General Health and Safety

All Articles in the Category ‘General Health and Safety’

What your teen should know before babysitting

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Responsibility and Independence: The New and Exciting World of Babysitting
Guest Post by UW Nursing Student Michael Vaughn

Your teen may be expressing the desire to expand his or her responsibilities, skills, and job experience through babysitting. It is an exciting time, one I remember well, when hard work and energy spent playing with children is rewarded with the feeling of accomplishment from a job well done and money independently earned. Babysitting provides a flexible work option which can help your child’s confidence grow as they take on this new challenge and develop skills to use in future jobs. Read full post »

Loneliness among teens

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Loneliness. Is this the future of a generation?

In the past 5 years, I’ve noticed a trend in my conversations with teens and amongst friends, family, and acquaintances. As I raise my children and they ask for more time on the tablet or request to send texts to family, I worry about the trend taking hold of my kids. The trend is feeling alone.

I attended a speaking event by researcher Dr. Niobe Way a few years ago and left with tears in my eyes. She described the transition of boys from connecting, emotion expressing, playful little beings to young men who have ‘buddies’ but no confidants; are comfortable showing anger or pride, but not fear or sadness. Our culture may have shifted the definition of ‘masculine’ to be one that encompasses independence at the cost of connection. An article I read recently described this shift. In it, the author describes higher rates of unemployment, divorce, suicide, and violence among adult males. The key points in the article lead me to consider the increased number of mass shootings in the US. Men have carried all these out. I cannot assume that loneliness, shifts in cultural norms, or changes in how emotions are expressed cause people to kill. I do not know the motivations of the murderers and in no way am I excusing the horrific atrocities they carried out; but I have to hope that we can prevent a massacre from happening again. While many factors need to be considered and intervened upon, changing how we treat each other is a step in tackling the loneliness and despair a person may feel if they are so desperate they want to kill.

Loneliness and social isolation are also becoming routine in my conversations with patients (regardless of gender). We are more “connected” than ever before; nearly every US household has access to the internet or owns a smartphone. Teens spend hours on social media and text hundreds of times per day with friends. Social media brings many benefits: access to online education, remaining in touch with friends and family who are not local, and allowing an outlet to express emotion in an anonymous way. Yet, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among teens (second to motor vehicles). Is there a correlation between depression and online use? Read full post »

Empowering your Adolescent who has ADHD

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Guest Post by UW Nursing student Lauren Cohen Schorr

If you have an adolescent who has ADHD, you know that he/she reports having difficulty focusing, meeting deadlines, remembering things, consistently performing in school, and staying organized. As a result, at some point most adolescents who have ADHD have lived with feelings of discouragement and intense frustration.

Management of ADHD is not an easy task. I would know…

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 12 years old. As I started at a new school in an awkward phase of adolescent life, I thought “great, another thing that sets me apart from my fellow classmates”. I struggled in and out of the classroom to keep up and fit in with my peers. It took me several years to accept my diagnosis, but once I did, I decided to approach my ADHD as a challenge and opportunity rather than a roadblock. Read full post »

Keeping teens busy over the summer

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Guest author: Allison Hall

While summer is a time to de-stress from the school year and spend time with friends and family, excessive free time can also have its consequences; among them prolonged internet usage, television watching and boredom. To combat this lull, summer activities are an opportunity to enhance the personal, social, educational and professional facets of a teen’s life.

Summer opportunities are beneficial to maintaining progress in school, college applications as well as resumes. Beyond the practical applications, while most activities in school are planned and required, summer opens the doors to activities which are of interest to a teen. Whether volunteering, working a job or participating in a program, an organized activity allows for choice to explore an area of learning that school may not allow for. This independence and subsequent responsibility allows teens to gain real-world experience and the ability to apply knowledge learned in school to new settings. Further, the experience of searching for an activity, crafting an application, interviewing and meeting new people are all invaluable life skills.

Underlying the summer activities is an even more fundamental advantage: discovering a sense of identity, purpose or direction. As a student, the first question one is asked is: what are you studying? What are your future aspirations? While these questions are likely unanswerable as a teen, knowing what one is interested in (or not interested in) is enormously fulfilling and useful in future endeavors.

An example of such a program at Seattle Children’s Research Institute is called Summer Scholars, which is a part of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT). The week-long program is designed for high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in research in various fields. The program has a strong focus on diversity, by placing emphasis on reaching students for whom these opportunities may be difficult to come by, particularly those who live outside the city of Seattle.

