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Your Baby

“Hard” Tap Water and Eczema in Infants

1:30

Previous studies have noted an association between “hard” tap water and eczema in schoolchildren, but a new study out of the U.K. suggests it may be linked to eczema in babies as well.

Water described as “hard” contains a high degree of minerals - specifically calcium, magnesium and manganese. It’s not considered hazardous, but it comes with a variety of unpleasant effects such as soap scum in sinks and bathtubs, spots on dishes and shower glass, clogged pipes from buildup and clothes that are left dingy after washing.

By some accounts, 85% of U.S. households have hard water.

If your child has eczema, then you know that it is a chronic condition marked by itchiness and rashes. It typically starts at about 6 months old and can last into adulthood.

The study included 1,300 3-month old infants from across the United Kingdom. Researchers checked hardness -- the water's mineral content -- and chlorine levels in the water supply where the babies lived.

Babies who lived in areas with hard water were up to 87% more likely to have eczema, the study found.

"Our study builds on growing evidence of a link between exposure to hard water and the risk of developing eczema in childhood," said lead author Dr. Carsten Flohr, from the Institute of Dermatology at King's College London.

One way to change the composition of hard water is by adding a water softener system to your household

There are several types of systems including salt-based Ion exchange softeners, salt-free softeners, dual tank and magnetic water softeners plus others.

While the other studies focused on school aged children, this is the first to look at the connection with eczema, hard water and babies, the researchers said.

The study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, so further research is needed to learn more about this apparent link, Flohr added.

"We are about to launch a feasibility trial to assess whether installing a water softener in the homes of high-risk children around the time of birth may reduce the risk of eczema and whether reducing chlorine levels brings any additional benefits," Flohr said in a college news release.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_159150.html

http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/safedrink/hard.htm

 

 

Parenting

Does Time Spent With Dad Make Babies Smarter?

1:30

A new study suggests that not only do dads play an important role in a baby’s social development; time spent with dad may actually increase baby’s I.Q.

In a small British study, researchers looked at how 128 fathers interacted with their infants at 3 months of age. When the kids turned 2, the researchers measured their mental development.

They found that infants whose fathers were engaged and active during play time, within the first few months of the baby’s life, did better on thinking skills tests at age 2 than other infants.

Many factors have a major influence a child's development, and this study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. But these findings suggest that father-child interactions at a young age are an influencing factor, the researchers said.

Researchers noted that dad’s interactions had a positive influence on thinking skills for both boys and girls.

"Even as early as 3 months, these father-child interactions can positively predict cognitive development almost two years later, so there's something probably quite meaningful for later development, and that really hasn't been shown much before," study leader Paul Ramchandani said in an Imperial College London news release. He is a professor at the school's department of medicine.

Study co-author Vaheshta Sethna said, "We also found that children interacting with sensitive, calm and less anxious fathers during a book session at the age of 2 showed better cognitive development, including attention, problem-solving, language and social skills." She's with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Our findings highlight the importance of supporting fathers to interact more positively with their children in early infancy," Sethna said.

While dads may not always garner the attention moms and babies do, the positive impact that devoted and engaged fathers have, is immeasurable on their little one’s life.

The study was published recently in Infant Mental Health Journal.

Story source: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/does-dad-time-with-infants-boost-babies-iq-723168.html

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Flu

Fight The Flu

Your Toddler

Is Your Child a Biter?

2.00 to read

At some time or another your sweet child is going to bite or wallop someone, most likely another kid. And yes, it's embarrassing to have to pull your child off another or to apologize to grandma because her grandchild just took a chunk out of her arm. 

Know that you’re not alone - all kids bite and /or hit. The key to stopping aggression in children is teaching them that there are alternative ways to handle frustration and biting is not acceptable behavior.

Not all biting stems from anger. The younger the child, the less chance that biting is an aggressive behavior. It can also be a simple case of exploration. Young children bite for many reasons, from painful gums because they are teething to seeing what kind of reaction they get. Children between the ages of one and three typically go through a biting phase they eventually outgrow.

While biting may be a normal phase kids go through, it’s something you want to discourage.

Let’s look at some of the reasons kids bite.

  • They're in pain. When babies bite, typically it's because they're teething. They're just doing it to relieve the pain of their swollen, tender gums.
  • They're exploring their world. Very young children use their mouths to explore, just as they use their hands. Just about everything infants or toddlers pick up eventually winds up in their mouths. Kids this age aren't yet able to prevent themselves from biting the object of their interest.
  • They're looking for a reaction. Part of exploration is curiosity. Toddlers experiment to see what kind of reaction their actions will provoke. They'll bite down on a friend or sibling to hear the surprised exclamation, not realizing how painful the experience is for that person.
  • They're craving attention. In older kids, biting is just one of several bad behaviors used to get attention. When a child feels ignored, discipline is at least one way of getting noticed -- even if the attention is negative rather than positive.
  • They're frustrated. Biting, like hitting, is a way for some children to assert themselves when they're still too young to express feelings effectively through words. To your child, biting is a way to get back a favorite toy, tell you that he or she is unhappy, or let another child know that he or she wants to be left alone.

