5 ways to keep your kids safe and healthy this Halloween

Halloween can be a scary holiday for children, but that shouldn't be the case for parents, too. While kids love to dress up and revel in the theatrically horrific nature of this ancient holiday, parents shouldn't be trembling in horror at the thought of what might befall their little ones on this playfully spooky fright-fest. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help keep your young ones safe this year while they're out trick-or-treating with their friends.

1. Join the fun: Just because your children feel mature enough to trick-or-treat on their own doesn't mean you share their sentiments. Join in the party by donning a costume yourself and walking with (or even several yards behind) your kids and their friends. You can also hold a "parents party" with other moms and dads by congregating on the sidewalk or in a parked vehicle nearby. That way, you can give your children their freedom by maintaining some distance while still keeping an eye on the proceedings.

2. Make a unique costume: Help your children make awesome costumes that are distinct from other kids' who will be trick-or-treating in the same area. Having a unique costume will help your children be more memorable to those they encounter, meaning it will be easier for you to find them again should you become separated. It may even win them a contest or two – or at the very least, score them a few extra pieces of candy.

3. Maintain visibility: October is the month when nights begin to get noticeably darker earlier. Depending on what time your children trick-or-treat, you may need to equip them with some extra gear to ensure that they're visible to passing cars. Flashlights are the obvious choice, but some kids may find them cumbersome to carry or may forget to turn them on. Reflective apparel also works, though your children may be reluctant to wear it. Handing out glow sticks or glow-jewelry, such as necklaces and bracelets, can help kids stay clearly visible without requiring them to carry any additional items. Kids will probably think the jewelry is a cool addition to their costume, too.

4. Give guidelines on candy: Some parents like to inspect each piece of candy before allowing their children to partake in their well-earned goodies. If that's your style, that's fine. However, instances of tampered candy are incredibly rare, which means you may feel better giving your kids a few broad guidelines and allowing them to check their own stashes. Some common guidelines include forgoing homemade treats (however well-intentioned their makers may have been), tossing away pieces that look as though they've been opened and eating only a certain amount of candy at a time to prevent illness.

5. Make sure they have access to their medication: The scares of Halloween should be limited to the spooky dress and decor, and not related to medical issues. If your children depend on prescription medication such as an asthma inhaler or EpiPen, make sure you or your children have it on hand during the festivities. That way, should your children get winded from trick-or-treating or encounter an ingredient to which they have an allergic reaction, you're ready to act. You probably won't need it, but you'll feel better if you're prepared.

FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that can help children take their medication. Ask your pharmacist how you can get their favorite FLAVORx flavors today.

More parents looking for online options in children’s health care

According to a new survey, 77 percent of parents are looking for more online options when it comes to dealing with children's health care providers. The sticking point? They aren't willing to pay for it. According to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, half of respondents think that this type of online consultation should be free.

The poll surveyed 1,420 parents of children aged 0 to 17 years old. While most reported paying co-pays from $0 to $30 per visit to the pediatrician's office, the majority felt that email consultations should cost less – and as much as 48 percent reported that they felt this type of consultation should cost nothing at all.

"Most parents know it can be inconvenient to schedule and get to an office visit for a sick child. An email consultation would prevent the hassles of scheduling and allow sick children to remain at home … But many health care providers don't have co-pays established for this kind of consultation," Sarah Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children's Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics, told News Medical.

Clark also added that email consultation could provide a way for parents to consult a medical professional after office hours, a service that isn't often available and results in many unnecessary emergency room visits each year.

Concerns about online care
Health care providers still have a few concerns about online care, especially if the service is free. For one thing, answering these emails does require a certain amount of a health care professional's time, and depending on the volume of emails received, this could be detrimental and even financially prohibitive to the practice. Then there are the insurance providers to think about. This type of, presumably, low-budget care is exactly the sort of line item that frequently receives an upcharge in order to balance out more expensive types of care.

Another matter to consider is that a "free incentive" like the one many parents are calling for may prevent some from bringing a truly sick child to the doctor. This could delay critical care and result in potentially devastating side effects.

Why online care may not be such a bad idea
While there may be some kinks to work out, many parents and professionals argue that online health care can actually help the physician by reducing the amount of unnecessary office visits, freeing up time for things like vaccinations, preventative wellness exams and the truly serious cases.

Some advocates even argue that the process of sending an email is the equivalent of making a phone call directly to the doctor's office, a practice that many busy parents already engage in. It's not uncommon for a parent to call the pediatrician's office and describe symptoms in order to determine whether a visit to the physical office is necessary, and in many cases there's no charge for this type of service. It can be especially beneficial if the child is experiencing a flare-up of a chronic illness, and the mother or father simply wished the doctor to call in a prescription refill to treat the illness.

In fact, certain online services such as prescription filling or refilling already do exist. In many cases, the doctor will order the first round of treatment and the patient may request refills by going to a website and making the request. Many parents find this a worthwhile convenience.

FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that can be added to your child's prescription to make it taste better. Ask your pharmacist how you can get FLAVORx for your child.

Early vaccination for measles may help children avoid side effects

A case of the measles is almost unheard of these days, largely due to the common vaccinations given to children. The measles, mumps, rubella shot, otherwise referred to as the MMR vaccine, is tremendously effective when it comes to preventing these illnesses. Unfortunately, the vaccination isn't an easy one for most kids to take, and often produces significantly unpleasant side effects, such as allergies, fever, glandular swelling, mild rash and stiffness of joints and muscles, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are even more severe side effects such as seizure, low blood platelet count and even potentially permanent brain damage.

The very real risks associated with measles
Despite the risks, most medical professionals agree that the risks associated with the shot are less dangerous than the side effects associated with the actual diseases, which are often deadly. According to the CDC, 3 to 4 million individuals were affected by measles annually in the decade before the vaccination was developed. Nearly 50,000 people were hospitalized each year, and approximately 500 of those who were infected died from the disease. A further 1,000 individuals developed chronic disability. The vaccination reduced these instances by 99 percent in the U.S. In 2012, only 55 cases of measles were reported.

Despite the progress seen by the U.S., many other countries still experience measles as a daily reality. Measles is highly contagious and able to spread very quickly. The CDC estimated that there were approximately 164,000 measles-related deaths worldwide in the year 2008, which amounts to 450 deaths per day and 18 per hour.

New hope for MMR vaccinations
Though the vaccinations are incredibly effective against the development of measles, many parents have trepidations about giving their children the shot due to the potentially harmful side effects. Fortunately, a new study provides new hope, finding that the side effects of the vaccination can be decreased by exposing young children to the vaccination earlier.

While most doctors recommend children receive the vaccination between 12 and 15 months of age, most children actually receive the shot between 12 and 23 months of age – and most receive the vaccination around 19 months. However, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Colorado's Institute for Health Research found that the immunization has the least potential for side effects when administered between the ages of 12 and 15 months.

Researchers looked at the data records of 840,000 children between the ages of 12 and 23 months who received the vaccine in the years between 2001 and 2011. They noted that, in the 10 days after vaccination, most children were likely to exhibit symptoms such as fever and seizure. However, the risk was significantly lower in those between the ages of 12 and 15 months than it was in those between the ages of 16 and 23 months. Instances of fever generally dropped off after 12 to 13 days. Researchers also noted that seizures were particularly prevalent in children between 16 and 18 months of age.

Rates of fever dropped steadily, however, 12 to 13 days after the first dose of the vaccine for children between 19 months and 23 months of age. Seizures, the study revealed, were most prevalent among children between 16 months and 18 months of age.

"We found that the magnitude of increased risk of fever and seizures following immunization with measles-containing vaccines during the second year of life depends on age," study lead author Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, M.D., said in a news release.

The study shows that parents shouldn't shy away from having their children vaccinated sooner rather than later, as most doctors recommend. Parents should always follow the recommendations of their pediatrician when it comes to medicating their children.

FLAVORx makes medicinal flavors that can be added to prescription medications to make medicine time easier for kids. Ask your pharmacist how you can get FLAVORx added to your child's prescription.

Children’s sleep habits may be connected to illness

Sleep is one thing that Americans are short on these days, and this includes children. Like their adult counterparts, kids are staying up later, plugged into their computer screens and televisions. Most parents know that a good night's sleep is essential for their children to perform well in school and other areas, however new research shows that cutting sleep short can actually lead to both physical and mental illnesses.

One study published in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics, entitled "Changes in Bedtime Schedules and Behavioral Difficulties in 7 Year Old Children," looked at the bedtimes and behavior patterns of children in the United Kingdom. The data was collected from more than 10,000 children in the UK Millennium Cohort Study, focusing on children at 3, 5 and 7 years of age. Researchers also factored in reports from parents, teachers and other adults associated with the children. What they found was that children with irregular bedtime habits were likely to begin exhibiting behavioral difficulties before the age of 7. The pattern was very clear: children who continued without a regular bedtime experienced worsening behavioral scores, however children who switched to a normal sleep schedule saw their behavioral scores improve. Study authors concluded that the behavioral difficulties may be caused by the disruption in circadian rhythms as well as the damaging effects of sleep deprivation on a developing brain, and that doctors may inquire about sleep patterns during regular health checkups."

Another study indicates that it's not only the regularity but also the duration of sleep that keeps us healthy. The study, published in the October 2013 issue of Sleep, suggests that regular sleep habits are essential for reducing the risk of physical illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. In this study, researchers tracked more than 54,000 American adults in 14 states. Of the sample, almost two-thirds of participants (64 percent) received the optimal amount of sleep each night, which was factored in at 7 to 9 hours. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of participants were "short sleepers," receiving less than six hours per night, and the remaining few (4 percent) were "long sleepers" who received more than nine hours of sleep per night. The research showed that the short sleepers were more likely to exhibit diabetes, heart disease, obesity and frequent mental distress than those who received the recommended 7 to 9 hours. Perhaps surprisingly, the same was true for "long sleepers," who showed even higher instances of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

"Sleeping longer doesn't necessarily mean you're sleeping well," said Safwan Badr, M.D., president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "It is important to understand that both the quality and quantity of sleep impact your health . . . When and how you sleep is just as important as what you eat or how you exercise."

