Author Archive

Tanning Beds: Clear and Present Danger

tanning_signTanning beds are a known carcinogen. Word on the street (or in the hallway) may not reflect true knowledge of the dangers. I know plenty of cancer survivors who use tanning beds. Therefore it’s obvious to me that there is a clear disconnect between the science of tanning risks and our insight.

Although you may think tanning beds are a thing of the 1990s, widespread use continues. In fact, new research published today in JAMA Dermatology finds that 35% of adults in Western countries have used a tanning bed during their life while 14% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Tanning beds deliver ultraviolet (UV) radiation that damages skin cells or cells in our eyes. The Center for Disease Control explains it this way, “Indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59% higher risk of melanoma. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of wrinkles and eye damage, and changes skin texture. Indoor tanning is a known and preventable cause of skin cancer, skin aging, and wrinkling.”

In my opinion it’s worth your time to figure out ways to ban indoor tanning for those in your home.

Education and tanning have an unfortunate relationship. Going to college actually increases your exposure to the carcinogen. In the JAMA study, researchers found that 55% of university students have used a tanning bed and 43% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Indoor tanning is a known real threat to human health, on par with the risks incurred from things like cigarettes. It’s predicted the rate skin cancer due to indoor tanning will continue to surpass the number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. Smoking causes other health problems (elevated BP, heart disease) so the comparison is imperfect. That being said, researchers explain that indoor tanning is a relatively new behavior that has grown in popularity, whereas smoking rates are declining in the US and other Western countries.

Teens And Tanning:

  • The JAMA study found 19.3% of adolescents (< 19 years) in Western countries have used a tanning bed. Read full post »

Bieber In Jail For DUI, Parents Everywhere Have An Opportunity

Miami-Dade County Corrections Department Photo from the nydailynews.com

Miami-Dade County Corrections Department Photo from the nydailynews.com

Justin Bieber was arrested early this morning in Florida for a DUI. The smirk on his face is a bit misplaced. While it’s no longer a surprise when we hear about a celebrity’s challenge with drugs and alcohol, Bieber serves up a perfect moment for education. I mean this kid (he’s 19 years old) really could have killed himself last night. Thank goodness he’s only in jail. You got Bieber Fever in your house? Now’s the moment to step in. The number one thing parents must remember is that data and research consistently show that a parent’s opinion and guidance on avoiding alcohol remains the most powerful influence over a teen’s decision to drink alcohol underage.

Check out this powerful infographic on girls and alcohol. One in five high school girls binge-drink. 1 in 5!

Alcohol-related injuries kill over 5,000 teens every year. Bieber’s decision-making presents a huge opportunity to protect our own children. I’m reposting this data because we just can’t forget how powerful we are, as parents, when protecting our children as they grow. Our job today is simply to remember our super power–that we have influence. Don’t brush this story off as “Bieber’s a mess and an outlier.” Lamborghini or not, every teen is at risk for making this kind of choice.

 

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Pain Is Inevitable But Suffering Is Optional

This is a guest blog from Lisa M. Peters, MN, RN-BC (in the video above). Lisa is mom of two children and a clinical nurse specialist for the Pain Medicine Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She holds a clinical faculty appointment in the Department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington School Of Nursing. She is board certified in pain management from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is a Mayday Pain & Society Fellow. Lisa has a passion for improving the lives of children in pain. I’ve learned so much from her already!

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Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. That’s a key message when I partner with parents who bring their kids in for procedures and hear them recount stories of standing by, feeling helpless, as they watch their kids suffer with pain and distress.

It does not have to be that way.

Parents seldom realize the power they have as advocates and as partners with doctors and nurses in managing, and even preventing, their children’s pain. Could that shot at the doctor’s office really be a different experience? Do a few moments of pain really matter in the long run? If I speak up, will they label me and my kid as “troublemakers”?

As a parent, you can make a big difference in your child’s experience with pain. Knowledge is power.

3 Things To Know About Pain:

Poorly treated pain is harmful, both immediately and long term.
Science continues to teach us about the consequences of poorly treated pain on our bodies and minds. There is evidence that it can change how our bodies process pain signals, especially during critical periods of development in childhood. This can lead to highly sensitive areas of our bodies or a generally louder experience of pain. Memories of painful experiences have been shown to shape how we respond; studies show that 10% of the adult population avoids seeking medical care when needed due to fear of needles. Read full post »

Friday Night Tykes As Seahawks NFC Championship Beckons

Wait, did he just say what I think he did? (minute mark 1:18)

I want you to put it in his helmet…I don’t care if you don’t get up. Let’s go!

Or is it:

I want you to put it in his helmet…I don’t care if he don’t get up. Let’s go!

Either is grim. The new show, Esquire’s Friday Night Tykes, is getting quite a bit of attention. I suppose this was exactly the network’s intent but there are very few cells in my body that can stay quiet about this. Reality TV has submerged to profound depths.

Seahawks In Seattle!

