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Daily Dose

Q-tip Injuries

1:30 to read

I know I am asked on a regular basis, “how do I clean my baby’s/child’s ears?  I have replied for years with something that I know I was taught many years ago, maybe even by a grandparent? “Nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ear”. Who knows where that saying came from but it is a good visual that you should not “stick a Q-tip” or anything into the ear canal.

 

Now an article published in the journal Pediatrics sure makes that adage seem timely, as about 12,500 children younger than 18 are treated in emergency rooms annually, which translates into about 34 children per day.  The study also showed that about two out of three patients were younger than 8 years and children younger than 3 accounted for 40 percent of all injuries. 

 

Cotton swabs are really intended to clean the outer ear and should not be placed into the ear canal…even though most people put a q-tip right into the canal which may cause injury when pushed too far.  The study showed that about 30 percent of injuries caused by the cotton swabs were feeling as if there was a foreign body in the ear, while 25 percent of injuries were a perforated ear drum and 23 percent were soft tissue injuries. WOW…talk about expensive health care costs related to one little cotton tipped swab!

 

Ear nose and throat doctors (otolaryngologists) will tell you that the ear canals are usually self cleaning and using a cotton tipped swab to clean the ear only pushes the wax further down the canal and closer to the ear drum. If in fact the wax becomes impacted by using a q-tip, it is even harder to get the wax out. There are over the counter drops that you can instill in the ear canal to help soften wax and then use a wash cloth to clean the outer ear.

 

So..resist the urge to put a Q-tip into your ear canal and simply use them to take off makeup, paint small places or any of the millions of other uses…just NOT in the ear!

 

 

 

 

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Daily Dose

Fussy Babies

1:30 to read

I have written a lot about fussy infants, spitting up and gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD). The diagnosis of GERD in infants in the past 10 - 15 years has soared….especially in irritable infants some of whom arch their backs and act as if they are uncomfortable while feeding (both breast and bottle fed babies) and spit up frequently,  to those who are diagnosed with “silent reflux”. 

 

When new drugs came to the market for adults with GERD, initially H-2 blockers like Zantac (ranitidine), Pepcid (famotidine) and Axid (nizatidine) they were soon prescribed for children as well. These drugs were followed by the introduction of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) which also inhibit gastric acid production, and include Prevacid (lasoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), and Prilosec (omeprazole).  Suddenly, younger and younger children were being placed on either H-2 blockers or PPI’s and many of these prescriptions were being written for infants under 6 months of age.

 

Being a pediatrician who had practiced for a long time and also had a incredibly fussy, irritable and colicky baby myself….I could never really decide if these drugs worked well or if “we” wanted them to work. There were some cases where it was quickly evident that the baby’s symptoms improved, while in many others the parents “were not sure”.  But, the use of these drugs has soared.

 

I have more and more young parents who want to start medication within their baby’s first month of life…”just because they are fussy”.  But there are new studies showing that the use of these medications in young children, especially those under one year, may have lasting side effects including an increased risk of fractures. In a retrospective study looking at over 850,000 children born between 2001-2013, those prescribed PPI’s had a 23% increased risk of fractures and those prescribed H2 blockers had a 13% increased risk while those prescribed combination therapy had a 32% increased risk of fractures. The risk also increased if children took these medications before 6 months of age, and there was also increased risk for those who used medications for longer periods of time.

 

Take home message for both doctors and parents….if these drugs need to be used it is preferable to limit it to one type, preferably H2 blockers and for the shortest amount of time possible. The use of other remedies including herbal remedies, thickening of feeds and probiotics should be first line treatment. When symptoms persist or are worsening and GERD is suspected, a 2 week trial of medication may be considered with ongoing discussion as to improvement in symptoms. Use the lowest dose for the shortest period of time as well.

