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Daily Dose

RSV is Still Lingering

1.30 to read

I can’t believe that I am writing another post on RSV! After another long day in the office with tons of wheezing and coughing, I decided to take a look at the national RSV statistics. Guess what, most of the country is still in the throes of RSV season (Florida is lucky as their rates are on the decline). So I know that everyone is still dealing with RSV (respiratory synctial virus) and we may still be several more weeks away from declining viral rates and the end of the RSV season. 

I am still seeing many parents who are “fearful” of RSV, as their day care or schools have sent home notices that there are cases of RSV. I am still confused by the need to send out notices which may only scare parents, as at this time of year, RSV is virtually everywhere. 

RSV is a virus that occurs every fall, winter and often into early spring. It causes cold symptoms for most of us, and most of the population (both child and adult) can never name the virus that caused their terrible runny nose and cough.  By the time a child is 2 years old the majority of them (upwards of 90%) have had at least one RSV infection. Again, most parents never need to know the name of the virus that is causing their child to have that terrible cough and runny nose. It is just another bad cold! 

But, with that being said there are children, especially those under the age of 2 who will have more problems with RSV. In some cases, especially young infants, the virus will cause not only a runny nose, congestion and coughing, but wheezing as well, and in a few, respiratory distress. It is in those cases that we “name that tune” and test to confirm that the baby has RSV. 

Our office does not routinely test every child with a cough, runny nose or even all of the kids that are wheezing to see if they have RSV. (If we did we would be testing almost every child!) We only do the tests on the sickest children that end up needing to be hospitalized. The real reason behind the testing is to confirm our suspicions and to follow the epidemiology of the disease during RSV season. 

The treatment of the symptoms does not really change based upon the confirmation of RSV. Other respiratory viruses such as rhinovirus and metapneumovirus are also lurking out their wrecking havoc with coughs, colds and wheezing as well. 

So once again, don’t worry about “naming the virus” or rush to the doctor because your next door neighbor’s child or a friend in day care has been diagnosed with RSV. Rather, pay attention to your child’s symptoms and how they are breathing and handling the virus. RSV is still around will hopefully move out of the country in the next 6 weeks. But guess what, it will surely return next year too.  Keep covering those coughs and washing hands!  

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

Daily Dose

Spring Allergies

1:30 to read

It is definitely allergy season around the country. The weird weather this year has made all things blooming start early, with sky high pollen counts. Some areas have had a few recent super cold days, but warmer temperatures are starting again.  While the cherry blossoms really suffered, the oak, elm, mulberry and ash trees are all just starting to spread their pollens and causing a lot of runny noses, itchy eyes and scratchy throats.

 

If you know that your child is a spring allergy sufferer or if they seem to be developing allergy symptoms (which often occurs after the age of 2 years), there are many products now available over the counter.  The mainstay of allergy treatment is the use of nasal steroids, which actually act as a preventative. They are used on a daily basis during allergy season.  There are many different nasal steroid sprays available including Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex and Rhinocort.  Both Flonase and Nasacort now have a children’s brand and may be used in children as young as 2 years. While the word “steroid” scares many parents, these steroids are not “the bad”  ones associated with bodybuilding. The steroid is sprayed directly into the nasal lining and therefore very little is absorbed systemically, so there are few side effects. Some children do not like sprays and “water up their nose”, but each brand is a bit different in how it is delivered, so you might switch around and see which brand is easiest to use.

 

Many of the allergy symptoms that occur including the runny nose and watery eyes are related to the allergic cascade and histamines that the body produces in response to exposure to the pollen.  So….anti-histamines are also a mainstay of treatment. Again, many of the previous prescription anti-histamines are now all available over the counter. This class of drugs includes second generation non sedating anti-histamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin and now the newest Xyzal.  First generation anti-histamines are more likely to cause drowsiness and sedation and the best known of these is Benadryl (diphenhydramine).  For those with severe allergy symptoms I sometimes use a morning non-sedating anti-histamine followed by Benadryl at bedtime. 

 

For those children who have significant allergies, particularly year round, and who do to respond well to typical treatment with nose sprays and antihistamines, it may be time to see a pediatric allergist. I recently sent one young boy for allergy testing. The testing is usually well tolerated and not painful.  When I saw him for follow up he told me he had gone to the “pokemon” doctor…as he had gotten lots of pokes on his back!! 

