Hooray! United States flu vaccine is here!

should my child get the flu vaccine?

Fight the flu! Vaccinate!

It’s time for your child’s yearly flu vaccine!

Why get the flu shot? Vaccinate against influenza (the flu) not only to avoid missed school days, but also to avoid hospitalizations and death. Last year in the USA, 172 children died from flu. You may not have heard about these fatalities because more sensational news tends to overshadow news about illness. We wish the news would inform that the vast majority of kids who died from flu had not received the flu vaccine. In addition, about half of the children who died from the flu were previously healthy and without underlying medical problems. Excluding the 2009 flu pandemic (H1N1), last year’s flu deaths represents “the highest reported since influenza-associated pediatric mortality became a nationally notifiable condition in 2004.” Kids younger than 5 years old have the highest flu complication rate of all children, so even if they do not yet attend daycare or school, bring your little ones in for a flu vaccine. Vaccinate your school-aged kids as well, for they spread the flu to more folks than any other age group.

Does it help to wait to give the vaccine? What if the vaccine wears off before flu season ends?
We wish we could predict just when the flu will hit, but sadly we cannot. Therefore, we urge you to give your children the flu vaccine as soon as your pediatrician has it available. Like all vaccines, it will take about two weeks for the protection against flu to kick in, and you never know when flu will strike your community. Did anyone catch the story about Vanilla Ice quarantined on a plane in New York with sick passengers last week? Turns out flu was on board. Don’t worry about immunity decreasing over time, infectious disease experts would not allow us to give it in early fall if they thought protection wouldn’t last for at least a few months.

If I give my children the flu vaccine every year, why do I have to give it again this year? Even we constantly-exposed-to-germs pediatricians get our flu vaccine yearly. The flu germs morph from year to year so the vaccine also changes.

Why does my younger child need a second dose this year?
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).

Is the nasal spray form back? Or is it only in injectable form?
The nasal spray form of the flu vaccine is back for healthy kids ages 2 years and up. However, this year, it received only a lukewarm reception from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP recommends giving all children aged 6 months and older the flu SHOT, because in past years the intranasal form did not protect against the flu nearly as well as the shot did.

Not only is the nasal spray vaccine not getting a high endorsement, but some kids with asthma and kids with certain immune system problems are not allowed to get the nasal spray form. All kids can get the shot. So, pediatricians will continue to recommend injectable form of flu vaccine this year. However, with the rationale that something is better than nothing, for the severely injection-phobic family, some doctors may elect to give the nasal spray.

In the past, my child did not get the flu vaccine because he is allergic to eggs- did that change?
Even kids with severe egg allergies can get the flu shot safely in their pediatrician’s office. Now we know that allergic reactions to flu vaccine, as with any vaccine, are exceedingly rare.

We visit other people’s homes only if they are not sick. If my child’s friend doesn’t have flu symptoms, doesn’t that mean we can’t catch it from him?
Nope. You are infectious the day before symptoms show up.

Why is it worth it? The coverage is never 100 percent.
Children who get the flu vaccine but then get the flu anyway do not get sick as severely as kids who are unvaccinated. If all kids and adults got flu vaccine, then the chances of YOUR vaccinated child getting flu would be MUCH less. That’s how vaccines work.

Here we have tips on how to help your children if they get the flu.

You can read a comprehensive summary of this year’s flu vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control here.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
© 2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




Updated car seat safety guidelines!

car seat safety 2018 update

Car seat safety isn’t just child’s play.

Just in time for families who plan to drive to Labor Day Weekend destinations, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their car seat safety recommendations.

Families are now encouraged to keep their children rear facing for as long as possible, until they exceed the height or weight limit allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer. This means that some kids who are older than two years will continue to ride backwards. Dr. Lai’s own pip squeaks easily would have ridden backwards until they were three or four years old.

Regardless of age, kids facing backward in a car crash fare better than kids facing forward. A rear facing car seat prevents whip lash by fully supporting a child’s head and neck. A forward facing car seat does not restrain kids’ heads. In a crash, kids’ heads continue to move at the speed of the car until the shoulder harnesses and lap belts restrain their bodies. It makes us wish that grownups could also somehow ride backwards.

