Daily Dose

Why Doctors Fire Patients

1.30 to read

There was an article in the WSJ entitled “more doctors dismissing patients who refuse vaccines for their children”.  It was interesting to me as I too now only accept new patients who are going to vaccinate their children. This was not an easy decision on my part, and prior to the decision I had several families who refused vaccines completely, and another group that followed “an alternative” vaccine schedule. Even so, I was never comfortable with their decision and it always gave me pause and sleepless nights when their children would get sick. 

During the height of the debate over vaccine safety and the possible link to autism it seemed like much of my day was spent “debunking” vaccine myths. I spent a great deal of time discussing the reasons behind the AAP/ACIP (American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommended vaccine schedule and also explaining how vaccinations had saved lives, actually millions of lives. 

As more and more data was gathered, and the Wakefield papers were discredited, it became apparent that there was not a link between vaccines and autism. The arguments about thimerasol in vaccines were also moot as thimerasol is no longer the preservative used in vaccines (except for flu vaccine). With all of this being said I decided to take a stand and vaccinate all of my new patients, according to AAP guidelines. 

I discuss this decision with families even before their child is born. I tell them that it is important to pick a pediatrician that shares their beliefs as the  doctor patient relationship is a long one in pediatrics. (hopefully cradle to college)  It is analogous to dating; why would you pick a date on a match site if you held opposite beliefs to begin with?  

The same goes with picking a pediatrician, you need to start off the relationship on common ground. Even if there may be some other disagreements on subjects down the road, I think you need to begin the relationship holding similar beliefs. 

I have practiced long enough that I remember doing spinal taps in my office and treating children with meningitis or bacterial sepsis. There were long nights spent in the ICU with families and unfortunately a few patients died, while other survived but are deaf or have other residual effects from their disease.  It was devastating to me and I can’t even imagine for those families. I also bet that those families would have given anything to have a meningitis vaccine or a chickenpox vaccine for their now deceased children. 

I understand that every parent has to make their own decision for their children. At the same time I believe that it is also “my practice” and I get to choose how I practice pediatrics. With that being said, my parents choose to vaccinate their children and we happily start off the parenting/doctoring partnership together.  I also sleep better at night not worrying that their child will contract a vaccine preventable disease. 

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

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

Head Flattening on the Rise!

1.15 to read

A recent study published in the online edition of Pediatrics confirms what I see in my practice. According to this study the  incidence of positional plagiocephaly (head flattening) has increased and is now estimated to occur in about 47% of babies between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks.  

The recommendation to have babies change from the tummy sleeping position to back sleeping was made in 1992. Since that time there has been a greater than a 50% decline in the incidence of SIDS. (see old posts).  But both doctors and parents have noticed that infants have sometimes developed flattened or misshapen heads from spending so much time being on their backs during those first few months of life.

This study was conducted in Canada among 440 healthy infants.  In 1999, Canada, like the U.S., began recommending  back sleeping for babies. Canadian doctors had also reported that they were seeing more plagiocephaly among infants.  

The authors found that 205 infants in the study had some form of plagiocephaly, with 78% being classsified as mild, 19% moderate and 3% severe.  Interestingly, there was a greater incidence (63%) of a baby having flattening on the right side of their heads.  

Flattening of the head, either on the back or sides is most often due to the fact that a baby is not getting enough “tummy time”.  Although ALL babies should sleep on their back, there are many opportunities throughout a day for a baby to be prone on a blanket while awake, or to spend time being snuggled upright over a parent’s shoulder or in their arms.  Limiting time spent in a car seat or a bouncy chair will also help prevent flattening.

Most importantly, I tell parents before discharging their baby from the hospital that tummy time needs to begin right away. It does seem that some babies have “in utero” positional preference for head turning and this needs to be addressed early on. Think of a baby being just like us, don’t you like to sleep on one side or another?  By rotating the direction the baby lies in the crib you can help promote head turning and prevent flattening.  

Lastly, most cases of plagiocephaly are reversible. Just put tummy time on your daily new parent  “to do list”.   

Daily Dose

Separation Anxiety

1.45 to read

I received an email from a mother who was concerned because her toddler son was crying when they left him at day care.  They were “alarmed” as he had not previously cried when they dropped him off and wondered if this was “normal” or a sign of a problem. Actually, this phenomenon should be quite reassuring to a parent as this is a sign that your child is developmentally on track, and has developed a healthy attachment to his parents. 

All children go through periods developmentally when they are more prone to separation anxiety.  As a new parent you are often concerned about “leaving” your child under the care of someone other than a parent. But, in actuality, it is far easier to leave a newborn or an infant than it is to leave a 8-9 month old.

By the time a child reaches this age they are beginning to show signs of stranger anxiety. In other words, they now recognize the faces and voices of their parents, routine caregivers, siblings etc.

But, when a new person (and face) reaches out for a 9 month old it is not uncommon for that child to suddenly panic and burst into tears. This is not because the “stranger” has done anything at all, but because the child now understands being separated from their parent and may fear that the parent is leaving forever. 

The bond between parent and child has been successfully established, which is quite healthy. This is the beginning of teaching a child that a parent may leave for work, school or even a trip, but that they will return.  Just because a parent leaves for awhile, they are not gone forever. 

This first stage of separation anxiety can provoke feelings of anxiousness in both child and parent, but it is an essential part of normal development. Separation anxiety, like almost all behaviors, varies from child to child. While some childen are more clingy than others, some may just be “wired” in a certain way and are more vulnerable to separating from a parent. Regardless, it is important for a child to begin to deal with healthy separation. 

During the ages of 12 – 24 months separation anxiety seems to peak, and the period of crying or anxiety when a parent drops a child at day care or Sunday school, or even at a grandparents house may escalate. 

While a child may cry after being dropped off, most children will then calm down and may be distracted and will begin playing soon after the parent has left. Again, some children just seem to take longer to adjust, so don’t be alarmed if  one child cries for 2 minutes, while another may take up to 20-30 minutes to settle down. 

Toddlers do not understand the concept of time, and therefore each one may react differently.  While happily playing while the parent is gone, it is not uncommon for the child to cry again upon seeing their parent when being picked up.  For the toddler, the return of the parent may remind them of how they felt when the parent left earlier in the day. 

For most children separation anxiety decreases between 2 -4 years of age as you can explain, and a child can understand, where you are going, how long you will be gone etc. 

For children who have rarely been left with others, it may be more difficult at this age.  Remember, healthy separations are important for both parent and child, and the idea that no one will “babysit” or care for your child other than a parent is not realistic nor does it teach your child to build trust in others. 

The more experience a child has had with earlier normal periods of separation the easier different transitions will be.  Remember, they will all be going to school one day and you want to prepare them for that separation.

Lastly, every child has good days and bad days and almost every child will have a phase when it is harder to separate than others. Just remember to hang in there, be re-assuring to your child when you leave them, do not prolong the departure, and be understanding about their anxiety. As with so many experiences in parenting, “this too shall pass”. 

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

Daily Dose

Toddler Behavior

1.30 to read

Do you have a toddler? If so you are in the throes of some difficult, albeit sometimes funny, yet inappropriate behavior. It happens to every parent...suddenly their precious child turns into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Somewhere around 15-18 months, you will most likely see this change in behavior. Although most books refer to the “terrible twos” I really think it is the “me no wanna” 18-30 month old. 

“Me no wanna” is the phrase we often used around our house, and it was coined when the boys were toddlers. It just seemed like the best line when our sweet toddler would rather have a tantrum than do the simple task that we wanted him to do. Example: please put your toy back in the box. “Me no wanna”, I would prefer to fall to the floor and scream.   

How is it that your typically sweet 20 month old child can be in middle of playing nicely and then suddenly seems possessed as they fling themselves to the floor kicking and screaming?  What is the matter?  Are they having a seizure? Or is it that “something” just didn’t seem right to them and they are angry and frustrated???  How can they change behavior so quickly.?   (hint, foreshadowing for those teen years). 

