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Daily Dose

Dog Bites

1:30 to read

I am a dog lover and we have always had a dog in our house….even before we had our children.  But, some dogs will bite and unfortunately there are more than 800,000 people every year who receive medical care for a dog bite…more than half of these are children.

 

Children are also more likely to be severely injured from a dog bite…and I was reminded of this today when I saw a very serious dog bite to a child’s face.  The child was brought to my office by his nanny after being bitten on his cheek by the family’s dog.  It was one of the worst bites I have ever seen! He was severely injured and should have actually gone straight to the ER….the good news is that he will ok, but he had to undergo surgery to repair the bite and will probably require another small surgery at some later date. 

 

In this case as in most, the dog bite occurs when a child is interacting with a familiar dog, and in this case it was the family pet. The little boy is a toddler with a twin sister and they were playing when he was bitten.  The dog had been around the children since they were born…and it is unclear what precipitated the bite.  Sometimes a dog becomes aggressive if they are bothered while they are eating or sleeping…and you know toddlers, they can “bother” anyone. 

 

One of my “boys” is also a dog bite statistic.  He was raised with dogs (my sweet lab Maggie is at my feet as I am writing), so I was totally caught off guard one night when the phone rang. My son had been spending the night at a friend’s house (he was about 10 years old) and the voice on the other end of the phone was the father of the friend (he too a doctor), informing me that my child had been bitten by their dog.  It seemed the boys were laying on the floor on blankets watching a movie and eating popcorn and for some “unknown “ reason the dog bit my son on his face.  The bite was not precipitated by anything…they had not been playing or rough housing with the dog and the dog had not been known to be aggressive. The next words out of the father’s mouth…”do you know a good plastic surgeon?” Not words you want to hear from another physician.

 

Thankfully, I did know a good plastic surgeon who I awakened after his long day in the OR….and he got out of bed and met us to suture my son’s face with over 20 stitches. Luckily it only involved his nose, cheek and chin, just barely missing his left eye. I am sure I cried more than my son.  He still has a scar across his nose..which only bothers his mother.  Incredibly, he never “blamed” their dog, went back to play at their house, and still loves his own dogs more than anything.  My brother who is a vet still thinks that any dog that bites without provocation should not stay in the home with children…but that is one vet’s opinion. 

 

It is especially important to teach your children never to approach a dog to pet it without first asking the owner if it is okay.  Children should learn to move slowly and let the dog “sniff” them first and to stay away from their face and tail. Teach your child how to gently pet an animal and to always be gentle.  If they are around a dog who is behaving in a threatening manner by growling or barking, they should slowly back away from the dog and try to avoid eye contact with the dog. If they are ever knocked over by a dog they should curl up in and ball and protect their face with their arms.

If your child is bitten and it is superficial it will probably just require care with soap and water. For bites that break the skin you should check in with your pediatrician.  Make sure you know the rabies vaccination status of the dog that bit.  You also need to make sure that your child is up to date on their tetanus vaccination. In some cases your child may also need an antibiotic.

Daily Dose

Summer Viruses

1:30 to read

June….now seems like officially summer, although there are still some schools around the country in session, and even a couple in Dallas.  So, with summer here it is check up time in my pediatric office.  That means most days I am seeing very few sick patients, and most of the patients who come in for a visit other than a check up have a rash, a bug bite or maybe a swimmer’s ear.

 

But, with that being said there are also always some of those pesky summer viruses hanging around and many of them appear with just a fever. Many of the “sick” children I am seeing only have a fever, some of whom have a temperature as high as 103-104 degrees, with very few other symptoms.  Although these kids have a significant fever, once they are given an over the counter product like acetaminophen or ibuprofen they feel pretty well and even play for awhile. 

 

Fever is often just a symptom of a viral infection and these summer viruses have names…enterovirus, adenovirus, and even some left over parainfluenza virus.  We are definitely out of flu season….at least till next year.

 

Some of these summer viruses may have associated rashes which are more common with summer viral infections than winter viruses.

