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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

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

School & Infectious Disease

1:30 to read

I received an email this week from a patient…subject line: “potential exposure to Herpangina”.  In the body of the email was the following:

Dear Parents,

We want  to inform you that a case of Herpangina disease has been reported for a child at ….. room #112.  This is a contagious disease that  is spread by direct contact with another person or contaminated objects.  Herpangina is an illness caused by a virus, characterized by small blister-like bumps or ulcers that appear in the mouth, usually in the back of throat or the roof of the mouth. The child often has a high fever with the illness. We have attached further information about this common childhood illness published by Children’s Hospital in Boston. Our teachers are carefully disinfecting their room to help prevent further spread of the disease.

The mother of the child that sent me the email was “freaked” out and “worried” about  sending her child back to pre-school.  

My question is this, when did it become a “rule” to notify parents in a pre-school or day care setting that there were viral illnesses circulating?  It certainly seems unnecessary to me to send notification of EVERY childhood illness that occurs and for most of my families only serves to cause anxiety.  Some of the schools in our area post a sign on the entry that says something to the effect:  “there are cases of diarrhea, RSV, hand foot and mouth and fevers being reported in children that attend this school.”  Really, is it that surprising or necessary? Seeing that many of the numerous viral illnesses that children get these days are spread via respiratory droplets and contact with surfaces, such as toys and tables that everyone touches (computers too), children are exposed to things all of the time.  Do you go to work and ask your co-workers in a conference room..have you had diarrhea, a cough or a sore throat in the last day?

I understand notifying parents of illnesses, such as meningitis, measles, mumps…even chickenpox that are infectious and may be serious or life threatening. Thankfully, there are very few cases of these illnesses to report, now that the MAJORITY of children receive vaccines to these diseases. 

By putting these emails, texts and notices out for every parent to become alarmed about…and then to come to the doctor out of concern that their child  “may get sick….even before they have a symptom”,  serves no purpose. Herpangina and Hand Foot and Mouth are very similar viral illnesses, and both are caused by enteroviruses. It is at times hard to distinguish one illness from the other. But, with that being said, the treatment is solely symptomatic. In other words, treat the fever, make your child comfortable and don’t let them go back to school until they are fever free for 24 hours.  

Lastly, your child is going to catch a lot of these viruses, no matter what you do when they go out to play, shop or go to school. Each time they catch a viral illness it actually helps them to build antibody in order that their immune system may get stronger and stronger. I think the better note is….as winter comes children will get more coughs, colds and viral infections…if you think you child is not feeling well or running a fever, please keep them home from school for the day.  It is just a normal part of childhood…we don’t need any more anxiety in this world.   

 

Daily Dose

Vomiting Kids

1:30 to read

Pick a virus ….and it is probably circulating in your area!  Seems we are at the peak of upper respiratory season, influenza like illness season and also vomiting and diarrhea season. In other words, lots of sick kids right now.

 

I just started seeing a lot of vomiting again!!  It is the worst for both the child and the doctor’s office where it seems many a child has vomited either in the car, coming up the elevator or in the exam room.  YUCK for all.

 

Remember, norovirus is the most common virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea and it is VERY contagious. Not only via “dirty hands” but it is also airborne…so in other words, those standing near by a child who is vomiting (parents, other sibs) are probably being exposed as well. That is the main reason you probably see an entire family who gets sick almost simultaneously.  

 

If your child vomits….DO NOT give them anything to eat or drink for at least 30 min. I know that is hard as they are asking for a drink,  but you need to give their tummy a minute to “recover” before challenging them with a few sips of Pedialyte or Gatorade.  A SIP is the key word too….tiny amount to start in hopes that they do not vomit again.  

 

I just saw a 6 year old little boy who had been vomiting several times during the night.  His Dad said that he had given him Zofran to help stop the vomiting (this is a prescription).  I use a lot of Zofran in children who are vomiting as it can go under the tongue.  But after the Zofran his son felt better….so he gave him strawberries and a waffle!! Surprise? He vomited again!!

