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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

Dog Bites

1:30 to read

I am a dog lover and we have always had a dog in our house….even before we had our children.  But, some dogs will bite and unfortunately there are more than 800,000 people every year who receive medical care for a dog bite…more than half of these are children.

 

Children are also more likely to be severely injured from a dog bite…and I was reminded of this today when I saw a very serious dog bite to a child’s face.  The child was brought to my office by his nanny after being bitten on his cheek by the family’s dog.  It was one of the worst bites I have ever seen! He was severely injured and should have actually gone straight to the ER….the good news is that he will ok, but he had to undergo surgery to repair the bite and will probably require another small surgery at some later date. 

 

In this case as in most, the dog bite occurs when a child is interacting with a familiar dog, and in this case it was the family pet. The little boy is a toddler with a twin sister and they were playing when he was bitten.  The dog had been around the children since they were born…and it is unclear what precipitated the bite.  Sometimes a dog becomes aggressive if they are bothered while they are eating or sleeping…and you know toddlers, they can “bother” anyone. 

 

One of my “boys” is also a dog bite statistic.  He was raised with dogs (my sweet lab Maggie is at my feet as I am writing), so I was totally caught off guard one night when the phone rang. My son had been spending the night at a friend’s house (he was about 10 years old) and the voice on the other end of the phone was the father of the friend (he too a doctor), informing me that my child had been bitten by their dog.  It seemed the boys were laying on the floor on blankets watching a movie and eating popcorn and for some “unknown “ reason the dog bit my son on his face.  The bite was not precipitated by anything…they had not been playing or rough housing with the dog and the dog had not been known to be aggressive. The next words out of the father’s mouth…”do you know a good plastic surgeon?” Not words you want to hear from another physician.

 

Thankfully, I did know a good plastic surgeon who I awakened after his long day in the OR….and he got out of bed and met us to suture my son’s face with over 20 stitches. Luckily it only involved his nose, cheek and chin, just barely missing his left eye. I am sure I cried more than my son.  He still has a scar across his nose..which only bothers his mother.  Incredibly, he never “blamed” their dog, went back to play at their house, and still loves his own dogs more than anything.  My brother who is a vet still thinks that any dog that bites without provocation should not stay in the home with children…but that is one vet’s opinion. 

 

It is especially important to teach your children never to approach a dog to pet it without first asking the owner if it is okay.  Children should learn to move slowly and let the dog “sniff” them first and to stay away from their face and tail. Teach your child how to gently pet an animal and to always be gentle.  If they are around a dog who is behaving in a threatening manner by growling or barking, they should slowly back away from the dog and try to avoid eye contact with the dog. If they are ever knocked over by a dog they should curl up in and ball and protect their face with their arms.

If your child is bitten and it is superficial it will probably just require care with soap and water. For bites that break the skin you should check in with your pediatrician.  Make sure you know the rabies vaccination status of the dog that bit.  You also need to make sure that your child is up to date on their tetanus vaccination. In some cases your child may also need an antibiotic.

Daily Dose

Toddler Milestone

1:30 to read

I love doing 12 and 15 month check ups and seeing all of the “tricks” that a child that age has learned. While we routinely have parents fill out developmental questionnaires prior to their check up, I am still old school and like to ask lots of questions and have them demonstrate things that their children have learned while I  am in the exam room and can observe them

 

I sometimes have to laugh as I ask, “can they wave bye bye?”, or “can they point to their body parts?”, and the poor parents are desperately trying to get their child to demonstrate their newest milestone (trick) but alas, the child is just not interested in “performing” at that minute!! I now how frustrating that is for the parent…but it is just cute to me. We parents sometimes act like our children (and grandchildren) are circus acts…and have to perform on cue. But they are smarter than we are and will decide when they want to show off!! 

 

But there are a few times when I am watching a child whose parents have filled out the developmental questionnaire and it seems all is normal…but when I am in the room I have a few concerns that the child may have not reached a milestone yet…despite what the parents say. Again, I am only in the room with the child for 15-30 minutes, but in that time you do get a lot of both non- verbal and verbal communication. In those cases, if my concerns are not great I make a “note to self” in the chart to re-visit the milestone at the next check up. I also know when parents are concerned that I did not see “the trick” and within the next days or weeks they send me the video of their child waving or saying bye-bye or pointing to their nose!!  

 

Remember, we too do not always “perform’ on command and do not to worry if your child picks their pediatric visit as the time to go on a performance strike. There are other days that “the show will go on” and I get to see the cute trick..often just as I am walking out the door.

 

Daily Dose

Prebiotics and Probiotics

1:30 to read

There has been plenty of discussions about using prebiotics and probiotics in your child's diet. What is the difference between the two? There has been a lot of discussion lately (in both medical and lay literature) surrounding the use of prebiotics and probiotics.  The first question patients/parents often ask is what is the difference between the two “biotics”? Prebiotics are non-digestible nutrients that are found in foods such as legumes, fruits, and whole grains. They are also found in breast milk.  Prebiotics have also been called fermentable fiber. Once ingested, prebiotics may be used as an energy source for the good bacteria that live in the intestines. Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that you actually ingest. These bacteria then pass from the stomach into the intestine to promote “gut health”. The gut is full of bacteria and these are the “good bacteria”.  

There are currently hundreds of different probiotics being marketed. The research on the value of using prebiotics and probiotics has been ongoing, but there are actually very few randomized, double blind, controlled studies to document that pre and pro-biotics provide any true benefit to treat many of the diseases that they are marketed to treat. There are several areas where probiotics have been shown to be beneficial. By beginning probiotics early in the course of a viral “tummy infection” in children the length of diarrhea may be reduced by one day. Probiotics have also been shown to be moderately effective in helping to prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, but not for treatment of that diarrhea.

There are also studies that are looking at giving very low birth weight premies probitoics to help prevent a serious intestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis. To date there seems to be evidence to support this and there are currently more ongoing studies. Studies are also being done to look at the use of probiotics as an adjunct to the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, infantile colic, and chronic ulcerative colitis as well as to possibly prevent eczema.  While preliminary results are “encouraging” there is not enough evidence to date to support their widespread use. In the meantime, there are so many different products available.  Prebiotics and probiotics are now often found in dietary supplements as well as in yogurts, drink mixes and meal replacement bars. It is important to read the label to see if these products are making claims that are not proven such as, “protects from common colds”,  or “good bacteria helps heal body”.  Many of the statements seem too good to be true!

Until further studies are done there is no evidence that these products will harm otherwise healthy children, but at the same time there is not a lot of data to recommend them. They should never be used in children who are immunocompromised,  or who have indwelling catheters as they may cause infection. This is a good topic to discuss with your doctor as well.

Daily Dose

Good Grades Pill

1.15 to read

There is a lot of pressure placed on students to succeed and many of them are turning to what teens call the “good grade pill”.  What is it?  Prescription stimulants that are commonly used to treat children with ADHD.  Teens that have not been diagnosed with ADHD have figured out that with the help of these drugs, they can focus and improve their grades.  

I see a lot of kids who have attentional issues and I evaluate and treat children for ADHD. With that being said, I also spend a great deal of time with each family looking at their child’s history, report cards, teacher comments, educational testing and subjective ADHD rating scales. 

While many families would like it if I just “wrote a script for a stimulant”, I feel it is my job to try and determine to the best of my ability, which children really fit the diagnosis of ADHD. (There are specific criteria for diagnosing ADHD). 

But in the last 3-5 years I personally have seen more and more teenage patients coming to me with complaints of “having ADHD”. These are successful teens who are now in competitive schools. 

In most of the cases there have never been any previous complaints of difficulty with focusing or inattentiveness. All are typically A and B students but are now having to work harder to keep their grades up, and to also keep up all of their extracurricular activities. They too all want to go to “great colleges” and their parents expect that of them as well. 

When I see these teens, I point out to them that there has never been mention of school difficulties throughout their elementary and middle school years. I also tell them that ADHD symptoms by definition are typically evident by the time a child is 7 years of age, and often earlier.  So what do you do? I don’t take out the script pad. 

I believe that stimulant medications are useful when used appropriately.  I am also well aware that these drugs are overprescribed and are also being abused. I have had parents (and teens) be quite upset with me when I decline to write a script for stimulant medication for their teen.  

I think that this problem is growing and (we) parents need to stop pressuring our children and (we) doctors need to be vigilant in deciding when stimulant medications are appropriate. 

It is a slippery slope, but the number of teens obtaining stimulants illegally is on the rise.  Why? They hear that this is a quick fix to getting good grades. It may help their grades for the short term, but what does their long term future look like? 

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

Daily Dose

Placebo Effect

1:30 to read

October is State Fair of Texas month in Dallas!  If you have never been to the Texas State Fair you really don’t know what you are missing….as you cannot see or do everything in one day. Just a few of the highlights include the automobile show, followed by the agricultural areas,  the animals being shown and auctioned, and the incredible number of canned goods and baked goods with prize winning ribbons.  Then there is Big Tex and the midway and any number of fried foods….fried cookie dough, fried Oreos, fried peanut butter and jelly and the favorite corny dogs!!  But many kids prefer cotton candy and snow cones, which come in any color and flavor you can imagine.

 

One young mother was in the office the other day after spending a day with her kids at the fair. Not only is it overwhelming in how vast it is, it is also an expensive outing for a family…especially with children who “want one of everything”. So she was telling me that her children had “blown through” their money on foods and games when one of the children wanted another snow cone. She was trying to explain to them that they could not have anything else…when she came up with the most clever idea!

