Dyslexia can be described as a learning disability which prevents a person from reading, writing, spelling and even speaking sometimes. It is an impairment that is easy to find in children and it can last throughout the person’s life. The categories of this disability range from mild to severe; the earlier it is treated in a child, the better the results that are obtained. The condition is caused by the brain’s inability to translate or convert images or sensory impulses received from the eyes or ears into useful understandable information or language.
We have all seen those films about outbreaks and crazy viruses that sweep a community. Scary music, HASMAT teams and beautiful actors working hard to save the world with makeup that somehow stays perfect throughout. I need some of that. Why do these films scare us so much? Because we know this type of uncontrollable horror can happen. Just as freak lightening struck my grandparents’ house when I was 6 and caused a bad fire, our children can be infected out of the blue by some pretty scary diseases.
Meningitis is a serious bacterial disease, which causes inflammation around the lining of the spinal cord and brain. It can also cause poisoning of the blood and can strike people even into their 20’s. Before you read about Brodie, you should know that you will get upset. Should you wish to skip to the end, please first know that there are vaccinations to protect against meningitis. They are available for your kids in order to prevent four different strains. Unfortunately, many routine Canadian immunizations only protect against one strain of the disease.
Brodie: A tribute by his Father, Colin Campbell, an instructor in the department of criminology at Douglas College. (Published in the Vancouver Sun, April 29, 2008).
“My son, Brodie, an only child, died suddenly on April 24, 2007, from a rare and particularly vicious strain of bacterial meningitis. Brodie, a big, active, popular and happy-go-lucky kid with a great sense of humour, was 15.
In the words of poet W.H. Auden, Brodie was “my North, my South, my East and West; my working week and my Sunday rest. My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song . . . .”
My wife and I have learned in the months since Brodie died that there are multiple strains of IMD — groups A, B, C, Y and W-135 and that four of these strains are preventable. Indeed, Brodie had been vaccinated for meningitis C but died from the group Y strain that could have been prevented with the appropriate vaccine. There is no vaccine for the B strain and only the four Maritime provinces currently fund vaccinations against the four preventable strains.
My wife and I have also learned that IMD spreads through close contact, much like a cold or flu. Coughing or sneezing, sharing eating utensils or sport water bottles, kissing and close physical contact can spread the germs from person to person. Symptoms are flu-like and include fever, headache, vomiting and confusion. The symptoms, however, often fail to reveal the seriousness of IMD until it is too late.”
Tears? Me too. I can’t imagine a greater tragedy than the preventable loss of a child. Between 2005 and 2010, an average of 197 cases of IMD was reported annually in Canada and 6.7% of those affected died (typically within 48 hours). Funny, they don’t make movies with ending that tragic. Of those who survive, up to 1 in 5 may suffer from permanent and disabling effects. But it could never happen to us, right? We’re healthy and sprinkle chia seeds on our cereal. Wrong. One in five healthy teenagers and adults carry the meningococcal germ in our nose and throat but do not get sick ourselves. We can, however, make children sick when we sneeze or cough.
When the disease is properly diagnosed by a physician through testing of the spinal fluid, it can be treated. The bacteria usually disappear from the nose and throat within 24 hours after appropriate antimicrobial treatment has begun. Finally – some good news!!
Prevention of Meningitis
Rigorously tested, safe vaccines are the best prevention method of this disease; especially because people can unknowingly be carriers and easily pass on the disease to unimmunized people. Vaccines such as Menactra are available that protect children against four strains (A,C,Y, W-135). There is currently no vaccine to protect against meningitis B.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Symptoms differ in infants/toddlers and children/adults and not all people will experience similar symptoms and the same progression of symptoms. Medical help should be sought immediately following any of all symptoms.
Symptoms in Babies and Toddlers include:
- Fever combined with cold hands and feet
- Refusing food when normally hungry
- Fretful, does not want to be picked up or held
- Pale, blotchy skin
- Blank, staring expression
- Drowsy, difficult to wake
- Stiff neck and arched back
- High pitched cry
Symptoms in Children and Adults include:
- Fever with cold hands and feet
- Headache, especially combined with stiff neck
- Joint stiffness and muscle pain
- Dislike bright lights, noise
- Drowsy, difficult to wake
- Confusion or delirium
I must apologize, as we don’t usually scare parents or make anyone sad. But this is pretty important, and I didn’t even realize that only 1 out of 4 preventable strains of meningitis was included in my provincial vaccination until I was sent a press release. Did you?
This is a sponsored post by Sanofi Pasteur. For additional information and research you may go to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
It is well-established that music is beneficial for children’s mental and emotional development, even in the womb. Also, music is a great way to help baby drift off to sleep…and mom, too! Here are some of the best Baby CDs out there right now, all are available through Amazon and other outlets.
Rockabye Baby. For those of us who don’t want to sacrifice our hipness or adversely influence our childrens’ brain development by exposing them to too much silly kids’ music and cultivate some style and culture…it’s Rockabye Baby! You saw it on Ellen Degeneres and other places; celebs love these Baby CDs, because they literally rock! Your favorite songs by your favorite rock, pop and even some R&B artists, such as Coldplay, Bob Marley, the Beatles, Green Day, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, etc., are all on here. Sure, lullaby versions of your favourite hit songs can get Junior to crash for a nap, and subliminally you’ll be telling him, “Just say NO to bad music!”
