3 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling

Greetings from Las Vegas!  My family and I are in HOT and sunny Nevada right now having some fun.  Shaklee’s Global Conference begins in a few days and I can’t wait to find out about all the new products and services Shaklee has for our Shaklee family 🙂

Earlier this week I had asked myself what I should write about this weekend and, since I’m traveling I thought I would write about ways to stay healthy while traveling.  It’s not easy to keep your routines up while on the road!  Getting OUT of your normal routine is a stressor, and as you know stress lowers your immune system and makes you more prone to pick up germs.

So how do you keep your immune system strong while traveling?  There are 3 major ways to stay healthy while traveling.

Get enough rest

Yep.  We tend to burn the candle at both ends while traveling.  Isn’t it funny how we go on vacation to rest and rejuvenate, then cram our schedules full of activities and must-do lists!  This is normal and natural, but you have to make sure to leave enough time for healthy rest.

You should ideally try to stay on your normal sleep schedule while traveling.  For those with kids, that means doing your best to stick to their normal wake-up times, naptimes and bedtimes.  You know your kids, and you know how flexible they are.  My own kids can sleep anywhere, anytime.  (They are related to their Aunt Becky who once slept through the whole car ride from Cincinnati to Hilton Head, only emerging for meals and rest stops.)

Traveling to the West Coast time zone made me think a little about jetlag.  I’ll be here for about a week, so I won’t be able to avoid shifting my sleep cycle.  If it were just for a few days I’d do my best to stay on East Coast time.  Unfortunately for this length of trip it’s just too hard to fight my brain’s response to daylight and dark.  When I get home I’ll have to just be extra careful about my sleep so I don’t let myself get run down.

Eat and drink healthy

When you’re traveling it’s easy to eat crap.  Fast food, junk food and unhealthy restaurant fare are quick and convenient.  Some of us overindulge in alcohol if we don’t have to drive or get up for work the next day.  And often if you’re going to be trapped in an airplane seat you don’t want to drink as much water as you should.  Trust me, I get it!  Airplane lavatories are NOT where I want to spend my whole plane flight.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that you don’t FEEL well when you don’t EAT well.  And it’s not hard nowadays to find healthy alternatives.  Even at O’Hare I have been able to find a grilled portabello mushroom sandwich (without cheese!) at a little Mediterranean place.  Salads, whole-grain breads, and unprocessed foods are not too hard to find, you just have to look for them.

Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, make sure to adjust your water intake accordingly.  The climate is very dry in Nevada which of course means I need to pay more attention to my fluid intake.  If I were going on a hike or doing something physically challenging I would be sure to get advice from a local about how much water I would need.  Dehydration contributes to fatigue, can make motion sickness (like seasickness on cruise ships) worse, and can make you prone to mistakes.

Take supplements

This is not nearly as important as the other two!  However, even though it is a distant third I felt I should mention it because it.  This can definitely contribute to feeling well and keeping your immune system strong.

You should pack and take your high-quality multivitamins, of course.  You wouldn’t leave home without your prescription medication, right?  Well you should bring along your normal supplement regimen too.  Vitamin C and echinacea are two supplements that help to support the immune system.

Here are some examples of immune-support supplements you might consider.  I brought my Vitalized Immunity with me, along with all the other supplements I take daily!

It’s easy to get out of your routine when traveling.  Burning the candle at both ends with fun activities, not sleeping enough, eating the wrong foods, overindulging in alcohol, skimping on water, and forgetting your supplements are common enough and can put you and your family at risk of getting sick.  With a little discipline and foresight, though, you can arrive back home after your trip with only great memories and WITHOUT any unwanted souvenirs!

QUESTION:  Is there anything else you do to stay healthy while traveling?

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Back To School Health Concerns

It’s that time of year again!  Have you got kids going to school this fall?  Me too!  We’re shopping for school supplies and clothes and shoes just like everybody else.

