Daily Dose

Do Essential Oils Boost Immune System?

1.30 to read

Although it is still hot and officially summer, soon everyone will be heading back to school  and coughs and colds (and eventually flu, another topic) will be just around the corner. I had a patient ask me about the use of essential oils. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter is heading to preschool for the first time and she “had heard from her friends that essential oils help a child’s immunity during cold season”.

Unfortunately, there is very little data at all to confirm that statement. I only wish that rubbing a bit of lavender oil on would help prevent the common cold. While it may smell great and be relaxing....there is no data that I can find to show that there is any reproducible science to the claims that essential oils boost the immune system.  

While I was researching I found many sites stating that “eucalyptus oil is an anti-viral” and “peppermint oil is an anti-pyretic (fever reducer)”.  Tea tree oil is touted as being “both anti -bacterial and anti-fungal” (I don’t know of other drugs that can claim both!).  But, I just don’t see any data to support all of this. 

The word essential refers to the essence of the plant the oil is derived from, rather than being “essential” to your health. While in most cases essential oils (which are highly concentrated) used as aromatherapy are not harmful for adults, it may be a different story in children, especially those under the age of 6. While labels may say  “natural” it may not always mean safe.  Many oils are poisonous if ingested and there have been reports of accidental overdoses in children with several different oils. In one report tea tree oil and lavender oil applied topically have been shown to cause breast enlargement in boys.  Oil of eucalyptus and peppermint are high in menthol and cineole.  These substances may cause children to become drowsy have decreased respirations.  While there are articles stating that the use of menthol (Vicks) on a child’s feet may be helpful during a cold for reducing a cough, do not use this if child is young enough to put their feet in their mouths. 

I must say that I sometime use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the shower when I have a cold as I think it smells great and seems to help “open up” my head. Whether this is in “my mind” or a response from my olfactory centers which sends calming messages to respiratory center is not clear. But, I am not ingesting it or using it topically. 

 

 

Daily Dose

Teens & Skincare

1.15 to read

I am seeing a lot of teens for their “routine” checkups and skin care is always part of our discussion. If you have a teen, you know how self-conscious they can be when it comes to their skin. Some teens are just blessed with good skin, and when you ask them what they do to their skin their reply is “nothing’. That is not the norm. Adolescence is the prime time for acne and whether the breakouts are mild or persistent, good skin care is the beginning for everyone. The first thing that all adolescents need to do is to wash their face twice a day. You do not need “fancy” skin potions or lotions either, the drugstore has more than enough choices to begin a good cleansing program. Using a mild soap- free cleanser may be enough to begin with , something like Purpose, Basis, Aquanil or Neutrogena. If the skin is more oily and acne prone try a cleanser that contains glycolic or salicylic acid , products like Neutrogena Acne wash, or Clean and Clear, you will need to read labels to look at the ingredients. These provide gentle exfoliation of the skin surface. Wash with a soft cloth but don’t scrub or buff, just wash. After washing your face in the morning, always apply a gentle non-comedogenic moisturizer WITH sunscreen. This will not cause acne, but will prevent sun damage that we all get on a daily basis. This is not the same as applying sunscreen for a day at the beach or lake. Again, I like Oil of Olay complete, or Neutrogena but there are many others out there, so find your favorite. At bedtime, after washing your face, if skin seems to be getting break outs begin using a 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion (you only need a dime size amount for the whole face) applied after your face has completely dried from the washing. If it is applied to a wet or damp face it may cause redness. Benzoyl peroxide products come in several strengths and may be titrated up in strength as tolerated. If this regimen is not working well it is probably time for a visit to the doctor to discuss some prescription products. More on that another day. That's your daily dose. We'll chat tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Diagnosing Diabetes

1.15 to read

I often see parents who come in worried that their child might have diabetes. I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as juvenile onset diabetes. 

While there is much in the news about type 2 diabetes, which is typically related to childhood obesity, the mystery of type 1 diabetes has not yet been totally elucidated. Type 1 diabetes affects about 1 in 400 children and adolescents. There does seem to be a genetic predisposition (certain genes are being identified) to the disease and then “something” seems to trigger the development of diabetes. Researchers continue to look at viral triggers, or environmental triggers (such as cold weather as diabetes is more common in colder climates). Early diet may play a role as well, as there is a lower incidence of diabetes in children who were breast fed and who started solid foods after 6 months of age.   

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough ( or any) insulin. Insulin is needed to help sugars (glucose) in the diet to enter cells to produce energy.  Without insulin the body cannot make enough energy and the glucose levels in the blood stream become elevated which leads to numerous problems. Children with type 1 diabetes are often fairly sick by the time they are diagnosed.  

The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes are extreme thirst (while all kids drink a lot this is over the top thirst) frequent urination ( sometimes seen as new onset bedwetting with excessive daytime urination as well), excessive hunger,  and despite eating all of the time, weight loss and fatigue.  

