New Car Seat Recommendations

I’ve been telling my patients this for a while now, but now it’s official. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration have recommended that too be safest, children should be rear facing in their car seats until age two and ideally, they should be in a booster seat until they are 4 ft. 9 in. tall and 13 years old (source).

This may seem a bit extreme, but realize was 10.2 million traffic accidents in 2008 with 39,000 deaths that year, and the number per year has been steadily climbing. Seat belts are rated to something like 3,000 pounds per square inch, to give you some idea of how powerful the forces can be in a collision.

The statistics are impressive. One years olds are five times as likely to be injured in a crash if they are forward facing compared to rearward. Think about it. The collisions with the most force tend to be front end ones. If the child is facing rearward, the entire car seat and child move together. If the child is facing forward, the head, neck and upper trunk fly forward or he may slide into the pelvic strap. Either one may cause severe injury.

The statistics from all the collision tests that are run, show that children need to be 4 ft. 9 inches and 83 pounds before the seat belt fits correctly. Any smaller than that and the child risks neck, shoulder or abdominal injuries directly related to the seatbelt during a crash.

I’m sure many of you are asking, how on earth are we going to do this. Well, for the younger children there is good news. Many car seats now will hold rearward facing children up to 30 pounds. Do make sure your car seat is rated for your child’s weight.

The big thing I hear from parents is that there older children don’t want to be in a booster. With 4 foot 9 inches as a goal, some children may be in boosters until 10 - 12 years of age. The trick is, to make your child expect it from an early age, just like anything else. When older, they can move into a simple booster - a seat with no back where the adult seatbelt is used normally.The extra hight keeps the seatbelt on the lap and over the shoulder so it doesn’t wind up over the abdomen or neck. The children don’t mind. They can see out of the windows easier and they may have less car sickness in the mountains because they can see the road in front. My son was in one until he was tall enough at age 10 ½ and it wasn’t a big deal, I assure you.

So, I know these recommendations are not the law in California yet, but I think assuring the safely of your child is more important than just doing the minimum required by law. Please take these recommendations into account, you my just save your child’s life.

In the News 3/17/2011

The news from Japan keeps getting worse day by day, especially in regard to the potential for nuclear disaster. Unfortunately the possibility of even low levels of radiation reaching the west coast of the U.S. has panicked a lot of people as reported in the Enterprise Record yesterday (Radiation jitters push sales of iodine pills).
I came across an article that really puts things in perspective (Will US West Coast Citizens Exceed Banana Equivalent Dose). We are exposed to radiation every day, from the sun, things around us, and foods we eat. Bananas are particularly “high” because of the potasium-40 they contain.

According to the article, if you ate a banana every day for a year, you would take in roughly 3.6 mrems of radiation. About three times that, 10 mrems, would raise your risk of getting cancer by 1 in a million (same as smoking 1.4 cigarettes). The initial radioactive steam release on March 12th was equivalent to about 30 bananas in a day, but was down to 2-3 banana equivalents per day within two days. Of course the situation has taken a turn for the worse there. The recent bigger explosion at reactor 2 initially put out the equivalent of 250 bananas per day of radiation (a person exposed would get the maximum yearly recommended exposure in a day), but rapidly dropped to a third of that.

That is , of course of great concern to people not only in Japan, but their neighbors. Remember, though, that we are over 5000 miles away from Japan. By the time any radioactive clouds make it across the Atlantic to our shores, the radioactive particles will have been diluted out by the atmosphere so much, that we would likely increase our radiation intake to the amount of eating maybe one banana per day. So, first and foremost, DON’T PANIC. Secondly, keep the iodine tablets for those that need them, like the people actually in Japan.

I wish the people of Japan a swift and, hopefully, mild end to the current issues with their nuclear reactors. I hope that all of those displaced by or who have lost loved ones in this tragedy recover as swiftly as possible and that they receive all the help they need at this very, very, difficult time.

The Declining Age of Education

When I started this blog, I planned to steer away from topics that may be too politically charged. However, there was an article in the Enterprise Record that made me feel I had to speak out.

