Daily Dose

Fruits & Veggies in a Pouch

1.15 to read

OK, I am back to the subject of “squeeze pouch foods” or as another cute 2 1/2 year old called it “squeegy fruit”.  I have written about this before as I was fascinated by these when they first hit the market. On the one hand, I get that they are convenient and are easy to use for those first months of pureed baby foods, but beyond that, I think they are given to older children.  

It seems that more and more kids are enjoying “squeegy fruit” and also “slurping” pureed vegetables. The issue is these pouches foods are being “masqueraded” as healthy foods.  Yes, they are fruits and vegetables often mixed together, but if you read the labels it gets a bit more complicated.

I see so many toddlers in my office who are happily “sucking down” a packet of apples and blueberries.  These parents are adamant that their kids don’t drink juice boxes or eat “junk food” but at the same time they are letting their children “suck down” several of these pouches a day.  This is also often in place of meals, as many of these children are described as “picky eaters”.  I saw a little boy today who had been vomiting, but was on the exam table with pouch to mouth as he “drank/ate” a combo of apples, peas and something else.  (note: not recommended when vomiting).

So....I decided to look up the nutritional value of these pouches....many of them although “all organic” or described as “healthy” do contain a lot of carbohydrate and sugars.  Actually, as much as two fruit roll ups!  Yes, I did a little comparison and 2 of the “dreaded” fruit rolls ups contain 23 grams of carbs and almost 11 grams of sugar.....while a 3.2 ounce pouch has somewhere between 19-24 grams of carbs and between 14-23 grams of sugar.  

The point of this is not to say that “squeeze pouches” are bad, or that a child should never have a fruit roll up.  Rather, it is to point out that even “healthy” snacks can be full of sugar.  Rather than a fruit roll up or a  squeeze pouch, what about a piece of fruit?  Sure, it may be a bit messier to cut up a piece of fruit, but those pouches are not teaching children about textures and chewing.

Pouches are great for travel, special occasions and babies. But, they are not for toddlers and certainly not for everyday consumption.  Oh lastly, they are bad for the teeth as well!  

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

College & Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix

1:30 to read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Dose

HPV Vaccine

1:30 to read

I recently read an interesting article in JAMA in which a study was done suggesting that “HPV vaccine does not lead to risky behaviors in teen girls”. This seemed to be a timely study as Merck has just recently received FDA approval for their new Gardasil vaccine which will now protect against 9 serotypes of HPV (human papilloma virus) which causes the majority of cervical cancer ( as well as other genital cancers) and genital warts.

Since the vaccines against HPV were released in this country about 8-9 years ago, the uptake of the vaccine among tween/teen girls and boys has been less than hoped for.  Like many vaccines, there were those parents who were “worried or skeptical” about giving their children a new vaccine - despite the fact that it is the first vaccine against a virus that was known to cause cancer..actually a great deal of cancers.  The CDC reports that about 57% of preteen/teen girls have received one dose of HPV vaccine, while only 35% of boys in the same age group. The completion rate for completing all 3 vaccines is only 37% for girls and 14% for boys. 

But while many parents believe in the benefit of the vaccine a common concern has been, “giving the vaccine to a pre-teen may lead girls to engage in sexual activity at younger ages”.  In my personal experience I have not found that to be at all true. In fact, educating these tweens and teens about the risk of infection and cancer is “scary enough” for some to be even more wary.  I am pretty direct with this group as they get into their true teen years and are experimenting in all sorts of ways...not only sexually. I truly do not think that a vaccine does “promotes” becoming sexually active....hormones do a good job in that area. 

So, the study looked at 21,000 vaccinated girls who were matched with more than 186,000 non vaccinated girls. Researchers then compared rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) including herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. They found that the “rate of STI’s overall were equal among the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups”, which suggests that the HPV vaccine does not impact sexual behaviors. 

With an even more protective HPV vaccine now available I encourage you to read the literature and talk to your own doctor about getting your adolescent vaccinated.  The vaccine is protective but does not treat HPV if you have already been exposed....there will be 14 million new cases of HPV in the U.S. this year...and that statistic is not one you want your adolescent to be among.

Daily Dose

Migraines in Children

1:30 to read

I received an email via our iPhone App inquiring about migraines in children. Headaches are a common complaint throughout childhood, but pediatricians have recognized that children have many different types of headaches which include migraine headaches. 

Migraine headaches are best diagnosed by obtaining a detailed history and then a thorough neurological exam. There are several characteristics of childhood migraines that are quite different than adult migraines. While adult females have a higher incidence of migraine headaches, males predominate in the childhood population. 

Childhood migraines often are shorter in duration than an adult migraine and are less often unilateral (one sided) than in adults. Only 25-60% of children will describe a unilateral headache while 75-90% of adults have unilateral pain.  Children do not typically have visual auras like adults, but may have a behavioral change with irritability, pallor, malaise or loss of appetite proceeding the headache.  About 18% of children describe migraine with an aura and another 13% may have migraines with and without auras at different times. When taking a history it is also important to ask about family history of migraines as migraine headaches seem to “run in families”. 

Children who develop migraines were also often noted to be “fussy” infants, and they also have an increased incidence of sleep disorders including night terrors and nightmares. Many parents and children also report a history of motion sickness. When children discuss their headaches they will often complain of feeling dizzy (but actually sounds more like being light headed than vertigo on further questioning). 

They may also complain of associated blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, chills, sweating or even feeling feverish. A child with a migraine appears ill, uncomfortable and pale and will often have dark circles around their eyes. It seems that migraine headaches in childhood may be precipitated by hunger, lack of sleep as wells as stress. But stress for a child may be positive like being excited as well as typical negative stressors. 

Children will also tell you that their headaches are aggravated by physical activity (including going up and down stairs, carrying their backpack, or even just bending over). They also complain of photophobia (light sensitivity) and phonophobia (sensitive to noises) and typically a parent will report that their child goes to bed in a dark room or goes to sleep when experiencing these symptoms. 

Children with migraines do not watch TV or play video games during their headaches. They are quiet, and may not want to eat, and may just want to rest.  Nothing active typically “sounds” like fun. To meet the diagnostic criteria for childhood migraine, a child needs to have at least 5 of these “attacks” and a headache log is helpful as these headaches may occur randomly and it is difficult to remember what the headache was like or how long it lasted, without keeping a log. 

There are many new drugs that are available for treating child hood migraines and we will discuss that in another daily dose.  Stay tuned! 

Daily Dose

Dry Skin in Winter

1:30 to read

As the weather is getting a lot colder our skin gets a lot drier. We all recognize this with our own skin, but what about a baby? I am already seeing babies with chapped cheeks and dry patches on their bodies...and it will get worse as the weather continues to get colder.  

Eczema, also know as atopic dermatitis, has been on the rise and effects about 10-20 % of children. I see babies and toddlers with eczema almost daily.  Eczema also typically flares, with the skin getting dry and red and itchy, during the winter months. 

In several recent studies it seems that babies who had 2-3 baths a week, rather than everyday, and who were moisturized on a daily basis had a decreased chance of developing eczema.  I always liked to give my own babies a bath everyday because they smelled so good afterwards, but it may be best to back up on those baths during the winter months.  

In another study out of the UK doctors randomized children who were at risk for eczema (due to positive family history) into 2 groups.  The first group used a fragrance free moisturizer everyday and in the other group the parents were instructed not to use a moisturizer.  After 6 months the babies who received moisturizer had almost 50% less chance of developing eczema. It seems that it is possible to protect the skin barrier with moisturizer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends that a baby be bathed 3x/week or less and to apply a daily moisturizer. I like hypoallergenic, fragrance free moisturizers like Cetaphil, Cerave and Aveeno. The creams are going to be even more moisturizing than the lotions and contain ceramides as well. 

We don’t understand all of the genetics that play into eczema, but it is seems that some people seem to have a gene variation that reduces the protein filagrin which helps the skin barrier retain moisture.  If parents have eczema I would really get busy with moisturizing my baby’s skin this winter.

Daily Dose

Getting Your Baby to Sleep!

1:30 to read

Did you know one of the biggest Google internet searches for parents revolves around “how do I get my baby to sleep?”  I guess that any new parent in the middle of the night is online searching for “THE ANSWER”, so of course you “Google it”!

Now that we are grandparents and the baby is about 6 weeks old (although technically she is a week old, as she was 5 weeks early) my son is also looking for answers on the internet to that same question....how to make her sleep, so I can too! He even asked me if their was “magic” to this?

If only there was an answer on Google or in any book. It just takes time and every baby is different.   I guess there are some babies that sleep through the night from the time they get home from the hospital, but I have never seen one.  I think some parents just forget that at some time or another they were up at night with a newborn.

A newborn baby does not understand circadian rhythm and they are really not “trying” to keep parents up at night.  It takes weeks for a newborn to even begin to have some “routine” to their day and I try never to use the word “schedule” when discussing a newborn.  A baby is not a robot, they do not eat every 3 hours and then sleep for 3 more before eating again. They are “little people” and their tummies sometimes need to eat in 2 hours and then later it may be 3 hours before another feeding.  Don’t you sometimes eat an early lunch one day and a later lunch the next? 

But by trying to awaken the baby throughout the day and offering a feeding every 2-3 hours you will hopefully notice after several weeks that your baby is eating more often during the day and suddenly may thrill you and sleep 4 hours at night. it just takes time....YOU cannot make it happen.  I tease new parents that awakening a newborn during the day and prayer is about all you can do....all babies do eventually sleep, but it may not be right after you get them home from the hospital...think several months (as in 2-4) and you will be happy if it happens sooner.

Lastly, with all of the tech in the room, don’t pick up your baby in the middle of the night if they are just “squirming” around. Babies are notoriously loud sleepers and if they are not crying let them be and you may be surprised that they arouse and went back to sleep. If your baby cries you absolutely go get them and console them and feed them too if it is time. An infant should not be left to cry. 

This too shall pass and sleep will come, but there will be new stages down the road that will keep parents up at night, of that you can be assured. Comes with the territory.

Daily Dose

Your Baby's Toenails

1:15 to read

I have noticed over the years, that babies are born with the weirdest toenails.  I get a lot of phone calls, pictures and questions during those first few visits about these little toenails.  Just like everything else, they are just “immature” and often are totally flimsy or at times appear to be “ingrown” as they grow and push a bit of skin away.

In most cases I tell patients to just leave them alone, even is they are a bit irritated and red on the edge. That is unless the toe is warm to the touch, or tender or has an obvious infection with drainage. Typically when you push on the toe the even though it may appear a bit irritated and bothersome to you, it should not bother your child or seem to cause them pain.  They should NEVER have a fever due to the toenail issue and if your infant has a temperature above 100.4 you do need to call your doctor.

While a baby’s fingernails seem to grow overnight (and are really sharp), newborns toenails grow at a snails pace. It sometimes seems babies don’t really even have all of their toenails until they are over 1 year and in most cases by then you have stopped paying attention as your child is walking, falling and has a lot of bumps and bruises so the toenails are no longer an issue.

If your baby’s toenails look irritated, clean them with a little soap and warm water and leave them alone!

 

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