Trust me when I say this is information every parent should know; it’s why I agreed to partner with Med-IQ to spread the word. But first, let’s talk about what exactly inflammatory bowel disease is because I am a stickler for defining terms. It must be all of that time I spent in medical school.
It’s important to understandthat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is NOT the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The “I” stands for very different things, butI often hear people using “inflammatory” and “irritable” interchangeably.
IBD (remember, “I” = inflammatory) is actually a collection of diseases, the two most common of which are Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).
CD is inflammation that can affect any part of the gut, from the mouth all the way down to the anus. It can progress from mainly superficial inflammation in the lining of the intestine to a deeper inflammation that burrows into nearby organs or through to the skin. There can also be scarring that narrows the intestines and causes blockages that can lead to hospitalizations and surgeries.
UC is inflammation that is confined to the large intestine (colon). Complications can include toxic megacolon (an emergency condition where the colon dilates), and in the long-term, colon cancer.
IBS (remember, “I” = irritable) does not involve inflammation, and having IBS does not make you more likely to develop other colon conditions like UC, CD, or colon cancer. Although IBS can produce cramping, abdominal pain, and diarrhea like IBD, it does not have the IBD symptoms of bloody stool, lack of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue.
So now that we know exactly what we are talking about, let’s discuss why it should be on your radar as the parent of a teen.
Nearly 25% of people with IBD are diagnosed during childhood or the teen years.
In 2015, 1.6 million people were treated for IBD, and 80,000 of those were under the age of 18.
Taking these numbers into consideration, it is important to also understand that adolescents have a way of adjusting to a “new normal” when they don’t realize what they are experiencing is unusual. For instance, they may have diarrhea so routinely (and associate it starting with something they ate so completely) that it’s just a way of life for them that they never think to mention. If you hear frequent complaints like “my stomach hurts,” it’s time to dig a little deeper.
Ask about the following symptoms, and remember these can fluctuate over time:
Urgent need to move bowels
Abdominal cramping and pain
Sensation of incomplete evacuation (feeling like you have to “go” even after you “go”)
There are also non-specific symptoms associated with IBD including fever, loss of appetite, weight loss of 5% of body weight, fatigue, night sweats, and loss of a normal menstrual cycle. You can also experience joint pain, eye inflammation (uveitis), painful lumps on the shins, and mouth ulcers.
If your child appears to have even one of these symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor because fast and aggressive treatment with immunomodulators or biologic agents can induce remission, heal the bowel wall, and reduce the number of future hospitalizations and surgeries. Starting with these agents improves the overall quality of life more than past therapeutic strategies in which treatment would start with less-intensive therapies and only “step up” if symptoms didn’t improve. Common prescription medications to treat IBD can be found here.
To prepare for your appointment:
Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions (like fasting)
Write down symptoms
List all medications
Schedule a family member or friend to bring along
Write down questions to ask the doctor
There is a fantastic app for tracking symptoms called GI Buddy.
More general information about IBD and preparing for appointments can be found on the Mayo Clinic website.
Useful information is presented during this Q&A Session with IBD expert, Dr. Hanauer. I especially found the probiotic discussion informative.
If your child is diagnosed with IBD, support groups are available:
Remember, knowledge is power and early, intensive treatment can not only improve your child’s quality of life right now, it can reduce complications later down the road.
I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. to write about the signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. All my opinions are my own.
Furthermore, this post does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis. Contact a medical professional with any symptoms, questions, or concerns.
Links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.
Cough and cold season is here, and I’m teaming up with Boogie Wipes and Saline Soothers to help you and your family feel better faster with a Cough & Cold Giveaway.
You know I feel strongly about these products (and saline) if you read How to Treat a Cold: The Myth of Boosting Your Immune System. Saline Soothers were in my care package to my college freshman with walking pneumonia. While I wasn’t happy to be away from my girl when she was sick, I’m glad to give you even more tips and the chance to win some amazing merchandise.
