10 Harmful Chemicals to Avoid

Here’s a look at some of the most dangerous chemicals lurking in your home — and how you can reduce your child’s exposure to them.

Many chemicals today are known or suspected to be links to cancer, early puberty, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity, autism, and other serious health issues. “As we look at protecting children’s health, we need to look not just at nutrition, diet, and physical activity, but also exposure to chemicals,” says Jason Rano, director of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. The Safe Chemicals Act, which passed out of committee for the first time this year, would require chemical companies to prove that their products are safe. “In the U.S., we are a toxic dumping ground for unsafe products,” says Katy Farber, founder of Non-Toxic Kids (Non-ToxicKids.net). “Many parents are exhausted by trying to keep up with what to avoid and what to do. The Safe Chemicals Act would shift the burden to where it belongs.” Your family doesn’t have to live like ascetics to minimize your children’s exposure to chemical dangers; there are simple ways to reduce contact.

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How to Avoid


Arsenic is a known carcinogen that has been linked particularly to skin, bladder, kidney, and lung cancers. Certain foods contain organic and inorganic arsenic, and the latter usually raises the risk of cancer and other health problems. Both types of arsenic are found in apple and grape juice and in rice and rice products, which are contaminated by both naturally occurring arsenic and arsenic-containing pesticides that leach into the groundwater where it is grown. Arsenic is found in pressure-treated wood made or manufactured before 2003, when the industry agreed to stop using arsenic-treated wood for residential purposes.

  • The Food Drug Administration (FDA) has tested apple and grape juices and determined that they can be consumed in small amounts, but guidelines for an arsenic threshold have yet to be established. Instead of juice, parents can offer water, milk, and whole fruits.
  • Consumer Reports advises parents to limit the amount of infant rice cereal to no more than one serving a day, on average, and to offer cereals that contain significantly lower arsenic levels (wheat, oatmeal, or corn grits). If you eat rice, you may be able to reduce exposure to inorganic arsenic by rinsing it thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of six cups water to one cup rice for cooking, and draining excess water. If you remove rice from your diet, the FDA advises families to consume a variety of whole grains as part of a well-balanced diet.
  • Daily rice drinks for children under age 5 are not recommended. If possible, avoid rice-based foods, such as rice milk and rice flour rice syrup.
  • Avoid older pressure-treated wood, which might be found in sandboxes, playgrounds, swing sets, and decks. Pressure-treated wood can usually be identified by the numerous short slits cut into the surface.

“Because harmful chemicals such as arsenic enter children’s bodies at such a higher rate relative to their body size, it is especially important to reduce their exposures,” says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group.



How Bad Is That Cough? 7 Bad Coughs to Worry About

Isn’t it amazing how many tissues and bowls of soup your family can go through in one season? Don’t assume, though, that your child’s cough is simply a cold it might be something more serious. Here’s when to worry and what to do.


What’s probably causing it: Croup, a viral illness that causes inflammation in the larynx (voice box) and the trachea (windpipe). It’s most common between October and March, and it usually affects children ages 6 months to 3 years. The telltale cough usually gets better during the day but returns for two more nights. He may also make a high-pitched whistling sound (called stridor) when he inhales. Some kids tend to get croup every time they have a cold.

How to help: When your child wakes up barking, bundle him up and go outside — cold air often helps relax the airways. Or turn on a hot shower and sit with your child in the steamy bathroom for 15 to 20 minutes, since the warm, moist air also may help him breathe, says Parents advisor Jennifer Shu, M.D., editor of The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Baby and Child Health. Call 911 if your child is truly having trouble breathing or if he has stridor that gets worse with each breath or lasts for more than five minutes. Between attacks, use a cool-mist humidifier in his room, and make sure he drinks plenty of liquids. Although croup usually resolves on its own, always call your doctor when you suspect it. Recent research has found that one dose of oral steroids — which doctors used to prescribe only for severe croup — may also be helpful for milder cases.

The Phlegmy Cough

Your child’s cough sounds mucousy, and she also has a runny nose, a sore throat, watery eyes, and a poor appetite.

What’s probably causing it: A common cold, which can last for one to two weeks — although it’s at its worst (and most contagious) in the first few days. Children get an average of six to ten colds a year, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, so you can expect more than a few this winter.

How to help: Since colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics won’t help — don’t even ask your pediatrician to prescribe one. (However, do call your doctor if your child has persistent green snot and a fever, because she may have developed a bacterial sinus infection.) If your child is too young to blow her nose, use saline nose drops and a bulb syringe to help clear the mucus and make her less likely to cough. Using a cool-mist humidifier and giving her a warm bath can also help. You may want to let your child inhale some vapor rub on a towel, but don’t put the rub directly on her skin unless your doctor advises it. Also check with your doctor before giving your child any over-the-counter medicines, and ask when she’ll be old enough to suck on cough drops.

The Dry, Nighttime Cough

Your child has had an annoying cough off and on all winter long. It gets worse every night and any time he runs around.

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Fever Fears: A Guide for Treating Fever in Children

You can’t take chances when your child has a fever, but you shouldn’t panic either. We’ll explain what to look for so you can stay calm — and help her feel better fast.

