Samuel’s first ER visit

Is Samuel a Tasmanian devil or a 3 year old?  I’m not sure anymore.  I brought him to my mother’s house for lunch, before I was going to go to work, and I went in before the kids, figuring they could use a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine.  My father was in and out getting the gas grill out to cook some burgers so I figured it was a safe bet.  Not two minutes after I came in Jamie comes running asking for Grandma to “come rescue Sammy.”  I heard Samuel crying in the background, and Jamie saying that he fell.  My mother carries him in and hands him to me, I notice blood on her sleeve.  She looks surprised.  I look and Samuel has blood pouring from the side of his head.  After we mopped up with cloths enough to see, he has a 1/4 inch gash in the middle of a knot on his head.   Fortunately the bleeding stops.  Jamie explains that Samuel climbed into my car and fell out. 

Samuel recently discovered how to open the car doors and likes to practice at every opportunity.  He of course must climb into the car looking for trouble as well.  At my mom’s the parking area in the driveway is sloped so that when I park the driver’s side is lower than the passenger’s side.  So when he stepped down from the car he must not have accounted for the fact that he was actually stepping downhill, and lost his balance.  So I called the pediatrician’s office and they scheduled him in for 1/2 hour later.  By the time the doctor saw him I knew he was ok neurologically, he was asking me to read books and pointing to the pictures asking questions.  Dr. examined him and pronounced him ok, but needing the wound closed with a suture or staple.  But he can’t do it in the office.  That was a $25 copay wasted. 

So I called out from work and took Samuel back for lunch, then to the ER to get the staple.  Meanwhile he is racing around like, well, a Tazmanian devil.  It didn’t even slow him down.  Fortunately he was good for the doctor, he was fascinated playing with a blood pressure cuff and she cleaned out the wound without a flinch from him.  She asked me if I though she should inject to numb the area and then do the staple, or just go for the quick pinch.  Since she would obviously lose his trust with the injection, I opted for the quick pinch.  He liked the BP cuff enough that when she put the staple in, he just sort of gave her a dirty look and went back to what he was doing.  LOL.  He ran around like a nut for the rest of the day. 

I missed a shift of work and lost $25 for the copay, ?? for the ER (convenient care section, so like urgent care), and I have to drop another $25 at the doctor’s to get the staple removed.  (I wish I knew another nurse that could get me a removal kit, so I could do it myself.)  Sheesh, that was expensive.  And why won’t this kid ever SLOW DOWN?  I guess I should be impressed he waited until 3 1/2 to visit the ER.  Jamie was there right after his 2nd birthday, and had the second visit at 3 1/2.  Mom was nice enough to offer us dinner.  I brought them home right after and washed Samuel up because his hair was STINKY.  Then I put both the kids to bed an hour early.  I’m done! 

Any other parents out there with first ER stories?  Ours have all been lacerations, nothing too serious fortunately.  Is this a “boy thing” or just a terrible two’s and three’s problem.  Hopefully they grow out of this!!   Meanwhile I will keep my car locked.


Teaching Piano To My 5 Year Old

My son Jamie is about to turn 6 next month, and I have been using The Music Tree book, Time to Begin, to teach him to play the piano.  This is the first book in The Music Tree series.  We started last summer and we are progressing through the first book in a leisurely fashion.  I decided to start him early because he has always been very interested in music and seems to have an ear for it.  I have only basic musical knowledge and I find the program easy to do with him .

There are two Time To Begin books. One is a songbook and one is an activity book. There is also a music CD available with the songs being played, which theoretically the student could learn to play a duet of sorts by playing along with the CD. I don’t have that and I’m not sure how useful it would be to us. For us it is best that Jamie looks at the book and he tries to figure out how to play the song shown. I read the explanations from the book to him and ask him questions like “Which hand do you start this song with, right or left?” (Because the notes where the stem points up are played with the right hand, and stems down are played with the left hand) When he first started, I tried  demonstrating how a song was played and he would simply memorize it and not try to read the music. He also has a real knack for finding the correct notes just by trial and error if he knows how a song should sound.

