6 Reasons to Call the Pediatrician

Sick children at home? If they’ve got a cold, they'll usually recover on their own within seven to 10 days, but in some cases, those sniffles can develop into a more serious condition that requires medical attention. If you notice any of the following warning signs in your kids, you've got reason to call the pediatrician.

Warning Sign No. 1: A high fever 
A fever of 105 F or more can mean your child has another problem, like strep throat. If your baby is younger than 3 months old, you should also call your doctor if he or she has a fever of 100.4 F or more.

Warning Sign No. 2: Symptoms that persist after the fever subsides 
Most kids start to perk up after their fever goes down. But if your little one still seems tired and miserable after the number on the thermometer drops, it could mean she's dehydrated -- or even has a more serious infection such as meningitis, so get a hold of your doctor's office as soon as possible.

Warning Sign No. 3: Wheezing or vomiting while coughing 
Call your pediatrician if coughing causes your child to gasp for breath or throw up. She may want to screen for asthma or whooping cough.

Warning Sign No. 4: Symptoms that don't improve 
Kids sometimes catch two colds in a row, so they can be sick for longer than the normal weeklong span. But if it doesn't seem your child is improving and her runny nose remains consistent for more than 10 days, it's worth calling your doctor.

Warning Sign No. 5: Rash with fever 
Children can get rashes from viruses and allergic reactions. But if the rash doesn't blanch -- or fade -- when you press on it, call your pediatrician immediately. It may be a sign of a serious infection.

Warning Sign No. 6: Gut feeling that something's wrong 
I'm a firm believer in a mother's "sixth sense," or gut intuition. You know your child best, so if something doesn't seem right, call your doctor. It's better to address your concerns early on, so we can catch any illnesses as soon as possible.

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The Science Behind Your Favorite Remedies

When you were sick as a kid, what was your mom's go-to comfort trick? Turns out some of your favorite nostalgic remedies have research-proven benefits. Here, we'll discuss which ones really work -- and which ones miss the mark.

Mom's Remedy: Chicken Soup
Chicken noodle soup just might be the perfect recipe for cold relief: A recent University of Nebraska Medical Center study found that this time-held favorite is anti-inflammatory and can actually help ease illness. When researchers tested homemade and several pre-made chicken soups, they found that all varieties were effective in reducing symptoms, like cough and congestion. Here's the kicker: Broth alone wasn't effective, and it didn't matter whether there were veggies or not as long as the soup contained both chicken and noodles. Researchers suspect that the combo improves hydration, offers solid nutrition and has a strong placebo effect on coughs.

"I recommend drinking warm liquids and eating hot soup for all of my sick patients," says Dr. Clement Bottino, a fellow in academic pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston. During a cold, blood vessels get leaky, causing dehydration, he explains. The water provides fluid, the salt prevents liquids from escaping and the warmth relaxes the vessels to improve circulation."This is the same idea as when we give IV fluids to patients in the hospital," he says."The saline solution is made of warm water and salt, just like chicken soup."

Mom's Remedy: Orange Juice
Moms are always pushing OJ, and for good reason: Oranges are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant your body uses to help repair its tissues. A 2007 analysis of results from 30 clinical trials found that vitamin C didn't prevent colds, but it slightly reduced the severity and length of symptoms.

Even so, experts agree that the jury's still out on whether the vitamin is effective in preventing or ending colds. In fact, doctors don't recommend doling out vitamin C supplements to kids, even when they're sick."The thing with vitamin C is that your body excretes what it doesn't need," explains Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog."So there's no evidence that a supplement will provide any additional benefits."

For a revved-up immune system, Swanson advises opting for foods that are high in the vitamin and in other nutrients, such as oranges, strawberries and tomatoes."The fiber in whole fruits also slows the absorption of sugar," adds Bottino."And that's better for your health in general."

Mom's Remedy: Ginger Ale
Research shows that ginger root is effective for treating morning sickness and nausea post-surgery. But studies on ginger ale for flu symptoms are inconclusive, and the spicy root shouldn't be given to children younger than 2 years of age."Most ginger ales don't contain that much natural ginger," says Swanson."And you get 200 calories from the sugar."

Instead of serving up this particular fizzy drink, provide plenty of clear liquids, like electrolyte drinks that contain the right balance of sugar and salt, to help kids recover.

Mom's Remedy: A Steamy Bath
Numerous studies have shown that this nighttime ritual is an effective cold treatment; steam moistens nasal passages and eases congestion."It's the same theory as when our grandparents used to boil water, put a cloth over the pot and have us stand over it," says Dr. Heather Lubell, a pediatrician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia."It doesn't make the cold go away, but it does lessen symptoms in the short term."

What's more, a Cornell University study found that a drop in core body temperature is a signal that helps you fall asleep faster and reach deep sleep more easily. Because a bath mimics this drop in temperature, a pre-bedtime soak tells your child's body it's time to doze off. Lubell recommends also placing a humidifier in your child's room to safely relieve stuffiness and improve breathing -- especially in the wee hours, when coughs are more likely to pop up.

Mom's Remedy: Tea With Lemon and Honey
The same theory for chicken soup holds true for a cup of hot tea: Heat increases blood flow, which may speed healing, says Bottino. More importantly, since mucus production can make you dehydrated, drinking lots of fluids -- especially clear ones like tea -- is key.

Besides sweetening the drink, honey may help curb your child's hacking. According to a study in the journal Pediatrics; Adolescent Medicine, 2 teaspoons of the sticky stuff before bed helped reduce coughs. Although you should never give honey to kids younger than 2 years of age, it may be a tool in addition to OTC meds to calm a cough.

Tea's also high in immune-boosting antioxidants, and a 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that blood cells in tea drinkers responded five times faster to bacteria and virus infections than their coffee-sipping counterparts. Is your child not a fan of English breakfast tea or Earl Grey? Brew a mug of hot water with lemon and honey instead.

Mom's Remedy: Bed Rest
It's no wonder that you feel wiped out when you're sick. That's your body's way of telling you that you need to log more z's for your immune system. According to a 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who logged less than seven hours of sleep a night were nearly three times as likely to catch a cold than those who got eight or more hours.

“Sleep is the most important thing you can do to fight off an infection," says Bottino. During shut-eye, he says, your body literally renews itself. To help your child snooze soundly, get symptoms like coughing under control first; a humidifier and over-the-counter medications can help him or her nod off quickly. Also place a box of soft facial tissues on your child's bedside table -- that way, relief will be within reach whenever he needs it and he won't have to disrupt his sleep too much during the night.

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Allergy-Proof Your Workout

There are already countless excuses for skipping your workout -- don’t let your allergies be one of them. If you’re one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from sniffles, sneezes, wheezes and watery eyes every spring or fall, you know that these symptoms can make exercising outside difficult. But with a few smart moves, you can breathe easy while staying fit.

1. Time it right.
Plants release their pollen early in the morning, right after dawn, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American. As the wind shifts, the count rises and reaches its peak around mid-day in cities and urban areas. To avoid an allergy attack, schedule workouts in the very early morning or later in the evening. Or head outdoors right after it rains, which temporarily washes away the pollen.

2. Check the pollen count.
If the pollen counts are particularly high, you may want to take your workout inside. Check the levels in your area on the National Allergy Bureau’s website. Hit the gym, set up your own mini boot camp or do a workout DVD.

3. Treat it early.
The best time to take your allergy medication isn't when you start to sneeze -- it's beforehand. Those meds are most effective when they're already in your system, say the experts. 

4. Shield your eyes.
To keep irritants from getting in your eyes during a workout, slip on a pair of wraparound shades before your walk, run or bike ride. Wearing a hat can also keep pollen from clinging onto your hair all day long, which can worsen your symptoms.

5. Shower off.
As soon as you get done with your workout, hop in the shower to rinse away that pollen and toss your clothes straight in the wash. To avoid tracking those allergens throughout your home, keep a clothing and sneaker bin in your home's mudroom or entryway.

6. Keep moving.
Don't be tempted to skip your sweat session on account of those sniffles: According to a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology, exercising for half an hour can reduce your allergy symptoms by as much as 70 percent. The researchers explain that moderate physical activity may counteract nasal inflammation. That's motivation enough to lace up those sneakers!

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Snooze Soundly -- Even When You're Sick

Sore throat. Stuffy nose. Wheezing cough. When you're sick with a cold or flu, all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a week or two. But your pesky symptoms make it impossible to rest easy. When bedtime finally rolls around, you actually feel worse than you did during the day.

When you have a cold or allergies, congestion worsens at night. "When you lie down, the airways are more likely to become clogged with mucus,” says Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Cold and Flu.

Here's how to stop tossing and turning, and get a restorative night's sleep.

1. Have a tea party.
Before you go to bed, sip a mug of decaffeinated black tea. The antioxidant-rich beverage contains theobromine, which is a natural cough suppressant, and the heat thins mucus. Add lemon to help cut through congestion and honey to soothe the throat.

2. Rinse away congestion.
Wash away gunk that's interfering with your breathing by doing regular nasal rinses. Nasal rinse kits can be found at most drugstores and are easy and painless to use. Essentially, you are rinsing your nasal cavity with a mixture of distilled water and sodium. This helps to clear passages and keep them moist. If you're uncomfortable with a nose rinse, try a saline nasal spray instead. This also helps to flush out the nose, which makes breathing easier, says Schachter.

3. Pamper a sore throat.
"The throat feels sore during an infection because the mucus that is lining the throat is filled with inflammatory compounds," says Schachter. Add half a teaspoon table salt to warm water, gargle for 10 seconds and spit out. Removing the virus-laden mucus relieves both sore throat and coughing. 

4. Darken your bedroom.
It's important to create a healthy environment that promotes quality sleep. Since incoming light tells the brain to wake up, try to block morning light from reaching your eyes. You can accomplish this by hanging dark curtains or by wearing a comfortable sleep mask that covers your eyes. Also, if you have a brightly illuminated alarm clock, make sure it's not facing you during the night.

5. Keep it cool.
In your bedroom, set the thermostat low. When your body temperature drops, your brain goes into sleep mode. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 54 F and 75 F.

6. Take a hot shower.
Before bed, muster the strength to take a hot shower. When you get out, the drop in body temperature helps prepare your brain for sleep. Bonus: Steam loosens congestion and hydrates your nasal and throat passages.

7. Slip on socks.
Put on a pair of cozy socks before you get into bed. According to a Swiss study, warming your feet helps your body relax and puts you in the snooze zone.

8. Silence symptoms.
Some common symptoms, such as a cough and congestion, can make restful sleep a real challenge when you're sick. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate these uncomfortable obstacles to a good night's sleep. 

9. Elevate your head.
When you're congested, sleep with your head elevated. Prop yourself up with a few extra pillows or the plump cushions from your sofa. Sleeping elevated helps ease sinus pressure and makes breathing less difficult.

10. Quiet your mind.
Even when you're exhausted and not feeling well, sometimes you can have a mental block that prevents you from falling asleep. To get into the right frame of mind, try one of these calming pursuits: meditate, jot your thoughts into a journal, listen to soothing music or read your favorite book. 

Last but not least, be sure to keep a box of soft facial tissues on your nightstand. That way, you’ll avoid irritating your face during a cold, and relief will be within reach whenever you need it.

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4 Amazing Staycation Ideas You’ve Never Thought of

Need a vacation but don’t have the time or funds? No problem! With a little legwork and creativity, you can plan an escape right in your own home or backyard. You’ll create happy memories for the whole family without the hassle of packing a single suitcase. Consider these innovative ideas.

1. Host a spa day.

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to unwind. Recreate that tranquil environment in your own home: First, declare the day tech-free and turn off all televisions, computers and cell phones. To add spa-like touches, fill pitchers with water, cucumber slices and mint leaves, playing a peaceful soundtrack, such as the “Spa Suite” channel on Pandora.

Then schedule “treatments” with your kids: Set up a manicure station where they can paint their nails (don’t forget to keep tissues on hand in case of smudges) and a
makeover area where they can experiment with makeup. You can also apply facial masks or draw aromatherapy baths.

Extra splurge: Invest in plush robes to wear all day, or contact a local spa for a masseuse or manicurist that makes house calls for an at-home treatment.

2. Go camping!

Set up a tent in your backyard for a campout. During the day, go on a hike at a local park or nature preserve, complete with trail mix. In the evening, gather around the campfire to roast hot dogs and make s’mores while telling ghost stories.

Extra splurge: To make the experience more comfy, use an air mattress inside the tent. You can also spark your child’s interest in nature with a guide to flowers or small camping kit.

3. Create a backyard waterpark.

Waterparks are classic summer fun, but they’re often expensive or too far away. Set up your own version in your backyard: Fill up a few inflatable pools with water, and get some water guns and water balloons. Then invite your kids’ friends over to play. They’ll spend hours splashing around with the toys.

Extra splurge: Create a healthier version of the concession stand by setting up a table full of drinks, fruit slices and other healthy snacks. Finish the evening with a barbecue or pizza party.

4. Have a luxury vacation (on a budget!).

For a fun spin on a big-city vacation, plan a day full of cultural adventures. Print out an itinerary of the day’s events for your family: Start with a breakfast of croissants at a local park. Then check out a new, unusual museum or cultural sight in the area that your family hasn’t yet visited. Follow that with a meal and dessert at one of the fancier restaurants in town, or serve up dinner at a table decorated with candles and fresh flowers in the backyard. Then finish the evening with a classic New York-centric movie, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. For a luxurious touch, place a gourmet chocolate on everyone’s pillow to find at bedtime.

Extra splurge: Give each child a certain amount and let them pick out a souvenir throughout the day. It will serve as a token of their fun family staycation!

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