Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Dilemma for Parents: When Work Pressures Compete With Your Child's Health Needs

Research from the University of Bristol indicates that when a younger child’s parents work, there is often conflict between the child's needs and the parents’ job responsibilities. This often leads to continued daycare use, even when the child is ill and potentially able to pass on the illness.

The study, Parents' Choices About Daycare, interviewed parents about their choices and decisions when dealing with their sick children, and whether work responsibilities made it difficult to take
time off to care for them.

The researchers investigated the attitudes of working moms and dads, asking them what they do when their child is ill and scheduled to attend daycare or nursery facilities. The parents were also asked about changes that could affect their decisions.

One finding from the study is that most parents considered a cough or other cold symptoms to be less serious than other illnesses.

"Parents are aware that sending their child to nursery when they are unwell is not always the ideal thing to do, but there are often other factors meaning it is not possible to keep their child at home,” says Dr. Fran Carroll, the study’s lead author and Research Associate at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care. "However, there are some changes that nurseries could make which may help parents with their decisions, and reduce the spread of infectious illnesses in both children and staff in nursery environments."

The Bristol research found parents made decisions based on the childcare facility’s policies, as well as employment issues like lost work time, financial impact, and whether or not they had access to alternative care. Parents in the study pointed out a few care facility practices that, if implemented, could help reduce the problem:
  • Reduction in nursery fees if the child cannot attend 
  • Being able to swap sessions with others 
  • Getting clearer guidance on the facility’s sickness policies
Many companies in the U.S. have adopted new family-friendly practices to help their employees keep a healthy work/life balance. These companies offer flexible schedules, work-from-home options, paid sick leave (usable for family illnesses), and other measures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of U.S. workers work from home at least occasionally. In addition, this appears to be growing; from 2005 to 2012, telecommuting increased 79.7%.

Such family-supportive adjustments are increasingly important in a world where single parents are common, as are households where both parents work full-time. Unfortunately, for many jobs, such as construction, assembly lines, and health services, there is no work-from-home option.

In many cases, the issue preventing proper care is not time, but money. This is why FamilyWize freely distributes its prescriptions savings cards, available through the FamilyWize website or through  partners like United Way. The cards save an average of 42% on prescriptions and can be used nationwide.

Have you faced this issue? How have you handled it? If you have suggestions for other parents facing this work/home balancing act, use the comments below to share your insights.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Boost Your Immunity, Naturally

Cold and flu season is just around the corner. While FamilyWize is proud to partner with organizations like Walgreens to provide free flu shots to communities nationwide, you don't need to wait for a shot to boost your resistance. Read on to learn more about your immune system, as well as suggestions for naturally boosting your immunity.

What is immunity, and why is it important?

Your immune system, via your lymphatic system, removes toxins from your body, wards off infections, and helps fight illnesses. For more information on the lymphatic system, read our previous blog post on the subject.

Immunity is central to your overall health, as it affects when and how you get sick as well as how quickly you recover. Children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and individuals under stress can benefit the most from immunity boosters; however, a healthy immune system is important to everyone.

What are some healthy living strategies?

While research is still underway regarding the connection between lifestyle and immunity, this Harvard study suggests the following lifestyle strategies:
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Do not smoke

How can I boost my immune system?

According to herbalist Brigitte Mars, there are natural remedies that may be beneficial to your immune system. For example:
  • Ginger: Consuming ginger may help with colds as well as nausea. Drink ginger tea, or add ginger to cooked dishes for maximum benefits.
  • Mushrooms: Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are known for their positive effects on your immune system. Add them to soups, salads, and stews for an easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
  • Cayenne pepper: This spice contains vitamin C, and may help relieve pain and congestion associated with sinusitis. You can add cayenne pepper to warm water for a therapeutic drink, or season prepared dishes with it.
Additional suggestions for maintaining good health and a healthy immune system:
  • Wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, to combat germs
  • Consider taking probiotics. Studies show gut health is at the root of immunity
  • Get enough sunlight, or take vitamin D. Check with your healthcare provider to determine if vitamin D is appropriate for you, and in what dosage
Where can I learn more?

Check out sites such as the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases for more details about your immune system. And remember to always consult your healthcare provider before taking anything to boost your immune system, even natural ingredients or remedies.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What Do You Need to Know?

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a mental health condition that may affect you, a family member, or a friend who has experienced or witnessed a traumatizing event. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) may happen during the first month after a traumatic event has occurred. PTSD occurs after this initial phase, and can often continue long-term.

What are the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Signs and symptoms of PTSD may include, but are not limited, to the following:
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in personality and activities
  • An inability to maintain one's typical routine, such as attendance at work or school, or relationships
Who may PTSD affect?

According to experts, PTSD most often affects:
  • Servicemen and servicewomen
  • Cancer survivors
  • Sexual assault victims
  • Individuals who have witnessed others dying, or those who have been exposed to injury or the threat of injury
  • Those who have faced or are facing repeated stressful situations in their lives
How is post-traumatic stress disorder treated?

Treatment options for PTSD may include a combination of the following:
  • Talk therapy, which is also called cognitive therapy.
  • Guided eye movements: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a process that may help alleviate the symptoms experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
  • Exposure therapy: A coping mechanism that allows an individual suffering from PTSD to safely face what’s frightening him or her.
  • Medication: Antidepressants and antianxiety medications have been used to help manage PTSD.
Why does PTSD occur?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur based on a complicated mix of:
  • Your brain’s response to situations.
  • Your individual temperament, which is a personality trait that you inherit.
  • A collection of experiences in your life, from childhood to present.
  • A predisposed risk of anxiety and depression.
4 types of post-traumatic stress disorder:
  1. Intrusive memories: These include dreams and flashbacks that remind you of the incident.
  2. Avoidance: Staying away from places, people, or activities that remind you of the occurrence.
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and changes in relationships.
  4. Changes in emotional reaction, known as arousal symptoms. These include:
    • Being easily startled or frightened.
    • Behavior such as drinking and reckless driving.
    • Sleep difficulties.
How is PTSD diagnosed and treated?

Seeking the support of family and friends can be helpful for managing stress and anxiety in the short-term. however, PTSD is a serious condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a trained medical professional, who will evaluate signs and symptoms and decide on the most effective treatment.  Medications to combat feelings of anxiety and depression may be prescribed, as well as several psychotherapy techiques such as cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR.

Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event doesn’t have to lead to a life-long disorder. With the proper help and support, sufferers of PTSD can learn to manage their anxiety and regain a sense of control, allowing them to maintain normal lives without high levels of stress.

To learn more about PTSD, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Be On the Lookout for Vision Problems In Your Children

Did you catch the news story about the two-year-old who had likely had been blind in one eye since birth, yet the blindness had not been realized by his parents until doctors recently identified it? Such late identification of eyesight problems is not as rare as you might hope. This event highlights two facts about children and vision problems:
  • Though rare, eyesight problems can arise at a very young age, or exist from birth.
  • Vision problems in small children often go undetected and undiagnosed.
The younger your child is, the harder it can be to know if there are issues with their eyesight. This is especially a problem before your child is able to speak and express themselves verbally. 

However, even when children develop verbal skills, they may not realize they have a problem, as a vision issue they’ve lived with since birth may be perceived by them as normal.

Eye or vision problems that may arise during your child’s prelingual phase of development, if treated early, might be more easily treated (or even cured) than if the problem goes unrecognized for years.  For this reason, you need to be the eyes for your child, looking for signs of vision problems and taking action if you think something is wrong.

Preventing eyesight problems in your child

If you follow the recommended timing and schedule for getting your children’s eyes examined, many vision problems will be identified early. The American Optometric Association (AOA) advises having your baby get its first eye exam when they are six months old, even if there are no obvious vision problems.

The AOA recommends early and more frequent eye exams whenever:
  • Your child has a family history of eye disease.
  • Your child has strabismus – eyes that are turned out or crossed.
  • Your child was born prematurely or has a low birth weight.
  • Your child has had any developmental delays.
  • Your child already wears eyeglasses.
  • The child’s mother had an infection when she was pregnant.
Beyond optometric or pediatrician visits, you can help your child develop normal, healthy vision by engaging in activities that align to normal eyesight development phases.  This could include talking to them while you move about the room (which trains them to use the eyes to keep an eye on you) and to change up which side you feed your child from. See the AOA’s What Parents Can Do to Help With Visual Development for more activities that stimulate normal vision development.

Identifying symptoms of vision problems in younger children

To keep an eye on developing eye and vision problems, the AOA advises parents to look for the following in their infant: light sensitivity (which may by a sign of unusual eye pressure), high amounts of tears (often indicative of tear duct blockage), eyes that frequently turn (a sign of eye muscle control problems), encrusted eye lids (suggests the presence of infection), or a white pupil – the part of the eye that is normally black. The whiteness can be a cancer sign.

What to do if you suspect your child has eyesight problems

Even if it’s not yet time for your child’s regular eye exam, see your optometrist or family doctor right away if the child has any of the telltale symptoms noted above. Like with all other medical conditions, the early a problem is spotted, the easier it is to treat.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Counting the Cost of Raising a Child

USDA Estimates the Cost of Raising a Child at Nearly a Quarter of a Million Dollars

It’s tried-and-true advice to count the cost of something before making a commitment. Recent projections by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that the cost of raising a kid – a big commitment – is on the rise.

In a 2014 USDA annual report, Expenditures on Children and Families, calculations indicate that a middle income family with a 2013 newborn should expect to spend about $245,340 – nearly a quarter million dollars! – on raising that child up to age 18. The annual child-rearing expenses for that same family ranged from $12,800-$14,970, depending on the age of the child.

The calculations the USDA used include:
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Child care
  • Education
  • Other common child-rearing expenses
While this represents an overall 1.8% increase from 2012, the percentages spent on each expenditure category remain about the same, with housing representing the largest piece of the pie.  This image shows the breakdown:

The cost estimates did not include expenses that you might want to include in your own calculations, such as the actual cost of pregnancy, or any expenses commonly incurred after age 18, such as higher education.

When it comes to cost, where you live matters

Want to raise your kids for less? Move to the south. Even better: move from the city to the country.

As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and particularly in the rural regions of the country ($193,590).

Cheaper in the past? You bet’cha!

How have things changed? While it likely comes as no surprise that child-rearing costs have risen over the decades, the total change is remarkable.

The USDA began tracking these statistics in 1960, back when the average expenditures on raising a child for a middle income, husband-and-wife family amounted to $25,229. Factoring in the cost of living, that would amount to $198,560 in 2013 dollars. But in 2013, that cost per child was actually 24% higher, at $245,340.

Cheaper by the dozen

Predictably, families spend less per child when there are more children in the household, as a result of economies of scale and the necessity of dividing the same income among more family members.

For example, when comparing husband-and-wife households, a single child family will spend 25% more per child when compared to a two child family. And those with three or more children spend an average of 22% less per child.

How much you earn makes a difference

The report notes that family income affects child-rearing costs. From birth up to age 18:
  • A family earning less than $61,530 per year can expect to spend a total of $176,550 (in 2013) on a child.
  • Middle income parents with an income between $61,530 and $106,540 can expect to spend $245,340.
  • A family earning more than $106,540 should expect to spend $407,820. 

