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Daily Dose

Swollen Lymph Nodes

1:30 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

Constipation

1:30 to read

Constipation is a topic that every pediatrician discusses….at least weekly and sometimes daily. It is estimated that up to 3% of all visits to the pediatrician may be due to constipation. Constipation is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years. I have been reading an article on updated recommendations for diagnosing and treating common constipation. The most important take home message is “ most children with constipation do not have an underlying organic disorder. Diagnosis should be based on a good history and physical exam for most cases of functional constipation”.

 

Like many things in medicine….the evaluation and treatment of constipation has also changed a bit since the last guidelines were published in 2006. It is now appropriate to define constipation with a shorter duration of symptoms (one month vs two) and some of the most common diagnostic criteria (Rome IV Diagnostic Criteria) include the child having less than 2 stools/week, painful or hard bowel movements, history of large diameter stools (parents will tell me their 3 year olds “poops” clog the toilet), and some may have a history of soiling their underpants. 

 

By taking a good history you can avoid unnecessary tests..including X-rays which are not routinely recommended when evaluating a child with possible constipation.  In most cases physical findings on the abdominal exam will confirm the diagnosis in combination with the history. I often can feel hard stool in a child’s left lower quadrant and when asked the last time they “pooped”, no one can really recall. 

 

The preferred treatment is now polyethylene glycol (PEG) therapy. PEG is now used to help “disimpact a child” as well as to maintenance therapy.  Where as enemas were often previously prescribed, PEG therapy has been shown to be equally effective in most cases, is given orally and is much less traumatic (for parent and child!). PEG works by drawing more water into the stool, causing more stool frequency. There are many brands of PEG including Miralax and GoLytely among others. Miralax works well for children as it is tasteless and odorless and can easily be mixed in many liquids without your child knowing it is there. 

 

The guidelines now state that for children with functional constipation maintenance therapy with PEG should continue for as least 2 months with a gradual tapering of treatment only after a full month after the constipation symptoms have been resolved. I usually tell parents that this is equivalent to about how long it takes for them to forget that they have been dealing with constipation….and then begin tapering.

 

Lastly, there is no evidence that adding additional fluid or fiber to a child’s diet is of benefit to alleviate constipation….although it may “just be good for them in general”.

 

 

Daily Dose

Mumps Outbreak!

1:30 to read

The latest infectious disease outbreak is in the Boston area where several colleges have reported cases of mumps. Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling of the salivary glands as well as other symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headache.    Harvard University has been hit the hardest and has now documented over 40 cases this spring.  Boston is a city with numerous colleges all in close proximity, and there are documented mumps cases at Boston University, University of Massachusetts  and Tufts as well.  These Boston area colleges are all in close proximity and are merely a walk, bike or train ride away from one another, so these students, while attending different universities may all co-mingle at parties and athletic events.

Mumps is spread via saliva (think kissing), or from sharing food, as well as via respiratory droplets being spread after coughing or sneezing. It may also be spread via contaminated surfaces that will harbor the virus. People may already be spreading the virus for  2 days before symptoms appear and may be contagious for up to 5 days after their salivary glands appear swollen….so in other words there is a long period of contagion where the virus may inadvertently be spread. It may also take up to 2-3 weeks after exposure before you come down with mumps.

All of the students who have come down with mumps had been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, rubella).  Unfortunately, the mumps vaccine is only about 88% effective in preventing the disease. Despite the fact that children get two doses of vaccine at the age of 1 and again at 4 or 5 years….there may be some waning of protection over time. This  may also contribute to the virus’s predilection for young adults in close quarters on college campuses. Something like the perfect infectious disease storm!

In the meantime there are some studies being undertaken to see if adolescents should receive a 3rd dose of the vaccine, but the results of the study are over a year away.

In the meantime, be alert for symptoms compatible with mumps and make sure to isolate yourself from others if you are sick.  Harvard is isolating all of the patients with mumps for 5 days….which could mean that some students might even miss commencement.  Doctors at Harvard and other schools with cases of mumps are still on the watch for more cases …stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

National Poison Prevention Week

1:30 to read

It is National Poison Prevention Week and it seem appropriate since I just received a call last week from an anxious mother whose toddler had gotten into some medication at their house. The child was fine but I reminded her that more than 2 million people each year, about half under the age of 6, ingest or come into contact with a poisonous substance.  The majority of these incidents occur when parents or babysitters are present but are not paying attention at the time. As I remind parents, it is IMPOSSIBLE to watch your child, even with just one child, all of the time. So…it is necessary to take steps to try to prevent accidental poisonings.