 

 

 

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Daily Dose

It’s The Season For Bug Bites & Stings

1:30 to read

Children love to be outside in the spring and summer when the daylight is longer and the backyard, playground, or campsite can become a magical play space. Insect bites are bound to happen. Most are just an annoyance, but make sure you know which ones to be concerned about and which ones may just require a hug and a kiss.It’s that time of year when insect bites and stings start showing up on your kids. Knowing how to prevent and treat common insect bites and stings, and knowing when to not overreact, can help keep your kids safe and healthy.

Babies and children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults. Let’s start with some common spring and summer insects. Spider bites Most spider bites do not actually penetrate the skin, and the majority of spiders found in the U.S are mostly harmless with the important exception of the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider, which are both dangerous to humans. Spider bites are fortunately uncommon. In many cases, presumed spider bites are actually due to another skin condition or an insect sting. The black widow spider is said to feel like a pin-prick, and some victims do not even realize they have been bitten. Sometimes you may notice double fang marks on the skin. The most common symptoms where the bite occurs are immediate pain, burning, swelling, and redness. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. While black widow spider bites are hardly ever fatal, rare deaths have occurred from brown recluse spider bites and are more common in children than in adults. At first the bite of a brown recluse spider leads to a mild stinging, followed by local redness and severe pain that usually develops within eight hours but may occur later. Some reports of brown recluse bites describe a blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring in a "bull's eye" pattern. A fluid-filled blister forms at the site and then sloughs off to reveal a deep ulcer that may turn black. If bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider - Cleanse the wound. Use soap and water to clean the wound and skin around the spider bite. - Slow the venom's spread. If the spider bite is on an arm or a leg, tie a snug bandage above the bite and elevate the limb to help slow or halt the venom's spread. Ensure that the bandage is not so tight that it cuts off circulation in your arm or leg. - Use a cold cloth at the spider bite location. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice. Seek immediate medical attention. Treatment for the bite of a black widow may require an anti-venom medication. Doctors may treat a brown recluse spider bite with various medications.

Bee Stings In most cases, bee stings are just annoying and home treatment is all that's necessary to ease the pain. But if you're allergic to bee stings or you get stung numerous times, you may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment. Most of the time the symptoms from a bee sting will be minor. Your child may experience a burning pain, a red welt, and slight swelling. Some children may have a stronger reaction with extreme redness and swelling that gets bigger over a couple of days. Children, adolescents, and adults who are allergic to bee stings may have a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. About 3% of people who are stung by bees quickly develop these anaphylaxis symptoms. - Skin reactions in parts of the body other than the sting area, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin (almost always present with anaphylaxis) -  Difficulty breathing -  Swelling of the throat and tongue -  A weak and rapid pulse -  Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea -  Dizziness or fainting -  Loss of consciousness -  Convulsions -  Fever -  Shock may occur if the circulatory cannot get enough blood to vital organs. For most Bee stings you can apply an ice pack or cool compress, a meat tenderizer solution which can be made by mixing one part meat tenderizer and 4 parts water. Soak a cotton ball in the solution and apply to the bite for 15020 minutes. A baking soda paste works well or a topical anti-itch cream such as Calamine lotion. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to prevent bee stings and possible immunotherapy if your child is allergic. Multiple stings can be a medical emergency in children, older adults, and people who have heart or breathing problems. If your child is allergic to bee stings always have an EpiPen available and use it right away as your pediatrician has directed. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jacket stings are similar to bee stings.

Fire Ants A bite that will get your child’s attention quickly belongs to the fire ant. Fire ants are so named because their venom induces a painful, fiery sensation. When disturbed, fire ants are very aggressive. To help children avoid fire ants, parents should regularly check their yards and their children's play areas for the presence of the ants and their mounds. Then they should either eliminate the ants or make sure children avoid them. If a child is stung, apply ice to the bite site for 10 to 15 minutes. Elevate the extremity where the child was bit. Clean and clip the child's fingernails to prevent any secondary infection that can result from scratching the bite. Check with the child's pediatrician for the correct dose of an oral antihistamine to reduce itching and inflammation A small percentage of children stung -- probably less than 0 .5 percent -- experience a severe (anaphylactic) reaction. These occur within minutes of a sting and vary in severity. A child who is stung and within minutes begins to experience hives, weakness, dizziness, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath or confusion should be taken immediately to the nearest emergency room. Watch the area for signs of infection over the next couple of days.

