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Double-Duty Spring Cleaning: Keep Healthy and Tidy

May 25, 2018 by  
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Seasonal ritual can also help ward off allergy and asthma symptoms


By Sonal R. Patel, M.D., M.S.

Spring cleaning can be more than a daunting chore for those with allergies and asthma. Dust, pet hair, and cleaning supplies can leave you reaching for the tissues instead of the broom. But according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), spring cleaning can also help you avoid allergy symptoms.

When pollen counts are high outdoors, you may be inclined to stay indoors to try to avoid allergy symptoms. But seasonal allergy symptoms can last all year round for those allergic to indoor allergens.

Relief can sometimes be as simple as knowing how to remove allergens from your home. Here are some useful tips for banishing allergens in your home, and ways to avoid accidentally letting more in.

Remember that a fresh breeze won’t please. At the first sign of balmy temperatures, you might get the urge to open up your windows to bring in fresh scents. But this can also lead to unwanted pollen particles entering your home and making you sneeze long after your spring cleaning is complete. Before you reach for the air fresheners and candles, be aware that chemicals found in these items can spur asthma attacks. Your best choice is to opt for natural aromas from the oven or to try an organic air freshener.

Rub a dub, scrub. Bathrooms, basements, and areas that are tiled can be especially prone to mold. The key to reducing mold is moisture control. Be sure to use bathroom fans and clean up any standing water immediately. Scrub any visible mold from surfaces with detergent and water, and completely dry. You can also help ward off mold by keeping your home’s humidity level below 60 percent and cleaning the gutters regularly.

Love your pets, not their dander. After your family pets have spent many days indoors over the winter, chances are the levels of fur, saliva, and dander might be elevated throughout your home. Remove pet allergens by vacuuming frequently and washing upholstery, including your pet’s bed. Also be sure to keep your pets out of the bedroom at all times to ensure you can sleep symptom-free.

Do a whole-house deep cleaning—in stages, if necessary. Cleaning the entire house from top to bottom may take days. But you can get a head start by changing your air filters every three months and using filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Also be sure to vacuum regularly to get rid of dust mites. Use a cyclonic vacuum, which spins dust and dirt away from the floor, or a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Wash bedding and stuffed animals weekly.

Don’t neglect the great outdoors. As the grass turns green and flowers bud, it’s hard to stay indoors and focus on your spring cleaning routine. Still, it’s best to avoid being outdoors when pollen counts are highest (midday and afternoon hours). When mowing and gardening, be sure to wear gloves and an N95 particulate pollen mask (as rated by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH), and take your medication before you go outside. Avoid touching your eyes, and be sure to wash your hands, hair, and clothing when you go back indoors.

Even when you reduce the number of allergens in your home, allergy symptoms can still be bothersome. Those with seasonal and perennial allergies should be under the care of a board-certified allergist, who can identify the source of the suffering and develop a treatment plan to eliminate symptoms.

For more information about seasonal allergies and to locate an allergist, visit Dr. Patel’s Allergy Busters or AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.


About the Author
Dr. Patel is a mom of twin daughters and a physician who specializes in pediatric/adult allergy and immunology with Adventist Health Physicians Network. She is also coauthor of the forthcoming Mommy MD Guide to Twins, Triplets, and More.

Allergies and Asthma Are Bigger Summer Camp Challenges Than Homesickness

May 17, 2018 by  
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Allergies and Asthma Are Bigger Summer Camp Challenges Than Homesickness

What to consider when choosing a camp


By Sonal R. Patel, M.D., M.S.


The biggest worry for some kids as they head off to summer camp is whether their iPad will get a connection in the North Woods. Others have far graver concerns, including nasal allergies, asthma and food allergies. Parents of kids with these conditions have to do homework to determine the best camp fit for their child. The goal is to keep kids safe while allowing them to have fun and create memories.


Finding the right camp for your child with allergies or asthma can seem daunting, depending on how serious your child’s symptoms are. The good news is that more camps understand how to keep a child with allergies or asthma safe and make sure they have the right protections in place. It’s important to be specific about your child’s needs and to search for a camp that’s a good fit.


