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Daily Dose

Summer Series: Best Ways To Use Bug Spray

1.00 to read

Now that you know all about the options for bugs sprays this summer, let’s discuss the guidelines for using these products.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued recommendations for the application of insect repellents in children. These include the following:

-Do not apply bug spray to children under 2 months of age

-Use up to 30% DEET in children, depending on duration of outdoor activities. Avoid the use of higher concentrations in children.

-Apply insect repellent only to exposed areas of skin and/or clothing. Do not use repellents under a child’s clothing.  Certain repellents may damage synthetics, leather or plastics.

-Do not apply insect repellent to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around the ears. Do not spray directly on the face, spray on your hands first and then apply to the child’s face

-Do not apply bug spray over cuts, eczema or breaks in the skin.

-Have a parent or caregiver apply the bug spray as a child may inadvertently ingest the spray.  Do not allow children to handle the repellents without supervision.

-Wash repellents off with soap and water at the end of the day. This is especially important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also wash treated clothing before wearing again.

-Combination products containing DEET and sunscreen are not recommended, as sunscreen should be reapplied frequently (every 2 hours) and in contrast bug repellents should be applies as infrequently as possible.  It is also thought that DEET may decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen.

-Do not use spray in enclosed areas or near food. Avoid breathing the repellent spray.

-There are other ways to beat the bugs too.  Try to avoid go outside when the bugs are most active, dawn and dusk.

-When your child does go out cover as much of the skin as you possibly can. Use lightweight, long sleeved clothing and pants.   Do not dress your child in bright colors or flowery clothing.  For young children use mosquito netting over their strollers etc.

-The use of citronella candles or bug zappers have not been shown to help .

-Eliminating standing water in yards and areas around the house and yard will help eliminate mosquito breeding. Fans do seem to help as mosquitoes have trouble maneuvering in the wind, so buying a fan to use around the picnic table may be useful. There are many ways to try and avoid the dreaded insect bites, the “battle” is just beginning.

So, gather information and your favorite repellents and enjoy the outdoors. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send your question to Dr. Sue right now! Check the UV Index in your neighborhood here

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

Bathing Your Baby

The end of summer baby “boom” is still going on and new parents are coming in with all sorts of questions…including how do I bathe my baby?  As many mothers and their babies are being discharged from the hospital after 24 hours, they really don’t have the opportunity to “practice” new parent skills, including giving their baby a bath.

Bathing your baby is really fun and is a good bonding experience for parent and child.  The bath also keeps your baby clean and smelling “sweet”.  I was convinced that it would also help them to relax and to sleep longer (not scientific at all - but it works for us right?).  At any rate, you can bathe your baby every day or every 2-3 days, or even once a week. It is really personal preference…but that wonderful “after bath smell” makes me smile.

Many people buy infant bath tubs and there are tons to choose from. I like the the “Puj Tub” or the “Tummy Tub” as you can easily put them in the kitchen sink (grandparent friendly), but you want to make sure that there are no sharp edges or places where a baby might get bumped or injured when you put the tub in the sink.  Some people use a folding tub (be careful not to pinch the baby) or inflatable tub  these may collapse), because they are easier to store if you have limited space.

The number one rule for a bath - NEVER leave your baby alone in the tub, not even when they can start sitting up. A baby may drown in an inch or two of water…so never even turn around to check your phone or check an email.  You should also make sure that the water temperature is correct and every new parent should check the hot water heater and lower the temperature to 120 degrees F, so prevent burns. Regardless, always check the water temperature before you put the baby into the tub.

I am also a fan of using mild soaps..including Cetaphil, Cerave, Aveeno, and Aquaphor  baby wash. If your child tends to have sensitive skin it is best to avoid fragrances and harsh chemicals.  I also like to moisturize the infant after a bath with baby lotions from these same companies. New data is showing that frequent moisturizing (twice a day) may also be important in preventing allergies later in life…. so why not enjoy some baby massage…and keep watching for more information on this issue.

 

 

Daily Dose

How to Treat Swimmer's Ear

1:30 to read

The entire country seems to be experiencing the “dog days of summer”.  That huge high pressure system has covered most of the weather map, so the only thing to do for the next month is to head to any water you can find…swimming pool, lake, ocean, river or fountain!  But, with swimming comes swimmer’s ear or otitis externa.

I rarely see a child with an otitis externa except during the hot summer months.  Swimmer’s ear is a frequent problem for children who “live in the water” all day long. They are just like a fish. They head to to the pool first thing in the morning and don’t come in until they are water logged…and their ears stay wet all day long and into the night….then back to the water again.  When the ear canal cannot dry out it becomes the perfect dark, damp breeding ground for bacteria to take root.

The most common complaint with swimmer’s ear is pain!! I have seen big stoic teenage athletes in tears from the pain when you just touch their ear.  The pain is due to the inflammation and infection of the ear canal..not the ear drum (an inner ear infection).  So, if you tug on the ear lobe or push the area in front of the ear at the jawline, this causes pain.  Rolling over in bed and laying on that ear will cause pain.  Many people also feel a fullness and complain that they don’t hear as well as the ear canal is so swollen.

