Every afternoon around Central Texas, the band kids are marking their halftime performances on the parking lot pavement. The football players are practicing downs on the field. The cross country runners are setting new paces on trails and sidewalks. And the elementary-schoolers are on the playground for recess.
And it’s 100+ degrees.
We asked Dr. Lisa Gaw, a pediatrician with Texas Children’s Urgent Care, to give us some tips on keeping kids cool, hydrated and not experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
How much and how often should you drink water?
If you’re out in the sun, she recommends that at least every 15 to 20 minutes you take a break and drink water. If you feel thirsty, you need to drink water. That’s a sign that your body is in the earliest stages of being too hot.
Rather than give you a ratio of how many ounces of water per hour, Dr. Gaw likes to tell parents and kids that your urine should be closer to a light lemonade-colored yellow rather than a yellow that looks more like apple juice.
If you no longer feel the need to go to the bathroom, that’s a warning sign.
Should it always be water?
Water is great, but if a kid is very active, think about a sports drink like Powerade or Gatorade to replace the electrolytes and salt rather than just water. What you don’t need is an energy drink like a Red Bull or a Monster drink. You don’t need the caffeine. The same is true for soda.
What are the warning signs of becoming overheated, having heat exhaustion or heat stroke?
The first warning sign is that you are thirsty. You might also have muscle cramps.
For heat exhaustion, you might feel hot, dizzy, light-headed, nauseated or weak.
With heat stroke, you’ll feel all of those things, but you’ll also feel confused, possibly become unresponsive. Your body won’t be able to regulate its temperature, and your body temperature could climb to 104 to 106 degrees. You’ll stop sweating because you cannot regulate your temperature.
What should you do if you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms?
If someone becomes unresponsive or is very confused, call 911.
For less-severe symptoms, go to a cool, shaded area, hopefully with some air circulation. The person should start sipping water. Add cool towels or cool compresses around their neck, in their groin area or under their armpits to cool down their core temperature.
Have a backpack and binder cleaning out party regularly. Consider doing it whenever we have a school holiday or at the start of a new grading period.
Establish positive communication with teachers, parents. Read the regular emails and notes your child’s teachers sends. Ask questions but not in an accusatory way.
Look for ways you can help teachers. Does that teacher need help copying papers or cutting things for an upcoming project? Ask how you can help, even if you can’t be at school during daytime hours.
Attend as many school activities as possible. If you can, chaperone a field trip. Come to games and performances. Be that embarrassing fan in the stand cheering for your kid, just don’t undermine the coach or director.
Give teachers praise. Like something that the teacher did for your child or the rest of the class? Parents and students always can drop teachers a handwritten note or an email. ‘Thank you” goes a long way. Think about nominating a particularly great teacher for an award.
Get to know the staff at your school. The principal and vice-principals, the secretaries, the counselors all can be good allies to have.
Some kids have already gone back to school this week and more are headed back next week or the week after. Mark this start of the new year with a memory box or memory letter a la “Eighth Grade.”
One of the sweetness of the movie is when Kayla opens the box her sixth-grade self left for her leaving-middle-school self. And then (spoiler) her eighth-grade self leaves a box for her leaving-high-school self.
What would your kids put in a box for them to open at the end of the school year? What would letter would they write to themselves?
Here are some questions to have them answer: (If your kid is a kid with some anxiety, only ask the positive ones, perhaps.)
The excitement is building. Kids are heading back to school, beginning Wednesday for kids in the Bastrop, Lake Travis and a few other districts. Over the course of the next two weeks, the school buses will be running again, the kids will be back to learning again.
The night before is a crucial time. Get all of your ducks (and kids) in a row with these tips:
1. Pack the backpack. Make sure you have the basics: pencils, paper, house key (if kids come home before parents), phone (for older kids), and lunch.
2. Figure out where the bus stops. Where it stops and when changes each year. Go to your district’s bus stop finder. If your district has an app to track the bus download it.
3. If you get to school by car, does the driver know how the carpool lane works at that school. Don’t be the car holding up traffic. Look at the school’s website for clues or ask the neighbor.
4. Make sure kids know where to go once they get to school. Do they go to assembly or their classroom that first day? For older kids, are they heading to homeroom (or whatever newfangled name that have for it) or their first class?
5. Pack the lunch. Make sure to have healthy things, not just junk food. Or load up your school lunch account with dollars.
6. Pick out clothes for the next day. It’s a big decision. Go for comfort and make sure it’s dress-code appropriate. Make sure you know where the shoes are.
7. Set your alarm. Actually set two alarms. We know you didn’t practice getting up earlier in the last few weeks. You don’t want to start the year by being late.
