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Daily Dose

Mumps Outbreak!

1:30 to read

The latest infectious disease outbreak is in the Boston area where several colleges have reported cases of mumps. Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling of the salivary glands as well as other symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headache.    Harvard University has been hit the hardest and has now documented over 40 cases this spring.  Boston is a city with numerous colleges all in close proximity, and there are documented mumps cases at Boston University, University of Massachusetts  and Tufts as well.  These Boston area colleges are all in close proximity and are merely a walk, bike or train ride away from one another, so these students, while attending different universities may all co-mingle at parties and athletic events.

Mumps is spread via saliva (think kissing), or from sharing food, as well as via respiratory droplets being spread after coughing or sneezing. It may also be spread via contaminated surfaces that will harbor the virus. People may already be spreading the virus for  2 days before symptoms appear and may be contagious for up to 5 days after their salivary glands appear swollen….so in other words there is a long period of contagion where the virus may inadvertently be spread. It may also take up to 2-3 weeks after exposure before you come down with mumps.

All of the students who have come down with mumps had been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, rubella).  Unfortunately, the mumps vaccine is only about 88% effective in preventing the disease. Despite the fact that children get two doses of vaccine at the age of 1 and again at 4 or 5 years….there may be some waning of protection over time. This  may also contribute to the virus’s predilection for young adults in close quarters on college campuses. Something like the perfect infectious disease storm!

In the meantime there are some studies being undertaken to see if adolescents should receive a 3rd dose of the vaccine, but the results of the study are over a year away.

In the meantime, be alert for symptoms compatible with mumps and make sure to isolate yourself from others if you are sick.  Harvard is isolating all of the patients with mumps for 5 days….which could mean that some students might even miss commencement.  Doctors at Harvard and other schools with cases of mumps are still on the watch for more cases …stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Cold & Cough Relief!

1:30 to read

Although it is just getting really cold across the country, it feels as if we have been in full cold and cough season for awhile.  The office sounds like what I call “kennel cough” as every child seems to be coughing…. even those who are just coming for check ups.

Parents often ask, “what is the best way to keep from catching a cold?” and the answer continues to be, “wash your hands and try not to touch your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth”.  Easy enough for an adult (well maybe not), but trying to tell your toddler not to put their hands in their nose or mouth is nearly impossible! That is one reason that children get so many colds in the first several years of life. Toddlers typically get the most colds as they have just started having playmates with whom they share not only toys but their germs…all part of growing up.

I remind parents that coughs are there for a reason. While they are a huge nuisance, and cause a lot of sleepless nights for both the child and parent, a cough is there to keep the lungs clear, and a cough is actually protective. In other words, coughing helps you clear the lungs of mucus that comes with a cold and helps to prevent pneumonia and secondary infections.  But, with that being said, learning to cover your mouth when you cough is not only polite, but it is also protective for others. It is a big day when your children learn to cover their mouths with the crook of their arms (better than the hand). Who knew as a parent this would be a milestone for your child?

Whenever your child is sick and has a cough and cold it is important to not only listen to their cough but to actually observe how they are breathing.  Parents send me videos or voicemails of their child coughing, but I am usually more interested in seeing their chest and watching their breathing. Your child may have a huge productive cough and sound terrible, but have no respiratory distress. With that being said, your child may also have a tiny little non-productive cough and be struggling to breath. In most cases the visual is more important than the audible.

To help symptoms like stuffy noses, try irrigating your child’s nose with Little Remedies® Sterile Saline Nasal Mist and then suctioning his or her nose to clear the mucus and make it easier for him or her to breath, a warm bath or shower before bed to open up airways and a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom.

Don’t panic if your child gets sick, as each time they fight off a cold and cough they are actually boosting their immune system…small victories.  It is not unusual for a toddler to get 6 - 7 colds in one season (and their parents get half as many as that from them). Once your child turns about 3 you will see that he or she doesn't get a cold every other week and also seems to handle the viruses a bit more easily.

If your child has any difficulty breathing you need to call your pediatrician! For more information on these products visit www.littleremedies.com.

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Fever

1:30 to read

It’s starting….fever, fever, fever season and lots of concerned parents, so figured it was a good time to talk about fevers….AGAIN.  

 

Remember that fever is simply a symptom that your body’s immune system is working, and in most cases, in children, it is fighting a viral infection.  We docs call a fever a temperature above 100.4 degrees…but I do realize that day care and schools will send your child home when they have a temp above 99.5 degrees ( in some cases even lower). Some parents “explain” to me that their child’s body temperature is always lower than 98.6 degrees so a 99.9 degree temperature is abnormal for them….I’m just saying. 

 

The first thing to try and remember is that the thermometer is simply showing you a number and that the number should not scare you…it is only a number and a higher number does NOT necessarily mean that your child is any sicker.  Some children do tend to have a higher temperature with an illness than another, and even in the same family.  Again, the number should not make you concerned that one of your children is sicker than another…it is still just a fever.

 

Parents always ask…”what degree of fever is dangerous, and when do I go to the hospital?”  The number that registers on the thermometer should not be the deciding factor as to how sick your child is. They will look and feel worse with a higher temperature ( as do you when you are sick), but the important thing is to always look at their color (never dusky or blue), how they are breathing (you do breath faster and more shallow with a higher body temperature, but do not appear to be in any distress), and if they are hydrated (you do need more fluids when you are running a fever).  If all of this seems to be okay, the best thing to do is treat the fever with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  Once their temperature comes down a bit, and that may not be 98.6, look at your child again…children with lower temperatures typically “perk up” for a bit and may play or eat and drink for awhile, until their fever returns and they look pathetic again.  I would always check with my doctor before heading to the ER just because of a fever.

 

Parents also worry about their child having a seizure due to a fever…and this is true some children may have a febrile seizure. But, they can have a seizure with a temperature of 100.8 or 104.2…it does not seem to be the higher the temperature causes a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures do seem to “run in families” and they are also most common during the toddler years. (see another post on this).

 

So… as we are getting into sick season make sure you have an acetaminophen and ibuprofen dosing chart handy and always dose your child’s medications based on their weight and not age. I would also make sure to have a “working” thermometer, and I prefer a rectal thermometer for children under 12 months of age. Rectal temps are really easy to take and in my experience far more accurate (when I am really concerned if a child has a fever) than a tympanic or temporal thermometer. 

 

Be ready and relax….it is just a fever and having an anxious parent is not going to make your child feel better any faster.

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Daily Dose

It's the Sick Season

1:30 to read

Well, the New Year is starting off with a flood….of illness that is.  It is a typical winter in the pediatrician’s office with a bit of every virus you can name. RSV, flu, norovirus, just to start the list.  While so many parents want to name the virus, it is typically not necessary as you treat many viruses in the same manner, symptomatically.  

 

So, if your child is coughing and congested it may be due to any number of upper respiratory viruses, but the most important thing to remember…..how is your child breathing and is your child having any respiratory distress?? I sound like a broken record in my office as I remind our nurses to have parents take off ALL small children’s shirts, gowns, onesies and look at how they are breathing as you never want to miss a child who may be “working to breath”. In many cases, the visual of a child’s chest as they take breaths is more important than any cough they may have.  So remember this: “visual inspection and not just audible”.  Sending me a video of a child coughing is rarely helpful, but a video of their breathing is very important when trying to decide how to guide a parent.

 

Another tip: In most cases if your child is having respiratory distress they are quiet, as they are conserving their energy…which means they are not fighting with their sibling or running around the house, but are often sitting quietly. This also means that when they come to the doctor they are not screaming and yelling in anticipation of the doctor…again, they are usually sitting quietly in their parent’s lap. While a happy quiet child is a pleasure at my office, in a toddler it is not typical.

 

Lots of diarrhea and vomiting in our area as well. In this case, I am always trying to make sure that a child is not getting dehydrated. So, the things to look for include if your child has tears, saliva in their mouth and if they are urinating (having wet diapers).  If your child is vomiting you have to remember to wait about 30 minutes after they have vomited before giving them anything to drink….even if they are “begging for a drink”. Once they have not vomited you need to give them TINY sips of clear liquid and keep offering sips every 10 - 15 minutes. If you do this, in most cases you can keep the child from vomiting repeatedly.  Once they are keeping down sips you can go up in volume.  It is like the turtle and the hare….slow and steady wins!!  

 

With diarrhea alone it is more difficult for your child to become dehydrated, as you can have them keep drinking to keep up with the loss in their stool. Many parent “worry” as their child does not want to eat…and that is ok, the fluids are the most acute issue. You can go without food for quite some time…..don’t you ever skip a meal?

 

Keep washing those hands…and I hope you had your flu shot as I promise…it will come. 

 

Daily Dose

Your Child's Check Up

1:15 to read.

How many times have I talked about my clever patients. I continue to be amazed at how smart my patients are…and how much they teach me….as well as how they make me laugh.  

I was seeing a young lady the other day who was complaining of a cough. She was about 11 years old. She was not one of my regular patients, as she was a patient of a partner of mine who was out of town, so she came to see me about her cough.  

So..I started asking her and her mother about her cough and quickly realized that she was more than capable of answering my questions ( the best kind of patient to have).  Her mother was great and deferred to her, as her daughter was doing such a good job with her history.  I asked her if the cough was problem during the day or night or both? She replied “during the day”. I asked her if the cough was worse when she was playing or exercising during the day? The answer was “no”.  I then started asking her about the quality of the cough…(I also had the benefit of hearing her cough while I was getting her history).  I then asked her if the cough was dry or if it was wet and “gunky”?  I was not sure if the would understand if I asked her if it was “productive”?  

Surprisingly , she looked at me and said , “do you mean do I produce phlegm?”.   There are many parents that don’t understand that word!!  Then realizing that she was quite bright and knew words that I swear I learned in med school (okay maybe undergrad biology?), I asked her if she could spell phlegm. Of course, she immediately spelled the word correctly!!  

She was delightful patient and is another example of “kids say the darnedest things”.  We had a great conversation and it was so helpful to be able to get a good history from her. The history is just as critical as the physical exam in diagnosing a patient… so a good communicator makes a doctor’s job a lot easier.

The only time she was not communicative…when I told her she needed her flu vaccine, and YES it was a shot! Sorry, but this is to keep you healthy.

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Daily Dose

Homemade Cure for Coxsackie?

1:30 to read

Desperate times call for desperate measures…or so it seems according to several of my patient’s mothers who have resorted to all sorts of “cra-cra” stuff to “treat” their child’s “HFM” - hand foot and mouth infection.  Remember, HFM is a viral infection that most children get in the first several years of life. It may cause all sorts of symptoms but in a classic case the child develops a macular-papular (flat and/or raised) vesicular rash on the palms, soles and buttocks. In some children the rash is fairly mild and in others it can look pretty disgusting and uncomfortable…but it has to fade away on its own…with time.

 

There has been a lot of HFM in our area and much anxiety among parents about this infection….fueled a lot by social media identifying who has HFM and where they go to school and how many cases there are. (too much information!!). Parents are even posting…places to “stay away from”. So, some of my patient’s parents are scouring their child looking to see if there might be a bump..and could this be HFM and if so, what do I do to “stop” it!  That would be “nothing” besides good hand washing..as this is a viral infection and you may be exposed to it almost anywhere.

 

Since coxsackie virus has been around for years, this means that most adults had the virus when they were young.  But, several moms and dads whose children have HFM have also shown me a rash on their palms and soles, that I presume may be HFM? They are kind of freaked out and may be uncomfortable too…but this is not life threatening.  Even so,  several parents are resorting to THE GOOGLE to get their medical information… and one young mother kindly brought me all of the stuff that she had gotten to treat her son’s HFM as well as hers.  She was earnest in hoping that this was the “cure”…and did I know about all of these remedies?

 

Here we go, her potions!  Epsom salts for baths as this is an “antiviral”, turmeric and ginger in veggie juice, crushed garlic which she was mixing with small amounts of orange juice and squirting into her toddlers mouth with a syringe, lavender essential oil and lastly “virgin” coconut oil massages.   

 

I was most impressed that her sweet toddler was eating, drinking and bathing in all of this!!! Unfortunately, despite her best efforts it took about 2 weeks for his rash to totally disappear and she kept him under house arrest for most of that time!!  He really could have gone out long before that as he was over his acute illness, but she wanted every “mark” to have faded. She was most chagrined to hear that he might get HFM again. I am not sure the her “voo-doo” did any good, except in her mind. 

 

Lastly, if you do resort to “internet medicine” remember the oath, “first do no harm” and check with your pediatrician about some of the advice you might find on-line, not everything may be safe.

 

Daily Dose

Stomach Virus

1:30 to read

What a week in the office as there has been an outbreak of presumed Norovirus in our community, and we are seeing tons of sick kids. I guess the virus does not realize that it is still in the 90’s in Texas, as this virus is more often seen during the winter months….but it seems there are occasional outbreaks throughout the year.

Norovirus is EXTREMELY contagious…and you may already be shedding the virus (expose others) before you even get sick. At the same time…you may also be contagious for 2 -3 days after you are better. Norovirus is the most common cause of the “stomach flu” or “food poisoning.” 

Knowing this, it is difficult to know when you have been exposed to this virus. But, a day or two after exposure, your child (or the parents ) may suddenly develop abdominal cramping, vomiting (more common in children) and diarrhea  more common in adults). Some children and their parents are “lucky” enough to get both!!  

The mainstay of treatment is to stay hydrated. This illness is typically “fast and furious”, but you have to make sure that you are replacing the fluids that you are losing ( from both ends).  After your child has vomited you want to wait for at least 30 minutes before offering your child sips of CLEAR FLUIDS, some sort of liquid with electrolytes ( very important to replenish what you are losing) ….and I mean SIPS. If you  give the fluid too quickly and in too large a volume you may see it come right back up.  As your child tolerates sips you may advance to a larger volume each time.  If they are doing well for several hours, but then your child vomits again…start back over with smaller volumes. Continue to make sure your child has tears when they cry, wet diapers ( they may not be soaked), urine when asked to go try and “potty” and drool or a  moist mouth. These are signs that your child (and you) are hydrated.

Once the vomiting has subsided you can let your child begin to eat, but I would avoid all dairy. It is important to offer foods with some protein as well.  I start with crackers, noodles and rice and then add in chicken or beef. Veggies and fruit are okay as well ….as your child is feeling better their appetite will return…don’t push them. You probably don’t want a big meal either if you have been sick. Fluids are more important than food. Adding probiotics is also helpful to put “good bacteria” back into a damaged gut. 

Prevention is key, but difficult as there are millions of viral particles in your child’s stool and vomit….and these particles can be spread via the air as well.  Clean surfaces with a dilute bleach solution, wash your hands and “don’t breath??”

Daily Dose

Ebola Fear Running High

1:30 to read

As the weekend passes and there are thankfully no further cases of Ebola disease in any of the people who had the earliest contact with Thomas Eric Duncan (the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola),  I hope people may be reassured that we are not in the throes of an Ebola epidemic in the United States and that the people who are at greatest risk of contracting the disease are unfortunately those health care workers who are treating the infected patient. 

Despite every precaution possible, and all of the personal protective equipment available, I am well aware that nothing is ever 100% .  But, with that being said, we (all health care professionals) continue to learn from mistakes as well as victories and I am sure that as we go forward combatting Ebola or other emerging viral infections, there will be new recommendations and procedures to learn, which is not a new concept in medicine.  That is how progress is made.

Unfortunately, the media (of which I must include myself) has once again managed to try to frighten the public and has done a good job of putting the three cases of Ebola out of 318 million Americans (unfortunately including 1 death) at the top of the news 24 hours a day.  The cameras continue to focus on the hospital in which I go in and out of every day.  This continued media presence has also affected the doctors who practice in the hospital as well as the professional buildings on the same campus. These doctors are my colleagues and friends and are great doctors.  

People have been canceling their dermatology visit in a professional building not even attached to the hospital and postponing a mammogram in another building.  Some patients will not come to my practice across the street from the hospital and would prefer to drive 20 minutes north to another office?   

There are parents keeping a child home from school because their classmate’s father is one of the doctors (heroes) taking care of the Ebola patients.  What are they thinking? How is this idea of catching Ebola from walking into an office or down a hallway or being in the same school being sustained?  Basically due to unsubstantiated fear and not fact. Fact is this illness is not airborne you must come into contact with body fluids of the sick patient.

Emotions are running wild in my hometown of Dallas. But emotions will not treat or eradicate Ebola, only good science will. Thankfully we have that available to us in our country. 

So listen to those who are knowledgable about infectious disease not lay people who expose their own ideas based on “what if’s”. Don’t listen to the pundits who are arguing with some of the best scientists and doctors that we have because if they themselves get sick one day, they will be seeking out these very same physicians and nurses to care for them. 

But one thing I am sure of, we will have influenza this winter and you can try to protect yourself and your family with flu vaccine.  There has never been a more important year to get vaccinated. Run, don’t walk and get vaccinated!

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Fast relief for your kids during cold and cough season.

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