Daily Dose

The Science Behind Febrile Seizures

1:30 to read

As we head into “sick season" and I have been seeing many children with fevers, I thought it would be a good time to talk about febrile seizures.With the "sick season" upon us, I have been seeing many children with fevers so I thought it would be a good time to talk about febrile seizures.

A febrile seizure is defined as a seizure associated with fever in the absence of other known causes of seizures. About 5 percent of children between the ages of six months and six years will have a febrile seizure. That doesn’t sound like a lot of children but seeing that I have a son that had febrile seizures it is that statistic that really doesn’t mean much when you have a child that is part of that statistical equation. Did that make sense? Reassuring a parent that a febrile seizure is benign and will not cause any long-term problems is a “hard sell” while they are watching their child seize. I even felt scared and helpless and I knew what was happening! When my son had his first febrile seizure at about 18 months of age, I will never forget a nurse saying to me, “Didn’t you give him Tylenol or something, as he has a high fever?” She did not realize that I was a pediatrician, and I tell this story to other parents whose children have febrile seizures, as parents always feel guilty. (What is that with parental guilt?). I hope she did not have realized how guilty that might make a parent feel, for as I already thankfully knew, giving anti-pyretics (like Tylenol or ibuprofen) does not necessarily prevent a child from having a febrile seizure.

We know that febrile seizures may occur in some children with a fever of only 101 degrees, while another child may be running a much higher temperature and not have a seizure. About 30 percent of children that have a first febrile seizure will go on to have another. That is the concern of many parents who have children who experienced a febrile seizure. Parents will try to do anything they can to “ward off” another seizure when their child gets yet another fever. I was reminded of this again while I was reading an article from The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The study, done in Japan, looked at giving children with a history of febrile seizures, extra doses of fever reducing medications. Despite this, fever-reducing medications did not appear to reduce the incidence of recurrences, even when children received an extra dose of medication. It seems that children who have febrile seizures may respond differently to fever reducing medications during a febrile event. There seems to be an innate difference in mechanism of fever in those children who have seizures and those that do not. We have known that there is often a history of other family members having febrile seizures, so this may be further evidence or metabolic differences in some individuals with fever? So, despite a parent’s best effort to lower a fever, especially in a child who has already had a febrile seizure, a seizure may still occur.

Take home message: Febrile seizures are scary, but benign and children outgrow these seizures. Never feel guilty, even if you are asked if you gave Tylenol, or something to lower the fever. Looking at this study it probably wouldn’t have changed a thing.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

RSV

1:30 to read

Flu season seems to be winding down but RSV (respiratory synctial virus) season is still here and actually arrived a bit later than usual this year. RSV is a common upper respiratory infection that causes cold symptoms with cough, runny nose, congestion and in some cases wheezing.  

But when new parents hear that there is RSV in their day care or school they often “freak out”. While RSV may cause cough, wheezing and respiratory distress in some young children (more commonly in those with underlying lung or cardiac disorders), thankfully for most it is just a really bad cold!

Statistically, 2% of infants less than 12 months of age are hospitalized for RSV each year.  But, that also means that 98% of infants do not require hospitalization!!  Much better odds that your child will be okay than if you play the lottery, right?

It really doesn’t make much of a difference as to which virus causes your child’s (or your) cold.  What is more important is how your child is breathing!!  Because a baby’s nostrils and airways are smaller, it is not uncommon for parents to be concerned that their child sounds noisy when they are breathing. I think it is more important to look at how your child is breathing rather than listening to their stuffy nose and coughing. This means that you need to take off their t-shirt or jammies and actually look at their chest, and make sure that you cannot see their ribs pulling in and out, or see their abdominal muscles doing work of breathing. You should also not see your baby’s nostrils flaring or see any change in their color...always pink, never dusky or blue!  The cough with RSV is horrendous and sounds terrible as well, but look at how they are breathing and their color when coughing.

It is also important that your child stays hydrated, even though they may not take their bottle or fluids as well as usual. You should always see “spit” in their mouths and tears when they cry and wet diapers (may not be sopping, but wet).  Remember, you probably don’t want to eat as much when you are sick yourself. Offer more frequent feedings. No schedules when your child is sick.