 

Don’t be fooled and start trying to feed your child too quickly after they are vomiting. I know parents worry that “their child is not eating”, but fluids are the important part of staying hydrated. As one little boy told me, “ it feels like there are grasshoppers in my tummy”!! So well put. I grumbling tummy needs time to heal and frequent sips of clear liquids (no dairy) are the best way to prevent dehydration. As your child tolerates a small volume you can go up a bit and gradually increase the amount that they take.  I usually wait a good 4-6 hours after a child has successfully tolerated fluids before I even consider giving them food. Then I start with crackers, noodles or something bland (that I also don’t mind cleaning up) in case they vomit again.  

 

You are just wanting to make sure your child stays hydrated…tears, saliva and urine!  Keep washing those hands. 

Daily Dose

Spring Viruses

1.30 to read

While it is warming up here in Dallas, many parts of the country are still seeing freezing temperatures and even snow! Even so, I am beginning to see typical spring illnesses like Fifth’s disease. 

Fifth disease is a common viral illness seen in children, often in the late winter and spring. Many of these children look like they have gotten a little sun burn on their faces (just as your child starts playing outside) as they often show up in my office with the typical slapped cheek rash on their faces.  At the same time they may also have a lacy red rash on their arms and legs, and occasionally even their trunks.

Fifth’s is also called erythema infectiosum and is so named as it is the fifth of the six rash associated illnesses of childhood. Fifth disease is caused by Parvovirus B19, which is a virus that infects humans. It is NOT the same parvovirus that infects your pet dog or cat, so do not fear your child will not give it to their pet or vice a versa.  In most cases a child may have very few symptoms of illness, other than the rash.  In some cases a child may have had a low-grade fever, or runny nose or just a few days of not feeling well and then the rash may develop several days later. The rash may also be so insignificant as to not be noticed. When I see a child with Fifth disease it is usually an easy diagnosis based on their few symptoms and the typical rash.

Although children with Fifth are probably contagious at some time during their illness, it is thought that by the time the rash occurs the contagious period has passed. This is why you never know where you got this virus. (the incubation period is somewhere between 4-20 days after exposure).  Parvovirus B19 may be found in respiratory secretions and is probably spread by person to person contact.  During outbreaks it has been reported that somewhere between 10-60% of students in a class may become infected.

Most adults have had Fifth disease and may not even have remembered it, as up to 20% of those infected with parvovirus B19 do not develop symptoms, so it is often not a memorable event during childhood.

Fifth disease is another one of those wonderful viruses that resolves on its own. I like to refer to the treatment as “benign neglect” as there is nothing to do!  The rash may take anywhere from 7–10 days to resolve. I do tell parents that the rash may seem to come and go for a few days and seems to be exacerbated by sunlight and heat. So, it is not uncommon to see a child come in from playing on a hot sunny day and the rash is more obvious on those sun exposed areas. 

Occasionally a child will complain of itching, and you can use a soothing lotion such as Sarna or even Benadryl to relieve problematic itching. A cool shower or bath at the end of a warm spring day may work just as well too. Children who are immunocompromised, have sickle cell disease, or have leukemia or cancer may not handle the virus as well and they should be seen by their pediatrician. But in most cases there is no need to worry about Fifth disease, so it is business as usual with school, spring days at the park and Easter parties.

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

Daily Dose

Dealing with Warts

1.30 to read

Warts are one of the most common skin lesions seen in pediatric practices. Warts also drive parents and some kids crazy!  According to one study up to about 1/3 of school children have warts.  

Warts are viral infections of the skin which are caused by human papilloma viruses (HPV).  There are more than 100 types of HPV and different types of HPV cause different types of warts. The most common warts on hands and knees are caused by HPV types 1,4, 27, 57.  These are not the HPV types that cause sexually transmitted infections 

Some people seem to be more prone to getting warts than others, and it is not uncommon to see several children in one family dealing with warts. The HPV virus is spread through skin to skin contact or through contaminated objects or surfaces. In other words, they are hard to prevent.  HPV can also have a long incubation period, so when parents ask, “Where and when did my child get this wart virus?”, my answer is typically, “not even the CIA will be able to tell you that”.  

I many cases if the warts are left alone they may resolve on their own in months to years (one study showed two thirds remission in 2 years) ......but with that being said, most teens (especially girls) want those warts to “be gone!” 

There are several different ways to treat warts and one of the most effective is with over the counter (OTC) products that contain salicylic acid.  Salicylic acid acts as an irritant that activates an immune response against HPV.  There are tons of different OTC products and in many studies there was not one product that proved superiority over another, so I would buy an “on sale” salicylic acid for starters. I know from using these on my own children that you have to be consistent and persistent in their use....but it did work. 

If OTC products don’t seem to be working the next step for those who are determined to try and get rid of the wart,  is to head to the doctor who may try freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen or using cantharidin.  Unfortunately, there is typically a little pain involved with these products. 

Like so many other things, sometimes it may pay to just to wait it out and see if the virus just gives up and goes away!

Daily Dose

RSV is Here

1:15 to read

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is here and seems to be hitting hard this year. RSV causes 64 million upper respiratory infections worldwide each year and some days it seems that every child in Dallas/Ft. Worth under the age of 2 has RSV. While there is has not been a lot of flu reported to date, RSV is being widely reported across the U.S. so I am sure your pediatrician’s office is busy as well. RSV season usually lasts until spring, so there are more weeks ahead.

RSV is a pesky virus and for most people causes symptoms of a “common cold”. Lots of congestion, runny nose, fever and a cough.  Bothersome, but not life threatening. But for some, especially those under 2 years of age, and for children with underlying medical conditions such as prematurity, heart disease, lung problems and other chronic medical issues, RSV may be more severe. While almost everyone under the age of 2 acquires RSV, 25-40 % may go on to develop wheezing and an illness known as bronchiolitis. In some cases RSV causes respiratory distress and a baby/child may need to be hospitalized for supportive care including oxygen…and in really severe cases an occasional child may require ventilatory support in the intensive care unit.

The local news in our area has been reporting that the ERs and hospitals are overwhelmed.  So what do you need to know about the course of RSV and when do you need to go to the doctor or ER? In a young child the illness starts off with a runny nose and congestion, but may progress to a frequent cough and wheezing.  While most children are uncomfortable and cranky, they handle the virus without any noticeable difficulty with their breathing. But, some children will develop signs of respiratory distress where their breathing is rapid, short and their chest wall pulls in and out (retractions) and their tummies move up and down with each breath. This is called “working to breath” and are signs of respiratory distress….which requires immediate medical care.

You also need to watch your child’s color…as some babies and children may turn dusky blue when coughing.  Most parents complain that their child turns bright red when they cough, but while some babies may only have a bit of a cough they may turn blue when they cough or even seem to gasp. Red is good, your child is oxygenating, but blue is bad! This is another reason to seek immediate care.

Lastly, make sure that your child stays hydrated….so if they have a good moist mouth, drool, tears and wet diapers (may not be soaking) you are keeping up with their fluid needs.  This is important as your baby/child will probably not nurse or take a bottle or fluids as well when they are sick .

Because RSV is a virus it is NOT treated with antibiotics. While there is a test to identify RSV it is not routinely recommended, as the treatment is symptomatic. The test may be run in certain situations when a child is hospitalized. Simple treatments such as suctioning your child’s nose, using a cool mist humidifier and treating fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (depending on their age) are all helpful As always, call your doctor if you have questions or concerns. 

What’s on the horizon…hopefully a vaccine one day!

Daily Dose

The Difference Between A Viral Sore Throat & Strep Throat

It only takes getting the kids back in school for the pediatrician’s office to see an upswing in illness. But this year it came on particularly early and we are definitely seeing more illness in the first week of fall than is typical.

Most of the illness being reported around the country is due to Influenza A, H1N1 (swine flu) and the majority of cases seem to be occurring in the five to 24 year old age group, in other words the school aged, elementary through college aged kids. To review again, flu like symptoms for all influenza strains are typically similar with fever, sore throat, cough, congestion, headaches and body aches. Occasionally there may be some nausea or vomiting but that is not seen as often. Flu like symptoms seem to begin with general malaise and then develop over the next 12 – 24 hours and you just feel miserable. Some of the confusion now is about sore throats and the difference between a sore throat with the flu, which is due to a viral infection, and strep throat, which is a bacterial infection. As for most things in life, nothing is 100 percent and the same goes for viral and bacterial sore throats. But, with that being said, there are certain things that might make a parent think more about a viral sore throat than strep throat and vice versa. Viral sore throats, which we are seeing a ton of with the flu right now, are typically associated with other viral symptoms which include cough, and upper respiratory symptoms like congestion or runny nose. A viral sore throat may or may not be accompanied by a fever. In the case of flu, there is usually a fever over 100 degrees. With a viral sore throat you often do not see swollen lymph nodes in the neck (feel along the jaw line) and it doesn’t hurt to palpate the neck. If you can get your child to open their mouth and say “AHHH” you can see the back of their throat and their tonsils, and despite your child having pain, the tonsils do not really look red, inflamed or “pussy”. Even though it hurts every time you swallow, to look at the throat really is not very impressive. Strep throat on the other hand, typically occurs in winter and spring (that is when we see widespread strep), but there are always some strep throats lurking in the community, so it is not unusual to hear that “so and so” has strep, but you don’t hear a lot of that right now. As we get into winter there will be a lot more strep throat. Strep throat most often affects the school-aged child from five to 15 years. Children get a sudden sore throat, usually have fever, and do not typically have other upper respiratory symptoms (cough, congestion). This is another opportunity to feel your child’s neck and see if their lymph nodes are swollen, as strep usually gives you large tender nodes along the jaw line. When you look at the throats of kids with strep they usually have big, red, beefy tonsils (looks like raw meat) and may have red dots (called petechia) on the roof of the mouth. The throat just looks “angry”. Sometimes a child will complain of headache and abdominal pain with strep throat. Some children vomit with strep throat. The only way to confirm strep throat, again, a bacterial infection, is to do a swab of the back of the throat to detect the presence of the bacteria. There are both rapid strep tests and overnight cultures for strep. Most doctors use the rapid strep test in their offices. If your child is found to have strep throat they will be treated with an antibiotic that they will take for 10 days. Again, antibiotics are not useful for a viral sore throat and that is why strep tests are performed. I’m sure we’ll talk more about sore throats as we get into winter. But in the meantime, get those flashlights out and start looking at throats. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

First Cold

1:30 to read

My office is hopping with a lot of little ones and their first colds. The worst cold that a parent experiences is not their own cold, but their child’s first  one.  Unfortunately, babies that are born in the fall and winter months often get their first cold earlier than a baby born during the spring and summer. 

It is such a helpless feeling for a new parent to see their baby with a runny nose, red rimmed eyes and a cough.  While newborns routinely experience nasal congestion, a cold is different. With a cold the baby’s nose will run and have clear to colored mucous,  and they will typically cough, just like all of us with a cold. They just look so pathetic...but you need to know what to watch for....as there will be more colds throughout the winter.

A baby (over the age of 2 months) may run a bit of a fever with their cold. A fever is defined as a temperature over 100.4 degrees. I am old school and still do rectal temperatures....just don’t think the temporal and ear thermometers are accurate.  The fever, if they even have one, should not last more than a day or two and should respond to the appropriate dose of acetaminophen for your child’s weight.

The biggest concern for a baby with a cold is how they are breathing. While they may look pitiful with that gunky nose, and have a loose junky cough, how your child is breathing is most important. You need to actually look at your child’s chest while they are breathing and coughing to make sure that they are not having any respiratory distress. Undo their onesie or take off the nightgown and look at their chest.  You do not want to see your child’s chest moving in and out (which is called retracting) or see that they are using their tummy (which is going up and down) to help them breathe.  The cough may sound horrible, but always look at their chest (visual more important than audible). They should also be nice and pink...even when they are coughing.  A cool mist humidifier in their room at night will also help.

Best thing for gunky nose is a nasal aspirator or nose Freda with some saline drops. Clearing the nostrils is often one of the best ways to help your child breathe, which will also help them to take the bottle or breast. A baby may not eat as well when they are sick (same as you and me) but they will take enough to stay hydrated and have wet diapers.  Being sick at any age typically effects your appetite and as your child is feeling better their appetite will improve as well.

Getting past that first cold is a milestone for baby and parents....but if you have any concerns about your child’s breathing, hydration or persistent fever, always call your doctor.

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