Teen Mental Health Awareness

Teen on Smartphone? Mental HealthIs the current crop of teenagers experiencing worse mental health than teenagers at any other time in the past?

It goes without saying that the current pace of social and technological change is challenging to young minds. The internet, social media, smartphones, the threat of war, and a frightening political climate can all combine to turn typical teenage angst into actual mental illness. How do you tell the difference between natural moodiness and when something is seriously wrong?

Typical teen angst or something more?

Teens can have a short fuse and lose their temper quickly, especially when they reach that phase when they naturally need to separate from their family members and think that they don’t have enough space or privacy.

This healthy and normal separation process starts in early adolescence, and it’s when parents notice that their child starts to feel embarrassed by them and wants to spend lots more time with their peers and not much time at all with family.

Seeing your teen spend hours at a time on the internet or locked away in their room messaging or phoning friends can be worrying. More worrying is how defensive they may become when you ask them what they’ve been doing or who they were communicating with.

Believe it or not, this behavior is absolutely normal. Teens naturally need to separate from the family to practice (and enjoy) greater independence in preparation for adulthood. It’s a healthy reaction to act defensively to attain this goal.

At this critical phase of life, you’ll see that even though your teen might cringe at the thought of spending time with their family, he or she will still be able to enjoy passing the time with friends socially and take part in typical school and extracurricular activities away from home.

Signs of trouble

However, If you notice that your child isn’t engaging in healthy activities or socially with friends or is continually sad, angry or disconnected; his or her behavior has become unhealthy and could require some kind of intervention.

It can seem impossible to tell the difference between the signs of depression and the usual dark moods that every teenager may experience at times. But, if you become concerned that your child could be silently suffering emotional issues or even behaving in a way that raises concerns; you might want to try speaking with other parents or organizations to compare your child’s behavior their peer group. If you’re still concerned after that, then it may be a good idea to speak with your pediatrician to find out if a mental health professional can offer more help.

Teen depression really is more prevalent

Among US 12 to 20 year olds, the chance of experiencing major depression over the course of the year has significantly increased according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This survey asks the same structured questions every year to discover changing health trends in the US population. The survey also found that girls experienced a steeper increase in depression than boys, and it was even more severe in the 18 to 20 year old age group.

Researchers tried adjusting for the frequency of drug and alcohol abuse, but the trend was still apparent. So, the increased frequency can’t be blamed on substance abuse or drinking. Next, they examined household composition; whether there was one, both or neither parent present. Household composition didn’t have any influence either.

Listen more and talk less

While your first impulse may be to offer advice based on your own experiences or give a speech about how they should deal with their feelings – the best idea may be to simply listen to him or her. Depression and anxiety can make a child or teen withdraw into themselves; instead of telling them how they should feel, try asking them to tell you what they feel.

Once they feel comfortable telling you what’s going on in their heads, you may be surprised at what you hear. Regardless, you’ll understand why your child feels the way they do and maybe even what made them feel that way.

teen girl with cuts on arm

Teen suicide rate increasing for 10 to 14 year olds

The second biggest cause of death among adolescents between 15 to 19 years of age is suicide. Only accidents kill more children in that age group. And, that rate of death has actually been decreasing since the 90s. But, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that, according to the most recent data available, the risk of death by suicide is the same as the risk of dying in a traffic accident for children from 10 to 14 years old.

Studies show that 90 percent of teen suicide attempts are preceded by significant warning signs. While any particular warning sign doesn’t mean your child is going to attempt suicide, you mustn’t ever ignore it, either.

  • Personality changes like withdrawing, feeling sad, anxious, irritable, or exhausted.
  • Behavior changes: a disintegration of social relationships, deterioration of school performance, reduced involvement in normal activities.
  • Insomnia, nightmares, and excessive sleeping.
  • Appetite loss, weight loss or overeating
  • Erratic behavior, self-harming or hurting others

There are actions you can take to help your child. Guard your teen against the risk of committing suicide by:

  • Interacting positively with your child by giving consistent positive feedback and compliments for doing well.
  • Get your child more involved in positive activities like clubs, sports or hobbies.
  • Keep track of your teen’s whereabouts, and their texting and social media use to prevent problems like cyberbullying from becoming an issue.
  • Keep track of your child’s social environment and regularly speak with other parents in your community to stay aware of potentially harmful fads or behaviors.
  • Speak regularly with his or her teachers to make sure you’re aware of any issues at school.
  • Communicate with your child about any concerns you may have, or specifically ask if he or she has suicidal thoughts.
  • Finally, talk about your concerns with a pediatrician to find out if you should get a referral to a mental health professional.

