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Health Capsules: Aug. 7

Vaccinations shouldn’t end in childhood

National Immunization Awareness Month shines a spotlight on vaccines and their role in maintaining good health for adults as well as kids.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month – and just because you’re long past the childhood immunization schedule doesn’t mean that you no longer need vaccines to protect your health.

Depending on your age when you were first immunized, protection against some diseases can wear off as you get older. New vaccines also have been added over the years, especially for older adults to protect against diseases such as shingles and pneumonia. 

It’s also important for women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, to make sure their immunizations are up to date.

The specific vaccines you should have as an adult are dependent on your age, health conditions, lifestyle, and plans for international travel. Following is a general list of immunizations adults should discuss with their doctors:

• Yearly seasonal influenza [flu]

• Tdap: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis [whooping cough], for those who have not previously been vaccinated, pregnant women, and those providing care for infants including parents, grandparents and babysitters

• Shingles for healthy adults over age 50

• Pneumococcal [pneumonia] for adults age 65 and older, or others with health conditions that put them at risk

• Hepatitis A and/or Hepatitis B, for adults with diabetes or who are planning to travel internationally to countries where these diseases are common.

Planning for emergencies should include pets, too

As important members of the family, pets should be included in planning for natural disasters and other unforeseen emergencies.

Most people think of their pets as family. But they may not think about what would happen to those canine and feline family members if an emergency – such as a fire, flood, tornado or earthquake – should strike with little or no warning.

In such situations, when panic often prevails, pet owners often face difficult decisions about how to keep them safe. As part of its Healthy Pets, Healthy People program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a few basic tips to help make these decisions easier when seconds count.

1. Have your pet microchipped. Ask your veterinarian to implant a microchip containing your contact information, which can be easily scanned if you and your pet become separated. During a disaster, finding a lost pet that hasn’t been microchipped can be extremely difficult or even impossible. Once the chip is implanted, keep the registration information up to date.

2. Prepare a pet disaster kit containing food, leashes, bedding and any necessary medications. Although this means purchasing extra supplies, it will be easier to gather your pet’s items if you have them all together and ready for an emergency. Include copies of your pet’s veterinary records, rabies vaccination certificates, microchip information, and any prescriptions. 

3. Prearrange where your pet will stay in an emergency. Pets other than service animals are often not allowed in evacuation centers, so ask out-of-town friends or relatives ahead of time about keeping your pet in an emergency. In the event that you’re not home when disaster strikes, establish a “buddy system” with friends and neighbors you can call to check on your pets and evacuate them if necessary. 

4. Include pets in family plans. When discussing your family’s emergency plans, make sure everyone knows who will grab the pet(s), supplies, and where you will meet during an evacuation. For sheltering in place, pick a room with few or no windows, no toxic chemicals or plants, and make sure to close off small areas where frightened pets could get stuck. 

Parents admit their role in teens’ ‘failure to launch’

A new University of Michigan poll that questioned parents of teens about those teens’ readiness for adulthood found that many are not ready – and their parents are taking the blame for this “failure to launch.” 

Nearly all parents who participated in the survey – a nationally representative sample whose kids are between the ages of 14 and 18 – said they are helping their teens become more independent by allowing them to make more choices, pushing them to handle things themselves, and no longer doing things for them.

However, a quarter of parents surveyed also said they are the main barrier to their teen’s independence because they don’t take the time or effort needed to give their teen more adult responsibilities. They said it’s often quicker and less hassle to do things themselves, or they don’t think about specific ways to give teens more responsibility.

Parents gave their teens – and themselves – the lowest ratings on the subject of teens assuming responsibility for their own healthcare. Many parents felt that it remained their job to ensure that their teens received appropriate care, followed medical advice and took medicines on schedule.

“The process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood includes everything from preparing for work and financial responsibility, to taking care of one’s health and well-being. Our poll suggests that parents aren’t letting go of the reins as often as they could be to help teens successfully make that transition,” said Sarah Clark, an associate research scientist and the poll’s co-director. 

“We did not ask about life-or-death health care matters. But we did ask parents whether their teens could independently handle very basic tasks, such as taking care of minor injuries, figuring out the correct dose of a medication or calling to make a doctor’s appointment,” Clark explained.

