Daily Dose

Swollen Lymph Nodes

1:30 to read

A parent’s concern over finding a swollen lymph node, which is known as lymphadenopathy, is quite common during childhood.  The most common place to notice your child’s lymph nodes are in the head and neck area.

Lymph nodes are easy to feel  around the jaw line, behind the ears and also at the base of the neck, and parents will often feel them when they are bathing their children.  Because young children get frequent viral upper respiratory infections (especially in the fall and winter months), the lymph nodes in the neck often enlarge as they send out white cells to help fight the infection. In most cases these nodes are the size of nickels, dimes or quarters and are freely mobile. The skin overlying the nodes should not appear to be red or warm to the touch. There are often several nodes of various sizes that may be noticed at the same time on either side of the neck.   It is not uncommon for the node to be more visible when a child turns their head to one side which makes the node “stick out” even more.

Besides the nodes in the head and neck area there are many other areas where a parent might notice lymph nodes.  They are sometimes noticed beneath the armpit (axilla) and also in the groin area.  It your child has a bug bite on their arm or a rash on their leg or even acne on their face the lymph nodes in that area might become slightly swollen as they provide an inflammatory response. In most cases if the lymph nodes are not growing in size and are not warm and red and your child does not appear to be ill you can watch the node or nodes for awhile.  The most typical scenario is that the node will decrease in size as your child gets over their cold or their bug bite.  If the node is getting larger or more tender you should see your pediatrician. 

Any node that continues to increase in size, or becomes more firm and fixed needs to be examined. As Adrienne noted in her iPhone App email, her child has had a prominent node for 7 months. Some children, especially if they are thin, have prominent and easily visible nodes.  They may remain that way for years and should not be of concern if your doctor has felt it before and it continues to remain the same size and is freely mobile.  Thankfully, benign lymphadenopathy is a frequent reason for an office visit to the pediatrician, and a parent can be easily reassured.

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

Daily Dose

Feeling Thankful

1:00 to read

What better week to think about how many blessings I have. One of the blessings is the many families I am privileged to take care of.  While the world seems to be struggling with so much violence in the recent weeks, the pediatric office is still a haven of “normalcy” as I watch families raise their children. 

I continue to believe that parents strive to raise healthy, educated and well adjusted children and have many hopes for their future.  At the same time, worrying about the future can cause a lot of anxiety. While I often talk about raising resilient, grateful, humble, appreciative, and thoughtful children, if there was a recipe for doing this we would all certainly follow it. But the longer I practice the more I realize that there is not one path to raising a child.  What works for one child in the family doesn’t always work for the other.  Different situations in life may also call for re-evaluating and “re-setting” family values or parenting practices….parenting is never stagnant, it is fluid and every changing.

 But with that being said,  maybe the whole idea of parenting is really to be mindful. Mindfulness is something I too am really trying to work on. The idea of living in the moment and paying attention to the present.   That means enjoying where you are and what you are doing and not being distracted by the the next task, event or dilemma which clutters the mind and the moment.  Maybe that is the virtue we should be trying to teach our children, which means we need to practice mindfulness ourselves.

So for this Thanksgiving I am going to practice mindfulness and enjoy family and friends being together for a day to count our blessings, whatever they are. I am not going to worry about the next event, or holiday or work commitment ….I am going to be mindful and practice taking a big breath and re-centering myself to the present and the day of Thanksgiving for which I am grateful. 

Daily Dose

Bump on Your Child's Leg?

1:15 to read

I recently saw a young adolescent patient who had noticed a “lump or bump” on her leg which she had noticed for some time and she had now wondered what it was. She said that she had initially thought she had bumped her leg,  but she had continued to watch it and noticed that it did not seem to be going away. So, after many months of watching it and wondering what it was she decided to come ask me.

On her exam she had a notable “bump” or mass on her lower leg, about the size of a half dollar. There was no surrounding bruising and the mass was non-tender. She told me it really did not bother her, and she was more concerned as she thought it was noticeable and a friend had asked her about the “bump”.  Other than cosmetic concerns, it did not cause any problem.

The most common reason for this bump is an osteochondroma, which is a benign bone tumor. The most common time to find this type of tumor is during periods of rapid growth during adolescence. They are usually found in the leg (femur, tibia) or the upper arm (humerus). 