In last Thursday’s E-R and article came out entitled “
High School Sports Could be Doomed”. The gist of the article is that the last few years, the Chico unified school district has only been funding about a quarter of the cost of the high school sports teams. The rest, to the tune of about $680,000 per year, has come from fundraising by the school governments, the sports booster clubs, and, in the case of PV High, gate receipts at the football games. With the economy the way it is, and people burning out on having to make large donations year after year, the funds are slipping. With possible further state budget cuts,, it is likely to only get worse. The schools can’t just cut freshman or junior varsity teams, as the varsity teams would soon be full of inexperienced players and would not be competitive.

I can’t begin to tell you how sad this makes me. There are so many positive aspects of high school sports for the students and potential negative ramifications of not having them that it is simply unbelievable to me that this is even being considered for the chopping block. California is one of the wealthiest states in the country, yet we can’t seem to be able to fully fund anything that is truly worthwhile in our state.

Here we are in a country where 35% if children are overweight and 15% are obese. As a pediatrician, I know the ramifications of this. I am routinely seeing 13 and 14 year olds with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type two diabetes, diseases that seem more fitting for a 40 year old couch potato. It is believed that our current generation of youth may be the first generation in our country’s history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents because of obesity related illness. To further decrease the availability of, and deemphasize the importance of sports and exercise seems to be exactly what we shouldn’t do.

Furthermore, there are many studies that show that children who participate in high school sports are more likely to have better grades and to complete high school, to have less drug and alcohol use, and to be less likely to be involved in a teenage pregnancy. Owing this, we should be encouraging sports, not shutting them down for lack of funding.

The other big cutback that will surely have a negative effect on our children. That is the defunding of our school music programs. This school year, music programs were stopped in all of the junior high schools except for Chico Junior. Interested children had to form 10 there if they wanted to participate in music. This impacted my own family. My son has played piano for several years, and was interested in learning a wind instrument for band. However, he didn’t want to go somewhere other than our local junior high, that he can ride his bike to. So, he had to make the decision to give up that plan and it was not an easy choice for him to make. Furthermore, as many of the children who go to Chico Junior go to Chico High, it may leave PV High lacking band musicians in a few years.

We have a society that is concerned that it is falling behind in math and science. It has been shown that music activates the same parts of the brain that are used in math, and that children who play instruments are likelier to do better in math and science than their counterparts.

I can speak personally as to the benefits of music. I played violin in the schools starting with lessons that started at my public school in third grade. We had a junior high orchestra, I played for the junior high and high school all-city and all-state symphonies. My high school didn’t have an orchestra, but I played with the local public high school’s orchestra, string ensemble and for all of their musicals. I went to summer all-city high school orchestra camp each year.

I cannot even begin to describe how enriching an experience that was. It was a place to have fun, learn self discipline, learn how to perform individually and as a group, have teamwork, compete with others for seat position, be creative, make friends, and generally grow inside. The skills I learned there allowed me to take up guitar when I was younger and the saxophone just two years ago. Music has given me a lifetime of enjoyment and an outlet for creativity for my entire life.

Music is something, that like sports, we should be encouraging, not pruning back as unnecessary. I wish I had the answers as to where the money to fund them can come. Write your state legislators to discourage further education cuts. Write or go to meetings of the City Counsel and the CUSD Board. Think creatively.

These children are our future. I know that sounds a bit cliché, but it is true. I am concerned as to what our country will be like when the current generation of students is running it. Our school systems have suffered so much from budget cutbacks. Cost savings are being put ahead of quality. I fear that the graduates of the future will lack essential skills to make it in the world and to keep America competitive with the rest of the world in times to come. I do believe, though, that if we recognize the problem and take steps bit by bit to fix it at a state and national level, we can hopefully continue to put out well-rounded, skilled, hard working adults to lead us onward.


In the News 3/2/11

Some interesting articles have come out this week, take a look.

DNA analysis reveals gene alterations linked to autism - it looks like entire genetic pathways that interfere with the way that nerves communicate with each other are involved in causing autism.

Study: Marijuana use leads to increased risk of psychotic symptoms - parents, please make sure your older children and teens are aware of this. There is more and more evidence mounting that marijuana use by teenagers can significantly effect their health later in life.

Modest sleep loss impairs performance in kids with ADHD - This is a real issue, especially since 25% of children with ADHD have an associated sleep disorder. By far the most common is called sleep onset latency disorder, which means simply that they go to bed and can’t fall asleep right away, sometimes for several hours. If you have a child with ADHD that has sleep issues, please discuss it with their doctor, there are treatments that can help.