At-Home Resources for Kids
March 26, 2020
While your children are home from school, refer to these parent toolkits, at-home activities, downloadable STEAM activities, and more from KiwiCo.
9 Ways to Strengthen Children's Immune Systems
March 26, 2020
The immune system is not one single entity - it's a complex interconnected system that evolves as we age. Apart from fighting viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, the immune system also plays an important role in tissue repair - wound healing, elimination of dead cells, and formation of gut microbiota.
In babies, the immune system is fragile and still developing for the first 3 months of life. Fortunately, nature designed us so that antibodies flood a baby's system straight after birth to provide protection from infection. These antibodies, when coupled with breast milk, provide immunity for newborns. When reaching senescence, the human immune system once again resembles that of the newborn, with compromised antimicrobial activity, reduced antigen presentation and decreased lymphocyte responses.
The innate and adaptive immune systems mature from infancy to adulthood. Over the past century, developed countries have seen infant mortality rate decline significantly, from 140 per 1000 to 7 per 1000. The main reason for this is good nutrition, hygiene and better protection from infections. The immunological T-cell memory develops over time resulting in young adults suffering fewer infections. Infancy and childhood is the most sensitive period for the immune system.
Here are 9 scientifically-proven ways to support a child's immune system:
1. Boost Phytonutrient Intake
Serve five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day - one serving equals a cup for older kids and two tablespoons for toddlers.
Eating a diet rich in vitamin C can help boost the immune system by enhancing lymphocyte activity.
Foods that contain the highest amount of vitamin C include: Yellow Bell Peppers, Acerola Cherries Rose Hips, Guava, Kiwi, Oranges and Blackcurrants.
2. Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Establish a healthy bedtime routine to help children sleep easily, for example having a bath and reading a book. Going to bed at the same time every night is important, even on the weekends. A newborn baby should sleep up to 18 hours of the day, toddlers need 12-13 hours, children aged 7-12 should sleep 10 hours and teenagers 8-9 hours.
During sleep, cytokines are released by the immune system and antibodies are boosted. Both sleep and the circadian system help regulate the immunological processes. Studies have shown that sleep enhances adaptive immune response to invading antigens.
3. Washing Hands Often
Hygiene is extremely important when we are looking to strengthen a child's immune system. Making sure that they wash their hands before eating and after going to the bathroom will help remove pathogenic germs and bacteria. Washing hands helps to prevent the spread of infection. Did you know that one single gram of human feces can contain up to one trillion germs? The simple act of washing hands with soap and water reduces the number of kids who get sick from diarrhea by up to 40% and reduces absenteeism in children by up to 57%.
4. Toothbrushing Routine
Make sure that your child has their own toothbrush and it isn't shared with siblings. If a child does get sick, then throw out their toothbrush straight away and replace it with a new one. Store children's toothbrushes away from the toilet so that bacteria don't spread in the air, to the toothbrush. A toothbrush holder inside a cabinet is an ideal place to store a child's toothbrush.
5. Avoid Smoke Inhalation
Living in a home where people smoke increases a child's chances of catching infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), second-hand smoke makes a child more susceptible to ear infections, asthma, respiratory infections and symptoms as well as increasing their risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
6. Reduce Processed Foods
Highly processed foods, like chips, candy and soda compromise the immune system. Processed foods are filled with additives, chemicals and cause havoc on a child's delicate body. By avoiding these kinds of foods you make way for healthier foods. Additionally mounting scientific evidence shows that processed foods reprogram the immune system.
7. Avoid Antibiotics If Possible
Antibiotics deplete the diversity of microbes in our microbiome - reducing the immune system's ability to fight infection. Most childhood illnesses are not bacterial, they are viral, so an antibiotic will do more harm than good. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a byproduct of overuse of antibiotics.
Antibiotics kill of beneficial bacteria in the gut and the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease increases by 300% - in children who are given more than 7 doses of antibiotics. Antibiotic free populations, like those found in Amazon villagers have more diversity in their microbiome, showing that modern lifestyles, like the use of antibiotics kills off beneficial gut bacteria.
8. Daily Exercise
Exercise increases the amount of natural killer cells (NKC) in both children and adults. Children are becoming increasingly sedentary, which is detrimental to their immune system. Why not try some family sports like skiing, hiking, cycling or tennis? A lack of exercise in children can result in health problems and obesity. Studies have shown that moderate intensity exercise has a beneficial effect on a child's immune system.
9. Prebiotics and Probiotics
A child's gut is home to an enormous population of bacteria. Homeostasis in this vast terrain is critical for the uptake of essential nutrients. Prebiotics are non-digestible nutrients that promote the growth of beneficial gut microbes. Probiotics are bacteria or yeast that improve gut health. Probiotics is the name given to the live microorganisms in vitro.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are essential for healthy bacteria in the gut to flourish. In babies and children, studies have shown that consuming adequate amounts of prebiotics and probiotics enhances neurodevelopment and impacts healthy brain function on into adulthood.
Probiotic-rich foods include: Pickles, kombucha, tempeh, sauerkraut and yogurt.
Prebiotic-rich foods include: Almonds, chicory, chickpeas, garlic, leeks, onions, cabbage, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, bananas, watermelon, grapefruit, flaxseeds and pistachio nuts.
During the first year, breastfeeding provides some immune protection for babies. After this period, the infant becomes more susceptible to infection, especially during fall and winter. Ensuring that a child develops healthy lifestyle habits will boost their immune system.
Coronavirus Daily Tip: Stay Active
March 26, 2020
For more tips, please refer to the Child Mind Institute's resource page for parents.
Fighting for Justice During the Coronavirus Pandemic
March 26, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions are using the Change.org platform to shape the America that they want to live in.
Heroes are stepping up to protect their families, their communities, and their fellow neighbors. Of them, are healthcare workers. Every day, they put their own lives at risk to save the lives of millions -- and they're using the Change.org platform to inspire millions more to take action.
Nurses, doctors, and first responders are on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis. There is a shortage of respirator face masks known as N95s, so hospitals are rationing supplies. Hospital staff are using inadequate face masks -- which are also in short supply. Dr. Milla Kviatkovsky, a physician in California, has inspired over 1 million people to put their names behind a mission. They're calling on the U.S. government to provide adequate protection for nurses and doctors now before it's too late and they still need your help.
Healthcare workers are also banding together on the Change.org platform to call on a national quarantine to keep Americans safe as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
Hundreds of thousands are putting pressure on the federal government to protect healthcare workers from catching the disease they're fighting to treat. Even more are calling for health professionals and first responders to receive hazard pay. Healthcare workers are essential to getting through this outbreak, and petition signers agree that their pay should be commensurate with the life-and-death risk they're taking to protect all of us.
Healthcare professions are empowering people to see what a better world can look like. They're providing people with opportunities to take part in shaping it. And they're gaining traction.
We've seen victories on petitions asking for more coronavirus testing kits, economic aid, and ensuring we flatten the curve to protect our health workers and hospitals by staying home. In just 5 days, nursing student Becca Sherman galvanized over 15,000 people to push Pearson Vue to reopen testing centers so that nursing graduates like her can serve their communities during this pandemic.
But there is still work to be done.
Keep putting pressure on those in power. Keep fighting for the safety and protection of our most vulnerable -- including healthcare workers. Keep showing the world that change can happen.
The Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen
March 26, 2020
Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list of the fruits and vegetables that retain the highest residues of harmful chemical pesticides on the non-organic varieties. This helpful guide shows you which foods you should either buy the organic varieties of or grow organically yourself. At the top of this year's list are strawberries, spinach, kale, and nectarines. To read more, click here.
The Ugly Secrets Hidden in America's Healthcare System
March 25, 2020
COVID, the hallways are eerily empty because of you. At night, where there normally exists an air of calmness as patients sleep, the hospital walls that surround me instead convey a sense of uncertainty. It is palpable. It is heavy. It is unlike anything I have ever encountered as a physician. Perhaps this is because deep down in places where fear and dread reside, we know you are there watching and studying our patterns of behavior. All the while, you silently spread yourself at exponential rates, knowing that our testing capabilities, while ever-growing, still fail to keep up with you. For this, you mock us. You are learning the truth about the American healthcare system as it stands. On the outside we are strong, with sophisticated buildings, fancy technology, and state-of-the-art equipment. To nearly any onlooker we appear to be thriving, at the top of our game. Yet you aren't fooled by this; no, not at all because you have already penetrated these walls, exposing the hidden prison behind the shiny facade of our healthcare system.