During the program, each student is to develop a research question of interest to them which is related to social media and adolescent health. Throughout the week the students then collect data, analyze it, and ultimately produce a poster for which they give a presentation. In addition, Summer Scholars week is jam-packed with a plethora of fascinating undertakings. Among these, tours of Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s bench lab with a question and answer session, panels from STEM workers, a Seattle Children’s Hospital tour, guidance from researchers, mentoring from alumni of the program and much more.

The program has proved rewarding to students who find that the program helps them hone research skills, identify particular areas of interest, or simply opens their eyes to the breadth of careers available to them. More information can be found on SMAHRT’s website: http://smahrtresearch.com/

How does one find a Summer Activity?
1. Research opportunities to shadow or observe individuals who work in career fields of interest
2. Look into summer programs at universities or organizations that cater to a passion or interest
3. Become a summer counselor for youth or apply for other local jobs. Help your teen write a cover letter and resume or help guide them through the application process
4. Volunteer, join an existing service project or plan one of your own

Can too much caffeine hurt you?

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In my clinical work, I’ve seen many changes over the years. One of them is the consumption of caffeinated beverages as a ‘normal’ and even expected part of high school life. Most of my patients (and their parents) come into clinic visits with a beverage in hand. This varies from a latte to energy drinks. With the health of my patients in mind, I often wonder if this is safe.

Caffeine has many side effects: increased alertness, increased ability to concentrate are the reasons most adults drink coffee or tea in the morning (I usually do)! But there are some negative effects as well: jitteriness, heart palpitations, diarrhea, insomnia, muscle tremors. It can also lead to an irregular heart rhythm (cardiac arrhythmia) and even death. With many beverages and foods (like chocolate) containing caffeine, how much is too much? Turns out this question isn’t so simple. Everyone metabolizes caffeine differently. For children, it’s recommended caffeine be avoided completely, but for everyone else, the exact amount is a bit harder to pin down.

It’s thought that up to 400mg per day for an adult could be safe (about 4 large cups of coffee), but if you rarely drink coffee, even that could be too much. The recent death of a teen from caffeine consumption is making me take a hard look at how I counsel my patients (and friends and family members) about the dangers of too much caffeine.

Here are some tips for teens on caffeine intake:

  1. Limit caffeine to just a treat. Instead of a cup of coffee to get your day started, work on sleep hygiene and a good bedtime routine. Turn off electronics (yes, this includes the cell phone) an hour before sleep and try to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. In general, teens need 8-10 hours of sleep.
  2. Don’t drink energy drinks. Energy drinks (including ‘energy water’) can contain up to 200mg of caffeine and a significant amount of sugar.
  3. Avoid sugary beverages. A cola now and then is ok, but avoid drinking sugary drinks (like soda). Even non-cola sodas can contain caffeine (including the fruity ones and root beer). Plus regular drinking of sugary beverages is associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  4. Don’t use diet pills. Diet pills contain a number of things that medical providers recommend avoiding, but one of them is a high amount of caffeine. If you want to make healthy changes, instead talk to your medical provider and nutritionist for guidance on eating balanced meals and increasing your daily movement (exercise, walking, dancing, etc).

 

Relationships, connection, and communication

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I recently met a teen who had just broken up with her boyfriend. They go to the same school and have the same circle of friends.  For her, the break up was a tough choice, but she didn’t feel like they had a connection any longer. Instead of calling him or having the conversation to end the relationship face to face, she tweeted the break up. For me, this felt impersonal but for this teen, a tweet was just an alternative mode of communication that was convenient and effective.

In this day and age, we spend so little time actually communicating face to face. Our pace is fast: constantly on the go and instantly responding to the latest text, chat, or instant message. If we send a message and don’t receive an instant response there is concern that we’re not valued, that the person may be upset at us, or worry that something is wrong. What does this instant communication and ongoing use of social media mean for teens and their social development? The answer: we don’t really know. But we do have examples from the past. Read full post »

Confidentiality and why it’s important for teens

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Recently a colleague told me about an encounter that left me thinking, ‘as Pediatricians, we really need to do a better job of explaining confidentiality!’ They were seeing a teen for a follow up visit and had asked the medical assistant to put the patient in room without the parent. The parent became very upset that their 18 year old was seeing the provider alone and complained to the front desk staff in the clinic. From my perspective, as an provider who specializes in adolescent health, rooming an 18 y/o without their parent seemed like standard practice. But what was neglected was the explanation to the teen AND their parent about why this is done. As a parent myself, I can empathize with the frustration the parent likely felt. They came to the appointment with their teen, they’re likely going to receive the office bill and pay it, and the teen lives with them, so they are likely very involved in the youth’s life. So why is confidentiality and the opportunity for teens to visit with their health care providers important? Read full post »

Happy New Year 2017

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This time of year most of my friends, patients, and colleagues are in full holiday mode: they’ve prepared for large family gatherings, are taking vacation from school, or working on setting their New Year’s resolutions. Most people are both stressed with the preparation but also in a good mood and excited to spend time with family and friends.

