Medicentres Blog

Wellness information for Canadians

So You’re Addicted to Caffeine: The Ups and Downs

Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. ~Author Unknown

Caffeine 101:  

I never thought of myself as a drug addict. I’m on my second cup of my daily addiction, and it probably won’t be the last. Each sip is stimulating my central nervous system, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Unlike most psychoactive drugs (a category including alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine), caffeine is legal and unregulated across the world. It comes from the seeds, nuts, and leaves of several South American and East Asian plants. In the wild, it protects the plants from pests. Ironically, it’s now why we harvest those plants.

How popular is caffeine? 90% of North Americans consume it daily, usually via coffee, tea, or cola. Coffee is more popular in Canada than tap water, with the average Canuck guzzling 3 cups of the stuff.

Energy drinks, which pack a bigger buzz, have surged to popularity lately. Purer forms of caffeine, like pills, are illegal given that high doses of it can be fatal.


Caffeine in the Body :

As I sip my coffee, here’s what’s happening:

  • Caffeine is absorbing into every bodily tissue it touches
  • My heart rate and blood pressure are increasing
  • My body temperature is changing and the gastric juices start flowing
  • I become more attentive (the desired side effect), but I know that I’ll be irritable in a few minutes

It takes a while for your body to break down and clear caffeine. It’s half-life (the time is takes to reduce half of it) is 4 hours. So if you give in to that  5pm espresso, you may find yourself laying awake.

Here are the pros:

  • It gets you moving in the morning, especially if it’s been a long night!
  • There’s some evidence for improved memory, better focus, and boosted concentration (temporarily, of course).

The cons:

  • Caffeine can lead to a headache or upset stomach for some. High intake (4 cups a day or more) can lead to feeling jittery or even heart palpitations.
  • Some people experience insomnia if they have caffeine late in the day. Others, inexplicably, sleep well no matter when they drink coffee.
  • Ongoing use will lead to dependence, and that means withdrawal. Not having your morning hit can lead to headaches and irritability.


How Much is Too Much?:

So we’re pretty much all hooked on the drug that is caffeine. Different drinks have different levels, and different people can handle more or less. So it varies, but here are the basics:

  • About 400 milligrams is the healthy limit. After that and you’re starting to ask for the jitters.
  • A cup of coffee is 100 to 200 mg. Bear in mind that a “cup” is 8 ounces (236 ml). It’s not that giant thermos you fill up twice a day.
  • A cup of tea (non-herbal) tends to have 70 mg, while colas often have 50. Don’t assume that because it’s not ‘Coke’ or ‘Pepsi’ that it doesn’t have caffeine. It’s been added to a lot of sodas you wouldn’t expect.

600 mg is generally considered too high, according to the FDA. That being said, daily consumption can lead to increased tolerance, just like any drug. You might not feel the excessive amount, but your body does.

    If you’re pregnant, try to limit yourself to one cup of coffee, or 200 mg, a day. Kids shouldn’t have it, and with their energy level typically don’t need it, because their developing brains are more sensitive to its effects.

   Teen should max out at 100 mg, although they often drink way more soda than that.

Surviving Spring…Allergies!

“Springtime is easily the worst season when it comes to allergies. Which pollens are prevalent differs from province to province but the first seasonal allergy to pop up is tree pollen which could start as early as March,” Dr. David Fischer, allergist


Stuffy nose? Itchy, watery eyes? Sneezing? Itchy ears? Do these symptoms sound familiar? You might be one of the 10 million people in Canada who suffer from seasonal allergies.

Well, what can you do besides avoid the great outdoors? The first step, is to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about medications that may help with your symptoms. The best defense is an offence, so don’t give your allergies a chance to cause you difficulty.

Knowing that pollen counts are highest in the early morning, from about 5:00 am until about 10:00 am, means that you can try to schedule your outdoor time later on on the day.  You can also be sure to keep your car windows closed while you drive. At home, try to keep your house windows closed. This is easiest if you have air conditioning. If it gets too hot, now is the time to enjoy your basement! It’s also a good rule to let someone else mow your lawn! See, seasonal allergies have some positives.

Don’t Let a Twisted Ankle take your Game Away

Medicentres: Sports Injuries

“Sports teach you how to be quick. Injuries teach you how to slow down.”

