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The holiday season is about spending time with family and loved ones, but also road trips, parties and festivities, trimming the tree, decorations and more. Here is what you need to know to keep your children safe during this special time of year.

Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or going to visit friends and family, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep alcohol out of reach. Even a small amount of wine, beer, or liquor sipped from an unattended cup at a holiday party may be highly toxic to a young child.
  • Party food is fun but can be dangerous. Nuts, olives, small hard candies, cocktail franks, and popcorn can present a choking hazard for babies and toddlers. Be mindful of little ones and set these items at a level where young ones can’t reach them.
  • Candles can set the mood and ambiance in a room. Keep candles at least twelve inches away from anything that can burn and again, keep them out of reach of little ones.
  • Keep a list with important phone numbers in a visible location (kitchen or near a phone) for you, your guests or a babysitter, in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire department, your pediatrician and the national Poison Help Line, 1-800-222-1222.

Decorations are tradition and play an important role in the holidays, but they can also pose danger. Keep your family safe with these tips:

  • Carefully inspect each string of lights and discard any with frayed cords, cracked bulb holders, or loose connections. Always turn off your holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house. If using an extension cord, be sure it’s certified or rated and used as intended (indoor vs. outdoor).
  • Purchase a fresh cut tree (or as fresh as possible), as they are more resistant to catching fire. Keep your tree watered and away from open flames or candles. If you're buying an artificial tree, look for the label "fire resistant". Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.  Secure your tree in a wide, stable base so there's no chance that a little one can tug and knock it over.
  • Avoid putting sharp, easily breakable decorations on the tree, especially on the lower portion. Anything with small removable parts or that resemble candy or food should be avoided as well. Most wrapping paper and ribbons are nontoxic, but certain foils and colored gift wraps may contain lead, so it's best not to let babies chew on them.
  • Mistletoe holly, Christmas rose, and Jerusalem cherry are all poisonous. They should be kept out of reach of both children and pets. Poinsettias are actually not as toxic as people think. However, if ingested they may cause stomach irritation or burning in the mouth.

Spend time with your family and relish the absolute joy of the holidays. This is the time to enjoy your holiday traditions, make new ones and cherish the memories.

Be Merry and Be Safe with Children’s Medical Center

Our team of board-certified pediatricians are dedicated to ensuring your children remain healthy and safe this holiday season and all year long. Keep our number nearby and call us if you have any concerns during this busy time of year.

Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335

West Chase (813) 891-6501

Trinity (727) 376-8404

Lutz (813) 751-3131

E-cigarettes and vaping has exploded in popularity over the past few years and are being used by both adolescents and adults. Marketed and promoted to be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, we now know this is far from the truth. The American Academy of Pediatrics joins the CDC to remind parents that e-cigarette use is never safe for youth, young adults, pregnant or breastfeeding women.

So, what is vaping?

A vape or vaporizer is any device that heats and aerosolizes a solution or “e-juice” meant to be inhaled. Devices include e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, pod systems, e-hookah, or other vaping devices. An e-cigarette is a type of vape that uses a nicotine-based solution. A JUUL is a brand name e-cigarette. Electronic nicotine devices can look like a pen, a memory stick or flash drive, a key fob, or even an asthma inhaler, which is why they are easy to hide or disguise.

What are the dangers?

The solutions used in these types of devices contain harmful chemicals like antifreeze, diethylene glycol, and carcinogens like nitrosamines and formaldehyde. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive and can harm brain development, cause ADHD-like symptoms in the developing brain or even seizures. Secondhand smoke or vapor from these devices is harmful to growing lungs, which are still developing until at least mid-adolescence.

Vaping illness and lung injury symptoms can include:

  • coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
  • fever, chills, or weight loss

Adolescence is a time when the brain is very vulnerable to addiction. We know that most lifelong addiction to nicotine begins in adolescence or early young adulthood. If people can get through that period without smoking, it's much less likely that they will become smokers in the future.

In some cases, e-cigarette devices have exploded, causing serious burns or fires.

Is Your Child Vaping?

