Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Daily Dose

Summer Slide

1:30 to read

School is out for everyone and that means lots of “down time “ for school children - all ages. I think that summer is really an important time for kids to get bored a bit.  In other words, fewer schedules, less connected to electronics, more play time and less stress….hopefully for all. I do know that as a working parent, I don’t think summer was as “unstressful” for me as it was for my children…as I had to continue to make sure that they had good child care and supervision - always challenging at times, but it all worked out and I would try to schedule a bit more time for me to be available for some fun outings.  

But, with fewer schedules and more time to “hang out” some children do experience what is referred to as “the summer slide”.  This can be defined as “the loss of academic skills over the summer break”. When children don’t read, work on math problems, or are not engaged in some sort of learning activity their skills and knowledge over the course of a 2-3 month summer vacation may regress. There is data to show that the loss in learning does vary with grade level,  subject matter and socioeconomic status - but most children show some negative changes when they are tested at the beginning of the summer vacation as compared to the end of the summer.  

The best way to try and prevent the summer slide is to have an idea or plan on how to keep your children interested in learning….but by doing different things than one might do during the school year.  

How about a summer book club or reading program that you might find either on line or through your public library.  There are book lists and fun reading projects for all ages…and if your child is older you might join them in reading one of the classics or even a new novel and discussing it together.  Even if your child claims to “not like to read” these programs are fun and reading a sports book or a scifi adventure may spark their reading.

Field trips:  Whether you live in the city or suburbs or even the country there are many FREE places to visit in your community. That might be a simple trip to the park to play while at the same time talking about why we have parks, and green spaces.  Museums typically have programs for children of all ages …and many are interactive with the parents. It is amazing how much “new” stuff there is to learn, for all of us.  If you are fortunate to live in driving distance to a national park or seashore take advantage of the many free events there. 

Mass transit: I know that when we finally got light rail in Dallas I took the opportunity to ride the rail with our young boys….all sorts of learning taking place as we read signs, and learned how to read a map of the rail system.   We also saw some local sites that we had never taken advantage of.  Inexpensive way to spend a day and the subway, light rail and bus systems in some areas are really growing.

This is also a good time of year to teach your children a few of the “basics”…whether that is how to pump a swing, or ride a bike with or without training wheels, how to tie their shoes, wash the car, or catch a ball …lots of life skills that may get ignored during the school year, and these are skills everyone should know. 

 

 

Daily Dose

Medicine Dosing Errors

1:30 to read

How do you give your baby/toddler/child their medications? In a recent article in Pediatrics it was found that up to 80 percent of parents have made a dosing error when administering liquid medicine to their children.  The study looked at children eight years old or younger. 

 

In the study both English and Spanish speaking parents were asked to measure different amounts of liquid medicines using different “tools”, including a dosing cup, and different sized syringes. They also were given different instructions with either text only or text with pictures. The different dosing tools were labeled with either milliliters/teaspoon or milliliters only.  Lots of variables! 

 

Not surprising to me, the parents who used the texts/picture combination instructions and who also used the milliliter only labeled dosing tools had the lowest incidence of dosing errors.  When parents had to use any math skills to calculate the correct dosage there were more dosing errors.  Most dosing errors were also overdosing rather than under-dosing the liquid medications.

 

This was an important article not only for parents to realize that it is not uncommon to make an error when giving their child medication, but also for doctors who write the prescriptions.  Before electronic medical records and “e-prescribing” I would typically write medication instructions in milliliters and teaspoons…in other words “take 5ml/1 tsp by mouth once daily”.  With electronic record you can only make one dosing choice which I now do in milliliters. But, with that being said, I still get phone calls from parents asking “how many teaspoons is 7.5 ml?”.

 

Previous studies have also shown numerous dosing errors when parents use kitchen teaspoons and tablespoons to try and measure their child’s medication. 