Following are some guidelines for finding the right summer camp for your child with allergies or asthma.


Make sure all hands are on deck. Whether children are attending day camp or sleepaway camp, a key component to keeping them safe is ensuring the staff is knowledgeable on handling potential medical emergencies. It’s not enough for the camp director to understand how to store and use an epinephrine auto injector or an asthma inhaler. The staff needs to be trained in what to do when a severe allergic reaction or asthma emergency occurs, and how to help children properly use their devices. They also need to know when to call 911, where the nearest hospital is, and the quickest route there.


Send along more than clean undies. If your child uses medications for her nasal allergies or asthma, or if she carries an epinephrine auto injector for severe allergic reactions, visit the allergist before she leaves. Make sure her prescriptions are the appropriate dose for her height and weight and are up-to-date. Then send along a sufficient supply of her medications, including a spare. Double-check expiration dates on existing supplies.


Go ahead and mess with the mess hall. Food is a big part of any camp experience, particularly sleepaway camp. If your child has a food allergy, communicate with the kitchen staff to make sure no areas exist where cross-contamination can occur. Find out how the camp communicates and monitors food allergy information and determine whether that works for you and your child. If your child will be attending day camp, sending a bag lunch is probably best because you can guarantee he or she will be eating safe foods. Remind your child that eating other kids’ food isn’t okay.


Going to camp to make new friends and have fun is something kids enjoy and remember for many years. But more importantly for kids with asthma and allergies, going to camp can provide an opportunity to spread their wings and have some independence. It’s a way to prove to themselves, and to you, that they’re capable of handling their health challenges on their own.


All children with asthma or allergies who go to camp need an emergency health plan in place with the head of the camp, with the camp medical personnel, and with their counselor. For more information about the treatment of severe allergic reactions and asthma, and to locate an allergist in your area, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.


About the Author

Dr. Patel is a mom of twin daughters and a physician who specializes in pediatric/adult allergy and immunology with Adventist Health Physicians Network. She is also coauthor of the forthcoming Mommy MD Guide to Twins, Triplets, and More.



Top Tips for Getting Back to Sleep

May 11, 2018 by  
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Top Tips for Getting Back to Sleep

by Nilong Vyas, MD

Sleep is essential for a good, healthy life, but it can be elusive for so many people. And sometimes it’s not falling asleep that’s the problem, but rather what to do when you can’t get back to sleep in the middle of the night. This scenario creates so much anxiety for millions of people because they know they should be sleeping, they want to be sleeping, and they’re tired, but they simply Can’t. Fall. Asleep. Again.

Most people know what to do to get to sleep initially: Create a good sleep environment, eliminate electronics, use some white noise to drown out noises that may wake you, to list a few. So even though this is an article about what to do when you wake in the middle of the night, it is just as important to consider what you’re doing to get yourself to sleep in the first place.

The most crucial concept to understand is that whatever you are doing to get yourself to sleep is what your body will need to do when it wakes in the middle of the night. For example, if you tend to be on your phone and that is what helps you fall asleep, then you will need to get back on your phone when you wake in the middle of the night to help get yourself back to sleep. If you’re watching TV and falling asleep to that, when you wake up, you will have to re-create that environment. However, neither of these are healthy environments for sleep to begin with. Instead, try the following tips for the best ways to get back to sleep after waking.

  • Find something that puts you to sleep that is not going to stimulate you if you wake in the middle of the night. For example, fall asleep reading a book. If you wake in the middle of the night, start reading the same book. Doing so will help you transition back to sleep more quickly. If you turn on the light to read, make sure not to turn on too many overhead lights, and set a timer of when you will stop reading and try to go to sleep again. Finally, make sure you choose a book that isn’t highly entertaining or suspenseful. You don’t want to get excited or caught up in the book for hours.
  • Incorporate meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or conscious relaxation into your bedtime routine to help calm you and get you ready for bed. Use this same technique when you wake in the middle of the night to help lull you back to sleep.

