Daily Dose

Kids & Bedtimes

1.30 to read

As the summer winds down, my office is bust with back to school check-ups.  During these exams, I find myself asking a lot of questions related to a child’s sleep routines. Over the years I have always asked about sleep, and for so many  parents it is one of their main concerns.  

But what I have noticed is it seems children are going to bed later and later. I know the summer months are less scheduled for many families and children tend to get out of routines, but never the less, when I routinely ask, “during the school year what time does your child go to bed at night?” I am surprised by some of the answers.  And I am not talking about teens either, this is mainly the 5-13 year old set. (I do think teens need bedtime guidelines as well, that is a different discussion). 

As a working parent I totally understand and empathize with how busy the evenings are. I tell new parents that the evening hours between 6-9 pm are often the “witching hours” for newborns but I also see these same “crazy hours”  for most families once their children get to be school aged. (is this why cocktail hour was invented?)  It is the time of day for after school activities, homework to be done, dinners to be cooked and children to be bathed. Add in bedtime stories and/or reading by your child and it is CRAZY....but even so children need to have bedtimes appropriate for their ages.

Hearing that 5 year olds go to bed at 9 pm or that 10 year olds are up until 10 or 11 pm not only makes me tired but worries me as well that these children are not getting enough sleep. And the statement from frazzled parents, “they just won’t go to bed” makes me know just how important early good sleep habits are. Bedtime is a statement not a question!

While some children are just natural sleepers, others can be more difficult, but I am convinced that early good sleep habits help all children to be better and more independent sleepers.  Self soothing begins in infancy, but self calming and sleeping in your own bed is an important milestone as well. A child who awakens every night and ends up sleeping in their parents bed is disrupting both their sleep and their parents, which leads to irritable, unfocused and tired children and adults.

So, this seems to be a good time to re-look at bedtimes and adjust accordingly for your child’s age.  Once you get a good routine going, good habits are easy to continue.  

Daily Dose

Shingles in Childhood?

1:30 to read

Is it possible for children to come down with shingles? I recently saw a 2 year old with a most interesting history who then developed a weird rash.   Funny thing, I read an article shortly after seeing this child that described his case perfectly, only wish I had seen this the week before.

So, this 2 year old complained that his leg hurt. Enough pain that he limped and woke up at night crying that his thigh hurt. He had no history of trauma and also was otherwise well, in other words no fever, vomiting, cold symptoms etc.

After several days of watching him without resolution of his pain the mother noticed 3 little spots on his thigh, which she thought might be a bite. The little boy was seen and the diagnosis of herpes zoster (shingles) was considered.  In children the differential diagnosis of localized leg pain in the absence of a rash would not normally include shingles.

According to the pedi dermatologist (that I consulted) shingles in children occurs more frequently on their lower extremities (not for adults) and may involve the back on the same side.   Unlike adults, most cases of zoster in children are only mildly painful and resolve fairly quickly.

Well, this little boy didn’t read the book and his rash continued to get worse and spread, and was quite painful for days. Prior to this, he was a perfectly healthy little boy and had received his first varicella vaccine when he was 1.  

Since the widespread use of the varicella vaccine (chickenpox vaccine, see old post), the incidence of chickenpox has decreased dramatically, and vaccination should also reduce the risk of developing shingles later in life. In otherwise healthy children shingles (zoster) tends to develop at a younger age among vaccinated children than in those who have had a “natural” chickenpox infection.  When shingles occurs after vaccination it represents either a new infection with wild-type virus (an exposure to chickenpox or shingles) or reactivation of the vaccine virus.

Once a child has received 2 doses of varicella vaccine as recommended, the immunity is “boosted” and should further reduce the risk of developing shingles. Varicella–zoster virus can be transmitted via contact with skin lesions of those who have either chickenpox or shingles.  Infection is less likely after exposure to shingles. Transmission of the virus occurs until all lesions have crusted over. In this case, the little boy was ultimately started on an oral anti-viral therapy with slow resolution of his rash and pain and a return to normal around his house.

Note to self: “weird” pain may precede the rash in herpes zoster by several days.  Even though unusual, herpes zoster may occur in a healthy child who no history of varicella exposure and who has received all or part of their chickenpox vaccine.

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

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

Toddlers & Tantrums

1.15 to read

I see toddlers for check ups nearly every day and for both the 15 month and 18 month visit, there are many challenges for parents and the pediatrician (and of course the child). Toddlers are not at what I would call an EASY age.

As you know if you have a toddler, they are quite moody (just wait for teenagers) and they can “stop, drop and roll” into a tantrum in the blink of an eye.  So while I was examining an 18 month old this week ( she is one of three adorable girls), she suddenly became infuriated (her mother and I were really clueless as to what triggered this) and she jumped off of her mother’s lap and fell to the floor kicking and screaming. 

Now, for a first time parent this might be alarming behavior, but for a seasoned mother of three it was really no big deal. Appropriately, we all just ignored her as she laid on the floor and screamed (no, the mother was not worried about germs on the floor either) and we continued our conversation about her child’s less than stellar sleep habits.