Yao Ming

Spring = Sports:

In Spring our fancy turns to thoughts of getting onto the field with our friends and running out those winter blahs. But before you do, let’s take a minute to think about how to prevent the injuries that send us back to the bench.

The most common injuries are strains and pulls. These happen when we push our body past its limits:

  • Ankle Strain
  • Groin Pull
  • Hamstring Strain
  • Shin splints
  • Knee Injuries, like ACL tears
  • Tennis elbow

Notice that most of these are below the belt, and they can all be usually avoided.

In order to prevent injuries, we need to know how they happen in the first place. The prime culprit of getting injured is often over-exuberance. Sports are a blast, but you’ll enjoy them longer if you take time to prepare and pace yourself when you’re out there:

  • Cold Muscles: jumping out of the car and running onto the football field is asking for a muscle strain or ligament tear. Take the time to do a light warm up and stretch.
  • Jumping Back In: if you haven’t played in awhile, it will be tempting to charge out there and tear up the grass. But sports use muscles that not see any use otherwise. Take it slow and you’ll have more fun in the long run.
  • Playing when Injured: your body needs time to heal from any injury. Rushing any healing process is asking for the injury to repeat itself, only worse.

How to Play Safe:

From accidents to tackles, getting hurt can sometimes be a part of playing the game. But the majority of injuries are preventable, and here’s how:

  • Warm up and stretch: don’t ask your muscles to go from sitting down to sprinting in 5 seconds. A warm-up before gets the blood flowing, increases flexibility, and decreases incidence and severity of strain injuries. Don’t forget the cool-down.
  • Wear Protective Gear: being macho just isn’t worth it. The smart ones wear the helmets, pads, gloves, etc.
  • Bring the Right Equipment: different sports require different equipment. If you wear running shoes instead of cleats to soccer, you could trip or slip at full sprint and take an avoidable fall.
  • Know the Rules: don’t assume that everyone is playing with the same rulebook, especially when it comes to how much contact is in the game. Clarify the rules with both teams.
  • Know your Limits: when you start to get seriously fatigued, dizzy, or have already sustained an injury, stop and rest. Sports when you’re not fully aware become very dangerous.
  • Drink: No not that kind (save that for after the game). Staying hydrated matters. It keeps you focused, keeps your energy up, and is just all around a good idea. If our bodies are internal combustion engines, water is the oil that keeps the parts moving smoothly. Have a tall glass of water the night before a big game, especially if it’s going to be hot, to give the water time to work through your system. Drink during and after the game as well. If you are in a hot environment or a prolonged play time, consider the need for other fluids with electrolytes.

If you do sustain an injury, visit one of clinics. You may be eligible for our Fastrack program which will reduce your wait time.


Allergy Calendar

“Spring is my favorite time of year to stop and smell the roses and then sneeze for 20 minutes”

Are you sniffing more lately? For allergy sufferers, spring flowers have a dark side. Pollen in the spring and mold in the summer can make us miserable, but there are things we can do for relief.

Bees make the headlines when it comes to pollination, but they’re only half the story. Many trees, grasses, and even flowering plants pollinate by casting scores of pollen grains into the spring wind, hoping they’ll find just the right breeze to fertilize another plant.

Wind pollination is a numbers game. Billions of grains fill the air, and when someone with these allergies breathes them in, their body’s defences go into red alert.

 Spring allergies are sometimes called hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Symptoms can vary from person to person and with pollen counts. Symptoms can often be flu-like but don’t cause fever, they include:

  • Watery, itchy, swollen eyes
  • Sneezing, coughing and runny nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes

Managing your Symptoms:

While there’s no cure for allergies, there are a number of things you can do to curb your symptoms while outside.

Pay attention to weather:

  • Avoid going outside on dry, windy days as they often have the highest pollen counts.
  • Mornings typically have the highest pollen concentrations with the highest concentrations between 5am and 10am. That’s a good excuse to sleep in!
  • Love the Rain: Raindrops wash pollen to the ground, so put on the raincoat and enjoy that spring rain smell (right after a rain is also an ideal time to get out).
  • Know the Pollen Count: There are a number of places, both on TV and online, to check the pollen count. Find one that you trust; some are more reliable than others. Use this information to help you decide when to spend time outdoors.

Here are a few tips for minimizing your exposure indoors:

  • Go Shoeless: Leave your shoes, and the pollen they’ve accumulated, at the back door
  • Shower at Night: Washing your hair before bed will prevent you sleeping in pollen that it has collected during the day.
  • Close-Up: Shut the windows on dry, windy days and crank them back open when it’s rainy and humid to get the fresh air in.
  • Filters: Get a HEPA filter for your furnace and change it often. Even if you don’t need heat, circulate air through the filter.
  • Recirculate: In your vehicle, set your dial to re-circulate air during the worst pollen days.
  • Medications: There are a multitude of over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants available. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist to discuss what over the counter medication would be best for you.

What to Expect, by the Month:

There’s no escaping pollen in the spring. Even if the trees you see close by don’t appear to be producing pollen, chances are other trees are. Pollen caught in an air current can travel thousands of kilometres just for us to breath it in.

In Canada, Edmonton is one of the worst cities for allergies, while the Prairies in general are a breeding ground for spring molds. Here’s a spring breakdown:

  • March: Depending on how early spring happens, March could either be non-eventful for allergy sufferers or the kick off to pollen season.
  • April: Tree pollen season starts in earnest, and, if it’s an early spring, expect flowers and grasses to make an appearance
  • May: This can be the worst month, with tree pollen rampant and grass/ flower allergens continuing
  • June: This is a key grass pollen month, so even though the tree pollen is fading, some can still be sniffling through the month of June.
  • July: With tree and grass pollen subsiding, you’ll be feeling better unless you have mold allergies. July, especially if cool and rainy, is peak season for mold to grow on fallen leaves, compost piles, grasses and grains.  

7 Ways to Exercise Your Mind at any Age

“In creating the human brain, evolution has wildly overshot the mark”
– Arthur Koestler

Your Brain, an Owner’s Manual:

It’s the most important organ in our body. But as we age, while we talk a lot about the health of our heart and our skin, we don’t often think about the thing that allow us to “think” in the first place.
Although your brain is an organ, you can think of it like a muscle. Like any muscle, we have some control of how vigorous our brain is. If we exercise it regularly and treat it well, it will be stronger as we age.
Picture rain falling in the hills. Water trickles, drop by drop, until the drops start connecting with each other and flow faster. Trickles combine until thousands of droplets have merged into streams flowing down to one river.
Your brain works like this. Our thoughts are electrical impulses travelling through our neural pathways. The more we have a thought, the more ingrained that particular neural pathway becomes. It becomes habit, a stream bed that all the trickles around it fall into.
When you stop thinking about a subject (ex. You finish a course and don’t revisit the materials) the stream bed can actually go dry. The neural pathway can actually disappear and we’ll lose our memory of that thought.

    Bottom line: thinking new thoughts is the best way to keep your brain healthy. Establishing new neural pathways exercises our brain. We can keep our existing pathways (our old knowledge) strong while learning new things and strengthening the network as a whole.


7 Best Brain Exercises:

Now that we know how to exercise your brain, let’s zero in on the best ways to do it:

  • Learn New Things: Exposing yourself to new ideas and stimuli acts as brainfood. It’s not just about getting “smarter”’; it’s about keeping your brain healthy and vigorous. Read a new book, watch a documentary online, attend an event you’ve never been to.
  • Experience Something New: Whether a cooking class, art workshop, or a new club, get out there and have a new experience. It doesn’t have to cost money; it could be as simple as finding interesting people on Facebook and having a coffee to talk about new ideas. Every new experience and person met = new pathways opening, and that means brain growth.
  • Repeat & Review: The best way to hold onto the things you’ve learned is to revisit them. It could be as simple a skimming some old notes, just enough to keep that neural pathway healthy.
  • Puzzles: You’ve heard about the benefits of a daily crossword, Suduko puzzle, or trivia. The benefits are real. Daily challenges keep the exercised areas of your brain sharp.
  • Talking: Bad news for the silent types. Speaking forces you to put thoughts into words, and doubles the traction on the neural pathway you’re using. Say it outloud, and you’re more likely to remember it later.
  • Exercise: Working out releases endorphins and dopamine, which tend to keep you focused and feeling better about life in general. That makes you more interested in learning new things and better able to retain what you’re learning.
  • Nourish your Brain: Think of water like oil for our engine of a body. Brains thrive on it. While you’re at it, extra servings of blueberries, wild salmon, nuts, avocados, whole grains, and beans help too.

The Dirty Truth about STIs

“I’ve got to bring out the big ammunition on sex education. The bra and girdle section of Sears just isn’t doing it.”
– Erma Bombeck

An Alarming Increase:      

    Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are on the move in Canada, and the numbers are shocking. As STIs fall off the public radar and people engage in riskier sex, they’re getting themselves and their future partners sick.

  • Gonorrhea, which used to be called ‘the clap,’ was up 53% in Canada between 2001 and 2010. It’s spread by unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral (yes, oral too) contact.
  • Syphilis, which can also be spread through any kind of contact, was up 456% in the same time period. This disease can also be passed from mother to child in the womb.
  • Chlamydia, the most common STI, has gone up every year since 1997. It’s tell-tale sign is burning, painful urination.

STIs hit young women the hardest. Men are catching up, though, with a higher rate of increase than women in the three disease categories mentioned above.

So why the increase? There are a number of reasons:

  • Lack of awareness: with HIV largely out of the headlines, STIs aren’t top of mind anymore.
  • Lifestyle changes: condoms have become unsexy in a culture saturated with porn and messages about “just go for it” sex
  • No symptoms: often people spread these diseases without knowing they have them, and without being tested
  • Priorities: young people are becoming more interested in avoiding pregnancy than STIs, so the pill is becoming more popular and condoms less popular.

What do these STIs look like:

Alarmingly, the majority of people with chlamydia have no idea they have it, and can keep spreading it to other partners. 70% of women and 50% of men don’t show symptoms, which is probably why it’s so common.

It’s especially dangerous for women, and can lead to infertility if left untreated. While chlamydia’s tell-tale symptom is painful, burning urination, it has many other symptoms. For women who know they have it:

  • Abnormal, often smelly, vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful periods
  • Painful sex
  • Itching or burning around the vagina
  • Painful, burning

And for the men who know they have it:

  • Clear, cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Burning and swelling at the tip of the penis
  • Pain and swelling around the testicles

If you have these symptoms, or to get tested, see a doctor. It’s bacterial, so antibiotics typically clear it up.

Gonorrhea is potentially very serious. Left untreated, it can lead to infertility, long-term abdominal pain in women, and even death if it spreads to the blood or joints.

Also called the ‘clap’, or ‘drip’, it’s most common among men and women with many sex partners. It’s easily spread via bodily fluids (so unborn babies can get it). For women, the symptoms may be so subtle that you don’t notice them. They can include:

  • Greenish yellow or whitish vaginal discharge
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Burning urination
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Spotting after intercourse and bleeding between periods
  • Burning in the throat or swollen glands (if caught from oral sex)

For men, symptoms include:

  • Greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Painful, swollen testicles
  • Burning in the throat or swollen glands (if caught from oral sex)

Syphilis is a deceptive and dangerous disease. There are 4 stages. The first is a small, painless sore, which is often taken for an ingrown hair or just nothing, in the mouth or around the genitals. A rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet develops after that and more sores.

The third stage, which can last forever if untreated, is when the disease goes dormant and symptoms cease. It’s not contagious in this stage.

Untreated, about 15% of cases progress to a fourth and devastating stage, wherein severe heart, brain and nerve damage can lead to paralysis, dementia, blindness, and ultimately death.

In the US and Canada, most syphilis cases affect gay or bisexual men. But cases are on the rise in the heterosexual community as well.

What you Can Do:

The first step to protection is to avoid contracting the disease. Limit your number of sexual partners and wear a latex condom. If you use lubricant, make sure it’s water based.

Wear a condom through the entire sex act. STIs spread freely via oral sex, so use an oral condom until you’ve both been tested.

Wash before and after intercourse and avoid sharing towels or underwear. STIs don’t need direct sexual contact to travel; sometimes bodily fluids alone can do it.

If you have any of the symptoms above, see your doctor right away. These 3 STIs can all be cured with antibiotics, but you have to catch them first.


Easter with Allergies

“The Good thing: if you find Easter eggs on Easter. The Bad thing: if you find Easter eggs on Christmas.” – anon

Chocolate’s Hidden Ingredients:    

Easter is about different things to different people. To kids, it’s usually about chocolate. Baskets and buckets of chocolate. Next to Halloween, it’s the most popular holiday for candies and sweets.

In that spring storm of chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and marshmallow peeps, it’s easy to remember the allergy sufferers watching from the sidelines.

While allergies to pure chocolate (the cacao bean), are incredibly rare, it’s common to have allergic reactions to an ingredient that’s been added:

  • Milk: dairy allergies are very common, especially in children. If it’s lactose intolerance, and small amounts of milk are ok, then dark or semi-sweet treats are best. There are dairy free brands on the market for more severe allergies.
  • Peanuts: besides obvious nutty treats, some chocolate is exposed to trace amounts without it being mentioned on the label. If you have a peanut allergy sufferer at your Easter events, contact the manufacturer or buy certified nut-free brands.
  • Soy: a lot of chocolate contains soy lecithin to keep it solid at room temperature. Check your labels, as soy allergies are becoming more common and can be life threatening.
  • Corn: this stuff is everywhere, so be vigilant. Check labels for corn syrup or anything that includes fructose. Best to avoid white chocolate.
  • Berries: these are a fairly common fruit allergen. Be careful of assortments, which almost always have some berries in them and often get mixed up.

For a kid, many Easter activities revolve around food. If you know a child with allergies, you understand how hard sitting on the sidelines is.

Easter can be stressful, and as excitement builds and the chocolate flows, it gets harder for parents to manage what their child is eating. If you’re throwing an Easter bash with new friends or schoolmates coming, consider being sensitive to allergies.

How to Avoid and Spot an Allergic Attack:

Parents of allergy sufferers know that the way to stay safe is to be proactive. Have a conversation with your teacher about the class celebration being inclusive, and start the conversation early.

All parents should be on the look-out for allergic reactions. Don’t offer food to kids you don’t know and if a child says that he or she isn’t feeling well, listen.

   Learn the signs of a food-based allergic reaction, even if your child doesn’t have allergies. Here are the most common signs of a food allergy attack:

  • Mouth itching or tingling
  • Itching or hives
  • Face, lips, tongue, or throat swelling up
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Dizziness or fainting

If you see these things, or if a child tells you they’re happening, contact a parent immediately.

You can often avoid allergy emergencies by being aware of what’s happening around you. Read the labels of the candy your kids are eating, and if you’re eating homemade treats, check with the cook about what’s in them.

What you can do Instead:

Yes, there are alternatives to chocolate. If you want your Easter get-together to be allergy-sufferer inclusive, here are a few ideas:

  • Have an Easter egg scavenger hunt with plastic eggs and dollar store toys inside, or clues to a larger toy
  • Lead a craft activity to make spring themed pom-pom bunnies and chicks with googly eyes. Pinterest has a thousand ideas.

With vigilance and a little creativity, you can make sure that all kids, allergies or not, have a happy, inclusive Easter.


What is Red Dye doing our Kids?

“Families are struggling against a tide of junk information on junk food.”

– Diane Abbott

A Sea of Red Dye:

Dying our food isn’t new. We’ve been using natural ingredients, like beet juice and turmeric, to enhance our food’s colour for thousands of years. But the modern food industry has taken it to a staggering new level.

Artificial dyes are added to a massive array of foods, from pop to pickles. Red Dye 40, derived from petroleum, is the most common and a modern staple in candy, cereal, baked goods, gelatin powder, drugs, and cosmetics.

Red 40 (which goes by other names too, as you’ll see below), is pretty much everywhere. Here’s an incomplete list:


  • M&M’s
  • Reese’s Pieces
  • Strawberry Twizzlers
  • Skittles
  • Peeps
  • Jelly beans


  • Powerade Orange
  • Crush Orange
  • Sunny D Orange Strawberry


  • Pickles
  • Some cherry pie filling
  • Some bbq sauce


  • Cap’n Crunch
  • Trix
  • Fruity Cheerios
  • Fruity Pebbles

Before we go on, it’s an important note that there’s no nutritional value to Red 40. It’s cosmetic only, there to make our cereal berries redder and our orange pop iridescent orange.

Red Dye & ADHD:

Evidence is mounting that synthetic dyes are bad for our kids’ health. The evidence tying them to hyperactivity, allergies, and learning disorders is accumulating steadily. Young children seem especially vulnerable.

Controversy has surrounded Red 40 since the 70s, when Dr. Ben Feingold developed a diet treatment for hyperactivity which eliminated artificial colours, flavours, and aspartame. Kids’ behavioural issues improved quickly when these were cut from their diets.

In 2007, a Southampton University study confirmed the link between certain synthetic dyes and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It was the first conclusive evidence to support 30 years of speculation.

Europe has since legislated a warning label on all foods containing certain artificial colours. Canadian labels usually require manufacturers to disclose what specific synthetic colour they’re using, which is at least better than US standards, which allow the ingredient to be listed as “color.”

What impact does labelling have? Think of it this way: in the US and Canada, McDonald’s strawberry sundaes are tinted with Red 40. In England, they’re coloured with real strawberries.

Digging deeper into the studies makes it clear that Red 40 doesn’t affect all kids the same way. Some kids can gobble down the red licorice and fruit punch and remain attentive and well-behaved. Others can eat 1 pink frosted donut and be hyperactive for hours. There’s no clear answer to what the difference is, but signposts point to genetics.

What You Can Do About It:

It takes a little persistence to cut way back on Red 40, but you can do it. Read the labels, and don’t limit yourself to red or orange foods. Cheeses, peanut butter crackers, salad dressings, and marshmallows can all carry it.

Red 40 goes by these aliases:

  • Red no 40
  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • Allura Red
  • Allura Red AC
  • C.I. 16035
  • C.I. Food Red 17

You can cut back on the processed foods. The more grocery shopping you do from the outside of the store (as opposed to inside the aisles), the less synthetic colour you’re going to eat.

No one needs ingredients –like Red 40, even with dyed foods. Look for foods coloured with paprika, beet juice, carotene, red cabbage, or turmeric instead. Being aware of what’s on the label is the best way to stay in control of what you and your family are eating.


How much Screen Time is too much?

“I’d like to play a video game where you help the people who were shot in all the other games. It’d be called ‘Really Busy Hospital.”

― Demetri Martin

What are Screens doing to our Kids?:

How much screen time should kids get? In a world saturated with flashy devices, it’s a question that parents wring their hands about endlessly.

The studies are in, and it’s bad news for screens. Any parent whose young child has just finished a full length animated movie has probably seen the signs:

  • Moodiness
  • Restlessness
  • Incoherent speech
  • Inability to focus
  • Emotional outbursts

In order words, too much screen time will alter our kids’ mood. Those flashing lights release dopamine, also called the pleasure chemical. That’s what got “Internet Use Disorder” added to the 2013 Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. Like gambling and cocaine, screens are officially addictive.

7 hours a day. That’s how much, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average child spends looking at a screen. That’s enough to build the same dopamine-dependence to video games as happens with gambling. TVs, phones, and video games create a parallel world that lures us into long periods of escapism.

So how much screen time should kids get, according to the AAP? Here are their recommendations:

    Children Under 2: None. Babies’ brains need unstructured play time, and lots of it, to develop naturally. They’re extremely vulnerable to screens’ addictive effects, so try to limit exposure to Skype calls with grandma and showing them the odd picture on your phone. The idea of screens as an educational tool has also been debunked.

    Children 2-5 years: One hour per day. Try to keep exposure to higher quality programming, like Sesame Street, and away from the cartoons. Avoid commercials if possible, as these are designed to maximize visual stimulation (and thus dopamine release). Toddlers haven’t developed the tool-kit to tell the difference between the real world and the digital world, so discuss what they’ve seen with them.

    Children 6 years and up: Limit digital media. The amount of screen time will vary by family, but try to prioritize productive and family time over entertainment time. A balance between school, homework, family, social contact, sleep, and personal entertainment is the key to kids’ mental health.

The Impact of too much Screen Time:

Too much screen time, over extended periods, can have real behavioral and social consequences. Studies have linked uncontrolled amounts of poor quality screen time to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Behavioural issues
  • Loss of social skills
  • Loss of interest in creative play

While increased dopamine levels during screen time allow prolonged, intense focus, lowered levels can lead to an ability to shift focus and thus, to learn. When the video games go off, your child may struggle to finish his homework.

   Every hour in front of a screen is also an hour not spent with friends. Playing sports and socializing is vital for healthy development, and we’re seeing a generation emerging that is more comfortable texting than talking.

You Have Options:

You don’t need to throw out the TV. Instead of cutting your kid off cold-turkey, encourage her to watch higher quality shows and watch them with her. Co-viewing will allow you to keep the viewing active (as opposed to blank-stare passive) and you’ll be able to talk about what you’re watching.

 Resist the urge to use the TV as a babysitter. Kids are hard-wired to love reading, colouring, and other creative activities. Nurture these activities and your child will learn to focus on them for extended periods.

You’re the role model. Try to bank your TV watching time until after their bedtime. If you sit passively and stare at the TV, they’re going to assume it’s the best thing to do.

Cutting back on screen time is about nurturing healthy habits. It will seem daunting at first, but it will get easier if you stick to it.

Candy Coloured Poisons

“The dose makes the poison.” –  Paracelsus

Pretty Poisons

We all know we must keep the bleach locked away from the kids. We care about safety, and bleach looks and feels like poison. But what if the bleach looked like candy? Or what if the poison didn’t seem like a poison, but like a beauty product, vitamin or even toothpaste?

It’s become a habit of packaging to make poisons pretty, whether that’s colouring glass cleaner bright blue or designing laundry pods that look like gummy candy. Young kids don’t read labels, and, in their world, bright beautiful things are made for them, and are usually delicious.

Every day, hundreds of children across Canada and the US are hospitalized as a result of poisoning themselves with common products that are often left within reach and unprotected. In the past couple of years, emergency rooms have seen a troubling spike of kids, including teenagers, who ingest cleaning products, detergents, and other toxins.

The Toxic Six:

Here are the household poisons that give poison centres the most calls:

  • Laundry Detergent packs: Bright and beautiful, these laundry and dish detergent pods look eerily similar to candy. But the substances inside can be deadly. In order to make a small pod, the chemicals are concentrated. Keep them childproofed at all times, and wash your hands after handling. Every year, thousands of kids in Canada and the US are rushed to hospital due to breathing problems caused by ingestion.
  • Dishwashing Detergent Pods: Like laundry pods, these are brightly coloured to look like taffy or gummy candy. They’re also commonly kept under the kitchen sink, which is in the highest traffic room of the house and at a toddler’s level. Most poisonings from these are in kids under 3; childproof locks are a must. Note: watch your kid with the lock, as some toddlers can easily open them. If they can, get a more complicated lock.
  • Toothpaste: It’s probably surprising, but fluoride toothpaste is toxic in high doses. Keep the toothpaste tube out of reach, supervise brushing, and train your kiddo not to swallow the toothpaste. Kids aged 2-6 should have a pea-sized amount, only.
  • Lotions and Creams: Kids love to apply lotions to be beautiful like Mommy, but if that delicious smelling, colourful lotion ends up in their mouths it could turn dangerous. Put your lotions away after use.
  • Vitamins: It’s a bit ridiculous how delicious they make kids’ vitamins. One a day is excellent, but too many can be harmful. Keep them out of reach and don’t give in to the “more, pleases.”
  • All-Purpose Cleaners: Why does my window cleaner look like Gatorade? It may be good marketing, but through a child’s eyes, which are on a constant hunt for juice, they can look irresistible. Cleaners are one of the most commonly ingested toxins, so keep the them out of reach and/or locked up.

Other things to watch: It’s quite a list. You don’t need to lock these all away, but keep an eye on them. Tiny amounts are rarely dangerous, but stay wary:

  • Cosmetics
  • Perfume
  • Mouthwash
  • Hair Dye


What to Do in Case of Poisoning:

    If you think your child has ingested poison, call Poison Control immediately. Remain calm, but the sooner you take action, the better the outcome is likely to be.

The Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres’ website is: Find your provincial number from the drop-down menu at the top and put it on the fridge. Add it to your phone contacts as well, under a name you’ll remember in a crisis (like “POISON”).

Get the substance out of reach of the child. It sounds obvious but in a crisis we can miss the obvious.

Your kid needs to spit it out. Then, making sure there’s none of the substance on your fingers, physically check their mouths. Keep a sample of the substance and the container, if possible, as this will save time.

Do not make your child vomit. This is a myth and it can do more harm than good.

If your child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures, call 911 right away. Alternatively, call your Poison Control number. Stay calm; the last thing the Operator needs to be doing is calming you down to get the answers he or she needs.