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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

Your Child May Need More Than One EpiPen

It can be very frightening when a child suffers witha food allergy. What's the best treatment?I am seeing more and more children with food allergies these days.  Many parents struggle with the fear of “what if my child unknowingly eats something they are allergic to and has a full blown allergic reaction when I’m not around?"  A study published in Pediatrics confirms the advice I have been giving my patients for years: make sure your child carries more than one dose of epinephrine.

The study published in Pediatrics (March 2010) looked at the results among more than 1,200 children who were treated for food allergies in two large Boston hospitals over a 5 year period. During an allergic reaction, 44% of the young patients were treated with at least one does of epinephrine and 12% of those who received the drug needed more than one dose. Food allergies numbers are on the rise; up about 20% over the last 1o years.  Nearly three million school-aged children in the U.S. have some sort of food allergy.  Peanuts, tree nuts and milk trigger most allergic reactions.  And some children are even allergic to shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables. If you suspect your child has a food allergy, you should ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric allergist.   You will be given instructions on foods to avoid and most likely be prescribed and taught how to use a self-injectable epinephrine pen. Besides needing more than one dosage, there are other reasons to carry more than one EpiPen.  Each pen lasts between 10 and 20 minutes; therefore, if you are more than 10 minutes away from emergency medical care you will need to administer another dose.  Also, the pens can misfire. Make sure all caregivers know that your child has a food allergy and arm them with all critical medical information to insure your child’s safety. I also recommend a medical alert bracelet.  These bracelets may not be the most fashionable, but when your child is going into anaphylaxis shock and can’t speak, the bracelet could potentially save his/her life. Always stay in contact with your child’s pediatrician to insure you’re following their advice when it comes to your child’s food allergy. That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Early Talkers

1.15 to read

Is your child a precocious talker?  Most children start to acquire words around 12-15 months, but that means 5-10 words and building. By the time a child is 18 months old they are often mimicking when you ask them to say a word, and some are putting 2 words together. This is all very normal development. But there are few children who are just “early talkers” who are speaking in full sentences by the time they are 18-24 months! 

I think having such a verbal child during the early toddler years is both a “blessing and a curse”. I know that from raising my own children, where my oldest was quite verbal by 20 months, and was “bossing us around” before age 2!!  I also see this same dilemma in my little patients.  While some parents are worried that their 2 year old does not put 3-4 words together, others want to know how you can stop the chatter.  Parents.....we always have issues. 

Example:  When I come into the exam room for a 2 year old check up, the precocious talker looks up and says, “Hi Dr. Sue...what took you so long?”.  Or they may tell their parent that they “don’t need any help” as I ask them to climb on the exam table. Recently a little boy looked right at his mother and said, “I’ve got this”, when I asked him to take off his shoes.  

On another day a little girl was impatient to leave and kept asking her mother if they could go to the park after they left my office.  The mother kept telling the little girl, “maybe” . Finally, exasperated, the 2 year old said, “what’s the answer, yes or no?””  How do you keep a straight face? 

A verbal child can bring you to your knees, both laughing and sometimes wanting to cry.  How can a 2 year old know just what to say to make a parent feel inadequate?  Is it inborn? This seems to be especially true if you have had another child and the 2 year old is instructing you on how to parent “their baby”.   

So, if your child is a talker write down all of those clever sentences they blurt out......one day you will look back and laugh.  I often saw myself in my 2 year old as he told complete strangers , “my mommy says my baby brother cries all of the time, and he has colic!”  Out of the mouth of babes, and I still remember it.  Bittersweet.

Daily Dose

Uber & Teens

1:30 to read

Do you have Uber cars in your area?  I first found out about Uber (and I am only using them as an example) when my son lived in NYC and often used the car service. Later on I heard about college kids using Uber as well.  In that case, many college kids did not have cars and/or they were being “responsible” after being at a party.

But recently, in conversations with my adolescent patients, I have heard that high school kids are using Uber to come home after a party, or other social activities. In otherwords, their parents are not picking them up from the dance, concert, or party but are letting their children (often young girls) call Uber.  Where are their parents and what are they thinking?

I realize that once your child heads off to college you hope and pray that they are making good choices and are being safe. You don’t really plan on picking them up after an event or talk to them that same night about what they have been doing and with whom.  But when we had high school age children, my expectations were that we, the parents, were responsible for taking our teens to the party and to pick them up. Once they were driving the “rules” changed a bit in that they were then often driving themselves to an event and then would drive home and we would be up waiting for them to get home.  They always knew that we would be there when they got home and also that if there were any “issues” we were also available to pick them up. We talked a lot about underage drinking as well as driving and responsibility.  Never did I think they would call a cab or car service, nor was that idea ever broached, they were to call their parents.

So now that these “app” car services are available around the clock, are parents abrogating their responsibilities for parenting teens?  By allowing their teens to call a car service for their ride home, are parents seemingly not interested in where their child has been or who they have been with or what they have been doing before they get home?  You certainly can drop your child at a concert or party and tell them to text Uber to get a ride home, but does this parental non-participation quietly help to condone inappropriate, risky, teen behavior?

Although picking your child up at the end of the evening or checking on them when they pull in the driveway will never ensure that your teen does not get into trouble, I think it does help them think a bit more about having to interact with their parents at curfew time. This “worry” might help lead them to make a better decision about drugs, alcohol or whom they are hanging out with. Putting teens into the “hands” (cars) of strangers as their ride home just seems wrong. Parents be aware. 

Daily Dose

Swollen Lymph Nodes

1:30 to read

A parent’s concern over finding a swollen lymph node, which is known as lymphadenopathy, is quite common during childhood.  The most common place to notice your child’s lymph nodes are in the head and neck area.

Lymph nodes are easy to feel  around the jaw line, behind the ears and also at the base of the neck, and parents will often feel them when they are bathing their children.  Because young children get frequent viral upper respiratory infections (especially in the fall and winter months), the lymph nodes in the neck often enlarge as they send out white cells to help fight the infection. In most cases these nodes are the size of nickels, dimes or quarters and are freely mobile. The skin overlying the nodes should not appear to be red or warm to the touch. There are often several nodes of various sizes that may be noticed at the same time on either side of the neck.   It is not uncommon for the node to be more visible when a child turns their head to one side which makes the node “stick out” even more.

Besides the nodes in the head and neck area there are many other areas where a parent might notice lymph nodes.  They are sometimes noticed beneath the armpit (axilla) and also in the groin area.  It your child has a bug bite on their arm or a rash on their leg or even acne on their face the lymph nodes in that area might become slightly swollen as they provide an inflammatory response. In most cases if the lymph nodes are not growing in size and are not warm and red and your child does not appear to be ill you can watch the node or nodes for awhile.  The most typical scenario is that the node will decrease in size as your child gets over their cold or their bug bite.  If the node is getting larger or more tender you should see your pediatrician. 

Any node that continues to increase in size, or becomes more firm and fixed needs to be examined. As Adrienne noted in her iPhone App email, her child has had a prominent node for 7 months. Some children, especially if they are thin, have prominent and easily visible nodes.  They may remain that way for years and should not be of concern if your doctor has felt it before and it continues to remain the same size and is freely mobile.  Thankfully, benign lymphadenopathy is a frequent reason for an office visit to the pediatrician, and a parent can be easily reassured.

That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Colds & Suctioning Your Child's Nose

1:30 to read

I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but we are in the throes of cold and flu season and unfortunately there are a few more months of this.  As every parent knows, colds (aka upper respiratory infections) are “age neutral”. 

In other words, there is not an age group that is immune to getting a cold and for every age child (and adult for that matter), the symptoms are the same. Congested nostrils, scratchy sore throat, cough, and just plain old feeling “yucky”. When an infant gets a stuffy nose, whether it is from “normal” newborn congestion, or from a cold, they often have a difficult time eating as an infant is a nose breather.  When they are nursing and their nose is “stopped  up”, they cannot breath or even eat, so it is sometimes necessary to clear their nasal passage to allow them to “suck” on the bottle or breast. 

Of course it is self evident that an infant cannot blow their nose, or rub or pick their nose so they must either be fortunate enough to sneeze those” boogers” out or have another means to clear the nose.  This is typically accomplished by using that wonderful “bulb syringe”. In our area they are called “blue bulb syringes” and every baby leaves the hospital with one tucked into their discharge pack.  As a new parent the blue bulb syringe looked daunting as the tip of the syringe appeared to be bigger than the baby’s nose.  But, if you have ever watched a seasoned nurse suck out a newborn’s nose, they can somehow manage to get the entire tip inside a baby’s nose. For the rest of us the tip just seemed to get inside the nostril and despite my best efforts at suctioning nothing came out. Once a nurse showed me the right “technique” I got to be a pretty good “suctioner”.  With the addition of a little nasal saline, which you can buy in pre made spray bottles, or which may be made at home with table salt and warm water, the suctioning gets a little easier as the nose drops helped to suction the mucous.

Now, I have become a firm believer that there is a place for suctioning a baby’s nose, but once a child is over about 6 months of age they KNOW  what you are getting ready to do. I am convinced that a 6 month baby with a cold sees the “blue bulb syringe” approaching their face and their eyes become dilated in fear of being suctioned!!  Then they begin to wail, and I know that when I cry I just make more mucous and the more I cry the more I make. So a baby with an already stuffy nose gets even more congested and “snotty” and the bulb syringe is only on an approach to their nose. It also takes at least two people to suction out a 6 – 12 month old baby’s nose as they can now purposely move away , and hit out to you to keep you away from their face and nose. It is like they are saying, “ I am not going to give in to the bulb syringe” without a fight! I swore I would not have a child with a “green runny nose” that was not suctioned.

As most parents know, don’t swear about anything, or you will be forever breaking unreasonable promises to yourself!  I think bulb suctioning is best for young infant’s and once they start to cry and put up a fight I would use other methods to help clear those congested noses.  Go back to the age old sitting in a bathroom which has been steamed up with hot water from a the shower. Or try a cool mist humidifier with some vapor rub in the mist (aroma therapy).  Those noses will ultimately run and the Kleenex will come out for perpetual wiping. Unfortunately, it takes most children many years before they learn to blow their nose, but what an accomplishment that is!!!  An important milestone for sure.

That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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 'Herd Immunity' Does Not Work

With all of the recent anxiety surrounding Swine Flu and the possibility of epidemics, lets be pro active in protecting all of us from diseases that we can prevent with the current immunizations that are available.There is an article in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, which looked at whether parental refusal of pertussis vaccination could be associated with increased risk of pertussis infection in those unimmunized children. The study was conducted between the years 1996 - 2007 and looked at case controlled studies which compared a child with documented pertussis (whooping cough) to 4 other randomly selected children who did not develop pertussis. This study is important as many parents believe that if they choose not to vaccinate their child, that their child is protected by herd immunity (in other words, by all of the rest of us that are immunized).

In this case the study showed that 11% of all pertussis cases in this pediatric population were attributed to parental vaccine refusal. This study is important for several reasons. It is one of the first to document that herd immunity does not seem to completely protect unvaccinated children from pertussis. Children of parents who refuse pertussis immunizations are at high risk for pertussis infection relative to vaccinated children. One would assume, but further studies need to be done, that similar results would be found if you looked at diseases like measles, or H. flu meningitis. Herd immunity is important to the general health and well being of all of us, but it is not 100% at any time and risk of disease is still there. As we see increases in whooping cough in many communities across the country the need to educate parents about the importance of vaccines is paramount. Parents need to be protected too and we should all have a TdaP as an adult to provide pertussis protection for ourselves, as well as for those infants around us who are too young to be immunized. With all of the recent anxiety surrounding Swine Flu (H1N1) and the possibility of epidemics, lets be pro active in protecting all of us from diseases that we can prevent with the current immunizations that are available. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Pool or Trampoline? The Safety Debate

1:15 to read

Do you have a pool or trampoline in your yard? Both pools and trampolines are fun for children, and both pose dangers as well. I saw a patient today who asked me my opinion of trampolines. It seems that she and a friend, both of whom have elementary school age children, are having a "discussion" about trampolines. My patient is totally against having a trampoline in her yard, although she has a pool. Her friend says that it is safer to have a trampoline than a pool. And so their debate continues.

Both pools and trampolines are fun for children, and both do pose dangers. But as my own children often told me "according to you Mom, everything that is really fun, is dangerous!" The biggest issue surrounding children playing in pools and jumping on trampolines is parental supervision. When children are taught safety and are given rules to follow that are then enforced, they may have fun and be safe at the same time. Pools are fenced, and gated. Parents watch their children swim. This is usually the party line. But trampolines also require the same amount of supervision and many parents don't realize this.

Most trampoline injuries occur when children are unsupervised. Many serious trampoline accidents occur when children of disproportionate weights are doubling jumping and the smaller child becomes a missile and is thrown from the trampoline when serious neck injuries may occur. Trampolines are also safest when they are buried in the ground or have safety nets on the side. Letting children jump unsupervised is as dangerous as swimming alone.

So, I can't resolve this friendly discussion, but I do know that both pools and trampolines require parental supervision and strict safety rules to ensure the safest possible experience. And yes, they are both fun! That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

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