Are your kids ready to go back?  There are a number of things you can do to set your kids up for success this school year!

Good Sleep

Did your kids get off their school sleep schedule this summer?  Don’t worry, if they did you should have plenty of time to get them back on-track before school starts.

Elementary school children need about 10 hours of sleep per night.  For instance, our kids’ bus came at 7:30 AM last year.  Since they got up between 6:30 and 7:00, that made our bedtime about 8:30 so that they were asleep by 9.

You will want to give plenty of time to adjust a child’s sleep schedule.  Move bedtime by no more than a half-hour per night, every few nights, to let your child adjust.  If they’ve become accustomed to sleeping in, start instituting a set wake-up time.  In the adjustment period if they seem tired let them take a short nap.

There are plenty of things to adjust to in the first few weeks of school.  Fatigue and sleepiness and battles over going to bed and waking up are things you just don’t need to deal with.

Doctor’s Visits

Are your kids playing sports this school year?  Summertime is a good time to get their sports physicals out of the way.  Don’t worry, the physical is good for a year and is covered by health insurance.  Make sure to bring along any medication administration forms (for asthma or other meds your child will need to take at school).

If your child will be heading into kindergarten or 7th grade, they will need vaccines prior to starting school.  You should have gotten paperwork from the school already if your child is affected.  Remember that although your rising 7th grader is required to have the DTaP, the meningitis and HPV vaccines are also recommended at this age.

I get a lot of questions about the HPV vaccine and dove a little deeper into that topic in this post.  Please discuss the vaccine recommendations with your child’s doctor in detail.

After the 7th grade shots, your child will be done with tetanus shots until after college (unless she hurts herself, gets bit by a dog, etc) but she will need a meningitis shot booster at age 16.  Other than annual flu shots those are all the shots your child will need.

Nutrition

My younger son participates in a summer day program every year that does not provide lunch.  We were a little concerned at the beginning that packing lunches would be a big hassle.  To our pleased surprise, it has been a very positive experience.

Our lunch planning guidelines have been that our child needs a sandwich (with deli meat and cheese) and a fruit, a vegetable, and a starch for his lunch.  We read labels and used a food scale to explore portions for the starch (often pretzels, corn chips or a granola bar).  Here’s a website with interesting school lunch ideas.

Now after several summers he makes his own lunches like a pro.  Even better, when we go to the market and our kids want to try a different food (like barbecue potato chips) we can look at ingredients and talk about what’s in there, portion sizes and how they’re manipulated, price versus value, and other good topics.  We’ve even gotten them to try some new vegetables!

From a health standpoint, heading back to school can be stressful from a health standpoint.  With a little planning your youngsters can transition into the school year happy and healthy.

QUESTION:  What back to school health concerns do you have that I didn’t discuss?  I can always talk about them next week, LOL!

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Teen Smoking And Alcohol Use Decreasing

When you talk to the teenagers in your life, do you feel like they don’t listen?  That your words go in one ear and out the other (or straight over their head altogether)? Don’t give up – there are positive signs that some kinds of substance use among our teens are on the decline.

FINALLY some good news about our teens!  There is evidence we are seeing teen smoking and alcohol use DECREASE in the USA!

There was a research article published last week in Pediatrics that found that high school seniors in 2014 were five times more likely to report they had never tried cigarettes or alcohol than they were in the mid-1970s.  Similar trends were seen for younger adolescents as well.

Why is this happening?  There are likely a lot of reasons.  First of all, it’s illegal for teens under 18 to buy or use tobacco products.  Granted, whether something is illegal isn’t a great deterrent for either teens or adults, but it does make it more difficult for teens to smoke cigarettes than it was in the 70s.

Same with alcohol.  Penalties for teenage drinking are increasing, as well as for parents who host parties where teens are drinking.

I’m seeing in my office that fewer and fewer teenagers report smoking cigarettes.  Even better, they will often tell me that cigarettes are “gross.”  I love hearing that!  Cigarettes ARE gross!  The social pressure to smoke cigarettes is definitely decreasing among teens.

