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Daily Dose

Prevent SIDS

1:15 to read

A new study on swaddling and sudden infant death (SIDS) was just published this week in the journal Pediatrics. Not surprisingly, it found that infants who were swaddled and placed on their sides or stomach had a higher incidence of SIDS. It has been routinely recommended for more than 15 years that all babies sleep on their backs and since that time the incidence of SIDS has been dramatically reduced.  Unfortunately not everyone follows the AAP recommendation. 

While it has been known that tummy sleeping has been associated with SIDS this meta analysis looked at data which was gathered over two decades and from 3 different global sites. The review found that infants who were swaddled and placed on their sides were almost twice as likely to experience SIDS and the risk of SIDS did double in those babies who were swaddled and placed on their stomachs.  

I discuss swaddling with all of my patients as there are so many different swaddle blankets available.  Actually, one of the first things a newborn nurse seems to teach a new parent is how to swaddle their baby.  While swaddling has been promoted to aid in calming a newborn as well as to help their sleep, the recommendation that the baby be placed on their back in their crib continues..  Many a baby looks like a little burrito…rolled up in the swaddle and then being placed on their back in the crib.

But is seems from this study that some babies were being swaddled and then placed on their side to sleep. Unfortunately, even a newborn may squirm enough that they then move from their side into the prone position.  Older infants who are swaddled may actually roll from their back to their tummies, even while swaddled. While the association between swaddling and SIDS remains unclear, I think this is a good reason to start getting a baby out of a swaddle once they are rolling. So around the 3 month mark I start having parents loosen the swaddle and try to just lay the baby on their back without being swaddled.

Let me re-iterate, this article does not confirm an association between swaddling and SIDS.  I do think it is a good reminder for putting a baby, “back to sleep” and once they are rolling “ditching” the swaddle seems to make even more sense. Once less thing to worry about, right?

 

Daily Dose

Timeout!

1:30 to read

When I am seeing toddlers for their check ups, the topic of behavior is usually at the top of both the parent’s and my list for discussion.  Once a child is walking and beginning to talk, all sorts of new behaviors seem to occur! 

Parents ask, “how do I stop my child from hitting or biting?”  “What about misbehaving and not listening?”  The toddler years are challenging for behavior as a child is gaining independence, and testing as well.  Toddler and teens have some of the same attributes and it is important to begin behavior modification during the toddler years. 

Time out is the most commonly used behavior modification and not only will parents use this method at home, but preschool and day care teachers begin using this technique as well. This is the age that children begin to understand rules and consequences. 

So how do you “do” time out and when?  I usually start using time out when a child is between 15 -18 months of age. While I try to ignore and distract tantrums, I use time out for biting, hitting and those age appropriate yet inappropriate behaviors. 

I pick a chair in the house (we had a small set of table and chairs which seemed perfect) and every parent needs a kitchen timer to use for time out.   It is important to get at your child’s level when disciplining them as well. Tell them why they are going to time out and then have them sit in the chair for 1 minute per year of age.  (Trust me a minute sometimes feels like forever!)  

Here is the trick, if your child will not just sit in the chair (and many won’t), go behind them and hold them in the chair as if you were a human rope.  In most cases the child will be crying and trying to get up out of the chair, but you calmly hold them in the chair from behind. No eye contact!  Once the timer goes off, you let go of them, go back around so that you make eye contact again, get down to their level, and explain once again that they had to sit in the chair because they (fill in the blank).  

Time out takes time and patience.  If you are consistent about using time out for misbehaving, your child will learn to sit in the chair.  For some it may only take 1 time and others are more head-strong and it may take months of “human rope” before they decide to sit alone. 

Don’t give up!!!  This is a very important lesson for children to learn and you will use time out many times, not only in that little chair, but in other venues as your child gets older.    

Daily Dose

Crib Deaths

1:15 to read

Crib bumpers may cause deaths and should never be used!  A recent study in The Journal Pediatrics looked at the incidence of crib bumper related deaths from 1985- 2012.  The authors reviewed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and found that there were 3 times more bumper deaths reported in the last 7 years than the 3 previous time periods that had been reviewed. Bumper pads caused 48 suffocations of which “ 67% were due to the bumper alone and not clutter in the crib, and 33% of the deaths were due to wedgings between a bumper and another object in the crib”.  An additional 146 infants had sustained injuries from the bumpers, which included choking on the bumper ties or near suffocation.  

The study also looked at the number of CPSC reported deaths compared with those from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, 2008- 2011. When using that data the total number of deaths increased to 77. 

While bumpers had been marketed to prevent a baby from falling out of a crib or to keep a baby’s arms or legs from getting stuck between the crib rails, in reality they cause injury and death.  In 2012 a national standard was revised which required that crib bumpers must be 2 inches in thickness or less.  At that time the thought was that “thinner bumpers” would be less likely to cause suffocation. But the recent study found that 3 of the deaths occurred in cribs that had thinner bumpers.   

According to Dr. N.J. Scheers, the lead author in the study, “these deaths are entirely preventable” if bumpers were not used and were not widely available.  But when flipping through a baby store catalog, or even shopping for cribs, parents  and grandparents) see beautiful cribs that are adorned with bumper pads!!  So, if they cause death why are they being sold?  Mixed messages are very hard for parents to understand. Concrete recommendations and guidelines save lives.  

Several cities and states have already banned the sale of crib bumpers and the CPSC is currently in the process of publishing new recommendations on how crib bumpers should be regulated. 

I don’t see the need for any more studies to show that bumper pads may cause deaths and injuries.  Clear guidelines from the AAP state, “bare cribs are the best”  and “all infants should be put to sleep on their backs”.  Save your money and your baby’s life…no bumpers.

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

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

Moles On A Child's Skin

1:30 to read

Everybody gets moles, even people who use sunscreen routinely. Moles can occur on any area of the body from the scalp, to the face, chest, arms, legs, groin and even between fingers and toes and the bottom of the feet.  So, not all moles are related to sun exposure.

Many people inherit the tendency to have moles and may have a family history of melanoma (cancer), so it is important to know your family history. People with certain skins types, especially fair skin, as well as those people who spend a great deal of time outside whether for work or pleasure may be more likely to develop dangerous moles. Children may be born with a mole (congenital) or often develop a mole in early childhood. It is common for children to continue to get moles throughout their childhood and adolescence and even into adulthood.

The most important issue surrounding moles is to be observant for changes in the shape, color, or size of your mole. Look especially at moles that have irregular shapes, jagged borders, uneven color within the same mole, and redness in a mole. I begin checking children’s moles at their early check ups and look for any moles that I want parents to continue to be watching and to be aware of. I note all moles on my chart so I know each year which ones I want to pay attention to, especially moles in the scalp, on fingers and toes and in areas that are not routinely examined. A parent may even check their child’s moles every several months too and pay particular attention to any of the more unusual moles. Be aware that a malignant mole may often be flat, rather than the raised larger mole. Freckles are also common in children and are usually found on the face and nose, the chest, upper back and arms. Freckles tend to be lighter than moles, and cluster. If you are not sure ask your doctor.

Sun exposure plays a role in the development of melanoma and skin cancer, so it is imperative that your child is sun smart. That includes wearing a hat and sunscreen, as well as the newer protective clothing that is available at many stores. I would also have your child avoid the midday sun and wear a hat. Early awareness of sun protection will hopefully establish good habits and continue throughout your child’s life.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Do Essential Oils Boost Immune System?

1:30 to read

Although it is still hot and officially summer, soon everyone will be heading back to school  and coughs and colds (and eventually flu, another topic) will be just around the corner. I had a patient ask me about the use of essential oils. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter is heading to preschool for the first time and she “had heard from her friends that essential oils help a child’s immunity during cold season”.

Unfortunately, there is very little data at all to confirm that statement. I only wish that rubbing a bit of lavender oil on would help prevent the common cold. While it may smell great and be relaxing....there is no data that I can find to show that there is any reproducible science to the claims that essential oils boost the immune system.  

While I was researching I found many sites stating that “eucalyptus oil is an anti-viral” and “peppermint oil is an anti-pyretic (fever reducer)”.  Tea tree oil is touted as being “both anti -bacterial and anti-fungal” (I don’t know of other drugs that can claim both!).  But, I just don’t see any data to support all of this. 

The word essential refers to the essence of the plant the oil is derived from, rather than being “essential” to your health. While in most cases essential oils (which are highly concentrated) used as aromatherapy are not harmful for adults, it may be a different story in children, especially those under the age of 6. While labels may say  “natural” it may not always mean safe.  Many oils are poisonous if ingested and there have been reports of accidental overdoses in children with several different oils. In one report tea tree oil and lavender oil applied topically have been shown to cause breast enlargement in boys.  Oil of eucalyptus and peppermint are high in menthol and cineole.  These substances may cause children to become drowsy have decreased respirations.  While there are articles stating that the use of menthol (Vicks) on a child’s feet may be helpful during a cold for reducing a cough, do not use this if child is young enough to put their feet in their mouths. 

I must say that I sometime use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the shower when I have a cold as I think it smells great and seems to help “open up” my head. Whether this is in “my mind” or a response from my olfactory centers which sends calming messages to respiratory center is not clear. But, I am not ingesting it or using it topically. 

 

Daily Dose

Diaper Dermatitis

1:30 to read

Newborn babies have the softest little bottoms and they also have a lot of poop! The combination often leads to a raw red bottom and a diaper rash. A newborn often poops every time they eat and sometimes in between....and you don’t even realize they have pooped again.

Even with the constant diaper changing (would you have believed you would use 8-12 diapers a day) it is very common for that newborn to develop their first diaper rash.  Not only will the skin be red and raw....it may even sometimes be so chapped that it may bleed a bit.  This diaper rash is causes a lot of parental concern and will often result in the new parent’s first of many calls to their pediatrician.

A new baby is supposed to poop a lot, so you can’t change that fact,  but you can try all sorts of things to protect that precious bottom and treat the diaper rash.  After using a diaper wipe ( non perfumed, hypo-allergenic) I sometimes bring out the blow dryer and turn it to cool and dry the baby’s bottom a bit. Then I apply a mixture of a zinc based diaper cream (examples:  Desitin, Dr. Smith’s, Triple Paste cream), which I mix in the palm of my hand with a tiny bit of liquid over the counter antacid.  (I don’t measure it:  just a lot of diaper cream and small amount of antacid so it won’t be runny).  I put a really heavy layer of this on the baby’s bottom.

If after several days rash is still not improving it may have become secondarily infected with yeast so I add a yeast cream (Lotrimin AF, Triple Paste AF) to the concoction. If it has yeast this should do the trick to treat all of the problems.

I will also sometimes alternate using Aquaphor on the bottom with the above diaper cream concoction.  It will take some time for it to totally go away but you are trying to get a barrier between the poop and the skin on the baby’s bottom. She keep something on there after each diaper change.

After a few weeks of constant pooping the number of stools do slow down and bit and that will help heal that new baby’s bottom as well. 

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Daily Dose

The Science Behind Febrile Seizures

1:30 to read

As we head into “sick season" and I have been seeing many children with fevers, I thought it would be a good time to talk about febrile seizures.With the "sick season" upon us, I have been seeing many children with fevers so I thought it would be a good time to talk about febrile seizures.

A febrile seizure is defined as a seizure associated with fever in the absence of other known causes of seizures. About 5 percent of children between the ages of six months and six years will have a febrile seizure. That doesn’t sound like a lot of children but seeing that I have a son that had febrile seizures it is that statistic that really doesn’t mean much when you have a child that is part of that statistical equation. Did that make sense? Reassuring a parent that a febrile seizure is benign and will not cause any long-term problems is a “hard sell” while they are watching their child seize. I even felt scared and helpless and I knew what was happening! When my son had his first febrile seizure at about 18 months of age, I will never forget a nurse saying to me, “Didn’t you give him Tylenol or something, as he has a high fever?” She did not realize that I was a pediatrician, and I tell this story to other parents whose children have febrile seizures, as parents always feel guilty. (What is that with parental guilt?). I hope she did not have realized how guilty that might make a parent feel, for as I already thankfully knew, giving anti-pyretics (like Tylenol or ibuprofen) does not necessarily prevent a child from having a febrile seizure.

We know that febrile seizures may occur in some children with a fever of only 101 degrees, while another child may be running a much higher temperature and not have a seizure. About 30 percent of children that have a first febrile seizure will go on to have another. That is the concern of many parents who have children who experienced a febrile seizure. Parents will try to do anything they can to “ward off” another seizure when their child gets yet another fever. I was reminded of this again while I was reading an article from The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The study, done in Japan, looked at giving children with a history of febrile seizures, extra doses of fever reducing medications. Despite this, fever-reducing medications did not appear to reduce the incidence of recurrences, even when children received an extra dose of medication. It seems that children who have febrile seizures may respond differently to fever reducing medications during a febrile event. There seems to be an innate difference in mechanism of fever in those children who have seizures and those that do not. We have known that there is often a history of other family members having febrile seizures, so this may be further evidence or metabolic differences in some individuals with fever? So, despite a parent’s best effort to lower a fever, especially in a child who has already had a febrile seizure, a seizure may still occur.

Take home message: Febrile seizures are scary, but benign and children outgrow these seizures. Never feel guilty, even if you are asked if you gave Tylenol, or something to lower the fever. Looking at this study it probably wouldn’t have changed a thing.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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Can swaddling prevent SIDS?

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