To help him with a new song I ask him to look at the keyboard shown on the page, with arrows pointing to certain keys and labeled “R” and “L” for right and left. Then I ask him to find those same keys on the piano. If the song starts low and goes high, I ask him whether it starts low or high and then ask him to show me on the piano which of the specified keys are the lowest, etc. He sometimes needs to count how many groups of notes there were on a page, so he would know *how* low or high he needs to start so he can play the whole song going either up or down the piano without running out of keys. For the Time To Begin book it seems to be necessary to have a keyboard or piano with at least 5 full octaves in order to play the songs.  One of the hardest concepts for Jamie so far, was to figure out where to start when a song started in the middle, went up one octave, back to the first octave, and then down one octave.

Right now I have Jamie learn about two new songs per week and then spend the week practicing them every day. But he probably could go a little faster. Sometimes a new concept is hard for him to understand, and when that happens I give him a break for a week or two, by going back and having him play songs he has already learned.  If necessary, I help him to review previously taught concepts when he goes back to the “old” songs.  But the nice thing about Music Tree is that the student learns some basic music reading concepts which are much simpler to understand than note reading is for the beginner. The gradual block building of concepts in Music Tree is excellent.  The activity book does a great job of reinforcing the concepts necessary to read the music in the songbook.

One of the things I didn’t understand when we started, was why they have the student play only the black keys for a while, before starting the white keys. I understood very quickly that the black keys were easier to distinguish, appearing in alternating groups of two or three notes. Specific white keys, on the other hand, are much more difficult for the beginning student to distinguish. Once Jamie mastered finding the black keys shown in each song, he was able to learn the names of the white keys. Since he was accustomed to finding the proper black keys it was easy to show him how 3 white keys were just below each 2 black keys, and these are always C,D,E. And the 4 white keys below each group of 3 black keys are F,G,A,B. He can now look at the music and identify the first and second note and find the corresponding white key on the piano. He can also move up and down the octaves of the piano with relative ease, finding the proper keys quickly.  I am very proud of his accomplishments.

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1,4 Dioxane In Your Shampoo, Cosmetics, and Personal Care Products

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:   “Natural” and  “Organic” Labeling

A recent study by the Organic Consumer’s Association revealed the presence of the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane in widely available shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care and household cleaning products using the word “organic” or “natural” on the product label or ingredient list.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) defines 1,4-Dioxane as a clear liquid that easily dissolves in water and is used primarily as a solvent in the manufacture of chemicals or in various other uses that take advantage of its solvent properties.  1,4-Dioxane can be a trace contaminant in cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos which contain ethoxylated ingredients. Ethoxylation involves using the cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product.   1,4-dioxane is not listed with other ingredients on product labels, because it is formed as a  ‘by-product’ of the ethoxylation process and is considered a ‘contaminant,’ rather than an ingredient.

1,4 dioxane is considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA, due to demonstrated carcinogenity in several animal studies.  Other harmful effects of 1, 4 dioxin in animal studies include liver and kidney damage in animals chronically exposed by inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact .  Greater toxicity was observed in animals exposed by inhalation or dermal exposure than by ingestion.  This is probably due to the first pass metabolism by the liver on substances which are ingested.  Workers exposed to 1, 4 dioxin have exhibited acute symptoms such as irritation of the upper respiratory passages, coughing, irritation of eyes, drowsiness, vertigo, headache, anorexia, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, coma, and even death, but length of exposure these cases was not known.  The EPA has not established standards for a safe exposure limit.

When 1,4 dioxane enters the environment, it does not degrade in water.  Since it does not stick to soil particles, it can easily pass through soil to contaminate groundwater.  1, 4 dioxane has been detected in both surface and groundwater.  Since the 1,4 dioxane contaminant in personal care products and household cleaners is not readily biodegradeable, there in the potential for it to contribute to groundwater contamination.  Many of these products are washed down the drain after use, and the contaminant is challenging to remove from water, requiring advanced technologies such as oxidation with ultraviolet lights.  This type of technology is not normally employed in  community wastewater treatment plants.  So 1,4 dioxane definately poses environmental risks for our future health.