 

The most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, liquid nicotine, pesticides, gasoline and kerosene. I am always surprised to hear that a child will drink gasoline (YUCK right?) but toddlers do crazy things and put EVERYTHING in their mouths.

 

When “child-proofing” the house against so many dangers, try to keep as many poisonous products outs of a child’s reach and view as possible.  Install safety latches on all cabinets that may contain any hazardous products …including laundry products and cleaning products. I would advise against using any detergent “pods” with children under the age of 6 and use powder or liquid instead.  A safer product is worth a little bit of hassle!

 

Make sure that ALL medications, even vitamins are in containers with child safety caps (adults can’t open them but kids seem to?), but you must also keep them out of reach of children and I would recommend a cabinet that you can lock.  There have been several occasions when a parent has left a pill out on a counter for another child to take and then suddenly the toddler has chewed it up…this has been most common with stimulant medications.  Grandparents who are visiting also forget and leave their medications out and kids seem to find these as well.

 

Another common potential poison comes in the form of a button cell battery. These are common in remote controls, key fobs, greeting cards and even musical children’s books and not only pose a choking hazard but may cause tissue damage. If your child ingests a battery it is imperative that you seek immediate treatment at an emergency room.

 

If you are ever in doubt about the potential for poisoning call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222. They are experts in walking you through potential side effects, treatments and need for an ER visit!  One of my patients just asked me if there is a limit to how many times you can call Poison Control…she seems to be a frequent flyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Migraines in Children

1.15 to read

I received an email via our iPhone App inquiring about migraines in children. Headaches are a common complaint throughout childhood, but pediatricians have recognized that children have many different types of headaches which include migraine headaches. 

Migraine headaches are best diagnosed by obtaining a detailed history and then a thorough neurological exam. There are several characteristics of childhood migraines that are quite different than adult migraines. While adult females have a higher incidence of migraine headaches, males predominate in the childhood population. 

Childhood migraines often are shorter in duration than an adult migraine and are less often unilateral (one sided) than in adults. Only 25-60% of children will describe a unilateral headache while 75-90% of adults have unilateral pain.  Children do not typically have visual auras like adults, but may have a behavioral change with irritability, pallor, malaise or loss of appetite proceeding the headache.  About 18% of children describe migraine with an aura and another 13% may have migraines with and without auras at different times. When taking a history it is also important to ask about family history of migraines as migraine headaches seem to “run in families”. 

Children who develop migraines were also often noted to be “fussy” infants, and they also have an increased incidence of sleep disorders including night terrors and nightmares. Many parents and children also report a history of motion sickness. When children discuss their headaches they will often complain of feeling dizzy (but actually sounds more like being light headed than vertigo on further questioning). 

They may also complain of associated blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, chills, sweating or even feeling feverish. A child with a migraine appears ill, uncomfortable and pale and will often have dark circles around their eyes. It seems that migraine headaches in childhood may be precipitated by hunger, lack of sleep as wells as stress. But stress for a child may be positive like being excited as well as typical negative stressors. 

Children will also tell you that their headaches are aggravated by physical activity (including going up and down stairs, carrying their backpack, or even just bending over). They also complain of photophobia (light sensitivity) and phonophobia (sensitive to noises) and typically a parent will report that their child goes to bed in a dark room or goes to sleep when experiencing these symptoms. 

Children with migraines do not watch TV or play video games during their headaches. They are quiet, and may not want to eat, and may just want to rest.  Nothing active typically “sounds” like fun. To meet the diagnostic criteria for childhood migraine, a child needs to have at least 5 of these “attacks” and a headache log is helpful as these headaches may occur randomly and it is difficult to remember what the headache was like or how long it lasted, without keeping a log. 

There are many new drugs that are available for treating child hood migraines and we will discuss that in another daily dose.  Stay tuned! 

Daily Dose

Why Kids Faint

2.00 to read

Last week, we chatted about younger children and fainting so now it’s time to talk about older kids who faint. I’ve seen many teens that have fainted…even my own son (he fainted numerous times while he was an adolescent).   I decided to “read up” on causes of syncope (fainting) and I found out just how common it was. The highest incidence of syncope (and pre- syncope as in “I almost fainted”) occurs in up to 40% of adolescents and may be even higher among females!

The most common form of fainting among this age group is called “vasodepressor, vasovagal or neurocardiogenic” syncope. These terms all have the same meaning and describe the typical fainting event: a teen’s been standing for a period of time, and they begin to feel light headed and dizzy.

This often progresses to the feeling of having tunnel vision, the skin becomes pale, there may be the sensation of a rapid heartbeat, and feeling hot, although they may be cold and clammy to the touch. If these symptoms are not recognized and the teen does not sit down or lie down then fainting will occur.

The biggest fear from this type of fainting is really not due to the fainting episode itself (which usually does not last more than 15-30 seconds) but rather concern over a head injury when the patient falls. It is important to teach these “fainters” about the importance of paying attention to these symptoms and to sit down or lie down to prevent injury. Simple syncope will not hurt you!!

When seeing your child’s pediatrician it is important that a good history is taken.  I always ask my patients “when the fainting episode occurred, had they eaten, were they standing when fainting occurred and most importantly did the fainting happen with exercise or while at rest?  Did anything provoke the episode such as being anxious while standing to give a speech, or scared or grossed out during a movie etc.” Most patients have a good history as to why the fainting occurred.  Anyone fainting DURING exercise should be referred to a pediatric cardiologist for evaluation.

For all other fainters who have negative family history for sudden cardiac death, who have history consistent with simple syncope and who have a normal physical exam, the only test I order is an EKG, which should also be normal.  When all of this is done, I reassure both the patients and their parents that this is solely a fainting episode and may likely reoccur.

So, stay well hydrated, make sure not to skip meals, don’t get up too fast from bed first thing in the am and above all if you feel like you are going to faint, LIE DOWN.

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

Daily Dose

Poison Control in Your Home

1:15 tow atch

Our office gets many calls from parents who are worried that their child may have swallowed a stray pill, or a berry or plant leaf.  The list is endless. Despite every parents efforts at childproofing their home (childproofing cabinets, electrical outlets etc, should begin as your your-baby starts to crawl) at times a toddler finds something stray and the first place it goes is in their mouth.

The phone number that needs to be at every parent's fingertips is the number to the Poison Control Center. That number is 1-800-222-1222 and should be on your speed dial or on a sticker on your phone.

The poison control center is the national source for information on poisoning and I have been so impressed with their professional, yet compassionate manner and their knowledge base. If your child does accidentally ingest a household cleanser, or a drug have the bottle handy when you call them so that you can read them the label. It is much easier for them to help you decide what to do for the ingestion with complete information. Telling them that it was a small white pill leaves millions of possibilities; so make sure that you do keep all medications, whether over the counter or prescription, in their appropriate bottle. Fortunately, many ingestions may be benign and require no treatment, but do not assume this until you have spoken with Poison Control. The use of syrup of ipecac, to induce vomiting after ingestion is no longer recommended. Thank goodness!

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

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Daily Dose

Zika Virus

1:30 to read

If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant in the near future you need to be aware of the Zika virus.  This virus is spread via the Aedes mosquito (as is West Nile Virus, Dengue fever and Chikunguyna), and has been found in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands , South America and Mexico.  The Zika virus was also just confirmed in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in December.  There are new countries confirming cases of Zika virus almost every day, as the Aedes mosquito is found throughout the world.  

When bitten by a mosquito that has the Zika virus, only about 1 in 5 people actually become ill.  The most common symptoms are similar to many other viral infections including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.  For most people the illness is usually mild and lasts for several days to a week and their life returns to normal.  Many people may not even realize that they are infected. 

Unfortunately, if a pregnant mother is infected with the Zika virus, the virus may be transmitted to the baby.  It seems that babies who have been born to mothers who have been infected with the Zika virus may have serious birth defects including microcephaly (small head) and abnormal brain development. There have been more than 3,500 babies born with microcephaly in Brazil alone…and just recently a baby was born in Hawaii with microcephaly and confirmed Zika virus. In this case the mother had previously lived in Brazil and had relocated to Hawaii during her pregnancy.  The virus to date has not been confirmed in mosquitos in the United States.

Because of the association of the Zika virus and the possibility of serious birth defects, the CDC has announced a travel advisory stating, “until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women in any trimester, or women trying to become pregnant, should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing”.  

Should pregnant women have to travel to these area they should follow steps to prevent getting mosquito bites during their trip. This includes wearing long sleeves, staying indoors as much as possible, and using insect repellents that contain DEET.

Researchers are continuing to study the link between Zika virus and birth defects in hopes of understanding the full spectrum of outcomes that might be associated with infection during pregnancy. There will be more data forthcoming.

At this point the safest way to avoid being bitten is to stay away from the countries who have had confirmed cases of the Zika virus.  But as the weather warms up in the United States and mosquitos become more abundant there is concern for Zika virus to be found here.  It only takes one infected mosquito to bite one person who then contracts the virus….should that person be bitten by another mosquito, that mosquito may acquire the infection and so it spreads.  There is not known to be human to human transmission of the virus.

Your Teen

Concussions: Boys and Girls May Have Different Symptoms

1.45

The findings suggest that boys are more likely to report amnesia and confusion/disorientation, whereas girls tend to report drowsiness and greater sensitivity to noise more often.A new study of high school athletes, finds that boys and girls who suffer concussions, may differ in their symptoms. The findings suggest that boys are more likely to report amnesia and confusion/disorientation, whereas girls tend to report drowsiness and greater sensitivity to noise more often. "The take-home message is that coaches, parents, athletic trainers, and physicians must be observant for all signs and symptoms of concussion, and should recognize that young male and female athletes may present with different symptoms," said R. Dawn Comstock, an author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus. More than 60,000 brain injuries occur among high school athletes every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although more males than females participate in sports, female athletes are more likely to suffer sports-related concussions, the researchers note. For instance, girls who play high school soccer suffer almost 40 percent more concussions than their male counterparts, according to NATA. The findings suggest that girls who suffer concussions might sometimes go undiagnosed since symptoms such as drowsiness or sensitivity to noise "may be overlooked on sideline assessments or they may be attributed to other conditions," Comstock said. For the study, Comstock and her co-authors at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, examined data from an Internet-based surveillance system for high school sports-related injuries. The researchers looked at concussions involved in interscholastic sports practice or competition in nine sports (boys' football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball and girls' soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball) during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years at a representative sample of 100 high schools. During that time, 812 concussions (610 in boys and 202 in girls) were reported. During the first year of the study, the surveillance system included only the primary concussion symptom for each athlete. In the second year, high school athletic trainers were able to record all the symptoms reported by the concussed athlete. In both years, headache was the most commonly reported symptom and no difference was noted between the sexes. However, in year one, 13 percent of the males reported confusion/disorientation as their primary symptom versus 6 percent of the girls. Also in the first year, amnesia was the primary symptom of 9 percent of the males but only 3 percent of the females. In the second year, amnesia and confusion/disorientation continued to be more common among males than females. In addition, 31 percent of the concussed females complained of drowsiness versus 20 percent of the males, and 14 percent of the females said they were sensitive to noise, compared with just 5 percent of the males. Concussion researcher Gerard A. Gioia, chief of pediatric neuropsychology at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., called the findings "relatively subtle" and "at best hypothesis-generating, meaning they are suggestive but in no way conclusive." Gioia said one of the study's limitations is that the reporting system didn't explain about how the injuries occurred. "The presence of increased amnesia and confusion, two early injury characteristics, in the males suggests that the injuries between the males and females may have been different," he said. Future studies will likely address this theory, said Comstock, now that the surveillance system has been expanded to include much more detailed information. Preliminary data suggest, for instance, that football players tend to get hit on the front of the head, while girls who play soccer or basketball often suffer a blow to the side of the head, she said. The findings will also be published in the January issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

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