Jeniah Simpson wearing a red hat from the American Heart Association’s Little Hats, Big Hearts. Supporters knit and crochet red hats to give to thousands of babies at participating hospitals during American Heart Month.
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. But despite great advances in screening and diagnosis, congenital heart disease can go unnoticed for a long period of time until heart damage has progressed enough to cause detectable symptoms.
While we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, it also marks Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week. The pediatric cardiologists at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and elsewhere remind both parents and their pediatricians to watch for any subtle signs that could signal the presence of congenital heart disease.
What Is a Congenital Heart Defect?
When the heart or blood vessels around it do not develop properly or develop abnormally before birth, a condition called congenital heart defect occurs (congenital means “existing at birth”). Congenital heart defects occur in close to one percent of all babies born, affecting some 40 thousand infants annually in the U.S. That’s about eight babies for every one thousand children born in the U.S. Most young people with congenital heart defects live into adulthood now, but may require more than one intervention or surgery to treat their condition.
Types of Congenital Heart Defects
A hole between two chambers of the heart (common defect)
The right or left side of the heart is not formed completely (hypoplastic)
Only one ventricle is present
Both the pulmonary artery and the aorta arise from the same ventricle
The pulmonary artery and the aorta arise from the “wrong” ventricles
Signs and Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Disease
In infants, the classic signs include the following:
Sweating around the baby’s head during feeding
Breathing fast while at rest and/or asleep
Bluish or pale skin, a sign of abnormally low oxygen levels
In older children, typical signs of congenital heart defects include:
Complaints of heart palpitations
Feelings of dizziness
Getting tired very easily with physical exertion
Inability to keep up with other kids
Cause of Congenital Heart Defects
In most cases, the cause is unknown. Sometimes a viral infection in the mother causes the condition. The condition can be genetic (hereditary). Most heart defects either cause an abnormal blood flow through the heart, or obstruct blood flow in the heart or vessels.
Treatment for Congenital Heart Problems
As children grow, some minor heart defects such as small holes may repair themselves. But when a defect requires correction, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatments available today which are less invasive and involve cardiac catheterization, medical device insertion, and minimally invasive heart surgery. In rare cases, a heart transplant may be needed.
Do we need Girl Power today when girls have caught up and often outperform boys in school STEM-related subjects? When they are earning more college diplomas than boys, and are increasingly represented in STEM-related careers? So then, why Girl Power?
At the Central Branch of Howard County Library System, girls have an outlet for building self-confidence, developing friendships, and doing STEAM-related activities. If you ask these tween customers why they feel Girl Power is important, this is what you’ll hear:
“So we can encourage girls to do anything in the world.”- Anne (Age 10)
“Friendship!”- Marianne (Age 11)
“I believe that every single girl has power inside of them.”- Alexis (Age 9)
“It teaches girls to be brave & strong.”- Abby (11)
“It helps bring my inner voice come out.”- Trisha (Age 11)
“Because we want to fight back from being bullied.”- Brooke (age 9)
Research shows that as girls approach puberty and their bodies start to change, their self-esteem may decrease. An astounding number of tween and teen girls are unhappy with their bodies, and research shows that girls being worried about the way they look can influence their participation in activities. Thanks to national, state, and community initiatives in recent years, girls’ participation and success in STEM-related subjects has significantly improved. However, girls with lower self-esteem who believe in gender stereotypes such as “boys are better at math” suffer academically and consequently are less likely to pursue STEM-related careers.
There is good news! Positive female role models help combat negative female stereotypes. Likewise, getting hands-on experience in STEM-related subjects and activities can help give girls the confidence to pursue more STEM-related activities and/or careers. Another way to hone into that inner Girl Power is to check out the list of girl-empowering reads at the end of this post!
It’s also important to remember that not every girl will aspire to be a scientist or a mathematician, and that is perfectly okay! Girl Power is all about girls having the confidence to reach their individual potential and feel an inner happiness. Allison, an HCLS Girl Power attendee, sums up best why girls still need opportunities to explore and embrace their inner power: “To empower girls not to be afraid to do anything we put our minds to.” Check out hclibrary.org to register for the next Girl Power class.
TEEN GIRL FICTION
TEEN GIRL NONFICTION
Jillianne Crescenzi is a part-time Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch. She loves empowering young women and sharing great books with all.
