April Healthy Hints
Spring has sprung! The daffodils are blooming, the birds are singing, and the students are…sneezing! Springtime seasonal allergies have begun, which makes enjoying the great outdoors a bit of a challenge. What exactly are seasonal allergies? What causes them? And what can you do to relieve the symptoms? Read on….
Allergies affect up to 50 million Americans and account for an estimated 2 million missed school days. Although allergies are often inherited, people can develop them without any family history. Usually children will develop allergies by the age of 10 years and the severity will peak by their early 20’s.
Allergies are a body’s defensive response to certain environmental substances, food, or insect stings. In allergic individuals, the body sees these things (otherwise known as allergens) as foreign, dangerous invaders and it rallies forces to fight them. When exposed to these allergens, the body produces antibodies (just like when you are exposed to a virus) which produce “allergy fighting cells.” These cells release a weapon called histamine to defend against the “invader.” An inflammatory response ensues (just like swelling and redness around an infected cut) and this response causes the symptoms you experience: the itchy, sore throat, the stuffy, runny nose, the tightness in the lungs, the puffy, itchy watery eyes and even rashes and gastrointestinal tract symptoms. These symptoms usually appear 5 - 10 minutes after exposure and last about an hour. But symptoms can last longer and reappear 2 - 4 hours after exposure.
The most common culprits in seasonal allergies include: dust mites which are around all year long but often worse in the winter, tree pollen which runs from February to May in our area, grass from May to June, and ragweed from August to October. Pollen counts are highest from 5:00 – 10:00 AM and on warm, breezy days. Chilly, wet days can bring some relief to the high pollen counts.
Avoidance is a key to minimizing symptoms. Try avoiding outside play or activities until later in the morning or afternoon, circumventing peak hours. Listen to daily weather reports for pollen counts to plan your time outdoors. Pollen count is the amount of pollen particles in a certain area of air during a 24 hour period. You can find the pollen count for Cranford at https://weather.com/forecast/allergy/l/07016:4:US This website will give you the pollen counts of trees, grass, mold and weeds in our specific area. If your family suffers from allergies keep windows closed and use an air conditioner if possible, even in the car. If you have been outside, wash your hands and face when coming in. Also, it will help to change and launder your clothes since pollen remains on the fabric. Avoid drying clothes outdoors as well. Wearing sunglasses may keep pollen from your eyes. If you are suffering from allergies, there are many medications for treatment of the symptoms. Consult your doctor for what would be best for you and/or your child.
If your child suffers during allergy season, feel free to contact me so we can work together to make him or her as comfortable as possible. Also remember that students are not allowed to self administer any medication. All medications, including over the counter eye drops or nasal sprays, must be given to me with a doctor’s note. If your child’s allergies are so severe that you feel he or she needs to stay in at lunchtime, a note is required.
Sometimes the allergies progress to other conditions - conjunctivitis, sinus infections and asthma. If you or your child experiences purulent drainage from the eyes, severe headaches, runny nose with yellow discharge, wheezing or difficulty breathing contact your doctor for further treatment. Often, parents/guardians are concerned whether the symptoms are cold or allergy related. Below is a quick reference to explain the differences. Of course, if you are unsure, call your doctor for further advice.
Sneezing, runny nose and cough appear one at a time
Sneezing, runny nose and cough appear all at once
Last 7-10 days
Persists throughout a season
Clear, watery drainage
Often a low grade fever
Rarely associated with a fever
Occurs most often during the winter
Spring and Fall
Other Business: If you alert your child’s teacher to an absence, please include me at firstname.lastname@example.org this will save you from receiving a phone call from me regarding attendance.
Have a wonderful spring!
~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse
March Healthy Hints
Good news! Spring is on its way! March brings warmer weather, crocuses and St. Patrick’s Day parades. This month also celebrates National Nutrition Month so the members of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Brookside Club are spreading the word about healthy eating. Our Wellness Wednesday announcements focus on nutrition and making good choices. Our front hall displays a collage of foods for a happy, healthy lunch. Our lunch tables feature framed “info- cards” about various “super foods.” And the club members are visiting each classroom to show the students just how much sugar is in some popular beverages. It is very enlightening “food for thought!”
As parents, we want our kids to have the advantage of a healthy start to their day and a lunch that will fuel them through the afternoon. While some studies on the importance of breakfast have been questioned recently, it still holds true that what we eat can make a difference.
What’s for Breakfast?
WebMD lists five golden rules for a Power Breakfast. Below are their suggestions.
- Include 5 gm of fiber in that first meal of the day. Fiber helps fill you up longer and it lessens the effects of sugar. Kids should have 10-15 gm fiber in their daily diet, so starting with breakfast is a great idea.
