Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Daily Dose

Ear Infections Can Develop Quickly

1:15 to read

One of the things that I sometimes see in my practice, which is interesting to me as a pediatrician, and was equally interesting when I had young kids, is how quickly a child's ear exam can change.

You are taught that in medical school, but when you really see it happen it with your patients or your own child you become a real believer. As the saying goes, seeing is believing. I can remember checking one of my boy's ears for an ear infection early in the morning before heading out to work, and declaring, "his ears are perfectly clear". How could it be, my husband would inquire, "that they seem worse after we have been at work all day" and lo and behold, I would re-check their ears and a normal morning ear is an abnormal evening ear. What a difference 12 hours can make! Not a very good warranty on ears and infections.

I was reminded of this yesterday when a patient called and said that her little boy had developed "disgusting" eye drainage which was worsening since I had seen them in the office a few days ago. They had just returned from taking both of their young children to Disney World, and she "couldn't believe they came home sick!" That's a whole 'nother column. At any rate, seeing that they lived fairly close I told them to swing on by and let me look at him again. I think she was just hoping I would call in eye drops. The two precious boys arrived at my doorstep on Saturday night and lo and behold after looking in the youngest child's ears, both of his ears were so infected. So, once again I was a believer in ears changing, and he did not need eye drops he needed to have oral antibiotics to clear up his ears (and subsequently his eyes). There are several lessons from all of this. Ears can change quickly, eye drainage in a toddler with a cold may often really indicate that their ears are infected, and house calls are a good thing.

That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Summer Skin Infections

1:30 to read

I have been seeing a lot of skin infections and many of these are due to community acquired methicillin resistant staph areus (caMRSA). The typical patient may be a teen involved in sports, but I also see this infection in young children in day care, or summer camp. The typical history is “I think I have a spider bite” and that makes your ears perk up because that is one of the most common complaints with a staph infection, which is typically not due to a bite at all.

The poor spider keeps getting blamed, and how many spiders have you seen lurking around your house waiting to pounce? The caMRSA bacteria is ubiquitous and penetrates small micro abrasions in the skin without any of us every knowing it. The typical caMRSA infection presents with a boil or pustule that grows rapidly and is very tender, red and warm to the touch. The patient will often say that they “thought it was a bite” but the lesion gets angry and red and tender very quickly and typically has a pustular center.

For most of us pediatricians, you can see a lesion and you know that it is staph. It is most common to see these lesions in athletes on exposed skin surfaces such as arms and legs, but lesions are also common on the buttocks of children who are in diapers in day care. The area is angry looking and tender and the teenage boy I saw the other day would not sit on the chair, but laid on the table on his side as he was so uncomfortable. If the lesion is pustular the doctor should obtain a culture to determine which bacteria is causing the infection, but in most cases in my office the culture of these lesions comes back as caMRSA or in the jargon Mersa. When I say Mersa, I often cause widespread panic among my patients, but in most cases to date these infections may still be treated with an oral antibiotic that covers caMRSA, such as clindamycin or trimethoprim-sulfa. Many of the lesions improve dramatically once the site is drained and cultured. I will reiterate that if possible you want your doctor to obtain a culture to identify the bacteria that is causing the infection.

To prevent caMRSA remind your student athlete not to share towels, clothing or other items. Make sure that common areas are disinfected and once again encourage good hand washing. The closure of schools or disinfecting an entire football field or area with turf is not recommended. Lastly, this is a good reminder that you only want to take an antibiotic for a bacterial infection and that overuse of antibiotics leads to resistance. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Sleep & Your Baby

1:30 to read

Once a new baby joins a family one of the first questions I am often asked is, “when will my baby sleep thru the night?”.  SLEEP is one thing that all parents crave and for one reason or another many parents with infants over 6 months of age, complain that their baby is still not “sleeping through the night”. If your baby or child is not sleeping well, that typically means that parents are having disturbed sleep as well.   