As I start the New Year and reflect on the memories made this holiday season, I’m also reminded that I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m in good health, a spouse who loves me, happy kids, solid housing, and if I need anything I have a great group of family and friends who I trust to help (this includes emotional and financial need). However, I’m routinely reminded of my privileges as I drive along the freeway and see the tents set up by the homeless, view media accounts of children being bombed in countries overseas, or take care of patients whose parents pull me aside to tell me they can’t afford to purchase any gifts, I know I can’t take my life for granted.

Recognizing my privilege, I ask myself, ‘How can I, as a parent, teach my children to not take things for granted and recognize humanity in others?’ This is a big question without simple answers, but I wanted to share a few tips my parents taught me while growing up.

  1. Volunteer. This exposes you to new people; teaches you skills such as showing up on time, work ethic, and humility; and can be extremely rewarding.
  2. Donate. Donate time, money, skills, etc. There is going to be someone who is in need of help and can benefit from your donation, no matter how big or small.
  3. Have empathy. Everyone has a story, but they may not share the details.
  4. Treat people with kindness. A smile for the person holding a sign on the street corner acknowledges their existence and shows that you see them even if you don’t give them anything else.
  5. People will always remember how you made them feel. The emotions that accompany actions have significant impact. You may not be remembered for what you said, but you will be remembered for how people felt when they were around you.

I hope you and your family have had a good start to 2017. Have a wonderful New Year!

Talk to your kids about politics

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november-2016Our country just witnessed the democratic process of the United States this week as the 45th President Elect was voted into office. This election has divided the country over the past year as our 2 major political parties tried their hardest to convince the people that they could do a better job as Commander-in-Chief then their opponent. So now what? Regardless of how we voted, there are some common things we can teach our kids. Here are the points I’ve discussed with my own kids and my patients:

  1. If my side lost, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If my side won that doesn’t mean all my problems are solved. The amazing thing about living here is that even if I disagree with my neighbor, I’m free to do so. I have a right to disagree or agree. There are so many inequities in our country that still need work. These haven’t changed over this week and won’t change unless we the People use our democratic process as it was intended. So let’s get to work. Encourage your teens to write letters to their State representatives about issues important to them. Be involved in your community. Get to know your elected officials and if you have a strong stance on a topic, tell your legislature about it.
  2. Inclusion. Get to know people who are different from you and be open to hearing other people’s stories. We can learn from each other and recognize that we might have more in common than anticipated. Afterall, every parent I know wants the same thing for their kids: opportunities for financial stability, long healthy and happy lives.
  3. Humility. No one person is right all the time. Be open to ideas that differ from yours. You may find a compromise that benefits more people. This doesn’t mean you back down and ignore your values, instead be open to listening instead of jumping to assumptions about the people around you.
  4. The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Hatred is intolerable. If you witness a hateful act against someone, remaining silent is passive acceptance.
  5. Voting matters. Half of the people eligible to vote did not. Our right to vote is a privilege. Many countries don’t offer the same opportunity for the citizens to have a say in how the government works. Every vote does matter. This election, it wasn’t just the Presidency that was on the ballot. There were local initiatives related to public transportation and education. We elected our governor and state representatives. Your vote is your voice. Use it! For women and under-represented minorities, the right to vote is fairly new. People fought long and hard to gain this equality.
  6. Acknowledge our differences in order to learn from each other. I’ve already addressed this above. But the only way to continue making improvements on the inequalities in our country (such as education discrepancies between rich and poor, lack of jobs for those without higher education, unequal pay between genders, the list goes on and on) is to acknowledge if we have a privilege, then work hard to decrease the inequality that lead to that privilege.

Concussion and depression

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girls-basketballTips from guest blogger: Dr. Carolyn McCarty

A recent study (from 9/13/16) on concussion in teens caught my attention this week. Sports related concussions in teens can lead to multiple symptoms including dizziness, headache, fatigue, poor sleep, poor concentration, and mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety. Though symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks, they may linger. For teens who continue to have post-concussive symptoms, the results can be debilitating. They may miss school, fall behind in their classes, become socially isolated (especially if unable to participate in their sports or activities of interest), and have symptoms of irritability, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. Treatment for teens who have prolonged symptoms can be a challenge. Read full post »