One reason the word “organic” on a label does not guarantee the absence of harmful contaminants like 1,4 dioxane, is the creation of a new organic standard called OASIS.  This standard allows companies to label a personal care product “organic” if it contains 85% organic ingredients.  These types of products previously would have been labelled only as “made with organic ingredients.”  The real problem with this kind of standard for personal care products is that products like shampoo or body wash can contain large amounts of water.  So the use of the word “organic” using the OASIS standard could simply mean the product contains organic water with mostly non-organic ingredients.  The USDA organic label offers slightly more protection for the consumer, but over time it also is becoming riddled with loopholes for the manufacturers.  For example, a complaint was filed in 2004 against the company Bayliss Ranch for counting water extracts produced from ordinary tap water, as being organic.    Bayliss Ranch sold these water extracts to companies producing foods and personal care products, such as JASON, Nature’s Gate, and Avalon Natural Products, some of these being the very same brands found to contain 1,4 dioxane.  (For a more detailed explanation, see the Organic Consumer’s Association’s press release on QAI’s scheme to count tap water as organic.)  Update:  The State of California has filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods, Avalon, Beaumont and Nutribiotic because of the 1,4 dioxane contamination of their products in direct violation of California’s Proposition 65. Read here to learn more about the lawsuit.

 For our family we buy most of our personal care and cleaning products from a company that does extensive safety and quality testing, far above what is required by law.  The company tests raw materials that go into their products for contaminants with the requirement that they be present below the legal standard or not detectable at all.   On a number of occasions, the company has ceased production of lucrative products because raw ingredients meeting their quality and safety standards were not available.  For example, right now the company has temporarily suspended the production of their baby shampoo due to using a new supplier for a key ingredient.  When safety and efficacy testing is completed and satisfactory, they will resume production of the product.  It is this kind of integrity that we value in a manufacturer, along with supporting meaningful standards for the industry rather than lobbying against them.  For more information visit To learn more about choosing safe personal care and cleaning products, visit or

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Clorox. Green Works or Greenwashing?

Clorox has launched a new line of cleaning products known as Green Works. While I think using safe cleaners is extremely important, I am a little skeptical of what Clorox might produce as a “green” product. The company touts the products as being “at least 99% natural,” which raised more questions for me. First of all, the word “natural” is completely unregulated. And even if it was clearly defined, not everything that is natural is safe. Arsenic, lead, and mercury occur naturally, but you wouldn’t want to spray those around your house. Second, how much of the 99% natural consists of water? Third, what is in that 1% that is not natural? Some ingredients can be harmful even in small amounts. To give them credit, Clorox claims that they are listing all ingredients on the labels of the Green Works products, something they do not do with their conventional cleaning products. Still, some have criticized the Sierra Club for its unprecedented decision to allow Clorox to use their logo on the Greenworks products.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, that 1% of unnatural ingredients are derived from petrochemicals. Namely, the preservative Kathon, and the Milliken Liquitint Blue HP dye and Bright Yellow dye X. The dyes give several of the products a light green color. Not exactly necessary, in my opinion. Clorox claims that the preservative, Kathon, will biodegrade within 28 days. According to the MSDS for Kathon, the substance by itself carries the following risks: “irritating to skin, risk of serious damage to eyes, may cause sensitization by skin contact, harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.” This doesn’t sound like my idea of an ingredient in a green cleaning product.  Some individuals that have reviewed Clorox Green Works products have found the lemon scent too strong, and indeed, it may not be appropriate for people with respiratory problems or allergies.

 Clorox states that their Green Works products are not tested on animals.  However, their conventional cleaning products continue to be tested on animals.  Likewise, as mentioned above, while Greenworks products list all ingredients, other Clorox product labels do not list all ingredients on the label.  It also disturbs me to continue to see Clorox disinfecting products marketed to parents of small children, invoking their fears of “germs.”  But I believe that cleaner shouldn’t leave behind more toxins than the toxins you are trying to clean!  The advertising for both products is awash with images of mothers, babies, and children.  Both lines are promoted from a safety standpoint.  The Greenworks website points out that their products are free of strong fumes and leave no chemical residue.  Yet they also promote spraying chemicals all over your home and on your children’s toys to disinfect them.  I personally cringe whenever I see the commercials with an adult wiping the baby’s highchair tray with a Clorox disinfecting wipe while baby sits smiling and patting the tray, because I know those little baby hands go right to the mouth. 

When I am shopping for cleaning products, I use the following standards:

* Biodegradable
* Formulated without dye
* Nonflammable
* Contain no ammonia, acids, alkalis, solvents, phosphates, chlorine, nitrates, borates, or volatile organic compounds.

