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Need care today? Here are 4 choices to try before the emergency room

(BPT) – A health concern rarely strikes when it’s convenient for you, and in most cases it occurs at the worst possible time. When you need care and don’t have time to schedule an appointment, what do you do?

You head to the emergency room, of course. You wait in the long ER lines and pay the hefty bill that concludes your visit, all for a non-emergency situation that required immediate treatment. It’s hardly the most efficient solution, and while your health is certainly your most important concern, there are ways to receive the same quality care without the long wait and extravagant expense of an emergency room visit.

Considering the three C’s

Years ago the emergency room was your only option when you needed immediate care, but today’s health care market is home to a number of flourishing alternative options. To find the right solution for your situation, consider the three C’s: care, convenience and cost.

* Care: Evaluate the severity of your symptoms and identify what services you need. An emergency issue should always be treated at the ER, but if the problem is not life- or limb-threatening, it can be treated somewhere else.

* Convenience: It’s a good idea to know what health care facilities are near you, as well as their hours of operation.

* Cost: Not every provider will be covered by your insurance, so it’s important to understand your coverage area as well as your pre-authorization requirements.

Finding the best health care option for you

If you face a serious health issue, you should head to the emergency room immediately. However, if the issue merits immediate care but is not life- or limb-threatening, the Urgent Care Association of America offers this quick guide to your on-demand health care options.

Urgent care centers

Urgent care centers are equipped to handle illnesses and injuries that require X-rays, intravenous fluids and/or on-site lab tests. With an emphasis on convenience, urgent care offers short wait times — often 30 minutes or less compared to four hours in the emergency room — and affordable care, made even more so because it is covered by most insurance providers.

Retail clinics

Otherwise known as walk-in clinics, retail clinics are commonly found in supermarkets or pharmacies and specialize in treating less serious conditions than urgent care centers or emergency rooms. If you have a minor illness or you need preventative care, like a vaccination, then a retail clinic is a logical stop for you.

Telemedicine

A product of the digital age, telemedicine connects patients with providers via virtual visits, resulting in lower costs and decreased travel time. Telemedicine services are an attractive option if you live in a rural community or for times when the treatment you require does not extend beyond a consultation. They are also a handy tool for follow-up appointments that do not require an in-person visit.

On-site clinics

Finally, you may consider an on-site clinic. This option is now offered by many employers as a way of providing increased health care access to their employees. Similar to retail clinics, an on-site clinic specializes in offering wellness and preventative services — though the specific services offered by each clinic may vary.

Finding the best solution for you

You’ve read all the care options above and you have a pretty good idea of the best solution for any care need. Match that need with the right treatment option above and you’ll receive the same quality care without the long wait and hefty bill of that emergency room visit.

To find an urgent care center near you, visit www.whereisurgentcare.com.

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Transportation safety: How seniors can maintain independence outside the home

(BPT) – It can be hard to admit your vision isn’t what it used to be, especially when it comes to driving. Maybe you’ve noticed some difficulties reading traffic signals, or you’ve found it challenging to drive at night.

If you’re a family member noticing these warning signs in a loved one, pointing out these challenges may seem like a daunting and delicate undertaking. But when it comes to being on the road, safety is one thing you can’t ignore.

Encouraging your loved one to prioritize safety can be hard, especially when it feels like their independence is at stake. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest discussion to determine the best options for maintaining independence outside the home.

Step 1: Address driver safety

Vision is the most important sense for driving safety. Annual vision screening is important for everyone, but it is especially critical for older people, since the sensory data used for driving is predominantly visual.

For seniors still able to drive, a defensive driving class can be beneficial. These classes allow students to brush up on skills while gaining confidence and introduce them to alternative transportation options for the times and locations of their preference. What’s more, many insurance companies provide discounts to seniors who complete these courses.

Giving up driving doesn’t have to mean choosing between all or nothing. For example, start limiting driving to daylight only, non-rush-hour periods. Then look into supplementary transportation options that eliminate the need to drive while still allowing you to get where you need to go.

Step 2: Research transportation options

It’s important to educate yourself or your loved one about locally available transportation options for seniors. When you know there are reliable, cost-effective transportation options available, it can help maintain a high level of independence for a trip to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment.

Rides in Sight is a nationwide, online database of senior transportation options built by ITNAmerica, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sustainable transportation options for seniors. Visit www.ridesinsight.org and enter basic information like your state or zip code, and you can find the ride option that’s best for your situation. If you prefer to access information by phone, call 1-855-60-RIDES (1-855-607-4337).

Rides in Sight makes it easy to find customized transportation, no matter what a person’s needs. For example, you can find wheelchair accessible transportation options or door-to-door driver assistance if that’s what you need.

Step 3: Implement a trial period

Giving up the keys is easier if you do it over a period of time. Pick a date and schedule your first ride with a transportation service during a time you normally drive. Any change takes time to adapt to, so try it out for a while before reassessing and making any necessary adjustments. After this trial period, you should feel more comfortable with someone else driving you, and you get to be in control of your mobility.

For older Americans, it’s important to be able to maintain independence when they limit or stop driving. When they are encouraged to create their own driving transition plan, more emphasis can be placed on finding new passions and activities to engage with their communities. The result is a positive impact on people of all ages.

To have that impact, reliable, secure transportation is essential. Having the necessary conversations and researching appropriate transportation options helps keep everyone happy, healthy and safe.

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The important role vaccines may play in helping keep children and adults healthy

(BPT) – Every one of the nearly 12,000 babies born in the United States each day may be susceptible to infectious diseases. The good news is that vaccines can help protect children from some of these diseases.

As National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) approaches, it is timely to remember the role that vaccinations can play in helping to prevent certain diseases among infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that routine vaccination of the nearly 4 million babies born in the US each year may help to prevent about 20 million cases of diseases that they could develop over their lifetime. In fact, over time, successful vaccination campaigns have contributed to the near elimination or elimination of some diseases in the U.S., like polio.

Vaccination is considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements since 1900. NIIW, which is held April 22 – 29 this year, highlights the importance of helping to protect infants from diseases for which there are vaccines and celebrates the achievements of vaccination programs in helping to promote healthy communities.

“Today vaccines can help to protect against 14 diseases before age two,” explains Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., M.S., Executive Director, Merck Vaccines Global Health & Medical Affairs. “Failure to vaccinate may mean putting your children at risk for potentially serious diseases.”

“In the U.S., most young children receive many of the recommended vaccines, but there is room to improve vaccination rates among all groups, including adolescents and adults,” says Bresnitz.

In fact, the CDC has specific recommended vaccination schedules that cover children, adolescents and adults. Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccines that may be recommended for you and your loved ones, and visit www.vaccinesandyou.com to learn more.

This information is provided by Merck.

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Fresh ways to enjoy pizza night and make a balanced meal

(BPT) – You know a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is best for your health, but achieving that can be a challenge given everything you have to accomplish in a day. Daily meal planning doesn’t have to be such a chore if you turn to your freezer for a little help. In fact, starting with frozen prepared foods as the foundation of your dinner plate and adding side dishes with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and/or low-fat dairy can make it possible to serve a balanced meal that is quick and tasty. And that works for pizza night, too!

“Eating a balanced meal doesn’t mean you have to give up favorite foods like pizza,” says Bobby Parrish, Food Network personality and Today contributor. “It just means you need to be mindful of portion sizes and balance out your plate with a nutritious side dish of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains.”

Research shows that Americans struggle with meeting recommended dietary guidelines. In fact, nine out of 10 people don’t get the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say. A simple way to improve the mix of foods you’re eating is by supplementing something you already enjoy — like pizza — with side dishes made up of other food groups.

Nestlé USA’s Balance Your Plate educational program aims to help you put together delicious and nutritious meals that incorporate both frozen and fresh foods. The website www.nestleusa.com/balance provides information, tips and recipes to help consumers create easy, balanced meals that meet dietary guidelines.

By choosing your favorite frozen dishes, like pizza, as the foundation of your meal, you can build a more balanced plate with these tips:

* Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables. For example, if you have a slice of cheese pizza, pair it with a fresh salad or your favorite vegetable side dish.

* Figure out your portion by looking at the recommended Serving Size in the Nutrition Facts label. Here’s an easy idea for pizza portions: picture your hand as a pizza slice and plan to enjoy one or two hands’ worth.

* Don’t be afraid to mix vegetables right into or on top of your pizza. For example, top cheese pizza with fresh tomato and basil after it comes out of the oven.

* Bagged salad greens, spinach or salad kits are a great, speedy way to add greens to your plate.

Parrish, who partnered with DiGiorno to create original side dish recipes, offers these two nutritious and tasty salad recipes to pair with your favorite pizza to create a more balanced meal:

Quinoa and Grapefruit Herb Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked quinoa

1 grapefruit

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped and roasted (optional)

1-2 small carrots, grated

1 tablespoon each of fresh parsley and dill, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil and add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Add 3/4 cups of raw quinoa. Stir well, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Check the quinoa; the water should be absorbed and the grain should be fluffy. If the quinoa has not unraveled, add another 1/4 cup of water and cook until the water evaporates and the quinoa looks cooked. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for up to two hours, or you can make ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.

Place the cooked, cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Using a knife, cut away all the skin from the grapefruit and cut all segments directly into the bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Check for taste; you may need to add more lemon juice. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shaved Apple and Romaine Crunch Salad

Ingredients:

2 hearts of romaine lettuce

1 sweet apple, like gala or pink lady

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon fresh chives, sliced

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

For the salad dressing:

3 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Zest and juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2-4 tablespoons water

Directions:

Use a slicer or mandoline to thinly slice the apple. Place the slices in a large bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over the slices to prevent them from turning brown. Slice the romaine thinly and add it to the bowl along with the remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

For the dressing, add everything but the water to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add enough water to loosen the dressing so it’s able to be poured. Check for seasoning; you may need a little more salt or lemon juice.

Keep the dressing and salad in the fridge until ready to serve. Right before you dress the salad, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a couple cracks of pepper to the romaine mixture. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat everything, making sure not to over-dress the salad. Once the salad is dressed, it must be eaten and cannot be stored in the fridge.

For more recipes, information and meal ideas, visit www.nestleusa.com/balance.

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Keep your teen athlete fueled with these 4 vital tips

(BPT) – High school can be intense, but being a student athlete can intensify expectations.

As the start of spring sports approaches, the stakes are even higher for your student to maintain the success they had first semester. There are practices, matches and conference finals that have to fit in with exams and semester-long projects. Being a standout in the classroom and on the field requires expert-level planning and execution.

That’s where parents play a huge role in helping their teen athletes keep it all in balance. Here are four easy tips to help you ensure that your teen is ready for a great season, on and off the field.

Food: Allison Maurer — a sports dietitian and Gatorade consultant who has worked with high school and collegiate athletes — says, “The important thing to remember is that food is fuel. It gives athletes the energy they need to perform and also helps them recover. When planning your athletes’ meals, look for whole food sources that provide high-quality fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Talk to your athlete about his or her fuel strategy before, during and after practices and games, and offer support by providing healthy, energy rich snacks.”

Hydration: When exercising hard, the body cools itself through sweat. If body mass is reduced by about 2 percent, which would be 3 pounds of water weight loss in a 150-pound athlete, it can negatively affect performance, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s (NATA) Position Statement on Fluid Replacement for Athletes.

“Athletes lose more than water in sweat, so it’s important that they take their hydration seriously since it can impact performance,” Maurer says. “There are a number of products to meet an athlete’s hydration and fueling preferences. For those looking for an organic fueling option, I recommend G Organic, Gatorade’s latest product. It’s made with only seven ingredients and provides the same hydration benefits that athletes expect from Gatorade.”

Rest: Although teens may seem to bounce back easily from a night with too little rest, the truth is that good sleep helps both learning and athletic performance. Sleep helps athletes recover, especially after they’ve pushed their limits in an intense workout. Being rested can also improve reaction time, as well as speed and accuracy. In addition, teens with earlier bedtimes had better grades than those who stayed up later and slept less, according to a study of 3,000 subjects cited by the National Sleep Foundation.

Talk about these benefits with your athlete, and encourage them to go to bed and rise at the same time each day. Also, the glowing light of electronic devices can also interfere with sleep. So, help your teen come up with a strategy to power down an hour or so before bedtime in order to prepare their minds for a night of restorative sleep.

Planning: Schedules have a way of colliding, and this especially happens when a huge test and a game are scheduled for the same day. Each week, sit down with your student athlete and walk through that week’s schedule. Look at practices, games, homework assignments and tests, and create a calendar. That way, if a midterm and a game take place on the same day, he or she can plan accordingly. This will help avoid a late-night, stress-filled cram session that will steal from their performance in the classroom and on the field.

Life as a student athlete means keeping everything in balance. By focusing on the body — from nutrition to time management — athletes can focus on giving their best performance this upcoming season.

