Go Gold in September!

We are ramping up for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. My goal: get as many people as possible to Go Gold! for the entire month that we blanket social media with childhood cancer awareness.

Step One: Graphics for Facebook

Feel free to use these, pass them on, add photos to them, add text overlaying them, edit them in any way you want! Click to the the full size and then download them to your computer. Then upload them to Facebook.

gogoldprofilepicGENERICgogoldcoverpic

Step Two: Custom Profile Pictures for Facebook

gogoldprofilepic2013If you have a cancer child and want a profile photo with his photo and name on it, I will make you one for free. This is what my son’s looks like. To get your custom profile picture…. email your child’s photo to emilycharlottefontes+gogold@gmail.com
You will get an auto-reply with further instructions.

Acts of Kindness

I’m certain I share with many of you a deep sadness over the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. It has been a mingle of emotions for me: shock, anger, numbness. We have experienced so much grief in the last three years I sometimes wonder how much more I can process. When my brother was suddenly and tragically killed on January 29, 2010 it felt like my world fell out of orbit. There was no warning, no saying goodbye, no time to prepare my heart. Just pure, unadulterated pain. An empty hole. When my son was diagnosed with leukemia on February 1, 2012 it was different. A slow, persistant undertone of fear. I’ve stared down the possibility of losing my son for almost a year now. It’s like an aching tug on my heart. As if I can feel the pull of someone trying to create that empty hole where my son would be if he left this earth.

Many people tell me they don’t know how I function. They tell me that the way we reach out to people is inspiring. I want you to know the truth: I’m able to reach beyond our circumstances because I have a merciful and compassionate savior Jesus. He is the well that I draw from when I feel like I have nothing left to give. It is too painful to stay buried in my grief and fear. If I didn’t have the hope of inspiring joy and courage in others, I feel like I would collapse under the pain. Everyone, everywhere is hurting in some way. I want you to know that sorrow does not preclude generosity, joy or compassion. Sometimes it is the best catalyst.

If I have anything to say to the grieving families of Newton, CT, it’s this: you choose what happens next. You choose whether you live out an Esther opportunity in the years to come. The hearts and minds of the world are with you. As people pour out compassion to you, harness it. Use this incredible moment to love other people back. I hope that you will find as I have that the process of moving through your place of grief into a place of generosity eases your pain. Purpose is a powerful thing.

For those of us who aren’t grieving a personal loss but are instead facing the fear of an evil world, I have advice for you too. Turn off your TV, tune out the talking heads politicking this tragedy and stop listening to the speeches no matter how soaring the rhetoric. Take your loved ones by the hand and walk outside your front door on a mission of compassion. Harness all that fear, all that sadness and use it love other people in real life. Do small acts of kindness for complete strangers. Do big acts of charity for families in need. Stop clicking, texting, tweeting, facebooking and commenting. Look a real human being in the eye and show them love in a tangible way. Hug people, talk to people, listen to people. Our technology has dehumanized our relationships to the point where we believe a “like” or a “retweet” is somehow enough. It will never be enough. We all need to reverse this imbalance. Tactile interaction first, technological interaction second.

So on this day my family did just that. We went home from church, prepared for our acts of kindness and battled our way to the mall. We stood inside the entrance and handed out 4 dozen roses and 5 dozen candy canes. We bought 10 Starbucks gift cards and gave them to complete strangers. We opened doors and wished people Merry Christmas. I recount the things we did not for a pat on the back but to honor the memory of everyone who lost their lives in Newton, CT. Each act of kindness was done in response to this tragedy. This is our small way of turning the tide. We are warriors for love. The gunman’s goal was to devastate as many lives as he could, as quickly as he could. Our mission today was to touch as many lives as we could to prove that good can conquer evil. I wish I could look him in the eye and tell him: you did not win; you died a coward and made a nation of people more driven than ever to love and care for each other.

So, if you received an act of kindness today, all I ask is that you pass it on.

I name the precious, innocent lives lost because they deserve to be remembered:

Charlotte Bacon (6), Daniel Barden (7), Olivia Engel (6), Josephine Gay (7), Ana Marquez-Green (6), Dylan Hockley (6), Madeleine Hsu (6), Catherine Hubbard (6), Chase Kowalski (7), Jesse Lewis (6), James Mattioli (6), Grace McDonnell (7), Emilie Parker (6), Jack Pinto (6), Noah Pozner (6), Caroline Previdi (6), Jessica Rekos (6), Avielle Richman (6), Benjamin Wheeler (6), Allison Wyatt (6), Rachel Davino (29), Dawn Hochsprung (46), Anne Marie Murphy (52), Mary Sherlach (56), Victoria Soto (27), Lauren Rousseau (30), Nancy Lanza (52)

Reducing Toxic Exposure: How to Choose a Hand Sanitizer

Over the last few years I’ve started to be more picky about what products we put on our skin. On one hand I’m not going to spend 10x the normal price of something just because it’s “organic” on the other hand I’m not going to buy the cheapest toxic-laden version either. Like most moms I strive to land someplace in the middle. I’ll be writing a series of posts where I compare products. My goal is the find the most budget conscious choice that reduces toxic exposure for your kids (and mine). Today’s review: hand sanitizer

Way back in “normal” life we did not use hand sanitizer on a regular basis in our home. For the most part I believe that a certain level of bacterial & viral exposure is necessary to build good immune response. But then my son got leukemia. The sad fact is that his immune system will not be normal for a very long time. He cannot fight off a cold like a regular boy and something as simple as strep throat could land us in the hospital. So hand sanitizer is one way we protect him as much as possible. This does not exempt us from proper hand washing though!

There are several different active ingredients in hand sanitizers. Here are the ones I try to avoid:

  • Benzalkonium Chloride: it has a toxicity rating of 4 out of 10 from the EWG
  • Triclosan: the most toxic by far, very rarely used in sanitizer now, rated 7
  • Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol): toxicity rating of 3 but with 12,000 documented cases of alcohol poisoning in kids, we try to avoid it

My favorite hand sanitizer brand: CleanWell

They offer three different versions of hand sanitizer: foam, spray or wipes. You can get them in three packs on Amazon.

 

Why I like it:

  • we are avoiding the more toxic antimicrobials
  • it doesn’t sting if you have a cut on your hands
  • it doesn’t have any artificial fragrances (which are now being identified as highly toxic)
  • it’s biodegradable and non-toxic
  • it doesn’t dry out our skin
  • it has a toxicity rating of 1 from the EWG

Active Ingredient:

Thymus Vulgaris Oil (thyme oil, a natural antimicrobial)

Other Ingredients (from their foaming sanitizer):

  • Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice (aloe vera, a natural emollient and skin conditioner)
  • Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract (a natural antioxidant)
  • Copper PCA (a skin conditioner and naturally occurring mineral found in human skin)
  • Glycolic Acid (an alpha hydroxy skin conditioner)
  • Hydrolized Oats (a skin conditioner)
  • Origanum Vulgare Oil (a natural essential oil)
  • Sodium Citrate (a natural pH balancer)
  • Sodium Decylglucosides Hydroxypropyl Sulfonate (a plant-based emulsifi er derived from corn sugar and coconut oil)
  • Sodium Methyl 2- Sulfolaurate (a natural cleanser derived from coconut oil)
  • Sulfated Castor Oil Methyl Ester (a natural cleanser derived from castor beans)
  • Water

Other Hand Sanitizers to Try

EO Hand Sanitizer, Organic Lavender, 8 fl oz (240 ml): If we are going to use alcohol, let’s at least make it non-gmo, organic ethanol.
Argentus Silver Thyme Hand Sanitizer: made with a proprietary combination of silver, zinc, aloe vera & thyme.
BabyGanics Foaming Hand Sanitizer: This one uses benzalkonium chloride but it still has a toxicity rating of 1 from EWG.

photo credit: Tim Shearer via photopin cc
(Disclosure: Affiliate links present.)

Supermom Skills: Coping with Vomit

First of all, do you know how hard it is to come up with a title for a post about vomiting? Secondly, this is the least disgusting vomit-related photo I could find. You are welcome.

Anyways, at some point in time your child is going to vomit. Whether it is a standard stomach virus, food poisoning or a medication side effect. Some of us will be “blessed” with more vomit than others. I’ve caught my fair share of puke both as a birth doula and a momcologist. It’s easy to feel helpless as we watch our kids struggle through nausea. Let’s talk about some practical ways you can make vomiting less unpleasant.

Warning Signs

If you can anticipate it even a minute before it happens you will be able to help your child more effectively. Watch for:

  • Rapid, shallow breathing: Almost like panting. This is partly because of the diaphragm’s involvement in the vomit process and partly a panic reaction to feeling really bad (hyperventilation).
  • Heavy salivation: Your child may be refusing to swallow and may seem to have a lot of extra spit. They keep their mouth mostly open as part of the gag  reflex.
  • Panicked look: Even though small kids may have no idea what is happening they get this scared, panicky look in their eyes. Something unusual is going on in their body they can’t control. That usually triggers some level of fear.

Tips & Tricks

  • Vomit catchers: In my experience the worst two vomit catchers are the toilet (smell, sight makes nausea worse) and a curved bowl (risk of splash back, ’nuff said). My go-to puke recepticles are: wastebaskets or sickness bags. The small rectangular sterilite trash cans with a lipped edge work great but the down side is you have to clean it when you are done. Disposable sickness bags are my favorite by far. They are compact and you throw it away when you are done with it! We have them in every bathroom and in the car.
  • Position: Have them sit on the toilet or a chair. Bend at the hips so the head is near the knees but keep their chin & eyes up. This protects their airway but prevents vomit from coming out of their nose.
  • Breathing: Encourage slow steady breathing. This is more to prevent hyperventilation than anything else
  • Cool cloth on forehead or neck: An easy comfort measure that feels nice and can be used to wipe the mouth when finished.
  • Essential oil: I don’t recommend putting it on the skin. Instead put a few drops on a tissue and place it in the vomit catcher so that the smell can be breathed in. I find peppermint, ginger, chamomile or fennel essential oil seem to work the best. Can also be used to clear the air after vomiting.
  • Acupressure: Used for many years for everything from motion sickness to morning sickness. The P6 point seems to be the most effective. Look at the inside of your child’s wrist, find the creases. Go up the arm and inch or so and nestle a finger between the tendons that are there. Give steady firm pressure.
  • What you say matters: Inside you are mess because A. vomit is not fun and B. your baby is miserable. Pull it together, mama. Like any stressful situation your child needs words of affirmation and safety. “You are going to be okay.” “Mama is right here.” “Let’s breathe together.” “I’ve got you.” “It’s almost done.”

photo credit: Mike Monteiro via photopin cc
photo credit: Tobyotter via photopin cc

How to Have an Intelligent Conversation With Your Pediatrician

So you are sitting at your pediatrician’s office and your doctor tells you that something is wrong with your child. Then he starts talking about running tests or giving medications or doing procedures. Tunnel vision sets in. Your heart breaks just a tiny bit. Your tummy gets that horrible roller coaster drop feeling. Snap back to reality and you realize that now is your chance to either:

  • Say “ok” and hop on the train with the ticket they just handed you, no questions asked.
  • Gird your loins and start asking some hard questions to be sure you understand what is happening and make a choice that is best for your child.

Truth: You are in charge of your child’s medical care. It’s time for you to own the decision making process.

Asking questions is hard. I get it. None of us wants to be perceived as “that” mom who is persnickety or argumentative. So it can feel easier to just go with the flow. It can be intimidating and emotionally challenging to question or even contradict people with perceived authority. When faced with medical decisions you need to be able to think on your feet and have intelligent conversations with your care providers.

Maybe it’s time to reframe your thinking. You are not arguing or demanding… from now on you are fact finding. Show your pediatrician that you honestly want to understand the situation at hand. There is no harm whatsoever in exploring the options verbally with your child’s doctor. You can to do it in a way that acknowledges (and takes advantage of) their experience while protecting your rights as a decision maker. There is even a handy acronym to help you remember what to say and ask.

B.R.E.A.T.H.E.

  • Benefits: What are the benefits to my child’s health right now or later?
  • Risks: What are the risks to my child’s health right now or later?
  • Exceptions: How often does this not work? how can we adapt this to our unique situation?
  • Alternatives: What else can we do?
  • Timing: What happens if we delay or decline?
  • Halt: Just stop. Breathe. Take time think or talk about it alone before making a decision
  • Establish: Decide what your position is and where you are willing to compromise

Let’s role play this out.

