Category Archives: Green Health

Clearing Baby’s Stuffy Nose Without a Nasal Aspirator

Baby Selene has been really stuffed up with a cold recently. We had 3 nearly sleepless nights because she kept waking up struggling to breathe due to congestion. Babies, if you don’t know, are considered to be obligate nasal breathers, which means they can only breathe through their noses. Heavy congestion is really uncomfortable for them.

We’d been doing as many parents do, dropping in a couple of saline drops to soften the mucus, then suctioning it out with the aspirator. It works, but made her scream and even gave her a bloody nose one time, poor thing.

Finally, I took her to the doctor last Friday to make sure that the congestion was the only problem we were dealing with. Didn’t want to find out that there was something more going on over the weekend after all. He confirmed that it was indeed all just heavy congestion, and told me a kinder way to clear her nose.

It’s really simple too, so I thought I would share.

You still need the saline drops. In fact, you put in more of those than you would for using the aspirator, and you do both nostrils at once, as I understand it. This is uncomfortable for baby, but only lasts a moment.

As soon as all the drops are over, flip baby onto her tummy, and start gently wiggling her bottom. This will gently move the head too, and the saline and loosened mucus will start coming out on their own.

I advise doing this over a burp cloth or something else you can throw into the wash easily.

We don’t get gobs out this way or anything, but it is so much gentler than the aspirator and sometimes a decent amount of mucus does clear out. Far fewer screams and a much happier baby.

You can do it as often as necessary, as the saline solution is very safe. Just be sure you drop the saline in, not spray it, even though most can do both. The spray is too high a pressure for babies.

I figure this is not too different from using nasal irrigation on myself, which I swear by for colds. Somewhat odd feeling, but it really does the job. Makes sense to me that it helps babies too, even if you can’t go so far as to use a Neti pot on a baby.

Swine Flu Overrated? What a (Non)Surprise!

Somehow I am just not surprised to be reading that swine flu doesn’t look to be any more dangerous than regular flu. Looks like this was more of a panic than a pandemic.

More and more it’s looking like this was only ever a minor issue. Tragic for those who died, but remember that the early reports were only about those who went to the hospital. You don’t go to the hospital for normal cases of flu, meaning that only the worst were being reported. That’s what made this look so bad early on.

Could it get worse? Sure! But it’s not the big issue right now that so many people were fearing.

I live near San Diego, so I’ve paid pretty good attention to the story. For that matter, I, my husband and my son are all getting over some bug or other. My one and only concern with it was that I didn’t want the baby to get it, because my poor son was so miserable coughing, and a 102.5 degree temperature is a problem for an infant. My oldest daughter has only had the lightest of symptoms.

Even in Mexico things are winding down. I truly hope this trend continues. Flu season itself is winding down too.

I know there’s talk that it may be worse next flu season, and if so, that’s the time to deal with it. Right now it’s a maybe. No need to panic about anything right now.

So what should you be doing?

Normal health precautions are perfectly reasonable. You know, wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, stay home when possible while sick. No masks, no disposable gloves, no magical cures. Don’t go running to the ER because you coughed, ate pork or  just want more information. Eat healthy, take supplements if you like.

If it’s going to be a problem next flu season, there’s nothing you can do about it right now unless you’re in that industry.

Consider this a lesson in hype as well as a lesson in being prepared for a disaster. It doesn’t hurt to know what you would do if there really were a hideously deadly pandemic going on. At the same time, don’t fall for the media hype and panic when something’s yet a small issue.

Should You Avoid Food Additives and Coloring?

As a rule, I like to cook from scratch. Mostly because I enjoy it, but also because I like knowing what goes into the foods I feed my family. That’s not to say I don’t allow any packaged foods at all; my husband remains hooked on boxed mac n’ cheese, and so the kids love it too. We also enjoy boxed cereals. But I do what I can to avoid convenience foods and prepared foods.

Frankly, I find obvious food coloring to be pretty gross and unnecessary. We eat so many things that are a very different color from what they would be naturally and have been trained to think that that is how they are supposed to look. Kind of ridiculous when you think about it.

There’s a lot to be said for trying to get away from food coloring. There’s some evidence, after all, that getting certain types of food additives and coloring out of a child’s diet may help with ADHD. Not in all cases, but sometimes there appears to be a connection. If I had a child with ADHD, that is certainly one possibility I would test before using medications.

