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Daily Dose

Why Babies Develop Jaundice

It is not unusual to see a newborn appear slightly jaundiced during their first week of life.

I received an email via our iPhone App from a mom who asked "why babies get jaundice and why we check a bilirubin level on newborns?"

Most babies will develop physiologic jaundice (noted by yellow discoloration to their skin and whites of their eyes) due to the fact that a your-baby's liver is still not working at full speed when first born. Bilirubin, a breakdown product of the red blood cell, is metabolized through the liver. It is also excreted in the stool, and the young newborn is just getting all of those organ systems up and running in the first 24- 2 hours of life. As cute and snuggly as a brand new your baby is, it does take a few hours to days for everything to ramp up to full working speed. So, it is not unusual to see a newborn appear slightly jaundiced during their first week of life, and how I learned with my own first child, yellow is not a good color on most newborns. Stick with pink and blue. Sometimes babies will develop higher bilirubin levels than expected, (numbers in the teens) and depending on how old they are may require phototherapy to help breakdown the bilirubin. You might have seen those babies basking under the glow of "sunlamps" wearing your-baby sunglasses. The blue lights breakdown bilirubin in the skin. Excessive bilirubin can lead to a condition called kernicterus, and may actually cause brain damage. By following an infant's bilirubin levels and treating promptly you can avoid this, and I have never seen an infant develop kernicterus. Your pediatrician will discuss bilirubin levels with you while you are in the hospital with your newborn. If they don't bring it up, typically there is nothing to worry about. If you have concerns, you should ask. If your your baby seems to be getting more jaundiced once you are home, give your doctor a call, it may mean they need to have another bilirubin level drawn as occasionally a your-baby will develop more jaundice once they have been discharged. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Brown Spots on Your Baby?

1:30 to read

I was examining a 4 month old baby the other day when I noticed that she had several light brown spots on her skin. When I asked the mother how long they had been there, she noted that she had started seeing them in the last month or so, or maybe a couple even before that.  She then started to point a few out to me on both her infant’s arm, leg and on her back.

These “caramel colored” flat spots are called cafe au lait macules, (CALMs) and are relatively common. They occur in up to 3% of infants and about 25% of children.  They occur in both males and females and are more common in children of color.  While children may have a few CALMs, more than 3 CALMS are found in only 0.2 to 0.3% of children who otherwise do not have any evidence of an underlying disorder.  

Of course this mother had googled brown spots in a baby and was worried that her baby had neurofibromatosis (NF).  She started pointing out every little speckle or spot on her precious blue eyed daughter’s skin, some of which I couldn’t even see with my glasses on. I knew she was concerned and I had to quickly remember some of the findings of NF type 1.

Cafe au lait spots in NF-1 occur randomly on the body and are anywhere from 5mm to 30 mm in diameter. They are brown in color and have a smooth border, referred to as “the coast of California”. In order to make the suspected diagnosis of NF-1 a child needs to have 6 or more cafe au lait spots before puberty, and most will present by 6 -8 years of age.

For children who present for a routine exam with several CALMs ( like this infant), the recommendation is simply to follow and look for the development of more cafe au lait macules. That is a hard prescription for a parents…watch and wait, but unfortunately that is often what parenting is about.

Neurofibromatosis - 1 is an autosomal disorder which involves a mutation on chromosome 17 and may affect numerous organ systems including not only skin, but eyes, bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. Half of patients inherit the mutation while another half have no known family history.  NF-1 may also be associated with neurocognitive deficits and of course this causes a great deal of parental concern. About 40% of children with NF-1 will have a learning disability ( some minor, others more severe).

For a child who has multiple CALMs it is recommended that they be seen by an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist yearly,  as well as being followed by their pediatrician.  If criteria for NF-1 is not met by the time a child is 10 years of age,  it is less likely that they will be affected, despite having more than 6 CALMs.

The biggest issue is truly the parental anxiety of watching for more cafe au lait spots and trying to remain CALM…easier said than done for anyone who is a parent. 

Daily Dose

Red Cheeks In Winter

1:15 to read

Why do children get red cheeks in winter?

