Daily Dose

No Oreos in Lunch?

1:15 to read

I have been interested in the recent news article about a mother who had packed Oreo cookies in her child’s lunchbox. It seems that although she had also packed other lunch items, the school her child attended deemed the lunch “unhealthy” and not only did not allow her to eat the cookies, they  sent her mother a note encouraging her to “pack a nutritious lunch”.

WHAT?  Are schools and daycare centers now deciding what a parent may put in a child’s lunchbox?  I understand the need for nutritious lunches for our children. I talk about this everyday in my practice. But are there not bigger issues facing our schools than policing every child’s lunch. This mother did not “just” pack Oreos, her child had a sandwich and string cheese as well. Her mother stated that, “she was out of fruits and vegetables that day”, so added some cookies.  

Schools are in the throes of changing menus in an effort to help our children make good choices at lunch. But, even without serving fried foods or soft drinks, they do still offer dessert during school lunch.  They have ice cream, frozen yogurt, pies, cookies....and unfortunately many children probably eat more than one.  

I once headed a committee at our sons’ school to change the school cafeteria’s policy to have a “soda fountain”.   I realized that even if I talked to my children about nutrition and health, and did not have soft drinks in our home , if they were offered a choice between soft drinks and milk I knew  that they would sometimes choose a soft drink (with free refills I might add). 

After about a year of discussions and some very unhappy parents and students our school did stop serving soft drinks. As I pointed out even then, this was for children who were buying school lunch and drinks....we were not telling parents what they could and could not send or have in their own homes.

At the minimum I think this poor 4 year old should not have been put in the middle of this discussion. Would it not have been more appropriate to send the mother a note asking her not to send cookies for lunch again?  Was there a notice of acceptable lunch items that had been posted at the beginning of school?  Is there a “zero tolerance” for cookies rule?

I guess schools will be sending sandwiches home that have white bread or bologna, or who knows what else. While I am a huge advocate for healthy eating habits and making changes in all of our homes...let’s not take it out on a 4 year old.

Daily Dose

Dog Flu Is Going Around

1:15 to read

Funny time of year for me to be blogging about flu?  Well, now it is “dog flu” that has been spreading across the United States.  Dog flu is caused by an influenza virus and is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs. There have not been any reported human infections with either of the viruses that cause dog flu.  The viruses are also of the Influenza A variety and cause symptoms similar to those seen in humans including cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy and at times severe respiratory symptoms including pneumonia. Sadly, there have been dog deaths reported due to this infection. 

Because dog flu is a fairly new virus now being seen in the United States, most dogs have never been exposed to this virus.  Due to this, just like new influenza types in humans, most dogs that are exposed (about 80%) may develop dog flu but remember most will have mild symptoms and just require supportive care including extra fluids and rest.

If you are concerned that your dog may be showing signs of dog flu there is a test that your vet may administer ( just like we do flu tests for kids!). Extremely ill dogs, especially young puppies or pregnant dogs may have a harder time handing the virus ( again, does this sound familiar?).

But, the main thing to know is that this flu is not being seen in humans.  There is a vaccine for one of the types of dog flu and the veterinary community it working on other vaccines.

So, no need to worry about the kids and their pet dog!!  Just like your children make sure your dog is up to date on their vaccines, gets a healthy diet, exercises daily, has enough sleep and enjoys lots of family time too. But,  this is a good time to remember that human flu vaccine will begin to be available by the end of the summer. But don’t worry, I will remind you! 

Daily Dose

Kids & Too Much TV

1:30 to read

Another recent study has just been released which confirms that children are getting close to 4 hours of background TV noise each day. While many parents are aware of the need to limit their children’s active screen time (which includes TV, video game, telephone texting and computer screens) to no more than 2 hours per day, background TV time may be equally important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also discourages any TV viewing for children under age 2 years. 

*The study from The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication defines background TV as “TV that is on in the vicinity of the child that the child is not attending to”.  The research looked at TV exposure in 1,454 households with children aged 8 months-8 years. The study found that younger children and African-American kids were exposed to more background TV than other children.  Having background TV noise of any kind can disrupt mental tasks for all and may also interfere with language development in younger children. 

Those households that had the least background TV exposure were those that did not have a TV in the child’s room!! That doesn’t seem to be a surprising finding at all. Many parents leave the TV on in a child’s room to help them sleep, although there are numerous studies to show exactly the opposite effect, TV disrupts sleep. I now routinely ask every parent during their child’s check up if there is a TV in the child’s room. I also ask every older child the same question, and there are many teens who are not happy with me when I encourage their parents to take the TV out of the bedroom of their adolescent. There is just no need to have a TV in the bedroom of children of any age.  I have given up on this discussion with my college aged patients! 