Smartphone addiction

According to a study published in 2017 by researchers at Korea University, and reported in a press release from the Radiological Society of North America, there is an observable imbalance in the brain chemistry of children and teens addicted to using their smartphones.

There are certain personality traits that could mean your child is more susceptible to smartphone addiction. These traits can include:

  • Being worrisome, fearful, pessimistic, and shy.
  • They can have altered reward dependence; your teen tends to be dependent on rewards associated with using the internet or a smartphone, instead of more natural rewards from activities like spending time with friends or family, doing well in school, or enjoying a (non-digital) hobby.
  • They have low self-esteem.
  • They don’t cooperate well with others.

Lead researcher, Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, told Medical News Today that, “There’s more danger in this addiction than just the potential of wasting a lot of time sharing memes and viral videos. In fact, teens who are addicted to their phones and the Internet have a chemical imbalance in their brains that predispose them to depression and anxiety.”

Social media and cyber-bullying

Other reports have associated with social media use with depressive symptoms. There’s also significant evidence that cyberbullying could be connected to an increase in feelings of depression (especially among girls), that may increase the risk of suicide.

Research shows that:

  • 92 percent of teens claim that they spend time online every day and 24 percent state that they’re online almost continually.
  • More than half of teens are on the internet multiple times per day.
  • 94 percent of teens go on the Internet using their smartphones at least once per day.
  • For 71 percent of teens, Facebook is the most often visited social media website, followed by 52 percent for Instagram and 44 percent for Snapchat.

A report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics states that cyberbullying and depression go hand-in-hand. Ten studies were examined to find the link between social media bullying and depression in young people. Every one of them found a connection.

Although you may feel at a loss about how to guide your children away from the harmful effects of a social media obsession; taking away the smartphone could make things worse for particular children. If you find out that cyberbullying or social media addiction is causing your teen depression or excess anxiety, it may be best to get professional advice from a medical or psychiatric professional about the right way to handle it.

Understanding Supplements for What They Are

Sifting through the supplement hype

It seems that every time you turn on the television, read a magazine or check out Supplements in Handthe latest bestselling books – someone claims to have discovered the next miracle method to:

  • Lose weight
  • Be healthier
  • Look younger
  • Feel happier

The vast majority of these claims typically take a little truth and mix in some fancy ideas to make it suddenly appear revolutionary (anybody remember chromium picolinate?).

While many of these claims are completely unbelievable, they may still seem valid through some other factor. For example, someone selling a weight loss method could tell you that you also need to follow particular guidelines for the method to work best.

You’re tricked into thinking that it’s your fault if it doesn’t work for you. You were told that by taking the supplement or using the device they’re selling would work; as long as you did something like reduce calories or get more exercise. Was it what they sold you that caused weight loss? Or was it eating less and moving more?

Don’t Believe All the Claims

We’ve all heard it before: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true.”

If it were so easy to lose weight, look younger, be stronger or even smarter, then we would all be thin, gorgeous, and brighter than Einstein. Don’t be naïve when you read the claims many supplement brands are making. Would anything that really worked that good be available without a prescription? The reason the illegal steroid trade exists is that those supplements obviously don’t work that well, if at all.

If you’re looking for a miracle wrinkle remover, then remember that so far, there are no plastic surgeons being put out of business. If it were as easy as using a face cream or pill, then 50-year-old actresses would still be playing high-school students and not grandmothers.

Does anything work as advertised?

That isn’t to say that there are no supplements or weight loss plans that work as advertised. You just need to do your research. It’s true that vitamin D supplements will prevent winter flu, help treat seasonal affective disorder, and prevent cardiovascular disease. There is solid research that proves it. It doesn’t mean that taking vitamin D will make you bullet-proof – no matter what anyone says in an ad.

There are lots of herbal extracts and supplements that can speed healing, encourage restful sleep, and relieve pain. A quick online search will find many peer-reviewed research studies by scientists who conducted experiments to find out what they could do. Do not trust what that ad in the latest health magazine says without finding out more from reliable sources.