Since many of the vaping devices look like everyday objects and there’s no actual ‘smoke’, it can be hard to catch kids in the act. Here are a few signs to look for if you suspect your child is vaping:

  • Unusual items.  Keep an eye out for refill pods, atomizers and cartridges, which some vaping devices use, and batteries that require recharging. Organic cotton balls and thin metallic coils are other components used when vaping. Vaping devices can also be hidden inside of common items like highlighters.
  • Sweet smell. Although odorless and scented liquids can be used in electronic smoking devices, many teens choose scented vapor. The most popular flavors are sweet so you may notice an unusually sweet smell, although it goes away quickly.
  • Changes in thirst and taste. The process of vaping makes users’ mouths dry. If your child is drinking more than usual, it may be a sign they’re vaping. A dry mouth also makes food taste less flavorful, so if your child is using more spices or salt, that may also be a clue.
  • Nosebleeds. Not only does the mouth get dry when vaping but so does the inside of the nose as the vapor is exhaled through the nostrils. This can cause nosebleeds.
  • Lower caffeine intake. Vaping causes some people to be more sensitive to caffeine. If your teen is skipping the daily caffeine fix, it may be time to look for other signs of vaping.
  • Cough, throat-clearing or mouth sores. Researchers have linked vaping to mouth wounds that won’t heal and a smoker’s-like cough.

While the research on vaping is still in its infancy, one thing is clear: it's just not good for you.

Ask Your Pediatrician for Help in Talking to Your Children About the Dangers of Vaping.

Children’s Medical Center can be a valuable resource for ways to talk to your children about the dangers of vaping. Schedule a consultation today or have your child meet with their pediatrician or family doctor to discuss the health risks or to get help with stopping. Above all, be open and honest with your children about the what they are seeing at school and how they feel about it. It’s never too early to educate your child.

Some people think the flu is just a really bad cold, but the influenza virus is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Influenza is a respiratory illness, not a stomach bug, although sometimes it can make children feel sick to their stomach. 
Every flu season is different, and the flu can affect people differently.  An annual flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself. Vaccinations are proven to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and the risk of flu-related death in children. Children under two have a higher risk of hospitalization for influenza. 
The flu vaccine is safe and highly recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers. Influenza can have serious consequences for pregnant women and their unborn children. Immunization is recommended for both the mother’s health and the baby’s in its first six months of life, when they are at the highest risk of disease. 
Many people think that getting the flu shot can give you the flu — false. The vaccine will not give you the flu. It is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. Anyone who becomes ill after receiving a flu vaccine was going to get sick anyway. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are used to make the vaccine.
Any exposure to the virus in one’s environment before getting the shot, is what can make someone sick, not the vaccine itself. People often mistakenly assume because they came down with the flu soon after getting the shot, the vaccine caused it.
Some people may have temporary flu-like symptoms after getting the vaccine, especially those who receive the flu shot for the first time. These symptoms are a result of your immune system recognizing the vaccine and responding to it — what is called an “immune response,” not an actual illness. The “immune response” symptoms usually last no more than a day or two and can include a mild fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Children may develop higher body temperatures than adults after having a flu shot, but it is not dangerous, and it is not the flu.
You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begins spreading in your community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later in the season, into January or later, can still be beneficial. Children who need two doses of the vaccine should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
Call us today to schedule your flu shot.
We understand that it can be difficult to filter through and decipher what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to flu vaccines. Your doctors at Children’s Medical Center are here to help you and clear up any misconceptions. Call us today to schedule your child’s flu shot or to help answer any questions you may have. 

What Every Parent Needs To Know About The Dangers Of Vaping & E-Cigarettes 


Over the past couple years, E-cigarettes have been exploding in popularity among both youth and adults. But E-cigarettes and vaping are creating a growing concern about teen health and safety among parents and healthcare professionals. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports actions to prevent youth and children from using or being exposed to vaping and E-cigarettes. We’ve gathered the facts parents need to know about this dangerous trend so you can discuss these risks with your teens. 

Vaping Is Not A Healthy Alternative To Smoking 


Although E-cigarettes have been promoted as being a safer alternative than cigarettes, it is important to know that vaping devices are still unhealthy and dangerous. Traditional cigarettes contain up to 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. While it is possible that E-cigarettes expose you to fewer toxic chemicals, we do not yet know how many toxic chemicals the vapor is made up of. We do know that the solution used in E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals like antifreeze, diethylene glycol, and cancer causing carcinogens. Additionally, E-cigarettes have not been on the market long enough for the long-term effects to be studied effectively. 

