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Health Q&A

Posted August 15, 2012 in Advice Column, Ankeny

Q: How can I educate my kids about prescription drug abuse?

A: With kids heading back to school, it’s natural to be thinking about their safety and how they interact with their peers. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, and you may find these facts startling.
• The abuse of prescription drugs exceeds that of cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin combined.1
• Every day, approximately 2,500 teens abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time.2
• Many teens incorrectly believe that the abuse of prescription medications is a safe and non-addicting alternative to “street” drugs.3
• In many states, unintentional drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death, exceeding those caused by motor vehicle accidents.

To help keep your children safe, store prescription drugs in locked and secure locations and dispose of medications properly or dispose of them at a TakeAway location. Also explain that prescription medications should only be used under medical supervision and model this behavior by avoiding self-diagnosing and self-prescribing. Educate your kids about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs — they can lead to health, legal, social, and personal development problems.

To learn more, visit

  •     National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA
  •     Office of National Drug Control Policy 3 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, PFDA
  •     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Information from the CDC, provided by Jennifer Meurer, PharmD., Medicap Pharmacy, 107 N.E. Delaware, Suite 6, Ankeny, 964-8550.

Q: What are some healthy snacks for my kids?

A: It is back-to-school time and time to keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand. Kids love dips and the action of dipping foods, so parents might want to include dips as a way to get kids to eat good-for-you snacks.

According to a study published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 70 percent of kids were found to be bitter-sensitive. This means that bitter foods, such as broccoli and cucumber, can produce an unpleasant taste. When these bitter-sensitive kids were offered a dip with their veggies, they ate 80 more more vegetables than kids who weren’t given a dip. Dips can be a great way to combat taste barriers and encourage kids to keep trying vegetables/

When considering dip and dipper after-school snack options, think “whole, real foods.” Whole foods tend to be less processed and have less sodium, sugar or fat. Whole fruit and veggies, dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese, and whole grains such as whole grain cereals, crackers and breads are a good starting point.

Consider serving the following dip and dipper ideas for a fun, healthy after-school snack.
    Dips: Applesauce, hummus, low-fat dressings, low-fat pudding, salsa, yogurt (low-fat and Greek).
 Dippers: Graham crackers and mini waffles, pita chips, vegetables, animal crackers and graham sticks, baked tortilla chips and bread sticks, fruit and granola bars.

Information provided by Jenny Norgaard, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Ankeny Hy-Vee,, 515-964-0900.

Q: What is National Children’s Vision and Learning Month?

A: National Children’s Vision and Learning Month is a public awareness campaign throughout the month of August every year. This campain is championed by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. This organization is the primary group dedicated to developmental optometry and vision therapy.

The goal of National Children’s Vision and Learning Month is to help raise awareness of the link between vision and learning. Vision is more than just being able to see 20/20. It involves eye movement skills, maintaining clear vision when reading or looking at the board or anywhere in between and having proper eye coordination. These skills are fundamental to reading, learning and essentially every activity a child encounters at school.

Some signs that a child may have a problem in these areas include headaches, double vision, loss of place when reading, skipping small words, turning small words or letters around, avoiding reading/near work and having a hard time copying from the board. A developmental optometrist has the training and tools to diagnose and treat these vision issues, which are often missed by school screenings. As your child heads back to school, be sure to have a comprehensive eye exam to ensure he or she has the visual skills needed to succeed.

Information provided by Eric Romsdahl, Child and Family Vision Center, 2525 N. Ankeny Blvd., Suite 109, Ankeny, 964-7541.


Q: What do I need to know about brushing my baby’s teeth?

A: Being a parent can be exhausting, so when it comes to brushing your baby’s teeth it’s a task we may be tempted to skip. I want to emphasize the importance of brushing those teeth and why it can make a huge difference to your child’s dental health. Those baby teeth will be in place for many years, losing the last baby molars around age 12. If they erupt at age 1, that’s 11 years your child will be needing those teeth.

Many parents don’t know that cavities can be prevented. It begins with brushing twice a day and limiting the amount of sugar in your child’s diet. Careful brushing removes the bacteria and food particles that contribute to the formation of cavities. This is why we like to see brushing begin as soon as the first tooth erupts.

Using a soft, infant toothbrush is perfect for their little mouths. Position your child in your arm on your lap and tilt his or her head back, supporting it to keep it stable. Gently brush all surfaces of their teeth. If you make brushing a habit starting at an early age, it will reap many benefits later on.

It is recommended children start seeing a dentist when their first tooth erupts or at 6 months of age, whichever comes first. At Peddicord Family Dentistry we love seeing patients of all ages. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us.

Information provided by Dr. Erika Peddicord, Peddicord Family Dentistry, 121 N.E. 18th St., Suite C, 963-3339.

Q: How can I give my child a healthy start to the school year?

A: Shuffling your child back to school these days takes more than a new wardrobe and a shiny apple. What about the dizzying array of immunizations? Hearing and vision tests? Special instructions for the school nurse? And tips for buying and loading a backpack that won’t turn your precious offspring into an achy, whiny pack mule?

Those dreaded shots. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website fully explains childhood vaccinations, advising you what is needed at what age. Your school district or local health department will also make this clear, and you can consult your pediatrician as well.

    Can your child see clearly? As many as one in 20 children can’t see out of one of their eyes, according to Pamela F. Gallin, MD, director of pediatric ophthalmology at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. “This is a difficult observation [for a parent] to make.” Gallin recommends vision testing by your pediatrician, even though some testing is also given in school in some areas of the country. “A younger child can ‘read’ the chart by turning a hand in the direction the “E” is facing,” she says, describing what she calls the “E” game. “School-aged children, even kindergartners, probably can identify letters or at least numbers.” The reason to have this done is simple: Kids who can’t see well can’t perform as well in school.

Make sure your child’s emergency telephone number card is accurate and kept current. If you move or change a number, correct it the next day. Numbers are listed in order they are to be called: mother, father, grandmother, or whatever the parents designate. The child’s physician and dentist also need to be listed.

Information from WebMD, provided Dr. Doug Layton, D.O., Family Physicians at Prairie Trail, 2515 S.W. State St., 265-4211 or 986-4524.

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