A wonderful resource for children, caregivers, teachers, and practitioners, The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses is remarkable and even life-changing. Author Lauren Brukner knows how to keep things real and simple and sincere and children and emotions are two topics that go together and need to be talked about more, especially in the frank and charming way that Brukner does. Though it is specifically designed for children (and it is children who need it the most), I think there is something here for adults too. There’s something we ALL can learn from as we daily navigate the sometimes rocky road of emotions.
When Lauren Brukner was a child she had difficulty paying attention in class. She couldn’t express what was bothering her, and calming down after she she got sad, mad, or frustrated was nearly impossible. She would often struggle with feeling she had little control over her life. These experiences inspired her desire to help children identify not only “what” or “how” they were feeling, but ways for them to control or change (or at least improve) those feelings. She introduces us to “anywhere body breaks.” These are small body exercises to bring calm and focus.
“Anywhere body breaks” is based on proprioceptive input which is letting your body know where you are in space and which, in turn, can help stabilize you emotionally and keep you more centered and focused. To first understand what is going on, it is important to label that feeling as physical (in your body) or emotional (in your mind or heart) . Then, within those two categories, whether those feelings are: slow and tired, fast and emotional, or fast and wiggly. Brukner uses simple language and pleasing, welcoming visuals in a manner that never talks down to the reader. Truly, this could only have been written by someone who has been there herself.
Robin F. models the “arm pretzel.”
One of the simplest “body breaks” (that has worked, even for me) is called the “arm-pretzel.” In doing this exercise a child should cross her arms with her palm touching as she interlaces her fingers. Then she should twist her arms, bringing them in close to the chest. This is designed for when children feel slow and tired or fast and wiggly.
Full of insightful and easy-to-grasp examples so that children can learn to self-regulate their emotions and senses, Brukner’s guide helps them face difficult feelings head on and feel calm, cool and collected. The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control gives children self-control, direction, and ownership of their emotions and ways to feel and function better anywhere and at any time.
It also helps children understand and truly recognize what they are feeling, whether those feelings are slow and tired, fast and emotional or fast and wiggly, and empowers them with coping techniques they can use to feel just right. In a world where even the most basic of emotions can be trying on both adults and children, a book like this is invaluable and not soon to be forgotten.
Sitting Still Like a Frog
Another terrific book for children and their parents is Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindful Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents). This book takes on feelings by developing attention and awareness of our surroundings and ourselves, in what is better known as mindfulness. Author Eline Snel also advocates for what she calls “heartfulness,” which includes being kind toward oneself and others. In one instance, she has readers imagine channeling a frog because it is capable of enormous leaps yet it can also remain very still and not react right away, even though it is aware of everything going on around it. The frog sits still and breathes, preserving its energy instead of getting carried away by all the ideas that keep popping into its head. By painting this very vivid picture, Eline Snel gives the reader a model on which to try and best attain their emotional state. With 189 reviews (70% of which are 5 star) on Amazon, Sitting Still Like A Frog is extremely well-received and the perfect companion for The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control.
Additional resources regarding children and the self regulation of their emotions:
Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 22 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, old movies, and cats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Children younger than 5 years old typically need medical care, and severe cases are more common in children younger than 2 years old. Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and brain and nervous system disorders are especially at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu.
The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for children as being the single best way to protect them from the flu. Common vaccination methods have included the nasal mist and shot. However, recent research has found the nasal mist to be ineffective, and because of this the CDC is only recommending the shot as an effective vaccination method.
Convincing children to get the shot is likely to be a hurdle for parents, but parents can make the experience less stressful with these tips from Laura Hagan, Howard County General Hospital Pediatric Emergency Room nurse manager, and her little helpers.
Parents may also find it helpful to try these following tips:
Taking slow, deep breaths – Deep breathing can help children relax and concentrate on something other than the shot. For this reason, parents should ask their children to breathe all the way down to their belly.
Focusing on something in the room – Parents can distract their children by getting them to concentrate on the details of a poster, picture or sign in the room. For example, if there’s a picture, they can count the number of flowers, animals or other images in the picture. In the case of a sign, they can try to think of new words from the same letters that are in the sign.
Coughing – Encouraging children to cough as the needle goes in may help them feel less pain during the process.
