Awareness: February, 2016

Note: For past issues of our MIRACLE Awareness pages and topics, visit our archives.

Throughout the year, government agencies and private organizations emphasize a list of medical conditions and safety awareness observances. We do not cover every health and safety awareness observance, and nothing we discuss here is comprehensive. What we attempt to do every month is focus on one or two safety or health observances, and then list the other events we found along with hyperlinks to associated web pages.

Awareness Campaigns this Month

One of this month's observances focuses on children's dental health. We also want to draw your attention to other observances such as Kids ENT Health Month, and International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month. While these observances are not directly related to our focus, attention to them may have an impact on the dental health of your children. In a 1981 white paper, M. M. Nazif and Richard C. Ruffalo wrote about the interaction between dentistry and otolaryngology. Another observance to mark is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.* We can listen to their concerns about romance and help them develop safe strategies for their dating relationships.

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National Children's Dental Health Month

Our focus this February is National Children's Dental Health Month. A child's health is deeply associated with dental hygiene.

A healthy smile is far more than cosmetic enhancement? According to Centers for Disease Control, nearly one in four children under the age of five already has cavities. Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it remains one of the most common chronic diseases of children and adolescents six to nineteen years old.

Did you know that tooth decay can be caused by formula, breast milk and juice sitting against the teeth? Moreover, the health of a baby's teeth will determine how their adult teeth emerge later. (See the Dental Associates website on the Importance of Baby Teeth). Did you know that children can experience poor nutrition and sleep problems due to poor dental care? Dental problems can also affect the self-esteem of children, making them reluctant to smile or engage in conversations.

The following dental habits can serve as a preventive dental health program for your children:

  • Begin brushing their teeth as soon as they appear.
  • Schedule their first dental checkup by age one.
  • Provide healthier options for food and drink and reduce sugar intake.
  • Encourage them to drink water regularly while their teeth are developing.
  • Promote brushing after every meal with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Show them how to floss their teeth and rinse daily with an antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Maintain regular checkups with their dentist.
  • Inquire about dental sealants.
  • See a dentist immediately for any dental irregularity.

Poor dental hygiene early in life may invite a host of medical conditions that can affect the quality of life for children with the following conditions:

  • Gingivitis (gum inflammation), followed by Periodontal disease (gum disease)
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in mouth
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetic complications
  • Respiratory infections
  • Dementia

The primary path for these medical conditions listed above is bacterial infections in the gums that make their way into other parts of the body. For more information on dental-related health conditions, see Colgate's website on How Poor Dental Care Can Affect Your Overall Health.

The American Dental Association (ADA) supports Give Kids a Smile to raise awareness nationally about the importance of oral health and its relationship to overall health. For additional information, visit the Give Kids a Smile website. The annual kick off begins the first Friday in February for Give Kids a Smile Day, with events taking place throughout the year. Thousands of dentists and volunteers give their time to provide free oral health education, screenings and treatment to underserved children. To find out about services in your area, contact your local media or dental society.

Other Health Awareness Campaigns this Month

Other observances this month the following safety and health issues:

Awareness Campaigns by Week

The first six days of February form the major portion of Burn Awareness Week, which began on January 31, 2016. Childhood burns are largely environmental and may be preventable by limiting exposure. For a list of the most common hazards, see the Raising Children Network web page on burn prevention and first aid.

The following information is derived from the UpToDate website, by Michael D Peck, MD, ScD, FACS.

Most burn injuries occur in a domestic setting, with cooking as the most common activity. Pediatric burns occur more commonly in the home (84 percent) and while children are unsupervised (80 percent).1
Flame injuries and scalds are the most common causes of burns in children and adults worldwide.2
In the US, the number of scalds far exceeds the number of flame burns in children age 0 to 4.9 years. However, flame burns outnumber scalds in all other pediatric age groups in the US, based on the National Burn Repository report. In burn centers in the US, scald burns account for nearly half the admissions of children less than five years of age.3
The number of burns decreases from age four until adolescence. After age 15, incidence death rates begin to increase again, presumably because of greater exposure to hazards, experimentation and risk-taking, as well as employment.4
In the U.S., the rate of non-fatal burns in 2008 was 156 per 100,000 in children under the age of 18 years.5
According to the Shriners Hospitals for Children - Galveston, since it entered the burn care field in 1966, it has realized the following success story at its facility:
"...the survival rate of children with burns over more than 50 percent of their body surface has doubled. Today, patients with burns over 90 percent of their body can survive and go on to lead full, productive lives..."6

Treatment for severe burns can be painful, physically and emotionally, as well as life altering; as the scars that remain after treatment are the visible reminders, but their impact runs deep. In fact, burn victims wage an invisible war that is hard for others to understand. The physical and emotional pain may completely overcome children and having a supportive environment can make a difference in their lives. Developing a strong network of family and friends along with supporting groups and organizations can be the beginning of a brighter, more fulfilling life for your child.

Not all of these conditions involve fire; some may involve access to hot liquids, steam or household chemicals. Others may involve exposure to hazardous environmental conditions that burn skin. For more information, visit the Burn Prevention Network.

Also, the American Burn Association hosts a website that lists verified burn centers in Australia, Canada, and the United States. For an additional resource, see After the Injury, by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.


Table 1 lists the week-long campaigns recognized during the remainder of this month.

Table 1: Health and Safety Awareness Campaigns by Week
Week Observance or campaign
1-6 Burn Awareness Week
1-7 African Heritage and Health Week
7-14 Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week
8-14 National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week
14-21 Condom Week
21-27 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Awareness Campaigns by Day

February 14 is National Donor Day. We can donate organs, tissue, platelets, and blood. Table 2 lists the daily campaigns recognized this month.

Table 2: Health and Safety Awareness Campaigns by Day
Day Observance or campaign
4 World Cancer Day: may be slow to load due to media-rich content. (See also United Nations site.)
6 National Wear Red Day
Give Kids A Smile Day
7 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
14 National Donor Day
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