to keep their fingers out of their mouths
  • When your child gets home from school have him or her change out of the school clothes, wash up and put on “indoor clothes” that are fresh so they don’t carry home infections from school.
  • Consider having your child receive the flu vaccine which is now recommended for every child over 6 months.
September 1, 2011

Making Physical Activity Part of the Day can be Fun and Rewarding!

by Keri-Ellen Walcer, founder of Wee Wigglers and Musigo

At Wee Wigglers and MusiGo your children’s fitness is our number one concern. Through our music and movement programs, resources and shows, children will discover the joy of movement, increase self-confidence, and begin a pattern of health that can last a lifetime.  From our original music to our teacher resource manuals, MusiGo has everything you need to bring the best of physical activity programming to your children.

Kushies is a proud sponsor of Wee Wigglers and Musigo Programs

August 1, 2011

Mom and Baby Booty Camp

By Keri-Ellen Walcer, founder Wee Wigglers

The best way to break up the monotony of a workout is to include your baby! With the recent British release of physical activity guidelines for children under five, we are looking at ways to give our babies and ourselves a little more active time.  Here are a few suggestions that will help your child reach important developmental milestones while you tone and tighten.

Push up Peek a Boo

Place your baby on the floor on his or her tummy, lie down on your tummy in a push up position facing your child. You can do a traditional push up or modify it by placing your knees on the floor. Smile at your baby and while lifting yourself up say, “Peek a Boo”.  Your baby’s eyes and head will naturally follow you as you go up and down. This exercise will not only strengthen your upper body, it will also increase the back, neck and arm muscles of your baby, and help to avoid infant flathead syndrome.

Belly Bouncer

Sit on the floor with your knees together and feet flat on the floor. Place baby’s tummy against your lower legs.  Wrap your arms around baby or hold baby’s hands and gently roll onto your back, lift your feet up so your lower legs are perpendicular to the floor.  While on your back gently bounce baby with small up and down motions of your legs. This exercise is great for your abdominal muscles and will increase baby’s balance. It is also a great way to sooth a crying baby.

On the Ball

Remember those old pony knee bounces that your Uncle used to sing? Pull out your favourite chant or make one up of your own. Only now instead of sitting passively on a chair, you are going to sit on your fitness ball to bounce your baby. Baby’s love to bounce to the rhythm of music, try using a tune that mixes fast and slow. You might include “trotting” up and down slowly, “walking” smoothly swaying your hips side to side and “galloping” bouncing up and down quickly. This activity will strengthen both you and your baby’s core muscles. Bouncing is also a precursor to walking.

Forget the pain, this workout is all gain for you and your child, your baby’s smiles and giggles will melt away any muscle twinges that you feel. Plus you are being a great role model of healthy activity for your child. Together you can strengthen your abs and arms, which of course will lead to better hugs!

July 7, 2011

Making Everyday a Workout!

By Lisa Druxman, M.A.,  Founder of Stroller Strides

No time to workout now that you’re a mom? Try turning every day activities in to a workout. Let me show you how to fit fitness in to your life!

  • Walk – Yes you’ve heard it before but it’s true. Walking can be a workout, especially if you’re pushing a stroller or carrying a baby in a front pack carrier. Whenever possible, give yourself extra opportunities to walk to where you’re going, even if it means parking the car in the farthest parking spot from where you’re going.
  • Take the stairs – I fully admit that carrying a diaper bag, a baby and even a stroller up the stairs is not going to work. But the more you carry your baby up your own home stairs (while using good posture of course), the more of a workout you will get. It’s a Stairmaster times two when you’re carrying the weight of your baby!
  • Participate with your kids– Are your kids in soccer or ballet or some other physical activity? Find out if it’s ok if you walk around the field or even participate with your child rather than watching from the side lines with the other parents.
  • Pick Up Those Toys – Of course we want our kids to do it, but picking up toys can be a great workout! Here’s how to do it…Stand in front of toy and bend down, lowering your bottom. Keep back and abs strong. Basically, squat down, squeeze up and pick up the next one!
  • Tighten Up That Tummy – No matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, tighten up that tummy. You can work your ab muscles when you drive, when you walk, when you pick up toys. Contract abdominal wall without holding in your breath. Imagine you’re trying to fit in to a really tight pair of jeans and if you let your tummy out, they will pop open!

Home “Gym” Workout

  • Sit on a chair and place a pillow on your lap. Bend forward at the hips. Hold on to a can of soup or even a milk jug if you can do the weight and slowly raise arms. Squeeze shoulder blades together. This should focus on posterior deltoids (back of shoulders) and upper back.
  • Sit on chair and do bicep curls with milk jugs. Don’t forget to put milk right back in the fridge so it doesn’t go bad! J
  • Lay on back on floor. Hold a soup can in each hand and open arms wide (palms facing each other). Squeeze chest and bring arms together overhead. This exercise focuses on the pectoralis (chest) muscles. Of course, good old push ups do the trick too!
  • Stand with your back against a wall in your home. Slide your body down until your legs reach a 90-degree angle. Thigh should be parallel to the ground and knees are right over your knees. Hold this position as long as you can! Work up to two minutes!
  • Sit on a chair with legs about hips width apart and feet and knees facing forward. With arms in front of you, pull yourself up to a standing position. Use your glutes and thighs. Slowly squat back over chair as if you were about to sit down (but don’t really do it) and squeeze back up.

The list of exercises can go on and on. Think about traditional gym exercises and how to re-create them in your home using your environment.

The more you move, the more calories you burn. It’s consistency that counts; not where you do it. Try to be active in whatever you do. Instead of getting your car washed, do it yourself with your kids. Not only is it fun, but it’s a great workout. The same goes for cleaning the house, raking leaves, gardening and even shoveling snow!

June 1, 2011

All About Allergies

By Dr. Natalie Geary, Pediatrician, author of  “The Food Cure for Kids”, founder of Mobile Pediatrics:  a charity that serves impoverished children in the US and abroad –

 Over 2 million school days a year are lost because over 40 million children in America suffer from allergies. Having uncontrolled allergies can put your child at risk for getting a secondary sinus infection, ear infections, and for having poor concentration at school. It can also make asthma symptoms worse. So what can you do to recognize allergic symptoms and control them in your child?

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is the immune system’s response to a substance that the body perceives as “foreign”, meaning a substance not recognized by the body as safe. In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system generates antibodies, in the case of allergies they are  mainly IgE antibodies. The response of the body to these IgEs is to release histamine into the bloodstream. It is primarily this histamine release that causes the typical allergic reactions such as watery eyes, runny nose, difficulty breathing, rashes, hives and upset stomach.

Who Gets Allergies:

Allergies tend to  run in certain families and are more common in children that have asthma or eczema. If both parents have allergies, there is a 75- 80% chance that their children will develop allergies. If one parent is allergic, then the chance of an allergy developing in his/her child is about 40%. Pets,  second-hand smoke and air pollution are also risk factors

Causes of Seasonal Allergies

The major source of seasonal allergy is pollen, from grasses, ragweed and other elements of nature that are released in to the air during different seasons of the year. The type of pollen a child is allergic to determines when symptoms will occur. For example, in the mid-Atlantic states, tree pollination begins in February and lasts through May, grass from May through June, and ragweed from August through October. The most common pollens causing spring/summertime allergies include:

Tree pollens (APRIL-JUNE): Maple, Ash, Oak, Elm, Birch and Cedar.

Grasses (JUNE-JULY): Kentucky Blue grass, Rye, Orchard and Timothy. Grass allergies are worsened when the grass (lawn) is mowed.


Pollen counts measure how much pollen is in the air and are usually higher when it is warm, and windy, whereas they’re lowest when it’s colder and wetter.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

1. Allergic rhinitis: (Also known as hay fever). The most common symptoms are runny nose and sneezing, with itchy eyes and nose,  and a persistent cough without a fever. Other signs include the ‘allergic salute,’ a common habit of children which consists of rubbing their nose upward which leads to the development of a  small crease in the skin of the lower part of the nose. ‘allergic shiners,’ are dark circles under the eyes that many children develop due to the chronic nasal congestion that many parents mistakenly attribute to fatigue.

If a person has wheezing and shortness of breath, the allergy may have gotten more severe, and may be an early sign of developing asthma.


  1. Nasal: runny or stuffy nose, itchy nose, itchy palate(the top of the mouth), frequent sneezing.
  2. Eye symptoms: redness, itchy and/or runny eyes. Sometimes these symptoms make a child very uncomfortable.
  3. Asthma: symptoms include wheezing, cough and/or difficulty breathing.

Diagnosing Allergies Approaching Seasonal Allergies

The most common presentation is if your child has cold-like symptoms lasting longer than a week or two or develops a “cold” at the same time every year. To determine the cause of an allergy, there are  skin tests which can be done that are more reliable in children over 2 years old. The test is a skin prick allergy test or a special blood test called RAST.

Treating Seasonal Allergies

The best treatment for seasonal allergies is avoidance. For seasonal allergies, this includes keeping windows closed in the car and at home during the pollen season will prevent the pollen from entering the home. Also attempt to limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are very high. During the pollen season avoid hanging the laundry outside to dry and keep the Air conditioners running to  filter out the pollen.

The medications that are used to control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis include decongestants, antihistamines and steroids. Over the counter allergy medicines with antihistamines ( such as Benadryl) cause drowsiness and poor performance in school.

Prescription allergy medications include Claritin and Zyrtec  and topical steroids, such as Nasonex, Flonase, and Nasacort Aqua. Allegra is another antihistamine that is commonly used in older children because it is not available in liquid form so your child must be able to swallow a pill.

For seasonal allergies, it is best to start using these medications just before your child’s season begins because it takes a while for the medications to work and they are not emergency relief.

**For more information on Dr. Geary please visit our Contributor’s profiles.

May 1, 2011

The ABC’s of Lifelong Health

by Keri-Ellen Walcer,  founder of  Wee Wigglers and Musigokids

When my daughter was born, I was flooded with emotion.  I looked into her eyes and felt a deep sense of responsibility.  In the days following her birth I was overwhelmed by thoughts of all the things in this world that could hurt her and I wanted to protect her from them. The frightening fact is that we are living in a time where our children have a shorter life expectancy than us[1]. The culprit: lifestyle choices leading to poor health outcomes. Did you know that in Canada 21% of toddlers are obese?

That’s why when I started preparing my daughter for school by teaching her the alphabet, I also taught her the ABC’s of physical literacy to prepare her for lifelong health and fitness. These skills are classified in three different categories Agility, Balance and Coordination. Giving our little ones the recommended 90 minutes of daily physical activity takes effort but here are some simple activities that you can start to incorporate today.

Agility: Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick

How many times per day do you find yourself saying, “be careful”, “don’t run” and “slow down”? Try not to say it so often. Agility is defined as being able to change the body’s position quickly and efficiently.  We need to give our children opportunities to practice this skill. Try getting out a flash light and dim the ceiling lights in your house. Put on a little mood music and flash circles of light on the floor, ask your child to jump on the light beams as you quickly move them from one place to another.  Even young crawlers will enjoy this activity by trying to grab the lights on the floor.

Balance “I’m a little teapot”

There are two kinds of balance, one is standing still and the other is while moving. Balance is an important skill to develop and does not happen by itself. Games such as hop scotch, hopping on one foot and two feet are great. Another fun way to develop balance is through dance and yoga activities. Do you remember the rhyme I’m a little teapot? ”I’m a little teapot short and stout”, stand with your child, feet wide apart, “Here is my handle, here is my spout”, put one hand on your hip and one hand stretched out,”When I get all steamed up hear me shout” on the words “tip me over and pour me out”, gently help your child to tip one way while bringing the opposite leg off the floor, practice this on both sides.

Co-Ordination- Wiggle it!

Co-ordination is about being able to control all of your body parts while doing a variety of activities. One of the all time most effective ways to promote overall body co-ordination is through dance and music. Giving your child opportunities to shake a rattle, or beat a tambourine while dancing to some favourite tunes is fun, easy and inspirational. On a cold or cloudy day, why not gather in the living room and have a dance party?

Do it Together

Fitness is a family affair, you are your children’s first teacher, and they will follow you for better or worse. When you have begun to find meaningful ways to keep yourself and your children active, invite your friends, join together to move your community into better health. You will find that you can inspire each other and have a great time doing it.

It is not too late for us to reverse the trend of childhood obesity and to give our children a healthy foundation for a long life. Now you know your ABC’s, next time will you move with me?

[1] New England Journal of Medicine February 2010

April 5, 2011

Find Your Motivation

by Lisa Druxman, M.A., Founder of Stroller Strides

It all starts with motivation. Getting in shape, being a good parent, having a happy marriage. These results come from your motivation. Your motivation leads to your actions. Your actions lead to your success. Tap in to your motivation and you will reap results you never realized possible.

We are so busy “doing” that we sometimes forget why we are doing things. When was the last time you took a breath and thought about what you want your life to look like? What’s your purpose? Be open and picture what you want the end result to look like. You’ve probably wanted these things before (great body, happy children, etc.), but have you been motivated enough to create a plan and put energy in to that area of your life?

When you are motivated, you will have energy to put in to your goals whatever they may be.  Here are some tips to help you get motivated.

1) Create a clear picture of your desired result. How will you feel? What will it add to your life?

2) Get inspired. Read, watch, and listen to role models who have done what you set out to do.

3) Create a baby step plan. Success begets success. Create a plan where each day you take a baby step towards your goal.

4) Be public about your goal. Whether you blog or just choose to tell a friend, it gives you accountability.

5) Focus on the solution. Don’t look at challenges as problems. Every challenge has a solution which you can overcome!

Stroller Strides is a total fitness program that moms can do with their babies. It includes power walking and intervals of strength and body toning exercises using exercise tubing, the stroller, and the environment. Taught by certified instructors, it’s a great workout for any level of exerciser.  To find a class near you go to

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