Best treatment, suck the mucous out of your baby’s nose and turn on a cool mist humidifier. They may also feel better when more upright, that is probably why there are many nights with a baby spent rocking on your shoulder when they are sick.

If you have any concerns about how your child is breathing you should always contact your doctor...better be safe. 

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

A Baby Girl!

1.15 to read

Did you hear my big news?? I am officially a grandmother of a new “premature” but healthy baby girl!!! Yes a GIRL!!  After raising three sons I really thought I had mistaken the text announcing a baby girl.   As you probably know, all important information is now received via a text.....so as all four first time grandparents sat in the labor and delivery waiting room one of us got the text that read.....healthy but tiny baby girl...all good!! 

Now, if you have ever sat with a group of friends where everyone is awaiting the same information via text you know that despite the sender pushing send at the same time...the text may arrive on one person’s phone before another, even when sitting right next to each other. That was the case in the waiting room.....we all had phones, but one grandparent got the text first and read it and we all went, REALLY, for real a girl?? 

Despite the fact that our sweet grand daughter wanted to arrive 5 weeks early, she weighed in at 4’12” and only had to spend 8 days in the hospital.  She must have known how excited we all were and we wanted to be able to hold her sooner than later.  

After 2 nights in the neonatal ICU, where she had wonderful care and reassuring doctors and nurses, she was moved to the Special Care Nursery where we were allowed to hold her and feed her and gaze upon her in wonder.   Just think four doting grandparents who all wanted to hold her....we should have had quadruplets.  

After a few days of “feeding and growing”  she was discharged and I am happy to report she is now a whopping 5 lbs of pure joy. She is home with her parents and thriving.    

What a gift to watch your own children begin their parenting journey. I am doing the best I can to “keep quiet” and just enjoy being a grandmother...sometimes not easy but trying. Parenting never ends....especially when you are a mom. I can’t wait to take a grand daughter shopping, put bows in her hair and have tea parties, and all of the things my boys just didn’t want to do. We are tickled PINK!!!

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

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

Do Essential Oils Boost Immune System?

1:30 to read

Although it is still hot and officially summer, soon everyone will be heading back to school  and coughs and colds (and eventually flu, another topic) will be just around the corner. I had a patient ask me about the use of essential oils. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter is heading to preschool for the first time and she “had heard from her friends that essential oils help a child’s immunity during cold season”.

Unfortunately, there is very little data at all to confirm that statement. I only wish that rubbing a bit of lavender oil on would help prevent the common cold. While it may smell great and be relaxing....there is no data that I can find to show that there is any reproducible science to the claims that essential oils boost the immune system.  

While I was researching I found many sites stating that “eucalyptus oil is an anti-viral” and “peppermint oil is an anti-pyretic (fever reducer)”.  Tea tree oil is touted as being “both anti -bacterial and anti-fungal” (I don’t know of other drugs that can claim both!).  But, I just don’t see any data to support all of this. 

The word essential refers to the essence of the plant the oil is derived from, rather than being “essential” to your health. While in most cases essential oils (which are highly concentrated) used as aromatherapy are not harmful for adults, it may be a different story in children, especially those under the age of 6. While labels may say  “natural” it may not always mean safe.  Many oils are poisonous if ingested and there have been reports of accidental overdoses in children with several different oils. In one report tea tree oil and lavender oil applied topically have been shown to cause breast enlargement in boys.  Oil of eucalyptus and peppermint are high in menthol and cineole.  These substances may cause children to become drowsy have decreased respirations.  While there are articles stating that the use of menthol (Vicks) on a child’s feet may be helpful during a cold for reducing a cough, do not use this if child is young enough to put their feet in their mouths. 

I must say that I sometime use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the shower when I have a cold as I think it smells great and seems to help “open up” my head. Whether this is in “my mind” or a response from my olfactory centers which sends calming messages to respiratory center is not clear. But, I am not ingesting it or using it topically. 

 

Daily Dose

Have Your Child's Blood Pressure Checked

1:00 to read

When you take your child in to the pediatrician for a check-up do they check their blood pressure? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children, beginning at the age of three years, should routinely have their blood pressure checked.  

In certain circumstances a younger child should have their blood pressure checked too. With the growing epidemic in obesity, pediatricians are seeing more children with abnormal blood pressure readings. It is important that the right sized blood pressure cuff is used for measuring a child’s blood pressure. There are standards for blood pressures for different age children. The standards are also based on a child’s height.