  • Doctor: “I think we need to do X for your child.”
  • <Brief pause, s/he is waiting for you to agree. This is your chance, don’t blow it!>
  • You: “I need help understanding X. Is there time to ask some questions?”
  • Doctor: “Sure, I guess so.” (Very rarely you are faced with an emergency with no time to discuss options. You will know that there is no time for questions just by the level of urgency in the room.)
  • Start your questions. Don’t argue and don’t contradict. Just ask and listen. You are fact finding so be persistent.
      • “What is the primary benefit of doing X right now?”
      • “What is unique about my child’s situation that makes you think X is the best option?”
      • “What are the short and long term risks involved with X?
      • “What is the likelihood X will work the way you want it to?”
      • “If X doesn’t work, then what would be the next step?”
      • “If we choose X, does it come bundled with other things that we must do?”
      • “Are there any alternatives to X?”
      • “If we accept X now, will I be able to change my mind later?”
      • “What is likely to happen if we wait a little while to do X?”
      • “What is likely to happen if we decline X?”
  • Now, the next part is crucial. You must halt the conversation!
      • “Wow. Thank you for all the information. I think I understand your reasoning behind X much better now. I need 15 minutes alone to think about this and talk to my spouse.”
  • Make sure everyone leaves. It’s easier to have this discussion without the pressure of your medical team listening. If your spouse is not with you, call him. It’s time for you to establish your position, so ask each other these questions in private:
      • “What does your intuition say about X?”
      • “Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
      • “Does the info I just received match my understanding of current research and medical evidence?”
      • “If we want to decline X now, under what circumstances are we willing to accept X?”
      • “If we accept X now, under what circumstances will we change our mind?”
      • “Do we want to choose Y or Z instead? Is there a compromise we can offer?”
  • Call your pediatrician back in and tell him or her your choice. Be courteous, clear and firm.
      • “Thank you for taking the time to give me the information I needed to make a decision. I have chosen X (or Y or Z). If Q happens or Z amount of time passes I would like the opportunity to revisit the decision with you.”

Have you ever had a hard conversation with your pediatrician that made you wish you had asked more questions? Share about it in the comments!

Tweetable Sound Bites

How to have an intelligent conversation with your pediatrician.
Making medical decisions for your kids? Just B.R.E.A.T.H.E.
How to ask your pediatrician questions without feeling intimidated.

photo credit: deadstar 2.1 via photopin cc

EMLA: The Secret to Pain Free Pokes

What Is EMLA?

EMLA is a topical mixture of equal amounts lidocaine (2.5%) and prilocaine (2.5%) that creates a dermal anesthetic. In mom speak: it’s the magic numbing cream.

The actual abbreviation stands for Eutectic Mixture of Local Anesthetics. That’s a mouthful… I’m sticking with “EMLA” and “magic cream”. EMLA was created specifically to prevent pain during IV placement, finger pokes, superficial surgical procedures and injections. It is also used in the tattoo, piercing, electrolysis and laser hair removal industries.

Is it Really Magic?

Um, yes. Hands down the best thing ever for routine pokes. I have tested this on myself and will never get a blood draw without it. It’s completely non-negiotiable for my kids. Ethan gets his subcutaneous port accessed regularly using EMLA to help numb the skin on top. Watch the video to the right to see how effective it is! I will keep this in my medicine toolbox at all times for: IV starts, blood draws, immunizations, finger pokes (blood sugar). We have even used it for nasty splinter removal.

Research: Is it Safe?

The research we have on EMLA is small but good! It has been found to reduce pain in all age groups, even infants with very minimal side effects. It does not interfere with the success of venipuncture. It is used routinely in Children’s Hospital around the world.

Ethan modeling proper application of EMLA on his port site with Press-n-Seal covering.

How to Use It

EMLA cream isn’t designed to be applied like a regular lotion and rubbed into the skin. You will get best results when you leave it as a glob and then cover it with a dressing. Try to leave it as thick on the skin as possible. I recommend covering with Press & Seal kitchen wrap (yes, really!). You can see a good dosage guide here.

Good pain relief is achieved 1 hour after application, reaches maximum at 2 to 3 hours, and persists for 1 to 2 hours after removal. Don’t fudge on the one hour minimum! Anyone trying to convince you that 20 minutes is enough, just isn’t telling the truth (even with heat).

If you are using it for blood draws or IV starts and they typically have a hard time finding a vein, it’s wise to apply it to several locations just in case.

Where to Get It

If you are in a clinical environment and need a poke, ask for EMLA cream. It is almost always available, even in small doctor’s offices. If you child has a lot of routine pokes, ask for a prescription so that you can keep some at home and apply it before going to visits. Or you can buy it online!

Restrictions & Contraindications

Just like any medication, there is a chance of an allergic reaction. It is suggested that the first time you try EMLA that you apply it at the clinical facility where the injection will be given. That way if there is a reaction you can be treated right away. It is contraindicated in patients who have a known sensitivity to anesthetics. It should be used with caution in infants, carefully managing the dosage so as not to create or exacerbate methemoglobinemia.

Alternatives

  • LMX cream: 4% lidocaine only. This is a little easier to get over the counter. We have not found it to be quite as effective for my son.
  • J-Tip anesthetic: Best used in emergency situations when you can’t wait 60 minutes. We have used it once and it helped Ethan quite a bit.
  • ShotBlocker: The only non-pharmacuetical device that I know of. We have never tried this.
  • Ethyl Chloride: A dermal anesthetic spray. We have never tried this.

photo credit: greenapple. via photopin cc

Memories of a Cancer Kid’s Sister

Our Story

Brother 1, Cousin, Me, Brother 2: circa 1993.

My brother was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma when I was 10 years old. He is 5 years younger than me. Most would agree that is old enough on my part to have the experience ingrained in my memory. Having a brother with cancer was a big deal.

So here I am 20 years later and we are both healthy adults. I thought it might be helpful for you to know what I do and don’t remember about that time. Not everything I remember is probably true and there is a lot I don’t remember but the strongest memories are all good.

If you are worried about the siblings of your child with medical issues, please be encouraged… it can be a net positive time in your family’s life.

What I Do Remember

  • Make a Wish Trip shenanigans.

    My brother’s care team: Dr. Ruki a spitfire of a woman, short with a beautiful long braid usually wearing her white coat over a sari. Dawn & Mary our nurses, calm & encouraging. I can picture their faces in my mind.

  • POPSG meetings: The parents would meet and talk about cancer stuff while us kids ran around, got up to shenanigans and ate candy.
  • Hickman care at home: My brother had a central line called a Hickman catheter that needed to be cared for multiple times a day. I remember this plastic blue rolling cart full of all the medical supplies. My mom would wrangle my brother still for 2.5 seconds so she could clean and flush his catheter.
  • OCFOCF Camp: Cancer kids & cancer siblings just being normal. I loved the crafts and being in a cabin with all girls my age. There were a lot of skits and camp songs and silliness.
  • Grouchy brother: The steroid rages were for real. Every big sister has times when she thinks her little siblings are sassy twerps, I probably had more than average. My brother could get out of control fairly quickly… and he was fast… and devious.
  • Christmas parties: Every Christmas for several years we would have a big celebration with other cancer families. Santa would come with a toy for each of us kids. In later years we helped organize the party which was a great way to give back.
  • Make a Wish trip: My brother wished to go to Walt Disney World and Make a Wish over-delivered on an amazing lifelong memory. Can you believe we stayed at Give Kids the World while it was still being built?! I have amazing memories from Walt Disney World, Epcot & Universal Studios. We even got to go on a short Disney cruise on the Big Red Boat to the Bahamas. Wish families please know that this is my most vibrant memory from the year of my brother’s diagnosis, it overshadows everything else!
  • Being ambushed with a flu shot: I hate needles, always have, so I’ll never forget the day that my mom and both the nurses cornered me at the clinic and forced me to get a flu shot. I’ll admit that was pretty traumatizing.
  • End of treatment party: After my brothers last chemotherapy treatments we had a big party at a park near our house. We had a huge four tier cake. There was even a clown blowing up balloon animals.

What I Don’t Remember

  • Me and my bro 2012. All growed up.