It is the time of year for cold temperatures, low humidity and dry skin. It is funny, every year as the temperatures drop, I we start seeing these cute little babies and toddlers who have those bright red cheeks. I always say that they “look like British babies”.

Dry skin is just one of the many issues we see with colder temperatures, and babies red cheeks are one of the most evident. During the winter months we all experience dry skin and using moisturizer becomes very important.

I have written previous blogs about eczema, and while chapped skin is not synonymous with eczema, there are some similarities. The most important thing to prevent dry skin while the weather is cold is to use a moisturizer, and applying moisturizer is best on damp skin. After bathing your baby or child, pat them dry until they are just “a tad bit moist” and then take a moisturizer and apply it to the almost dry skin. The thicker the moisturizer the better, so a cream is preferable to a lotion. It will take a little more time to rub the cream in when the skin is a bit moist, but it will help the moisturizer penetrate the skin. The same thing goes for the face.

I always found that the best time for me to moisturize those rosy cheeks was really after the child had gone to sleep. When my children were younger I found that if I put the cream on when they were awake, that they either rubbed their faces more, or if they were verbal, complained about lotion on their faces. So…I decided that it worked best to have their bedtime routine, with baths, books, and prayers, and then once they were asleep I would slip in and lather up their faces and also even used Chap Stick on their dry little lips. Now, there is no science in this routine, but it seemed to work, and they were much more tolerant of lubricants when asleep than awake.

We are definitely in the low humidity season and the heat is on in the house (I am typing this as I sit by the fire with a blanket over my feet), so you can expect several months of dry skin and chapped cheeks. If moisturizers like Vanicream, Cerave, Aquaphor and Eucerin go on sale, stock up!!  April is a long way away.

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Daily Dose

The Trials & Tribulations of Teen Acne

It doesn't matter if it is one zit or 100 pimples, most teens are bothered by bumps on their faces.Acne is one of the most perplexing issues for an adolescent. It doesn't matter if it is one zit or 100 pimples, most teens are bothered by bumps on their faces. The only thing they want their doctor to do is to "make my skin clear, NOW". As a 'tween enters adolescence, they may notice bumps on their forehead or nose. The first thing to combat early acne is getting the adolescent into the routine of washing their face twice a day.

Beginning with an over the counter soap or acne wash, something like Neutrogena, Purpose or Clean and Clear. There is even Neutrogena acne wash in a pump that is easy to use. If they are still having break out issues and need the next step, an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide would be helpful. This comes in several strengths, begin low so as not to get too dry and increase strength as tolerated. Benzoyl peroxide is the medication that is "hyped" in pro-active, at the same strength, at a much less expensive price point. If washing the face and using benzoyl peroxide does not control the acne problem it may be time to see the pediatrician or dermatologist to decide if prescription strength medication is in order. The mantra for treating acne should be no picking, do to the risk of infection and scarring and patience, clearing up skin takes time, and a teen has little of that. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon!

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Daily Dose

When Bug Bites Get Infected

1.00 to read

It is the season for bug bites and and I am seeing a lot of parents who are bringing their children in for me to look at all sorts of insect bites. I am not always sure if the bite is due to a mosquito, flea or biting flies, but some of them can cause fairly large reactions. 

The immediate reaction to an insect bite usually occurs in 10-15 minutes after bitten, with local swelling and itching and may disappear in an hour or less. A delayed reaction may appear in 12-24 hours with the development of an itchy red bump which may persist for days to weeks.  This is the reason that some people do not always remember being bitten while they were outside, but the following day may show up with bites all over their arms, legs or chest, depending on what part of the body had been exposed. 

Large local reactions to mosquito bites are very common in children. For some reason, it seems to me that “baby fat” reacts with larger reactions than those bites on older kids and adults. (no science, just anecdote). Toddlers often have itchy, red, warm swellings which occur within minutes of the bites. 

Some of these will go on to develop bruising and even spontaneous blistering 2-6 hours after being bitten. These bites may persist for days to weeks, so in theory, those little chubby legs may be affected for most of the summer. 

