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I'm being told my kids need certain immunizations for school but I've heard that vaccines can cause other health problems. Which vaccines are really necessary and which can I have them skip?
For the current schedule of vaccinations for preschool- and school-aged children, I recommend visiting the CDC website at cdc.gov/vaccines.
The PA State Requirements include all that are on the CDC list except for the Hepatitis A, influenza and HPV vaccines.
There are some sources that claim that immunizations are to blame for multiple chronic illnesses including autism, diabetes, and celiac disease. These conditions have been blamed on specific vaccines, specifically the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in connection with autism. Extensive studies have been done to look at these issues and have all concluded that vaccines are not linked to these or any specific chronic illnesses.
If you wish to not immunize your school-aged child, there is a process at most schools to file for an exemption – religious or otherwise. I personally recommend following the current immunization schedule as presented in order to provide the best possible protection for your children from preventable disease.
Immunization is one of the most important ways to protect yourself and others from infection and disease. August is recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month, so keep the importance of immunizations in mind with these facts:
Speak with your primary care physician to make sure you and your family are up to date with your vaccinations.
My nine-year-old son has been complaining of pain in his legs at night. Is this growing pain? What can I do to help him?
My six-year-old recently fell while riding his bike and injured his wrist. I tried to treat his injury at home by elevating and icing his wrist, but a bruise developed and he was still complaining of pain several hours later even after giving him some ibuprofen. Since I was worried about his pain, I ended up taking him to the emergency department and the doctor did not find that his wrist was sprained or broken. His recommendation was to maintain the ice treatment and allow a couple weeks for the injury to fully heal. I feel like I overreacted to the situation. Do you have any tips on when it’s necessary to take my child to the ER?
Is my child too sick to go to school?
It’s that time of year where runny noses, coughing, and sharing germs become the norm. It’s not uncommon for children to have a half dozen colds or illnesses throughout the school year, but as a parent, knowing when to keep them home can be tricky.
While it’s ultimately a decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis, there are a few scenarios in which a child should NOT go to school:
If you are ever in doubt about sending your child to school, getting an evaluation by a pediatrician can help you decide what to do. On days when sickness strikes at the last minute, consider using the walk-in service at Mount Nittany Health – Boalsburg, located at 3901 South Atherton Street, Suite 5, State College. This service for minor injuries and illnesses is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am until 11:00 am, with no appointment necessary. Saturday visits are also available at this location by appointment.
My child has a terrible time doing homework. It takes a really long time to complete, and I feel like I’m of no assistance because it’s been too many years since I’ve studied the material. What can I do to help?
I have witnessed that my child is being bullied. Should I intervene or just let the kids work it out amongst themselves?
In today’s world, bullying can take on many different forms, from verbal, physical, social, to cyber bullying. In some cases, the bullying may be made up of more than one of these components, too. The first thing you should do, as a parent, is to determine if your child is being physically harmed. If this is the case, it is your responsibility to intervene immediately.
If your child is being teased or has rumors circulating about him or her, you may want to teach your child a few tactics to help respond to the bully. Teach your son or daughter how to stay calm during a difficult situation and look the bully directly in the eye. Have your child firmly state that they do not want to be talked about like that, and that they do not like what the bully is doing. It’s also important to teach your child to know when to ask a trusted adult for help. If the problem does not resolve, you may wish to alert the school officials.
Because cyber bullying is unfortunately a risk, you may wish to monitor your child’s texts and interactions through social media so that problems can be identified and dealt with as they arise.
If you’re unsure whether your child is being bullied, you may be able to tell based on a few warning signs, including:
If your child is experiencing one or more of these signs, it’s important to get help through his or her pediatrician or mental health counselor.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may find that your child is the one expressing bullying behaviors to other children. This can be witnessed by an increasing amount of aggression in your child, or frequently blaming others for problems. In this case, you should make sure your child knows that bullying is not acceptable. You may find it helpful to show your child that he or she does not have to use methods like threatening or teasing to make friends or get what he or she wants. In repeated cases, effective discipline should be used, such as a loss of privileges. It may also be beneficial for you to speak with your child’s guidance counselor, principal or teachers so that those adults can intervene when you are not around.
Last, if your child finds him or herself witnessing another person being bullied, it’s important that your child knows to tell a trusted adult about the situation. Additionally, your child should be told not to encourage or cheer on a bully, but rather, support the child who is experiencing the bullying behavior.
My thirteen-year-old daughter does not want a babysitter anymore. She feels that she is old enough to stay home alone for a few hours after school. Do you have a recommended age for letting kids stay home alone?
This is a question I’m asked often by parents. Kids ages 10 years and younger should not be left alone because they typically do not have the skills and maturity level to take care of themselves. For the most part, older teens are responsible enough to handle being home alone. But for younger teens, there is no black and white answer. If you want to determine whether your teen is ready to stay home alone, consider these factors:
If you feel that your teen is mature enough to handle the responsibility of staying home alone, stage a practice run. Leave your teen at home for a short period of time (30 minutes to one hour) while you go to a neighbor’s house or somewhere close by where you are readily accessible in case of an emergency. Afterwards, talk to your teen to determine if he or she still feels like they are ready to stay home alone for longer periods of time.
Keep these tips in mind to help prepare you and your teen for the first time he or she stays home alone:
These recommendations are for a responsible teen staying home alone for a short amount of time, typically less than three or four hours, and not late at night. For longer periods of time, or for staying home alone overnight, I personally recommend waiting until the teen is 16 or older. Again, this is also dependent upon the teen’s maturity level and successful practice runs as a younger teen.
Another area of consideration is if your teen will need to supervise a younger sibling while home alone. If the sibling is an infant or toddler, your teen may benefit from taking a certified babysitting course first. If the sibling is older, a mature teen may be fine supervising a younger brother or sister for a few hours.
Remember, as a parent you know the maturity levels of your children and teens best. Use your best judgment and make sure clear ground rules are set when the time comes to leave your son or daughter at home alone. Creating a plan can help both you and your teen feel best prepared.
My five-year-old son constantly sucks his thumb. I’m worried that his habit will cause issues with his teeth as he gets older. Do you have any suggestions for how to get him to stop?
Babies are born with a reflexive sucking instinct for feeding. As children grow older, sucking on a thumb or pacifier may help calm the child when he or she is upset or when falling asleep. Typically, most children stop sucking thumbs or fingers around two to four years of age.
You are right that there is concern about damage to your son’s teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that sucking on a pacifier or fingers may cause problems with the growth of your child’s mouth and alignment of the teeth. Changes in the roof of your son’s mouth may also occur. This is dependent on how hard he sucks his thumb. If he just places the thumb in his mouth, he may not have as many issues versus aggressively sucking his thumb.
To help your son break the habit, first identify what triggers the thumb sucking. Does your son do it when he is scared or upset? Or is it a habit of boredom? When you know what triggers the habit, you can talk with your son and provide alternative ways to cope:
With consistent encouragement, your son can kick his habit.