Daily Dose

New Test for Your Baby

1.00 to read

If you recently had a baby (or are getting ready to) you may have noticed another “test” being performed on your newborn before they leave the hospital. Earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the routine use of pulse oximetry to enhance detection of critical congenital heart disease.   

Critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) are serious structural heart defects that are often associated with decreased oxygen levels in infants in the newborn period. These heart defects account for about 17-31% of all congenital heart disease (or about 4,800 babies born each year in the U.S.)  While some of these defects are found on pre-natal ultrasounds, and some may be evident immediately after birth when the pediatrician hears a murmur or the baby has difference in their pulses, others may not present until a baby is several hours - days of age.  

Using pulse oximetry to measure a baby’s oxygen levels before they are discharged is just another method of screening a child, and if there are abnormalities a baby would undergo further evaluation with an echocardiogram and would see a pediatric cardiologist. 

Pulse oximetry is routinely used in all aspects of medicine these days and requires a simple non-invasive device that is placed on a babies finger or toe to measure the level of oxygen in the blood. (looks a little like ET device to light up a finger). It works by comparing the differences in red light, which is absorbed by oxygenated blood, and infrared light, which is absorbed by deoxygenated blood.  

In a large study just published in the journal Lancet (looking at over 230,000 newborns), simple pulse oximetry detected 76% of congenital heart defects, with only a rate of 0.14% false positive results. The risk of false positives was even lower than that when pulse ox was performed when the baby was over 24 hours of age. Pretty impressive! 

It has been estimated that about 280 infants with unrecognized CCHD are discharged from newborn nurseries each year. Congenital heart disease also accounts for somewhere between 3-7 % of infant deaths. With early intervention and surgery the chance of survival from CCHD is greatly improved. 

So, ask your pediatrician or obstetrician if they are doing routine pulse oximetry in your hospital nursery. 

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

Daily Dose

Your Chid's Fever

1:30 to read

Now that you have taken your child’s temperature, what do you do with the information? As discussed previously, a fever is defined as a body temperature above 100.4 degrees. If you take your own temperature all day long it will be quite variable as will your child’s, and body temperature often goes up as the day goes on.

If your child has 100 degree temperature in the morning, the mother and pediatrician in me thinks that by the end of the day they may be running 101 degrees or higher. I would keep that child home that day to see what happens with the temperature. If you’re wrong and their temperature stays down, back to school or day care the next day. If it goes up you have not exposed everyone else throughout the day. All infant’s under two months of age with a documented temperature (preferably rectally) above 100.4, should be seen by their doctor. That is a phone call day or night, to find out if your doctor wants to see you in the office or go to ER etc. Do not give this age infant any acetaminophen, before talking to your doctor. Many times this age child will be admitted to the hospital, so be prepared for that discussion with your doctor.

Once your child is over two months of age but still younger than six months, it is important to discuss your child’s fever with the nurse or doctor. There are certain things they will ask you that will help determine if your child needs to be seen that day or night. After six months of age it is easier to judge a child’s degree of illness by not only the reading on the thermometer, but by how they are acting. The hardest thing to teach any parent (me included) is that the height of the fever does not necessarily correlate with degree of illness.

During flu and viral season, it is not uncommon to see temperatures in the 103 - 104 degree range. Try not to react to the number on the thermometer, but rather look at your child. Go ahead and treat the fever with either acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and then watch your child over the next 30 – 40 minutes. Reducing their fever will often improve how sick they look. Whenever a pediatrician walks into a room the first thing we do is look at how the child is interacting with the parent. Whether that is a toddler in a lap, or a big kid on the table, a quick look at a child is really worth a thousand words. If your child will smile (okay just briefly), make good eye contact, responds to the pediatrician by kicking and screaming (a toddler for sure), can play on the Nintendo DS, eat cheerios or candy or chips (I know, they won’t eat well when sick, do you?) and tell you just how crummy they feel, they are probably okay. I describe this as pitiful, and pathetic, but not critically ill. That is what we are trying to distinguish on a busy day in the office, and that is the same thing you want to look for in your own child.

It takes practice, but as a parent, you will be dealing with children and fevers for the next 21 years and you too will get better at dealing with fever. It is always scary the first time you see your child sick, but fever is not the enemy. It actually means that your child’s body is fighting the infection. So remember the mantra: Fever is your friend. I think we will be saying this a lot this winter. More fever topics later.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Vapor Rubs: Do They Really Work?

1:15 to read

 There was a great article recently published in the online journal of Pediatrics.  I had to read it as it was titled, “Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, or No Treatment for Nocturnal Cough”.  Having been a fan of both Vick’s Vapor Rub and Mentholatum since I was a child, I knew it was a MUST read article.

You can ask all of my family members, once we hit cough and cold season, the “vapor rub” jar goes next to my bed to help me during my frequent colds (see previous posts!).  I have such fond memories of being with my grandmother, Gaga, who at the first sign of a cold,  would rub Vicks all over my chest, which was then occluded by a warm damp CLEAN dishtowel, then followed by my flannel nightgown.  She would lovingly tuck me into bed, and shut the door and the whole room smelled like camphor, and menthol.   To me it was wonderful, my brother hated it!! As I grew older, my mother would hear me sniffle or blow my nose and down the hall she would come with the trusty Vick’s jar for self-application. Once I became a mother, in the family tradition, I too would rub a little Vick’s on my children’s chest, with no basis on medical fact, only what Gaga did. Funny thing, we all seemed to get better.

Two of my own children grew to despise the tradition, while one still asks for Vick’s or Mentholatum when he gets a cold.  There are old jars all over the house. I even bought several of the “plug ins” to use during cold season, which are the new fangled way to get that wonderful VR aroma into the room. They make a great stocking stuffer! So, with that history, what could be better than a study out of Penn State University that looked at the use of vapor rub (VR) to improve cold symptoms and nighttime cough.  With the recent FDA guidelines which limit the use of OTC cough and cold products in young children, many parents are at a loss as to what to do to help their child’s cold symptoms. The investigators looked at 138 children between the ages of 2 – 11 years. They were randomized to receive vapor rub (VR), petrolatum alone or no therapy.  Parents were then asked to grade their child’s symptoms and sleep on Day 1 when none of the children received therapy, and then again on Day 2 when they were randomized to therapy. 

The VR group scored best in improving cough, congestion and overall sleep for the children (and therefore their parents). This is the first evidence based therapeutic trial that I am aware of, for a remedy that is over a century old. As noted in the article, there were some irritant effects seen in the VR group with complaints of a stinging sensation to eyes, nose and or skin (I can hear my own children saying “it’s stingy”). Most of these complaints were transient in nature.  Despite older concerns about camphor when it was used as an oil that could cause possible toxicity if swallowed, skin exposure alone really has little systemic effect.   The FDA has approved camphor as an effective anti-cough preparation (anti-tusssive), but has limited concentrations to 11%. The concentration in VR is 4.8%. So, if parent’s are trying to improve nighttime cough and sleep disturbance in their children over the age of 2, there is a study to show it is time to go back to vapor rub preparations.  The mechanism for improved sleep is not really known, but whether it improves cold symptoms directly or through the aromatic effects, a better night’s sleep is good for everyone!!!  Could there be coupons to follow?

That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Potty Questions Keep Coming

1.15 to read

Potty training always gets lots of questions and one of the most common is having a child who will "tinkle" in the potty but is not yet "pooping". When potty training all three of my boys, they all pooped later than they tinkled. I know some people disagree, but I certainly think I hear of more people who have to work a little harder and longer to get to pooping on the potty. It may be due to a toddler's fear of letting their poop go, or the difference in sensation with stooling or any number of issues that toddlers are working through as they are potty trained.

Whatever the reason for children who arenot wanting to poop, you have to continue to be patient and praise their success on the potty with urination. Continue to discuss poop within the family, and let your child see you going to the bathroom. Talk about how animals, birds, fish and people all poop and they don't do it in a diaper or underpants but in the potty. During all of this conversation (and while you are frustrated), make sure that your child is not holding stool and becoming uncomfortable, which only adds to anxiety and fear and further withholding poop. You might want to try putting your child on a prune juice cocktail, milk of magnesia, or Miralax to soften the stool and ensure that they are having a soft stool every couple of days. A toddler will often hold their stool until bedtime when they are in their diaper and will then poop or may ask for a diaper to poop during the day. This is not uncommon and usually does not last terribly long. If they want to poop in their diaper I would have them sit on the potty with a diaper and poop and then put them back in their training pants. I also praise and rewardthem for sitting on the potty to poop, even if it is in a diaper, and use a sticker chart or M&Ms or both. Hopefully, over time they will realize that sitting on the potty to poop is perfectly normal and will give up the diaper. You can even cut a hole in the diaper to let the stool come out into the potty so that they may see that it is not painful, scary or difficult. Always remember to praise and not punish and to be patient and consistent with your messages about poop. Rewards seem to go a long way, and albeit small, they often work wonders. It may take several months of persistence to conquer the poop issue, so remain calm. If they continue to have problems have a further conversation with your doctor about the possibility of stool holding and encopresis. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Do You Have a Happy Spitter?

1.15 to read

New parents often come in concerned about their baby spitting up.  They typically  ask, “does my baby have gastroesophageal reflux (GER)?”.  I reassure them that “spit happens” and it occurs in more than 2/3 of perfectly healthy infants.  Whether you want to call it GER or spit up, it is regurgitation and in most cases it goes away with time. 

