Daily Dose

Early Talkers

1:30 to read

Is your child a precocious talker?  Most children start to acquire words around 12-15 months, but that means 5-10 words and building. By the time a child is 18 months old they are often mimicking when you ask them to say a word, and some are putting 2 words together. This is all very normal development. But there are few children who are just “early talkers” who are speaking in full sentences by the time they are 18-24 months! 

I think having such a verbal child during the early toddler years is both a “blessing and a curse”. I know that from raising my own children, where my oldest was quite verbal by 20 months, and was “bossing us around” before age 2!!  I also see this same dilemma in my little patients.  While some parents are worried that their 2 year old does not put 3-4 words together, others want to know how you can stop the chatter.  Parents.....we always have issues. 

Example:  When I come into the exam room for a 2 year old check up, the precocious talker looks up and says, “Hi Dr. Sue...what took you so long?”.  Or they may tell their parent that they “don’t need any help” as I ask them to climb on the exam table. Recently a little boy looked right at his mother and said, “I’ve got this”, when I asked him to take off his shoes.  

On another day a little girl was impatient to leave and kept asking her mother if they could go to the park after they left my office.  The mother kept telling the little girl, “maybe” . Finally, exasperated, the 2 year old said, “what’s the answer, yes or no?””  How do you keep a straight face? 

A verbal child can bring you to your knees, both laughing and sometimes wanting to cry.  How can a 2 year old know just what to say to make a parent feel inadequate?  Is it inborn? This seems to be especially true if you have had another child and the 2 year old is instructing you on how to parent “their baby”.   

So, if your child is a talker write down all of those clever sentences they blurt out......one day you will look back and laugh.  I often saw myself in my 2 year old as he told complete strangers , “my mommy says my baby brother cries all of the time, and he has colic!”  Out of the mouth of babes, and I still remember it.  Bittersweet.

Daily Dose

Breath-holding & Fainting

2.00 to read

Have you ever fainted?  I bet you may have not realized how common fainting is in the pediatric age group?  I know this from my own children (yes, I had 2 “fainters” and boys no less) as well as from many of my patients.

The medical term for fainting is syncope, and it really is common among children. It starts during the toddler years with breath-holding spells.  Many in this age group (up to 50%) will hold their breath when they are hurt or angry.

When a child holds their breath while crying (you can just see it happening in front of you) they will often turn a bit blue and “pass out”. This is a type of fainting. This can be very scary for parents who have never seen their precious child have such an attitude and then hold their breath over not getting the cookie? Yes, this is a normal part of being a toddler! They are very emotional and labile at this age (foreshadowing for teen years?) and most toddlers don’t have a lot of language yet, so when they get mad or frustrated they just SCREAM! But, while screaming, the child forgets to take a breath, and then the brain and autonomic nervous system takes over and the breath holding leads to fainting.

The breath holding spell, as scary as it is, is just a form of fainting. It will not hurt your child, but it may take your breath away!

My advice? Try not to pay attention to your child if they begin having breath-holding spells. It may be hard to “ignore” the first two or three, but these “spells” usually last for months (maybe years) and you do not need to rush to your child when they hold their breath. By calling attention to the event you may inadvertently reinforce the behavior. As a child gets older, the breath holding will stop (but not the tantrums?) and there will be new behaviors to conquer. Do you have a breath-holder? How do you cope? Let us know!

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

Daily Dose

Kids & Cell Phone Use

Did your child get a cell phone over the holiday? Have you set rules, boundaries and limits? You should and here's why. I have been walking through my waiting room recently and noticing that a lot of my “younger” patients have their own cell phone. So, I have now begun to routinely ask all of my patients over the age of 8, if they have a cell phone. I must say I am surprised that some 8-9 year olds actually do!!