Disney Babies: Lullaby Album. This is a must-have in every nursery CD player or MP3 playlist. The best Disney songs as lullabies, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Jewel, Lullaby. For those of us who love Jewel’s sweet, plaintive, ethereal yet earthy voice, this is an awesome choice. Jewel recently became a mom for the first time, but this album of old-fashioned classics and new selections is a great listen for the nursery.
Baby Einstein, Lullaby Classics. Baby Einstein is another awesome child-development audio tool, with a large body of work to choose from. All of it is ultra creative, hip, and worth buying, but if you want a lullaby collection of classical music (which has been shown to boost brain development in babies), choose this one. Mozart at his best and sweetest, your baby will love it, and you will, too!
Do you have some favourites? Please let us and our readers know below! You can also tweet us at @urbanmommies.
Severe heat can inhibit the safety of babies and children. With global temperatures on a slow march upwards, heat waves such as this are unfortunately likely to become more frequent than their previous once-in-a-lifetime occurence. Some people adore the heat, but babies and children as well as pets and elderly relatives are vulnerable to heat strokes, dehydration and other serious heat-related ailments. Here are some tips on surviving the heat:
- Never, EVER, leave a baby, child or pet in a parked car during hot weather. The temperature inside a parked car can very quickly rise to extreme levels. Children and pets can become extremely over-heated and some have even died when left in a hot car. This tip is therefore very important.
- Make sure babies, children and pets have plenty of water to drink. Heat produces sweat which causes the body to lose vital water. It is very important to replenish the body with water in order to prevent dehydration, which can be very serious.
- Keep babies, children and pets where it is coolest. Find the coolest room in the house, most likely the basement, and spend as much time there as possible. Only go outside unless you are doing water-related activities or if your house gets so hot, it’s cooler in the shade outside. Restrict outdoor exercise, including walking dogs, to cooler evenings. Avoiding the heat is a great reason to spend the afternoon at the air-conditioned library.
- Dress appropriately. Keep babies and children in lightweight, loose fitting clothing. Is your toddler not a fan of clothing? Well, this is a good time to let him get away with his preference for nakedness!
- Hats and sunscreen. If you are outside in the sun at any time, make sure babies, children and yourself have hats and waterproof, high-SPF sunscreen on. Make sure to re-apply it when necessary. If baby is constantly taking his hat off, find a hat that has a Velcro strap that goes under his chin.
- Fans and air conditioners. These are of course, summer-heat standbys. Here’s a good tip: put a bowl of ice in front of a fan. The fan will blow the cooler air around the ice towards you!
- Don’t leave a baby or child to nap in direct sunlight. That tip speaks for itself.
- Utilize water. Cold showers and baths, pools and natural bodies of clean water are of course great. But here’s another tip: fill up a bucket with very cold water and sit with your feet in it. As your blood circulates through your body, it will cool down in your feet and circulate cooler blood throughout your body. I tried this today and it helped a great deal. Just make sure there are no electronics that can fall into it to avoid electrocution.
- Keep cool at night. Have the whole family sleep in the basement if possible. Make sure babies and children are in light clothing, if clothing is necessary, and that they only have a sheet to cover them, if necessary. Open windows, if safe, to ensure plenty of circulation of the slightly-cooler night air. A cold shower or bath before bed can also help.
- Check in on elderly relatives. If elderly relatives live in hot areas, make sure to check with them that they have everything they need to beat the heat. The elderly are very vulnerable to overheating. Sadly, sometimes, it even causes death.
- Be careful of worsening air quality. Heat causes air quality to diminish. Be aware of this and make sure people with respiratory problems, including kids with asthma, are looked after. Try staying inside where the air is a little better.
- Indulge your children in frozen treats. If it’s very hot, the cooling effect of frozen treats can be more important than their sugar content. If you’d prefer a healthy alternative, pick up a popsicle mold and make fruit juice popsicles by filling the mold with fruit juice.
Have you got a tip? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: Beat the Heat) with your name, city and tip and we will add your tip to this page!
Here are some signs of overheating to look out for:
*rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
*weakness, dizziness, or fainting
*more tiredness than usual
*confusion or disorientation
If you see these signs in someone help them cool down by removing clothing, having them drink cool (but not ice cold) water, bathing them with cool water and moving them to a cooler area. If they appear seriously listless or disoriented, take them to the emergency room or call 911.
The above signs to watch out for were taken from the Toronto Public Health’s brochure on beating the heat. This brochure also has tips similar to some of the ones above. You can view this brochure here: http://www.toronto.ca/health/heatalerts/pdf/beattheheat.pdf
For more information about the health effects of extreme heat call
Canadian Red Cross Heat Information Line 416-480-2615
As many of our readers know, our publisher was chosen as a McDonald’s All-Access Mom, to see behind the scenes at McDonald’s Canada. Yes, the experience included meeting and moo-ing at a bunch of cows, as well as a potato farm, chicken plant, restaurant visit, Hamburger University and head office. As part of a promise to answer all of our readers’ questions, we’re publishing a Q and A for each trip. Here’s the beef. (More beef jokes in the main article on the trip).
