Biking: Teach Your Kids to Ride Safely

Kids love riding their bikes and it’s good exercise for them. But the sad fact is, according to the National Bicycle Safety Network, children between the ages of 5-15 account for the greatest number of bicycle related injuries. You can help your child stay safe by teaching him to follow some basic safety rules of bike riding. If he learns how to follow traffic rules, how to check his bike to make sure it is working properly, and protects himself with the proper equipment, the risk of injury will be much lower. The first thing, and one of the most important your child can do, is to wear a properly-fitted and approved bicycle helmet. Bicycle-related head injuries account for 500 deaths a year, says the NBSN. Never let your child ride a bike without a helmet. Make sure they can be seen. Wear bright-colored clothing when riding. If your kids are going to be riding after dusk or at night, have them wear light colors with reflective bands. Make sure their bikes have reflectors on the front and back. Young children should not ride at night. Everyone should avoid riding in high traffic areas after dark. Teach them to pay attention to what is going on around them. Watch the road and the traffic. Ride with the traffic not against it. Pay special attention at intersections, stop signs and driveways. Never just coast the bike through a stop sign or busy intersection. Make sure they know the basic hand signals for stopping and turning. Learn what the traffic signs mean and obey them. Stop signs are for bikes too, not just cars. Let cars have the right-of-way. Have them pull over and stop to get out of a car’s way if necessary. Make sure your child’s bike is working properly. Make it a habit for them to always check their brakes before riding. Adjust the bike so that it properly fits the rider. Don’t play games on a bike. A bike is designed for one rider, not two or more. Don’t allow them to pop wheelies or try to jump over objects with the bike. To be safe, your children need to ride safe. With a little help from you they can do just that.

Bike Safety Check List 1. Wheels — Are they tight? Are the tires in good order, with plenty of air? 2. Seat — Is it the proper height? Need adjusting? Tight? 3. Handle bars and pedals — are they firmly in place? Do they need repair? 4. Horn, reflectors, and headlights — Do you have them? Do they work properly? 5. Brakes — Do they work properly every time? 6. Chain — Is it lubricated and snug? Is it clogged up with old grease? 7. Fenders and frame — Is everything where it should be, firmly in place? — Belinda J. Mooney

Helmet Safety Do’s and Don’ts Many parents only make their children wear helmets for biking or roller blading, but it’s important that children wear helmets while snowboarding, riding on scooters or skateboarding, as well. Here are some simple dos and don’ts for helmet safety from the folks at and

• Don’t buy a helmet that is too big for the child’s head, thinking that they will grow into it. • Do make sure the helmet fits properly. It should be snug enough so that when the child shakes his/her head, it shouldn’t slip to the front or the back. • Don’t use adult helmets made on a child. • Don’t make your child wear a helmet that is too tight, pinches, or creates pressure points or hot spots. • Do check to make sure the helmet isn’t so tight that it causes headaches, or pulls their hair out when they turn their head. • Don’t let you kids wear the same helmet after an accident, unless a professional has checked it out. • Do buy a new helmet every couple of years as the plastic and composites break down over time, especially when exposed to the sun and high altitudes.



Summer Ear Aches “Mom, my ear hurts.” “Can’t be, Susie. It’s July, and you haven’t had a cold.” Your child may be suffering from a common summer problem known as “swimmer’s ear” — an infection of the outer ear canal which thrives when the canal is moist. Moisture builds when the air is humid, when children perspire heavily, or when they swim. Swimmer’s ear begins with itching and discomfort, followed by pain, swelling, and tenderness. Once diagnosed, swimmer’s ear is easily treated with antibiotic drops. The child is often told to stay out of the water for several days as well. Swimmer’s ear can be prevented by using ear plugs and by drying the ear thoroughly after any activity that would get moisture into the ear canal. Dry gently with a blow dryer. Or, use drops of a mixture of vinegar and alcohol. However, if your child complains that the drops burn, it may mean that she already has an infection and that the ear canal is raw. Check with your pediatrician if the child is complaining. — Christine Ridout

The latest on ear tubes For many years, pediatric otolaryngologists recommended that kids with ear tubes plug them up when they go swimming. The reason: to keep water and bacteria from seeping through the tube and into the middle ear, where it might cause a serious infection, otitis media. “Now, I tell parents that if their kids have ear tubes and are just splashing around or surface swimming at the beach or in a pool, they do not need ear plugs,” says Dr. Jay Dolitsky at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. “A lot of kids are really put off by wearing plugs at the beach, so when I tell parents their kids do not need them, the parents are overjoyed — not to mention the kids. “In the past decade, research has shown that children who swim without ear plugs do not get any more middle ear infections than those who wear them,” Dr. Dolitsky explains. But, old preventive medicine rules die hard, and many parents still have their kids fitted with a custom-made ear plug or place a cotton ball with Vaseline into the ear canal when they go swimming. Ear tubes are placed in many children under five, and some who are older, because they lack a fully functioning Eustachian tube, the organ that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose to ventilate and drain the middle ear. The tube helps ventilation. “There are always exceptions to rules,” says Dr. Dolitsky. “First, if kids are diving or swimming four or five feet below the surface, the underwater pressure may force water into the tube, so that can be dangerous. These children should wear plugs. “Second, don’t throw the ear plugs out when in the bath water. Soap and shampoo changes the surface tension of water, making it ‘slippery’, and the dirty bath water can slip into the ear tube’s opening. This could lead to middle ear infections. Bottom line, kids should wear ear plugs when taking a bath.” —Alison Hogan