By 6 months of age a baby should be able to self soothe and fall asleep on their own and the majority of babies are sleeping 10-12 hours thru the night as well.  After many years of practicing pediatrics and dealing with my own children’s sleep issues, I spend quite a bit of time with my patients discussing healthy sleep habits.  Like most things, it is easier to start off with good habits and bedtime routines.

So….when parents come in at the 6 month visit and are concerned about their baby’s sleep and awakenings I typically discuss “letting their baby cry it out”. This advice is met with varying responses.  Some parents are ready to get a good night’s sleep and will do “anything”, while others think I am “a mean doctor” and would “never let their baby cry”.  Like most things it is not always black and white and that is why we have chocolate and vanilla.  But, in my experience, the sooner you deal with sleep issues the faster they seem to resolve…

A recent article in Pediatrics should now reassure parents that they are not “harming their baby” by letting them “cry it out” which is called graduated extinction.  The study done in Australia found that infants whose parents let them “cry it out” fell asleep 13 minutes sooner than a control group and woke up less often during the night, and had no significant differences in stress levels (based upon salivary cortisol levels). The study also found no long term effects on parent-child attachment.  All good news for some sleepless parents who are considering this method to get their baby to sleep through the night. 

The researchers also looked at another behavioral sleep training intervention called “bedtime fading” which some feel is a “gentler” method of sleep training. In this case a baby’s bedtime is delayed with the thought that a sleepier child will fall asleep faster and may not cry as long.  This may be an easier method for some parents who continue to be anxious about “graduated extinction”.  This too showed that infants fell asleep sooner than controls but they showed no change in the number of nighttime awakenings.

Bottom line, sleep is important for the entire family ….all ages.  This article should hopefully go a long way in reassuring sleep deprived parents that a baby’s cries are not harmful and may actually get everyone to sleep faster, longer and more peacefully….you just have to believe the research and hang in there. 

Daily Dose

Plants That Cause Summer Rashes

1:15 to read

Now that summer is upon us and everyone is enjoying being outside I am seeing patients with contact dermatitis (rashes) after coming into contact with poisonous plants.  While allergies are slowing down a bit with the hotter weather, plants like poison ivy, oak and sumac (depending where you live) are full of leaves.  About 50% of people who come into contact with the leaves of these plants will have a reaction.

The adage “leaves of three, let them be” continues to be the best way to prevent getting a rash. That also means wearing long sleeves, and pants...and gloves. But what child goes off to play in the yard, or by the creek dressed like that for summer?  Sunscreen yes, gloves, probably not. 

If you realize you have been exposed to the plant leaves and therefore the urushiol (oil on leaf) , wash all areas of exposed skin as soon as possible with some products that are available like Tecru, Sanfel and Goop Hand Cleaner....if you don’t have those use dish washing soap.  

It may take up to 4 days after exposure to develop the rash and lesions may also appear at different times depending on the location and length of exposure to the urushiol.  The rash is usually really itchy and is often is linear clusters or little vesicles or blisters.  The rash does not spread by scratching or from the fluid inside the blisters, that is a myth. You cannot give anyone else poison ivy if you have washed off the urushiol.  

The best treatments relieve the itching and irritation.  Keeps nails short and hands clean so that scratching will not cause a secondary bacterial infection.  You can use oatmeal baths (Aveeno) or cool compresses (Dommeboro) to help control itching. An over the counter steroid cream is a good place to start to help the inflammation, but it may be a stronger prescription steroid cream will be needed. 

I also try calamine lotion or astringent to soothe the irritation. Sarna is another good lotion for itching....Oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) really don’t help with the itching as it is not due to histamines, but may cause a bit of sedation so a child can sleep.

If the rash is getting worse, spreading to the face and around the eyes or begins to look infected it is time for a visit to the pediatrician. For severe cases oral steroids may be necessary.

It sometimes takes 10-14 days for the rash to go away.  Oh, and getting overheated only makes you itch more.

Daily Dose

The Difference Between Cradle Cap And Dandruff

1.15 to read

I recently received a question from a Twitter follower related to cradle cap and dandruff. She wanted to know if there was a difference in the two.

You know there really isn’t as they are both due to seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin in which the skin overproduces skin cells and sebum (the skins natural oil). Cradle cap is the term used for the scaly dermatitis seen on the scalp in infants. It is also seen on the eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. It is typically seen after about three months of age and will often resolve on its own by the time a baby is eight to 12 months old. It is usually simply a “cosmetic” problem for a baby as it looks like a yellowish plaque on a baby’s scalp and is often not even noticed by anyone other than the parents. Unlike seborrheic dermatitis in adults, cradle cap typically doesn’t itch. It is thought that cradle cap may occur in infancy due to hormonal influences from the mother that were passed across the placenta to the baby. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to become over active. In some severe cases an infant’s scalp becomes really scaly and inflamed and causes even more parental concern, as it appears that the infant is uncomfortable and may be trying to scratch their head by rubbing it on surfaces. The treatment for cradle cap is to wash the baby’s scalp daily with a mild shampoo and then to use a soft comb or brush to help remove the scales once they have been loosened with washing. When washing the head make sure to get the shampoo behind the ears and in the brows (keeping the soap out of baby’s eyes). This is usually sufficient treatment for most cradle cap. In situations where the greasy scales seem to be worsening it may help to put a small amount of mineral oil or olive oil on the baby’s head and let it sit (I left a small amount on my children’s heads overnight) and then to shampoo the following day. The oil will help the scales to loosen up and come off more easily. For babies that have very inflamed irritated cradle cap a visit to your pediatrician may be warranted to confirm the diagnosis. In persistent cases I often recommend shampooing several times a week with a dandruff shampoo that has either selenium (Selsun) or zinc pyrithione (Head and Shoulders) making sure not to get any in the infant’s eyes. I may then also use a hydrocortisone cream or foam on the scalp that will lessen the inflammation and itching. In these cases it may take several weeks to totally clear up the problem. As children get older, especially during puberty, you may see a return of seborrhea as dandruff. Again you can use dandruff shampoos. It also seems that with the overproduction of sebum there is an overgrowth of a fungus called “malessizia” so using a shampoo for dandruff as well as a antifungal shampoo (Nizoral) often works. I have teens alternate different shampoos, as sometimes it seems to work better than always using the same shampoo for months on end. Teens don’t like white flakes falling from their scalp and unlike a baby, a teen is worried about the cosmetic issues of seborrhea! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Everything in Moderation

1:30 to read

How often have you heard the words, “everything in moderation”?  That was an expression that my parents taught me years ago, and I am sure that their parents used those same words.  It seems that those words hold true today as well, but unfortunately moderation seems to be “out of style” and excessive is a word that comes to my mind more and more often.

I see this so often in my own practice….beginning as soon as a new baby is brought into the world.  There are so many gadgets and gizmos available to new parents, and they are inundated with so many choices.   Hundreds of bottles, pacifiers, sleep sacks, diaper wipe warmers, not to mention state of the art video monitors to watch your child when sleeping or awake just to “ensure they are breathing”.  When you walk into a baby store there is NO moderation, and even I am confused and overwhelmed with all of the “stuff”. I honestly think this only serves to make parents more anxious….even before the baby arrives.

What about moderation and electronics?  It is very hard to keep electronics away from babies and toddlers as they begin seeing an iPhone or iPad from birth, if only for taking pictures. It isn’t too long before a baby can recognize themselves on the screen and want to look at their picture and by the time some children are 18 months - 2 years they know how to open and icon to see their family pictures.  I am not really too concerned about their use of electronics for looking at their own pictures. With that being said, sitting your baby or toddler in front of a screen for hours everyday to watch videos rather than reading them books is excessive and inappropriate. Letting your child watch 30 minutes of Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger while you get dressed for work or make dinner sounds like “life”.  I feel badly when a young mother calls me and says, “I feel so guilty I let my 2 year old watch a video today and I know I should not allow that but I am 36 weeks pregnant with twins and it is 98 degrees outside!”. What, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me….everything in moderation.  

