Posts Tagged ‘childhood illness’


Monday, October 7th, 2013

Have you found what looks like white threads in your child’s poop? It could be pinworms. Eeewwww, you say? Actually, they’re fairly common (pinworm infection is the most common type of intestinal worm infection in the United States) and nothing to be embarrassed by, but they do need to be treated.

People who have pinworms are not dirty — kids can get pinworms no matter how often they take a bath or play in the mud. A pinworm infection happens when you accidentally swallow microscopic pinworm eggs. These eggs can be carried to your mouth by contaminated food or drink, or your fingers (they’re often trapped under the finger nails). Once swallowed, the eggs hatch in the intestines and grow into adult worms within a few weeks.

Pinworms live in the lower intestine but come out at night through the anus to lay eggs on nearby skin. They can cause itching, which can be annoying enough to wake a child at night. Your child’s health care provider can diagnose pinworms by finding them in the diaper or underwear or finding the eggs. Using sticky tape around the anus, the doc can remove a sample then look at it through a microscope to see pinworm eggs. Once found, there is a simple and effective way to get rid of them through medication.
Pinworms spread easily. People can spread the eggs to others directly through hand contact, or through contaminated clothing, bedding, food, or other articles. And the eggs can live on household surfaces for up to 2 weeks. If one person in a family is found to have pinworms, it’s best to treat the whole family.

The most effective way to keep from getting pinworms is to tell everyone to wash your hands often with warm, soapy water before you eat, after you play outside, and after you use the toilet or change diapers. Try to keep your fingernails short and clean, and don’t scratch around your bottom or bite your nails.

Here’s a link to more information.

Pertussis on the rise again

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Some states, like Colorado and Texas, are reporting near record numbers of pertussis (whooping cough) cases this year. The number of pertussis cases in this country has more than doubled since 2000.

Pertussis leads to coughing and choking that can last for several weeks. Babies who catch pertussis can get very sick, and some may die. Most deaths from pertussis happen in babies less than 4 months old.

Please protect yourself and your children with the pertussis vaccine.

The battle against pertussis

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

sarah-michelle-gellar2Actress and mother of two Sarah Michelle Gellar has joined March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur on the Sounds of Pertussis® Campaign to help raise awareness about pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and the importance of adult vaccination. Pertussis is on the rise across the U.S., and infants and young children may be most vulnerable.

“The reality is that parents, grandparents and other family members may unknowingly spread pertussis to the babies in their lives,” says Sarah Michelle Gellar. “That’s why I was vaccinated and so was my family to help protect ourselves and to help stop the spread of the disease to my two children. Now, as the National Sounds of Pertussis Campaign Ambassador I’m urging adults everywhere to do the same.”

Pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease, especially in young children. In 2012, there were more than 41,000 reported pertussis cases and 18 deaths in the U.S., with more than 83 percent of deaths occurring in infants younger than 12 months of age. Infants are particularly vulnerable to pertussis because they don’t begin receiving their own vaccinations until they are two months old and may not be protected until they have received at least three doses of the infant DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine. Researchers found that in cases where it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby up to 80 percent of the time. More specifically, parents were responsible up to 50 percent of the time.

“Immunity from early childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off after about five to 10 years, meaning even adults who were immunized as children may no longer be protected,” says Siobhan M. Dolan, M.D., medical advisor to March of Dimes. “The best way for adults to help protect themselves and to help prevent the spread of the disease is to ensure they are vaccinated.”

Gellar is encouraging parents of infants everywhere to use the Campaign’s new Facebook application – the Breathing Room – that allows parents to send a brief message to family and friends in their Facebook network asking them to make the pledge to be vaccinated against pertussis before meeting the newborn in their life. Parents can personalize their own Breathing Room and help keep track of who in their child’s circle of care has been, or pledges to be, vaccinated against this potentially fatal disease by populating their baby’s virtual nursery with pictures of their family and friends from their Facebook network.

