April 27, 2009

First foods for babies

Posted: 05:02 PM ET

New moms and dads face many milestones when their child is an infant. I'll never forget my excitement - and relief! - when my son started eating solid foods. He was a big baby and he seemed to be hungry all the time.

Solid foods for baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some advice on how and when to start transitioning babies to solid food.

1) Wait and watch. Doctors agree that around 4 to 6 months of age, most babies are ready to start eating solid foods. Not only are their energy needs increasing, but infants are physically able to push their tongues against a small spoon or the food.

2) Where to start. It doesn't really matter what time of day you start serving a baby solid foods, but some parents prefer doing it during a family meal. If that turns out to be too chaotic, find a quieter time when you and the baby can focus on the feeding.

3) What's first? Traditionally, single grain cereals are introduced first, but the American Academy of Pediatrics reports there is no medical evidence suggesting there is an advantage to introducing solid foods in any particular order. Despite that, some doctors say rice cereal is often a good place to start because it is easy to digest.

4) One at a time. Some doctors recommend waiting at least three to four days before introducing a new food. This will allow you to watch for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as rash, vomiting or diarrhea.

5) Fruits and vegetables. Babies may be born with a preference for sweets, but doctors say that doesn't mean you need to introduce fruits before vegetables. There is no evidence that babies will develop a dislike of vegetables if they are offered before fruits.

Finally, there are several foods that should not be served to a baby. Honey is a no-no for kids under the age of one because of the risk of botulism. Some pediatricians also warn parents against serving eggs, fish and peanut products in the first year of life because of the potential for allergic reactions.

Health Minute airs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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April 14, 2009

Tension headache triggers

Posted: 09:00 AM ET

It's estimated 80 percent of us will get a tension headache at some point in our lives. Experts blame part of the problem on stress, but certain foods, medications, fatigue, teeth grinding, overexertion and injury can also contribute to tension headaches.

Tension headaches

The National Institutes of Health offers some tips on how to help ease the vice-like pain:

1) Just relax. Experts believe stress management techniques such as exercise, yoga and meditation can help relieve chronic tension headaches.

2) Food Triggers. Too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal may bring on a tension headache. Experts also point to processed foods that contain sodium nitrates as being triggers for tension headaches.

3) How'd you sleep? Fatigue and sleep disorders can lead to tension headaches. People who wake up in the morning with a tension headache may be grinding their teeth while they sleep. A dentist can help diagnose the problem.

4) Alternative relief. Some pain experts are turning to alternative medicine to help solve tension headaches. Acupuncture and biofeedback are two of the techniques being offered to some patients.

Finally, if headaches are severe, persistent, recurrent or you are suffering from other symptoms, don't try to solve the problem on your own. See a doctor right away.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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March 30, 2009

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Posted: 03:56 PM ET

The number if children with autism has risen dramatically in the past decade. According to the group Autism Speaks, a new case of autism is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner a child can begin an effective intervention program.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms that the AAP says are associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder in children:

1) Social differences. A child doesn't snuggle when picked up, but arches his back instead. The child doesn't keep eye contact, doesn't respond to a parent's smile, doesn't point to objects, doesn't show concern for others and is unable to make friends.

2) Communication differences. No single words are said by 15 months, or 2-word phrases by 24 months. A child loses language skills at any age, doesn't respond to his name being called or doesn't start or continue a conversation.

3) Behavioral differences. A child rocks, spins, sways, twirls fingers or flaps hands. He likes routines, order and rituals and may be obsessed with a few activities, engaging in them repeatedly during the day. The child doesn't cry if in pain or doesn't seem to have any fear.

Experts point out that no two children with autism have the exact same symptoms. If you see any of the signs above, check with a pediatric specialist.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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March 24, 2009

Suffering from a cold or allergies?

Posted: 08:43 AM ET

It's that time of year, when everyone around me at work seems to be coughing, sniffling and sneezing. It makes me wonder whether they're suffering from a cold, which is caused by a virus, or seasonal allergies brought on by budding trees and flowers.

blowing nose

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has some tips on helping you and your doctor make the right diagnosis.

1) I'm burning up! If you have a fever, you probably have the flu or (less likely) a cold. Fever is not associated with allergies.

2) Bad taste, bad smell. Runny noses, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes can affect both allergy sufferers and those with a cold or the flu. Doctors can tell the difference between the two conditions by looking at the color of the nasal discharge. Allergies usually cause clear discharge. Colds usually result in yellow, bad-tasting and -smelling discharge.

3) Seasonal problems. Colds and the flu usually occur in the winter when people spend more time indoors. Outdoor allergies or hay fever can happen any time of the year, but typically in the spring, summer or fall.

4) When will it end? Cold and flu symptoms rarely last more than 10 days. Allergy symptoms can be chronic and last as long as you are exposed to an allergen.

There is no cure for allergies or a cold or the flu, but over-the-counter medications may help relieve some of the symptoms.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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March 16, 2009

Poison Prevention

Posted: 05:00 PM ET

When my daughter was a toddler, she used to like to follow me around the house while I cleaned. One day she grabbed a can of furniture polish and sprayed it right in her eye. I had turned my back for a second. I rushed her to the kitchen sink and flushed her eye with water and then called poison control.

Poison Prevention

Fortunately, my daugher was fine, but every year in the United States, thousands of children are harmed by accident poisonings. The Centers for Disease Control has some tips on how to keep kids safe:

1) Lock it up. Keep all drugs, legal or illegal, far away from the reach of children. Store prescription medications in their original, childproof containers.

2) Put it away. Return dangerous household cleaners and other products to a high shelf or childproof cabinet after using them. Never leave children alone with these items.