Vaping Is Causing A New Generation To Become Addicted To Nicotine 


Another major concern surrounding vaping devices is that it is leading to a new generation of youth becoming addicted to nicotine. Most E-cigarettes still contain nicotine – a highly addictive, toxic substance that causes the craving to smoke and withdrawal symptoms when those cravings are ignored. Nicotine is known to raise blood pressure, cause spikes in adrenaline, and increase heart rates – all of which can lead to a heart attack. Nicotine is also harmful to the development of the brain – which isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. Additionally, E-cigarette users are also often exposed to higher doses of nicotine than they would be with a traditional cigarette because the cartridges can be bought in extra-strength doses and the voltage of the vaping device can be increased. Finally, there is also a major concern that vaping acts as a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes and using illicit drugs.

Many Teens Hide Vaping 


Vaping devices are known by many names, including: E-cigarettes, E-cigars, vape pens, personal vaporizers, E-hookah, and pod systems. Additionally, teens often use code language when speaking about vaping products. For example, teens may say they are “Juuling” – a term that derives from the brand name of a vaping product. Vaping devices may also be easy for teens to hide as they don’t always look like a cigarette. Vaping devices can look like a pen, a flash drive, a key fob, an inhaler, or a flashlight. It can also be difficult for parents to detect when their children have been using vaping products because they do not leave behind a smell like traditional cigarettes do. 

Discuss Vaping Concerns With Your Child’s Pediatrician 


Talk to your child’s pediatrician about how to discuss the risks and dangers of vaping with your teen. If you are concerned your teen is already vaping, discuss your concerns with their pediatrician. Your child’s pediatrician can help you explain the dangers to your child and provide resources to help prevent and stop the use of vaping products. Contact Children’s Medical Center to schedule your child’s next annual wellness visit today. 


For many families Halloween signals the start of the holiday season. But many parents worry about keeping their children safe while also allowing them to have fun trick or treating. Knowing a few simple safety tips can help you ensure this Halloween is full of spooky good memories and not frightening trips to the emergency room. To help keep your family safe while trick or treating, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following


Costume Safety 

Halloween safety begins long before the night of. You should already be thinking about your child’s safety when you are choosing Halloween costumes. Some costumes add safety risks that can be avoided. Here are a few costume safety tips:  

  • Make sure all costumes, wigs, and accessories are fire-resistant. 
  • Apply reflective tape to your child’s costumes and treat bags. 
  • Try to make costumes bright by choosing light colors and incorporating glow sticks into costumes.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses. Doing so without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal.
  • If using Halloween makeup, ensure makeup is non-toxic and test on a small area before fully applying. 
  • Choose costumes that are short enough to prevent tripping hazards. Children should wear their normal tennis shoes and be comfortable walking in their costumes.
  • Avoid face masks as they can obstruct the senses. Face masks can obstruct a child’s vision or hearing. They can also block the nose or mouth and obstruct their breathing. 


Using Street Smarts 

Here’s a scary fact: children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year. Here are a few safety tips for the street: 

  • Avoid running. 
  • Stick to the sidewalk. 
  • Everyone, both adults and children, should carry a flashlight. 
  • Avoid distractions. Using a cell phone while walking creates a distraction and can be dangerous. 
  • Children under the age of 12 should always be accompanied by a responsible adult. It is best to stay in groups for greater visibility and safety. 
  • If older children are going out alone, make sure they stay with a large group of friends, know an approved route, and check-in frequently. 
  • Cross the street safely. Always use street corners and crosswalks. Never cross in-between parked cars. If there is a car coming, make eye contact with the driver before crossing. 


Skip The Tricks, Go Straight For Treats 

It might be called trick or treating, but you want to ensure your children make it through the night without encountering any tricks that put their safety at risk. Here are few safety tips to keep in mind when it comes to treats: 

  • Children should never enter someone’s home or car. 
  • Only go to homes that have their porch light on. Try to stick to homes you know.
  • Eat dinner before going trick or treating so children aren’t tempted to eat their candy before they get home.  
  • Encourage children to wait until they get home and you inspect their treats before eating any. A responsible adult should always check for any signs of tampering and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, home-made, or other suspicious items. 
  • Keep food allergies in mind when accepting and inspecting treats. Children should be encouraged to take non-food treats when they are available. 


Discuss Safety Concerns With Your Child’s Pediatrician 

If you still have any additional concerns about your child’s safety this Halloween, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician. The board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Medical Center are happy to address any concerns parents have about protecting their children all year long. We can help you come up with a safety plan that will meet your child’s unique needs.


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