I'm not sure why a child in elementary school needs a cell phone. Who are they calling?  What happened to being able to either go to the office at school to make a phone call or I asking your teacher if you might use their phone to call a parent if necessary?  Is that not possible anymore?  I know that younger children are also texting on the cell phone and I am not sure how some of them can text when they are not yet fluent readers.  I digress. After learning if a patient has a cell phone, I have also started to ask about rules for the phone. Have the parents established rules for cell phone use?  When the phone may be used, how many minutes the child has (does everyone have unlimited minutes now?), who they may call and what time is the phone “put to bed at night”. I have always asked my patients about their bedtimes and bedtime routines, but I am now interested in when the cell phone heads to bed too and gets turned off.  I am not talking about high school juniors and seniors, I am really speaking more to the children I see in elementary, middle and early high school. The older kids are yet another story. Many of my patients seem to have very good rules about when the phone may be used, to whom they may call (especially the younger oanes) and when the cell phones are turned off. But, just like those parents who still think that having a TV in a child’s room is a rite of passage, there are those parents who do not think it is necessary to set rules for the phone. I disagree. Children really do crave guidelines and need to have clear messages regarding the use of their cell phones. If you start off with “the rules of the phone” it lets a child understand that owning a cell phone is still a privilege, and that with that comes responsibility including when and how the phone may be used.  I do not think that a phone needs to be on once bedtime routines have started, and the phone should have a bed time too.  The easiest way to do this is by having a “family docking station” where the phones are put each night, turned off and charged. If this habit begins early on, it is easier to continue as your child gets older. Once again good habits are easier to make than trying to break bad ones. Having a middle school child on the cell phone in their room under the covers at 11 pm at night is not an uncommon occurrence and if the phones are put up each night it makes the temptation less likely.  The glow of the phone beneath the covers is a dead giveaway, as is the call record that shows use after the stated bedtime. Take the opportunity to review your child’s cell phone log on occasion. I was stunned at the number of calls high schoolers received after 11 pm when the phones were “supposed” to be off. Lastly, set rules about texts and let your child know that you will occasionally be reading their texts. They should be taught early on that anything they write should be fair game for a parent to read. Remind them that text messages never go away, somehow they may be retrieved from cyberspace even after deleted.  That amazes me, but we have all seen it in the news.  Discuss “sexting” too. If you don’t bring these things up they may find themselves in a situation they were ill prepared for, and make a poor decision. Being able to call your child when you need them is nice, but maybe we are all a little too connected at too young an age.  Like many things, once you let your child have their own cell phones it may be hard to go back. But remember, it is a privilege and the rules need to be followed or the phone may be taken away.  We parents just need to follow through. That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Colds & Suctioning Your Child's Nose

1:30 to read

I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but we are in the throes of cold and flu season and unfortunately there are a few more months of this.  As every parent knows, colds (aka upper respiratory infections) are “age neutral”. 

In other words, there is not an age group that is immune to getting a cold and for every age child (and adult for that matter), the symptoms are the same. Congested nostrils, scratchy sore throat, cough, and just plain old feeling “yucky”. When an infant gets a stuffy nose, whether it is from “normal” newborn congestion, or from a cold, they often have a difficult time eating as an infant is a nose breather.  When they are nursing and their nose is “stopped  up”, they cannot breath or even eat, so it is sometimes necessary to clear their nasal passage to allow them to “suck” on the bottle or breast. 

Of course it is self evident that an infant cannot blow their nose, or rub or pick their nose so they must either be fortunate enough to sneeze those” boogers” out or have another means to clear the nose.  This is typically accomplished by using that wonderful “bulb syringe”. In our area they are called “blue bulb syringes” and every baby leaves the hospital with one tucked into their discharge pack.  As a new parent the blue bulb syringe looked daunting as the tip of the syringe appeared to be bigger than the baby’s nose.  But, if you have ever watched a seasoned nurse suck out a newborn’s nose, they can somehow manage to get the entire tip inside a baby’s nose. For the rest of us the tip just seemed to get inside the nostril and despite my best efforts at suctioning nothing came out. Once a nurse showed me the right “technique” I got to be a pretty good “suctioner”.  With the addition of a little nasal saline, which you can buy in pre made spray bottles, or which may be made at home with table salt and warm water, the suctioning gets a little easier as the nose drops helped to suction the mucous.

Now, I have become a firm believer that there is a place for suctioning a baby’s nose, but once a child is over about 6 months of age they KNOW  what you are getting ready to do. I am convinced that a 6 month baby with a cold sees the “blue bulb syringe” approaching their face and their eyes become dilated in fear of being suctioned!!  Then they begin to wail, and I know that when I cry I just make more mucous and the more I cry the more I make. So a baby with an already stuffy nose gets even more congested and “snotty” and the bulb syringe is only on an approach to their nose. It also takes at least two people to suction out a 6 – 12 month old baby’s nose as they can now purposely move away , and hit out to you to keep you away from their face and nose. It is like they are saying, “ I am not going to give in to the bulb syringe” without a fight! I swore I would not have a child with a “green runny nose” that was not suctioned.

As most parents know, don’t swear about anything, or you will be forever breaking unreasonable promises to yourself!  I think bulb suctioning is best for young infant’s and once they start to cry and put up a fight I would use other methods to help clear those congested noses.  Go back to the age old sitting in a bathroom which has been steamed up with hot water from a the shower. Or try a cool mist humidifier with some vapor rub in the mist (aroma therapy).  Those noses will ultimately run and the Kleenex will come out for perpetual wiping. Unfortunately, it takes most children many years before they learn to blow their nose, but what an accomplishment that is!!!  An important milestone for sure.

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

Daily Dose

Time for Report Cards

It seems that it is report card time and many parents are looking at their children's grades.It seems that it is report card time and middle of the semester so many parents are looking at their children's grades. Hopefully, there were no surprises at your house and your child is doing well in all areas, which includes academics as well as socialization and peer relationships in the younger grades. But, if you were not thrilled with your child's report card it may be time to sit down with both your child and their teacher for a conference.

The most important thing is to determine if your child is trying their hardest and working to their capabilities. If not, that area can be addressed with some goal setting and maybe a little more supervision of homework and what your child is doing with their "extra time". On the other hand, it may be that your child is working as hard as they can but not achieving the results that you would expect. In that case it may be worth discussing if there might be any learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Most of these learning differences show up in elementary school, but occasionally they are missed and will still need to be addressed in the upper grades. Discuss your child's learning style with their teacher and see if educational testing might be warranted to evaluate their learning. This may be done within in the school district or through private educational diagnosticians. Looking at your child's report card from the aspect of how they may improve and how you their parent might help them figure it out may be the path to future success. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

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Daily Dose

Confusion Over Cough & Cold Medicines

Why are so many parents confused about cough and cold medicines?The confusion over cough and cold medications continues and I must admit I am a little confused too.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced changes to the labeling of over-the-counter (OTC) cold products to state “do not use in children under 4 years of age”. The FDA monograph still states “do not use in children under 2 years”. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using OTC cough and cold preparations in children under six years. Looking at the little research on these products two things come to mind: 1.  There have been multiple studies done on these products (in adults) that do not show them to be efficacious for treating common cough and cold symptoms. 2.  The research among children using these products show that dosing errors and accidental ingestions are the leading cause of adverse events. This kind of leaves me thinking why use them at all in children? I really have never been much of a cold medicine giver in general, as I personally did not see my patients getting better any faster nor my own children. We continued to use the good old grandmother tested remedies of lots of rest, fresh squeezed orange juice (sometimes in pays to be sick), chicken noodle soup (canned or home made), and a vaporizer or humidifier in their rooms at night. I also know that younger children get more colds than anyone and no matter what you do you have to get through that too. But miraculously, as kids get older they get less colds and seem to tolerate them a little better. So… for this winter in our practice we are not recommending the use of any of these products for kids and trying the gold standards rest, fluids, cool mist humidifier and tincture of time. We’ll see how it goes. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

RSV

1:30 to read

Flu season seems to be winding down but RSV (respiratory synctial virus) season is still here and actually arrived a bit later than usual this year. RSV is a common upper respiratory infection that causes cold symptoms with cough, runny nose, congestion and in some cases wheezing.  

But when new parents hear that there is RSV in their day care or school they often “freak out”. While RSV may cause cough, wheezing and respiratory distress in some young children (more commonly in those with underlying lung or cardiac disorders), thankfully for most it is just a really bad cold!

Statistically, 2% of infants less than 12 months of age are hospitalized for RSV each year.  But, that also means that 98% of infants do not require hospitalization!!  Much better odds that your child will be okay than if you play the lottery, right?