When Kids Get Sick
From the first sniffle to feeling downright sick, Boogie Wipes has tips, tricks and hacks to guide you through the entire cough and cold season (including great information on how to keep germs from spreading between siblings!)
It’s bad enough when your kids aren’t feeling well, but when you aren’t feeling well, it’s downright miserable. While there’s no cure for the common cold, Saline Soothers Nose Wipes provide soothing comfort for sore noses with Natural Saline, Vitamin E, Aloe and Chamomile.
One winner will be randomly chosen to receive Boogie Wipes, Saline Soothers, Burt’s Bees cough drops, Purell hand sanitizer, DavidsTea Cold 911 tea and color-changing mug, plus a $100 Target gift card.
Giveaway ends on Monday, November 21, 2016 at 11:59 pm ET. Giveaway is open to residents in US and Canada over the age of 18. If winner lives in Canada, alternate gift card will be provided of same value.
Okay, I’m tapping on the glass over my M.D. for this one because it’s cold season and if one more person recommends a supplement they swear will supercharge my immune system and stop my sniffles in their tracks I’m going to . . . write a blog post about it and find someone to pay me for my wisdom.
“But Ellen,” you say, “EVERYONE knows that when a cold strikes, you should take all the things to boost your immunity.” Right?
The more rotten your cold, the more evidence you have that your immune system is hitting on all cylinders. That congestion isn’t all about the mucous. In fact, it’s not even mostly about it. It’s about inflammation—leaky blood vessels bringing immune cell fighters and their deadly ammunition of cytokines to your nose and throat, thus swelling the tissues and making you feel miserable. See, your body takes a sort of scorched earth approach to fighting invaders. Inflammation is super effective at killing germs, but let’s just say it doesn’t care a snot about the collateral damage: your stuffy nose, watery eyes, and scratchy throat.
Colds are well, so common, that everyone thinks they know everything about them; enough so that they will dispense their unsolicited advice like wadded up tissues from the bottom of their purses. I’m not calling your Aunt Betty’s cat sitter a liar, I’m just saying she might not fully understand the science. Everyone has a success story for treatment because the course of the common cold is the perfect backdrop to make it seem like they’re working.
Opportunity. There are over a billion colds suffered every year, and the same person can suffer more than one per season. This gives plenty of chances for people to “test” out their cures and seem to have them work every once in a while.
Difference in virulence. There are over 200 viruses that cause colds and they are not all created equal. Less virulent or potent viruses produce colds that don’t last as long and don’t make you feel as rotten. Your milder cold has nothing to do with what you took. Rather it has everything to do with what strain you were infected with.
Duration of infection. This has to do with virulence as discussed above, but bears some mention of its own. On average, a cold lasts 7 to 10 days, but that means the range of duration is anywhere from 3 to 18 days. So if last month you had an 18 day cold and this time you had a 5 day cold, you’re going to think that whatever you took made the difference.
Number of colds per year. The number of colds you contract decreases as you get older. A child under 2 years of age can get as many as 8 to 10 colds per year because their immune system is “less experienced.” You don’t keep getting the same cold—your body has memory immune cells to stop what it has already seen—you keep getting fresh ones out of the hundreds lurking around. This means as you get older, there are just less “new” cold viruses out there that can bring you down. Your lack of illness has nothing to do with the vitamin horse pill you have choked down every morning for the past 10 years and everything to do with the odds.
Sooooo, what do you do? There is no cure. It’s really about alleviating the symptoms. No medication—even a natural, herbal one—is without side effects and special indications for people with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Therefore, I’m going to stick to natural remedies anyone can practice. Bonus: they are cheap and effective.
Fluids. “Keep hydrated!” is such a battle cry because it’s true. Water makes every process in your body go ’round and a few days without it is deadly. Water is the best choice, but if you feel like hot tea and chicken soup soothes you, go for it. Just avoid caffeinated beverages because they can dehydrate you by speeding up the water processing going on in the kidneys.
Humidity. Either cool mist humidifiers or steam vaporizers can fill the air with cough and cold soothing moisture. One is no better than the other because the water vapor is the same temperature by the time it reaches your nose from either device. However if there are young children around, choose a cool mist humidifier so there is no danger of burns from the machine. A steamy shower works well, too.
Nasal TLC. Relieving cracked and swollen nasal passages will make you feel better and it’s a solid step in preventing your next cold (more on that in a minute). Doctors swear by neti pots and saline sprays, but I find them almost impossible to use when I am stuffed up. Remember what I told you before about most of your misery coming from swelling and irritation and not mucous? It means “flushing the cold out” is not really possible. I prefer using Saline Soothers Nose Wipes. They feel so good and are completely fragrance free. They are so soft to your nose, not sticky and clammy like those moisturized tissues, although you can use them like a tissue. Plus, they’re much more portable than a neti pot.
Gargle. There’s that saline again (because it’s pretty great). Gargling with warm salt water can soothe an irritated throat.
Ice packs. This is an often overlooked treatment that is so, so good. Laying a cold compress for 10 minutes across your nose, sinuses, and eyes can make you go, “Ahhhhhh.”
Sleep. It allows your body to heal and work optimally. More on this in the prevention section.
So while you can find some relief, there is no “magic bullet” cold cure. Prevention is always a solid idea.
Nasal TLC. Told you I would get back to this. You can get a “new” cold by a different virus on the heels of your “old” cold. In fact, you’re a rundown set-up for it. Preventing your nasal passageways from cracking means preventing easy access for invaders. Saline Soothers works great for this, too.
Hand washing. Colds are spread by touching secretions from an infected person and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Unfortunately, cold viruses can linger on hard indoor surfaces and still cause disease for up to 24 hours. Washing your hands in the best way to fight this, but YOU MUST WASH FOR AT LEAST 20 SECONDS, so cue up “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in your head . . . or out loud. I won’t judge; I’ll just be glad you’re washing your hands. Washing under running water is best. You’re trying to physically remove the viruses. Plain soap is fine because antibacterial soaps don’t attack viruses, just bacteria. Hand sanitizers work well IF they are at least 60% alcohol. Rubbing the sanitizer around for 30 seconds ensures good coverage. Make sure to get under nails when using either soap or sanitizer.
Exercise. Studies show that exercise decreases the ICAM-1 receptors on the surface of your cells that allow cold viruses to enter and infect you. Exercise also decreases stress hormones allowing your immune system to function optimally.
Sleep.One well-constructed study shows people who regularly sleep 6 hours or less each night are 4 times more likely to get a cold than people who sleep just an hour longer. To summarize the findings simply, 7 to 8 hours of sleep allows your immune system to cycle through and recharge: the cells work better and the proteins they use to fight infection are more plentiful.
Yes, sleep and exercise sound like they can boost your immune system. I didn’t say that your immune system couldn’t be optimized, I said there wasn’t a magic pill or supplement to boost it. Plus, their real effectiveness is on the prevention side. Once, a cold is in full swing, you have to ride it out. Sorry.
You may have picked up on that Saline Soothers is one of my favorite things to use to fight my cold symptoms and prevent another cold from attacking me. They were kind enough to pay me for this post, but my words and the knowledge behind them are all thanks to my medical degree.
I just love Saline Soothers because they are so soothing (it’s in the name), they don’t have any scent or harsh ingredients, and they are so thick, I don’t feel like I have mucous soaking through to my hands. You can try them for yourself using this nifty coupon at your local Walgreens.
Okay relax. There will be no pictures because TMI is not my thing, and I try rather diligently not to mortify my teens.
What is my thing is sharing brilliant solutions . . . that drop into my lap. You know how when you’re shopping around online and there are suggested products that pop up in the sidebar? Well, sometimes it’s terrifying how spot-on the internet elves who choose the recommendations actually are.
About a month ago, an electric razor popped up for me.
