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Daily Dose

Mumps Outbreak!

1:30 to read

The latest infectious disease outbreak is in the Boston area where several colleges have reported cases of mumps. Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling of the salivary glands as well as other symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headache.    Harvard University has been hit the hardest and has now documented over 40 cases this spring.  Boston is a city with numerous colleges all in close proximity, and there are documented mumps cases at Boston University, University of Massachusetts  and Tufts as well.  These Boston area colleges are all in close proximity and are merely a walk, bike or train ride away from one another, so these students, while attending different universities may all co-mingle at parties and athletic events.

Mumps is spread via saliva (think kissing), or from sharing food, as well as via respiratory droplets being spread after coughing or sneezing. It may also be spread via contaminated surfaces that will harbor the virus. People may already be spreading the virus for  2 days before symptoms appear and may be contagious for up to 5 days after their salivary glands appear swollen….so in other words there is a long period of contagion where the virus may inadvertently be spread. It may also take up to 2-3 weeks after exposure before you come down with mumps.

All of the students who have come down with mumps had been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, rubella).  Unfortunately, the mumps vaccine is only about 88% effective in preventing the disease. Despite the fact that children get two doses of vaccine at the age of 1 and again at 4 or 5 years….there may be some waning of protection over time. This  may also contribute to the virus’s predilection for young adults in close quarters on college campuses. Something like the perfect infectious disease storm!

In the meantime there are some studies being undertaken to see if adolescents should receive a 3rd dose of the vaccine, but the results of the study are over a year away.

In the meantime, be alert for symptoms compatible with mumps and make sure to isolate yourself from others if you are sick.  Harvard is isolating all of the patients with mumps for 5 days….which could mean that some students might even miss commencement.  Doctors at Harvard and other schools with cases of mumps are still on the watch for more cases …stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Listening to Teens is Important!

1.30 to read

I recently saw I teenage patient of mine who had been in about a year ago complaining of irregular periods and problems with menstrual cramps as well. Interestingly, due to persistent acne, she had been on Accutane about a year before but she was now interested in starting birth control pills (OCP).  She had “heard” from her friends (best source of info for a teen), that OCP would not only regulate her periods, but they might also help her skin (all correct information, I might add).

So, after reviewing the risks and benefits of “the pill” and discussing this with both she and her mother, we all agreed she would try OCP.

She took the pill over the last year with great success. Her periods became more regular, they were shorter and she had little problem with cramps.  All was good, until she started complaining of weight gain.  When I recently saw her she had gained about 15 lbs and was quite upset about the weight gain (but still liked her regular periods).

The dilemma is that while you may notice a 2-5 lbs weight gain on the pill, it is not “typical” for there to be a 15-20 lbs weight gain due to OCP alone. When I reviewed her history over the last 9 months, it was significant in that she had stopped playing year round competitive volleyball. Despite a change in her athletic schedule, she had not continued any routine exercise.

In discussing her eating habits and diet, it was noted that she had started to drive and she said, “I am not always home for meals, so I eat may pick up something after school or at dinner”.  She had been snacking at home this summer as well.

Despite my conversation about her changes in lifestyle with decreased exercise and more snacking, she did not think that the change in her exercise or diet had “anything to do with her weight gain!”.  A very common teenage reaction for sure.

So, it was decided that I would try another brand of OCP, and she was encouraged to try to resume a regular exercise program. With school back in session her mother and I also thought that her eating habits would improve as they were getting back to regular family meals.

But, she was most happy that I had listened to her, and so had her mother. Often, just listening to a teenager is the most important thing you do.

Daily Dose

Cold & Cough Relief!

1:30 to read

Although it is just getting really cold across the country, it feels as if we have been in full cold and cough season for awhile.  The office sounds like what I call “kennel cough” as every child seems to be coughing…. even those who are just coming for check ups.

