Friday, December 15, 2017

Tips for Flying with a Baby

Katie Parker, CPNP
From the desk of Katie Parker, CPNP     
Over 93 million people travel over the winter holiday season.  Below are travel safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help keep your family safe while traveling!

Tips for flying with a baby:
*Babies tend to sleep more reliably at nighttime than they do during naptime travel after the first few weeks of life.  If you and your baby can sleep on the plane, a late-night flight may be the right way to go!

*It is recommended that babies have their 2 month vaccinations prior to flying.

Purchasing airline tickets:
*Turbulence is the most common cause of nonfatal injury among passengers and flight attendants. It is recommended that adults, coffeepots, and tray tables all need to be restrained during flight--the AAP believes infants should be no exception.  Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require the purchase of an airline ticket for a child younger than 2 years of age, it is the only way to guarantee that a child safety seat can be used during flight. 

*The FAA recommends the following:
  -A child weighing less than 20 pounds should use a rear-facing child restraint system (CRS).
  -A child weighing between 20 and 40 pounds should use a forward facing child safety seat.
  -The FAA has also approved one harness-type device for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.
  -Check to make sure the CRS is approved for use on an aircraft.  This should be printed on the device itself or on the system's information label.

*Airlines will typically allow families to bring a child's car safety seat as an extra luggage item with no additional luggage expense.  Check the airline's web site ahead of time so you know their policy before you arrive at the airport.

*Contact the air carrier to see if there are discounts available for children's seats.

Traveling with an infant on your lap:
*If it is not feasible to purchase an airline ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats.  Book the aisle and window seats--chances are better that the middle seat will stay open.  In the aisle seat, you will have to pay extra attention to make sure that heads, feet, and limbs do not get bumped by passers-by or service carts.

*Try to book the bulkhead rows located at the front of each aircraft.  There is usually more space in front of you than if you were in the rest of the rows.

*When you check in at the gate, ask the ticketing agent if there are any seats still available.  If there are, chances are good that they will be middle seats and you may be allowed to secure your infant's car seat in the window seat you had reserved for yourself.

Navigating your way through the airport:
*Allow your family extra time to get through security--especially when traveling with younger children.

*Many airlines require that infants without a paid ticket require a boarding pass. 

*Safety regulations now require that you lift your baby out of the car seat--even if the baby is sleeping contentedly.

*Strollers can be brought through airport security and gate-checked to make travel with small children easier.

*Talk to your children about security screening process before coming to the airport  Let them know that bags (including backpack, dolls, etc.) must be put in the X-ray machine and will come out on the other end and be returned to them.

Tips to help save time:
*Avoid parking and try to get dropped off when possible.

*If you do drive, try to "divide and conquer"--have one adult park and the other check in.  Make sure to set a defined meeting place before parting ways.

*Take advantage of modern-day conveniences, such as rolling luggage, Smarte Cartes, and your baby stroller or carrier. 

*Check baby gear at the gate so you will have one less item to lug on board.

Dressing for the flight:
*Dress yourself and your child in easy-on, easy-off layers to be best prepared for whatever in-flight conditions you may face.  Easy access and comfort are key!

Supplies to bring on flight:
*Make sure to carry on diapering supplies, change of clothing, favorite blanket or stuffed animal, and tissues or paper towels.

*Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.

*Bring hand-washing gel and disinfectant wipes to prevent illnesses during travel.

Easing  ear pain:
*Consult your pediatrician if flying within 2 weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.

*Ear pain can be caused by the change in cabin pressure, although many babies never show the slightest sign of discomfort.

*To helps relieve ear pressure, offer a breast, pacifier, or bottle during takeoff and initial descent. 

*Older children can try chewing gum or drinking liquids with a straw.

International travel:
*Check with your doctor to see if your child may need additional vaccines or preventive medications and make sure your child is up-to-date on routine vaccinations. 

*Bring mosquito protection to countries where mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria are present.

Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms.


Shelly Flais, MD

We also encourage you  to check out Dr. Flais' interview in the Daily Herald regarding holiday travel!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Congratulations Dr. Timothy Wall on the 30th anniversary of the founding of Pediatric Health Associates!


From the desk of Rebecca Smeraglinolo, MD      
Rebecca Smeraglinolo, MD

               WINTER IS COMING

That statement may evoke any number of feelings or reactions in us – excitement for holidays or snow sports; dread of the cold, dark days; peacefulness or hope of renewal with the coming of a New Year.

For a parent, it also means it’s time to stock up on Kleenex and clean the humidifier; keep track of matching mittens and boots (I think they’re in on the drive-us-crazy conspiracy to go rogue like the infamous matchless sock in every load of laundry); and sneakily recycle the endless number of holiday toy catalogs that bombard our mailboxes.

For a pediatrician, it’s another season full of safety pitfalls and wellness concerns to address.  So that we may all be safe and well to celebrate and enjoy all that winter has to offer, please keep in mind the following!

-Give some attention to “winterizing” your car.  Keep an eye on your tire pressure, as it can change in cold/dry air.  You may want to stock your trunk with the following: a windshield brush/scraper and a small snow shovel; blankets or extra layers; a first aid kit; jumper cables; a cell phone charger; nonperishable snacks; and a spare tire.  Remember to allow more time for travel; not only does it take extra time to load up your super-bundled kiddos, but the roads can be treacherous.  Take your time! You have precious cargo. 

-Speaking of super-bundled kiddos, remember that car seat straps for infants and toddlers should fit closely to their body.  Cozy seat liners should never be placed between your baby and the back of the seat (although these products are readily available for purchase!), and you should not strap your child in while wearing a puffy coat, snowsuit, or blanket.  Strap them in securely and then wrap extra layers around them as needed. Keep their faces uncovered while in the car.

