Entries in Back to School (5)


Empty Nest Syndrome Affects Pets, Too

Janie Airey/Lifesize/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As kids across the country head back to school and away to college this week, most Americans are sensitive to the fact that some parents may experience a form of “empty nest syndrome”: a range of symptoms and behaviorisms associated with separation anxiety. So, that explains the scratches on the back door and the shredded throw pillows in the living room, right?

Well, not exactly.

That damage is a product of someone in your household experiencing empty nest syndrome, but it’s definitely not your mom.

What people may not initially realize is that household pets are also extremely susceptible to separation anxiety.

“Your dog probably knows the difference between the shoes you wear to work and the shoes you wear to take him for a walk,” says Dr. Debra Horwitz, a board certified veterinary behaviorist. “They’re very observant and they use those kinds of cues to determine what’s going to happen in their day. So, when everyone is home all summer and then, boom, they’re not anymore, that change in routine can be anxiety provoking for certain individuals and trigger a distress response, when the dog is home alone and separated from the ones that he or she is most attached to.”

In fact, animals may even be more shaken by a child’s sudden departure than parents because they have no way of being explicitly notified.

“Just because you know there’s going to be a change and you’re ready for it, doesn’t mean your pet does,” explains Dr. Horwitz. “The end of summer vacation often means that we can no longer sleep in or take leisurely morning walks with our pets. We have to get up, get ready and go straight to work instead. We don’t like those changes either, but we know they’re coming and we’re prepared for them.”

Pets, for their part, will exhibit this anxiety through a range of behavioral signs, including panting, pacing, whining, barking and destruction. In severe cases, Horwitz says, pets may experience a loss of appetite, even when their people are home.

However, the severity of the distress response really depends on the flexibility of the individual pet.

Depending on the flexibility of the pet, veterinary behaviorists recommend several behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions that can help him or her cope with the situation.

It is best to take preventative measures, before the actual change occurs. So, if you can, professionals recommend starting to wake up a bit earlier, packing a back pack or scheduling brief departures of about an hour, in the closing weeks of summer. These changes can help ease your pet into the upcoming transition.

Otherwise, it often helps to wake up a little early and either conduct a play session or take your dog for a morning walk, before you leave for work. This way, the dog is mentally stimulated and will spend more time resting when you are gone. Additionally, it is important to make departures low-key and matter of fact, rather than prolonging the act of actually walking out the door.

“Sometimes it also helps to leave a food-enhanced toy,” suggests Horwitz.

For dogs, this can take the form of a toy with a bit of peanut butter smeared on it. For cats, it is often helpful to hide treats throughout the house with varying degrees of discovery difficulty.

And for severe cases, there are two approved medications—Reconcile and Clomicalm—proven to be effective for the treatment of animals with separation anxiety, when combined with other behavioral modifications.

“These animals are not being spiteful or mad,” explains Horwitz. “They are anxious and they are really worried. And all the destructive things they might do are based on this stress and anxiety. It is our job to address that as quickly and humanely as we can.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Preventative Measures Against School Bullying

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Thinkstock(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- School is back in session for some young students, and for many that means back to bullying.

HealthDay reports that bullying is a common problem among schools, according to Donna Henderson, a professor of counseling at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Henderson cites that bullying is a common threat among schools because violence, intimidation and power is widely accepted beyond the classroom walls as a means of obtaining power.

In a university news release, Henderson offered preventative measures parents can take to protect their children from bullying:

• Be aware of school policies regarding bullying prevention.
• Be aware of warning signs in children as they begin school, such as sudden changes in behavior and not eating.
• Inform your children about bullying and that it's unacceptable behavior.
• Regularly check-in with your children about bullying and see if it is prevalent in their daily school life.
• Discuss how to best respond to bullying episodes, such as walking away, not showing emotion, or staying in groups to avoid being singled out.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Back to School: Backpack Safety Tips

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROSEMONT, Ill.) -- Heavy backpacks are not only difficult to carry, but are harmful to a user’s back, according to orthopaedic surgeons at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Backpack wearers should think twice before overloading their bags as nearly 28,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors' offices, and emergency rooms in 2010 for backpack-related injuries like strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The AAOS advises back-pack users to be mindful of these tips to help eliminate pain and discomfort from heavy bags:

• Always use both shoulder straps to keep the pack’s weight better distributed.
• Tighten the straps and use waist strap if provided.
• Remove or organize items if too heavy, placing the biggest items closest to the back.
• Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up the backpack.
• Carry only necessary items.

Parents are also encouraged to educate their children on backpack-related pain:

• Encourage your child or teenager to be aware of backpack-related pain or discomfort like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
• Buy an appropriately sized backpack for the size of your child and watch for posture changes when they wear the backpack.
• Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle for them
• Talk to the school about lightening the load, keeping it10-15 percent or less of the child's bodyweight.
• Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day to alleviate heaviness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pediatricians Dispense Tips for a Healthy School Year  

Comstock/Thinkstock(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- School is already back in session for many and pediatricians are encouraging parents and children alike to take precautionary measures to avoid spreading illness at school.

HealthDay reports that strep throat is just one of several common childhood illnesses that can easily spread if parents and children do not take the proper preventive measures, according to experts at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

Experts are advising parents and students to be aware of five common childhood infections:

• Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) — This condition is most often caused by viruses or bacteria and can be prevented by washing hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water.
• Strep throat —The bacterial infection that causes swelling and extreme soreness in the back of the throat can be prevented by not sharing utensils, food, drinks, napkins or towels with a child who already has the sickness.
• Head lice —Lice are parasitic insects that infest the head, eyebrows and eyelashes and can be prevented by  not sharing combs, brushes, hats and helmets.
• Molluscum contagiosum — This very contagious viral skin rash, common among children between the ages of 1 and 12 can best be prevented by hand washing with soap and water.
• Walking pneumonia  — This illness is the leading type of pneumonia in school-age kids and teens and can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with an infected person and by hand washing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Back to School: Parents Should Plan Ahead to Reduce Child’s Stress

Comstock/Thinkstock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- The transition from summer to fall is never an easy one, and may be especially difficult for those anticipating their first day of school.

HealthDay reports that children who are excessively worried for a prolonged period of time— more than two weeks—may suffer from trauma and may need to seek outside help, according to experts.

Vivian Friedman, a child-adolescent psychologist and professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said there are ways parents can prepare their child for school to help alleviate their stress:

• Scheduling a play date with a child from the new school.
• Visiting the school playground during the summer.
• Taking a tour of the school before classes start.

Most importantly, Friedman encouraged parents to stay positive.

"Character styles are persistent, not permanent. A child who approaches life with fear may also be a cautious adult," said Friedman. "An easy-going child is likely to continue to approach life with a positive attitude. Help your child to see the glass half-full rather than half-empty.”

Friedman encouraged parents to be wary of the following symptoms that are indicative of an underlying issue:

•    Whining.
•    Threatening to run away or hurt themselves.
•    Having nightmares or other sleep disturbances.
•    Renewed bedwetting.
•    Having generally anxious behavior or startling easily.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio