Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Daily Dose

Mumps Outbreak!

1:30 to read

The latest infectious disease outbreak is in the Boston area where several colleges have reported cases of mumps. Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling of the salivary glands as well as other symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headache.    Harvard University has been hit the hardest and has now documented over 40 cases this spring.  Boston is a city with numerous colleges all in close proximity, and there are documented mumps cases at Boston University, University of Massachusetts  and Tufts as well.  These Boston area colleges are all in close proximity and are merely a walk, bike or train ride away from one another, so these students, while attending different universities may all co-mingle at parties and athletic events.

Mumps is spread via saliva (think kissing), or from sharing food, as well as via respiratory droplets being spread after coughing or sneezing. It may also be spread via contaminated surfaces that will harbor the virus. People may already be spreading the virus for  2 days before symptoms appear and may be contagious for up to 5 days after their salivary glands appear swollen….so in other words there is a long period of contagion where the virus may inadvertently be spread. It may also take up to 2-3 weeks after exposure before you come down with mumps.

All of the students who have come down with mumps had been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, rubella).  Unfortunately, the mumps vaccine is only about 88% effective in preventing the disease. Despite the fact that children get two doses of vaccine at the age of 1 and again at 4 or 5 years….there may be some waning of protection over time. This  may also contribute to the virus’s predilection for young adults in close quarters on college campuses. Something like the perfect infectious disease storm!

In the meantime there are some studies being undertaken to see if adolescents should receive a 3rd dose of the vaccine, but the results of the study are over a year away.

In the meantime, be alert for symptoms compatible with mumps and make sure to isolate yourself from others if you are sick.  Harvard is isolating all of the patients with mumps for 5 days….which could mean that some students might even miss commencement.  Doctors at Harvard and other schools with cases of mumps are still on the watch for more cases …stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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

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!

 

 

 

 

Tags: 
Daily Dose

Do You Have a Happy Spitter?

1.15 to read

New parents often come in concerned about their baby spitting up.  They typically  ask, “does my baby have gastroesophageal reflux (GER)?”.  I reassure them that “spit happens” and it occurs in more than 2/3 of perfectly healthy infants.  Whether you want to call it GER or spit up, it is regurgitation and in most cases it goes away with time. 

GER is defined as “the physiologic passage of gastric contents into the esophagus”, while GERD is “reflux associated with troublesome symptoms or complications”.  GER in infants is typically painless and does not affect growth. We call these babies “happy spitters”.  

For a “happy spitter” parents need to know that spitting gets worse before it gets better and typically lasts for 5-6 months, with the worst spitting occurring around 3-4 months of age.  

The best treatment for benign GER is lifestyle management.  Small things like thickening feedings with either rice or oatmeal cereal will often decrease the volume of spit up ( parents get sick of wearing towels over their shoulders). Thickening feedings does increase the calories a baby receives. There are also formulas available that contain thickening agents if parents prefer trying them that have the same amount of calories as other formulas.  Thickening feeds has been shown to decrease crying time in some irritable infants with GER and also increases sleep time for fussy babies.  It is always worth trying.

While many parents try putting their baby in a car seat to help with reflux and spitting, car seats may actually make the problem worse. Infants have less reflux when in the prone (tummy) position, but remember your baby must NEVER sleep on their TUMMY!

Babies who are spitters may also benefit from smaller more frequent feedings. When a baby is fussy, parents may try to keep feeding their baby and overfeeding may actually make the spitting worse. Just because a baby is crying, does not always mean they are hungry, especially if they have just been fed.  Sucking in and of itself may help reflux, so a pacifier may be the trick and provide non nutritive sucking.

For babies with GERD who are extremely irritable, may refuse feedings and even lose weight further work up and management with pharmacotherapy may be necessary.  Talk to your doctor about options if lifestyle management does not seem to help. 

Daily Dose

When Bug Bites Get Infected

1.00 to read

It is the season for bug bites and and I am seeing a lot of parents who are bringing their children in for me to look at all sorts of insect bites. I am not always sure if the bite is due to a mosquito, flea or biting flies, but some of them can cause fairly large reactions. 

The immediate reaction to an insect bite usually occurs in 10-15 minutes after bitten, with local swelling and itching and may disappear in an hour or less. A delayed reaction may appear in 12-24 hours with the development of an itchy red bump which may persist for days to weeks.  This is the reason that some people do not always remember being bitten while they were outside, but the following day may show up with bites all over their arms, legs or chest, depending on what part of the body had been exposed. 

Large local reactions to mosquito bites are very common in children. For some reason, it seems to me that “baby fat” reacts with larger reactions than those bites on older kids and adults. (no science, just anecdote). Toddlers often have itchy, red, warm swellings which occur within minutes of the bites. 

Some of these will go on to develop bruising and even spontaneous blistering 2-6 hours after being bitten. These bites may persist for days to weeks, so in theory, those little chubby legs may be affected for most of the summer. 

Severe local reactions are called “skeeter syndrome” and occur within hours of being bitten and may involve swelling of an entire body part such as the hand, face or an extremity. These are often misdiagnosed as cellulitis, but with a good history of the symptoms  (the rapidity with which the area developed redness, swelling, warmth to touch and tenderness) you can distinguish large local reactions from infection.

Systemic reactions to mosquito bites including generalized hives, swelling of the lips and mouth, nausea, vomiting and wheezing have been reported due to a true allergy to the mosquito salivary proteins, but are extremely rare. 

The treatment of local reactions to bites involves the use of topical anti-itching preparations like Calamine lotion, Sarna lotion and Dommeboro soaks.  This may be supplemented by topical steroid creams (either over the counter of prescription) to help with itching and discomfort. 

An oral antihistamine (Benadryl) may also reduce some of the swelling and itching. Do not use topical antihistamines. Try to prevent secondary infection (from scratching and picking) by using antibacterial soaps, trimming fingernails and applying an antibiotic cream (polysporin) to open bites. 

Due to an exceptionally warm winter throughout the country the mosquito population seems to be especially prolific. The best treatment is prevention!! Before going outside use a DEET preparation in children over the age of six months, and use the lowest concentration that is effective.  Mosquito netting may be used for infants in strollers.  Remember, do not reapply bug spray like you would sunscreen. 

Daily Dose

Your Child's Emotional Health

1:30 to read

It seems that half of my day in the office was spent with children and their parents who were dealing with anxiety.  I am concerned as I am seeing younger patients who are presenting with symptoms of anxiety which may include difficulty sleeping, recurrent tummy aches or headaches (without physical findings) and school refusal.  While pediatricians are trained in taking care of sore throats, rashes, coughs and colds, there doesn’t seem to be enough training in dealing with mental health issues in children. Unfortunately, mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent and a part of almost every pediatricians practice.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently released its first policy statement entitled “guidance for nonpharmacologic mental health care”. In other words, looking for methods to help children with emotional and behavioral problems, both of which may impact a child’s growth and development.

 

There is a growing body of evidence that supports “family-focused therapies” for improving emotional, behavioral and relationship problems for all aged children.  Some studies estimate that 7%-10% of children face emotional or behavioral problems, and at times I feel that this number is actually much higher. Regardless, these issues have a huge impact on both a child and their family and if they persist may have long-lasting effects and consequences.  

 

I am so appreciative of parents who are honest with me and are open to discussing nonpharmacologic therapies for addressing initial behavioral and emotional concerns in their children. While some parents are wanting “a drug” to improve (fix) their child’s symptoms, many parents understand that the best way to approach these issues may be with other mental health services. These may be provided by trained counselors and psychologists who use play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family therapy to improve a child’s mental health and well being.

 

I am a big believer in early interventions to help teach a child how to deal with their feelings and emotions when they are sad, angry, frustrated, anxious or over whelmed. As adults we may “have figured out” how to deal with these emotions, but in many of the children I see, their parents have some of the same issues that may also need to be addressed.  You know, “the apple and the tree” theory is still true…children are a product of their genetic material and mental health issues are often familial. As stated in the AAP guidelines (the airplane analogy), “parents need to put on their oxygen masks first, before they can support their child in a sensitive, patient and consistent  manner.” 

 

Remember that your pediatrician is “your partner in parenting” and discussing emotional and behavioral concerns is part of the relationship.  Don’t avoid a needed conversation. 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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

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

Homemade Cure for Coxsackie?

1:30 to read

Desperate times call for desperate measures…or so it seems according to several of my patient’s mothers who have resorted to all sorts of “cra-cra” stuff to “treat” their child’s “HFM” - hand foot and mouth infection.  Remember, HFM is a viral infection that most children get in the first several years of life. It may cause all sorts of symptoms but in a classic case the child develops a macular-papular (flat and/or raised) vesicular rash on the palms, soles and buttocks. In some children the rash is fairly mild and in others it can look pretty disgusting and uncomfortable…but it has to fade away on its own…with time.

 

There has been a lot of HFM in our area and much anxiety among parents about this infection….fueled a lot by social media identifying who has HFM and where they go to school and how many cases there are. (too much information!!). Parents are even posting…places to “stay away from”. So, some of my patient’s parents are scouring their child looking to see if there might be a bump..and could this be HFM and if so, what do I do to “stop” it!  That would be “nothing” besides good hand washing..as this is a viral infection and you may be exposed to it almost anywhere.

 

Since coxsackie virus has been around for years, this means that most adults had the virus when they were young.  But, several moms and dads whose children have HFM have also shown me a rash on their palms and soles, that I presume may be HFM? They are kind of freaked out and may be uncomfortable too…but this is not life threatening.  Even so,  several parents are resorting to THE GOOGLE to get their medical information… and one young mother kindly brought me all of the stuff that she had gotten to treat her son’s HFM as well as hers.  She was earnest in hoping that this was the “cure”…and did I know about all of these remedies?

 

Here we go, her potions!  Epsom salts for baths as this is an “antiviral”, turmeric and ginger in veggie juice, crushed garlic which she was mixing with small amounts of orange juice and squirting into her toddlers mouth with a syringe, lavender essential oil and lastly “virgin” coconut oil massages.   

 

I was most impressed that her sweet toddler was eating, drinking and bathing in all of this!!! Unfortunately, despite her best efforts it took about 2 weeks for his rash to totally disappear and she kept him under house arrest for most of that time!!  He really could have gone out long before that as he was over his acute illness, but she wanted every “mark” to have faded. She was most chagrined to hear that he might get HFM again. I am not sure the her “voo-doo” did any good, except in her mind. 

 

Lastly, if you do resort to “internet medicine” remember the oath, “first do no harm” and check with your pediatrician about some of the advice you might find online, not everything may be safe.

 

Pages

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Can q-tips harm your baby's ear?

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.