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Daily Dose

Back to Sleep Ads

1:30 to read

I am concerned that I have been seeing on line ads promoting “new” baby products in which an infant is shown sleeping on their tummy. In other words….not following AAP guidelines that all infants are placed on their back to fall asleep.  Their should be a “law” that you cannot shoot a picture for any product being advertised for an infant in which the baby is shown sleeping in the prone position. Seeing this photo may only confuse parents about correct sleep position for their baby, especially when many of the advertisements are for sleep related products. 

 

The “back to sleep” campaign which started in 1994 has served to reduce the incidence of SIDS by over 50%. I have been fortunate in that I have not had a patient of mine die from SIDS since the recommendations for sleep position were changed. Unfortunately, when looking at data, 30% of SIDS cases report that the baby was found in the prone (tummy) position.  

 

So, if a sleep deprived new parent is surfing the net for products related to infant sleep, and then sees a baby on their tummy, they may think “maybe that is the trick “ to get my baby to sleep, never realizing the huge risk they are taking. Many a parent has come in to my office and said “ I think my baby sleeps better on their tummy”, which immediately puts a look of horror on my face!! “WHAT…I thought we had discussed that your baby must sleep on their back until they are rolling over on their own.” Some of the parents do reply, “my ……told me it was okay.” In this case do not listen to anyone about tummy sleeping!!! Discuss car seats, high chairs, pacifier options or whatever else instead….and choose which works for you. Sleep position is non negotiable. 

 

With that being said, I realize that between 4 - 7 months many babies will roll over during sleep even when placed on their backs. It is a developmental milestone for babies to roll and you cannot put a brick on them. I would “guesstimate” that about 25% of the babies I see will ultimately prefer to sleep on their tummies, but they are all out of their swaddle and then roll over after being put down on their back. I also get many videos showing me a baby in their crib who is in the act of rolling over, with a nervous parent running in turning them back over, only to have the child roll right back to their tummy. You could spend the entire night “flipping the baby” over!

 

Remember, back sleeping only, in a crib with just baby and no bumpers or toys….you will have plenty of time for other stuff in the crib when they are bigger.

Daily Dose

Brown Spots on Your Baby?

1:30 to read

I was examining a 4 month old baby the other day when I noticed that she had several light brown spots on her skin. When I asked the mother how long they had been there, she noted that she had started seeing them in the last month or so, or maybe a couple even before that.  She then started to point a few out to me on both her infant’s arm, leg and on her back.

These “caramel colored” flat spots are called cafe au lait macules, (CALMs) and are relatively common. They occur in up to 3% of infants and about 25% of children.  They occur in both males and females and are more common in children of color.  While children may have a few CALMs, more than 3 CALMS are found in only 0.2 to 0.3% of children who otherwise do not have any evidence of an underlying disorder.  

Of course this mother had googled brown spots in a baby and was worried that her baby had neurofibromatosis (NF).  She started pointing out every little speckle or spot on her precious blue eyed daughter’s skin, some of which I couldn’t even see with my glasses on. I knew she was concerned and I had to quickly remember some of the findings of NF type 1.

Cafe au lait spots in NF-1 occur randomly on the body and are anywhere from 5mm to 30 mm in diameter. They are brown in color and have a smooth border, referred to as “the coast of California”. In order to make the suspected diagnosis of NF-1 a child needs to have 6 or more cafe au lait spots before puberty, and most will present by 6 -8 years of age.

For children who present for a routine exam with several CALMs ( like this infant), the recommendation is simply to follow and look for the development of more cafe au lait macules. That is a hard prescription for a parents…watch and wait, but unfortunately that is often what parenting is about.

Neurofibromatosis - 1 is an autosomal disorder which involves a mutation on chromosome 17 and may affect numerous organ systems including not only skin, but eyes, bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. Half of patients inherit the mutation while another half have no known family history.  NF-1 may also be associated with neurocognitive deficits and of course this causes a great deal of parental concern. About 40% of children with NF-1 will have a learning disability ( some minor, others more severe).

For a child who has multiple CALMs it is recommended that they be seen by an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist yearly,  as well as being followed by their pediatrician.  If criteria for NF-1 is not met by the time a child is 10 years of age,  it is less likely that they will be affected, despite having more than 6 CALMs.

The biggest issue is truly the parental anxiety of watching for more cafe au lait spots and trying to remain CALM…easier said than done for anyone who is a parent. 

Daily Dose

Baby's First Foods

1:30 to read

Have you heard of “baby led weaning” (BLW)? Many of my patients who have infants that are ready to start “solid foods”, also called complementary foods, have questions about this method. Most babies begin eating foods along with breast milk or formula somewhere around 5 - 6 months of age.  So BLW is not really “weaning”,  as your infant will continue to have breast milk or formula in conjunction with foods…so this really should more aptly be named “baby self feeding”. 

In this method you never offer your baby “mush” or pureed foods, but rather offer them foods from the table.   While I am a huge advocate of self feeding (old term is finger feeding), I also think that early on offering a baby “mushy” food on a spoon is an important milestone. In fact, for most babies at 5 -6 months, it is difficult to pick up a small piece of food to self feed as the pincer grasp has not developed. So, a baby is trying to get food to their mouths by cupping it or hoping it sticks to their hand while pushing pieces around their tray. Some parents will put the food into their baby’s hand.  But, by 8-ish months most babies have developed their pincer grasp and the finger feeding should be preferred.  

Parents are also concerned about starting solid foods and the possibility of choking.  I am always discussing how to make sure that your child avoids choking hazards with foods. In other words, no whole grapes, or hot dogs, or popcorn or chunks of meat.   Other hazards are raw carrots, apples, celery and any “hard” food that your baby might be able to bite a chunk of and then choke. But, if you cook the carrots and then cut them in small bites they are easily handled by a baby who is self feeding.  It is really all about the consistency of the food as once your baby has lower teeth they can easily bite/pry off a big “chunk” of food that could lead to a choking hazard.

Interestingly, there was a recent study that looked at the incidence of choking in children who started with self feeding vs those fed traditionally with pureed foods from a spoon. In this study of about 200 children between 6 - 8 months of age the incidence of choking was similar, while there were more gagging events in the BLW group.  Fortunately, “the choking events resolved on their own”. Gagging is quite different than choking. Some children will gag on pureed foods just due to texture issues. 

I am an advocate of what I am going to call parent led feeding followed by early self feeding of appropriate foods. By the time a child is 9 months of age they should be able to finger feeding the majority of their meals. But there are some foods that are just not conducive to finger feeding at all….yogurt, apple sauce, puddings…and they will be spoon fed until your child is capable of using a spoon which is anywhere from 12 -18 months.   But as a reminder, whenever you offer your child a finger food you should remember two things, #1 is the piece small enough that my child cannot choke and #2 is the food cooked well enough to not pose a choking hazard.  

Several years ago there was a 1 year old in our practice who was given a piece of an apple to chew on… she bit off a chunk of the apple, aspirated and died. It was a terrible accident.  I will never forget that….and re-iterate to all of my patients…a pork chop, or chicken leg or any number of foods can become a choking hazard if your child bites off a chunk. Children really don’t chew until they are around 2 years, they just bite and try to swallow so I pay a great deal of attention to what foods they are offered.

Old school and new school…the combo seems to make sense to me. 

Daily Dose

Colic

1:30 to read

I just read an interesting article in the journal Pediatrics on the subject of infant colic. It was a review of over 5600 articles that looked at the “mean duration of fussing and crying an the presence of colic in infants in the first 3 months of life”. If you have had or currently have a “colicky baby” this is quite interesting, as it looked at the incidence of “colic” in numerous countries as well.

 

The study evaluated the” mean total fuss/cry duration during 24 hours at ages 1-2 weeks (11 samples), 3-4 weeks (6 samples), 5-6 weeks (28 samples), 8-9 weeks (9 samples), and 10-12 weeks (12 samples).Interestingly the peak fussy crying period was highest in the first 6 weeks of life (17-25% of infants) and dropped by 8-9 weeks of age (11%)  and by 10 -12 weeks less than 1% of infants were reported to be “colicky”.  On average, babies around the world cry for around 2 hours per day in first two weeks, peak at 2 hours 15 mins at six weeks - and crying reduces to 1 hour 10 minutes by week twelve. (My son was not in this study…as he was colicky far longer than this study reported!!)

 

The study also found that infants in Denmark, Germany and Japan had less fuss/cry duration than infants in Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom.  What is that about?  It could be any number of variables including genetics, climate, socioeconomics and cultural factors….but I can remember feeling so helpless with an infant with colic (yes, even as a pediatrician…may have been worse knowing that there was not an answer) that I might have considered buying a plane ticket to Denmark!! Desperate times require desperate measures.

 

This study did not solve the mystery of colic nor did it give any answers to how to “treat” the fussy/irritable/colicky baby….but it did help to reassure parents around the world that this phenomena is universal…and that these babies do improve with time. You only wish that your baby could verbalize and explain to you what was going on in those first few months….but that may happen one day in the future…for now it is just an unknown, stressful situation for a parent…and the baby seems to outgrow it and has no memory of this experience.  (I have asked my own son who just looks at me with a puzzled expression?).

 

In the meantime parents with colicky fussy babies do require extra support and reassurance that their baby will be fine,  and ask their pediatrician if  their baby is growing and developing normally. But with all of that information …are there any “bargain fares” to Denmark and Japan???

 

 

 

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Daily Dose

Breastfed Babies & Diaper Rash

1:30 to read

I was shopping at Target just the other day and happened to be in the “baby aisle” looking for one of those snack cups with the lids to let little fingers get in and not let the puffs fall out.  I needed it as part of a baby gift basket.  Useful for sure!!

So…while I am browsing, I see a young mother and her mother looking at diaper creams and obviously trying to decide which one to buy. I could’t resist offering help (always worry about being intrusive). When I asked what they were trying to treat the mother said, “ my new baby has this raw and red diaper rash right around his bottom”.  “He is just 12 days old and I change his diaper all of the time….how could he possibly get a diaper rash? What am I doing wrong?”

As we say in Texas, “bless her heart”!!! I asked if she was breast feeding,  and she was,  then I immediately knew what she meant. A breast fed infant will poop ALL OF THE TIME.  Many times you change a new diaper and as soon as the next diaper is put on the baby stools again. There are many times when your infant may poop a bit of stool during sleep and when you get them up they have a dirty diaper…all normal. No new mother guilt!!

The good news is that a newborn who is stooling a lot is probably getting plenty of breast milk as well…and that means they are gaining weight too!  The flip side is that it is not uncommon for a newborn to get that raw red bottom during the first month or so of breast feeding.  After that time, the stools do slow down a bit and diaper rash is less common.

The best remedy I have found for treating that tender new bottom is a combination of a diaper cream that contains zinc (Destin, Dr. Smith’s, or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste) and a bit of a liquid antacid (Mylanta, Maalox, Gaviscon). I put  a blob of diaper cream in my palm and then pour a bit of the antacid into it and mix….you can’t use too much of the liquid or it will run off.  Then I take that combo and coat the baby’s bottom. You can’t over do it. Use it with each diaper change.   It seems to do the trick and is easy. Several years ago I told a mother about the concoction (she had 4 children and was very sleep deprived) and I  just said use some antacid if you have some. She called later in the day and said she had tried to crush up the tablets and mix it with diaper cream and it wasn’t working.  I have since learned to be a bit more specific about a LIQUID antacid.  

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Food Textures

1:30 to read

If you have a baby between the ages of 8-9 months and have already been offering them pureed baby foods it may be time to start some textures as well.  Many parents are a bit “wary” of offering any food that hasn’t been totally pureed, but it is important that your baby starts to experiment with foods that have different consistencies. 

Of course this does not mean you hand your baby anything that they could choke on like a grape, or piece of meat etc. But instead of totally pureeing carrots, why not cook them well, chop them up a bit and put them on the high chair tray. It is fun to watch how they touch and feel the carrots, before they “smoosh and moosh” them and get them to their mouths.   