To learn more about the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, please visit The website provides resources and educational tools, including information on the new Breathing Room Facebook app.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dr. Fisk GreenToday’s guest post is written by Ridgely Fisk Green, PhD, MMSc. Dr. Fisk Green is Carter Consulting contractor at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Fisk Green works on improving children’s health through better use of family health history information.

Today, when you end up sitting next to Aunt Irma who likes to talk about everyone’s health problems, don’t tune her out! Take the opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to enjoy delicious food and get together with family. You share more than just special occasions with your family—you share genes, behaviors, culture, and environment. Family health history accounts for all of these. Your mother’s genes may have contributed to her type 2 diabetes and you may share some of those genes, but the fact that she never exercises and eats fast food every day also influences her health, and you might share some of those habits, as well.

Family health history information can also be important for keeping your child healthy. Family health history can help your child’s doctor make a diagnosis if your child shows signs of a disorder. It can show whether your child has an increased risk for a disease. If so, the doctor might suggest screening tests. Many genetic disorders first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.

Family health history is also very important if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a baby. Remember to collect family health history information from the baby’s father, too. Family health history can tell if you have a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your family health history or the father’s family health history.

Tips for Collecting Family Health History for Your Child

•Record the names of your child’s close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. For genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, include more distant relatives. Include conditions each relative has or had and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
•Use the US Surgeon General’s online tool for collecting family health histories, called “My Family Health Portrait.”
•Discuss family health history concerns with your child’s doctor. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, share family health history information with your doctor.
•Update your child’s family health history regularly and share new information with your child’s doctor.
•The best way to learn about your family health history is to ask questions. Talk at family gatherings and record your family’s health information—it could make a difference in your child’s life.

Click on this link to learn about family health history from the CDC.

Croup, the barking cough

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

croup1A common childhood illness, croup often starts with mild cold-like symptoms. As the airway swells, the child develops noisy breathing and a cough that sounds like the barking of a seal. Often a child’s symptoms get worse or come on suddenly at night and they can be scary. The symptoms tend to repeat over the next two to three nights, which can be exhausting for everyone.

Croup is an illness that affects the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). Children between 3 months and 3 years of age are most likely to get croup. Their airways are small, and any swelling can make it difficult to breathe. The good news is that most cases of croup, though they need to be monitored closely, are mild and last less than a week.

Croup is caused by viruses that are contagious. The viruses can spread through the air or by touching a contaminated surface, something toddlers do all day long. Less frequently, allergies may cause croup. Your baby can get croup at any time of year, but it is most common between October and March, so it’s time to keep your eyes and ears open for it.

If your little one gets sick, do not give over-the-counter cough and cold products to her if she is younger than 2 years of age. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these medications can have serious and even life-threating side effects.

Steam often helps children with mild cases of croup to breathe easier. I remember those nights when I steamed up the bathroom with hot shower water and sat there with my son or daughter for 15 to 20 minutes. It did seem to help, but if this doesn’t help you, try taking your child outside to breathe cool night air. The cool air helps reduce airway swelling. A cool-water humidifier (vaporizer) in your baby’s room also may help. While your baby has the croup, check on her frequently during the night to make sure the symptoms don’t get worse.

Antibiotics won’t help croup, but call your baby’s health care provider right away if your child develops a barking cough or noisy breathing. Providers sometimes prescribe medications called corticosteroids that reduce swelling in the airways and make breathing easier. Rarely, a child with serious breathing problems may need to be treated with oxygen and medications in the hospital.

Call for emergency medical assistance if your baby:
• Appears to be struggling to get a breath
• Looks blue around the mouth
• Drools and has a lot of trouble swallowing
• Makes louder and louder noises as she inhales (called stridor), especially when resting.