Ticks Ticks are common in grasses and wooded areas. If you have pets make sure they are tick free. Ticks are usually harmless but they can carry Lyme disease. To remove a tick begin by taking a cotton swab or cotton ball. Dip the swab or cotton ball in a small glass container that you will be throwing out after use. Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the bottom of your container. Use at least 2 tablespoons of alcohol. Dab on the site of the tick on the child or pet. Do not let it run, that is why you are dabbing it rather than pouring it on the site. If there is excess, dab it with another cotton swab or cotton ball. Let this cotton ball or swab sit on the tick for 3 minutes. This suffocates the tick and he will back out for retrieval with tweezers. If that method is unsuccessful, use the alcohol swab again and let the area dry. Then take a clean, unused cotton swab and glob a dollop of Vaseline petroleum jelly on the site where you see the tick. Let this stay on top of the tick for 3 minutes. You will then remove the tick and the Vaseline petroleum jelly.

Mosquitoes Probably the most common insect bite in the spring and summer come form mosquitoes. Ivillage.com has these tips for treating and preventing mosquito bites. The usual reaction is a local skin inflammation that is red, raised and very itchy. If your child scratches the bite, it may become infected as well. Here's what you can do for your children to help ease the itch and pain caused by mosquito bites. Treatments: Apply anti-itch creams like calamine as needed to help prevent scratching • Use anti-inflammatory creams like cortisone cream to help ease the inflammation and itching • If there is severe itching and multiple bug bites use antihistamines like Benedryl. Because they tend to make children drowsy, they work particularly well at night. •  Antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec tend to be much less sedating, buit check with your pediatrician about the correct dosage and whether these products are safe for children. Other Suggestions:
 Keep your child's fingernails cut short to prevent scratching • Apply cold wet compresses to the area to ease discomfort • Have your child wear long pants and long sleeves (if the temperature is bearable) • Make sure window screens are used if you keep windows open in your home • Use insect repellant to help prevent bites from occurring Choosing an Insect Repellant DEET is the best insect repellant in terms of effectiveness against flies, gnats, chiggers, ticks and other insects. The higher the DEET concentration the better it works. For children, however, the EPA recommends a concentration of 10 percent or less to prevent side effects and toxicity.

Scorpions Scorpion bites are painful but mostly harmless. The only dangerous scorpion in North America, probably the most venomous of all North American bugs is the bark scorpion. Bark scorpions are found in all of Arizona, extending west across the Colorado River in to California and east in to New Mexico. Scorpions are related to spiders, ticks and mites. Usually, they only sting to protect themselves or of they feel threatened. Scorpions can get caught up in bedding or crawl in to shoes so always check your child’s clothing and bed if you suspect scorpions may be around.  Scorpion stings without a serious reaction can be treated with ice on the sting and over-the-counter pain medication. Bark scorpion anti-venom is available only in Arizona. Any sting that shows signs of a bark scorpion needs to be treated at a hospital. Anti-venom has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of the sting. Children love to be outside in the spring and summer when the daylight is longer and the backyard, playground, or campsite can become a magical play space. Insect bites are bound to happen. Most are just an annoyance, but make sure you know which ones to be concerned about and which ones may just require a hug and a kiss. For pictures of several types of insects such as Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders, check out http://www.webmd.com/allergies/slideshow-bad-bugs

Daily Dose

Is it Appendicitis?

1.15 to read

Last night, a patient called me and wondered if their daughter had appendicitis. I always thought it would be the easiest diagnosis, and that we would call the surgeon and whisk the patient off to the operating room for an appendectomy, just like Madeline (one of my favorite books as a child). Well, over the years have I been taught a few things. At times the diagnosis is easy. The patient has the classic symptoms of a "tummy ache" that starts around the belly button, they may vomit a few times and have a fever and the parent in all of us thinks, "yuk, another one of those tummy viruses". But over several hours the tummy aches worsens, and moves from around the belly button (peri-umbilical) to the right lower quadrant and the nausea and vomiting persist and your child just looks SICKER. At the same time you may notice that they have a funny walk, and won't stand up straight, as they try to get to the bathroom and when possible, they move very little at all, as any movement makes the pain worse. This is classic appendicitis. For a parent, that means a phone call to the pediatrician, day or night, as that child needs to be examined. On the other hand some children just forgot to read Nelson's text book of pediatrics. They don't vomit, they may not have a fever, they are a little nauseated, but when pressed could still eat, and it only hurts in their right lower quadrant, everything else is just okay. These are the difficult cases to diagnose. These children require a lot more history, repeat exams and lab tests and may even need a CAT scan to look at their appendix. But, you don't want to miss an appendicitis, as a perforated appendix is serious and requires a lengthy hospitalization. So as a parent and a doctor, if your child's tummy ache seems to be getting worse, it may be worth a trip to the doctor to feel that tummy, run a few tests and decide how to proceed. It is not always as easy as in a book or on TV. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow!

