Get blog posts into your mailbox

Subscribe to the Blog

Question of the Week: Did You Get Vaccinated Against H1N1?

Did you get vaccinated?

Did you get vaccinated?

Two weeks ago, President Obama declared H1N1 a national emergency, and Americans are having trouble getting vaccinated.

Though there are critics that claim the vaccine isn’t safe, it’s manufactured the same way seasonal flu vaccines are, a process that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and been a standard for over 60 years. It’s also been tested extensively, minimizing side effects and successfully protecting patients from the H1N1 virus. And remember, the seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against H1N1.

But supply shortages are preventing many Americans from getting vaccinated. According to a story from the Wall Street Journal, 32.3 million doses are available — far less than the 159 million required to cover every high-risk person in the United States. 62% of those vaccines will not be available until the beginning of December, well after flu season ends.

The problem is that manufacturers can’t produce it quickly enough. Typically, two-thirds of Americans 65 and older opt to get the vaccine; for younger people, it’s only one-third. This year’s higher demand is far greater than the supply. U.S. health care officials promise to invest in the infrastructure to meet future demands for the flu vaccine, but it begs the question: why does it take a pandemic to galvanize us into action?

Did you get vaccinated against H1N1? Has the shortage affected your ability to get it? Discuss!

6 Myths About Getting Sick

Are we getting sick for the wrong reasons?

Are we getting sick for the wrong reasons?

1. The Cold Will Give You a Cold It’s true that more people get sick during the colder seasons, but it has nothing to do with the weather. A cold is a virus, and the reason it’s more common during the fall and winter is that we all spend more time inside with each other, making it more likely to spread.

2. Being Wet Will Give You a Cold This is actually truer than most of these myths, but still misleading. Being wet or cold, like in the first myth, isn’t what gives you the virus, but it can trigger a dormant virus that’s already in your system. Read more »

Question of the Week: How Much Halloween Candy Should Kids Eat?

A rotten jackpot? Photo by respres.

A rotten jackpot? Photo by respres.

During the hullaballoo of Halloween, many kids collect enough candy to last a full calendar year, but parents usually aren’t willing to let their kids chow down on seemingly infinite chocolate, nougat, and candy corn… right?

Not so, according to a 1,200-child-poll conducted by kidshealth.org, which reports that around 50 percent of the kids surveyed said they had no limits whatsoever on how much candy they can eat.

While over 60 percent of respondents said they set their own constraints on how many sweets they devour, there’s no shortage of online advice on how to monitor or control you children’s post-Halloween sugar consumption.

Arguably the best thing to do would be to prevent kids from eating any candy, but that is nearly impossible and just so cruel. There are alternatives steps one can take, however, to keep things reasonably healthy. On her blog, Charm City Mom’s, Baltimore Sun writer Kate Shatzkin cites a nutritionist who suggests parents encourage their kids to eat candy with some nutritional value (vitamins, protein, etc.), while steering them toward small serving sizes.

Last year, the Washington Post ran a Healthday News story that indicated how often candy is eaten has more impact (at least on teeth) than the amount that gets wolfed down at any one time: one piece every hour during an afternoon, for example, creates more acid a mouth than several pieces all at once.

Halloween certainly isn’t the healthiest holiday, but is a few week sucrose-binge in November something worth worrying about? How much candy do you let your kids eat in the aftermath of October 31? What rules do you set? Discuss!

SAD Season: How to Stay Upbeat with less Sunlight

Less sun can lead to seasonal affective disorder. Photo by féileacán.

Less sun can lead to seasonal affective disorder. Photo by féileacán.

While Daylight Savings promises an extra hour of perceived sleep, it also heralds the time of year when daylight becomes a scarce commodity. That can be bad news for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD as it is appropriately known.

Doctors don’t know for sure what the cause or causes of SAD are, but the experts at the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and other top health care facilities think a decrease in sunlight during the fall has a lot to do with it.