The downside to this is that smoking hookah (tobacco in a water pipe) and vaping are hugely on the rise.  Both of these are also illegal to sell or provide to minors, but the social pressure seems to favor these behaviors over smoking cigarettes.

What really concerns me is the recent sharp increase in marijuana smoking.  More and more of my teenage patients tell me they smoke pot, and they often don’t see any problem with it.  It seems like high school social pressures have moved away from cigarettes and towards behaviors that seem safer but really aren’t.

Those of us who are parenting or have leadership roles with teens need to be aware of these trends and continue to work to educate our kids.  There is danger in ALL tobacco products, marijuana, alcohol, other recreational drugs, and electronic cigarettes.

QUESTION: Do you spend time with teens?  Would you agree that drinking and smoking are decreasing?

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The Best Way To Control Your Blood Sugar

Don’t eat fruit.  Don’t eat meat.  Don’t eat sugar.  Eat before exercising.  Exercise while fasting.  Don’t eat after 7 PM.

If you read books by the popular health gurus or look at Facebook posts you can get completely confused by all the conflicting advice offered for diabetics.  What is the best way for a diabetic to control their blood sugar?

Get To And Maintain A Healthy Weight

The most important thing to do to get blood sugar under control is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  Just that one thing will get most of our diabetics to good blood sugar control, even without medication.

It isn’t even all that critical to get to a “normal” weight for blood sugar to improve.  Even losing just 5% of body fat (10 pounds for those starting at 200 pounds) has been shown to improve glycemic control.

I have a lot of patients who ask me what they SHOULD weigh.  I tell them I’m not sure, but let’s start with 5 pounds.  The same skills that get rid of the first 5 pounds will get rid of the first 100 pounds, you just have to stick with it!

For those who are looking for a healthy, effective, simple weight loss program, I always recommend the Shaklee 180 program.  If you’re interested in more information, please click this link to check it out.  If you like to watch videos, here’s one on my YouTube channel that’s very informative.

Eat Real Food

A lot of people are afraid of eating carbohydrates.  So many people want to eat Paleo, keto, low-carb…  The list goes on!  There are a lot of problems with trying so desperately to avoid carbs that you swing the pendulum WAY in the other direction and eat more meat and dairy.  Any diet that gets you to avoid eating processed food is a step in the right direction, but plant foods are much healthier than animal based foods.

The only diet that has been shown to improve health in diabetics (blood sugar control AND heart and vascular health) is the plant-based diet.  That means fruits and veggies, root vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole unprocessed grains.

I always laugh when keto and Paleo people try to say fruit is unhealthy.  Come on, now.  Anyone who tells you steak, bacon, sausage and cheese are healthy but apples will make you fat is either misinformed or outright lying to you!

A word on sweeteners.  Be aware that artificial sweeteners are not a good choice, and all sweeteners that contain calories are pretty much the same.  For instance, high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, agave syrup and honey all impact the body about the same.  You should reduce ALL of them, and avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.

Smart Supplementation

There are a few nutrients that are helpful for maintaining blood sugar control.  For instance, chromium supplementation is well-known for helping to improve glycemic control.  In fact, there was a smallish study published out of Iran that found about 1/3 of diabetics actually have deficiencies in chromium.  (I think I might have to start testing my patients and prescribing a supplement!)

Other nutrients are helpful for diabetics, like vanadium and zinc.  The amino acid taurine also is protective and improves blood sugar control.  Magnesium is important for everybody but especially those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased cardiovascular risk.

Shaklee’s Glucose Regulation Complex is based on solid scientific research and formulated to promote healthy blood sugar levels.  If you’re interested, you can check this link to learn more about it.

Diabetes is getting more and more prevalent.  Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which seriously increases their risk of diabetes.  Losing weight, eating real food and smart supplementation are things you can do to improve blood sugar control.

QUESTION: Are you diabetic? What do you find helpful in controlling your blood sugar?

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Is Drinking Coffee Healthy?

Are you a tea drinker or a coffee drinker?  Both?  Neither?  I love both, depending on my mood.  One or two cups of coffee in the morning, one in the afternoon and usually tea in the evening.

A lot of people think coffee isn’t healthy to drink.  It’s acidic, it has caffeine, it stains your teeth.  Is drinking coffee healthy?

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

There’s a lot of evidence that drinking coffee is associated with a lower rate of early death.  Most of those studies are smallish, but an absolutely massive research study was just published out of the UK.  Over a half million people were asked about their coffee drinking habits.  What did they find?

In short, the researchers found that the more coffee a person drank the lower their risk of death over the course of the study.  Now this study was not designed to assess CAUSE, but when you look at such a large group of people for 10 years, it suggests pretty reliable patterns.

It was also very exciting to find that drinking coffee lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes.  Similar to the death rate, more coffee intake was associated with lower risk.  Since we in the US are having an absolute epidemic of diabetes, any little thing we can do to decrease the risk is very welcome!

Even more interestingly, it didn’t matter whether people drank caffeinated coffee or decaf.  The researchers took caffeine into account because there are genes that make it hard for people to metabolize that stimulant.  Even if you don’t like the buzz of caffeine that you can get from coffee, you can still benefit.

Why is coffee healthy?  Coffee is made by roasting coffee beans, then grinding them, then steeping them in boiling water.  Healthy plant compounds like polyphenols and antioxidants are probably the cause, although more research is needed to be sure.

Be careful what you put in your coffee, though.  Sugary syrups, artificial flavors and sweeteners aren’t good options.  Choose more natural flavorings and sweeteners like cinnamon, ground nuts, honey or a little table sugar.  One of my favorite treats when I’m not in the mood to drink my coffee black is a little brown sugar.  The molasses and caramel flavor is delicious!

If you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems be careful how much caffeine you’re taking in – it can be hard on the heart.  One of the great things about this study is that it showed decaf coffee is just as beneficial as regular.

If you enjoy drinking coffee there’s no reason to stop.  There is plenty of research showing coffee to be healthy to drink.

QUESTION: Do you like coffee?  Will this study change how much you drink?

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Vision and Memory Loss

Imagine that you’re a 75-year-old woman living in a small house with your 78-year-old husband.  You’ve been keeping the house for your husband all your married lives while he worked to support your family.  Now you’re retired and while you traveled some in your early retirement, both of you are tiring more easily and generally stay closer to home now.

Recently you’ve noticed your husband hasn’t been interested in doing the morning crossword or reading his beloved mystery novels, and you have to work harder to coax him to go out for your evening walk.  He used to like puttering in the yard but this year the shrubs are a bit overgrown and he forgets to put out the birdseed and shoo the squirrels away from the feeder.  What’s going on?

If you said he is depressed, you might be right.  He may also have early dementia.  However, when you take him to the doctor to address these concerns, please make sure the doctor does a quick vision and hearing screen too.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that vision loss is associated with a 2-3 times increased risk of cognitive dysfunction or dementia.

We know that children have trouble learning if they can’t see properly.  One important thing we as parents can do is make sure our children get their vision checked regularly.  Turns out it’s as important for us to make sure our PARENTS are getting to the eye doctor too!

Vision loss is unfortunately quite common in older adults.  Macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma become more common with older age.  Vision loss can come on gradually and be difficult to identify without regular eye exam.

Vision loss contributes to cognitive dysfunction by decreasing stimulation to the brain.  Adults with vision loss may be more cautious about (or frankly afraid of) travel or participating in more adventurous activities.  Also, vision loss makes activities known to protect cognitive function (like reading, doing puzzles and working with the hands) less enjoyable.

There are also nutrients that can help protect vision.  First, it is important to eat leafy green vegetables regularly.  These are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which may protect against the development of macular degeneration. 

