A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important
Mon, 12/03/12 – 12:49 | Comments Off

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but …

Read the full story »

Picky eaters and allergy-safe cooking — the two aren’t necessarily unrelated.

Girl Gone Wonk

From policy to politics, this rant’s for you.


The day’s events in a family way — unless something else amuses me.

School days

From preschool to kindergarten — so far

Simple Gifts

Inexpensive homemade gifts, creative parties and low-cost projects, for Christmas and beyond. Many are easy enough for children to help.

Home » Archive by Category

Articles in Health

Kids and Allergies: Girding for the fight at school that didn’t happen
Monday, 25 Aug, 2008 – 9:04 | Comments Off

I spent all summer before Big Guy started kindergarten frantically researching the Americans with Disabilities Act and its implications for people with allergies and asthma.

I checked with the school nurse early and often, making sure she had all the records, medications, forms and instructions she needed.

I told her Big Guy needed to be segregated in the cafeteria, and they were so conscientious about making that happen that the assistant principal herself took lunch duty the first day to make sure all staff knew who Big Guy was and where he was to sit. They already had “peanut free zone” placards made up for “his table.”

The one area that threw me: Classroom snacks. I wasn’t aware of this as a possible issue until the new student orientation the night before

Omega-3, probiotics wonder drugs for Big Guy
Friday, 22 Aug, 2008 – 17:21 | Comments Off

We’ve finally found the substance so vile, so disgusting that Little Guy won’t go near it. And he’ll eat anything.
It’s L’il Critters Omega 3 Gummy Fish, which claims on amazon.com to have won a “best …

The semi-annual letdown of allergy testing
Saturday, 16 Aug, 2008 – 17:40 | Comments Off

I’m a big Cincinnati Reds fan, so a baseball analogy for Big Guy’s allergy tests is an obvious comparison for me.
Going in for the tests is like spring training. There’s a bit of pain …

Big Guy’s big ouch not so bad after all
Tuesday, 12 Aug, 2008 – 6:17 | Comments Off

“The only thing we have to fear is the fear of fear itself.

OK, so that’s not exactly the way Franklin Roosevelt put it. But he would have if he’d met Big Guy, who learned a lesson last week about fear feeding on itself.

I’d promised Big Guy he wouldn’t have to go through allergy testing again until the fall, but under the “”three barfs, you’re out”" rule, his bout of birthday sickness earned him an early trip. It was the third time he’d thrown up after eating hamburgers, and since nausea is one possible sign of a food allergy, I wanted to have him checked.

He’d actually looked forward to the trip, figuring the early testing would be worth it if he could go back on his burger binge. Plus, during our last visit

Cell phones, kids and the cancer scare — is it real?
Monday, 28 Jul, 2008 – 6:59 | Comments Off

“When I was a kid, 12 was the magic number.

I was 12 — closer to 13, actually — when Mom let me pierce my ears. I remember walking through a grocery store that frigid January day as the numbness wore off and my lobes caught fire.

I was 12 when I was allowed to have a “”real”" stereo in my bedroom, instead of the kiddie Show ‘N Tell record player. Albums were censored, though, and Cher was banned.

My friends were 12 when their parents let them get phones in their rooms. None for me, though that was about the time we were able to get off a party line. And, yes, I also had to walk to school in three feet of snow, uphill both ways.

Some parents still hold those lines. Seems there increasingly is

Barfing on your birthday — no fair!
Monday, 21 Jul, 2008 – 6:35 | 2 Comments

“I won’t say it’s always unfair to be sick on your birthday.

I’ve had my share of sick birthdays, the most notable being my 24th. My roommate had made shrimp scampi — this was before my seafood allergy had fully emerged. I took one look and hurled.

That was my fault, though. I don’t think Big Guy had near as many whiskey sours yesterday as I’d had the night before my 24th, so that makes what happened to him today officially unfair.

Unofficially, it makes it frightening. It’s the third time Big Guy’s lost his lunch when lunch has been hamburger or steak. And the third time wins him a doctor’s appointment. I’m praying it’s not another food allergy.

The day started out bright and sunny, as a birthday should be. Not that today was Big Guy’s actual birthday, but it was

Kids and Allergies: $11 billion spent on allergies doesn’t even touch it
Tuesday, 17 Jun, 2008 – 7:31 | Comments Off

It’s official now, because the government says so: Allergies are on the rise, with the percentage of American reporting problems increasing from 6.3 in 200 to 7.3 in 2005.

While 7.3 percent might not sound like a lot, consider that that’s 22 billion Americans. And the statistics, released Monday by federal Medical Expenditure Panel survey, cover only airborne allergies.

The pocketbook numbers are even more interesting. Nationally, spending to treat “allergic rhinitis” almost doubled from $6.1 billion in 2000 to $11.2 billion in 2005. Both figures are in 2005 dollars, so you can’t blame inflation. Not that anyone in the government will admit there’s inflation.

Individually — that’s you and me, folks — expenses have gone from $320 per person to $520 per person.

And both figures are way low. The government report looks only at

CDC should stop the drubbing and face the truth: Some women can’t breastfeed
Friday, 13 Jun, 2008 – 19:06 | Comments Off

A few things I think we all can agree on: Breastfeeding is healthful, inexpensive and natural.

My second point, though, has me swimming smack against the mainstream: Breastfeeding is not possible for everyone. Believe me, I know. I tried twice — made it for a few days with Big Guy, a whopping two and half months with Little Guy but only because I supplemented with formula at first.

Which means the Centers for Disease Control considers me an abject failure. They just issue a press release today about people like me and the wicked hospitals that encourage my unhealthy habits.

“New CDC study finds gaps in breastfeeding support in U.S. hospitals and birth centers,” its headline reads.

The government’s breast-feeding goals — 75 percent of mothers to try breastfeeding, 50 percent to continue for six

Kids and Allergies: Peak air flow meter the fun game the whole family can play!
Thursday, 12 Jun, 2008 – 5:07 | Comments Off

During one of Big Guy’s twice-yearly checkups with his allergist back in April, I mentioned that he seemed to struggle more to catch his breath after exertion.

Do you have a peak airflow meter? the doctor asked.

No, I replied hesitantly, knowing Big Guy would balk at yet another addition to his daily program of pills and inhalers.

He’s old enough now, the doctor said. Let’s try it for a month and see how he’s doing.

Visions of “refusal to cover” notices from my insurance company flashed through my head as I foresaw a pricey digital gear such as I’d used at an allergist’s office years ago when I was last tested for asthma.

Instead, the nurse handed me a plastic gadget, courtesy of one of the visiting drug companies. Big Guy’s allergist is great about passing these along to patients

Two summers, two kids, two stings, no anaphylaxis!
Monday, 9 Jun, 2008 – 17:46 | Comments Off

Little Guy was having a happy-go-lucky day today until he slipped past me and bounced into the back yard bare footed. He had almost reached the promise land of the swing set when he dropped …

FDA expands its raw tomato warning to nationwide
Sunday, 8 Jun, 2008 – 5:38 | Comments Off

You say to-MAY-to, I say to-MAH-to, the government says watch which ones you eat.

The Food and Drug Administration today broadened its raw tomato warning to cover the entire country — it originally was issued Tuesday for consumers in Texas and New Mexico.

The reason: An outbreak of salmonella found in some red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these raw, red tomatoes. It’s been going on since April and has made at least 145 people sick and sent 23 to the hospital.

Whether the tomatoes are a threat depends on where they were grown, and the FDA believes produce from Arkansas, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico are safe.

Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes are safe regardless of where they’re from, the FDA says.

It makes me regret not giving in to Big Guy’s pleas a few weeks back to plant tomatoes.

For families, lack of paid sick leave nothing to sneeze at
Saturday, 7 Jun, 2008 – 2:12 | Comments Off

Courtesy of momsrising. org comes this addictive little ditty called the “Don’t Get Sick Game.”

The object — aim tissues at the sneezing nose floating about your office and hope to block the wafting germs and avoid taking ill. If you make it until noon without calling it a day, you win!

I’m hoping they come up with another version: Keep the guys from getting sick so I can go to work. Little Guy nailed me yesterday for another sick day.

For many working parents, this is no game. I’m lucky enough to have 10 paid sick days a year plus vacation time I can use when those are exhausted. And I have run out of sick days every year since Big Guy was born, not because I misused them, but because little kids get sick. A lot. During his first two years alone, Big Guy earned lifelong membership in the Ear Infection of the Month Club.

Other parents aren’t as lucky as I. They have to take time off without pay, go to work sick or find somewhere to stash their kids when they can’t sneak them past the guards at day care or school.

Sleep? Who has time?
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:42 | Comments Off

God love the Centers for Disease Control.

Just when I had made peace – again – with my night owl habits, along comes a new study linking less than six hours’ sleep a night to health problems such as obesity.

Six hours? Only in my wildest dreams – and I rarely hit REM sleep long enough to have even mild dreams these days.

I get up at 5. OK, I’m lying — I pound the snooze alarm until 5:30. Tonight, the guys didn’t give it up until after 9. Which means that only if I went to bed as soon as they fell asleep would I come close to the eight to nine hours the government says is optimal.

And that’s assuming I could conk out as soon

Six healthy months could be a sign of an immune system
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:22 | Comments Off

I knew it couldn’t last forever – eventually, even Lou Gehrig bowed out and Cal Ripken took a seat.

Not that the guys’ string of healthy days was anything close to Iron Man-like. Still, if you overlook Big Guy’s days out due to surgery last autumn, six illness-free months is a decent run. Even the four-plus months of perfect attendance since surgery is stunning.

I held my breath all winter and was amazed when spring arrived with sick days unused – that hadn’t happened since Big Guy was born.

It came to an end this week, and the only surprising part is that the asthmatic king of the ear infection wasn’t the one who closed the streak.

Instead, it was Little Guy. The kid who never gets sick, whose non-routine doctor’s visits I can count on one hand. Sniffles turned into snotterfalls turned into some undefined infection. Which turned into a 102-degree temperature.

Can you teach them how to be sick in bed?
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:02 | Comments Off

I’ve scoured child development books since before we knew baby Big Guy was going to be a guy, but I’ve yet to find the answer to this one: At what age do children master being sick in bed?

