All posts by Perry Robbin

About Perry Robbin

Perry Robbin is a New England-born writer based in Chicago who enjoys reading, football and spending time with his niece and nephew. He's constantly on the lookout for great New Haven and New York style pizzas. He loves his partner, Lindsey, and dog, Rocky.

a mom taking her toddler's temperature

How to Keep Your Toddler Healthy This Flu Season

Cold and flu season can be a difficult time for moms and kids alike. Whether you or your toddler get sick, it can throw your regular schedule off balance and lead to a lot of sleepless nights and a long recovery – no matter who actually comes down with the illness. How can you help your toddler stay healthy during a time when colds and the flu are so prevalent? We’ve put together some practical advice to help you stay as far away from coughs, runny noses, fevers and congestion as possible.

Get everyone vaccinated for the flu

The flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee almost-perfect protection against this potentially serious illness the way that vaccines for many other ailments do. The activity of different types of the flu and individual differences in terms of health mean the vaccine is usually between 40 and 60 percent effective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. However, the flu vaccine is also pretty cheap, widely available and quickly given. The more people in a household and a larger community who are vaccinated, the better this method of prevention works.

While it may be a struggle to get your little one to sit for a shot, a few moments of mild discomfort – which you can follow with a well-earned reward – is far better than days on end of potentially dangerous flu symptoms. Your child might even be able to get the vaccine as a nose spray, reducing any objections on their part. As you ensure your toddler is prepared for flu season, make sure you, your spouse, your older children and anyone else who lives with you get the vaccine, too. The CDC recommends vaccination for all healthy people older than six months.

Child washing hands.Encouraging your toddler to wash their hands is one of the most important parts of cold and flu season safety.

Encourage good hygiene habits

Good hygiene is one of the best ways to keep you and your child healthy. What can you teach, encourage and remind your toddler to do during cold and flu season to reduce the risk of catching a nasty bug?

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds: Tell your kid to sing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing to make sure they hit 20 seconds, and join in to help them learn a great habit. Bring along hand sanitizer and wipes for when you don’t have easy access to soap and warm running water.
  • Don’t share silverware, plates or cups: Some bacteria and viruses can survive for extended periods outside human bodies, and they’re easy to pick up when eating. To avoid accidentally sipping from someone else’s cup, put them in the dishwasher immediately after use.
  • Cover mouths when sneezing or coughing: Sneezes and coughs are one of the best ways to spread germs. Teach your toddler to sneeze and cough into a tissue, or use the inside of their elbow if no other option is available. Encourage them by following the same behavior.
  • Avoid crowded places: Lots of people in relatively small places mean plenty of potential for exposure. You shouldn’t avoid other people completely, but limit exposure and encourage hand washing afterward.
  • Discourage touching eyes and noses: Bacteria thrives on hands, so when your toddler rubs his eyes or picks his nose, he’s putting germs into vulnerable areas. Show them how to use tissues to wipe their eyes and noses or to wash hands before touching their faces. It can take a long time for your toddler to learn this type of behavior, but it’s still worth it to teach them.
  • Eat, play and sleep well: Exercise, a balanced, nutrient-rich diet and a good night’s sleep all help boost the immune system.
  • Avoid sick friends and family: Help protect your toddler by talking with family and other parents about keeping your distance from kids and adults who are already sick.
  • Praise good behavior: Let your toddler know what a good job they’re doing each time you see them complete a task on this list, and provide plenty of reminders, too.

Treating symptoms

Treating colds is often a waiting game that focuses on reducing the discomfort caused by symptoms. You can help your toddler by encouraging rest and relaxation and providing lots of fluids. Use age-appropriate medicine to treat symptoms like sore throats and fevers. If symptoms don’t start to calm down in a few days or you see the telltale signs of a flu – sudden onset, severe exhaustion, achy head and body and reduced appetite, KidsHealth said – get in touch with your family doctor.

Cold and flu season requires some extra attention and care, but following these tips can help you and your kids stay healthy.

a woman suffering from morning sickness

Morning Sickness: Why It Happens and What To Expect

Morning sickness is one of the less-exciting parts of pregnancy, involving occasional or frequent episodes of nausea and vomiting during the time you carry your baby. Also known as nausea gravidarum and emesis gravidarum in technical, medical contexts, this condition affects women for different lengths of time and with a wide range of intensity, from very mild symptoms to more serious ones.

Although morning sickness can vary greatly from mother to mother and the cause isn’t definitively known, learning more about the condition will help you understand it and manage it throughout your pregnancy. Let’s look at why morning sickness happens, what to expect from it and how to address it.

Above anything else, the most important thing to remember is to speak with your OB-GYN, family doctor or other medical professional if you can’t keep food down, if your symptoms last far beyond the end of the first trimester or otherwise cause you significant discomfort or worry. They’ve worked with plenty of other moms suffering from similar symptoms, and they’ll know how to best treat you.

Woman experiencing morning sickness.Some form of morning sickness affects about 9 in 10 of all pregnant moms.

Why morning sickness happens

There’s no medical consensus for the exact reasons why so many pregnant women go through periods of morning sickness, despite how common it is. Beyond pregnancy being the common factor, there simply isn’t a definitive answer.