It really doesn’t make much of a difference as to which virus causes your child’s (or your) cold.  What is more important is how your child is breathing!!  Because a baby’s nostrils and airways are smaller, it is not uncommon for parents to be concerned that their child sounds noisy when they are breathing. I think it is more important to look at how your child is breathing rather than listening to their stuffy nose and coughing. This means that you need to take off their t-shirt or jammies and actually look at their chest, and make sure that you cannot see their ribs pulling in and out, or see their abdominal muscles doing work of breathing. You should also not see your baby’s nostrils flaring or see any change in their color...always pink, never dusky or blue!  The cough with RSV is horrendous and sounds terrible as well, but look at how they are breathing and their color when coughing.

It is also important that your child stays hydrated, even though they may not take their bottle or fluids as well as usual. You should always see “spit” in their mouths and tears when they cry and wet diapers (may not be sopping, but wet).  Remember, you probably don’t want to eat as much when you are sick yourself. Offer more frequent feedings. No schedules when your child is sick.

Best treatment, suck the mucous out of your baby’s nose and turn on a cool mist humidifier. They may also feel better when more upright, that is probably why there are many nights with a baby spent rocking on your shoulder when they are sick.

If you have any concerns about how your child is breathing you should always contact your doctor...better be safe. 

Daily Dose

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

1.00 to read

I get asked the questions a lot "At what age can I leave my child home alone?"  There is no simple answer but a progressibe one.

I tend to think most children are ready to spend 20-30 minutes alone at home between the ages of 10-11, but every child is different.  It depends on a number of things including how your child feels about being alone, the length of time, and if you and your child have discussed how to handle emergencies and getting a hold of you or a neighbor in case there is an emergency or even just a question that needs to be answered.  

Well, this topic brought up an interesting question, what do you do when you leave your child alone and there is not a home phone?  I have never even given that a thought as I am “old school” and still have that landline in my house. It just gives me a “good feeling” to know that it is there, even if it rarely rings. (although the kids know to call the home number as I typically turn off the cell as soon as I hit the door from work).   

More and more families have given up a home phone and I think this brings up so many different topics for discussion, but for starts how does your child call you when you leave them alone?  Or how do they call the trusty neighbor if they need something.  Do you get them a cell phone? Do you have to have an extra cell phone to have at home?  It seems to me that a home phone is important for just that reason. In case of an emergency, your child can pick up the phone and call for help, assistance or just a friendly voice. I don’t think they need a cell phone!  

Also, landlines are relatively inexpensive. Cell phones for 8,10, 11 year olds?  Sounds inappropriate and expensive.  Wouldn’t it be easier to keep a home phone so children can learn to answer a phone, use good phone manners, and when you are ready to let them stay at home by themselves for a few minutes, there is always a phone available. I don’t know, just seems easy solution to me.    

What do you think? I would love to hear from you!

 

Daily Dose

Busy Sports Schedules

1:30 to read

I can’t get over how many of my young patients who play sports tell me that they are up late at night during the school week due to their soccer schedule, or who miss church on Sunday due to a soccer or baseball game. Not only are kids starting organized sports at younger and younger ages (soccer for 3 year olds, flag football at 5?), the commitment to practice or play at what I would term “inappropriate” times seems to be more prevalent and absurd to me.

The mother of a 10 year old boy called me recently to discuss how upset and tearful her son had been since school has started.  Upon further questioning it seems that he had joined a fall baseball team and some of their games are scheduled on school nights at 8 pm....which means they don’t even get home until 10:30 or 11:00 pm?  When my own sons were playing high school sports I was not thrilled about Thursday evening JV games and how late we got home....but elementary school?  Of course, her son was exhausted and then he would get anxious about getting his homework done before hand and getting to bed so late and then being able to get up in the morning etc. etc.  She said that he now wanted to “quit playing baseball”, and cried every time he had to practice.

She was trying to explain to him that he had made a commitment to his team and needed to finish out the season, which I agree is an important life lesson about following through.  At the same I totally understand how upset he is that he has to stay up past his usual school night bedtime. It is not uncommon for some children to get very tearful when they are just exhausted...same for adults.

So how do you rationalize teaching your child about loyalty to their team and commitment when adults make up crazy schedules requiring young kids to stay up past an appropriate bedtime, or forgoing Sunday school if that is what they typically do on Sunday morning rather than going to a scheduled soccer game?

Hard for me to figure out how to “fix” this situation until enough parents say..”we will not let our children participate on the team unless the schedule is appropriate for their age”.  

Have you had any similar experiences? What do you think?

 

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