And now it’s living in my bathroom because review after review said it gave a close shave without a rash. Maaaaayyybbeee everything you read on the internet isn’t exactly true, but for $19.99 it was a no-brainer after what I have spent to banish those little bumps.
I have tried waxing and it made my skin very, very angry. And then I tried waxing again when I was fed the hype that it was actually dirty wax that caused the bumps. First of all, ewwwwww. Secondly, I’m pretty sure it was the molten hot wax ripping the hairs out by the roots that played a major part. I not only got a rash immediately after the torture, I got ingrown hairs when they started to grow back through my traumatized skin.
Oh, and then I tried laser hair removal: fairly painful, REALLY expensive, and a total waste of time for me. Sure the hair was sparser, but there was still hair so what was the point? I just had a little less hair to remove with some other method. I even went through two rounds spaced months apart to catch the hair that was in a dormant growing phase during the first round. Apparently, I have hairs that plaque me every other day now with their growth spurts, but were napping during the entire eight months of laser time. Sure.
That left me with plain ol’ shaving . . . and bumps all of the time. I tried depilatories like Nair, but who has that kind of time? And that smell? Yuck.
So basically, tons of money and time later, I was relegated to wear bathing suits with skirts. Now, don’t get me wrong, skirted suits are super cute, but sometimes you want to be able to choose something else.
But I have freedom of choice once again thanks to the Panasonic ES2207P Ladies Electric Shaver! Within one week of using it with post-shaving dabs of my secret solution of antibiotic and cortisone creams, my bikini line was smooth and clear. (More about that in a bit.)
You can use this razor wet or dry and the charge lasts forever. The pop-up trimmer is what gets in there close, but it honestly doesn’t get quite as close as a regular razor so I have to use it every day. I have no problem with that because the bumps are banished! Also, I no longer have any ingrown hairs because the hair is not short enough to get trapped when it starts to grow. I use the tiny dabs of antibiotic and cortisone cream after each use once I dry off to make sure everything stay smooth and clear.
So there you have it. This isn’t a sponsored post (it does contain affiliate links: you can buy it here), I just wanted to share the solution I have been searching out for decades. Hallelujah! No go forth and enjoy bathing suit season any way you see fit. The freedom is yours now.
In case you’re new here, an important piece of introductory information is that I have my M.D. I use it for everything . . . except making money. Another important thing to know is that I walked away from the career because it was not a good fit for me; I was not asked to leave. I was actually pretty good. Just ask my friends because they ask me for medical advice ALL OF THE TIME.
I studied and trained at the University of Maryland Medical System giving me extensive surgical, emergency, and Shock Trauma experiences you can only get in Baltimore. The first time I sutured another human being was during my first day in the pediatric emergency room as a third year student. It was a little boy who had a gash on his finger. I actually sweated through my scrubs during the millennium it took me to place the five sutures. There was seriously a puddle on my stainless steel stool. But that sweet boy rewarded me with words I still cherish today: “You’re a really good doctor.” Kids sure can lift you up, that is, when they’re not busy taking you down.
Since that time, I’ve logged in many hours of wound evaluation and care. You get to benefit from this experience to determine if you need to giddy-up to urgent care.
Criteria for Stitches
The wound will not stop bleeding
It is deeper than ¼ inch
The edges are ragged
The wound is gaping (the edges aren’t together)
Additionally, seek medical attention if . . .
The wound is a puncture deeper than ¼ inch
The injury resulted from a rusty or very dirty object
All of the debris can’t be removed from the cut or abrasion
The wound is on the face or neck
There was a blow to the head or any loss of consciousness
The wound is an animal or human bite
Date of last tetanus shot is unknown
You have a history of MRSA
Signs of infection develop such as redness and pus
Wound Care for Treating Minor Cuts
To stop bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for at least 15 minutes. (Maxi pads are excellent for this, by the way.) This will seem like FOREVER, but don’t lift the compress! You’ll really need to time yourself to hold pressure long enough. Trust me. If possible, raise the body part above the level of the heart to slow bleeding. Never apply a tourniquet unless advised by a medical professional.
