“Mommy, I hit my head!”

ss_203413669_girl_crying_headYour toddler falls and hits their head but appears to be fine. Your grade-schooler hits their head after falling off of their bike and complains of a headache. Your football player collides with another player and is knocked unconscious. Head injuries are common in children and adolescents, but which head injuries require medical evaluation? Here are some tips:

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that temporarily changes the way the brain functions. Concussions can occur after a direct blow to the head. They can also occur after violent shaking of the head or upper body.

Contrary to popular belief, most people do not have a loss of consciousness with concussions. Thus, it can be hard to determine if your child has a concussion. The most common symptoms after a concussion are headache, memory loss, and confusion. However, the following list of signs and symptoms may be associated with concussions.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Balance Problems
  • Feeling tired
  • Irritability
  • Change in mood (sad, nervous, anxious)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Change in sleep (sleeping more, sleeping less, trouble falling asleep)

If you believe your child has a concussion you should call your doctor for further advice.

Seek emergency medical care if your child has the following symptoms.

  • Loss of consciousness lasting more than 30 sec
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Worsening headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion or trouble recognizing people/places
  • Seizure
  • Large (dilated) pupils or pupils of unequal size

Athletes with a concussion should never return to the game until they have been evaluated by a health care professional who is experienced in evaluating for concussions.

What can you do to help prevent your child from suffering from a head injury?

  • In the car, make sure to buckle up your child and to use the appropriate child safety seat or car seat.
  • Make sure your child wears a helmet when riding their bike, playing a contact sport, batting or running bases in baseball/softball, horseback riding, or when skiing/snowboarding.
  • If you have young children, install safety gates at the top or bottom of stairs and make sure that they do not play near open windows.
“Mommy, I hit my head!”
About Amanda Becker, MD
Dr. Amanda Becker is a pediatric resident at the University of Wisconsin Pediatric Residency Program.

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Parenting from Afar

ss_172379333_sick_man_medicineYour college-age kid texts…”not feeling well.”

Great. What do you do when he’s miles away and you’re not there to do the “Doctor Mom” thing? Parenting from afar is part of the growing up process – letting them learn how cope on their own, helping them become adults. But when your otherwise healthy young adult isn’t feeling well and turns to you – the heartstrings tug a little tighter.

We’ve been lucky in the healthy kids department, blessed really. A few stitches, only one broken bone, nothing more than the occasional common cold. Dutifully we did all the well-child checks, immunizations and sports physicals that come with raising kids today. We packed him off to the dorm with a “health kit” that had Band-aids and some over-the-counter pain relievers and a warning to eat right and wash your hands. We were set.

Over the first couple of years away, as the cold and flu season hit, we’d have the occasional phone call with him standing in front of the dizzying array of medicines at the local drugstore. Can I take this multi symptom reliever with this pain reliever? What about this cold remedy? We had a long distance lesson in reading labels and the importance of knowing what to take to treat which symptom and don’t treat symptoms you don’t have. Again, the reminder to wash your hands.

But this time was different. Student health was involved and blood work was done. It was confirmed. Mono. A throat so sore he could only drink water. We got through it. By now I was skilled at the parenting long distance thing. I offered nutritious soft food advice, helped determine what medications could be taken for the symptoms, explained how to gargle warm salt water and reassured that all will be OK.  And it was.

If you have a child heading off for college this fall, take the time to go over what to do when they don’t feel well. Review common over-the-counter medications for symptom relief, make sure he or she knows how to contact student health and send along a small first aid kit that includes a thermometer and hand sanitizer. That dreaded call or text will come – but you’ll both be prepared to take this next step in growing up.

Parenting from Afar
About Jane Miller
Jane Miller is mom to two remarkable now-young adults and the Director of Advertising at UW Health.

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Posted in Teens | Tagged , , , , ,

6 Flu Myths

6 Myths about Seasonal Flu

With school starting and the days getting shorter and cooler, it means it is that time of the year to make sure everyone in the family is ready with the essentials: winter coats, snow pants, boots, mittens, hats and flu shots.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. It is also recommended that healthy children 2-8 years of age get the nasal spray flu vaccine instead of the flu shot. Studies show that the nasal spray flu vaccine can provide better protection than the flu shot for this group.

There are some families who may still prefer not to be vaccinated for the flu. While it is certainly a personal decision, when you are trying to determine what is best for your family, consider the truth behind some common myths about the flu and vaccine.

