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Avoiding the Winter Bug

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health , Tags: health, hygiene, illness, norovirus, winter bug

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December saw an outbreak of Norovirus, or winter vomiting bug almost approaching epidemic proportions, and unfortunately it continues on its rounds.

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug, it spreads easily because exposure to as few as 10 virus particles can inubate infection, and also because the virus can survive on open surfaces for a long time.

As with any contagious virus, the key to avoiding it is to practice good hygiene:-

  • Wash hands before handling food, before eating, after touching animals and after going to the toilet
  • Take care if you are treating sick people around you, wash hands after being with them
  • Use an antibacterial handwash
  • Use a tissue to contain coughs and sneezes, then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands again
  • Isolate sufferers until 48 hours after recovery
  • If you catch the virus, remember that you remain contagious for a further 48 hours after you recover, don't prepare food on that time, and be cautious interacting with others

Hospitals and surgeries are keen to prevent contagion amongst the most vulnerable so try to avoid visiting them, telephone for advice if required.

Sadly there's no treatment for Norovirus and you have to let the bug run its course.  Symptoms vary but can include severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The biggest danger comes from dehydration so try to keep hydrated even in the event of vomiting.  Young children (and the elderly) are particularly vulnerable to dehydration and may require hospital treatment, but check with your hospital first as many have shut their doors to Norovirus admissions on health grounds.

Hopefully we all practice the hygiene measures outlined here routinely, this won't prevent catching Norovirus but it will help to contain its spread.

Low Fat Yoghurt Affects Hayfever?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: asthma, eating, hayfever, health, pregnancy

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If women eat low fat yoghurt during pregnancy they could be putting their unborn child at risk. Recent reports have suggested that babies born of women who ate low fat yoghurt during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma and hayfever (allergic rhinitis).

The findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress. They were looking at whether fatty acids found in some dairy products could protect against the development of allergic diseases in children.

70,000 Danish women and their eating habits were analysed and then they were followed and tested until the children were seven years old. The researchers assessed milk and dairy intake during pregnancy and monitored the occurance of asthma and hayfever in the children.

Results demonstrated that milk intake during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of developing asthma. In fact, it actively protected against asthma development.

What did show up was the fact that women who ate low-fat yoghurt with fruit once a day were 1.6-times more likely to have children who developed asthma by age 7. These findings are compared to those women who reported no intake during their pregnancy.

The reasoning behind the findings suggest that non-fat related nutrients in yoghurt could in fact contribute to increasing the risk.

Bottle Drinking Babies

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: bottle drinking, children, health, obese

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According to recent research it has been discovered that babies who are still drinking from a bottle by the age of 2 are more likely to become obese. Researchers at Temple University in Pennsylvania studied the habits of nearly 7,000 children from the area and found that 22% were still using a bottle to drink at the age of two.

By the age of five, nearly a quarter of these children were obese. The researchers suggest the infants who are used to drinking a lot of high-calorie milk from bottles are more likely to grow up to eat a lot more fattening foods.

Other things that seems to contribute included:

  • mother's weight
  • child's birth weight
  • feeding practices during infancy

People who are overweight are at greater risk of developing

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • other health problems

General advice is that bottles should be given up by age one.

Eating For Two During Pregnancy

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Kids Activities , Tags: babies, health, obesity

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So many mum's to be subscribe to the idea of "eating for two" - 'Yes, another slice of cake is okay and make it a hot chocolate with cream and chocolate sprinkles, if you please!'   However, research has shown that mums who eat too much during pregnancy can increase the risk of their babies being born with low IQ, eating disorders and psychosis. Sounds dreadful!

The researchers state that the average IQ of children of obese mothers was five points lower than the babies who had mothers of a healthy weight. The research (carried out at McMaster University, in Ontario Canada) was published in the international journal entitled Obesity Reviews and it looked at the impact of weight gain during pregnancy on child development.

The findings suggested there were country differentials:

Sweden - The children born of overweight mothers in Sweden were more likely to suffer from attention deficit problems

Japan - Japanese children born to overweight mothers increased the baby's chance of developing schizophrenia in adulthood by 24 per cent.

Australia - The chances of teenagers have an eating disorder increased by 11 per cent for those who has overweight mothers during pregnancy.


It might be linked to changes in the hormonal, cardiovascular and immune systems during pregnancy as a result of excess weight.

Obesity in pregnancy can impact on the mother's health too.

It can increase the risk of:-

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • blood clots
  • miscarriages
  • still-births and foetal death

So, dispense with the old wives tales of eating for two, shape up before planning a family and eat sensibly!

Tips About Tonsillitis

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: doctor, health, illness, symptoms, throat, tonsillitis

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As with any illness that your children might suffer, if you can recognise the symptoms of tonsillitis then you can act quickly should your children go down with it. Tonsillitis is a disease which involves the inflammation of the tonsils at the back of the throat.  It is usually associated with children but adults can get it too.  It can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viruses that cause common colds are also responsible for tonsillitis.

Where are the tonsils?
Tonsils are the red, fleshy part of the back of the throat.  They normally look red and clear.  When you have tonsillitis, they become bigger, more vibrant red and can be covered in a white/grey substance or yellow spots.  The tonsils actually form part of the body's immune system.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis:
Sore throat or neck
Swollen glands
Painful swallowing
Nausea and being sick

Is it contagious?

Wash plates cups and cutlery in very hot water and do not share.
Throw away toothbrush as it may carry the infection.
Wash hands frequently.

Take the patient to the doctor for diagnosis, and to have a course of antibiotics prescribed.  Things usually return to normal after a week or so but tonsillitis can recur.  Encourage children to rest and to sip warm or room temperature drinks.

Water: How to Encourage Children to Drink

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: dehydration, drinking, fluids, health, juice, liquid, milk, water

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When the weather is hot, it is relatively easy to encourage little ones to take in plenty of fluids with cold drinks, ice cream and lollies to keep them hydrated; but in the cooler weather, it's less obvious that your child may be getting dehydrated. Consuming water is so important, more so than eating food.

Water is vital for life.

  • It regulates the body temperature
  • It helps flush body waste in the form of urine
  • It is required for transporting nutrients throughout the body
  • It helps maintain a good weight
  • It helps avoid constipation and urinary infections
  • It helps digest food and absorb the nutrients from your food
  • It increases your energy levels

How much to drink:

  • Children aged 1-3 need just under 1 1/2 litres each day, although not exclusively in drink form as this includes the liquid consumed in food

How to encourage them to drink:

  1. Encourage little and often.  Offer them cups of water each time you have a drink.
  2. Drink in front of them to show you do it too!
  3. Give older children a little plastic jug to pour their own drinks.
  4. Try new drinks: peach or grape juice (watered down by 1/2) is unusual and tasty.
  5. Make sure there is water and milk available at pre-school or nursery.  Encourage your child to have a drink while away from home too.
  6. Find some fun 'sippy' cups or drinking straws to make it more fun for toddlers.
  7. Offer warm milk, chilled water, cool juice so vary the temperature.
  8. Feed liquid based foods: yoghurt, soups, etc.
  9. Eat juicy fruits like watermelon and pears.

Mobile Phone use During Pregnancy Leads to Behavioural Problems

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development , Tags: behavioural problems, health, mobile phone, mobiles

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Using mobile phones during pregnancy may lead to behavioural problems in children according to a team of scientists from two Californian universities (UCLA and USC).  The research studied mobile phone use of 29,000 mothers and repeated research published in 2008 that reached similar conclusions on a study of 13,000 mothers.  Mother's who used a mobile phone four or more times a day during their pregnancy were at greater risk of their children developing behavioural problems.

The British media have cited many scientists leaping to the defense of mobiles, stating that it may not be mobile phone usage alone that leads to behavioural problems, pointing out that it could be lifestyle factors linked to heavier mobile users.

Over the years there have been many scare stories about the use of mobile phones, but today there is no conclusive evidence that mobiles cause any danger at all.  It probably doesn't help that there is an industry willing to pour millions of pounds into research to show that mobiles are safe, while it's not really in anyone's interest to fund research proving health or other problems.  Our advice is to err on the side of caution, if you are pregnant, bear in mind that heavy use could be linked to behavioural problems in children and keep phone usage to a minimum!

Facts and Figures about Health and Hygiene

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: health, hygiene, illnesses, sneezing

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We must all take personal hygiene seriously in order to prevent spreading illness and to maintain good health; here are some fascinating facts for you to consider...

  • The human body has no fewer than 1,000 different species of bacteria!  There are more germs on our bodies than people in the United Kingdom... although a few less after washing hands!
  • 90% of germs on hands are found under the nails
  • It is true to say that expose to some germs DOES help build up our immune systems and in the long run lead healthier lives
  • 80% of illnesses are spread through touch
  • When you shake hands you spread more germs than kissing!
  • Under three's will be ill around eight times a year on average
  • You cannot stop a sneeze as it's an automatic response
  • You can fit around 1,000 germs on the head of a pin
  • Hands that have been dried spread less germs than those that stay wet
  • The longest sneezing fit went on for nearly 1,000 days before she eventually stopped
  • Most people think sneezing into their hands is adequate rather than using a tissue
  • An average sneeze travels at around 80 miles per hour!  The fastest ever recorded was over 100 miles per hour!
  • In Omaha, Nebraska it is illegal to sneeze in church!

Hand Washing: A Good Habit to Practice

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health , Tags: bacteria, clean, cleanliness, disease, germs, hand washing, health, hygiene, playing outside

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It's good to get children (and adults!) in the habit of washing hands frequently, because good hand hygiene is a way of stopping or at least reducing the chance of spreading diseases, from the simple cold and cough to more dangerous diseases such as meningitis and worms!

Does this mean children shouldn't get dirty?

Not at all!  Children learn so much from getting mucky in the garden and playing outside.  All you have to do is to ensure that they clean up properly afterwards.  Then they get to enjoy and explore their world and lead a healthy life too!

We must instil in them that it is okay to get grubby to play outside to climb ladders and trees and stroke tame animals if they wish.  However, we must make sure they understand why they must clean up afterwards to keep healthy.

When should we tell children to clean their hands?

Hands should be washed AFTER:

  • going to the toilet
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • touching or stroking animals
  • visiting farms or places where animals are kept
  • playing on outdoor equipment especially at a public park
  • touching or playing with mud or any garden soil
  • ...and, of course, whenever they look dirty!

Hands should be washed BEFORE:

  • eating a meal or snack
  • helping to cook a meal or touch any type of food
  • visiting someone who is ill or in hospital care

Eyes, nose and mouth

It is also important to teach children to respect their eyes, nose and mouth as a place where germs can get into their bodies.  Don't frighten them, but try to make them aware that germs can get in and make them unwell if they are not careful about where they touch.

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: children, dirt, eating soil, health, sanitizer

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How many times have you had to scoop out piles of mud, earth or soil from your child's mouth?  They won't eat sprouts or healthy snacks but give them a mouthful of dirt and they're happy!  It seems crazy, but true!

However, research carried out has suggested that children who eat dirt may actually benefit from cardiovascular benefits in adulthood.  It may actually protect them against heart attacks and strokes.  The authors of the study, carried out in the Philippines, suggest that early contact with microbes, may actually help protect children in future years.  Mr McDade, one of the authors of the study, claims that all our hand-sanitising, washing and disinfecting is contributing to the increase in childhood conditions such as asthma and eczema.

However, the fact remains that dirt is dirty!  Park soil can contain all or some of the following, which is a sobering thought!

  • chemicals, from chemical or home waste and contamination
  • harmful bacteria from sewage or manure
  • dead creatures, bugs or part of larger creatures
  • parasites, such as round worm from pet or wild animal faeces
  • fungus

Why do kids eat dirt?

They are exploring their world!  They touch, feel and experiment and their mouth is the most sensitive place to "try out" dirt!

How much is too much?

"Normal" soil consumption for little ones is up to about 500 mg a day of soil.  That's about the size of a 2p coin.  If it's much more than that, pop to your GP.

Just keep an eye on them and what's going in their mouth and if they eat any dirt, get it out as quickly and as safely as you can!


2012 London Olympic Family Ticket Only £25,200!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Family, Days out , Tags: 2012, children, family, health, olympics, sport

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As 2012 approaches, we can reveal that a family ticket to the 2012 London Olympics will cost in the region of £25,200 - but the good news is that kids go free!  Well, nothing's been finalised yet, but former Labour MP and possible future London Mayoral candidate Oona King has come out with a pledge to allow London's schoolchildren free entrance to the Olympics.  Current Mayor Boris Johnson has promised 100,000 tickets to 'young people' and believes that City Hall's contribution of £625 million to the Olympic fund entitles him to 50,000 free tickets.  So assuming that an adult ticket can be secured for somewhere in the region of £100, a family of four should get in for £25,200, with two, worth £12,500 each, being provided free to the children.  That's after every family has already contributed £20 a year for 12 years (£240 in total) in their council tax.

Of course, we're all delighted that the 2012 Olympics are coming to London.  We are promised that this will rejuvenate an interest in sport in this country which can only be a good thing for national health overall.  However, we do remain slightly sceptical that the Olympic arenas hosting popular sports will be packed with executives, whilst minority interest sports will be left for the children to enjoy.  Don't complain if the much talked of Olympic legacy will be to generate a generation of minority sport fanatics!

Small Children and Animals

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health, Family , Tags: animals, confidence, health, hygeine, pets, respect

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You may not have your own pets, but at some point you and your children are likely to come into contact with other people's pets.  Even if you don't own a dog or cat, here are a few ground rules to set out for your children to ensure they are safe and calm around other people's animals.


  1. Don't encourage small children, not familiar with animals, to handle pets by themselves without supervision
  2. Don't allow them to hit or shout at an animal.  Teach them respect and show them how to speak to the animals in a calm and sensible voice.
  3. Don't allow children to disturb dogs or cats (or indeed any animals) when they are sleeping, feeding, or playing alone.  Animals need quiet time too, so they should be left alone sometimes.
  4. Don't let animals lick children's faces (or indeed let children lick or kiss animals' faces.)  Just think about what they lick to keep clean!
  5. Don't let children feed pets with their food ie. sweets, chocolate etc!