Controlling those costs

Since food is among the top three child-rearing expenses, how do you meet the challenge of providing food that is tasty, healthy, and yet affordable? Here is a resource to help with that: the website, featuring food purchasing and meal preparation tips to help you serve nutritional and affordable meals for your family. What you’ll find:
  • The Healthy Eating on a Budget section, with tips and materials to make healthy choices while staying within your budget.
  • 10 Tips: a nutrition series with a wealth of suggestions to help you get started toward a healthy diet.
  • Recipes: an interactive tool to help with healthy meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping.
  • MyPlate Kids' Place: A section for children, with online kids’ games to get them engaged in healthy eating.
These USDA statistics are useful, not only for giving families with children an indication of expenses they might want to be prepared for, but also as a valuable resource for state governments in determining child support guidelines in foster care payments.

Having a child will be one of the biggest commitments you'll ever make, but it will also be one of the most rewarding. By knowing the costs in advance and preparing accordingly, you can help ensure your child will be well provided for.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

5 Common Vaccine Myths Squashed!

Vaccinating children has been a controversial topic for years, and it’s no wonder. Up to 23 shots can be given by the time a child is two years old, with as many as 6 shots administered during just one visit. However, there is a great deal of misinformation out there right now regarding their safety and effectiveness; to clear the air regarding vaccines, check out five of the most common myths surrounding them below.

Myth #1: Autism is caused by vaccines

Autism is still a mystery, but many believe the link to vaccines is unwarranted.

  • A study that appeared in The Lancet started the notion that vaccines cause autism. That study has since been discredited; follow-up studies don’t show any direct connection between autism and vaccines.
  • Symptoms of autism are often present much earlier than a child’s first vaccines.
  • Autism may develop before a baby is born, long before vaccines come into the picture.
Myth #2: Vaccines overload a baby’s immune system

In fact, compared to the bacteria in the food they eat, or the dust particles in the air they breathe, vaccines are a relatively insignificant challenge for a baby’s immune system.

  •  Even if all vaccines were given at one time (although they’re not!), a child’s immune system could handle it.
  • Since cells in the body are constantly replaced and replenished, the immune system can never really be overwhelmed.
  • Modern vaccines are more efficient than ever before.
  • Today’s vaccines expose children to fewer immunologic components, that is, proteins and sugars, than ever before. Check out this site for more info. 
Myth #3: Natural immunity beats vaccines

Natural immunity means you actually catch a disease and get sick from it. In some cases, relying on natural immunity can be dangerous, even deadly. For instance, in the case of measles, you would face a 1 in 500 chance of death if you relied on natural immunity. However, only 1 in 1 million individuals have suffered from severe allergic reaction to the actual vaccine.

Myth #4: If other kids are being vaccinated, yours don’t need vaccines

This is not true, due to a concept known as “herd immunity.” Not only do vaccines work by preventing your child from contracting a disease; they also help to prevent the spread of disease. This concept, known as herd immunity, recognizes that vaccines work, but that the number of children who receive them is crucial to their overall effectiveness.

Myth #5: Major diseases have already disappeared so vaccines aren’t necessary

Many of the diseases you no longer hear about have disappeared, in part due to vaccines. If everyone stopped vaccinating their children, there is a chance many of these diseases could reappear. Consider:

  • Unvaccinated children can still get diseases.
  • Children can bring diseases and illnesses home to other individuals in a household. Those especially at risk include babies and infants, individuals with a compromised immune system, and the elderly.
  • People travelling from other countries can bring diseases and illnesses with them, even if those conditions haven’t been seen here in the U.S. for years.
As with any decision that affects your child’s health, speak with your doctor or healthcare provider regarding the pros and cons of vaccinating. Check out for additional information, myths, and most recent findings.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit baby – it benefits mommy, too!

Every new mom knows the decision about whether to breastfeed her baby is an important one. But many new moms are not aware that while breastfeeding offers benefits for the baby, there are benefits for her, too. Before you make a decision about breastfeeding, check out these facts.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding your baby? Breastfeeding:

  • Provides great nutritional value. Colostrum, the “first milk” produced, is rich in nutrients and antibodies. Mature milk is made up of the perfect formula of fat, sugar, water and protein for your baby.
  • Protects against numerous childhood illnesses and infections.
  • Lowers risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Lessens chance of developing Type 1 diabetes and some allergies.
  • Creates physical and emotional bonding with mother.
  • Breastfed children are less likely to become overweight or obese.
  • There is a correlation between breastfeeding and better cognitive development in school-age children.

What types of illness and infections does breastfeeding protect against?

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Ear infections
  • Eczema
  • Gastrointestinal challenges, specifically NEC, or necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Leukemia (childhood)
  • Lower respiratory infections
How do moms benefit from breastfeeding?

  1. Improved healing and less blood loss after giving birth.
  2. Better weight loss after having a baby.
  3. More opportunities for emotional bonding with baby.
  4. Lowered risk of postpartum depression.
What health conditions may breastfeeding lower risk for in moms?
  • Certain types of breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
What are the economic benefits of breastfeeding?

According to the government's MedlinePlus website:
  • Breastfeeding can save hundreds of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent on infant formula.
  • Better overall health of breastfed infants could mean less need for medical services.
  • Healthier breastfed infants could result in parents who take fewer sick days to stay home and care for ill infants.
  • Fewer premature deaths of breastfed infants could mean a savings associated with the funeral costs as well as lost workdays for parents.
Reasons women don’t breastfeed:
  • Mom works outside the home. Check out this link for workplace solutions. 
  • Believes it will be too time-consuming. In fact, breastfeeding can be a quick and easy solution to feeding your baby. 
  • Baby has health challenges. Speak with your doctor or health care provider.
  • Mom has health challenges and/or takes medication. As is the case if your baby has health challenges, consult with your doctor or health care provider in this case. 
While breastfeeding may seem challenging at first, experts agree it can actually become easy once you develop a routine. Consider:

  1. There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize.
  2. There is no need to purchase, make and mix formula.
  3. No bottles to warm.
  4. Breastfeeding allows you to feed your baby immediately.

Where can you find help and support?

There are many types of assistance and support available regarding breastfeeding. Visit this site for information regarding help and support.

Breastfeeding offers numerous health, economic and emotional benefits to both baby and mom. With the help and support available, new moms should consider this method of feeding and relish the benefits it provides!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Survey Says: Consumers are leaving money at the pharmacy counter

We recently conducted a survey where we asked 1,000 consumers about their spending, shopping, and savings habits when it comes to purchasing prescription medication. The results revealed that while a majority of people taking prescription medication and are interested in saving money, only a small percentage has actually attempted to do so at the pharmacy.

Over 65% of respondents said that they take at least one prescription, and 50% said that they fill at least ten per year. And over half – 59% - are spending $150 or more on their medication on an annual basis. For many people, this price can be too high to pay, and even skip their medication because they can’t afford it.

With an estimated 80-100 million Americans currently uninsured (and many millions more who are underinsured), it’s not surprising that people are spending too much.

The survey also brought to light the harsh reality around the limited awareness regarding prescription savings options.

The FamilyWize card saves an average of 42% on prescriptions, and in many cases gives a deeper discount than insurance – but only 18% of people have ever even tried to use a savings card. That’s the equivalent of 4 out of 5 people never using coupons or looking for deals when they shop for groceries.

Why are so many people missing out? Awareness could be a key issue. Only half or the consumers polled had ever heard of prescription savings cards, meaning there are many people out there who are missing a chance to save simply because they don’t know that it’s out there.

What can we do to change this? We can start by spreading the word. FamilyWize works with partners like United Way, the American Heart Association, and the NCOA to increase awareness about the savings offered by FamilyWize. By working together, we can strengthen communities nationwide.

Know someone who you think might be spending too much for prescriptions? Print out a free card for them at, or direct them to the free FamilyWize app, available on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phones.