Rinse wound thoroughly with clean water or saline solution to remove dirt and debris. DO NOT use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol because they are damaging to cells and may increase scarring.
Clean area around the wound area with soap and water on a washcloth. Avoid getting soap in wound initially. Pat dry with a clean cloth.
Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and cover with a clean dressing. Keep the wound covered while healing. Contrary to popular belief, letting a cut “air out” does not promote healing and may increase scarring.
It is always a good idea to have a complete first-aid kit in your car and your home. You may think you don’t need a kit because you have all the supplies in your home, but by having a kit, you can just tell someone where to grab it while you are holding pressure or calling 911. I always like to have instant cold compresses, rolled gauze, and a large abdominal pad in mine. I like the one pictured below from Amazon because of the organized compartments and the comprehensive supplies. I just added a small flashlight, a lighted magnifying glass, tick removal tool, and duct tape.
Be Safe Out There Friends!
*No portion of this article is intended to replace the advice of your medical professional. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor.
When I was still viewing middle age as something on the horizon, I looked down on people who thought walking was “exercise” with 100% Grade A disdain. There’s no way you could really walk yourself fit. Right?
I mean walking was for underachieving lazy people. Why walk for an hour and get only one mile, maybe two, when you could run for twenty-five minutes and travel 5K? Oh, I was never a speedy runner, but I was fast enough to justify my tortoise and the hare snobbery . . . at least in my mind.
But my knee and the pop heard ’round the block changed all that.
My knee in all of its swollen glory. My daughter thought it looked like a Cabbage Patch Doll. So she added eyes. Because laughing hysterically at my pain is the same as an “I love you”, right?!
Something in my knee gave out–while walking, I might add– and intractable pain ensued, which led to arthroscopic surgery being scheduled. Not to brag, but when I woke up from anesthesia my surgeon ever so gently told me that I have the knee of a seventy-year-old woman. Why yes, I was upset.
And thus began the blossoming romance between my booty and the chair.
During my seven week recovery period, Booty and Chair really became an item. They had flirted on and off leading up to the surgery, but the bond was cemented when Crutches formally introduced them.
Should I have realized that Booty and Chair were no good for each other? That they were on a collision course headed for mom jeans and muffin tops? Sure, in normal times, but I was pouting about how awful it was that I could no longer run. Why bother moving at all if I couldn’t move in the most efficient, hard-as-nails way possible? “No pain, no gain” was the battle cry in the 80s and I was nothing if not a child of those times.
So what did my attitude get me? Fat. It got me fat. By the end of the year, I was fifteen pounds heavier than I had ever been when I was pregnant. If I had been stupid enough to try, my old maternity clothes would not have fit me. Take a moment of silence for that soul-sucking sadness.
Something had to change and that something was getting a Fitbit Zip, joining a fitness support group, and logging back into My Fitness Pal to track my calories.
Guess what I learned? I was eating too much and moving too little. Who knew my middle-aged metabolism couldn’t burn through nachos and cookies every night?
That first day, I clipped on my Fitbit Zip sure that I would hit the magic 10000 steps because I knew I was an active person. Um, I hit about 3000.
So did I jump on my treadmill to rectify the situation? No! I turned to the internet to see if this whole 10000 step thing was bogus. And the answer was a retroactive, “it’s legit!”
While the 10000 step concept was originally thrown out there in the 1960s by a Japanese company to sell pedometers (Aha! I knew it was a lie!), American scientists have since performed the research and determined that 10000 steps per day is a pretty good indicator of an active lifestyle. (Science to the rescue!)
Ten thousand steps is a great number because unless you have a very active job like nursing or working in a warehouse, you need about 30 minutes of brisk walking in addition to your normal life steps to reach 10000.
So to recap, walking is good enough and humans are lazy liars who are fantastic at deluding themselves about how active they are. Or at least I am. I don’t know if you were playing along at home, but I was only hitting 3000 steps before my fitness revelation. I WAS A SEDENTARY SLOTH! While sloths are adorable, carrying thirty extra pounds is not. I needed to change.
