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Dog Bites & Kids

1.15 to read

I saw a young boy (this week) who was bitten by a dog.  Very sad as I began to think this is the time of the year that I will start seeing more bites. Why? Warmer weather brings families outdoors and I’ve noticed more dog parks popping up. I have experience with dog bites as a pediatrician and mom.

We are a dog family and my husband and I had our first dog, Mrs. Brown, before our oldest son was born. She was the “perfect” dog, a mutt that my brother (who is a vet) had found and gave yo us.

 When the boys came along she was wonderful and would follow them around the yard and to the closest neighbors, I would always know where the kids were as  Mrs. Brown would be waiting on the porch for them.

Our next dog was a golden retriever, Maddie, that our middle son wanted, and she too was a member of our family for 12 years.  Sweet (but a bit lazy), she was so sad as each of our sons left for college. She was suddenly the only child left at home. It broke our hearts when she died and the boys had not gotten a chance to get home to see her. 

Thinking we didn’t need a dog in a “empty” house was a mistake.  The youngest son felt like he should have a dog (even though he was away at college) and I thought a little dog might be nice.  No way, according to the youngest son, we “are a big dog family”, and so we now have 4 year old Maggie, a yellow lab. Sweet, smart and spoiled is all I can say.

Now, back to dog bites. I think it is important for children to be around dogs (and other pets as well) but to have a respect for them. Just like we teach children, “stranger danger”, the same goes for dogs. Teach your children not to approach strange dogs, or reach through a fence to pat a dog. Always ask the owner before trying to pet a dog.  

I would not recommend buying your child a dog until they are around 4 years of age. But, if you already have a dog, bringing that new baby into the home gives the dog some time to get adjusted before they are having a toddler around.  You as a pet owner should also know the temperament of your dog and if you sense any issues with your pet and aggression it may be best to find another home for the dog before your child is mobile. It doesn’t matter how careful one is, toddlers like to explore and that may mean that they are touching and petting the dog as well.

I know about dog bites from experience as our youngest son was bitten in the face by a friends dog. The bite was not provoked, but the dog came over while he was laying on the floor eating popcorn and watching a movie  and went right for his face. A late night phone call, trip to ER and plastic surgeon and 20 stitches later my son still wanted to play at that friends house!!  He loved dogs before, and still does.  Just a freak “accident” but I can still see the scars.  But, you know I am the mom!



Your Baby

Study: Fracking Linked to Babies Low Birth Weight

High volume fracturing, also known as fracking, has increased in production all through the United States. The process allows access to large amounts of natural gas trapped in shale deposits by utilizing natural gas wells.

These types of wells were once more likely to be found in rural settings but are now increasingly located in and near populated neighborhoods.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found a link between mothers who live close to high volume fracking wells and an increased risk of having a lower birth weight baby.

Researchers analyzed the birth records of more than 15,400 babies born in Pennsylvania's Washington, Westmoreland and Butler counties between 2007 and 2010.

Women who lived close to a high number of natural gas fracking sites were 34 percent more likely to have babies who were "small for gestational age" than mothers who did not live close to a large number of such wells, the study found.

Small for gestational age means a baby is smaller than normal based on the number of weeks the baby has been in the womb, according to the March of Dimes.

The findings held true even after other factors were accounted for such as whether the mother smoked, her race, age, education and prenatal care. Also taken into account was whether she had previous children and the baby’s gender.

Like other cities around the country, the number of fracking sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale has increased substantially in the last few years. In 2007 there were 44 wells; by 2010, more than 2,800.

"Our work is a first for our region and supports previous research linking unconventional gas development and adverse health outcomes," study co-author Bruce Pitt, chair of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, said in a university news release.

"These findings cannot be ignored. There is a clear need for studies in larger populations with better estimates of exposure and more in-depth medical records," he added.

The main concerns around fracking sites are the air and noise pollution and waste fluids.

"Developing fetuses are particularly sensitive to the effects of environmental pollutants. We know that fine particulate air pollution, exposure to heavy metals and benzene, and maternal stress all are associated with lower birth weight," Pitt said.

While the study provides an association between fracking and lower weight babies, it does not prove that living close to a high concentration of natural gas fracking sites causes lower birth weights. Researchers said that they believe the study’s findings warrant further investigations.

The study was published online in the June edition of the journal PLOS One.

Source: Robert Preidt,

Your Child

Doctors May Unknowingly Discourage HPV Vaccine for Preteens


The majority of physicians say that the HPV vaccine given to preteens, before they become sexually active, can help prevent infections with viruses that can cause cervical, penile and anal cancers as well as genital warts.

However, about 27 percent of doctors may inadvertently discourage parents from having their preteens vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study, because they don’t recommend the vaccine strongly enough.

Pediatricians and family physicians deliver the bulk of HPV vaccines. Some of these physicians do not offer the vaccines as strongly as they do when urging parents to vaccinate against meningococcal disease or to get tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster shots, the study reported.

The study, which is based on a national online survey of 776 doctors, found a quarter did not strongly endorse the need for HPV vaccination with the parents of the 11- and 12-year-olds under their care.

Nearly 60 percent were more likely to recommend the vaccine for adolescents they thought were at higher risk of becoming infected — perhaps because the doctors knew or suspected they were sexually active — than for all 11- and 12-year-olds.

“You kind of get the sense that some [health care] providers see this as a somewhat uncomfortable situation,” said lead author Melissa Gilkey, a behavioral scientist in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Many parents don’t like to think about the possibility of their child having sex, particularly when they are only 11 or 12 years old. The vaccine is actually meant to provide protection for when they are older. That’s why it is recommended before a child typically begins engaging in sexual activity. Studies have also shown preteens get the best immune response to the vaccines.

Evidence generated by one of Gilkey’s earlier studies suggests it’s not necessarily parents that are squeamish about the vaccination, but physicians that overestimate a parent’s response when the vaccination is urged. 

 “It’s not necessarily that physicians always are negative about it. But it’s kind of that HPV vaccine may get damned with faint praise, if you will,” Gilkey said. “Compared to the way that they recommend these other vaccines, parents may suspect that there’s something wrong with it.”

The aim of the research is to help figure out why HPV vaccination rates remain disappointingly low. The CDC reported that in 2014, 40 percent of adolescent girls and 22 percent of adolescent boys had received the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine. The agency says girls and boys should have all three doses by their 13th birthday.

According to the study, how the information is presented has an impact on how well it is received. Doctors who started conversations about the HPV vaccination by telling parents the vaccines protect against cancers and genital warts gave stronger recommendations than those who opened saying HPV viruses are sexually transmitted.

The study was published Thursday in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Although Gilkey declared no conflicts of interest, the senior author of the study, Noel Brewer of the University of North Carolina, has received research funding and speaker fees from companies that sell HPV vaccines.

Source: Helen Branswell,






Your Child

Healthier Choices for Students in School Lunch Lines


School lunches have changed over the years and in many school cafeterias, food options are healthier than ever before, according to a new study.

Elementary school cafeterias are offering more vegetables, fresh fruit, salad bars, whole grains and more healthy pizzas, while the availability of high-fat milks, fried potatoes and regular pizza has decreased, researchers report.

"School food service programs have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, and largely have been very successful," said lead researcher Lindsey Turner, director of the Initiative for Healthy Schools at Boise State University, in Idaho.

Although in some schools food choices are improving, that’s not the case everywhere. Turner noted that more work needs to be done to make sure every student has the same healthy choices in the lunch line.

In the study of more than 4,600 elementary schools that are part of the U.S. National School Lunch Program, researchers found that school lunches improved significantly between 2006-2007 and 2013-2014.

Despite improvements in food choices, disparities were still found. For example, schools in the West were more likely to offer salad bars than schools in the Northeast, Midwest or South, the researchers found.

Schools with a majority of black or Hispanic children were less likely to offer fresh fruit than schools with a preponderance of white students.

Also, schools in poor areas were less likely to offer salads regularly.

Over the course of the study, Midwestern schools slightly reduced offering pre-made salads in favor of salad bars, but Southern schools were more likely to offer pre-made salads and less likely to have salad bars, the researchers found.

On the other side of offering healthier foods is choosing to eat those foods. Just because there are better food options available, doesn’t mean that kids will eat them. One expert noted that it takes time and effort for kids to change their eating habits. It not only has to look good, it has to taste good.