Parents often ask, “what is the best way to keep from catching a cold?” and the answer continues to be, “wash your hands and try not to touch your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth”.  Easy enough for an adult (well maybe not), but trying to tell your toddler not to put their hands in their nose or mouth is nearly impossible! That is one reason that children get so many colds in the first several years of life. Toddlers typically get the most colds as they have just started having playmates with whom they share not only toys but their germs…all part of growing up.

I remind parents that coughs are there for a reason. While they are a huge nuisance, and cause a lot of sleepless nights for both the child and parent, a cough is there to keep the lungs clear, and a cough is actually protective. In other words, coughing helps you clear the lungs of mucus that comes with a cold and helps to prevent pneumonia and secondary infections.  But, with that being said, learning to cover your mouth when you cough is not only polite, but it is also protective for others. It is a big day when your children learn to cover their mouths with the crook of their arms (better than the hand). Who knew as a parent this would be a milestone for your child?

Whenever your child is sick and has a cough and cold it is important to not only listen to their cough but to actually observe how they are breathing.  Parents send me videos or voicemails of their child coughing, but I am usually more interested in seeing their chest and watching their breathing. Your child may have a huge productive cough and sound terrible, but have no respiratory distress. With that being said, your child may also have a tiny little non-productive cough and be struggling to breath. In most cases the visual is more important than the audible.

To help symptoms like stuffy noses, try irrigating your child’s nose with Little Remedies® Sterile Saline Nasal Mist and then suctioning his or her nose to clear the mucus and make it easier for him or her to breath, a warm bath or shower before bed to open up airways and a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom.

Don’t panic if your child gets sick, as each time they fight off a cold and cough they are actually boosting their immune system…small victories.  It is not unusual for a toddler to get 6 - 7 colds in one season (and their parents get half as many as that from them). Once your child turns about 3 you will see that he or she doesn't get a cold every other week and also seems to handle the viruses a bit more easily.

If your child has any difficulty breathing you need to call your pediatrician! For more information on these products visit www.littleremedies.com.

 

 

 

 

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

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

Why Fever Is Your Child's Friend

Every parent is concerned about fever and why their child is running a fever. During the "sick season" I see 20 - 30 patients a day with a fever. Every parent is concerned about the fever and why their child is running a fever. Fever is one of the most common symptoms of childhood. Younger children run fevers quite frequently when they are sick. As we have talked about before, that may be four to eight times during the fall and winter season.

"Fever is our friend" has been one of my mantras for years. It is comforting for parents to understand that fever is a symptom that the body is fighting an infection. That is usually a viral infection that only lasts a few days, and lo and behold the fever is gone. The biggest myth is that fever, in and of itself, causes brain damage. Remember again, fever is simply a symptom.

The height of a fever does not correlate with severity of illness. Once again, higher fever does not necessarily mean you are sicker. Your child may feel awful with a fever of 101 or 104 degrees. Typically, once given either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for their fever, the temperature comes down a little and they symptomatically feel better for a while. Once the anti-pyretic (fever reducing) medications wear off, the fever will often return.

Children typically have more fever in the night, seems like darkness brings out the fever monster (that is the mother in me, but it was always true at my house) and those nights of fitful sleep, and hot little bodies seem very long. The other thing I have noticed, why do children who have had little sleep due to fever, coughs etc get up in the morning and do not long for a nap like their parents?

The other thing you need to keep in mind is that the higher the fever, the faster your child's heart will beat and the higher respiratory rate they will have. It is easy to climb into bed with your "hot" two year old and feel their heart pounding away, and know they have a high fever, even before the thermometer is out. This is the body's natural way of expending heat. Once the fever comes down you will notice that they are breathing less rapidly and their heart rate has come down too. Remember to offer plenty of fluids to a child with a fever, as they need extra fluids. They can eat too, but if not interested, a Popsicle or jell may be a good alternative. Just keep chanting, "fever is our friend." 