GER is defined as “the physiologic passage of gastric contents into the esophagus”, while GERD is “reflux associated with troublesome symptoms or complications”.  GER in infants is typically painless and does not affect growth. We call these babies “happy spitters”.  

For a “happy spitter” parents need to know that spitting gets worse before it gets better and typically lasts for 5-6 months, with the worst spitting occurring around 3-4 months of age.  

The best treatment for benign GER is lifestyle management.  Small things like thickening feedings with either rice or oatmeal cereal will often decrease the volume of spit up ( parents get sick of wearing towels over their shoulders). Thickening feedings does increase the calories a baby receives. There are also formulas available that contain thickening agents if parents prefer trying them that have the same amount of calories as other formulas.  Thickening feeds has been shown to decrease crying time in some irritable infants with GER and also increases sleep time for fussy babies.  It is always worth trying.

While many parents try putting their baby in a car seat to help with reflux and spitting, car seats may actually make the problem worse. Infants have less reflux when in the prone (tummy) position, but remember your baby must NEVER sleep on their TUMMY!

Babies who are spitters may also benefit from smaller more frequent feedings. When a baby is fussy, parents may try to keep feeding their baby and overfeeding may actually make the spitting worse. Just because a baby is crying, does not always mean they are hungry, especially if they have just been fed.  Sucking in and of itself may help reflux, so a pacifier may be the trick and provide non nutritive sucking.

For babies with GERD who are extremely irritable, may refuse feedings and even lose weight further work up and management with pharmacotherapy may be necessary.  Talk to your doctor about options if lifestyle management does not seem to help. 

Daily Dose

No Need for Stitches?

1.45 to read

OUCH!! I was just heading out to grab some lunch when a patient of mine, who happens to have 3 young sons (brings back memories) walked in with her youngest son who had been jumping on the bed and bumped his head!

As you can see by the picture, there was a nice little laceration right in the middle of his forehead. This was the perfect wound that would have previously required a stitch or two, but can now be closed with a liquid adhesive called Dermabond.

Fortunately, this experienced mother of 3 boys had already become a fan of Dermabond and instead of going to the ER; she came by the office for a fairly easy procedure to close the wound.  Smart Mom!

When Dermabond was released in the early 2000’s it took me awhile to get used to how easy this made wound closure.  Dermabond is a liquid skin adhesive that holds wound edges together. The best thing is that it is painless and can be used on small superficial lacerations. Even for a wiggly toddler in most cases the laceration can be closed even while the parent is holding a child still. This is certainly not the case when having to suture!

Dermabond forms a polymer which causes adhesion of the wound edges so it is perfect for “clean, straight, small” lacerations that I often see among my patients.  The classic ones are on the edge of the eye, the chin, the forehead or even the scalp. In studies the cosmetic outcome was comparable to suturing, and in my opinion for those small lacerations it is preferable.

So, we cleaned the wound up, laid him right down (he was perfectly still too) and within 5 minutes the head wound was closed and a happy 2 year waltzed out of the office. Not a tear to be found, but I did have a little residual glue on my finger!

The Dermabond will wear off on its own in 5 – 10 days. Once the adhesive comes off I always remind parents to use sunscreen on the area, which also helps to prevent scarring.

Happily this little guy left while singing “Dr. Sue said, no more little boys jumping on the bed!”

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

Daily Dose

Wheezing Season is Here

1:30 to read

Have you ever heard your child wheeze?  With cough and cold season in full swing, I'm seeing more and more children and hearing many parents say, “I think my child is wheezing”.  Wheezing is a distinct sound that is heard during expiration and unfortunately is often not audible without a stethoscope. Many parents mistakenly hear the raspy upper airway noises from mucous in a child’s throat and think this is wheezing, which thankfully is not the case.

Wheezing is one of the most common reasons children are seen in the pediatric office during the winter months when RSV (respiratory syncitial virus), rhinovirus, and parainfluenza viruses all circulate...not to mention influenza.  Not all children who wheeze will go on to develop asthma but having a parent who wheezes and has allergies does put a child at greater risk for having asthma. 

Asthma is not a singular disease but rather a complex of symptoms which causes constriction of the airway smooth muscles, inflammation of the airway, mucous production and swelling that leads to air trapping.  This then results in coughing, wheezing, chest tightness,  prolonged exhalation and shortness of breath. For a young child the first symptoms of wheezing may be a persistent short, tight cough that occurs day and night without relief.

If you do think your child is wheezing you must always watch for ANY respiratory distress, or work of breathing!!!  You should never see your child’s ribs pulling in or out and they should always appear to be comfortable with breathing. You must look at their chest rather than just listen to their coughs.  Visual is just as important as the audible noise.