Severe local reactions are called “skeeter syndrome” and occur within hours of being bitten and may involve swelling of an entire body part such as the hand, face or an extremity. These are often misdiagnosed as cellulitis, but with a good history of the symptoms  (the rapidity with which the area developed redness, swelling, warmth to touch and tenderness) you can distinguish large local reactions from infection.

Systemic reactions to mosquito bites including generalized hives, swelling of the lips and mouth, nausea, vomiting and wheezing have been reported due to a true allergy to the mosquito salivary proteins, but are extremely rare. 

The treatment of local reactions to bites involves the use of topical anti-itching preparations like Calamine lotion, Sarna lotion and Dommeboro soaks.  This may be supplemented by topical steroid creams (either over the counter of prescription) to help with itching and discomfort. 

An oral antihistamine (Benadryl) may also reduce some of the swelling and itching. Do not use topical antihistamines. Try to prevent secondary infection (from scratching and picking) by using antibacterial soaps, trimming fingernails and applying an antibiotic cream (polysporin) to open bites. 

Due to an exceptionally warm winter throughout the country the mosquito population seems to be especially prolific. The best treatment is prevention!! Before going outside use a DEET preparation in children over the age of six months, and use the lowest concentration that is effective.  Mosquito netting may be used for infants in strollers.  Remember, do not reapply bug spray like you would sunscreen. 

Daily Dose

Treating Stubborn Diaper Rash

1.00 to read

Despite every parent's best efforts, most babies will develop a bothersome diaper rash sometime during their days in diapers. Diaper rashes may be treated with numerous creams and lotions and everyone seems to have their favorites.

I have always been a fan of the zinc-based preparations as I think they coat the skin and provide more protection. I recently had a phone call from a patient who said she had "tried everything" and her son's bottom was still red, raw, bumpy and causing him discomfort. Of course it was over the weekend, so she wanted to see if we could figure this out before the office opened on Monday. If your child develops a diaper rash that does not respond in the first couple of days to the usual "potions" then you might assume they have developed a secondary fungal infection with their diaper rash. Yeast diaper dermatitis is more common than even pediatricians think and doesn't always look like the classic picture of "satellite lesions" on a red base. In a recent article it was estimated that more than 50% of persistent diaper rashes involve yeast, so I think it would make sense to try an over the counter anti-fungal cream in addition to your usual diaper cream. So for that bothersome diaper rash a trial of a zinc-based diaper cream mixed with a little Maalox (yes, the antacid) and a yeast cream may just do the trick and get rid of the red and the yeast. If the rash persists, it's time for a visual diagnosis by your pediatrician. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Winter Season & Eczema

1.30 to read

I received these nice pictures and a question via email the other day. The mother was concerned as she had found this “spot” on her 6 year old son’s back. He was otherwise well and she did not see any other “spots” or rash.   

Her son complained that the “spot” was itchy so being the good mother she applied some over the counter cortisone cream for several days (which I always tell patients to try). After 2 days of it not improving, but not worsening, she thought it might be ringworm (also a good thought) and she applied an OTC anti-fungal cream.  Again, the rash was not better, but really not worsening or spreading.  That is an important part of the history. 

Now in medicine you learn about red herrings, which are part of a patient’s history that may not really have any bearing to their current problem....but one has to consider it. In this case, her dog developed a lesion and was taken to the vet and was diagnosed with a staph infection, but the vet told the mom that the dog was not contagious to humans.  Red herring or is that the problem? 

After looking at all of the pictures (which is never as good as seeing a rash in person), I am thinking that this may be nummular eczema, (nummular means coin shaped, hence the round)  The history is right as is was not bothersome other than being itchy, and eczema is often called the “itch that scratches”.   

With all of this cold dry weather and heaters on full blast all over the country eczema is having a heyday.  I have seen a ton of these little inflamed patches on skin of all ages (my own hands are a mess).   The treatment of choice is to moisturize the skin and also the use of a topical steroid. But, it takes a long time to see an improvement in the spots and they may change on a daily basis depending  on the weather, bathing and how much lubrication and moisturizing you are doing.  