 

Some over the counter drug makers have tried to cut down on dosing errors with their liquid medications by making all of their products, whether for infants or children, the same strength. The only difference is the dosing tool that accompanies the medicine (syringe vs cup).  Interestingly, these medications may have a price difference when they are actually the same thing.  

 

This study may help to find strategies for comprehensive labeling/dosing for pediatric liquid medications, which will ultimately reduce errors.  Stay tuned for more!

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Stranger Danger

1.30 to read

We had a question via our iPhone App from an aunt who wanted to talk to her twin 4 year old nephews about “stranger danger”. Unfortunately, this topic has been in the news quite frequently lately with child abduction cases being reported all around the country.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has numerous resources for educating children about safety.  Interestingly, most perpetrators are not actually strangers, but are often someone the parents or another adult knows and may have been around the child on occasion. So, it seems that “stranger danger” may not be the appropriate term to use when teaching our children, especially younger, children about safety. It is important that the conversation about safety begins with children at young ages. It is often easier to use teachable moments to begin the conversation with young children. 

Talk to your child about “safe” strangers, as it is hard for a child to understand why you are talking to grocery store clerks, or people on the playground in the park, and yet they are strangers. It may be best to teach a child to watch out for dangerous behaviors from adults, rather than saying “never talk to strangers”.  Talk about adults who might approach them for directions, or to find a missing pet and role play as to what they should  do. At the same time, teach them that they can turn to “strangers” such a store clerks or mothers with children for help if they are scared.

While talking about this subject use a calm reassuring manner.  You do not want to make your child “too” anxious as most people they will meet are not dangerous, and children do need to interact and trust numerous people around them that they will meet in  different situations.

Another good way to discuss the issue of “stranger danger” is by reading books to young children that deal with the issue. Several good books that I like are:  The Berenstein Bears Learn About Strangers; A Stranger in the Park; I  Can Play it Safe.  There are many other books out there too, so head to your library  or your local bookstore to get some more recommendations. The librarians are often helpful with finding “age appropriate” books.  Lastly, this is not a one time conversation, but should be discussed at different ages and stages of your child’s life.

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

Daily Dose

Codeine & Children

1:30 to read

I order to keep us all safe, the FDA is constantly monitoring drugs and their side effects.  For many years codeine was prescribed for children for pain relief as well as to suppress coughs.  Over the last few years there has been more and more discussion about limiting the use of narcotics in children, but I continue to see some children who come from seeing other physicians and have received a prescription that contains codeine.

 

The FDA just issued new warnings against using prescription codeine in children and adolescents. The FDA reviewed adverse event reports from the past 50 years and found reports of severe breathing problems and 24 deaths linked to codeine in children and adolescents. Genetic variation in codeine metabolism may lead to excessive morphine levels in some children.

 

The FDA also performed a literature review which noted excessive sleepiness and breathing problems, including one death, in breast-fed infants whose mothers used codeine.

 

Due to these findings the FDA is now recommending that “codeine should not be used for pain or cough in children under 12 years of age”. They have also issued a warning that codeine should not be used in adolescents aged 12-18 “who are obese or have conditions associated with breathing problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea or severe lung disease”. In retrospect, codeine was prescribed to more than 800,000 children younger than11 years in 2011. Amazingly, codeine is currently available in over-the-counter cough medicines in 28 states.  

 

Lastly, the FDA “strengthened the warning” regarding codeine and breast feeding. They now recommend that breast- feeding women do not use codeine…which may change the post delivery pain protocol. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are preferred and are effective for mild to moderate postpartum pain. As a pediatrician it is important that I discuss this with new breast-feeding mothers as well. 

Daily Dose

National Safety Month

1:30 to read

June is National Safety Month…just in time for summer! It is a good reminder for all of us to try and prevent any injuries in our children. I do know from my own pediatric office that we see more injuries during the summer months. Whether it is from falls, bike accidents, pool incidents, household poisonings or burns, our phones stay busy.

 

So..this is the perfect time to re-think child proofing your home. Make sure that stairs are gated, both top and bottom. Cabinets need to have child proof latches to protect children from getting into breakable or sharp objects as well as medicines or household products that may be poisonous.  Put the number for Poison Control in your phone….1-800-222-1222. I am often surprised that a parent calls our office about a child who has “gotten into “ a possible poison…the first call should be to Poison Control. Keep the number posted in the house as well so a babysitter may also have it if necessary.

 

Learning to ride a bike a is “life skill” for sure….but that also includes learning to wear your helmet. I see most young children in our neighborhood who are still under the eye of a parent with a bike helmet, but once they are older I often see kids without helmets. Just saw a neighbor’s child ride down the street this evening..no helmet!!  Bike helmets are like a seat belt…not optional. Many “tween” boys will “debate” with me during their check ups about the need for a helmet,  as they tell me “ I am a great bike rider and don’t have wrecks”. Teach your children what the word ACCIDENT means and that just like a car…you never know what “the other guy may do”.  Accidents are NEVER planned and a bike helmet protects the head and brain. We can “fix” the broken arm or stitch a leg…but cannot “fix” a brain injury.

 

Texting and driving is unsafe and may even be illegal in your state. Texas just passed a law prohibiting texting and driving….but teens (and adults)  need to be reminded on a regular basis that texting is not allowed!!  Texting while driving is a leading cause of accidents and I just saw a mother who is pregnant, and was in the office with her 1 year old…she had just been involved in accident that totaled her car.  She was hit from behind by a teen who had been texting and never slowed down.  Fortunately both mother and child were buckled up and were not seriously injured.  If your child is found to be texting while they are driving you should have some serious consequences with both revoked driving privileges and no phone for a while. 

 

Lastly, this is a good month to remember to check your medicine cabinet and throw away any expired or unused medication.  There are some pharmacies that are having events where you can bring in expired medications and they will dispose of them properly. The number one place that  teens find drugs is in the home…keep all narcotics locked up and dispose of any unused medications!! I have had more than several parents who have told me that “drugs” had disappeared from their medicine cabinets after their own kids had had a lot of friends over…and who knows who may be “seeking” prescription medications. Locks on medicine cabinets and liquor cabinets are a must for families. 

What about taking a family first aid course at your local YMCA or Red Cross and spend a day getting your own family first aid kit together.  This is a great way to spend some time together and a productive activity. Have a fun and safe summer!!

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

Don't Miss Out on Summer Fun!

1.00 to read

The lazy days of summer seem like the perfect time to engage in playtime activities. My summer months at the office are particularly busy doing check ups as everyone is out of school. This means that I seem to see a lot of children in the 5-12 year group, and I enjoy getting to talk to them about their summer fun. 

I have suddenly realized that many of the children in this age group seemed to have “missed” some key milestones in child development, which I think most of us adults learned during the lazy days of summer.  I think learning to ride a bicycle and learning how to swim are two MUSTS of child development. While not all children will want to one day participate in a swim team, or a bike race, being able to swim and pedal a bicycle are life long skills. Who knows, with the price of gas we may all be heading back to bicycles as preferred transportation, at least for short distances.  

At the same time I have noticed a fair number of parents who are concerned about their young children’s motor development.  This is the 2-4 year old group where I am sometimes amazed when the parent of a 3 year old tells me that their child “does not jump high enough”. What?  How about getting out the jump rope again, and drawing hopscotch on the sidewalk to practice hopping and jumping. These are free exercises that can help boost coordination while having fun together. What about learning to skip and to balance on a beam (doesn’t have to be at gymnastics) a two by four in the back yard or park works just as well. Learning to pump a swing is another. I can remember how proud I was when I mastered that skill (makes me smile, even today). 

So while the last days of summer are here, make a list of not only summer reading, or computer skills that your child needs to finish, but of some of those childhood milestones as well.  Hop, skip, jump rope, ride a bike, learn to swim. College applications might start asking about those milestones one day too?  Stranger things have happened.

Daily Dose

National ASK Day!

1:30 to read

Today is all about guns!!!  Unfortunately we seem to  awaken nearly every day to news of gun violence and death in our country.  Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of death overall among U.S. children ages 1-17 years, and the second cause of injury-related death, only behind car crashes.  Those are grim statistics.  

 

June 21st, the first day of summer is alway designated as National ASK day…which stands for “Asking Saves Kids”.  This a day to remind me and all pediatricians to ask my patients if they:

 

#1 have a gun in the home?

#2 Is it locked and away from children?

 #3 Is the ammunition stored separately?  

 

A new study being published in the July issue of Pediatrics showed nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Of those children who die, 53% were due to homicide, 38% were suicide and 6% were unintentional firearm deaths, while 3% were due to “other intent”.   Not surprisingly to me, 82% of all child firearm deaths were in boys. Firearm suicides among children are going up and have increased by 60% since 2007.Sadly, I had a patient who is one of those statistics. 

 

While the politics about gun control continue ….this is not about politics but rather about guns in the home being a threat to children and how to protect our children.  

 

Parents routinely ask other parents about safety before dropping their child off to play or spend the night …”is your pool fenced?”  “do you have a dog and is it friendly?”, “do you let your 8 year old child watch PG-13 movies?”, “how do you handle electronics in the home?”, “do you know my child has food allergies?”, “are you going to be home with the children?”…..the list is long. I think in these times…especially with more and more people buying firearms for their home…it is time to routinely ask about guns in the home!!! 

 

Just one question might save a child’s life!!

 

Daily Dose

Lead Found in Baby Food

1:30 to read

I know many of the parents of the children I care for are concerned about the latest news from the Environmental Defense Fund which showed that about 20% of baby food samples tested over a 10 year period had detectable levels of lead.

 

This non profit group looked at data that the FDA had collected from 2003-2013 which included 2,164 baby food samples. While none of the baby food samples seemed to exceed the FDA’s “allowable” levels of lead, it is still quite concerning. At the same time the FDA is in the process of reviewing their standards to reflect the latest science surrounding the potential risks to young children who are exposed to lead.  

 

While lead testing is routinely performed in young children (1 and 2 yrs), the CDC currently  considers a blood lead level greater than 5 micrograms/deciliter as elevated, but no lead level is “safe”. 

 

Lead exposure has been shown to have neurocognitive effects - which means IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement…and the effects cannot be corrected.

 

The study did not name baby foods by brand.  Root vegetables (carrots are one) had the highest rate of lead detection (65% of samples), followed by crackers and cookies (47%) and the then fruits and juices (29%). Only 4% of the cereal samples contained lead.

 

This report will cause a lot of parental anxiety, but really doesn’t tell us much about what to do?  Lead based paint is still the number one source of lead exposure, followed by water, which may also have contributed to lead in food…. but there is still lots of be determined.

 

In the meantime, the take home message is “feed your babies and toddlers a wide variety of baby foods” and when possible eat fresh foods. One hypothesis is that baby foods are more processed which may contribute to the higher lead content.  It is easy to cook and “mush” up your own food to feed your baby and it really does not require a fancy food processor.  If you can mush it your baby can eat it!!! The only concern about the introduction of food is basically it has to be soft enough not to be a choking hazard. So no whole nuts, chunks of meat, uncooked hard veggies…you get the idea.

 

Just because your baby doesn’t seem to like certain foods, don’t get stuck feeding them just a few foods…but continue to offer a variety of healthy foods..some of which they may eat more of than others. Every day will be different.

 

So…don’t go throw away all of your baby foods but think if you might be able to substitute fresh foods, don’t offer fruit juices to your babies and toddlers and most importantly eat healthy foods. That’s the best thing for you and your child.  

Pages

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

If your child snores, is this a sign of something more serious?

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.