Daily Dose

More Questions About Ebola

1:30 to read

The sky is falling!  That is what “some” people would like to think.....but the sky is NOT falling and Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is not going to  be the disease that parents need to worry about this winter....rather it is other viral illnesses that we KNOW will cause numerous pediatric hospitalizations and unfortunately sometimes death. Influenza and RSV (respiratory syncitial virus) circulate every winter and they both are airborne illnesses. In otherwords, these viruses are easily transmitted when a person coughs, or sneezes or touches their hands to their nose and then touches a door knob or telephone ......do you get my jist?  Yes, you can get flu and RSV from just sitting next to another person....not so with EVD.

I have worked for the past 4 days trying to “talk parents off the ledge” about the possibility that they or their children have come into contact with EVD. Despite the fact that you can find any number of opinions on the internet about the chance of getting EVD, the brightest minds in the country continue to assure us that EVD is not going to be an epidemic in this country as it is in West Africa.  Instead of making yourself crazy about EVD and the one case in the United States, try to think about things that you can control and even prevent.  

That means vaccinating your children against ALL of the diseases that ARE preventable. I actually saw several parents who were so anxious about their child getting EVD, yet declined flu vaccination (which is routinely recommended for all children over 6 months of age).  I just cannot comprehend this reasoning.  The reality of flu killing thousands of people a year in the United States, including 105 children last year, yet declining a vaccine.....and wringing their hands over one case of EVD in Dallas.

The people who are truly in “harms way” are the courageous medical workers in West Africa who continue to try to control and treat the numerous cases of Ebola....they are heroes and deserve our prayers.

In the meantime..I will continue to ask all of my patients about any travel to West Africa, or direct exposure with body fluids of a patient who has been diagnosed with EVD....but all of those other viral illnesses are just a cough and a handshake away.

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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

Food in a Pouch

1:15

I have to tell you that I recently had the weirdest dream which was about children who were in a cafeteria in an elementary school and continued to eat pureed foods out of those pouches!  I woke up and realized I was dreaming....but about a topic that I had recently been discussing with several parents and children.

Those pureed pouches that came to market several years ago were meant as a new way to introduce pureed baby foods to....babies!!! But suddenly I see parents coming to my office giving these pouches of pureed foods to toddlers, pre-schoolers and now elementary students.  For many parents the ease in which they can offer fruits and veggies to their kids seems to be an answered prayer.

 It is important for children to learn about textures and chewing. Young children are first introduced to pureed foods to learn about different tastes as well as learning how to put new textures into their mouth.  But, with that being said, it is also important that children learn about “real” food as they get into the toddler years. 

Once a child is over the age of about 2 -3 years they start learning how to chew small pieces of food.  I always talk about avoiding choking hazards like nuts, hard candies, and foods that have not been cut up, but this age child should be eating table food and meals, just like their siblings and parents.  Hopefully this means a wide array of healthy foods: chicken, fish, beef, veggies, and fruits.  There really are no “forbidden foods”, but again watch for choking hazards.

I don’t think there are any recommendations that children should continue to squeeze pouches of pureed fruits and veggies into their mouths rather than learning how to use a spoon and fork and eat table food. Can you picture a dinner party with everyone with pouches on their plates...maybe astronauts in orbit.

Dentists are also concerned about all of the sugar in these pureed pouches and having the puree stick to children’s teeth rather than being washed down with saliva after chewing. These pouches are really just baby food in new packages and are not for older kids!  No need to buy these for your school aged child....pack some apples slices or carrot sticks and let them chew away.    

 

Daily Dose

Timeout!

1:30 to read

When I am seeing toddlers for their check ups, the topic of behavior is usually at the top of both the parent’s and my list for discussion.  Once a child is walking and beginning to talk, all sorts of new behaviors seem to occur! 

Parents ask, “how do I stop my child from hitting or biting?”  “What about misbehaving and not listening?”  The toddler years are challenging for behavior as a child is gaining independence, and testing as well.  Toddler and teens have some of the same attributes and it is important to begin behavior modification during the toddler years. 

Time out is the most commonly used behavior modification and not only will parents use this method at home, but preschool and day care teachers begin using this technique as well. This is the age that children begin to understand rules and consequences. 

So how do you “do” time out and when?  I usually start using time out when a child is between 15 -18 months of age. While I try to ignore and distract tantrums, I use time out for biting, hitting and those age appropriate yet inappropriate behaviors. 

I pick a chair in the house (we had a small set of table and chairs which seemed perfect) and every parent needs a kitchen timer to use for time out.   It is important to get at your child’s level when disciplining them as well. Tell them why they are going to time out and then have them sit in the chair for 1 minute per year of age.  (Trust me a minute sometimes feels like forever!)  

Here is the trick, if your child will not just sit in the chair (and many won’t), go behind them and hold them in the chair as if you were a human rope.  In most cases the child will be crying and trying to get up out of the chair, but you calmly hold them in the chair from behind. No eye contact!  Once the timer goes off, you let go of them, go back around so that you make eye contact again, get down to their level, and explain once again that they had to sit in the chair because they (fill in the blank).  

Time out takes time and patience.  If you are consistent about using time out for misbehaving, your child will learn to sit in the chair.  For some it may only take 1 time and others are more head-strong and it may take months of “human rope” before they decide to sit alone. 

Don’t give up!!!  This is a very important lesson for children to learn and you will use time out many times, not only in that little chair, but in other venues as your child gets older.    

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. 

Daily Dose

Prebiotics and Probiotics

2.00 to read

Lots of discussion 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

Ear Tugging & Your Child

1.15 to read

I see a lot of parents who bring their baby/toddler/child in to the pediatrician with concerns that their child might have an ear infection. One of the reasons for their concern is often that their baby is tugging on their ears.  

Babies find their ears, just like their hands and feet, around 4 -6 months of age.  I guess a baby must think “this ear tugging is fun and feels good” as maybe babies have “itchy” ears just like adults. It also seems to be a self soothing habit for other children who seem to pull on their ears when they get tired and cranky.  Maybe it is related to new molars coming in at the back of the jaw line?   

Whatever the cause, it often concerns parents who are told by their friends or relatives, “I am worried, this ear pulling probably means the child has an ear infection”.  So, being a good parent off you go to your pediatrician only to find out that the ears a beautiful and clear! 

Most babies and children do not get an ear infection without ANY other symptoms besides ear pulling.  In most cases infants and toddlers will get a secondary ear infection during cold and flu season. The multitudes of viral respiratory infections that children get in the first 3 years of life, often cause continuous runny noses and congestion. This congestion causes fluid to build up in the middle ear space which connects to the nasal passages via a small canal called the eustachian tube.   

Infants and children have so called “immature” eustachian tubes that are soft, and don’t drain well and the tube gets inflamed and swollen from the viral infection as well.  At times this fluid gets secondarily infected from bacteria that find their way to the middle ear.  Voila....an ear infection ensues. 

So, if a parent brings their child in for “pulling on their ears” and they are otherwise well (no cough, congestion, runny nose and sleeping well) I usually ask if they want to “wager” if their child has an ear infection.  That is really not fair, as this sweet parent is only concerned because typically someone else told them they should be.  But, in this case a quarter bet is usually made and I end up with a lot of quarters.  (they are good for all of the other bets I do lose with parents and kids about all sorts of things). Friendly betting at the pediatrician’s office, wonder if I am going to be investigated! 

Don’t worry about simple ear pulling especially when you see it happening all of the time.   

Lastly, with the new guidelines for prescribing antibiotics for an ear infection parent’s don’t need to worry as much about a prescription for antibiotics and a few days of waiting will not hurt.  

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

How is School Going?

1.15 to read

So with everyone back in school, I am already discussing “how is school going?” during my patients check ups. This question is great for kids from 5-18 years of age and you get various amounts of feedback depending on age and gender!  The elementary school set is usually talkative and goes into great detail about their teachers and classmates while most of my high school students just tell me their classes are “hard” and they are “busy and tired”.

The cutest comment came last week from an 8 year old little girl. She had only been in school a few days and when I asked her how it was going she said, “I am nervousited”.  What a great way to sum it all up! Of course she was both nervous and excited. A great way to sum up the start of school.

I think any of us at any age can understand being “nervousited”. The start of any new school year typically comes with excitement about the next grade, or a new school,  and a new teacher.  The start of school also makes many children, as well as their parents and teachers a bit nervous.  New friends to make, new expectations for the next grade level, new lockers....the list is very long for some.

But, I think we parents can help our kids to understand that being “nervousited” is normal and healthy.   Reassurance, good listening to our kids concerns and comments will make the new school year get off to a good start.

I must say I am still “nervousited” with the new TV show each week....but I am hopeful that it gets easier each week, right??  Stay tuned, will let you know if those butterflies go away in the next few months as I get used to this new gig...same as a new class. 

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

How to help your ashtmatic child breathe easier.