Tag Archives: health

A Group of House Plants Hard at Work

The beneficial effects of houseplants in home and office


Houseplants can clean your air, eliminating chemicals, mould and bacteria; they produce oxygen and moisture. On your desk, they can create a personal breathing zone filtering chemicals emitted by computer screens, in your bedroom succulents, orchids and bromeliads provide oxygen at night.

Last century NASA, after finding a hazardous build-up of toxins in spacecraft, discovered that houseplants were able to remove toxic chemicals in sealed chambers. This lead to a series of detailed studies on the filtering capacity of plants in relation to the most common chemicals found in indoor environments.

Indoor pollutants include the chemicals found in modern products, electronics and furnishings, particularly formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, ammonia found in cleaning products, moulds and bacteria and the 150 bio-effluents emitted by the human body.

The poisonous nature of these substances has been highlighted recently in the sick building syndrome where energy efficient buildings seal in the toxins and the people living in them get ill.

What some house plants are good at:

While all houseplants filter and clean the air, two of the best for:

Formaldehyde which enters our homes in  refuse sacks, paper products, fabrics, plywood, chipboard, resins, gas ovens  are the Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ and the Rubber plant Ficus Robusta.

Xylene and toluene – in adhesives, printers, computer screens, photocopiers – the Areca palm Chrysalidocarpus lutescens and the Moth orchid Phalaenopsis sp.

Ammonia – cleaning products and bio effluents -the Lady palm Rhapis excelsa and the King of Hearts Homalomena wallisii

Author and photo by Kate Parenti

Straight Facts About Braces

Why is orthodontics important?

Without treatment, orthodontic problem may lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bone destruction and trouble with chewing and digestion. A “bad bite” can be a factor in tooth loss and chipped teeth. Orthodontics can have psychological benefits too – boosting a person’s self-image as the teeth, jaws and lips become properly aligned.

When should a child first see an orthodontist?

Although there is not a universal best age to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that every child see an orthodontist at an early age. This could be as young as 3 or 4, but should be no later than 7.

Early examination enables the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems and determine the appropriate time to treat them. After the initial evaluation, the orthodontist may simply recommend periodic checkups. The proper age to treat malocclusion varies with the type and severity of the problem.

Is it ever too late for a person to get braces?
Healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age. An orthodontist can improve the smile of practically anyone – in fact, orthodontists regularly treat patients in their 50s, 60s and older!

What can happen if orthodontic problems go untreated?
Untreated orthodontic problems may contribute to tooth decay, diseased gums, temporomandibular joint problems and loss of teeth. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping and other forms of dental injury. Sometimes, the increased cost of dental care resulting from untreated malocclusion (bad bite) far exceeds the cost of orthodontic care. In addition, if left untreated, malocclusion may result in harmful effects on the oral health and psychological well-being of the patient.

What makes an orthodontist different from a dentist?
Orthodontists are the dental specialists in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities: they are expert at moving teeth, helping jaws develop properly and working with the patient to help make sure the teeth stay in their new positions. They are uniquely qualified to correct “bad bites”. The American Dental Association requires orthodontists to have at least two years of post-doctoral, advanced specialty training in orthodontics in an accredited program, after graduation from dental school.

Read her other post: The Right Time For An Orthodontic Check-Up

October is the Month of Dental Prevention. The American Association of Orthodontists has chosen October as Orthodontic Health Month. It provides the opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of orthodontics, the importance of early orthodontic screening no later than age seven, the lifetime value of orthodontics and orthodontists’ special educational qualifications.

Written by Dr. Daniela Signorelli

*** The material is provided by the American Association of Orthodontists. If anyone is interested in having more information, there is  AAO’s  website : http://www.braces.org


The Right Time For An Orthodontic Check-Up

The Right Time For An Orthodontic Check-Up: No Later Than Age 7

Even though most people think of pre-teens and teens when they speak about orthodontics, there are good reasons your child should get an orthodontic evaluation much sooner. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic check-up no later than age 7.

Why Your Child Should Get An Orthodontic Check-Up No Later Than Age 7:
1. Orthodontists can spot problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present.
2. The check-up may reveal that your child’s bite is fine. Often, the orthodontist will identify a potential problem but recommend monitoring the child’s growth and development, and then, if indicated, begin treatment at the right time for the child. In other cases, the orthodontist might find a problem that can benefit from early treatment.
3. Early treatment may prevent more serious problems from developing and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated.
4. In some cases, the orthodontist will be able to achieve results that wouldn’t be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
5. Some of the more readily apparent conditions that indicate the need for early examination include:

• Early or late loss of teeth
• Difficulty in chewing or biting
• Mouth breathing
• Thumb sucking
• Crowding, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
• Jaws that shift or make sounds
• Speech difficulties
• Biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth
• Teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all
• Facial imbalance
• Jaws that are too far forward or back
• Grinding or clenching of the teeth

6. Early treatment may give your orthodontist the chance to:

• Guide jaw growth
• Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
• Correct harmful oral habits (thumb sucking)
• Improve appearance
• Guide permanent teeth into a more favourable position
• Improve the way lips meet

7. Through early orthodontic screening, you’ll be giving your child the best opportunity for a healthy, beautiful smile that’s good for life. No child should wait until reaching the teens to feel good about his or her smile.

October is the Month of Dental Prevention. The American Association of Orthodontists has chosen October as Orthodontic Health Month. It provides the opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of orthodontics, the importance of early orthodontic screening no later than age seven, the lifetime value of orthodontics and orthodontists’ special educational qualifications.

Written by Dr. Daniela Signorelli

*** The material is provided by the American Association of Orthodontists. If anyone is interested in having more information, there is  AAO’s  website : http://www.braces.org

Substitutes in Italy: Neosporin Ointment | Firenze Mom

Neosporin Ointment

Is very popular in the US for putting on small cuts and scrapes. I first found out about it when I got my ears pierced it was the go to for all little skin wounds. It is an antibiotic and it must be said that there is always a risk of get a strain of bacterium that is resistant to antibiotics with lots of use of antibiotics.  Over all though if used once in a while is a great for preventing scars and keep wounds clear of infections.

That said if you are looking for Neosporin in Italy it is called Streptosil. The ingredients in Neosporin is Neomycin Sulfate. The main ingrediant in Streptosil is STREPTOSIL ® Sulfatiazolo + Neomicina  which is the exact same thing.

So Streptosil is Neosporin. You an get the ointment here in the pharmacies by asking for Streptosil Unguento. Unguento meaning ointment.

Now if you do not need an antibiotic form of ointment for a wound you can use Aquaphor for wound healing. It’s ingredients are: Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol


Talco e Non Talco: Talco Liquido

talcotalco mentolatoLiquid talc is the greatest thing ever.  It is a cream so no breathing in powder but yet it still has the nice drying of the skin qualities. Even better when we had the Fifth’s disease hitting our house, the doctor recommended liquid talc with menthol which was so cooling it helped a lot on the itchy rash. This liquid talc is great on the diaper area and other sweaty areas on kids and even adults.Another added benefit is that supposedly it helps to prevent bites from insects like mosquitoes. This photos are of the two brands that I have at home right now, but there are many more brands that have carry Talco Liquido.

Does your child have Dyslexia or other learning disabilities?

LearningHas your child has been diagnosed or you think your child has a Learning Disability?  There is Dyslexia, Dysphagia and many more different types of Learning Disabilities your child might have. You should check out these links.  There is help out there for you child.


A Hospital Stay in Italy: Don’t forget to pack toilet paper!

As an American living in Umbria, I often get asked my opinion of Italy’s national health plan. The inquisitors are either my liberal friends envious of our comprehensive, low cost health coverage, or my more conservative friends suspicious of “Obamacare” and anything that bears the slightest whiff of socialism. So for those who envy my “free” healthcare, I say, it doesn’t come without caveats. And for those are sure that socialized medicine is the work of the Devil, I say, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Last year, our then-2-month old daughter, Naomi, was sleeping peacefully while my husband, Paolo, and I were eating lunch. From nowhere, she began what appeared to be a small seizure—her legs and arms shook violently and her head tilted back unnaturally; it appeared she was choking and could not breathe. I grabbed her and turned her on her stomach, slapped her on the back several times, and then put my finger in her mouth out of fear she had swallowed her tongue. She resumed breathing normally, and never even woke from her sleep. The entire episode last 15 seconds, maximum. It only felt like a lifetime. We called her pediatrician, who told us to take her to the pediatric ward of the hospital to have her checked out.

Naomi in her hospital bed. Not happy.

Naomi in her hospital bed. Not happy.

Which brought me to one of my most telling experiences with the Italian healthcare system.

Let me start by saying I am a fan of Italy’s national health system, and of socialized medicine in general. I lived most of my life in the US, where I either skipped or paid out of pocket for needed medical procedures when I was uninsured or under-insured  (ah, the caprices of self-employment). For years, I advocated for my elderly parents, whose Medicare and Medigap insurance very often left them with deductibles they could not pay. I wrote letters asking for their medical debts to be reduced or forgiven. I phoned lists of doctors and specialists, searching for one who would accept their insurance. I negotiated payment plans with hospitals. All this for a couple who actually has health insurance. So when presented with the notion that of all a country’s citizens, regardless of their ability to pay, are entitled to free and/or affordable, quality healthcare, then yes, that’s an idea I can get behind.

My experiences with healthcare in Italy have been overwhelmingly positive. The care is thorough, modern, and attentive. Wait times are manageable, even if a lot of Italians think otherwise. (Any time I’m waiting to have some lab work done or to pick up a prescription at our hospital, and an Italian complains about the wait, I always defend the system, and tell him or her that in the US, you can wait just as long and then get handed a bill you can’t afford to pay, something that simply doesn’t happen in Italy.) When we took Naomi in after her spasm, we were seen immediately, and she was admitted for monitoring within an hour. The pediatricians ordered a number of tests that would have had me hearing “cha-ching” in the US. She stayed in the hospital and was monitored closely for three nights, then finally sent home with meds and an appointment to follow up in a week, and no bill.

And I can go on. When my husband broke his foot (he fell down a flight of stairs while trying to kick me in the butt, but that’s a story for another blog), we were in and out of the ER, with a cast, in less than two hours. No bill. When I had Naomi via C-section and stayed in the hospital for four nights, a nurse showed up to help me any time she cried for more than two minutes. No bill. Cancerous tumors, malignant moles, dialysis, you name it, Paolo’s family has faced it and overcome it, thanks in no small part to the quality of healthcare in Italy. And with no bills.

But…here’s what you don’t get in public hospitals in Italy. A doctor with a bedside manner. A comfortable bed. A room with a fresh coat of paint. Marginally edible food. A knife, a fork or a coffee cup. Toilet paper. Yes, that’s right, toilet paper.

I should qualify my words by saying that this is my experience at one public hospital in Umbria—I won’t name the hospital but readers who know my geographic location can figure it out—but I’ve been led to believe that this is typical of most public hospitals in Italy. The care is top notch; the comfort is bare bones.

All better at home, with Daisy the dog keeping watch.

All better at home, with Daisy the dog keeping watch.

So, if you find yourself having to stay overnight at a hospital in Italy, pack silverware and a coffee cup, because these will not be provided for you. Nor will paper towels or napkins. Pack toilet paper, because although there’s a clean and sanitary bathroom attached to your room, it won’t have toilet paper. Pack a comfy pillow if that’s a priority for you. Pack some snacks and maybe a salt shaker; because the food you’ll be served makes melba toast seem like a flavor explosion.

But most of all, pack your thick skin and your sense of humor. Because while customer service is never a priority anywhere in Italy, nowhere does it seem less so than in its hospitals. You’ll be well cared for from a medical perspective, but most of the doctors, nurses, technicians and support staff you encounter will make it quite well known that they don’t give a flying f**k whether you are comfortable or not, whether your questions have been answered, or, if you’ve got a sick kid, whether you feel like the Worst. Mother. Ever. (In fact, I believe that feeling is encouraged.)

So with that in mind, here are my parting words for a few of the healthcare providers and workers I encountered over those three days:

  • To the doctor who scoffed at me (I mean really scoffed!) when I told her that I bought organic baby formula for the times I occasionally need to supplement my breast milk: maybe you want your kid to drink milk from factory-farmed cows pumped full of growth hormones and pesticide-laden grains. I do not.
  • To the cleaning lady who came into our room at 6:45 am and told me I had to get out of the folding cot I was sleeping on and put it away: thanks for turning on all the lights and waking my baby. Next time you can breastfeed her, change her diaper and sing her back to sleep instead of just letting her sleep an extra hour or two.
  • To the cleaning lady who came in at 6:45 the next morning and commenced yelling at me because the bed was not folded up (I was still in it, nursing Naomi), yet refused to fold it herself and yelled at me some more when I moved to a chair: I’m sorry you have such an unhappy life that you have to try to ruin everyone’s day with your dictatorial attitude. But my baby comes first.
  • To the doctor who completed an ultrasound of Naomi’s brain: “O Dio!” is not the thing to say when you’re doing an ultrasound of a baby’s brain and her parents are standing by. Next time you hit the wrong button on the machine, please, just say “whoops” instead.

And my final words to all those I encountered during our hospital stay: Thank you for taking care of my baby. Thank you for being thorough, for leaving nothing to chance and for looking for all possible causes for her choking incident. Thank you for not rushing us out of the hospital because you had the finance department breathing down your neck, worried about whether we could pay our bill. Thank you for not telling me that the tests or treatments Naomi needed were not covered by our insurance. For all of that, I can accept your toilet-paperless bathrooms, your bad attitudes, your crappy food and your absent bedside manners. But for God’s sake, lighten up a little bit. They say laughter is the best medicine, after all.

Naomi has long forgotten her hospital stay. Mom has not!

Naomi has long forgotten her hospital stay. Mom has not!

Elizabeth Heath blogs about life and adventures in rural Italy on her blog, My Village in Umbria. She’s also a freelance writer and contributing editor at Mamiverse.

Look at your food packaging: consumo moderato


Consumo moderato or in English for moderate consumption. 

This is the label that COOP has been putting on foods to alert you that it is unhealthy if your child is to eat many of them.  I like this and though I know COOP grocery stores do it I hope the other do this as well. It is  a great indicator to look for when buy product that your child will say I want that and know that it is a treat and should be eating very sparingly.

“For moderate consumption of food it is defined to the consumer as the amount and / or frequency which does not adversely affect the whole, creating a healthy and balanced diet and the proper growth of children.”

Translated from the website http://alimentazionebambini.e-coop.it/piramide-alimentare/ where you can find a whole article in Italian about this label.

The site also goes into showing a pyramid and and the amount of portions needed for the child.  This brings me back to what the correct size of a portion for children at different ages.

You can read more about portion control if you have not already in my earlier posts here:

Kids Eat Right – Portion Distortion

Picky Eaters: Why do my children not want to eat?

Kids’ Diet: Two Cup Limit for Milk

I like to shop at Coop and the other supermarkets might do this as well and let me know of they do.

Picky Eaters: Why do my children not want to eat?

I have been seeing a lot of posts about picky eaters.  It seems that when the child hits the age of being able to say “No” and learn that they can control things especially food, they do.

picky eater

“Fussiness and the aversion to try new foods tends to peak between the age of 2–6 years. And even children previously thought of as “good eaters” can start rejecting any new food and even refuse familiar foods they once enjoyed.” Dealing with fussy eaters:  www.netmums.com

My child was not immune to this behavior as well.  He went from eating lots and everything, then at the age of 2 only white pasta or plain meats etc. It was like all of sudden a switch went off and all the flavor was sucked from the food.  Why did he go from eating everything, (Mexican, Asian, cheese, tomato sauce and more) to just plain food? Was this control issues?  I know I was going crazy trying to figure out what to do.  How to get him to eat at the same time not be a short order chef making many different meals.  I for one was not going to do it, but when you see your child refuse to put the food in their mouth you panic.  You think he is going to starve, he is not listening to you when you say eat your food, he is just doing a power trip, will he be getting enough nutrition eating only plain pasta?  The questions go on and the frustration with it.  I see this with the posts by the moms.

pressure eating

You can not force a child to eat if they do not want too, but you can control the environment around them to help them back to eating again.

food helpingLet them Help out:

I have found that with my child doing things like having him help me cook was a great start.  I would let him stir batters, add ingredients to the bowl, even make small lunches with sandwiches that he felt proud to be helping.    He also loved it when I gave him two options of veggies and said which one do you want.  Give selections is great for getting them involved and lessen the power trip they have on the food.  They feel they picked it, so they have a sense of pride, and will eat it.  We give the selections and they choose, that is how we can help them select healthy foods in the future.    There are a few more pointers in the article below.

Help Them Know When They’ve Had Enough: choosemyplate.gov

Give finger foods as well:

kids eatingChildren sometimes just need to eat with their hands.  So sometimes throw the fork and spoon out and let them have fun with finger foods.  Sandwiches, cut carrots and cucumbers, corn, anything that can be picked up and eat with fingers.  They will get older and have plenty of meals with using a fork, knife and spoon. Annabel Karmel posted a few in the link below, I just love her cook books of kids foods.

10 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Finger Foods : These bite-sized snacks and meals are perfect for picky eaters. From Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Finger Foods

mushrooms1Have fun with it:

Create a theme night and have them even dress up, create foods that go with that theme.  Use cookie cutters and make the food in different shapes,  Use brightly colored foods and even swap meals (lunch for breakfast or breakfast for dinner) There are many options below in Melissa Stavarski’s Pinterest Fun Food for Kids check it out.

Fun Food for Kids: forkly.com

Encourage new foods:

funny food

This will carry on  into their teens and possibly young adult life.  You will need to introduce, and keep introducing the foods.  My son would do this to many times.  He really thought he hated cheese (all cheeses) but basically it was the word he hated.  He loved mozzarella (not a cheese to him) and he found out he liked ricotta, cream cheese.  I had to introduce and keep doing it getting him to at least try it.  He is 11 now and finally realize that it doesn’t hurt to try and that he might actually like it.  We just added Burrata to his list of likes a month ago.

Encouraging children to try new foods – Netmums

family mealsStick to routine:

You can not expect your child to eat if dinner fell on when he is supposed to go to bed.  He is tired.  There were times when we would go to friends house to have dinner and they followed the Italian time scale for eating (late around 8 or even 9).  I followed the American still eat at 6:30 7:00 the most.  So my young child would sometimes fall asleep at the table and needless to say did not eat a thing.  Also, do not allow juice or milk outside of meals.  I personally only allowed milk for breakfast and water the rest of the time they only got juice or soda on special occasions.  Juice and Milk will fill up your child and then you can forget them eating.  Some more good eating advice can be found at this link.

Healthy Eatingkidshealth.org

portion controlPortion Size:

Believe it or not little children do not need large amounts.  Most likely you are feeding too much.  Our minds have been set nowadays to larger portions even for ourselves so we mentally believe that our kids are not eating enough.  You can find more on portion control in a previous post.

Kids Eat Right – Portion Distortion – firenzemoms4moms.wordpress.com

Table Time- Making It Right:

Seating seeingit at the table with your children and eat with them and chat with them.  No tv, radio, cell phones or internet distracting you and your child from eating.   Give the time with them and enjoy listening to them.  They will feel more at ease if you are sitting with them and chatting with them.

This is something I have always done.  Even if my husband could not make it, I would always have my dinner with my children.  I use it now to catch up on school events.  They also see me eat the foods and not anything different, and important factor for them to see only one meal is served and that is it. They were also told to sit at the table the time that we are having the meal no to get up until all were done.

food dessertDo not use dessert as a reward and do not pressure them to eat.  Both cause for a stressful environment.  It teaches them to  expect dessert all the time and  that it is the best part of the meal which could cause them to really like the sweets and down the line could lead to obesity.  Pressuring them to eat cause them to not eat even more, especially if they are doing it as a control.  This has been noted to cause eating disorders during their preadolescence and adolescent years.  A good article about pressuring to eat in the years 2-4 and what can happen is below.

Pressuring Children To Eat Increases Risk Of Obesity – medicalnewstoday.com

Family health – the complementary way

Hello Moms!

I would like to thank Kimberly for the invitation to join FMs4Ms network.  I will be contributing with regular posts related to family health – the complementary way, to help out some moms and their little ones.  I am also available to address your family health related questions or if necessary point you to the appropriate specialist.  We will also be organising workshops on topical health issues – the complementary way.  If you have any issues you would wish to cover, please feel free to suggest.

By way of introducing myself, I am a qualified acupuncturist and the member of the British Acupuncture Council.

I work both with needles and without needles, the appropriateness of which is assessed with each person individually.  In both cases, working with the acupuncture points I assist with the flow of the vital life force (called Qi, energy) in a person for establishing recovery to health and optimising wellbeing.

I begin with a comprehensive consultation that permits me to make a diagnosis of the current flow of the vital life force and to design a completely personalised series of treatments.  Along the way, the treatment progress is continually being assessed and discussed with each person.

Classical Five Element Acupuncture is ever so able to address the great complexity of our modern health issues.  The effects of the therapy are usually much more gradual than the farmacological intervention, so it requires a little more patience.  The upside of it is, it has no adverse side effects (if any, little discomforts that pass away easily).  The only unexpected effects are other added improvements that come along whilst treating the cause! For example, someone who comes for insomnia may notice that their digestion has got better with the treatment as well.

Most importantly, it is a therapy that has a potential to cure you from any disease, but we are not allowed to say that because no significant controlled trials have been carried out to prove it yet.

Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment (according to WHO):

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Hypertension, essential
Hypotension, primary
Induction of labour
Knee pain
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain
Renal colic
Rheumatoid arthritis
Tennis elbow

Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed – is listed under the link:


What is missing from those lists is the improved quality of life that possibly 99% of my patients have experienced during their treatment, such as improved relationships with family or collegues, a new way of looking at life, motivated to excersise again, more courage to apply for a better job, finding own life passion or appropriate life partner, etc.

All along the way, I encourage a balanced, healthy lifestyle for my patients.  The ancients’ knowledge of Five Elements is very comprehensive in giving sound indications for a balanced lifestyle. Additionally, some years of working with herbs and supplements have equipped me to give some basic suggestions on the diet and supplementation to aid the healing process.

I should add that among many, my areas of interest are fertility, pregnancy, menaupause, addictions and depression. I am also specialised in estetic acupuncture, rejuvenating pre-maturely ageing faces.

I currently practise at the home studio in Fiesole and at ArteMedica in Milan http://www.artemedica.it/il-team.

I am of Polish origin, educated in England and since 2007 living in Italy.


Dorota Anna Kowal
BSc (Hons), LicAc, OMBAcC

For contact and info:



tel. 329 0065 921

Vaccines for your Child

Here is a table of the vaccines for your child which most are done at the ASL for free.  As of now, they are not required to attend school but  they are recommended.  Since there are always some changes in the years you should double check with your local ASL if you have any questions.

Vaccines for your Child