Be SMART about children and gun safety

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik, MPH, FAAP
San Antonio Business Journal’s 2016 Woman of the Year
Director, ComP-CaN (Comprehensive Peds for Complex Needs)
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Here in Texas we take great pride in our freedoms; freedom, however, isn’t necessarily free: We send our sons and daughters into battle to protect our freedoms; we drive around beautiful and historic downtown San Antonio and are required by law to wear seat belts and secure our children in car seats/booster seats; we choose to own a firearm, which may pose a risk to the children who live in or visit our homes. Every year at least 100 children die in an unintentional shooting. Recent events may have sparked you to think, “What can I do to keep my child safe?”

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Gabriella’s smile lives on through family’s foundation

By Cecilio Torres, Jr.
Founder, Gabriella’s Smile Foundation

Gabriella’s name means “God is my strength” and that is what was exhibited from the moment she was born and was magnified when she was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), an incurable and inoperable brain tumor, which once diagnosed, only provides children with about nine months of life. She was five years old at her diagnosis.

We were unprepared when Gabriella was diagnosed on March 16, 2015, and verified on March 17 after an MRI confirmed ours and our doctor’s worst fear. We sat in a conference room at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio surrounded by our oncologist, a nurse and social worker who told us, “Your daughter will not survive beyond 2015. She has DIPG.” These four letters, this diagnosis, sent us into a whirlwind of emotional uncertainty, insecurity and fear of losing our beautiful little Gabriella.

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Keeping Your Baby Safe: Infant Car Seat Safety

By Jesse Banales, MD
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Congratulations! Your baby has just finished leaving her comfortable, quiet life in the womb, endured a rude awakening through the birth process, and is finally ready to go home. But are you ready? Many parents think they understand the basics of infant car seats but often overlook important details. Below are some common mistakes parents often make when it comes to infant car seats:

Changing the seat to forward-facing too early. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that infants and toddlers be in rear-facing car safety seats until they are two years old or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. This is based on studies showing that infants in rear-facing seats were much less likely to have serious injuries following a car crash than those in forward-facing seats. As your baby gets bigger, his feet may touch the seat in front of them and that’s OK! If you worry that your baby is uncomfortable, remember that this is your same child who has the flexibility to put his own feet in his mouth with ease.

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There remains no evidence that vaccines cause autism

This blog was prepared by (pictured left to right)
Andrew Martinez, PhD, Co-Director of the Autism Program
Melissa Svoboda, MD, Pediatric Neurology, Director, Autism Program
Jonathan Crews, MD, MS, Pediatric Infectious Diseases
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Although allegations arise from time to time about a link between autism and childhood vaccines, the medical community has spent the last 30 years examining this question numerous times with the same conclusion – there is no link between autism and vaccines. As health care professionals and parents, we want what is best for children – ours and yours. Multiple large studies have been performed by independent researchers from around the world and have included different groups of children. Overwhelmingly, these studies concluded there is no evidence to support an association between vaccines and autism.

These concerns started when Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, published a study in 1998 where he associated the onset of autism symptoms with the timing of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) combination vaccine. Wakefield was later found to have knowingly falsified data and to have financial interests in the study, including a pending application for an alternative measles-only vaccine. Once his fraud was discovered, the journal redacted the study and Wakefield was stripped of his United Kingdom medical license. Unfortunately, he decided to make a documentary on his journey that has stirred up much of this controversy.

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Helping your child cope with anxiety in middle school and high school

By Elena Mikalsen, Ph.D.
Section Chief, Department of Psychology
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Most children will have anxiety about starting middle school or high school. They worry about being good enough for sports or other electives, being smart enough for their pre-advanced placement and advanced placement classes, and fitting in with peers who all seem taller, prettier, smarter, and more socially savvy than they are. Each year brings new anxiety and most children will have some degree of anxiety and worry on their first day of school, even when it’s not their first year of middle or high school or even if they have many friends going with them to the same school. 

How to help your teen feel that she fits in
The most common worry for teens is fitting in with a new, and usually much larger group of peers. Adolescence is the time when teens struggle to find their identity and struggle to figure out which group of peers they wish to fit in with. Schools have multiple groups for teens to try and there will always be a group that will accept your teen. Reassure your child that he will absolutely find peers and acceptance. Encourage him to express his interests but also to try new things. Adolescence is a good time to experiment and try new hobbies. Encourage him to try different extracurricular activities, based on not just abilities but also interests. Especially, encourage children to try something outside of what their group of peers is doing, as often teens get stuck choosing activities based on whether they will grant an automatic acceptance to a clique. 

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Better Health for Back-to-School

By  Dr. Julie La Barba
Medical Director
Culinary Health Education for Families

The start of the school year can both excite and overwhelm us. Major transitions like suddenly becoming the new kid in school, or entering middle or high school, are especially stressful – and bring on real anxiety that can cause sleep problems. Time crunches from new schedules add even more stress for students and parents alike, making nutritious family meals more of a “maybe” than a norm.

A Bit of Science
Night after night of shortened sleep creates a “sleep deficit.” When we’re not working with a full tank of zzzs, it’s harder to concentrate on school work and other activities. Add stress into the mix and look out for mood swings, overeating and eventual weight gain. It’s hard to believe, but too little sleep and too much stress can be partially responsible for piling on extra pounds.  Continue reading “Better Health for Back-to-School”

Is your child ready for kindergarten?

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
General Pediatrics
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Sending your child to kindergarten is a bittersweet juncture, filled with mixed emotions ranging from anxiety to pride to excitement! But how do you know your little preschooler is ready to make the jump?  Every child’s rate of development is different, and you may find that your child picks some tasks up quite quickly, while others try your patience.  Here are a few skills that tell you your big kid is ready to board the bus:

Social Skills:  Dressing your child and rushing out the door on time is akin to an Olympic sport at times.  Now imagine the teacher dressing 20 children.  Consequently, kindergarteners should be able to perform simple self-help tasks including getting jackets on and off, going to the bathroom independently, eating neatly, etc.  They should also be able to play well with others.  Promote sharing and taking turns in your home to help develop these skills.  Kindergarten teachers expect students to be able to listen to instructions and follow them promptly.

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