"It is not only important to improve the quality of school lunches but to make these foods attractive, tasty, easily seen and accessible," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, in New York City.

Studies have found that putting fresh fruit in a nice bowl, in a conveniently located, well-lit area in the school cafeteria increased sales of fruit by 102 percent, she noted.

"A brightly lit, hot-and-cold salad bar filled with colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, mushroom and spinach pizza, and veggie tacos center-stage in the lunchroom would be very attractive to students and staff alike," Heller said.

This approach works well at home, too, she added.

"Kids are more likely to grab healthy foods like cut-up melon, carrots, peppers, edamame and hummus when they are upfront and easy to grab in the fridge," Heller said.

The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Story source: Steven Reinberg,

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Your Baby

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

1.30 to read

A new study slated to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, says that there is no association between the amount of vaccines a young child receives and autism. Some parents have worried that there may be a link and have opted out of having their child vaccinated or reduced the number of vaccines recommended.

The percentage of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased by 72% since 2007. Some experts believe that changes in the diagnostic criteria may account for some of the increase as well as better screening tools and rating scales.

According to a statement released from the journal, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Abt Associates analyzed data from children with and without ASD.

Researchers examined each child's cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, the journal's statement said.

The antigen totals were the same for children with and without ASD, researchers found.

Scientists believe genetics play a fundamental role in the risk for a child developing autism (80-90%), but recent studies also suggests that the father’s age at the time of conception may also be a contributor by increasing risks for genetic mistakes in the sperm that could be passed along to offspring.

Parents have worried about a link between vaccines and autism for decades despite the growing body of scientific evidence disproving such an association.

Source: Luciana Lopez,

Your Child

40% of Children 3 to 11 Are Exposed to Secondhand Smoke


The good news is that exposure to secondhand smoke dropped by half in the United States between 1999 and 2012. While more and more people are giving up the unhealthy habit, the amount of children being exposed to secondhand smoke is still significant – particularly in the African-American population. 

In a recent report, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 58 million American nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke.

In that group, the CDC suggests that 40 percent of children aged 3 to 11 are breathing in secondhand smoke and among black children, the number is much higher at 70 percent.

"Secondhand smoke can kill, and too many Americans -- and particularly too many children -- are still exposed to secondhand smoke," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said during a midday press conference.

Frieden, citing the U.S. Surgeon General, said, "There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke." Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals including about 70 that can cause cancer, he added.

The connection of secondhand smoke and illnesses in children has been widely studied and reported. In infants and children, secondhand smoke has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks.

In adult nonsmokers, passive smoke has been tied to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, according to Frieden.

Each year, secondhand smoke kills more than 41,000 Americans from lung cancer and heart disease, and causes 400 deaths from SIDS, Frieden said. "These deaths are entirely preventable," he added.

Susan Liss, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement: "The high level of child exposure to secondhand smoke also underscores the need for parents to take additional steps to protect children, such as ensuring that homes, cars and other places frequented by children are smoke-free. For parents who smoke, the best step to protect children is to quit smoking."

Smoking can become such a mindless habit that parents and caregivers forget that their children are breathing in the smoke they exhale. In nonsmoking homes, it can be difficult when friends or other family members want to light up when visiting. Asking people to either step outside or not smoke in the house has caused many a friends and family rift. But, standing your ground will protect your child from the influence of smoking and the polluted air that flows from a smoker.

Most restaurants, bars and workplaces have issued smoke-free policies but one's home and auto are open to personal choice. The number of U.S. households that are now smoke-free has increased in the past 20 years from 43 percent to 83 percent and that’s truly amazing considering our long love affair with cigarettes and cigars!

However, when 1 in 4 nonsmokers – including many children-are still being exposed, it’s going to take more parents, friends and family members to put down their cigarettes for good to finally stop children and adults from suffering the disastrous effects of breathing in secondhand smoke.

Source: Steven Reinberg,

Your Teen

Teen Athletes Leading the Nation in Tommy John Surgeries


Teen athletes accounted for more than half of the Tommy John surgeries performed in the U.S. from 2007 to 2011 according to a new study. The surgery is actually an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR) graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. Tommy John was the first Major League baseball pitcher to have the surgery and the nickname has now become common use.

 “Our results showed that 15- to 19-year-olds accounted for 56.7 percent of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR) or Tommy John surgeries performed in the US between 2007 to 2011," said lead study author Brandon Erickson, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, in a press release. "This is a significant increase over time with an average increase of 9.12 percent per year.”

Once a player has the surgery, he or she needs a good 12 to 15 months of recovery time before they are able to return to a high level of sport activity. Oftentimes, a second surgery may be required as the athlete continues to strain the ligament.

Baseball pitchers are the athletes that most often require the surgery because of the way they pitch; overhanded instead of underhanded. Many believe that the problems start in the teenage years with players who throw harder than ever and don't ever take a month off.

Dr. Erickson and his team looked at a private insurance database to identify patients who received UCLR surgeries throughout the US.

About 4 out of every 100,000 patients who had surgery between 2007 and 2011 had a UCLR surgery. These patients were overwhelmingly male, with 32 percent coming from the 15- to 17-year-old age group and 22 percent coming from the 20- to 24-year-old age group.

These surgeries grew at a rate of 4.2 percent each year between 2007 and 2011. And more than half were performed in the southern region of the US.

Another reason many teen athletes are susceptible to injury is that they play only one sport and play year-round, never giving their immature bodies enough time to rest and repair.

According to Dr. Erickson, more attention should be given to prevention because overuse injuries tend to occur in intensive training and high-performance games.

"The research numbers suggest that more young athletes believe that having an UCLR procedure performed earlier in their career may lead to the big leagues or a scholarship, even though only 1 in 200 kids who play high school baseball will make it to the MLB," Dr. Erickson said. "This paradigm shift needs to be evaluated further to help prevent overuse injuries in kids from the beginning of the season when most issues arise."

Some teens simply play through the pain without considering the possible long-term physical problems that could quickly end the career they worked so hard to attain. It’s up to the adults in their lives to watch over and give them the guidance they need to stay healthy. Parents and coaches need to make sure that their kids and students are following the safety rules established by the sport associations and organizations.

This study was presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer- reviewed.

Source: Beth Greenwood,





Your Child

School Kids Benefit From Mindfulness Programs


Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. A new study says that adding a mindfulness based stress reduction program to middle schools may help reduce kid’s stress and trauma.  

"High-quality structured mindfulness programs have the potential to really improve students' lives in ways that I think can be really meaningful over the life course," said lead author Dr. Erica Sibinga of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Children in many U.S. cities are at an increased risk of stresses and traumas due to the effects of community drug use, violence, multigenerational poverty, limited education and economic opportunities, Sibinga and her colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

 The study involved 300 students, in grades five through eight, at two Baltimore public schools. Children were randomly selected for either a twelve - week mindfulness based stress reduction program or health classes to take during the school day.

Nearly all the students were from low-income families and African-American.

The mindfulness program contained material about meditation, yoga and the mind, body connection; practice of those techniques; and group discussion.

The program helped the children be aware of their response to what was happening to them at the time.

"It allows them to not only know what is happening, but to stop and take three breaths and figure out how they want to respond to what is happening the present moment," Sibinga told Reuters Health.

By the end of the program, children in the mindfulness program had lower levels of general health problems, depression, recurrent thoughts about negative experiences and other symptoms of stress and trauma compared to the children enrolled in the health classes only.

Sibinga said the differences would be enough for the students to notice in their day-to-day lives.

The researchers acknowledge some limitations to the research, like children missing some classes and possibly being exposed to mindfulness practices outside the sessions.

While Sibinga acknowledged that she couldn’t say if the program would have the same results in other student populations, she suspected there would be benefits.

The next step is to look at how to spread the program to other schools, and look at how the program may work, she said.

"It doesn’t get us off the hook of trying to reduce the sources of trauma in our urban life," she said. But the study suggests adding structured mindfulness programs in urban settings would be beneficial, she added.

Some private schools in the U.S. have already implemented mindfulness classes in their school programs and have reported positive effects such as fewer behavioral problems and an increased ability to focus during class on school work.

Sources: Andrew M. Seaman,



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Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!


Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

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