Children's Health

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Health Experts Say There’s Still Time for a Flu Shot

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reminds residents it is not too late to receive influenza vaccine to prevent getting the flu. Influenza activity has increased to a level where it is now widespread throughout L.A. County, which is earlier than this has happened in previous seasons. “Influenza typically peaks in January and February and can linger well into the spring, so vaccination for anyone over 6 months...

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HPV Vaccine

Some Kids Need Just 2 Doses of HPV Vaccine Say Cancer Centers

The University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and its fellow 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers voiced their support last week for recently revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. These guidelines recommend that children ages 11 and 12 should receive two doses – rather than the previously recommended three – of the HPV vaccine. Adolescents...

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kids' diet

Cutting Sugar in Your Kids’ Diet

Over the summer, while kids were bingeing on screen time and ice cream and parents were counting the days until school would start again, a panel convened by the American Heart Association was putting the finishing touches on a scientific statement about children and sugar, published in August in the association’s journal, “Circulation.” The panel’s recommendations were simple and stark: Children under age 2 should not eat or drink any...

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6 Free Workouts for L.A. Families

Whether your goals for 2017 involve a narrower waistline, speedier 5K or just a longer and happier life, they’ll be well served by getting out and getting active with your family. Though the Southland has no shortage of gym memberships and specialty fitness classes, it also offers plenty of free – and fun! – workouts you and your kids will love. This might sound great when the fresh calendar year...

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kids mental health

Protecting Adolescents’ Mental Health with Screenings

Doc Talk: Tips & Advice  If your child is 12 or older and you visit the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with a medical issue, you’ll likely be asked to leave the room for 2-3 minutes so the doctor can administer a mental-health screening. Dr. Alan Nager shares about the program he created. When and why did you begin these screenings? About four years ago. The American Academy...

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air quality

This Mom Wants to Clear the Air

Lizette Hernandez takes clean air personally. She has rushed her son, Kimani, to the hospital in the middle of the night because he couldn’t breathe. And she works to keep his asthma controlled with medication and nebulizer treatments. “Kids are among the most vulnerable to air pollution,” says Hernandez, who is Southern California lead organizer for the Sierra Club’s My Generation program. Studies show pollution impacts children’s lungs, brain development...

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preventing cavities

What You Need to Know About Dental Sealants

Have your child's molars been sealed? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this fall reported that dental sealants can reduce cavities by up to 80 percent during the first two years after they are applied, by up to 50 percent for the two years after that, and continue working for as long as nine years. CDC Director Tom Frieden even proposed school-based sealant programs so that more...

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When Kids Swallow What They Shouldn’t

During the holidays, many children get their hands on things they shouldn’t. When parents are distracted with cooking, eating, drinking and chatting, no one sees the 2-year-old wander into Grandma’s bedroom to find the candy dish of pills on the dresser. This season, take preventive steps at home and in homes you are visiting. Keep medications and other dangerous substances in their original packaging (with child-proof caps if possible). Store...

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kids' health

AAP’s New Sleep Recommendations Say Rooming-In is Best

Infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents – but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, and never on a couch, armchair or soft surface – to decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths, according to a new policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics Oct. 24. “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” draws...

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children's health

Protect Your Family With Flu Shots

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is reminding everyone 6 months of age and older to get an annual flu vaccine. Flu shots will be available at no cost to residents at Public Health Centers, L.A. County libraries and more than 100 community vaccination events throughout the county. Flu vaccination is also available at community clinics, pharmacies or through regular healthcare providers. The nasal spray vaccine, which has...

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asthma in children

Understanding Asthma

Flu season generally brings a spike in asthma cases – although asthma can occur year-round – and parents are often confused about this number-one chronic illness of childhood. Educating yourself about asthma is important, because asthma does kill. Your child is more likely to have asthma if others in your family have it, or if they have allergies or eczema. And you have to know asthma well to manage it....

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positive parenting

Practice, Not Perfection: Mindfulness Meditation for Kids

Meditation is a simple tool that can help kids develop focus and feel more calm.  And it can be enjoyable. Parents can meditate with kids in playful ways that create safe space for emotions to surface and imaginations to be set free. But getting there takes some practice. Mindfulness practice and meditation are different for kids than for adults, but their purpose is the same: to build awareness by taking...

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Go Get Their Eyes Checked

Optometrist Julie Forister was visiting South Coast Botanic Gardens with her family one day this summer. The mom of three was glad her 2-year-old daughter wasn’t interested in the Pokémon Go Takeover event that had taken over the lovely space – but that wasn’t the case for everyone. “Everybody was staring at their phone instead of looking at the pretty flowers in the garden,” Forister says. Now that the school...

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positive parenting

How Your Kids Can Mindfully Succeed At School

Mindfulness and focusing have the potential to help children achieve school success with peace. I am talking about not just your peace of mind as a parent, but peace and ease for your children if they are experiencing aversion towards school or homework. Mindfully focusing at school can help students get through their day with greater ease and success. The effect of mindfulness on the brain supports increased memory, positive...

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UCLA Doc Offers Tips on Preventing School Sports Injuries

Back to school means back to sports – and the risk of injury that comes with them. “Being aware of the injury potential of your sport and proactively seeking ways to prevent such injuries is critical,” says Dr. Jennifer Beck, a pediatric sports medicine physician at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. Every sport has its own inherent risks, but one competitive sport – cheerleading – often is overlooked. “There’s increasing...

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Parenting & Eating Disorders in Kids: When Healthy Goes Too Far

You’ve heard medical experts extol the virtues of healthy eating. You’ve been told to keep your children away from sugar, salt and processed foods, and have started to focus on healthy eating and nutrition for yourself and your child. With all this attention to healthy eating, you’ve certainly helped safeguard your child’s health. Or have you? Is it possible you’ve put them at risk? Unfortunately, when the focus on healthy...

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When Do Children Ask ‘What If’?

You’re on the freeway and the driver in front of you slams on the breaks. You can’t avoid rear-ending the car. Still, as you pull over, you sigh with relief that the accident wasn’t serious. And maybe you are a little more cautious on your next commute. This is an example of counterfactual reasoning or “what if” thinking. It helps us feel regret when things could have gone better, relief when they could have...

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Doc Talk: Treating Insect Stings 101

This summer, the buzz about mosquitoes and Zika virus will no doubt continue. But Southern California kids are much more likely to encounter bees, wasps, hornets or yellowjackets. All carry venom that can cause problems ranging from a slight nuisance to anaphylaxis and death.  First-aid starts with removal of the stinger. Flick it out with a credit card or your finger. Don’t pull it, grab it or tweeze it, or...

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community news

Community News: A Tween With An Open Heart

Noah Bella Michaelis may seem like your ordinary 12-year-old. She loves her pet dog, Finn, and pet tortoise, Escher; enjoys reading and collects miniature figurines. She was born with complex congenital heart disease and has had four open-heart surgeries since birth, but what is really extraordinary about Michaelis is her spirit. This indefatigable sixth grader has raised more than $65,000 for the Hopeful Hearts Foundation – a nonprofit that provides...

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Doc Talk: Why You Should Learn CPR

The 2-year-old male was eating grapes when he began to choke. Choking is a common hazard for this age group, and can cause cardiac arrest (when the heart suddenly stops beating), brain damage and death. Fortunately, by the time this boy reached the emergency department his mother had already saved his life. She cleared his airway and performed CPR until help arrived. This is an essential skill for a parent...

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7 Strategies for Your Child’s Bad Mood

Everyone has a bad mood now and again – and that includes our kids. But if your child is grumpy or blue on a regular basis, it’s no fun for the family or for your child. And it could be a sign that your child needs help. I talked with clinical psychologist David Miklowitz, director of the UCLA Child & Adolescent Mood Clinic and author of “The Bipolar Teen” and...

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Does Your Child Have a Mood Disorder?

You already know that children and adolescents are highly emotional beings. You’ve seen first-hand how their moods can shift quickly and dramatically. Your toddler might throw himself onto the grocery store floor in anger because he can't have the cereal he wants. Your teen might begin the day talkative and cheerful, but go silently to her room after school, slamming the door behind her. And you are left to wonder:...

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Doc Talk: Treating Cuts and Lacerations

You probably call them “cuts,” but I call them “lacerations,” even at home. Most doctors do. Whatever you call them, properly treating cuts is important. If a laceration has significant bleeding or is obviously serious, immediately apply direct pressure with a clean cloth or towel and go to the emergency department or call 9-1-1. If the injury looks like something you might be able to treat at home, first wash...

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Green Beauty and Home Care Products For Your Family

We all want to avoid exposing our families to harmful chemicals, whether they come in the form of airborne environmental toxins, pesticides in our food or toxic ingredients in our personal-care and household-cleaning products. The biggest offenders may be petrochemicals, which are derived from petroleum, oil and coal and have been linked to birth defects, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity and cancer. These widely used offenders can be found in just about...

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Doc Talk: Communicating With Your Doctor

When parents call their pediatrician’s office or emergency services when needing help with an illness or injury, they aren’t always ready with the information the person on the other end of the line will need. When you call your doctor’s office, keep in mind that the person on the phone is trying to figure out whether they need to make your child an appointment for later in the week, fit...

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Ace Your Next Well-child Checkup

Before they turn 3, kids are supposed to have 10 well-child visits with a pediatrician (apart from those inevitable visits for childhood illnesses). These should offer a chance to address the many questions parents of young children face, but time with the pediatrician is often less than 15 minutes – hardly enough time to cover even the basics. To make the most of that time, be prepared. Before your child’s...

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belvedere middle gets fitness center

UCLA Health Gives Belvedere Middle Fitness Center, Hope

The damning statistics about childhood obesity are not as much fun to report as good news about programs that support physical activity for kids' health. This good news comes courtesy of UCLA Health's Sound Body Sound Mind, which just donated a $50,000 state-of-the-art fitness center to Belvedere Middle School in East Los Angeles. Belvedere is one of seven L.A.-area schools chosen to receive a new fitness center this year. The program...

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Doc Talk: Calming Your Child’s Fears

When you bring your child to the emergency department or the doctor’s office, you are there to get help. But children in these situations face many common fears. Hospitals and doctors’ offices have lots of ways to comfort kids, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for this help. You can help as well. Kids live in a world of distraction and imagination, so use that to comfort them. Doctors and...

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Eyeing Digital Device Safety

Nearly 64 percent of parents spend more than five hours a day looking at digital screens. And if we’d put down our smart phones and tablets long enough, we would notice that our kids are right behind us, with 65 percent connected two hours a day or more. Those figures are from a recent report by The Vision Council, a vision care industry group. The report, “Eyes Overexposed: The Digital...

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There’s Still Time For Flu Shots

Even as L.A. County officials reported the first deaths of the 2015-16 flu season in mid-January, health experts reminded families that it isn’t too late to protect themselves by getting a flu shot. Both of the deaths occurred in people – a man in his 40s and a woman in her 90s – with pre-existing health problems, but pregnant women and very young children are also especially vulnerable. “Even though...

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CDC Issues Travel Warning for Pregnant Women

Planning a “babymoon” cruise to the Caribbean or a Mexican getaway? Take note of a CDC travel alert that is especially directed at pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant traveling to countries where Zika virus has become a threat: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This alert follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly...

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Wellness, Didi Hirsch

Local Center Wins Grant For Disaster Distress Helpline

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ Suicide Prevention Center, one of only three in the U.S. with 24-hour English- and Spanish-speaking crisis counselors, won a highly competitive federal grant to continue operating the national Disaster Distress Helpline. The free, confidential helpline provides 24-hour crisis support services for people struggling emotionally because of natural or man-made disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms, drought and incidents of mass violence. The...

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Doc Talk: Being a Good Observer

This time of year, we see many children in the emergency department and in our urgent care center who have one of the seasonal viruses that are going around. But visiting an emergency department, or your pediatrician’s waiting room, can expose your family to viruses that will make your child sicker, or make you sick. That is a good reason to learn about which illnesses you can manage at home,...

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She Battled Cancer With a Smile

If Vivian Bui follows her chosen career path of becoming a pediatric oncologist, establishing empathy for her patients should not be a challenge. She knows exactly what cancer patients experience. At 15, Bui has gone through five rounds of chemotherapy and 39 rounds of radiation to treat nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a cancer of the upper throat behind the nose. She began her battle with cancer a year after being diagnosed with...

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How To Get Your Baby’s Eyes Checked – Free

“Ten fingers, ten toes,” are often the words you hear from the delivery room nurse, telling you there are no serious problems with your baby's health. Whew! The baby's crying. The lungs are fine. The nurses go on with their routine physical evaluation, making sure your baby has made it through the birth process in excellent shape. Once your new family is back home, you start to track your baby’s...

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Are Those Toys Safe, Ducky?

The baby board book, featuring lots of colors and textures meant to stimulate developing brains, was labeled “organic.” Josh Kasteler tested it anyway, and found that the packaging contained such a high level of phthalates – chemicals widely believed to disrupt hormone levels – that it contaminated the book as well. Kasteler, a biochemist and molecular biologist who founded Santa Monica-based Safe Ducky ( in June, tests toys and other...

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Tips For Health Insurance Open Enrollment

If you dread your health insurance plan’s open enrollment period, with its fine print to read and new plans to ponder, Elizabeth Abbott can tell you why. “The reason it’s hard is that you know it’s important,” says Abbott, director of the California Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA). “This is a decision that has consequences for you and your family.” You shouldn’t put this decision off until the last...

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This Service Brings Healing To Your Home

Renee Dua is a doctor – and a busy L.A. mom of two. And after an exceptionally long night in a hospital emergency room with her infant, to receive medical attention for something that any pediatrician could have handled, she’d had enough. “We spent eight hours of our day sitting there,” Dua says. So in mid-February she founded Heal, a service that brings doctors to see patients at home. All...

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My City Bikes App Is Health On Wheels

There are lots of reasons for you and the kids to hop on a bike – whether for the ride to school and work, or just for some family fun. The city where nobody walks is really quite bikeable, but taking to two wheels can be daunting for beginners. A new app is designed to make it easier. “It’s really common for people to just kind of be at a...

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Detecting Body-Image Issues In Your Teen

What does your teen see when he or she looks in the mirror? “Body image” is how we describe what people believe about their outward appearance, how they feel about their bodies and how they sense and control their movements. Issues can occur when teens start showing signs of a negative body image, perceiving their bodies as something other than reality, convinced that their size or shape is a personal...

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Emotional Health Begins In the Womb

Our experiences in the womb, during birth, and as young babies set in motion physical, mental, emotional and relational patterns that can have a profound and lifelong impact. Babies in the womb are conscious and aware of – and respond to – the outside world. So, how do we communicate with our “inside babies”? According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of Silent Messages, 70 to 90 percent...

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Protect Your Kids’ Eyes From Digital Device Strain

The new babysitter on the block is the iPad, the cell phone, the Nintendo handheld. We hand them to our kids nearly as soon as our kids can grasp them. And who can blame us? The kids want the devices. They are fascinated and enraptured by them. We even tell ourselves they are educational devices. And it works. Our kids sit quietly in one place and play. However, we have...

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Strike a Balance To Keep Kids Hydrated

When Alan Nager, MD, Director of Emergency Medicine and Transport at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, commutes to work, he passes at least eight Starbucks and various other purveyors of caffeine along the way. “In summer, half the people there are adolescents,” he says. Nager, like many experts, says that drinks with caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol, sodas and drinks with lots of sugar in them aren’t great for kids. They can...

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New Tool Let’s Swimmers Know If Beach Water is Safe

The unusual rainstorm over the weekend means lots of water washing through L.A. storm drains and down to the ocean, where the bacteria and pollution the storm water brings with it makes the water unsafe for swimming. Currently, local health agencies use laboratory analyses of water samples collected at the beach to determine if it is safe for recreational use. Unfortunately, it takes 24-48 hours to collect the samples, transport...

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Your Child’s Brain on $150,000 a Year

We know that lots of things shape children’s brains – reading to them, letting them play outdoors, teaching them to play music. Now a new study, the largest of its kind to date, has found a relationship between family income and children’s brain structure. Looking at the brains of more than 1,000 typically developing kids ages 3 to 20, researchers found that the brains of those growing up in households...

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Children’s Health: Parents Still Push For Vaccine Delays

As winter turned to spring this past month, the state of California had confirmed 133 cases of a disease that was declared eliminated from the U.S. 15 years ago – measles. The well-publicized outbreak, which began in December and was traced to Disneyland, was proclaimed a wake-up call about lagging vaccination rates among the state’s children. But a national survey published online March 2 in Pediatrics found that many parents...

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Colds vs. Flu: Fever Makes a Difference for Children’s Health

Cold and flu season is upon us, and that means it’s time to invest in a good thermometer to help protect your children's health. That’s the advice of pediatrician Tanya Altmann, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. Tracking fever can help you tell whether your child has a cold (more common) or the flu (potentially more serious). Colds typically involve mainly what Altmann calls “head symptoms” such...

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Children's Health

Where to Get Children’s Health Care

There are excellent healthcare options for your family in Southern California. Here’s how to access them. One day in November, a mom and dad brought their 13-year-old son to the Exer urgent-care clinic in Calabasas. They thought he had the stomach flu – just something a doctor should see. They were wrong about the flu, but right to seek medical care. The doctors examined the boy, took blood tests, and...

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Toxic Stress and Children’s Health

Nadine Burke Harris, M.D., shows her audience of healthcare workers, therapists and community activists a photo of a bear on the screen behind her to make her point. Encountering a bear in the woods – or other serious threat – makes the human brain pump powerful stress hormones and divert blood to the large muscles of the arms and legs so we can either fight or run away. It’s supposed...

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Contact Lenses Vs. Glasses for Active Kids

Is your child a student of karate? A competitive young swimmer? A baseball player for the local little league team? If your child has an active lifestyle and needs vision correction, contact lenses might be a better choice than glasses. Let’s look at some of the advantages of contact use for your pediatric champion. More stable vision. A child wearing eyeglasses can feel the frames move slightly on his or...

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Measuring Medications Correctly

It’s the middle of the night, your child has a fever and you find yourself in the kitchen, squinting at the numbers printed on the side of a tiny plastic cup. The bottle of Children’s Tylenol says the dose is two teaspoons. You pour, thinking you’ve got it right. But what if you don’t? In a study out this summer in Pediatrics, as many as 40 percent of parents made...

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Flu Season Is Here – Time For Your Shots

While all the talk in the media seems to be about Ebola (including work on a vaccine), here in the U.S. people are at much greater risk of harm from a virus for which we already have a vaccine – the flu. As the annual flu season begins, the L.A. County department of public health announced that influenza vaccinations are now available at no cost to residents at public health...

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Judith Tighe Featured

Manage Your Child’s Cat Allergy

By Judith Tighe, RN, CPN, RN Remedies nurse blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles When I was growing up in London, England, we had a cat, as well as other animals including rabbits, chickens and one tortoise. Since then, we have carried on the tradition with two to three cats at any given time. You can imagine my surprise when my daughter moved away from home only to find out...

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