Estimates put the number of people seriously affected in the US at about half a million, with many more experiencing symptoms to a lesser degree. Those symptoms, according to familydoctor.org, commonly include winter-onset depression as well as weight gain, anxiety, distraction, exhaustion, and even social anxiety and irritability. If you find yourself sleeping in till noon, hording chocolate, and avoiding your friends, for example, you may be one of those affected.

Aside from taking a much deserved trip to another hemisphere, there are still recommended ways to beat SAD, without breaking the bank or having to take extended time off work. Both the Mayo Clinic and familydoctor say you may want to talk to your doctor about light therapy, which involves wearing an apparatus on your head for 30-or-so minutes a day that creates the impression of receiving more sunshine and has few side effects.

Tanning is not a substitute for this, and is generally not recommended by medical professionals, however, certain medications and even psychotherapy can provide some relief until spring rolls around and natural alternatives become available.

When Kids Lie, How to Reply

In late August, author Po Bronson appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss his book NutureShock: New Thinking About Children. One facet of this “new thinking,” according to Bronson, is understanding why kids lie. Because in reality, they lie a lot.

Wasn't me!

Wasn't me!

What Bronson is specifically interested in is how to respond to it. Most parents believe that the way to condition lying out of kids is to teach them that lying is wrong and threaten them with punishments for doing it. But Bronson found that punitive warnings only turn kids into better liars. Read more »

Eye Popping: Our Gallery of Inspired Jack-O'-Lanterns

While trick-or-treating brings in the loot every October 31, it’s pumpkin carving that offers a chance to tap into your creativity, and impress those sugar hungry visitors at the door.

Whether you’re throwing a party for friends, getting the family together, or embarking on a solo project, sculpting pumpkins, and other squash, is a classic way to have some seasonal fun, and craft scary, goofy, or playful decorations for the yard.

As with many undertakings, finding the inspiration to start can be the most difficult part. For some tips and ideas ranging from traditional geometric jack-o’-lanterns to stenciled etchings to some more outlandish creations, check out our gallery of inventive pumpkins.

Family Affair

With pumpkins, the more the merrier. Photo by monocat.

With pumpkins, the more the merrier. Photo by monocat.

Stencils Matey

Guides can help you stencil complex designs. Photo by indigoprime.

Guides can help you stencil complex designs. Photo by indigoprime.

Read more »

Question of the Week: When Should Kids Start Pre-K?

In England, kids start pre-kindergarten at age four, but a new study from Cambridge is suggesting putting it off until six.

The study itself took six years to complete, with 14 authors, 66 research consultants, 28 research surveys, over 1,052 “written submissions,” and 250 focus groups. The result is a report that’s 600 pages long. The conclusion: Kids are not allowed to be kids. They don’t have enough time to play, and preparing for standardized tests puts them under unwarranted stress.

How old does she look? Old enough to start Pre-K?

How old does she look? Old enough to start Pre-K?

The survey also suggests getting rid of testing for children between the ages 7 through 11. Finally, the study recommends focusing on improving basic skills — namely literacy and numeracy — shifting away from more specific subjects like history and geography while adding more emphasis on history and the arts.

Clearly, a lot of effort has been put into the study, but many parents are taking issue with the suggestion.

Barbara Ellen, columnist for The Guardian, suggests that the study doesn’t take into account working parents. With parents juggling more than ever — especially the many families that must have both parents working — pushing Pre-K off another year or two would be harmful to the middle and lower class.

“Most British parents deeply love their children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be delighted when they’re ready for school,” Ellen writes. “Could it be that this is simply the last taboo – parents admitting that, among other important things, they view school as a reliable form of childcare?”

While the study took place in the U.K., the U.S. struggles with the same issues that Ellen highlights. Though Pre-K often starts at five in the U.S., delaying our children’s entrance to the school system by even by a year could be tough on working families.

Delia Lloyd has spent time with the public school systems in America and Britain. In a recent article for Politics Daily, she explains the diverging ideas in how Pre-K education are developing. She writes, “As an American, I’ve always been struck by how rapidly children are forced to grow up in the U.K… The expectations facing kids seemed quite high — not just academically, but in terms of discipline, play and what kids were supposed to get out of extra-curricular activities.”

