Is your child sick? When to call the doctor

fever in children: when to call the doctor

Unfortunately, it is sick season. Fortunately, we have a great post to help you know when you need to call the doctor about your child’s illness. 

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2018 Two Peds in a Pod®




Help prevent your teen from playing risky games

Prevent your teen from taking unnecessary risks

Some games are riskier than others and it’s hard for teens to tell the difference.

Remember playing “Truth or Dare” as a kid? Some of the dares were silly, some potentially embarrassing, but some were downright risky. Now our children are playing potentially dangerous games. How can you prevent your teen from taking unnecessary risks?

To understand why kids would play risky games such as the Cinnamon Challenge or the Laughing Game, let’s step into the mindset of a teenager. Don’t let their adult-like appearances deceive you. Based on what we know about teenage brain development, teens are more likely to misinterpret or mislead social cues and emotions and to engage in risky behavior. Even though your teens may be taller than you, their deductive reasoning skills are not fully developed until around 25 years old. They have difficulty thinking through long term plans.

Take a simple example of studying. If they stay up very late studying, they do not consider that this will cause impairment in cognition the next day and consequently they are forced to stay up even later to understand class material. Further, because teens also are impulsive, they will typically check their cell phones multiple times while studying, which further pushes off bedtime. Days later, when it comes to taking a test in class, their cumulative sleep deprivation leads to poor focus and poor memory retrieval.

Applied to more dangerous situations and coupled with peer pressure, even a “good teen” may take unnecessary risks. Teens truly believe that they cannot die. Even if they know others who have died, they don’t think it can happen to them. So they may be more likely to run across a busy street, try getting high off of a friend’s Adderall, or drive distracted while checking social media on their phones.

Teen peer pressure + immature teen brain = disaster potential.

As parents, you do have some power to prevent disaster. You can teach your teens the tools you have acquired through the years to help them consider all potential consequences of their actions.

Here are some ways parents can teach:

  • Tell kids to pause first before playing any game. Think “What is the worst that can happen if I play the game, win or lose?” If the worst case scenario is severe injury or death, DON’T PLAY THE GAME. Remember that kids feel invincible.
  • Teach directly by allowing kids to take small risks. Like we’ve said before, hold tight, but remember to let go. If your child chooses not to study for a test in school, then let them fail the test. However, make sure they study for the final exam.
  • Teach indirectly through anecdotes, either from your own childhood or events you hear about. For example, your kids might not consider that the beach they visit with you every summer can hold danger. Tell them about the family I know who lost their teen to drowning while swimming too far and was caught in a riptide on an unguarded beach.
  • Teach kids that you cannot always save them. You cannot magically can save them if they get hit by traffic on a dare.
  • Know where your kid and your kid’s friends are developmentally and supervise accordingly. Volunteer to host the gatherings where a game may occur. Hint: Go down into the basement often with food-the kids will be happy to see you and you can be a better spy.
  • Keep ’em busy so that they do not play risky games simply out of boredom.
  • Give your kid a way out of an uncomfortable situation. Let them know they can always say, “I can’t, my parents would kill me.”

Unfortunately life is not all fun and games. Remind your kids that playing Monopoly or video games is not the same as taking real life risks.

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




Coughing out germs? Natural remedies for kids

It would be nice to have some natural remedies for kids when they "cough out germs."

“coughing out germs”

Recently a 6-year-old patient handed me this drawing of “a person coughing out germs.”

The artwork reminds us that a cough can be a good thing. A cough dislodges mucus from the airway and can help prevent pneumonia.

However, coughs can spread germs and make kids feel plenty uncomfortable.  And, frustrating for parents, many over-the-counter medicines are not recommended for kids.

Looking for natural remedies for kids? Look no further than your kitchen.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2018 Two Peds in a Pod®

 

 

 




How to get rid of Halloween Candy

How to get rid of Halloween Candy

After the fun

You poured out all of your two liter soda bottles, replaced all of the potato chip snacks with fruit, and signed up all of your children for winter sports.  Just when you thought your family’s exercise level and food choices were perfect, along comes Halloween, that fabulous candy-filled holiday, to thwart your efforts. Here are some ways to keep the Halloween candy deluge down to a trickle:

-Buy back the candy with toys or money. The Halloween Buy Back Program was started by dentist Chris Cammer in 2005. Traditionally, dentists buy back candy from kids and usually send the candy to United States troops. Find local participating dentists and learn more about the program here.

-Have the Sweet-Tooth Fairy or Switch Witch™ come overnight, pick up the candy, and leave a present behind.

-Let your children know Halloween (and most holidays) lasts only one day. Live it up on Halloween, then dump the extra sweets into the trashcan the next day. If you hear whining, remind them that until summer, holidays come at a pace of about once a month. Additionally, they may attend an awful lot of birthday parties in between. A parental saying you can recite is, “It’s not a treat if you have something all the time.”

-If you decide to keep a small bag of candy around, watch out, your children will want to eat some daily. Candy becomes an ongoing “must have.” Instead, designate a day of the week that you will let them have some candy such as Candy Friday or Sweet Saturday. If the kids whine for candy on any other day of the week, you can say, ”Sorry, it’s not Sweet Saturday.”

-One parent told me she discourages her kids from eating too much Halloween candy by making their dental appointments on November 1—the day after Halloween.

As final justification for getting rid of the abundance of candy after Halloween, Dr. Kardos and I have heard more than a few parents say, “If I don’t get the candy out of my house, I’ll be the one who ends up eating it all.”

Now, that’s a scary Halloween thought.