The treatment for a swimmer’s ear is not an oral antibiotic, it is rather for ear drops that contain an antibiotic to treat the infection topically at the source. Many of the ear drops used to treat otitis externa also contain a steroid that will help with the inflammation (and swelling) of the ear canal.  Pain control is also important with a combination of acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen.   Keeping the ear canal dry is imperative in order that the ear drops stay in the canal and are not “washed out” right after you put them in the ear. I try to keep the patient’s ear canal dry for several days and have them pain free before getting their ear wet again.

BUT, the best treatment for swimmer’s ear is actually prevention.  Little children who are just learning to swim really do not spend enough time under water or during a bath to have their ear canals become infected.  It is typically seen in children over the ages of 5 or 6 who are now great swimmers and spend a great deal of time in the pool, lake or any body of water.  For these children I recommend putting in “home made” ear drops made with half alcohol and half white vinegar. It is easy to make a bottle and buy a dropper and leave it by the back door to the pool or by the dock…..in this way as the kids come in at the end of the day, everyone tilts their head and gets several drops instilled into both ears before heading inside for the night.  You can also buy “Swim Ear” over the counter if you aren’t “into” making the frugal ear drops.

On occasion, for an extremely swollen ear canal you may need to see an ENT to have the ear canal cleaned and treated…..but if treated early this is uncommon. 

Stay cool, hydrated and avoid swimmer’s ear by using those ear drops routinely!! I learned my lesson the hard way one year….prevention is the key to avoiding a painful otitis externa.

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

Epi Pen Controversy

1;30 to read

I have more than several patients who have had serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to a variety of things…including insects (fire ants, bees) as well as foods (peanuts, tree nuts, fruits, shellfish). All of these children need to have epinephrine auto injectable pens (EpiPen) on hand in case of “accidental” exposure to the allergen and a subsequent life threatening allergic reaction.  These medical devices are seldom used ( thank goodness), but need to be replaced every 12-24 months and should always be readily available in case of an emergency.

For the longest time it was not a “big” issue (cost wise) to write prescriptions for these allergic children and to make sure that they had several EpiPens on hand. This included having them available at home, school, in the mothers purse or in the car or in the gym bag…many people also wanted “extras” to have at the grand- parents house or at the lake house…etc.  So….I would write a script for the EpiPen 2 pack and the family might get 4-5 sets to disperse to the appropriate people. Prior to 2009 the cost was less than $100/two pack. 

It was several years ago that a few families started talking to me about the expense of these devices and also how quickly they seemed to expire…in fact we started asking the pharmacist to look at the expiration dates and to try and dispense the ones that had the longest expiration, in hopes of saving some expense.  At that time there were also two companies that were making the epinephrine devices.  

Then in the last year parents started calling me complaining that the EpiPens were becoming cost prohibitive and “did they really need to keep filling them?”….especially seeing that they had never needed to use one?  Of course I replied that “by the grace of God” and their vigilance they had not needed one, but YES, they indeed needed to continue to have them on hand.  In many cases families reduced the number that they bought and tried to make sure that they handed them off if their child left home….terribly hard I would think to keep up with.

This issue came into view most recently as parents across the country started complaining to not only their physicians, but to the pharmacy, their insurers and the drug maker Mylan Pharmaceuticals….why in the world had the price jumped to over $600? In retrospect, the price had been raised 15% twice a year over the past 2 years!  ( It was also pointed out that this was a 6 fold price increase in the past decade).

I do know that epinephrine has been around for a long time and the drug itself is not that expensive, and is used everyday in hospitals around the country….but the EpiPen auto injector which allows “anyone” to inject the medicine into a muscle without any measuring etc. has become cost prohibitive for many families, even some of those with insurance. It seems that Mylan Pharma  is setting prices “based on whatever the market may bear” and not on the fact that the drug is new or expensive to produce…

This is one of the times that all parents with children who need to carry an EpiPen need to contact their representatives in Congress, as well as their insurers to see if the public can be influential in trying to remedy this situation.  The public will have to let their concerns and voices be heard…

Just as I am writing this, Mylan has announced an “instant savings card” for those people who are paying out of pocket and help for those who do not have the means to buy the EpiPen….but this does not correct the problem as a whole. While the discount may be helpful for some, but not all, it is not the answer to the ever growing problem of exorbitant drug costs in this country. I have several families who are going to try and buy the EpiPen while on trips to Mexico and Canada. I have no idea of the costs there…but worth a try.  

Daily Dose

Pokemon GO

1:30 to read

My office is suddenly a bit more “interesting” after a 13 year old boy who was bored while waiting in an exam room took out his phone and started playing Pokemon Go!!  Who knew that there was a Pokemon in my office…or was there?  

If you have children between the ages of 8 -15 I bet someone in your house is playing Pokemon Go - and it is not just kids, many adults are also engrossed in the new game as well. I can remember my sons playing with Pokemon cards years ago, and I don’t think I understood the game then, but it was certainly entertaining for them and they spent hours trading cards with their friends…wonder where those cards went…maybe they are a valuable antique now?