Progressive muscle relaxation entails focusing on each part of your body individually, starting with your feet and moving up to your head. As you turn your attention to each body part, you observe the tension in it and then focus on releasing it, relaxing each body part in turn.

Conscious relaxation is a proactive technique that often involves using your breath while also imagining a relaxing situation, such as lying on a beach, to release tension and calm down. For a simple version that you can even use with your children, try this link: Conscious Relaxation.

  • Try a breathing technique to calm your mind. The following technique has been proven to work to get the mind settled so you can fall back to sleep. Start by sitting up straight in a comfortable position. Next, place the tip of your tongue on the ridge of your gums, just behind your upper front teeth. Expand your diaphragm and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for another count of seven. Open your mouth slightly, keeping your tongue in place, and exhale for eight counts. Repeat this cycle four times.
  • Journal. Write out your feelings and worries in a notebook that you keep on your bedside table. “Emptying” these thoughts out of your mind and onto paper will allow you to go back to sleep faster.

The second concept to consider is that something might be waking you, such as a noise outside, your partner snoring, or most likely the end of a sleep cycle. If you wake overnight, it will likely take another full 90-minute sleep cycle to get yourself back to sleep. If you are stressing the entire time and worrying about falling asleep, it will be harder to get back to sleep.

When you find yourself worrying that you should be sleeping but you can’t, or stressing that you can’t sleep even though your partner is sleeping soundly next to you, get out of your bed and leave your bedroom. You can read a book in the living room, do some light stretches, do something “boring” such as working on a crossword puzzle or sudoku, take a bath or shower, or lie down on the floor of any room except your bedroom. Do not use electronics at this time.

Know that it will likely be another hour and a half before you will be able to fall asleep again. But if you take the pressure off of yourself about how long you’ve been awake, you will likely go back to sleep sooner.

The third concept to consider is the stimulating effect that electronics can have—not simply because they are exciting, but because of how they affect us on a chemical level. The blue light from electronics stimulates our retinas and creates wakefulness. So even if you woke up bleary-eyed and sleepy in the middle of the night and thought, Let me just check my phone to see if anyone “needs” me or messaged me, before you know it, you are responding to emails, checking Facebook, and planning the day. By now you are fully awake without the possibility of going back to sleep anytime soon. The light from your phone has tricked your brain into thinking it is time to get up.

You can put a red light filter on your phone, tablet, or other device that dims the screen and makes it red. Set it on a timer so that it automatically goes on at 10 pm, for example, and un-dims at 7 am (or whatever time you wake in the morning). There are several apps that do this for you.

The final concept is to establish good sleep hygiene as well as follow your sleep cues. In our society, sleep is seen as a sign of weakness. You hear celebrities say, “I only need four hours of sleep.” It is a badge of honor for many. Remember that sleep begets sleep, so if you are pushing yourself too hard and not listening to your body when it is tired and ready to go to sleep, it will have a higher likelihood of waking in the middle of the night. Here’s how to practice good sleep hygiene.

  1. Always use your bed for sleep.
  2. Create a “neat” environment free of clutter in your bedroom.
  3. Try to aim for the same wake-up time daily. Don’t sleep in on weekends. You want to aim for a bedtime at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning, as often as possible. Life can sometimes get in the way, but try to maintain consistency as much as you can. You might be inclined to sleep in if you had a rough night the night before, but that may cause another bad night. Make a routine and keep it.
  4. Be mindful of your body’s sleep cues. These are your body’s way of telling you it is ready for bedtime. Most of the time we ignore these cues and push through them so that we go into another alert cycle.
  • Early sleep cues: yawning, feeling sluggish, feeling unstimulated, being uninterested in activities, feeling fidgety, or some version of these
  • Late sleep cues: red eyes, feeling like you “can’t stop,” feeing irritable

Getting yourself to sleep before you experience the late sleep cues will ensure that you don’t become alert again.

About the Author

Nilong Vyas, MD, is a mom of two children, the founder and owner of Sleepless in NOLA sleep consulting, in New Orleans, LA, and a contributor to the Mommy MD Guides book series. 


Five Things to Do to Feel Better during Spring Allergy Season

May 8, 2018 by  
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Five Things to Do to Feel Better During Spring Allergy Season

These simple tips can ease your allergy and asthma symptoms


By Sonal R. Patel, M.D., M.S.

Nobody said spring allergies would be fun, but you never thought they would be this bad. What if you had some simple ways to avoid the sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose that come in the spring?

Many people think they’re doing everything they can to battle spring allergies,  but many still find themselves under siege from pollen and other allergens that appear once the weather starts to warm up. What they don’t realize is that by following a few simple rules, they can make life a lot more pleasant, and their allergies more bearable.

  1. Do some Spring cleaning to spruce up your nasal passages. – Sweeping up the cobwebs that gathered over the winter is good for more than just making your house look better. Giving your home a deep house scrub can help eliminate existing allergens and clear the air. It’s especially important to get rid of mold, which builds up in bathrooms and basements and is a major allergen— – especially in spring months when there’s a lots of moisture.  Because your pets have spent a lot of time indoors over the winter, fur, saliva, and dander have probably collected. Vacuuming frequently and washing upholstery and pet beds can help.
  2. Ponder the power of pollen. – Some people with allergies may not realize that symptoms they think are related to their allergies, might actually be asthma. Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of those with asthma also have an allergy, which can make the spring season particularly difficult. If you can’t get rid of a cough, or get winded easily, you might have asthma related to allergies and should see an allergist. An allergist can identify the source of your asthma, and help you treat your allergies to improve symptoms.
  3. Time to clear the air? Know your best options.  – Despite what you may have heard, the best way to clean the air in your home is not with an ionic air filter. The ionization changes the charge on a particle of pollen or dust, and the particle sticks to the next thing it comes into contact with, often a wall or other surface. There is usually not enough air flow to effectively filter many particles, so ionic filters don’t provide much benefit for allergy sufferers. There is also a health risk which comes from the ozone they produce. The best way to clean the air is with a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a high Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). The CADR consists of three numbers, which rate their effectiveness against three common indoor air pollutants: tobacco smoke, pollen, and dust (in that order). Compare models and choose those with the highest ratings for the pollutants that most concern you. For those with central air, change your air filters every three months and use filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12.
  4. Wait, don’t smell that “fresh” air. – Spring comes and you just want to open your windows and let in the fresh air. Don’t do it. Opening your windows allows pollen to drift inside, and settle into your carpet, furniture, and upholstery, so you’ll continue to feel miserable. Instead, keep your house and car windows shut during allergy season. Use your air conditioning with the new air filter you just put in.
  5. Don’t trust “Dr. Google.” – You know you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, but it’s so tempting to look up cures for your symptoms. Instead, consult an allergist.  He or she is trained in how to identify your specific allergens and treat your symptoms. Allergists can suggest the most appropriate medications to treat your allergies and asthma. You might even benefit from allergy shots (immunotherapy), which can greatly alleviate allergic suffering.

If you think you might be one of the more than 50 million Americans who suffer from allergy and asthma, Find an Allergist, track your symptoms at MyNasalAllergyJournal.org, and watch this video to learn more about Spring Sneezing Season. You can also download a Pollen App to let you know what pollens are in your area. You can find links and more information at Allergy Busters.


About the Author

Dr. Patel is a mom of twin daughters and a physician who specializes in pediatric/adult allergy and immunology with Adventist Health Physicians Network. She is also coauthor of the forthcoming Mommy MD Guide to Twins, Triplets, and More.




The Nap Attack

May 3, 2018 by  
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 by Nilong Vyas, MD

In our society, sleep is considered a sign of weakness. How many times have you heard someone say, “I only need four hours of sleep a night” or “I can go to bed late and wake up early and make it through as long as I have lots of coffee” or even “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? I have been known to say that last one myself when I’ve wanted to celebrate an event late in the evening hours rather than calling it a night at a reasonable time. But is it healthy to have that approach?