You never know with a toddler what kind of answer you will get when you say something as easy as “let’s get on your shoes to go outside”. Sometimes they happily run get the shoes, bring them to you, sit down and the shoes go on licitly split.  The next time they get the shoes, throw them across the room, lay on the floor and look at you like “me no wanna”. 

Trust me, you are not a “bad” parent, you are just living through some really challenging parenting. It is exhausting at times, but while this age is typically difficult it is some of your most important parenting. This is really the beginning of behavior modification.  Your brilliant toddler is testing you, this may be the first time you the parents understand why everyone talks about boundaries and consequences. 

Some children also express their “me no wanna” by acting out with hitting, biting and kicking. Again, very inappropriate behavior. Your job is to change that behavior by using time out, or taking away a toy or even putting the child to bed early.. There are so many ways to start letting your toddler know that there are consequences for misbehaving, and that tantrums don’t work. 

I am in throes of “me no wanna” again, only this time it is with a puppy! Seems very similar to me.

Daily Dose

Diagnosing Food Allergies

1.15 to read

Food allergies continue to be a problem in the pediatric population and I often get calls or see a patient for an office visit with a parent who has a concern that their child “may have” reacted to something they ate. Their question is, are they allergic?  

There is a great resource for physicians entitled “The Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States”.  Not all adverse reactions to foods are allergic and it sometimes takes a bit of “detective work”, which is a good history and physical exam, to begin to determine if a child has a food allergy.   

So, when a parent tells me that their child gets a rash on their chin or cheek after eating “xyz” food the questions begin.  Was it the first time they had ever been exposed to that food? Describe the rash and how the child was acting?  Did they have other symptoms with the rash? Was the rash just on a cheek or was it all over? Was it hives? This list of questions go on and on.   

The most common food allergens are egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish and soy. I also ask if this was a one time occurrence, and  If they have tried the food again did it happen every time? Many times hard to tease out what a child has had to eat when they have a mish-mash of food on their plate and nothing is new!  

Is there a family history of allergy or asthma?  Does your child have eczema as well?  If so there is a greater chance of developing a food allergy.  

After a detailed history, and if I do think that the child has a good history for a food allergy, there are tests (skin prick and blood) that may help determine if an allergy may exist.  BUT, with that being said, there are several caveats.  Number one, your doctor should not test for “every” food allergen, only for the suspected food or foods, as there are many false positive tests when you just check all of the boxes for testing IGE levels for an allergy.  For example, if your child eats eggs and has had no problem but the IGE level comes back a bit high for egg allergy, what does that really mean?  In other words, I just test for the suspected culprit. So, I do not test for tree nuts if the parents only had concerns with a peanut product.   More to come on this topic. 

Daily Dose

Food in a Pouch

1:15

I have to tell you that I recently had the weirdest dream which was about children who were in a cafeteria in an elementary school and continued to eat pureed foods out of those pouches!  I woke up and realized I was dreaming....but about a topic that I had recently been discussing with several parents and children.

Those pureed pouches that came to market several years ago were meant as a new way to introduce pureed baby foods to....babies!!! But suddenly I see parents coming to my office giving these pouches of pureed foods to toddlers, pre-schoolers and now elementary students.  For many parents the ease in which they can offer fruits and veggies to their kids seems to be an answered prayer.

 It is important for children to learn about textures and chewing. Young children are first introduced to pureed foods to learn about different tastes as well as learning how to put new textures into their mouth.  But, with that being said, it is also important that children learn about “real” food as they get into the toddler years. 

Once a child is over the age of about 2 -3 years they start learning how to chew small pieces of food.  I always talk about avoiding choking hazards like nuts, hard candies, and foods that have not been cut up, but this age child should be eating table food and meals, just like their siblings and parents.  Hopefully this means a wide array of healthy foods: chicken, fish, beef, veggies, and fruits.  There really are no “forbidden foods”, but again watch for choking hazards.

