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Teaching Kids About the Meaning of Memorial Day

2:00

For many kids, Memorial Day is just another three-day weekend celebrated with family bar-b-cues, a visit to the lake or pool, watching the latest action movie or any other of the numerous ways people spend the beginning of warm weather and a holiday. This year it falls on May 29th.

What is often lost in the celebrations is the meaning of Memorial Day and why it is an important reminder of sacrifice and service. Talking to your child about the history of Memorial Day and what it stands for can help them learn about the immeasurable cost of the freedoms they enjoy.

The preamble to Memorial Day was Decoration Day, established in 1868 – three years after the Civil War ended. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Local ceremonies were also held across the northern and southern parts of the United States, honoring union and confederate soldiers.  It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

In December 2000,  “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” was passed to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance asks all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

Memorial Day doesn’t have to be only a day of remembrance for our veterans, but also a day to think about and celebrate the lives of family and friends that have been lost.

Most children learn why we celebrate Christmas and other religious holidays. They learn early about what the July 4th holiday is all about. Many a child’s first play is the re-enactment of the pilgrims and Native American Indians gathering to share food on Thanksgiving. But Memorial Day is sometimes given a vague description or is scrambled in commercials promoting holiday savings.

Enjoy this 3-day holiday break from the stress of school and work but also take a little time to talk about the meaning of Memorial Day with your child. And perhaps, stop for a moment of silence at 3:00 pm in remembrance of those who have lost their lives because of their service to our country.

Story source: https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

 

 

Daily Dose

Lead Testing

1:30 to read

Lead exposure is young children may lead to long term consequences. Therefore, blood lead level testing has been recommended for all children at their 1 and 2 year check ups. Most doctors offices either prick a child’s finger or heel to draw the blood for testing, and many use an in office machine to perform the test.  

 

Some of the blood testing is performed by Magellan Diagnostics and the F.D.A. just announced that the 3 minute test run in many doctor’s offices could “yield inaccurate results when used on blood drawn from a vein”.  The F.D.A. went on to say “that there was no evidence at this point that the finger and heel prick methods have provided inaccurate results, and for some reason only venous blood has been associated with inaccurate readings”. 

 

I have already been getting some calls and emails from concerned parents wondering if their child needs to have repeat testing performed.  Fortunately, in our office we have routinely used capillary blood from a finger stick. We test that specimen for both lead and also a hemoglobin test to look for anemia.  You would probably remember a “venous blood draw” as it requires finding a vein (usually in the crook of the arm) and actually using a needle and syringe to draw the blood sample…a lot more difficult than a finger stick, especially in a squirming toddler.

 

We are all exposed to some lead in our environment, and lead levels under 5 mcg/dl as being “safe”.  If a child’s screening lead level is higher than 5, then most doctors will draw a venous sample to confirm the elevated levels and to then try to determine if the lead exposure is coming from the home, school, or environment. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of long term lead exposure and lead poisoning, especially during periods of rapid brain growth and development. High lead levels may lead to long term effects on IQ and performance as well as affecting other body systems.

 

If your child is under the age of 6 years and you are concerned about the accuracy of their lead testing, you should call your doctor’s office and inquire if they had testing done on venous or capillary blood.  If there are concerns it would be appropriate to draw another sample from capillary blood or sent to an outside lab.  It is estimated that most of the testing performed in a doctor’s office was done on Magellan equipment which is used by about 10,000 pediatricians throughout the country.

 

Your Baby

Breast Milk Beneficial for Baby’s Gut

1:45

Breast milk provides infants with the ideal nutrition. It also contains antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and harmful bacteria. New research also shows that nature’s marvelous elixir delivers good bacteria to an infant’s digestive system, providing a healthier immune system.

Researchers discovered that 27.7% of beneficial bacteria in a baby's intestinal tract come directly from the mother's milk, and 10.3% comes from the mother’s nipple.  They also found that babies who breastfeed even after they begin eating solid food continue reaping the benefits of a breast milk diet — a growing population of beneficial bacteria associated with better health.

The mother’s positive bacterium assists the baby’s intestine to digest food and trains the infant’s immune system to recognize bacterial allies and enemies.

“Breast milk is this amazing liquid that, through millions of years of evolution, has evolved to make babies healthy, particularly their immune systems,” said Dr. Grace Aldrovandi, the study’s senior author and a professor of pediatrics and chief of infectious diseases at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. “Our research identifies a new mechanism that contributes to building stronger, healthier babies.”