The research is plentiful that sleep is crucial, yet there are so many factors that affect our nighttime sleep, including wake-ups to check our messages and see who may have needed us while we were “wasting” time sleeping, delayed sleep onset because of work or play, and plain old insomnia. Many of these problems occur because we are inundated with too much information at our fingertips and can’t turn our brains off so we can fall asleep.

For those who don’t value a full night of sleep or don’t get enough shut-eye, you may do well with an afternoon siesta. In fact, many cultures (or at least the older generations) still incorporate the traditional practice of an afternoon nap into their day.

Naps can restore your energy, giving you a boost to power through the afternoon or allowing you to be more productive later into the evening. So how do you incorporate a nap into your day?

There are lots of methods out there to try: coffee naps (yes, that’s a thing), nap pods and napercise classes, or even just resting your head in your office with a nifty scarf that holds your head up so it doesn’t go flying down toward your desk.

My two favorite and most accessible (and cheapest) options are the coffee nap and the nap scarf. The coffee nap, which sounds dichotomous but can be explained by science, is worth a try even if you don’t believe in it. How many times have you drunk your coffee in the morning but still felt groggy for another 20 minutes? That’s because that is about the amount of time it takes for the caffeine to kick in. But instead of walking around in a haze until your coffee kicks in, take that time to take a coffee nap It’s a nap that is taken right after you drink your coffee. The combination of coffee and the rejuvenation of a nap can fuel you for the rest of your day. It can be done in the morning or afternoon. I have inadvertently done this and not realized why I felt so good afterward.

The second option is a nap scarf. This is a simple piece of fabric that you wrap around your neck. It supports your head during a nap so you aren’t jolted awake by your head dropping as you fall asleep. It can be purchased inexpensively online; check out this link: nap scarf.

If and when you nap during the day, set an alarm and don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes. That’s the perfect amount of time to gain the rejuvenating effects of a nap without interfering with your sleep at night. Also, do not nap too late in the evening. Some people will try to take a nap at 8:00 pm so they can stay up late into the night. This may be okay if it’s done for a short period of time, but often, it can alter the night sleep cycle and cause you to wake with such a groggy sensation that you can’t enjoy your evening activities.

By following these tips, you’ll nap smart. Soon, you’ll start thinking of your daily nap as a “reset” button on your day that restarts your “computer” (brain) so you can power through the afternoon and get more out of each and every day.

About the Author
Nilong Vyas, MD, is a mom of two children, the founder and owner of Sleepless in NOLA sleep consulting, in New Orleans, LA, and a contributor to the Mommy MD Guides book series.


April 11, 2018 by  
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by Barbara Zehner

School kid playing with Tri Fidget Hand Spinner indoors. and making selfie with smartphone. summer trend of 2017. red hand spinner, fidgeting toy rotating on child’s hand

The old adage is true that a parent knows their child better than anyone else does.

As a first time mom, you get so much advice that you think you are ready for anything your newborn could possibly do. You have hopes and dreams that your child will become a loving, caring, and responsible member of society. You watch your baby develop and thrive, and despite the sleep deprivation and codependent relationship you build, nothing can break your spirit and enthusiasm for raising your child.

That is, until you get a gut feeling something is not quite normal. Having babysat for more than half a dozen kids in my teens, I had run across little tykes with all types of personalities and had adapted to each to meet their needs and keep harmony in the household while they were under my watch. My son was a happy baby but always seemed to want to be part of the action anytime of the day. Getting him to go to sleep at night was an arduous task, but once he was asleep, life was sane for a while. Naps occurred only when he was sick, yet his energy level was higher than that of most children in his age bracket. But I told myself this was normal and kept enjoying the love and chaos that come with having an active child.

Time flies before your eyes, and sooner than you can blink, your baby is up and walking and your environment is now his playground. His curious mind takes him everywhere, and you are doomed to hours of picking up after him or moving things out of his reach before he finds them. As a parent, this is the game you play as you realize how important it is to set boundaries. But you always know you will get a respite at the end of the day when your child runs out of energy and bedtime nears. Unless, of course, your child is like the Energizer Bunny and just keeps going and going and going.

You keep thinking all this boundless energy is normal and tuck away the nagging feeling it isn’t, despite other parents asking you how you manage life without naps and your family telling you that you are an angel for keeping up with your whirlwind child. But as time marches forward and your toddler continues to race through life at breakneck speed, those feelings begin to tell you there may be something more going on here. I asked my husband if he realized our child was “high octane,” but he reassured me he was just being a normal little boy and I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

The “terrible twos” become a memory, and you are now engaged in the life of a three-year-old who is getting bigger, stronger, and louder with each passing day. Sitting still to do a puzzle or listen to a story for more than a minute becomes impossible, and you wonder why other children in your child’s play group are happy to pay attention and engage in these activities while your child is off looking at another toy or trying to climb on the furniture. You begin to realize the only way your son is going to function in the world is if you find out why his energy tank never runs dry.

As I sat in the neurologist’s waiting room, I enjoyed watching my son play with new toys that captured his attention and gave me some time to breathe and prepare to discuss my concerns with the doctor. My son was taken in to see the doctor by himself, and I sat there wondering what was happening to him. I hoped and prayed he was being polite and not telling her the names and colors of all of the Matchbox cars he owned. Then it was my turn to see the doctor, and I hoped her years of experience and medical wisdom would finally reveal an answer.

The doctor took no time in telling me my son was borderline hyperactive (this was before ADHD was the acceptable acronym), and the sooner I came to terms with this, the better my family’s life would be. She flatly stated that I did nothing wrong to cause this condition and I shouldn’t feel guilty about my son’s excessive physical activity. She told me how bright my little boy was, but that I shouldn’t expect him to be a productive participant in our normal world. She outlined the need for me to put him on medication to sedate him, paint his bedroom a dark color, keep his blinds closed day and night, and accept that his existence needs to be dictated by a highly structured and austere environment that will not overstimulate him. She informed me that he would never be mainstreamed in a school setting and I should  prepare myself for a world with extra trials and tribulations at every turn. She politely smiled and showed me the door, and once again, I came face-to-face with my ball of energy running toward me as I emerged from this unforgettable experience.

I finally got an answer, which is what I was looking for, and I respected the doctor’s advice and guidance on my son’s condition. There was no denying that her diagnosis was accurate and was what I had suspected for a long time. But now it was my turn to deal with this realization. Within an hour I became brutally “honest” with myself and decided my family’s course of action in response to this diagnosis. My son was not going to live a medicated life to adapt to what it had in store for him, and he would learn how to live, grow, and persevere in our organized and disciplined world to his full potential.

The adage that a parent knows their child best proved to be correct. My son never dealt with the label society puts on people who are different, because he learned to function appropriately with his parents love’ and guidance and his psychologists’ wisdom. His determination, courage, and strength have guided him through life, and we encouraged him to walk through every door that opened for him. I am happy to say my child graduated summa cum laude from a prestigious college and has worked in nonprofit organizations to help make our world a better place for the past 20 years. He is a happy, high-functioning human being living life to the fullest, and we, his parents, couldn’t be prouder.


My Honest Pregnancy Moment: All-Day Sickness

April 10, 2018 by  
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“Morning Sickness” affects many pregnant women in one way or another.

Like so many mothers-to-be, I found “morning sickness” to be poorly named. I felt sick most of my first trimester. I wasn’t throwing up, thankfully, but it was an unrelenting, just queasiness that was hard to push through.

In addition to the stomach-bug-like feeling, I also had a symptom I had never heard of—the feeling of too much spit in my mouth. It was very uncomfortable and distracting. I googled it and found it is a real thing, and even has a real name: Ptyalism. That makes sense, I remember thinking, an unpleasant name for an unpleasant feeling. I found the ptyalism to be more troublesome even than the nausea.

I had a thriving freelance editing business at the time, and like most expectant moms, no time to be sick. So I searched for relief from home remedies, not wanting to take medications.

Here are the ones that helped:

Preggie Pops: These sour fruit-flavored lollipops were a welcome comfort and helped to ease the nausea and spit. For times when I was in a meeting, I would suck on Preggie Pop Drops—same relief sans stick!





