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Daily Dose

Summer Skin Infections

1:30 to read

I have been seeing a lot of skin infections and many of these are due to community acquired methicillin resistant staph areus (caMRSA). The typical patient may be a teen involved in sports, but I also see this infection in young children in day care, or summer camp. The typical history is “I think I have a spider bite” and that makes your ears perk up because that is one of the most common complaints with a staph infection, which is typically not due to a bite at all.

The poor spider keeps getting blamed, and how many spiders have you seen lurking around your house waiting to pounce? The caMRSA bacteria is ubiquitous and penetrates small micro abrasions in the skin without any of us every knowing it. The typical caMRSA infection presents with a boil or pustule that grows rapidly and is very tender, red and warm to the touch. The patient will often say that they “thought it was a bite” but the lesion gets angry and red and tender very quickly and typically has a pustular center.

For most of us pediatricians, you can see a lesion and you know that it is staph. It is most common to see these lesions in athletes on exposed skin surfaces such as arms and legs, but lesions are also common on the buttocks of children who are in diapers in day care. The area is angry looking and tender and the teenage boy I saw the other day would not sit on the chair, but laid on the table on his side as he was so uncomfortable. If the lesion is pustular the doctor should obtain a culture to determine which bacteria is causing the infection, but in most cases in my office the culture of these lesions comes back as caMRSA or in the jargon Mersa. When I say Mersa, I often cause widespread panic among my patients, but in most cases to date these infections may still be treated with an oral antibiotic that covers caMRSA, such as clindamycin or trimethoprim-sulfa. Many of the lesions improve dramatically once the site is drained and cultured. I will reiterate that if possible you want your doctor to obtain a culture to identify the bacteria that is causing the infection.

To prevent caMRSA remind your student athlete not to share towels, clothing or other items. Make sure that common areas are disinfected and once again encourage good hand washing. The closure of schools or disinfecting an entire football field or area with turf is not recommended. Lastly, this is a good reminder that you only want to take an antibiotic for a bacterial infection and that overuse of antibiotics leads to resistance. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Ear Infections Can Develop Quickly

1:15 to read

One of the things that I sometimes see in my practice, which is interesting to me as a pediatrician, and was equally interesting when I had young kids, is how quickly a child's ear exam can change.

You are taught that in medical school, but when you really see it happen it with your patients or your own child you become a real believer. As the saying goes, seeing is believing. I can remember checking one of my boy's ears for an ear infection early in the morning before heading out to work, and declaring, "his ears are perfectly clear". How could it be, my husband would inquire, "that they seem worse after we have been at work all day" and lo and behold, I would re-check their ears and a normal morning ear is an abnormal evening ear. What a difference 12 hours can make! Not a very good warranty on ears and infections.

I was reminded of this yesterday when a patient called and said that her little boy had developed "disgusting" eye drainage which was worsening since I had seen them in the office a few days ago. They had just returned from taking both of their young children to Disney World, and she "couldn't believe they came home sick!" That's a whole 'nother column. At any rate, seeing that they lived fairly close I told them to swing on by and let me look at him again. I think she was just hoping I would call in eye drops. The two precious boys arrived at my doorstep on Saturday night and lo and behold after looking in the youngest child's ears, both of his ears were so infected. So, once again I was a believer in ears changing, and he did not need eye drops he needed to have oral antibiotics to clear up his ears (and subsequently his eyes). There are several lessons from all of this. Ears can change quickly, eye drainage in a toddler with a cold may often really indicate that their ears are infected, and house calls are a good thing.

That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Preschool Nutrition Can Be Challenging

1.30 to read

Does your child eat three meals a day with healthy snacks along the way? I often find myself talking to parents about establishing healthy eating habits especially when you have a preschooler. Preschool children, specifically the two to five-year-old set are notoriously picky eaters, and parents need to recognize that this is developmentally appropriate, although frustrating for parents.

This is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity. A good place to start to get information is “MyPyramid for Preschoolers”, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This website not only covers what your children should be eating, but also is full of good advice on handling picky eaters, how to monitor your child’s growth and ideas to encourage physical activity.

The website encourages parents to lead by example and let your children see you eating a wide array of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. There are ideas for healthy snacks that can be eaten on the run, as you get back into carpools and after school activities. Even the toddler set is busy after school!

Remember: do not let food choices become a battle or an issue. Do not make negative food comments around your children, and keep trying new things. It may take up to 20 attempts or more before your child will try something new, but if you don’t keep trying you will never know if they might really like broccoli.

Also, no “yucky faces” for the adults and older children while at the table and eating their meal. That will only discourage your toddler from trying unfamiliar foods. Put on that happy face, even if it is not your favorite food, it might be your child’s.

The most important message is to make mealtime and snack time pleasant and healthy. Even a toddler can help with planning and preparing a meal. This website is really quite good and interactive as you can enter your child’s first name, age, gender and typical amount of activity and the site will generate a plan just for your child! Can’t be easier than that.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

 
Daily Dose

Shingles in Childhood?

1:30 to read

Is it possible for children to come down with shingles? I recently saw a 2 year old with a most interesting history who then developed a weird rash.   Funny thing, I read an article shortly after seeing this child that described his case perfectly, only wish I had seen this the week before.

So, this 2 year old complained that his leg hurt. Enough pain that he limped and woke up at night crying that his thigh hurt. He had no history of trauma and also was otherwise well, in other words no fever, vomiting, cold symptoms etc.

After several days of watching him without resolution of his pain the mother noticed 3 little spots on his thigh, which she thought might be a bite. The little boy was seen and the diagnosis of herpes zoster (shingles) was considered.  In children the differential diagnosis of localized leg pain in the absence of a rash would not normally include shingles.

According to the pedi dermatologist (that I consulted) shingles in children occurs more frequently on their lower extremities (not for adults) and may involve the back on the same side.   Unlike adults, most cases of zoster in children are only mildly painful and resolve fairly quickly.

Well, this little boy didn’t read the book and his rash continued to get worse and spread, and was quite painful for days. Prior to this, he was a perfectly healthy little boy and had received his first varicella vaccine when he was 1.  

Since the widespread use of the varicella vaccine (chickenpox vaccine, see old post), the incidence of chickenpox has decreased dramatically, and vaccination should also reduce the risk of developing shingles later in life. In otherwise healthy children shingles (zoster) tends to develop at a younger age among vaccinated children than in those who have had a “natural” chickenpox infection.  When shingles occurs after vaccination it represents either a new infection with wild-type virus (an exposure to chickenpox or shingles) or reactivation of the vaccine virus.

Once a child has received 2 doses of varicella vaccine as recommended, the immunity is “boosted” and should further reduce the risk of developing shingles. Varicella–zoster virus can be transmitted via contact with skin lesions of those who have either chickenpox or shingles.  Infection is less likely after exposure to shingles. Transmission of the virus occurs until all lesions have crusted over. In this case, the little boy was ultimately started on an oral anti-viral therapy with slow resolution of his rash and pain and a return to normal around his house.

Note to self: “weird” pain may precede the rash in herpes zoster by several days.  Even though unusual, herpes zoster may occur in a healthy child who no history of varicella exposure and who has received all or part of their chickenpox vaccine.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

When Bug Bites Get Infected

1.00 to read

It is the season for bug bites and and I am seeing a lot of parents who are bringing their children in for me to look at all sorts of insect bites. I am not always sure if the bite is due to a mosquito, flea or biting flies, but some of them can cause fairly large reactions. 

The immediate reaction to an insect bite usually occurs in 10-15 minutes after bitten, with local swelling and itching and may disappear in an hour or less. A delayed reaction may appear in 12-24 hours with the development of an itchy red bump which may persist for days to weeks.  This is the reason that some people do not always remember being bitten while they were outside, but the following day may show up with bites all over their arms, legs or chest, depending on what part of the body had been exposed. 

Large local reactions to mosquito bites are very common in children. For some reason, it seems to me that “baby fat” reacts with larger reactions than those bites on older kids and adults. (no science, just anecdote). Toddlers often have itchy, red, warm swellings which occur within minutes of the bites. 

Some of these will go on to develop bruising and even spontaneous blistering 2-6 hours after being bitten. These bites may persist for days to weeks, so in theory, those little chubby legs may be affected for most of the summer. 

Severe local reactions are called “skeeter syndrome” and occur within hours of being bitten and may involve swelling of an entire body part such as the hand, face or an extremity. These are often misdiagnosed as cellulitis, but with a good history of the symptoms  (the rapidity with which the area developed redness, swelling, warmth to touch and tenderness) you can distinguish large local reactions from infection.

Systemic reactions to mosquito bites including generalized hives, swelling of the lips and mouth, nausea, vomiting and wheezing have been reported due to a true allergy to the mosquito salivary proteins, but are extremely rare. 

The treatment of local reactions to bites involves the use of topical anti-itching preparations like Calamine lotion, Sarna lotion and Dommeboro soaks.  This may be supplemented by topical steroid creams (either over the counter of prescription) to help with itching and discomfort. 

An oral antihistamine (Benadryl) may also reduce some of the swelling and itching. Do not use topical antihistamines. Try to prevent secondary infection (from scratching and picking) by using antibacterial soaps, trimming fingernails and applying an antibiotic cream (polysporin) to open bites. 

Due to an exceptionally warm winter throughout the country the mosquito population seems to be especially prolific. The best treatment is prevention!! Before going outside use a DEET preparation in children over the age of six months, and use the lowest concentration that is effective.  Mosquito netting may be used for infants in strollers.  Remember, do not reapply bug spray like you would sunscreen. 

Daily Dose

What Are Breast Buds?

1.15 to read

I received a phone call today from a mother who was worried about the “bump” beneath her 12 year old daughter’s nipple. I do get this phone call quite often and even see mothers and daughters in the office who are concerned about this lump?  First thought is often, “is this breast cancer?”  The answer is a resounding “NO” but rather a breast bud.  While all mothers developed their own breast buds in years past, many have either forgotten or suppressed the memory of early puberty and breast budding.

Breast buds are small lumps the size of a blueberry or marble that “erupt” directly beneath a young girl’s areola and nipple. Most girls experience breast budding somewhere around 10-12 years of age although it may happen a bit sooner or even later. It is one of the early signs of puberty and estrogen effects.

Many girls will complain that the nipple area is sore and tender and that they are lopsided!! It is not unusual for one side to “sprout” before the other. Sometimes one breast will bud and the other is months behind. All of this is normal. 

While a lump in the breast is concerning in women reassure your daughter that this is not breast cancer (happy that they are so aware) but a normal part of body changes that happen to all girls as they enter adolescence.   Breast budding does not mean that their period is around the corner either, and periods usually start at least 2 years after breast budding (often longer).

Breast buds have also been known to come and go, again not to worry. But at some point the budding will actually progress to breast development and the continuing changes of the breast during puberty.

Reassurance is really all you need and if your daughter is self-conscious this is a good time to start them wearing a light camisole of “sports bra.”  

Daily Dose

The Difference Between Cradle Cap And Dandruff

1.15 to read

I recently received a question from a Twitter follower related to cradle cap and dandruff. She wanted to know if there was a difference in the two.

You know there really isn’t as they are both due to seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin in which the skin overproduces skin cells and sebum (the skins natural oil). Cradle cap is the term used for the scaly dermatitis seen on the scalp in infants. It is also seen on the eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. It is typically seen after about three months of age and will often resolve on its own by the time a baby is eight to 12 months old. It is usually simply a “cosmetic” problem for a baby as it looks like a yellowish plaque on a baby’s scalp and is often not even noticed by anyone other than the parents. Unlike seborrheic dermatitis in adults, cradle cap typically doesn’t itch. It is thought that cradle cap may occur in infancy due to hormonal influences from the mother that were passed across the placenta to the baby. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to become over active. In some severe cases an infant’s scalp becomes really scaly and inflamed and causes even more parental concern, as it appears that the infant is uncomfortable and may be trying to scratch their head by rubbing it on surfaces. The treatment for cradle cap is to wash the baby’s scalp daily with a mild shampoo and then to use a soft comb or brush to help remove the scales once they have been loosened with washing. When washing the head make sure to get the shampoo behind the ears and in the brows (keeping the soap out of baby’s eyes). This is usually sufficient treatment for most cradle cap. In situations where the greasy scales seem to be worsening it may help to put a small amount of mineral oil or olive oil on the baby’s head and let it sit (I left a small amount on my children’s heads overnight) and then to shampoo the following day. The oil will help the scales to loosen up and come off more easily. For babies that have very inflamed irritated cradle cap a visit to your pediatrician may be warranted to confirm the diagnosis. In persistent cases I often recommend shampooing several times a week with a dandruff shampoo that has either selenium (Selsun) or zinc pyrithione (Head and Shoulders) making sure not to get any in the infant’s eyes. I may then also use a hydrocortisone cream or foam on the scalp that will lessen the inflammation and itching. In these cases it may take several weeks to totally clear up the problem. As children get older, especially during puberty, you may see a return of seborrhea as dandruff. Again you can use dandruff shampoos. It also seems that with the overproduction of sebum there is an overgrowth of a fungus called “malessizia” so using a shampoo for dandruff as well as a antifungal shampoo (Nizoral) often works. I have teens alternate different shampoos, as sometimes it seems to work better than always using the same shampoo for months on end. Teens don’t like white flakes falling from their scalp and unlike a baby, a teen is worried about the cosmetic issues of seborrhea! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

It’s The Season For Bug Bites & Stings

1:30 to read

Children love to be outside in the spring and summer when the daylight is longer and the backyard, playground, or campsite can become a magical play space. Insect bites are bound to happen. Most are just an annoyance, but make sure you know which ones to be concerned about and which ones may just require a hug and a kiss.It’s that time of year when insect bites and stings start showing up on your kids. Knowing how to prevent and treat common insect bites and stings, and knowing when to not overreact, can help keep your kids safe and healthy.

Babies and children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults. Let’s start with some common spring and summer insects. Spider bites Most spider bites do not actually penetrate the skin, and the majority of spiders found in the U.S are mostly harmless with the important exception of the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider, which are both dangerous to humans. Spider bites are fortunately uncommon. In many cases, presumed spider bites are actually due to another skin condition or an insect sting. The black widow spider is said to feel like a pin-prick, and some victims do not even realize they have been bitten. Sometimes you may notice double fang marks on the skin. The most common symptoms where the bite occurs are immediate pain, burning, swelling, and redness. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. While black widow spider bites are hardly ever fatal, rare deaths have occurred from brown recluse spider bites and are more common in children than in adults. At first the bite of a brown recluse spider leads to a mild stinging, followed by local redness and severe pain that usually develops within eight hours but may occur later. Some reports of brown recluse bites describe a blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring in a "bull's eye" pattern. A fluid-filled blister forms at the site and then sloughs off to reveal a deep ulcer that may turn black. If bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider - Cleanse the wound. Use soap and water to clean the wound and skin around the spider bite. - Slow the venom's spread. If the spider bite is on an arm or a leg, tie a snug bandage above the bite and elevate the limb to help slow or halt the venom's spread. Ensure that the bandage is not so tight that it cuts off circulation in your arm or leg. - Use a cold cloth at the spider bite location. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice. Seek immediate medical attention. Treatment for the bite of a black widow may require an anti-venom medication. Doctors may treat a brown recluse spider bite with various medications.

Bee Stings In most cases, bee stings are just annoying and home treatment is all that's necessary to ease the pain. But if you're allergic to bee stings or you get stung numerous times, you may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment. Most of the time the symptoms from a bee sting will be minor. Your child may experience a burning pain, a red welt, and slight swelling. Some children may have a stronger reaction with extreme redness and swelling that gets bigger over a couple of days. Children, adolescents, and adults who are allergic to bee stings may have a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. About 3% of people who are stung by bees quickly develop these anaphylaxis symptoms. - Skin reactions in parts of the body other than the sting area, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin (almost always present with anaphylaxis) -  Difficulty breathing -  Swelling of the throat and tongue -  A weak and rapid pulse -  Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea -  Dizziness or fainting -  Loss of consciousness -  Convulsions -  Fever -  Shock may occur if the circulatory cannot get enough blood to vital organs. For most Bee stings you can apply an ice pack or cool compress, a meat tenderizer solution which can be made by mixing one part meat tenderizer and 4 parts water. Soak a cotton ball in the solution and apply to the bite for 15020 minutes. A baking soda paste works well or a topical anti-itch cream such as Calamine lotion. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to prevent bee stings and possible immunotherapy if your child is allergic. Multiple stings can be a medical emergency in children, older adults, and people who have heart or breathing problems. If your child is allergic to bee stings always have an EpiPen available and use it right away as your pediatrician has directed. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jacket stings are similar to bee stings.

Fire Ants A bite that will get your child’s attention quickly belongs to the fire ant. Fire ants are so named because their venom induces a painful, fiery sensation. When disturbed, fire ants are very aggressive. To help children avoid fire ants, parents should regularly check their yards and their children's play areas for the presence of the ants and their mounds. Then they should either eliminate the ants or make sure children avoid them. If a child is stung, apply ice to the bite site for 10 to 15 minutes. Elevate the extremity where the child was bit. Clean and clip the child's fingernails to prevent any secondary infection that can result from scratching the bite. Check with the child's pediatrician for the correct dose of an oral antihistamine to reduce itching and inflammation A small percentage of children stung -- probably less than 0 .5 percent -- experience a severe (anaphylactic) reaction. These occur within minutes of a sting and vary in severity. A child who is stung and within minutes begins to experience hives, weakness, dizziness, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath or confusion should be taken immediately to the nearest emergency room. Watch the area for signs of infection over the next couple of days.