Any time a child complains of being thirsty or seems to have to go the bathroom a lot, a parent (including me) worries about diabetes. But, this is not just being thirsty or having a few extra bathroom breaks or wetting the bed one night. The symptoms worsen and persist and you soon realize that your child is also losing weight and not feeling well. 

Although diabetes is currently not curable, great strides have been made in caring for diabetics and improving their daily life. I now have children who are using insulin pumps and one mother has had an islet cell transplant. The research being done is incredible, and hopefully there will one day be a cure. 

In the meantime, try not to  worry every time your child tells you they are thirsty or tired, as all kids will complain about these symptoms from time to time.  But do watch for ongoing symptoms.  

Lastly, eating sugar DOES NOT cause type 1 diabetes. Now it may lead to weight gain which can lead to type 2 diabetes....but that is another story. 

Daily Dose

Migraines in Children

1.15 to read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Dose

Jaundice in Your Bbay

1.30 to read

Newborn infants will often experience an elevation in their bilirubin (one mother thought it was “belly robin”) levels in the first several days after birth. This makes the baby appear to be yellow or jaundiced.  

Parents may hear their nurses discussing a baby’s TcB (transcutaneous bilirubin) level, and some nurses may even show parents the nomogram which the hospital uses to chart bilirubin levels.  It seems there is now a lot of anxiety among new parents about what this all means and in most cases the levels are to be totally expected.  I continue to think, “too much information for a brand new parent may be harmful to their health”. I want parents to be informed, but only if there is a problem. Is a bili of 7.4 really any different than 8.2?  Do you need to be up at night worrying about that? The answer is no - I will be up at night if necessary and let you know.   Knowing your baby’s hourly or daily TcB is not necessary and in fact, in my experience they often do not correlate with actual serum bilirubin levels.  

Newborn jaundice is due to the fact that infants break down red blood cells in the first several days after birth which causes the release of bilirubin. Bilirubin excretion is also facilitated by the liver, and just like everything else in a new baby....it isn’t in full working mode quite yet. It takes a few days for everything to kick start. At the same time a breast fed baby may be more likely to  get jaundiced  due to the fact that they often don’t pee and poop as much a formula fed baby....that all corrects itself once the mother’s milk is “in”. Lots of recent articles about this...be reassured.

If your baby does have a problem with higher bilirubin levels, which typically occur somewhere between days 2 -7, then your doctor may recommend phototherapy with special lights that help to breakdown the bilirubin in the skin. This may be done in the hospital or even at home under a contraption called a “bili -blanket”.  Once the bilirubin levels drop the lights are turned off!

But, what did our mother’s say long ago, “don’t ask for trouble”. Ask your doctor before you start to worry and remember a little yellow is to be expected.  

Here is a picture of one of my newborns in their bili -blanket at home! Looks pretty comfy to me.

Daily Dose

Do Germs Make You Cringe?

1:30 to read

I see a lot of parents who are “germaphobic” and are constantly sanitizing anything and everything that may come into contact with their baby. I am not just talking about a newborn...but rather older infants and young children, especially as they start to creep and crawl around their environment.  Their mother’s purses have a bottle of hand sanitizer in easy reach and many have the bottle attached to the diaper bag or stroller as well. 

But now comes a new study which may help everyone relax a bit...and maybe stop constant disinfecting as well.  A recent study in The Journal of Allergy and Immunology found that children, under the age of 1, who shared a “dirty” home, with mouse and cat dander as well as cockroach droppings (I know you are all cringing now)  were less likely to develop allergies or wheezing by age 3.  

This idea has been called the “hygiene hypothesis”.  In other words, having children who are growing up in relatively sterile environments, may lead the immune system to “compensate” by reacting to pollen, dust and dander when there are fewer germs to ward off!  Now this doesn’t mean you have to stop keeping your house clean and never making a bed or vacuuming again ( novel idea), but the constant scrubbing and sanitizing may be a bit much. You don’t need anti bacterial soap in every room!

There have been other interesting studies done among children who live on farms.  They were taken into the barn as infants with hay, dander and animals all around them. They too were found to have fewer allergies than urban children.  So...playing on the dirty barn floor might not only be necessary for farm children, but also protective.

Should you run out and buy mice, a cat and try to breed roaches? I don’t think that is the recommendation.  Interestingly, this study did not show that having a dog was protective ....hmmmm when my kids were younger we did have a cat as well as a dog, not by choice but by my middle son’s insistence. Having always had dogs, somewhere in his early child hood years he “bargained” with us to adopt a black kitten that we all grew to love.  Maybe that was the best decision we made.  Fortunately none of my children have allergies or asthma. 

Lots of interesting studies on the horizon relating to this topic....stay tuned as I will keep you posted!

Daily Dose

The Difference Between Cradle Cap And Dandruff

1.15 to read

I recently received a question from a Twitter follower related to cradle cap and dandruff. She wanted to know if there was a difference in the two.