There are so many foods that are easily offered to a baby to get them used to feeling different textures.  This is the very beginning of experimenting with finger foods, and this doesn’t just mean puffs or cheerios either. I like to encourage babies to feel cold, gooey, warm, sticky, all sorts of different textures which will ultimately help them become better and more adventuresome eaters as they get older.  

Unfortunately, I see far too many little ones (and not so little ones too) continuing to eat totally pureed foods and then becoming adverse to textures as they did not get the experience at an early enough age. 

It is also fun to watch your child as they begin to pick up foods that have been chopped and diced into small soft pieces. In the early stages they have to scoop and lick the food from their fingers and hands, but very quickly their pincer grasp takes over and suddenly they can pick up that well cooked green bean or pea!!  Such a feat and worthy of a home video to send to the grandparents for sure. 

So, put out some mushy food and let them play - I know it is messy but that is what being a kid is often about!

Your Baby

Special Baby Formulas Don’t Prevent Asthma, Allergies

2:00

Parents that have a baby at risk or allergies, asthma or type-1 Diabetes sometimes turn to hydrolyzed milk formulas in hopes of lowering their infant’s risk of developing these problems.

A new review of the data on hydrolyzed formulas finds that there is no evidence that they actually protect children from these types of autoimmune disorders.

"We found no consistent evidence to support a protective role for partially or extensively hydrolyzed formula," concluded a team led by Robert Boyle of Imperial College London in England.

"Our findings conflict with current international guidelines, in which hydrolyzed formula is widely recommended for young formula-fed infants with a family history of allergic disease," the study authors added.

In the study, Boyle's team looked at data from 37 studies that together included more than 19,000 participants and were conducted between 1946 and 2015.

The investigators found that infants who received hydrolyzed cow's milk formula did not have a lower risk of asthma, allergies (such as eczema, hay fever, food allergies) or type 1 diabetes compared to those who received human breast milk or a standard cow's milk formula.

The researchers also found no evidence to support an FDA-approved claim that a partially hydrolyzed formula could reduce the risk of the skin disorder eczema, or another conclusion that hydrolyzed formula could prevent an allergy to cow's milk.

Other experts in the United States said that the finding casts doubt on the usefulness of these kinds of specialized products.

"Allergies and autoimmune diseases [such as asthma, and type 1 diabetes] are on the rise and it would be nice if we did have a clear route to preventing them," said Dr. Ron Marino, associate chair of pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Unfortunately, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration support [for hydrolyzed formula], the data are not compelling," he said.

Dr. Punita Ponda is assistant chief of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She stressed that when it comes to infant feeding, breast milk is by far the healthiest option.

However, "current mainstream guidelines for infant formula do recommend that parents consider using hypoallergenic formula if a close family member -- like an older brother or sister -- has a food allergy," she said. That was based on prior studies supporting some kind of protective effect, Ponda said.

Protein hydrolysate formulas were first introduced in the 1940s for babies who could not tolerate the milk protein in cow’s milk.

Protein hydrolyzed formulas are formulas composed of proteins that are partially broken down or “hydrolyzed.” They are also called hydrolysates.

There are two broad categories of protein hydrolysates:

•       Partially hydrolyzed formulas (pHF)

•       Extensively hydrolyzed formulas (eHF)

Both partially and extensively hydrolyzed protein formulas are based on casein or whey, which are proteins found in milk.  

Hydrolyzed formulas have had the protein chains broken down into shorter and more easy-to -digest chains. The more extensively hydrolyzed the formula, the fewer potentially allergenic compounds remain.

Hydrolyzed formulas are also more expensive than regular cow’s milk formulas and often harder to find.

The researchers review was published March 08, 2016 in the BMJ.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20160308/special-infant-formulas-dont-shield-against-asthma-allergies-study

Victoria Groce, http://foodallergies.about.com/od/adultfoodallergies/p/hypoallergenic.htm

 

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