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Tips to make goodbyes better for both parent and child

(BPT) – As a parent, you’ve probably experienced the clinging, clutching and crying that often accompany a goodbye when your child returns to day care or preschool after a long holiday break. Separation can be difficult for both children and their parents. Remember, separation anxiety is perfectly normal and can start at any time during the first three years.

The challenge of separation can vary greatly depending on your child’s age, developmental stage, temperament and environment. But there is relief. Child development experts agree families can learn how to ease separation anxiety and manage transitions by developing a predictable routine between the parent and/or caregiver and child — a consistent way to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye helps your child

You may be tempted to sneak out and avoid a scene, but that only tends to make your child more anxious. Creating a consistent and predictable routine will help ease separations that are painful for both of you. The repetition of a goodbye routine will help your child develop a sense of security and facilitate a smoother transition from your presence to your absence and back again.

“Neuroscience has shown that the consistency and predictability will help your child learn to anticipate your return,” says Dr. Victoria Simms, child development specialist and president of the Simms/Mann Institute. “It’s very important for young children to have experiences that promote security. Consistent routines leave a positive imprint on the brain that will help set the stage for easier transitions during times of separation.”

Tips for easing separation anxiety

1. Bring a familiar object from home. Children often find comfort in familiar objects such as a cuddly lovie, toy or blanket. These special items are called transitional objects. By introducing a transitional object early on your child will begin associating it with you and what you represent to them: warmth, comfort, security and most of all, love.

2. Create your own consistent goodbye routines and rituals. Creating a consistent and predictable goodbye routine is key to making transitions easier. Designate a special place in your house where you can focus on each other for a few minutes before saying goodbye. Don’t forget to confidently give your child a hug and a kiss and be on your way.

3. Comfort yourself. When you’re comfortable and calm, your child will feel less anxious and more confident. Remember, thoughtful distress can help you and your child grow and spending the time to say goodbye will enable your child to manage the separation and help your child reconnect with you in a more positive way when you return.

To further help parents and caregivers understand the importance of creating consistent and predictable routines, the Simms/Mann Institute recently launched the CuddleBright(TM) Experience, a product that incorporates all the elements needed to get your goodbye routine off to a strong start.

By integrating the latest neuroscience research and years of child development theories, the CuddleBright(TM) Experience aims to connect and comfort both parents and children during times of separation. The product is specially designed for children ages 0-5 and their parents. It includes a cuddly lovie, a beautifully illustrated board book, “A Cuddle Before I Go,” and a special keepsake heart that will serve as a transitional object for the parent. These items work together to create a loving goodbye routine for both parent and child. In addition, the CuddleBright(TM) Experience includes a parenting guide focused on 18 child development topics that provide tips and strategies for navigating parenthood.

For more information about the CuddleBright(TM) Experience visit www.cuddlebright.com.

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90% child bone mass acquired by age 20 – nutrient packed foods can help

(BPT) – Most people associate bone density and skeletal concerns with advanced age. However, healthy bones form during childhood with the majority of bone density established before kids reach their 20s. Is it time to shift the focus to the early years rather than the later?

Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. What’s more, bone mass peaks by the late 20s for most people, which means at this point bones have reached their maximum strength and density.

Bone is a living tissue and childhood is a critical time to focus on bone health and establish good habits that support skeletal wellness throughout life. Some factors effecting bone mass cannot be controlled, such as gender, race and hormones. Nutrition, on the other hand, can be controlled and is one of the best ways to increase your child’s bone health while teaching them positive eating habits.

Nutrition ideas to boost bone health

Studies show an increase in childhood bone fractures over the past four decades. Experts agree adequate levels of vitamin D and calcium decrease the risk of developing fractures by supporting bone strength. During the winter months, many children are not getting enough vitamin D — an essential vitamin needed for the body to absorb calcium — so it’s an important concern with decreased daylight hours.

Milk is an obvious source of vitamin D and calcium, but for kids with lactose sensitivities or those who don’t like drinking milk, there are other options. In fact, there are many foods that are a good source of both vitamin D and calcium.

Eggs: Eggland’s Best eggs come from hens fed an all-vegetarian diet consisting of healthy grains, canola oil and supplements like alfalfa and vitamin E. As a result, each EB egg has five times more vitamin D, plus three times more vitamin B12, two times more omega-3s, 10 times more vitamin E and 38 percent more lutein compared to ordinary eggs.