My childhood memories of being sick – and I was sick a lot until about age 12, with chronic sinus-ear, you name it infections – involve dozing fitfully and occasionally waking to demand more buttered toast. If I was only moderately sick – temperature of 100 or so instead of 104 – I’d lounge on the coach and catch up on the soaps I missed during the school year. Funny, but it never took more than a day to catch up.

None of that from Big Guy, though. He

Big Guy’s determined recovery
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:08 | Comments Off

Big Guy’s a battler — you can see it on the soccer field and in the “Piston Cups” he awards himself for every victory, real or imagined, over Little Guy and me. Until the past week, though, I had no idea just how much determination a scrawny little body could hold.

Big Guy had surgery last Monday for an umbilical hernia. I’d long known the day was coming. The hernia was roughly the size of a golf ball when it ballooned out after his cord fell off. While the gap’s narrowed in recent years, he still had  a thumb-sized whole in his abdominal wall and an elephant trunk where a belly button should be.

It wasn’t a life-threatening condition, and it wasn’t major surgery – it took

Time to junk the junk food in schools
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:21 | Comments Off

I did a triple-take when I glanced at a school lunch menu hanging on the fridge at a friend’s house a few months back.

Monday, chicken nuggets and fries. Tuesday, pizza. Wednesday, grilled cheese and fries. Thursday, cheeseburger and fries. Friday, super nachos.

What the heck? Weren’t we at least two years down the road on the “healthy school lunches” kick? Obviously, some districts weren’t getting the message.

That’s why I’m glad the Legislature stepped in with fairly strict new guidelines that become law Sunday. Obviously, some districts needed help getting the message.

Call it micromanagement, call it the nanny state, call it whatever you want. The bottom line for me is, we have an obesity epidemic in this country, with adult-onset diabetes showing up in grade schools. Something

Sick kids and day care inspections
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:19 | Comments Off

Getting on a plane with four ounces of shampoo would have been easier than getting into day care today.

There’s been an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth virus – which sounds worse than it is, especially when I goof up and say my kid has hoof and mouth disease.

Little Guy came down with it Friday, so he had to be inspected at the border this morning. I watched nervously – for some reason, I flash back to spelling bees in these situations.

I didn’t want to face the humiliation of trudging back to my desk, head hung low, if she found spots on him that I’d missed. Except in this case, the humiliation would have been in being labeled Bad Parent Who Tries to Sneak Sick

Day care regulators fight the real menace: Sunscreen
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:10 | Comments Off

Here’s an opportunity for local meth manufacturers in a bind as production increasingly is outsourced to Mexico.


Seems it’s the new hidden menace. Recently, my day care’s licensing agency told the director that staff can’t apply sunscreen to the children. It’s a “medication.”

I’m sure glad the licensing agency nipped this one in the bud. Turns out, sunscreen is a dangerous, dangerous substance. I bet the FDA is even looking into reclassifying it as a narcotic.

From the hands of preschool teachers to the clutches of a corner drug dealer. No doubt, it’s a direct path, and I was willing to send my young innocents down it.

Bad, bad Mommy!

When food attacks
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:48 | Comments Off

Big Guy “helped” bake his daddy’s birthday cake, dumping flour in the mixer and spooning sugar into measuring cups. He licked the bowl afterward, smearing batter roughly from eyelashes to toenails. He watched me ice and decorate it, picking colors and testing frosting repeatedly, to “make sure” it was all right. He begged for cake all afternoon.

When it came time to dig in, he eyed his plate suspiciously. “This looks like an egg cake,” he said. “I’m not going to eat it.”

I’ve never been so proud and so heart-broken in my life.

Big Guy, you see, is allergic to egg. Deathly allergic. The last time he had egg – roughly three bites of a shepherd’s pie that had one egg in the recipe – he was 10 months old. We called an ambulance.

He’s also deathly allergic to peanut. When he was about 14 months old, a girl at day care who had eaten peanut butter an hour earlier touched his teddy bear. She didn’t even have peanut butter visible on her hands. Big Guy in turn touched the bear, then touched his face and broke out in hives.

Living with asthma
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:32 | Comments Off

My household budget is tight – whose isn’t with two kids in residence? – but the decision to spend an extra $41 a month was a no-brainer.

That’s the difference in cost between over-the-counter Claritin, at about $9, and prescription Zyrtec – the new antihistamine Big Guy’s doctor prescribed Monday. For almost three years, Claritin had worked to control his allergies, but not anymore. You could see it in the increased drippiness, the constant gunky cough.

My insurance company covers a whopping 19 cents of the cost of Zyrtec. Its Web site is nice enough to list a number of over-the-counter alternatives. All of which we’ve tried, none of which work for him.

If the issue were just a few sniffles, I would have let it go at the $9. For Big Guy, though, the situation is far more serious. He also has asthma, and allergy problems can trigger attacks.

So I swallowed hard and shelled out the $50. I’m lucky I can afford it. Many families can’t.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised at all to read an Associated Press story that very day that said only one in five asthmatic children has the disease under control.