The study, which looked at 107 mother-infant pairs, is the largest to date showing the transfer of bacteria in the milk into the baby’s gut, Aldrovandi said.

Earlier research has shown that a balanced bacterial community in the intestine is a key factor in people’s susceptibility to immune diseases. For example, children who develop type 1 diabetes have abnormalities in their gut microbiomes; what’s more, a healthy gut appears to protect against allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease throughout life.

“We’re appreciating more and more how these bacterial communities, particularly in the intestine, help guard against the bad guys,” Aldrovandi said. “We know from animal model systems that if you get good bacteria in your gut early in life, you’re more likely to be healthy.”

During the babies’ first year of life, researchers collected samples of breast milk and infant stool, and swabs from the skin around the nipple. They analyzed the samples to assess which bacteria were shared between mothers and infants, and calculated the relative abundance of the bacteria.

The research team wants to want to expand the research to evaluate more samples in late infancy to better understand the transition to an adult microbiome. They would like to test in the lab how bacteria that are provided through breastfeeding are critical in infants’ immune responses, and determine which beneficial bacteria are missing in people who have certain diseases.

The findings were published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/women-s-health-information-34/breast-feeding-news-82/another-reason-to-breast-feed-it-s-good-for-baby-s-belly-722463.html

Leigh Hopper, https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/breastfeeding-plays-important-role-seeding-infant-microbiome-beneficial-bacteria

 

Your Baby

Moms Getting Poor Advice on Baby’s Health Care

2:00

Moms are getting conflicting advice on infant and child care from family members, online searchers and even their family doctors a recent study found.

Oftentimes, that advice goes against the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for topics such as breast-feeding, vaccines, pacifier use and infant-sleep, researchers say.

"In order for parents to make informed decisions about their baby's health and safety, it is important that they get information, and that the information is accurate," said the study's lead author, Dr. Staci Eisenberg, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.

"We know from prior studies that advice matters," Eisenberg said. Parents are more likely to follow the recommendations of medical professionals when they "receive appropriate advice from multiple sources, such as family and physicians," she added.

The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. mothers. Their children were between 2 months and 6 months old. Researchers asked the mothers what advice they had been given on a variety of topics, including vaccines, breastfeeding, pacifiers and infant sleep position and location.

Sources for information included medical professionals, family members, online searches and other media such as television shows. Mothers got the majority of their advice from doctors. However, some of that advice contradicted the recommendations from the AAP on these topics.

For example, as much as 15 percent of the advice mothers received from doctors on breast-feeding and on pacifiers didn't match recommendations. Similarly, 26 percent of advice about sleeping positions contradicted recommendations. And nearly 29 percent of mothers got misinformation on where babies should sleep, the study found.

"I don't think too many people will be shocked to learn that medical advice found online or on an episode of Dr. Oz might be very different from the recommendations of pediatric medical experts or even unsupported by legitimate evidence," said Dr. Clay Jones, a pediatrician specializing in newborn medicine at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. He said inaccurate advice from some family members might not be surprising, too.

Mothers got advice from family members between 30 percent and 60 percent of the time, depending on the topic. More than 20 percent of the advice about breast-feeding from family members didn't match AAP recommendations.

Similarly, family advice related to pacifiers, where babies sleep and babies' sleep position went against the AAP recommendations two-thirds of the time, the study found.

"Families give inconsistent advice largely because they are not trained medical professionals and are basing their recommendations on personal anecdotal experience," Jones said.

Less than half of the mothers said they used media sources for advice except when it came to breastfeeding. Seventy percent reported their main source of advice on breastfeeding came from media sources; many of these sources were not consistent with AAP recommendations.

In addition, more than a quarter of the mothers who got advice about vaccines from the media received information that was not consistent with AAP recommendations.

"Mothers get inconsistent advice from the media, especially the Internet, because it is the Wild West with no regulation on content at all," Jones said.

The possible consequences of bad advice depend on the topic and the advice, Jones said.

"Not vaccinating your child against potentially life-threatening diseases like measles is an obvious example," he said. "Others may result in less risk of severe illness or injury but may still result in increased stress and anxiety, such as inappropriately demonizing the use of pacifiers while breast-feeding."

Mothers who look for information online should stick to sources such as the AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Eisenberg suggested.

Even though some advice from doctors did not follow AAP recommendations entirely, Eisenberg and Jones agreed that doctors are the best source for mothers on the health and care of their children.