My Three Point Fitness Plan:
If you are gaining weight, the truth is you are eating too much and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to keep a food diary. I logged into My Fitness Pal (MFP) app for the first time since 2009 to track my food. It has improved so much! You can easily find calorie counts for Weight Watcher and Skinnytaste recipes and you can scan the barcode of packaged foods.
I bought a Fitbit Zip. You can check out why Erin and I picked the Zip here. Fitbit and MFP work wonderfully together to track your energy in versus energy out. MFP will even calculate how many calories you burned from active exercise logged on your Fitbit and figure those into your calories allowed total. Also, you can link up with friends so you can compete compare how many steps everyone is taking.
I confess failures, and celebrate successes with the ladies in my fitness support group. You can have your own. It’s as easy as gathering some friends in a secret Facebook group.
2. Moving More
I have fully embraced the American Heart Association’s mantra about exercise: Something is better than nothing!
3. Eating Less
I have invested the time in cooking healthy meals and stocking my kitchen with healthy snacks. I cannot “diet” and deprive myself, but I know how to eat nutritious, delicious foods that boost my health and keep me satisfied.
What does this look in action?
For the past 30 days, I have moved 10000 steps each and EVERY day. Probably about 3000 to 5000 of these steps are achieved on the treadmill at speeds between 3.0 and 5.0 with most of them happening at 4.0, but if I can get outside, I prefer that. I have also been known to do four extra laps around the grocery store to get my steps in. If I am feeling sluggish, I convince myself walking at 3.0 on the treadmill is better than sitting and usually by a minute into it, I feel like ramping up the speed. I subscribe to the science behind interval training. No matter how fast I am going, I usually ramp up the speed by 1.0-1.5 for about a minute at a time. If I am on the treadmill for 30 minutes, I usually interval up five or six times. I also set the incline for 1 or 2 to make sure my intensity is good enough. I would go higher, but it hurts my knee.
I also have been hula hooping with a weighted hoop every day. Talk about an effortless abdominal and glutes workout! Exercise can be fun. I am a convert! (Caveat: your ribs and hips might feel a little bruised at first, so start with about a minute of hooping. This feeling disappeared for me after about 2 days. I think consciously tightening your abs while hooping also helps.)
I have been doing low weight/high repetition arm work and Pilates style ab work (planks and push-ups are my frenemies) two or three times per week. I often do the weights while on the treadmill. I have also been doing these exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting my knees.
When I hit the inevitable plateau, I will switch up/intensify my strength training.
I have MFP set for 1.5 lb/per week weight loss. This allows me 1220 calories per day, which I admit is hard to maintain EXCEPT I really end up eating between 1300 and 1475 calories per day because of my Fitbit exercise credit. It is a bit of a mind game, but it works for me.
I just cannot eat “diet” food. It tastes like plastic and the portions are miniscule. I must eat food that is delicious and allows for satisfying portions. With that being said, I cannot live on salad alone either.
I have not skipped meals and I never allow myself to become ravenous. Basically, I have been eating around 350 calories each for breakfast and lunch making sure to include protein. To reach these goals, I have banished most bread, but I still eat carbs. I think carbs are delicious and get a bad rap from the haters. For dinners, I have been preparing tasty, family-pleasing options such as Skinny Mexican Casserole,Healthy French Country Crockpot Chicken, and Weight Watchers Baked Spaghetti Carbonara. I generally load up on roasted veggies and have 1/2 cup of healthy grains, too.
While every choice is part of the Big Picture, not every choice has to be perfect. Fitness and health has to be a lifestyle, not some “diet” to blast through.
In thirty days, I have lost just over ten pounds (one third of the way to my goal) and several inches from my waist, booty, and arms. I have leveled down to the next size of jeans in my closet. I feel tremendously more comfortable in my own skin already. And of note, I have not felt denied. During this 30 days, I have celebrated my birthday with a wonderful weekend in Philadelphia where I ate the likes of bacon wrapped dates, empanadas, crispy Cuban pork, and salted caramel cheesecake (all in one day, yikes!). Just know on that day I walked for close to 16000 steps all over the city and I locked her down that Monday and Tuesday, eating about 1250 calories each day.