The oldest trick in the book

Were you ever tempted to call the number on a TV, radio or print ad and fork over your credit card number for the solution to your problem? Think hard and ask to see the fine print. Many times consumers don’t just agree to a one time purchase. Unscrupulous companies will automatically subscribe you to recurring orders that are automatically charged to your credit card. Buyer beware isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life in our consumer-based society.

Don’t let them play on your fears, insecurity, and laziness

The supplement salesmen are just that; salesmen. They are not medical professionals; their job is to sell you a product. They don’t care if you can’t afford it, should be using a cheaper alternative or if it doesn’t work as advertised.

They do this by playing on your emotions. Just like a deodorant commercial that makes you think that if you don’t use the product that they’re flogging you’ll lose all your friends. Don’t fall for it.

We all know that the only healthy way to lose weight and stay healthy is by exercising and watching what we eat. But, it’s so tempting to believe someone who promises quick, effortless results. Use your common sense and tune those jokers out.

Fads come and go

pill bottle and pillsWhether it’s an exercise program, diet aid or wrinkle remover; the same ideas are used over and over again. It could be under a new name or wrapped in fancy terminology, but it’s the same old scam. Think back a bit, and I’m sure you’ll remember some doozies:

  • The ab-roller
  • Juice diets
  • The raw diet
  • Weight loss tea
  • Anything hawked by a celebrity (calling Chuck Norris…)

But every year some version of these old ideas keep on coming back dressed up with new hype.

Stick to the facts

There are many herbal, vitamin, and nutritional supplements that will do what the label says it will. Many herbs have significant benefits for a broad range of health conditions. Vitamins are necessary to maintain a healthy metabolism and prevent disease. Protein powders and supplements like creatine have real science backing them.

If you remember to ignore the hype, don’t believe everything you’re told, and always find a reliable source of information to verify what you hear about the health and fitness aids that are continually being pushed on the media you’ll:

  • Save money
  • Stay healthy
  • Find products that really work

Don’t forget, when it comes to your health, stick to the facts. Also don’t discount that herbal tea is an ancient and well documented way to get your supplements. That history is a form of validation of those teas and there effects.

5 Tips for Keeping Active when it’s Cold Outside

If you’re like most people, the winter months are the time you’d rather retreat to the refuge of comfortably heated rooms and a less active lifestyle. The result, of course, is that you’ll have to scramble to look your best by the time spring and warm days roll around again and, it’s no longer possible to hide all the weight you’ve put on under bulky winter clothes.

The solution is to find ways to remain active even during the worst of the cold weather season. Keep reading to discover 12 practical tips for keeping active when it’s cold outside.

1. Don’t Want to Leave your Home? You don’t have to!

It can get brutal outside, making it unsafe to enjoy any outdoors time. Extreme cold, storms, icy conditions – are all excellent reasons to stay inside. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay active.

There are many ways to productively exercise at home and enjoy the benefits of physical activity and maintain your fitness until the sun returns.


Calisthenics exercises are a fantastic way to stay active and improve your fitness at home. Push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and even running in place will all:

  • Improve muscular strength
  • Build cardiovascular fitness
  • Burn the excess calories you’ve eaten over the holidays

There are many wonderful resources online that will show you how to start a program of calisthenics exercises, a few of the best are ExRx, YouTube, and Livestrong.

Invest in a Treadmill, Rowing Ergometer, or Stepper

For those of us with the money to invest in ourselves – buying a piece of indoor cardio equipment is a brilliant way to stay active regardless what the weather is like outside.

The advantages of owning your own cardio equipment are obvious. Forget about getting to the gym, waiting for it to be available or dealing with someone else’s sweat all over it. Best of all, you can exercise in front of the TV and catch up on the news, episodes of your favorite shows or enjoy a great movie – while burning calories and toning the body.

Get a Fitness DVD like Zumba

There are hundreds of fantastic aerobic dance workouts on DVD that will turn your living room into a fun exercise studio. Set up the surround sound, move some furniture out of the way and benefit from the benefits of high-energy music and cardio-building dance moves.