    Being scared: There are plenty of things that I’ve learned about my brother’s treatment now that I’m older. I’m glad I wasn’t mature enough to comprehend the technical details then. At the time I remember feeling like everything was going to be ok. We joked about “the blob” that had been the tumor inside my brother’s chest. Maybe I did feel scared sometimes but fear is not the abiding memory of that year looking back.

  • Being ignored: My parents did a great job at including all of us in as much as possible and when we couldn’t be included they found other things for us to do. 20 years later I don’t remember that year as a period of neglect.
  • Feeling jealous: Perhaps because anything extra my brother got was “boy stuff” I didn’t have a reason to feel jealous. I think my mom & dad did everything they could to make sure big stuff was a shared experience, like camp, christmas parties and the wish trip.

This perspective has been so helpful for me in deciding how to treat both of my children through this time of Ethan’s treatment. We try to include Elyse as much as possible. When we can’t include her, we try to find fun things for her to do with friends and family.

Do your best and know that kids are resilient and remember the good things most of all.

12 Foods That Support Weight Gain

Kids on chemotherapy or facing other health challenges can lose weight rapidly. When this is your reality, every bite that they can get down needs to be jam-packed with calorie dense, nourishing food. Nausea and food aversions can make moms feel exasperated but no matter how picky your eater, there are lots of ways to increase calories.

I remember the first week after my son’s diagnosis. They kept telling me that if he hit a certain threshold of weight loss that they would have to use an NG tube to give him extra calories. I remember being really, really upset by this. He had so many procedures that required fasting for a majority of the day, it was like I barely had time to get food in him. He was also refusing most of the hospital food. Add in a good measure of vomiting and we were heading towards trouble. It was at that point that I realized I had to step up and heavily supplement his diet in order to sneak in as many calories as possible. It went totally counter to my mom brain to be *trying* to fatten my child up but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Kids undergoing a lot of medical stress need high quality fats & proteins supported by whole, unprocessed carbohydrates. In other words: the opposite of hospital food.

One of the primary tactics I used was to hide foods in other foods. Maybe all your child wants to eat are fruit smoothies. Instead of blending just milk and fruit, add a cup of cream. Or if all she wants is PB&J, spread butter on the bread before you add the peanut butter and add some honey along with the jelly.

Here is list of the most calorie dense, natural foods that you can feel good about giving your kids.

  • Avocado: It has a mild flavor that is easy to mask and provides a good serving of healthy monounsaturated fats. Add some slices to a turkey sandwich, make some guacamole dip for chips, blend a half into a milkshake or chocolate pudding (yes, really!).
  • Butter & Cream: These are a wonderful source of calories and fat with one caveat: use butter and cream from grass fed cows. The fat composition is different, the animals are healthier and the resulting product is more nourishing. So whether it’s “organic” or not, be sure it’s from pastured or grass-fed cows. Butter and cream are great to sneak into every day cooking. Sautee all your vegetables in butter, add it to noodles, toast and sandwiches. You can use cream in place of milk in many recipes or cut it half with milk.
  • Eggs: Whole eggs from free range chickens are very nutritious. The fat profile and nutrient content is completely different from conventionally raised eggs. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to egg labeling. You want eggs from chickens that are allowed free access to pasture, eat the bugs found naturally in their environment and are offered non-gmo, non-soy feed to supplement their diet.
  • Cheese & yogurt: In our family we love full fat greek yogurt with blueberries and granola. Cheese can also be a good choice when sourced from grass fed cows.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Nutrient dense and easy to munch! Our favorites are almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds without the shell), brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds.
  • Oils: Olive oil and coconut oil are my go-to choices for health and calories.
  • Coconut: A power food if ever there was one. Full fat coconut milk can be made into ice cream, whipped and put on fruit, added to smoothies or used to make curry.
  • Nutritional Supplements & Protein powders: Using a nutritional supplement is sometimes necessary and when it is try to use the highest quality one. I personally prefer PediaSmart by Nature’s One because it is organic, non GMO, gluten free, corn free and has no artificial colors or flavors. If your child doesn’t need a full nutritional supplement you can also use a protein powder mixed in with smoothies. I like Biochem’s 100% Whey in Vanilla because it is sweetened with evaporated cane juice and has no artificial colors or flavors.

photo credit: threelayercake via photopin cc

Easy Tips for Managing Constipation

So, guess what y’all? I’m not even 10 posts in yet and I’m already talking about poop! It’s about to get real around here, but I know you can handle it because you are a mom.