-Also speaking of super-bundled kiddos, it’s time to layer up! Older infants and toddlers should generally wear one more layer than adults when outdoors.  Mittens are warmer than gloves; hats should cover ears; and piggies need an extra pair of socks on below-freezing days.  Wet gloves and layers will increase the risk of hypothermia, and exposed fingers/noses are vulnerable to frostbite when the temperature or wind chill drops below 15 degrees.  Basically you want your kid to look like Randy Parker from “A Christmas Story” (as in “I can’t put my arms down!”)

-Also also speaking of super-bundled kiddos, bedtime is not the place for extra layers.  As with any time of year, your baby’s crib should never have loose blankets, hats, bumpers, or loose clothing. 

-Consider checking annual lists of unsafe toys.  If you are planning on holiday gift-giving, try to avoid the items most likely to cause harm.  Some of the items on the list are pretty common sense (like crossbows.  Seriously.), but others might surprise you.  Worth perusing the lists. 

-Your home is particularly at risk of fire in the winter! Think holiday candles, cozy fires in the fireplace, extra heat sources… so it’s time to check smoke detector batteries; keep space heaters at least 3 feet from the nearest flammable object such as drapes, sheets, or furniture; consider a chimney inspection and make sure all fire embers are extinguished when you head to bed; consider flameless candles for ambiance and holiday décor; never use a stove or oven for heat; and make sure you don’t overload outlets (I’m looking at you, Clark Griswold.) 

-Watch out for scald risks  – including your coffee, tea, soup, and other seasonal treats meant for your warm your belly – one tip or splash could cause significant harm.  

-Stock your medicine cabinet with some basics – fever-reducer such as Tylenol or ibuprofen (you can check our website for dosing charts); nasal saline rinse; white petroleum to soothe chapped lips/noses; and honey (for your baby older than one).  Remember that most cough and cold medicines are not indicated for age < 6yrs and lozenges can be a choke hazard.  And keep it all child-proofed!

-Enjoy winter sports opportunities… safely. Ice skating – only where approved.  Sledding – not head first.  Snowboarding – wear a helmet.  Snowmobiles – no driving under age 16, no passengers under age 6.

-Eat well! Drink water! Wash your hands! Get sleep! Get a flu shot!  Your child(ren) will probably be sick at least once this season.  Your child(ren) may seem to be sick for the next four months straight.  But do your best to get them some good nutrition and good sleep, keep them updated with vaccinations (including the flu shot!) and call us if you need us.  Remember, cold weather does not cause colds/flu – germs do! So let them get some fresh air, but use the strategies above to keep them cozy. 

Stay warm.  Be well.  Happy Winter to you all!  

2017 Annual Turkey Drive once again is a success!

Jihad Shoshara, MD
Sofia Shakir, MD
Thanks to the efforts of Pediatric Health Associates physicians, five thousand families in need on the South Side of Chicago received free turkeys for Thanksgiving.  The annual Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive is organized by PHA's own Dr. Jihad Shoshara and Dr. Sofia Shakir, and is now in its 17th year.  It distributes Thanksgiving turkeys through Chicago public schools to support them in their mission of educating tomorrow's citizens and leaders.

Last week, Dr. Shoshara and Dr. Shakir took time off of work to oversee the transportation and distribution of 67,000 pounds of turkey at 9 different locations.

On behalf of the recipient families and schools, PHA salutes and thanks all those who supported this year's drive!

For more pictures and stories on the turkey drive please visit

Friday, November 17, 2017

School Lunches: What can we do?

From the desk of Kim Gubbins, CPNP

We are three months into the new school year and do school lunches have you stressed, bored and lacking? Are your kids already complaining about the same old same old and wishing they could just eat hot lunch pizza everyday? So, let’s get inspired and figure out fresh new lunch ideas.

I know schools are working harder at feeding our children a healthier lunch, but let me honest, most school cafeterias are serving pizza, burgers and fried chicken patties on a daily basis. And with 17%-20% of children in the United States being obese, I feel that packing lunch is a significantly healthier option (if possible!). I realize this may not be able to happen on a daily basis for all family situations, but even if it could happen 1-2 days per week, it would be great!

Important considerations when packing school lunch:

1.   Consider the school’s food allergy restrictions. We need to keep all kids safe at school, so make sure you know the school policy on peanuts, tree nuts, etc.
2.   Model my plate! Trying to pack a balanced lunch is important!  (
3.   Think outside of the typical brown bag lunch. A warm, smashed, PB and J on white bread is a thing of the past. Get creative because your children will love it!
4.    If you’re eating well---you are performing well and learning well! Many research studies support this idea. I always tell kids this in the office, “If you parents don’t put gas in the car (good gas that is), the car will not work and your body is the same. It is so important to fuel your body with healthy foods so it is able to work well.”
5.   According to Heidi Goldman from the Harvard Health blog, “At each meal, include foods that deliver some fat, fiber, and protein. The fiber makes you feel full right away, the protein helps you stay full for longer, and the fat works with the hormones in your body to tell you to stop eating.”
6.    Encourage your kids to help in their lunch prep! That will give you an opportunity to empower them to make healthy choices, learn portions and take responsibility.
7.    Think on multiple colors (red peppers, orange melons, green kiwi, etc.) and fun shapes! Using a cookie cutter on a young child's sandwich may make them more apt to try something new.

I have listed multiple websites with tons of creative packed lunch ideas (Hope this helps):