Q. Do they use hormones in what the cattle are fed?
A. Some farmers decide to use hormonal growth proponents and this is a business decision. For the farmers, there are costs associated with the hormones, and they must weigh the cost/benefit for their business.
Q. What are hormonal growth promotants?
A. Hormonal growth promotants are in the form of naturally occurring sex hormones which are administered to animals in order to improve an animal’s ability to use nutrients efficiently. Health Canada has approved three natural hormones and three synthetically produced hormones for use in cattle in Canada.
Q. What benefit is there to using hormones?
A. When these are used, the animal uses its feed much more efficiently. This means that the meat will contain more lean meat and less fat in the end. There can be more growth using less feed, resulting in less expensive beef for the consumer.
Q. How does the Canadian Government monitor the use of growth hormones?
A. In addition to the strict requirements which must be met in order to obtain approval to sell, and to use, growth promoting hormones in Canada, Canada’s national food safety agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), conducts regular monitoring programs in which thousands of samples of all meat products are analyzed to ensure that any drug residues which remain in meat are well within lawful, and safe, limits. Results of these monitoring programs are published regularly by the CFIA. Since residue levels of the natural hormones in beef are in the same range in both treated and untreated animals, Canadian regulatory authorities have concluded that it is not necessary to establish so-called safe limits of the natural hormones. CFIA monitors for residues of the synthetic hormones and Canadian regulations do not permit residues of any of the synthetic hormones to be present in meat. And year after year, Canadian beef has been in virtually 100 per cent compliance, that is, there are no residues in the beef.
Q. What about bacteria, Mad Cow Disease (BSE) and E. coli?
A. BSE control and testing happens both on the farm (sick-looking animals are isolated and tested) as well as at McDonald’s-approved primary meat processing (ie. slaughterhouse) suppliers. Canada does 40 times more than the global standard in terms of BSE prevention. Now, feed bans exist where the food chain is even more protected from contamination. Recent cases of BSE existed in older animals that were alive prior to the feed ban. In the last 3 years, there have been more than 100,000 animals tested with only 3 positives.
Beef is tested for E. coli 0157:H7 before it arrives at the facility. Any beef that tests positive for E. coli 0157:H7 never goes back into the McDonald’s food chain. In addition, the Cargill facility tests the incoming beef again for 0157:H7 as well as other types of bacteria according to the McDonald’s food safety standards. Quality checks and tests are also done on the finished patties. Test results on every batch of patties are seen prior to any box being released via the distribution networks.
Q. How do you make sure employees don’t lose their temper with animals at all stages of the process?
A. The CFIA has a Code of Practice related to animal welfare. In addition, there is a certified livestock transport program created by the Alberta Farm association to ensure humane treatment of animals. At the primary processing facilities, everyone who works there all go through animal welfare training. There is 3rd party video monitoring at all primary processing facilities. This technology can detect sharp movements and employees are always held accountable. If any facility ever fails an audit, McDonald’s may disapprove them as a supplier of beef.
Q. Is meat washed with ammonia?
A. No. Ammonia is only present within the refrigeration system to cool down the meat and never comes into contact with the meat itself. The refrigeration system used to run on Freon and it is now run on ammonia.
For our publisher’s full article on McDonald’s beef, please see the All-Access Microsite.
As part of the McDonald’s All-Access Moms program, four Mom writers across Canada have been given the opportunity to see McDonald’s from behind the scenes. September brings wooly sweaters and harvest season and I am now off to Grand Falls, New Brunswick to visit both a potato farm and the McCain french fry processing facility. Born and raised in Halifax, the Maritimes are in my blood, and being back on the east coast is such a breath of fresh air. There is a simplicity and an innocence that permeates the culture. It will be so exciting to see these qualities juxtoposed against the huge corporation that purchases the french fries. I can’t wait to don rubber boots and meet the farmers. I can’t wait to ask gardening questions! (My potatoes grow no bigger than a golf ball..) I encourage you all to comment and ask as many questions as you can.
I started reading ‘Food Inc.’ and will be watching the film prior to my trip. I feel that as an All-Access Mom I have a responsibility to educate myself about all facets of food production. I don’t know if the potatoes are engineered and I am so excited to learn and discuss the issues. Is there anything you are confused about? Curious to ask? Please let me know!
Ear Infections in Children – Addressing the Root Cause
Each year many young children are diagnosed with middle ear infections – or otitis media. Typical symptoms that occur with otits media include fever, ear ache and irritability.
B.C. optometrists provide tips to parents on how to select the right sunglasses for their children.
For most children, summer months mean long hours of play outside in the sunshine. But a few months in the sun can lead to compromised eye health later on if proper UV protection isn’t part of children’s summer routines. The British Columbia Association of Optometrists urges parents to foster good UV eye-protection habits in their children at an early age by encouraging them to wear sunglasses all summer long. Even babies and toddlers should be wearing sunglasses when outdoors.