Want your kids to stay smoke-free? Start with these tips.

Anti-smoking messages seem to be everywhere, but still every year thousands of teenagers try cigarettes. It’s never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking. Here are some tips:

  • Start early. Begin talking to your kids when they’re 5 or 6, and keep the conversation going. Be sure to keep the information you share appropriate to their age.
  • Be honest. Ask your kids what they find appealing and unappealing about smoking. If you smoke or have smoked, tell to your children why it was such a bad decision.
  • Set a good example. Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit. If you’ve had trouble quitting, talk to you kids about why it’s so hard and why you wish you’d never started.
  • Make it real and share statistics. Using tobacco causes many serious health problems and has a negative effect on the way we look, smell, feel and act.
  • Encourage anti-smoking activities. Sports, band or other school activities inhibit smoking, keep kids busy and encourage healthy behavior.
  • Talk about peer pressure. Offer good examples of how to say no to tobacco (and other bad influences).
  • Have clear punishments. Let your children know how you will discipline them if they smoke.
  • Spend time with your kids. Share meals together, plan activities or find fun ways to connect.

Remember, children are influenced by their friends and what they see on TV and online, but parents are still the most important influence in their lives.


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Listen: UK at the Half discusses exciting KCH partnership

Dr. James Quintessenza, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at UK HealthCare, and Dr. Scottie Day, interim chair of the UK Department of Pediatrics and physician in chief at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, were featured during “UK at the Half,” which aired during the UK vs. Utah Valley basketball game radio broadcast on Nov. 10.

The doctors talked about UK’s new partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that will offer the best pediatric heart care in the area.

“UK at the Half” airs during the halftime of each UK football and basketball game broadcast and is hosted by Carl Nathe of UK Public Relations and Marketing.

To hear the latest episode, click on the play button below.


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holiday travel safety

Hitting the road for the holidays? Keep these 8 safety tips in mind.

Thanksgiving is nearly here, which means the busy holiday travel season between November and January is upon us.

The weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are some of the busiest travel times of the year. With many people on the road, the risk of travel-related accidents also goes up.

Whether you’re hopping on the highway to visit friends in town or driving cross-country to see family, remember to keep safety in mind for each member of your family.

1. Use car seats for babies and toddlers.

Babies under the age of 2 should use rear-facing car seats, while toddlers older than 2 can use forward-facing car seats. Using child safety seats correctly can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.

If it’s cold outside, cover babies and young children with a thick blanket to keep them warm, after they’re strapped securely into their seat. Bulky winter clothes and coats can keep a car seat harness from doing its job.

2. Use booster seats and the backseat for older kids.

Kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harness seat are not ready for a seat belt or front seat yet. They are safest in a booster seat that enables the adult seat belt to fit properly. Even when children have transitioned from booster seats, they should remain in the back seat until they reach the age of 13.

3. Take your time when traveling with kids.

When you hear the all-too-familiar howl from the back seat that means “I want food” or “change my diaper,” don’t worry about making good time. Instead, get off at the next exit and find a safe area to feed or change your child.

4. Share the road – and the wheel.

Map out your route before you leave, making note of any construction zones or closures that could affect your itinerary. Leave earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic, and let your friends and family know when you plan to arrive.

If you’re driving long distances, divvy up driving responsibilities between drivers in your group. If you start to feel tired, pull over and switch with another driver or stop and rest until you’re able to drive safely.

6. Be prepared for bad weather.

Inclement weather can turn even a short road trip into a white-knuckle ride. Before you leave, check the weather forecast and be aware of possible snowy or icy conditions.

Stay off the road during bad weather, if possible. If you have to drive during inclement weather or hit a hazardous stretch during your trip, remember to slow down, increase the distance between you and the car in front of you, and avoid all distractions to keep your focus on the road.

7.  Keep the car stocked.

In case of a travel emergency, make sure your car is stocked with everything you’ll need. This includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, ice scraper, blankets, salt or kitty litter for tire traction, and snacks for everyone in your car.

Make sure cell phones are charged before you depart in case you need to call for help or use your phone’s GPS for directions. And always have a paper map on hand, just in case.

8. More time means less stress.

Giving yourself more than enough time to get to your destination, in case you run into traffic or bad weather. Some stress during the holidays is unavoidable, but a little planning before your trip can help keep the holidays safe and fun.


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Going to a trampoline park? Reduce injury risk with these tips

Now that the weather has gotten chillier, you may be looking for fun indoor activities to do with the kids. If you’re headed to an indoor trampoline park, know that while they do encourage physical activity, they can also be dangerous. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that over 100,000 children visited emergency rooms last year due to trampoline accidents, and there’s even a fracture that some doctors call “trampoline ankle.”

