The Signs of School Bullying and Cyberbullying and How to Stop It

Posted on November 30th, 2016

000007955194Many of us can remember a time when someone bullied us at school and how awful and alone it made us feel. Learning how to navigate daily social conflicts independently is an important part of growing up, and overcoming painful playground experiences can make us more confident, kind and empathetic. But when bullying doesn’t stop or goes too far the consequences for children and their families can be devastating. How can you tell if your child is being bullied or is bullying others? How can you best support him/her? And how can we make Maine schools and social media networks safer for all children?

Bullying is a Big Deal in Maine

As parents, we want our children to be accepted and appreciated by their peers. We also want our children to learn how to stand up for themselves and for others. Like many parents, we think that if our kids were really struggling socially—or were singling out another child at school—that  we would
know, and that we would know what to do about it. But would we?

Youth surveys tell us again and again that less than 40% of bullying incidents at school or on social media are reported to an adult. Kids and teens who are being bullied are often too scared, depressed or embarrassed to tell someone, or are actively pressured by peers to keep quiet. The more frequent and widespread the bullying the less likely the victim is to tell. And the longer bullying goes on, the more long-term damage it will do. Children and teens who are systematically bullied in their school  experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, anger and suicide. Children who bully can end up in court.

As parents and members of caring communities, we all must stop bullying whenever we see it and support all the kids involved.

Bullying and cyberbullying does happen in and around Maine schools. In fact, one 2015 study of the 43 states showed that Maine had the highest rate of cyberbullying in the country with approximately a quarter of all high school students reoporitng that they were bullied in some way online.  Cyberbullying is particularly challenging for schools to combat because it takes place off school grounds by email or text or on social networks parents and teachers may not have access to or authority over. To help educators and parents protect kids from bullying, Maine lawmakers passed An Act to Prevent Cyberbullying in Schools in 2012 and followed the law with a Model Policy for Bullying and Cyberbullying. This legislation is designed to make sure that all Maine students learn in safe, secure and peaceful environments, on campus and online. Continue reading

Coping with the Creepy-Crawlies: Lice, Scabies and Bedbugs

Posted on September 21st, 2016

18338340Kids come home from school with wonderful things—amazing artwork, challenging homework, new ideas and funny stories. Sometimes, though, kids bring home bugs. Not the germs and viruses we’re normally blogging about at Vax Maine Kids, but BUGS. If your family is dealing with head lice, scabies or bedbugs this school year, you’re not alone—and we’ve got some great advice on what you should do!

First of all, don’t panic. We know it’s hard. We’ve been there! But head lice, scabies and bedbugs are a common occurrence in Maine and around the U.S. A case of head lice doesn’t mean your children aren’t clean and an outbreak of bedbugs doesn’t mean your house is a mess. These creepy-crawlies are widespread and they spread very easily, especially among children in close quarters like daycares, classrooms and dormitories. Continue reading

The State of the ImmUnion in Maine: Tweens, Teens and Vaccines

Posted on August 15th, 2016

Maine has made great strides in stepping up the state’s vaccination rates for infants, babies and young children to at or above national levels. But when it comes to adolescents, we still have some catching up to do. At Vax Maine Kids, we’re working hard to make sure parents know how to protect their children from several serious illnesses that can strike during the teen years.


By Gabriel Civiello, MD in collaboration with VaxMaineKids

Healthcare providers all across Maine are celebrating the recent rebound in vaccination rates for our youngest children. In fact, our childhood immunization rates rank among the highest in the country. According to the 2014 National Immunization Survey, over 85% of Maine toddlers are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations, and kindergarten non-medical exemption requests fell to 3.9% during the 2014-2015 school year.

The trends aren’t quite as positive for Maine’s preteens and teens, however. Nationwide, as children grow into their preteen and teen years under immunization becomes much more common—and Maine is no exception. In fact, Maine’s vaccination rates for the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and the meningococcal vaccine are below the national average and the lowest in New England. Following the national trend, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine rates are at least half of the rates of the other adolescent vaccines. Continue reading

Six Tips for Setting Limits on Screen Time for Kids During the Summer

Posted on July 19th, 2016

iStock_000015419421XSmallSchool is out, schedules have loosened up, and parents and kids alike are turning to phones, tablets, gaming systems, TV and movies for summer entertainment. But the experts agree that too much time spent on digital devices can hold back a child’s development. So what can Maine parents do to balance screen time with real-world summertime adventures? Continue reading

Want a Better Vacation? Prevent Illness!

Posted on June 24th, 2016

Summer vacation begins at most Maine schools this week, college students are leaving campuses, and many families are packing up for fun family trips over the break. No matter where you plan to go, a little advance planning will help you return safe, healthy and happy. By preparing your family with necessary medications, immunizations, and other preventive techniques, you can help ensure that illness isn’t one of your souvenirs.

Traveling with kids is a wonderful way to expand their horizons while strengthening family relationships. Whether you are on a camping trip or a cruise ship, the time you spend together away from your daily routines can be magical and create treasured memories. Travel exposes us to new sights, traditions, people, ideas … and germs. Several cases of travel-associated infectious disease among Mainers are reported each year. Don’t let a preventable illness interrupt a fun family getaway! As soon as you decide on your travel plans, give your family doctor or travel clinic a call. Current immunizations, preventative medications, and other recommendations for your travel destination can keep your family travels on track.

Staying Healthy During Domestic Travel
If your family will be traveling within the U.S., you will want all your recommended routine vaccinations to be up-to-date. Places where large numbers of people from around the world congregate, such as airports, train stations, tourist attractions, water or theme parks, restaurants, hotels, and summer camps can increase the risk of exposure to many bacteria and viruses.

Although vaccines can help prevent infection from some of these germs, there are many for which vaccines are not available. In addition to timely vaccination, hand hygiene and food and water safety can help protect your family’s health. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention post some of the larger current disease outbreaks, most outbreaks are confined to individual cities or regions. You can check with the state or local health department at your travel destination about current risks, especially if someone in your family has underlying medical conditions.

Staying Healthy During International Travel
International travel is so exciting—and can require more advanced planning. In addition to all of the recommended routine vaccinations, the CDC may recommend additional protections based on each traveler, what you will be doing, and where you will be going. You can search recommendations based on your destination here and find current travel alerts here. Keep in mind that some countries require certain vaccines for entry. Be sure to carry your immunization records with your other important documents, like passports and plane tickets, in case you need medical attention during your travels. Continue reading

The ABCs of Hepatitis: A Primer for Maine Parents

Posted on May 27th, 2016

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and a good time to encourage Maine families to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B and for those at risk for hepatitis to get tested. That’s why we’re helping Maine parents study up on the different types of viral hepatitis (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C), their causes and symptoms, and the available vaccines.

Hepatitis is a short- or long-term inflammation of the liver, a vital organ that helps us get nourishment from food, eliminates toxins and wastes from the body and keeps our blood clotting normally. Hepatitis is a very serious and life-threatening condition because if left untreated, it can cause the liver to fail or liver cancer to develop later in life.

Hepatitis can be caused by certain diseases, by heavy drinking, and by bacterial and viral infections. There are three main types of infectious viral hepatitis: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. If a patient with virial hepatitis is diagnosed within six months of getting infected, their illness is called acute hepatitis. If someone has hepatitis for longer than six months, they have chronic hepatitis.

All forms of hepatitis are serious and Maine parents should take them seriously. By getting all the available hepatitis vaccines on schedule and being screened if you are pregnant or at risk, you can keep your family healthy and hepatitis-free. Continue reading

The Power to Protect: A Maine Mother’s Story

Posted on April 20th, 2016

April 16th-23rd, 2016 is National Infant Immunization Week, the CDC’s national celebration of the safe, healthy start vaccines give babies. But you don’t need to have a baby (or even know a baby!) to do your part. When you are fully vaccinated, you help protect Maine’s little ones from dangerous, life-threatening diseases. And as one Maine mother’s story shows us, that’s a big deal.


Even when parents carefully follow the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule, they need help from their family, friends and neighbors to keep their children healthy. Infants can’t get all the vaccines they need immediately after birth. As their bodies grow, they rely on the immunity of the children and adults around them to keep infections away. When everyone who can get vaccinated is vaccinated, dangerous diseases can’t spread easily in our community. It’s powerful protection, and it’s called herd immunity. Like buffalo circling around their young when wolves are on the prowl, high herd immunity prevents outbreaks and keeps diseases like pertussis, influenza, measles and more away from small children.

When there are holes in that herd immunity, our most vulnerable community members can get hurt. Babies haven’t yet completed all the recommended doses of the critical DTaP vaccine. This means they are not fully vaccinated against pertussis, or whooping cough—a serious illness making a real recurrence in Maine. Pertussis is highly contagious, and because its early symptoms can mimic a cold, infected people spread it without knowing. Most infants acquire pertussis from a well meaning adult who is unaware that they have it. People like Luanne and her husband, first-time parents of an infant son living in southern Maine.

For more, see Scarborough physician Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat’s guide, “How to Protect Your Child from Whooping Cough Continue reading

Poison Prevention at Home: Keeping Kids Safe from Poisonous Substances

Posted on March 22nd, 2016

MHBFBro9M_print.inddKids are naturally curious, and kids are quick. Up to age five, a child’s exploration of the world often includes tasting the things they discover, and this can lead to childhood poisonings. Adult medications look like candy to little eyes. Many cleansers and cosmetics come in attractive colors and pretty packaging. Accidents happen, even in carefully childproofed homes with attentive caregivers. Here’s how Maine parents can keep poisonous household substances out of their children’s reach—and why they should always keep the phone number for the Poison Center hotline close by.

This week is National Poison Prevention week across America. We’ve talked about the importance of preventing lead poisoning in Maine’s children, and we also want to help parents keep common household items that can poison children out of their reach. As poison prevention advocates remind us, kids act fast. More than two million poisonings are reported to poison control centers across America every year. Over 90% of these poisonings happen at home. And while poisoning continues to be a leading cause of death for adults, most reported poisonings happen to children under the age of six years old.

  • The toll free Poison Help Line phone number is 1-800-222-1222. Post it by your home phone and program it into your cell phone today. You can also text 85511 or go to the Northern New England Poison Center website to live chat with a poison control specialist. Make sure your family and babysitters know where the number is and understand when it should be used. If you suspect that someone in your home has been exposed to poison, do not wait for symptoms to appear – call the Poison Center right away. Highly trained nurses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free, confidential calls to talk you through symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment, fast. Calls are free and confidential, and interpreter services are available. The Poison Center is also available for questions, so do not hesitate to call.

If you think your child may have been exposed to a poisonous substance, call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your child is not breathing or is exhibiting other life-threatening symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

  • Childproof your kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, laundry rooms and garage today. The best way to treat an accidental poisoning is to prevent it. Take some time this week to walk (or crawl) through your home. What doors, drawers or closets are within your child’s reach? Small children love to pull pots and pans out of cupboards, or pull measuring cups out of drawers. You don’t want them reaching for household cleansers, medicines, bug sprays, detergents or air fresheners. All storage areas for potentially poisonous household items should be stored well out of a child’s reach or have child safety locks. You can get more information about common hazards and poisoning prevention here.

Laundry and dishwashing detergent pods are a particular concern because of their candy colors, teething-toy consistency, and ability to squish easily and squirt detergent. Almost 12,000 children inhaled or ingested a laundry or dishwashing detergent pod last year. If you decide to use pods at home, store them out of reach of children, always put them away after every use, and make sure the lid or package is closed tightly. Continue reading

Let’s Get the Lead Out! How Maine Parents Can Protect their Children from Lead Poisoning

Posted on February 29th, 2016

139913791As the headlines coming out of Flint, Michigan have reminded us, lead poisoning remains a significant risk for children growing up in places with older housing stock and aging infrastructure—places just like Maine. Between 1999 and 2014, almost 500 Maine children tested positive for lead poisoning, and only half of Maine’s children are tested at all. Lead poisoning can cause lifelong behavioral and health problems even at trace levels of exposure. Because lead is so toxic, Maine parents should talk about lead testing with their children’s provider and know how to keep their children protected from lead exposure at home.

Lead is still a significant health threat to children in Maine.
Lead poisoning isn’t just a problem in Flint. It’s a problem in Fryeburg, and Freedom, and Freeport. Every day, thousands of children all over Maine come home to the single biggest environmental threat to their health: lead. The fight against lead poisoning is our fight, too.

Once considered a miracle metal, lead was added to paint, gasoline, cosmetics and even food for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until very recently that scientists began to understand just how much damage lead exposure could do—and how much damage it had already done.

Continue reading