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A common question that many parents ask us in the office is “Howcan I help my overweight child?”


Our newest podcast provides six simple rules for healthyeating. Listen in to find out the “5-4-3-2-1-0” rules of what to feed yourchildren, how to portion their foods, and how to change their behavior to helpthem lose excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight.


(If the podcast is not embedded in your RSS reader page,visit the www.TwoPedsInAPod.com home page directly.)




Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD


©2010 Two Peds in a Pod

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How can I tell if my child has strep throat?

The definitive way to diagnose strep throat is for a health care provider to get a sample of the sore throat germs from your child by using a long cotton swab to gently swipe the sore throat and send the germs to a laboratory for culture. The laboratory lets the germs grow to determine if the Strep Throat bacteria grows from your child’s throat.

Thus, strep throat cannot be diagnosed over the telephone. Nor can health care providers rely solely on physical exam findings, because while there is a “classic” look to strep throat, some kids have normal appearing throats yet the test reveals strep, while others have yucky looking throats but in fact have some other viral infection causing their sore throat and thus do not need antibiotic treatment since antibiotics do not cure viruses. Health care providers ask questions about your child’s symptoms and perform a thorough physical exam and then do a “strep test” if they are suspicious that your child may have strep throat.

Many pediatric offices use rapid strep tests to help make a quick decision about treatment because the strep culture takes  about 48 hours or so to finalize. These tests are fairly reliable, but sometimes the quick test is negative (shows NO strep) even if strep is present, so most offices will send a culture back-up if the rapid test is negative (no strep germs found). The other problem with the quick test is that once your child has strep, the quick test stays positive for about a month, even if your child no longer has strep disease. So if a child is treated for strep throat and then develops another sore throat within a month of treatment, that child needs a strep culture back up if the office quick test is positive.

To further complicate matters, some kids “carry” the strep germ in their throats but never develop the disease (no sore throat or illness symptoms). These kids will test positive for strep but do not require treatment. This is why we do not routinely check kids for strep throat unless they have symptoms of strep throat.

My child was treated for strep throat. We used all of the antibiotic. Three days later his sore throat is back. Why did this happen?

The most common reason for getting two episodes of strep throat close together is that your child contracted the germ again, usually from a classmate in school. If your child gets strep throat again, it is usually not because the antibiotic didn’t work but rather it is from bad luck. Most doctors treat a second episode of strep with the same medicine used the first time around.

Luckily, strep throat has not shown much, if any, resistance to standard antibiotic therapy. The reason that children (and adults) are treated for a full course of antibiotic is that this duration is known to prevent some of the complications of strep throat. You should give your child the complete course of antibiotic her health care provider prescribes, even if she “feels better” part way through the treatment. In addition to treating with antibiotic, be sure to provide pain medicine such as acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) to treat sore throat pain as needed.

Reasons to contact your child’s health care provider during treatment would be increasing pain, inability to swallow, or looking worse instead of better during the course of treatment.

 

 

Julie Kardos, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod

 

 

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You just got the call from the school nurse, who tells you: “I have your child here with me and she has a sore throat. I think you need to take her to the doctor to see if it’s strep throat.”

What exactly IS Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a throat infection caused by Group A streptococcus bacteria. Symptoms can include sore throat, fever, pain with swallowing, enlarged lymph nodes (glands) in the neck, headache, belly pain, vomiting, and rash. Not all symptoms are present in all kids with strep throat.

Symptoms do NOT include cough, profuse runny nose, or diarrhea. Only about 15 percent of all kids coming to our offices with a main concern of “sore throat” are going to actually have strep throat. That means that MOST kids with sore throats will turn out to have something other than strep throat, usually some form of virus causing pain or post-nasal drip.

Who gets Strep Throat?

The most common age for kids to get strep throat is between ages 5 to 12 years old. For some reason, kids younger than 3 years are not as prone to strep throat. Also strep throat is seen less often in adults than school aged kids.  Some children appear really ill with strep throat and other kids just have a bad sore throat, but with pain medicine can look quite well.

So why do we care about strep throat?

Most children’s immune systems are really good at fighting the strep germ off and in fact most kids will get better from strep throat even if they are not treated. However, some kids’ immune systems get a little haywire when fighting the strep germ, and in addition to making antibodies (germ-fighting cells) to fight the strep, they make antibodies against their own heart valves (immune system gets confused) which causes rheumatic fever. It has been shown that treating strep throat with antibiotics shortens the duration of strep throat only by about one day, but more importantly prevents the body from making the wrong kind of immune cells, or antibodies, against the heart valves thus lowering the risk of rheumatic heart disease.

Strep throat can also lead to other complications such as scarlet fever (strep throat plus sandpaper-feeling rash on the skin), peritonsilar abscesses (pus pocket in the tonsils) and kidney inflammation (first symptom can be cola-colored urine).

Stay tuned for Part 2 about Strep Throat: how it is diagnosed and treated.

Julie Kardos, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod      

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 We are thrilled to release our first podcast recorded from a podcast party!



We recorded with GNO, a  group of dynamic moms with young school aged children (pictured above).  GNO stands for Girls Night Out. That evening, Two Peds in a Pod was “the night out.” The recording you hear below is a distillation (with a few later additions) of the conversation we had on three topics: tantrums, anxiety and tics.  We found the discussion reflected the concerns of parents of kindergarteners and first and second graders whom we see in the office.

In photo: Dr. Kardos on left and Dr. Lai on right.

Live in the greater Philadelphia area? Give a Two Peds in a Pod podcast party as a gift or host one yourself.  Email us at twopedsinapod@gmail.com

(If you subscribe via Atom feed or do not see a podcast player displayed, please go to our website www.twopedsinapod.com)

 Happy New Year

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD
© 2009 Two Peds in a Pod

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Acetaminophen, brand name Tylenol, has been in the news recently, and parents are asking me if it is safe.


This medication, used as a pain reliever and as a fever reducer, is safe to give to babies older than two months, but you must be very careful about the dose that you give. Medicine doses are based on the weight, not the age, of a child. So when checking the label on the bottle that tells how much acetaminophen to give, look at the weight recommendations if there is a discrepancy between your child’s weight and age. If you are not sure, then ask your child’s health care provider. I cannot stress proper dosing enough because of how dangerous an overdose can be.


 Here are some facts you need to know in order to avoid over-dosing your child with Tylenol:


1)      Always measure the medicine in the dropper or cup provided by the manufacturer of that particular medicine bottle.


 


2)      Be aware that Tylenol infant drops are more concentrated than the children’s suspension liquid. This means that if you were to pour out equal amounts of infant drops and children’s suspension, the amount of drug is actually HIGHER in the measurement of infant drops than in the same measurement of children’s suspension. For example, one full infant dropper of Infant Tylenol Drops, measured to the 0.8ml line of the dropper, is 80mg of Tylenol. The same 0.8ml of Children’s Tylenol Suspension Liquid is only 25mg.


Another way to look at this medicine math: if you intended to give 80mg = 2.5ml = 1/2 teaspoon of Children’s Tylenol Suspension Liquid   but you actually gave your child 2.5ml = ½ teaspoon of Infant Tylenol instead of Children’s Tylenol, you would be giving them over 240 mg of Tylenol, which is THREE TIMES the amount that you wanted to give. Again, use the dropper provided to give Infant Tylenol drops and use the cup provided when dosing the Children’s Tylenol Suspension Liquid.


 


3)      Note that other medications have acetaminophen (Tylenol) in them. I advise my patients’ parents to avoid combination cold and flu medicines for two reasons. First, there is little evidence that shows that they actually provide symptom relief. Second, from a safety perspective, parents can accidentally overdose their child with acetaminophen because many contain acetaminophen in them. For example, as of this writing, the following medications all contain acetaminophen as stated in the ingredient list:


Benadryl  Allergy and Cold Tablets, Sudafed PE nighttime Cold Maximum Strength Tablets, Theraflu Nighttime Severe Cold and Cough Powder, Tylenol Plus Children’s Cold and Allergy Suspension, Tylenol Sore throat Nighttime liquid, Tylenol Chest Congestion Liquid, and Nyquil.


4)      Be aware that “APAP” in the ingredient list means acetaminophen.


Tylenol overdoses can be fatal by causing liver failure. If your child has a chronic liver disease, it is likely that she should avoid Tylenol altogether.


Because of the risk of overdose, I also avoid advising my patients to “alternate Tylenol (acetaminophen) with Motrin (ibuprofen).” I discourage this practice because I am afraid of parents forgetting which medicine they gave last and possibly over-dosing by mistake. Tylenol is meant to be dosed every 4 to 6 hours unless otherwise specified on the label or by your child’s health care provider. 


If you ever have questions about possible overdose, call the national US Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.


Julie Kardos, MD
©2009 Two Peds in a Pod

Addendum 10/11/2011: The manufacturers of Tylenol (acetaminophen) responded to the hazard of parents and caregivers accidentally giving the wrong dose of infant drops ( see point #2 above) and stopped making the “concentrated infant drops.” Instead, they now manufacture the “infant drops” and “children’s liquid” using the same concentration as each other. Continue to use the measuring dropper or cup provided with the medication for proper measuring.

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A friend of mine who has no children commented to me that many people tell him, “You just can’t know happiness until you have children of your own.” However, I know several adults who are very happy people and who have made a conscious decision to not have children. So I would actually amend the above adage to: “You just can’t know WORRY until you have children of your own.”


Especially in winter, many illnesses circulate. All these sick kids make for many worried parents. Some questions that I answer many times a day in the office are: “Okay, Doc, you just told me that my child is handling her illness right now, but how will I know if she is getting worse? When do I need to worry?”


Here is what I tell my patients’ parents:


First and foremost, trust your parent instincts that something is wrong.


Think about these THREE MAIN SYSTEMS: breathing, thinking, and drinking/peeing.


Breathing:


Normally, breathing is easy to do. It is so easy, in fact, that if you take off your child’s shirt and watch her breathe, it can be hard to see that she is breathing. You should try this while your child is healthy. Normal breathing does not involve effort. It does not involve the chest muscles.