If you and your kids are heading to an indoor trampoline park for a birthday party or just for a day of fun, keep these tips in mind:

  • Always have adult supervision. Children should only jump with a responsible adult around.
  • One person at a time. Be aware of other jumpers.
  • Discourage double-jumping. This is when one person lands just as another person is attempting to jump.
  • No flips or somersaults. These can lead to head and neck injuries, wrist sprains or fractures, or other serious injuries.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that does not restrict your movement.
  • Don’t wear jewelry or other sharp objects while jumping. Empty your pockets and don’t wear a hat while jumping, either.
  • Avoid peak hours. Go during less busy times so there are fewer people and fewer distractions.
  • Stay in age-appropriate areas. This includes adults!

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that children under 6 should not jump on trampolines or visit indoor trampoline parks at all. Children’s bones are still growing, so jumping on a trampoline poses a high risk of injury, according to Dr. John Draus, a pediatrician at UK HealthCare and director of the UK Pediatric Trauma Program.

Most injuries take place because of collisions while jumping, incorrect landings or falling off a trampoline onto a hard surface. Always follow the safety guidelines set forth by the trampoline park.


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Halloween safety

Don’t let real dangers take the fun out of Halloween

Before you head out for trick-or-treating with your little ghouls and goblins, princesses and superheroes, take a few moments to think about – and talk to your kids about – safety. As fun as it is, Halloween is also unfortunately the most dangerous night of the year for children – twice as many kids are killed on Halloween night, usually in pedestrian accidents – as any other day of the year.

A few moments to consider safety will help keep the night fun, not dangerous.

For parents and kids:

1. Check costumes before you leave the house. Decorate your children’s costumes with reflective materials and, if possible, choose light colors that can be seen in the dark. Make sure masks or wigs do not obstruct the child’s vision, and make sure they can walk without tripping or dragging any part of their costume.

2. Carry flashlights or glow sticks. These will help trick-or-treaters see and be seen by drivers.

3. Review safe pedestrian behaviors with kids before heading out.

4. Cross the street safely at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks if they’re available. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don’t run, across the street.

5. Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.

6. Slow down and stay alert. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up, and never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

7. While pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents and kids should also be careful when dealing with candy. Remind children to only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers. It’s best to wait until you get home and can inspect candy under good lighting.

For drivers:

8. Be sure to turn your full headlights on between 6-8 p.m., Lexington and Fayette County’s designated time for trick-or-treating.

9. Slow down in residential neighborhoods and be on the lookout for kids who may dart out unexpectedly. Some may be wearing dark clothing.

10. Be especially alert and take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.

11. Slowly and carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.

12. Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.


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  • Before your kids leave the house in search of candy, make sure their costumes are as safe as they are spooky. Check out our guide for Halloween costume safety.
  • Happy Halloween from all of us here at UK HealthCare! Have fun and be safe, and remember,  our Makenna David Pediatric Emergency Center is always open in case you need us.

First steps to take if your baby has Down syndrome

If you’re expecting a baby who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, you may have many questions and concerns.

While this diagnosis may seem overwhelming, there is no need for panic – or despair. Although having Down syndrome means your baby will face challenges, many people with Down syndrome live full, productive, happy lives.

The most important thing you can do is educate yourself about the resources and support available to you and your family so that you can become your baby’s best advocate. Traci Brewer, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky (DSACK), offers these tips:

Your baby’s health. Children born with Down syndrome have a higher rate of heart abnormalities and other medical concerns than the general population. Your first step is to ensure that medical professionals are following the healthcare guidelines recommended by the National Down Syndrome Society. Your obstetrician and later your pediatrician may not have a great deal of experience with children with Down, so it is up to you to advocate for screenings at birth to rule out potential health risks. If you need help making a case for these screenings, enlist the aid of a genetic counselor.

Early intervention. Federal law mandates that states must provide early intervention for children with certain conditions, and Down syndrome qualifies. In Kentucky, this program is called First Steps. First Steps provides therapists such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists that will come to your home for therapy sessions. Make sure your hospital or pediatrician makes a referral to First Steps before you leave the hospital.

Fear. It’s normal to feel scared, but know that you are not alone. Try to relax, get to know your baby and enjoy your time together. Realize that many of your struggles are the same as those faced by any new parent. Statistics have shown that married couples with children who have Down syndrome have a lower rate of divorce than the general population, and siblings are often more compassionate and well-adjusted because of their relationship with their brother or sister with Down syndrome.