 

I have seen some kids with these summer viruses with prolonged fever, even 5-7 days which is a bit longer than a pediatrician and a parent want to see. But, with that being said, when I have seen these children they appear to look well and have not had any other physical findings.  I have often seen them again after having 5 or more days of fever, and it seems that many of them have adenoviral infections.  Adenovirus may also cause a myriad of other symptoms than just fever, including pink eye, sore throat, abdominal pain and vomiting and diarrhea and tummy cramps.  Rarely, some children will develop blood in their urine without having a urinary tract infection. 

 

Parents often ask me….where did they catch this? Remember that these are just viral infections and that there is not a vaccine for adenovirus. Once we see one virus in the community I know I will continue to see more and more children as it is “passed around”.  Best thing to do is to keep up good hand washing and keep your child home from the pool or summer activities if they have a fever.  

 

Daily Dose

Water Safety

1:30 to read

Memorial Day weekend is almost here and that means summer water activities. While the pool is a great place to stay cool it is also unfortunately associated with drowning.  Drowning is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1-4 years and is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14.  

 

Drownings are more likely to happen not at the child’s own home, but while a child is at a swim party, or a neighbors house.  Drowning is a SILENT event. While most people think of drowning being noisy with lots of splashing and screaming (as depicted on TV and movies), children rarely scream, call for help or thrash around. They quietly go under water…..and don’t come back up.

 

Statistics show that in 35% of drownings there is no adult supervision, and 57% of drownings occur in residential pools.  About 40% of children drown when not swimming , but after accidentally falling into the water. I have witnessed this myself when filming a segment on pool safety at my own pool! The toddler, who was standing right next to me, slipped and fell right into the pool….but I was literally standing less than an arm’s length away, witnessed the entire event and pulled him right back out of the pool…both of us wet and scared!!! It only takes a second for this to happen.

 

The AAP now recommends that children begin formal swim lessons at younger ages as the risk of drowning is reduced by 88% with formal swim lessons.  The AAP does not endorse “survival swimming” lessons for young children. 

 

Drowning is preventable!! Make sure that your children have adult supervision whenever they swim, and don’t let children swim alone. Even teens can drown and should not swim alone….

When attending pool events, whether at home or away, designate an adult to be the “water watcher” so that no one assumes someone else is responsible. The “water watcher “is dedicated to one task, supervising the children…so no texting, socializing, drinking etc. while on duty.

 

Protecting children around the pool also means having the correct equipment!  Pools should all be enclosed by a non-climbable fence with a self locking gate, which ensures that no one can wander into the pool before there is adult is on duty!  Children who do not know how to swim should wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device , and not water wings or floaties. The pool deck should also have appropriate water rescue equipment ready, which includes pool noodles, safety rings and a first aid kit. Keep a phone nearby as well for ready access to call 911 if an emergency should occur. 

 

Swimming is fun and a great way to exercise. Don’t forget the sunscreen and make sure to re-apply throughout the day. Have a good Memorial Day and a safe start to summer!!! 

Daily Dose

National Safety Month

1:30 to read

June is National Safety Month…just in time for summer! It is a good reminder for all of us to try and prevent any injuries in our children. I do know from my own pediatric office that we see more injuries during the summer months. Whether it is from falls, bike accidents, pool incidents, household poisonings or burns, our phones stay busy.

 

So..this is the perfect time to re-think child proofing your home. Make sure that stairs are gated, both top and bottom. Cabinets need to have child proof latches to protect children from getting into breakable or sharp objects as well as medicines or household products that may be poisonous.  Put the number for Poison Control in your phone….1-800-222-1222. I am often surprised that a parent calls our office about a child who has “gotten into “ a possible poison…the first call should be to Poison Control. Keep the number posted in the house as well so a babysitter may also have it if necessary.