Flu Myth 1: The flu is just a bad cold

While it is true that most individuals recover from the flu, it does have serious potential implications. The seasonal flu hospitalizes more than 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. For children and the elderly, the risk of serious complications is quite real. Children under 2 years of age have the highest rate of hospitalization from the flu. Those with underlying health conditions are at an even greater risk.

Infants under 6 months are particularly susceptible to the flu because they are too young to be vaccinated. While it’s not realistic to keep them away from people all winter long, it is a good idea to avoid visiting family and friends who are ill or have recently been ill. And, parents and caretakers should get vaccinated to help protect infants and even the elderly for whom they care.

Flu Myth 2: The flu vaccine can give you the flu

This is one of the most common myths we hear, and it is untrue if not impossible. The virus contained in the vaccines cannot infect you. And, while it is difficult to determine why this myth persists, it could be because flu season coincides with a time of year when colds and other respiratory illnesses are common. When someone gets a flu shot and becomes ill, it is likely a coincidence and not a result of the vaccine.

Flu Myth 3: You don’t need a flu vaccine every year

While there are vaccines given based on age, the flu vaccine is needed every year. The particular strains of influenza change each year, and consequently researchers develop a new vaccine based on the strains they believe will be the most prevalent. Also, the immune protection offered by the vaccine does wane over time (although it will last through the season), and unlike the chicken pox, having the flu does not protect you from getting it again.

Flu Myth 4: We should wait to get vaccinated until later in the season

It takes approximately two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the influenza virus. It is best for your family to get vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available so they are protected before the virus begins spreading. While it is true that the immune protection resulting from the vaccination does wane over time, it extends through the full season.

A similar myth is that after the end of November, it’s too late to get vaccinated. Influenza is unpredictable and seasons vary. While influenza usually peaks in January or February, it can occur as late as May so it is still a good idea to get vaccinated even in December or later.

Flu Myth 5: Antibiotics can fight the flu

The flu is caused by a virus, not a bacterial infection. Consequently, antibiotics will not have any effect. There can be complications due to the flu, such as bronchitis, sinusitis or even pneumonia. In those cases, antibiotics can help. If you do develop the flu and your symptoms continue to get worse instead of better, that is a sign to call your doctor.
If you have any questions about influenza or the vaccines, talk with your child’s primary care provider to find out what is best for your family.

Flu Myth 6: You only need a single dose of the vaccine

This is somewhat of a trick statement. In general, only a single dose of the vaccine is required. But, there are circumstances when a second dose is necessary. While your child’s primary care provider will help you determine what is right for your situation, in general, children who are 6 months through 8 years of age who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time may require two doses.

There are a few factors that providers take into consideration when determining whether a second dose is needed. Essentially if your child has received two or more doses of seasonal vaccine since July 1, 2010, then it is likely he or she will only need a single dose.

Flu vaccines are now available in most clinics. If your child does need two doses, it is a good idea to get the first dose as soon as possible since you will have to wait at least four weeks before the second dose.

While the decision to get a flu shot is certainly a personal one, it’s important that you make the decision based on facts. And remember, the shot isn’t going to keep you from getting sick in the first place, but it will help to lessen the severity of the flu and help prevent complications. It will also help to keep those around you safer.

Get the flu vaccine, don’t let a myth get you sick.

For updates about the flu visit uwhealth.org/flu

We want to know: Are you ready for cold and flu season?

6 Flu Myths
About Caroline R. Paul, MD
Dr. Caroline R. Paul is a pediatrician at UW Health West Clinic.

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Posted in General, Prevention | Tagged , , , , , ,

Eating Disorders in Teens

It can be difficult at the beginning to decipher what is an eating disorder versus what is normal self-consciousness and dieting behavior that comes with the changing bodies in adolescents.

But as the eating disorder progresses, the red flags can get more obvious. Some of these red flags include a change in eating behavior, where people will skip meals or make up reasons why they’re not eating:

“I had a big meal earlier.”

“My stomach hurts.”

“I just brushed my teeth.”

You may also see what people generally think of as healthy eating behaviors that are spiraling out of control. For example, decreasing fat intake, skipping deserts or trying to go vegetarian or organic. These can be good health decisions, but they can spiral out of control and become an eating disorder.

You may see changes in mood, where they’re more irritable. They may avoid activities that center around food, like birthday or pizza parties. You may see binging behaviors where the food that you know that you bought has now disappeared or you find in their room lots of wrappers.