Compared to my favorite green cleaning products, Clorox Green Works line of primarily ready-to-use cleaners leave a heavier carbon footprint on the planet. They do have one product that can be diluted, although I am not sure what the final concentration is. For most of my cleaning I use fragrance-free Basic Household cleaner, which is a superconcentrate. You can make a whole bottle of cleaner for most applications with somewhere between 2 drops and ¼ teaspoon of the concentrate. One bottle of Basic H. can make literally hundreds of bottles of ready to use cleaner. Since this reduces the number of plastic bottles that need to be manufactured, shipped, and recycled, it greatly decreases the environmental impact of using the product. The cost per use is also a lot lower than almost any other product, just 25 cents makes four 32 ounce bottles (one gallon) of all purpose cleaner   Even vinegar in comparison, can cost 10 to 20 times as much per gallon, depending on what size is purchased and where.  Another green cleaning favorite of mine is Scour-it Off, which makes soap scum in the shower disappear like magic, and with which you need such a small amount that the container lasts practically forever. See all my favorite cleaning products here.

So what does “greenwashing” mean?  Some examples of tactics used by companies include:  seducing with images in ads, using environmental organizations to promote products,  distracting from destructive products, claiming to seek solutions while lobbying against regulation, using charitable endeavors to gain support, and the misuse of the word “sustainable.”  I really liked this quote from Jeffrey Hollender, and it sums up my feelings on the subject as well. ”“Green” is not something a company becomes because of a new product line, a marketing campaign, a decision to be carbon neutral or even the selection an enlightened new CEO. “Green” is about the inside, not the outside of a company. It’s about its DNA, its culture, and its very reason for being.”  Is Clorox Green Works really green?  What do you think?

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Baby and Child Safe Disinfecting

As a mother of two little boys, disinfecting is a topic that is quite important in our household.  Now I am not a germ-freak by any means, but I must say, boys are gross!  And once they are potty trained, the bathroom is just not as clean as it used to be.  But now with little ones especially, I am concerned about using highly toxic chemicals to clean and kill germs.  Both germs and chemicals can cause illness.  So I did a little research on some of the products available for use in the home, and here are my findings:

Disinfectants are usually phenol- or cresol-based and deactivate sensory nerve endings. They attack the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and the central nervous system (CNS) and it takes over a year to eliminate the unhealthy effects of spraying 2 ounces, even with heavy cross ventilation.  Bleach, also commonly used as a disinfectant, is the number one chemical involved in household poisoning.  Hypochlorite (bleach) was the source of 54,433 poisonings in 2005.  Bleach may cause reproductive, endocrine, and immune system disorders.

Hazards of Select Disinfectant Ingredients

Alcohols- these are used as skin cleaners as well as a transport medium for other active ingredients, but nevertheless are irritant to eyes, nose and throat at high airborne concentrations and are highly flammable.

Aldehydes- glutaraldehyde is classified as a skin and respiratory sensitisor. Formaldehyde is a strong respiratory irritant and is also classified as a category 3 carcinogen.  Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative in cleaning products.

Bleach and Related Substances- Hypochlorite and organic chlorine-releasing compounds are corrosive in their concentrated form and are classified as eye and skin irritants even when diluted in a 5 to 10% solution.  In 1994, the Clinton Administration announced a Clean Water Plan that could eventually eliminate chlorine and chlorine-based products due to the many hazards they entail. Sodium hypochlorite is an oxidizer that has been implicated in many household accidents and/or deaths, according to the American Association of Poison Control Center’s annual reports. Improper use of bleach may result in mixing with acid-containing products such as toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia to create toxic gases which are dangerous or even fatal if inhaled. Furthermore, concentrations of sodium hypochlorite as small as .04% have been shown to elicit positive skin contact sensitivity responses in a clinically sensitized individual.

Phenol-Based Disinfectants- In 1994, EPA classified ortho-phenylphenol (OPP) as a carcinogen, and many studies have shown its cytotoxicity and genotoxicity.  OPP is irritating to the skin and eyes. There have been reported cases of allergic contact dermatitis, contact urticaria (hives) or of depigmentation of the skin. Residue on surfaces can cause hazardous injury to tissue or mucous membranes.  Phenol-based products used in hospitals are banned from use on infant contact surfaces.

Safer Disinfecting for the Home

There is a great product recommended by Dr. Doris Rapp, author of “Is This Your Child?” and an environmental medicine specialist, which kills germs and cleans in one step without alcohol, ammonia, chlorine,  phenol, or gluteraldehyde.   EPA registered Basic Germicide is what we use in our own home. A much safer choice to use where you need a germicidal cleaner.  Basic Germicide provides a balance of product strength against the type of ingredients used in the product. It is a concentrated quaternary ammonium-based germicide and cleaner with the main active ingredients derived from quaternary ammonium salts.  Basic Germicide is tested and shown to be effective against MRSA, a form of staph infection which can be deadly, as well as over 40 other microorganisms.  It is safe to use on all nonporous surfaces.