Like many things, there is not a specific test for diagnosing asthma. For a child who is initially found to be wheezing the first line of treatment is typically an inhaler or nebulizer with a bronchodilator to open up the tightened airways. For a young child it is often easier to use the nebulizer but once a child is older and a bit more cooperative an inhaler with a spacer is often less cumbersome and more convenient to use. When used appropriately the spacer/inhaler has been show to be equally effective.

If you are worried about your child’s breathing it is always a good idea to call your pediatrician to discuss. 

Daily Dose

Why Doctors Fire Patients

1.30 to read

There was an article in the WSJ entitled “more doctors dismissing patients who refuse vaccines for their children”.  It was interesting to me as I too now only accept new patients who are going to vaccinate their children. This was not an easy decision on my part, and prior to the decision I had several families who refused vaccines completely, and another group that followed “an alternative” vaccine schedule. Even so, I was never comfortable with their decision and it always gave me pause and sleepless nights when their children would get sick. 

During the height of the debate over vaccine safety and the possible link to autism it seemed like much of my day was spent “debunking” vaccine myths. I spent a great deal of time discussing the reasons behind the AAP/ACIP (American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommended vaccine schedule and also explaining how vaccinations had saved lives, actually millions of lives. 

As more and more data was gathered, and the Wakefield papers were discredited, it became apparent that there was not a link between vaccines and autism. The arguments about thimerasol in vaccines were also moot as thimerasol is no longer the preservative used in vaccines (except for flu vaccine). With all of this being said I decided to take a stand and vaccinate all of my new patients, according to AAP guidelines. 

I discuss this decision with families even before their child is born. I tell them that it is important to pick a pediatrician that shares their beliefs as the  doctor patient relationship is a long one in pediatrics. (hopefully cradle to college)  It is analogous to dating; why would you pick a date on a match site if you held opposite beliefs to begin with?  

The same goes with picking a pediatrician, you need to start off the relationship on common ground. Even if there may be some other disagreements on subjects down the road, I think you need to begin the relationship holding similar beliefs. 

I have practiced long enough that I remember doing spinal taps in my office and treating children with meningitis or bacterial sepsis. There were long nights spent in the ICU with families and unfortunately a few patients died, while other survived but are deaf or have other residual effects from their disease.  It was devastating to me and I can’t even imagine for those families. I also bet that those families would have given anything to have a meningitis vaccine or a chickenpox vaccine for their now deceased children. 

I understand that every parent has to make their own decision for their children. At the same time I believe that it is also “my practice” and I get to choose how I practice pediatrics. With that being said, my parents choose to vaccinate their children and we happily start off the parenting/doctoring partnership together.  I also sleep better at night not worrying that their child will contract a vaccine preventable disease. 

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

Daily Dose

Kids And Headaches

1;30 to read

A recent study suggests teens and chronic headaches go together. This interesting study revealed about 1-2% of adolescents have chronic daily headaches, defined as more than 15 headache days per month for greater than 3 months.

When school begins, teens stress levels increase with each week of school, and with that come more complaints of  chronic headaches.  It is not unusual for me to see several teens a  week  who complain that they have headaches every day. Despite these persistent headaches, the majority of se adolescents continue to participate in their school activities, sleep well once they fall asleep and spend their weekends doing whatever it is that teens all do. I see very few teens who look like they are in “severe” pain, although they state that their head is “killing” them while they chatter away about where it hurts, and how often it hurts etc. It is quite reassuring to watch their faces and expressions as they go into detail about their headaches.  In these cases it is important to obtain a good history to rule out any underlying pathology, as well as to inquire about family history of migraines. In this study, the authors followed adolescents ages 12–14 years who met criteria for chronic daily headaches. They followed the group after both 1 and 2 years, and then again after 8 years. The results showed that after 1 year, 40% of adolescents still complained of chronic headaches.

After 2 years, only 25% reported headaches.  After 8 years, only 12% reported chronic headaches. Most participants reported substantial or some improvement in headache intensity and frequency during the 8 year follow-up. The most significant predictor for ongoing problems with headaches was onset of chronic headaches before the age of 13 years.  For the most part 75% of adolescents with chronic daily headaches improved over the 8 year period which is quite reassuring. This study just seemed to confirm that teens and headaches go together.  If a good history and physical exam is performed and there seem to be no underlying problems that contribute to their headaches, it is best to discuss the natural history of chronic headaches.

I think it is important to spend time with adolescents to explore ways to alleviate stress as a trigger for chronic daily headaches. Basic changes in lifestyle such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep will often help reduce headaches.  Relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy may also be utilized. At least we know that the headaches reduce with time, maybe just a maturational process, like many things!

That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue! Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Pages

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