At any rate, as I am trying to understand the game I am also seeing a lot of news coverage about the Pokemon Go rage that is sweeping the country.  There have been several interesting news stories about accidents that have happened while people are so busy looking for the Pokemon on their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings…they have fallen into water, run into walls and almost been hit by cars, fortunately no one has been seriously injured.

One mother of 2 boys who are engrossed in the game told me that her boys sit in the backseat of the car “screaming at her to slow down”!  She said she was not going fast and could not figure out what all of the commotion was about until they continued to ask her to slow down to a crawl….in order that they might see if they were passing any Pokespots??  Unfortunately, she informed them that she needed to go with the flow of traffic and they were out of luck for the moment. Who knew your “tweenage” children would ask you to drive slowly!

As I have been reading a bit more about Pokemon Go I am learning about “augmented reality” and how “an artificial digital world can be mapped onto the real physical world”. It seems that this is not new technology, but with the advent of Pokemon Go being available for free on every cell phone around the country,  it will not be long before we see this phenomena in other aspects of our lives. 

The game and the technology displays a Pokemon floating on your phone’s screen and it appears as if it is in the real world in front of you. (brings back the ad, “is this real or is this memorex?”).  I must say, I really don’t understand it and it is a bit scary how the digital and physical world seem to overlap.

In the meantime, I have found a new game to discuss with my patients, and my office has a new mascot….I just don’t understand how he got into the exam room and if he is watching me all of the time?  

Daily Dose

Read To Your Kids

1:30 to read

I know that there seems to be a “national” day for almost everything these days…we just celebrated National Dog Day! (who doesn’t love a dog…but not all families want, have space or  extra income to care for a dog). But there is one thing all parents can do and celebrate very day regardless of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or geographic location…they can read to their child in the first 5 years of life (and maybe even longer!) 

Try reading to your child 15 minutes a day. The benefits are endless!  Seems like an easy enough “to do” and something that all parents can start from the time their baby is an infant. Newborns need to hear their parents voices and  language early on as a baby’s brain grows exponentially and will actually double in size in the first year of life alone.

A recent study conducted by You.Gov for the Read Aloud Campaign found that only about 46% of parents read aloud with their child every day and only 34% do so for the recommended 15 minutes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also recommended that all children, beginning at birth, are read to every day. In another survey while six in 10 ( 62%) of parents admit to receiving advice to read aloud to their child only 8% actually followed through.  When asked why they have not read to their child parents site “I can’t find the time in the day”, while over half of the parents surveyed say “their child watches TV or uses a tablet at home rather than being read to”. Some parents say, “their child won’t sit still” to be read aloud to.  But if you realized the head start you are giving your child….could you find the time?

Scientists know that a baby’s and toddler’s brain is making huge connections among the 100 billion neurons they are born with.  By the age 3 there will be about 1,000 trillion connections between those neurons.  These are also the critical years in the development of a child’s language skills.   A child will quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1 and 2 years.  Yes, they will mimic everything….even words you wished they had not heard so be careful.

Reading aloud is one of the single most important things a parent or caregiver can do to help a child prepare for learning.  Children who have been exposed to books while listening and reading daily with a parent get a head start in language and literacy skills.  Unfortunately,  more than one in three children begin kindergarten without the necessary skills of listening and learning.  Some are at such a disadvantage that they may not be able to “catch up”.

So, I find myself giving books as baby gifts more and more these days - as who doesn’t have a favorite book or two that make timeless gifts (that may even be passed on to the next generation).  Nursery rhymes, Good Night Moon, Pat the Bunny are a few of my favorites as well as all books by Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. 

So make it a new habit whether your child is 1 day, 1 month, 1 year or older….read aloud 15 minutes a day and before you know it your child will be reading to you!!!

Daily Dose

Kids Who Snore

1.30 to read

Does your child snore?  If so, have you discussed their snoring with your pediatrician.  A recent study published in Pediatrics supported the routine screening and tracking of snoring among preschoolers.  Pediatricians should routinely be inquiring about your child’s sleep habits, as well as any snoring that occurs on a regular basis, during your child’s routine visits.  

Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea and/or sleep disordered breathing (SDB), and habitual snoring has been associated with both learning and behavioral problems in older children. But this study was the first to look at preschool children between the ages of 2-3 years.

The study looked at 249 children from birth until 3 years of age, and parents were asked report how often their child snored on a weekly basis at both 2 and 3 years of age.  Persistent snorers were defined as those children who snored more than 2x/week at both ages 2 and 3.  Persistent loud snoring occurred in 9% of the children who were studied.

The study then looked at behavior and as had been expected persistent snorers had significantly worse overall behavioral scores.  This was noted as hyperactivity, depression and attentional difficulties.  Motor development did not seem to be impacted by snoring.

So, intermittent snoring is  common in the 2 to 3 year old set and does not seem to be associated with any long term behavioral issues. It is quite common for a young child to snore during an upper respiratory illness as well .  But persistent snoring needs to be evaluated and may need to be treated with the removal of a child’s adenoids and tonsils.

If you are worried about snoring, talk to your doctor. More studies are being done on this subject as well, so stay tuned.

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Why it's so important to read to/with your kids every day.

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