When a child’s blood pressure reading is greater than the 90th percentile for their age they are said to have pre-hypertension. The prevalence of childhood hypertension is thought to be between one and four percent and may even be as high as 10 percent in obese children. Obesity plays a role but, related to that is also inactivity among children, diet, and their genetic predisposition for developing high blood pressure. Then it is appropriate for further work up to be done to evaluate the reason for the elevation in blood pressure.

If I find a child with a high blood pressure reading during their physical exam, it is important to re-take their blood pressure in both arms. I also do not depend on automated blood pressure readings, as I find they are often inaccurate and I prefer to use the “old fashioned” cuff and stethoscope to listen for the blood pressure. If the blood pressure reading is abnormal, then I have the child/adolescent have their blood pressure taken over a week or two at different times of the day. They can have the school nurse take it and parents can also buy an inexpensive blood pressure machine to take it at home. I then look at the readings to confirm that they are consistently high. The “white coat” syndrome, when a doctor assumes that the elevated blood pressure is due to anxiety, may not actually be the case, so make sure that repeat blood pressures are taken. If your child does have elevated blood pressure readings it is important that further evaluation is undertaken, either by your pediatrician or by referral to a pediatric cardiologist.

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

Daily Dose

The Right Way to Take A Temperature

1:15 to read

During flu season and really throughout the year, the questions surrounding how to take a temperature in a child and how to treat a fever seem never ending. So I thought let’s jump right in with a discussion on taking temperatures in all age children.

There are many different thermometers out there, and many different methods for taking a child’s temperature. The one way that I know that is not accurate is by “touch of hand”. Many parents report that their child had a fever, but have never taken their temperature. Neither your hand, nor mine is accurate in detecting a fever in a child. I am not a fanatic about taking temperatures all day long but it is important to document your child’s body temperature with a thermometer if you think they have a fever. Also, a fever to a parent may mean 99.6 degrees (I know your child has a different body temperature than others), but in terms of true fever most doctors use 100.4 degrees or higher as true fever. For everyone!

Body temperature in infants is very important and a fever in a child under two months of age is something that always needs to be documented. The easiest way to take a temperature in an infant is rectally and is actually quite easy. Lay your child down, like you would be changing their diaper, and hold their legs in one hand while you gently insert a digital thermometer (lubricate it with some Vaseline, makes it slide in more easily) into their rectum (bottom). It will not go too far, don’t worry, only about 1/2”. Keep the thermometer in their bottom for about a minute and by then you will be able to see if they have a fever. Again, over 100.4 degrees. I use rectal thermometers in children up to about two as they are usually pretty easy to hold and it is not painful at all. It is also accurate. Keep this digital thermometer labeled for rectal use.

Axillary temperatures are taken under the arm and can also be taken with a digital thermometer. It is often confusing if your child’s temperature is in the 99 – 100 degree range, so if in doubt take rectal or oral temperature. I am not a huge fan of axillary temperatures, and it actually requires more cooperation than a rectal temp. Oral digital thermometers, which are placed under a child’s tongues, are easy to use in a cooperative child. By the time your child is three or four, it is fun to teach them how to hold up their tongue and then hold the tip of the thermometer under their tongue and close their lips.  Especially with digital thermometers, elementary children like to read you what the thermometer says, and discuss their temperatures. My children always loved to show me they were REALLY sick when it said 103 degrees. It is then a “sick day activity” to take the acetaminophen and watch your temperature come down over the next several hours. They loved making charts of their body temps. It won’t win a science fair but does keep them busy. Also, if they can play this game they are not too sick. Lastly, do not let your child drink a hot or cold beverage right before taking an oral temp (note for parents of older kids, remember Ferris Bueller?), as the reading may not be accurate.

There are also fancy tympanic (ear) thermometers and temporal artery thermometers. I still prefer digital in my own house, and never purchased a “fancy” thermometer. You can buy tons of digital thermometers for every child to have their own, and still save money. We also often hear parents report that there was over a degree of difference between the same child’s ear. I also do not like ear thermometers in little ones, as their ear canals are too small to get accurate readings. Now that you know how to take a temperature I will discuss fever in another post.

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

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