Daily Dose

College & Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix

1:30 to read

I have been reading and watching news reports surrounding the University of Virginia article in Rolling Stone and the recent trial of several Vanderbilt University football players charged with rape. I guess it has weighed heavily on my mind as I have had three sons in a fraternity at a large state school, as well as taking care of more than several young women (patients) who have said they were sexually abused while away at college.

To begin with, and I have said this before, my husband and I began talking to our sons, at rather young ages, about how you “treat” girls. This began with explaining to them that there is a “difference between boys and girls”, and I say this as a woman, wife , mother, physician, and now grandmother to a little girl.  

So...we taught our sons that when a girl says “NO” it always means “NO”, no matter the circumstance.  This conversation became even more direct as they got older and started dating.  Now that they are adults, I can only hope and assume that they listened!

I believe in gender equality, but i do think there is a difference between boys/girls, young men/young women and that difference comes when both genders begin drinking alcohol and getting drunk.  My patients will tell you that I discuss this with each of them as they leave for college. While boys get drunk and do some very scary, inappropriate and dangerous things...they do no get raped by a drunk girl. 

In all of the girls I have taken care of, and also in the case of so many other college women in the news, there was excessive alcohol when a sexual assault took place.  Binge drinking on college campuses is one the the biggest problems being tackled by many universities across the country.  But sexual assault and abuse is another university problem that continues to exist.

Back to differences....a girl/young woman who is drunk cannot protect herself, often cannot recall “he said/she said” and sometimes awakens from a drunken stupor without her clothes on. It distresses me to write this. Whether it was consensual, or rape...it is often unclear when the girl was drunk.

Talk to your sons and daughters about this epidemic.  I tell my female patients, and I will tell my grand daughter one day "it is your body and the only way to protect yourself is to be of clear mind...if you drink you need to be able to take care of yourself and always be aware of what is happening". It cannot be a “blurry” memory.

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.

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

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

Chubby Toddlers & Weight Gain

1.15 to read

So, what goes on behind closed doors? During a child’s check up, I spend time showing parents (as well as older children) their child’s growth curve. This curve looks at a child’s weight and height, and for children 2 and older, their body mass index (BMI). This visual look at how their child is growing is always eagerly anticipated by parents as they can compare their own child to norms by age, otherwise called a cohort. 

I often then use the growth curve as a segue into the discussion about weight trends and a healthy weight for their child. I really like to start this conversation after the 1 year check up when a child has  stopped bottle feeding and now getting regular meals adn enjying table food. 

This discussion becomes especially important during the toddler years as there is growing data that rapid weight gain trends, in even this age group, may be associated with future obesity and morbidity. Discussions about improving eating habits and making dietary and activity recommendations needs to begin sooner rather than later. 

I found an article in this month’s journal of Archives of Pediatrics especially interesting as it relates to this subject.  A study out of the University of Maryland looked at the parental perception of a toddler’s (12-32 months) weight. The authors report that 87% of mothers of overweight toddlers were less likely to be accurate in their weight perceptions that were mothers of healthy weight toddlers. 

They also reported that 82% of the mothers of overweight toddlers were satisfied with their toddler’s body weight. Interestingly this same article pointed out that 4% of mothers of overweight children and 21% of mothers of healthy weight children wished that their children were larger. 

Part of this misconception may be related to the fact that being overweight is becoming normal.  That seems like a sad statement about our society in general. 

Further research has revealed that more than 75% of parents of overweight children report that “they had never heard that their children were overweight” and the rates are even higher for younger children. If this is the case, we as pediatricians need to be doing a better job.  

We need to begin counseling parents (and their children when age appropriate) about diet and activity even for toddlers. By doing this across all cultures we may be able to change perceptions of healthy weight in our youngest children in hopes that the pendulum of increasing obesity in this country may swing the other way. 

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

Daily Dose

Relief During Allergy Season

1.30 to read

It's the worst allergy season in years and I'm seeing a lot of children complaining of nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes.Achoo!  Yes, it has been a particularly bad allergy season and (I'm afraid to say) it seems like it's going to be like this for a while. I have been seeing a lot of children complaining of nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. 

The surge in allergies this year has been due to a very wet winter and the weather this spring has brought erratic temperatures and lots of wind. The perfect storm for the "allergic cascade" to inflict itself on everyone's nasal mucosa. The best preventative for nasal allergy symptoms (allergic rhinitis) has been the use of intranasal steroids. These steroid sprays have been used for the past 15 years and clinical studies have shown that intranasal steroids are superior to oral antihistamines. Intranasal steroids function by inhibiting the production of chemical mediators such as histamine and prostaglandin that cause inflammation and mucous production. In other words they are more of a preventative medication, while an antihistamine is treating the histamine that was released once you inhaled the offending tree or grass pollen. Intranasal steroids may also help eye allergy symptoms too. The problem is getting young kids to let you use a nose spray on them. The same holds true for the older tween and teen crowd who complain that they "just don't have the time to use it everyday" (it must take all of 15 seconds to use on yourself!) They have been shown to be effective within 3-12 hours, although will reach their maximum effectiveness after several days to weeks of use, so using it daily and throughout the allergy season is going to give you the maximum therapeutic effect. There are many different brands available and everyone seems to have their favorite. If one spray seems to bother your child due to scent, or intensity of the spray ask your doctor to try another brand. Many times they will have a sample and give you several to try and then prescribe the one that is easiest to get your child to use. It may be trial and error, but finding the right nasal steroid may just change your allergy season. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow. Oh, God Bless You! Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Why Kids Hold Their Stool

Dr. Sue explains a very common bathroom issue and why it occurs.Poop and stool habits account for numerous discussions among parents, especially for those with newborn children or parents who are in the throes of potty training.  It's true, no topic is off limits when it comes to raising healthy, resilient kids!