When to use antibiotics

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

antibioticsThere was a time when parents who had a child with a sore throat or flu symptoms would ask their child’s health care provider for an antibiotic to help her feel better and get well and some providers would prescribe it.  But we’ve learned over the years that antibiotics, which are wonderful in some situations, are not the be all and end all and if given too often they may cause more harm than good.

First of all, antibiotics treat only bacterial infections. They do nothing to fight viruses which are the cause of most common colds, cough and flu. Secondly, if antibiotics are used when they are not needed or appropriate, bacteria over time can become resistant to them and then the bacterial infections they are designed to treat will no longer be curable by these medications. Thirdly, when an antibiotic is properly prescribed but the complete course of the drug is not given to the patient (your toddler feels better after six days so the complete ten day course is not followed), resistance can occur.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to remember three important points regarding antibiotics:
1 – Do not ask your pediatrician for a prescription for antibiotics to treat your child’s colds and flu. This does not mean that you should not take your child to the doctor to be examined. Your doc will be able to tell you if it’s a viral or bacterial infection and whether or not she needs an antibiotic.
2 – When your pediatrician does prescribe an antibiotic for an infection, make sure your child takes it exactly as the doc tells you. Be sure that she takes all of it.
3 – Do not give your child antibiotics from a previous illness or one that has been prescribed for another family member.

Having the use of antibiotics at the right time can be a real blessing, even a life saver. Using them at the wrong time will do no good and may cause problems in the future.

Ear infections in children

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

earOtitis media is an infection behind the eardrum (middle ear). In most cases, ear infections develop in a child who has had a cold. Your child can’t catch an ear infection from another child who has one, but he can catch the cold that caused the child’s ear infection. Unfortunately for our kiddies, ear infections are quite common – about two out of every three children have at least one ear infection before their second birthday.

Ear infection is caused by viruses and bacteria. Babies and preschool-aged children are especially likely to get ear infections for several reasons, including:
• The tubes that connect the back of their throats and middle ear, the eustachian tubes, are small. The size and position of these tubes increases the risk of infection by not allowing fluid to completely drain away, affording an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.
• While their immune systems are still developing, everything they can grab goes in their mouth introducing germs.

Your child may have an ear infection if she:
• Complains of ear pain (While my son screamed in pain, some children don’t notice any pain, so look for other signs, too)
• Does not seem to hear normally (the fluid build up can muffle sound)
• Pulls on her ear
• Has a fever (above 100.4° F)
• Cries during feeding
Call your child’s health care provider if you suspect an ear infection. Providers can diagnose an ear infection by looking inside your child’s ear canal with an instrument called an otoscope.

Some ear infections clear up without treatment within a few days. Others require antibiotics. Providers usually treat babies under 6 months of age with antibiotics. If the child is older and has mild symptoms, the provider may suggest waiting a few days before starting antibiotics to see if the infection clears up by itself.

For information on steps you can take to help prevent ear infection, click on this link.

Concerns about fifth disease

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

We get questions about fifth disease from time to time. It’s a common childhood illness that’s usually pretty mild, but if you get infected during pregnancy, it may hurt your baby. The good news is that about 6 in 10 adults (60 percent) had the infection as children and if you’ve already had fifth disease, you can’t get it again.  Nonetheless, about 1 in 400 women in the United States gets infected with fifth disease during pregnancy.

Fifth disease is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19. (It’s called fifth disease because many years ago, it appeared fifth in a list of common causes of childhood rash and fever.) It usually spreads through the air from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. People with young children and who work with children (such as child care providers and teachers) are most likely to come in contact with fifth disease and get infected. You can read about symptoms in children and adults at this link.

Most unborn babies are not harmed if their mother gets fifth disease. But some babies do become infected. The virus can make it hard for babies to make red blood cells, which can lead to a dangerous form of anemia, heart failure, miscarriage, or stillbirth.

You can protect yourself from getting infected by washing your hands well after being around children. Be sure to carefully throw away tissues used by children, and don’t share drinking glasses, cups, forks or other utensils with anyone who has fifth disease or who is in contact with someone who has fifth disease.

