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Upstate Parent is getting answers to those health questions you’ve always wanted to ask. You ask us, and we ask local physicians and other experts to weigh in with some answers. Have a burning question? Let us know! This month’s questions are answered by several local experts. Remember that these answers are the opinions of these specific experts and not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal doctor about your health.

Q: Family gatherings at the holidays tend to leave me stressed out. I would love some tips for keeping myself on track this year.

A: The holidays should be a fun time for everyone. Try to plan your holidays so that you have time for extended family and friends, but set aside special time with your spouse and children. If you have to take a dish to a family gathering or social outing, let the kids help. They’ll have fun spending time with you, and everyone will enjoy cookies made by the kids just as much as a gourmet dish you saw in a food magazine. Set aside time with the kids for tree decorating and shopping for others to teach them about giving, not just receiving. These memories will last a lifetime and you will be glad you made time for what really matters.

— Dr. Erin Bailey, Medical Group of the Carolinas, Pediatrics — North Grove

Q: My 7 year old has started biting his nails. Help! I need to stop this before it becomes a lifelong habit.

A: Nail biting is one of the most common childhood habits and often, children outgrow it. But in the meantime, their gnawing is probably leaving their nails sore or raw, the skin may become infected and bleed, and it can also weaken their teeth. Most importantly, constantly having their fingers in their mouths opens children up to bacteria and viruses.

Punishing a child for biting their nails rarely works, but there are other ways to discourage the habit. Keep their nails trimmed short so there is nothing to chew on. Another option could also be rewarding when specific amounts of time are seen when no nail biting to encourage the positive behavior.

— Dr. Jack Cleland, Medical Group of the Carolinas, Pediatrics — North Grove

Q: When the heat runs in our house, my entire family suffers from dry skin and dry noses, but I worry about causing mold if I use a humidifier. Are they safe to use or is there another suggestion?

A: I regularly recommend cool mist humidifiers to my patients to reduce complaints of dry, stuffy noses during the winter. However, they do need to be regularly maintained to prevent mold.

Clean your humidifier at least once a week with vinegar or bleach and make sure to rinse the tank well before using again. Refill the humidifier with clean water daily to prevent growth of bacteria and mold.

If your humidifier has a filter, this should also be washed, dried and replaced on a regular basis. Using distilled water in the humidifier can help reduce buildup of minerals, which reduces mold and bacteria growth. In addition, keep your home as cool as possible during the winter to reduce the amount of dry air from running your heat.

Change or clean your home air filters frequently to reduce buildup of dust particles, bacteria and other allergens.

— Dr. Erin Bailey, Medical Group of the Carolinas, Pediatrics — North Grove

Have a question?

Email questions to Upstate Parent writer Chris Worthy: chris@worthyplace.com.

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