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.

Beat Home Allergens

To ease your child's allergies, you probably encourage her to stay inside when the pollen count is sky-high. But what if it's your home that is causing those sniffles? Many parents don't realize that kids with seasonal allergies may also be sensitive to allergens indoors, like dust mites, mold and pet dander. If your little one tends to have symptoms year-round or sneezes like crazy after petting Rover, see your health care professional. Then, consider making these moves to beat home allergens:

1. Leave your shoes at the door.
Place a bin and clothes rack by the door and ask family members to take off their shoes, jackets and bags before entering. That way, you'll prevent tracking pollen throughout your home. If your child is particularly sensitive, you may also want to change your outfit and rinse off any residual pollen in the shower too.

2. Run the air conditioner.
Pollen can enter your home through open windows and settle on furniture, while fans may stir up dust. Try shutting your windows and using your air conditioner in your home and car to block out those allergens. Just make sure to clean the unit's air filter regularly.

3. Keep tabs on Rover.
When your pet comes in from the outdoors, wipe him down with a wet towel to remove any pollen clinging to his fur. If your kid is also sensitive to dander, teach your pet to stay off furniture and out of your child's bedroom.

4. Wrap up your bed.
Keep dust and pollen from burrowing into your pillows and mattress by encasing them with covers.

5. Do laundry regularly.
To remove allergens, wash bedding weekly in hot water that's at least 130 F (54.4 C). Dry bedding in a dryer -- don't hang it up outside -- and remember to remove it promptly. Leaving it in the machine can encourage mold growth. Cold temperatures also kill dust mites, so pop delicate items, like soft stuffed animals, into the freezer for 24 hours.

6. Ban cigarettes.
It's a no-brainer, but some parents need reminding. The chemicals in smoke can aggravate allergies, so declare your home and car smoke-free zones.

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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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Spring-Clean Your Health: 6 Steps You Likely Forget

The mercury is rising, the trees are blooming -- and for many families, springtime means spring cleaning. But besides the broken toys and outgrown clothes, what else should you toss and update? Use these guidelines when you spring-clean to stay healthy, safe and prepared for the new season.

If you're a runner, experts recommend replacing your kicks every 350 to 550 miles, before they lose shock absorption and stability. Buy a new pair before your old pair wears out so you can break them in gradually, suggests Rudy Dressendorfer, a triathlete, American College of Sports Medicine fellow and personal trainer in Penryn, Calif. He recommends rotating in your new sneakers for a few workouts each week (or less than half of what you usually do in the old pair), especially if you're changing models or brands.

Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers
You've probably heard that you should check your smoke detectors’ batteries twice a year. (Use daylight saving time, when you change your clocks, as a reminder.) But even with fresh batteries, smoke detectors that are older than 10 years may not work as effectively and should be replaced, says Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Agency. For fire extinguishers, "check the gauge to make sure they are fully charged," she says."If they're not, recharge or replace it." Some extinguishers are disposable, she notes, and can only be used once.

You'll likely notice when makeup starts to go bad -- any change in color, consistency, or odor is a sure sign that it's time toss a product. While most cosmetics last for at least a year, the Food and Drug Administration recommends discarding eye makeup, like mascara, every three months. They may have bacterial growth, which can lead to an eye infection. And you may need to replace all-natural brands sooner because their plant-based ingredients may breed bacteria. Be sure to keep facial tissues around too -- they can be a lifesaver, especially this season, for quick makeup touchups or help with allergies.

All medications -- both prescription and not -- should have an expiration date printed on their package or, in the case of ointments, embossed on the crimp, says Kathleen Besinque, associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy. If a medication isn't in its original packaging, don't use it."I advise that people review the contents of their medicine cabinet at least once a year," says Besinque. But don't flush or throw away prescription drugs, which can contaminate waterways. Visit TakeBackNetwork.com for information on how to dispose of them safely.

If you take vitamins or supplements regularly, they should run out before they expire. For those of you who don't take your vitamins daily, don't hang on to them past the expiration date, when they may begin to lose effectiveness, says Besinque. If the bottle doesn't have a date stamped on it, throw it away -- and opt for a different brand next time.

Change your toothbrush -- or if you have an electronic toothbrush, swap out the head -- every three to four months, advises the American Dental Association. That's when bristles start to wear down and aren't as effective at removing cavity-causing plaque. It's also a good idea to toss your toothbrush earlier than that if you've been sick, if you're more susceptible to infection or if the bristles become frayed.

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8 All-natural Allergy Remedies

Now that spring has arrived, many families are reaching for the tissue box. After all, 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children battle some form of allergies, according to the American Academy of Asthma & Immunology.

If you or your little ones are plagued by allergies, see your physician to get those symptoms under control. And in addition to over-the-counter and prescription medications, there are a few additional moves that can help ease the sniffles, sneezes and watery eyes. Consider these following strategies:

1. Try a saline rinse and spray. Rinsing the nasal passages with a saline solution helps flush out irritating allergens and dried mucus, which eases congestion. I recommend using a rinse before administering any nasal spray medication: It cleans off nasal membranes, so the medication is better absorbed.

If you make your own saline solution, it's essential to use sterile water. A type of bacteria in drinking water, which is harmless when consumed, can lead to life-threatening infections when introduced to the sinuses. Although these cases are extremely rare, play it safe and boil water before using it (including both tap and bottled water).

2. Find a healthy way to stress less. Stress increases levels of a hormone called cortisol, which can trigger inflammation in the body and worsen allergy symptoms. To stay calm and collected, encourage your family to exercise: It may strengthen an area of the brain that buffers against stress, according to researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health. Turn exercise into quality time by going on family walks and bike rides, and encourage massages for further relaxation.

3. Scale back on sugar. Some foods simply aren't helpful for allergies, like sugar and simple carbohydrates (think white flour/bread/rice, along with many processed goods). Eating a diet that's high in these foods spikes blood sugar and encourages bodily inflammation. In fact, researchers from Loma Linda University have shown that sugar can suppress the immune system's response.

To keep allergy symptoms in check, steer clear of added sugars whenever possible, and trade refined grains for nutritious whole grains.

4. Consider the right vitamins and nutrients. Certain nutrients and vitamins may also help you and your children find relief, as part of your diet and sometimes as a supplement. I recommend the following, but -- as with any supplement -- consult your own physician first:

  • Vitamin D This important vitamin has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. According to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, children with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to develop allergies than those who got enough of the nutrient. You can get vitamin D in salmon, along with most dairy products and cereals. Children may also take a supplement of 500 IU per day; adults can get up to 5,000 IU.
  • Vitamin A This nutrient has anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to help form mucus membranes (there are tons in your sinuses!), according to the National Institutes of Health. To get it in your diet, think green (broccoli, leafy greens) and orange (sweet potatoes, squash, apricots, carrots). Children may also take a 1,000 IU supplement per day, and adults can get up to 3,000 IU.
  • Pycnogenol Derived from a type of tree bark, this supplement has been shown to lessen allergy symptoms, shows a study in Phytotherapy Research. Children should consider taking 100 milligrams a day, and adults can get up to 300 mg.
  • Quercetin Researchers believe this compound may work as a natural antihistamine to block pesky allergic reactions, though more research is necessary to prove its effectiveness. It's easy to get a dose in a number of everyday foods, including apples, onions, sage, parsley, tea and dark berries (blueberries and blackberries). Check with your doctor first if you're interested in quercetin supplements for you or your child.
  • Probiotics These good bacteria encourage a healthy gut. Some studies on children have also shown that it helps manage allergies. Yogurt is full of probiotics; you can also consult your doctor about an appropriate OTC probiotic supplement.

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