image_pdfimage_print

Olga Pasick, mom of a teen who died of meningococcal disease, shares her personal experience and information about the updated guidelines. 

I wish I had known the importance of vaccination for meningococcal disease before it was too late for my son. Back in September of 2004, David was a happy, healthy 13 year old, who came down with flu-like symptoms one evening. He first felt cold, then spiked a high fever, and vomited throughout the night. In the morning we called the pediatrician to have him seen. Everything ached, and he needed help getting dressed. That’s when I noticed purplish spots on his chest and arms. I didn’t know how serious that symptom was.

As soon as the doctors saw him, they knew he had meningococcal disease. He was rushed to the ER for a spinal tap and treatment. Unfortunately, the disease spread quickly and his organs failed. David died within 24 hours of first developing those flu-like symptoms from a potentially vaccine-preventable disease. Unbelievable… and heartbreaking.

Meningococcal disease is spread through respiratory droplets, such as coughing or sneezing, or through direct contact with an infected person, such as kissing. About 1 in 10 people are carriers, and don’t even know it. It doesn’t affect everyone. It is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are similar to the flu, and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and a blotchy rash. The disease spreads quickly and within hours can cause organ failure, brain damage, amputations of limbs, and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend meningococcal vaccination for all 11-18 year olds. The newest recommendation is for permissive use (recommended on a case by case basis) of a type of meningococcal  vaccine called meningococcal serotype B. The serotype B vaccine is for ages 16-23, with a preferred age of 16-18. This recommendation joins the long-standing recommendation that all adolescents get meningococcal A, C, W and Y vaccine (this one vaccine protects against these four serotypes) at age 11-12 with a booster dose at 16. The newer serotype B vaccine is particularly important for older adolescents and young adults because it is the most common cause of meningococcal disease in this age group. No vaccine is 100% effective, but it is the best preventative measure we can take.

Because of my experience, I became a member of the National Meningitis Association’s (NMA) Moms on Meningitis (M.O.M.s) program. We are a coalition of more than 50 mothers from across the country whose children’s lives were drastically affected by this disease, and are dedicated to supporting meningococcal prevention.

Visit the NMA website for more information and to view powerful personal stories of those affected.  Talk to your doctor about vaccination. It could save a life. How I wish those recommendations were in place years ago.

Olga Pasick
Wall, New Jersey

Note: In the United States, you may know the meningococcal A, C, W and Y vaccine as either  Menactra® or Menveo®. The serogroup B meningococcal vaccine you may recognize as either Bexsero® or  Trumenba®.

©2017, updated from 2011, Two Peds in a Pod®

Share

runny nose

Ben’s runny nose, as depicted by Ben

The good news is that there was only a smattering of influenza (flu) cases across the United States over the summer. The great news is that according to the Centers for Disease Control, most of the detected strains are covered in this year’s vaccine.

If you’re still hesitant to vaccinate your family, let’s talk frankly about some myths we sometimes hear about flu vaccines:

If my friend’s child has flu symptoms, I’ll just avoid their house to avoid catching the flu
False. According to the CDC , you are infectious the day before symptoms show up. So it is TOO LATE to avoid only those already sick.

My family never gets the flu so it’s not necessary to get the vaccine.
False and dangerous. Saying “My child and I have never had the flu so we don’t need the flu vaccine” is like saying, “I’ve never a car accident so I won’t wear my seat belt.”

I got the flu shot last year and then I got sick. So the flu shot must have made me sick.
Our condolences. True, you were sick. But this statement is False, because the illness was not caused by the flu vaccine. Vaccines are not real germs, so you can’t “get” a disease from the vaccine. But to your body, vaccine proteins appear very similar to real germs and your immune system will respond by making protection against the fake vaccine germ. When the real germ comes along, pow, your body already has the protection to fend off the real disease.

It is important to realize that the vaccine takes about 2 weeks to take effect in your body, so if you were unlucky enough to be exposed to someone with the flu and then got the vaccine the next day, you still have a good chance of coming down with the flu: the vaccine will not have had a chance to work yet.