"While our findings suggest that there is room for improvement, we did find that health care providers were an important source of information, and the information was generally accurate," Eisenberg said. "But I would encourage parents to ask questions if they don't feel like their provider has been entirely clear, or if they have any questions about the recommendations."

The study was published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Tara Haelle, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20150727/new-moms-often-get-poor-advice-on-baby-care-study

 

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Gluten-Free Diet Not Recommended for Healthy Children

2:00

A “gluten-free “ label on a food product is one sure way to increase sales as the popularity of such items continues to rise.

For people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, upset stomach and bloating. However, for healthy adults and particularly children, there are many reasons to avoid going gluten-free according to a commentary recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, by Norelle Reilly.

Dr. Norelle Reilly is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center and the director of pediatric celiac disease in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

In a recent Time Magazine article, Reilly lays out four reasons why healthy children should not be on a gluten-free diet.

1. Gluten is not naturally toxic except for people with celiac disease, however, in almost all children, gluten travels through the intestine without causing disease and will never lead to problems. To date, science has not shown that there is a toxin in gluten that makes it bad for our bodies. A balanced diet containing fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and a variety of carbohydrate sources is the best way for healthy children to stay healthy, Reilly notes.

2. A gluten-free diet may not provide balanced nutrition for children. Some people assume that gluten-free food and healthy food as the same thing. Not necessarily so, says Reilly.

Many gluten-free substitutes for items such as breads and cookies are actually higher in fat and calories than gluten-containing varieties. Gluten-free items such as some cereals and breads may also not be nutrient fortified to the same degree as those with gluten. Folate and B-vitamins are often added to our usual starch staples, silently protecting people whose diets may not be very balanced from deficiency. Without these quiet sources of nutrition, vitamin deficiencies could develop, she writes.

Gluten-free foods are often fiber deficient, which is important for gastrointestinal health, including maintaining regular bowel movements. Quite commonly, children who initiate a gluten-free diet become constipated. Increased consumption of rice, a common gluten substitute, may also expose children to more arsenic in their diets, as arsenic is frequently present in the earth where rice is grown.

Reilly says that growing bodies and brains require balanced nutrition. For those children who need a gluten-free diet, balance can be implemented safely and healthfully with the guidance of an experienced registered dietitian to help avoid all of these and other nutritional pitfalls.

3. Have your child tested for celiac disease before putting them on a gluten-free diet. You can’t know for sure whether your child is gluten sensitive or has celiac disease until a physician has tested them. Symptoms alone are not enough to determine whether your child has celiac disease. Being on a gluten-free diet before having your child tested can make it more difficult to determine whether he or she actually does or does not have the disease.

Reilly suggests that if you are concerned that your child may have a problem with gluten, speak to your child’s doctor before banning it from your child’s diet. A child with celiac disease needs special monitoring over time and their family members may need to be tested. Even if you plan to give the diet a try regardless of the test result, it is extremely important for your child and family’s health to know why the diet is necessary.

4. A gluten-free diet is hard to maintain and expensive. For children who require this limited diet for long-term health, parents, schools, and the medical teamwork to make the child’s experience in school and at home as easy as possible.

Reilly notes that the children she has treated for celiac disease would trade in their gluten-free diet in an instant if they knew gluten would not make them sick.

In addition she adds, gluten-free foods are incredibly expensive and for many families the diet can be challenging to financially sustain in the long run.

Many adults prefer a gluten-free diet, but Reilly cautions that parents should check with their pediatrician or family doctor before putting their healthy children on the same eating plan.

Story source: Norelle Reilly, http://time.com/4329517/4-reasons-why-your-kids-should-not-be-gluten-free/

Daily Dose

Toddler Constipation

1:30 to read

I get so many questions about toddlers and constipation.  Constipation relates to stool frequency and consistency.  It is important to understand that everyone has different bowel habits and not all children will have a stool every day.  While some children will have several stools a day another may have a stool every 2 -3 days. Both of these scenarios may be normal and not an indicator of problem.  At the same time, stool consistency is important. If your child has  hard, dry, pebble like stools ( rocks rather than softer snakes or blobs ) this may be an indicator of constipation. Everyone will occasionally have a hard stool, but this should not occur consistently. Lastly, it should not be painful to pass the stool. While toddlers may grunt or push, or even start to “hide” to poop, it should not cause real pain.