I would use an OTC moisturizer that contains ceramides (Cetaphil Restoraderm, Cerave, Aveeno for eczema) and use it liberally and frequently.  I would also apply an OTC steroid several times a day (under the moisturizer). Eczema also sometimes requires a stronger topical steroid that is prescription. 

Hope that helps.....but if not improving after 7-10 days it may be worth a visit to your pedi for up close and personal diagnosis.

Daily Dose

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease is Back

1.45 to read

I have been seeing a lot of cases of "hand, foot and mouth disease" (HFM) in the office. This illness is usually caused by a Coxsackie virus A-16, a member of the enteroviral family. These viruses are typically seen in the summer and early fall. Don't worry, this illness is not related to "hoof and mouth" disease seen in animals.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is most common in younger children and often is seen in the toddler crowd. You can see "hand, foot and mouth" in older children, but most children have had it at younger ages and are immune as they get older. It is not unusual to have outbreaks of HFM in child-care centers or pre-schools. How is Coxsachie virus transmitted?  Person-to person contact as well as from contact with contaminated surfaces. The incubation period from time of exposure is about three to seven days. The typical child with HFM will present with fever, which is often fairly high. If seen early in the illness they may not have any other physical findings but over several days they will develop a sore throat with painful sores on the tongue and throat. Several days later they may develop the classic small, red, blister like lesions on their palms, soles of feet and often in the diaper area. When they have all of the symptoms it is an easy diagnosis, but not everyone who gets Coxsackie virus will have every symptom. Sometimes you see a child with the classic rash on palms and soles, but they have never had fever or even felt badly, lucky for them! One of the most common complaints may be drooling and irritability in a child with fever as the mouth and throat are sore, even before the classic lesions appear. Because this is yet ANOTHER viral infection, there is no specific treatment and antibiotics won't help. Keeping your child comfortable with Tylenol or Motrin/Advil will help with both fever and pain. This is a good time to try things that would help soothe a sore throat, things like ice cream, popsicles, pudding, Jell-O and even a Slurpee, especially in a child who is refusing fluids. The main concern is keeping your child hydrated during the illness. Once your child is fever free for 24 hours and feeling better they may return to child-care or school. The small lesions on the palms and soles will clear over the next five to seven days. The best way to prevent others from getting sick is with good old hand washing. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Monitoring Moles In Children

1.00 to read

Everybody gets moles, even people who use sunscreen routinely. Moles can occur on any area of the body from the scalp, to the face, chest, arms, legs, groin and even between fingers and toes and the bottom of the feet.

So, not all moles are related to sun exposure. Many people inherit the tendency to have moles and may have a family history of melanoma (cancer), so it is important to know your family history. People with certain skins types, especially fair skin, as well as those people who spend a great deal of time outside whether for work or pleasure may be more likely to develop dangerous moles. Children may be born with a mole (congenital) or often develop a mole in early childhood. It is common for children to continue to get moles throughout their childhood and adolescence and even into adulthood. The most important issue surrounding moles is to be observant for changes in the shape, color, or size of your mole. Look especially at moles that have irregular shapes, jagged borders, uneven color within the same mole, and redness in a mole. I begin checking children’s moles at their early check ups and look for any moles that I want parents to continue to be watching and to be aware of. I note all moles on my chart so I know each year which ones I want to pay attention to, especially moles in the scalp, on fingers and toes and in areas that are not routinely examined. A parent may even check their child’s moles every several months too and pay particular attention to any of the more unusual moles. Be aware that a malignant mole may often be flat, rather than the raised larger mole. Freckles are also common in children and are usually found on the face and nose, the chest, upper back and arms. Freckles tend to be lighter than moles, and cluster. If you are not sure ask your doctor. Sun exposure plays a role in the development of melanoma and skin cancer, so it is imperative that your child is sun smart. That includes wearing a hat and sunscreen, as well as the newer protective clothing that is available at many stores. I would also have your child avoid the midday sun and wear a hat. Early awareness of sun protection will hopefully establish good habits and continue throughout your child’s life. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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