Please know, however, there is a chance that for a couple days after a vaccine, you will ache and have a mild fever. The reason? Your immune system is simply revving up. But no, the flu vaccine does not give you the flu.

No one dies from the flu anymore, do they? Flu is just not that dangerous, so my child does not need a flu shot. I will just take my chances with flu.                                                                              False! A total of 107 influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported for the 2016-2017 season. In past seasons up to 90% of children who died from flu did not receive a flu vaccine. So please, vaccinate yourself and your children.

The vaccine coverage is awful.
Not the case this year. On the other hand, even if coverage was spotty, look at it this way— if half of the flu out there was covered, that’s a lot fewer people that won’t give your kid the flu.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD

©2017 Two Peds in a Pod®

rev Oct. 10, 2017 see comments

 

Share

poison control

The number to put in your phone when you have little ones? Poison Control:  1-800-222-1222. Text “POISON” TO 797979 to save the poison control contact information in your smartphone.

Did your toddler eat dog poop? Or a berry from your backyard bush? Did you give the wrong medication to your child? Call Poison Control.

Experts at Poison Control will direct your next step. They have access to extensive data on poisoning, and they can give you that information much quicker than a drug-manufacturer or pharmacist or even your own doctor. The call is free.

One of Dr. Lai’s kids ate a mushroom from the yard when she was 20 months old—she called Poison Control. A mom asked Dr. Lai about carbon monoxide exposure—she called Poison Control. If doctors have a question about any ingestion or poisoning—we call Poison Control. But don’t wait for us to call, go ahead yourself and call.

People often jump first to the internet for information. However, a small 2013 study found that the internet is NOT the best place to research questions about toxins. Many sites fail to direct readers to the Poison Control Center, and those who do, fail to supply the proper phone number – again, that’s 1-800-222-1222. If you do want to use the internet, use  www.PoisonHelp.org which is a product of the American Association of Poison Control Centers

If your child needs emergent treatment, surfing the internet for what to do next wastes precious time. Don’t reach for your phone to “google it.” In the case of a possible poisoning, reach for your phone and make a CALL.

It could be life-saving.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
© 2017 Two Peds in a Pod® modified  from 2014

Share

AAP NCE

In front of “The Bean” in Chicago

We’re back from the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition  in Chicago—sharing with you some tidbits from the forefront of pediatrics:

New high blood pressure guidelines are here. Starting at age 3 years, children should have their blood pressure checked annually, more often if they have certain medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease. The cutoff for “high blood pressure” has been lowered so more and more, you may notice your pediatrician scrutinizing your child’s blood pressure.

We’ve noticed many more over-use injuries from kids who play the same sport year round. We were reminded that most professional athletes played multiple sports in high school and some even up through college. Specialization in a particular sport leads to more injuries,  burnout, depression, and anxiety.  If you feel that sports rule your child’s life, remember this good rule of thumb: for high school kids, keep training under 16 hours a week. For the younger kids, keep the total number of hours per week playing organized sports under an hour per week for each year of age.  For example, an 8 year old should spend no more than 8 hours per week playing organized sports.

Probiotics are ubiquitous these days, but are they helpful? In viral diarrhea, probiotics can be mildly helpful, and may shorten the duration of diarrhea by about a day.  Probiotic therapy is showing promise for treating colic, but not for treating eczema. For more information see the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics.

If your child scalds himself, put the burn under COLD running tap water for 20 minutes to stop further injury. This treatment is effective for up to 3 hours after a burn.

A cautionary word about herbs: Know that herbs are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Companies that supply herbs are under no obligation to show that the product works. Additionally, the company that sells the herb does not have to show that the herb is safe or effective, and cannot claim that the product can cure or prevent anything. Additionally there are no manufacturing standards to adhere to, which means you do not know how much herb or for that matter, any other contaminants, are in the herbs that you buy.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2017 Two Peds in a Pod®

Share

router safety

At college drop off last week, my  husband noticed an object that looked suspiciously like a router in our kid’s dorm room. Vaguely aware that routers emit some sort of radiation,  I turned to environmental medicine expert Dr. Alan Woolf for information, here is what he shared: 

Q: My daughter has a wireless router within 2 feet of where she sleeps. Is this a problem?

A: The answer to the question is unfortunately not a straightforward ‘no problem’. Routers are one of a number of devices, including tablets, cell phones, and cell towers, that give off electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or radiofrequency radiation (RFR). In 2013 more than 6.8 billion mobile phones were registered.

Animal studies of EMR/RFR shows some biological effects, but it is uncertain whether these are applicable to humans. Human studies (and there have been many) have been either inconclusive or negative and are frequently confounded by problems with their design. However one well-controlled, blinded 2015 study of 31 adult females (average age: 26 years) holding 3G mobile phones near their heads for 15 minutes showed evidence of changes in their brain waves on EEG. Whether these changes were long-lasting or of any health import are unanswered questions. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the United Nations’ World Health Organization, said in June 2011 that a family of frequencies that includes mobile-phone emissions is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Federal agencies, such as the NIOSH, FCC and FDA, have set safety standards for mobile phones, routers, cell towers, etc. that are inclusive of safety factors for EMR/RFR emissions for humans; no commercial devices can be sold in the U.S. that do not comply with such standards. RFR energy levels from Wi-Fi equipment in all areas accessible to the general public, including school settings, are required to meet Federal exposure guidelines. The limits specified in the guidelines are based on an ongoing review of thousands of published scientific studies on the health impacts of RFR energy. Levels of RFR energy emitted from Wi-Fi equipment are typically well below these exposure limits. As long as exposure is below these established limits, there is no convincing scientific evidence that emissions from this equipment are dangerous to schoolchildren or to adults. There is no scientific evidence of long-term or cumulative health effects of RFR in children.

Wireless routers in commercial use are very low energy devices and are not a safety concern. Still, It seems prudent to keep some distance away from EMR/RFR emitters when chronic exposure is likely. The strength (and therefore dose) of EMR/RFR is exponentially inversely proportional to distance from the emission. Apple Inc. itself recommends, for example, that mobile phones be held at least 5/8 inch away from the body, or that Bluetooth-type headphone devices be used to keep the head away from the phone emitter.

In reality, EMR/RFR waves are all around us (just see what happens when your cell phone is ‘searching’ for a signal–sometimes it finds half a dozen or more in your vicinity). Unfortunately the medical safety science has not kept up with advances in the technology and so there continue to be uncertainty and unanswered health questions concerning their safety.

Alan Woolf, MD, MPH

©2017 Two Peds in a Pod®

We thank Dr. Woolf for his insight, and Dr. Lai is happy to report that her daughter gets great wi-fi reception. Alan Woolf, MD, MPH is Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School (HMS), attending physician at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) and has authored over 250 original reports, scientific reviews, chapters, and other publications, many of them on topics concerning children’s poisoning and toxic environmental exposures. Among other accolades he is a past-president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), and immediate past-president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT). Dr. Woolf has also served as external consultant to the World Health Organization’s International Program in Chemical Safety and as a member of the National Advisory Committee for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances, EPA. He was recently chosen as a member of the General Hospital & Personal Use Device Panel of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and also serves as a consultant to the Medical Devices Advisory Committee of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the FDA.

Share

flu vaccine update

“What? The flu vaccine again? We JUST got it,” our kids groaned when we told them it was time to get their flu vaccines. In fact, they “just got it” a year ago, which we pointed out to them. Read on to see updates on this year’s flu vaccine and why it  should be on your child’s back to school to do list. 

This year’s flu vaccine is slightly different from last year’s– it’s been changed to cover a different strain of circulating H1N1 influenza. Several flu vaccines have been FDA approved for this year’s flu season and all of them will give similar protection for your child. Make sure your child receives a flu shot and NOT the FluMist/spray-in-the-nose kind of vaccine. Unfortunately for those who are needle phobic, the FluMist has not been shown to be effective and therefore, while still licensed, is NOT recommended for use this year.

The flu vaccine is recommended for all kids six months of age and older, with very few exceptions. Even pregnant moms safely can receive the flu vaccine.

Too early for flu vaccine? Nope! Older adults might lose some immunity if vaccinated “too soon” in the season, but this observation is not born out in kids. The threat of incomplete or forgotten vaccine outweighs theoretical risk of delaying flu vaccine (even for older adults), so best to get it now.

In case you forgot, the flu is a week of misery, consisting of high fevers, cough and other respiratory symptoms, body aches, and headaches. Younger kids are prone to some diarrhea or vomiting or both along with these bad cold symptoms. The flu can cause dehydration and pneumonia, and sometimes death, even in previously healthy kids. Simply limiting your child’s exposure to people showing flu symptoms is not an effective way of preventing illness because people are the most contagious right before they show any symptoms.

Booster dose As in previous years, children under nine years of age need a booster dose the first year they receive the vaccine. If your young child should have received a booster dose last year, but missed it, they will receive two doses of this year’s vaccine spaced one month apart (the primary dose plus a booster dose).

This prior post teaches you how to tell if your kid has flu vs “just” a cold. We invite you to read more about this year’s flu vaccine on the Centers for Disease Control website here.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai MD
©2017 Two Peds in a Pod®

Share

Great-horned owl, NPS Photo, Big Bend National Park

Okay, we admit it: our kids are still in their summertime sleep mode of stay up late/sleep late. With school starting soon, many of us now have to shift our children from summer to school year sleep schedules. Because school start times are constant (and early), the kids will have an easier time if you help them shift their bedtimes gradually over the period of a week or two toward the desired earlier bedtime. Remember, the average school-aged child needs 10-11 hours of sleep at night and even teenagers function optimally with  9-10 hours of slumber per night.

Here are some straight forward ways to help ensure good quality sleep for your child:

  1. Keep sleep onset and wake up times as consistent as possible 7 days a week. If you allow your child to “sleep in” during the weekends, she will have difficulty falling asleep earlier on Sunday night, have difficulty waking up Monday morning, and start off her week over-tired, more cranky, and less able to process new information—not good for learning. That said, you can allow your teens, who generally have a much earlier school start time than their biological clocks desire, to sleep in an hour or so on weekends to catch up on sleep.
  2. Limit or eliminate caffeine intake. Often teens who feel too sleepy from lack of sleep drink tea, coffee, “energy drinks” or other caffeine laden beverage in attempt to self-medicate in order to concentrate better. What many people don’t realize is that caffeine stays in your body for 24 hours so it is entirely possible that the caffeine ingested in the morning can be the reason your child can’t fall asleep later that night. Know also that kids who drink “pre-work out” drinks may not realize that caffeine is one of the ingredients. Better to pre-hydrate with water. Caffeine can have side effects of jitteriness, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, and gastro-esophageal reflux (heartburn). If your child already has a daily ice-tea, coffee, or other caffeine containing drink, let her wean down gradually- abrupt caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches.
  3. Keep a good bedtime routine. Just as a soothing, predictable bedtime ritual can help babies and toddlers settle down for the night, so too can a bedtime routine help prepare older kids for sleep. Prevent your child from doing homework on his bed- better to associate work with a desk or the kitchen table and his bed with sleep.
  4. Avoid TV/computer/ screen time/smart phones just before bed. Although your child may claim the contrary, watching TV is known to delay sleep onset. We highly recommend no TV in a child’s bedroom, and suggest that parents confiscate all cell phones and electronic toys, which kids may otherwise hide and use without parent knowledge, by one hour prior to bedtime. Quiet activities such as taking a bath, reading for pleasure, and listening to music are all known to promote falling asleep. Just be sure your kids put down the book, turn off the music, and turn off the light to allow time to relax in their beds and fall asleep. Many use this time for prayer or meditation.
  5. Encourage regular exercise. Kids who exercise daily have an easier time falling asleep at night than kids who don’t exercise. Gym class counts. So does playing outside, dancing, walking, and taking a bike ride. Participating in a team sport with daily practices not only helps insure better sleep but also has the added benefit of promoting social interactions

Getting enough sleep is important for your child’s academic success as well as for their mental health. We pediatricians have had parents ask about evaluating their children for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder because of an inability to pay attention, only to find  that their youngster’s focusing issues stem from tiredness. Teens are often so over-involved in activities that they average 6 hours of sleep or less per night. Increasing the amount of sleep in these kids can alleviate their attention problems and resolve their hyperactivity.

Additionally, sleep deprivation can cause symptoms of depression. Just recall the first few weeks of having a newborn:  maybe you didn’t think you were depressed but didn’t you cry from sheer exhaustion at least once? A cranky kid or sullen teen may become much more upbeat and pleasant if they get an extra hour of sleep each night.

Unfortunately for children, the older they get, their natural circadian rhythm shifts them toward the “night owl” mode of staying up later and sleeping later, and yet the higher-up years in school start earlier so that teens in high school start school earliest at a time their bodies crave sleeping late. A few school districts in the country have experimented with starting high school later and grade school earlier and have met with good success. Unless you live in one of these districts, however, your teens need to conform until they either go to college and when they can  choose classes that start later in the day or choose a job that allows them to stay up later and sleep later in the day.

For kids of all ages, a night time ritual of “tell me about your day” can help kids decompress, help them fall asleep, and keep you connected with your child.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2017 Two Peds in a Pod®, updated from 2009, 2016

Share

helicopter parents

photo by Lexi Logan www.LexiLogan.com

 

Dr. Lai was shocked when she saw her first child, at age 2 ½ years, pour water out of a small pitcher into her own cup at daycare.  At home it never occurred to Dr. Lai to let her try.

When can you start letting your kids do things for themselves? While there is not a lot of hard data on this, developmentally your kids may be more capable than you think.

Eating/self feeding:
-with hands: 9 months
-with spoon/fork: 18 months
–with chopsticks: 4 years

Pour own cereal and milk: 5 years but expect some spills

Cook a meal or at least start to cook a meal on their own: around age 12 +/- 2.5 years per 2007 survey of American pediatricians. In fact, kids are allowed to participate in the TV show Chopped Junior at age nine.

Brush teeth:
Toddlers: kids take a turn, then parents take turn.
Preschool/early school aged kids: parents continue to inspect and may continue to take a turn
Again, according to the 2007 pediatrician survey, around age 8 years is when kids can do complete oral care on their own.

Pee/Poop:
5 years-Kindergarteners should be able to independently go to the bathroom. That includes undressing, using toilet/wiping, redressing, and washing hands. Unfortunately, they may still not be great at wiping- this is one reason for daily baths/showers at this age.

Completely dress/undress including zippers and buttons: 5 years. But don’t necessarily expect matching colors – some adults never even learn this skill!

Tie shoes: 4-6 years.

Medical and emergency care

Self-injectable epinephrine (brand names Epi-pen, AuviQ): 12-14 years – per survey of 88 allergists.

Diabetes self care: kids around age 7 have the fine motor coordination needed to inject insulin and check blood sugar under supervision of an adult.

Come home to an empty house:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 11-12 year olds can come home to an empty house after school if:
-Daytime
-Not alone for longer than 2-3 hours
-Depends on safety of neighborhood
-Depends on other neighbors nearby who could help in an emergency
-Child should know how to answer phone, what to do in the event of fire, knows how to access the home’s water shut-off, can handle a medical emergency, knows where first aid kit is, and knows the name of pediatrician, preferred hospital, insurance, and how to contact parent

Babysit:
Recommendations vary and while there are no specific laws, there are plenty of state guidelines and recommendations. Ultimately, parents are responsible for who cares for their kids when the parents are not present. The American Red Cross offers an on-line babysitting course for kids starting at age 11 years.