COVID, this allows you to see America's healthcare workers in the state no one is allowed to see, chained and handcuffed to the very system we serve, done so on the exclusive order of our system's prison warden: Healthcare Administration and its Administrators. Our warden works hard to suppress us by minimizing our voice, and maximizing our work output.
For as long as I have been practicing medicine, America's healthcare system has operated on a model of just enough. There always seems to be just enough physicians available to care for patients, just enough nurses to aid patients at the bedside, just enough staff to operate at maximal output with minimal input. Always, just enough of what is needed to marginally practice the art of medicine. Ironically, however, the just enough model never seems to pertain to the warden, his funds or his needs. For decades, the shortcomings of our healthcare system, which restrict the physician's capabilities to practice medicine autonomously and restrict others' ability to deliver the care patients need, has been blamed on us, the healthcare workers. But the prison walls that imprison us are deteriorating as we speak.
As for you, Warden, you have spent decades manipulating and corrupting the system where healing is meant to take place. You have been exceptionally successful at profiting off of the herculean work ethics of physicians, nurses, and all other healthcare employees. You take advantage of our ability, our willingness to be malleable, and to offer care to any and all who are in need. You exploit our altruistic tendencies, knowing they leave so many healthcare workers vulnerable to accepting your often impossible demands. Cunningly, cynically, you leverage this, turning our altruism against us, turning it into monetary gain, knowing we will always be there to fill in the gaps you intentionally leave in the system and economic budgets you operate. You allow us to shoulder the blame for society's dissatisfaction with the healthcare system, even though it very rarely has to do with us. Instead, this dissatisfaction is almost exclusively because of your actions and decisions. Yet still, you refuse to take ownership of what you have created, remaining hidden in the background allowing those who come face-to-face with patients to take the fall. Yet every day we take punches that are not meant for us, punches really meant for you. Your financial wealth shelters you and shelters society from the truth. You are the cause of physician burnout, the source of the low morale that permeates our hospitals and clinics.
For so long, Warden, we have kept quiet about your actions, about the secret chains and handcuffs you imprison us with, because we feared you and what havoc you could cause on our careers. But, your lack of action in protecting us and society from COVID has forced us to take action separate from you. Healthcare workers will no longer hold your burdens nor be held accountable for your lack of preparation and unethical decision making. We no longer fear your retaliation or retribution, because society is on our side, already supporting us, giving us the strength to reconcile the deficits you have left behind, the deficits you have expected us to fill ourselves. We surrender into the shelter of those we heal because the broken state of how you have left us can finally be revealed. Because of them, it is now safe to share the secrets you tried so hard to coerce us into keeping. Our voices can now be heard.
To read more, click here.
Tips from the CDC: Children and Coronavirus Disease
March 23, 2020
Children are not at higher risk
Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 infection on Are you at higher risk for severe illness.
Steps to protect children from getting sick
You can encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.
- Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing)
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
- Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people's items.
You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 at Prevention for 2019 Novel Coronavirus and at Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities. Additional information on how COVID-19 is spread is available at How COVID-19 Spreads.
Children may present with mild symptoms
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It's not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children.
Children don't need to wear facemasks
No. If your child is healthy, there is no need for them to wear a facemask. Only people who have symptoms of illness or who are providing care to those who are ill should wear masks.
Children and their friends
Limit Social Interactions: The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit social interactions as much as possible. Parents should minimize play dates, and if held, parents should keep the groups small. Advise older children to hang out in a small group and to meet up outside rather than inside. It's easier to keep and maintain space between others in outdoor settings, like parks.
Practice Social Distancing: If you have small meetups, consider hanging out with another family or friend who is also taking extra measures to put distance between themselves and others (i.e. social distancing).
Clean and Disinfect: Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as cleaning and then disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Revise Spring Break & Travel Plans: Parents should help their older children revise spring break plans that included non-essential travel to crowded areas.
Remember, if children meet outside of school in bigger groups, it can put everyone at risk.
Information about COVID-19 in children is somewhat limited, but current data suggest children with COVID-19 may show only mild symptoms. However, they can still pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions.
Help children continue learning
Stay in touch with your child's school.
- Many schools are adapting in-person lessons to online or virtual learning. Review assignments from the school, and help your child establish a reasonable pace for completing the work. You may need to assist your child with turning on devices, reading instructions, and typing answers.
