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Overweight Girls Start Periods At Earlier Age

1.45 to read

Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.It's nothing new that girls are getting younger and younger when they have their first period, but experts worry that the current obesity epidemic could be fueling that trend.

Overweight or obese girls get their first period months earlier than their normal-weight peers, according to a Danish study. Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. About 17 percent of American kids and teens are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the study, researchers used information on body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- and age at first period from about 3,200 Danish girls born between 1984 and 1987. The girls started their period just after they had turned 13, on average, which is about half a year later than in the U.S. Keim said part of the reason for this difference may be that African-Americans tend to start their periods before white girls. On average, a girl got her period about 25 days earlier for every point her BMI increased. For a female of about average height and weight, a one-point change in BMI is equivalent to about six pounds. Overweight and obese girls, for example, got their period three to five months before normal-weight girls, said Anshu Shrestha, a graduate student at UCLA School of Public Health, who worked on the study. There has been past research showing a link between BMI and when girls start menstruating. However, since this study was done more recently, it shows that the link is holding up in today's generation, Keim said. The researchers also found that a girl's mother's weight was related to when her daughter started menstruating, but less so than earlier work had hinted. For every point her mother's BMI when pregnant went up, the girl's period came about a week earlier, according to the new study, which was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Keim said the Danish findings reinforce the importance of keeping a healthy weight. "It's important for your entire life, starting from very early on," she told Reuters Health. "And it can even affect your children's health." Talking to your daughter about Menstruation. Most girls begin to menstruate when they're about 12, but periods are possible as early as age 8. That's why explaining menstruation early is so important. But menstruation is an awkward subject to talk about, especially with preteen girls, who are often embarrassed by this discussion. So what's the best way to approach this ticklish topic? If your daughter asks questions about menstruation, answer them openly and honestly. Provide as many details as you think she needs at the time. It's OK to let your daughter set the pace, but don't let her avoid the topic entirely. If she's not asking questions as she approaches the preteen years, it's up to you to start talking about menstruation. Don't plan a single tell-all discussion. Instead, talk about the various issues - from basic hygiene to fear of the unknown - in a series of short conversations. Consider it part of a continuing conversation on how the human body works. Remember, your daughter needs good information about the menstrual cycle and all the other changes that puberty brings. If her friends are her only source of information, she may hear some nonsense and take it for fact. To introduce the subject of menstruation, you might ask your daughter what she knows about puberty. Clarify any misinformation and ask what questions she might have. It may be helpful to time your conversations with the health lessons and sex education your daughter is receiving in school, or you could broach the subject before a routine doctor's appointment. You can tell your daughter that the doctor may ask her whether she's gotten her period yet. Then ask if she has any questions or concerns about menstruation. Girls might prefer to learn about menstruation from a female family member, but sometimes that's not possible. If you're a single father and you're not comfortable talking about menstruation, you might delegate these conversations to a female relative or friend. The key is to make sure the information is relayed somehow. The biology of menstruation is important, but most girls are more interested in practical information about periods. Your daughter may want to know when it's going to happen, what it's going to feel like and what she'll need to do when the time comes. - What is menstruation? Menstruation means a girl's body is physically capable of becoming pregnant. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn't fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is a period. - Does it hurt? Many girls have cramps, typically in the lower abdomen, when their periods begin. Cramps can be dull and achy or sharp and intense. Exercise, a heating pad or an over-the-counter pain reliever may help ease any discomfort. - When will it happen? No one can tell exactly when a girl will get her first period. Typically, however, girls begin menstruating about two years after their breasts begin to develop. Many girls experience a thin, white vaginal discharge about one year before menstruation begins. - What should I do? Explain how to use sanitary pads or tampons. Many girls are more comfortable starting with pads, but it's OK to use tampons right away. Remind your daughter that it may take some practice to get used to inserting tampons. Stock the bathroom with various types of sanitary products ahead of time. Encourage your daughter to experiment until she finds the product that works best for her. - What if I'm at school? Encourage your daughter to carry a few pads or tampons in her backpack or purse, just in case. Many school bathrooms have coin-operated dispensers for these products. The school nurse also may have supplies. - Will everyone know that I have my period? Assure your daughter that pads and tampons aren't visible through clothing. No one needs to know that she has her period. - What if blood leaks onto my pants? Offer your daughter practical suggestions for covering up stains until she's able to change clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around her waist. You might also encourage your daughter to wear dark pants or shorts when she has her period, just in case. Your daughter may worry that she's not normal if she starts having periods before, or after, friends her age do, or if her periods aren't like those of her friends. But menstruation varies with the individual. Some girls have periods that last two days, while others have periods that last more than a week. It can even vary this drastically from month to month in the same girl. The amount of blood lost each month can vary, too, usually from 4 to 12 teaspoons (about 20 to 60 milliliters). It's also common for girls to have irregular periods for the first year or two. Some months might even go by without a period. Once your daughter's cycle settles down, teach her how to track her periods on a calendar. Eventually she may be able to predict when her periods will begin. Schedule a medical checkup for your daughter if: - Her periods last more than seven days - She has menstrual cramps that aren't relieved by over-the-counter medications - She's soaking more pads or tampons than usual - She's missing school or other activities because of painful or heavy periods - She goes three months without a period or suspects she may be pregnant - She hasn't started menstruating by age 15 The changes associated with puberty can be a little scary. Reassure your daughter that it's normal to feel apprehensive about menstruating, but it's nothing to be too worried about and you're there to answer any questions she may have.

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

Amber Beads for Teething?

1:30 to read

What is the deal with these amber teething beads?? Suddenly so many of “my” babies are wearing these little necklaces, which are “supposed” to help with teething. I worry they are a choking hazard and I have no clue why they would help a baby get their teeth?

I have previously written about teething and the many thoughts and/or “myths” surrounding babies and tooth eruption. A baby typically gets their first tooth around 6 months of age, and they are usually the lower 2 central incisors.  But, some babies will get teeth a bit earlier and some babies will not get a tooth until 15-18 months of age. The latest age that I have seen for a first tooth to come in was 22 months, and yes that child is totally normal and has all of their teeth!

Teething gets a bad rap for causing any fussiness in an infant once the baby reaches 4 months of age.  Whether the baby is fussy day or night, it is often attributed to teeth ( prior to this age it is “gas”). But, while many babies are drooling and putting their hands in their mouth and chewing on toys, it is probably actually due to development of hand to mouth coordination rather than tooth eruption.  A baby becomes really fixated orally around this age...and this stage last until they are about 24 months...you will see, everything goes straight to their mouth!

I am sure I remember my first child’s “teething” but I am also sure I could not begin to tell you when the 3rd son got his first tooth.  My middle son was the “crankiest baby/toddler” on the planet (he is a gem now) and he did not get a tooth until he was about 15 months old, and promptly knocked out his upper middle tooth around 2!   Don’t remember pain with teeth coming in or out?!?

So, back to the amber beads...I think they are a bit like essential oils...not sure what they really do. I also worry that a baby might get tangles up in the necklace and get asphyxiated...even though they are supposed to break apart. I would NOT take the risk. 

Lastly, you don’t see 5-6 year olds wearing amber beads as they lose their teeth and get their first permanent teeth. You also don’t hear a parent make excuses for a cranky/tired elementary school aged child....”she is just behaving like this because she is teething”, sounds a bit crazy right?

We parents like to have reasons for everything...and I don’t care if you blame teeth for making a baby fussy...I am just not sure there really is a correlation and certainly not for month after month...as a child gets 20 teeth in the first 2-3 years of life.   

Daily Dose

Swollen Lymph Nodes

1.45 to read

A parent’s concern over finding a swollen lymph node, which is known as lymphadenopathy, is quite common during childhood.  The most common place to notice your child’s lymph nodes are in the head and neck area.

Lymph nodes are easy to feel  around the jaw line, behind the ears and also at the base of the neck, and parents will often feel them when they are bathing their children.  Because young children get frequent viral upper respiratory infections (especially in the fall and winter months), the lymph nodes in the neck often enlarge as they send out white cells to help fight the infection. In most cases these nodes are the size of nickels, dimes or quarters and are freely mobile.

The skin overlying the nodes should not appear to be red or warm to the touch. There are often several nodes of various sizes that may be noticed at the same time on either side of the neck.   It is not uncommon for the node to be more visible when a child turns their head to one side which makes the node “stick out” even more.

Besides the nodes in the head and neck area there are many other areas where a parent might notice lymph nodes.  They are sometimes noticed beneath the armpit (axilla) and also in the groin area.  It your child has a bug bite on their arm or a rash on their leg or even acne on their face the lymph nodes in that area might become slightly swollen as they provide an inflammatory response.

