Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

A mom, a pediatrician, and her insights about keeping your kids healthy.

Becoming an Impatient Optimist, One Mother’s Words

Alok post photo


Today’s post is written by Dr Alok Patel, a third year resident at Seattle Children’s. I met him last year as he immersed himself in training. Since then we’ve been syncing up, learning together about ways he can use his voice, his teeming passion, and his media channels to improve the health of populations everywhere. He’s peppered with ideas, brimming with ent
husiasm (it’s possible he speaks faster than I do) and diligently working to carve out his path as a public advocate, storyteller, and pediatrician. He’s a self-described, “wannabe medical journalist [working] to bridge the gap between public health and everyday.” He’ll finish his training this summer and begin his career officially; I suspect we’ll hear lots from him. In the past year we’ve both attended powerful social media summits at The Gates Foundation. And we’ve both stepped away inspired to do more. Dr Patel is starting to tell his stories publicly. Take a peek at his story below – the final quote left me slightly breathless… 

Turn on the news these days and it’s easy to feel like the world is falling apart. Globally, people are suffering from different diseases and even though public health officials are making great strides internationally, I often find my self wondering “what can I do to help?” And then I get overwhelmed by the idea of where to start.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Gates Social on Science Innovation, a workshop that unites people with two common interests, a love for social media and desire to enhance global health. Surrounded by “impatient optimists,” a software engineer, film director, marine biologist and elementary school teacher I was struck by the fact that we all have innovative ideas… and we all need help getting them off the ground.

I can’t speak for the other attendees, but my “awakening” of sorts took place during a presentation of New York Times Columnist, Nicholas Kristof. He was discussing the variety of stories he’s told, from the harsh realities of child prostitution, to the innovative games that are teaching anti-parasite practices on your phone. Then he said something that really resonated with me. Read full post »

Marijuana Mixer: Teen Use, Child Ingestion

Washington Poison Center http://www.wapc.org/wp-content/uploads/WAPC-Toxic-Trends-Report-Cannabis-September.pdf

Washington Poison Center http://bit.ly/1xT8PeJ

The 2nd recreational pot store opened in Washington State recently while store #3 opens later this week. Pace will quicken with several more stores expected to open by year-end. This puts parents and pediatricians in our state in a unique situation (shared only with Colorado) as we’re tasked to explain to children and teens the dangers of legalized drugs used by adults. However, the complexity extends even to those of us with young children. Growing concern (and evidence) finds accidental ingestion of pot among children, often in the form of edibles, is also accelerating. Online in social channels I’ve heard some argue that marijuana legalization is to be thought of like alcohol but the packaging and delivery of the drug really are far different.

Marijuana Use By Teens Still Illegal Yet Common

  • Nearly half of all teens have tried pot by the time they finish high school while almost 1/4 of all high school students report having used marijuana in the past month. That’s pretty common.
  • 35 different marijuana-infused food & beverages have been approved by WSLCB  (cookies, trail mix, peanut brittle, gummy bears, and chocolate bars for example). Often the packaging for these products looks as attractive as a fruit roll-up or delicious candy bar typically marketed to children.
  • There have been 68 pediatric marijuana exposures voluntarily reported to Washington State poison control already this year. Because reporting isn’t mandatory this is potentially an underestimate of the number of children exposed to marijuana accidentally.

Read full post »

Malala, Malala, Malala! A Child Wins The Nobel Peace Prize

Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons

Malala, Malala, Malala – this is a historic day! A child has just won the Nobel Peace Prize! Our heroine, Malala Yousafzai, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She shares the prize with Kailash Satyarthi. Children and parents everywhere on planet earth have a perfect bedtime story. The youngest ever recipient of the prize goes to a girl born and raised in Pakistan who was denied equal access to her education. I mean, really, whenever you think your child’s potential is bounded or someone in the community minimizes the importance of your child’s ideas or implies that their potential is truncated by their age, limited by their perspective, or premature because of their experience, we have a new story to tell. We have an extraordinary antidote to those who treat children as lesser citizens of the world.

Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, you amaze us and you open up doors for little girls and little boys everywhere. Parents and pediatricians can and will share the news with young children and teens who falter.

First off, don’t let her globe-trotting-book-writing-media-circus attention fool you into thinking she’s an adult. She found out about her Nobel while in class, a place where all the other 17 year-olds in our country get the opportunity to sit…

Malala has leveraged her skills as a brilliant communicator and wed it to the courage of a champion to change the world’s understandings and opportunities. We are all so lucky.

Quick Facts For Your Family About Malala Yousafzai:

  • Malala and her father report that part of her success is based on the reality that her “wings were not clipped.” More from her dad in this popular TEDtalk.
  • Malala is a world leader. Read Amy Davidson’s New Yorker article from earlier today as a reminder of her influence — note Davidson saying, “It is past time to stop seeing Malala as simply the girl who survived, as a symbol. (The Times called her a ‘global emblem.’) She is a girl who leads: who addressed the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday; who amazes Jon Stewart and asks Barack Obama about drones.”  Watch her interview on Jon Stewart for examples of her unflappable courage and determination.

Age-Appropriate Malala Bedtime Stories:

Age 2-5: There once was a little girl loved to go to school. But one day the rules changed where she lived and she was unable to Read full post »

Teens And Medicine Abuse, A Bad Rap?

OTC med abuse

infographic from OTCsafety

I’ve been lucky enough to interact with teens on a regular basis for my entire career. As a previous middle and junior high school teacher, people often express pity when they hear I taught middle-school, as if teens are “too” tough, histrionic, and irresponsible to have wanted the job. I really did want the job. I love the drama and rate of change during adolescence. In my experience I see teens take on huge responsibility, make good choices, care deeply about their family and friends, and work diligently to improve their world. Their interest and work on evolving into an ideal self is captivating. Most teens are highly motivated. Many are over-extended because they are so committed. Lazy teens just aren’t the norm…

Sometimes teens get a bad rap. Sometimes they make choices without thinking of the consequences too. That’s normal when you’re still developing. Those mistakes pave the road of opportunity for us to give teens information that keeps them safe.

October is a lot of things (more on that this month) but know it’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month and there’s a big push to both educate parents on signs of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse and encourage parents to talk with teens about the risks of using medications as recreational drugs.

Thing is, approximately 1 in 25 teens reports abusing excessive amounts of Dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high. DXM is a safe ingredient found in more than 100 OTC medicines. It’s typically found in cough suppressants or medicines for cough and colds. Because it’s a stimulant, when DXM is consumed in excess it can cause a rapid heart beat, vomiting, stomach pain, hallucinations, confusion, and loss of motor control. It also can induce a high — hence why teens experiment with it.

1 in 3 teens know someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high. Consider asking at home what your kids know. Read full post »

Deliberate Ambiguity

Deliberate ambiguity

I was at Back-To-School night this week at my boys’ school. Heard something I’m still thinking on. One of the teachers talked about how students are introduced to technology in the school house. She detailed how her philosophies helped shape their evolving understanding of, skills with, and opportunities with computers, code, and digital tools. She discussed her opacity with instructions as just one way to help develop grit. She said,

 

 

 

I use deliberate ambiguity. I want to make it a bit of mystery getting from point A to point B…

In ways, this is our job as parents in rearing independent children. Strike through childhood with deliberate ambiguity and provide a sense of mystery each day. With it, we can prime opportunity for our children to discover and stumble upon a sense of mastery. We can vilify technology in our children’s lives or we can facilitate our children’s use of new tools for expression and creativity. But deliberate ambiguity? That’s genius that we can apply in all sorts of places in our children’s lives.