Some options to check out are:

  • Zumba, with its sexy Latin rhythms and combination of calisthenics and dance moves
  • Kickboxing cardio workouts
  • Specialty videos that use ballet, jazz or tap-dancing to teach you new and fun ways to be active this winter.

2. Try Something New

There are many options to stay active outdoors even when it’s below freezing. If you haven’t tried a cold weather sport before, then this winter could be a great time to explore the options you have available.

Try getting friends and family together for a weekly get-together at a local ice skating rink. Ice skating will tone and strengthen the legs, improve your balance, and raise your metabolism as your body burns more calories to stay warm in the cold.

Skiing and snowboarding aren’t just fun; they’re an opportunity to enjoy the fresh mountain air and get away from your mundane everyday environment. Schedule a few trips over the cold season to revel in gorgeous views, fun times, and get out of your living room to genuinely enjoy the winter.

3. Be More Flexible

Winter is typified by sudden changes in the weather. Conditions can rapidly go from clear blue skies to blizzard conditions in a matter of minutes. We can easily convince ourselves to cancel any plans we had when conditions change. Instead, be flexible enough to have alternative options available that can save the day.

Ice skating canceled because of a sudden storm? Maybe there’s a roller skating rink nearby where you can still enjoy an active day out. Has inclement weather kept you from getting in some jogging? Use the time you had set aside for some other indoor fitness activity.

4. Be More Active during Your Day

From taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator to parking farther away from shopping or the office; there are many different ways to stay active until park and beach season returns.

Be creative. If the weather allows, why not use part of your lunch break for a relaxing walk? Recent studies have demonstrated that sitting for extended periods is as much a health risk as smoking, so why not try getting a standing desk? Even if a standing desk isn’t possible, you can cut down on your sitting time by simply standing up every time you speak on the phone.

5. Change Your Outlook

Winter is a state of mind. We all associate summer with fun days outdoors but typically see winter as a time to hibernate with long evenings spent over meals and sitting with family in front of the TV. Try changing how you think about winter to make sure you maintain a healthy level of activity.

Sure, beach trips and barbecues are fun, but what about snowball fights and building snowmen?

It just takes a change in how you see winter. Instead of just focusing on big holiday meals, cuddling on the sofa, or sitting in front of a warm fire – think about wonderful winter walks, exciting trips to the mountains for hiking, skiing, snowboarding or a fun day sledding in a local park.

Building a snowman with family or your significant other can become a cherished memory and keep your body moving.

Get Outside

Finally, the best way to ensure that you stay active when it’s cold outside is to just get outside!

Find any excuse to get out the front door and into the brisk air of a winter day. Revel in the absence of heat and humidity. If the indoors is still where you’re happiest – reconsider the choice of indoor activities. A movie or TV show is as much fun on a treadmill as it is on the sofa (but you’ll feel better about yourself an hour and a half later).

Change your mind about cold weather and enter the summer with great memories, better self-image, and a healthier and more attractive body.

Tips to Stay Healthy and Safe this Winter

Winter weather can get pretty dangerous, lots of snow and ice can cause unsafe road conditions, slippery walkways, power outages and unbearably cold temperatures. If you aren’t prepared for it then you could get yourself into a pretty bad situation. Mostly if you have children you should make sure your home and car are winterized and prepared for these harsh few months.

How to Protect your Home

If you aren’t a fan of the winter and the cold temperatures then you’re going to want to make sure your house is fully prepared and winterized to withstand any dangerous storm. First of all, make sure there is no draft coming from any windows or doors. Remove your screen door and replace with a storm door to keep out any draft or harsh winds. Double check your pipes, if they freeze it means no water and a hefty bill to repair. Make sure your pipes are well insulated. Keep gutters clean, make sure snow or ice doesn’t build up in the gutters or they could fall and damage your house or hit you. Check the roof for any leaks, keep as much snow off of your roof as possible, if possible.

Next is the heating system in your house. Making sure you can keep your house warm all winter is the highest priority to keep your family from freezing. Get your furnace, air ducts, etc. checked and cleaned once a year. Purchase oil/kerosene/pellets/firewood early so you are prepared. It can be expensive to buy later in the season. Always have a backup plan whether it’s extra pellets or wood, or set-up a refill plan with your oil company to make sure you never run out. If you have a fireplace make sure it’s inspected and cleaned once a year. Double check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide testers. Buy a space heater for living rooms and bedrooms. Double check your generator is fueled and properly working. If you don’t have a generator then it’s a good time to buy one. Keep blankets/jackets/ hats and gloves near in case of a power outage. Having outdoor solar powered lights is also very beneficial. If the power does go out at night and you need to see outside the solar powered lights will stay on. Keep a shovel, sand and/or cat litter near the front door for easy access.

How to Prepare your Vehicle

Having a car that is reliable and drives through rain, sleet, snow and ice easily is a must-have during the winter. Winterizing your car can be a bit expensive but well worth it to get to work/store/school or a hospital without causing an accident. How do you get your car prepared for the winter? First of all, get a good set of snow tires, or if you don’t get a lot of snow then a nice set of all-season tires will do. Always keep at least a quarter tank of gas so your tank and fuel lines don’t freeze and crack. Keep winter windshield wiper fluid handy, windshields get very dirty in the winter. Have an extra set of wipers in case one breaks from ice build-up (happened to me once, it was Christmas day, all stores closed, scratched my up windshield). Double-check your anti-freeze and your radiator, having your car overheat can cause major damage that is very expensive to fix. Always, ALWAYS let your car warm up before driving. It helps melt snow and ice off your car and protects the engine.

Have an emergency kit in your car? If not then you should right away. If you’re car breaks down or goes off the road then an emergency kit would come in handy. So, what should you have in an emergency kit? Portable phone charger, flashlight, batteries, heavy blankets, extra socks, food like granola bars. Jumper cables, tire pump, spare tire, first-aid kit, sand or cat litter (to pour on ice to gain traction if stuck) and even a few pieces of plywood to wedge under your tires in-case you’re stuck in the snow. A small shovel is also handy to dig yourself out of snow. Whenever getting in your car always have a fully charged cell-phone, a bottle of water and money in case something happens. Having AAA is also a great tool if you’re in a situation, they are very helpful and can come help right away.

What to do When a Storm Hits?

Is the weather channel showing a big storm coming your way? Here’s what to do to prepare your home within a small window of time. Go to the grocery store and supply your home with food and water bottles/jugs, specifically food that doesn’t need to be cooked in case of power outage. Stock up on batteries for flashlights, and make sure you have blankets, sweaters, socks and hats at easy disposal. Charge your phone, and make sure all pets stay indoors. Keep watch on school closings, road closings and any severe weather alerts. Keep your walk-way clear and your driveway plowed. Pour sand or cat litter on your walk-way so no falls or injuries occur.

For a good 4-5 months of the year we have to deal with harsh winter-weather. Every year, now why not prepare now so that you are fully-prepared for future winters. Freezing cold temperatures are not something that you can take lightly and ignore. Not winterizing your home or your car can be dangerous and costly. Please take the time to prepare yourself and your family for whatever Mother Nature has to throw at us.

Best Sleep Hygiene

If you are having trouble feeling alive and refreshed in the mornings, you may need to make some changes in your lifestyle and in your bedroom to get the illusive z’s you require. Healthy sleep habits are often called sleep hygiene to describe the best practices in your life to get all of the refreshing sleep you need every night. Good sleep hygiene is important for both your mental and physical health. It can improve your productivity and your overall quality of life too.

Maintain a Sleep Schedule

Just as when we were babies and our parents put us on a sleep schedule so they could feed us, diaper us and put us down for a nap or the night, it is best as an adult to continue this type of a schedule.

Your body has a circadian rhythm which is like your body’s clock that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. Most adults require about seven hours of sleep a night to wake refreshed and ready for the day’s events. In order to keep your body’s clock working correctly, it is best to go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Try not to sleep in late on your days off or the weekends as this will only give you a sleep hangover on Monday morning from lack of sleep.

Maintain a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual

Try to use a bedtime ritual each night before you get in the bed that helps you become sleepy. Many people take a soothing shower at night before bedtime to relax them and help to wash away the worries of the day. Some people find reading a book, the old-fashioned kind and not on a Kindle, will help them to become very relaxed. Some people find that yoga or stretching will help relax them before bedtime. Just make sure whatever your routine is that is doesn’t include bright lights or strenuous exercise, which can make it harder to sleep.

Get Your Exercise Daily

Physical exercise makes your body want to sleep well at night as the muscles recover when you sleep. You can do a rigorous workout or even a 10 minutes walk or cycling to help you to sleep better. So, no matter your level of fitness, just keep moving, but not close to bedtime.

Outdoor Light Exposure

During the day, get some natural outdoor light exposure. This is also a part that controls your wake and sleep cycles. The sunlight exposure can be for only a few minutes by parking your car farther away from the front door at work, or just soaking in a few rays with a short walk after lunch. It also helps to experience some outdoor darkness so your body’s clock ticks on the idea that daylight hours are for being awake and nighttime hours are for sleeping.

Don’t be a Clock Watcher

We have all been there when we can’t sleep for some unknown reason and we check the clock or phone over and over to see how much longer we have to sleep before the alarm goes off. This is very disruptive to your sleep cycle. Either turn the clock’s face away from you or put your phone on the other side of the room so you are not tempted to keep checking the time. Clock-watcher’s increase their tension and it makes it hard to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, or may make it harder to get to sleep. If you find yourself awake for a while at night, get up and read or listen quietly to some soothing music to relax your body and then go back to bed.

Take a Nap Early

If you absolutely must take a nap in the daytime, then do it as early as possible in the day. Many people require a daily nap, and that is okay, but napping late in the afternoon or for a long time, decreases your sleep drive at night and make it harder to stick to a sleep schedule. Late naps can also make it harder to fall asleep. Limit your daytime nap to 30 minutes for the best results.

Don’t Take your Worries to Bed

Many people lie down to sleep at night and all of the worries of the day start running through their heads, making it impossible to sleep. For an hour before you go to bed you should avoid stressful situations, doing work from home and discussions about emotionally charged subjects. Stress causes your body to secrete cortisol, which increases your alertness. Instead of taking your problems to bed, you can set them aside by writing things down on paper and setting them aside. Other aspects of stress management include getting organized, delegating tasks to others and setting your priorities in order.

Watch What You Eat at Night

Eating a heavy meal at night can give you that overfull feeling of Thanksgiving dinner and make you sleepy at first, but then it will likely prevent good sleep because you can’t get comfortable. Avoid large meals at night and watch out for spicy foods that can give you discomfort from indigestion. Try to eat your nighttime meal two to three hours before bedtime and you can eat a light snack approximately 45 minutes before bed if you are still hungry.

Avoid Stimulants at Night

It is best to avoid any types of stimulants before bed such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Some people find that drinking alcohol in moderation before bedtime can help them to fall asleep, but that will wear off and they will most probably wake several times in the night unable to sleep. Caffeine and nicotine stimulate your body into wakefulness and can prevent you getting to bed on time. You should also balance your liquid intake to drink enough that you don’t wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, but limit liquids near bedtime so you won’t wake and need a bathroom trip.

Evaluate Your Bedroom

The best conditions for getting to sleep and staying asleep is to have your sleeping environment very comfortable. If your room is quiet, cool and dark, it will help you to get a better night’s rest. Some people find a white noise device or earplugs can reduce outside sounds. The use of blackout or heavy curtains can limit the light and the best temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check Your Mattress

Nectar Article AdOne of the most important items is to check your mattress and bedding. This is most often the reason you aren’t getting the sleep you need. If your mattress is over eight years old, it may be time to replace it. Signs of a failing mattress include waking up sore and stiff, waking up tired and tossing and turning at night. Visual clues to needing to replace your mattress are sagging, lumps or bumps, body impressions where you sleep, a moaning box spring and you and your partner roll toward each other in the night. If you feel that you do need a new mattress have a look at this site that has great reviews!

The signs of poor sleep hygiene include daytime sleepiness and frequent sleep disturbances in the night. You can prevent all the tossing and turning and get a restful night’s sleep every night by following some of the tips above.

Does My Baby Have Sandifer’s syndrome?

Sandifers syndromeYour baby isn’t gaining weight properly, sleeps poorly, spits up or frequently chokes when feeding and suffers from repeated lung infections – and worse of all; is making seizure-like movements of the back and neck. Could it be Sandifer’s syndrome?

Sandifer’s syndrome is a stomach disorder that can cause a baby to make disturbing and seizure-like movements that resemble an epileptic attack. These symptoms will usually be seen in children from shortly after birth up to adolescence in some cases. But, it’s most commonly seen in children from 18 to 24 months of age.

When the symptoms are seen in older children, they are typically mentally impaired, suffer spasticity or already have other neurological disorders.

According to an article in the journal Pediatrics International, Sandifer’s syndrome is a rare disorder that affects about one percent of children and is often misdiagnosed as some neurological problem because the symptoms don’t look like a stomach problem.

What is Sandifer’s syndrome?

what is sandifers syndromeSandifer’s syndrome isn’t a disease, it’s a collection of symptoms that can be caused by acid reflux, and these symptoms may include:

  • Torticollis, which is an involuntary and chronic movement of the child’s neck
  • Dystonia, twisting and writhing movements that place the child in an abnormal posture because of involuntary muscle contractions
  • Head nodding (the baby tips the chin down)
  • Gurgling noises
  • Back arching

Chronic acid reflux in children is usually called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

Signs of GERD

According to recent research, the common warning signs of GERD that may create the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome are:

  • Being frequently irritable
  • Difficulty swallowing or choking spells
  • Holding breath for short periods
  • Vomiting
  • Back arching and head jerking
  • Unusual eye movements

More severe warning signs are frequently contracting lung infections (pneumonia) which researchers believe is the body’s reaction to the pain of acid reflux or irritation of the esophagus. Feeding difficulties and not gaining weight on schedule are two other warning signs that a baby is dealing with the discomfort and pain of gastrointestinal problems.

What Causes Sandifer’s Syndrome?

Sandifer’s syndrome is a poorly understood health issue. Research hasn’t yet discovered what cause the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome. What doctors do realize is that the symptoms frequently come with stomach acid moving back up into the esophagus (acid reflux). The esophagus is the section of a child’s digestive tract that brings food from the mouth to the stomach. The theory is that the pain of stomach contents, acid or gas coming back up the esophagus could be the cause of Sandifer’s syndrome symptoms.

Treating Sandifer’s Syndrome

treating sandifers syndromeDoctors will focus on treating the symptoms of Sandifer syndrome and trying to fix whatever is causing the child’s persistent acid reflux problem, which the doctor may also call gastroesophageal reflux disease. The best way to treat this problem depends on the child’s symptoms and stage of development.

The doctor could prescribe:

  • Feeding changes
  • Antacid medicines
  • Even surgery

There are various methods a pediatrician could use to correct the problems that may be causing the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome.

Feeding Changes for Sandifer’s Syndrome

According to currently accepted recommendations, a doctor could begin treating the child’s acid reflux issues by asking parents to change the way they handle feedings.

Changes may involve:

  • Not overfeeding
  • Keeping babies upright for a half hour after feeding
  • Using a predigested protein formula for a few weeks if sensitivity to milk proteins is suspected

Parents could also be told to mix some rice cereal with the baby formula to help buffer the stomach acid that might be causing the Sandifer’s symptoms. If the child is still experiencing acid reflux after the feeding changes have been made and yet has problems gaining weight, growing, feeding or sleeping well, the next treatment could be antacid drugs.

Medicine for Sandifer’s Syndrome

Drugs that the doctor could prescribe to treat acid reflux and resolve the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome may include antacids like; Tagament, Pepcid, Axid or Zantac. There is also a class of drugs that inhibit stomach acid production called proton pump inhibitors that could be used. Proton pump inhibitors include Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.

When Surgery is Required

Sometimes the acid reflux issues that result in Sandifer’s syndrome require surgical intervention. When surgery is recommended, the procedure that may be used is Nissen fundoplication. This is the repositioning and stitching of the upper part of the stomach around the spot where it attaches to the stomach.

In Nissen fundoplication, the surgeon wraps the top of the stomach around the bottom of the esophagus. Doing this tightens the opening of the food passage to fix the problem that could have let stomach acid back up into it.

What’s the Prognosis for Sandifer’s Syndrome?

The Mayo Clinic says that it’s uncommon for GERD and the symptoms of Sandifer’s disease to continue after the baby reaches approximately 18 months of age. The acid reflux that may be causing Sandifer’s symptoms is almost never a serious medical problem and typically becomes less of an issue as the child grows older.