  1. Double check that the animals you visit have been wormed and checked over for fleas.  It may be embarrassing to ask, but it's worth it to know for sure!
  2. Insist on washing children's hands ofter playing with or handling animals, especially if cleaning out cages!
  3. Show your child how to approach, speak to and address with animals.  Don't just tell them... show them so they can see for themselves.
  4. Explain that animals may not want to do what the children want them to do and have an opinion of their own.

Baby's Jabs

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: baby, doctor, health, immunisation, injection, jab, nurse

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There are lots of things you can do to reduce the pain and stress of having your baby's jabs done.  Firstly, you should know that if you are nervous or anxious, the babies will pick up on it and it could make them more agitated and fretful.  If you are calm, softly spoken and make baby feel secure, they will be more inclined to settle and will feel less pain.

So, to avoid your anxiety, here are a few tips:

  1. Plan ahead.  Make sure you have easy to remove clothing that is not too hot.
  2. Get there early so you are not in a rush and arrive calm instead of all flustered.
  3. Take along a favourite toy or teddy so you can have a nice play in the waiting room before going in.  This will relax you both!  Laugh as much as you can and have some fun together.
  4. Keep smiling at your baby and have lots of cuddles before you go in.  This will reassure them.
  5. Remind yourself that every baby in the country has to go through the jabs experience, so take heart, you are not alone.
  6. Make sure you remind yourself too, that you are a good parent for going through with the jobs even though they are uncomfortable for both you and baby!  It could save your baby from illness and you from lots of worry by avoiding getting illnesses.
  7. When you go in, keep chatting normally to the nurse.  Have lots of tickles, giggles and chat while the nurse prepares.
  8. Have some Calpol ready for after the jab to dull the pain and swollen area where it's gone in.

Good luck!

How Safe are Water Fountains?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: bacteria, bottle, disease, drinking, health, water, water fountain

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When you are out and about or running round a school playground, a public drinking fountain can be a welcome sight, a place to rehydrate and for free!  But how safe is it to drink from the same fountain that hundreds of others have drunk from?  Would you share a water bottle with strangers in the park?  I doubt it!

Are you likely to pick-up germs, bacteria and disease from all the other people who have used the fountain before?  The answer seems to be unproven!  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that germs and bacteria are all over drinking fountains. Some research suggested there were less germs on toilets and door handles than drinking fountains, because they are cleaned and disinfected more often.  So there are more micro organisms on water fountains!  Shocking.

However, this does not mean that the water is infected.  The nature of the water fountain shooting an arc of water means that the water itself should not be contaminated even if the pump is itself covered in germs.  So if the water is clean, it remains clean even if it comes through a mucky water fountain.  Evidence to prove this fact seems sparse either to confirm the water is safe or to say it is not safe.

I suppose we should take comfort from the fact that there is not an abundance of studies proving they are contaminated.  And, indeed, that we never hear of swathes of disease or outbreaks because of water fountains being unclean.

So, should we drink from water fountains and let our little ones drink from them?  Yes, probably, but only if they are able to drink from the arc of water and not need to suck, lick or get too close to the spout itself!  If they are too little to manage this, use the fountain to top up a water bottle or cup.

Walking To School Week

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Kids Art and Craft, Preschool Children , Tags: active, health, school, walk to school week, walking

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This week, all over the country, children and parents are choosing to walk to nursery, pre-school and school rather than drive.  In an effort to encourage children to be active, and reduce the use of cars at peak hours, Walk To School Week has been hailed another resounding success with thousands of children using their feet rather than a vehicle to get to school.

The campaign is arranged by the charity Living Streets with funding from the Department of Transport.  It asks  parents, teachers and everyone travelling to and from school  not to use their car for this one week.   It is reported that 50% of children who wouldn't normally walk to school, have walked this week.

Walking to school:

  • reduces air pollution
  • reduces traffic
  • improves children's activity levels
  • helps increase fitness
  • is social (you'll spot your friends on the way!)
  • good fun!

WOW is the scheme that encourages children to Walk Once a Week.  If they do so, they get a little metal badge designed by children in the national badge competition.

The Walk To School campaign history:-

  • 1995: Five primary schools in Hertfordshire participated
  • 1996: The campaign went national and was included in Child Safety Week
  • 2000: The first ever International Walk To School Week was launched
  • 2003: Walk To School Week is supported by over 33 countries
  • 2005: The focus was on health
  • 2006: The focus was on independence of children
  • 2007: The focus was on the environment
  • 2010: 2 million children have taken part!

The next event is the Walk To School October!

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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

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