Sea-Bands:  I had worn these anti-nausea wrist bands on car trips and found them to help. It made sense to try them for morning sickness too, and they did seem to help.





Cola syrup: This old-fashioned nausea remedy did help sometimes, and having just a tiny sip seemed healthier to me than drinking a can of Coke!

I was fortunate that my morning sickness went away as suddenly as it came, around week 12. I remember waking up one day and just realizing I felt better!



About the author: Jennifer Bright is a mom of two and cofounder and CEO of Momosa Publishing LLC, publisher of The Mommy MD Guide to Surviving Morning Sickness and more, in Allentown, PA.



Does Formula Affect Breast Milk Supply?

January 8, 2018 by  
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by Jennifer A. Gardner, MD

As a pediatrician, I’m frequently asked if formula affects breast milk supply. This is an important question, because nearly half of all mothers who plan to exclusively breast-feed end up supplementing with formula. Plus, a recent survey1 conducted by store brand formula found that three out of four moms use infant formula at some point during baby’s first year. Additionally, 17 percent of moms planned to wait until their baby was six months old to introduce infant-formula feeding; but only four percent made it that long.

So, does baby formula affect breast milk supply?

The answer, simply put, is yes and no.

The good news is that supplementing will not stop milk production, but it could decrease it. Fortunately, there are many approaches a family can take to minimize the risk of decreasing the mother’s breast milk supply.

First, whenever possible, introduce the bottle only after successful breastfeeding has been established. This avoids nipple confusion and helps ensure a healthy supply of breast milk. Since this strategy isn’t always possible, sometimes supplementing is considered earlier because of an inadequate milk supply.

In this case, supplement with formula only as needed. Your goal to maintain adequate milk supply is to empty the breast with each feed. This means breastfeeding as much as possible and pumping when you do bottle-feed. When you pump and add the breast milk to formula, your baby gets the volume and calories he needs, and you get the signal to keep producing milk!

A baby must work harder when breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. You can use a special nipple that makes the baby work harder so she doesn’t associate bottle-feeding with easier feeding!

In the end, the decision to supplement or when to supplement is a very personal one. You must weigh the benefits of formula with the potential for decreased milk production. The survey also discovered that 35 percent of moms chose to feed their baby with infant formula so they could share the feeding responsibilities for baby with their spouse. While this decision may be difficult, there are no right or wrong decisions. What we know is that all babies do best when the mother is relaxed and confident with feedings. If supplementing with formula reduces your stress level, this may help with breast milk production.

Whether moms choose to breastfeed, formula-feed, or use some combination of both, parents should feel confident in their decision. In fact, did you know that all infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the same FDA standards and offer complete nutrition for baby? That means even cost-saving store brand formula is nutritionally comparable to nationally advertised brands.

And remember to give yourself credit. I tell my patients that any amount of breast milk is beneficial to your baby. There’s never room for guilt in the feeding relationship.

About the author: Jennifer A Gardner, MD, is a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC.

My Feeding Prescription

January 5, 2018 by  
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by Jennifer A. Gardner, MD

One day, I entered an exam room to find a new mom quietly sobbing into a tissue as she held her newborn baby. I sat down next to the mom, and we began to talk about her difficulty breastfeeding. The new mom tearfully told me that latching on was a challenge, and her milk supply was suffering.

The mom had expected breast feeding to be natural and easy. But even after lactation consultants and multiple doctor visits, she felt frustrated, guilty, and pressured. She felt tons of pressure—from her family and even from her husband to make breastfeeding work and not to supplement.

As she cried, I knew that I was observing the culmination of so many tumultuous emotions and deeply entrenched expectations. Reality was not meeting expectations.

I offered the mom reassurance. I explained that we mothers are told that breast is best and natural. But it doesn’t always come easy!

After I could tell the mom felt a bit unconvinced, I moved on to finding a solution. I’ve learned in my practice that in cases like this, the best thing to do is what works.

I knew that if this mom needed to supplement with infant formula while we worked on increasing her supply then that’s what would be best for her and the baby.