Other recommendations remain the same. For example, children can graduate from booster seats when they are 4 ft 9 inches tall and the car’s seat belt fits them properly. You can read about other car safety tips and view a link to children’s airline safety restraints in our 2017 post about car seat safety. In the post you will see a fabulous photo of a child who was saved by her car seat.

Again, no matter the age, as long as they fit, keep your children riding backwards in their car seats.

We’re thrilled that car safety has progressed over the years. Pictured here is Dr. Lai ready to go out in her 1960’s car seat : 1960 car seat

Drive Safe!

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




Ready for school: backpacks, packing lunches, when to keep your kid home for illness, and more

 

get your kids ready for schoolNow that you just read how to drop your kid off at school on the first day, you may be backpack shopping, pondering what to send your child for lunch, and knowing that your child will have difficulty waking up early for school. Never fear! Your Two Peds can help you and your kids get ready for school.

First, make sure your child’s backpack fits correctly and is not too heavy. Our guest blogger, a pediatric physical therapist, provides tips to help lighten the load.

Help your child get back on a school-friendly sleep schedule. If your child is still in summer vacation sleep mode, we provide ways to help get your child’s sleep back on track.

If your child brings lunch to school, you may need some hints on what to pack and how to beware of junk food disguised as healthy food. And this post provides suggestions for healthy snacks.

Need suggestions on how to motivate your child to want to learn? Two former school principals share their wisdom in this post.

Finally, you should know when to keep your child home for illness. This post also contains some surprising truths about when you can send your child back to school during as well as after certain maladies.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




In a scrape? Preventing infection in cuts and scrapes

cuts and scrapes

How can you tell if your child’s scrape is infected if his skin is already bright red?

I heaved a sigh of relief. My children greeted my husband and me at the door. The children had just baby-sat themselves. I thought everyone was unscathed until I saw one of my children covered in bandages. Cuts and scrapes? Apparently, although I had admonished them not to ride anything with wheels and not to climb on anything above the ground, the child with the bandages had tripped over her own feet during a benign game of four square.

“Did you wash the scrapes?” I asked.

“Yes,” the kids said, proudly nodding. They knew the first line of defense against a wound infection is to wash out cuts and scrapes. But as it turns out, they had only dabbed the cuts with wet paper towels. Aghast, I propelled the injured child off to the bathroom and hosed down the cuts. Too many times I have seen a minor scrape turn into a major skin infection.

When a wound is not thoroughly cleansed, the bacteria which normally live on intact skin (Staphylococcus or Streptococcus) find an opportunity to enter the body through the wound and cause infections. Even a mosquito bite can turn into a raging, puss-filled mess if scratched often and not cleansed enough. These days, some children carry on their skin a type of Staphylococcus called MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus). Since this germ can be tough to treat when it causes an infection, a thorough cleansing is more important than ever.

While infection is rarely introduced from the actual object that cuts the child, exceptions include cuts caused by animal or human bites (the human mouth is particularly filthy) and cuts caused by old, dirty or rusty metal. Tetanus lives in non-oxygenated places such as soil. So for deep or very dirty wounds, make sure your child’s tetanus vaccine is up to date.

Despite what many believe, wiping the surface of a cut with a wipe is not adequate to cleanse a wound. “Irrigate, irrigate, irrigate,” a wise Emergency Department physician explained to me when I was a resident in training. “I have never had someone return with a wound infection,” she said proudly. In the emergency room, saline is usually used. At home, soap and running water are effective. Stay away from hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol because they can irritate rather than help the skin.

After washing your child’s cuts and scrapes, you can use bandages to help prevent further exposure to germs and to avoid irritation from clothes or from your child’s scratching, probing fingers. Infections, if they occur, can set in 2-3 days after your child gets her wound. Remove the bandage daily and check the wound for signs of infection such as pus, increased redness, warmth and pain. Wash the wound again, and then replace the bandage. You could also apply topical antibiotic such as Bacitracin to further help prevent wound infection.

So, even if your child just took a shower, wash him again if he scrapes himself. The sooner you irrigate even the tiniest of wounds, the better.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of antibiotics.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD
© 2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




Stealthy Salmonella! Not just in your eggs

salmonella

Raw chicken left out overnight—Dr. Lai’s recipe for Salmonella

These days it seems that the bacteria Salmonella is lurking everywhere. Last month’s egg recall for possible Salmonella contamination affected over 200 million eggs, but Salmonella is not just in eggs. In the last few months, dried coconuts and even guinea pigs (as pets, not as food!) have caused people gastroentestinal misery.