Kale: Just one cup of kale has 10 percent of your daily calcium and 133 percent of both your vitamin A and vitamin C needs for the day. If you struggle to get your kids to eat veggies, simply blend kale in a fruit smoothie, make kale chips by baking with garlic and olive oil, or mix cooked kale into spaghetti sauce or an egg frittata mixture to make it a seamless addition.

Figs: Five medium fresh figs have around 90 milligrams of calcium and other bone-healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium, according to WebMD. Dried figs are a good option also, plus are a great natural sweetener for bakery items like cookies. A half cup of dried figs have 120 milligrams of calcium.

Almond butter: Want a bone-boosting alternative to peanut butter for your little one’s toast and PB&Js? Try almond butter! In addition to being a good source of protein, two tablespoons contains an estimated 112 milligrams of calcium and 240 milligrams of potassium.

Tofu: Soft enough that even tots can safely eat it, tofu is considered by some to be a modern superfood. Packed with nutrients, calcium-enriched tofu contains more than 400 milligrams of calcium. Cut into small pieces, saute and add to your kids’ favorite dishes such as macaroni and cheese or scrambled eggs.

“Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient when it comes to good bone health, but it’s also difficult to get the necessary amount through food,” said Tammy Lakatos, a registered dietitian. “That’s why we love Eggland’s Best eggs — they have five times more Vitamin D than ordinary eggs, plus, they’re easy to integrate into your diet, whether in omelets, salads, wraps, casseroles or desserts.”

Want a bone-healthy recipe that both kids and adults will enjoy? Try out this recipe and find more meal inspiration at www.egglandsbest.com.

Easy Pizza with Sauteed Greens, Garlic and Eggs

Ingredients:

4 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 ounces baby spinach, about 10 cups
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) bag refrigerated pizza dough
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Coat a large round baking or pizza pan with cooking spray. Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add the garlic and cook until starting to brown, about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Add the spinach, tossing with kitchen tongs, and cook until wilted, 3 minutes; season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to a sieve or colander set over a bowl and let drain 5 minutes; discard liquid.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 15-inch circle and transfer to the prepared pan. Spread the ricotta evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Top evenly with the spinach then sprinkle with the mozzarella and Romano cheeses. Bake until the crust is lightly browned, 20-22 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook until the whites are just set, about 3 minutes. With a spatula, gently flip the eggs over and cook 30 seconds longer. Top the pizza with the eggs. Cut through the eggs into 8 slices.

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Back to work: Ease your baby into bottle feeding

(BPT) – During your first few weeks with baby, your lives were intimately entwined: eating, sleeping and eating some more. All occurring at erratic, irregular times, and around the clock, might we add.  

As the calendar on maternity leave begins to run out, it’s hard to fathom how this intensive baby schedule is going to fit in with your working life. Now is the time to start planning for your return to work, especially if baby will be eating from a bottle for the first time.

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many moms. About four-fifths of U.S. infants are breastfed at some point, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When babies reach 3 months old, 44.4 percent are exclusively breastfed, and that percentage dips to 22.3 percent by the age of 6 months.

Whether you plan to pump or switch to formula, preparation is the key to ensuring a smooth transition.

Pump and freeze: Two weeks before you return to work is the ideal time to start pumping and freezing extra milk so you have plenty in your supply. Set aside time after one feeding per day to pump, and store the milk in the plastic bags that are designed for use with the pump. If baby is going to a daycare provider, be sure to label them with your last name and the date.

Practice with a bottle: In this two-week period before work, start offering breast milk or formula from a bottle so baby becomes accustomed to this new approach to eating. Some babies aren’t picky, while others will protest. In the latter case, that might be because your baby strongly associates you with food! Before a regular feeding, try leaving for a brief outing while another caretaker stays behind with baby and offers her a bottle. Many parents have found that eventually, with practice, baby will accept a bottle.

Have a supply plan for your child care provider: Talk to your child care provider about what they need from you. If you are providing breast milk, have a conversation about what happens when the supply runs low. Some provide formula, while will require that you send a container or two they can keep on hand for backup. With that in mind, a test feeding at home with formula is a good idea, so you can confirm baby does not have any allergies.