You may see purging behaviors, where they’re going to the bathroom immediately after meals. And you may not hear them actually making themselves sick, because they’re running water or they’re taking showers. Teens are very good at hiding the behaviors that they want to hide.

Part of the eating disorder is that they are covering up what they do and they are in extreme denial. No one’s going to say, “Hey mom, I think I have anorexia nervosa and I need to see a doctor.”

So gently question your child about about his or her behaviors. And if you’re really concerned, bring them to a physician. It takes a multidisciplinary team to care for eating disorders. Including mental health, dietician, and medical health or physician. And the sooner that you identify these behaviors; the sooner you bring your loved one in to get help, the better the prognosis for the eating disorder.

Learn more about eating disorders in teens

Related Resources

Eating Disorders in Teens
About Paula Cody, MD, MPH
Dr. Paula Cody is fellowship trained in adolescent medicine and is a pediatrician at the UW Health John Stephenson Teenage and Young Adult Clinic.

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Back to School – Hot vs. Cold Lunch

School LunchThe transition back to school is an opportunity for change. If there are unhealthful habits that have snuck into your family’s life over the summer, take a time-out to identify what they are. For example, perhaps summer was very busy with family engagements and your family got into the habit of dining out 3 or 4 nights per week. Try to use the transition back to school to keep everyone at home for dinner.

When returning back to school many have to decide if they are going to eat hot lunch versus bringing a lunch from home (cold lunch). Some families decide to do a mixture of both. In order to ensure a healthful lunch, it was previously recommended to pack a lunch. However, after the multitude of revisions to the school lunch program, public school lunches have improved greatly. The school lunch program now serves portions of food in accordance with the child’s age. It also must provide low-fat dairy, a fruit and a vegetable at every meal. Within the year, the school lunch program will also be incorporating more whole grains and working to reduce the amount of salt, or sodium, in the food.

When assessing the school lunch program at your child’s school it is important to ask your child if:

  • They enjoy the food.
  • They take and eat both the fruit and vegetable option daily.
  • They choose low-fat white milk to drink.
  • They get second helpings at lunch.

Their answers can help you to decide whether a cold lunch may be a healthier option. The ideal cold lunch includes a serving of whole grain, lean protein, fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy and healthy fat. When it’s all packed up it may look like:

  • ½ Peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat bread,
  • Low-fat string cheese,
  • Baby Carrots, and
  • Water bottle.

If you are looking to liven up your child’s lunch box check out this month’s recipe!

September Recipe: Kid Friendly Wraps

The following ingredients can be used to make a variety of wraps, including:

  • Turkey and Cheese roll-up
  • Philly Beef and Cheese with Peppers Wrap
  • Hawaiian wrap with Ham, Cheese and Pineapple
  • Personal pizza wrap with turkey meat balls, shredded cheese and assorted vegetables
  • Veggie wrap with hummus and assorted vegetables
  • Taco Wrap with refried beans, greek yogurt, shredded cheese and vegetables with guacamole and salsa


  • 1 Low-Fat, Whole Wheat Tortilla (Small or Medium)
  • 1 serving of Lean Protein (Turkey, Chicken, Lean Ham, Lean Roast beef, Turkey meatballs, Peanut butter, Refried beans)
  • 1 serving of Low-Fat Dairy (Shredded cheese, sliced cheese, soft cheese spread, Greek yogurt)
  • 1 serving of vegetables (spinach, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, bell pepper, tomato sauce)
  • 1 serving of healthy fat (1 Tbsp Hummus, ¼ Avocado, 1 Tbsp Guacamole)

Lay the tortilla flat and then spread the healthy fat of your choice on the tortilla.

Lay the lean protein on top of the spread.

Place the low-fat cheese or yogurt on top of the lean protein. Spread the vegetables over the dairy evenly.

Then, fold one side of the wrap towards the center about 1-inch.

Begin to roll the wrap tightly beginning at an edge to the left or the right of the fold.

If your kids bring lunch to school from home, what do you pack?

Back to School – Hot vs. Cold Lunch
About Cassie Vanderwall, MS, RD, CD, CDE, CPT
Cassie Vanderwall is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and certified diabetes educator at the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic and Pediatric Diabetes Clinic. Cassie is passionate about empowering families by equipping them with the tools they need to achieve a healthier life.

View all posts by Cassie Vanderwall, MS, RD, CD, CDE, CPT
Posted in Nutrition | Tagged , , , , , , ,