Daily Dose

Plants That Cause Summer Rashes

1:15 to read

Now that summer is upon us and everyone is enjoying being outside I am seeing patients with contact dermatitis (rashes) after coming into contact with poisonous plants.  While allergies are slowing down a bit with the hotter weather, plants like poison ivy, oak and sumac (depending where you live) are full of leaves.  About 50% of people who come into contact with the leaves of these plants will have a reaction.

The adage “leaves of three, let them be” continues to be the best way to prevent getting a rash. That also means wearing long sleeves, and pants...and gloves. But what child goes off to play in the yard, or by the creek dressed like that for summer?  Sunscreen yes, gloves, probably not. 

If you realize you have been exposed to the plant leaves and therefore the urushiol (oil on leaf) , wash all areas of exposed skin as soon as possible with some products that are available like Tecru, Sanfel and Goop Hand Cleaner....if you don’t have those use dish washing soap.  

It may take up to 4 days after exposure to develop the rash and lesions may also appear at different times depending on the location and length of exposure to the urushiol.  The rash is usually really itchy and is often is linear clusters or little vesicles or blisters.  The rash does not spread by scratching or from the fluid inside the blisters, that is a myth. You cannot give anyone else poison ivy if you have washed off the urushiol.  

The best treatments relieve the itching and irritation.  Keeps nails short and hands clean so that scratching will not cause a secondary bacterial infection.  You can use oatmeal baths (Aveeno) or cool compresses (Dommeboro) to help control itching. An over the counter steroid cream is a good place to start to help the inflammation, but it may be a stronger prescription steroid cream will be needed. 

I also try calamine lotion or astringent to soothe the irritation. Sarna is another good lotion for itching....Oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) really don’t help with the itching as it is not due to histamines, but may cause a bit of sedation so a child can sleep.

If the rash is getting worse, spreading to the face and around the eyes or begins to look infected it is time for a visit to the pediatrician. For severe cases oral steroids may be necessary.

It sometimes takes 10-14 days for the rash to go away.  Oh, and getting overheated only makes you itch more.

Daily Dose

Fever

1:30 to read

It’s starting….fever, fever, fever season and lots of concerned parents, so figured it was a good time to talk about fevers….AGAIN.  

 

Remember that fever is simply a symptom that your body’s immune system is working, and in most cases, in children, it is fighting a viral infection.  We docs call a fever a temperature above 100.4 degrees…but I do realize that day care and schools will send your child home when they have a temp above 99.5 degrees ( in some cases even lower). Some parents “explain” to me that their child’s body temperature is always lower than 98.6 degrees so a 99.9 degree temperature is abnormal for them….I’m just saying. 

 

The first thing to try and remember is that the thermometer is simply showing you a number and that the number should not scare you…it is only a number and a higher number does NOT necessarily mean that your child is any sicker.  Some children do tend to have a higher temperature with an illness than another, and even in the same family.  Again, the number should not make you concerned that one of your children is sicker than another…it is still just a fever.

 

Parents always ask…”what degree of fever is dangerous, and when do I go to the hospital?”  The number that registers on the thermometer should not be the deciding factor as to how sick your child is. They will look and feel worse with a higher temperature ( as do you when you are sick), but the important thing is to always look at their color (never dusky or blue), how they are breathing (you do breath faster and more shallow with a higher body temperature, but do not appear to be in any distress), and if they are hydrated (you do need more fluids when you are running a fever).  If all of this seems to be okay, the best thing to do is treat the fever with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  Once their temperature comes down a bit, and that may not be 98.6, look at your child again…children with lower temperatures typically “perk up” for a bit and may play or eat and drink for awhile, until their fever returns and they look pathetic again.  I would always check with my doctor before heading to the ER just because of a fever.

 

Parents also worry about their child having a seizure due to a fever…and this is true some children may have a febrile seizure. But, they can have a seizure with a temperature of 100.8 or 104.2…it does not seem to be the higher the temperature causes a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures do seem to “run in families” and they are also most common during the toddler years. (see another post on this).