Pumping at work: If you plan to pump, set up a meeting with your boss a couple of weeks before you return to work to plan on how this will fit with your work schedule. One way to do it is to break up your lunch hour into three 20-minute segments, pumping once in the morning and once in the afternoon, which leaves a 20-minute meal break for you. Also, talk about where you can pump, preferably in a clean, private lactation room not far from your work space.

Keep formula on hand: Over the next few months, your baby’s eating habits will emerge and change. Even if your workplace is generous with time and resources to help you stay on your pumping schedule, a busy week can collide with a hungrier than usual baby, which can tax your supplies. Have a couple cans of powdered baby formula on hand so your family is ready in any situation. Consider store brand infant formula, which is just a nutritious and safe as the nationally advertised name brand versions, because all infant formulas sold in the U.S. must meet the same Food and Drug Administration standards and offer complete nutrition for baby. Store brand formula can save families up to 50 percent, or approximately $600 per year. Even if you are already feeding baby with a certain brand formula, switching to store brand formula is safe and well-tolerated in infants, according to “the Switch Study,” a clinical study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia.

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Back to school with diabetes: 5 steps to keep your child safe at school

(BPT) – For parents of children living with diabetes, back to school season includes more than the usual shopping trips for supplies and clothes.

Diabetes management is a 24-hour job. During the school year, your child is spending a large portion of their day in class or participating in extracurricular activities. So it’s critical that you feel confident that school staff members are trained and able to support your child’s diabetes care needs. Most of all, you want your child to feel safe while also having access to the same opportunities as their peers.

You are not alone. There are nearly 210,000 children living with diabetes in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. Here are a few important steps that parents of children with diabetes can take to make sure their kids are safe at school:

1. Know your rights. Get the facts about legal protections at school for your child. Federal laws protect children with diabetes from discrimination. Also, many states have laws in place that include additional safeguards to ensure your child has what he or she needs to be safe and healthy. Discrimination can come in many forms — such as not providing your child with access to diabetes care so he or she may safely participate in extracurricular activities or field trips, and not allowing self-management during the school day. Learn more about your state’s laws and whether they offer protections and guidance in addition to federal law at diabetes.org/kidswin. More information about existing legal protections is also available at diabetes.org/safeatschool

2. Have a written plan. Do you have a Diabetes Medical Management Plan in place for your child? If not, this is a perfect time to ask your child’s health care provider to develop one. Even if you already have a plan, it needs to be reviewed and updated so the school has the correct information.

You should also update or develop your child’s Section 504 Plan, which is an accommodations plan developed for students eligible for protections under Section 504, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. This agreement between the parent/guardian and the school spells out what the school is specifically going to do to make sure your child’s diabetes is safely managed. The plan also identifies who is going to help your child when the school nurse is unavailable.

Students who qualify for services under another federal law — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — will need to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Both of these plans are developed by a coordinator at your child’s school to create clear lines of communication around individual needs and support for your child, from self-management requirements to snacks and supplies. You should contact your school’s 504/IEP coordinator, who is often a school principal, guidance counselor or teacher, to initiate the process or to update your child’s existing plan.

3. Get to know the school nurse or health coordinator. The school nurse or school health coordinator is usually the primary provider of diabetes care for your child. Be sure your child is comfortable with the school nurse and that you have a good line of communication with the diabetes care team at your child’s school. Provide the necessary supplies, including insulin, glucagon, a “low box” (with glucose tablets or juice boxes) and food, and make sure these supplies are in an accessible location.

4. Make sure staff receives diabetes training. While the school nurse should always be the main point of contact for your child’s diabetes care during the school day, there will undoubtedly be times when the nurse is not immediately available or not on the premises. It is very important that additional school staff is trained by a school nurse or other qualified health professional with expertise in pediatric diabetes to provide assistance. These staff members should understand the daily needs of a child with diabetes, know how to identify a diabetes emergency, administer insulin and emergency glucagon, and know when to seek emergency medical assistance.

5. Advocate for self-management. If your child is able and your child’s health care provider approves, your child should be permitted to monitor glucose levels, administer insulin, and carry the necessary supplies needed to self-manage. You know your child’s self-management abilities best, so coordinate with your school administrator to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible throughout the day.

Follow these tips for a smooth back-to-school transition where you can feel at ease, while your child has the freedom to learn and participate alongside his or her peers. 

If you don’t feel comfortable and confident in the care your child is receiving at school, if you feel your child is being treated unfairly or if you want help with developing a written plan, contact the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES for information and guidance from the Association’s legal advocates.

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