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Daily Dose

Good Grades Pill

1.15 to read

There is a lot of pressure placed on students to succeed and many of them are turning to what teens call the “good grade pill”.  What is it?  Prescription stimulants that are commonly used to treat children with ADHD.  Teens that have not been diagnosed with ADHD have figured out that with the help of these drugs, they can focus and improve their grades.  

I see a lot of kids who have attentional issues and I evaluate and treat children for ADHD. With that being said, I also spend a great deal of time with each family looking at their child’s history, report cards, teacher comments, educational testing and subjective ADHD rating scales. 

While many families would like it if I just “wrote a script for a stimulant”, I feel it is my job to try and determine to the best of my ability, which children really fit the diagnosis of ADHD. (There are specific criteria for diagnosing ADHD). 

But in the last 3-5 years I personally have seen more and more teenage patients coming to me with complaints of “having ADHD”. These are successful teens who are now in competitive schools. 

In most of the cases there have never been any previous complaints of difficulty with focusing or inattentiveness. All are typically A and B students but are now having to work harder to keep their grades up, and to also keep up all of their extracurricular activities. They too all want to go to “great colleges” and their parents expect that of them as well. 

When I see these teens, I point out to them that there has never been mention of school difficulties throughout their elementary and middle school years. I also tell them that ADHD symptoms by definition are typically evident by the time a child is 7 years of age, and often earlier.  So what do you do? I don’t take out the script pad. 

I believe that stimulant medications are useful when used appropriately.  I am also well aware that these drugs are overprescribed and are also being abused. I have had parents (and teens) be quite upset with me when I decline to write a script for stimulant medication for their teen.  

I think that this problem is growing and (we) parents need to stop pressuring our children and (we) doctors need to be vigilant in deciding when stimulant medications are appropriate. 

It is a slippery slope, but the number of teens obtaining stimulants illegally is on the rise.  Why? They hear that this is a quick fix to getting good grades. It may help their grades for the short term, but what does their long term future look like? 

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

Daily Dose

Caring For An Uncircumcised Penis

I just received an e-mail from a listener asking about the care of her infant son’s uncircumcised penis. Her baby is four-months-old and she wondered how to wash the penis and if she should pull back the foreskin.

In an uncircumcised infant the foreskin (the skin that covers the head or the glans of the penis) will not really retract, and you do not want to “force” it. You should just clean the tip of the penis with soap and water while bathing the baby and over time, typically by the time a little boy is 5 years old, the foreskin will become fully retractable. Once the foreskin is retractable (as adhesions have broken down on their own) you can retract the foreskin and clean the glans (head) of the penis and teach your son to do the same thing. Seeing that we are already discussing the uncircumcised penis it is a good time to discuss the pros and cons of circumcision. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not routinely recommend circumcision of male infants. They state that it is a matter of choice for families to make. Circumcision rates in this country are around 55 to 65 percent and are variable in different geographic areas. Circumcision may also be routinely performed due to cultural or religious preferences, or for the social reason of wanting sons and fathers to “look the same”. There has been some recent literature showing that there is an increased frequency for uncircumcised males to develop a urinary tract infection (up to 10 times more likely).  The incidence for male urinary tract infections is still low, but further studies are being done to determine if circumcision should again be routinely recommended. There is also an increased incidence for irritation, inflammation and infection in uncircumcised males, as the uncircumcised penis may be more difficult to clean. There has also been data to suggest that circumcised males have a lower risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Lastly, the incidence of penile cancer (although rare) may be higher in uncircumcised males. All of these issues continued to be studied, so ask your pediatrician about ongoing data if you are trying to decide whether to circumcise a newborn boy. Like so many things in medicine, continued studies may bear new recommendations. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Walking to School

1:30 to read

Now that school is back in session and the temperatures are cooling off, an easy way to get you and your child some extra exercise is to walk to school!!  I am thinking it should become a weekly event across the country - how about “walk to school Wednesdays”?

 

I realize that not everyone lives in an area where it is possible to walk to school. But, there are many children who do live close enough, but they are typically driven to school by parents or in a carpool.  I practice in an area where it would be easy for many children to walk to school, but when I ask them if they walk to school they typically give me a quizzical look and answer “no”.  

 

Many parents are concerned that their children don’t get enough exercise and this is a way to sneak in some daily exercise.  Walking together also gives parents a time to talk with their children. It is really a gift of time together. I remember that my children could walk to school for the several years when we lived nearby their elementary school. They are really some of my fondest memories, coffee cup in hand and the dog on a leash and walking the boys to school. It was a sad day when they said, “mom, we want to ride our bikes”.  They would meet some of their other friends (I was the helmet “cop”) and off they went.  No more talks with their mother or holding hands to cross the street…but growing up.

 

There are other perks of walking too!!!  Think about avoiding those long carpool lines. What about the gas that is saved and less pollution for the environment.  No one arguing about sitting next to the window or what radio station to listen too either. And for those children who tend to get car sick…this is a great solution!