Most chlorine bleach products are used for general sanitizing purposes and cannot make any specific claims of effectiveness as they are not EPA-registered products.  Basic Germicide is effective against more types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses than most household disinfectants.  The product is composed of ingredients whose effectiveness has been verified by stringent performance testing in accordance with EPA requirements.  As a highly concentrated disinfectant, the ingredient functionalities of this product are much stronger than is the case with ready to use disinfectants. While Basic Germicide is toxic in a concentrated form, it has a high dilution ration of 256:1 and is non-toxic when diluted according to directions.

Basic Germicide is very affordable with a low cost per use when diluted according to the package instructions.  One quart makes enough solution to clean and disinfect more surface area than 482 17-oz spray bottles of full strength Lysol disinfectant.  To disinfect and clean surfaces, we mix 1/2 teaspoon of the concentrate with 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle. For maximum effectiveness, use the standard procedure for EPA registered disinfectants:  spray on, allow a contact time of 10 minutes, then wipe away. Rinse any food contact surfaces or toys after disinfecting.  The product has been used by environmentally conscious organizations such as the Cousteau Society, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, NASA, and the Biosphere 2 project.  We also use Basic Germicide to clean toilets, generally 1/2 to 1 ounce full strength applied around the inside of the rim, allow to stand 10 minutes, then we clean the toilet with a brush.  Note: for mineral deposits in toilets try a pumice stone. 

You might be familiar with some of the experiments in Doris Rapp’s books “Is This Your Child” and “Is This Your Child’s World.”  In one of Dr. Rapp’s studies, she tested the effect of bleach on six-year-olds handwriting.  Before a bottle of bleach was opened, students wrote their names fairly well. Then, with just an opened bottle of bleach in the room, the children wrote their names again.  The difference was dramatic!  Some wrote messy, some too small to read, and one even wrote backwards.  One mother tried this test for herself at home:  ” I didn’t  tell my kids what I was doing. I only told them to write as neatly as they could. They printed their names on a sheet of paper. Then, I told them to hold up their papers while I wiped the table off with a Clorox wipe. As soon as it was dry enough, I had them put their papers down and write their names again. I was
shocked! My daughter’s writing was visibly messier; instead of letters being tight and connected, they were loopy and crooked. My son was completely distracted by something while he was writing his name! (This is uncharacteristic of him. He has no attention difficulties.) When he realized that he was talking about something else, he stopped mid-sentence and said:  Wait, I’m supposed to be writing my name!   The next letter he wrote was upside-down (which my son had never done before). I took it to the next level and had my children move to another room where there were no Clorox fumes. They wrote their names again and proved that without being under the infuuence they could write just as neat as the first time. I could clearly see that the chemicals were affecting both writing ability and focus.”  So in my opinion, based on this unofficial test, the Clorox wipes should also be avoided.  It is quite simple to spray something like Basic Germicide on surfaces and wipe down with a clean rag or a paper towel.  But if the wipes are desired, the same manufacturer does make safe disinfecting wipes, fragrance-free.   So since we have lots of safe choices for our homes, a clean and safe home should be our goal.  Do it for your health and your children’s health.

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Phthalates and Other Toxic Ingredients in Baby Care Products

A recent study published in the February issue of Pediatrics looked for detectable phthalate exposure in the urine of 163 infants born between 2000 and 2005.  Over 80 percent of the infants studied had measureable levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine!  Commonly used products among infants with higher levels of phthalate metabolites included baby lotion, baby shampoo, and baby powder.  No correlation was found between high urine phthalate levels and the use of baby wipes and diaper creams.  While in Europe phthalates are banned from use in personal care products and some toys, in the US manufacturers are not required to even disclose the presence of these widely used chemicals in their products.  That’s right, they aren’t listed on the label, making it extremely difficult to measure levels of exposure and study the effects of phthalates. 