So, how do you prevent or teach your child that they can’t go through life biting others?

You start with consistent prevention and move on to discipline if they are older.

  • If your baby is teething, make sure to always have a cool teething ring or washcloth on hand so he or she will be less likely to sink teeth into someone's arm.
  • Avoid situations in which your child can get irritable enough to bite. Make sure that all of your child's needs -- including eating and naptime -- are taken care of before you go out to play. Bring along a snack to soothe your child if he or she gets cranky from being hungry.
  • As soon as your child is old enough, encourage your child to use words such as “I'm angry with you" or "That's my toy" instead of biting. Other ways to express frustration or anger include hugging (not hitting) a stuffed animal or punching a pillow. Sometimes redirection is helpful; shortening activities or giving your child a break can help prevent the rising frustration that can lead to biting and other bad behaviors.
  • Give your child enough of your time throughout the day (for example, by reading or playing together), so he or she doesn't bite just to get attention. Extra attention is especially important when your child is going through a major life change, such as a move or welcoming a baby sibling. If your child is prone to biting, keep an eye on any playmates and step in when an altercation appears to be brewing.

You’ve done all that is possible to prevent another biting situation, and low and behold your child is biting another. What do you do then?

When your child bites, firmly let your child know that this behavior is not acceptable by saying, "No. We don't bite!" Explain that biting hurts the other person. Then remove your child from the situation and give the child time to calm down. It’s important that you remain calm.

Seeing your child bite another is naturally going to create an unpleasant reaction in you. As soon as you witness a biting episode, your body tenses, your heart races, and even if you don't actually scream, you really want to. The angrier you are, the tenser the situation becomes. You are much more likely to strike your child when you let your anger get the best of you. Take a deep breath, assess the situation and intervene calmly. Remove your child, let him or her calm down and explain (yes, once again) that biting is not going to be tolerated. If your child is old enough to understand time-out, this is a good time to use it. If not, remove the child from the temptation. Playtime is over.

One way some parents handle biting is to bite their own child to show them how painful it can be. Doing what you are telling your child not to do sends a mixed message. It’s similar to hitting your child and then saying “don’t hit others.” Most likely your child will experience how painful it is because another child will bite them someday.

The point is not so much that biting is painful, the action itself is unkind, unproductive and wrong.

When biting becomes a habit or continues past the age 4 or 5, it may stem from a more serious emotional problem. This is the time to ask for help from your pediatrician, family doctor or a child psychologist.

If your child is bitten, wash the area with soap and water. If the bite is bleeding and the wound appears to be deep, call your child’s doctor. The bite may need medical treatment, which could include antibiotics or a tetanus shot or both.

Biting is a horrible habit to get into and a difficult one to stop. Start teaching your child early that momma and daddy are not putting up with it and that there are better ways to explore the world and handle frustration.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/stop-children-from-biting

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.

 

Daily Dose

Kids Are Stressed Out!

1:30 to read

Gone are the “lazy days of summer” and with school back in session the words “stress” and “anxiety” slowly creep back into the day to day language of many families.  In fact, a recent national We MD survey about children and stress found “that most parents rate school and friends as the biggest source of stress in their kids’ lives”.  The survey also found that “72% of children have negative behaviors linked to stress, and 62% have physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches”.

So, after reading this survey it only served to confirm what I have been seeing in my practice for years….very anxious, worried and stressed children of all ages.  I can attest to the fact that it is definitely affecting younger and younger children. Much of my general practice now involves more psychiatry than infectious disease (thank goodness for immunizations!).

I have watched younger and younger children come into my office and talk to me about “worries” over tests, reading levels and how they will possibly “get to college”.  Remember the days when you did not know what a SAT or ACT was until you were in the 11th grade? There was no test prep either, other than your parents telling you “you need a good night’s sleep and breakfast”, and  then they handed you 2 number 2 pencils as you walked out the door!!  Just last week an 8 year old patient of mine told me about his recent birthday party and playing video games.  He followed up by saying, “school starts in 2 days and my Mom says I cannot play video games of watch TV during the school week this year”.  I really didn’t think that was such a bad idea, but he then told me the reason was that he “had failed his ERB tests!!!”. He then went on to explain, in great detail I might add, that these had just been “practice ERB’s” and that his reading comprehension was “below grade level”.  He said “next year in 2nd grade these tests count so he was worried about doing well then.”  School had not even started yet!

I also received an email this week from a patient who said her son had just started  back to school 2 days previously and he was having anxiety and not wanting to go to school. He is in middle school at a rigorous private school and had already been diagnosed with ADHD when he was younger, and is on medication.  She and her husband were now having “issues” about how to deal with his anxiety, which was causing the entire family stress. They really “did not want to change his school”.  Not a good way to start off the school year. 

Much of the anxiety I see may also be related to just being “over scheduled”.  Children of all ages need some “down-time” to just “chill”, relax, kick back and even get a bit bored.  With schools piling on more and more academics at younger and younger ages, and then throw in competitive sports for 3-4 year olds….what are we thinking?  Of course children will get burned out and stressed…they are just developmentally too young for some of this.  Not all children are ready to read when 4-5 years old, or ready for athletic practices 2-3x/week. Some children as young as 8 have athletic events starting at 8 pm, when they should be in bed.