It’s clear that how we view our view on education — both here and across the pond — is rapidly developing growing up, maybe even faster than kids for a change.

When should kids start pre-kindergarten? Discuss!

Ticket to Ride… As Cheaply As Possible

If you’re like me, you don’t care about luxury air travel. You just want to get from point A to B as cheaply as possible. As airlines cut capacity, finding inexpensive airfare is becoming tougher and tougher. But there are a few good tips to find cheap seats.

Remember when flying was inexpensive? Me neither.

Remember when flying was inexpensive? Me neither.

An article by Rick Seaney at ABC News rebukes several myths that are often associated with the quest of finding a cheap flight, such as waiting for the last minute to buy a ticket, higher prices on weekend fares, and buying tickets at midnight on Tuesday.

Instead, shopping early — about four months before the departure — is usually when airlines are filling their cheapest seats. Sales are more likely to occur at the beginning of the week. Saturday is an inexpensive day to fly; Sunday is one of the most expensive, which makes sense since most people are trying to make it home for the work week. Last, Seaney notes that Tuesday is when the most flights are purchased, but there’s no evidence that it’s the cheapest day.

Seaney also encourages signing up for airline newsletters. It may be a hassle having your inbox spammed with ads from even your favorite airline, but it just might be worth it to catch a good deal.

The radio program Marketplace Money recently interviewed George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog, a service that tracks daily deals from all major airlines. Hobica encouraged people to be diligent about scouting out airfare, recommending that buyers check fares three times a day to find the best deal. Hobica also had advice for those who don’t feel like sitting at their computer and refreshing airfare search engines all day.

I think people need to look at alternate airports and alternate airlines. For example, if you’re flying from the Chicago area to Orlando, there’s a little airline called Allegiant Airlines that flies from Rockford, Ill. to Orlando Sanford. And last time I looked, the fares on Allegiant for peak holiday travel were about $100 each way and they are $500 on the major airlines. So think of smaller airports, smaller airlines. Make sure you look at Southwest.com, which does not share its fares on the major third-party booking engines.

It’s also worth noting that Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines are the only companies that will give you a credit if a ticket you’ve purchased becomes cheaper after you buy it.

8 "Best" Homemade Halloween Costumes Ever

There are a lot of clever ideas for Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, for every good idea, there are an equal number (if not more) bad ones. Here is a sampling of laughably bad ways to go trick or treating.

Transformers

Transformers: morons in disguise.

Transformers: morons in disguise.

Tom Cruise in Risky Business

Cue "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger. Also cue "Public Indecency Charges" by your local police department.

Cue Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger. Also cue Public Indecency Charges by your local police department.

Read more »

Question of the Week: Is Fame Dangerous to Kids?

A ride to fame... and everything that comes with it? photo by vovchychko

A ride to fame... and everything that comes with it? photo by vovchychko

Tell me if this sounds like a good idea—you make a weather balloon; you tell your son to hide in the garage, and then, after releasing said balloon, you call the authorities in a panic to tell them something terrible has happened. If everything goes well, you get famous and ink a reality TV deal.

As everyone who keeps up with television or the internet now knows, the above episode basically describes what authority’s believe Richard and Mayumi Henne did, temporarily shutting down Denver International Airport in the process. Perhaps the saddest part of this story: it worked, provided you accept the 24 hour news cycle represents “reality.”

That’s all well and good for the parents, but what about the children or in this case the child: the six year old Heene son. While “Balloon Boy” isn’t such a big downgrade from Falcon, there may be more serious repercussions than a bad nickname as he grows up. The trauma of watching his parents go to jail could be one in the not-too-distant future, while the excessive media attention at his age could also pose certain risks.

There’s well documented anecdotal evidence that celebrity, especially a parent’s quest for celebrity, can impact a child’s development in a bad way. Think Britney Spears, Macaulay Culkin, a young Drew Barrymore, the list goes on.

That said, what kid doesn’t want to be famous, and there have been plenty of child stars who turned into seemingly normal, productive members of society, like Ron Howard and Drew Barrymore, eventually.

That said, would you want your child to become famous? Is fame too dangerous for kids? Discuss!