Ticks Ticks are common in grasses and wooded areas. If you have pets make sure they are tick free. Ticks are usually harmless but they can carry Lyme disease. To remove a tick begin by taking a cotton swab or cotton ball. Dip the swab or cotton ball in a small glass container that you will be throwing out after use. Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the bottom of your container. Use at least 2 tablespoons of alcohol. Dab on the site of the tick on the child or pet. Do not let it run, that is why you are dabbing it rather than pouring it on the site. If there is excess, dab it with another cotton swab or cotton ball. Let this cotton ball or swab sit on the tick for 3 minutes. This suffocates the tick and he will back out for retrieval with tweezers. If that method is unsuccessful, use the alcohol swab again and let the area dry. Then take a clean, unused cotton swab and glob a dollop of Vaseline petroleum jelly on the site where you see the tick. Let this stay on top of the tick for 3 minutes. You will then remove the tick and the Vaseline petroleum jelly.

Mosquitoes Probably the most common insect bite in the spring and summer come form mosquitoes. Ivillage.com has these tips for treating and preventing mosquito bites. The usual reaction is a local skin inflammation that is red, raised and very itchy. If your child scratches the bite, it may become infected as well. Here's what you can do for your children to help ease the itch and pain caused by mosquito bites. Treatments: Apply anti-itch creams like calamine as needed to help prevent scratching • Use anti-inflammatory creams like cortisone cream to help ease the inflammation and itching • If there is severe itching and multiple bug bites use antihistamines like Benedryl. Because they tend to make children drowsy, they work particularly well at night. •  Antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec tend to be much less sedating, buit check with your pediatrician about the correct dosage and whether these products are safe for children. Other Suggestions:
 Keep your child's fingernails cut short to prevent scratching • Apply cold wet compresses to the area to ease discomfort • Have your child wear long pants and long sleeves (if the temperature is bearable) • Make sure window screens are used if you keep windows open in your home • Use insect repellant to help prevent bites from occurring Choosing an Insect Repellant DEET is the best insect repellant in terms of effectiveness against flies, gnats, chiggers, ticks and other insects. The higher the DEET concentration the better it works. For children, however, the EPA recommends a concentration of 10 percent or less to prevent side effects and toxicity.

Scorpions Scorpion bites are painful but mostly harmless. The only dangerous scorpion in North America, probably the most venomous of all North American bugs is the bark scorpion. Bark scorpions are found in all of Arizona, extending west across the Colorado River in to California and east in to New Mexico. Scorpions are related to spiders, ticks and mites. Usually, they only sting to protect themselves or of they feel threatened. Scorpions can get caught up in bedding or crawl in to shoes so always check your child’s clothing and bed if you suspect scorpions may be around.  Scorpion stings without a serious reaction can be treated with ice on the sting and over-the-counter pain medication. Bark scorpion anti-venom is available only in Arizona. Any sting that shows signs of a bark scorpion needs to be treated at a hospital. Anti-venom has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of the sting. Children love to be outside in the spring and summer when the daylight is longer and the backyard, playground, or campsite can become a magical play space. Insect bites are bound to happen. Most are just an annoyance, but make sure you know which ones to be concerned about and which ones may just require a hug and a kiss. For pictures of several types of insects such as Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders, check out http://www.webmd.com/allergies/slideshow-bad-bugs

Daily Dose

How to Swallow a Pill

1:15 to read

I have always been a proponent of teaching children to swallow a pill.  In fact, I think I taught my boys to swallow a pill before they were 5 years old, mainly because I was tired of trying to find the measuring cup or syringe for the liquid medicine, which often didn’t go down “like spoon full of sugar”, even though we would sing the song during dosing. 

By the time one child had learned to swallow a pill the other two boys, as competitive as they were, decided that they too could do it, even the 2 year old.  So, based on that experience I have been encouraging young patients to swallow pills, and even teaching them in the office with my stash of mini M&M’s and Tic Tacs!  I also know that if you wait too long it becomes a huge ISSUE.

Well, who knew that someone would actually study “pediatric pill swallowing”?  In an article just published in the May issue of Pediatrics the authors looked at different pill swallowing interventions.  They found that up to 50 % of children were unable to swallow a pill.   Problems swallowing pills included a variety of reasons including fear, anxiety and intolerance to unpleasant flavors. 

The authors reviewed 5 articles published since 1987 which found that behavioral therapy, flavored throat sprays, specialized pill cups and verbal instruction with correct head and tongue positioning all helped children to swallow pills. They also found that pill swallowing training as “young as 2 years helped increase the likelihood of ease of pill swallowing”.

So, like many things....jump in with your young child and master the art of pill swallowing sooner than later. It will make everyone’s life easier.

Last caveat, I always tell my patients who are older “non-pill” swallowers, “you cannot possibly operate a motor vehicle if you can’t swallow a pill”! This is usually a huge motivator for the “late swallower” and they conquer the challenge. 

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

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