Sadly, I know that I will begin to see my fair share of headaches, tummy aches, and “I just don’t feel well” in the coming weeks. It may be time to re-evaluate where our society is heading.  

Daily Dose

Twisted Neck?

1:30 to read

Under the heading of “continuing to learn” every day…comes a new case.

 

A patient of mine who is 4 years old was playing with his brother the other morning while his mother was making their breakfast. He was a “well child” and woke up in a good mood, ready to eat and go to preschool.  She could see the boys playing while she was cooking and then suddenly the 4 year old started to scream and cry that his “neck hurt”.  At first she thought “he was pretending or over reacting” as there did not overtly seem to be anything wrong. The only thing she noticed is that he refused to turn his neck and held his head in an awkward position.

 

He continued to cry and actually scream - so she tried to calm him down and gave him some ibuprofen as well. Despite this he would not move his neck and was unconsolable, to the point that she almost took him to the ER but instead she brought him to the office.  He was noted to be crying and seemed uncomfortable and refused to move his neck at all.  His exam was otherwise normal. Even with careful questioning there was no history of trauma. He had slept through the night before this had occurred. He had a cold several weeks before, but had since improved. He did not have a fever.

 

He seemed to be in such pain that he was sent for neck X-rays which were read as normal. But he continued to be miserable….so who do you call?? 

 

I spoke to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and he said he really did not have any ideas. Next call, the pediatric neurosurgeon. After hearing the symptoms he immediately said that he thought this little boy had “rotatory dislocation/subluxation” of the two upper cervical vertebrae in his neck (C-1 and C-2). He explained to me that in most cases the displacement resolves spontaneously, but in some cases the child continues to be uncomfortable as there is associated spasm of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which causes the torticollis. (twisted neck).It may be seen in children after a recent upper respiratory infection and is then called Grisel Syndrome.

 

Treatment for the acute condition…pain control and muscle relaxation.  This was all news to me and I had to go to textbook (online of course) to even read about the condition.  The neurosurgeon walked me through treatment and the child was sent home on a very low dose of valium and continued ibuprofen. When I spoke to the mother later that evening the child was already more comfortable and had started to move his neck. 

 

I called her the following morning and she said that he had not required any further valium and slept well and was actually on his way to preschool! WOW….I was thrilled he was better so quickly and that I was that much “smarter”. Wonder if I will ever see rotatory subluxation of the cervical vertebra again? I’ll be ready.

Parenting

Back-to-School Jitters

2:00

Where did the summer go? Some children will be headed back to school in less than a week and others within the next couple of weeks. It’s not uncommon for kids to be a little anxious as the big day draws near. Your child may be feeling a lot of emotions right now, ranging from high anxiety to  “I can’t wait.” That's understandable. Think back on how you felt when you started a new job or were moving to a new part of the country, it’s quite similar but without the benefit of life experience to help you process the changes.

Besides the unknown of a new school year, there’s the challenge of getting back into an early morning routine and the addition of after-school activities to everyone’s schedule. It’s a hectic time but with a lot of patience and a little smart planning, it can go smoother than you might think.

If your child’s school offers an orientation or back–to-school night, one way to help ease your little one’s fear is to take them and let them see the school, meet their teachers and say hello to some fellow students before classes begin. A familiar face or two can help make the transition go a little smoother during that first week of school.

If your child is able to meet his or her teachers, give them time to talk and get to know each other, if only briefly. Let your child answer any questions the teachers have instead of answering for them. You might even help your child come up with a few questions they can ask the teacher.

You could check with the teacher and see if he or she would mind having a picture taken with your child. As school day approaches, you can show it to your child talk about meeting their teacher. A little thing like that can help your child develop a familiar feeling for the teacher before school starts.

Since it’s always a good idea to read to your youngster, choose books with a back-to-school theme. There are lots of children’s books that tell meaningful stories about kids facing the challenges of moving to a new school, the first year of school, making new friends and lots of other possible scenarios in story form.

Get organized! Easier said than done, I know. If you’re organized and ready for school it not only relieves some of the pressure on you, but for your children too. Chaos or uncertainty about where to go and what to do adds fuel to a child’s concerns about whether everything is going to be OK or not. 

Let your child help create a study area in the home. Being involved in at least some of the decisions can help make this a personal adventure that they have some say in.

All kids need enough sleep and getting into a good sleep routine can help ease them into the changes school is going to require. As you already know from experience, a tired child is more likely to feel overwhelmed, nervous and cranky.  If you haven’t already, start the new bedtime routine now so that you don’t have the arguments and resistance during the first days of school when everyone is trying to find their footing.

The main thing to remember is that your child, whether it’s their first day to attend, or their last year of school, is going to feel a little jittery. Reassure him or her that everything is going to be fine. The new schedule, classmates, studies and activities will be familiar sooner than they think. Let them know that you understand how the unknown can be a little scary, but that this is also a time when good things can happen as they explore all their new opportunities. 

 

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Bug bite prevention

Bug Bite Prevention & Treatment!

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Count your blessings this Thanksgiving!

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