If you’re pregnant and become infected, your health care provider monitors your pregnancy carefully for problems with your baby. He may recommend that you have an ultrasound once a week or every other week for 8 to 12 weeks. If ultrasound doesn’t show any problems, you don’t need any more testing.  If an ultrasound shows that your baby is having problems, your provider may recommend amniocentesis to confirm the infection. If your baby has fifth disease, chances are the infection will go away on its own. Your provider may monitor your baby’s health during routine prenatal care visits.

While there is no treatment for fifth disease, there may be treatment options for problems caused in a developing baby. In rare cases of severe anemia, sometimes a provider can treat it by giving the baby a blood transfusion through the umbilical cord. If hydrops, a build up of fluid in the baby’s body, forms in the third trimester, the baby is sometimes induced and born early to receive treatment.

Again, the majority of pregnant women do not get fifth disease and, if they do, their babies are not harmed. But if you work in a day care center or are around school aged children a lot, it’s good to know about fifth disease and how to protect yourself.

Chickenpox – vaccination works

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Chickenpox, or varicella, is a childhood illness that can pose risks to the fetus if a mother contracts it during pregnancy, especially during her first 20 weeks. Congenital varicella syndrome, though rare, can include defects of muscle and bone, malformed or paralyzed limbs, a smaller-than-normal head, blindness, seizures, intellectual disability. Varicella has lead to death in some children.

Varicella has been preventable by vaccination in the United States since 1995. More than 90 percent of pregnant women are immune to chickenpox because they either had chickenpox before pregnancy or were vaccinated as children. Women who are immune to chickenpox cannot become infected and do not need to be concerned about it during pregnancy.  However, many women do not know whether they had chickenpox in the past or have misplaced their immunization records. Pregnant women should discuss this illness with their health care provider during their first prenatal visit.

Before the vaccine was approved in 1995, about 150 people a year died from the disease and 11,000 were hospitalized, according to Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A report from the CDC in the July 25th edition of Pediatrics says that chickenpox is close to being eliminated all together. In studying just mortality rates, “in the last 6 years analyzed, a total of 3 deaths per age range were reported, compared with an annual average of 13 and 16 deaths, respectively, during the prevaccine years.”

An impressive 88% decline in varicella deaths in the first 12 years can be directly attributed to successful implementation of the 1-dose vaccination program. “With the current 2-dose program (in effect since in 2006), there is potential that these most severe outcomes of a vaccine-preventable disease could be eliminated.” Eliminated. No more. Gone. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Dismal diarrhea

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

If you have kids, sooner or later you’ll be faced with the delights of dealing with diarrhea – runny, watery poop. It’s caused by all sorts of yucky things from contaminated water or food, to bacteria or viruses or parasites. Antibiotics that treat one problem can give another by breaking down all the good bacteria that lives in the bowel and letting the bad bacteria breed. (Probiotics can help prevent this backlash.)

How do you deal with this miserable condition? First of all, call your child’s health care provider if there is any pain, fever or blood in the stool. If these don’t exist but the diarrhea continues for five days or more, call the doc.

Give your little one plenty of liquids, especially ones that are electrolyte-balanced. Popsicles are nice treats, but they also provide liquid. Stay away from high-sugar fruit juices and sodas.

As mentioned above, probiotics can help regulate the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.  Talk with your child’s provider about what probiotic would be best. Some powders can be mixed into foods, breastmilk or formula.

Milk products can irritate sensitive digestive tracts, so if diarrhea continues more than a couple of days, try eliminating milk products from your child’s diet for a while. Then reintroduce yogurt because it’s loaded with good bacteria. And the bland BRAT diet (interesting name…) gives the irritated innards time to rest and regroup. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and dry toast.

We’re entering into BBQ season with the return of warm weather. It’s important to keep foods cool and protected from E. coli and Salmonella.  Follow good food safety guidelines and have fun.