Past Issues

Spring 2014

Cold Water Shock Can Quickly Cause Drowning

Child and water

Drowning is a leading cause of injury death among kids of all ages - second only to motor vehicle crashes. Cold water increases the chances of drowning. Every year in Washington state, children die in our rivers, lakes and salt water that are cold year-round.

When someone who is not wearing a life jacket is suddenly immersed in cold water, they can drown quickly, even if they are a strong swimmer. The reason is "cold water shock." Cold water shock starts with the gasp reflex. Our body's automatic, instant response in very cold water is to gasp - a big, sudden inhale. If the head is underwater, the gasp pulls water into the lungs. This often triggers choking, panic and hyperventilation - very fast, shallow breathing. Death can occur in just a few minutes. (Cold water shock causes many more deaths than hypothermia, which happens when the body's temperature is too low for too long.)

This is why wearing a properly fitting life jacket is so important for kids and adults. In cases of sudden, unexpected entry into cold water - such as falling overboard off a boat, flipping a canoe or kayak, or slipping into a river - a life jacket keeps the head up out of the water.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, active families may be at greater risk of cold water shock. We enjoy the outdoors, and by spring, we're eager to be out in nature. But as the mountain snowpack melts, rivers and lakes are icy cold. In Washington state, May is the most dangerous month for boating-related drowning deaths.

Adults are important role models. If your family adventures involve water - regardless of its temperature - be sure everyone wears a life jacket that is the right size and fit. And be sure to keep life jackets snugly fastened. Of course, drowning can happen anywhere, at any time of year, indoors or outdoors. Never leave a baby or toddler alone in the bath for even a moment. Keep young children within an arm's length around water, and be sure kids of all ages are closely supervised when wading or swimming and that they learn how to swim.

Learn more about water safety, including when and where you can find low-cost life jacket sales.

E-Cigs Are Addictive and Harmful

Electronic cigarette

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are devices that mimic tobacco smoking. While there's no smoke, e-cigs do deliver nicotine in vapor form, in flavors like vanilla and chocolate. E-cigs are meant for adults, but kids can easily buy them online and at mall kiosks. (Laws against selling e-cigs to minors vary by location and may not be enforced.) Children can quickly become hooked on nicotine. In fact, because one e-cig can contain as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes, they may even pose a poisoning risk. Since e-cigs don't create much odor, parents may not be aware that kids are using them. Be sure to talk with your child about the risks.

Bystanders Can Intervene to Stop Bullying

Bullied child

When bullying happens, it's usually not just the bully and the victim. Since bullies seek attention, they often make sure they have an audience. These bystanders may be close and actively watching, or at a distance yet aware of what's going on. When bystanders intervene, they can help stop the bully - without putting themselves in danger. They can alert a nearby adult or an older student. If the bully is a friend of theirs, they may feel comfortable asking them to stop. Other times, bystanders can also help the child who's being bullied get away by creating a distraction or saying that an adult is on the way. Because bullying is a common problem, almost all schools have anti-bullying programs - including the actions they want young bystanders to take. Learn about your school's anti-bullying plan, and be sure your child knows what to do at school and elsewhere. If all bystanders start taking action, bullies will be out of business.

Learn more about identifying and stopping bullying.

We Can All Do Simple Things to Strengthen Families

Family picnic

Our world needs strong, healthy families! When families thrive, kids are happier and better cared for, and they're more likely to grow into healthy adults. But parenting is a very tough job, and all parents sometimes feel overwhelmed and even lonely. So when we reach out to support other families - even in simple ways - it makes a big difference.

You might invite neighbors over for a casual potluck or just to hang out in the backyard. Or offer to take someone else's kids for an evening so they can enjoy a relaxing night to themselves. You might start a small neighborhood walking group; the fresh air and friendship will give everyone a boost. If you know a parent who's having a tough time, just sharing a cup of coffee and offering a friendly ear can be a powerful help.

Get to know the children in your neighborhood. If you can, volunteer at your child's school or your church or synagogue's youth program. Learn the kids' names, ask them about their interests, listen to them and encourage them. Show them they are special and important. Your genuine warmth and attention may have a profound impact on their lives.

If you ever feel overwhelmed, reach out for help. Seek advice from a wise friend or counselor, gain new knowledge from a parent education class or visit a respected website where parents support one another by sharing practical advice and encouragement.

Remember: when it comes to creating strong families, we're all in this together!

Explore our Safety and Wellness pages for resources on behavioral and emotional wellness and families and relationships.

Pesky Lice Pose No Health Risk


Has your school-age child ever had head lice? If not, you might just be lucky so far. Lice are everywhere, and are common in schools. They spread easily from child to child, and from one piece of clothing to another. The good news is lice are not harmful, and having them does not mean a child is uncared for or that their home is unclean. You can remove lice and their eggs (called nits) from your child's head yourself. It can be tough to get them all, especially in thick hair, so you may want to pay an expert for this service. Be sure your child does not share hats or clothes, and have them alert you right away if their head feels itchy.

Learn more about head lice.

Easy Tips for "Five a Day"

Fruits and veggies

Help your family eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Offer them at every meal and as snacks. Always keep your child's favorites on hand, and make a spot in the fridge for produce that is cleaned, cut and ready to eat. At the grocery store, let your child choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. Present foods in fun ways, like fruit chunks on toothpicks or arranged as a smiley face on the plate, or carrots peeled into curls. Pair veggies with favorites like peanut butter or cheese. Add a fresh crunch to sandwiches with sliced cucumbers or bell peppers. For school lunches, apple slices sprinkled with lemon juice won't brown, and the zingy sweet taste is great!

Ask About Guns

Gun safety image

About one third of U.S. homes with kids have guns - often left unlocked or loaded. Thousands of kids are injured or killed every year as a result. You ask about allergens, pets and screen time when your child goes on a play date. So it's OK to ask if guns are in the home, if they are locked away and if ammunition is locked separately. You might start with "Knowing how curious my child is, I want to ask this question..." or "I hope you don't mind me asking if you have a firearm in your home and if it is properly stored." If you have any doubts about safety in another home, invite the kids to play at your house instead.

Browse more resources about gun safety or visit