Thursday, July 28, 2011

Great Autumn Getaways!

With school starting back up and temperatures slowly receding from their summer highs, fall is a great time to sneak in a theme park vacation! As a general rule, trips in the fall offer shorter lines, greater availability of accommodations, and more comfortable weather; in addition, many spots have great seasonal features that enhance the park experience! Below are a few of our favorites:

Disney World:

image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

It's no secret that Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is a favorite family destination! From the rides and attractions to the magic of watching your child immersed in a wonderland of their favorite characters - it is a spot where magical memories are made! Not only is the weather still warm and pleasant in Florida in autumn, but with the start of school, the parks become far less crowded and far more friendly for those wishing to minimize long lines and wait times! In addition, every year from early October to mid-November, Walt Disney World plays host to a number of special events; including the Magic Kingdom's "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party," Epcot's "International Food and Wine Festival," Hollywood Studios' "Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights," and Downtown Disney's "Festival of the Masters." With the exception of the "Halloween Party," all these events are either complimentary or included in the price of the park pass!

Sesame Place:

Located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Sesame Place offers families rides, shows, and beloved characters that will charm children of all ages! As summer draws to a close, attendance generally declines markedly, resulting in shorter lines and greater availability of characters; in addition, autumn in Pennsylvania offers some beautiful scenery as a backdrop to  your park experience! Each autumn, Sesame Place offers great seasonal promotions such as the Back to School Bash, the Labor Day BBQ, and Labor Day Fireworks, as well as the Count’s Spooktacular Halloween on weekends from the end of September until the end of October, and A Very Furry Christmas from late November through December.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg:

With over twenty rides, loads of shows and attractions, a variety of dining options and impeccably kept grounds, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a veritable paradise for travelling families! Divided into multiple European-themed sections, Busch Gardens features a variety of attractions from cultural experiences and animal encounters, to seasonal shows and rides for children of all ages! Also, each year from late November through New Year's Eve, Busch Gardens transforms the park for its annual Christmas Town Celebration; featuring special holiday shows, attractions, and rides! Opening hours and offerings vary seasonally, so be sure to check the website for details!

Wishing you safe, happy, and healthy travels!
- Destination Mom

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Safety Alert: Heat, Cars, and Kids

Every summer the news is riddled with tragic reports about infants or toddlers, found or forgotten in cars, dying from heat exposure. It is a tragedy that can strike anyone; and while these stories are terrifying and heartbreaking, it is important to note that there are ways to help prevent this tragedy.  

image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/
  • NEVER leave children alone in a car - not even for a moment; their bodies respond to increased temperature far more quickly (3 to 5 times more rapidly) than adults' and can suffer devastating damage or even death in a very short time. 
  • Be particularly careful if you change your routine for dropping off children at child care; these suggestions can help remind you that your children are with you, even if they fall asleep:
    • Place a sticky note or cling on your dashboard to remind you that your child is in your vehicle.
    • Always put an object that you can't leave your car without (i.e. purse, lunch, laptop, etc.) in the backseat where the child is seated.
    • Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it is not in use; when you place your child in the car seat, move the stuffed toy to the front seat.
    • Place your youngest or quietest child behind the passenger seat - you will be better able to notice if the child is there than if they are in a seat behind the driver's side.
    • Have your spouse or the child's day care provider contact you immediately if the child does not arrive at the day care facility at the normally appointed time.
  • Teach children NEVER to play in any vehicle.
  • Always keep vehicle doors and trunk locked, particularly at home, and keep keys out of the reach of children.
  • Install a trunk release mechanism to help prevent entrapment.
  • Watch children closely around vehicles to be sure they do not enter unnoticed, particularly during loading/unloading.
  • Double-check to ensure all children have left the vehicle when you reach your final destination.
  • If a child goes missing, in addition to checking pools and other bodies of water, check all nearby vehicles.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, dial 911 immediately.
For more helpful information and great products that can help keep your child(ren) safe in the car, check out  Safe, happy, and healthy travels.

-Destination Mom

Friday, July 15, 2011

Treating Bites and Stings!

With summer in full swing, families and, especially, children are spending more time outside, but we're not the only ones enjoying the warmer weather; spiders, bees, and a variety of other bugs are out in swarms!  Most bug bites simply result in general discomfort and anxiety, but it is important to remember that some bites and stings can lead to infections or trigger serious allergic reactions. Below is information on how to treat simple bites and stings, as well as the signs that a serious reaction may be occurring.

Spider Bites

Know your spiders: The majority of spiders found in the U.S. are harmless, except brown recluse and black widow spiders.

The brown recluse spider (a small brown spider with a small violin-shaped mark on its back - see here) is found primarily in the midwest and south. Their bites can cause swelling and changes in skin color and blistering. Rarely, brown recluse bites can result in sunken ulcerated sores at the bite site, which can become infected if not treated properly.

The black widow spider (a shiny black spider with an orange hourglass shaped mark on its underside - see here) is found all over North America. Black widow bites can result in painful cramps within a few short hours of the bite; the cramps generally radiate from the bite location outward. In addition, black widow bites can also cause nausea, tremors, paralysis, vomiting, chills, fever, and muscle pain. If your child experiences any of these symptoms (or if you suspect the bite may have been caused by a black widow) go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY.
For other spider bites:
  • Clean the area carefully with soap and water.
  • Apply cool compresses.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
  • To help prevent infection, apply antibiotic ointment.

Stinging Insects

Know your stings: When a bee stings, it leaves behind its stinger and venom sac. If the stinger is still in the skin, try to extract it as quickly as possible with sterilized tweezers.  Wasps do not lose their stingers when they attack (that is why they can sting repeatedly).  Should your child experience a sting:
  • Clean the area carefully with soap and water.
  • Apply cool compresses.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
  • For itching, give an over-the-counter oral antihistamine (with your doctor's approval); follow dosing instructions for your child's age and weight. You could also apply calamine lotion to the sting area.
  • Seek medical attention if:
    • the sting is in the mouth, throat, or lips - such stings can quickly result in severe swelling that can block airways.
    • a rash or swelling develops around the sting site.
  • Seek IMMEDIATE medical attention if you notice any of the following signs, which may indicate a serious or potentially life-threatening allergic reaction:
    • wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing,
    • tightness in throat/chest,
    • swelling of the lips, tongue, or face,
    • dizziness or loss of consciousness, or
    • nausea or vomiting.

Tick Bites

Know your ticks: The most common types of disease carrying ticks are dog ticks, deer ticks, and lone star ticks; deer ticks are the most common carriers of Lyme disease, and dog ticks and lone star ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Fever. Particularly during summer months, it is imperative that parents routinely check kids and pets for ticks, especially if they've been in or around wooded areas.
If you find a tick on your child:
  • Contact your pediatrician immediately.
  • Use sterilized tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head or mouth, as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull firmly and steadily on the tick until it releases (avoid twisting or yanking the tick). If possible save the tick for identification purposes.
  • Clean the bite site with alcohol.
  • NEVER use petroleum jelly or a lit match to try to kill or remove a tick. Using either may cause the insect to burrow deeper which makes extraction more difficult and increases the possibility of disease transmission.

Other Biting Insects

There are countless other insects that can impart bites that may result in discomfort, itching, and even possible infection.  Mosquitoes, black flies, midges, fleas, and biting flies have all been associated with transmitting diseases that can be devastating to humans and animals.  If your child is bitten by any insect (whether you witness the bite or not) and develops any of the following symptoms, seek medical help IMMEDIATELY:
  • rash,
  • fever,
  • swelling or discoloration at the bite location or surrounding areas,
  • any oozing discharge from the bite location, or
  • severe cramping or vomiting.
If your child experiences an insect bite with no apparent allergic or toxic reaction, simply:
  • Clean the area carefully with soap and water.
  • Apply cool compresses.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
  • For itching, apply calamine lotion to the bite area.
Safe, happy, and healthy travels!
-Destination Mom

Friday, July 8, 2011

Water Safety: Tips for Preventing Tragedy

This week's article was supposed to be on autumn getaway spots, but after hearing about a few recent drowning scares from family and friends, I felt it was more important to take this opportunity to address water safety. 

Summer and water play go hand in hand; but where there is water there are always hazards, especially for young children. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years*. Children can drown in as little as an inch of water, and it takes only a few seconds to happen.  And drowning isn't the hysterical, screaming, splashing, loud, drawn-out event we've all been trained to expect by TV; as this must read article clearly demonstrates, drowning is actually very quiet, quick, and difficult to identify to the untrained observer. 

In addition to the helpful article referred to above, the following water safety tips may help prevent drowning:
  • Vigilant supervision - a MUST whenever your child is near any water (as unlikely as it may seem, even a  large bucket of water can pose a drowning hazard to a toddler).
  • Swim lessons - without a doubt one of the greatest returns on investment there is.  Children gain familiarity with the water and learn basics such as treading water and floating.
  • Floatation devices - no matter how strong a swimmer your child may be, if your attention is divided or your child will be swimming more than an arm's length away from you, a floatation device is a good idea.  For children who are not strong swimmers or any young person going out in a boat, a Coast Guard approved floatation device should be mandatory.
  • Open water - rivers, lakes, oceans and other open bodies of water can have dangerous currents or sudden drop-offs; swim only in areas with lifeguards where conditions have been determined to be reasonably safe.  Discourage diving in any body of water unless the area is designated as safe for diving. Swim only in posted areas and obey posted signage. 
  • Pool safety - never allow children to swim unsupervised. Discourage diving. Keep all pools enclosed by a locked fence that cannot be climbed to prevent accidental access (hot-tubs should be covered and locked when not in use). Be sure there is a perimeter alarm to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
  • Be prepared - learn infant and child CPR and keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency.
Have a safe, happy, and healthy summer.
-Destination Mom

Friday, July 1, 2011

On the Road to Reading!

While summer is a great time for kids to get some exercise running, swimming, and playing, it is important to keep their minds engaged as well!  Check out some of these great programs to help keep your childrens' minds as active as their bodies this summer:

Jet Blue and PBS have partnered to offer "Soar With Reading!"; a terrific program targeted at ages 3 to 8, providing children flying with JetBlue this summer a free activity kit filled with reading games to entertain them during flight. 

With Barnes & Noble's Summer Reading Program, Imagination Destination, kids can earn a free book (from selected titles) for completing eight books and writing a brief journal entry on each!

Likewise, Borders' Double-Dog Dare Challenge offers young readers a chance to win a free book (from selected titles) for completing ten books and recording their titles on the entry form.

Chuck E. Cheese has a fantastic promotion as well; kids can earn free 10 Chuck E. Cheese tokens for reading each day for 2 weeks (and check out their other rewards forms)!

TD Bank also has a great promotion; have your child complete 10 books and record their titles on the Summer Reading Form, bring the form into any TD Bank branch and they will be given $10 which will be deposited into a new or existing Young Saver Account.

Finally, some of the best summer reading programs are available through your local public library! While each public library will have its own unique summer reading program, most of them have rewards, prizes, and fun events for children!

Not surprisingly, a recent Oxford Study has demonstrated that reading books is linked to greater success later life; and as any parent will tell you, it's never to early to foster a love of reading! So jump on-board with one of these great programs this summer and keep the reading ball rolling!  Safe and happy travels!

-Destination Mom