There's a Catch 22 in pregnancy that many of us know well – craving foods your body thinks it needs, but knowing that some of these foods may be off-limits. You’d think your body would just know well enough to not crave these things! Alas, despite my intermittent cravings for sushi, I am meant to avoid one of my favourite meals, at least for nine months.
If you are fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) like me, you crave very little during pregnancy. For me, the thought of any food during pregnancy can be revolting. Our eldest was grown on a diet of cheese on toast (and not any nutritional cheese, rather the "plastic" processed cheese slices). Our second baby tolerated only cereal, and this pregnancy - "Critter," as he is known - (note: don’t let a 4 year-old name his baby brother) is a little of both with the addition of green apple and peanut butter.
So why are some foods off limits? During pregnancy we become more vulnerable to food-borne illnesses (like listeriosis), which can put you and your baby at risk.
Here is a list of what to avoid during pregnancy and why:
Raw eggs may be contaminated with salmonella, which can cause vomiting and diarhea. Watch out for eggnog this holiday season (and beyond while pregnant), raw cookie dough (a personal favourite), and other runny-type of eggs (soft boiled, poached, or sunny side-up). Well-cooked eggs are fine and shouldn't cause any worry.
Parasites, bacteria, and viruses can all live on uncooked fish. Very fresh sushi has less risk, and in areas where sushi is served straight from the sea, there is less of a risk. California rolls and other cooked items are usually ok. Go and enjoy a night out with friends, but stick to cooked foods like teriyaki and tempura.
Pasteurization is the process which kills bacteria and toxins in foods, like milk or apple cider. When shopping at markets, ask the vendors if the cheese or juice is pasteurized, just to be sure. Pasteurized cheeses are safe to eat in pregnancy, even soft cheeses; just read the label.
This is an issue that has gone back and forth amongst professionals. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy for your baby and help with brain development. But certain fish contain higher levels of mercury, which can pose a risk for developing brains (think Jeremy Piven and his overdose on sushi). For sure you should limit swordfish, shark, and tilefish, which tend to have higher levels of mercury. Salmon and light tuna have less mercury and these are safe to consume once or twice a week.
When I got pregnant with our first baby, I was often drinking 2 or more cups of coffee a day (thank you paediatrics residency!) Fortunately, one of my first food aversions was coffee, and I haven’t had any since then. The current guidelines say pregnant women should have 1-2 cups of coffee/day maximum (200-300mg of caffeine). I have 1-cup of green tea every morning and that does the trick for me, so try to find alternatives. If you need something hot in the morning, try green teas or apple cider (pasteurized!)
This is a tough one – we're told to avoid sugar due to the risk of excessive weight gain and risk of gestational diabetes. But we can’t avoid all sweet tasting things. Which sweeteners are safe? So far we think Stevia, Acesulfame, Aspartame (except in moms with PKU), and Sucralose are safe in limited doses in pregnancy. The effect of Saccharin is not well known, so I would avoid that for now under the "better safe than sorry" principle.
It may seem like a lot of things are off limit but really this list is very short! And you’ll be able to enjoy everything you loved before in a few (long) months. In the mean time, that cookie dough is calling me…
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When my now ‘big-kid’ Dylan started school this past September, I wasn't worried about him making friends, liking his teacher, or succeeding academically. I knew he would blow me away in those areas (proud mommy alert). What I worried about most were the things he'd be exposed to daily— you know, those pesky germs that prevent our kids from doing the things they love.
Viral season is here and will be around for a few more months and unfortunately, school-age children are always in close contact with one another, so they're bound pass the ‘virus-de-jour’ back and forth like a game of hot potato.
Once your kid does pick up that inevitable virus, how can you treat the symptoms at home and keep your child comfortable?
5 easy, doctor-approved ways to treat cold and flu symptoms:
Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. This is a common piece of advice that seems simple, but it really does help. If your child has vomiting or diarrhea, it is especially important that they are drinking adequately to maintain hydration. Frequent sips of small amounts of fluid can work wonders. Try using a "crazy-straw" to entice reluctant sippers.
Although thermometers have been around forever, it’s important to do your research to find the best thermometer for your child’s needs. The Braun No touch + forehead is non-invasive and allows you to check a temperature up to 5 centimeters away. It takes less than 2 seconds to take a reading, which is important if your child hates having his temperature taken. It also includes a silent mode and a colour-coded fever guidance that will make middle-of-the-night readings stress-free.
If your child does have a fever, Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen can help with alleviating the fever and with aches and pains associated with the cold or flu.
For children who have a fever and are less that 2 months of age, fever can signal a serious bacterial infection—see your doctor ASAP.
Saline drops or spray and suctions can work very well to clear the nose of mucous so your child can breathe easier. My preference is to use a nasal aspirator that works through parent’s suction.
Decongestion is made simple and natural by using a humidifier and some eucalyptus to help your child breathe more easily. Research has shown that maintaining indoor humidity levels between 40-60 per cent reduces the survival of flu viruses in the air. If your child isn’t too sure about having a humidifier running in their room at night, a great one to try is the the Vicks Starry Night Cool Mist Humidifier, which has the added feature of stars that light up on the ceiling.
Honey can aid in cold recovery in children over the age of one year. On a spoon, in warm water, milk or tea, honey has great, natural antiviral and antibacterial properties to help fight infection. Read more about cough and cold medicine for kids.
Preventing cold and flu is as important as treating so here are some tips to help your child stay healthy and virus-free:
Hopefully those tips will help you cope with cold and flu season this year and beyond!
With this recent cold spell, many of you are looking to get away somewhere warm. I don’t blame you – I’d be travelling too, if I wasn’t due in December! I think you’ll have the best vacation possible if you're well prepared, so here are my top tips for travelling with kids.
1. Flying with a toddler or baby can be a daunting task. I recommend parents feed their children (e.g. breastfeed or bottle feed infants and give your older kids some water, milk or a snack) on the way up and down, in order to help their ears "pop."
2. Some kids may benefit from a dose of Ibuprofen before they fly, as I do, to mitigate ear pain.
3. Parents ask me all the time about medications like Benadryl and Gravol. Be warned: while these can make some kids sleepy, others will have a paradoxical reaction and become more awake and irritable. I recommend trying a dose at home before flying just in case. Much to my chagrin my kids get hyper on both medications.
4. For newborns and infants, I recommend adding a sling or infant carrier to your baby-wearing gear. That way your infant is comfortable and you have your hands free, which is essential when juggling passports, tickets, and money. I find that most often babies will fall asleep when worn, leaving you to handle whatever comes your way through the flight and help you stay sane.
A child’s delicate skin burns quickly!
1. All children should wear a wide brimmed hat and UV shirts and shorts to minimize sun exposure. These are widely available online and in sporting goods or department stores.
2. On areas that cannot be covered - like a child's face and feet - I recommend a barrier sunscreen, such as one made from zinc or titanium. This is just like diaper cream and does not rub in well, but provides great sun protection without the chemicals. Look in your local pharmacy or natural food store. There are many products like these on the market. Check out more on sun protection.
Some locations have lots of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can carry diseases such as Malaria and Dengue, and even in best case scenarios, itchy bites are not fun. Travellers to the Caribbean and Central and South America also now need to be aware that an outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease chikungunya continues to spread in those areas. Unfortunately there is no vaccine or treatment for the infection, so prevention is key. Chikungunya causes symptoms such as fever and joint pain, although it's rarely fatal.
1. Avoid the outdoors from dusk till dawn.
2. Wear light-colored long sleeve shirts and pants when possible.
3. Use a low concentration Deet spray when needed. Citronella may help prevent bites in some, but not all kids. My boys are always attacked for some reason. For kids less than ten years-old, we recommend DEET 10% max; while older kids can have up to 30%. Avoid contact with the nose, eyes, and mouth. Check this out for more on mosquito bite protection and treatment.
4. Keep the area of the bite clean and dry.
5. Benadryl spray or a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone can take the edge off individual spots.
6. Benadryl orally can decrease swelling and provide itch relief if the bites are widespread.
When food is kept at warm temperatures, bacteria flourish, which is one reason many people get food-borne illnesses when traveling. Potentially poor food handling procedures in large settings don’t help matter.
1. Be cognizant of what you and your family are eating and how it is being prepared and stored.
2. Fruits and vegetables you can peel yourself or cook may be more desirable.
3. Meats and dairy products that are not handled well are formidable threats.
4. Children over two years-old can take Dukoral, which helps prevent traveler diarrhea.
Malaria, hepatitis and cholera are some infections that are more common in other countries and can be prevented with certain vaccines.
1. Check http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ to obtain more vaccine related information for the country you are traveling to.
Have a safe and wonderful trip! (I’m jealous!)