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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

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

It's the Sick Season

1:30 to read

Well, the New Year is starting off with a flood….of illness that is.  It is a typical winter in the pediatrician’s office with a bit of every virus you can name. RSV, flu, norovirus, just to start the list.  While so many parents want to name the virus, it is typically not necessary as you treat many viruses in the same manner, symptomatically.  

 

So, if your child is coughing and congested it may be due to any number of upper respiratory viruses, but the most important thing to remember…..how is your child breathing and is your child having any respiratory distress?? I sound like a broken record in my office as I remind our nurses to have parents take off ALL small children’s shirts, gowns, onesies and look at how they are breathing as you never want to miss a child who may be “working to breath”. In many cases, the visual of a child’s chest as they take breaths is more important than any cough they may have.  So remember this: “visual inspection and not just audible”.  Sending me a video of a child coughing is rarely helpful, but a video of their breathing is very important when trying to decide how to guide a parent.

 

Another tip: In most cases if your child is having respiratory distress they are quiet, as they are conserving their energy…which means they are not fighting with their sibling or running around the house, but are often sitting quietly. This also means that when they come to the doctor they are not screaming and yelling in anticipation of the doctor…again, they are usually sitting quietly in their parent’s lap. While a happy quiet child is a pleasure at my office, in a toddler it is not typical.

 

Lots of diarrhea and vomiting in our area as well. In this case, I am always trying to make sure that a child is not getting dehydrated. So, the things to look for include if your child has tears, saliva in their mouth and if they are urinating (having wet diapers).  If your child is vomiting you have to remember to wait about 30 minutes after they have vomited before giving them anything to drink….even if they are “begging for a drink”. Once they have not vomited you need to give them TINY sips of clear liquid and keep offering sips every 10 - 15 minutes. If you do this, in most cases you can keep the child from vomiting repeatedly.  Once they are keeping down sips you can go up in volume.  It is like the turtle and the hare….slow and steady wins!!  

 

With diarrhea alone it is more difficult for your child to become dehydrated, as you can have them keep drinking to keep up with the loss in their stool. Many parent “worry” as their child does not want to eat…and that is ok, the fluids are the most acute issue. You can go without food for quite some time…..don’t you ever skip a meal?

 

Keep washing those hands…and I hope you had your flu shot as I promise…it will come. 

 

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

Wheezing Season Is Here

We are having our first really cool night of the fall season and boy is it wheezing season here. This is the time of year that many young kids will get their first colds and some will also start to wheeze. Weather changes also seem to provoke wheezing episodes, especially if you have had a child who has previously wheezed during a cold. So, we have all of the right conditions for another wheezing season.

Wheezing runs in families, so if parents wheezed their children may be more likely to wheeze too. Many parents don't even realize they wheezed until they probe their own history, as they may have outgrown their wheezing. The genetics of wheezing is not totally understood, but just like allergies, wheezing is on the rise. If your child seems to have a tight, persistent cough, a frequent night time cough, or coughs with exercise you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor. Some children will only have a persistent cough as their presentation, but with enough history you can figure out that their cough is due to cough variant asthma, and all of the cough medicines in the world are not going to stop that nighttime cough (remember don't be giving young children over the counter cough medicines). Much of the diagnosis is made through a good history and physical exam and appropriate medication will stop that recurrent cough. If your child has already been diagnosed with asthma or reactive airways disease, make sure you have your inhalers refilled and current. Wheezing season is here and won't go away quickly so be ready. Some children will need to be on preventative medicines too. That's another topic for discussion with your doctor. Enjoy the weather changes, it feels great outside! That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

Daily Dose

The Right Way to Take A Temperature

1:15 to read

During flu season and really throughout the year, the questions surrounding how to take a temperature in a child and how to treat a fever seem never ending. So I thought let’s jump right in with a discussion on taking temperatures in all age children.

There are many different thermometers out there, and many different methods for taking a child’s temperature. The one way that I know that is not accurate is by “touch of hand”. Many parents report that their child had a fever, but have never taken their temperature. Neither your hand, nor mine is accurate in detecting a fever in a child. I am not a fanatic about taking temperatures all day long but it is important to document your child’s body temperature with a thermometer if you think they have a fever. Also, a fever to a parent may mean 99.6 degrees (I know your child has a different body temperature than others), but in terms of true fever most doctors use 100.4 degrees or higher as true fever. For everyone!

Body temperature in infants is very important and a fever in a child under two months of age is something that always needs to be documented. The easiest way to take a temperature in an infant is rectally and is actually quite easy. Lay your child down, like you would be changing their diaper, and hold their legs in one hand while you gently insert a digital thermometer (lubricate it with some Vaseline, makes it slide in more easily) into their rectum (bottom). It will not go too far, don’t worry, only about 1/2”. Keep the thermometer in their bottom for about a minute and by then you will be able to see if they have a fever. Again, over 100.4 degrees. I use rectal thermometers in children up to about two as they are usually pretty easy to hold and it is not painful at all. It is also accurate. Keep this digital thermometer labeled for rectal use.

Axillary temperatures are taken under the arm and can also be taken with a digital thermometer. It is often confusing if your child’s temperature is in the 99 – 100 degree range, so if in doubt take rectal or oral temperature. I am not a huge fan of axillary temperatures, and it actually requires more cooperation than a rectal temp. Oral digital thermometers, which are placed under a child’s tongues, are easy to use in a cooperative child. By the time your child is three or four, it is fun to teach them how to hold up their tongue and then hold the tip of the thermometer under their tongue and close their lips.  Especially with digital thermometers, elementary children like to read you what the thermometer says, and discuss their temperatures. My children always loved to show me they were REALLY sick when it said 103 degrees. It is then a “sick day activity” to take the acetaminophen and watch your temperature come down over the next several hours. They loved making charts of their body temps. It won’t win a science fair but does keep them busy. Also, if they can play this game they are not too sick. Lastly, do not let your child drink a hot or cold beverage right before taking an oral temp (note for parents of older kids, remember Ferris Bueller?), as the reading may not be accurate.

There are also fancy tympanic (ear) thermometers and temporal artery thermometers. I still prefer digital in my own house, and never purchased a “fancy” thermometer. You can buy tons of digital thermometers for every child to have their own, and still save money. We also often hear parents report that there was over a degree of difference between the same child’s ear. I also do not like ear thermometers in little ones, as their ear canals are too small to get accurate readings. Now that you know how to take a temperature I will discuss fever in another post.

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

Daily Dose

Ear Infections Can Develop Quickly

1:15 to read

One of the things that I sometimes see in my practice, which is interesting to me as a pediatrician, and was equally interesting when I had young kids, is how quickly a child's ear exam can change.

You are taught that in medical school, but when you really see it happen it with your patients or your own child you become a real believer. As the saying goes, seeing is believing. I can remember checking one of my boy's ears for an ear infection early in the morning before heading out to work, and declaring, "his ears are perfectly clear". How could it be, my husband would inquire, "that they seem worse after we have been at work all day" and lo and behold, I would re-check their ears and a normal morning ear is an abnormal evening ear. What a difference 12 hours can make! Not a very good warranty on ears and infections.

I was reminded of this yesterday when a patient called and said that her little boy had developed "disgusting" eye drainage which was worsening since I had seen them in the office a few days ago. They had just returned from taking both of their young children to Disney World, and she "couldn't believe they came home sick!" That's a whole 'nother column. At any rate, seeing that they lived fairly close I told them to swing on by and let me look at him again. I think she was just hoping I would call in eye drops. The two precious boys arrived at my doorstep on Saturday night and lo and behold after looking in the youngest child's ears, both of his ears were so infected. So, once again I was a believer in ears changing, and he did not need eye drops he needed to have oral antibiotics to clear up his ears (and subsequently his eyes). There are several lessons from all of this. Ears can change quickly, eye drainage in a toddler with a cold may often really indicate that their ears are infected, and house calls are a good thing.

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

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Daily Dose

Baby's First Cold

I find myself in the office each day amid a host of babies who are finally succumbing to their first colds. I walk into the room and see their little runny noses, their red rimmed eyes and hear their frequent coughs, while simultaneously see them sitting on their mom or dad's laps, playing with a toy and making good eye contact with the parent.

The parents of course are "worried sick" but I am immediately reassured as I watch their bright-eyed, runny nosed your-baby interact with me. So it goes in the winter.... No one is immune to those nasty cold viruses and many of these babies have managed to ward off illness for months, but are finally battling their first cold. The babies actually are fairing pretty well, but the parents are both worried about the cold and sleep deprived, because one thing about most kids with colds whether they are four months or 15 months, they just don't sleep as well. Colds are an unfortunate fact of life and each cold that a your-baby suffers through actually makes them a little stronger. Their bodies are making antibodies to that virus and helping to shore up their immune system. Small victories amid the myriad of viral infections they get in those six to 24-month period. There is still no real treatment or cure for the common cold. The recommendations for a your-baby are fairly similar to the rest of us. Hydration (milk is okay), fever control if they need it, and TLC and tincture of time. The first cold is the hardest, at least for the parent. You can try putting a humidifier in their room and irrigating their noses with saline to help clear the mucous and make it easier for them to breathe. Tylenol for fever, which is common in the first several days, may also make them more comfortable. After several days, the worst of the cold is over and they should feel a little better. Watch for fever that re-occurs or worsening of their sleep habits or mood which my signal an ear infection. Most ear infections don't occur on the first day of the cold, so give it a little time and if they are not improving it warrants a trip to the pediatrician. Best news, I saw very few ear infections today, but lots of colds. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

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