8. Get to bed early. Yep, we know it’s tough, and the excitement is making everyone want to burst. You can do it.
Don’t get caught missing a vaccine or without your paperwork. Find your children’s shot records and make sure they are in compliance with the 2018-2019 school vaccination schedule:
Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: four or five doses depending on which version your kid got.
Polio: four or three doses
Measles, Mumps and Rubella: two doses
Hepatitis B: three doses
Varicella: two doses
Hepatitus A: two doses
All of the above, plus
Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: three doses of the primary series plus a booster within the last five years
Meningococcal: one dose
Eighth- throught 12-graders
All of the above, but if the diptheria/tetanus/pertussis shot has not been given in the last 10 years, a booster is needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends these vaccines for the 11-year-old or 12-year-old check up:
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against HPV infections that cause cancer. For kids age 9-14, it’s two doses, one six months to a year after the first. For kids 15 or older, it’s three doses, the second one to two months after the first; the third, six months after the first.
Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine
Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal. It recommends one dose at 11.
Tdap vaccine provides a booster to continue protection from childhood against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough).
Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine every year, by the end of October if possible. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy kids.
Think your child doesn’t need to be vaccinated. Dr. Don Murphey, an infectious disease specialist at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, who has been treating infectious disease in Texas children for almost a quarter of a century, explained to us last school why vaccines are so important.
Last year he saw seen mumps cases, like the ones at UT, come into Dell Children’s. Last year by August, Texas had more than 200 cases. “Before 2000, we had almost no cases of mumps,” he says.
He’s also seen in recent years more measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal meningitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis.
What’s going on here?
We’re seeing what doctors have been seeing in Europe, especially France and the United Kingdom, but on a smaller scale, Murphey says. The rates of mumps and measles in particular skyrocketed there after “The Lancet” medical journal published a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that it later had to retract. Wakefield lost his license because of it.
Wakefield’s study found a link to autism from the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Multiple studies including those funded by plantiff’s lawyers who were looking for a link found no-such link. What happens, though, is that the MMR vaccine is given around the same time — about 12 months to 15 months — as when many kids with autism start to show signs.
Yet, the misinformation and the fear of vaccines persisted. Parents in Europe stopped vaccinating and Europe no longer had the “herd” immunity that happens when at least 90 percent to 95 percent of the population are vaccinated against a disease.
Diseases like measles and mumps that we just didn’t see are happening again. We rely on the herd immunity to protect us. You see these vaccines are not fool-proof, and they have waning effects. In the case of the students at UT, even if college students have been vaccinated as children but are exposed to mumps now, they might not be fully immune and get it.
Murphey says the mumps vaccine we use “is a very safe one. It doesn’t cause any meningitis,” he says. “It works great for herd immunity, but it doesn’t work if you’re exposed.”
If you do get mumps, it isn’t the worst thing most of the time. You get a fever, you feel bad for a few days, he says. Boys can also get an infection in their testes and girls in their ovaries. What is scary is that mumps can lead to meningitis and deafness.
While mumps is not a terrible disease, we could avoid the whole thing, if people who can get immunized do get immunized, he says.
For parents who are considering or are using an alternative vaccine schedule and delaying vaccines, Murphey encourages them not to. “Alternative schedules have never been shown to be any safer,” he says.
By delaying vaccines, you’re not protecting the most vulnerable population, who can get the most sick from these disease — infants and small children. They end up in the hospital or worse.
“You want to start protecting those kids as soon as possible,” Murphey says.
Vaccinate, please, if not for your own child, but for the other children.
Tax-free weekend is coming. That’s the three days before school starts when you won’t have to pay sales tax on school supplies, clothing, diapers, shoes and more.
Before you go hog wild loading up your shopping cart, remember to ask yourself: Is this really a good deal?
Tax-free means you’re saving 08.25 percent and if that’s on top of already low sales prices, it could be a good deal. However, sometimes retailers will end a sale during tax-free weekend or they will wait until after it’s over to put something on sale. The real sale price can be the better deal.
Also know that when you’re shopping — especially if the kids are in tow — things might end up in your basket that are taxable, not on sale and not a good deal.
What’s tax-free Aug. 10-12?
School supplies: Binders; backpacks and book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders — expandable, pocket, plastic and manila; glue; highlighters; index cards; index card boxes; legal pads; lunchboxes; markers (including dry-erase markers); notebooks; paper; pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors; writing tablets.
Clothing: Most clothing; socks; most shoes; ties; coats; pajamas; swimsuits; uniforms; underwear; sports jerseys; sports hats.
Others: Adult and baby diapers.
What’s not tax-free?
Athletic items: Sports shoes like cleats or fishing boots; sports equipment; sports clothing only used for the purpose of a sport (so not jerseys, swimsuits, sweatpants and yoga pants).
Sewing items: Fabric, buttons and zippers.
Accessories: All accessories including jewelry and watches.
Bags: Purses; luggage; wallets and briefcases, or more than 10 backpacks.
We have hit the home stretch — that final year of grade school. Senior year of high school.
How did this happen?
Wasn’t it just yesterday that my husband and I dropped 5-year-old Benjamin off at his kindergarten classroom and stood outside the doorway trying to see what was going on while hoping he didn’t see us?
We’ve done it all: parent-teacher conferences, trips to the principal’s office, field trips, clubs, science fairs, impossibly challenging projects that had us cursing teachers’ names, tests failed, tests aced, school performances that had us beaming with pride.
Now, in this senior year, I can’t help thinking about all the things we still need to teach him. We thought we had more time.
Luckily, this year Benjamin is actually taking a class called “How to Be an Adult,” because in between physics and calculus, sometimes real life skills take a back seat.
So, for Ben, here’s my list of things to learn this year:
1. How to drive. Yes, you have a permit, and, yes, we practice, but in this world where Uber is at the touch of your fingertips, you’re not really seeing the point. And you’re not alone. A lot of your classmates aren’t licensed drivers either. Dude, it’s a life skill. Let me help you get it.
2. How to manage money. Debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, that’s all something that happens in theory. This year we’re moving beyond the savings account to having a checking account with a debit card to practice working within a budget before college next year.
3. How to advocate for your own medical care. It’s time to practice how to make a doctor’s appointment, refill medication and use the insurance card. Mom needs to ease out of being the medical manager.
4. How to feed yourself. Yes, you’re a wiz at making cookies, sandwiches and frozen pizza. Let’s try to expand those chef skills.
5. How to clothe yourself. Hooray, you finally mastered the washer and dryer, but shockingly, we haven’t really had you go shopping for clothes. Why? Because you hate it. But it’s time to head to the store, pick out your size and try things on, and then buy them with your debit card. Maybe if you knew how much those jeans cost, they wouldn’t be on the floor all the time.
6. How to read a map and navigate public transportation. If Mom or Dad have always driven you everywhere, can you find your way? Next year at college will you be able to get from your dorm to class, to the grocery store or anywhere else you might want to go?
7. How to have a conversation. In this world of texting, let’s make sure you can talk to people, make eye contact and be comfortable talking to a stranger. (Yes, I know we told you never to talk to strangers, but now you’re going to have to.)
8. How to advocate for yourself to get something fixed. If you have an issue with a store, a professor, a service provider, your dorm room, will you know how to effectively state your case and ask for what you need? Mom or Dad won’t be there to do it for you next year.
9. How to manage your time. That nice alarm that wakes you up every morning with a kiss? That won’t be coming to your dorm room. Nor will the reminder service that tells you to get off your phone and do your homework. You’ll have to do it yourself. Senior year is a great year to build up these skills.
10. How to access resources. If you had a problem, would you know where to turn? If Mom or Dad are the only ones with the power to Google or ask a school administrator what is available to you, what will happen next year? Will you be able to find academic counseling services, tutoring, or even know what the weather is going to be like that day and what clothing is appropriate?
I’m sure there is more to consider, more to teach and more to learn. This time next year, you’ll be off on a new adventure. And that will be wonderfully exciting —and a little bit scary, too. Good luck, sweet Ben.
One backpack is inspired by an Austin treasure: Our bats.
Animal Packers’ new bat backpack is called the “Austin” and is designed for younger kids to be the right size for them and be adjustable to not drag down to their knees. It’s also light-weight and comes with a removable tag, which you’ll want for day care or school, but not when you’re out and about.
If you’re kids aren’t into bats, there’s also ducks, bears, monkeys, horse and dogs. The backpacks are $35 at animalpackers.com.
We’ve been shopping the backpack aisles for our back-to-school photo shoot and found some really cute ones for littles, mediums and big kids.
We found Skip Hop Zoo Pack backpacks at Carter’s for $20. We especially loved Luna Lama and Bailey Bat.
At Justice, we found sequined owl backpacks for $39.90.
At Old Navy, we found a cool space backpack for $24.99.
At Target, we found a Swiss Gear’s backpack/briefcase, $49.99, and a geometric shape iPack backpack, $22.49.
Before you pick a backpack for your kids, know this:
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries treated by doctors and hospitals annually.
With that in mind, how do you know which backpack is the right one for your child’s body (not for your child’s style.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is the bag lightweight?
Does it have two wide shoulder straps? Skip the cute messenger bags or laptop bags.
Is the back padded?
Does it go past your child’s waist? If so, it’s too big.
Does it have a strap that goes across the waist or across the chest? That can help get the weight off the back.
Once you have the perfect bag, ask yourself these questions:
Does everything your child is putting in there have to go in there? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a bag should not weigh more than 20 percent of a child’s weight — and that’s still A LOT.
How much do those school supplies weight and do they have to? Think about the weight of those three-ringed binders, folders and notebooks, and if there is a lighter option, choose it.
Are they packing the bag correctly? Are they distributing items across all the compartments, and not just putting everything in the large center one?
Are they wearing it correctly? That means using both straps, Kids, and the straps should be tight against their back and allow the pack to sit 2 inches about their waist.
Are they picking it up correctly? This is a perfect time to learn to bend with the knees and use both hands, not just the thumb.
University of North Texas cheerleader Skyler Sanders, 21, was a junior at Hays High School when doctors discovered that she had a hole in her heart: officially an atrial septal defect.
She had started having heart palpitations in middle school. She would get short of breath and feel like she needed to sit down. At first she was having one episode every six months; then by high school, she was having about one a month. “They were very random,” Sanders says.
Sometimes palpitations would happen in cheerleading practice, but sometimes they happened when she wasn’t exercising.
She thought she was having anxiety, but her primary care doctor directed her to a cardiologist as soon as she mentioned the shortness of breath.
The cardiologist did an echocardiogram and ultrasound and saw the hole. The defect was enlarging her heart slightly, she says. She also had a leaky mitral valve.
Doctors told her that it wasn’t something she had to fix right away, but she says, she was told she needed to get it fixed before she turned 24 because that would be when problems would start arising. If left untreated, it could have caused a stroke or congestive heart failure.
Sanders decided to have surgery in May 2017 and was back cheering again two months later. Doctors were able to minimize scarring and shorten recovery time by making incisions in between her ribs instead of cracking her chest open.
Sanders’ heart problem is one of the problems that doctors can detect through screening. On Aug. 4, Heart Hospital of Austin will be offering free screenings for teens age 14-18. During the screening, technicians will do an echocardiogram and an EKG to look for heart defects such as atrial and ventricular septal defects and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — that’s the one you sometimes hear about in seemingly healthy athletes. It can lead to a dangerous arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.
The screenings are a great resource to the community, says Dr. Faraz Kerendi, surgical director of the Heart Valve Clinic at Heart Hospital of Austin and cardiothoracic surgeon at Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons. “It allows young student athletes, young students in general, to find conditions that may otherwise be totally asymptomatic that could be life threatening. This allows them to get an echocardiogram, and an EKG, basically at no cost to them, to detect things that could otherwise show up in a bad way.”
The Heart Hospital does screenings two times a year, typically before school starts and in February. Out of those screenings, a few kids get diagnosed with one of these conditions. “For those few, it could be devastating if not discovered,” Kerendi says.
The screenings are for any teenager age 14-18, but it’s especially important for student athletes because of the exertion their hearts go through. Sometimes, if something is found, teenagers can continue doing their sport, like Sanders did. Sometimes, though, they might need to switch to a less-strenuous sport.
One of the people who will be doing a screening on Aug. 4 is Sanders’ sister Ryan, who plays volleyball. Even though Sanders’ condition is not genetic, Ryan still wanted to get screened and Sanders’ helped Ryan by signing her up.
Sanders wishes that she had taken advantage of the screening program when she was in high school. She might have chosen to do her surgery in high school instead of waiting. “That would have been easier,” she says.
Kerendi wants to remind teens and their parents that you don’t have to think something could be wrong to do a screening.
“There are conditions that are unknown and asymptomatic, and people shouldn’t assume that everything is fine,” he says. “You never know when one of these things could cause a problem until it does.”
Busy Kid, an app that helps parents assign chores to their kids, analyzed how parents assigned chores on its app and how much they paid their kids for those chores. What it found was that of the top 20 chores, boys were getting paid about twice as much as girls.
Pay inequity starts early, apparently.
In your house, how are you assigning chores? How are you deciding how much to pay for them?
Chores also can help cut down on sibling rivalry. Kids feel like they are part of the family. You can also create a chore chart in which the chores rotate so that there is a fairness about who gets to do the icky dishes and who gets to take out the stinky dishes. One friend with two kids had a system in which odd days of setting and clearing the table were assigned to the first child, even days were assigned to the second child. If a month had 31 days, the chores were assigned to Mom.
Don’t forget that when you assign chores and kids earn an allowance, some should be saved for something big, some should be something you donate and some should be available for spending. You can get whole piggy banks that divide the allowance for you. E