I gently explained this to her. But still the mom was worried. She agreed that supplementing with infant formula was best for her baby—and for her. But she didn’t believe that her family would accept this advice.

So together, we hatched a plan. I wrote her a prescription to supplement with a bottle—filled with either breast milk or formula.

With relief, and a gentle smile, the mom agreed to give it a try. And out came my prescription pad!

I asked the mom to keep me posted on her progress. She told me that her milk supply steadily increased over the next few weeks. Plus, she said that she felt more confident and relaxed.

The new mom and I even laughed when I told her breast is best, but sometimes a bottle (breast milk or baby formula) can be a girl’s best friend!

Many new moms find breastfeeding to be a challenge. Store brand formula conducted Baby’s First Year[1] survey earlier this year and found more than half of moms experience issues when it comes to breastfeeding baby, with low breast milk supply being the top concern. The new trend of “fed is best” echoes that whether moms choose to breastfeed, formula-feed, or use some combination of both, parents should feel confident in their decision. In fact, did you know that all infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the same FDA standards and offer complete nutrition for baby? That means even cost-saving store brand formula is nutritionally comparable to nationally advertised brands.

The survey also found that sometimes the pressure for mom to breastfeed is too much. One out of three moms experienced situations where they felt the need to justify to others why they use infant formula to feed baby. Additionally, one out of 10 new moms lied about breastfeeding baby to avoid criticism from family and friends.

The fact is that nowadays three out of four moms use infant formula during their baby’s first year. And that is perfectly ok! Moms need to do what is right for their baby and for themselves.

About the author: Jennifer A Gardner, MD, is a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC.


[1] Store brand formula Baby’s First Year survey was conducted between February 13-20, 2017, among 2,000 nationally representative Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 who currently have a child between the ages of one and three, using an email invitation and an online survey.  Margin of error is +/- 3 percent.

New Year Resolutions for People with Food and Latex Allergies

January 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

New Year Allergyby Sonal R. Patel, M.D., M.S.

For many, January is a time to review the past year and set goals for what to accomplish in the coming months. For families with life-threatening allergies, this review may also include strategies to better prepare for an anaphylactic emergency.

“After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s important to circle back with family and review the year—celebrate what worked, and modify what didn’t,” says Tonya Winders, president and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network, the leading patient education and advocacy organization for people with asthma and allergies. “Use this opportunity to recharge the family’s understanding about allergies and how best to manage them.”

The Network suggests the following New Year’s resolutions for managing life-threatening allergies:

Replace fear with facts. Schedule an appointment with your allergist to review your food or latex allergy diagnosis: Do you know exactly what you are allergic to? Is it time for new testing? What is working or not working in your prevention program? Make a list of questions in advance and be sure to include food-allergic children in the conversation. Help them understand how to prevent exposure and respond to symptoms.

Practice prevention and build confidence. Educate your kids by reading food labels with them, both at home and the grocery store. Focus on words related to their specific allergies. In addition, talk with them about situations they find difficult to handle, such as being offered snacks that may contain allergens at school or parties; role-play to help them build confidence. Always be prepared for accidental ingestions.

Organize medications. With life-threatening food, latex, or other allergies, it’s important to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with you everywhere, every day. Learn when an epinephrine auto-injector may be indicated and how it can be properly used and stored. Devise convenient and creative ways to keep them close at hand. Check expiration dates on your devices and put renewal reminders on your calendar. Make sure school forms are completed.

Build a safety net of family and caregivers who understand. Allergy & Asthma Network offers free resources to share with family and friends. Visit AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org for a wide range of information. Download or call 800-878-4403 for Understanding Anaphylaxis, Living Confidently with Food Allergy, or Living with Latex Allergy, free guides to help you manage your condition.

Increase community awareness: Become an advocate. States and towns across the country are passing laws and implementing new strategies for food and latex allergy safety in schools, healthcare facilities, restaurants, and more.

With some creative thinking, patients and families with life-threatening food and latex allergies can be more aware and prepared in 2018.

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The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.