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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

Summer Skin Infections

1:30 to read

I have been seeing a lot of skin infections and many of these are due to community acquired methicillin resistant staph areus (caMRSA). The typical patient may be a teen involved in sports, but I also see this infection in young children in day care, or summer camp. The typical history is “I think I have a spider bite” and that makes your ears perk up because that is one of the most common complaints with a staph infection, which is typically not due to a bite at all.

The poor spider keeps getting blamed, and how many spiders have you seen lurking around your house waiting to pounce? The caMRSA bacteria is ubiquitous and penetrates small micro abrasions in the skin without any of us every knowing it. The typical caMRSA infection presents with a boil or pustule that grows rapidly and is very tender, red and warm to the touch. The patient will often say that they “thought it was a bite” but the lesion gets angry and red and tender very quickly and typically has a pustular center.

For most of us pediatricians, you can see a lesion and you know that it is staph. It is most common to see these lesions in athletes on exposed skin surfaces such as arms and legs, but lesions are also common on the buttocks of children who are in diapers in day care. The area is angry looking and tender and the teenage boy I saw the other day would not sit on the chair, but laid on the table on his side as he was so uncomfortable. If the lesion is pustular the doctor should obtain a culture to determine which bacteria is causing the infection, but in most cases in my office the culture of these lesions comes back as caMRSA or in the jargon Mersa. When I say Mersa, I often cause widespread panic among my patients, but in most cases to date these infections may still be treated with an oral antibiotic that covers caMRSA, such as clindamycin or trimethoprim-sulfa. Many of the lesions improve dramatically once the site is drained and cultured. I will reiterate that if possible you want your doctor to obtain a culture to identify the bacteria that is causing the infection.

To prevent caMRSA remind your student athlete not to share towels, clothing or other items. Make sure that common areas are disinfected and once again encourage good hand washing. The closure of schools or disinfecting an entire football field or area with turf is not recommended. Lastly, this is a good reminder that you only want to take an antibiotic for a bacterial infection and that overuse of antibiotics leads to resistance. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Chapped Cheeks

1.15 to read

Weather is crazy around the country and those cold temps continue. It was in the 80s this past weekend in Dallas but heading to the 20s this week!This really cold and dry winter has been hard on skin and I have seen more babies like this one who are coming in due to having “red cheeks”.  

These precious little red cheeks are just dry and chapped.  The toddler set seems be particularly affected as they are always getting their faces wiped!! Between those winter runny noses which parents are constantly having to wipe and the wiping of faces after finger foods have been “smeared” from cheek to cheek, a toddler’s face gets lots of wear and tear.

While it would seem that water on the face from lots of washing would be hydrating, it is actually not. At this time of year, a little less face washing is beneficial, but what toddler can go for more than an hour or so without having something washed off their face.

So to counteract all of the dryness requires lots of hydration with moisturizers. Right after washing, wiping your child’s face you need to use a thick moisturizer.  You cannot over moisturize your child during this time of year.   I am a fan of Cerave Cream and Aquaphor.  I often use Cerave (cream is thicker than the lotion) during the day and then lather on Aquaphor at bedtime!!  The thick moisturizer helps hold the water into the skin.   I was even known to rub Aquaphor on my own’s childrens’ faces once they were asleep, so they were not tempted to rub it off!!

Don’t worry, once the weather warms up, the heat is off and the humidity starts those rosy little cheeks will fade away....unless that is you don’t use sunscreen, but that is another blog!!

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

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

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

How to Treat Poison Ivy

1.15 to read

With the vacation season here many families are enjoying the outdoors. But with outdoor activity, your children may develop summer rashes like poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. Each plant is endemic to different areas of the country, but unfortunately all 50 states have one of these pesky plants. Teach your children the adage “leaves of three, let it be”, so they come to recognize the typical leaves of the poison ivy.

The rash of poison ivy (we will use this as the prototype) is caused by exposure of the skin to the plant sap urushiol, and the subsequent allergic reaction. Like most allergies, this reaction requires previous exposure to the plant, and upon re-exposure your child will develop an allergic contact dermatitis. This reaction may occur anywhere from hours to days after exposure, but typically occurs one to three days after the sap has come into contact with your child’s skin and they may then develop the typical linear rash with vesicles and papules that are itchy, red and swollen. Poison ivy is most common in people ages four to 30. During the spring and summer months I often see children who have a history of playing in the yard, down by a creek, exploring in the woods etc, who then develop a rash. I love the kids playing outside, but the rash of poison ivy may be extremely painful especially if it is on multiple surface areas, as in children who are in shorts and sleeveless clothes at this time of year. The typical fluid filled vesicles (blisters) of poison ivy will rupture (after scratching), ooze and will ultimately crust over and dry up, although this may take days to weeks. The fluid from the vesicles is NOT contagious and you cannot give the poison ivy to others once you have bathed and washed off the sap. You can get poison ivy from contact with your pet, toys, or your clothes etc. that came in contact with the sap, and have not have been washed off. If you know your childhas come into contact with poison ivy try to bath them immediately and wash vigorously with soap and water within 5

Daily Dose

Summer Series: Best Ways To Use Bug Spray

1.00 to read

Now that you know all about the options for bugs sprays this summer, let’s discuss the guidelines for using these products.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued recommendations for the application of insect repellents in children. These include the following:

-Do not apply bug spray to children under 2 months of age

-Use up to 30% DEET in children, depending on duration of outdoor activities. Avoid the use of higher concentrations in children.

-Apply insect repellent only to exposed areas of skin and/or clothing. Do not use repellents under a child’s clothing.  Certain repellents may damage synthetics, leather or plastics.

-Do not apply insect repellent to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around the ears. Do not spray directly on the face, spray on your hands first and then apply to the child’s face

-Do not apply bug spray over cuts, eczema or breaks in the skin.

-Have a parent or caregiver apply the bug spray as a child may inadvertently ingest the spray.  Do not allow children to handle the repellents without supervision.

-Wash repellents off with soap and water at the end of the day. This is especially important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also wash treated clothing before wearing again.

-Combination products containing DEET and sunscreen are not recommended, as sunscreen should be reapplied frequently (every 2 hours) and in contrast bug repellents should be applies as infrequently as possible.  It is also thought that DEET may decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen.

-Do not use spray in enclosed areas or near food. Avoid breathing the repellent spray.

-There are other ways to beat the bugs too.  Try to avoid go outside when the bugs are most active, dawn and dusk.

-When your child does go out cover as much of the skin as you possibly can. Use lightweight, long sleeved clothing and pants.   Do not dress your child in bright colors or flowery clothing.  For young children use mosquito netting over their strollers etc.

-The use of citronella candles or bug zappers have not been shown to help .

-Eliminating standing water in yards and areas around the house and yard will help eliminate mosquito breeding. Fans do seem to help as mosquitoes have trouble maneuvering in the wind, so buying a fan to use around the picnic table may be useful. There are many ways to try and avoid the dreaded insect bites, the “battle” is just beginning.

So, gather information and your favorite repellents and enjoy the outdoors. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send your question to Dr. Sue right now! Check the UV Index in your neighborhood here

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.

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