Daily Dose

Red Cheeks In Winter

1:15 to read

Why do children get red cheeks in winter?

It is the time of year for cold temperatures, low humidity and dry skin. It is funny, every year as the temperatures drop, I we start seeing these cute little babies and toddlers who have those bright red cheeks. I always say that they “look like British babies”.

Dry skin is just one of the many issues we see with colder temperatures, and babies red cheeks are one of the most evident. During the winter months we all experience dry skin and using moisturizer becomes very important.

I have written previous blogs about eczema, and while chapped skin is not synonymous with eczema, there are some similarities. The most important thing to prevent dry skin while the weather is cold is to use a moisturizer, and applying moisturizer is best on damp skin. After bathing your baby or child, pat them dry until they are just “a tad bit moist” and then take a moisturizer and apply it to the almost dry skin. The thicker the moisturizer the better, so a cream is preferable to a lotion. It will take a little more time to rub the cream in when the skin is a bit moist, but it will help the moisturizer penetrate the skin. The same thing goes for the face.

I always found that the best time for me to moisturize those rosy cheeks was really after the child had gone to sleep. When my children were younger I found that if I put the cream on when they were awake, that they either rubbed their faces more, or if they were verbal, complained about lotion on their faces. So…I decided that it worked best to have their bedtime routine, with baths, books, and prayers, and then once they were asleep I would slip in and lather up their faces and also even used Chap Stick on their dry little lips. Now, there is no science in this routine, but it seemed to work, and they were much more tolerant of lubricants when asleep than awake.

We are definitely in the low humidity season and the heat is on in the house (I am typing this as I sit by the fire with a blanket over my feet), so you can expect several months of dry skin and chapped cheeks. If moisturizers like Vanicream, Cerave, Aquaphor and Eucerin go on sale, stock up!!  April is a long way away.

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Daily Dose

What Are Breast Buds?

1.15 to read

I received a phone call today from a mother who was worried about the “bump” beneath her 12 year old daughter’s nipple. I do get this phone call quite often and even see mothers and daughters in the office who are concerned about this lump?  First thought is often, “is this breast cancer?”  The answer is a resounding “NO” but rather a breast bud.  While all mothers developed their own breast buds in years past, many have either forgotten or suppressed the memory of early puberty and breast budding.

Breast buds are small lumps the size of a blueberry or marble that “erupt” directly beneath a young girl’s areola and nipple. Most girls experience breast budding somewhere around 10-12 years of age although it may happen a bit sooner or even later. It is one of the early signs of puberty and estrogen effects.

Many girls will complain that the nipple area is sore and tender and that they are lopsided!! It is not unusual for one side to “sprout” before the other. Sometimes one breast will bud and the other is months behind. All of this is normal. 

While a lump in the breast is concerning in women reassure your daughter that this is not breast cancer (happy that they are so aware) but a normal part of body changes that happen to all girls as they enter adolescence.   Breast budding does not mean that their period is around the corner either, and periods usually start at least 2 years after breast budding (often longer).

Breast buds have also been known to come and go, again not to worry. But at some point the budding will actually progress to breast development and the continuing changes of the breast during puberty.

Reassurance is really all you need and if your daughter is self-conscious this is a good time to start them wearing a light camisole of “sports bra.”  

Daily Dose

Hurricanes & Your Health

1:30 to read

The last week has been a tough one for Texans, and especially for those who live in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast.  Having my son, brother and mother all with houses in Houston, I have been watching the “Harvey” situation quite closely. Fortunately, my family is lucky enough not to have flood damage and they have not had to leave Houston.  But, too many other families have suffered flooding and have been forced to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in shelters not only in Houston, but in Dallas where I live as well. 

 

There are many families who are now living in very close quarters where they may be for sometime…as it will take weeks and months if not years to recover from this disaster and to rebuild the homes, schools, churches and businesses that have been either damaged or destroyed. 

 

The necessary relocation of families and children into shelters is also “a perfect storm” for the possibility of the spread of infectious disease. This is an important time in which managing the spread of illness and infection is paramount. What this means is that EVERYONE needs to be up to date on their immunizations to prevent the spread of vaccine preventable diseases. 

 

If you have ever “skipped” a vaccine by choice or missed a vaccine, now is the time to get your child’s vaccines updated. This is not only for those who have had to evacuate, but for everyone, as infectious diseases are spread outside of the shelters and as well.  We pediatricians are working in the shelters to try and make sure that everyone is vaccinated as they arrive, but there are those who are too young to be vaccinated and others who do not have their medical records to ensure accuracy of their vaccines. It is an arduous process.

 

But, for the public health system which will be stretched even more so during the flood recovery, vaccines are one of the most important ways to protect people. It only takes one person who might get mumps, measles or whooping cough to spread it to hundreds of others….all living in close proximity. These people will then also leave their shelter to go to school, church the store or even a temporary job where they may put others at risk, you never know if you might be exposed.