3 Shots: Protect Against Cancer

It’s 2014 and it’s a reality that you can protect a child, teen or young adult from a cancer-causing virus with a series of just three shots. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause warts but also lead to cancer (anogenital and/or throat cancers). Most data find 14 million new people are infected with the virus every year. Most of the time, HPV enters our body and our immune system gets rid of it on its own, however sometimes HPV causes trouble at the cellular level. Fortunately there’s a safe and effective way to stop the spread of HPV, prevent some strains of the virus from ever causing cellular changes in our body and ultimately prevent the related cancers it triggers: the HPV vaccine.

HPV Vaccine Is Safe

The HPV vaccine isn’t really “new” anymore. Between June 2006-March 2014, approximately 67 million doses of HPV vaccines were distributed. The vaccine is made from one protein from the HPV virus, designed to trigger a protective immune response; the vaccine cannot cause HPV infection or cancer. A recent study by Pediatrics found the HPV vaccine to be not only effective, but long-lasting. The study followed vaccinated girls and boys for eight years and showed evidence of durability; the HPV-antibodies remained at high levels over the years after immunization. Read full post »

Ouchless Flu Vaccine In 2014-2015

Influenza spray finalIt’s Flu “shot” season but thankfully not every vaccine hurts going in. This year your child may be offered either the “flu shot” or the flu nasal spray vaccine (ouchless!). This year most nurses and docs will encourage young children to get a nasal flu spray over the shot as recent data has found the nasal flu vaccine protects younger children better. Every year the flu vaccine is created to protect against influenza viruses predicted to spread and circulate in North America. We need the shot every year for two main reasons:

  1. Typically, different influenza virus circulate around the world from year to year. Over 100 international centers maintain year-round surveillance to determine and predict which strain will cause human infections. The information is used to forecast the recipe for the vaccine here at home. This year the strains (types) of influenza in the shot and nasal spray are the same as last year (2013-2014).
  2. Protection Fades. When you get a flu vaccine you stimulate the immune system to create protection against the strains of the virus in the vaccine. That immunity (the antibodies that are created) tends to fade and wane in your bloodstream after about 6-12 months. Therefore, even if you got the flu vaccine last year you really want your family to have it again this year so it protects you through the winter influenza season which can continue late into the springtime but tends to peak in February or March.

The flu vaccine contains either three (trivalent) or four (quadrivalent) strains of influenza. There is no official recommendation for one over the other. Flu vaccine is recommended for all children over 6 months of age who have no contraindication to the vaccine.

Worth noting: If the thought of needles deters you from getting the vaccine for your child or your family, Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV), a nasal spray, is a great option for those age 2 to 49 years. In fact, there’s data to suggest the nasal flu vaccine is more effective in protecting children from influenza in young childhood. Recommendations this year include a push to have children between 2 and 8 years of age immunized with the nasal spray whenever possible. If the nasal isn’t available, the shot should be given — no reason to wait.

About 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized from flu every year  — form CDC “Which Flu Vaccine Should Children 2 to 8 Years Old Get?”

Information about nasal flu spray from CDC, Healthy Children and my “Debunking 5 Myths about the Flu

Who Can Get The Nasal Flu Vaccine?

Read full post »

Digital Parenting: 5 Ways To Compartmentalize

26% of parents say they’ve used media as a distraction when with their children and we all certainly know our own smartphone use may be changing who we are as parents. No question I get cranky with my kids if I’m emailing on my phone and they interrupt me. Just one of many unfortunate realities of having work with us at all times. The more devices I use and the better they become at helping me enjoy life, the more imminent the need for getting serious about the daily calisthenics of doing things without our devices. Remember this article, Don’t Text While Parenting: It Could Make You Cranky ? It is becoming more and more uncomfortable for us to be away from our “phones” as we progressively depend upon them for daily living. I use my phone as a computer, a mail service, an organizer, a calendar, a video camera, an activity tracker, and a GPS every day. Of course I like when it’s around but there is also NO question that the best part of the last week of my life was time when my device wasn’t in arm’s reach…

5 Tips For Compartmentalizing Your Digital Life

  • On a Diet: We parents can model effective “media diets” to help children learn to be selective and thoughtful about compartmentalizing digital tools. I fail at this all the time, slipping into old habits or just “checking something quickly” online when unnecessary. Working on crafting a plan for what I consume and when I consume it, helps. Also thinking about what our children watch and play online/with devices and for how long, helps too. Yes, have movie night but also think about co-viewing programs with your children of any age and spend time discussing values and reactions you have to shows you watch and apps you play together. Be intentional showing your children the things you do to minimize technology interfering with things you love (keeping cell phones out of bedroom, putting cell phone in backseat of the car so you don’t text and drive).

