Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Daily Dose

Ear Tugging & Your Child

1.15 to read

I see a lot of parents who bring their baby/toddler/child in to the pediatrician with concerns that their child might have an ear infection. One of the reasons for their concern is often that their baby is tugging on their ears.  

Babies find their ears, just like their hands and feet, around 4 -6 months of age.  I guess a baby must think “this ear tugging is fun and feels good” as maybe babies have “itchy” ears just like adults. It also seems to be a self soothing habit for other children who seem to pull on their ears when they get tired and cranky.  Maybe it is related to new molars coming in at the back of the jaw line?   

Whatever the cause, it often concerns parents who are told by their friends or relatives, “I am worried, this ear pulling probably means the child has an ear infection”.  So, being a good parent off you go to your pediatrician only to find out that the ears a beautiful and clear! 

Most babies and children do not get an ear infection without ANY other symptoms besides ear pulling.  In most cases infants and toddlers will get a secondary ear infection during cold and flu season. The multitudes of viral respiratory infections that children get in the first 3 years of life, often cause continuous runny noses and congestion. This congestion causes fluid to build up in the middle ear space which connects to the nasal passages via a small canal called the eustachian tube.   

Infants and children have so called “immature” eustachian tubes that are soft, and don’t drain well and the tube gets inflamed and swollen from the viral infection as well.  At times this fluid gets secondarily infected from bacteria that find their way to the middle ear.  Voila....an ear infection ensues. 

So, if a parent brings their child in for “pulling on their ears” and they are otherwise well (no cough, congestion, runny nose and sleeping well) I usually ask if they want to “wager” if their child has an ear infection.  That is really not fair, as this sweet parent is only concerned because typically someone else told them they should be.  But, in this case a quarter bet is usually made and I end up with a lot of quarters.  (they are good for all of the other bets I do lose with parents and kids about all sorts of things). Friendly betting at the pediatrician’s office, wonder if I am going to be investigated! 

Don’t worry about simple ear pulling especially when you see it happening all of the time.   

Lastly, with the new guidelines for prescribing antibiotics for an ear infection parent’s don’t need to worry as much about a prescription for antibiotics and a few days of waiting will not hurt.  

Your Baby

Never Leave a Child Unattended in a Car Seat, Swing or Bouncer

2:00

Placing an infant in a car seat, swing or bouncer as a substitute for a crib can be a fatal decision. These objects work fine when used properly for their intended purpose, but when a child is left unattended – they can quickly turn deadly according to a new study.

Using these devices as directed and not as substitutes for a crib would reduce the risk of death, according to lead author Dr. Erich K. Batra of Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

“The overarching advice goes back to a more basic message of safe sleep,” Batra told Reuters Health. “In an infant, a safe sleep environment includes the ABCs: they sleep alone, not in bed between parents, on their backs, and in a crib or bassinet without any loose bedding.”

The study reviewed young children’s death in devices like car seats, swings and bouncers and found that most were due to suffocation by improper positioning or strangulation in straps.

The researchers reviewed the reports of 47 deaths of children under two years old that happened in car seats, bouncers, swings, strollers or slings and were recorded by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2004 and 2008.

The study used only reports submitted by consumers or manufacturers, so the number of deaths may actually be higher.

Most of the deaths occurred in car seats (31 of 47). Five happened in slings, four each in swings and bouncers and three in strollers.

About half of deaths in car seats were due to strangulation by the straps, while the other half were caused by suffocation due to positioning, the authors reported in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Strap strangulation usually happens when the restraints are not fastened as directed, Batra said. Whenever a child is in a car seat, the harness should be secured.

“If people leave an older infant or young toddler in a car seat and undo the straps thinking that it makes them more comfortable, that’s a significant hazard,” he said.

“A child properly secured in a car seat is in very little risk of danger,” he said.

However, many times the child falls asleep in the car seat and a parent or caregiver decides to bring the car seat, with baby still attached, into the home.

Dr. Shital N. Parikh, an orthopedic surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, has studied the risk factors for injury in these devices in infants up to age one. He also found car seats to be the most common setting.

“The commonest mechanism of injury was infants falling from car seats when not used in the car, used in the home,” Parikh told Reuters Health. Often parents would bring the car seat in the house while the infant still slept, undo the straps and place it on an elevated surface, he said.

Even four-month-old babies are mobile enough to wiggle out of the top straps and fall, or topple the whole seat from an elevated surface, he said.

“These are very simple things, very basic things,” Parikh said. “The basic idea is that you use (the devices) for their intended purpose only. For infants, you should not use it to make them sleep or carry them around if it’s not intended for that.”

Batra notes that baby in slings need to be “visible and kissable,” as a sling may put baby’s head in a hazardous position.

It only takes four to five minutes for an unattended baby to suffocate in one of these devices.

“That is one of the things we need to draw attention to,” Batra said. Sometimes a few minutes unattended is all it takes.

“If your infant is sleeping and you’re not observing them, then they need to be in a safe sleeping environment,” adhering to the ABCs, he said.

While it may seem safe to leave a baby in a car seat, swing, sling or bouncer for a few minutes unattended, go ahead and place the child in his or her crib. It may wake them up if they are sleeping, but it’s much safer than allowing them to continue to sleep in a device that was never intended for that purpose.

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/29/us-car-seat-infant-safety-idUSKBN0NK21E20150429

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

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

New Baby Questions!

1:30 to read

Lots of new baby questions this week in my office, so I that I thought I would cover a few of the most frequently asked by parents within days of bringing that precious newborn home from the hospital. So, here we go:

My baby has blue hands and feet…should I go to the ER?  The medical term for this is acrocyanosis.   It is not uncommon for a baby to have a bluish/purple discoloration to their hands and feet. This often occurs if the baby gets chilled or cold, whether that is after a bath or sometimes even after they are unswaddled to wake them up a bit to get them to eat.  If your baby has pink lips and tongue and seems otherwise fine this is the normal adjustment of a baby’s circulation and may last for a few weeks to months.  When parents are concerned about this and make a trip to the ER where they are discharged with the diagnosis of “worried well”.

What temperature do I need to have my thermostat set?  This question always makes me laugh a bit because some of it is truly dependent on the climate where you live. Many parents think they need to “crank up the heat” for a newborn, but actually a cooler room temperature has been shown to correlate with a reduction in sudden infant death (SIDS).  The “ideal” temperature that has been recommended is around 68 - 70 degrees, but for those of us who live in the south during the dead of summer, it is almost impossible to keep your house this cool and very expensive. At the same time, some parents are uncomfortable during the winter with the thermostat at 68 degrees…so I would recommend keeping your house comfortable and on the cooler side rather than too warm. You also do not need to bundle your baby when it is blazing hot outside, less is more if the house is hot.

What about a pacifier?  Mother’s come in and say, “I was told that I shouldn’t use a pacifier because it will cause “nipple confusion”.  While I am a huge proponent of breast feeding I think that a pacifier is also helpful for a breast feeding mother so that she does not use her own breast as a “human pacifier”. Many new moms come in to see me at the 2 week check up crying, exhausted and with bleeding nipples. They are putting their baby on the breast for hours at a time as “it seems the only way my baby is content”.  Although they were told that they could put their finger in their baby’s mouth as a way to help console their baby, that too does not provide much of a distance from the baby…even to go to the bathroom, take a shower or eat!! A baby has the reflex to suck which is termed, “non-nutritive sucking”.  This is one way that your baby will calm themselves.  So, once your baby is getting on the breast, I would buy a pacifier and “teach” your partner how to hold your baby in the position as if they were going to be fed,  but with a pacifier to suck on rather than the breast. Once situated you can try walking around, gentle bouncing or swaying while your baby is happily sucking on their pacifier. Mother gets a bit of a rest between feedings and infant is happy with a pacifier ( rather than a finger). We will discuss taking away a pacifier at another time! 

 

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. 

Tags: 
Daily Dose

SIDS Risks

1.30 to read

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is every parent’s worst nightmare. From the time a family has their new baby until that child is 1 year of age, SIDS is of a concern. 

Most new parents in 2012 know about the Back to Sleep campaign (BTS), which was recommended by the AAP in 1994. After  the recommendation for newborn’s sleep position was changed from prone (tummy) to supine (back) the incidence of SIDS in the U.S. showed a sharp decline (more than 50%) over the first 10 year period. Unfortunately, the overall SIDS rate has plateaued since that time, and SIDS is still the leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S. 

A study in the April 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics looked at risk factors for SIDS. Parents need to know that greatest risk for SIDS is during the first 12 months of life (the so named “Critical” development period). There are also both intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for SIDS as well. All of these factors contribute to the vulnerability for SIDS. 

The peak incidence for SIDS is still between 2-4 months of a baby’s life. (postnatal age). The intrinsic risk factors for SIDS include, male gender, prematurity, genetic differences (now being found called polymorphisms) and a child’s prenatal exposure to cigarettes and/or alcohol. Extrinsic risk factors include tummy or side sleep position, bed sharing, over bundling, soft bedding and a child’s face being covered.  In this study 99% of SIDS infants had at least 1 risk factor, and 57% had at least 2 extrinsic and 1 intrinsic risk factors. Only 5% of the SIDS victims studied had no extrinsic risk. I think this is important for all parents to know! 

So what can parent’s do to lower the risk of SIDS for their baby?  Well, while you cannot change the peak incidence of SIDS between 2-4 months of a baby’s life there is a lot you can do! 

Looking at intrinsic factors:  gender is a 50-50 deal and seeing that I have 3 sons, I don’t know a lot about gender selection, so will not even touch that topic. But, you can prevent prenatal cigarette and alcohol exposure, and every pregnant mother (and father due to second had smoke issues) should eliminate smoking. That sounds easy enough. 

Prematurity may be lessened when a mother is healthy prior to her pregnancy and continues to do as much as possible during her pregnancy to ensure a full term birth. Basically maintaining a healthy diet, getting good prenatal care and listening to your doctor will help to prevent many pre-term births. 

Extrinsic factors are the easiest to change. While prone sleep positioning is a large risk factor for SIDS, there is now evidence that some other risks may appear in conjunction with sleep position.  Putting a baby on their side where they may roll to their tummies may be one issue.  Leaving soft objects or blanket in the crib may be another. Bed sharing is also not advised. 

So, the so-called “triple risk factors” for SIDS may be important information in providing risk reduction strategies for parents and caregivers. Any change that may lessen the risk of SIDS is meaningful and beneficial and will help new parents sleep a bit better as well!  I also did not see any mention of video cameras in the room as a reduction in risk, just saying..... 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Baby

Could higher cigarette taxes save babies lives?

1:45

A new study says that when the cost of cigarettes increase, fewer babies die.  The study links rising cigarette taxes to a decline in infant deaths.

Specifically, researchers said that each $1 per pack increase in the overall tobacco tax rate over the years 1999-2010 may have contributed to two fewer infant deaths each day.

The dangers of smoking during pregnancy are well documented. Complications include infant nicotine addiction, lower oxygen for the growing baby, increased chances of miscarriage, an increase of a baby developing respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome to name just a few.

Fortunately, U.S. smoking rates have declined during the years examined in the study – 1999 to 2010.

The research doesn't directly prove that higher taxes translate into fewer infant deaths. Still, "we found that increases in cigarette taxes and prices were associated with decreases in infant mortality," said study author Dr. Stephen Patrick, an assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

In the new study, researchers tracked infant death rates and tobacco taxes from 1999-2010, when inflation-adjusted tobacco taxes on the state and federal levels rose from 84 cents a pack to $2.37 per pack. During the same time period, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births fell from 7.3 to 6.2 overall, and from 14.3 to 11.3 among African-Americans.

Other factors were also considered that might influence infant mortality including family income and education. Researchers still found an association with the rising cigarette taxes.

Patrick acknowledged that it's possible that factors other than cigarette taxes contributed to the decline in the infant death rate. One possibility is that medical care improved over that time, leading to fewer deaths. But Patrick said that prospect is unlikely since such a change would presumably be seen in all states, and the study didn't reveal that kind of trend.

The researchers also examined the effect of tobacco prices, and found that increases appeared to have the same level of impact on infant mortality as tax hikes.

What about the prospect that pregnant women and new mothers might choose to spend money on tobacco -- including higher taxes -- instead of on their children? "That would only occur if smoking is a large share of the household expenditures," Levy said. And, he said, it's important to note that research has shown that higher taxes are especially likely to lead to less smoking among the poor.

While there may be other contributing factors that reduce the number of infant mortality during the research dates, researchers noted that the higher cost of cigarettes means more pregnant women will smoke either not at all or less and that’s a good thing for the babies they deliver.

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Randy Dotinga, http://www.kfvs12.com/story/30638397/higher-cigarette-taxes-tied-to-fewer-infant-deaths

http://www.webmd.com/baby/smoking-during-pregnancy

Your Baby

Teething May Make Your Baby Fussy, But Not Sick

2:00

Parents sometimes have trouble distinguishing between whether their cranky baby is actually ill or is just getting his or her first teeth. Because a baby’s gums may be tender and swollen as their teeth come in, a slight rise in temperature can occur.  Other changes may happen as well such as fussiness and increased drooling. All- in –all, babies can be pretty miserable till those first teeth break through.

That said, teething does not cause a full-fledged fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or any other signs of illness according to a new review led by Dr. Michele Bolan, of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Certain symptoms can be confusing for parents says Dr. Minu George, interim chief of general pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"I get questions about this on a daily basis," said George, who was not involved in the study.

When a baby’s temperature reaches 100.4 degrees F or higher, it becomes an actual fever, not just a slight increase in temperature.

"Fevers are not a bad thing," she pointed out. "They're part of the body's response to infection." But, George added, parents should be aware that a fever is likely related to an illness.

Of course, new parents are going to be somewhat edgy when it comes to caring for their infant. It’s a new world of responsibility that can seem overwhelming at times. 

Pediatricians and family doctors regularly answer questions about this topic with an explanation of how a typical teething experience presents.

Over the ages, other symptoms have been linked to teething that should never apply. They include sores or blisters around the mouth, appetite loss and diarrhea that does not go away quickly. Any of these symptoms warrant a call to your pediatrician.

Babies differ in age as to when their teeth begin to come in.  Typically, the fist tooth begins to erupt around 6 months of age. It can also be as early as 3 months and as late as 1 year of age. There really isn’t a set age for teething to begin, just an average.

Baby’s teeth usually erupt through the gums in a certain order:

·      The two bottom front teeth (central incisors)

·      The four upper front teeth (central and lateral incisors)

·      The two lower lateral incisors

·      The first molars

·      The four canines (located on either side next to the upper and lower lateral incisors)

·      The remaining molars on either side of the existing line of teeth

By age 3, most children have all 20 of their primary teeth.

As for helping babies get through the misery of teething, George advised against medication, including topical gels and products that are labeled "natural" or "homeopathic."

Instead, she said, babies can find relief by chewing on a cooled teething ring or wet washcloth, or eating cool foods.

The analysis was published in the February online edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Amy Norton, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20160218/teething-makes-babies-cranky-but-not-sick-review

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/teething-topic-overview

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

What do the new concussion guidelines mean to young athletes?

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.