Phthalates are often used in fragrances.  They are also used in manufacturing, to make plastics such as polyvinyl chloride softer and more flexible.  According to Greenpeace, phthalates are suspected as human cancer-causing agents, and could damage the liver and kidneys, interfere with the development of the reproductive organs, and mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.  Some authorities suspect a link between phthalate exposure and early onset of puberty in girls.  In animal studies, rats exposed to certain levels of phthalates experienced adverse health effects, some of which included shortened life spans, weight loss, low level cancerous cell changes, liver enlargement, and even liver tumors.    One study in humans found an association between phthalate exposure and male reproductive problems. 

In the instances that phthalates do happen to be listed on a product label, you won’t find the word “phthalate,” although a few products may be labelled “phthalate-free.”  There are a few abbreviations that you might find on product labels.  As I mentioned before, manufacturers are not required to list these ingredients, so I give the following caution:  These ingredients may still be in the products even if you don’t find them on the label!  Some chemicals that are classified as phthalates include:  DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DMP (dimethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or Bis-2-ethylhexyl phthalate), and BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate).  The last two ingredients are found primarily in PVC plastics.  DEHP is sometimes found in medical devices.

A few other ingredients of concern which have been found in infant care products include formaldehyde or formaldehyde donor preservatives, mineral oil, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate, to name a few.  Mineral oil, which is basically synonymous with “baby oil,” is made when gasoline and kerosene are removed from crude petroleum by heating.  Then, using sulfuric acid, absorbents,  solvents, and alkalis;  hydrocarbons and other chemicals are removed leaving the final product, mineral oil.    Parabens are an estrogen-like compound, albeit a very weak one.  These are used as preservatives in many types of personal care products and cosmetics.  Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate, foaming agents,  primarily present a risk as skin and potential eye irritants.  Formaldehyde and formaldehyde donor ingredients are considered potential carcinogens.  The five most common formaldehyde donor preservatives are quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol).  The concern in baby products as well as products for adults, is that toxic ingredients can be rapidly absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, especially with the formaldehyde donor ingredients .  In some cases this occurs in as little as 90 seconds.  To make matters worse, toxins absorbed through the skin bypass the liver’s first pass metabolism.  Because of this critical difference, many substances are more toxic when absorbed through the skin than when they are ingested.  

Even without the potential for phthalate exposure, the use of baby powder carries several risks in and of itself.  Talc is recognized as a potential carcinogen, especially for lung and ovarian cancers.  These powders can easily be inhaled if they become airborne during use.  If a cornstarch baby powder is used in the presence of a candida-associated diaper rash, especially on broken skin, it can aggravate the condition by providing food for the yeast microorganisms causing the rash.  So powders are probably better to avoid entirely. Coconut oil makes a great natural and safe protectant for the diaper area. It also has natural antimicrobial effects.

There are safe products available that you can use for baby, including baby bath/shampoo and lotion.  You can purchase phthalate-free baby wash/shampoo, and lotion here.   This lotion is also free of formaldehyde-donor preservatives, mineral oil, alcohol, parabens,  sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, and colors/dyes. The combination baby wash and shampoo protects the skin by preserving the natural acid barrier that is normally present, and which is removed by most soap based products.  It is thick and long lasting, we find that we only need 1/3 the amount compared to when we were using Johnson’s baby shampoo.  The products are not tested on animals. Safety is verified by an independent dermatologist.

 If you ever have questions about ingredients in personal care products, visit the website of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review for more information.

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No cold medicine for children under 6: Are You Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

Are You Prepared for Cold and Flu Season?

Now that the FDA has issued an advisory stating that children under 2 should receive no cold medicine and an outside expert panel states that no cold medicine should be given to children under 6, it is a good time to plan ahead and look for safe alternatives.   Recently, the FDA completed a review that found, between 1969 and the fall of 2006, there were 54 reported child deaths from decongestants with the active ingredients pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine and 69 deaths from antihistamine medicines containing diphenhydramine, brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine.  Most of the deaths occurred in children under 2.  In addition, a Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention report that found more than 1,500 toddlers and babies required emergency room visits over a two-year period because of the drugs.  Fourteen children’s cold medications have been recalled: 

  • Dimetapp Decongestant Plus Cough Infant Drops
  • Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
  • Little Colds Decongestant Plus Cough
  • Little Colds Multi-Symptom Cold Formula
  • PEDIACARE Infant Drops Decongestant (containing pseudoephedrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Drops Decongestant Cough (containing pseudoephedrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Decongestant (containing phenylephrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (containing phenylephrine)
  • Robitussin Infant Cough DM Drops
  • Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant
  • Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant Plus Cough
  • TYLENOL Concentrated Infants’ Drops Plus Cold
  • TYLENOL Concentrated Infants’ Drops Plus Cold & Cough
  • CVS is also pulling their generic equivalents off store shelves
  • In addition, the FDA is recommending new warnings on flu drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza, after abnormal psychiatric behavior has been observed in both children and adults.  Several fatalities have been associated with these psychiatric episodes after the use of the prescription flu medications.