You know there really isn’t as they are both due to seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin in which the skin overproduces skin cells and sebum (the skins natural oil). Cradle cap is the term used for the scaly dermatitis seen on the scalp in infants. It is also seen on the eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. It is typically seen after about three months of age and will often resolve on its own by the time a baby is eight to 12 months old. It is usually simply a “cosmetic” problem for a baby as it looks like a yellowish plaque on a baby’s scalp and is often not even noticed by anyone other than the parents. Unlike seborrheic dermatitis in adults, cradle cap typically doesn’t itch. It is thought that cradle cap may occur in infancy due to hormonal influences from the mother that were passed across the placenta to the baby. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to become over active. In some severe cases an infant’s scalp becomes really scaly and inflamed and causes even more parental concern, as it appears that the infant is uncomfortable and may be trying to scratch their head by rubbing it on surfaces. The treatment for cradle cap is to wash the baby’s scalp daily with a mild shampoo and then to use a soft comb or brush to help remove the scales once they have been loosened with washing. When washing the head make sure to get the shampoo behind the ears and in the brows (keeping the soap out of baby’s eyes). This is usually sufficient treatment for most cradle cap. In situations where the greasy scales seem to be worsening it may help to put a small amount of mineral oil or olive oil on the baby’s head and let it sit (I left a small amount on my children’s heads overnight) and then to shampoo the following day. The oil will help the scales to loosen up and come off more easily. For babies that have very inflamed irritated cradle cap a visit to your pediatrician may be warranted to confirm the diagnosis. In persistent cases I often recommend shampooing several times a week with a dandruff shampoo that has either selenium (Selsun) or zinc pyrithione (Head and Shoulders) making sure not to get any in the infant’s eyes. I may then also use a hydrocortisone cream or foam on the scalp that will lessen the inflammation and itching. In these cases it may take several weeks to totally clear up the problem. As children get older, especially during puberty, you may see a return of seborrhea as dandruff. Again you can use dandruff shampoos. It also seems that with the overproduction of sebum there is an overgrowth of a fungus called “malessizia” so using a shampoo for dandruff as well as a antifungal shampoo (Nizoral) often works. I have teens alternate different shampoos, as sometimes it seems to work better than always using the same shampoo for months on end. Teens don’t like white flakes falling from their scalp and unlike a baby, a teen is worried about the cosmetic issues of seborrhea! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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

When Is The Best Time To Potty Train?

1.30 to read

Every parent wants to know, when is my child ready to potty train? A study that was recently published in an issue of The Journal of Pediatric Urology is one of the first to show that timing of potty training children seems to be more important than the technique.

I found this quite interesting as the lead author, Dr. Joseph Barone stated, this is the first study “that gives parents an idea of when it’s a good time to toilet-train”. The best time to potty train has typically been thought to be somewhere between the second and third birthday, but that is a wide range.

This study suggests that age 27-32 months is the appropriate time to move a child out of diapers. In the study, children who were toilet trained after 32 months were more likely to have urge incontinence, and problems with daytime wetting and bedwetting when they were between the ages of 4 and 12 years.

This data was gathered from a retrospective study of children who were being seen by pediatric urologists for problems with urge incontinence (daytime wetting episodes) and their answers to a questionnaire on when they started potty training and what method they used, was compared with children who did not have urge incontinence. The results showed that the mean age for children with the wetting problems to have been trained was 31.7 months while those children who did not have problems were toilet trained at 28.7 months.

Potty training continues to be at the top of the question list for parents with toddlers. I still believe and this study tends to support that children who are potty trained younger seem to have “less issues” than those that are older. That is not meant to say that your child will be potty trained by 28.7 months, but in most cases if you begin discussing the potty and following a child’s cues and follow through with reinforcement and consistency that the majority of toddlers may be potty trained by age 2 ½ (which would be 30 months).

In my experience as both a mother and pediatrician, those toddlers who are put in pull ups and never asked about going to the potty or are not taken to the potty seem to be the ones that I see at 3 year old check ups still wearing their pull-ups. By this time if you ask them if they want to go potty they all say, “NO”. I believe this is termed “the child directed approach” which seems analogous to me as saying “what time do you want to go to bed?”

In most cases, if a toddler is introduced to the toilet, goes with their parent to “sit or practice or watch Mommy and Daddy potty” during the early 2’s, and given some incentive to perform, whether that be a sticker or M & M or both, they will become interested in the potty and then they will become ready to potty train. I guess this is a combination of both the parent directed and child directed approach.

Once you see your child is interested you have to “go for it” and put them in good ‘ole cotton training pants and go to the bathroom frequently. You can’t ask if they want to go, again it is a statement, “time to go potty” and most will be trained by the “magical” 27-32 months of age.

To me potty training is somewhat like a space shuttle launch. “The window is not that wide” and you have to potty train during that magical window or the launch window may not come around again for a long time!

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

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