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12 Health and Safety Tips for 2014

December 31, 2013

Media Contact: Keith.O’, 413-794-7656


SPRINGFIELD – “Every parent wants the best for their child while growing up. And every child deserves a good home, where they can grow and thrive in a healthy and loving environment,” said Dr. Gary Levine, vice chair, Pediatrics, Baystate Children’s Hospital.


In the past, Baystate Children’s Hospital has prepared a list of ‘Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions’ to help parents make the impending New Year the safest and healthiest ever for their family.


“Realizing, however, that it is often a challenge for many of us to keep our personal resolutions, especially if we set our expectations too high, this year we have taken the pressure off by simply creating ‘tips’ instead. There’s one to ponder for each month of the year to serve as an inspiration in creating a safe and healthy life not only for your child, but for you, too,” said Dr. Levine.


Dr. Levine sought out the assistance of the pediatric staff at Baystate Children’s Hospital and others to come up with a list of “12 Healthy and Safe Tips for 2014.” Among their general tips are:


1. A Clean Home – One of the best things you can do for a child with asthma is to keep your home free of things like dust, mold, pet dander, dust mites and pest infestations such as cockroaches and rodents. Also, if someone in your family smokes (they shouldn’t!) make sure they light up outdoors. – Dr. Matthew Sadof, attending physician, Baystate High Street Health Center/Pediatrics, part of Baystate Children’s Hospital


2. Clean Hands – Kids and dirty hands just seem to naturally go together. But, what child actually likes to wash his or her hands? Try to make handwashing a family affair and more of a fun activity, rather than a chore, by washing your hands along with your child. Handwashing is one of the best ways to guard against bacteria and viruses that cause infection, and is especially important during flu season. Teach your child when to wash his or hands – such as before meals, after going to the bathroom, or after blowing their nose – and how – with  soap and water for about 20 seconds, or about as long as it takes for them to sing “Happy Birthday.” – Dr. Barbara Stechenberg, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Baystate Children’s Hospital


3. A Safe Home – Guns are not something to play with. If you want to keep your children safe from injury or death – some 1,500 kids die each year from gunshot wounds – the answer is simple. Remove all guns from your home. And, for those who must have a gun in the house, keep it locked up and unloaded with the key hidden where only you can find it. Also, bullets should be locked in a separate box and in a different location. – Dr. Kevin Moriarty, chief, Pediatric Surgery, Baystate Children’s Hospital


4. Don’t Raise A Bully – Preventing potential bullies begins by raising your child in a loving and caring environment where you become involved in their lives, know who their friends are, and communicate with them about their positive qualities and expected

behaviors. Be wary of telling your child to fight back. Nowadays, children will retaliate with weapons instead of settling their disagreements the old-fashioned way with a fistfight in the school yard. You want to teach your child to be assertive, not vindictive. – Dr. Barry Sarvet, chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Baystate Medical Center


5. Teach Your Child To Eat Healthy – In a society today where obesity is an epidemic, teaching children about healthy lifestyles requires more than just educating them to make the right food choices, it’s all about leading by example. If the environment you are placing your child in is an unhealthy one, then it is easy for them to make unhealthy choices. If they see a bunch of soda bottles all over the house, they’re going to drink these high-sugar, high-calorie drinks. There is data which shows families who eat together are healthier and children who shared meals together at the dinner table tend to have a lower body mass index. So, skip the fast food restaurant and make a healthy  home-cooked meal where you can spend quality time together as a family.

Dr. Chrystal Wittcopp, director, Pediatric Weight Management Program, Baystate Children’s Hospital


6. Vaccinate, Vaccinate, Vaccinate – Plain and simply, childhood vaccinations are one of the best ways for parents to protect their children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough), measles, rubella, tetanus, flu and many other diseases. There is no scientific evidence that childhood vaccinations cause autism, a common reason why some parents choose not to have their children vaccinated. –

Dr. Shamsa Shafi, attending physician, Baystate High Street Health Center/Pediatrics, part of Baystate Children Hospital


7. Exercise – Maintaining a healthy heart begins in childhood, not when we become adults and worry about warding off heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Limit their time in front of the television and playing video games, as well as on the computer (unless, of course, they’re doing homework). Sign the kids up for sports. And, make it a fun family affair by exercising together on long walks or bicycling.  – Dr. Yvonne Paris, chief, Pediatric Cardiology, Baystate Children’s Hospital


8. Injury Prevention – Vehicular accidents, drowning, falls and poisoning are among the most common causes of unintentional childhood injury or death, including trips to the Emergency Department. Be sure your child is properly restrained in the car. Drowning can occur in an instant and in very little water, whether in a pool or bathtub. Children need to be constantly supervised in and around water. Install window guards and safety gates at stairways to prevent falls, and supervise your child while at the playground. Keep hazardous products – anything from medications to cosmetics to cleaning fluids – locked up and out of the reach of small children. – Dr. Joeli Hettler, chief, Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department, Baystate Children’s Hospital


9.  A Good Night’s Sleep – If you have a teenager in the house, then you already know that they hate to get up in the morning. The truth is: they really need a good nine hours of sleep in order to function properly at school, at home, and in their personal life. Inadequate sleep can result in poor eating habits, reduced levels of exercise, and poor academic performance resulting from difficulty concentrating in the classroom and retaining what they’ve learned. If you want to help your youngster sleep better, make sure they have a sleep-friendly room that is dark, cool and quiet. And make sure all cell phones and computers are off. – Dr. Anthony Jackson, chief, Pediatric Neurology,

Baystate Children’s Hospital


10. Good Eating Habits Begin During Infancy – If you have a new baby at home or are expecting a bundle of joy in 2014, keep in mind that you can begin your child on solid foods between 4-7 months. That’s at a time when your baby can sit up, has head

control, and can take food off a spoon. You can make feeding a fun social interaction by

talking to your baby throughout the process. Watch how your baby reacts to the food –

from smiles to frowns and, most importantly, for signs that he or she is full and ready to stop. Never force feed your baby or feed solids mixed in a bottle. There is no particular order in which to introduce solid foods, but you should space each new food you are introducing at least 3-4 days apart. This will enable you to watch for signs of reactions or allergy. – Dr. John O’Reilly, Baystate General Pediatrics, Baystate Children’s Hospital


11. Choking Prevention – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, choking rates are highest for babies under one year old and the majority of kids’ choking injuries are caused by foods like nuts and carrots. Remember to keep a watchful eye on your child while he or she is eating. When it comes to non-food items, latex balloons are the number one cause of choking. Also, keep button batteries out of a child’s reach, which if swallowed can damage their esophagus or cause a perforation of the stomach. All little kids love to put everything in their mouth, so keep that in mind as they crawl along your floors at home or pull themselves up onto a table filled with objects. Dr. Barry Hirsch, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Baystate Children’s Hospital


12. Extend the Holiday Spirit of Peace Throughout The Year – Conflict and setbacks are normal parts of life that every family must face. Yelling, fighting and arguing upset everyone in the family and accomplish very little. Violence in families, the community, and the media, is particularly upsetting. Doctors are learning that these “toxic stresses” are more than upsetting to children. Regular exposure to violence and conflict change a child’s behavior, development, and health in ways that last throughout their life. Families can find ways to deal with everyday problems and child discipline that stress collaboration and respect and build a peaceful home environment. Your pediatric care team is there to help. Your child will be happier and healthier as both a child and an adult if you can extend the traditional holiday message of peace throughout the year. – Dr. Stephen Boos, medical director, Family Advocacy Center, Baystate Children’s Hospital


For more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit