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Daily Dose

Monitor Your Busy Teen for Depression

1:30 to read

This is hard fo rme to admit, but I am beginning to see a fair amount of adolescent kids (way too many!) who are feeling overwhelmed with school and all of the other things thing have going on in their lives.

For many of my patients the day begins before dawn as they head out the door (frequently without breakfast) to begin their very long day. Many have before school practice for drill team, band or even an off-season sport that involves an early workout. These teens then get finished with their early morning commitments just in time to shower and head to class. Still, no time to eat or even down a smoothie or granola bar, or so they say. Next comes a full day of classes, often with honors and AP classes (up to five in one semester) with a 30 minute break for lunch, if they choose to eat. For those that do eat, it is not a well-balanced lunch, but rather pizza, hamburgers, or a bagel and Gatorade. Remember this is the first food they have had since the previous night (when I am sure they went to bed far too late).

As the end of the school day approaches many of these teens will head to after-school jobs, or extracurricular activities such as yearbook staff, newspaper staff, debate team or a different athletic team than their morning workout. If they remember, they might eat a Power Bar, or grab a Red Bull or Starbucks to keep them going until they eventually head home. For many they will not get home from their school day until long after dark with a lot more still to do. Hopefully, these kids will manage to sit down for dinner (can we say well-balanced) with some family member (many may have already eaten earlier), but they jump right up after gobbling down their food, to head off to do homework.

For many high school students, especially those carrying a heavy pre-college load, there may be several hours of homework, which won’t be finished until 11 p.m. or later if they are lucky. Somewhere they will also fit in on-line computer time to catch up on FaceBook, or emails and texts, while doing a multitude of other things like watching their favorite TV show that has been recorded to fit their schedule. Many report that they have difficulty falling asleep. DUH – their brains are on overload and can’t stop, and then they only get about five to six hours of sleep a night. With all of that being said I can totally understand how stressed out our adolescents are. They want to succeed, they want to be involved, and they constantly worry about what lies ahead. There are actually seventh and eighth graders already talking about SAT prep, and college resumes as if they were already high school juniors. How is this happening? How can we stop this out of control pressure? I certainly don’t know how to solve all of the issues surrounding adolescent stress, but I do know that parents can play an active role in helping their teens manage their time.

While we don’t want to be overly involved or helicopter parents, parents do need to discuss the issues of stress and over commitment when they see their child struggling. Sometimes it is appropriate to step in and say, “I see you need some help with this” and work together on time management. The days will come all too soon when you are not there to help lead the way or ensure that your son or daughter eats breakfast and dinner, or gets enough sleep. For many teens just helping them see the “big picture” and re-adjusting their schedule a bit, will be all they need to feel a little less pressure. Sometimes, they just need to talk about it and will move on. But if your adolescent seems to be overwhelmed, and is getting more anxious or depressed, make sure to talk to their doctor about getting some professional help. There are many people ready to help our teens, we parents just have to recognize when it is needed.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. What do you think?  I welcome your comments and thoughts below!

Daily Dose

HPV Vaccine

1:30 to read

I don’t think I have posted the latest good news about vaccines. As you know I am a huge proponent of vaccinating children (and ourselves), and remind patients that there continue to be ongoing studies regarding vaccine safety, as well as efficacy.  The CDC and ACIP recently announced that the HPV vaccine may be protective and effective after just 2 doses of vaccine rather than the previous recommendation of a series of 3 vaccines.  That is good news for teens, especially those that are “needle phobic”!  

 

The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices  recommended  a 2 dose HPV vaccine series for young adolescents, those that begin the vaccine series between 11 and 14 years.  For adolescents who begin the HPV vaccine series at the age 15 or older, the 3 dose series is still recommended.

 

This recommendation was based upon data presented to the ACIP and CDC from clinical trials which showed that two doses of HPV vaccine in younger adolescents (11-14 years old) produced an immune response similar or higher than the response in older adolescents (15 yrs or older). 

 

The HPV vaccine, which prevents many different types of cancer caused by human papilloma virus, has been routinely recommended beginning at age 11 years  approved to use as young as 9 years), but unfortunately only about 42% of girls and 28% of teenage boys has completed the 3 dose series.  

 

By showing that a 2 dose series (when started at younger ages) is effective and protective the hope is that more and more young adolescents will complete the series.  The two doses now must be spaced at least 6 months apart and may even be given at the 11 year and then 12 year check up which would not require as many visit to the pediatrician.

 

According to the CDC more HPV - related cancers have been diagnosed in recent years, and reported more than 31,000 new cases of cancer each year (from 2008 - 2012) were attributable to HPV, and that routine vaccination could potentially prevent about 29,000 cases of those cancers from occurring.  But, in order to see these numbers shrink, more and more adolescents need to be immunized…before they are ever exposed to the virus. Remember, the HPV vaccine is protective against certain strains of HPV, but does not treat HPV disease.

 

So..once again a good example of using science based evidence to provide the best protection against a serious disease…with less shots too!! Win - Win!!

 

 

Daily Dose

What Are Breast Buds?

1.15 to read

I received a phone call today from a mother who was worried about the “bump” beneath her 12 year old daughter’s nipple. I do get this phone call quite often and even see mothers and daughters in the office who are concerned about this lump?  First thought is often, “is this breast cancer?”  The answer is a resounding “NO” but rather a breast bud.  While all mothers developed their own breast buds in years past, many have either forgotten or suppressed the memory of early puberty and breast budding.

Breast buds are small lumps the size of a blueberry or marble that “erupt” directly beneath a young girl’s areola and nipple. Most girls experience breast budding somewhere around 10-12 years of age although it may happen a bit sooner or even later. It is one of the early signs of puberty and estrogen effects.

Many girls will complain that the nipple area is sore and tender and that they are lopsided!! It is not unusual for one side to “sprout” before the other. Sometimes one breast will bud and the other is months behind. All of this is normal. 

While a lump in the breast is concerning in women reassure your daughter that this is not breast cancer (happy that they are so aware) but a normal part of body changes that happen to all girls as they enter adolescence.   Breast budding does not mean that their period is around the corner either, and periods usually start at least 2 years after breast budding (often longer).

Breast buds have also been known to come and go, again not to worry. But at some point the budding will actually progress to breast development and the continuing changes of the breast during puberty.

Reassurance is really all you need and if your daughter is self-conscious this is a good time to start them wearing a light camisole of “sports bra.”  

Daily Dose

Give Your Family a Sleep Check-up

Now that school is back in session, I wonder if everyone has gotten back into healthy sleep habits.Now that your kids are back in school this new year, I wonder if everyone has gotten back into healthy sleep habits?

It seems that the high school and college crowd takes advantage of long weekends or breaks to “catch up” on sleep. That means sleeping from about 1 or 2 am until at least noon. That also means that I rarely saw my children awake. The same thing was reported by many of my adolescent patients. The ones that came in for morning appointments looked like they had literally rolled out of bed, and were not even fully awake. They looked at it as a “punishment” to have to go to an appointment before noon. I, on the other hand know that morning appointments tend to get seen in a more timely manner than those late in the afternoon when I have had a chance to get behind (despite my best efforts, I promise!). Now the statistics released from the Youth Behavior and Risk Survey of 12,000 high school students just reinforced that our teens are truly sleep deprived. Only about eight percent of teens reported getting the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights. There were 10 percent of teens that reported sleeping only five hours a night, while another 25 percent reported getting six hours of sleep on average on school nights. Thus, it appears that adolescent sleep deprivation is rampant and cumulative. As any parent knows, kids of all ages get irritable when they don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep also leads to difficulty learning and concentrating, but may also affect other activities outside of academics. Teen drivers may be more prone to have automobile accidents when sleep deprived. They are also found to have a higher incidence of depression. There are also studies that lack of sleep may contribute to obesity. With a new semester starting what better time to review bedtimes and sleep habits. I firmly believe that all children need to have bedtimes and that means adolescents too. For that to happen a family needs to not only be organized to get everyone ready for bed, but a parent needs to check on their teen to make sure that they are going to bed. I know it is hard to stay up after a long day at work, but if unsupervised many teens will stay up. They are not only studying, but they are on line on Facebook, or texting on their phones or playing video games or watching TV. Teens are the kings and queens of multitasking, or so they think and somehow the time just slips away. That is until morning when they are exhausted. So make a commitment to “tuck in your teen”, even if that means setting your alarm to get up and do it. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

HPV Vaccine

1:30 to read

I recently read an interesting article in JAMA in which a study was done suggesting that “HPV vaccine does not lead to risky behaviors in teen girls”. This seemed to be a timely study as Merck has just recently received FDA approval for their new Gardasil vaccine which will now protect against 9 serotypes of HPV (human papilloma virus) which causes the majority of cervical cancer ( as well as other genital cancers) and genital warts.

Since the vaccines against HPV were released in this country about 8-9 years ago, the uptake of the vaccine among tween/teen girls and boys has been less than hoped for.  Like many vaccines, there were those parents who were “worried or skeptical” about giving their children a new vaccine - despite the fact that it is the first vaccine against a virus that was known to cause cancer..actually a great deal of cancers.  The CDC reports that about 57% of preteen/teen girls have received one dose of HPV vaccine, while only 35% of boys in the same age group. The completion rate for completing all 3 vaccines is only 37% for girls and 14% for boys. 

But while many parents believe in the benefit of the vaccine a common concern has been, “giving the vaccine to a pre-teen may lead girls to engage in sexual activity at younger ages”.  In my personal experience I have not found that to be at all true. In fact, educating these tweens and teens about the risk of infection and cancer is “scary enough” for some to be even more wary.  I am pretty direct with this group as they get into their true teen years and are experimenting in all sorts of ways...not only sexually. I truly do not think that a vaccine does “promotes” becoming sexually active....hormones do a good job in that area. 

So, the study looked at 21,000 vaccinated girls who were matched with more than 186,000 non vaccinated girls. Researchers then compared rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) including herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. They found that the “rate of STI’s overall were equal among the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups”, which suggests that the HPV vaccine does not impact sexual behaviors. 

With an even more protective HPV vaccine now available I encourage you to read the literature and talk to your own doctor about getting your adolescent vaccinated.  The vaccine is protective but does not treat HPV if you have already been exposed....there will be 14 million new cases of HPV in the U.S. this year...and that statistic is not one you want your adolescent to be among.

Your Teen

Overweight Girls Start Periods At Earlier Age

1.45 to read

Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.It's nothing new that girls are getting younger and younger when they have their first period, but experts worry that the current obesity epidemic could be fueling that trend.

Overweight or obese girls get their first period months earlier than their normal-weight peers, according to a Danish study. Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. About 17 percent of American kids and teens are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the study, researchers used information on body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- and age at first period from about 3,200 Danish girls born between 1984 and 1987. The girls started their period just after they had turned 13, on average, which is about half a year later than in the U.S. Keim said part of the reason for this difference may be that African-Americans tend to start their periods before white girls. On average, a girl got her period about 25 days earlier for every point her BMI increased. For a female of about average height and weight, a one-point change in BMI is equivalent to about six pounds. Overweight and obese girls, for example, got their period three to five months before normal-weight girls, said Anshu Shrestha, a graduate student at UCLA School of Public Health, who worked on the study. There has been past research showing a link between BMI and when girls start menstruating. However, since this study was done more recently, it shows that the link is holding up in today's generation, Keim said. The researchers also found that a girl's mother's weight was related to when her daughter started menstruating, but less so than earlier work had hinted. For every point her mother's BMI when pregnant went up, the girl's period came about a week earlier, according to the new study, which was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Keim said the Danish findings reinforce the importance of keeping a healthy weight. "It's important for your entire life, starting from very early on," she told Reuters Health. "And it can even affect your children's health." Talking to your daughter about Menstruation. Most girls begin to menstruate when they're about 12, but periods are possible as early as age 8. That's why explaining menstruation early is so important. But menstruation is an awkward subject to talk about, especially with preteen girls, who are often embarrassed by this discussion. So what's the best way to approach this ticklish topic? If your daughter asks questions about menstruation, answer them openly and honestly. Provide as many details as you think she needs at the time. It's OK to let your daughter set the pace, but don't let her avoid the topic entirely. If she's not asking questions as she approaches the preteen years, it's up to you to start talking about menstruation. Don't plan a single tell-all discussion. Instead, talk about the various issues - from basic hygiene to fear of the unknown - in a series of short conversations. Consider it part of a continuing conversation on how the human body works. Remember, your daughter needs good information about the menstrual cycle and all the other changes that puberty brings. If her friends are her only source of information, she may hear some nonsense and take it for fact. To introduce the subject of menstruation, you might ask your daughter what she knows about puberty. Clarify any misinformation and ask what questions she might have. It may be helpful to time your conversations with the health lessons and sex education your daughter is receiving in school, or you could broach the subject before a routine doctor's appointment. You can tell your daughter that the doctor may ask her whether she's gotten her period yet. Then ask if she has any questions or concerns about menstruation. Girls might prefer to learn about menstruation from a female family member, but sometimes that's not possible. If you're a single father and you're not comfortable talking about menstruation, you might delegate these conversations to a female relative or friend. The key is to make sure the information is relayed somehow. The biology of menstruation is important, but most girls are more interested in practical information about periods. Your daughter may want to know when it's going to happen, what it's going to feel like and what she'll need to do when the time comes. - What is menstruation? Menstruation means a girl's body is physically capable of becoming pregnant. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn't fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is a period. - Does it hurt? Many girls have cramps, typically in the lower abdomen, when their periods begin. Cramps can be dull and achy or sharp and intense. Exercise, a heating pad or an over-the-counter pain reliever may help ease any discomfort. - When will it happen? No one can tell exactly when a girl will get her first period. Typically, however, girls begin menstruating about two years after their breasts begin to develop. Many girls experience a thin, white vaginal discharge about one year before menstruation begins. - What should I do? Explain how to use sanitary pads or tampons. Many girls are more comfortable starting with pads, but it's OK to use tampons right away. Remind your daughter that it may take some practice to get used to inserting tampons. Stock the bathroom with various types of sanitary products ahead of time. Encourage your daughter to experiment until she finds the product that works best for her. - What if I'm at school? Encourage your daughter to carry a few pads or tampons in her backpack or purse, just in case. Many school bathrooms have coin-operated dispensers for these products. The school nurse also may have supplies. - Will everyone know that I have my period? Assure your daughter that pads and tampons aren't visible through clothing. No one needs to know that she has her period. - What if blood leaks onto my pants? Offer your daughter practical suggestions for covering up stains until she's able to change clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around her waist. You might also encourage your daughter to wear dark pants or shorts when she has her period, just in case. Your daughter may worry that she's not normal if she starts having periods before, or after, friends her age do, or if her periods aren't like those of her friends. But menstruation varies with the individual. Some girls have periods that last two days, while others have periods that last more than a week. It can even vary this drastically from month to month in the same girl. The amount of blood lost each month can vary, too, usually from 4 to 12 teaspoons (about 20 to 60 milliliters). It's also common for girls to have irregular periods for the first year or two. Some months might even go by without a period. Once your daughter's cycle settles down, teach her how to track her periods on a calendar. Eventually she may be able to predict when her periods will begin. Schedule a medical checkup for your daughter if: - Her periods last more than seven days - She has menstrual cramps that aren't relieved by over-the-counter medications - She's soaking more pads or tampons than usual - She's missing school or other activities because of painful or heavy periods - She goes three months without a period or suspects she may be pregnant - She hasn't started menstruating by age 15 The changes associated with puberty can be a little scary. Reassure your daughter that it's normal to feel apprehensive about menstruating, but it's nothing to be too worried about and you're there to answer any questions she may have.

Daily Dose

Plan B Contraception Ruling

1.30 to read

 A federal judge ruled last week that an “over the counter” emergency contraception, which helps prevent pregnancy if used within 72 hours after sexual intercourse, would be made available for all ages.  

Plan B One Step, the pre-packaged emergency contraceptive has been available as an “over the counter morning after pill” since  2006 (although its sale has been restricted to those 17 years and older). Even though it is “an over the counter medication” you have to ask the pharmacist for the package which is behind the counter, and if you are under the age of 17, you need a prescription. Plenty of hoops to jump through.   

What’s the debate all about and why is a federal judge deciding this?   In late 2011, the FDA voted to make Plan B One Step universally available as an over the counter medication.  Soon thereafter Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary for HHS, disagreed with the FDA’s decision and did not approve the FDA’s recommendation.  The judge in his ruling concluded “the administration had not made its decisions based on scientific guidelines and that its refusal to lift restrictions on access to the pill was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable”. 

Not only did the FDA recommend unrestricted access to the “morning after pill” but the American Medical Association (AMA), The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agreed as well. All groups felt that the science showed the safety of the pill, and that restrictions for its sale kept teenagers from using the drug in a safe and timely way to prevent pregnancy.  

I discuss the use of Plan B with my adolescent patients and have written prescriptions for some who were under the age of 17 but needed emergency contraception. The risks of teenage pregnancy and all that that entails are far greater than the use of this pill.  

In a “perfect” world teens under the age of 18 would not be having sex, and if they did they would all be using contraception.  But as we all know, that is not what the statistics, or my own patients tell me.  My practice is Texas which has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country! 

So, the federal judge gave the FDA 30 days to lift age and sale restrictions on Plan B One Step and generic versions of the pill.  But in the meantime, keep talking to your teens about premarital sex, and if they are not abstaining, on how to obtain and use contraception.  This discussion will never get old.

Daily Dose

Will My Child Get Taller?

Question fro Dr. Sue via our iPhone App, when will my child get taller?I received a question from Karen via our iPhone App and she wondered when you could tell if your child was going to get any taller.  I am often asked to either predict how tall a child will be or to decide if a child is going to grow any more.

Growth is obviously very individual but genetics plays a great role. Parents who are both shorter than average typically do not have extremely tall children, and conversely taller parents typically have taller children.  When you have a large family it is not unusual to see some variations in adult heights as the many different genes within the family are expressed. Typically, girls achieve their adult height about 2 years after the beginning of their first period.  I know that you “hear” many a story of a parent or relative who grew for 6 years after their periods started, and of course nothing is 100%, but typically a girl that starts her period at the “normal” age of 12.5 years will have achieved her adult height by the age of 14 – 15. Think about middle school, where the girls are typically taller than the boys. If a girl starts her period earlier, she will not have as lengthy a growth period and may not be as tall as was expected. With that being said, a teenage girl who is only 5 feet tall at 14 years of age, and is thought to be short, but has just entered puberty and has not started her periods, has a longer growth potential and will actually be taller than expected by the “norms”. It is easiest to predict a girl’s height once she has started to have some pubertal changes with breast development etc.  Once their periods, have started most girls will grow about 2 – 2 ½ inches over the next 2 years and will have achieved their adult height at that time. Boys are a little different and have a later growth spurt than girls.  Most boys enter into puberty between 12 – 17 years of age. Again, there is wide variability.  Boys like girls will have about a two to three year rapid growth period, where there may be as much growth as 4 inches in a year.   Boys will usually grow during their high school years where they typically surpass the girls who had an earlier growth spurt.  Many boys, especially those that have later pubertal development will grow throughout high school and occasionally may return from college with another inch or two of growth. That's your daily dose. We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Teen Driving

1:30 to read

 It’s funny that I often find myself reading articles in the newspaper or online, or even watching a TV segment, only to find that an “issue” that I have thought was important for years is “newsworthy” again.  The most recent example being on the topic of teenage drivers and the importance of parental involvement.

I feel like it was not too long ago that I was talking to my own sons about driving….and at that time Texas did not have a lot of rules around getting your driver’s license, besides being 16 an enrolled in school. (thankfully the laws in Texas have changed since then).  So after much discussion about the perils of teenage driving and knowing that the death rate due to an automobile accident topped the list for teens,  my husband and I  came up with a driving contract (which I have shared with too many to count), which clearly outlined the rules and expectations for our sons when they began to drive. I can also remember the oldest looking at the 3 page typed contract and announcing, “ I am not going to sign that!”.  If I remember correctly my husband’s calm reply was, “OK - then don’t drive”. He is a man of few words..but very convincing. 

Fortunately for us, all of our sons did sign the contract, knew the consequences and started off driving our family Suburban…and never had a serious accident (so many prayers as they pulled out of the driveway).  One son did back into a fence, and another hit a car in a parking lot….but I felt fortunate that that was the extent of their accident history.  

According to a recent article in the NY Times there is a time to be a helicopter parent, and that is when your “child” begins to drive.  “In 2013, just under a million teenage drivers were involved in police reported crashes, which resulted in 373,645 injuries and 2,927 deaths”.  These statistics are probably under-reported, and it is estimated that “one in four teens are going to be in a crash in their first six months of driving,” and one would hope that these would be minor “fender benders”, which as we told our sons, do count as an accident.

The biggest risk for a new teenage driver occurs when you add passengers to the car.  According to Dr. Nicole Morris at the University of Minnesota  “adding one non family passenger to a teenager’s car increased the rate of crashes by 44%, and that risk doubles with a second passenger and quadruples with 3 or more”. If your teen is not distracted by their passengers they are likely to be using their phones to stay in touch with their friends….either by text, talking or by checking their various social media sites….all while driving. Although teens state, “ I barely take my eyes off the road”, anything more than 2 seconds can be deadly. Better to turn off the phone and all notifications before your teen hits the road.

Teens should be reminded that driving is a privilege, and parents of teenage drivers need to have ongoing discussions surrounding expectations for obtaining the privilege of driving. Parents need to be knowledgable about teenage driving and their states’ laws - and enforce those, (too many parents of my patients seem to ignore some of the laws - such as limiting passengers in the car). Even if your state does not have laws regulating a step wise progression to full driving privileges (so called graduated driver’s licenses), parents may adopt their own to help ensure their teens safety. Earning more and more independence can be proven with time and a good driving record and the adage, “nothing good happens after midnight still stands”.  

If ever there is a time to be a hovering involved parent it when your child begins to drive - it has been proven to save lives.

 

     

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