Play Date Safety Check

What to ask before your child visits a friend's home

When your child starts visiting friends without you - whether for a playdate, birthday party or sleepover - it is a sure sign of your child's growing independence.

It should also be a signal for you to ask a few questions of the friend's parents so you can feel confident your child will be safe in the friend's home.

Spend a little time asking questions when the event is scheduled. Here are some things to ask:
• Who will be watching the kids, and who else will be at home?
• Are there guns in the house?
• Be sure to let the parent know if your child has allergies to foods, pets or other things.
• Share your policy on media use - for example, will computer use be supervised? What movie ratings are OK?

If you're uncomfortable with the answers to any of these questions, you can politely invite the child to play at your house instead.

On the day of the event, be sure to:
• Exchange contact information in case of emergency.
• Install your child's car or booster seat yourself, if plans call for the other parent to drive your child and friend somewhere.

Regardless of your child's age, make the effort to get to know the family where your child will be spending time. Don't just drop your child off in the driveway. Go in and meet the parents - even if your child objects, it lets you get a feel for both the parents and the environment.

Momentarily feeling a little formal or intrusive is worth it if it means keeping your child safe. You can also take the initiative - when your child develops a new friendship, encourage them to invite the new friend over. Ask that child's parents if there is anything you need to know about the child's health. Volunteer information about your family's house rules and safety precautions. This can make it easier to have the conversation when it's your child's turn to visit their house.

Most importantly, make sure your child knows you'll come get them if they feel uncomfortable with anything that's happening at the friend's house.

Explore more Safety and Wellness information.

A Rinse Is Not Enough!

With headlines about flu everywhere you turn, you know it is more important than ever to practice good hand washing. But do you know what makes for a thorough scrub?

Wash your own and your child's hands often with soap and warm water. Wash for 10 to 15 seconds - about the time it takes to sing the ABCs twice. Remember to wash in between fingers, on the backs of hands and wrists, and under fingernails. Dry hands well with a clean, dry towel and use a towel to turn the water off.

Alcohol-based hand cleanser is effective when soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty. Use enough cleanser to wet your hands well. Rub hands together briskly until they are dry.

To learn more, visit

Stay Fire Smart! Don't Get Burned.

Fire Prevention Week is October 4 through 10. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers safety tips to keep your home and family safe from the leading causes of home fires and burn injuries.

Fires caused by cooking, cigarettes, electricity and heating equipment are among the most common types of fires in the home. To protect your home from these types of fires:
• Stay in the kitchen when using the stove or oven.
• Ask smokers to smoke outside and avoid flammable items.
• Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and turn portable heaters off at bedtime or when you leave the room.
• Install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of your home.

To protect your child from burn injuries such as scalds, flame and contact burns:
• Test the temperature of the water before you put your child in the tub. Bath water should feel warm, not hot.
• Keep matches, lighters, hot foods, liquids and household items out of the reach of children, and teach them that hot things can burn.

In case of a burn, use cool water, not ice or butter.

To learn more, visit

The Stomach Pain Guessing Game

Stomachaches are common during childhood. As a parent, it can be hard to know how to help your child with stomach pain. Most stomachaches are mild and don't last long. These can be caused by gas pains, indigestion or overeating. For these, encourage your child to rest and watch for two hours to be sure the stomachache passes. If it lasts longer, call your child's doctor.

If your child has frequent stomachaches, the cause may be constipation. The new school year forces kids to adjust to a new routine. They can be reluctant to use the restroom for a bowel movement at school. Other kids rush through lunch, skipping their beverage so they can get to recess or another activity. Holding bowel movements and getting dehydrated are two ways that kids can become constipated.

Remind your child to take time out to sit on the toilet and try to have a bowel movement. Give your child a water bottle to have handy, and encourage them to drink from it often. Offer lots of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Try cutting anything more than four ounces a day of fruit juice, sodas or sports drinks for a week.

If you think your child's stomachaches might be due to stress, try asking simple questions like, "Who did you sit with at lunch?" or "How did recess go?" This can spark a conversation about something that is bothering your child. From there, help your child think of ways to problem-solve.

To learn more, call your child's doctor or visit Should Your Child See a Doctor? for advice on abdominal pain or constipation.

Walk This Way

Child pedestrians are at an increased risk for injury because of their small size and lack of brain development.

Start talking to your young child about how to be safe around traffic as you go about your daily activities. Point out the sounds and sights of moving vehicles. Explain that drivers often can't see small children - especially while they are in reverse.

Don't let children younger than 10 cross the street alone or go into the street to get a ball. They can't judge the distance and speed of vehicles.

Be a good role model for your child - cross at crosswalks; look left, right and left again before crossing; and obey traffic signals.

To learn more, visit Walk This Way.

Caring for Braces - Beyond the Basics

Your child's orthodontist probably talks about brushing after meals and flossing daily. Your child may hear "blah, blah, blah." Here's how to get your child to listen... tell them that the better they take care of their teeth, the less time in braces!

Get your child a toothbrush called a Proxabrush to help remove food scraps. Put a travel toothbrush in their backpack for use away from home.

Broken braces cause treatment delays, so tell your child to avoid gum, popcorn and hard or sticky candy. If your child has a break, call the orthodontist right away.

Keep the treatment plan moving along, and those braces will be off soon!

Learn more about braces.