Study co-author Janet Croft,  a senior chronic disease epidemiologist in the division of population health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the relationships between shorter sleep durations and increased instances of illness may be attributed at least in part to the higher instances of obesity and mental distress. Like researchers in the prior study, Croft suggested that inquiries about sleep should be part of regular health examinations. "Physicians should consider monitoring mental health and body weight in addition to sleep health for patients with chronic diseases," said Croft.

As these studies show, sleep is an essential part of children's health. Children should receive at least at least 10.5 hours of sleep each night, while teens need approximately 8 to 9 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Children's sleep is also important for keeping immunity levels up during cold and flu season. This fall and winter, make sure children are getting the requisite amount of sleep in order to stay healthy. If they do get sick, taking the prescribed medication from their pediatrician will reduce the chance of spread and help them get better faster.

FLAVORX makes medical flavorings that can make taking oral medications easier for children. Ask your pharmacist how you can get your child's prescription in his or her favorite FLAVORX flavor.

Teach your child about sunscreen use for Child Health Month

In order to celebrate Child Health Month this October, it may be a good time to address a growing concern in children's health: the use of sunscreen. According to the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, people receive approximately 23 percent of their lifetime exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation by age 18. This makes it important to protect children when they're young, and also to instill healthy sunscreen habits at a young age.

While some parents may feel that October, which is often heralded as the beginning of autumn, isn't a month in which they'd typically use sunscreen, most doctors would advise otherwise. UV rays are present in every month, even during winter, and children's skin needs to be protected to ensure skin health – not only now, but later in life as well. Doctors are now advising that sunburns during childhood can present increased dangers of melanoma and other skin cancers in adults, so creating healthy preventative habits can help reduce this risk.

How to keep children safe with sunscreen
Sunscreen labels can be difficult to read, using marketing language that's potentially confusing and often meaningless, such as "broad spectrum." Until recently, any sunscreen was allowed to proclaim "broad spectrum" effectiveness, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently set guidelines in place to determine which formulas are allowed to make this claim. Now, only sunscreens that are proven to protect against both UVA and UVB rays can make this claim.

Parents should look for a broad spectrum sunscreen that's SPF 15 or higher. While the SPF numbers may seem endless, the FDA stated that the effectiveness of these claims peters off around SPF 50. Choose a sunscreen with a strength between SPF 15 and SPF 50 and apply it liberally to your child's skin, and reapply every other hour or so if he or she is playing outdoors. If it's a bright day, dress your child in protective clothing as well, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

Celebrate Child Health Month this October by keeping your kids safe and healthy. FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that can help keep kids healthy by helping them take oral medications more easily. Ask your pharmacist how you can get your child's prescription in his or her favorite FLAVORx flavor today.

Parents should use caution when treating kids with OTC medicines

Medications for a number of different ailments are available over the counter, and these are often parents first option when treating their children. While OTC medicine can be effective and may help save you a doctor's visit or a trip to the emergency room, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned parents that, when it comes to taking these medicines, children shouldn't be thought of as small adults. In other words, there are certain guidelines you should follow when treating your child with OTC medications.

Labels matter
The first and most important thing parents should do before treating their children with unprescribed medicine is to read the entire packaging. This includes ingredients, instructions and warning labels. It's especially critical that parents read and understand the dosage instructions. A teaspoon and a tablespoon may not seem that different, but when introducing a potentially powerful substance into your child's system, this difference can mean a lot. Dosages should be administered exactly as stated on the product's packaging, using a precise measuring tool such as dosage cups, measuring spoons or droppers.

Know the active ingredients
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture recommended that parents should also be aware of the active ingredients within a given medicine and how they may affect their child. Some medications, even if they perform similar functions, may have a different number of active ingredients. Active ingredients are those that have the strongest effect, and the university recommended parents try the medication that includes the lowest number of active ingredients unless otherwise instructed by a pediatrician.

Talk to the experts
The FDA also recommended that parents speak with a pharmacist before administering a new medication to their child, especially if the child has allergies or is currently taking other medications. A pharmacist will be able to tell you if the medicine you've chosen may have adverse reactions, and will be able to make alternate recommendations if this proves to be the case.

Finally, some medications shouldn't be taken over the counter. If your pediatrician recommends prescription medication, following his or her instructions is the safest option. FLAVORx offers medicinal flavoring that can help children take medication, both prescription and over the counter. Ask your pharmacist how you can get your child's medication in his or her favorite flavor to make medicine time a little bit easier.