Taking an eye health supplement in addition to a multivitamin may be helpful if a doctor identifies early signs of macular degeneration on exam.  A specific brand may be recommended by the doctor.

If you have older adults in your life, please make sure they are seeing the eye doctor regularly and maintaining their vision.  It makes a huge difference in quality of life and is likely to protect them from memory loss.

QUESTION: Do you have an older adult in your life with vision loss?  How has it affected them?

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Celiac Disease And Pregnancy Complications

I can think of few things more heartbreaking than infertility, repeated miscarriage and losing a child at birth.  Women in my family and in my close circle of friends have struggled with pregnancy complications and I know how difficult and painful it is.

There is a glimmer of hope that was just reported in the journal Human Reproduction recently.  Researchers in Denmark found that women who have undiagnosed celiac disease are at higher risk for infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth.

The good news is that if these women are diagnosed and treated with a gluten-free diet, their risk of pregnancy problems goes back to normal levels.  Knowing about this link between undiagnosed celiac disease and pregnancy complications may help women achieve the pregnancies and families they have always wanted.

So what is celiac disease?  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating the protein gluten, found in foods containing one or more of four grains.  The four gluten grains are wheat, barley, rye and spelt.

Eating gluten causes a reaction that harms the lining of the intestine and interferes with digestion and absorption of nutrients.  It increases the risk of cancer of the small intestine. Gluten intolerance also is associated with disorders in many other body symptoms, including the brain, skin, joints and cardiovascular system.  Turns out celiac disease also appears to affect the reproductive system.

Celiac disease is diagnosed by a combination of blood tests and endoscopy, and is treated with a strict gluten-free diet.  Even accidental intake of tiny amounts of gluten can trigger the disease.

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance about 3 years ago and don’t know if I have celiac disease.  I might;  I’m not willing to eat gluten to confirm the diagnosis.  (Eating gluten-free can interfere with testing because antibody levels and changes in the intestine correct with avoiding gluten in the diet).

I probably have been gluten intolerant most of my life.  As I wrote before, major food intolerance (including gluten intolerance) is strongly associated with gallstone formation.  I had my gallbladder removed at age 19 because of gallstones.

Luckily I have not had any problems with fertility.  I was able to have my children when I wanted them and carried them without problems.  I want that for you and the women in your life!  If you or someone you love has been struggling with problems achieving and carrying a pregnancy please share this article with them.  Their doctor may not be aware of this newly reported link between celiac disease and pregnancy complications.

If you are considering getting pregnant please keep a few things in mind.  You need a prenatal vitamin BEFORE you are pregnant.  One that contains adequate amounts of folic acid, iron and iodine is crucial.  Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use any recreational drugs while trying to conceive.  Also, you must manage your stress because too much stress can affect fertility.  (Heck it affects everything else, why not that, right?)

Please click this link for several articles about nutrition and pregnancy.

QUESTION: Do you know anyone struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss?  Would this information help them?

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How To Talk To Your Doctor

Have you ever had the feeling that you just weren’t communicating with someone?  Have you felt like you were talking but the message wasn’t getting through?

Sometimes it feels like that with my patients, and I’m sure they sometimes feel like that with me.  Today I’d like to go over how to talk to your doctor.

First of all, it seems to go without saying, but you must be honest and forthright with your doctor.  We need to know what’s REALLY going on.  We need to know what, where, when, how long, what makes it worse, what makes it better, and what you’ve tried for whatever symptom you’re having.  The more information, the better, and if we ask specific, detailed questions, answer as completely and honestly as you can.

Believe me, we’re not being nosy.  (Well, I’m not.  I can’t really speak for EVERYONE, LOL.)  If I ask if you have pain in your vagina when having sex, or if you lose your erection during sex, there’s a reason for my question.  If I ask about your sexual history and past partners, it’s because it impacts your health in a big way.