She said that it’s crucial for teens to begin taking ownership of their health before they enter adulthood, when they will face more complex tasks.

Although nearly all the parents surveyed expressed the belief that it is important for teens to make mistakes, they also felt it was their role to prevent teens from making mistakes that are too serious, expressing a reluctance to let go of certain decisions where negative consequences could result.

“It is clear that parents recognize tension in helping teens move toward independence, and they agree that valuable learning experiences often result from a poor decision,” Clark said.

“Some parents justify taking control over certain responsibilities because they don’t believe their teen is ‘mature enough.’ But this type of logic inhibits their teen from actually becoming more mature.” 

Common personal care products pose dangers to kids 

Most people don’t think of personal care products like shampoo, lotion, makeup and cologne as unsafe for children, so they are generally kept within easy reach.  However, these types of products sent nearly 65,000 children under age 5 to U.S. emergency rooms between 2002 and 2016 – about one child every two hours. 

A study recently conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy found that most injuries from these types of products occurred when a child either swallowed the product [about 76%] or it made contact with a child’s eyes or skin [about 19%], causing either poisoning or chemical burns.

“Kids this age can’t read, so they don’t know what they are looking at. They see a bottle with a colorful label that looks or smells like something they are allowed to eat or drink, so they try to open it and take a swallow,” said Rebecca McAdams, M.A., MPH, senior research associate at the center and the study’s co-author. 

The top three categories leading to injuries were nail care, hair care and skin care products, followed by fragrances. Nail polish remover was the single item that led to the most ER visits, while more than half of the injuries requiring hospitalization were from hair care products.

The authors also expressed concern about kids’ easy access to these products. “Children watch their parents use these items and may try to imitate their behavior. Since these products are often stored in easy-to-reach places and are not typically in child-resistant containers, it can be easy for kids to get to and open the bottles,” said McAdams. 

They recommended that parents and child caregivers follow these simple safety tips:

• Store all personal care products up, away and out of sight – in a cabinet that can be locked or latched is best. Never leave personal care products unattended and put them away immediately after use.

• Keep all personal care products in their original containers.

• Know how to get help. Save the national Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near home phones.

On the calendar

St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Care Center presents Baby-Kid Expo on Saturday, Aug. 10 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Greensfelder Recreation Center in Queeny Park, 550 Weidman Road in Ballwin. This free event connects St. Louis area families to products and services including healthcare and daycare providers, educational choices and recreation options. It will feature a petting zoo, Safety Street, magic acts, princess shows and more. Register for admission and prize giveaways at babykidexpo.com.

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St. Luke’s Hospital offers cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings on Thursday, Aug. 15 from 7-9:30 a.m. at St. Luke’s Convenient Care 1080 Lindemann Road [inside Dierbergs Des Peres]. Get your cholesterol and glucose numbers in a one-on-one consultation with a registered nurse/health coach, which also includes blood pressure and body composition measurement. The cost is $20; an A1C blood test is also available for an additional $12. Advance appointments are required; register online at stlukes-stl.com.

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St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Babysitting 101 class on Saturday, Aug. 17 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer Forty Road in Town & Country. This class is a great introduction to the basics of babysitting; participants learn how to entertain kids in their care while attending to their needs. There is no age limit. The course fee is $30 per child. Register online at StLouisChildrens.org/Registration or call (314) 454-5437.

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An American Red Cross blood drive is on Monday, Aug. 26 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the St. Luke’s Hospital Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield, on Level 2 of the North Medical Office Building. To schedule an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org. and enter the sponsor code SAINTLUKES or call (314) 658-2090.

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St. Luke’s Hospital presents the first event in a special Conversations for Women series, Basics of Mindful Eating, on Thursday, Sept. 5 from 6-7:30 p.m. at The Lodge Des Peres, 1050 Des Peres Road. The overall goal of mindful eating is to have a healthy relationship with food. Participants will learn several techniques to help them understand their eating habits, and learn how to modify them to reach nutrition goals while also enjoying food more. A light dinner will be served. To register for this free event, visit stlukes-stl.com.

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