While many parents are doing a good job of monitoring what their children are watching on TV, and how long they are watching, we may not be doing as well when it comes to background TV.  While older kids hear news stories or language that they needn’t be exposed to, a younger child’s language skills may be delayed due to background TV noise. 

So, the kitchen TV needn’t be on while you are making your children their breakfast before school or in the evening while eating dinner. Family dinner is one of the most important times of the day and conversation is the key. No one needs to try to talk over the TV, just turn it off! 

Lastly, keep reading those bedtime stories for children of all ages; this is key to language, and appropriate language at that. 

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

Daily Dose

When Bug Bites Get Infected

1.00 to read

It is the season for bug bites and and I am seeing a lot of parents who are bringing their children in for me to look at all sorts of insect bites. I am not always sure if the bite is due to a mosquito, flea or biting flies, but some of them can cause fairly large reactions. 

The immediate reaction to an insect bite usually occurs in 10-15 minutes after bitten, with local swelling and itching and may disappear in an hour or less. A delayed reaction may appear in 12-24 hours with the development of an itchy red bump which may persist for days to weeks.  This is the reason that some people do not always remember being bitten while they were outside, but the following day may show up with bites all over their arms, legs or chest, depending on what part of the body had been exposed. 

Large local reactions to mosquito bites are very common in children. For some reason, it seems to me that “baby fat” reacts with larger reactions than those bites on older kids and adults. (no science, just anecdote). Toddlers often have itchy, red, warm swellings which occur within minutes of the bites. 

Some of these will go on to develop bruising and even spontaneous blistering 2-6 hours after being bitten. These bites may persist for days to weeks, so in theory, those little chubby legs may be affected for most of the summer. 

Severe local reactions are called “skeeter syndrome” and occur within hours of being bitten and may involve swelling of an entire body part such as the hand, face or an extremity. These are often misdiagnosed as cellulitis, but with a good history of the symptoms  (the rapidity with which the area developed redness, swelling, warmth to touch and tenderness) you can distinguish large local reactions from infection.

Systemic reactions to mosquito bites including generalized hives, swelling of the lips and mouth, nausea, vomiting and wheezing have been reported due to a true allergy to the mosquito salivary proteins, but are extremely rare. 

The treatment of local reactions to bites involves the use of topical anti-itching preparations like Calamine lotion, Sarna lotion and Dommeboro soaks.  This may be supplemented by topical steroid creams (either over the counter of prescription) to help with itching and discomfort. 

An oral antihistamine (Benadryl) may also reduce some of the swelling and itching. Do not use topical antihistamines. Try to prevent secondary infection (from scratching and picking) by using antibacterial soaps, trimming fingernails and applying an antibiotic cream (polysporin) to open bites. 

Due to an exceptionally warm winter throughout the country the mosquito population seems to be especially prolific. The best treatment is prevention!! Before going outside use a DEET preparation in children over the age of six months, and use the lowest concentration that is effective.  Mosquito netting may be used for infants in strollers.  Remember, do not reapply bug spray like you would sunscreen. 

Daily Dose

The Homework Battle

1:15 to read

Homework is one of the least favorite exercises for both parent and child.

Homework is one of the least favorite exercises for both parent and child. I was reminded of this while helping my five and seven-year-old nephew and niece with their homework recently. It seems like yesterday since I was helping our own sons with homework, when in actuality it was many years ago. It is easy to forget the complaining, cajoling and pleading to get homework finished. But it is also an important exercise in helping your children get an organized workplace at home, to having family rules about computer and TV time before homework is finished and to teach independent study skills as a child matures.

So... trying to get my niece and nephew to settle down for homework with out getting up, trying to "sneak" back to the computer andto focus on the letter ‘N’, was a real test of forgotten parenting skills. I am not sure I was a total success. They did not want to do their homework, gave me 10 reasons it wasn’t necessary and told me "Aunt Sue you are the meanest aunt we have", which I am sure was not a compliment.

After much stalling, begging and promising "we" finished one worksheet for first grade and a Pre-K sheet glued with picture of ‘N’ words cut from catalogs (while he searched for Christmas presents for me to buy him). It was organized chaos to say the least, but it was finished! The short story is, have a set time for homework and a place for your young children to work, where they are within your sight, but also without a lot of distraction.

Try to get homework done earlier than later; it’s always harder when both parents and children are tired. Make their homework their responsibility, even from early elementary years, as it sets the stage for the rest of their years of homework. Lastly, don't ask Aunt Sue the pediatrician to help; she has "way too many rules".

That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Mumps Cases Reported

1:15 to read

Just as college students are getting out of school or graduating, there have been two cases of mumps at The University of Texas.  This means that thousands (40-50,000) of students may be packing up and heading home to their hometown in and out of state, while others may be moving around the globe. 

The concern is that mumps, just like the issue with measles earlier this year, is contagious. The incubation period may be as long as 25 days, so some students may not realize that they may be incubating mumps before they actually become sick.  

Mumps is spread via respiratory droplets and a person with mumps is infectious 3 days before they may even show signs of the illness with the typical swollen parotid (salivary) gland along the cheek and jaw. Mumps may also cause swelling of the testicles (orchitis).  Once the illness is apparent the patient is contagious for about 4 more days....in other words a lot of time for possible exposure. 

This is another good time to check that your children have had two doses of MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine, which is given at 12 months and again between the ages of 4-5 years.  Adults who were born before 1957 are considered to be immune, but parents born after 1957 should also have had at least 1 dose of MMR vaccine.

So, once again doctors are on the alert for another vaccine preventable disease...with hopes that these 2 cases are the only ones. 

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

Uber & Teens

1:30 to read

Do you have Uber cars in your area?  I first found out about Uber (and I am only using them as an example) when my son lived in NYC and often used the car service. Later on I heard about college kids using Uber as well.  In that case, many college kids did not have cars and/or they were being “responsible” after being at a party.

But recently, in conversations with my adolescent patients, I have heard that high school kids are using Uber to come home after a party, or other social activities. In otherwords, their parents are not picking them up from the dance, concert, or party but are letting their children (often young girls) call Uber.  Where are their parents and what are they thinking?

I realize that once your child heads off to college you hope and pray that they are making good choices and are being safe. You don’t really plan on picking them up after an event or talk to them that same night about what they have been doing and with whom.  But when we had high school age children, my expectations were that we, the parents, were responsible for taking our teens to the party and to pick them up. Once they were driving the “rules” changed a bit in that they were then often driving themselves to an event and then would drive home and we would be up waiting for them to get home.  They always knew that we would be there when they got home and also that if there were any “issues” we were also available to pick them up. We talked a lot about underage drinking as well as driving and responsibility.  Never did I think they would call a cab or car service, nor was that idea ever broached, they were to call their parents.

So now that these “app” car services are available around the clock, are parents abrogating their responsibilities for parenting teens?  By allowing their teens to call a car service for their ride home, are parents seemingly not interested in where their child has been or who they have been with or what they have been doing before they get home?  You certainly can drop your child at a concert or party and tell them to text Uber to get a ride home, but does this parental non-participation quietly help to condone inappropriate, risky, teen behavior?

Although picking your child up at the end of the evening or checking on them when they pull in the driveway will never ensure that your teen does not get into trouble, I think it does help them think a bit more about having to interact with their parents at curfew time. This “worry” might help lead them to make a better decision about drugs, alcohol or whom they are hanging out with. Putting teens into the “hands” (cars) of strangers as their ride home just seems wrong. Parents be aware. 

Daily Dose

Treating Sunburn

1.15 to read

Is it hot enough for you and your kids?  I bet every day you look at the weather map and try to figure out the best ways to beat the heat. 

With kids taking the plunge to stay cool, many forget to re-apply sunscreen and end up with a bad sunburn.  Sunburn is no fun and can cause significant problems. 

Sunburns may cause first-degree burns and you know it when you see it…your child’s skin turns pink and red and is uncomfortable, and itchy. 

Sunburn may also cause second-degree burns where the burn actually penetrates the dermis and causes blistering and a deeper burn and more cell damage. With blistering may come scarring and also an increased risk of skin cancer and skin damage later in their lifetime. 

Repetitive sunburns are cumulative and can put your child at even more risk for melanoma. Recurrent sunburns are often seen on the nose, ears, chest, and shoulders. 

You may not notice symptoms until 2-4 hours after the damage has begun. You’ll see redness over the next 12 -24 hours with pain, swelling and blistering. Some children will even develop nausea, fever, vomiting or dizziness after a significant sunburn and are at risk for dehydration. 

The best way to treat sunburn begins by moisturizing the burned area to cool down the skin and reduce inflammation. Try a cool bath or apply cool, wet cloths.  I like a product called Domeboro.  It’s very soothing when added to a bath or to cloths that you can soak in the solution. 

Keep your kids hydrated to replace fluids.  You can also give your child a pain reliever like Tylenol or Motrin/Advil to help with discomfort.  Some children also respond to an oral antihistamine to help with itching. 

Do NOT let your child back in the sun until their symptoms are improved and even then they should wear sun protective clothing as well as sunscreen. Remember, you can even get a burn in the shade, under an umbrella or on a cloudy day. Most of us heard that from our own mother's but unfortunately did not believe it until we ourselves had experienced a sunburn.




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