Even the frequency of morning sickness isn’t totally clear. The American Pregnancy Association said more than half of all pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting, but Today’s Parent put the figure between 80 and 90 percent. That’s likely because of different definitions from place to place and lack of a clear test to tell if women have morning sickness or another condition. Metro said about half of all women have nausea and vomiting, while 30 percent only suffer through nausea. While the symptoms aren’t fun by any means, they may indicate a healthy pregnancy.

“A bit of nausea is actually a good sign and may be associated with better pregnancy outcomes,” said Carolyn Lane, a family doctor at Calgary’s Low Risk Maternity Clinic, to Today’s Parent. “If the pregnancy is developing normally and all the pregnancy hormones are there, you are more likely to experience some nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.”

When does morning sickness start? The APA said this condition is most common between week 6 and week 12 of pregnancy. Thankfully this means the average length of the illness is only about one-sixth of the total time you’re pregnant. The symptoms can be shorter or longer,  and each woman’s experience can be very different. Some mothers may even experience morning sickness for one pregnancy but not another. Don’t get worried if you get nauseous or vomit during the afternoon, evening or late at night – morning sickness can strike at any time.

What to expect from morning sickness and self-care advice

Nausea and vomiting are the two clearest effects of morning sickness, and they may come at any time. That can lead to other issues caused by those conditions, including:

  • Loss of electrolytes.
  • Dehydration.
  • Weight loss.
  • Lethargy.
  • Headaches.

While the following advice won’t work perfectly for everyone, it may make your symptoms more mild and manageable:

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones.
  • Regularly hydrate by drinking water. Consider having small amounts throughout the day instead of a few big glasses, as lots of liquid at once may trigger your symptoms.
  • Use natural nausea remedies, like ginger and peppermint, by eating small amounts or using essential oils.
  • Eat when you feel hungry, even if you ate recently or aren’t sticking to a regular schedule.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Eat mild foods, like soda crackers, which have less of a chance of upsetting your stomach.

It’s important to remember that if you experience prolonged morning sickness throughout the day, you may be facing hyperemesis gravidarum. The Washington Post pointed out that although rare, the severity of these symptoms mean you should speak with your doctor to further examine your experience and develop an effective treatment program.

Morning sickness is never fun, but if you approach it as something that can be managed with small lifestyle changes and discussions with your doctor, it can be easier to get through. Just remember, moderate morning sickness can be a sign your baby is progressing just as he or she should be.

a pregnant mom unwrapping a present

3 Ways To Announce Your Pregnancy This Christmas

Pregnancy announcements are great fun on Facebook, Instragram and social media, as well as when they're received in the mail. There's no limit to the creativity you can display when revealing the existence of a baby bump to friends, family and the world at large.

When a pregnancy announcement comes during the holidays, there's some built-in inspiration that helps you get in the spirit of the season as you share the big news. There are nearly as many options as there are newly pregnant moms ready to make the big reveal, so let's look at a few fun and festive starting points for a unique, personal announcement that taps into the power of the holidays.

1. Pregnancy announcements wrapped up in holiday traditions

Holiday cards, candy canes, dreidels, kinaras and many other items can be tastefully incorporated into pregnancy reveals around the holidays. One of the easiest yet most effective approaches is to use the classic holiday card format and, instead of simply including warm wishes for the season and the coming year, announce the upcoming arrival of a new family member as well.

This can be a lot of fun for expectant moms, especially if they use an understated approach – avoiding an obvious image of an ultrasound or illustration of a newborn – and get to watch friends and family read the card and understand what it means in person. Many people will begin reading the announcement as if it's a regular holiday card, meaning the surprise will be sudden and genuine. Although it's more difficult to see reactions via social media, this approach is just as effective in creating an exciting and festive reveal in those places.

Stockings hanging on a mantle.An extra stocking over the mantle can help you announce your pregnancy.

2. A very special kind of gift

Wrapped up in festive paper and full of surprises, a gift leads to all kinds of excitement and anticipation. When it comes to revealing your pregnancy, think about letting your closest friends and family members know with a specially crafted gift box that contains the announcement. PopSugar shared one example of this approach on its list of great holiday pregnancy reveals, with an egg painted just like Santa in a small box filled with festive confetti and a message noting that the big gift – your soon-to-arrive child – will be delayed until the due date.

There are plenty of other ways to create a similar surprise, from offering grandparents a gift certificate for a new grandbaby (with a note that it's only redeemable after your due date) to including a small, framed ultrasound underneath the wrapping paper. The gift wrap and box help keep those close to you from learning the secret too early, and the festive spirit fits in perfectly with the season. To make a broader announcement, you can share a picture of the gift held by the family member who received it, or make a special version for you and your immediate family to pose with.

3. A pair of booties in the holiday spirit

A pair of baby booties, whether in a photo or left in a conspicuous place before everyone arrives for a holiday celebration, mixes fun and straightforwardness: No one will second-guess the meaning of this item in the right context. If you want to go the baby-bootie route, consider incorporating them into a wreath hung from the front door – perfect for photo opportunities and a gradual reveal as people arrive to your holiday party – or a family photo with baby's spot filled with just the booties.

One of the best parts of holiday pregnancy announcements is your ability to take a great concept and make it your own. Don't be afraid to make this pregnancy reveal truly unique with some special touches and planning.