When talking about a chronic condition, we need to know what you’re doing at home to take care of yourself.  Are you exercising, are you smoking (and WHAT are you smoking?), do you check your blood sugar or blood pressure and how often.  Please don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.  I want to know the truth, because it impacts the advice I will give you.

One more thing to be aware of when talking with your doctor is that if we ask you to do something you are NOT willing or able to do, you have to speak up.  I have had patients seem to agree with me, then just never come back.  There is always something we can do to move closer to your goals.  If you can’t do one thing, we can do something else.

For instance, if you have a medical condition that is not under control, and I want to change your medication to X and you’re not comfortable with that, that’s fine.  We can change it to Y instead.  Not doing ANYTHING isn’t really an option, but there are a variety of things we can do.  We need to decide together.  And if medication X causes a problem, I definitely need to hear about it ASAP!

You and your doctor are a team.  If you don’t think your doctor is listening to you, call them on it.  If they aren’t helping you, make sure they understand clearly what the problem is and what your expectation is.  Don’t lose a good doctor because of communication problems!

It all comes down to trust.  You need to trust that I hear you and have your best possible health as my goal.  I need to trust that you will tell me the truth, both when I ask for it and when I haven’t asked but need to hear it anyway.  Especially if you think I won’t like it.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you can talk to your doctor?  Why or why not?

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CBD Oil – Is It Legal?

Lincoln is a young patient of mine who suffers with a number of medical problems.  He sees a host of physicians who haven’t had much success in controlling his symptoms.  Lincoln finds it very difficult to manage his life day-to-day.  He has a history of addiction problems and recently confided that smoking marijuana helps with his pain, his anxiety and with sleep.

I’ve advised him that, particularly as an asthmatic, smoking marijuana isn’t a smart idea.  At his last visit, he was proud to tell me that he had switched to using marijuana edibles rather than cigarettes, and was looking into CBD oil.  He assured me that CBD oil was legal to use in all 50 states and that it did not contain THC so there were no concerns about drug testing.

Is this true?

Well, in a word, no.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right?  Cannabidiol (CBD) oil from cannabis is legal over-the-counter only in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and can be legally used by prescription in states that have legalized medical marijuana.  17 other states have CBD-specific laws, the list can be seen here on WebMD.

Hemp oil, which is legal, has only very small and inconsistent levels of CBD.  Most supplements don’t tell you what amounts of CBD are in them.  There’s a good reason for that.  According to the FDA, CBD oil cannot be sold as a dietary supplement.  Companies are hoping that by NOT labeling their products as containing CBD they will escape the FDA’s oversight.

I checked with Amazon and found a HUGE number of hemp oil supplements being marketed for reducing chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia and other symptoms.  THIS IS ILLEGAL.  As someone who markets supplements, I was cringing as I was reading the Amazon listings.  These companies are asking for HUGE fines from the FDA.

Another issue with CBD oil is that there is very little evidence that it works for anything.  The best evidence is for treating certain severe types of seizures, and in fact there is a formulation called Epidiolex which is working its way through the FDA approval process as a new drug.

There is only weak evidence for CBD oil helping anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, inflammation or any other problem in humans.  Some animal trials have been done but they are of limited use.

Also, testing of CBD oils from cannabis showed over 60% of products didn’t have the amount of CBD shown on the label.  Some had more, some had less.  Worse, 20% of tested products were contaminated with THC, which is psychoactive (causing the “high”) and potentially causing positive drug tests.  Those who must take random drug tests as part of their employment should not use CBD oils.

CBD oils are not perfectly safe either.  It is fairly common to have increased liver enzymes, and the products can interact with medications too.

In Ohio, medical marijuana has been legalized but the infrastructure isn’t in place with dispensaries and training for medical personnel yet.  Everything is targeted to be in place later this year.  Presumably at that point those who are trained to prescribe medical marijuana will also be able to prescribe CBD oil for those who prefer a treatment with no risk of intoxication or dependence.