Carbon Monoxide: Protect Your Family Carbon monoxide gas (CO). Everybody has heard of it, but few realize the dangers of exposure, or know how to be properly protected. According to industry estimates, about 93 percent of homes in the United States have smoke detectors, but only about 27 percent have CO detectors. Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, and odorless toxic gas. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ovens, stoves, space heaters, fireplaces, and gas-run clothes dryers produce it. The symptoms of lower-level poisoning mimic those of the flu or food poisoning — nausea, lightheadedness, and grogginess — and therefore, can be misunderstood by health care professionals. Poisoning is harmful to all ages, but it is especially harmful to pregnant women and their unborn children, and children under 6. CO is absorbed into the bloodstream, making it harder for blood to absorb oxygen and carry it throughout the body, depriving the body of oxygen. New alarm technology combines smoke and carbon monoxide protection into one unit, so only a single device need be installed in the home, instead of two. There are several good ones on the market that let out a loud piercing sound, similar to smoke detectors, when the levels of CO in the home are dangerously high. One model, from Kidde Safety, has an audible voice feature that verbally announces which hazard has caused the unit to activate. It is available at home centers, mass merchandise and hardware outlets, for about $30. For more information about CO and how to purchase the right detector, call 1-877-CO-FACTS. — S.R.D

Campaign Launched to “Defeat the Heat” The National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) has teamed up with the Gatorade company to launch a program called “Defeat the Heat”, a public safety campaign to alert parents to the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke. Kids are at a higher risk for dehydration and heat-related illness, especially those who are active outdoors. Kids absorb more heat than adults because they have a greater surface-area to body mass ratio than grownups do — so a smaller child absorbs heat even faster. The program is intended to educate parents on how to keep their kids safe and healthy during outdoor activities. The program stresses the importance of drinking regularly during activities, as well as before and after, to maintain a healthy hydration level. Since many parents aren’t on the playing field when their kids are, here are some tips:

_ Tell your child to drink even if they don’t feel thirsty. Thirst is a sign of dehydration. _ Have them drink 12 ounces of fluid 30 minutes before they participate in the activity. _ Children who are under 90 pounds should drink five ounces every 20 minutes; children who are over 90 pounds should drink nine ounces every 20 minutes. _ When the child is finished, make sure they drink every 20 minutes within the first hour of post-activity. _ For an effective way to measure how much your child should be drinking, remember: a gulp equals 1/2-ounce, so if they need to drink five ounces, tell them to take 10 gulps. _ And, teach them the ABCs of dehydration: _ Always drink before, during, and after an activity. _ Bring along the right kinds of fluids, such as sports drinks. _ Children need these fluids as part of their sports equipment.

For more information about this program and how to prevent heat illness and dehydration, call 1-866-5DEFEAT or log onto

Food Survival 101 The American Dietetic Association (ADA) and ConAgra Foods Foundation recently released a study, based on a consumer survey, reporting that most parents do not practice proper food safety habits when preparing their children’s lunches and snacks. Food safety is particularly relevant in summer. The ADA and ConAgra foods have come up with the following list of guidelines to help families keep their food cold, fresh, and clean: • Invest in an insulated lunch bag to keep perishable foods cold until lunchtime; perishable foods should not be out of the fridge for more that two hours; one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees. • If using brown paper bags, double bag them for extra protection. • Instruct your child to throw away any remaining perishable items after lunch, saving only shelf-stable foods. • If keeping food cold is a problem, make a lunch with shelf stable food like fruits and vegetables, cereal and granola bars, pudding cups or single serving soy milk, peanut butter, or cans of tuna. • Teach your child to wash hands before and after eating, or throw in a moist cleansing towelette to remind them to keep hands clean. Make sure you rinse off all of your fruits and vegetables in cool tap water before packing them in the lunch bags. And, in the home, separate raw meats and keep counter areas clean, and wash your hands before and after preparing food. For more information about kitchen and food safety, visit or call the ADA’s consumer nutrition line at (800) 366-1655.

