Consider Smart Choices rather than Smart Toys this Christmas

christmas giftsHave you finished your Christmas shopping yet or are there still some people left on your nice list?!?

With only 8 shopping days left, SRxA’s Word on Health wants to help you make smart gift choices for the little people in your life.   Bridget Boyd, MD, a pediatric safety expert at Loyola University Health System offers up the following tips to ensure you bring joy, not tragedy, on Christmas morning.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it can quickly turn tragic if we’re not careful,” says Boyd. “Sometimes in our attempts to make Christmas extra special for our kids and grandkids, safety can get lost in the mix.”

Shopping for infants and toddlers can be difficult since many toys are labeled appropriate for ages 3 and up. Though it may limit the options, Boyd said following age-appropriate guidelines is important for keeping kids safe.

baby with toy in mouthAge labels are monitored closely and should be taken seriously. Choking and strangulation hazards can mean life or death to a child,” said Boyd. “Most people do follow the guideline to avoid small parts that might be choking hazards, but there are some safety tips that aren’t as obvious.”

She suggests when opening gifts to watch out for ribbons that could be a strangulation hazard and to try to keep older children’s gifts away from younger children so there is not accidental ingestion of a small part. Toys with strings are a choking hazard as well, especially those that are greater than 12 inches in length.

If a child is under the age of 2, they are more than likely going to put whatever they are given in their mouth, so avoid items with paint, chemicals or small parts,” Boyd said. Small magnets and button batteries are some of the most hazardous. Magnets should be kept away from small children as they cause severe damage or even death if ingested.

button batteries webButton batteries are extremely dangerous so try to avoid gifts that include them. They also can be found in musical greeting cards, hearing aids and remote controls so make sure to keep an eye on your child around those items,” Boyd said. “Go to the emergency room immediately if a child has placed a button batter into their body. This includes swallowing as well as shoving up the nose or in the ear.”

Still, gift-giving safety isn’t just about swallowing hazards, it’s also thinking about the entire well-being of a child. “When thinking about what gift to give, try to find something that encourages children to use their imagination and get up and get moving,” says Boyd.

baby with cell phoneThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children spend no more than two hours in front a screen a day. This includes video games, computers, phones and TVs. “So many young kids want cell phones, but is that really the best gift to give a child? Think about what is age-appropriate. There will be plenty of time to give phones and videos games in the future.”

And if you do give an electronic gift, supervision is key, especially if it involves the Internet.

Unfortunately, cyber predators and cyberbullying are becoming more common and pose a very real risk to children. If your child does receive a computer for Christmas, make sure you supervise their Internet use. The best place for a computer is in the family room.  There should be no screens, including computers, TVs or phones in a child or adolescent’s room. Screen time can interfere with sleep as well as distract them from participating in healthier activities for body and mind.

Whatever gifts you decide to give this holiday season, It’s also a good idea to periodically check consumer websites such as and to ensure gifts are safe and have not been recalled.

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The Skinny on Childhood MS

Childhood Obesity imageAs we’ve previously reported, childhood obesity is on the increase. Cases have more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children and adolescents aged 6–18 years in the United States who are obese is now estimated to be >18%.

Childhood obesity can cause a number of health complications including diabeteshypertension, high cholesterolasthma  and emotional problems.  This is deeply troubling in and of itself, but now there’s a new cause for concern.

A new study has found that obese children and teenage girls may be more at risk for developing the chronic, debilitating central nervous system disorder – multiple sclerosis (MS).

Kaiser Permanente researchers studied 75 children aged 2 to 18 with pediatric MS, and compared them to more than 900,000 kids without the disease. Fifty percent of the kids with MS were overweight or obese, compared to 36% of the children who didn’t have the disease.

The study also found that the risk of developing multiple sclerosis was one-and-a-half times higher for overweight girls, almost two times higher for moderately obese girls and four times higher for extremely obese girls.

Mary Rensel, MD, who treats pediatric MS patients at Cleveland Clinic offers an explanation for the increased risk. “Fat increases the inflammation in the body. Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune condition where the immune system is set too high. If there’s too much inflammation, it can increase the risk of having a disorder associated with inflammation – like MS.”

