Wednesday, October 28, 2009

H1N1 Influenza Vaccine

The flu season is upon us. This season we are blessed with the new strain of H1N1 flu, which has been making its appearance around the world. When the first cases of swine flu first appeared in Mexico in April this year, I was following the development with interest. Reports of non-elderly people falling ill and in some cases dying from the H1N1 flu worried me. Now, with my older child in kindergarten and my younger child still so young, the worry genes as a mother kick in.

The H1N1 influenza vaccine is now available to high priority group, such as young children. I am questioning whether to get my children immunized. The side effects of this vaccine is reported to be much like a regular flu shot, namely, soreness/redness around the site of the shot, nausea, fever, headache/muscle ache. The media has also been reporting the risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome brought on after receiving the vaccine. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is an auto-immune system disorder in which part of the peripheral nervous system is attacked by its own system. A serious case may lead to paralysis. The risk of GBS has been most prominently highlighted.

After doing some research, it seems that most vaccines may trigger GBS. It seems that there are more cases of GBS associated with H1N1 flu vaccine than with regular flu vaccine. But is that such a cause for concern?

I am still undecided as get my children vaccinated or not. I'd welcome all your comments on this matter.

Related Articles:
H1N1 Outbreak at Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto)
H1N1 Outbreak at Another Toronto Hospital
Patients with Egg Allergy be Aware; Additional Info

It is interesting to note that the US and Canada opted for different approaches to distributing the H1N1 flu vaccine.

In the US, the H1N1 flu has been described as a national emergency and everyone has been urged to get vaccinated. The vaccine ordered by US health authorities is one without adjuvant, an immune-boosting agent to the receiver of the vaccine. The adjuvant also allow vaccine makers to use less antigen, the active ingredient in vaccines, meaning that they can produce significantly more vaccine – four to five times more – than would be possible without adjuvants. In the US, there is already a shortfall of the vaccine.

By contrast, in Canada, public health officials have been promoting to the public the importance of good personal hygene, in combination of getting vaccinated. The bulk of the vaccine ordered by Canada is an adjuvanted one. The vaccine (Arepanrix) is manufactured by GSK, in Dresden, Germany, as well as Quebec. Much debate has beem prompted relating to the adjuvanted vaccine in Canada. The adjuvant being added to the vaccine is called AS03. It's a natural combination of several substances, including vitamin E and squalene derived from shark liver. Although this particular adjuvant hasn't been used in a Canadian influenza vaccine before, it has been tested on about 45,000 individuals using a vaccine designed to fight the H5N1 avian influenza. Adjuvants have also been widely used in Europe, and have been included in some other Canadian vaccines. The delivery of the H1N1 vaccine to the Canadian public has only just started this week, and only people on the high priority list are getting the vaccine first.

I have thoroughly researched and debated the merits of getting the H1N1 flu vaccine and the risk of having the adjuvant trigger Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It is a terrifying to learn that two healthy children (age 10 and 13) who fell ill and died from H1N1 flu in the last two weeks. And now, with the proper research into the risk, I have made up my mind to get my two children vaccinated, next week. Having to wait in line for six and half hours to get the needle is more terrifying to me.

Detailed Analysis of the 3 H1N1 Flu Vaccines (both Adjuvanted and Not) Produced by GSK, Baxter, and Novartis

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Concept of Marriage

My son raised the concept of marriage last night, and we had a hard time containing our laughs while trying our best to explain the concept to him.

D: "When I am older, I will be married with Audrey."

Me: "You don't get married to your sister. You marry your wife."

D: "Mommy, can you be my wife?"

Me: "No. I am your mommy and will always be your mommy."

D: "Then who will be my wife?"

Me: "You will need to find a wife for yourself."

Does that seem like a daunting task? It must be, as a lot of men are still puzzled as to how to find a wife (or the right wife) for themselves.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice

I went to listen to Sarah Chana Radcliffe, author of "Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice" speak last night. The talk was held at a local high school auditorium and the place was packed.

I have read the book before and have picked up a few techniques to use on parenting Daniel. I must admit I have mixed success. Lately I find myself yelling at him more often or more severely than I would like to. So I thought going to talk would help me review the techniques and maybe pick up some new strategies. (My own book is currently making the rounds on loan to other parents.)

Mrs. Radcliffe has six children and is now a grandmother of four. She's also a registered psychologist. Her talk was engaging, relevant, and her delivery humorous. A lot of parents in the audience asked questions throughout the talk to clarify the techniques and the use of techniques. The talk gave me the renewed confidence and motivation to improve my own parenting skills.

The five strategies Mrs. Radcliffe covered were 80/20 Rule, Emotional Coaching, the CLeaR Method, the 2x Rule, and the Relationship Rule.

80/20 Rule
The idea is that we, as parents must strike a balance between good feelings and not-so-good feeling communications with our children. The happier our children feel when they're around us, the more they will want to please us. Mrs. Radcliffe gave examples of how to communicate when we need to make a correction in our children's behaviour. She also talked about the importance of using positive words in our communications. Instead of catching our children doing something wrong and having to reprimand them, we catch them doing the right things and praise them. That way, children will focus on doing the good things that earn praises.

Emotional Coaching
As Mrs. Radcliffe puts it, kids are generally predisposed in a certain way. My son Daniel is a fearful child. Monsters, giants, ghosts aside, he is most fearful of being rejected by us. This fear can erupt into intense emotional outbursts, which we sometimes mistake for him throwing a tantrum or being very naughty. This is one area where I need to work on more, to coach Daniel into identifying and expressing his emotions. Tonight I had to awake Daniel from his afternoon nap at dinner time. He was exhausted and it took me more than half an hour to calm him from crying and refusal to eat. But just as sudden as his sleepiness wore off, he snapped from his whines and came downstairs. At the dinner table he again refused to eat. But as soon as he sat down, he started eating without fuss.

CLeaR Method
CLeaR stands for Comment, Label, Reward. This is an example of catching the child doing something good or behaving the way we like. Comment on the desired action. Label the good behaviour. And Reward the child. This is designed to reinforce the good behaviour. A good example Mrs. Radcliffe gave was this: A child was very sloppy with his homework. Instead of picking on all the bad handwriting, the parent picked on one good letter. "Wow! This 'a' is right on the line! You are such a neat writer. You get a sticker for this really neat 'a'." The CLeaR Method here is used to correct a problem, and motivates the child to care about doing something well. The key is to focus on one thing at a time. It takes time to change some one's behavior.

2x Rule
The 2x Rule is a disciplinary tool. A parent sees an unacceptable behavior that warrants disciplinary actions. There are 2 types of disciplinary actions. One is a "Right Priced Ticket," akin to a $100 speeding ticket when we are catch speeding by the traffic police. The other is a "Jail-level" punishment, a consequence when we refuse or forget to pay our ticket fine. For example, a parent asks a child to stop hitting his sibling once. She asks again the second time, and lays out the consequence. In this case, five minutes at the punish corner. If the child refuses to go to the punish corner or leaves the punish corner before the time is up, the Jail-level will be imposed. It could be a removal of a privilege that means a lot to this child.

Relationship Rule
A simple rule to abide by: the parent expects the child to treat them with respect, the same way they treat the child with respect. It is a life long process to nurture the relationship with our children.

All of these techniques and concepts are excellent and need a lot of practice. I will need constant reminder to steer myself in the right parenting direction.

For more information on Sarah Chana Radcliffe and her books, check out

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From Organic to All Natural

We started eating organic food about 5 years ago. I believe that we should eat healthy and consume food as much in its natural state as possible. While some of the food we never compromise on, like milk, eggs, chicken and beef; some of the food we buy are organic 80% of the time, like fruits, vegetables, and other meat. We buy brown rice, and whole grain pasta and bread. We sometimes buy "organic" or "all natural" sauces, but in my view, that's a waste of money. Anything that's canned or jarred usually is packed with chemicals.

We have also switched to natural and biodegradable household products, like laundry, dish, and general cleaning detergent. We compost, recycle, and only generate 1 bag of garbage every 2 weeks, including all the soiled diapers.

It was interesting to learn about skincare products when I dropped in on a soap-making demonstration this summer. I was surprised to learn that only all natural ingredients were used in this company's products ( It makes perfect sense to use products made of natural ingredients on our skin.

Last week I heard about the latest study showing how harmful Alpha Hydroxy Acids is to our skin. AHAs strips the dermal layer of our skin, exposing it to harmful UV rays and make it easier for toxins to penetrate our skin. I didn't think any of the products that I use contain AHAs. But to be sure, I checked. It turned out that the cleanser that I use every day (Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser) contains glycolic acid - a form of AHAs.

I started checking the labels of all the products I was using. On the front of the bottles, it entices you with whatever benefit this product is supposed to bring you. On the back of the bottles, the ingredients contains long lists of chemical names. It turns out that the only all natural product that I use is the shampoo (, and it works surprisingly well.

So that got me thinking...I know all natural ingredients work well for our skin. It has even been shown on daytime talk shows how to mix skincare products at home using all natural ingredients. So I started looking it up and was amazed as to how easy it is to make a batch of cleanser, mask, or moisturizer.

Once I finish with all the skincare products that I have, I will try out some of these recipes, and share my experience.