So teach your children how to take care of themselves well, for their own sake and for yours. Remember, they will be the ones caring for you in your old age.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD
Ⓒ2017 Two Peds in a PodⓇ

Share

Teach your child to recognize poison ivy: “leaves of three, let’em be!”

Recently we’ve had a parade of itchy children troop through our office.  The culprit: poison ivy.

Myth buster: Fortunately, poison ivy is NOT contagious. You can catch poison ivy ONLY from the plant, not from another person.

Another myth buster: You can not spread poison ivy on yourself through scratching.  However, where  the poison (oil) has touched  your skin, your skin can show a delayed reaction- sometimes up to two weeks later.  Different  areas of skin can react at different times, thus giving the illusion of a spreading rash.

Some home remedies for the itch:

Hopping into the shower and rinsing off within fifteen minutes of exposure can curtail the reaction.  Warning, a bath immediately after exposure may cause the oils to simply swirl around the bathtub and touch new places on your child.

Hydrocortisone 1%-  This is a mild topical steroid which decreases inflammation.  We suggest the ointment- more staying power and unlike the cream will not sting on open areas, use up to four times a day

Calamine lotion – a.k.a. the pink stuff- This is an active ingredient in many of the combination creams.  Apply as many times as you like.

Diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl)- take orally up to every six hours. If this makes your child too sleepy, once a day Cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec) also has very good anti-itch properties.

Oatmeal baths – Crush oatmeal, place in old hosiery, tie it off and float in the bathtub- this will prevent oat meal from clogging up your bath tub. Alternatively buy the commercial ones (e.g. Aveeno)

Do not use alcohol or bleach– these items will irritate the rash more than help

The biggest worry with poison ivy rashes is the chance of infection.  Just like with an itchy insect bite, with each scratch, your child is possibly introducing  infection into an open wound.  Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between an allergic reaction to poison ivy and an infection.  Both are red, both can be warm, both can be swollen.

However, infections cause pain – if there is pain associated with a poison ivy rash, think infection.  Allergic reactions cause itchiness- if there is itchiness associated with a rash, think allergic reaction.  Because it usually takes time for an infection to “settle in,” an infection will not occur immediately after an exposure to poison ivy.  Infection usually occurs on the 2nd or 3rd day of scratching.  If you have any concerns take your child to her doctor.

Generally, any poison ivy rash which is in the area of the eye or genitals (difficult to apply topical remedies), appears infected, or is just plain making your child miserable needs medical attention.

When all else fails, comfort yourself with this statistic: up to 85% of people are allergic to poison ivy.  If misery loves company, your child certainly has company.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD
©2017, 2016, 2015 Two Peds in a Pod®, updated from 2012

Share

This photo above is a horrific yet terrific reminder of why we strap our kids into car seats. This child was buckled into a car seat when the unthinkable happened— a potentially lethal car accident. As you can see, the child’s bruises directly line up with properly-applied car seat restraints. Thankfully, the injuries to this child are only skin-deep. On the other hand, the photo below shows what happened to the car.

Please remember always to travel with your children properly restrained.

For maximum safety in cars:

  • Keep children in rear facing car seats until age two years. Usually they will outgrow the baby car seat that you brought them home in and you will need to install a new rear facing car seat before they reach two years.  Check the weight/height limits for the seat.
  • Keep them in the car seat until age five years, or until they outgrow the weight or height limits set forth by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Use a booster until your children are 4 feet 9 inches or until the car’s shoulder seatbelt falls naturally across the chest (not the neck) and the lap belt lies low across their hip bones (some kids are in boosters to age 10 years and beyond).
  • Keep infants and children in the back seat until at least age 13 years.
  • Don’t drive while distracted or sleep deprived. Children learn from watching their parents. Emulate now the way you want your 16-year- old to drive.

Your can read more details on car seats and seat belts on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website here.

Read about guidelines for child safety restraints on airplanes here.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

© 2017 Two Peds in a Pod®, photos used with permission

Share