 

How about a marshmallow snow cone? I must say I was a bit confused.  But, she told me she went and got ice chips and put them in a cup and told the children they were marshmallow snow cones, and that is why they were white and not colored.  The children LOVED them and were thrilled that their mother had acquiesced for another treat.  Everyone walked happily to the car eating their marshmallow snow cone and were very content.  The ride home was without tantrums or tears!

 

What an ingenious mother! Thinking on her feet, saving money and everyone was happy. The placebo effect at its best. 

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Daily Dose

Media Exposure is Everywhere

1.15 to read

It’s interesting how many new topics there are to discuss during a child’s check up. I am sure that 10-15 years ago, I was not spending a part of each child’s well visit discussing “screen time”. I begin this discussion early on, even before the child is “watching TV” as a child under the age of 2 gets a lot of “secondhand” media exposure. 

I find that some new parents have the TV on all day, tuned into CNN or CNBC (just to name a few) and the images on the screen are often not age appropriate nor is the language. Suddenly their toddler is asking about death, tornadoes, wars and carnage. A 2 year old is too young to understand a lot of this, but they know it is scary.  They may also develop sleep disturbances as this age related to the scary images. 

As the child is older, the images flashing across the news screen all day continue. But the older child can grasp the concepts a bit better, but instead of being truly scared, they become anxious.  I see too many 5- 0 year old children who now worry that the approaching thunderstorm means a tornado, or going to school might mean getting shot.  Although these types of tragedies are all too real, fortunately they are not a day-to-day occurrence and I don’t think an elementary age child needs to be afraid to leave their parent’s to go to school for fear of being shot. 

The same goes for the older child. Many of my tween and teen patients have a TV in their bedroom. (I ask this question at every visit beginning at age 2). I often hear that “their TV is not connected to cable”. It is not only the cable channels anymore that have inappropriate content for children of all ages. 

The tween is bombarded by live news images of children being killed around the world, or of sexually explicit images as well. Even a “good vigilant” parent cannot always know what their 14 old might find on the TV that is in their own room. 

I can’t tell you how many times a day I recommend that a parent take the TV out of their child’s bedroom. Some parents think I am crazy, and many teens want to duct tape my mouth shut, but study after study shows that there is no need for media in a child’s room. I even hear that the child “earned the TV for good behavior. Reward their behavior in another way! I tell all of my patients that they can have a TV in their own room, (gasps from some parents while I say that), but they will be in their own college dorm or home before they do. 

Remember to try and limit your child’s screen time to less than 1-2 hours/day, (even if only as secondhand media). Watch TV with your child and discuss the content in an age appropriate manner.  Lastly, keep the media in the family room and not a child’s bedroom. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  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

Staph Infections Often Appear Quickly

1:30 to read

There has been a lot of questions lately about staph skin infections.  In fact, I am typing this just after seeing one of my patients with a fairly “classic” staph infection on their leg. 

Staph is the common term used when doctors are discussing Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that is known to cause infections and is  commonly seen with skin infections. These skin infections present as a boil, or cellulitis (infection of the skin and soft tissues), or impetigo, or other infections related to the skin. But in this case we are going to look at a boil (an abscess within the skin) and  surrounding cellulitis.

Staph infections often appear quickly, “almost overnight”, when a parent or child may notice a bump that may resemble a bite. But in this case this “bite” rapidly reddens and becomes tender and warm to the touch. It really looks “angry” and as my grandmother used to say “festers”. Parents will often call and say, “I think my child has a spider bite”, when in reality it is a brewing staph infection. When I hear spider biter, out of the blue, I think staph. I jokingly tell parents, “I don’t think there are enough spiders in the world to cause all of these “bites” that are really staph infections.” Since staph is a bacteria it is susceptible to antibiotics. But over the last several years we have seen children of all ages presenting with resistant staph infections, typically with MRSA or methicillin resistant staph. This is an important distinguishing factor, as this will determine which antibiotic is used to treat the infection.

In order to figure out which antibiotic to use, the doctor needs to culture the “pus” that is in the boil. That means growing the bacteria from the “bite, boil, infection” and identifying the bacteria, and from that culture the lab will also determine which antibiotic the bacteria is susceptible to. All of this information will ensure that your child is put on the appropriate antibiotic to treat the infection. At times it is necessary to drain the infection and in more serious cases, a child may be admitted for IV antibiotics. I often have parents ask, “Where did we get this?” Staph is everywhere, on our hands, in our noses and on other commonly shared objects like towels, changing tables and in locker rooms. Encourage your child to wash their hands, try to avoid touching their noses, and to avoid picking at cuts and bites.

Despite all of this, we all have micro-abrasions on our skin that are not even visible and that tiny staph bacteria can just hop on in and develop a random infection. Staph skin infections really do have a “typical” appearance. That is why I am showing you this picture. If you see your child suddenly develop a “bite” that looks like this, you need to call the doctor. The sooner the infection is treated the better. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow! Send your question to Dr. Sue.

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