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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. 

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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

Preschool Nutrition Can Be Challenging

1.30 to read

Does your child eat three meals a day with healthy snacks along the way? I often find myself talking to parents about establishing healthy eating habits especially when you have a preschooler. Preschool children, specifically the two to five-year-old set are notoriously picky eaters, and parents need to recognize that this is developmentally appropriate, although frustrating for parents.

This is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity. A good place to start to get information is “MyPyramid for Preschoolers”, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This website not only covers what your children should be eating, but also is full of good advice on handling picky eaters, how to monitor your child’s growth and ideas to encourage physical activity.

The website encourages parents to lead by example and let your children see you eating a wide array of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. There are ideas for healthy snacks that can be eaten on the run, as you get back into carpools and after school activities. Even the toddler set is busy after school!

Remember: do not let food choices become a battle or an issue. Do not make negative food comments around your children, and keep trying new things. It may take up to 20 attempts or more before your child will try something new, but if you don’t keep trying you will never know if they might really like broccoli.

Also, no “yucky faces” for the adults and older children while at the table and eating their meal. That will only discourage your toddler from trying unfamiliar foods. Put on that happy face, even if it is not your favorite food, it might be your child’s.

The most important message is to make mealtime and snack time pleasant and healthy. Even a toddler can help with planning and preparing a meal. This website is really quite good and interactive as you can enter your child’s first name, age, gender and typical amount of activity and the site will generate a plan just for your child! Can’t be easier than that.

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

 
Daily Dose

Autism Linked to Testosterone?

New research links autism to testosterone levels in children.I just read an interesting article by Dr. Baron–Cohen who is a professor of developmental psychology and the director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, England.  He is the principle architect of a theory which suggests that autism is linked to in utero exposure of the fetus to very high levels of testosterone.

This interesting hypothesis is that these very high levels of in utero testosterone can lead to extreme masculinization of the brain and the mind of the newborn. In Dr. Baron-Cohen’s words, “autism can be thought of as a case of extreme male brain”.  This seemed fascinating to me, so I continued to read on. According to Dr. Baron-Cohen, the hormone testosterone and the genes that regulate testosterone during fetal development may be part of the link to the cause of autism. Although it is known that autism is likely due to complex and multifactorial issues, Dr. Baron-Cohen has found that fetal testosterone levels are typically twice as high in males as in females, and testosterone levels may vary up to 20 times in male fetuses. Given that the prevalence of autism spectrum conditions is about 1% in the general population, and that classic autism has a male: female ratio of 4:1, and Asperger’s syndrome is 9:1, the increased testosterone levels may be significant. Dr. Baron-Cohen has been conducting an ongoing study looking at 235 developing children whose fetal testosterone levels were known from maternal amniocentesis.  He has followed them for 8 years and had parents rate their children for autistic traits.  He found that the number of autistic traits a child displayed correlated with their fetal testosterone level, regardless of their sex. He also reported that earlier studies done on these children at 12 months of age, showed that those babies with higher testosterone levels were less likely to make eye contact with the mothers, and at age 2 these children had  more limited vocabulary and language development than did those infants with lower fetal testosterone levels. So, many of the hallmarks of autistic spectrum disorders include social and communication difficulties, narrow interests, and extreme need for routine. Many would view these characteristics as being extreme “male” interests and behaviors. Does this in any way relate to those higher fetal testosterone levels?  Are these gender differences due to cultural and social influences?  These are very interesting questions and will need even more study. Dr. Baron–Cohen and other investigators will need to continue to research this very important, yet preliminary hypothesis, to see if they continue to find a correlation between fetal testosterone levels and autistic symptoms.   Any information that brings us closer to solving the puzzle of autism is very exciting.  I look forward to reading further data as it becomes available. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Stranger Danger

1.30 to read

We had a question via our iPhone App from an aunt who wanted to talk to her twin 4 year old nephews about “stranger danger”. Unfortunately, this topic has been in the news quite frequently lately with child abduction cases being reported all around the country.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has numerous resources for educating children about safety.  Interestingly, most perpetrators are not actually strangers, but are often someone the parents or another adult knows and may have been around the child on occasion. So, it seems that “stranger danger” may not be the appropriate term to use when teaching our children, especially younger, children about safety. It is important that the conversation about safety begins with children at young ages. It is often easier to use teachable moments to begin the conversation with young children. 

Talk to your child about “safe” strangers, as it is hard for a child to understand why you are talking to grocery store clerks, or people on the playground in the park, and yet they are strangers. It may be best to teach a child to watch out for dangerous behaviors from adults, rather than saying “never talk to strangers”.  Talk about adults who might approach them for directions, or to find a missing pet and role play as to what they should  do. At the same time, teach them that they can turn to “strangers” such a store clerks or mothers with children for help if they are scared.

While talking about this subject use a calm reassuring manner.  You do not want to make your child “too” anxious as most people they will meet are not dangerous, and children do need to interact and trust numerous people around them that they will meet in  different situations.

Another good way to discuss the issue of “stranger danger” is by reading books to young children that deal with the issue. Several good books that I like are:  The Berenstein Bears Learn About Strangers; A Stranger in the Park; I  Can Play it Safe.  There are many other books out there too, so head to your library  or your local bookstore to get some more recommendations. The librarians are often helpful with finding “age appropriate” books.  Lastly, this is not a one time conversation, but should be discussed at different ages and stages of your child’s life.

That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Breaking Bad Habits

1:15 to read

Do any of your children bite their nails or suck their thumbs? If so, are you always saying, “take your fingers out of your mouth, they are dirty”, or “if you keep biting your nails you will get sick due to all of those germs on your fingers”!  I was guilty of saying those very things to my own children, and I also remember being a nail biter and my mother saying the same thing to me.

Well, who would have thought that a study just released today in the journal Pediatrics might make us parents eat our own words (it wouldn’t be the first time).  The study, “Thumb-Sucking, Nail-Biting and Atopic Sensitization, Asthma and Hay Fever” suggests that “childhood exposure to microbial organisms reduces the risk of developing allergies”.  Who knew that there might be something so positive coming from a “bad habit”.  

This study was done in New Zealand and followed over 1,000 children born between 1972-1973 (dark ages) whose parents reported that they either bit their nails or sucked their thumbs at 5,7,9 and 11 years old. The participants were then checked at ages 13 and again at 32 years old to look for an allergic reaction ( by skin prick testing) against at least one common allergen.  And guess what…at 13 years of age the prevalence of an allergic reaction was lower among those children who HAD sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails.  Incredibly the the findings persisted almost 20 years later!  This study even looked at cofounding factors including sex, parental history of allergies, pet ownership, breast feeding and parental smoking… none of which played a role. 

So, while not advocating for children to suck their thumbs or bite their nails (which unfortunately I did until high school when I decided to have nails to polish) there may be a silver lining….a protective effect against allergies that persists into adulthood. 

Lemonade out of lemons!!!

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

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.  

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