First Response

As a parent, what you should do about a fever depends largely on your child’s age and the reading. If she’s less than 3 months old, anything above 100.4?F warrants a quick call to the doctor. Because an infant’s immune system isn’t fully developed, she’s vulnerable to potentially life-threatening infections like bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, and an elevated body temperature is often the only symptom

Between 3 and 6 months, your child needs to be examined by his pediatrician once his fever hits 101?F, says Steven Shelov, M.D., a Parents advisor and the editor-in-chief of American Academy of Pediatrics’ Caring for Your Baby and Young Child.

Once your child is older than 6 months, you can safely wait to contact your doctor until her temperature rises to 103?F, with this important exception: Phone right away if her fever hits 102?F or above and she has two or more of these symptoms: a cough, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, and diarrhea. These classic H1N1 flu symptoms (which are strikingly similar to those for seasonal influenza) tend to occur within 24 hours of the onset of a fever, and your pediatrician might recommend that she take the antiviral drug Tamiflu to reduce the severity and duration of her symptoms.


The Big Picture

Since fever is a signal from the body that something is wrong, pay close attention to your child’s other symptoms. If he has a runny nose and a low-grade fever (under 101?F), it usually means he’s got a common cold, while vomiting and diarrhea probably point to a stomach virus. In both cases, the fever tends to come on gradually and to disappear within a few days. But seasonal and H1N1 flu symptoms often strike very suddenly. “Flu hits your child like a ton of bricks,” says Jason Homme, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “One day he’s fine, and then boom, the next he can’t get out of bed.” For kids considered to be at higher risk (those under age 5 or with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes), treatment may be needed, so your doctor might have you in for a flu test. If your child is otherwise healthy the physician may simply assume (based on your description) that he has the flu, in which case he’ll need to stay home until he’s fever-free for 24 hours without using a fever reducer.

Red Flags

Let your doctor know right away if your child complains of a sore throat, an earache, or pain while peeing, since these ailments could signal strep throat, an ear infection, or a urinary tract infection, all of which may need to be treated with antibiotics. You should also check in with the office if your child shows symptoms of dehydration, such as if she urinates less than usual, doesn’t produce any tears when she cries, or seems less alert than usual.

Although rare, certain symptoms (which are often accompanied by fever) require immediate medical attention. Head straight for the E.R. if your child is extremely short of breath, cries inconsolably, has difficulty waking, or develops a rash that doesn?t blanch when you touch it or has bruisy-looking purple spots (both could indicate meningococcemia, a potentially fatal infection of the bloodstream). Call 911 if her tongue, lips, or nails are blue (a sign that she may not be getting enough oxygen) or she has a stiff neck (a possible indicator of meningitis) or severe abdominal pain (which could mean appendicitis). Also call your pediatrician if your child is under 2 and her fever lasts more than 24 hours (for older kids, you can wait three days before calling unless she has symptoms suggestive of seasonal flu or H1N1). Ask for an appointment if your child’s fever disappears and then returns a few days later, since she may have developed a secondary infection.

Read More: http://www.parents.com/health/fever/fever-fears-a-guide-for-treating-fever-in-children/

Dr. Jennifer Gobel

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Dr. Jennifer Gobel has been in general pediatric practice in St. Paul since 1990. She is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Macalester College and received her M.D. from the University of Minnesota, where she also completed her residency in Pediatrics. She had additional post-graduate training in Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Minnesota. Her special interests include providing primary care for children with congenital heart disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases, genetic disorders, children with multiple disabilities and children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Dr. Gobel is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (1988), a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics (1989) and an Adjunct Faculty member of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She lives in West St. Paul with her husband, Mark, with whom she has 2 adult daughters. Her hobbies include gardening, singing in her church choir, and tennis.

Place Of Birth
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Work Address
1880 Livingston Ave, Suite 102
West Saint Paul, Minnesota 55118

B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Macalester College, 1981
M.D., University of Minnesota 1985

Post Doctoral Training 
Pediatric Residency, University of Minnesota, 1988

Research Fellowships 
Pediatric Cardiology, University of Minnesota, 1988-1990

Licensure and Board Certification 
Licensure: State of Minnesota
Board Certification: American Board of Pediatrics

Academic & Administrative Appointments
Adjunct Clinical Faculty, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota

Hospital Appointments 
Children’s Hospital, St. Paul
United Hospital, St. Paul
St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Paul
Woodwinds Hospital, Woodbury

Memberships, Offices and Committee Appointments
Fellow, American Academy of Pediatrics

Awards & Honors
Voted a “Top Doctor” by physicians and nurses for Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, 7 times, from 2006 through 2017.


Pneumococcal Vaccination

One of the Recommended Vaccines by Disease

Vaccines are available that can help prevent pneumococcal disease, which is any type of infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. There are two kinds of pneumococcal vaccines available in the United States:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all babies and children younger than 2 years old, all adults 65 years or older, and people 2 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is recommended for all adults 65 years or older, people 2 through 64 years old who are at increased risk for disease due to certain medical conditions, and adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes.

Talk with your or your child’s healthcare professional if you have questions about pneumococcal vaccines.’

Key Facts

Pneumococcal disease is common in young children, but older adults are at greatest risk of serious pneumococcal infections and even death. CDC recommends vaccination with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for all babies and children younger than 2 years old, all adults 65 years or older, and people 2 years through 64 years old who are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease due to certain medical conditions.