Read full post »

Media Deprivation?

media deprivationMedia deprivation: do you think it exists? Although laughable at first glance I know I’m not the only parent who wonders if limiting screen time could change my child’s opportunity. Those of us who fiercely control screen/device time may have momentary lapses where we wonder if we’re doing things right. Even though I’m convinced there isn’t a study telling us that typically-developing children need media/apps/screen time to learn how to think and evolve into compassionate, successful, and happy adults, part of me wonders if my screen policing isn’t ideal.

Are You Screen-Phobic Parent?

There may be an inverse relationship worth noting: perhaps the more a parent loves technology, the more they see technology’s omnipotence and its invasive, devious elegance. Do those of us who adore technology consequently limit its use at home? Unsure there are data to back this up, however there are some nice anecdotes. Turns out Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” he said. In addition, The New York Times reports that Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired Magazine and current CEO of a drone company draws hard lines:

This is rule No. 1: There are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guides us that media should be limited (ideally to less than 2 hours daily) and advises us to protect the sanctity of the place our children sleep by keeping screens out. Pediatricians work heroically in the office trying to help families  get a sense of why moderation with media matters and the benefits for making media plans. You’ve probably heard about concocting a “media diet” and ways to reduce screen time, especially before bed. Some of us take it pretty far…our children may go days and weeks without screens while at home. Perhaps its my own technology enthusiasm and unending quest for balance with devices that has me locking up all the tablets and computers at home. In our home the phones, tablets and computer have taken the place of Drano — they’re up and out of reach. Read full post »

Spanking is Hitting Afterall

In my mind it’s no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics has a statement against spanking. Spanking, in the simplest form, is the act of hitting a child, using physical force to try to get a different outcome. Thing is, spanking is an ineffective discipline tool in the long-run and research shows it’s damaging to a child’s mental health. Most parents don’t want to spank their children and may spank or strike a child while frustrated, making spanking more than just a tool for discipline, rather at times just another way to vent anger or frustration…

I’d say we spend countless hours teaching and modeling behaviors for our children in early childhood to ensure they do the opposite of spanking: we teach them to “use their words,” take “timeouts,” and to take deep breaths when frustrated or when throwing an enormous, inconvenient tantrum. We teach them to look for an adult for support if they need “back-up” during conflict resolution. When an adult turns around and uses physical force and strikes a child, they teach just the opposite. Spanking is hitting and hitting is always avoidable when enmeshed in a conflict.

If that doesn’t seem quite right to you consider it this way: under the US law, when angry or upset about the way things are going in your life the only person you can legally hit in our culture is a child. I’d suggest they are the most vulnerable and voiceless in this regard, the only members of our society with no capacity to change the law (vote). Just this winter lawmakers have argued to allow spanking at home and school that could leave a child bruised in the name of “parental rights.” In the US, you can’t punch or beat up your neighbor, your child’s teacher, your co-worker (assault), thankfully you can’t strike your partner/wife/husband (domestic abuse), and you can’t punch your other relatives (assault). But in many states in our nation, it’s legal to hit your child when they do something you didn’t want them to do. Of note, it’s still lawful to spank a child at school in up to 19 states.

As of 2014, up to 38 countries around the world have banned spanking, outlawing corporal punishment in terms of human rights in a different way from The United States. During an NPR interview yesterday, Professor Elizabeth Gershoff highlighted this in historical context to American opinion on spanking stating, Read full post »