So, I sent her for an x-ray which was compatible with the diagnosis of a benign osteochondroma. She then had a CT of the area which confirmed the diagnosis.  Most osteochondromas are solitary and the chance for malignant transformation is rare (less than 1%).  So, after discussing her case with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon it was decided to just watch it.  

She had mixed emotions about her diagnosis, as she was happy to know what caused the “bump” but was concerned that her friends would continue to ask her about it. Of course her parents were relieved to find out that it was benign and would likely never require any treatment.

We all decided to watch it for now…..as the tumor typically stops growing after an adolescent has completed their growth spurt and the growth plates of the bones are closed.  

Daily Dose

Have Your Child's Blood Pressure Checked

1:00 to read

When you take your child in to the pediatrician for a check-up do they check their blood pressure? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children, beginning at the age of three years, should routinely have their blood pressure checked.  

In certain circumstances a younger child should have their blood pressure checked too. With the growing epidemic in obesity, pediatricians are seeing more children with abnormal blood pressure readings. It is important that the right sized blood pressure cuff is used for measuring a child’s blood pressure. There are standards for blood pressures for different age children. The standards are also based on a child’s height.

When a child’s blood pressure reading is greater than the 90th percentile for their age they are said to have pre-hypertension. The prevalence of childhood hypertension is thought to be between one and four percent and may even be as high as 10 percent in obese children. Obesity plays a role but, related to that is also inactivity among children, diet, and their genetic predisposition for developing high blood pressure. Then it is appropriate for further work up to be done to evaluate the reason for the elevation in blood pressure.

If I find a child with a high blood pressure reading during their physical exam, it is important to re-take their blood pressure in both arms. I also do not depend on automated blood pressure readings, as I find they are often inaccurate and I prefer to use the “old fashioned” cuff and stethoscope to listen for the blood pressure. If the blood pressure reading is abnormal, then I have the child/adolescent have their blood pressure taken over a week or two at different times of the day. They can have the school nurse take it and parents can also buy an inexpensive blood pressure machine to take it at home. I then look at the readings to confirm that they are consistently high. The “white coat” syndrome, when a doctor assumes that the elevated blood pressure is due to anxiety, may not actually be the case, so make sure that repeat blood pressures are taken. If your child does have elevated blood pressure readings it is important that further evaluation is undertaken, either by your pediatrician or by referral to a pediatric cardiologist.

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

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

Sick Child? Have Patience

1:30 to read

I just got off the phone from texting with the mother of a 3 year old patient of mine. It was late in the afternoon and her son had just started crying that his mouth hurt.  I was texting her from the back of a car en route to the airport..the wonders of technology!

She was concerned because the pain had come on so abruptly, but she text me that he did not have a fever, had not had a fall or trauma to hurt his mouth, and that when he opened his mouth she could not see anything that would cause “obvious pain”.  

I asked her a few more questions via text and recommended that she might try giving him a dose of ibuprofen and see if he calmed down and felt better, but I did not hear back from her for awhile.

It was then that I realized that pediatrics and parenting have quite a bit in common…one of the similarities being patience.  

While she was concerned that her child had suddenly started crying due to some sort of pain, much of pediatrics is about watching and waiting.  We parents all want to keep our children pain free, but sometimes things will hurt both physically, and as your child gets older, emotionally (which may be even worse to watch).  A parents first instinct is to find the cause of the pain and “fix it”.  Whether that means a band aid, a kiss on a boo-boo, or medicine.. “just make it better”.

But in many cases in pediatrics and actually all of medicine, it is about watching, following, and waiting, which is not as easy as it may sound. Doctors, parents and patients often have to “be patient” and see what evolves.  Not all tummy aches are cases of appendicitis, not all falls cause a concussion and not all boo-boos result in broken bones (thank goodness!).

But for a parent to hear “let’s see what happens in an hour or so” may sound like a lifetime and waiting just seems crazy when there is a “doc in the box” on every corner.  You may see where I am going with this.

So, by the time I heard back from this concerned mother, she was already at the nearby “doc in the box” waiting for a doctor to see her son, who by now had stopped crying.  She had already put him in the carseat for the drive to the clinic before she read my text, so he had not even had any ibuprofen.

According to the clinic doctor (or nurse), the child “had an ear infection causing his pain” and she was given a prescription for antibiotics.  Once the mother was home and I could talk to her I asked if they had prescribed medication for pain relief, such as ear drops and/or ibuprofen. She said she only had the antibiotic prescription which she had filled, but her child had stopped complaining of pain.

So, I was not there, and did not see her child, but I wonder if ibuprofen might have done the trick and alleviated his pain..and also kept him off of an antibiotic until he could be seen the following day in the office?

But in this age of “quick” medicine and a clinic on every corner,  a patient/parent may not need to wait and see what evolves. I wonder if this “quick” medicine may be one reason we see antibiotic overuse . I’m just saying….  

Daily Dose

Waiting for the Doctor

1:30 to read

I just read a really good article from The Huffington Post that was written by a young woman from the UK.  She was discussing the issue of waiting for a doctor. She herself had been waiting for her doctor when she noticed another patient who was being very loud and quite verbal about waiting. He engaged her in conversation and said, “I bet that doctor is back there having a cup of tea”. He must have been stunned when she replied, “well, I certainly hope so”.  She knew that the doctors had recently seen her as an emergency when she began bleeding during her pregnancy. She knew that they had dropped everything to attend to her and her unborn baby and for that she was eternally grateful.  

I also “hate to wait” when I am seeing my own doctor, but I do know that he or she is not “back there eating bon-bons".  I also know that many patients have waited for me, sometimes for up to an hour.  I promise you that I know that I am running late and it makes me very anxious. But at the same time, I am doing the best that I can to treat each and every patient as if they were my own child or family member.  Sometimes a patient comes in with a more complicated or urgent problem and the time taken with that patient is much longer than was expected. Or, a child arrives wheezing and in respiratory distress without even having an appointment….they to will be “worked on” in front of everyone else…as they need a doctor immediately. 

The article continued to re-count how many times during her pregnancy that she had needed to be seen as she continued to have issues with bleeding, and each and every time, the doctors were there, no wait and no questions….they just did their job.

It is difficult to explain why doctors run late and I understand how patients are frustrated when they wait. But at the same time, how do you schedule the appropriate amount of time for a patient who calls for an appointment because their child is sick with a fever and a sore throat. But, while you are seeing their child they break down in your exam room and tell you that they have found out that their husband is “cheating on them” and that “he wants a divorce”.  As their pediatrician, do you tell them that you don’t “have the time” to listen to their problems. Do you just deal with their child’s sore throat and ignore the mother’s anguish. In my case, I choose to spend time with the mother, to empathize with her, and hope to help her.  I know that this reaction will make me late….but it is what I need and want to do for my patients and families.

Whenever I am talking to prospective patients I am perfectly honest when they ask me, “will I ever have to wait?”.  My response has changed over the years as I have come to realize that there will be times when they do wait….but it is not because I ever want to “run late” or make my patients wait. It is because, I have decided that my practice has just as many flaws as my parenting, not perfect. But similar to my children, at times one will need me more than another, and when they do I will spend more time with the one that needs me the most.  It may not seem “fair”, but how do you make it always be “fair”?  I hope that at the end of the 23-25 years I spend with these families they come to realize…it all evens out in the end…there are times that I spent too much time with them and then there are times that they waited.  But, just like parenting, you do the best that you can.  I will continue to practice that way as well. I promise, if you are waiting I am not having tea and bon-bons!!!   

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

Throwing the Bottle Away

1:30 to read

When a child reaches their first birthday, they have already reached many milestones. But when a child turns one, mom and dad need help their child do one more thing says pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard. “They need to throw the bottle away, she says.” “Developmentally, a your baby does not need to suck for nutrition at age one.”

After that first birthday, children should be drinking whole milk out of a sippy cup. The fat in whole milk is essential for the child’s developing brain. Dr. Hubbard says to do the transition from bottle to sippy cup cold turkey. “At 9 months, buy a sippy cup, one without a nipple, and give it to your child to play with. This will help teach him how to hold it. Then start with whole milk, never juice or water.” 

Dr. Hubbard says that studies have shown that prolonged bottle feeding leads to increased dental cavities, iron deficiency, anemia and obesity. “I’ve heard parents say ‘My child won’t drink out of a sippy cup.’ I say yes they will if they are thirsty. They won’t starve or get dehydrated.” If you wait until a child is 15 to 18 months old to remove the bottle, it becomes more of an issue she warns. Once your child has transitioned to a sippy cup, Dr. Hubbard reminds parents to only offer the sippy cup to the child at meal and snack times. “A child should never carry a sippy cup around the house,” she says.


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