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

Daily Dose

How to Treat Croup

1.15 to read

Now that the weather seems to change daily, croup season is here. Have you heard the sounds of raspy, throaty voices in your house lately? This "noise" is ushering in croup season! Croup is an infection that causes swelling of the larynx (vocal box) and trachea (windpipe) that in turn makes the airway just beneath the vocal cords become swollen and narrow. When you have swelling and narrowing of the airway breathing becomes more difficult and noisy and the sound that is made, almost like that of a seal barking, is called being “croupy”. Croup is quite common in young children, but the sound the emanates from that child when they cough, can be scary and concerning for both parent and child. Children are most likely to get croup between the ages of six months and three years. As a child gets older croup is not as common as the trachea gets larger with age and therefore the swelling does not cause as much compromise. When you awaken in the middle of the night to hear your child “barking” in the next room you need to know what to do. Most croup is caused by a common virus, so croup is not treated with antibiotics. The mainstay for the treatment of croup is try and calm you child, as they may be scared both from the tight feeling in their chest, as well as the sound that is made when they are breathing and coughing. The best treatment for croup seems to be taking your child into the bathroom and turning the shower on hot. Let the steam from the hot water fill the room and sit in there and read a book or two to your child. Typically within five to 10 minutes (before the hot water runs out) the moist hot air should help your child’s breathing. They may still have the barking, croupy cough, but they should be more comfortable and will not look like they are having trouble breathing. If the moist steam does not work, and it is a cool fall night, go outside. That is right, taking your “croupy” child from the moist heat in the bathroom, outside to cool night air may also help open their airways. If your child is showing signs of respiratory distress, with color change with coughing (turning blue while coughing, red is always good), is retracting (using their chest muscles between the ribs to help them breath), is grunting with each breath, or seems quite anxious and having trouble breathing you should call for emergency help. If a child is having real difficulty breathing they may be admitted to the hospital to have supplemental oxygen or breathing treatments. Steroids have also been helpful when used for the correct patient population. Steroids may be used in both an outpatient and inpatient setting. Steroids help to reduce inflammation in the trachea and the symptoms lessen over several days. Steroids used in a short burst are not harmful to your child, and are indicated in a child who may have mild respiratory distress due their croup symptoms. Your child may have symptoms of croup for several days, and for some reason they always seem to be worse at night. Put your child to bed with a cool mist humidifier in their room for the next several nights, this will also help to provide moisture to their airway. It is not uncommon for some children to seem more “prone to croup” and may get it recurrently all fall and winter. Have the humidifier handy and in working order! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

New Sleep Guidelines for Your Baby

1:30 to read

I am sure that many of you heard about the latest recommendations on infant sleep that the American Academy of Pediatrics has released. The latest policy statement from the AAP recommends that all infants sleep in their parents room, but not in the parents bed,  for at least the first 6 months of life and preferably for the first year!!  This is big news and quite a change from the previous sleep recommendations which were published in 2011.

 

All of the latest recommendations regarding sleep are intended to help to reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), which is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 1 year. SIDS in one of the greatest fears of all parents. While “the back to sleep” campaign has reduced the incidence of SIDS, there are still over 3,500 babies in the U.S. who die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping. (this includes some from suffocation and strangulation and not SIDS).

 

In addition, the recommendations re-iterate that the baby should not co-sleep with their parents, but should be in a crib or bassinet with a firm sleep surface, in the parents’ room. These new recommendations, may be driven by the reality that breast feeding mothers are exhausted and often fall asleep while nursing their baby. If the mother is sitting in a chair or on the couch and falls asleep the baby may be at risk of suffocation if they roll into a cushion or fall down between pillows. If the mother is in bed breast feeding and accidentally falls asleep at least the baby is on a firm surface - make sure when you do breast feed your baby in bed to remove all loose blankets and pillows in the area around your baby prior to feeding - just in case.