♦Adequate levels of fitness take more than a casual stroll, but they also don’t require 90 minutes of marathon running and weight lifting. Don’t let the whispers of perfectionism immobilize you- “If you aren’t working hard, what’s the point of working at all?” Just move! An object in motion tends to stay in motion and it’s surprising what you can achieve if you just take that first step. I still miss the “high” from running, but my knee appreciates walking and the ten less pounds it has to haul around.
♦Accountability is key. My overachieving self can’t help but beat the 10000 step goal each and every day on my FItbit. Plus, since I can link up with my friends, THEY can see if I’m reaching my goals, too. Pride, in this case, works for me.
♦If you aren’t recording your food, you are most likely eating too much. As they say in Weight Watchers, if you bite it, you write it. I weigh or measure out every portion I eat.
Now go forth and move! The road to fitness can be walked!
When we set up shop in our little corner of the internet, we only thought we would bestow our word babies to the world, we never thought we would receive much in return. Okay, we were hoping for money, but our imaginations stopped there. It floors us that besides fame, fortune, and shiny hair, blogging has brought us an unexpected gift: tools to be better parents.
But you don’t have to be a blogger to get these gifts. Lucky for you, there is nothing we like more than taking these parenting tools, birthing them into word babies, and presenting them to you so you can strengthen your parenting game, too. It’s really the true Circle of Life. Feel free to hum that earworm as you continue on with the rest of this post.
Recently, we were invited to Washington, DC to attend the forum, “Inside the Teen Brain: Is There an App for That,” hosted by StopMedicneAbuse.org because October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Their whole goal is to empower parents to spot the warning signs and help prevent teen abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM). At this forum, they shared qualitative and quantitative research of teens. That noise you hear is our nerdy hearts singing with glee over cold hard data.
The background noise you hear is our flopsweat dripping on the ground from the cold hard data.
Approximately 1 in 30 teens have abused cough medicine to get high, and 1 in 3 teens in grades 9-12 knows someone who has used cough medicine to get high.
When teens are curious about DXM abuse, because they have a friend who has tried it or heard about it in pop culture, they look for more information online. Teens look to YouTube, social media, and online discussion forums like Erowid.com to get more information as they progress toward trial.
An overwhelming majority of teens (79%) have hidden online activities from parents.
A survey given on behalf of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association found that teens are three times as likely to trust friends as a source of information than their family–including siblings.
Are you sufficiently hyperventilating? Never fear because we have your paper bag to breathe into!
First and foremost: Teens who learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs. And they really need your guidance because their brains are still under construction. In fact, they are only about 80% formed. And doesn’t it just figure the frontal lobe that regulates impulse control is not fully developed until 24 years of age? Sigh.
As Darby Fox, an experienced child and family therapist, told us, “Hormones don’t make kids crazy. Developing brains do.”
So how do we be the brakes? By arming ourselves with information and starting the conversations early. Feeling awkward about how to get the conversations rolling? We have tips for that.
And we have specific pointers for your next DXM abuse conversation gleaned from StopMedAbuse.org. Keep in mind drivers of teen attitudes include parents, access, and attitude towards behavior.
Teens perception of DXM being easy to get has gone down by 24% since 2010.
IMPORTANT! This one blew us away as the nugget of gold to tuck away for always. Teens are reluctant to judge each other. Focus on the behavior and not condemning the user. You must honor that they trust their peers.
To that effect, the fear of social consequences is a leading motivator in preventing teens from abusing cough medicine. Fear of social disapproval from vomiting in public or appearing sloppy deters abuse of DXM.
And while there is no easy app for understanding the teen brain (million dollar idea right there, folks), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has a fun app with over 135,000 downloads in under a year showing the effects of DXM abuse on robots. This is a conversation starter if there ever was one.