If your child has pneumonia, bad asthma, bronchitis, or any other condition that causes respiratory distress, breathing becomes hard. It becomes faster than baseline. It involves chest muscles moving so it looks like ribs are sticking out with every breath. The chest itself moves a lot. Kids’ bellies may also move in and out. Nostrils flare in attempt to get more oxygen. Sometimes kids make a grunting sound at the end of each breath because they are having difficulty pushing the air out of their lungs before taking another breath in. Also, instead of a normal pink color, your child’s lips can have a blue or pale color. Pink is good, blue or pale is bad. Children old enough to talk may actually have difficulty talking because they are short of breath. Any of the above signs tell you that your child needs medical attention.


Thinking:


This refers to mental or emotional state. Normally, children recognize their parents and are comforted by their presence. They are easy to console by being held, rocked, massaged, etc. They know where they are, and they make sense when they talk.


Change in mental state, whether it comes from lack of oxygen/shortness of breath, pain, or severe infection, results in a child who is inconsolable. She may not recognize her parents or know where she is. Instead of calming, she may scream louder when rocked. She may seem disoriented or just too lethargic/difficult to arouse. Being very combative can also be a sign of not getting enough oxygen. In a baby, extreme pain can cause all these signs as well.


Drinking/peeing:


While this varies somewhat depending on the age of the child, most kids urinate every 3-6 hours or so. Young babies may urinate more frequently than this and some older kids urinate perhaps 2-3 times daily. You should know your child’s baseline. Normal urine reflects a normal state of hydration. If you don’t drink enough, you will urinate less.


If your child has fever, coughing, vomiting, or diarrhea, she will use up fluid in her body faster than her baseline. In order to compensate, she needs to drink more than her baseline amount of liquid to urinate normally. A child will refuse to drink because of severe pain, shortness of breath, or change in mental state, and may go for hours without urinating. This is a problem that needs medical attention. Occasionally a child will urinate much more than usual and this can also be a problem (this can be a sign of new diabetes as well as other problems). Basically any change from baseline urine output is a problem.


A note about fever: any infant 8 weeks of age or younger with fever of 100.4 F or higher, measured rectally, requires immediate medical attention, even if all other systems are good. Babies this young can have fever before any other signs of serious illness such as meningitis, pneumonia, blood infections, etc. and they can fool us by initially appearing well.


In older babies and children, fever is defined as 101 F or higher. Some kids can look quite well even at 104 and others can look quite ill at 101. Fever is a sign that your body’s immune system is working to fight off illness. In addition to fever, it is important to look at breathing, thinking, and hydration state because this will help you determine how quickly your child needs medical attention. A child with a mild runny nose and fever of 103 who can play still play a game with you while drinking her apple juice is less ill than a child with a 101 fever who doesn’t recognize her parents.


To summarize, any deviation from normal breathing, thinking, or drinking/urinating (peeing) is a problem that needs medical attention, even if no fever is present. In addition, any change in the wrong direction (getting worse instead of getting better) is a problem that needs medical attention.


Finally, all parents have PARENT INSTINCT. Trust yourself. Ultimately, if you are wondering if you should seek medical advice, just do it. If parents could just worry every problem away, no one would ever be sick.


Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
© 2009 Two Peds in a Pod

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I wash my hands about sixty times a day, maybe more.  This in combination with cold Pennsylvania fall air leads to chapped hands.  It’s a sure sign winter is approaching when patients start to show me their raw hands.  Here are the hands of a girl I saw a couple days ago.


To prevent dry hands:
•    Don’t stop washing your hands, but do use a moisturizer afterwards.  

•    Whenever possible, use water and soap rather than hand sanitizers.  Hand sanitizers are at minimum 60% alcohol- very drying.  

•    Wear gloves as much as possible even if the temperature is above freezing.  Remember chemistry class, cold air holds less moisture than warm air and therefore is unkind to skin.  Gloves will prevent some moisture loss.   

•    Before  exposure to any possible irritants such as the chlorine in a swimming  pool,  protect the hands by layering heavy lotion (Eucerin cream) or petroleum based product (i.e. Vaseline or Aquaphor) over the skin.  

To rescue dry hands:
•    Prior to bed smother hands in 1% hydrocortisone ointment.  Avoid the cream formulation.  Creams tend to sting if there are any open cracks.  Take old socks, cut out thumb holes  and have your child sleep at night with the sock on his hands.  Repeat nightly for a week or so.  Alternatively, for mildly chapped hands, use a petroleum oil based product such as Vaseline or Aquaphor in place of the hydrocortisone.    

•    If your child has underlying eczema, prevent your child from scratching his hands.  An antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or cetirizine (Zyrtec) will take the edge off the itch.  

•    For extremely raw hands, your child’s doctor may prescribe a stronger cream and if there are signs of a bacterial skin infection, your child’s doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Happy  moisturizing. Remember how much fun it was to smear glue on your hands and then peel off the dried glue? It’s not so fun when your skin really is peeling.  

Naline Lai, MD

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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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