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Daily Dose

Pink Eye

1:30 to read

This is another time of the year that I see a lot “pink eye”.  Any time the eye is pink..you have “pink eye”, which mothers seem to be quite confused by!!   They often comment…”this is pink eye?” , to which I respond, “well, the child’s eye (conjunctiva) is pink (red), so yes…this is pink eye”.  The term is just a description of the eye….but then you need to determine why the eye is “pink”.

 

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common causes of a pink eye….and there are many different types of conjunctivitis.  As with any condition the history is really important in helping to determine why a child’s eye is inflamed.  Several of the most common causes of the “pink eye” are bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

 

Bacterial conjunctivitis often shows up in younger children and they have lots of matting of the eye lids and lashes and a mucopurulent discharge (gooey eyes). Some moms say that the “goo of gunk” comes as quickly as they can wipe it.  The child often has a lot of tearing and will rub the eyes as they feel that something is in their eye and it is irritated.  Bacterial conjunctivitis will typically resolve in 8 -10 days on its own, but antibiotic eye drops are used to shorten the course  of the pink eye and also reduce the contagiousness.  It seems as if every child in a day care class room will get conjunctivitis as they constantly rub their eyes and touch toys!!  Hand washing helps….but you can’t wash a child’s hands every time they touch their eyes.

 

Viral conjunctivitis usually occurs in combination of with systemic viral illness. Sore throat, fever and bright red eye are often seen in older children and teens and is due to adenovirus.  While the eye is red, the discharge is typically watery and matting is much less common. These patients are contagious for up to 12 days so it is important to practice good eye/hand hygiene, especially in the household. Artificial tears may help the feeling of eye irritation, but antibacterial eye drops rarely help except in cases of a secondary infection.  I get many phone calls from parents saying, “we tried prescription eye drops and they are not working”. I make sure to tell my older patients to take out their contacts and wear glasses for 7-10 days.

 

At this time of year I am also seeing a lot of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.  These children have intensely itchy and watery eyes, as well as swelling of the eyelids and area surrounding the eyes. They look like they have been crying for days as they are so swollen and miserable. Many also have a very watery nasal discharge. They do not have fever. Using over the counter medications for allergy control, such as nasal steroids and anti-histamines will help some of the allergic symptoms. There are also over the counter eye drops (Zaditor, Patanol) that help when used daily.  During the worst of the season I make sure that the child has daily hair wash and eyelash and eyebrow wash with dilute soapy water to make sure the pollen is removed after they have been playing outside. It is nearly impossible to keep a child indoors for the 6 or more weeks of allergy season!

 

Daily Dose

Spring Allergies

1:30 to read

It is definitely allergy season around the country. The weird weather this year has made all things blooming start early, with sky high pollen counts. Some areas have had a few recent super cold days, but warmer temperatures are starting again.  While the cherry blossoms really suffered, the oak, elm, mulberry and ash trees are all just starting to spread their pollens and causing a lot of runny noses, itchy eyes and scratchy throats.

 

If you know that your child is a spring allergy sufferer or if they seem to be developing allergy symptoms (which often occurs after the age of 2 years), there are many products now available over the counter.  The mainstay of allergy treatment is the use of nasal steroids, which actually act as a preventative. They are used on a daily basis during allergy season.  There are many different nasal steroid sprays available including Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex and Rhinocort.  Both Flonase and Nasacort now have a children’s brand and may be used in children as young as 2 years. While the word “steroid” scares many parents, these steroids are not “the bad”  ones associated with bodybuilding. The steroid is sprayed directly into the nasal lining and therefore very little is absorbed systemically, so there are few side effects. Some children do not like sprays and “water up their nose”, but each brand is a bit different in how it is delivered, so you might switch around and see which brand is easiest to use.

 

Many of the allergy symptoms that occur including the runny nose and watery eyes are related to the allergic cascade and histamines that the body produces in response to exposure to the pollen.  So….anti-histamines are also a mainstay of treatment. Again, many of the previous prescription anti-histamines are now all available over the counter. This class of drugs includes second generation non sedating anti-histamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin and now the newest Xyzal.  First generation anti-histamines are more likely to cause drowsiness and sedation and the best known of these is Benadryl (diphenhydramine).  For those with severe allergy symptoms I sometimes use a morning non-sedating anti-histamine followed by Benadryl at bedtime. 