With all of that being said, it is not uncommon for toddlers to become constipated as they often are also becoming picky eaters. Due to this “phase”,  some young children will drink too much milk in place of eating meals and this may lead to constipation. Your toddler should be drinking somewhere between 12 -18 ounces of milk per day.  Many children also load up on other dairy products like cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese, which while healthy, may also lead to too much dairy intake and contribute to constipation.

Water intake is also important to help prevent constipation. If your child is drinking too much milk, substitute some water as well.  It is a balancing act to make sure your child is getting both milk and water. If necessary I will also put the smallest amount of apple or prune juice in the water. By the age of 1 year, your child should no longer have a bottle as their main source of nutrition is no longer in the liquid form!

Fiber is also important so offer plenty of whole grains and limit the “white foods” that toddlers love (yes, the bread, cereal, pasta). If you always buy whole wheat pasta and whole grain breads your children will never know the difference. Stay away from processed white foods whenever possible.  It is also easy to throw flax seed or bran into muffins or smoothies (disguising fiber). I also sometimes use Metamucil cookies (they are pre made) and may even resort to dot of icing smeared on it and offer it as a cookie for snack, along with a big glass of water.

Fruits and veggies are a must…even if you think your child won’t eat them! Your toddler needs 2 servings of fruits and veggies every day and rotate what you offer them.  You will be surprised at how one day they may refuse something and they next they will eat it. Don’t give up on fruits and veggies,  it may literally take years for your child to eat peas…but if they aren’t offered a food repetitively they will probably never it eat. I know a lot may get thrown to the floor but just clean it up and persevere.  Not only will this help their stools but their long term healthy eating habits as well.

Movement is also important to help keep the bowels healthy and “moving”.  Making sure that your toddler is moving seems crazy, as they are on the go all of the time.  But with an older child make sure they are getting plenty of time for play and exercise outside or in…and not just sitting in front of a screen.

Lastly, for short term issues with constipation it is also okay to try using milk of magnesia (MOM) or even Miralax….but ask your doctor about dosing in toddlers.   

Daily Dose

Homemade Cure for Coxsackie?

1:30 to read

Desperate times call for desperate measures…or so it seems according to several of my patient’s mothers who have resorted to all sorts of “cra-cra” stuff to “treat” their child’s “HFM” - hand foot and mouth infection.  Remember, HFM is a viral infection that most children get in the first several years of life. It may cause all sorts of symptoms but in a classic case the child develops a macular-papular (flat and/or raised) vesicular rash on the palms, soles and buttocks. In some children the rash is fairly mild and in others it can look pretty disgusting and uncomfortable…but it has to fade away on its own…with time.

 

There has been a lot of HFM in our area and much anxiety among parents about this infection….fueled a lot by social media identifying who has HFM and where they go to school and how many cases there are. (too much information!!). Parents are even posting…places to “stay away from”. So, some of my patient’s parents are scouring their child looking to see if there might be a bump..and could this be HFM and if so, what do I do to “stop” it!  That would be “nothing” besides good hand washing..as this is a viral infection and you may be exposed to it almost anywhere.

 

Since coxsackie virus has been around for years, this means that most adults had the virus when they were young.  But, several moms and dads whose children have HFM have also shown me a rash on their palms and soles, that I presume may be HFM? They are kind of freaked out and may be uncomfortable too…but this is not life threatening.  Even so,  several parents are resorting to THE GOOGLE to get their medical information… and one young mother kindly brought me all of the stuff that she had gotten to treat her son’s HFM as well as hers.  She was earnest in hoping that this was the “cure”…and did I know about all of these remedies?

 

Here we go, her potions!  Epsom salts for baths as this is an “antiviral”, turmeric and ginger in veggie juice, crushed garlic which she was mixing with small amounts of orange juice and squirting into her toddlers mouth with a syringe, lavender essential oil and lastly “virgin” coconut oil massages.   

 

I was most impressed that her sweet toddler was eating, drinking and bathing in all of this!!! Unfortunately, despite her best efforts it took about 2 weeks for his rash to totally disappear and she kept him under house arrest for most of that time!!  He really could have gone out long before that as he was over his acute illness, but she wanted every “mark” to have faded. She was most chagrined to hear that he might get HFM again. I am not sure the her “voo-doo” did any good, except in her mind. 

 

Lastly, if you do resort to “internet medicine” remember the oath, “first do no harm” and check with your pediatrician about some of the advice you might find online, not everything may be safe.

 

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