“Exercise affects your whole body and makes your bones and muscles stronger. It improves your heart, lungs and brain function. It also reduces weight, increases lean body mass and can improve a child’s immune system,” said Suzie Jeffreys, an exercise physiologist at Howard County General Hospital.

Not only does exercise help children physically, but mentally as well. “Kids need to get up and move every day. It is a natural part of living and gets our blood flowing and allows more oxygen to reach the brain, which can result in clearer thoughts, better grades, more energy and focus, and improved test scores,”  noted Jeffreys.

“If you get them moving while they are young, it becomes a way of life. They don’t have to get drenched with sweat. Anything they do is better than sitting on the couch or in front of a video game or on their phone,” said Jeffreys.

Know Your Child’s Fitness Personality
With all the latest technology distractions geared toward children, they may sometimes need a little encouragement from their parents to get moving. “There are different fitness personalities. Not everyone is a born athlete and not everyone wants to be—so get to know your child,” remarked Jeffreys. Fitness personalities include:

The “Non-Athlete” – These children need more encouragement and help to get and stay active. They are not inclined to physical activity due to either lack of interest, ability or both. For these children, it is important to introduce exercise gradually and make it fun. To pique their interest, schedule time for activity, invite friends and find something they enjoy.

The “Casual Athlete” – These children find enjoyment in being active, but may not be a star athlete and are most likely not comfortable in a competitive environment. If you get these children out and moving, they will lead you, and you can introduce them to new activities and inspire them with new equipment or attire.

The “Athlete – These children do not need to have you encourage them as much as support them. Continue to provide support by recognizing their talents and suggest trying a variety of activities.

Low Cost Exercise Options in the Howard County area:

  • Team sports through leagues or school
  • Get Active/Stay Active Howard County has a variety of programs and allows kids to try out different activities.
  • Howard County Striders is a great opportunity to run and walk with other kids at a variety of fitness levels.
  • Girls on the Run is an after-school program through the schools: 443-864-8593, director@gotrcentralmd.org
  • Howard County Recreation Centers (Glenwood, North Laurel, Roger Carter) are great resources for families to play basketball, walk/run on an indoor track, jump rope or swim for a reasonable fee.
Suzie Jeffreys is an exercise physiologist for Howard County General Hospital.



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Poisons act fast!

National Poison Prevention Week is March 15-21


Call 1 (800) 222-1222 for accidental poisonings.

At some point, almost everyone will experience the horrible realization that a child, family member or friend may have accidentally ingested some kind of poison: the two-year-old smiling and licking his lips with a half-empty bottle of sweet, red, baby acetaminophen in his hand; the toddler who thought the amber chemical in an unmarked bottle was apple juice; the elderly relative with limited vision and memory taking the wrong number of pills at the wrong time; the husband who decided to sand a table not knowing it was covered with lead-based paint; or the friend who inhaled toxic vapors by mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia to clean the floor. A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount, and there are endless ways for accidental poisonings to happen. According to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, poisoning exceeded the number of traffic accident deaths for the first time since 1980. More than two million poisonings are reported each year to the 57 poison control centers across the country and more than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home.

March 15 to 21 is National Poison Prevention Week, and this year’s themes are: “Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons” and “Poisoning Spans a Lifetime.”

What can you do to help prevent accidental poisonings?

  • Become familiar with the 50 poison prevention tips offered by the National Poison Prevention Week Council, including:
    • General Safety—Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and household products and buy products in child-resistant packaging.
    • household_poisonsMedicine Safety—Keep medicines out of reach of children, tell your doctor about all of your medications to avoid interactions, and use only the measuring device (dosing cup, dosing syringe, or dropper) that is included with your medicine.
    • Household Product Safety—Keep cleaning products in their original container with original label, never use food containers to store household or chemical products, have your children tested for lead poisoning and remove poisonous plants from your house and yard.
  • Learn the signal warning words for household and chemical products:
    • Caution—slightly toxic if eaten, absorbed through skin, inhaled or in contact with eyes or skin
    • Warning—moderately toxic
    • Danger—highly toxic or deadly. The word “poison” must be included in red letters on front panel of the product label.

What should you do if you suspect a possible poisoning?

  • Keep the Poison Control Center emergency phone number, 1-800-222-1222 in a handy and accessible place and make sure caretakers also know where it is.
  • Do NOT administer syrup of ipecac.
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should get rid of this syrup that for years was thought to be a good way to treat children who had swallowed something toxic by making them vomit.
    • Recent studies show it can irritate the stomach and esophagus and that it can leave up to 50 percent of the toxin behind. The best bet is to call the poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222). If it is a true emergency, you should call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

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weeliciousA few years ago one of my personal favorite regular Well & Wise contributors, the wonderful Farmers’ Market Chef, did a post on the seemingly impossible task of what to pack in school lunches. I thought this was very brave of her and found the books she suggested to be very useful (even though thinking of things to pack still feels like one of my most exhausting chores–and we’re only halfway through the current school year!). So, when I recently, noticed a book in the new nonfiction collection, I thought I’d check it out and see if it was worth adding to the FMC’s other great suggestions. I’m happy to report it is!

Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals by Catherine McCord is an absolute gem. First of all, it is a very visually appealing book (which makes sense considering that one of the early sections focuses on “Engaging All the Senses”). McCord discusses how parents have to think beyond just packing healthful options to what their kids will do when they’re in the cafeteria without Mom or Dad around. Parents not only have to battle with what school cafeterias are sometimes serving (she mentions the infamous pizza sauce as a vegetable Congress decision), but also what other kids are bringing to school (she aptly names it “lunch box envy”), as well we the many distractions kids face at lunchtime. She explains: “If you want raise great eaters you have to appeal to all your child’s senses. Sometimes half the battle of making sure your kids eat at school is ensuring that what’s inside their lunch box is as stimulating as everything you can be sure is going on come lunchtime outside of it.”

Secondly, the book takes into consideration all kinds of eaters and situations. For example, “Principles of the Perfect Lunch” addresses the need for balance in a child’s diet and, consequently, the lunch box. McCord offers up some useful options to fill your child’s fruit, vegetable, protein, and carbohydrate needs. She also provides specialized lists of the recipes in the book to offer up good lunch box combos, theme lunches, and ideas for those with food sensitivities and allergies. Speaking of which, she also provides a very handy “Weelicious Lunches Allergy Guide” to help you skirt gluten, nuts, eggs, and dairy as needed. There are also suggestions for incorporating dinner leftovers into lunches, a discussion of whether to pack hot or cold foods and what to pack them in, and (my personal favorite favorite) “Strategies for ‘Picky’ Eaters.”

weelicious aFinally, the book has recipes, lots of lovely recipes. She divides them up nicely into the following categories: Salad, Soups, Sandwiches, Pizza (yep, 10 variations on the theme of pizza),  PB&J (if you were impressed by 10 variations on pizza, try 11 takes on pb&j, including one promisingly called “The World’s Greatest PB&J”), Main Events, Veggies, Dips and Spreads, Snacks, and Desserts. Again, there are many beautiful pictures, and a lot of the recipes make me hungry just looking at them (of course this may be a testament to my immaturity).

Many of the recipes in this book translate to meals beyond the lunch box. There are also many great recipes and tips on the Weelicious website. But next I think I’m going to check out McCord’s older book Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes. It also provides recipes; recommendations to turn your kids into good, healthy eaters; and, most appealingly, ways to turn dinner into a “one family, one meal” occasion.  That sounds like absolute bliss to me!

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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Childhood headaches or frequent constipation? They can sometimes be symptoms of poor nutrition choices. Here’s five tips to get your child’s diet on track.

Adults in children’s lives play a large role in a child’s nutrition and developing eating habits. “Kids are going to model what their parents do. If their parents are eating a lot of fast food and drinking a lot of soda, their kids are going to develop those habits,” said Michael Lasser, M.D., a pediatrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital. “It is really important families sit down and eat together. Not only to see how the child’s day was, but if parents are eating healthy food, that is what the kids are going to eat.” Check out the below slideshow for more tips to help your children make wise food and drink choices.


  • The Water Connection: Children need to drink more water. "Kids do not drink enough water throughout the day and will come home from school with headaches because they didn't have breakfast or drink enough water and are dehydrated," said Dr. Lasser. [© Yarkovoy | Dreamstime.com]
  • Don't Forget the Big 'D': "Another issue I see is low Vitamin D levels in kids," said Dr. Lasser. And it's not only from lack of milk. "Another way to get Vitamin D is being outside, and kids are not spending enough time outside," he said. [© Gbh007 | Dreamstime.com]
  • Meal Skipping: Dr. Lasser also explains that it's okay if kids, particularly younger ones, skip a meal now and then simply because they aren't hungry. Some parents are worried and give non-nutritious foods to their children just to get them to eat. [© Marcel De Grijs | Dreamstime.com]
  • dietary counseling
  • After School Snacks: Nutritious snacks are essential for children ages six to 12 and make a great after school treat. Children in this age group have a steady but slow rate of growth and typically eat four to five times a day (snacks included). Fortunately, they're often willing to eat a wider range of food than younger ones. Use this to their advantage! Plenty of healthy snacks can help prevent frequent constipation in children, another common issue Dr. Lasser sees at his office. [© Robyn Mackenzie | Dreamstime.com]
  • The percent of children ages six to 11 in the U.S. who were obese increased from seven percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. The percent of those 12 to 19 who were obese increased from five to 18 percent over the same period. Poor dietary choices are often to blame. "Kids are drinking too many sweet things such as sodas and juices with empty calories and eating too much fast food," Dr.Lasser said. Keep that in mind next time you serve up a snack and your children will benefit from your wise choices. [© Skypixel | Dreamstime.com]

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Women often think that when they become pregnant, they must eat for two, and end up consuming too many calories. Typically, a pregnancy weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is recommended for a normal weight woman, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women are encouraged to enter pregnancy at a healthy weight. Also, if you are significantly overweight, you should gain less during your pregnancy. Following are six keys toward making your pregnancy more healthful and nutritious.