 

For those children who have significant allergies, particularly year round, and who do to respond well to typical treatment with nose sprays and antihistamines, it may be time to see a pediatric allergist. I recently sent one young boy for allergy testing. The testing is usually well tolerated and not painful.  When I saw him for follow up he told me he had gone to the “pokemon” doctor…as he had gotten lots of pokes on his back!! 

 

 

 

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Your Baby

“Furry Pets” May Help Kids Avoid Some Allergies

2:00

You might think that having pets would be a nightmare if you have small children with a family history of allergies. A new study says that furry pets may actually help protect children against some allergies.

The infants’ mothers had a history of allergy, so the babies were at increased risk too, and it was once thought that pets might be a trigger for allergies in such children, the authors point out in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“Earlier it was thought that exposure to pets early in childhood was a risk factor for developing allergic disease,” said Dr. Merja Nermes of the University of Turku in Finland, who coauthored the research letter. “Later epidemiologic studies have given contradictory results and even suggested that early exposure to pets may be protective against allergies, though the mechanisms of this protective effect have remained elusive.”

Adding pet microbes to the infant intestinal biome may strengthen the immune system, she told Reuters Health by email.

The study team collected fecal samples from diapers when the babies were one month of age and these were tested for the DNA of two types of Bifidobacteria that are found specifically in animal guts: B. thermophilum and B. pseudolongum.

One third of infants from the pet-exposed group had animal-specific bifidobacteria in their fecal samples, compared to 14 percent of the comparison group. It’s not clear where the infants without furry pets at home acquired their gut bacteria, the authors write.

When the babies were six months old they had skin prick tests to assess allergies to cow’s milk, egg white, flours, cod, soybeans, birch, grasses, cat, dog, potato, banana and other allergens.

At six months of age, 19 infants had reactions to at least one of the allergens tested. None of these infants had B. thermophilum bacteria in their fecal samples.

Other studies have pointed out the connection between kids exposed to farm animals and household pets and building a better immune system.

“When infants and furry pets live in a close contact in the same household, transfer of microbiota between pets and infants occurs,” Nermes said. “For example, when a dog licks the infant´s face or hand, the pet-derived microbiota can end up via the mouth into the infant´s intestine.”

Human-specific Bifidobacteria have beneficial health effects, and animal-specific strains may also be beneficial, she said. It is still unclear, however, if exposure to these bacteria protects against allergies later in life, she said.

“Future research is needed to assess if these infants develop less atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergic rhinitis later,” she said.

Nermes also noted that she believes pediatricians should not discourage pregnant women or parents of infants from having pets in order to prevent allergies.

“If a family with a pregnant mother or an infant wants to have a pet, the family can be encouraged to have one, because the development of allergic disease cannot be prevented by avoiding pets,” she said.

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/10/us-health-allergy-pet-microbes-idUSKCN0RA2CK20150910

 

 

Your Baby

Having a Baby? Keep Your Pets!

1:00

In a world full of allergens, you might think that having pets around could only make things worse.  But according to a new study from Canada, families with dogs and cats may unwittingly be protecting their infant children from not only allergies but obesity as well.

University of Alberta epidemiologist Anita Kozyrskyj and a team of researchers analyzed more than 700 Canadian children. They found babies exposed to pets while in the womb or up to three months recorded an "abundance" of ruminococcus and oscillospira (both are bacteria found in the gut,) the latter of which is associated with leanness or lower body mass index, notes the study - published in the journal Microbiome.

Kozyrskyj said the two types of bacteria increased "twofold" when a pet was in the house. The team said the theory is that early exposure to bacteria — like that from a dog — creates a type of resistance.

Unborn babies can benefit from allergy resistance by being indirectly exposed through their mother’s womb. The microbes can pass from pet to mother to baby.

Even if a parent decides not to keep pets after the baby is born, if pets were in the house during the pregnancy, the infant may gain some benefit anyway.

The findings also suggest pet exposure could cut down the risk of group B strep, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said could cause blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis in newborns. Doctors treat against group B strep by giving mothers antibiotics during the delivery process.

Dogs were shown to offer higher levels of the beneficial microbes.

Story source: Sean Rossman, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/04/07/why-owning-pet-could-protect-your-baby-obesity-and-allergies/100162098/#

Your Toddler

Thumb Sucking and Nail Biting Linked to Fewer Allergies

1:30

An interesting new study out of New Zealand suggests that young children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails may be at a lower risk for developing allergies.

The study included data from 1000 children born in New Zealand in 1972 or 1973, and spanned three decades.

While the results of the study suggests these habits may lower children’s risks of developing allergies, researchers noted that they are not recommending that kids take up these habits, only that the habits may play a role protecting them against allergies into adulthood.

 "Many parents discourage these habits, and we do not have enough evidence to [advise they] change this," said Dr. Robert Hancox, an associate professor of respiratory epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. "We certainly don't recommend encouraging nail-biting or thumb-sucking, but perhaps if a child has one of these habits and [it] is difficult [for them] to stop, there is some consolation in the knowledge that it might reduce their risk of allergies.”

The researchers asked the parents of the children participating in the study about their kids’ thumb-sucking habits and nail-biting habits four times: when the kids were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. Researchers also tested the children for allergies using a skin-prick test when they were 13, and then followed up with the kids again when they were 32.

It turned out that 38 percent of the children who had sucked their thumbs or bit their nails had at least one allergy, whereas among kids who did not have these habits, 49 percent had at least one allergy.

Moreover, the link between these childhood habits and a lower risk of allergies was still present among the study participants when they were 32 years old. The link persisted even when the researchers took into account potentially confounding factors that may also affect a person's risk of allergies, such as whether their parents had allergies, whether they owned pets, whether they were breast-fed as infants and whether their parents smoked.

By the time the children were 13 years old, researchers found that the ones who both sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were even less likely to have allergies compared with children who had just one of the two habits. However, by the time they were 32, this association was no longer found.

The study was published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

The results of this study are inline with another study published in 2013, which found that children whose mothers sucked their kids’ pacifiers clean had a lower risk of developing allergies.

"Although the mechanism and age of exposure [to pathogens] are different, both studies suggest that the immune response and risk of allergies may be influenced by exposure to oral bacteria or other microbes," the researchers wrote in the new study.

The new findings also lend support the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which holds that environments that have too little dirt and germs may make children more susceptible to certain conditions, including allergies. It seems that "exposure to microbial organisms influences our immune system and makes us less likely to develop allergies," Hancox told Live Science.

Kids that suck their thumbs or bite their nails, receive mixed reactions from adults. Most adults will encourage kids to stop biting their nails, while it’s probably 50/50 on the thumb sucking. Either way, it appears that oral bacteria may play a role in lowering the risks of developing allergies in kids.

Story source: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, http://www.livescience.com/55340-children-thumb-sucking-nail-biting-allergy-risk.html

 

Your Baby

Kid’s Exposure to Dogs May Help Prevent Asthma

1:30

It may sound like the opposite would be true, but a new study suggests that when children are exposed to dogs and other animals early on, they’re less likely to have asthma later in life.

Researchers looked at more than one million Swedish children. They found that those who grew up with dogs in the home were nearly 15 percent less likely to develop asthma than those not exposed to dogs.

This ties in with an earlier study that showed children who grow up on farms also have lower rates of asthma.

The study was led by author Tove Fall, assistant professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a university news release, she noted that "earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child's risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true for children growing up with dogs in their homes."

Fall said, "Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socioeconomic status."

Study senior author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, stressed that the finding is only relates to children who have not yet developed asthma or allergies.

"We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them," she said in the news release.

What about other pets, such as cats, birds or hamsters?  The jury is still out on that one.

"In this study, early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduced asthma risk, and this may or may not include other types of pets that children keep," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The takeaway is that early exposure may reduce the incidence of a later pathological process," he said.

Experts have begin to warn parents that children raised in too sterile an environment are more prone to developing allergies and reactions to common bacteria and pet dander.  A little dirt and dander may be just what the doctor orders now to help prevent allergies and asthma later.

The findings were recently published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/dogs-in-the-home-may-lower-kids-odds-for-asthma-study-finds-704764.html

Daily Dose

Special Series: Allergies

1.30 to read

We've had plenty of questions about allergies this time of year, and with so many already suffering, we decide to put together a series on what you need to know to help your family survive allergy season. 

It is the season for allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages) which are triggered by tree pollens and grasses as spring blows in.  Allergy symptoms affect about 1:5 people and the first symptoms often begin in childhood. Children typically develop symptoms of allergic rhinitis between the ages of 3–4 years. Many of these children might have shown symptoms of eczema (atopic dermatitis) and asthma at even younger ages. If one parent has allergies, there is about a 40-50% chance that their child may also be allergic and if two allergic persons marry (guess you should ask about that while dating), then there is a 70-80% chance that their children will also be allergic. 

It also seems that early exposure to cigarette smoke, cat dander and house dust mites may promote other allergic symptoms later in life. (Another great reason not to smoke if you have children) The most common symptoms of an allergy are complaints of an itchy nose, watery and red eyes, sneezing, runny nose (typically clear), post nasal drip and cough.  These allergic symptoms are brought on by the release of histamines in the body after exposure to the allergen, such as inhaled pollens.  

While allergic symptoms have been labeled, “hay fever” this is an inappropriate term as allergies do not cause a fever and the child is not necessarily allergic to hay. There are also different pollens responsible for allergic symptoms at different times of the year. Children that develop seasonal allergies have several characteristic physical findings. They may have allergic “shiners” which are darkened areas beneath the lower eyelid from swelling, they also often have a crease across their nasal bridge (termed the allergic salute) which occurs due to constant rubbing of the nose. You can often see the child rub their little watery eyes while you are examining them and they often have a clear, watery nasal discharge.  Some of these allergic children will also have a cough and may even be wheezing.  They often look rather uncomfortable rather than sick as with a cold. 

There are many different treatment options for controlling allergic rhinitis.  The first is to control the environment as much as possible by closing windows and turning on the AC in order that the airborne allergens do not blow into the house. After your child has been playing outdoors have them come in and shower to remove the pollens from their hair and body (not a favorite pastime for little boys). You can also watch the pollen count for your area and limit a child’s time outdoors on especially high pollen count days. Medical treatment of allergic rhinitis coming up in part 2 of our special series. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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Spring Allergies

Control Spring Allergies

Daily Dose

Control Indoor Allergens

2.00 to read

Fall is the perfect time of year to open the windows and air out the house! Sounds like a great idea, however, this can cause some problems for fall allergy sufferers in your home. It can start stir up some pesky allergens that may bother your kids. So, how about a few tips to keep these allergens at bay.

There are an array of things that can trigger an allergy attack in your home including dust mites and mold.

Working fulltime and raising three boys, I know how hard it is for busy families to find time to clean (my least favorite thing to do). But spring is the best time to get a jump on controlling indoor allergies.

Start with washing all bedding at least once a week.  Throw your linens in water at least 130 degrees.  Place dust mite covers on mattresses and pillows.  While changing sheets, vacuum the mattress as well.

Carpeting harbors plenty of items, so if there is someone very allergic, consider replacing carpets with hard surfaces such as hardwood or tile. By doing so, this can eliminate as much as 90% of dust mites.  If you can’t live without carpet, think about buying low pile not shag.

Get rid of any mold!  Mold is caused by moisture and can hide in your kitchen, bathroom and basement.  Keep things as dry as possible to avoid any mold build up.

One thing many people miss? Turn on the ventilating fan or open a window in the bathroom.  Try to keep humidity below 50%.  Too much moisture is a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

I know how much families love their pets (we love our yellow lab Maggie and treat her like a member of the family).  But Maggie and your pet can track pollen into your home from the outside.  Also, many children can be allergic to pet dander.  Here’s a trick: wipe your pet down with a dryer sheet! It will pull the dander and any loose pollen off your pet.

Spring and fall cleaning means de-cluttering, so go ahead and box up those knickknacks.  They are very decorative but are a magnet for dust.

And, check your air filters.  Every 1st of the month, clean or replace your air conditioner, furnace or dehumidifier filter.  It will inhibit dusty air from circulating throughout your home.

Try these tips and let me know how it works out for your family.  I’d love to hear from you.

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