Daily Dose

Toddlers & Tantrums

1.15 to read

I see toddlers for check ups nearly every day and for both the 15 month and 18 month visit, there are many challenges for parents and the pediatrician (and of course the child). Toddlers are not at what I would call an EASY age.

As you know if you have a toddler, they are quite moody (just wait for teenagers) and they can “stop, drop and roll” into a tantrum in the blink of an eye.  So while I was examining an 18 month old this week ( she is one of three adorable girls), she suddenly became infuriated (her mother and I were really clueless as to what triggered this) and she jumped off of her mother’s lap and fell to the floor kicking and screaming. 

Now, for a first time parent this might be alarming behavior, but for a seasoned mother of three it was really no big deal. Appropriately, we all just ignored her as she laid on the floor and screamed (no, the mother was not worried about germs on the floor either) and we continued our conversation about her child’s less than stellar sleep habits.

After a few minutes her daughter calmed down, the older sisters got her a sticker and she left without a fuss. Her mother had already learned, like we all do, that the best way to stop tantrums is by ignoring them and letting your toddler have some time to “express her emotions” with age appropriate (although inappropriate for older children) behavior.  

Several days later, her mother sent me an email with another picture attached of the same child having yet another tantrum after she found her in her diaper with a sharpie pen happily marking all over herself (the photo above). Of course, the minute she took the marker away her daughter fell to the floor again to express her outrage! So funny that her mom thought to document it and send me another picture.

By the way, she also told me that she had taken practical advice and was working on having her daughter cry herself to sleep and it was working well!  Both the tantrums and sleep were improving by just ignoring her behavior. Back to those laws of natural consequences.  

Daily Dose

New Test for Baby

1.30 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-  % 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.

 

 

Daily Dose

Kids & Bedtimes

1.30 to read

As the summer winds down, my office is bust with back to school check-ups.  During these exams, I find myself asking a lot of questions related to a child’s sleep routines. Over the years I have always asked about sleep, and for so many  parents it is one of their main concerns.  

But what I have noticed is it seems children are going to bed later and later. I know the summer months are less scheduled for many families and children tend to get out of routines, but never the less, when I routinely ask, “during the school year what time does your child go to bed at night?” I am surprised by some of the answers.  And I am not talking about teens either, this is mainly the 5-13 year old set. (I do think teens need bedtime guidelines as well, that is a different discussion). 

As a working parent I totally understand and empathize with how busy the evenings are. I tell new parents that the evening hours between 6-9 pm are often the “witching hours” for newborns but I also see these same “crazy hours”  for most families once their children get to be school aged. (is this why cocktail hour was invented?)  It is the time of day for after school activities, homework to be done, dinners to be cooked and children to be bathed. Add in bedtime stories and/or reading by your child and it is CRAZY....but even so children need to have bedtimes appropriate for their ages.

Hearing that 5 year olds go to bed at 9 pm or that 10 year olds are up until 10 or 11 pm not only makes me tired but worries me as well that these children are not getting enough sleep. And the statement from frazzled parents, “they just won’t go to bed” makes me know just how important early good sleep habits are. Bedtime is a statement not a question!

While some children are just natural sleepers, others can be more difficult, but I am convinced that early good sleep habits help all children to be better and more independent sleepers.  Self soothing begins in infancy, but self calming and sleeping in your own bed is an important milestone as well. A child who awakens every night and ends up sleeping in their parents bed is disrupting both their sleep and their parents, which leads to irritable, unfocused and tired children and adults.

So, this seems to be a good time to re-look at bedtimes and adjust accordingly for your child’s age.  Once you get a good routine going, good habits are easy to continue.  

 

Daily Dose

Selfies Cause Lice?

Daily Dose, infections, teens

Are teenagers spreading lice when they put their heads together to take a perfect selfie?  This is a hot topic trending lately.  I have had emails and texts from parents who are fighting head lice in their homes and are wondering if this is possible.  I was skeptical that this is how lice is being transmitted among the teen crowd but it is possible.  Laying on the same pillow or sharing hair brushes and headbands are more likely the culprit.

But what can you do if your teen has lice? Try an over-the-counter product which contains permethrin or pyrethrin and follow directions.

Using a hair conditioner before the use of the OTC product can diminish effectiveness, and many products recommend not washing the hair for several days after finishing the application. Re-apply carefully in order to treat hatching lice and lice not killed by the first application. In other words, you must read the package insert! 

Even with parents following the directions to a “T”, there are cases where the lice continue to thrive. This may be due to the fact that the lice have become resistant to the OTC products, and different geographic areas do seem to have different rates of resistant head lice. 

There are now four prescription products that have been approved by the FDA for use when OTC products have not worked. These products are Sklice, Natroba, Ovide and Ulesfia. Each of these products contains a different product that has proven to work against the human louse. These prescription products do differ by application time, FDA labeled age guidelines, precautions for use and cost. There is not one product that is the best one to use.

There has been a study that looked at oral Ivermectin as a therapy for head lice in children over the age of 2. The drug is not FDA labeled for this use. There are guidelines for its use when both OTC and prescription topical agents have failed to eradicate lice.  

There is no need to try all of the crazy stuff like applying mayonnaise on your teen’s head, or blow drying concentrated moisturizers into the hair shaft.  There are several areas of the country where there are businesses that will “nit pick” your child’s heads, but one of my patients spent $500 dollars on this (really), but continued to have problems with lice.

So, if the lice won’t go away, call your doctor before resorting to alternative, unproven therapies. And don't forget to smile in your next selfie.