 

Lastly, it is really time to get those flu shots!!! The last thing we need is an early flu season with a large group of un-immunized people…and most doctors have already received shipments of flu vaccine.

 

Please please pray for these families who have lost so much and protect everyone by immunizing your children (and yourself).  

 

 

Daily Dose

Homeopathic Medicine

1:30 to read

I am sitting here writing this while “sucking” on a honey-lemon throat lozenge and drinking hot tea…as it is certainly cough and cold season and unfortunately I woke up with a scratchy throat. I am trying to “pray” it away and drink enough tea to drown it out. While I am not sure it will work, drinking hot tea all day will not hurt you!

 

At the same time (multi-tasking) I am also reading an email from a mother with a 4 month old baby, and they are out of town. Her baby now has a fever and runny nose and she sent me a picture of a homeopathic product for “mucus and cold relief” and wonders if it is safe to give to her infant.  The short answer is NO…even though the product says BABY on the label and has a picture of an infant.

 

Although homeopathic medicines were first used in the 18th century and are “probably safe” it is still unclear if they really work. Unfortunately,  there have been adverse events and deaths associated with some products ( see articles on teething tablets). The principle of homeopathy is that “ailments can be cured by taking small amounts of products that, in large amounts, would cause the very symptom you are treating. In other words, “like cures like” as these products contain “natural ingredients” that cause the symptoms that you are trying to treat, but that have been so diluted as to hopefully stimulate your body’s immune system to fight that very symptom. In this case, congestion and runny nose due to a cold.

 

So…I looked at all of the ingredients which included Byronia, Euphrasia, Hepar and Natrum…to name a few. Byronia is used as a laxative for constipation, Euphrasia is supposed to help with inflammation, Hepar is for people who tend to get “cold and therefore cranky and irritable” and Natrum is used for inflammation due to “too much lactic acid”.  This is the short version. The bottle also says contains less than 0.1% alcohol, but it has alcohol! 

 

While the FDA does monitor how homeopathic medications are made, they do not require these companies to show proof that these medications do what they say they do, as they are “natural”.   With that being said, natural does not always mean effective or safe.  Just as over the counter cold and cough medications are not recommended for children under the age of 2, I too would not recommend homeopathic products be given to an infant.

 

Best treatment for a cold and cough in young children?  Use a saline nasal spray followed by nasal suctioning to relieve the nasal congestion and mucus. I would also use a cool mist humidifier in the baby’s room to keep moisture in the air and help thin the mucus ( especially once the heat is on in the house). Make sure the baby is still taking fluids (breast or bottle) but you may also add some electrolyte solution to give your baby extra fluids if you feel as if they are not eating as well.  Lastly, always watch for any respiratory distress or prolonged fever and check in with your pediatrician!

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

Plants That Cause Summer Rashes

1:15 to read

Now that summer is upon us and everyone is enjoying being outside I am seeing patients with contact dermatitis (rashes) after coming into contact with poisonous plants.  While allergies are slowing down a bit with the hotter weather, plants like poison ivy, oak and sumac (depending where you live) are full of leaves.  About 50% of people who come into contact with the leaves of these plants will have a reaction.

The adage “leaves of three, let them be” continues to be the best way to prevent getting a rash. That also means wearing long sleeves, and pants...and gloves. But what child goes off to play in the yard, or by the creek dressed like that for summer?  Sunscreen yes, gloves, probably not. 

If you realize you have been exposed to the plant leaves and therefore the urushiol (oil on leaf) , wash all areas of exposed skin as soon as possible with some products that are available like Tecru, Sanfel and Goop Hand Cleaner....if you don’t have those use dish washing soap.  

It may take up to 4 days after exposure to develop the rash and lesions may also appear at different times depending on the location and length of exposure to the urushiol.  The rash is usually really itchy and is often is linear clusters or little vesicles or blisters.  The rash does not spread by scratching or from the fluid inside the blisters, that is a myth. You cannot give anyone else poison ivy if you have washed off the urushiol.  

The best treatments relieve the itching and irritation.  Keeps nails short and hands clean so that scratching will not cause a secondary bacterial infection.  You can use oatmeal baths (Aveeno) or cool compresses (Dommeboro) to help control itching. An over the counter steroid cream is a good place to start to help the inflammation, but it may be a stronger prescription steroid cream will be needed. 

I also try calamine lotion or astringent to soothe the irritation. Sarna is another good lotion for itching....Oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) really don’t help with the itching as it is not due to histamines, but may cause a bit of sedation so a child can sleep.

If the rash is getting worse, spreading to the face and around the eyes or begins to look infected it is time for a visit to the pediatrician. For severe cases oral steroids may be necessary.

It sometimes takes 10-14 days for the rash to go away.  Oh, and getting overheated only makes you itch more.

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

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

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

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