- Read the labels of your child’s favorite cereals and choose the ones with more fiber. Compare bread: 100% whole wheat has 3 gm fiber verse white with 1/2 gm. Serve breakfast friendly fruits. They add fiber and lots of vitamins. One apple or pear provides 4.2 gm fiber, berries 5 gm, a banana or applesauce 3 gm.
- Push the protein. Protein helps stabilize the rush of sugar into the bloodstream and helps stave off hunger. Aim for 5 gm of protein by adding ½ cup milk to cereal (low fat for children over the age of 2 years). Replace butter and jelly or cream cheese with peanut butter. Two TBSP of peanut butter provides over 7 gm of protein. Scramble an egg. One egg has over 6 gm of protein.
- Avoid high sugar, high fat meals. As stated above, sugary breakfasts only serve to cause a quick, high spike in blood sugar that drops below normal blood sugar levels in a couple of hours leaving kids tired and less able to focus. Consider this:
A Waffle with 2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
The Same Waffle with ¼ Cup Syrup
3.5gm sugar and 9gm protein
25gm sugar and only 2 gm protein
- Be prepared. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time for a healthy breakfast on the go. For those days you are running late, keep a stash of healthy breakfast bars, fruit and nuts for kids to grab and eat on the run.
To avoid waste, let your kids help choose their lunch. Being part of the planning will lessen the chance that lunch will end up in the cafeteria trash can. Luckily, the Power Breakfast suggestions above can be applied to lunch too! Your children have learned just how much sugar is in juice boxes and sports drinks, so encourage your kids to choose water over a juice box.
Want to add more fruits and vegetables to your day?
Here is a link with some great ideas.
Enjoy all that March has to offer!
~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse
February Healthy Hints
While February is the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it is also the time to recognize heart health, dental health and the flu. These celebrations may not be romantic, but they are practical!
Matters of the Heart
Heart Health month recognizes the importance of heart healthy lifestyles. When you consider that the heart pumps 100,000 times a day, every day of your life, it is an organ that is well worth taking care of. While some risk factors like age, sex, race and family history cannot be changed, many risk factors can. Diet, high cholesterol, smoking, weight, stress and a sedentary lifestyle are risks that can be controlled. This is why it is so important for children to develop heart healthy habits at a young age.
Encourage healthy eating in your children. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals to fight cardiovascular disease. The kids will consume more produce when it is in plain sight or ready to eat in the refrigerator. Teach them the difference between “bad fats” that are solid at room temperature (butter, lard, fats from meat, creams) and heart healthy oils: walnuts, almonds, olive oil and olives. Serve low fat proteins - milk, chicken, lean beef and fish (omega-3 oils in some fish actually reduce your triglycerides). You can introduce skim or low fat milk gradually by mixing it with the whole milk.
Be active. Technology has made our lives easier…and more sedentary! It is recommended that children have 60 minutes of activity a day, adults at least 30 minutes. Replace some screen time with activity and teach your kids that being active doesn’t mean you have to pant and sweat. Walk to school, take the stairs at the mall, park at the far reaches of a parking lot, help with yard work (my personal favorite!), or just play outside. It all adds up. It is true that not everyone is a competitive athlete, so it is important to remember that there are so many fun and active things to do off the sports fields. Cranford has the best treadmill in the area – the Nomahegan Park trails system! And when children are watching their favorite TV show, why not encourage them to dance during the commercials?
Help kids recognize stress and anxiety (stomach aches, headaches, extreme emotions, trouble sleeping, or eating) and encourage some down time or consider yoga. Kids love it.
A Reason to Smile
Dental health month celebrates healthy smiles. Good habits include flossing and brushing as soon as teeth appear. Help your kids brush twice a day and monitor them to be sure they have mastered the coordination to do the job on their own. Fluoride toothpaste is encouraged in children older than 6 years. Discourage sugary juices, drinks and snacks. If there is frequent snacking, kids should brush in between meals as well since snacks can lead to tooth decay. And, of course, see a dentist regularly as soon as the first teeth have erupted.
According to the NJ Department of Health, the flu has arrived in New Jersey and there is high incidence in all counties. So now is a good time to remind your families to wash their hands and cough into their sleeve. Also students should stay home if they are ill and until they are fever free for 24 hours without the use of medications. If you haven’t been vaccinated, don’t wait. The flu vaccine is recommended even during outbreaks. Brookside is taking measures to prevent the spread of the flu. Classrooms and common areas are cleaned and disinfected each night; desks, water fountains and door knobs are also wiped with disinfectants. Recess will be outside if weather permits to give the students the opportunity to enjoy fresh air and get much needed time out of the closed-in classrooms. Please dress your students accordingly.
Have a happy month of healthy celebrations!
~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse