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Unless your child is getting the flu mist, your child may receive not only the seasonal flu vaccine as an injection this year, but also the H1N1 vaccine as an injection. Here’s how you can take away the sting of any needle:


Set the stage. Your child looks to you for clues on how to act. If mommy and daddy are trembling in the corner of the room, it will be difficult to convince your child that the immunization is “no big deal.”  Do not tell your child days in advance that she will be immunized. The more you perseverate, the more your child will perceive that something terrible is about to happen. Simply announce to your child right before you leave to get the immunization, “We are going to get an immunization to protect you from getting sick.”


 


Do not say “I’m sorry.” Say instead,”Even if this is tough, I am happy that this will protect you.”  


 


Never lie.  If your kid asks “will it hurt?”say “less than if I pinched you.”


 


Watch your word choice. Calling an immunization “a shot” or “a needle” conjures up negative images. In general, avoid negative statements about injected vaccines. I cringe when parents in the office threaten children with,” If you don’t behave, then Dr. Lai will give you a shot.”


 


Remember the mantra, if all is well in the basic areas of eat, sleep, drink, pee, and poop, then any stressor is easier to handle. 


 


Kids talk. Be aware that kids, especially those in kindergarten, like to scare each other with tall tales. Ask your child what they have heard about vaccines. Let children know that Johnny’s experience will not be their experience.


 


The moment is here.


 


You may have heard about a topical cream which numbs up an area of skin. Unfortunately, because the creams anesthetize the surface of the skin and most vaccines go into muscle, I do not find the creams very effective at taking the pain away. 


 


Instead, practice blowing the worries away. Have your child practice breathing slowly in through her nose and blowing out worries through her mouth. For the younger children, bring bubbles or a pin wheel for your child to blow during the immunization. In a pinch, take a piece of the exam paper in the room and have your child blow the paper.


 


The cold pack: holding something very cold can distract your child’s brain from feeling the pain of an injection.


 


“Transfer” the immunization to mommy or daddy.  Have your child squeeze your hand and “take the immunization” for him.


 


Tell your child to count backwards from 10 and it will be over. In reality, it will be over before your child says the number seven.


 


Have as much direct contact with your child as possible. The more surfaces of his body you touch, the less your child’s brain will focus on the injection. Again, this is the distraction principle at work. By touching your child, you are also sending reassuring signals to him. For the younger child, if he is on the table, stay close to his head and hug his arms, or have him on your lap. For the older child and teen, hold their hand. I sometimes see parents of older teens and college students leave the room. Even the big kids may need someone to keep them company.


 


Help hold your child firmly. Holding him will make him feel safe and will  prevent him from  moving during the injection. Movement causes more pain or even injury.


 


After the drama is over. 


Have your older child sit quietly for a moment. As the anxiety and tension suddenly falls away, the body sometimes relaxes too suddenly and a child will start to faint.  This phenomenon seems to happen most often with the six foot tall stoic teenage boys.  We have a saying in my office- The bigger they are, the more likely they are to fall.


 


Compliment your child. Remind them that you will never let anyone really hurt them.


Now a story:


When my middle daughter was two years old, my family trouped into my office for the flu vaccine injection. We all sat calmly in a circle and smiled. 


First, the nurse gave me my immunization. I smiled. My middle daughter smiled.


Second, the nurse gave my husband his immunization. He smiled. My middle daughter smiled.


Then the nurse gave my oldest daughter her immunization. She smiled. My middle daughter smiled.


Then the nurse gave my middle daughter her immunization. She did not smile. She did not cry. Instead, she slugged the nurse with her little fist.  I think the nurse felt more pain than my child.


Someday all immunizations will be beamed painlessly into children via telepathy. Until then, I have no advice on how to take the sting away from the punch of a two year old. 


Naline Lai, MD


© 2009 Two Peds In a Pod

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I’ve heard some interesting things about milk over the years. I am going to share with you three myths about milk that  I heard when I was a kid and I still hear from my patients’ parents.


Myth #1: Don’t give milk to a child with a fever, the milk will curdle (or some other variation).


Truth: As long as your child is not vomiting, milk is a perfectly acceptable fluid to give your febrile child. In fact it is superior to plain water if your child is refusing to eat, which is very typical of a child with a fever. Fevers take away appetites. So if your child is not eating while he is sick, at least he can drink some nutrition. Milk has energy and nutrition, which help fight infection (germs). Take milk, add a banana and a little honey (if your child is older than one year), and maybe some peanut butter for protein, pour it into a blender, and make a nourishing milk shake for your febrile child. Children with fevers need extra hydration. Even febrile infants need formula or breast milk, NOT plain water. The milk will not curdle or upset them in any way. If, on the other hand, your child is vomiting, I advise sticking to clear fluids until his stomach settles.


Myth #2: Don’t give children milk when they have a cold because the milk will give them more mucus.


Truth: There is NOTHING mucus-inducing about milk. Milk will not make your child’s nose run thicker or make his chest more congested. Let your runny-nosed child have his milk! Yet my own mother cringes when I give any of my children milk when they have colds. Never mind my medical degree; my mom is simply passing on the wisdom (?) of her mother which is that you should not give your child milk with a cold. Then again, my grandmother also believed that your body only digests vitamin C in the morning which is why you have to drink your orange juice at breakfast time. But that’s a myth I’ll tackle in the future.


Myth #3: You can’t over-dose a child on milk.


Truth: Actually, while milk is healthy and provides necessary calcium and vitamin D, too much milk can be a bad thing. To get enough calcium from milk, your child’s body needs somewhere between 16 to 24 ounces of milk per day. Of course, if your child eats cheese, yogurt, and other calcium-containing foods, she does not need this much milk. The recommended daily intake of  Vitamin D was increased recently to 400 IU (International Units).  This amount translates into 32 ounces of milk daily.  But, we pediatricians know that over 24 ounces of milk daily leads to iron deficiency anemia because calcium competes with iron absorption from foods. You’re better off giving an over-the-counter vitamin such as Tri-Vi-Sol or letting older children chew a multivitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D. In addition to iron deficiency anemia, drinking excessive amounts of milk is bad for teeth (all milk contains sugar).  Extra milk can also lead to obesity from increased calories. Ironically, too much can also lead to poor weight gain in children who are picky eaters.  The milk will fill them up, leaving them without an appetite for food.


In summary, you can safely continue serving your children milk in sickness and in health, in moderation, every day. Now, all this talk about milk really puts me in the mood to bake cookies…


Julie Kardos, MD

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Well it finally happened.  The day all mothers with daughters regard with mixed feelings.  No, I’m not talking about my daughter’s first period.  Today I discovered that my oldest daughter’s foot size is the same as mine.

I took it as a sign.  Time to blog a little about shoes and feet.

First shoes:  Shoes are to prevent injury to feet. While indoors, let your infant stand and walk without shoes.  Bare feet are best.  Your baby will learn to balance better when he or she can feel the floor directly under her feet.  However, for protection, shoes are needed.  Start with a sturdy sneaker.  No need for the clunky white leather shoes of the past.  Also, avoid sandals, toddlers are more liable to trip and there is not much protection against stinging insects.

For school: The average length of recess per day is about 30 minutes(
www.centerforpubliceducation.org)  Therefore, pick comfy shoes which allow your children to utilize this time for physical activity.

Athlete’s foot: Caused by a fungus, athlete’s foot appears as wet, moist, itchy areas usually between the toes.  The fungus loves moist areas and can be treated with over the counter antifungal creams or powders such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). While common in teens, athlete’s foot is much less common in general than foot eczema. Vinegar soaks are helpful- put half a cup of vinegar into a small basin of warm water and have your child soak for 10 minutes daily. 

If your child has eczema on other areas of his or her body, be more suspicious of eczema than athlete’s foot. Both can look alike, but be careful, the steroid creams used for eczema may worsen athlete’s foot.

Flat feet: Most children with flat feet have flexible flat feet which do not require any intervention. Nearly all toddlers have flexible flat feet. A child with flexible flat feet will not have an arch upon standing.  However, the arch should reappear when the child’s feet are relaxed in a sitting position off the floor. Any pain in the arch or suspicion of an inflexible flat foot should be brought to a physician’s attention.

Ingrown toe nails: Ingrown toe nails occur when the sides of the nails grown into the skin.  After enough irritation, bacteria can settle in and pus pockets form.  To prevent ingrown toe nails from becoming infected, at the first sign of redness, soak feet in warm water with Epsom salts.  Gently pull the skin back from the area of the nail which is in grown.  Attempt to cut off any area of the nail which is pushing into the skin.

Clipping newborn toe (and finger) nails: A newborn’s nails have not separated enough from the nail bed to easily get a nail clipper under a nail. For the first few weeks, stick to filing the nails down.  Parental guilt warning: at some point almost every parent mistakenly cuts their child’s skin instead of their nail.

Naline Lai, MD

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Parents often ask how they can tell if their child has The Flu or just a common cold. Here’s how:


A cold, usually caused by one of many viruses such as rhinovirus, starts out gradually. Think back to your last cold: first your throat is scratchy, then the next day your nose gets stuffy or then starts running profusely, then you develop a cough. Sometimes during a cold you get a fever for a day or two. Sometimes you get hoarse, losing your voice. Usually kids still feel well enough to play and attend school with colds, as long as their fevers stay below 101 and they are well hydrated and breathing without difficulty. The average length of a cold is 7-10 days although sometimes you feel lingering effects of a cold for 2 weeks or more.


The flu, caused by influenza virus, comes on suddenly and basically makes you feel as if you’ve been hit by a truck. Flu always causes fever of 101 or higher and some respiratory symptom such as runny nose, cough, or sore throat (many times, all three at once actually). Children, more often than adults, sometimes have vomiting and/or diarrhea with the flu along with their respiratory symptoms. Usually the flu causes total body aches, headaches, and the sensation of your eyes burning. The fever usually lasts 5-7 days. All symptoms come on at once; there is nothing gradual about coming down with the flu.


Fortunately, vaccines against the flu can prevent the misery of coming down with the flu. In addition, vaccines against influenza save lives by preventing flu related complications that can be fatal such as flu pneumonia, flu encephalitis (brain infection), and severe dehydration. Hand washing also helps prevents spread of flu as well as almost every other disease of childhood. Please see our blog post on flu posted on September 6, 2009 for more information on prevention and care of children with flu.


The much touted “Tamiflu” is a prescription medication that can ameliorate the effects of the flu. In an otherwise healthy person, this medicine can shorten duration of symptoms by ½ to 1 day. Are you underwhelmed by this fact? So is the medical profession, which is why we reserve this medicine for people ill enough to need hospitalization or who we know have underlying medical conditions, because this medicine has been shown to decrease hospital stays and complication of flu in people who have asthma, diabetes, immune system defects, and heart disease.


Because of all the hype over the novel H1N1 flu (again, please see our blog post on this subject) I am already getting many anxious phone calls and office visits from parents who are worried that their child might have “the flu” when their children are having runny noses and some cough but no fever. Hopefully this blog post will help you sort out your child’s symptoms.


Julie Kardos, MD

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It is one week before the start of school and I watch as my daughter’s sixth grade teacher stabs an onion with a needle.  It’s a back to school ritual for my family.  Usually a piece of fruit is a proxy for my daughter’s thigh, and the needle contains epinephrine, a potentially life saving medication that my daughter would need if she were to eat a cashew. 



Two of my children are part of a growing number of people with food allergies.   According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, an estimated 11 million Americans have a food allergy.  Despite the numbers, the etiology of food allergies remains a mystery.  One of the most popular theories is that a child develops a sensitivity when the gut is exposed to a bit of the offending food during an unknown critical time in development–perhaps even in utero.  My son had an allergic reaction to peanuts at eight months of age without ever ingesting a peanut. He had been touched by an unwashed hand that had just handled peanuts.  To add to the confusion, experts wonder if there is a relationship between allergies and how food is processed.  In China, despite an abundance of peanut containing entrees, relatively few people are allergic to peanuts.  It is postulated that the smaller number is somehow connected to the fact that most peanuts are boiled not roasted.  Strangely, only eight categories of food:
milk, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut (i.e. cashews and pecans), fish, wheat and shellfish cause ninety percent of allergic reactions.



Reactions can range widely from a single, pesky, itchy welt to a choking off of all airway passages.  The type of suffocation that occurs can be impossible to ventilate, even with a respirator.  The medication  which can thwart allergic reactions, epinephrine, is available in a portable form.  Yet one study showed that even after medical evaluation, epinephrine was prescribed to only half of children and less than one quarter of adults with nut allergies.   More distressing, as a pediatrician, I find families fail to recognize the symptoms of respiratory distress and do not realize the urgency of the situation.  Even when respiratory symptoms are obvious, families are sometimes too panicked to think clearly.  I know of cases of parents who injected the medicine into their own fingers rather than into their child.

Unfortunately, even epinephrine can not always stop catastrophic consequences.  The only real treatment is avoidance.  This can be tough in a world where many confuse food allergies with a personal choice—like a person who chooses to be a vegetarian.  Adding to the confusion is the mistaken belief that food intolerance is synonymous with food allergy.  For instance, in milk intolerance, people have difficulty digesting the sugar in cow’s milk, whereas people with a milk allergy are reacting to the protein in cow’s milk. 



Watching an allergic person eat at a restaurant is like watching a person eat Japanese puffer fish- every bite could be lethal.  It took only one cashew to cause my daughter to break out in hives, vomit and experience a tightening of her throat.  During my first two weeks of college, I remember a  freshman at my college dying  because of peanut butter hidden as “the special thickening ingredient” in a restaurant’s chili.  Perils are everywhere.  A milk allergic person worries if a meat slicer has been previously used for cheese, the fish allergic individual needs to worry about Worcestershire sauce because it often contains anchovies and the egg allergic person needs to be suspicious of  foamy toppings on specialty drinks.   In my pediatric practice, one of my patients, a peanut-allergic girl, started wheezing simply because the child next to her in the car opened up a bag of peanut butter filled snacks.



Despite the sometimes small amount of an allergen required to set off an allergic reaction, one study showed that at least the major allergen in peanuts is relatively easy to clean from hands with simple soap and water.  Common household cleaning products remove the allergen from counter and table tops.  But kids, especially toddlers, are not known for their meticulous sanitation practices.  Schools and daycares often find keeping an entire classroom free of an offensive food easier than keeping kids from touching each other.



So when that letter comes home this fall identifying someone in your child’s class with a food allergy, don’t moan and groan.  Abstain from sending in potentially allergenic foods with your child.  Imagine sending your children to school knowing that a well meaning friend might try to share a deadly snack.  Like the millions of allergic Americans, your picky eater could learn to modify his or her diet.  Our family went from eating daily peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to becoming a nut free home.  What is an inconvenience to you may save a kid’s life.


 


 


Naline Lai, MD


 



For more info:
Food Allergy, Asthma and Anaphylaxis Network
www.foodallergy.org



 an online  resource and discussion group 



References:

Distribution of Peanut Allergen in the Environment


Perry TT et al.  J Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  2004;113:973-976


 


Prevalence of Peanut and Tree Nut allergy In the United States Determined By Means of A Random Digit Dial Telephone Survey: A 5 Year Follow-Up Study


Sicherer S. et al. Journal of Clinical Immunology 2003;112:203-1207

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It’s that time of year again, supply #3 on my back-to-school shopping list, glue sticks, are sold out at the Target down the street.  At this time of year, I see many of my patients embarking on their next stage of schooling.  Kids I remember starting kindergarten are off to high school.  Babies are starting daycare and the teens are starting college.  With all of these transitions to independence, the basic rules of daycare drop off still hold:



  • Always convey to your child that the transition is a positive experience.  You give your child cues on how to act in any situation.  Better to convey optimism than anxiety. 
  • Take your child and place her into the arms of a loving adult- do not leave her alone in the middle of a room.
  • Do not linger.  Prolonging any tears, only prolongs tears. The faster you leave, the faster happiness will start.
  • It’s ok to go back and spy on them to reassure yourself that they have stopped crying- just don’t let them see you.

Now with that all being said, kick back late at night, after all the school forms have been put away.  Whether your child is off to college, off to daycare or off to kindergarten, take out a glass of wine and listen to the letter I wrote for one of my own children years ago…


My Child,


As we sit, the night before kindergarten, your toes peeking out from under the comforter, I notice that your toes are not so little anymore. 


Tomorrow those toes will step up onto to the bus and carry you away from me.   Another step towards independence.   Another step to a place where I can protect you less.  But I do notice that those toes have feet and legs which are getting stronger.   You’re not as wobbly as you used to be.  Each time you take a step you seem to go farther and farther. 


I  trust that you will remember what I’ve taught you.  Look both ways before you cross the street, chose friends who are nice to you, and whatever happens don’t eat yellow snow.   I also trust that there are other eyes and hearts who will watch and guide you. 


But that won’t stop me from worrying about each step you take. 


Won’t stop me from holding my breath­. 


Just like when you first started to walk, I’ll always worry when you falter. 


I smile because I know you’ll hop up onto the bus tomorrow, proud as punch, laughing and disappearing in a sea of waving hands.  I just hope that at some point, those independent feet will proudly walk back and stand beside me.   


Maybe it will be when you first gaze into your newborn’s eyes, or maybe it will be when your child climbs onto the bus. 


Until then,


I hold my breath each time you take a step.


Love,
Mommy


Naline Lai, MD

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After completing my pediatric training, I worked for a couple of years in a large pediatric office before I had any children of my own. I was always struck by the Life Event of a child’s first birthday. This milestone carries so much meaning and emotion for families. My patients’ parents described huge birthday parties with characters such as Elmo walking around or Moon Bounces, large catered affairs with numerous friends and family members and entire neighborhoods. Often I would see a child sick in my office a few days before such an event with parents who were panicked that their child might be sick on his Big Day, or I would see a child for his one year well check and hear many details about the enormous party. Of course I also saw plenty of children a few days after their first birthday party who became ill, most likely, from a well-intentioned friend or relative who was already sick and passed the illness on to the birthday child at the party. I heard about the kids who clapped for the Happy Birthday song and kids who cried and one who vomited from excitement… all over the birthday cake. Many of my patients had their first full blown temper tantrum during their own over-stimulating first birthday party.


I remember not quite understanding why parents go through such effort and expense to throw a party that their child will never remember at a developmental stage where 99 percent of children are having stranger anxiety and separation anxiety, often forgoing daily routine to skip naps, eat at erratic times, and then expect their birthday child to perform in front of a large crowd singing loudly at them. “My husband and I will do it differently,” I would tell myself.


Now, three of my own children later, I must apologize for not quite understanding about that first birthday. I remember waking up on the day my oldest turned one year. My pediatrician brain first exclaimed “Hurray! No more SIDS risk!” Then my mommy brain took over, “Ohmygosh, I survived the first year of parenthood!” This day is about Celebration of the Parent. I finally understood completely why my patients’ parents needed all the hoopla.


Because I am actually a little uncomfortable in large crowds, my son’s first birthday party included all close relatives who lived nearby, people he was well familiarized with. Some pediatric tips I had picked up which I will pass on:


1)      Sing the Happy Birthday song, complete with clapping at the finale, for about one month straight leading up to the birthday. Children love music and hearing a very familiar song sung by a large group is not as overwhelming as hearing an unfamiliar song.


2)      Plan mealtime around your child, not the guests. If you are inviting people close to your heart, they will accommodate. Dinner can be at 5:00pm if that’s when your child usually eats, or have a lunch party that starts midmorning and then end the party in time to allow your child to have his regularly scheduled afternoon nap. Most one-year-olds are usually at their best in the morning anyway.


3)      If your child becomes sick, cancel the party. Your child will not be disappointed because he won’t understand what he is missing. You as parent would have a lousy time anyway because all of your attention will be on your ill child and you will be anxious. Your guests who are parents will appreciate your refraining from making them and their own children sick.


Recently while performing a one-year-old well child check I asked about my patient’s birthday party and her parent told me “Oh, we didn’t have a party. It was like any other day, although we did give her a cupcake for dessert.”


Now THIS is a pragmatic approach to parenting  because, again, no child will ever have memories of her own first birthday. However, I hope the parents did take time, at least with each other, to congratulate themselves and to feel really good about making it to that huge milestone in their parenting career. I hope they savored their accomplishment as much as their child savored the cupcake.


Julie Kardos, MD

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When it comes to our children, we want the best that money can buy. However, in these difficult economic times, I want to offer some suggestions from the medical perspective that can save you money without compromising your child’s health or safety.


Don’t buy “Sippy cups.” Just teach your child to drink out of regular open cups. Sippy cups are for parents who don’t like mess-they are not a required developmental stage.  They are actually bad for teeth when they contain juice or milk and they do not aid in child development.


 


Buy generic acetaminophen (brand name = Tylenol), ibuprofen (brand name = Motrin, Advil), diphenhydramine (brand name = Benadryl), allergy medication (brand names Claritin, Zyrtec). If your child’s health care provider prescribes antibiotic such as amoxicillin (for ear infection, Strep throat, sinusitis), ask the pharmacist how much it costs because usually the cost of paying for this commonly prescribed antibiotic out-of-pocket is less than your insurance copay.


 


Accept hand-me-down clothes, shoes, etc. The purpose of shoes is to protect feet. Contrary to what the shoe sales-people tell you, cheap shoes or already-worn shoes will protect feet just as well as expensive, new ones. Just make sure they fit correctly.


 


Don’t buy “sleep positioners” for the crib. Place your newborn to sleep on his back and he will not/cannot roll over. If you need to elevate your baby’s upper body to prevent spit up or to provide comfort from gas, don’t buy a “wedge” but instead put a book under each of the 2 crib legs so the entire crib is elevated. Wedges and positioners are NOT shown to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and are NOT endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


 


Make your own baby food and do NOT buy “baby junk food” such as “Puffs” for finger food practice. Instead buy “toasted oats” (brand name = Cheerios) which are low in sugar, contain iron, and are much less expensive. “Stage 3” foods in jars are finger foods so just give your kids what you are serving the rest of the family cut into small bite-sized pieces instead of buying the expensive jars. One exception: do buy the baby cereals (rice, oatmeal, or barley) because they contain more iron than regular oatmeal and babies need the extra iron for their growth.


 


The best toys are ones that can be reconfigured and used again and again. Legos, blocks, crayons/markers/chalk, small cars, dolls, balls come to mind. Avoid one-time only assembly type items, breakables, etc. Have a “toy recycle” party or a pre-Halloween costume recycle party: everyone brings an old costume/toy they would like to trade and everyone leaves with a “new” item (kids don’t care if things are brand new or not, only if you teach them to care will they care). Along these same lines, inexpensive paint can turn a pink “girl’s bike” into her younger brother’s blue “boy bike.”


 


Borrow books from libraries instead of buying them in stores or look for previously owned ones at yard sales, thrift shops, etc.


 


Do not buy endless videos for your child. First of all, despite claims made on the packages, NO video has been shown to advance baby/toddler/child intelligence. In fact, almost all studies show that the more screen time a child logs in, the worse they fare in their language and intellectual development. Also there is some evidence that TV/video viewing in babies can be detrimental to their brain development. Now, as a pediatrician mom, I am not saying that I never sat down and watched Sesame Street with my children (I am a product of the “Sesame Street Generation,” after all). I’m just saying that I recommend using moderation and taking advantage of free offerings on public television instead of spending money on videos. Many libraries also offer free lending of videos if you and your child want occasional “down time” in front of the screen.

Julie Kardos, MD

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    I just went through a stack of “mom’s-stuff-stashed-away-when-cleaning-for-a-party-and-forgotten-about” and stumbled on a green three inch by three inch curved piece of plastic.  What was it?  A tres modern chair for the Polly Pockets?  A piece to a bicycle seat? Some treasure from a birthday party? My husband also scratched his head at the unidentifiable object.  I was just about to put it in the “mom’s-unidentifiable-but-probably-useful” pile when it occurred to me what it was….the shield to a potty seat.  The shield sits at the front of a potty chair and is supposed to prevent a little boy’s spray from squirting you in the eye while they are sitting.  This reminded me to warn our readers/listeners who didn’t have a chance to listen to the potty training pod cast to throw the shields away.  They cause more harm than good when an excited little guy tries to jump quickly on and off the potty.   

    Why didn’t I throw mine away?  Who knows.  I have a patient’s family who kept the dried out remains of her belly button cord after it fell off .  After keeping them for thrity years, my own mother recently tried to give me back my twenty baby teeth.   I was going to throw the green piece of plastic away.  Maybe I’ll just keep it and give it to my son when he has his first child…boy, will he be surprised.

Naline Lai, MD

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