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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

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

Antibiotics

1:30 to read

Fall is here and winter is just around the corner, which will usher in another “sick season”. I am already thinking about illness as I just finished reading a JAMA article about the overuse of antibiotics.  Did you know that the CDC estimates that “30% of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. are unnecessary”? 

The CDC reported that the majority of these misused antibiotics were prescribed for viral upper respiratory infections including the common cold, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections.  Which gets me back to “sick season” and the busy pediatric office.

Parents frequently bring their child in for one of the many viral upper respiratory infections that a child has, especially in the first 5 years of life, and “assume” that they will receive an antibiotic. In fact, I am still amazed that with all of the news about “superbugs” and emerging antibiotic resistance, some parents continue to “push” for a antibiotic because their child has had a fever, cough and runny nose for several days.  

The head of the CDC recently stated, “antibiotics are lifesaving drugs and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use, we will lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life threatening infections”.  In other words, we doctors need to be very judicious when deciding to prescribe an antibiotic and patients need to ask questions as to the necessity for taking an antibiotic.  It seems much too often I hear a parent say to me, “I am sick as well, so I went to the doctor who gave me an antibiotic for my cough and congestion, why aren’t you going to give an antibiotic to my child?”.  They often follow this statement with, “I felt so much better after being on an antibiotic for several days….”, but I actually think many of them felt better as they were getting better on their own and not due to the antibiotic.

In this JAMA article it was noted that “prescribing rates were highest in children age 2 years and younger. (who also get the most viral URI’s in a year) . There were also distinctions in prescribing practices by region of the country with the West having a lower rate of antibiotic prescribing than the South. 

So…looking forward to “sick season” I may be quoting this JAMA article when I once again explain to a parent, or a child….that their fever, cough and cold is due to a virus and that there is not the need for an antibiotic. In fact, a parent might want to boast, “my child has never been on an antibiotic”...which is a good thing. Save the prescription for a time when it is really warranted, and at the same time “pay it forward” by helping to prevent even more antibiotic resistance in this country.

Daily Dose

Let's Talk Flu

1:30 to read

Summer is not even officially over, but it is time to discuss flu vaccines.  This years flu vaccine is now being shipped and our office has already started giving the vaccine.  If you somehow missed the biggest news you need to know that there is not an intranasal flu vaccine (Flumist) available this year…in other words, everyone gets a shot!

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. Because circulating flu strains change, the flu vaccine is “new” every year..in other words, the flu shot you may have received last year is not the same shot that will be given this year.  I have had several adults  (friends) already say to me, “  got my flu vaccine in January….so I don’t need one now, right?” WRONG..that was “last years vaccine”…put your arm out for the new one.

While many children had gotten used to “sniffing” their flu vaccine and were thrilled not to have a shot, recent studies found that the intranasal flu vaccine was not as effective as the injectable flu vaccine.  In fact, for the 2015-2016 flu season the intranasal vaccine effectiveness among children 2 through 17 years was 3 percent as compared with 63 percent for the injected vaccine (quite a significant difference).

Actually, the fact that studies are done to look at flu vaccine effectiveness each year should be reassuring. By having the data available adjustments and new recommendations can be made, providing children with the best possible protection from getting the flu, and this year that means a shot.

The flu vaccines available this year may be either a trivalent vaccine ( containing 2 influenza A strains and 1 B )  or a quadrivalent vaccine (2 influenza A strains and 2 B).  I would ask my doctor which vaccine they are offering and if given a choice I would pick the quadrivalent…but most importantly just get your vaccine, sooner rather than later.

While I am already seeing sad little faces when they hear they will have a “shot rather than a mist”,  the good news that should bring smiles to their faces (and their parents) is that they will have better protection against the flu.  

Even though temperatures may still be on the warm side without any hint of flu “in the air”, it is time to get your vaccine…and yes, the protection will last throughout the flu season. It is best to be vaccinated and protected ahead of flu season.

 

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Daily Dose

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

1:30 to read

I am back on my soap box about what is a newsworthy announcement…..especially as it pertains to viral infections. While I know that day care centers and pre-schools are “keen” on posting notices or sending emails to parents about the latest virus to be found at school, I am still baffled as to the necessity to do this and alarm parents. Aren’t there HIPPA violations or something?  Knowing that a child in school has been diagnosed with  “hand-foot-mouth" disease (HFMD) does not seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Pediatricians are used to seeing HFMD, sometimes daily, and yes it does seem that these viral illnesses cluster at different times of the year. But, with that being said, does it really do any one any good, and does it maybe actually “worry” already anxious parents about possible exposure. Are we forgetting that children are exposed to these pesky viral infections all of the time…and that in most cases they are fairly minor, inconvenient and cause several days of fever and generally not feeling well.  End of story.

But now HFMD has made the national news….as there have been 22 cases of HFMD diagnosed at Florida State University…..which has an enrollment of over 41,000 students!!!  Statistically speaking, that is not a significant “attack” rate….and this news is being reported on all of the networks.  While I realize that adolescents and young adults are less likely to acquire HFMD and they may feel worse than a toddler who in most cases seems to “power through”  with fever reducing medication, popsicles and ice cream, is this really a national news story?  

HFMD is caused by an enterovirus (Coxsackie A16) and typically causes several days of fever and not feeing well followed by small ulcers and blisters that may occur in the throat (painful) as well as on the hands and feet. (younger children seem to often get a rash on their buttocks too).  HFMD may be spread in a variety of ways including direct contact with saliva or fluid from the blisters that may occur on the hands and feet, from fecal contamination, and also when a person coughs or sneezes in close proximity. The virus may also live on surfaces that we touch and then touch our eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.  As I always say, “good hand washing” and keeping yourself home when sick is the best way to prevent the spread of a virus. While I believe in good sanitation and clean public spaces is it really necessary to “wipe down” classrooms, dorms, cafeterias and even toys in school due to several cases of HFMD. Do you have to do this all day long?  HFMD is not a bacterial disease like meningitis and does not have life threatening consequences.  There will be another viral infection  (or 2 or 3 or 4)  soon to follow and one of these will be influenza.

So, rather than talking about HFMD and mass “cleaning efforts” I think we should focus on another way to prevent illness. VACCINATIONS!  We do know that vaccines work to prevent disease and despite the science behind that, there are still those that “opt out” of vaccines, and this includes getting a flu vaccine.  I wonder if there are students at FSU who have opted out of vaccines and if so how many….maybe more than 22/41,000?  At the same time, how many of those students will opt “in” and get a flu vaccine? That is the bigger story ….get vaccinated for flu now…so we don’t have another even bigger “outbreak”.   I know there will be more than 22 students who get the flu at FSU and will that make the news?  It is the same thing for schools everywhere…lets put up signs about flu vaccines and keep those numbers down.I hope the news reports this.

 

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Daily Dose

The Truth About Antibiotics

1:30 to read

Despite warmer than normal temperatures in much of the country it is certainly already cough and cold season. Our office background music is already a lot of coughing coming from children of all ages…and a few of their parents too. In fact, a few of our nurses and docs are fighting a fall cold as well.

 

This makes it timely to discuss (once again) the difference between a cold which is a viral infection and a bacterial infection (example strep throat).  Viruses are NOT treated with antibiotics!! In other words, antibiotics are not useful when you have the common cold. Asking your doctor to put you on an antibiotic “just in case “ it might help is not advised, and doctors should be taking the time to explain the difference between a viral infection and a bacterial infection, rather than writing an unnecessary antibiotic prescription.  

 

While some people (fewer and fewer young parents) still think an antibiotic is necessary, the overuse of antibiotics has been called “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems”s, by the CDC. Not only does the overuse of antibiotics promote drug resistance, it may also cause other health concerns as well. While antibiotics kill many different bacteria, they may also kill “good bacteria” which in fact help the body to stay healthy. Sometimes, taking antibiotics may cause diarrhea and may even allow “bad bacteria” like clostridium difficile to take over and cause a serious secondary infection.  

 

At the same time that there are too many antibiotic prescriptions being written for routine viral upper respiratory infections, a new study in JAMA also found that bacterial infections (sinusitis, strep throat, community acquired pneumonias), are not being treated with appropriate “first line” antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin.  Of the 44 million patients who received an antibiotic prescription for the treatment of sinusitis, strep throat, or ear infections, only 52% were given a prescription for the appropriate first line antibiotic. When a doctor prescribes a broader spectrum, often newer antibiotic, instead of the recommended first line drug, they too are responsible for increasing antibiotic resistance.

 

So, you should actually be happy when your pediatrician reassures you that your child does not need an antibiotic, and that fever control with an over the counter product, extra fluids and rest will actually do the trick to get them well.  I “brag” about my patients who have never taken an antibiotic…..as they have never had a bacterial illness, and tell their parents how smart they are for not asking for an antibiotic “just because”.

 

At the same time, if your child does have a bacterial infection, ask the doctor if they are using a “first line” drug and if not why…? It could be because your child has drug allergies to penicillins, or that your child has had a recent first line drug and has not improved or has had ‘back to back” infections necessitating the use of a broader spectrum antibiotic.  Whatever the reason, always good to ask.

 

Keep washing those hands, teach your child about good cough hygiene and run don’t walk to get your flu vaccines….November is here and flu usually won’t be too far behind.

 

 

  

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

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

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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