Daily Dose

When Parents Date

1.30 to read

I recently saw some patients of mine who are now teens. They were brought in for their check ups by their father who i had not seen in some time.  He has a boy and a girl about 16 and 14 years old.  I knew that there had been some “issues” within their family, but is had actually been several years since i had seen them.

As it turns out the parents had divorced, the mother had some problems with addiction and the father now had custody of the children. He was trying to get “everything back on track”, including visits to the pediatrician.  

After seeing each of the kids alone and talking to them, they actually seemed to be doing extremely well. They had seen a counselor during some of the more tumultuous times and were happy to be in a “stable” environment and had “less family stress” as they put it. They were both doing well in school, had lots of friends and were involved in different sports and school activities.  They said that their sad had been instrumental in getting things “back to normal”, or back to a “new normal”.  

I also visited with the dad and he told me he had a new concern.  He was really happy about how well his children were doing, all good.   It seems that he had just started dating agiain, and he was not quite sure how to handle the subject with his kids.  He told me that he had had several dates and his kids wanted to know....what’s next?

I had to laugh a bit, as we had just discussed his children dating and going to Homecoming. My response was,  “be honest with them”.  If you asked your teen after 2 dates “where is this going?”, they would probably reply, “dad, who knows, we’ve only had 2 dates...I’m not getting married!”.

I told him I would tell his children the same thing,  in a manner of speaking. I would acknowledge that I was enjoying dating, that I had no plans to get married any time soon, and did not even know if i was ready to be “exclusive” ( is that the adult version of Facebook official?) with anyone at this point.  

I would also make it clear that I would keep them updated if and when things changed, but in the meantime they did not need to worry. Their dad would be there everyday to get their breakfast, have dinner with them and continue their “new normal”. It was just such a good feeling seeing all of them happy!

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Daily Dose

Timeout!

1.30 to read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Dose

Learning to Crawl

1.15 to read

Back to more funny office stories - they really keep my job interesting and always a little bit of fun. 

Many of my “new” young parents worry (haven’t we all?) and one of the new comments I have started to hear is “why is my baby not crawling?” Well, for one reason, they are only 6 months old!  I know we are expecting children to achieve some milestones at younger and younger ages, an example of this is reading.  But while not all children are ready to read at 4-5 years, MOST children do not crawl until they are around 9 months of age. 

I am suddenly having moms and a few dads ask me how to “teach their baby to crawl”?   What???  This is new to me.  I wish I could remember   each of my own children as they learned to crawl. It is just a foggy memory now, but I do remember that suddenly they were mobile, and that changes everything! 

Babies instinctively want to move and explore their environment. For most babies, if you have been doing “tummy time”, which is followed by your baby learning to sit, they suddenly figure out how to go from the sitting position back to their tummy.   Why?  That maneuver is the precursor to learning to crawl.  They just do it!  You need to put them on the floor and let them figure it out. You DO NOT need to crawl around the house.  

While you will have to help “teach” your child to walk, in a manner of speaking, they WILL just crawl if given the opportunity.  That means putting them down and letting them figure out how to move. I had one mother who asked me if “her baby could sit in the grass?”  She was afraid to even let the child touch the ground. Other parents are worried that it is “too dirty” for their child to sit on the floor and crawl.  The world is full of dirt, grass and who knows what else, but children have to spend some time on the floor to learn to crawl.   

Take home message....no instructions for a baby to crawl, they just figure it out, and we parents figure out that some of the things our wonderful children accomplish are despite us!

Daily Dose

Monitoring Your Baby

1.30 to read

I have recently received several emails from patients which included attachments.  The attachments were videos of a baby in their crib with questions from parents about whether the baby was “breathing okay”, was “crying enough to be picked up”, or whether I thought “the baby was dreaming”. I had to laugh, as the first thing I thought of while watching all of these videos was: we are really just “too smart for our own britches”, which was a line often used by my dear deceased grandmother who died at the ripe age of 104!  In this case, she would be right as we have so much technology available to us but I’m not sure if it is really that helpful when we are talking about caring for a baby. 

Every parent wants to make sure that they are “watching” their newborn, infant or toddler as closely as possible. That is good parenting.  But, even a newborn does not need to have constant video monitoring with rewind and playback ability.  Just having your baby in the bassinet by your bed or in the nursery next door to your room is really sufficient.  

The idea is that you can hear your baby if they are crying.  You do not need to hear hiccups, and know that they latest for 18 minutes. If your baby is stretching and making normal “new baby” grunting and groaning sounds, you do not need to hear every noise. You do need to hear your baby crying because they are hungry, wet or uncomfortable.  That is when a parent is supposed to get up and go to their baby’s bed.  Watching them just making a few noises to get settled is not a call for intervention.  

I am the first doctor/mom to totally believe that a new baby needs to be held when fussy or irritable. I am not the “cry it out” doctor (let them cry for the first 5-6 months of life).  But, a baby can ooch and scooch and not need to be picked up and if you do not have a video monitor, you probably would not know they were ooching and scooching.  With video monitors on day and night a baby cannot even burp without the parent watching and wondering and “worrying” if that burp was significant.   

While we talk about our teens being “too connected”, maybe we parents need to think about that too.  Are “we” parents (and grandparents) being too connected to the baby?  Are we part of the problem of “instant” intervention, when many a baby might calm themselves if given the chance (and the parent never knew).  

Many generations of newborns and young babies were raised, successfully, without a video camera. Parents ears are a pretty good monitor too , for both babies and even teens.  Eavesdropping is still allowed! 

Daily Dose

Ear Tugging & Your Child

1.15 to read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

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