So. Healthy little people tend to have really regular bowels. Unfortunately kids with medical challenges can have constipation problems because of medication or inactivity. Here are some simple strategies for relief:

  • Fiber consumption: Bulking, high fiber foods are easier on the intestines. Fruits (fresh & dried), vegetables, beans, air-popped popcorn, nuts, flax seed are all great choices. Prepare these foods for the entire family.
  • Water consumption: Your body needs water to soften stools and help pass waste. Even if you choose to use a constipation medication (see below), it is important to drink plenty of water. Most constipation meds act by helping to pull water into the colon, so their effectiveness is reduced when you are dehydrated.
  • Massage: Belly massage is a wonderful tool to help children with constipation. This is my secret weapon! It’s great to use in conjunction with foods/medications that soften the stool because massage helps increase peristalsis (motion of the intestines) and move stool along. As a matter of fact I call this massage technique “scooping the poop” with my kids which they think is hilarious. Have your child lie on their bed and lift up their shirt half way. Apply a little bit of natural oil to their stomach (such as almond, coconut, olive or sunflower oil). Looking at their tummy like the face of a clock you will always work clockwise when massaging. First we start on the child’s left side (your right) place your hands just under the ribs and swoop down towards the hip with firm pressure. Repeat several times. This is called “unloading the ferry”. You always unload the cars in the front first! The stool at the end of the colon needs to be moved first. Next swoop from directly under the child’s right ribs across to under the left ribs then down towards the left hip. Repeat several times. Last start a the child’s right hip, swoop up to the child’s right ribs, over to the left ribs and then down to the left hip. Repeat several times. This technique also works very well for gas discomfort. Need to see it? Watch and learn friends!
  • Exercise: The action of walking helps increase peristalsis (gut motion/digestion) as the heels strike the ground. If your child is able, encourage them to walk and even run as much as possible.
  • Squatty Potty: Yeah, it’s for real. Positioning your legs in a squat position during bowel movements can help kids (and grown ups) out. So this company made a special stool that fits around the base of your toilet. Or you can try putting a step stool in front of the toilet so your child can put their feet up.
  • Pharmaceuticals: If your child needs more help, there are a few drugs that can work to soften stool. Miralax (Polyethylene glycol) is probably the most commonly prescribed to kids. It is truly a mira-cle because you can mix it in anything. I’ve tried it in plain water and it is pretty much undetectable. Another common one is Colace (docusate).
  • Natural Supplements: If you want to try a stool softener that is naturally derived there are several powdered fiber options such as BeneFiber (derived from wheat dextrin). Psyllium husk powder is another option. Other common herbal remedies are Senna powder and Aloe juice.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Everybody’s treatment plan is different and you should talk to your doctor about all medications, supplements, diet changes and activity before beginning.

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

How to Stay on Top of Medication Recalls

Medication recalls are an unfortunate reality. From the mundane like mislabeling to the horrific like meningitis-causing fungal contamination. As moms we can be proactive in simple ways.

  • Know Your Medication List: If your child takes numerous medications on a regular basis you should keep a list of both the brand and generic names of each drug. I keep an spreadsheet of the meds my child is currently taking on a regular basis, currently takes as needed and received previously on a regular basis.
  • Create Google Alerts: For each medication name, I create a Google alert for news articles to be sent to my email box. That way, if anything comes across the newswires about a medication recall, I will receive an immediate notification. Setting up Google Alerts is easy, click here to get started. Make sure you set alerts for the generic and brand names.
  • Do More Research: if you ever do get a notification, it warrants further investigation. The FDA website will provide extensive information about any active recalls. They should show the manufacture date, lot number & company plus where the effected medications were sent to.
  • Call Your Doctor: Once you have this information, call your child’s clinic where the medications were given or prescribed and ask if they received any of the recalled lots. If they did, tell them which date your child was given that medication on and ask if they can check to see if the lots match. Depending on the recall they may be required to call you but it’s better to be proactive. If your child has received a recalled medication ask for specific instructions.

photo credit: massdistraction via photopin cc