Nontyphoidal Salmonella usually causes fever and crampy diarrhea. Sometimes the stools contain blood. This stomach bug mainly lurks in raw poultry, raw eggs, raw beef, and unpasturized dairy products. Luckily, Salmonella does not jump up and attack humans. In general, people are safe from disease as long as they do not eat salmonella-infested food. But children below the age of five often put their hands in their mouths and can acquire Salmonella after touching a  contaminated source.

Reptiles such as  lizards and turtles can carry Salmonella in their stool and are not recommended as pets for young children. Turtles that are four inches or smaller (about the size of a deck of playing cards) are most likely to harbor the bacteria. As a preschooler, Dr. Kardos remembers that her tiny pet turtle suddenly disappeared. Her parents told her that “Her pet would be happier if it went outside to the stream to swim with the other turtles.” In retrospect, Dr. Kardos thinks her pediatrician dad was worried about Salmonella and made the turtle magically disappear.

Even cute little chicks can be problematic. Salmonella carried in the gut of a chick can contaminate the entire surface of a chick. So, although kissing and cuddling a chick makes for a good Instagram post, discourage your children from doing so.

Unfortunately, you cannot depend on a warning stench arising from your lunch to warn you that it is inedible. Salmonella often hides in food and it is difficult to tell what is or is not contaminated. So how can you prevent your kids from catching Salmonella?

Luckily Salmonella is killed by heat and bleach. Even if an otherwise fine-looking and odorless raw egg has Salmonella, adequate cooking will destroy the bacteria. Gone are the days when parents can feed kids soft boiled eggs in a silver cup, have kids wipe up with toast the yolk from a sunny-side up egg, add a raw egg to a milkshake, or let their kids lick the left-over cake batter from the mixing bowl. Instead, cook hardboiled eggs until the yolks are green and crumble, and make sure your scrambled eggs aren’t runny. Wash all utensils well. The disinfecting solution used in childcare centers of ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon water works well to sanitize counters. Do not keep perishable food, even if it is cooked, out at room temperature for more than two hours. And wash, wash, wash your hands.

A mom once called us frantic because her child had just happily eaten a half-cooked chicken nugget. What if this happens to your child? Don’t panic. Watch for symptoms — the onset of diarrhea from Salmonella is usually between 12 to 36 hours after exposure but can occur up to three days later. The diarrhea can last up to 5-7 days. If symptoms occur, the general recommendation is to ride it out. Prevent dehydration by giving plenty of fluids. My simple rule to prevent dehydration is that more must go in than comes out.

Although of unproven benefit, antibiotic treatment may be considered if your child is at risk for overwhelming infection, including infants younger than three months old and those with abnormal immune systems (cancer, HIV, Sickle Cell disease, kids taking daily steroids for other illnesses) or those with chronic gastrointestinal tract diseases*. Using antibiotics to treat a typical case of salmonella not only promotes general antibiotic resistance, but also does not shorten the time frame for the illness. In fact, the medication can prolong how long your child carries the germ in his stool.

Pictured above is a pot of chicken Dr. Lai accidentally left out overnight one warm summer night. Yuck.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD

©2018 Two Peds in a Pod®

*Red Book, 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, American Academy of Pediatrics




How to treat your kid’s allergies: sorting out over the counter medications

Gepetto always said his son had allergies, but the villagers knew better

 

It’s not your imagination. This is a particularly bad spring allergy season. We didn’t need media outlets to tell us that there are more itchy, sneezy, swollen eyed kids out there this year.

It is worth treating your child’s allergy symptoms- less itching leads to improved sleep, better ability to pay attention in school, improved overall mood, and can prevent asthma symptoms in kids who have asthma in addition to their nose and eye allergies. .