In the meantime it is important to remember these points:

  • CBD oil use without a prescription is against the law in states without legalized medical marijuana, recreational marijuana use, or special state provisions.
  • CBD oil cannot be sold as a nutritional supplement by FDA regulations
  • Hemp oil, which is legal, has very inconsistent levels of CBD and cannot be marketed with drug claims (such as reducing anxiety or pain or fighting cancer)
  • There is no consistent evidence that CBD is effective for anything other than intractable seizures
  • CBD has side effects of its own and can interfere with medications

QUESTION:  Have you or someone you love tried CBD oil?  What was your experience?

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Injury Deaths Rise For Kids And Teens

What is the leading cause of death for children and teens?

If you said accidents, you’re right.  Injury is the leading cause of death for children over 1 year of age.  This includes accidents, homicide and suicide.  A recent troubling report from the CDC states that injury deaths are now on the rise among our kids and teens.

It used to be that kids mostly died from infections.  Pneumonia, measles, polio, influenza, strep throat, the list goes on.  As we got better at preventing and treating these illnesses, injury deaths became the leading killer of kids and teenagers.

We’ve been doing better with injury prevention.  Better automobile safety measures like seat belts and air bags have helped tremendously.  Injury deaths fell by 35% between 1999 and 2013.

Then they started to trend up again.  Injury deaths rose by over 15% from 2013 to 2016 (the last year for which data is available).

Why is this on the rise again?  All injury causes of death rose, including accidents, suicides and homicides.  Suicides are typically underreported and may be mistaken for accidental poisonings (especially opiate overdoses).

From reading this report, I have 3 takeaway points.

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SERVICES ARE CRITICAL

We have to help our kids cope with stress better.  I’ve written before about kids’ mental health issues.  Adolescence is hard no matter who you are or where you live, but some teens struggle more with it than others.

I’ve talked with more than one terrified parent desperate to protect their child and help them get and stay well.  I’ve wondered more than once if letting a teenager walk out of my office meant an unacceptable risk that I’d never see their face again except in an obituary photo.

It is critically important that we develop effective, easily accessed, and affordable mental health and substance abuse services that are designed for children and teenagers.  Our kids are killing themselves and each other, and we have to help them!

TEENAGE DRIVERS ARE A MENACE

My son is learning to drive right now, so I KNOW just how hair-raising it is to have an impulse-control-challenged video game player with a serious social media addiction behind the wheel!  (Just kidding, my son doesn’t do social media accounts.  Texting, yes.  Instagram or Snapchat, no.)

The death rate from motor vehicle accidents for teens 15-19 is almost 6 times that of kids 10-14.  In Ohio teens learning to drive must not only participate in extensive driver training but they must also spend 50 hours behind the wheel driving with their parent or guardian.

We very sadly had a traffic accident locally within the last few years where a teen driver had her car overloaded such that not every passenger had access to a seatbelt.  She was driving unsafely, lost control of the car and a teenage passenger was killed.  More laws would not have prevented this needless death, but it serves to illustrate that teens don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to behavior behind the wheel.

THOSE WHO OWN GUNS MUST KEEP THEM SECURE

Homicide and suicide by firearms are both on the rise.  Homicides of male children and teens increased by 25% from 2013 to 2016.  Homicides of female children and teens increased by a whopping 72%.  Suicides by firearms are overwhelmingly more common with boys, but rising in girls too.

Adults who own guns must keep them locked up and secure.  This is both a legal and moral responsibility and makes intuitive sense, but I think adults sometimes are as prone to impulse control problems and delusions of immortality as their teenage counterparts.

As a parent myself, and as a physician that cares for children and teens, the rise in injury deaths over the last few years is very concerning to me.  I will be keeping an eye on future reports and passing on recommendations to help keep my and your kids as safe as possible!

QUESTION:  Why do you think the injury deaths are on the rise for kids and teens over the last few years?

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