Childhood-Obesity-Linked-to-Multiple-SclerosisLead author, Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena  “Even though pediatric MS remains rare, our study suggests that parents or caregivers of obese teenagers should pay attention to symptoms such as tingling and numbness or limb weakness, and bring them to a doctor’s attention,”

The researchers also stress that parents of overweight or obese children should play an active role in controlling their kids’ weight by getting them into the habits of eating healthy and getting enough exercise.

Dr. Rensel agrees, saying, “The good news is now we know. We can educate parents and patients of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to decrease the chance of having consequences of being overweight.”

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Staying Safe During the Holidays

For most of us, the holiday season is usually a time of glad tidings and great joy but alas it also brings the potential for poisonings. No, we’re not talking about offing your annoying aunt, we’re referring to the accidental kind!

To help keep our Word on Health readers safe during the festivities we’ve teamed up with our friends from the Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, to bring you the following tips:

  • While the odd eggnog or glass or two of champagne may be good, providing you’re not driving, too much, or the wrong sort of alcohol may be toxic. And remember, alcohol is found not only in adult beverages but in gifts such as cologne and perfumes. We recommend you remove all alcoholic drinks and gifts that contain alcohol out of reach of children.
  • Poinsettias may be pretty but they can cause irritation. Children who play with the Poinsettia plant leaves and then rub their eyes can experience redness and irritation.
  • Though berries may add a festive touch to your table centerpiece, a few, of the 400+ varieties of holly are said to be poisonous. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a slowing down of breathing and heart rate can occur after ingestion of holly berries.
  • Toys can contain button or disc batteries. These small, shiny coin-shaped objects are often found in handheld games, watches and other portable devices. If swallowed they can become lodged in the esophagus and cause serious injury and death.
  • Jerusalem Cherries allegedly contain solanine, the same poison found in deadly nightshade. Reported signs and symptoms of solanine poisoning include dilated pupils, salivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, bloating, diarrhea, respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, confusion, irregular heartbeat, coma and death. Not nice!  Probably better to keep these out of your house this yuletide.
  • Essential oils can be used with great effect to scent the house over the holidays. However ingredients in some essential oils such as salicylates in oil of wintergreen, menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, can be extremely toxic if ingested.
  • Similarly, although you can create all sorts of cool effects with dry ice, whether you cook or decorate with it, be careful to avoid skin contact. Dry ice is composed of carbon dioxide which can cause tissue damage to the skin, and burns to the mouth if ingested.

And while you’re thinking about safety don’t forget to protect your pets during the holidays. Our four-legged friends can get into every bit as much mischief as their owners.

So here’s to a safe and happy holiday….but if it does all go horribly wrong, remember you can call the National Poison Center any time of day or night.

The Business of Fatherhood

Here’s a question for all you working moms and dads out there.  When your child becomes an adult, will they thank you for how you raised them?

Those of you tussling with the Terrible Two’s or being tormented by teenagers, may be rolling your eyes at this point.  Before you utter “no way” we’re pleased to let you know that it’s not too late.  Help is now at hand…or at least a quick click to away!

SRxA’s founder, President and CEO, Christos Efessiou PhD, has just published his first book: CDO – Chief Daddy Officer.

Throughout the book, Dr. Efessiou shares with readers the lessons he himself learned after his first marriage dissolved and he was left to raise his seven year old daughter Persephone on his own.  Already a successful entrepreneur, he applied his business knowledge to the business of parenting.

Clearly it worked.  Those of us who know Persephone recognize that she has turned into a wonderful and unique young lady. Smart, intelligent, savvy, confident and driven, we marvel at her relationship with her father and we  know that she thanks her dad every day for the way in which she was raised.

In CDO-Chief Daddy Officer, Chris shows how principals such as communication, respect, team-building, and mentoring, so essential to a successful business are also the pillars of creating a loving family.  Using textbook business strategies he shows how to achieve success in the business of parenthood.

Matthew Cronin PhD, Associate Professor of Management at George Mason University says “CDO is a highly thoughtful application of foundational business wisdom to the practice of parenting”  It is eminently sensible in both HOW business fundamentals could be applied to parenting, but also WHICH business fundamentals should be applied.”

Those of us lucky enough to work for Chris have already read a copy of the book. For anyone else whether you’re a parent, CEO, employee, employer or student we highly recommend it.  Take a read and let us know what you think.

Learn more about Chris and the book by visiting his Facebook Page or