    Is there a safer alternative?  Some of us have used nutrients like zinc and vitamin C to help us fight off or get through a cold or the flu.  Our family has had much better results with natural remedies than with over the counter cold medications.  Most nutritional products that help fight colds and relieve symptoms work best when given at the first sign of illness, so it is important to purchase them before you or your children are sick.   It is also important to have nourishing foods and rehydration beverages in the house in preparation for cold and flu season.  Vitamins combined with good nutrition can help us be more resistant to illness in the first place.   Here are some of my favorite products:

    Defend Yourself and Resist Illness  Here is a great supplement to take when you notice the first signs of a cold coming on. It contains FOUR natural ingredients to support your immune system: echinacea, black elderberry, larch tree, and zinc. Most people are familiar with zinc and echinacea. You may not have heard of larch, which contains the active ingredient arabinogalactan to stimulate the body’s natural resistance. Black elderberry is a rich source of polyphenols and anthocyanadins, powerful phytonutrients that help maintain the immune system.   We use the following rule of thumb for herbal dosing:  Take the child’s weight and divide by 150 to find the percentage of the adult dose to give.  For the smaller ones I break the tablets in half and give just half at a time.  Often, my children only need one dose.  These can be chewed, sucked on, swallowed, or crushed and made into a soothing tea.  (It tastes great with honey!)  We are amazed at how well they work for our whole family!  They can be purchased here

    Probiotics  Most people are familiar with beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus acidophilus, used to make yogurt. Another “good bug” is called bifidobacterium. Did you know that having beneficial bacteria in your intestines can help you fight off illness? Sixty percent of your immune cells are located in your gastrointestinal tract. The type of bacteria that inhabit your intestinal tract have a profound influence upon your health, including your immune system. Commercial yogurts may not contain enough live bacteria to do the job. Probiotics are vulnerable to being destroyed by the stomach acid, so I prefer this triple encapsulated probiotic pearl with guaranteed live delivery of beneficial bacteria to the colon. This is a great product to take when you are showing early signs of a stomach bug.  The probiotic pearls can be given to children, but they work best if they are swallowed without chewing.  My 3 year old is able to swallow them in a spoonful of applesauce.  Homemade gelatin (preferably made with fruit juice) might work too.  For tiny babies, some parents have had success softening the pearls in water before giving them.  Babies don’t have very strong stomach acid, so the probiotics survive in their stomachs better without the encapsulation than they would in an adult’s stomach.  Some mothers have been able to place the tiny probiotic pearls in the back of a baby’s mouth, then offer the breast to help baby swallow them.  I would caution against this method as there is a risk of baby aspirating the pearl into his or her lungs.

    Garlic  Garlic has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. A recent study found that one of the active components in garlic is effective against MRSA.  While it is most effective consumed raw, most of us have not developed a taste for raw garlic! My favorite garlic complex is gently dried to prevent loss of the sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. The garlic is not aged, as aged garlic is not consistent with how garlic is consumed in it’s natural state. The company does not try to convince consumers that it has a specific amount of one or more of the many sulfur-containing compounds that naturally result from garlic ingestion, because many of these are formed during the digestive process. Instead, each two-tablet serving provides the amount of garlic that you would get from a clove of garlic. Once you ingest the tablets the biochemical process starts and the full range of sulfur-containing compounds are then formed. In this way it is the closest a garlic supplement can be to consuming fresh garlic. Contains spearmint, which may help prevent odor.  Diane Petoskey recommends the following dosages for children:  Under one year, give a total of two tablets per 24 hours, crushed and mixed in liquid and administered with a dropper at least four times in 24 hours.  For ages 1 -3, use 3 tablets per 24 hours, divide for at least 4 doses per day mixed in food or liquid.  Ages 4-6, give 3-4 tablets per 24 hours.  Age 10, 4 – 5 tablets per day, Ages 11 – 16 and older,  4-6 tablets per day.  Divide doses to give 4 times per day for all ages. 