 

Learning to ride a bike a is “life skill” for sure….but that also includes learning to wear your helmet. I see most young children in our neighborhood who are still under the eye of a parent with a bike helmet, but once they are older I often see kids without helmets. Just saw a neighbor’s child ride down the street this evening..no helmet!!  Bike helmets are like a seat belt…not optional. Many “tween” boys will “debate” with me during their check ups about the need for a helmet,  as they tell me “ I am a great bike rider and don’t have wrecks”. Teach your children what the word ACCIDENT means and that just like a car…you never know what “the other guy may do”.  Accidents are NEVER planned and a bike helmet protects the head and brain. We can “fix” the broken arm or stitch a leg…but cannot “fix” a brain injury.

 

Texting and driving is unsafe and may even be illegal in your state. Texas just passed a law prohibiting texting and driving….but teens (and adults)  need to be reminded on a regular basis that texting is not allowed!!  Texting while driving is a leading cause of accidents and I just saw a mother who is pregnant, and was in the office with her 1 year old…she had just been involved in accident that totaled her car.  She was hit from behind by a teen who had been texting and never slowed down.  Fortunately both mother and child were buckled up and were not seriously injured.  If your child is found to be texting while they are driving you should have some serious consequences with both revoked driving privileges and no phone for a while. 

 

Lastly, this is a good month to remember to check your medicine cabinet and throw away any expired or unused medication.  There are some pharmacies that are having events where you can bring in expired medications and they will dispose of them properly. The number one place that  teens find drugs is in the home…keep all narcotics locked up and dispose of any unused medications!! I have had more than several parents who have told me that “drugs” had disappeared from their medicine cabinets after their own kids had had a lot of friends over…and who knows who may be “seeking” prescription medications. Locks on medicine cabinets and liquor cabinets are a must for families. 

What about taking a family first aid course at your local YMCA or Red Cross and spend a day getting your own family first aid kit together.  This is a great way to spend some time together and a productive activity. Have a fun and safe summer!!

Daily Dose

The Joy of Fun Summer Activities

1:15 to read

While doing summer checkups and discussing everyone's summer plans I started thinking that I should really be asking about some of the basics like summer and all of the wonderful activities to do. We have talked about swimming and camps and staying abreast of academic work, but what about the basics of summer? The good, old-fashioned leisure time activities that we all used to do. While doing summer checkups and discussing everyone's summer plans I started thinking that I should really be asking about some of the basics.

So here are the things that come to my mind: Basic summer skills for all of us to remember and to teach. All of this is free, easy and are really akin to life skills that all children should probably master at some point in their childhood.

  • Jumping rope
  • Riding a bike (of course with a helmet)
  • Skipping a stone
  • Pumping a swing
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Catching a ball
  • Throwing a ball (don't think I have still mastered this, wonder if it is too late?)
  • Turning a somersault
  • Playing hopscotch
  • Playing four square
  • Learning how to float on your back
  • Fly a kite
  • Catching fire flies

Don't feel pressured to do this all at once, as childhood is a long time. But enjoy the time spent with your children accomplishing these simple pleasures. Why don't you let me know things that you think of and that you feel are essential skills of summer? I am sure I have missed many. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Life Jackets!

1:15 to read

Summer is here and that means many of my patients are taking off to the beach or the lake to escape the heat and enjoy some water activities.  I recently saw a patient who told me that had just gotten a new boat and were looking forward to getting the kids out on the water.  This brought up the subject of life vests. 

When taking your children on a boat it is important that you have life vests for everyone. It is a law that all children under 13 years of age wear a “coast guard approved” life vest when on a boat that is being operated. This designation is very important, as many of the “life vests” that parents buy are not approved for boating…this includes “water wings” and some of the “cute” wearable t-shirts with life preservers sewn into them. 

Once you have found “coast guard approved” life jackets you might let your child help pick out the one they like the best and that is comfortable. This is important as it will ensure that they are both safe and comfortable. Children’s life jackets are sized by weight, so you might always have a few extras in case a friend or two comes along at the last minute.

Infants life jackets are are a bit different and have a strap that runs between their legs and extra flotation behind the head which guarantees that the baby floats face up at all times. I can attest to this important safety feature as my husband took our son on a little boat one summer day at a friends lake house. The lake was small enough that I could actually see them from the house as they rowed out to try to catch a fish. It was two men and a toddler on the boat…and I watched in horror as our 14 month old (now 32 year old) son leaned over the side of the boat to look at the fish and fell right into the dark murky Texas lake!!  Fortunately, we had followed the boating RULES and he was wearing his bright orange coast guard certified life jacket and bobbed right up to the surface…with a huge scared look on his face!  We have many pictures of our boys in the life jackets every time they set foot on a boat...including this one!

Lastly, get in the habit of applying sunscreen before you even set off for the dock and then have the children put on their life jackets. Kids can just as easily fall off the dock into the water as you prepare to get on the boat.  I would also encourage them to wear a hat for additional sun protection.

A day of boating is a great family activity and there is a lot a child can learn on board as well…how to navigate with a boating chart or GPS coordinates, how to watch for buoys or other water markings and all of the boating jargon.

Bon Voyage! 

Daily Dose

Summer Slide

1:30 to read

School is out for everyone and that means lots of “down time “ for school children - all ages. I think that summer is really an important time for kids to get bored a bit.  In other words, fewer schedules, less connected to electronics, more play time and less stress….hopefully for all. I do know that as a working parent, I don’t think summer was as “unstressful” for me as it was for my children…as I had to continue to make sure that they had good child care and supervision - always challenging at times, but it all worked out and I would try to schedule a bit more time for me to be available for some fun outings.  

But, with fewer schedules and more time to “hang out” some children do experience what is referred to as “the summer slide”.  This can be defined as “the loss of academic skills over the summer break”. When children don’t read, work on math problems, or are not engaged in some sort of learning activity their skills and knowledge over the course of a 2-3 month summer vacation may regress. There is data to show that the loss in learning does vary with grade level,  subject matter and socioeconomic status - but most children show some negative changes when they are tested at the beginning of the summer vacation as compared to the end of the summer.  

The best way to try and prevent the summer slide is to have an idea or plan on how to keep your children interested in learning….but by doing different things than one might do during the school year.  

How about a summer book club or reading program that you might find either on line or through your public library.  There are book lists and fun reading projects for all ages…and if your child is older you might join them in reading one of the classics or even a new novel and discussing it together.  Even if your child claims to “not like to read” these programs are fun and reading a sports book or a scifi adventure may spark their reading.

Field trips:  Whether you live in the city or suburbs or even the country there are many FREE places to visit in your community. That might be a simple trip to the park to play while at the same time talking about why we have parks, and green spaces.  Museums typically have programs for children of all ages …and many are interactive with the parents. It is amazing how much “new” stuff there is to learn, for all of us.  If you are fortunate to live in driving distance to a national park or seashore take advantage of the many free events there. 

Mass transit: I know that when we finally got light rail in Dallas I took the opportunity to ride the rail with our young boys….all sorts of learning taking place as we read signs, and learned how to read a map of the rail system.   We also saw some local sites that we had never taken advantage of.  Inexpensive way to spend a day and the subway, light rail and bus systems in some areas are really growing.

This is also a good time of year to teach your children a few of the “basics”…whether that is how to pump a swing, or ride a bike with or without training wheels, how to tie their shoes, wash the car, or catch a ball …lots of life skills that may get ignored during the school year, and these are skills everyone should know. 

 

 

Daily Dose

Hot Car Deaths

1:30 to read

Did you know that heat stroke is the second leading cause of non-traffic fatalities among children, with the first being backover deaths.  As the summer temperatures are rising these tragic accidents become all too frequent.  

My home state of Texas leads the country in child vehicular heat stroke deaths, followed by Florida and California.  But children who are trapped in vehicles have died in milder climates as well. The temperatures outside may be as low as 60 degrees, but the inside of a car heats up quickly, with 80% of the increase in temperature happening in the first 10 minutes. The reason for this is due to physics.....the sun’s short-wave radiation is absorbed by dark dashboards and seats...the heated objects including child seats then emit long wave radiation which heats a vehicle’s interior air.  All of this leads to tragedy.

A child’s thermoregulatory system is not the same as an adult’s, and their body temperatures will warm 3-5 times faster.  When a child’s body temperature rises to about 107 degrees or greater, their internal organs begin to shut down.This scenario can then lead to death. If you see a child who has been left in a hot car call 911...every minute matters.

The greatest percentage of these tragic deaths are totally unintentional.  These parents are not “bad parents” or “child abusers”, they are loving, good parents who simply forgot that their child was in the car. On average there have been around 37 deaths per year due to vehicular heat stroke and in most cases this is not due to reckless behavior but simply to forgetfulness.  Parents and caregivers both admit to “just forgetting” a child was in the car.  It truly can happen to anyone.

So, how can you remember that your precious, quiet, sleeping child is in back seat. Make it a routine to always look in the back seat before you lock and leave the car.  Try putting your purse, briefcase, or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder to look for your child.

Lastly, if your child is in childcare, have a plan that the childcare provider will call you if you have not notified them that your child will not be coming to school,  and they don’t show up.

Daily Dose

Summer Viruses Are Gearing Up

1.15

Is it hot enough for you? Summer is here for a bit! Winter viruses are a distant memory (good bye flu and RSV), summer viruses which have been laying dormant are once again rearing their angry heads.

My office has been overflowing with really hot feverish kids of all ages.   I think the most likely culprit for much of the illness we are seeing right now is an enteroviral infection.  For some reason, it makes us parents feel better if we can “name that virus”, seems to help validate the illness.  

Enteroviral infections typically cause a non-specific febrile illness and with that you can see fairly high fever. In other words, just like the thermometer as summer heat arrives , 101-104 degrees of fever is not uncommon in these patients.  Remember the mantra, “fever is our friend”. I think it is almost worse to have a high fever in the summer as you are even more uncomfortable because it is already hot!

With that being said, if your child has a fever, don’t bundle them up with layers of clothes and blankets.  It is perfectly acceptable to have your younger child in a diaper and t-shirt, and older children can be in sundress or shorts rather than long sleeves and pants.  Bundling may increase the body temperature, even while you are driving to the doctor’s office. I often come into a room with a precious baby who is running a fever and they are wrapped in blankets, let them out! That hot body needs to breathe.

These summer enteroviruses may cause other symptoms as well as fever, so many kids right now seem to have sore throats and are also vomiting and having diarrhea. With this type of virus you also hear complaints of headaches and body aches (myalgias).  The kids I am seeing don’t look especially sick, but they do feel pretty yucky!  Just kind of wiped out, especially when their temps are up.

Besides treating their fevers, treat their other symptoms to make them comfortable.   If they are vomiting do not give them anything to eat and start giving them frequent sips of liquids such as Pedialyte (for the younger ones) and Gatorade or even Sprite or Ginger Ale. Small volumes are the key. 

I often use pieces of Popsicle or spoonfuls of a Slurpee to get fluids in kids. I always tried to pick drink colors for my own kids that were easier to clean up, in case they were going to vomit again, so no bright red!  The cold fluids may also help to soothe a sore throat. Once the vomiting has stopped, and it is usually no more than 12-24 hours, you can start feeding small amounts of food, but I would steer away from any dairy for a day or two. Again, nothing worse than thinking your child is over vomiting, fixing them I nice milkshake (comfort food) and seeing that thrown up!  Many a mother has come into my office wanting to strip after being vomited on, in a hot car no less.   I don’t think there is a car wash around that can fully get rid of that smell!

Most enteroviral infection last anywhere from 2-5 days. There are many different enteroviruses too, so you can get more than one infection during the season. This is not just a virus you see in children, so watch out parents you may succumb as well. Keep up good hand washing and your child should stay home from school, the pool, camp, day care etc. until they have been fever free for 24 hours. 

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

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Which viruses are gearing up for summer?

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