Monday, January 28, 2013


Help your children develop the right friendships

Your 11-year-old daughter comes home in tears. She tells you the girls she’s been friends with forever are leaving her out of the group. She doesn’t know what she has done wrong. She’s confused, and nervous about returning to school because, “I don’t have any friends.” You are also confused because your daughter is outgoing, personable, and fun-loving.

Friendships are important to the development of a child. They help children be independent from the family and provide them with the building blocks to develop mutual and trusting relationships. The pre-teen and teen years are a time when children attempt to figure out how they want to fit in as well as how they want to stand out from the rest of the group. It ‘s natural for children to be concerned about fitting in, being popular, hanging out with the cool, pretty or popular classmates and feelings of insecurity. 

Cliques are common in middle and high school. According to, a clique is a group of friends that all dress and act in a certain way. Cliques are also “exclusive,” meaning that not everyone who would like the join the clique can. In a clique, everything is done together; they go to the mall together, they eat lunch together at the same table and are often active in the same school activities. Cliques involve lots of rules, either implied or clearly stated; such as wearing specific brands of clothing or participating in certain activities. 

Cliques and group friendships are extremely different. Friendships develop from shared interests in sports, classes, activities, and coming from the same neighborhood. Groups of friends do not exclude others from joining their activities, they also allow members to socialize and hang out with others not within the group without worry about being thrown out of the group. 

What can a parent do to help? Here are a few pointers:

•  Talk about your own experiences.
•  Remind your child that things quickly change.
•  Find books, TV shows and movies that have strong messages about facing rejection and standing true to your own morals and values.
•  Try to enroll in out-of-school programs and activities to foster friendships apart from school.

With reality TV shows promoting rejecting others, as well as deceitful and rude behavior, try to discuss ways to empower your children to stand up for themselves or others. Talk about the real secret to being popular: being the kind of friend they would want — one that is kind, respectful, supportive, caring, trustworthy and fun.

Lisa Cook is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Cook or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, January 14, 2013


Cold weather can cause problems with feet

For people with diabetes, the winter months are a time when more attention than usual should be given to the feet. 

Diabetics are at risk for having reduced blood flow to the lower extremities, and the cold weather compounds this problem.  The dry weather from being inside also makes the skin more susceptible to drying and cracking.  Also, diabetics have decreased sensation to the lower extremities which makes for a decreased awareness of issues which may be of concern with their feet.  

Fortunately, there are steps that diabetics can take during the winter to minimize foot problems.

Many people use heating pads and warming blankets.  Because of the decreased sensation or neuropathy of diabetes, these devices can cause significant foot injuries and should be avoided.  If they are used, the temperature of the devices should be checked with the elbow as the sensation is not decreased as it is in the fingers and toes.

Here are some cold weather tips that will help diabetics and just about anyone:

•  Check winter shoes for proper fit to avoid tightness and resulting injuries.

•  Wear clean, dry socks made of a natural fiber such as cotton to reduce irritation.

•  Use moisturizing lotion on feet to increase comfort and help exfoliate rough skin and avoid skin cracking, which may result in ulceration. 

•  Pat your feet dry, don’t rub after bathing or showering.

•  As with any time of year, diabetics need to exercise great caution when trimming nails to avoid trimming them too short.  If you must clip, work on toes that have been soaked in warm water for a few minutes.  Hard dry nails can split and lead to problems.

•  Routine exercise can be difficult during the winter months, but it is important for diabetics because it will increase circulation. Lack of exercise and activity can cause havoc with blood glucose levels, and extra weight is not good on your feet. It is also important for diabetics to avoid going barefoot in the house and to obtain a good fitting pair of slippers. 

•  Diabetics should check their feet daily, especially after being outside and exposed to the cold, paying particular attention to any changes in color and shape, cuts, swelling and infected toenails.  In the event that a sore develops that doesn't heal in a couple of days, or you have tingling in your feet that doesn't stop or have no feeling in your feet, call your doctor for an appointment.  These things can be problems with diabetics and ignoring them can lead to greater problems.

Dr. Mark Tramontozzi is a member of the Medical Director of the Backus Health System Wound Care Center. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Dr. Tramontozzi or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, January 07, 2013


Enjoy New England's winter, but beware of snow shoveling dangers

Snow in New England is picturesque and makes winter special, but I always feel a little sadness when it starts to accumulate.  Many years ago, my father suffered a heart attack and died immediately after shoveling our long driveway by hand. He had just celebrated his 59th birthday and thought he was in good health. You can bet that I convinced my husband to buy a snowblower as soon as we became homeowners in New England. 
In the effort to help other families and avoid the heartache our family and others have endured, I offer some safety information.  Approximately 16,500 people are treated annually in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission,

All that bending and heavy lifting can put men or women at serious risk for injury. Snow removal can be especially dangerous if you do not exercise regularly.

First and foremost, check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on the heart, you should always seek your doctor’s advice and approval before shoveling or snow blowing. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.  Take it from me: the cost will be well worth it when you consider the alternative.

The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons has some tips for snow shoveling:

•  Warm-up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity. Before you begin this physical workout, warm-up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.

•  Pace yourself. Snow shoveling and snow blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack, stop the activity and seek emergency care immediately. I suggest keeping your cell phone in your pocket when outside shoveling.

•  Proper equipment. Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands fairly wide on the tool grip to increase your leverage.

•  Proper lifting. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once. Do it in pieces.

•  Safe technique. Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back. 

Observe these snow removal safety tips, make some snow angels, and then sit back and enjoy the beauty of snow in New England!

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at   

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?