What Type of Sunblock is Right for You? Everybody knows that sunblock is necessary whenever going out into the sun, but what kind of product is right for you? And what are the differences between them? The first thing you generally see when purchasing a sun-shielding product is “SPF”, which means “sun protection factor”. Many doctors recommend purchasing a product with SPF protection of 30 or higher for direct contact with sun, such as extended periods spent outdoors at the beach, playing sports, or in the garden. The next important step is determining what type of rays you want protection from. UVB and UVA rays are both harmful, but in different ways. UVB rays are the ones that burn the skin and cause melanoma skin cancer — the deadliest kind. UVA rays are the ones that damage your skin and give you wrinkles. If you want to protect yourself against both, get a product that blocks both types. Products such as Parsol 1798 are effective against UVA rays; so are zinc and titanium oxide. Zinc oxide sunscreens can be applied as soon as you go outside, but most sunscreens need to be applied 30 minutes before outdoor exposure to be fully effective, and should be reapplied often once outside. For those who are finicky about sunscreen and don’t like greasy lotions, try using sprays, fast drying lotions, or non-greasy products. And one more important safety tip: keep your kids away from tanning beds, as they expose the skin to increased levels of UVA, which is linked to early-onset skin cancer.

Shield Your Eyes from the Blinding Sun The sun can damage your eyes, as well as your skin. Your eyes’ exposure to UV rays “contribute to age-related changes in the eye and a number of serious eye diseases,” says Betsy Van Die, media relations director for Prevent Blindness America. Van Die says everybody, young or old, who exposes their eyes to the sun is at risk for damage. UVB rays, which cause sunburn and heighten the risk of skin cancer, can cause something called photokeratitis, or a sunburn on your cornea (the membrane that covers the front of your eye). Sunburned corneas are common in people who spend a lot of time on the beach or skiing without proper eyewear; and while it isn’t permanent, it can be painful and lead to temporary vision loss, Van Die says. UVA rays, which cause wrinkles, can also penetrate the eye, and may injure the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for seeing in the center field of vision. But, both UVA and UVB rays can lead to the development of cataracts; macular degeneration can lead to loss of eyesight, or eyelid cancer, if eyes aren’t properly protected. The best way to protect your eyes is to wear a wide-brimmed hat to shield the face; hats can reduce the amount of UV that hits your face by 50 percent — saving both your eyes and your skin. Buy good sunglasses (not the bargain ones for a dollar or two) that have the UV sticker to prove they block 99-100 percent of UV rays. Better yet, buy wraparound sunglasses for the best protection because they shield your eyes from every angle. And, when buying sunglasses for children, make sure they have full UV protection, and a proper fit. —Sara Rivka Davidson

If you’re pregnant … Have Belly, Will Travel!

Expectant motherhood brings special considerations when you’re traveling:

If you’re traveling by car • Set a realistic travel itinerary for yourself. Your days of whizzing down the highway for hours at a time with not so much as a single bathroom break are a thing of the past — at least for now. In fact, if you’re like most pregnant women, you’re likely to find yourself mapping out your route based on washroom availability — the ultimate roadside attraction at this stage in your life.

• If your car has airbags, you’ll want to make sure that there is at least a 10-inch gap between your belly and the dash. (You may have to move your seat back a little if you’re megapregnant). And while we’re talking positioning, here’s something important to keep in mind if you’re the driver: you should tilt the steering wheel downward so that it’s as far as possible from your belly, to minimize the risk of injury to your baby in the event of a car accident.

• Wear your seatbelt. Your seatbelt should be fastened across your hips and underneath your belly (as opposed to across your belly). This will help to reduce the risk of injury to you and your baby in the event of an automobile accident. If the seatbelt has a shoulder belt, make sure that it is positioned between your breasts. (If the shoulder belt is chaffing your neck, try moving your seat back a little).

If you’re traveling by plane • Make sure you’re clear about airline policies concerning pregnant travelers before you book your flight. Policies vary from airline to airline, but most carriers require some sort of doctor’s certificate from any pregnant woman who is traveling during the mid- to late third trimester.

• If you’re heading to exotic locales, make sure that any immunizations that are required can be safely administered during pregnancy. It’s best to avoid live vaccines and certain other types of vaccines during pregnancy.

• Get out of your seat and move around whenever the opportunity presents itself. This will help to minimize leg cramps and ankle swelling. (Don’t worry about setting the alarm on your watch to remind yourself to do this: your bladder will encourage you to make washroom treks on a regular basis!) If you end up being confined to your seat for a prolonged period of time, do calf stretches or rotate your ankles — whatever you can reasonably do to stretch your legs while you’re stuck in one spot.

• If you’re prone to varicose veins, you might want to pick up a pair of support hose (vascular tightening stockings) from your local medical supply store before you hop on board the plane. Flying increases your risk of developing varicose veins. — Ann Douglas

ANN DOUGLAS is the author of ‘The Mother of All Pregnancy Books’ and ‘The Mother of All Baby Books’, and the co-author of ‘Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death’ and ‘The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby’. She can be contacted via her website: