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The warm weather is here and many families are planning vacations.

If you and your family will be hitting the road this summer, make sure to keep your child safe by properly using the correct car seat for your child's weight and age and follow Pennsylvania law.

There are three major types of car seats:

  • Rear-facing car seats,
  • Convertible
  • All-in-one

Convertible car seats can be rear-facing or forward-facing. All-in-one car seats can be rear-facing, forward-facing, and later converted into a booster seat.

Infants and toddlers should continue to be rear-facing until they outgrow the height and weight limit indicated by the manufacturer. It is common for children under two years old to remain rear-facing. Children over two years old should also remain rear-facing until the manufacturer's limitation.  If your child outgrows the rear-facing only seat, you should change to a convertible seat that will allow your child to stay rear-facing for a longer time.

If your child outgrows the manufacturer's limitation for rear-facing on the convertible seat, they should be forward-facing with a 5 point harness as long as allowed by the manufacturer.

When your child outgrows the 5 point harness indicated by the manufacturer, they can use a belted booster seat forward facing. Keep your child in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.  This will prevent cutting at the neck and injury from the seat belt.  This is usually used when a child reaches approximately 4 foot 9 inches.

All children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat.  This prevents severe injury from airbags. Airbags open with great force, which is okay for adults and bigger kids but can be dangerous for small children.

Before buying a car seat or booster seat, make sure to read the labels carefully. Look for the weight, height, and age limits to make sure the car seat is right for your child. Select a seat that fits your car and your budget, and use it every time. Use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Car Seat Finder to compare car seats and ease-of-use ratings.

Avoid buying a used car seat. Used car seats are unsafe if they have been in a crash, have missing parts, labels, or instructions, or if they have been recalled and have not been repaired.

It is important to secure your child's car seat correctly in your vehicle. There are two ways to secure a car seat in a vehicle: using the vehicle seat belt and LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children). Read the instructions carefully to determine which method will work best for your vehicle.

If you have questions or need help installing your car safety seat, find a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST or CPS technician). Lists of certified CPSTs and child seat–fitting stations are available at the following website:

This past school year, many kids spent more time than usual indoors and on screens. It's probably safe to say that kids (and parents) are ready to get outside and get moving this summer!

The following are fun outdoor activities for a great and enjoyable summer:

Take your children for a fun bike ride. It can be just around the corner or a long bike trail.  Make sure to bring water!

Discover a new playground. Visit explore PA Local Parks, an interactive map with over 6,000 parks to find your next go-to park destination. Bring some healthy snacks.

Have a picnic or a barbeque at a state park. Bring sunscreen, food and lemonade and find a shady spot to enjoy the goodies. Remember to check for ticks when you return home.

Go camping close to home. Set up a tent in your backyard for at-home camping fun.

Water balloon baseball. Combine two favorite summer activities into one. Just take a whiffle ball bat and fill up some water balloons. Play ball!

Get creative with chalk. All you need is a box of sidewalk chalk and kids can let their imaginations run wild. With your driveway as a canvas, they can create works of art or draw up a hopscotch game for jumping fun.

Spend a day at the community pool. Nothing's better than cooling off and having fun in the water on a hot summer day. Remember your sunscreen.

Plant flowers or vegetables. Use the summer to teach your kids how to garden. Plant flowers or vegetables in a flower bed, or in pots on the porch or deck. Kids can water the plants and watch them grow!

Go hiking. Pick an easy hiking trail to do with your kids first, and gradually choose more advanced trails for a challenge. Our region has lots of local parks, natural areas, and trails to offer.

Make a beach trip—lake style. Our area has some beautiful lakes with beaches. It's a fun, inexpensive way to create summer memories with your kids. Pack a lunch and find a good spot for sand castle building!

Run in the sprinkler. Remember doing this as a kid? It's still a great way to beat the heat. Set up your hose sprinklers or installed yard sprinklers, have the kids put on swimsuits, bring towels, and turn on the water!

Wash the car. Older kids can have fun getting wet while making the car sparkle like new. Younger kids will enjoy helping you.

Take an early morning or before-bedtime walk. Get up in the morning and take a walk with the kids before the day heats up. You could also do a pajama walk right before bed. Whether morning or night, walks are a relaxing way to spend time with your kids.

The early teenage years can be confusing. Young teens navigating the world are working things out and haven't yet figured out their identity. During this time, you and your child are both learning how to balance growing independence with parental guidance, and that sometimes can mean conflict.

One mom calls the ups and downs of this age the "independence rollercoaster." She says, "Emma will give me a hard time about something and then go off and be in her room for hours, making me think I'm a horrible parent, but then later she wants to snuggle with me on the couch!"

Teens on their way to becoming capable adults are learning to make decisions, solve problems, take on more responsibility, and form their own identity. As they are on this journey, you want them safe and happy. The key to striking a balance between your child's needs and your own concerns is nurturing a positive relationship with your child.

Show your child lots of love and support. Your love and support are essential for your child's self-esteem. Young people who feel good about themselves often have more confidence to deal with difficult situations.

Although your teen might not always want physical affection from you, you can show your love and support in other ways. Make time to listen when they want to talk, give your child reasonable space and privacy, take a genuine interest in their interests and friends and regularly say, "I love you."

Respect your child's feelings and opinions. Tune into and validate your child's feelings. The physical, social, and emotional changes of adolescence can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. Your teen needs your emotional guidance and stability during this time.

Your child's opinions might be different from yours and their peers may influence their opinions. If you have a difference of opinion, it's a good chance for you to talk about how people often have different perspectives and that's OK. Talking about your own opinions and feelings calmly can help keep the lines of communication open and prevent them from feeling judged.

Treat your child in a way that's appropriate for their age. Younger teenagers might think they're ready to make their own decisions, although they often haven't developed the decision-making skills they need to handle significant responsibility without your help. It can be helpful to explain to your young teen why younger and older children are given different amounts and types of responsibilities.

Provide safe opportunities for your child to exercise independence. Activities that are safe but give your child freedom and time away from you can help your child in several ways. They can learn new skills and test new abilities, foster a sense of belonging and build resilience. For example, your teen might be interested in joining a youth or sports group. When your child is old enough, a part-time job is another great way for them to develop independence.

Remember that during those teenage years the independence they want and the amount of independence you feel appropriate will likely shift and change as you feel confident. Don't stress— just keep a supportive, understanding and loving relationship.

Summer is in full swing, and with many of us fully vaccinated against COVID-19, life is starting to feel normal again. We’re easing back into pre-pandemic activities and routines. For some, it might be an easy, natural process, but for others, getting back into socializing, exercising, and other activities can feel challenging.

Taking the opportunity to reengage is worth it, though—for both our physical and mental well-being. Here are a few ideas for reconnecting.

Connect with people. When we think about what we do every day to care for ourselves, most of us would say that to be healthy, you need nutritious food and exercise. But what about social connections?

During the pandemic, some of our social connections probably fell by the wayside. Working from home, we weren’t chatting with co-workers. Get-togethers with friends and family weren’t happening. Now is the perfect time to be with people again—especially with the opportunities summer affords for socializing outdoors.

Simply put, friendships are good for our health. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems. If you’re an introvert, or your social skills are a little rusty, there’s no need to go big. Get a few friends together for a Sunday hike, meet up for dinner at a favorite restaurant, or invite a few neighbors over to hang out on the deck. Communicate what’s best for you, and be flexible.

Connect with nature. Summer is a great time to get outdoors, and opportunities to enjoy nature—hiking, camping, biking, or just relaxing over a picnic lunch—are abundant in the Centre Region.

Research has shown that our environment can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn affects our bodies. Being in nature can reduce anger, fear, and stress. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.

Time spent in nature can also connect us to each other and the larger world. In studies that measure brain activity, when participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up. But when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It seems that nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment.

Connect with your body. As anyone who feels that sense of well-being after a good workout knows, exercise is good for physical and mental health. If your exercise or workout routine has suffered during the pandemic, now is the time to get moving again. How to start?

Going slow and taking measurable steps will have the most impact. You’ll be more likely to make actual behavioral changes if you set small, successive goals that are easier to achieve. Build up your exercise routine slowly, adding a little bit more each day, and eventually, you’ll get to a point where your success feeds on itself.

As you plan on increasing your activity level, consider participating in Centred Outdoors' weekly adventure. Learn more at centredoutdoors.org


Summer always seems to fly by, and this year is no exception. July 4th is already behind us! Because many of us are experiencing “COVID fatigue” after months of staying home and not doing much, this summer it’s especially important to take advantage of time outdoors. Exercise and time in nature benefits our physical and mental health, and opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature are abundant in the Centre Region.

Mount Nittany Health is again proud to partner with ClearWater Conservancy in the Centred Outdoors program to benefit the health and wellness of our community. Through Centred Outdoors, anyone—regardless of weight and physical fitness levels—can engage in the natural world through guided outings at various Centre County destinations. Whether you prefer a guided adventure or exploring on your own at your own pace, Centred Outdoors offers a variety of activities that promote overall wellness as well as conservation. As you enjoy our community’s natural areas and resources, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about them.

Because Centred Outdoors is committed to the health and wellness of everyone in our community, the 2021 program is a hybrid model that combines virtual programming with in-person events and opportunities to get outdoors while following COVID safety recommendations.

As part of Centred Outdoors, Mount Nittany Health is once again offering the Prescription PARX program. Through PARX, Mount Nittany Health medical professionals are writing prescriptions for patients to spend time being physically active in nature. If you need motivation to fill your prescription, consider this: Research has shown that spending time outside is just plain good for you.

Being active outdoors is an important component to physical wellness. It can help you shed a few extra pounds, strengthen your heart, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, relieve muscle tension, reduce blood sugar levels, and decrease the production of stress hormones. Time spent outdoors can also help ward off depression and reduce anger, fear, anxiety, and stress.

Not only does time spent in nature benefit our physical and mental health, it can also make us feel more connected to each other and the larger world. In studies that measure brain activity, when participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up. But when participants viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. These findings seem to indicate that nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment. Those connections add value to our lives, particularly after a pandemic year.

Reap the benefits of physical activity and nature by participating in Centre Outdoors 2021. Upcoming outings include Dry Hollow (Scotia West), Alan Seeger Natural Area, and The Arboretum at Penn State. For more information, visit CentredOutdoors.org

If you’re headed on a long awaited vacation this summer, hopefully you remembered to pack sunscreen. Sunscreen is especially crucial in the summer; however, it is important to remember to wear sunscreen year round. Damage from the sun’s rays can lead to premature aging and skin cancer, regardless of your age or skin type.

While the decision to wear sunscreen should be easy, deciding which sunscreen to purchase can be quite confusing. If you find yourself browsing the endless aisles of sunscreen, keep these things in mind:

  • There are two types of sunscreen: mineral (physical) and chemical. Both types of sunscreen work to protect your skin from immediate and long term damage, but differ in how they do that. Mineral sunscreen commonly uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays. Chemical sunscreens protect your skin by absorbing UV rays. In general, chemical sunscreen is easier to apply. Mineral sunscreen is often better tolerated in people with sensitive skin, but is more difficult to apply and can leave behind a white residue.
  • The sunscreen you choose should say “broad spectrum coverage,” which means it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays emitted by the sun. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and are commonly associated with premature aging and wrinkles. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength are associated with skin burning. Cumulative exposure to both UVA and UVB rays causes skin damage and can lead to skin cancer.
  • A sunscreen bottle will also include the SPF (sun protection factor), which measures the level of protection against UVA and UVB rays. It is recommended to wear a broad spectrum water resistant SPF 30 or higher. While no sunscreen is effective at blocking 100 percent of UV rays, SPF 30 will block 97 percent of the sun’s rays, with any higher SPF being only slightly more effective.
  • Applying (and reapplying) sunscreen is equally as important as choosing the right sunscreen. Sunscreen should be worn daily, even on cloudy days, as UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and even glass. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours that you are in the sun, and more frequently if you are swimming. If your sunscreen says “water resistant” you are protected for only 40 minutes, and 80 minutes if it says “very water resistant.” Do not forget commonly missed areas such as the ears, scalp, lips and top of your feet.

As you enjoy time outside this summer, remember that there is no such thing as a safe and healthy tan. Wearing sunscreen and limiting sun exposure is the single most important thing you can do to keep your skin healthy and youthful looking while decreasing your risk of developing skin cancer.

Moira Nester, CRNP, is a healthcare provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine. She sees patients at the Mount Nittany Health – Mifflin County location in Reedsville.

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.

Spending time in natural environments helps rest our minds, recover from mental fatigue and decrease the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body. Get your dose of nature by joining Centred Outdoors – a partnership between Mount Nittany Health and ClearWater Conservancy.

The program is designed to help people of all ages and fitness levels experience the outdoors in a relaxing, enjoyable way, while also getting in some healthy exercise! Join Centred Outdoors all month long on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Friday’s to enjoy nature and discover up to 25 outdoor destinations throughout Central PA.

All events are free and open to the public. Additional program details can be found by visiting centredoutdoors.org.

While spending time outside, protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays and tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, are of utmost importance.

Check out the following health tips from Centred Outdoors:

  1. Sun safety for children. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage children’s skin in as little as 15 minutes. Here are sun safety tips for children:

  • Do your best to keep your child out of the sun between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when UVB rays are most intense. 
  • If you do go out, always make sure your kids wear sunscreen (SPF 30 or above), even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside and reapply at least every two hours. 
  • Dress your child in clothing that has a UV protection of at least SPF 30 or that has a tight weave (you shouldn't be able to see easily through it).
  • Make sure he or she wears sunglasses. The skin around the eyes is vulnerable to UV damage too, so children should wear sunglasses starting at six months. 
  • Wide-brimmed hats are also recommended to protect your child's ears and neck.
  • Seek shade as much as possible. 
  1. Sun safety for adults. Did you know that men, especially those with lighter skin, are more likely than anybody to get skin cancer? Sun exposure occurs doing everyday things like mowing the lawn, running, biking and working in the garden. Here are some tips to protect yourself from UV exposure:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats to cover and protect your skin.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm when UVB rays are their most intense.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or higher on any exposed skin. Be sure to reapply it every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.  
  1. Protecting yourself and others from tick-borne illness. Ticks carry germs that can cause Lyme and other diseases. Tick exposure can occur year-round but ticks are most active during warmer months. Ticks are most commonly found in grassy, brushy or wooded areas. Tick safety includes:

  • Treating clothing and gear with products that contain .05 percent permethrin to repel ticks while you are outdoors.
  • Use EPA registered repellents designed for direct application to skin to repel insects.
  • When hiking, be sure to walk in the center of trails. 
  • After you come indoors, check your clothing for ticks and be sure to examine hiking gear and pets for ticks. You will also need to examine you and your child's body for ticks. Be sure to check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and around the waist.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors, as studies show that showering within two hours of coming indoors reduces your risk of getting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

To our team, you're more than just a number. We see you. And we're committed to you. Our experienced providers are here and ready to get you the care you need.