Luckily, nearly every allergy medication that we wrote prescriptions for a decade ago is now available over-the-counter. As you and your child peer around the pharmacy through itchy blurry eyes, the displays for allergy medications for kids can be overwhelming. Should you chose the medication whose ads feature a bubbly seven-year-old girl kicking a soccer ball in a field of grass, or the medication whose ads feature a bubbly ten-year-old boy roller blading? Its it better to buy a “fast” acting medication or medication that promises your child “relief?”

Here is a guide to sorting out your medication choices:

Oral antihistamines: Oral antihistamines differ mostly by how long they last, how well they help itchiness, and their side effect profile. During an allergic reaction, antihistamines block one of the agents responsible for producing swelling and secretions in your child’s body, called histamine. Prescription antihistamines are not necessarily “stronger.” In fact, at this point there are very few prescription antihistamines. The “best” choice is the one that alleviates your child’s symptoms the best. As a good first choice, if another family member has had success with one antihistamine, then genetics suggest that your child may respond as well to the same medicine. Be sure to check the label for age range and proper dosing.

First generation antihistamines work well at drying up nasal secretions and stopping itchiness but don’t tend to last as long and often make kids very sleepy. Diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) is the best known medicine in this category. It lasts only about six hours and can make people so tired that it is the main ingredient for many over-the-counter adult sleep aids. Occasionally, kids become “hyper” and are unable to sleep after taking this medicine. Opinion from Dr. Lai: dye-free formulations of diphenhydramine are poor tasting. Other first generation antihistamines include Brompheniramine (eg. brand names Bromfed and Dimetapp) and Clemastine (eg. brand name Tavist).

Second and third generation antihistamines cause less sedation and are conveniently dosed only once a day. Cetirizine (eg. brand Zyrtec) causes less sleepiness and it helps itching fairly well. Give the dose to your child at bedtime to further decrease the chance of sleepiness during the day. Loratadine (brand name Alavert, Claritin) causes less sleepiness than cetirizine. Fexofenadine (brand name Allegra) causes the least amount of sedation. The liquid formulations in this category tend to be rather sticky, the chewables and dissolvables are favorites among kids. For older children, the pills are a reasonable size for easy swallowing.

Allergy eye drops: Your choices for over-the-counter antihistamine drops include ketotifen fumarate (eg. Zatidor and Alaway). For eyes, drops tend to work better than oral medication. Avoid products that contain vasoconstrictors (look on the label or ask the pharmacist) because these can cause rebound redness after 2-3 days and do not treat the actual cause of the allergy symptoms. Contact lenses can be worn with some allergy eye drops- check the package insert, and avoid wearing contacts when the eyes look red. Artificial tears can help soothe dry itchy eyes as well.

Allergy nose sprays: Simple nasal saline helps flush out allergens and relieves nasal congestion from allergies. Flonase, which used to be available by prescription only, is a steroid allergy nose spray that is quite effective at eliminating symptoms. It takes about a week until your child will notice the benefits of this medicine. Even though this medicine is over-the-counter, check with your child’s pediatrician if you find that your child needs to continue with this spray for more than one allergy season of the year. Day in and day out use can lead to thinning of the nasal septum. Avoid the use of nasal decongestants (e.g., Afrin, Neo-Synephrine) for more than 2-3 days because a rebound runny nose called rhinitis medicamentosa may occur.

Oral Decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine can help decrease nasal stuffiness. This is the “D” in “Claritin D” or “Allegra D.” However, their use is not recommended in children under age 6 years because of potential side effects such as rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and sleep disturbances.

Some of the above mentioned medicines can be taken together and some cannot. Read labels carefully for the active ingredient. Do not give more than one oral antihistamine at a time. In contrast, most antihistamine eye drops and nose sprays can be given together along with an oral antihistamine.

If you are still lost, call your child’s pediatrician to tailor an allergy plan specific to her needs.

The best medication for kids? Get the irritating pollen off your child. Have your allergic child wash her hands and face as soon as she comes in from playing outside so she does not rub pollen into her eyes and nose. know that spring and summer allergens/pollen counts are highest in the evening, vs fall allergies where counts are highest in the mornings. Rinse outdoor particles off your child’s body with nightly showers. Filter the air when driving in the car and at home: run the air conditioner and close the windows to prevent the “great” outdoors from entering your child’s nose. If you are wondering about current pollen counts in your area, scroll down to the bottom of many of the weather apps to find pollen counts or log into the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s website.

Naline Lai MD and Julie Kardos, MD
© 2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




Contribute to our Two Peds Mother’s Day post!

Dr. Kardos, on a visit home from medical school, with her mom and grandmothers, 1991.

A flash of surprise spread across her face. “You mean my mother was right? I can’t believe it!” the mom in our office exclaimed.

Many times as we dispense pediatric advice, the parent in our office realizes that their own mother had already offered the same suggestions.

This Mother’s Day, we’re asking readers for anecdotes about times where maybe, just maybe, your mom or your grandmother was right after all. If you have a photo available of your mom or grandmother with your child that you don’t mind sharing as well, we would love to post them along with your anecdotes this Mother’s Day.

Please send them along to us at twopedsinapod@gmail.com before Mother’s Day weekend.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD

©2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




How to tell if your toddler has autism

how to tell if baby has autismAccording to a 2012 National Center for Health Statistics data brief, about half of all children in the United States with an autistic spectrum disorder are diagnosed at age five or older  However, many parents are suspicious much sooner. As part of autism awareness month, we bring you clues in toddler development that can alert you to a potential issue. This post follows up on our earlier post “How can I tell if my baby has autism?

Pediatricians often use a questionnaire called the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) as a screening tool. This test can be downloaded for free. In our office we administer the M-CHAT at the 18-month well child visit and again at the two-year well visit, but the test is valid down to 16 months and in kids as old as 30 months. Not every child who fails this test has autism, but the screening helps us to identify which child needs further evaluation.

At 15-18 months of age, children should show the beginnings of pretend play. For example, if you give your child a toy car, the toddler should pretend to drive the car on a road, make appropriate car noises, or maybe even narrate the action: “Up, up, up, down, down, rrrroooom!” Younger babies mouth the car, spin the wheels, hold it in different positions, or drag a car upside down, but by 18 months, they perceive a car is a car and make it act accordingly. Other examples of pretend play are when a toddler uses an empty spoon and pretends to feed his dad, or takes the T.V. remote and then holds it like a phone and says “hello?” You may also see him take a baby doll, tuck baby into bed, and cover her with a blanket.

Eye contact in American culture is a sign that the child is paying attention and engaged with another person. Lack of eye contact or lack of “checking in” with parents and other caregivers can be a sign of delayed social development.

Kids periodically try to get their parents to pay attention to what they are doing. Lack of enticing a parent into play or lack of interest in what parents or other children are up to by this age is a sign of delayed social development. Ask yourself, “Does my child bring me things? Does he show me things?” Also, although they may not share or take turns, toddlers should still be interested in other children.

Many typical two-year-olds like to line things up. They will line up cars, stuffed animals, shapes from a shape sorter, or books. The difference between a typically-developing two-year-old and one that might have autism is that the typically-developing child will not line things up the exact same way every time. It’s fine to hand your child car after car as he contently lines them up, but I worry about the toddler who has a tantrum if you switch the blue for the green car in the lineup.

Two-year-olds should speak in 2-3 word sentences or phrases that communicate their needs. Autism is a communication disorder, and since speech is the primary means to communicate, delayed speech may signal autism. Even children with hearing issues who are speech-delayed should still use vocal utterances and gestures or formal sign language to communicate.

Atypically terrible “terrible twos.” Having a sensory threshold above or below what you expect may be a sign of autism. While an over-tired toddler is prone to meltdowns and screaming, parents can often tell what triggered the meltdown. For example, my oldest, at this age, used to have a tantrum every time the butter melted on his still-warm waffle. Yes, it seemed a ridiculous reason to scream, but I could still follow his logic. Autistic children are prone to screaming rages beyond what seems reasonable or logical. Look also for the child who does not startle at loud noises, or withdraws from physical contact because it is overstimulating.

By three years, children make friends with children their own age. They are past the “mine” phase and enjoy playing, negotiating, competing, and sharing with other three-year-olds. Not every three year old has to be a social butterfly but he should have at least one “best buddy.”

Regression of skills at any age is a great concern. Parents should alert their child’s pediatrician if their child stops talking, stops communicating, or stops interacting normally with family or friends.

It’ s okay to compare. Comparing your child to other same-age children may alert you to delays. For example, I had parents of twins raise concerns because one twin developed communication skills at a different pace than the other twin.

Although you may wonder if your child has autism, there are other diagnoses to consider. For instance, children need all of their senses intact in order to communicate well. I had a patient who seemed quite delayed, and it turned out that his vision was terrible. He never complained about not seeing well because he didn’t know any other way of seeing. After my patient was fitted with strong glasses at the age of three, his development accelerated dramatically. The same occurs for children with hearing loss—you can’t learn to talk if you can’t hear the sounds that you need to mimic, and you can’t react properly to others if you can’t hear them.

If you or your pediatrician suspect your child has autism, early, intensive special instruction, even before a diagnosis is finalized, is important. Every state in the United States has Early Intervention services that are parent-prompted and free for kids. The sooner your child starts to works on alternate means of communication, the quicker the frustration in families dissipates and the more likely your child is to ultimately develop language and social skills. Do not be afraid of looking for a diagnosis. He will be the same child you love regardless of a diagnosis. The only difference is that he will receive the interventions he needs.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2018, 2013 Two Peds in a Pod®




“Ya Gotta Have Heart!” Heart Murmurs Explained

heart murmur

Conversation hearts murmuring.

 

When the Tin Man was a child in Oz, I’m sure his pediatrician never told his parents, “Has anyone ever said your child has a heart murmur? I hear one today.”

I know that when I tell parents about a heart murmur in their child, their hearts skip and jump. But not all heart murmurs are bad.

A heart murmur is an extra sound that we pediatricians hear when we listen to a child’s heart with a stethoscope. A normal heart beat sounds like this:  “lub, dub.  lub, dub.  lub, dub.”  A heart murmur adds a whooshing sound.  So what we hear instead is “lub, whoosh, dub” or “lub, dub, whoosh.”

The “whoosh” is usually caused by blood flowing through a relatively narrow opening somewhere in or around the heart. Think of your blood vessels and heart like a garden hose.  If you run the water (blood) very hard, or put a kink or cut a hole in the hose, the whoosh of the water grows louder in those locations.

Heart murmurs signal different issues at different ages. In a newborn, some types of heart murmurs are expected. Normal newborn hearts contain extra holes that close up after the first hours or days of birth. One type of murmur occurs as the infant draws in his first breath and holes in the heart, present inside the womb, begin to seal. As the holes get narrower, we sometimes hear the “whoosh” of blood as it flows through the narrowing opening. Then these holes close completely and the murmur goes away.

However, some murmurs in infancy signal “extra holes” in the heart. As pediatricians, we experience our own heart palpitations when moms want to leave the hospital early with their infants who are less than 48 hours old. We worry because many infants who have abnormal hearts may not develop their abnormal heart murmurs and other signs of heart failure until the day or two after birth.

Preschool and early school-age children often develop “innocent” heart murmurs. “Innocent” implies that extra blood flows through their hearts, but the hearts are structurally normal. These murmurs are fairly common and can run in families. However, there are some significant heart problems which do not surface until this age. For this reason, remember to schedule those yearly well child checkups.

For teens, during the pre-participation sports physical, pediatricians listen carefully for a murmur that may indicate that an over grown heart muscle has developed.

Holes are not the only culprit behind a murmur. The whoosh sound can also arise when a person is anemic and blood flows faster than normal. In anemic kids, the blood flows faster because it lacks enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells and the heart needs to move blood faster in order to supply oxygen to the body. The most common cause for anemia is a lack of eating enough iron-containing foods. Subsequently, we hear these flow murmurs in children whose diets lack iron, in teenagers who grow rapidly and quickly use up their iron stores, and in girls who bleed too much at each period. Replenishing the iron level makes a heart murmur from anemia go away.

Even a simple fever can cause a heart murmur on physical exam. The murmur goes away when the fever goes away.

Pediatric health care providers can often distinguish between “innocent” heart murmurs and not-so- innocent heart murmurs by the sound of the murmur itself (not all “whooshes” sound alike). If any question exists, your child will be referred for more testing, which could include a chest x-ray, an EKG (electrocardiogram), and ECHO (echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart) or evaluation by a pediatric cardiologist.