3) Get down on your knees. Experts recommend getting down to a child's level and crawling around your house looking for potential hazards. Don't forget to identify poisonous plants in your house and yard and get rid of them.

Finally, keep the number for the poison control handy. It is 1-800-222-1222. If a poisoning victim is awake and alert dial the number and have on hand the person's age and weight. Make sure you have the container or bottle of poison available and the make note of the time of the poison exposure.

Call 9-1-1 if a poisoning victim has collapsed and is not breathing.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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March 9, 2009

Skimping on skin care

Posted: 03:52 PM ET

The bad economy is causing some people to re-think what they're willing to spend on their skin care routine. Some dermatologists say be careful when cutting back.

skin care

Dr. Rutledge Forney has some tips for helping your skin, even when you're watching your bottom line:

1) Be creative. Worried about protecting your face from the damaging rays of the sun? Try wearing a hat and don't worry about buying an expensive, top-of-the-line sunscreen. Doctors say the SPF number is what's important. Choose a product with at least SFP 15.

2) Go generic. If you can't afford expensive prescription products such as Retin A, ask your pharmacist for a generic version. The same advice applies to acne medications such as benzoyl peroxide and salicyclic acid. Similar ingredients can be found in some over-the-counter preparations. Look for the strongest solution available.

3) Mole check. Don't forgo or put off your annual skin cancer check. If you see a changing lesion or suspicious looking mole, see a doctor. If you can't afford a visit, find out when your local hospital or health clinic is holding free skin cancer screenings.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segments run daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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March 2, 2009

MRSA frustrates, scares parents

Posted: 04:27 PM ET

It used to be that potentially deadly staph infections were confined to hospital settings.  Now, experts report we're all at risk, including our children. Doctors claim kids are picking up the bacteria everywhere from locker rooms to day care centers.


Some staph bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, are especially troublesome because most antibiotics don't kill them.

Preventing the spread of infection is more important than ever.  Dr. Martin Belson offers some tips at

1)  Wash up.  Teach your children to keep their hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitzer.

2) Cover up. Keep cuts and scapes clean and covered with a bandage until they are healed.

3) Don't touch. Staph infections are spread through skin-to-skin contact or when the skin comes in contact with a contaminated surface. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

4) Hold off. Resist the urge to ask a doctor to prescribe an antibiotic unless it is really necessary. Doctors attribute the spread of staph partly to the overuse of antibiotics.

Finally, see a doctor if you or your child has an area of the skin that is red, painful and swollen. It might be MRSA.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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February 23, 2009

Sleepy moms-to-be

Posted: 05:15 PM ET

It is estimated a third of Americans suffer from some type of insomnia.  Millions of pregnant women are among those complaining about lack of sleep.

pregnant woman

Changing hormone levels, heartburn and the inability to get comfortable are some of the reasons moms-to-be can't get a good night's sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation has some tips for trying to minimize sleep loss during pregnancy:

1)  Go left.  Try to avoid lying on your back for long periods of time. Sleeping on your left side improves blood flow and the flow of nutrients to the baby. Bend your knees and place pillows between your legs, under your abdomen and behind your back.

2) What's that burning? Heartburn can be a real problem for pregnant women. The condition often surfaces while lying in bed. Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Avoid spicy, acidic and fried food.

3) Drink up. Water that is! Fill up on fluids during the day, but cut down several hours before bedtime.

Finally, if it is okay with your doctor, exercise at least 30 minutes a day. A low impact workout is important for both mother and baby and may help promote a good night's sleep.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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February 17, 2009

Bend and stretch your muscles

Posted: 09:05 AM ET

I try to get outside and walk 8 to 10 miles a week. Since the beginning of the year I've also added stretching to my routine. Experts from the Mayo Clinic suggest that proper stretching increases flexibility and range of motion of joints. It also can improve blood flow and promotes better posture.


Ultimately, doctors hope it will help athletes, even amateur ones like me, prevent injuries.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of bending and stretching:

1) Warm up. Stretching cold muscles increases your risk of injury. Spend at least 5 minutes on a low intensity exercise before attempting to stretch. Some experts recommend stretching after you exercise when your muscles are really warmed up.

2) Hold it. Proper stretching takes time. Hold your stretches for 30-60 seconds in order to really lengthen muscle tissue safely.

3) Don't bounce. Hold steady during your stretches. Boucing may cause small tears in the muscle that can leave scar tissue during healing. In turn, that can make you less flexible and more prone to pain.

4) Back off. If the stretch hurts, you've probably gone too far. You should feel tension while stretching, but it shouldn't be painful.

Finally, don't hold your breath while stretching. Try to relax and breath easily. Stretching is a great way to relieve stress and ease tense muscles.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m ET weekdays.

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February 9, 2009

Reduce your risk of STDs

Posted: 04:26 PM ET

As the mother of a teenage girl, I was disturbed by a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the rise in sexually transmitted diseases or STDs. Nearly 19 million new infections occur every year and almost half of those affect 15- to 24-year-olds. The highest rate is among women and minorities.

Doctor with teen

Despite increased prevention efforts, experts say,  some of the progress is being eroded.

The American Social Health Association has some important tips for preventing STDs at a Web site called

1) Don't do it. Abstinence or not having intercourse is the best way to protect yourself. Be careful though; experts say it is possible to contract an STD even through skin-to-skin contact.

2) One at a time. If you do have sex, stick with one partner whom you know well. You will reduce your risk for STDs by limiting your number of sexual partners.

3) Use a condom. When used correctly, condoms may reduce the risk of contracting an STD. If you or your partner have unprotected sex, you may have an STD and not know it.

Finally, some STDs are curable. See your family doctor or school nurse if you think you have an infection. Left untreated, STDs can lead to inferility, cancer and long-term pain.

Judy Fortin's Health Minute segment runs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!