What about eating and food choices?  I have so many parents who worry if their child “won’t eat” so they will let them dictate what they will eat.  The kids then often end up eating “only” chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and pizza….but won’t try new foods or drink milk. While I like all of those “kid favorite foods” as well, only in moderation. Catering to a child’s food choices all of the time is not healthy and also does not teach your children to eat a wide variety of foods.  Excessive focus on food and worrying if your child skips a meal only makes mealtime stressful and often leads to unhealthy food choices for a long time. Moderation…one night chicken tenders and mac and cheese, another salmon and green beans. Don’t worry they won’t starve!

So…with all of this being said, you can see what I am talking about with my own patients and their families….old school, but it seems to make sense and may make a family’s life a bit less complicated.

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

What Are Breast Buds?

1.15 to read

I received a phone call today from a mother who was worried about the “bump” beneath her 12 year old daughter’s nipple. I do get this phone call quite often and even see mothers and daughters in the office who are concerned about this lump?  First thought is often, “is this breast cancer?”  The answer is a resounding “NO” but rather a breast bud.  While all mothers developed their own breast buds in years past, many have either forgotten or suppressed the memory of early puberty and breast budding.

Breast buds are small lumps the size of a blueberry or marble that “erupt” directly beneath a young girl’s areola and nipple. Most girls experience breast budding somewhere around 10-12 years of age although it may happen a bit sooner or even later. It is one of the early signs of puberty and estrogen effects.

Many girls will complain that the nipple area is sore and tender and that they are lopsided!! It is not unusual for one side to “sprout” before the other. Sometimes one breast will bud and the other is months behind. All of this is normal. 

While a lump in the breast is concerning in women reassure your daughter that this is not breast cancer (happy that they are so aware) but a normal part of body changes that happen to all girls as they enter adolescence.   Breast budding does not mean that their period is around the corner either, and periods usually start at least 2 years after breast budding (often longer).

Breast buds have also been known to come and go, again not to worry. But at some point the budding will actually progress to breast development and the continuing changes of the breast during puberty.

Reassurance is really all you need and if your daughter is self-conscious this is a good time to start them wearing a light camisole of “sports bra.”  

Daily Dose

Life Jackets!

1:15 to read

Summer is here and that means many of my patients are taking off to the beach or the lake to escape the heat and enjoy some water activities.  I recently saw a patient who told me that had just gotten a new boat and were looking forward to getting the kids out on the water.  This brought up the subject of life vests. 

When taking your children on a boat it is important that you have life vests for everyone. It is a law that all children under 13 years of age wear a “coast guard approved” life vest when on a boat that is being operated. This designation is very important, as many of the “life vests” that parents buy are not approved for boating…this includes “water wings” and some of the “cute” wearable t-shirts with life preservers sewn into them. 

Once you have found “coast guard approved” life jackets you might let your child help pick out the one they like the best and that is comfortable. This is important as it will ensure that they are both safe and comfortable. Children’s life jackets are sized by weight, so you might always have a few extras in case a friend or two comes along at the last minute.

Infants life jackets are are a bit different and have a strap that runs between their legs and extra flotation behind the head which guarantees that the baby floats face up at all times. I can attest to this important safety feature as my husband took our son on a little boat one summer day at a friends lake house. The lake was small enough that I could actually see them from the house as they rowed out to try to catch a fish. It was two men and a toddler on the boat…and I watched in horror as our 14 month old (now 32 year old) son leaned over the side of the boat to look at the fish and fell right into the dark murky Texas lake!!  Fortunately, we had followed the boating RULES and he was wearing his bright orange coast guard certified life jacket and bobbed right up to the surface…with a huge scared look on his face!  We have many pictures of our boys in the life jackets every time they set foot on a boat...including this one!

Lastly, get in the habit of applying sunscreen before you even set off for the dock and then have the children put on their life jackets. Kids can just as easily fall off the dock into the water as you prepare to get on the boat.  I would also encourage them to wear a hat for additional sun protection.

A day of boating is a great family activity and there is a lot a child can learn on board as well…how to navigate with a boating chart or GPS coordinates, how to watch for buoys or other water markings and all of the boating jargon.

Bon Voyage! 

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

Spider bite or skin infection?

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.