In most cases if the lymph nodes are not growing in size and are not warm and red and your child does not appear to be ill you can watch the node or nodes for awhile.  The most typical scenario is that the node will decrease in size as your child gets over their cold or their bug bite.  If the node is getting larger or more tender you should see your pediatrician.  Any node that continues to increase in size, or becomes more firm and fixed needs to be examined.

As Adrienne noted in her iPhone App email, her child has had a prominent node for 7 months. Some children, especially if they are thin, have prominent and easily visible nodes.  They may remain that way for years and should not be of concern if your doctor has felt it before and it continues to remain the same size and is freely mobile.  Thankfully, benign lymphadenopathy is a frequent reason for an office visit to the pediatrician, and a parent can be easily reassured.

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

Daily Dose

Ready for Summer Camp!

1.30 to read

Summer camp season is upon us, I can tell from the number of forms I am signing each day!!  Many parents ask me when their child is ready for an overnight camp experience?  While you and I know that every child is different and some may be “camp ready” sooner than others, here are a few tips to show readiness for “sleep away” camp. 

Most children are ready to spend a week or two away from their parents between the ages of 8 - 10.  Older children may even want to spend a month or 2 at camp (certainly was the case for one of mine and not the others). But, age is not the only factor involved in deciding camp readiness. A child who has siblings going to camp may even be ready to join their brother or sister when they are as young as 7 years old.  They might miss their sibs more than their parents! 

For starters, has your child asked about going to camp, or have you asked them how they feel about going “away” to camp?   Does your child like to spend the night at a friend’s house or spend the night with relatives? Or, are they the type of child who always calls to get picked up because they want to “sleep in their own house”.  If you can’t spend one night away, I would not suggest leaping to 2 weeks of overnight camp. 

Has your child gone to a day camp before, made new friends easily and asked to go back for more?  Do they like certain types of camps that fit specialized interests, or are they just there to “do everything!”. These should be questions to answer when deciding about an overnight camping experience as well. 

Research camps with friends and neighbors. Do you want your child to be “far away” in different environment?  (both culturally and seasonally). What about accessibility and travel arrangements to and from camp? These decisions might also help you to choose camps either in or out of state. Some children would much prefer an overnight camp where you take them and pick them up rather than arriving at a new camp via bus or plane. 

Lastly, remember like so many other parenting decisions, this is a camp for your child.  Just because you went to “Camp --------” does not mean that it is necessarily the right camp for your child.  Be open- minded and take some time to visit a few camps this summer while they are open.  Just like colleges, best time to visit is when they are in session! 

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

 

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

Babies Rolling Around in Their Crib

Many babies roll around in their crib, but should parents worry they will spend too much time on their tummy and not be able to roll on their back?I received an email from the parents of a 3½ month old daughter who has recently learned how to roll from her back to her tummy.  Their “conundrum”, as they put it, was twofold.  They were concerned about her sleeping on her tummy, as well as the fact that she would get upset after she rolled from her back to tummy and would then “scream loudly” So,what to do?

Most babies learn to roll around 4 months of age and like everything else there is variability in this milestone.  Many babies learn to roll tummy to back first, typically while they are having tummy time. Suddenly you realize that the baby has used their arms to push up and then over onto their back.  Watching them do this is fun, as they will often look up with big startled eyes almost as saying, “Wow, this is like an amusement park ride!”, while other babies will let out a shriek and start to cry as they were scared by the whole event.  Remember we are all different and some of us (me) like roller coasters that go upside down and backwards and others (one of my children) would still rather give up a week’s allowance than get on a ride like that. There are also babies, like the one in question, who learn to roll from their back to tummy first.  This often occurs at night and causes a lot of concern, as all parents hear from the beginning, put your baby “back to sleep”.  But, even when sleep positioners were being used (they are no longer recommended), many an infant would figure out how to roll from their back to get all cozy and sleep on their tummy. Once your baby has achieved this milestone on their own, you cannot keep them from becoming a tummy sleeper. It is important that you still put the baby to bed on their back, but after that your baby will begin to find their own sleep position which many times is at the opposite end of the crib and may be on their tummy. Trying to be a vigilant parent who turns the baby back over is an exercise in futility as they have a mind of their own and will just flip over again, which is not as cute at 3 am. . You do not  need a video monitor or check on your baby every 10 minutes to see if they have rolled during the night.  As an infant has learned to roll it is also assumed that they will turn their head to clear their nose and mouth and the risk of SIDS decreases. Now, in the case of the baby in the email, she loved to flip from back to tummy, but then it would make her upset and she would scream.  Every time the parents went in there and turned her over and settled her again on her back, she would flip over to her tummy again, and the screaming would re-start.  In this case, I think you have to let your baby fuss (scream loudly) for a few minutes to see if they will either roll back over or fall to sleep again. It is so hard to hear your baby so upset, but she got herself in this mess (first of many) and so it is the beginning of figuring out how to handle it. She will either cry or roll, and you can flip a coin to see which comes first. After she has cried for 5 – 10 minutes I would go back in the room, try to soothe her while she is on her tummy (remember she rolled there) and then see if she will calm down and go back to sleep.  This is going to take patience and time and some sleep deprivation (which you had hoped was past I am sure), as she learns to self-console again after rolling over.  The good news is that she has achieved an important developmental milestone with rolling over. Lastly, once your baby is rolling remember never to leave them unattended on the bed, changing table, couch etc.  I call this 4–6 month old a “floor baby” as it is best to leave them on the floor on a blanket while you run to get a diaper or answer the phone etc.  Many a baby, including my own, has rolled right off that bed to the floor, usually without sustaining any injury but causing a lot of parental worry and guilt.  That experience must be like a free fall ride at Six Flags! That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Teething and Fevers

1:15 to read

Does teething cause a fever?  Ask many parents and they will say yes… but a recent study in the journal Pediatrics says no.  Researchers looked at signs and symptoms associated with primary tooth eruption in 3500 healthy children ages 35 months and under.  For most children the first tooth appears around 6 months, but don’t be overly concerned if your child does not cut their first tooth until later, there is still a lot of variability.

In this study 71% of children had some signs or symptoms related to teething including gum irritation, drooling and irritability.   Although about 25% of those studied reported “fever”, the rise in temperature was actually less than the level of 100.4 degrees, which is the definition of fever. About 20% of those studied also reported diarrhea.

The study also showed that the peak of signs and symptoms during teething were reported when the incisors (front teeth) erupted and that symptoms seemed to decrease with age. ( interesting as well, as I wonder if parents were just less focused on teething as their child gets older?).

While many parents will bring their child in to my office complaining that they are teething and have a temperature of 102 degrees, the two issues are not related. I had always been taught that teething does not cause a fever…so this study only serves as further confirmation.  Babies and toddlers are getting many viral infections during the same time that they are “teething” and their illness is the reason for the fever. This means that a child with a fever over 100.4 cannot go to daycare or school, despite the fact that parents want to send them with a note stating, “they are just teething”. 

I continue to tell many parents that their “irritable” toddler is probably just in a bad mood and “being a toddler” rather than attributing their temperament to cutting a tooth.  Once your child is older you begin to realize that teeth come ( and go) and many times you don’t even know it until your child drops to the floor throwing a tantrum and you see those molars have broken through the gums.  The same about sleep issues, as your child will cut teeth when they are 5, 7, 10 years of age and don’t complain that they can’t sleep or have hourly sleep awakenings.  A toddler that has sleep awakenings is more likely to be dreaming than teething, and is not “in pain”.

So when your child wakes up with a fever, don’t be attributing the fever to teething - something else is going on and that is usually yet another viral illness. 

Daily Dose

PU: Body Odor

1.00 to read

I received an email from a mother who asked if her 5 year old son, an avid athlete, could wear deodorant?  It seems that his arm pits “smell like a grown man”.  I have actually been asked this on occasion in my office and I have even noticed body odor (BO) during exams on some 5-8 year olds.   

Most children start to “stink” as they begin to enter puberty, but there are occasional children that for unknown reasons, develop BO without any signs of puberty. If it seems that your child is entering puberty at an early age, you do need to talk to your doctor.  If your child happens to be one of those kids who are just odiferous, there are several things that you can do.

Number one, make sure that your child is bathing/showering everyday, and that they wash their armpits well. Some little boys (and I bet a few girls) just pop in and out of the shower without touching soap on most of their bodies.  (I used to smell my boys hair when they came out of the shower, sometimes still smelled sweaty, no soap!).

If daily bathing does not do the trick, it may be time to use a deodorant, which just masks the smell. This often works for younger kids who are really stinky rather than sweaty.  An anti-perspirant actually stops and dries up perspiration and may not be needed until an older age.

There are numerous deodorant products available, some of which are natural as well. Head to the store and read labels to decide which one you prefer.

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