- Communicate challenges to your school. If you face technology or connectivity issues, or if your child is having a hard time completing assignments, let the school know.
Create a schedule and routine for learning at home, but remain flexible.
- Have consistent bedtimes and get up at the same time, Monday through Friday.
- Structure the day for learning, free time, healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity.
- Allow flexibility in the schedule--it's okay to adapt based on your day.
Consider the needs and adjustment required for your child's age group.
- The transition to being at home will be different for preschoolers, K-5, middle school students, and high school students. Talk to your child about expectations and how they are adjusting to being at home versus at school.
- Consider ways your child can stay connected with their friends without spending time in person.
Look for ways to make learning fun.
- Have hands-on activities, like puzzles, painting, drawing, and making things.
- Independent play can also be used in place of structured learning. Encourage children to build a fort from sheets or practice counting by stacking blocks.
- Practice handwriting and grammar by writing letters to family members. This is a great way to connect and limit face-to-face contact.
- Start a journal with your child to document this time and discuss the shared experience.
- Use audiobooks or see if your local library is hosting virtual or live-streamed reading events.
School meal services
Check with your school on plans to continue meal services during the school dismissal. Many schools are keeping school facilities open to allow families to pick up meals or are providing grab-and-go meals at a central location.
Keep children healthy
Watch your child for any signs of illness.
- If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible. Follow CDC's guidance on "What to do if you are sick."
Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions.
- Parents and caretakers play an important role in teaching children to wash their hands. Explain that hand washing can keep them healthy and stop the virus from spreading to others.
- Be a good role model--if you wash your hands often, they're more likely to do the same.
- Make handwashing a family activity.
Help your child stay active.
- Encourage your child to play outdoors--it's great for physical and mental health. Take a walk with your child or go on a bike ride.
- Use indoor activity breaks (e.g., stretch breaks, dance breaks) throughout the day to help your child stay healthy and focused.
Help your child stay socially connected.
- Help your child reach out to friends and family via phone or video chats.
- Help your child write cards or letters to family members they may not be able to visit.
- Some schools and non-profits, such as the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning and The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, have resources for social and emotional learning. Check to see if your school has tips and guidelines to help support social and emotional needs of your child.
Limiting time with older adults, relatives, and people with chronic medical conditions
Older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions are at highest risk of getting sick from COVID-19.
- If others in your home are at particularly high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider extra precautions to separate your child from those individuals.
- If you are unable to stay home with your child during school dismissals, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide childcare. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (e.g., older adult, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit your children's contact with those people.
- Consider postponing visits or trip to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters and sending via mail.
Watch: Mourning Dove Feeds Crop Milk to Chicks
March 23, 2020
Related to our previous post about five unexpected animals that make milk for their young, here's a video of a Mourning Dove feeding crop milk to its chicks.
Five Animals You Never Knew Make Milk for Their Babies
March 23, 2020
From The BBC:
We know how important milk is for babies. It is a rich blend of nutrients and protective chemicals that is essential for a baby's development.
In the entire animal kingdom, only one group of animals produce milk for their young: the mammals, the group we belong to. Mammalian milk is called "true milk".
However, a few other animals produce secretions for their babies that strongly resemble milk.
This "false milk" does not the look like cow or human milk, and nor is it produced the same way. But it serves the same purpose: it nourishes the animals' babies until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Pigeons are great at sharing parenting duties. Unlike mammals, where only the female breastfeeds, males and females both produce "milk" for their young. This liquid is called "crop milk".
The crop is a sac-like structure at the base of a bird's neck, which they normally use to store and moisten food before digesting it. Two days before the pigeon eggs hatch, both the parents' crops become engorged with fluid-filled cells.
The pigeon parents regurgitate this thick milky goop into the mouths of their squabs. This crop milk remains the squabs' only food for several days after hatching.
Pigeon milk is extremely rich in proteins and fats. When it was fed to chickens in a 1952 study, their growth rate shot up by 38%.
A few other birds, like flamingos and emperor penguins, also produce crop milk.
Yes, you read that right: some cockroaches feed their young a kind of milk. One such example is the Pacific beetle cockroach.
Most female cockroaches lay eggs in a sac called an ootheca, which they drop from their bodies before the eggs are about to hatch. After the young cockroaches hatch out of the eggs, they scamper about looking for food.
But the Pacific beetle cockroach female takes a different approach to childcare.
Instead of laying eggs, the embryos develop inside her brood sac, her version of a womb. Once the embryos have fully-formed guts, they start drinking "milk" produced by cells within the brood sac, and quickly put on weight.
Because the young cockroaches get a lot of nutrition while still within their mother's body, they are more developed and mature when they are eventually born.
To read more from The BBC, click here.
Keeping Your Child's School Skills Sharp
March 20, 2020
As schools across the country remained closed for the foreseeable future, consider these books and activity packs from Highlights to keep your children engaged in fun learning activities.
Let's Meet This Moment Together
March 20, 2020
From the Calm app's blog:
Without a doubt, many of us are feeling anxious as we navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19. We're feeling it too, and we wanted to share some of the tools we're using to take care of our minds and stay grounded.
All of the resources on this page are free of charge -- please share with anyone who might benefit.
Enjoy this curation of content hand-picked to support your mental and emotional wellness through this time. And check back soon as we'll be updating these resources regularly.
For the free resources, and to read more, click here.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT CORONOVIRUS
March 5, 2020
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a common group of viruses that can cause an infection in the nose, sinuses, or throat. Some coronaviruses are mild and simply produce symptoms often seen in the common cold, such as a runny nose, sore throat, and fever. Other types are far more severe and can lead to pneumonia and early death. You may remember the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses that killed hundreds of people.
In early 2020, the World Health Organization identified a deadly new strain of the virus, the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus. To date, over 560 people have perished and over 28,000 have contracted the disease, mainly in China where the government has ordered a lockdown on about 60 million people. The illness has already spread to 25 countries, including the U.S. where at least a dozen cases have been confirmed so far.
The new coronavirus is transmitted from human to human and symptoms can appear within a couple of days or up to 14 days from the time of exposure. The symptoms of this coronavirus include the typical cold-like symptoms, and can also include shortness of breath, cough, and fever. Most people experience mild symptoms and recover, but others develop lethal complications.
How to Help Prevent Contracting the coronavirus
Whenever there's a potential pandemic, it's a good idea to know the basics of preventive measures you can take. Here are 3 strategies that can shore up your immune system to help you fight off the virus in case you are exposed to it.
1. Lower your stress.
Freaking out about a potential pandemic raises stress levels, which actually hurts your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to infections. Techniques to soothe stress include laughter, diaphragmatic breathing, prayer or meditation, listening to calming music, warming your hands with your mind, hypnosis and guided imagery, and flooding your 5 senses with positivity.
2. Eat foods that boost the immune system.
Foods that are natural immunity boosters include onions, mushrooms (shiitake, white button, portabella), garlic, vitamin C-rich foods (oranges, berries, peppers, dark leafy green vegetables), vitamin D-rich foods (fatty fish, eggs, tuna), zinc-rich foods (oysters, beef, lamb, spinach, asparagus, sesame and pumpkin seeds), and selenium-rich foods (Brazil nuts, seeds, grass-fed meats).
3. Take nutraceuticals that boost immunity and stave off infections.
In general, everyone should start taking a multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D whether you are healthy or not. Only about 25% of the U.S. population has healthy levels of vitamin D. Get yours checked and optimize your levels if necessary.
Work with an integrative practitioner to determine other supplements and nutrients from the following list that enhance immunity:
Anthocyanins--fruit and vegetable extracts, blueberries, cranberries, grapes
What if you (or a loved one) develop symptoms?
See an integrative medicine, also known as functional medicine, doctor immediately if you develop symptoms and suspect you may have been exposed to the virus. Experts are currently working on a vaccine, but as of yet, there is no known treatment for coronaviruses. Most people recover on their own. To treat symptoms, drink lots of water, rest, and take pain or fever reducers if necessary.
At Amen Clinics, our Integrative Medicine physicians treat complex conditions and make recommendations for pro-active therapies to enhance the immune system. If you are having physical or psychiatric symptoms that aren't improving with traditional treatment, it's important to get a comprehensive evaluation that includes brain imaging and sophisticated lab testing to identify any underlying infections. Speak to a specialist today at 855-696-4086. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.