Get connected. The best resource for new parents will always be other parents. Many organizations offer free resources and lists of local parent groups. Locally, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky hosts new parent dinners, coffee chats, special events and much more to help parents connect with other parents of children with Down syndrome. DSACK can be found on the web at www.dsack.org.

Take it one day at a time. Stay informed, get connected and remember that you are doing your best. You don’t have to be a superhero, and just like other parents, you will make the best decisions you can. Love your children and try to keep everything in balance. Know that the positives far outweigh the negatives. People with Down syndrome go to school, have meaningful jobs and make significant contributions to society.


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Making the Rounds with Dr. Vish Talwalkar

Ortho surgeon Vish Talwalkar on why he loves caring for kids

Making the RoundsWe sat down with Dr. Vishwas Talkwalkar, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospitals for Children Medical Center – Lexington, for our latest Making the Rounds interview. Dr. Talwalkar is a native Kentuckian and grew up right here in Lexington. Today, he specializes in treating a variety of orthopaedic concerns in kids of all ages.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

I became interested in medicine at a pretty young age. Based on some of the things that my parents tell me, they thought I was going to be a doctor starting when I was in fourth or fifth grade.

My initial long-term plan was to play professional football and then come back and go into medicine. But that didn’t work out, so I ended up going straight into medicine.

What conditions do you treat?

I like to say that the patients I take care of come in all sizes and in all shapes. We see infants within the first few hours of life all the way up to patients who are 21 and older who have orthopaedic conditions that require our care as adults.

We take care of problems like hip dysplasia and spinal deformities of all different kinds. We also see children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular conditions, children with developmental diseases like Legg-Calve-Perthes disease or Blount’s disease, and children with bow legs and knock knees.

That’s part of the beauty of pediatric orthopaedics: We get to take care of such a broad variety of patients.

Why do you enjoy treating kids?

I like to take care of children because they’re so resilient and they’re so much fun. Every day, they seem to have a different funny story, and every day when I come to work, it’s always a little bit different, which makes it fun.

Orthopaedics is great because it allows you to impact patients in ways that you can see the results of what you’ve done. And with kids, you can see the results as they continue to grow up, which is very gratifying.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

My ideal weekend would be in the fall, doing what I call the Kentucky Triple Crown: You get up in the morning and play golf, and then go to Keeneland in the afternoon, and then go to a Kentucky football game at night.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a doctor?

If I wasn’t a physician, I’d probably be a high school biology teacher and football coach.

How would your friends and family describe you?

Probably as pretty easy-going and interested in a lot of things. Pretty passionate about the things I do. And as somebody who’s a good listener.


Watch our video profile with Dr. Talwalkar, where he explains the special connection between UK HealthCare and Shriners and what it means for our patients.


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UK researcher wins prestigious award to study pediatric cancer

UK Markey Cancer Center researcher Jessica Blackburn, PhD, will conduct innovative pediatric cancer research with the help of a prestigious National Institutes of Health’s New Innovator Award, a grant totaling $1.5 million over five years.

Blackburn, who came to UK from Harvard University in 2015, runs a basic science laboratory using zebrafish as an animal model. This new award will fund research to find causes of leukemia relapse in three ways:

  • Identifying the unique genetic signature of relapse-causing cells, using single-cell sequencing technology in both zebrafish leukemia models and patient samples.
  • Discovering how and where relapse-driving cells “hide” from chemotherapy in the body using live animal imaging techniques in zebrafish.
  • Finding new drugs that can specifically kill the cancer cells that cause relapse by screening thousands of compounds zebrafish.

“The hope for this project is that we will be able to provide new insights into the biology of what causes cancer relapse, not only to find better ways to treat it, but to develop treatment strategies that will prevent relapse from happening in the first place,” Blackburn said.

Zebrafish labs are far less common than labs that use mice as an animal model of cancer, but Blackburn notes that zebrafish models provide important research advantages, which can complement traditional mouse models.

“I think this work shows that zebrafish models of human diseases – like cancer – are being more widely accepted in the medical fields, and that more people are recognizing the important discoveries that can be made using zebrafish,” she said.

The NIH’s New Innovator Award was established in 2007 and supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant.

It’s one of four prestigious awards in the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward program, which was created to support unconventional approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. Applicants of the program are encouraged to think outside-the-box and to pursue exciting, trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH mission.

“I continually point to this program as an example of the creative and revolutionary research NIH supports,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins. “The quality of the investigators and the impact their research has on the biomedical field is extraordinary.”


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Choosing a safe Halloween costume

October is here, and if you’re like most parents, you’ll soon be putting together your children’s Halloween costumes. When you do, keep these tips in mind:

Think safety

  • Masks can obstruct visibility and make it difficult for your child to breathe. If you can, opt for makeup instead. If your child does wear a mask, make sure his or her vision is not obstructed so much that they might trip or stumble, and encourage him or her to take it off before crossing the street.
  • Make sure makeup or face paint is non-toxic. Read the ingredients to be sure that your child isn’t allergic to anything in the face paint.
  • Never use decorative contact lenses. They can cause eye infections.
  • Buy costumes that are labeled “flame resistant.” Many people and places will have jack-o-lanterns, candles or other decorative flames out – so be careful.
  • Check costume accessories for safety hazards. Knives, swords or other accessories can often be sharp. If your child could hurt themselves by falling on the accessory, skip it or find something else to use!
  • Make sure the costume fits properly. A costume that’s too big or too small is not only uncomfortable, it can cause your child to trip or fall.

Think visibility

  • Choose a light-colored costume if possible. This makes your child more visible to cars and other trick-or-treaters.
  • Kids can get excited during trick-or-treating and forget road safety rules. Put reflective tape on your child’s costume to help drivers spot them on dark streets.
  • Have your child carry a flashlight or glow stick so they’re more visible. Check the batteries on the flashlight to make sure they will last throughout trick-or-treating.

Think comfort

  • Make sure the costume fits properly. A costume that’s too small can be uncomfortable or even restrict breathing. Too big, and it could be a tripping hazard.
  • Oversized shoes might be a funny part of a clown costume, but they can make walking difficult or even unsafe.
  • If your child wears a cape, make sure it’s not too tight and it doesn’t drag the ground!
  • Make sure costume jewelry and other accessories aren’t too tight around your child’s throat.

Be ready for emergencies

  • Give an older child a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Put a nametag with your phone number on your children’s costumes in case you get separated.

Remember, Halloween should only SEEM scary. A fun, safe night starts with a good costume.


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Pancreatitis runs in some Ky. families, but new treatment may offer hope

Dr. George Fuchs

Written by Dr. George Fuchs, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

The pancreas is an organ that serves two main functions: it produces enzymes that aid digestion and it produces insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it can wreak havoc on the body. This disease is known as pancreatitis, and there are two types. Acute pancreatitis can appear suddenly and last for days, and chronic pancreatitis can be life-threatening or persistent.

Although outside factors such as gallstones and alcohol abuse may cause pancreatitis, it can also be hereditary. Pancreatitis is a major health problem, especially in Appalachia where multiple family members often struggle to manage the disease. In my first year working at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, I saw more cases of hereditary pancreatitis than in 14 years at my previous institution.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of this disease usually begin before the age of 20 with pancreatitis episodes that can last a few days and include severe symptoms such as vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain. Patients may describe the pain as a “rib-crushing” or “stabbing” sensation in the abdomen. Other symptoms include fever, chills, weakness, fatigue and foul-smelling stool.

Because pain usually worsens after eating, many patients eat less frequently, resulting in unintentional weight loss and malnutrition. Children with debilitating pain may need an extended stay in the hospital. Other complications can arise including diabetes, pancreatic cysts and even pancreatic cancer later in adulthood.

Diagnosis and treatment

Chronic pancreatitis can be diagnosed with blood testing and/or imaging studies like CT scans or ultrasounds. Imaging studies are not as accurate for detecting pancreatitis in children as in adults, and blood tests in chronic pancreatitis might not show any abnormalities. Because of this, hereditary pancreatitis is often underdiagnosed and children reporting abdomen pain might not immediately be diagnosed with pancreatitis.

Treatment varies depending on the patient and severity of the disease. Patients may be given IV fluids and medications for pain or asked to fast to let the pancreas rest. Some patients need to follow a strict diet and take pancreatic enzymes to prevent flare-ups.

Managing pain

Because pain is one of the most difficult issues for children with this disease, medications to control pain and nausea are prescribed. The overuse of opioids has become a crisis in this country, affecting our state particularly hard, so this leaves many children and their parents in a difficult position: trying to find a balance of medication that keeps pain at a manageable level without causing addiction.

In recent years, a relatively new surgery for chronic pancreatitis has offered hope for patients. Known as a total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation (TPIAT), the procedure involves removing the entire pancreas, saving the islet cells (which produce insulin) and then re-implanting those cells in the liver, where they take up residence and ideally resume their essential function.

Although the procedure is complex, it can potentially offer permanent relief for many children who deal this painful disease on a daily basis.


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