It’s the middle of the night and you’re awakened by a faint whimpering sound. You tiptoe into your child’s bedroom and touch her head. Your little one is burning up. Fear takes hold. What do you do?
First: don’t panic.
A fever is simply the body’s normal reaction to infection—and infection is an inevitable part of childhood. Still, I understand that anxiety (I’m a mom too, and I’m certainly in touch with that emotion). But don’t stress: here’s what you need to know.
You can often detect the presence of a fever by feeling your child’s forehead, but taking an accurate temperature is an essential parenting skill. Mercury thermometers are no longer recommended. So get yourself a good digital thermometer and learn how to use it.
You don’t need to race to the medicine cabinet when dealing with your kid’s fever. It’s not really about treating the fever per se, but the discomfort it causes. A helpful guideline to keep in mind is this: treat the child, not the reading on the thermometer.
There are many non-medication ways to help your fussy baby or achy child feel more comfortable. To start, don’t overdress your tot. Light cotton pajamas will allow excess body heat to escape. Drinking plenty of cold liquids will help cool that hot bod and prevent dehydration. There is conflicting advice about lukewarm baths. It’s perhaps worth a try, but be careful not to use water that’s too cool—you’ll only induce shivering, which will increase body temperature. (While we're on it, here are some more natural remedies for colds & the flu.)
If you’ve done your best and your little hot potato is still uncomfortable, go ahead and give medication. Your options include acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Aspirin (ASA) is a no-go, however. It’s been linked with Reye’s Syndrome, a rare but serious condition in children and teenagers with fever.
Dosages should be calculated based on weight. The dosing guidelines on the package, usually based on age, are generally safe—unless your child is particularly large or small for her age. Be careful to avoid giving an excessively high dose of acetaminophen as this can be toxic to the liver.
Of course, this is what every parent fears. And it’s true, witnessing your child having a febrile seizure can be terrifying.
How do you recognize a seizure? Typically, a child will stiffen, become unresponsive, roll his eyes, and twitch. Which sure sounds scary, doesn’t it? However, it’s important to remember that the seizure itself is, in fact, harmless to your child. A febrile seizure won’t cause brain damage or any other serious health consequences.
Still, there are some important things to keep in mind. If you suspect a seizure, act quickly to prevent injury. Place your child on a flat surface away from sharp or dangerous objects. Turn him on his side to allow vomit or saliva to drain, but don’t restrain him. Don’t put anything in his mouth; he will not swallow his tongue. Most febrile seizures last less than one minute, though it can feel like an hour, I know.
If the seizure lasts longer than three minutes, or if your baby is less than 6 months old, you should call 911. Otherwise, visit your doctor within a few hours of any seizure—no matter how brief—to rule out underlying factors that might have triggered the seizure.
Which brings me to the topic of...
A high temperature doesn’t automatically warrant a trip to the doctor. Most of the time you can stay at home and keep your little one comfortable while the fever settles on its own. But there are times when you should see a physician:
any fever in a child under six months of age
high fever (over 39.4 C or 103 F) in a child older than six months of age
fever lasting longer than 72 hours
signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, tearless crying, or decreased urination
signs the infection may be more than a simple virus: Earache, sever sore throat, unexplained rash, repeated vomiting, severe cough, or difficulty breathing
excessive fussiness, irritability, or lethargy
Caring for a feverish child is a rite of passage for parents. With a calm, logical approach, you and your kiddo will get through it, no worries.
Perimenopause is a time of enormous change in your body. It can be a phase of major upheaval as your hormones elect to take a ride on the Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland. Every woman goes through this transition but do you know what to expect? If you’re in your 40s, or even your 30s, do you have any idea what is headed your way?
I remember when my mom sat me down, many years ago, and gave me The Puberty Talk. I was nine and we were at our cottage in Haliburton. It was a beautiful summer day, golden and lazy. As we sipped our lemonade she spelled it all out. Of course, the predominant emotion I felt at the time was horror. In retrospect, though, I am so thankful for that talk. I appreciate that she prepped me early for all the big stuff that was about to go down.
But, when my mom went through the other side of things herself—as she approached menopause—who was there to take her by the hand and talk to her about the changes she would experience? It wasn’t me, that’s for sure. It wasn’t her own mom, who had passed away years prior.
Perimenopause is just as significant a change as puberty. Exiting your reproductive years can be as turbulent as entering them was. Many of us remember having that first talk with a trusted somebody who explained how our bodies were going to change. But when does the dialogue happen to give women a heads-up on menopause? Who answers our burning, personal questions? Who guides us through menopause?
All too often, there is no talk. There is no preparation. And that leaves many women—more than half—experiencing significant anxiety about their health and wellness during perimenopause.
So why are we reluctant to talk about this? Is it embarrassment? Is it lack of knowledge? Or, is menopause a taboo subject because of a deeper societal issue: the fact that we live in a youth-obsessed culture. Discussing, commiserating, even celebrating the ultra-natural phase of menopause is not exactly encouraged in such an environment. Which, let’s face it, only adds to the trauma if you happen to be careening towards that stage yourself.
So. What is menopause all about? Let’s talk about it! Here’s everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask:
Perimenopause is the term for the transitional phase into menopause. It typically begins several years before actual menopause (which is defined as a full twelve months without a period, and usually happens around age 50). You enter perimenopause when your ovaries gradually stop producing estrogen. Which sounds gentle and easy, right? Yes, well, while your ovaries are peacefully retiring...the rest of your body tends to be having a panic attack.
This is not considered a pathologic medical condition. It is a normal body process and nothing to be ashamed of. In itself, menopause does not require “treatment”. The symptoms of perimenopause, on the other hand, are a different story. More on this, below.
Some women sail through menopause with hardly a complaint. Others have plate-tectonic-scale turmoil. The majority of us are in the middle of that spectrum somewhere. Most women experience an average of five perimenopausal symptoms. But the degree of those symptoms, and the length of time you might experience them, is highly individual.
Hot flashes. This is the most common symptom of perimenopause, and it can be incredibly uncomfortable and disruptive. Typically, a hot flash is an intense sensation of heat that lasts about 30-60 seconds and then gradually dissipates. It may happen several times a day, and also through the night, too.
Insomnia. Even if you have been a champion sleeper up to now, when perimenopause hits, you may find yourself staring with glazed eyes at the LED display on your clock radio, desperate for rest. Nocturnal hot flashes, or night sweats, are a common factor underlying sleep disruption.
Mood changes & irritability. It’s not funny that many women hit their perimenopausal years right at the time their kids are teenagers. I’ll be blowing out 50 birthday candles when my firstborn is 16. If there will ever be a time when I’ll need emotional stability (and my sense of humor), it’s when my sons are learning to drive. Not to mention staying out till the wee hours with friends, experimenting with alcohol and cigarettes and worse...in fact, I think I’m having a hot flash right now just thinking about it...
Irregular bleeding. Your period can do crazy things before it ultimately ceases. It’s common to first have an upsurge in period heaviness and frequency (I tell patients it’s like one last hurrah), before things start to peter out and stop altogether. But this is extremely variable. Erica had a particularly nasty bout of this, several months ago.
Vaginal dryness. The tissues of the vagina and vulva are very responsive to the presence—or absence—of estrogen, and uncomfortable dryness of these tissues can result. Which can also lead to painful intercourse. A whole other taboo topic, yes? Geez, we could go on all day...
Decreased libido. Just when you thought the irregular periods and moodiness were bad enough for your sex life, this little glitch comes along to round out the perfect storm for your relationship.
Urine leakage. This, especially when coughing or sneezing. Many of us are familiar with this charming phenomenon from the postpartum phase (and beyond, if you were unlucky). It’s a common symptom of menopause, too.
Um, wrong. In spite of the vaginal dryness, the mood swings, and the lack of libido...yes, ladies, you can still get pregnant during perimenopause. Ridiculous and unfair, I know, but true. Until you are fully through menopause (meaning a straight 12 months without a period), you may still be ovulating.
But it’s not all bad news. Fact is, there are options for treatment of all these symptoms and issues (the subject of a future post, I'm thinking.). Whatever you do, be sure to see your doctor and discuss it. No shame, it’s all normal and natural...but that doesn’t mean you should suffer.
I think it’s time we open this dialogue and start talking to each other about this. If we do, we can all approach menopause feeling confident, armed with knowledge and well-supported by friends, family, and society as a whole.
Start by talking to your girlfriends, your sisters, your mom, your nieces. Let’s get this out in the open. Let’s not just endure this life stage...let’s rock menopause.
Is belly fat your bane? Read on, for tips on how to bust that poochiness.
If you’re a mom, there’s a good chance you have glanced down at your midsection, a time or two, and thought...well hello, where did you come from? But perhaps your reaction to your squashy new sidekick was not quite so friendly as this.
A rounder, softer tummy is one of the prices of motherhood, it seems to me. (By the way, if anyone knows the whereabouts of my missing waistline, please let me know. I really miss her).
Still, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. And, truth be told, belly fat is more than just an aesthetic thing. It’s a health issue, too. You might have heard some attention paid to apple vs pear-shaped physiques. Which is an important distinction. An apple silhouette (with fat accumulated around the belly) is more dangerous than a pear shape. Years of research have shown an association between belly fat and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
But whether you want to lose that spare tire for your looks or your health—it's a good goal.
So, what to do?
1. Watch out for trans fat.
Saturated fat, in general, is not your friend if you want a nice lean tummy, but trans fats are particularly evil. A study at Wake Forest University showed that trans fat increased the amount of fat stored around the belly...and even worse: it redistributes fat from other parts of your body to the abdomen. Yes, you heard me. It takes fat from other parts of you and slaps it on your belly. Now that is just not nice.
2. Drink green tea.
3. Go easy on the alcohol.
Alcohol seems to be a particularly bad thing for belly fat. One theory: when you drink, your liver is too busy burning off the alcohol to metabolize fat properly. But worse, is this: alcohol can affect the hormones that regulate your satiety center. In other words, it can make you feel hungrier. Now, you know I’m all for a daily glass of wine. And there are lots of health benefits to that habit—heart disease prevention being the biggie. I’m just saying: go easy on the booze. They don’t call it a beer belly for nothing.
4. Manage your stress.
Chronic, unrelenting stress does a lot of bad things to our bodies and minds. Not the least of which is produce a steady stream of cortisol. And, unfortunately, cortisol stimulates our bodies to accumulate fat around our abdomens. Great. As if being stressed isn't bad enough. Now you're stressed...and chubby. Read this for tips on stress management.
5. Gobble blueberries.
Blueberries have been shown in lab studies to diminish abdominal fat. Don't get too excited, yet, though—the study was only done on rats. Still, it may prove applicable to the rest of us. Besides, blueberries have other benefits too.
6. Fiber, fiber, fiber.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a diet rich in whole grains helped rid obese patients of extra belly fat. So that's a good thing. But there's another benefit to fiber, when it comes to achieving a nice flat belly. And I'm not going to be cute about this one. If you're constipated, it's hard to have a truly flat abdomen. No, this isn't belly fat, per se, but you'll still have that bloated roundness that's not exactly pretty (or comfortable!). To get a trimmer tummy you need a combo of: less body fat, no constipation/bloating, and toned muscles...which brings me to...
You knew I was going to get to this one, right? Yes, exercise will definitely help you get a flat tummy. Best approach: get a combo of cardio (to burn fat) and core strengthening to tone those muscles. My current fave? Yoga plank pose. How to fit exercise into a busy mom’s lifestyle? Baby steps.
8. What about diet soda?
It seems logical to cut calories by drinking diet soda. But the evidence is conflicting. Some recent studies have shown that diet soda can actually increase weight gain. Read this if you're curious why this might be.
Dear belly pooch: your services will no longer be required.