 

So… as we are getting into sick season make sure you have an acetaminophen and ibuprofen dosing chart handy and always dose your child’s medications based on their weight and not age. I would also make sure to have a “working” thermometer, and I prefer a rectal thermometer for children under 12 months of age. Rectal temps are really easy to take and in my experience far more accurate (when I am really concerned if a child has a fever) than a tympanic or temporal thermometer. 

 

Be ready and relax….it is just a fever and having an anxious parent is not going to make your child feel better any faster.

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Daily Dose

Digital Technology & Your Children

1:30 to read

I somehow stumbled upon a recent article in the UK Mirror in which Bill Gates was being interviewed. It caught my eye as it began with “As you wrestle the tablets from your square-eyed kids for the 10th time today, it might be reassuring to hear the king of Silicon Valley shares your worries”.

 

The discussion surrounding our children and the use of cell phones and the appropriate age to give a child a phone always brings up various opinions. Some parents feel that their 6 -8 year old elementary school child “needs a cell phone for safety reasons”. Other parents think that their child “doesn’t need a phone until they drive.” Lastly, there are parents who think their child gets a cell phone when “they can pay for it”.  These are only a few of the various responses I have heard from my own patient’s parents….I am sure there are a million more. 

 

Well, it seems Bill Gates, one of the greatest technology innovators of all time, “banned his kids from having mobile phones until they were 14 years old”.  During the interview he also stated that he “forbids cell phones at the dinner table”.  It sounds like Bill Gates runs a pretty tight ship in his own home..with some well founded rules,  while weighing the pros and cons of the use of electronics with his children.

 

Many parents tell me that all of these electronics are necessary for homework and social media also allows their child to stay in touch with their friends…which again is quite true. At the same time Bill Gates commented that he and his wife “often set a time after which there is no screen time…which also helps his children (now ages, 20, 17 and 14) get to sleep at a reasonable hour”. It sounds as if Bill Gates has been reading the studies about screen time and sleep…and how the two may actually affect one another and is a believer!

 

So I now think that I will quote Bill Gates and “suggest” to parents that they not rush to buy their child a cell phone until they are around 14. It also makes a great deal of sense to monitor their usage and to continue to make sure that family time, including dinner time is a “cell free zone”. He emphasizes that using it to an excess, for any reason, is just not a good idea.

 

He is also a big believer in vaccines!!! Go Bill Go!

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Back to School

Dr. Sue says with careful planning, the transition back to school should be easy on you and your kids!

Daily Dose

Back to Sleep Ads

1:30 to read

I am concerned that I have been seeing on line ads promoting “new” baby products in which an infant is shown sleeping on their tummy. In other words….not following AAP guidelines that all infants are placed on their back to fall asleep.  Their should be a “law” that you cannot shoot a picture for any product being advertised for an infant in which the baby is shown sleeping in the prone position. Seeing this photo may only confuse parents about correct sleep position for their baby, especially when many of the advertisements are for sleep related products. 

 

The “back to sleep” campaign which started in 1994 has served to reduce the incidence of SIDS by over 50%. I have been fortunate in that I have not had a patient of mine die from SIDS since the recommendations for sleep position were changed. Unfortunately, when looking at data, 30% of SIDS cases report that the baby was found in the prone (tummy) position.  

 

So, if a sleep deprived new parent is surfing the net for products related to infant sleep, and then sees a baby on their tummy, they may think “maybe that is the trick “ to get my baby to sleep, never realizing the huge risk they are taking. Many a parent has come in to my office and said “ I think my baby sleeps better on their tummy”, which immediately puts a look of horror on my face!! “WHAT…I thought we had discussed that your baby must sleep on their back until they are rolling over on their own.” Some of the parents do reply, “my ……told me it was okay.” In this case do not listen to anyone about tummy sleeping!!! Discuss car seats, high chairs, pacifier options or whatever else instead….and choose which works for you. Sleep position is non negotiable. 

 

With that being said, I realize that between 4 - 7 months many babies will roll over during sleep even when placed on their backs. It is a developmental milestone for babies to roll and you cannot put a brick on them. I would “guesstimate” that about 25% of the babies I see will ultimately prefer to sleep on their tummies, but they are all out of their swaddle and then roll over after being put down on their back. I also get many videos showing me a baby in their crib who is in the act of rolling over, with a nervous parent running in turning them back over, only to have the child roll right back to their tummy. You could spend the entire night “flipping the baby” over!

 

Remember, back sleeping only, in a crib with just baby and no bumpers or toys….you will have plenty of time for other stuff in the crib when they are bigger.

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