If your child’s pediatrician tells you that your child has a heart murmur, “take heart.” Many times a murmur comes and goes or just becomes part of your child’s baseline physical exam. Even if your child has a serious heart problem, most cases respond well to medication, surgery, or both. While not all heart problems cause heart murmurs, and while not all murmurs signal heart problems, the presence of a heart murmur in a child can signal that your child needs further testing.

Unless, of course, your child is the Tin Man. In this case, extra sounds indicate that your child needs more oil!

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2010, 2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




Raising emotionally healthy boys

emotionally healthy boy

photo by Lexi Logan, www.lexilogan.com

 

The recent Parkland shooting in Florida is causing many to wonder how to support the emotional health of boys in their families and communities. We welcome therapist Dina Ricciardo’s words of wisdom— Drs. Kardos and Lai

Your son is crying.  A mad dash across the playground has led to a spectacular trip and fall, complete with a bloody knee and hands full of dirt.  Part of you wants to hold him on your lap and console him until he stops crying.  The other part of you wants to firmly wipe away his tears and tell him to be brave.  Which part of you is right?

In a world where there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the emotional health of girls, our boys are frequently overlooked.  While girls are typically encouraged to develop and express a broad range of emotions, boys are socialized from a young age to suppress their feelings. As a result, many boys and men struggle to express fear or sadness and are unable to ask for help.  It is time for us adults to stop perpetuating stereotypes and myths about manhood, and help each other raise emotionally healthy boys. Here are five ways for us to do so:

Make his living environment a safe space to express emotions. Give your son permission to express all of his feelings. Boys typically do not have the freedom to show the full range of their emotions in school and out in the world, so it is essential that they have that freedom at home.  Nothing should be off limits, as long as feelings are expressed in a manner that is not destructive.

Expose him to positive male role models. Boys need to be exposed to positive male figures who can to indoctrinate them into their culture and teach them how to be men. It is an important rite of passage in a boy’s development.  Take a look around your social ecosystem and ask yourself, “Who would be good for my son?”  Other parents, coaches, teachers, and pastors are examples of individuals who can play a positive role in his life.

Understand your unique role.  Each parent plays a unique role in the development of a son, and that role changes over time. A mother is a son’s first teacher about love and what it looks like, and this dynamic can breed a particular kind of closeness.  As a boy grows and begins to develop his sexuality, however, it is natural for him to pull away a bit from his mother and turn more towards his father for guidance. While this distance can be unsettling for mom, it marks a new phase in a son’s relationship with his father, who typically provides a sense of security and authority in a family as well as support for a boy’s developing identity. Mothers still play an important role, but that role may look different. As parents, it is important to re-evaluate what our sons need from us at each stage of their development.

Look at the world with a critical eye. Our culture not only glorifies violence, it equates vulnerability in males with weakness and attempts to crush it. That does not mean we have to accept this paradigm.  Talk honestly with your son about how and when to be gentle and compassionate, educate him on how the world view softness in men, and never tolerate anyone shaming him when he exhibits these traits. There is no shame in showing vulnerability, it is actually an act of courage.

Take a look in the mirror. Whether you are a mother or a father (or both), be honest with yourself: what are your beliefs about manhood? Do you feel safe expressing all of your feelings, or are some of them off-limits? If you are perpetuating negative stereotypes about men or are not comfortable with a full range of emotions, then your son will follow in your footsteps. Regardless of our own gender, we cannot expect our children to be comfortable with their feelings if we are not comfortable with our own.

There are times when insuring the emotional health of your son will feel like an uphill battle.  Keep the conversation open, and do not be afraid to talk with others about the dilemmas of boyhood and manhood.  And if you are looking for an answer to the playground dilemma, then I will tell you that both parts of you are right.  Sometimes our sons need loving compassion, and sometimes they need a firm nudge over the hump.  You know your child better than anyone else, so it is up to you to decide which approach to use and when.

Dina Ricciardi, LSW, ACSW

©2016, 2018 Two Peds in a Pod®

Dina Ricciardi is a psychotherapist in private practice treating children, adolescents, and adults in Doylestown, PA. She specializes in disordered eating and pediatric and adult anxiety, and is also trained in Sandtray Therapy. Ricciardi is a Licensed Social Worker and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She can be reached at dina@nourishcounseling.com.