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




What’s that red mark on my child’s face? Picture puzzle of the day

 

spider angioma

A red mark on your child’s cheek appears just like the one above. Can you wait to ask the pediatrician about it at their next check up? Yes, you can wait. The spider-like pinkish mark is aptly named a spider angioma. Also called by other names such as spider nevus or spider telangiectasia, the marks are composed of fine blood vessels in a radiating pattern close to the skin’s surface. When pressed, they momentarily disappear (blanching). Although in adults they can be associated with pregnancy or liver disease, having one or two is common in healthy children. Since they are harmless and often resolve in their own, we usually leave them alone.

There’s also a type of red mark called a cherry angioma. You can probably guess what shape those marks take.

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




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®




How to stop nail biting-thoughts to chew on

Stop Nail biting

A preschooler nibbles on her nails.

Stop nail biting! One of our readers wrote to us: “My 3.5-year-old daughter has started biting her nails to the quick. She does have a new little sister so perhaps it is stress/anxiety about that, but I don’t know what to do. Do I ignore it? Offer rewards for not biting? Please help – the habit drives me nuts and her poor little fingers are looking worse for the wear (and painful).”

As many of you have likely already discovered, telling your kid, or pleading with them, or bribing, ignoring, or yelling at them, will not help your kids stop nail biting.

Nail biting is a common childhood habit. Really common. In fact, according to this review article from 2015, it is THE most common habit seen in school-aged and college-aged kids. As many as 60% of kids, at some point, bite their nails. Nail biting usually starts between the ages of three to six years, so our reader’s child is right on target for this habit.

I am amused that many of the parents who ask me how to help their kids stop biting their nails are, themselves, nail biters. I will point out that even if we can’t stop nail biting, the concerned parent is a living example of a nail biter who still grows into a successful adult.

Assuming that your child is otherwise acting well, eating and sleeping normally, and mostly cheerful, it is not always important to identify the trigger of nail biting. More importantly, make sure your child washes their hands after playing outside and before eating (and nail biting) to limit germ spread. Check their fingers for signs of infections that can result from nail biting.

What to do

A quick internet search reveals dozens of products that you can dab onto your child’s fingers to discourage nail biting. Products with nasty tasting ingredients such as “bitter apple” tote promises such as “stop nail biting instantly.” Unfortunately, most nail biters are not deterred by paint-on products.

Usually kids have a hard time breaking a habit unless they REALLY want to break it themselves. Here are some suggestions to help:

  • Offer painting nails or small rewards for not biting nails.
  • Don’t be a nag.
  • Establish a code word for stop biting your nails that only your child knows. The word can be a nonsense word (e.g. oogleschmertz) or a word entirely out of context (e.g. elephant). For younger kids especially, this creates an environment of humor, rather than annoyance when you are reminding them to stop biting.
  • Substitute a less annoying habit for nail biting. Hand them something to keep their hands busy. Give them a squishy toy to squish or a hair scrunchy to wear on their wrist to flick.
  • Offer older kids sugarless chewing gum to keep their teeth busy.

If all else fails, take heart in one study that came out in favor of nail biting (and thumb sucking). Perhaps it’s not imperative to stop nail biting after all. The study showed that nail biters and thumb suckers had a lower rate of atopic sensitization (medical term for allergic eczema) than their non-nail biting or thumb sucking peers. The researchers conclude “Although we do not suggest that children should be encouraged to take up these oral habits, the findings suggest that thumb sucking and nail biting reduce the risk for developing sensitization to common aeroallergens.” In other words, the nail biters show fewer allergy symptoms in their skin than the non-nail biters.

Let’s face it: We all are creatures of habit. The key is to make sure the habit is not self-detrimental. Every childhood habit does not need to be broken immediately, even if it drives us parents crazy.

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




Easy way to remove a tick

how to remove a tick

Ick, a tick.

I was grumpy all morning after realizing that my dog was out of tick repellent. Really grumpy. I did not like the thought of having to remove a tick from my dog.

After all, on the East Coast of the United States, we are seeing ticks galore. All month long, parents who have had to remove a tick have been bringing us presents such as the one pictured here. Yes, that is a tick you see nicely trapped in tape. Sometimes when parents bring us a tick, it’s still clinging to the child and they ask us to remove it. To save you a trip to the doctor’s office, here is a quick refresher on how to pluck the bugs off: 

1. Take a deep breath and pretend that it’s just a speck of lint—not an ugly critter with a bloated stomach and writhing legs.
2. Use tweezers and firmly clasp the head. If the tick is tiny, you will end up grabbing the entire body.
3. Pull the tick straight up and off. Hint: Press down on the skin on either side of the tick so that the skin doesn’t pull up when you pull the tick off. This lessens any pinching sensation your child may feel.

Please do not try to burn a tick off—you’ll just burn your child’s skin. In addition, avoid suffocation techniques such as covering a tick with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or nail polish because these techniques are not very effective, allow the tick to stay on for a longer period of time, and may cause the tick to become slippery and difficult to grasp.

After removal, if the tick’s head is left behind, don’t go digging for it. Just like a tiny splinter, your skin will naturally try to expel it. Soaking the area in warm water will help the process along. Don’t worry about disease transmission: there is not any disease stuck in a head.

Wash the skin where the tick was using soap and water as you would any cut to prevent a skin infection. A small, minimally tender, pimple like bump is a common reaction which may be present for a few days. This is an irritation response of the skin. If the tick was a deer tick (typically the size of a poppy or sesame seed), watch for the rash of Lyme disease that appears as a flat, pink, round patch about a week later. The patch may clear in the center and grows to at least 2 1/2 inches across.

My daughter told me that once, a girl at her lunch table had a tick on her. None of the kids could pick it off and the girl sat screaming until the lunch lady came over to help her. May be you’ll be the lucky adult called over to help next time.

Just remember…pretend it’s a speck of lint.

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