    Rehydrate  Often when we are sick, we get dehydrated. Of course with the stomach flu this is obvious, but keeping yourself well hydrated is important even with a simple head cold. It is a good idea to be prepared with good tasting beverages that will encourage children to take in more fluids without ingesting unhealthy artificial colors and flavors.  Hydration thins excessive secretions and makes it easier for the body to clear them. When fluids are lost, especially during a bout of the stomach flu, electrolytes are lost as well. It is important to replace both fluids and electrolytes.  For example, your body cannot absorb fluids effectively without adequate sodium. A good rehydration formula or sports drink should contain:

    1. All six electrolytes (minerals) – Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Chloride
    2. A sodium / potassium ratio of approx 2.2 to 1, for proper function of the sodium/potassium pump
    3. At least 100 mg of sodium, for effective absorption of fluids
    4. At least 20 – 25 grams of carbs in a mixture of these 3 types – fast burning – like glucose so you get immediate energy – a medium burning carb like fructose – and a slow burning carb like maltodextrin
    5. No artificial colors or flavors
    6. Should not have any “natural” herbs or performance enhancers.

    Unlike most sports beverages and pedialyte, this lemon lime drink meets all these criteria. A small canister of makes 19 servings of rehydration beverage, convenient to store in a cupboard in case illness strikes unexpectedly. Also available in orange.  No dosage limits for this, children and adults can drink as much as desired.  Sipping the lemon lime or orange drinks frequently is adviseable, especially for the stomach flu.  You can make the drinks into homemade popsicles as well, a good way to encourage taking fluids slowly when a child has been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea.  For small babies, breastfeeding on demand is best during illness rather than offering other beverages.  In most cases, breastmilk is better tolerated than any other food or beverage, even during diarrhea and vomiting.

    Vitamins For Immunity  This Immune Building Formula contains the six most important vitamins for healthy immune function: vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, vitamins C, E, B6, B12 and folic acid. Also included are 3 important minerals for the immune system: copper, selenium, and zinc. It helps maintain your first line of defense, your skin, with zinc, vitamins E and C, and beta carotene. A great product to take throughout the cold and flu season. Antioxidants and rosemary extract maintain the nutrient potency in these softgels.  Nutritionist Diane Petoskey recommends this starting with 1 capsule at ages 4-6,  2 capsules around age 10,  2 – 3 capsules for 11 – 16 years and up.  Email me for more information about Diane Petoskey’s Children’s Nutrition lecture.

    Natural Interferon  If you are catching everything that comes around, this is the product for you! Here is a well-researched blend of natural plant extracts from pumpkin seeds, safflower flowers, plantago seeds, and Japanese honeysuckle flower buds, which have been clinically proven to support and stimulate the natural immune response. This product was created by Dr. Kojima, the world renowned immunologist who discovered interferon in 1954. He spent over 40 years searching for a way to increase the body’s natural production of interferon, which is activated by the immune system when a virus attacks a cell. Interferon serves two important functions. It signals neighboring cells and triggers their resistance mechanisms, and it activates other immune cells that kill invading pathogens. This is a great product for school-teachers, postal workers, health care providers, and anyone else that is exposed to a lot of germs in their line of work.  Recommended for children over 12 years and adults.  Learn more about natural interferon here.

     Stock the Freezer and Protect Your Health  The canned soups, dried soups, and bouillion cubes as the grocery store all contain MSG, a neurotoxin. Rather than consuming MSG containing foods when you are sick, it is best to use homemade. Having experienced illnesses severe enough to prevent me from preparing soup for several days, here is my solution. If you made homemade chicken soup for lunch or dinner occasionally, freeze the leftovers each time. Make a little extra each time if you need to. After I bake a chicken, I often use the leftovers for a soup base. Simmering the bones slowly in water releases extra nutrients. Cut most of the meat off before starting to simmer them, as it will retain the best flavor and texture when added near the end of the cooking time after the bones are removed. Even just broth is great to have in the freezer for sickness. Then when you need a nourishing meal to get well, you can walk to your freezer instead of driving to the grocery store.

     If you want to make homemade gelatin using fruit juice, here is a recipe.  Mix one tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder into just enough hot water to dissolve completely, add enough cold juice to make a total of 2 cups of liquid.  Clear juices work better than pulpy juices.  Pour into a shallow container and refrigerate until firm.  You can dilute the fruit juice a little if desired.

    I hope you have a healthy fall and winter.

    The preceding information is not intended as medical advice.

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