So to smack you over the head with an obvious truth, parenting is hard, yo. But you don’t have to go it alone.
You have us, please share your questions and concerns in the comments.
You have StopMedicineAbuse.org fighting the good fight using real-life testimonials, games, apps, and bait-and-switch videos to interrupt teens’ online searches and change their perceptions of this DXM abuse behavior. Please check out the additional information they have for you to use to talk to your teen about medicine abuse.
You have the knowledge that your teens really do want to hear you even if they don’t look like they are listening.
-Ellen and Erin
This blog post is sponsored by the CHPA’s Stop Medicine Abuse educational program. We were compensated to attend the event, but all opinions and love for our teens are our own.
More than once, people have misunderstood the title of our blog. They think “Sisterhood” means we’re sisters. We are not . . . in the biological sense. Erin actually has a lovely younger sister and Ellen is an only child (we know, it explains a lot). We are firm believers in the cross stitch sampler sentiment “friends are family you choose.” That’s our Sisterhood: all of the women who are integral to the beauty and richness of our lives.
And one of those women, our dear friend, Mary, has a gripping story to tell. Her mother died from breast cancer when she was a freshman in college. She subsequently tested positive for the “breast cancer gene” BRCA, which means she had a 80% risk of developing breast cancer. We have always wanted to write her story of prophylactic treatment, but never wanted to put words in her mouth. With this podcast, you get to hear the words (and laughter and wit) right out of her mouth. Please, click the player at the bottom to.
Some information to remember and links from the podcast:
About 10% of all breast cancers are hereditary. Mary was at high risk for hereditary breast cancer because she tested positive for the BRCA gene.
This one is a bit of a tease: it’s fabulous, but there is a waiting list to sign up. So, we’re telling you this one first so you can click over there and get thineself in the queue NOW.
Why is it so great? You can make actual dollar bills from this one. Your steps earn you points towards a $50 check. On average, you earn one point per 125 steps, BUT it’s on a sliding scale so walking more earns more points per step. It takes 50,000 points to reach the payout, but hey, before you knew about this you were just walking for your health. So there’s that.
Also, if you use both Fitbit and MyFitnessPal (like we recommend), connecting them both allows you to double dip on points when you weigh in. That is much better for your waistline than a double dip of mint chocolate chip.
This one is not for the faint of heart. You are actually staking your money that you will keep your fitness goals. This one motivates with cash with the added kick of penalty. You simply make a weekly Pact to exercise more or eat healthier and set what you’ll pay other Pact members if you don’t reach it. Do you dare??
Higi is another one that allows you to sync your Fitbit to earn points, but there’s more! You can earn extra points by stopping at a Higi Station–located in some retail pharmacies–to track your weight, BMI, pulse, and blood pressure. Higi has a handy feature to help you find one near you. Ellen has three stations that are minutes from her house at her local Giant, Rite Aid , and Acme.
You can use points towards things like protein shakes, sunglasses, and fitness gear. You can even use points to enter to win prizes like a treadmill. But what we like most is you can use your points for charity. You can donate your points to save a pet in a shelter, buy a toy for a child battling cancer, or provide clean drinking water for a family in Haiti. You knew accumulating steps was good for your health, but who knew it could be good for the world?
If you have a Walgreens Balance Reward card, you need to connect your Fitbit to earn even more points! Simple as that. What is not simple is finding where to link your tracker. If you search for Fitbit on certain screens, it will tell you that your search results are zero. Follow this link to easily sync up. Just make sure once you get there, to click on the “Devices” tab to find the Fitbits. If you know where to go, it takes mere minutes to sign up.
If you shop regularly at Sears and Kmart, FitStudio is for you. The only drawback: your points generally expire after seven days. You get 5,000 points when you sign-up and sync so only do it when you’re ready to go shopping!
So you’re already tracking your fitness, now go forth and earn!
Need a playlist to get you groovin’? Try this one!