Relaxing the arm – A tense arm can make a shot hurt more, so parents should try to get their children to relax their arm.
Child Getting a Flu Shot [Credit: Monkey Business Images, Ltd.]/[iStock]/Thinkstock
The flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent getting the flu, which causes approximately 250,000 illnesses and 36,000 deaths each year.
We contacted Maura J. Rossman, M.D., health officer at the Howard County Health Department, to provide you with the latest changes in vaccine options and tips for making your child comfortable when getting a flu shot.
Read what she shared with us.
The Nasal Spray and Shot
Recent studies found from 2013 until 2016 the nasal spray showed “poor or relatively lower effectiveness” at only three percent, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Based on these findings, the CDC voted that the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) nasal spray should not be used during the 2016 – 2017 flu season.
Generally, vaccines containing a live virus cause a stronger immune response in our bodies. The nasal spray was thought to be comparable or better than the flu shot; it was not. To date, there is no explanation for its poor performance.
The flu shot performed well during last year’s flu season, at 65% effectiveness, indicating that millions were protected from the flu. “Based on manufacturer projections, health officials expect that the supply of the vaccine for the 2016 – 2017 season should be sufficient to meet any increase in demand,” according to a written statement from the CDC in June 2016. The flu shot is available in good supply and safe for most people ages six months and up.
Tips for Getting Your Child Vaccinated
Parents who are having a young child vaccinated should consider following the CDC’s tips for making the experience less traumatic:
• Distract and comfort the child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
• Smile and make eye contact with the child. Let him/her know everything is OK.
• Comfort the child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar helps him/her feel more comfortable.
• Firmly hold the child when he/she is sitting on their lap, whenever possible.
For older children:
• Take deep breaths with the child to help “blow out” the pain.
• Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
• Tell or read stories.
• Support the child if he/she cries. Never scold the child for not “being brave.”
Parents can help keep their child healthy this flu season by having them vaccinated, and getting themselves vaccinated as well.
Maura J. Rossman, M.D. is the health officer at Howard County Department of Health.
With school starting soon, you’re probably busy with back-to-school activities, like buying clothes and school supplies, but is preparing your child’s school for his/her food allergies on the to-do list?
With a little organization, preparation and education, you can help keep your child safe from experiencing a food allergy reaction at school. We’ve created this list of tips to get you started.
Make an appointment with the allergist.
Discuss and update your child’s food allergy emergency plan for school, making sure the plan includes a photo of your child and your and the doctor’s contact information. Also, ask for any prescriptions that may need to be filled for the school.
Order a medical alert bracelet.
Along with your child’s name and allergy types, consider including that epinephrine should be given for a severe reaction.
Gather your child’s medical supplies.
Make sure all of your child’s medications are packed and ready to go to school. If it’s possible, provide the school with medications that will not expire; otherwise, make a note of the expiration date(s) on a calendar, so you’ll be ready to replace them before the expiration date.
If your child won’t have an epinephrine auto-injector on him/her at all times, provide one to the school nurse, your child’s teacher and any other school staff who will spend time with your child. The epinephrine container should be labeled with your child’s name, photo and emergency contact information.
Develop emergency plans with the school.
Speak with the school’s staff and make emergency plans for different scenarios, like snack time, lunchtime, classroom parties and field trips. Remind school staff they should give epinephrine immediately, then call 911 in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
Attend the school meeting.
Ask questions related to your child’s food allergy, including:
Where is the food kept, and where will your child eat?
Are tables cleaned with disposable disinfecting wipes? Sponges can spread allergens.
Which staff oversees snack and lunchtime, and do they discourage food sharing?
Can teachers give you several days’ notice of food-related events, including birthday parties?
Is food used as a reward in the classroom, and if so, can alternative rewards be given?
Are kids urged to wash their hands, instead of using hand sanitizer, before and after eating? Hand sanitizer gels do not remove allergens.
Is training provided to teachers on how kids describe allergic reactions (e.g. kids may say their food tastes spicy, tongue feels hot, mouth feels itchy or funny, or lips feel tight)?
Write a letter to other parents.
Your letter should include the allergies your child has, what can cause a reaction and the serious effects of a reaction. Explain cross contamination and how preventative measures can keep your child safe.