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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

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

Birthmarks

1:15 to read

Many years ago when children asked their parents “where did I come from?” they answered “the stork brought you”.  The picture of the stork’s beak holding on to the baby’s neck and flying to drop the baby on the new parent’s doorstep was known by all….but things change and that visual is not known by my newest parents.  In fact they look at me with completely blank stares when I discuss the birthmark on the nape of their child’s neck.

But the term “stork bite” comes from that old story, and the red birthmark seen on up to 50% of babies necks is also called nevus flammeus or nevus simplex. They are flat, pink and irregularly shaped and while they occur most commonly on the nape of the neck, they are common on the forehead, eyelids and above the upper lip as well. They are due to capillaries close to the skins surface. The stork bites on the face typically fade over time while the ones on the nape of the neck may continue to be present but are obscured and typically forgotten once the baby has hair. Many people are not even aware that they themselves have one.

When I am doing a newborn exam I see so many of these little “flat red patches” that I often to forget to bring them up as they are small and typically fade….but sometimes a parent will specifically ask about them. After I apologize for not bringing it up….as I know they are small and fade, but they are concerned,  I tell them that they are “stork bites” and get that blank look.  Then I launch into the etiology for the name etc. But, things are getting ready to change as STORKS a new animated movie is just bring released.  The old myth of the stork is making a come back!

So…if your baby has this small birthmark, no need to worry.  Be assured that most will fade but if they have not resolved by the age of 3 or 4 years, there are now lasers available to treat them.

In the meantime..take your family to see "STORKS" so they are aware of where “you used to come from”!  We can still tell our children the myth of the stork and then make sure to discuss the truth about “where did I come from?”. 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Acne Problems

Adolescents and acne….the two often go together. With so many options, both over the counter and prescription available, most teens who are interested in treating their acne can achieve clear skin.  The first step is typically making sure that the tween-teen is washing their face every morning and before bed…which proves to be difficult for some.

 

Interestingly, diet may also play a role in acne. While we were told years ago that french fries and greasy hamburgers may cause acne a new study suggests that milk may actually be the culprit and contribute to the development of acne. I can even remember the dermatologist many years ago asking my sons (who unfortunately all dealt with acne) if they were big milk drinkers.  

 

There have been earlier studies (2005 - 2008) which showed a correlation between milk intake and acne…and the risk seemed to be greater in those that drank non fat milk over whole milk.  The newest study published in 2016 looked at teens with acne compared to controls who did not have acne and found “positive associations with total dairy and non-fat dairy, but not with whole-fat or low -fat dairy. In other words it seemed that skim milk might be involved in the pathogenesis of acne??  There have been proposed mechanisms as to why this might occur, but much of it is speculative.

 

At the same time that teens are developing acne they are also growing and building healthy bones, which means more calcium is needed in their diets. Nutritional guidelines recommend 1,300 mg of calcium every day for adolescents. Much of the dietary calcium intake comes from dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese.  It is often very hard for adolescents to meet the daily calcium and vitamin D requirements and stopping dairy may put them at risk nutritionally.

 

But, with that being said….in cases of teenage acne that do not seem to be improving on a well prescribed skin care regimen, it may be prudent to do a dairy free trial to see if this makes a difference in their acne. During the trial you can easily offer a calcium supplement.   If the teen’s face does not seem to improve with a 2-4 week dairy free trial I would recommend to resume normal dairy intake - but maybe use whole-fat or low-fat dairy rather than non fat.

 

This would be a good topic for discussion with your own dermatologist.

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

White Patches on the Skin

1:30 to read

I saw a 10 year old patient last week for her routine physical. One of her mother’s concerns was that her daughter had “white patches” under both of her arms.  Once I examined her I told her mother that the “white patches” were actually due to Vitiligo, which is an acquired disorder of pigment loss. 

Vitiligo is caused by a reduction in functional melanocytes, the cells that cause pigmentation in the skin. Vitiligo often develops before the age of 20 and there is no difference in predilection for male over female cases.  In children the hypopigmented areas are often first noted on sun exposed areas like the face (around the eyes and mouth) and well as on the hands.  The underarm area (axilla) is often involved, as are areas around the genitalia. In many cases the depigmentation is symmetrical (both arm pits, or hands or knees). 

Although the exact cause of Vitiligo is not clear, it is known that it has an immunogenetic basis, as there is a positive family history of others with vitiligo in 30 -40 % of patients. There are numerous theories as to different reasons that the melanocytes (pigment cells) are not working. The genetics of vitiligo is also being studied with changes seen on certain chromosomes. 