After a few minutes her daughter calmed down, the older sisters got her a sticker and she left without a fuss. Her mother had already learned, like we all do, that the best way to stop tantrums is by ignoring them and letting your toddler have some time to “express her emotions” with age appropriate (although inappropriate for older children) behavior.  

Several days later, her mother sent me an email with another picture attached of the same child having yet another tantrum after she found her in her diaper with a sharpie pen happily marking all over herself (the photo above). Of course, the minute she took the marker away her daughter fell to the floor again to express her outrage! So funny that her mom thought to document it and send me another picture.

By the way, she also told me that she had taken practical advice and was working on having her daughter cry herself to sleep and it was working well!  Both the tantrums and sleep were improving by just ignoring her behavior. Back to those laws of natural consequences.  

Daily Dose

When Parents Date

1.30 to read

I recently saw some patients of mine who are now teens. They were brought in for their check ups by their father who i had not seen in some time.  He has a boy and a girl about 16 and 14 years old.  I knew that there had been some “issues” within their family, but is had actually been several years since i had seen them.

As it turns out the parents had divorced, the mother had some problems with addiction and the father now had custody of the children. He was trying to get “everything back on track”, including visits to the pediatrician.  

After seeing each of the kids alone and talking to them, they actually seemed to be doing extremely well. They had seen a counselor during some of the more tumultuous times and were happy to be in a “stable” environment and had “less family stress” as they put it. They were both doing well in school, had lots of friends and were involved in different sports and school activities.  They said that their sad had been instrumental in getting things “back to normal”, or back to a “new normal”.  

I also visited with the dad and he told me he had a new concern.  He was really happy about how well his children were doing, all good.   It seems that he had just started dating agiain, and he was not quite sure how to handle the subject with his kids.  He told me that he had had several dates and his kids wanted to know....what’s next?

I had to laugh a bit, as we had just discussed his children dating and going to Homecoming. My response was,  “be honest with them”.  If you asked your teen after 2 dates “where is this going?”, they would probably reply, “dad, who knows, we’ve only had 2 dates...I’m not getting married!”.

I told him I would tell his children the same thing,  in a manner of speaking. I would acknowledge that I was enjoying dating, that I had no plans to get married any time soon, and did not even know if i was ready to be “exclusive” ( is that the adult version of Facebook official?) with anyone at this point.  

I would also make it clear that I would keep them updated if and when things changed, but in the meantime they did not need to worry. Their dad would be there everyday to get their breakfast, have dinner with them and continue their “new normal”. It was just such a good feeling seeing all of them happy!

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Daily Dose

Monitoring Your Baby

1.30 to read

I have recently received several emails from patients which included attachments.  The attachments were videos of a baby in their crib with questions from parents about whether the baby was “breathing okay”, was “crying enough to be picked up”, or whether I thought “the baby was dreaming”. I had to laugh, as the first thing I thought of while watching all of these videos was: we are really just “too smart for our own britches”, which was a line often used by my dear deceased grandmother who died at the ripe age of 104!  In this case, she would be right as we have so much technology available to us but I’m not sure if it is really that helpful when we are talking about caring for a baby. 

Every parent wants to make sure that they are “watching” their newborn, infant or toddler as closely as possible. That is good parenting.  But, even a newborn does not need to have constant video monitoring with rewind and playback ability.  Just having your baby in the bassinet by your bed or in the nursery next door to your room is really sufficient.  

The idea is that you can hear your baby if they are crying.  You do not need to hear hiccups, and know that they latest for 18 minutes. If your baby is stretching and making normal “new baby” grunting and groaning sounds, you do not need to hear every noise. You do need to hear your baby crying because they are hungry, wet or uncomfortable.  That is when a parent is supposed to get up and go to their baby’s bed.  Watching them just making a few noises to get settled is not a call for intervention.  

I am the first doctor/mom to totally believe that a new baby needs to be held when fussy or irritable. I am not the “cry it out” doctor (let them cry for the first 5-6 months of life).  But, a baby can ooch and scooch and not need to be picked up and if you do not have a video monitor, you probably would not know they were ooching and scooching.  With video monitors on day and night a baby cannot even burp without the parent watching and wondering and “worrying” if that burp was significant.   

While we talk about our teens being “too connected”, maybe we parents need to think about that too.  Are “we” parents (and grandparents) being too connected to the baby?  Are we part of the problem of “instant” intervention, when many a baby might calm themselves if given the chance (and the parent never knew).  

Many generations of newborns and young babies were raised, successfully, without a video camera. Parents ears are a pretty good monitor too , for both babies and even teens.  Eavesdropping is still allowed! 

Daily Dose

Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

1.15 to read

I get a lot of phone calls several days after parents head home with their newborn regarding their baby’s umbilical cord.  The umbilical cord really is the lifeline for the baby for 9 months, but once the baby is delivered, and the cord is clamped, it becomes a nuisance and “grosses” many parents out.  So often parents don’t even want to touch the cord and one of my patients told me....”why can’t it just dry up and fall off immediately?”. My only answer to that is, “God did not make it that way?”.

So, in a nutshell the umbilical cord is made up of 3 blood vessels, actually 2 arteries and one vein.  When the cord is cut and clamped the vessels begin to clot and eventually the cord detaches, typically in 7-14 days and then falls off.  

In the interim the cord is developing a scab so it may “ooze” a bit and there may even be dried blood on the baby’s diaper or around the edge of the cord.  A tiny bit of blood is to be expected, and parents don’t need to be worried that the baby is bleeding!!!  I like to explain that it is the first time as a parent that you might need to clean off a little blood, the same way that you will again when this sweet newborn becomes a toddler and falls down and skins their knee.

On occasion the hospital forgets to take the cord clamp off before the baby is discharged and the family comes in with the baby for their first visit with the cord clamp still on.  Poor parents have no idea that this is typically removed before discharge...somewhat like leaving the store with the magnetic tag on the outfit....just no alarm to let you know it is still there. In that case they are amazed when we pop off that yellow or blue plastic attached to their baby!

Lastly, the newborn baby can have some time on their tummy, if they are awake, even with the remnant of the cord still on. It will not hurt the baby at all and early tummy time is important...just NOT when a baby is sleeping!

I have to admit that I opened the baby book 30 years later and that dried umbilical stump was in there..Yes, I too was a first time mother.....don’t save it!

Daily Dose

Diagnosing Diabetes

1.15 to read

I often see parents who come in worried that their child might have diabetes. I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as juvenile onset diabetes. 

While there is much in the news about type 2 diabetes, which is typically related to childhood obesity, the mystery of type 1 diabetes has not yet been totally elucidated. Type 1 diabetes affects about 1 in 400 children and adolescents. There does seem to be a genetic predisposition (certain genes are being identified) to the disease and then “something” seems to trigger the development of diabetes. Researchers continue to look at viral triggers, or environmental triggers (such as cold weather as diabetes is more common in colder climates). Early diet may play a role as well, as there is a lower incidence of diabetes in children who were breast fed and who started solid foods after 6 months of age.   

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough ( or any) insulin. Insulin is needed to help sugars (glucose) in the diet to enter cells to produce energy.  Without insulin the body cannot make enough energy and the glucose levels in the blood stream become elevated which leads to numerous problems. Children with type 1 diabetes are often fairly sick by the time they are diagnosed.  

The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes are extreme thirst (while all kids drink a lot this is over the top thirst) frequent urination ( sometimes seen as new onset bedwetting with excessive daytime urination as well), excessive hunger,  and despite eating all of the time, weight loss and fatigue.  

Any time a child complains of being thirsty or seems to have to go the bathroom a lot, a parent (including me) worries about diabetes. But, this is not just being thirsty or having a few extra bathroom breaks or wetting the bed one night. The symptoms worsen and persist and you soon realize that your child is also losing weight and not feeling well. 

Although diabetes is currently not curable, great strides have been made in caring for diabetics and improving their daily life. I now have children who are using insulin pumps and one mother has had an islet cell transplant. The research being done is incredible, and hopefully there will one day be a cure. 

In the meantime, try not to  worry every time your child tells you they are thirsty or tired, as all kids will complain about these symptoms from time to time.  But do watch for ongoing symptoms.  

Lastly, eating sugar DOES NOT cause type 1 diabetes. Now it may lead to weight gain which can lead to type 2 diabetes....but that is another story. 

Daily Dose

"White Noise" and Babies

1.00 to read

I received an email from Meredith (via our iPhone app) because she had heard that “white noise” might cause a child to have speech/language delays. She used a sound machine in her children’s rooms at night, and was concerned about the possibility of “interfering with their speech”.

So, I did a little research and found an article from the journal Science in 2003.  A study from the University of CA at San Francisco (UCSF) actually looked at baby rats who listened to “white noise” for prolonged periods of time. The researchers found that the part of the auditory cortex (in rats) that is responsible for hearing, did not develop properly after listening to the “white noise”.   

Interestingly, when the “white noise” was taken away, the brain resumed normal development. Again, this study was in baby rats, and to my knowledge has not been duplicated.  But, these baby rats were exposed to hours on end of  "white noise” which may not be the same thing as sleeping with a “sound machine” at night. 

We might need to be more concerned about background “white noise”. We do know that babies learn language by listening and absorbing human speech. They need to hear their parent’s talking to them from the time they are born.  They listen to not only their parent’s speech, but also to siblings, grandparents etc. and from an early age respond to that language by making cooing sounds themselves, often imitating the sounds they have heard. They are also exposed to a great deal of “white noise” or background noise with the televisions being on, computers, telephones, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers etc. going on all day.  The “white noise” that may be reduced by turning off televisions, videos, computers etc and replacing that background noise with human speech through reading, singing and just talking to your baby and child could only be beneficial. One might surmise that “white noise” in the form of a sound machine at night would not affect a child’s speech development, as this is not a time for language acquisition.

Having a good bedtime routine, reading to your child before bed, or singing them a lullaby will encourage language development, and the sound machine may ensure a good night’s sleep.  Just turn it off in the morning!

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

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

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