 

Although it has been a long ago, I always put our infants in their own cribs to sleep -  you might say I was obsessed. One night, shortly after the birth of our 3rd child I found myself on my hands and knees looking under the bed. When my husband was awakened and asked me “what are you doing?” I replied…”looking for the baby!” He then reminded me that I had put the baby in his crib in the nursery right after I had finished breastfeeding him.  I truly had no memory and thought he had fallen under our bed!! This, from someone who had previously stayed up for 36 hours during residency working in the hospital and thought I could handle sleep deprivation- clearly not true!! I just remember the feeling of being frantic! 

 

The AAP continues to recommend that the crib be essentially bare - in other words, no bumpers, no blankets, no stuffed toys, just the fitted crib sheet. The baby should always be placed on their back to sleep…once your baby learns to roll from back to front ( which typically happens after they have learned to roll tummy to back), they may be left to sleep on their tummy. Even with a baby in your room you cannot get up all night to keep trying to keep them from rolling over!  

 

The AAP does recommend using a pacifier for sleep times ( I am a huge pacifier fan as you know). The only problem with a pacifier is convincing The Parents that it is time to “get rid of the paci” once their baby is over a year old….. sometimes hard to sell that concept.

 

Lastly, the APP reiterated that they do not support the use of any of the devices sold to new parents to help “prevent”  SIDS. In other words, all of the technology being marketed including  “anti-SIDS mattresses, home cardiorespiratory monitors, and even fancy video monitors.  While many a well intentioned parent will invest a lot of unnecessary money and time trying to make the baby safe during sleep, the mantra “less is more” is now the best way to ensure safe sleep for your baby. I remind parents that there will be plenty of ways to spend that money  - start the college savings!

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Brown Spots on Your Baby?

1:30 to read

I was examining a 4 month old baby the other day when I noticed that she had several light brown spots on her skin. When I asked the mother how long they had been there, she noted that she had started seeing them in the last month or so, or maybe a couple even before that.  She then started to point a few out to me on both her infant’s arm, leg and on her back.

These “caramel colored” flat spots are called cafe au lait macules, (CALMs) and are relatively common. They occur in up to 3% of infants and about 25% of children.  They occur in both males and females and are more common in children of color.  While children may have a few CALMs, more than 3 CALMS are found in only 0.2 to 0.3% of children who otherwise do not have any evidence of an underlying disorder.  

Of course this mother had googled brown spots in a baby and was worried that her baby had neurofibromatosis (NF).  She started pointing out every little speckle or spot on her precious blue eyed daughter’s skin, some of which I couldn’t even see with my glasses on. I knew she was concerned and I had to quickly remember some of the findings of NF type 1.

Cafe au lait spots in NF-1 occur randomly on the body and are anywhere from 5mm to 30 mm in diameter. They are brown in color and have a smooth border, referred to as “the coast of California”. In order to make the suspected diagnosis of NF-1 a child needs to have 6 or more cafe au lait spots before puberty, and most will present by 6 -8 years of age.

For children who present for a routine exam with several CALMs ( like this infant), the recommendation is simply to follow and look for the development of more cafe au lait macules. That is a hard prescription for a parents…watch and wait, but unfortunately that is often what parenting is about.

Neurofibromatosis - 1 is an autosomal disorder which involves a mutation on chromosome 17 and may affect numerous organ systems including not only skin, but eyes, bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. Half of patients inherit the mutation while another half have no known family history.  NF-1 may also be associated with neurocognitive deficits and of course this causes a great deal of parental concern. About 40% of children with NF-1 will have a learning disability ( some minor, others more severe).

For a child who has multiple CALMs it is recommended that they be seen by an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist yearly,  as well as being followed by their pediatrician.  If criteria for NF-1 is not met by the time a child is 10 years of age,  it is less likely that they will be affected, despite having more than 6 CALMs.

The biggest issue is truly the parental anxiety of watching for more cafe au lait spots and trying to remain CALM…easier said than done for anyone who is a parent. 

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

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