So why doctors are not clear as to how and why Vitiligo occurs, in most cases it does seem to be slowly progressive. There is spontaneous repigmentation in 10-20% of patients, especially in sun exposed areas of young patients. 

The problem with Vitiligo is that treatment is often lengthy and is frequently unrewarding. There is not “one way” to treat Vitiligo that will ensure repigmentation and resolution. Dermatologists have used phototherapy for treatment, but facial areas and small patches seem to be most responsive. A recent study showed that narrow band UVB therapy was superior to UVA therapy, but studies continue. 

Potent topical corticosteroids are also used to help promote re-pigmentation.  Topical immune modulators such as Tacrolimus have also been tried. 

With all of this being said, a referral to a dermatologist that is familiar with treating Vitiligo is of upmost importance. The sooner the treatment for these “white patches” the better. 

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

Daily Dose

Diaper Dermatitis

1:30 to read

Newborn babies have the softest little bottoms and they also have a lot of poop! The combination often leads to a raw red bottom and a diaper rash. A newborn often poops every time they eat and sometimes in between....and you don’t even realize they have pooped again.

Even with the constant diaper changing (would you have believed you would use 8-12 diapers a day) it is very common for that newborn to develop their first diaper rash.  Not only will the skin be red and raw....it may even sometimes be so chapped that it may bleed a bit.  This diaper rash is causes a lot of parental concern and will often result in the new parent’s first of many calls to their pediatrician.

A new baby is supposed to poop a lot, so you can’t change that fact,  but you can try all sorts of things to protect that precious bottom and treat the diaper rash.  After using a diaper wipe ( non perfumed, hypo-allergenic) I sometimes bring out the blow dryer and turn it to cool and dry the baby’s bottom a bit. Then I apply a mixture of a zinc based diaper cream (examples:  Desitin, Dr. Smith’s, Triple Paste cream), which I mix in the palm of my hand with a tiny bit of liquid over the counter antacid.  (I don’t measure it:  just a lot of diaper cream and small amount of antacid so it won’t be runny).  I put a really heavy layer of this on the baby’s bottom.

If after several days rash is still not improving it may have become secondarily infected with yeast so I add a yeast cream (Lotrimin AF, Triple Paste AF) to the concoction. If it has yeast this should do the trick to treat all of the problems.

I will also sometimes alternate using Aquaphor on the bottom with the above diaper cream concoction.  It will take some time for it to totally go away but you are trying to get a barrier between the poop and the skin on the baby’s bottom. She keep something on there after each diaper change.

After a few weeks of constant pooping the number of stools do slow down and bit and that will help heal that new baby’s bottom as well. 

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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

White Patches on the Skin

1.15 to read

I saw a 10 year old patient last week for her routine physical. One of her mother’s concerns was that her daughter had “white patches” under both of her arms.  Once I examined her I told her mother that the “white patches” were actually due to Vitiligo, which is an acquired disorder of pigment loss. 

Vitiligo is caused by a reduction in functional melanocytes, the cells that cause pigmentation in the skin. Vitiligo often develops before the age of 20 and there is no difference in predilection for male over female cases.  In children the hypopigmented areas are often first noted on sun exposed areas like the face (around the eyes and mouth) and well as on the hands.  The underarm area (axilla) is often involved, as are areas around the genitalia. In many cases the depigmentation is symmetrical (both arm pits, or hands or knees). 

Although the exact cause of Vitiligo is not clear, it is known that it has an immunogenetic basis, as there is a positive family history of others with vitiligo in 30 -40 % of patients. There are numerous theories as to different reasons that the melanocytes (pigment cells) are not working. The genetics of vitiligo is also being studied with changes seen on certain chromosomes. 

So why doctors are not clear as to how and why Vitiligo occurs, in most cases it does seem to be slowly progressive. There is spontaneous repigmentation in 10-20% of patients, especially in sun exposed areas of young patients. 

The problem with Vitiligo is that treatment is often lengthy and is frequently unrewarding. There is not “one way” to treat Vitiligo that will ensure repigmentation and resolution. Dermatologists have used phototherapy for treatment, but facial areas and small patches seem to be most responsive. A recent study showed that narrow band UVB therapy was superior to UVA therapy, but studies continue. 

Potent topical corticosteroids are also used to help promote re-pigmentation.  Topical immune modulators such as Tacrolimus have also been tried. 

With all of this being said, a referral to a dermatologist that is familiar with treating Vitiligo is of upmost importance. The sooner the treatment for these “white patches” the better. 

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

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