  • nutrition and early pregnancy
    According to Teresa Love, a registered dietitian on staff at Howard County General Hospital, “To maintain a healthy pregnancy, expecting mothers should only be adding 150 calories a day and 2-3 oz. of additional protein (meat, cheese or eggs) in the first trimester. [© Michaeljung | Dreamstime.com]
  • calorie intake in pregnancy
    Second/Third Trimester Weight Gain: In the second and third trimesters, an additional 300 to 400 calories should be added to your daily intake. [© Almoond | Dreamstime.com]
  • Cook meat thoroughly
    Pregnancy Dos: wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly; fully cook meats and poultry; cook eggs until egg yolks and whites are firm; avoid unpasteurized foods. [© Razmarinka | Dreamstime.com]
  • Avoid fried foods in pregnancy
    Pregnancy Don’ts: eat seafood high in mercury (swordfish, tilefish, shark, king mackerel); eat raw, undercooked seafood; consume alcohol, caffeine or smoke; eat fried foods, especially early in pregnancy. “A recent study showed an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes when expectant mothers consume a high fat diet,” said Love. [© Lrj19920725 | Dreamstime.com]
  • Folic Acid and Pregnancy
    Folic Acid: birth defects of the brain and spinal cord can be reduced by taking folic acid. Because folic acid is most beneficial during the first month after conception, and many women do not know they are pregnant during this time, women are encouraged to take folic acid before conception as well as during pregnancy. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. [© Zwolafasola | Dreamstime.com]
  • pregnancy and small plate food
    Nausea is common in pregnancy. Often called morning sickness, this nausea can be caused by a variety of factors, including your diet. Love recommends eating small meals several times a day to help lessen symptoms. [© Szefei | Dreamstime.com]

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1970s family portrait

1970s family portrait

Commit to give up smoking for at least one day: the Great American Smokeout is Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

This year, for the Great American Smokeout, I share a childhood story that may hit home for smokers who are also parents.

I grew up in Howard County in the early 70s and 80s, with two wonderful parents who did everything for me. I don’t know where I would be without them. More people smoked back then, and both of my parents did, too.

The county public schools in the 70s were showing scary pictures of black lungs to young school children in an effort to convince us that smoking was not a good habit to start. It did make me think twice about smoking, but it also made me worry about my parents’ health. So I came home from school and proposed a deal with them that I would quit sucking my thumb (yes, I still did that through the second or third grade and they’d been trying to get me to quit) if they would quit smoking. Around that same time, my Uncle Joe died of cancer. He was a smoker, too. After his funeral, they both decided it was time to quit smoking.

No surprise, I ended up working in health care as an adult, writing about healthy behaviors, prevention and risk factors. It’s fascinating to me how many illnesses can be prevented with the advice your parents always gave you: eat right, exercise, get good rest—and of course don’t smoke. We all know what we should and shouldn’t do, but actually doing it is sometimes difficult.

Tragically, my father died at age 63, the year after he retired. I still miss him every day. He had a heart defect and I truly believe that he lived as long as he did because he quit smoking in his early 40s, as smoking would have put more stress on his heart. My mother is in her early eighties now, and in overall good health despite a strong family history of heart disease and stroke (plus help from some great doctors and the caring team at our hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program!).

I can’t take credit for having great parents or for making them quit smoking—they did it all on their own. But sometimes we forget that daily behaviors can make a big difference in ensuring a long and healthy life. I think most people would agree that they’d like to be there for their children as they become adults. I may be a grown up, but I still need my mom, and it goes without saying that I’m glad she’s still here.

Incidentally, before my mother retired, she helped run the smoking cessation program at her workplace. Today, there are many good programs and methods out there for quitting if you really want to do it. Maybe your kids can be your motivation, or maybe it will come from somewhere else.

On Thursday, Nov. 20, at least consider quitting for one day and try to keep it going. Visit the Howard County General Hospital lobby during the Great American Smokeout for information and literature to help you quit.

The hospital also offers a Smoke Free Lungs class, and you can find information on free smoke free programs for Howard County residents here.

Susan Case is the director of Marketing and Communications at Howard County General Hospital.


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