ADHD isn’t the only problem. As noted in Healthy Child Healthy World , which I reviewed recently, MSG is associated with reactions such as headaches and changes in heart rate. I remember my grandmother being very careful to ask at restaurants about MSG because it gave her so many problems.

I do notice that I feel better when I eat food I made from scratch, and I don’t think that’s just due to liking my own style of cooking. No doubt that’s a part of it, but I firmly believe that there is also something to do with the freshness of the ingredients and lack of preservatives, food colorings and other additives.

I don’t even like to use premade spice blends. Too many of those have too much salt or other ingredients I don’t want.

It doesn’t matter to me that my kids don’t have ADD or ADHD or any other conditions that might be made better by getting additives out of their diets. I don’t need most additives in my food. My kids don’t need them. Neither does my husband, but it doesn’t bother him like it does me. Can’t win all the battles, know what I mean?

Figuring Out Personal Care Products

I came across a very interesting article over on WebMD about the toxins in consumer products. Many people use products that have these in them every day.

Some are pointless at best, such as your typical antibacterial soaps. According to the article, the amount of antibacterial products in household soaps and such are not strong enough to kill the bacteria. Instead, they may only be helping create stronger bacteria.

Regular soaps do the job just as well in most cases. You’re better off avoiding products with triclosan in them. It’s really not helping you, and may be causing environmental damage.

Parabens and phthalates are also all too common. These two act like hormones in your body. Phthalates are hard to spot, as they hide under the name “fragrance”. Parabens are easier to spot as “paraben” will be a part of the word in the ingredient list.

When in doubt, the Skin Deep website is a huge help. It will help you to figure out which products are safer for you. You’ll be able to make more educated purchases for all sorts of personal care products for yourself and your family.

Finding Your Kids’ Favorite Healthy Foods

My kids have some interesting favorite foods. Sugar snap peas probably lead the pack. They are perhaps not the greenest thing to buy, as I have no doubt that we’re getting them out of season, etc., but it’s hard to complain when your children are begging for something so good for them.

I’ve met a lot of parents who are quite envious that my kids like such things. Here’s some of how I figure out which healthy foods make great snacks.

1. Start early.

The sooner, the better. Pediatricians debate whether it works or not, but we started our kids on vegetables before fruits when they were babies. All I know is that we started on pureed green beans, and they’re also still a favorite. Grow them in the garden, and my kids will react as though we’re growing candy.

But even if they don’t like such snacks right away, you can work toward the goal of your kids preferring healthy snacks.

2. Stop keeping junk food around the house.

It may take time to cut things down. Good eating habits take time to develop. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Some unhealthy snacks can be switched out for healthy ones very easily. Make smoothies instead of serving fruit juice or sodas, and pour any excess into popsicle molds. There are tons of smoothie recipes out there, from ones that only use fruit to green smoothies.

Others are more challenging. We haven’t entirely given up candy in our household, although it’s mostly bought for holidays now, and eaten at the rate of 1-2 small pieces a day. It takes forever to get rid of even a small quantity that way, but also satisfies the urges.

3. Start a garden.

Kids generally love eating the foods they have harvested themselves from the garden. We teach our kids which plants they can snack freely from, and which they have to ask permission. Cherry tomatoes and other small varieties are a big hit around here. Sugar snap peas are also popular. Green beans fresh off the vine can be another amazing treat.

Our garden has always had a few simple rules. We point out which plants the kids can eat from freely. Others they have to ask, mostly to make sure that the plants aren’t damaged by overenthusiastic harvesting or to be sure everything can ripen before being eaten.

My kids and most of their friends get pretty much hooked on sweet basil most summers. Always good to be sure they know which leaves can be eaten safely. They’re taught down to the specific plant, so that anything that looks similar elsewhere is still off limits.

4. Buy healthy foods.

You would not believe how furious my kids were when apple prices went up too high for me to buy them apples for a time. It was great. Frustrating, but great.

It’s not easy keeping all the healthy foods local or in season, but do what you can. If you slip on this, at least the foods are better for your kids and quite possibly the environment than any processed snack could be.

5. Don’t give up.

It’s frustrating trying to change anyone’s eating habits. It is not going to happen after a single shopping trip. Take it a day at a time and even a food at a time as needed. Try foods raw as well as cooked in different ways. If something isn’t appealing, put it to the side for a time. Something else may work better.

Forcing a change of habit doesn’t generally work nearly as well as steadily making a change. Keep it up and things will work out.