I don’t think there are any recommendations that children should continue to squeeze pouches of pureed fruits and veggies into their mouths rather than learning how to use a spoon and fork and eat table food. Can you picture a dinner party with everyone with pouches on their plates...maybe astronauts in orbit.

Dentists are also concerned about all of the sugar in these pureed pouches and having the puree stick to children’s teeth rather than being washed down with saliva after chewing. These pouches are really just baby food in new packages and are not for older kids!  No need to buy these for your school aged child....pack some apples slices or carrot sticks and let them chew away.    

 

Daily Dose

Foods You Can Eat When Breast Feeding

1.30 to read

Should breast feeding moms avoid certain foods?I was making hospital rounds today and talking to all of the new moms (and dads) about their newborns.  I love talking to new parents about the importance of having healthy meals to support breast feeding! I even had a young dad asking “what foods should I avoid cooking for my wife while breast feeding?”  How cute is that! Can we clone him?!

After breast feeding my 3 children, I have decided that you can really eat whatever you want!  I know some people swear that certain foods you eat will cause a breast fed baby to have gas. But think about it, bottle fed babies and breast fed infants all have GAS!  None of the formulas contain broccoli, or cauliflower or beans or tomatoes and bottle fed babies have gas too. It is just a fact, newborn babies are gassy for the first several months as their digestive tracts mature. And yes, it is stinky too! So… I told this dad, “good for you for cooking for your wife.  Make her healthy, well balanced meals and throw in a few of her favorite foods.”  I would not change anything unless you can definitely correlate that a food ALWAYS makes your baby more uncomfortable (and that is so hard to keep track of). Eat what you want (in moderation) to be healthy and happy.  I have no data but feel certain that happier mothers must in some way have an effect on a  baby, so at least enjoy mealtime. When I had a colicky baby (previous post), I tried eating only broth and bland foods, and with me equally miserable and starving…this stressful situation only got worse. Final words, if I was going to try eliminating anything from my diet while breastfeeding to try and help “relieve “a gassy baby, it would be excessive dairy, as there has been some data on this. Remember, everything in moderation. I’m willing to bet that by the time your baby is 4 months old (the magic age) you are not even worried about what you are eating, as you are having too much fun laughing with your baby! What foods (if any) bothered your baby while breast feeding? I would love your comments.  Leave them below. That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

baby, breast feeding, Daily Dose, mom
Daily Dose

No Need for Stitches?

1.45 to read

OUCH!! I was just heading out to grab some lunch when a patient of mine, who happens to have 3 young sons (brings back memories) walked in with her youngest son who had been jumping on the bed and bumped his head!

As you can see by the picture, there was a nice little laceration right in the middle of his forehead. This was the perfect wound that would have previously required a stitch or two, but can now be closed with a liquid adhesive called Dermabond.

Fortunately, this experienced mother of 3 boys had already become a fan of Dermabond and instead of going to the ER; she came by the office for a fairly easy procedure to close the wound.  Smart Mom!

When Dermabond was released in the early 2000’s it took me awhile to get used to how easy this made wound closure.  Dermabond is a liquid skin adhesive that holds wound edges together. The best thing is that it is painless and can be used on small superficial lacerations. Even for a wiggly toddler in most cases the laceration can be closed even while the parent is holding a child still. This is certainly not the case when having to suture!

Dermabond forms a polymer which causes adhesion of the wound edges so it is perfect for “clean, straight, small” lacerations that I often see among my patients.  The classic ones are on the edge of the eye, the chin, the forehead or even the scalp. In studies the cosmetic outcome was comparable to suturing, and in my opinion for those small lacerations it is preferable.

So, we cleaned the wound up, laid him right down (he was perfectly still too) and within 5 minutes the head wound was closed and a happy 2 year waltzed out of the office. Not a tear to be found, but I did have a little residual glue on my finger!

The Dermabond will wear off on its own in 5 – 10 days. Once the adhesive comes off I always remind parents to use sunscreen on the area, which also helps to prevent scarring.

Happily this little guy left while singing “Dr. Sue said, no more little boys jumping on the bed!”

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

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

How to help your ashtmatic child breathe easier.