A problem that is more common than many know (or not willing to admit to) affects children  who do not want to poop, in other words, stool holding. Stool holding is called encopresis and is often seen in children with a history of chronic constipation or who have had stool avoidance issues. Chronic constipation and encopresis may be related to a child having had pain with going to the bathroom. The normal response to the need to poop is to go the bathroom.  Seems very simple right?  While everyone may occasionally have a difficult or painful bowel movement, some children who have pain with pooping recall that it hurt “so, why would I continue to poop and have it hurt?”  In this case when a child feels the urge to poop they also feel they need to hold the poop in. The urge to poop is due to the fact that stool has entered and stretched the rectal vault, which in turn sends impulses to the brain that “I need to poop.” If this feeling is repressed (by a child who doesn’t want to poop), the pressure may lessen for awhile but stool continues to fill the rectum, which gets more stretch and even further distended with stool. As this scenario occurs multiple times a day, the stool becomes a larger mass filling the distended rectum, which can no longer be totally “held in”.  When the child inadvertently relaxes the rectal sphincter, the softer fecal material will escape from the rectum and causes an “accident” and soiling of a child’s underwear. Many times a child is totally unaware that soiling has even occurred, but this is only “the tip of the iceberg” as there is still a huge amount of stool that is being held in the rectum. This held-in stool is usually hard, and dry and painful to pass. The treatment of encopresis is multidisciplinary, with a combination of medicinal intervention, dietary changes and behavior modification. This must involve both parents and child and it may take as long as 4 – 12 months to adequately treat and resolve the issue. Explaining the mechanics of stooling to both parent and child is important. It is also important that both parent and child understand that encopresis is NOT a behavioral problem nor is it “all in a child’s mind”. It occurs because the colon is not working as it should. Unfortunately, there is not a “quick fix” for encopresis and patience is important. More on treating encopresis on Monday.

Daily Dose

Breath-holding & Fainting

2.00 to read

Have you ever fainted?  I bet you may have not realized how common fainting is in the pediatric age group?  I know this from my own children (yes, I had 2 “fainters” and boys no less) as well as from many of my patients.

The medical term for fainting is syncope, and it really is common among children. It starts during the toddler years with breath-holding spells.  Many in this age group (up to 50%) will hold their breath when they are hurt or angry.

When a child holds their breath while crying (you can just see it happening in front of you) they will often turn a bit blue and “pass out”. This is a type of fainting. This can be very scary for parents who have never seen their precious child have such an attitude and then hold their breath over not getting the cookie? Yes, this is a normal part of being a toddler! They are very emotional and labile at this age (foreshadowing for teen years?) and most toddlers don’t have a lot of language yet, so when they get mad or frustrated they just SCREAM! But, while screaming, the child forgets to take a breath, and then the brain and autonomic nervous system takes over and the breath holding leads to fainting.

The breath holding spell, as scary as it is, is just a form of fainting. It will not hurt your child, but it may take your breath away!

My advice? Try not to pay attention to your child if they begin having breath-holding spells. It may be hard to “ignore” the first two or three, but these “spells” usually last for months (maybe years) and you do not need to rush to your child when they hold their breath. By calling attention to the event you may inadvertently reinforce the behavior. As a child gets older, the breath holding will stop (but not the tantrums?) and there will be new behaviors to conquer. Do you have a breath-holder? How do you cope? Let us know!

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

Daily Dose

Head Flattening on the Rise!

1:30 to read

A recent study published in the online edition of Pediatrics confirms what I see in my practice. According to this study the  incidence of positional plagiocephaly (head flattening) has increased and is now estimated to occur in about 47% of babies between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks.  

The recommendation to have babies change from the tummy sleeping position to back sleeping was made in 1992. Since that time there has been a greater than a 50% decline in the incidence of SIDS. (see old posts).  But both doctors and parents have noticed that infants have sometimes developed flattened or misshapen heads from spending so much time being on their backs during those first few months of life.

This study was conducted in Canada among 440 healthy infants.  In 1999, Canada, like the U.S., began recommending  back sleeping for babies. Canadian doctors had also reported that they were seeing more plagiocephaly among infants.  

The authors found that 205 infants in the study had some form of plagiocephaly, with 78% being classsified as mild, 19% moderate and 3% severe.  Interestingly, there was a greater incidence (63%) of a baby having flattening on the right side of their heads.  

Flattening of the head, either on the back or sides is most often due to the fact that a baby is not getting enough “tummy time”.  Although ALL babies should sleep on their back, there are many opportunities throughout a day for a baby to be prone on a blanket while awake, or to spend time being snuggled upright over a parent’s shoulder or in their arms.  Limiting time spent in a car seat or a bouncy chair will also help prevent flattening.

Most importantly, I tell parents before discharging their baby from the hospital that tummy time needs to begin right away. It does seem that some babies have “in utero” positional preference for head turning and this needs to be addressed early on. Think of a baby being just like us, don’t you like to sleep on one side or another?  By rotating the direction the baby lies in the crib you can help promote head turning and prevent flattening.  

Lastly, most cases of plagiocephaly are reversible. Just put tummy time on your daily new parent  “to do list”.   

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Alcohol impairs & college students run the risk of making bad decisions.