We’re pulsing blue and green around here. There are 12s affixed to most every man-made structure in this town and our sense of Seattle-cohesion is undeniably improved. It’s exciting to dream of a Super Bowl win for our Seahawks. We’re ready for the 49ers this weekend (we even have our own Macklemore & Ryan Lewis playing at halftime) and most everyone in the Puget Sound is aware that football is providing a reason for giddiness. Like or hate the NFL, it’s my experience that we’re excited about our team…

First thing first: I know this is a pipe dream but I really wish a Seahawks player or coach would take the lead and discuss the disgust we should all have with Esquire and the crew involved in Friday Night Tykes promoting the abusive coaching. It’s an understatement to say that I’m outraged some think it is not only permissible for children to participate in this program but that we are willing to elevate the scenario and call it entertainment. Perhaps the NFL won’t permit this kind of public advocacy. Any ideas? Read full post »

Reducing Poverty And Improving Health

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union address where he made a proclamation to commit to end poverty in our rich nation. Nationally, there has been a huge and beautiful focus on the anniversary. Despite the political divisions and tense partisan discussions on how to proceed in poverty reduction, I heard many reports on the radio, read newspaper coverage, and saw chatter all day on social channels about where we stand. I was floored by the statistics. I’d not, unfortunately, ever before spent time thinking about Johnson’s proclamation and the line in the sand created by his words.

After his proclamation, the country went to work creating Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start (promoting school readiness through social, nutritional, developmental support for children from birth to age 5), food stamp programs, and Job Corps. Since 1965, Head Start alone has served more than 30 million children and set precedent for contemporary thinking on early education and consortiums today like Thrive by Five. Much of the media coverage yesterday focused on the profound progress we’ve made helping Americans quit or reduce cigarette smoking with the Surgeon General’s first Report on Smoking and Health. Still, nearly 1 in 5 Americans (18%) smoke in a country that has proven cigarettes to be the #1 leading cause of preventable death. Dr Thomas Frieden wrote in JAMA yesterday, “Tobacco is, quite simply, in a league of its own in terms of the sheer numbers and varieties of ways it kills and maims people.” Read full post »

2013-2014 Flu Is Here

Influenza December 2013

Influenza currently has widespread activity here in Washington and fortunately the news media has really picked up the story the last couple of days. I say fortunately, because as we know more about flu in our community, the better we can work to protect our families. There’s no question clinic was full of coughs and colds yesterday!

At of the end of last week, the CDC reported that 25 states in the US have widespread influenza (see above map). In addition, public health officials confirm that H1N1 Influenza A is causing more serious, sometimes deadly disease in young adults. This post is simply a reminder that flu is here in our communities, work, and schools. The best way to reduce the risk of serious influenza infection is still to get a flu shot. Particularly if you’re a middle-aged adult (!!), as young adults are bearing a particular burden of serious disease this season. In fact,there have already been a number of deaths in WA state. Many of the individuals who died were unvaccinated.

This is still true: pregnant women, young children, those over 65 years, and anyone with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for serious infection from influenza. Read full post »

My Adorable Activity Tracker. I’m Streaking!

First Day With My Shine

Self-tracking, life-logging, activity-tracking, “the quantified-self (QS) movement” as the smarty-pants say, or as some have asked, “What’s with the weird watch?” Well, I’m hooked. I don’t go anywhere these days without my device. My activity tracker had me at hello.

Over the summer I started wearing the Shine. I’d been waiting for it–it had a significantly delayed shipping date–which only heightened my desire. I’ve worn it every day (except one) since. The world really is different to me now. Before you start to criticize and marginalize my proclamations, know that I waited nearly 1/2 a year to write about this to ensure it wasn’t just a fad.

How My Activity Tracker Is Changing Me:

First things first: I realized how sedentary some of my days are. Especially when I’m writing or working intensely; knowing this has changed how I think about walking. Secondly, I’m really much happier knowing how much movement I have during a day rather than guessing about it. Even when I’ve hardly moved a few paces, I’m thankful for the insight. I mean, some days we pig out, some days we aren’t as hungry and eat salad, some days we run miles. Other days we work and write and sit far too long. My activity tracker helps me understand the patterns and think about new ways to live differently. The boys always want to know how much we’ve moved. This tracker has power around here. If there’s any New Year’s “resolution” that may be worth committing to–it may simply be to check in on how you’re moving. Find a tool to give you observable data. Behavior change perhaps will follow.

To be clear, it isn’t the device I’m attached to that is changing my life, it’s the new experiences I’ve having because of it. New insight from my Shine changes my mood, the way I map out my day, and has undoubtably made me more self-aware. I’m thankful for my consultant.

Reality is, many of us are tracking our lives and our movement without realizing it. Before you write we trackers off, read on.

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Greatest Hits & Greatest Inspirations 2013

Maui rainbow, December 28th

Maui rainbow, December 28th

I’m so thankful and humbled by all of the comments and dialogue here on Seattle Mama Doc. Since the inception of the blog in 2009, we’ve had more than 1 million different readers. For that I remain somewhat amazed and also astonishingly grateful. I really love detailing what I learn about caring for children and hold dear the opportunity to share what science holds. Writing about health care while wedding evidence with anecdotes remains a huge focus for me. I am so thankful to be a mother and doctor, practicing and writing, today. I am so grateful for all of your help.

I started 2013 blogging about my experience of being diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the process of renewal, and my hopes for 2013. I set out goals for the year:

 

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Peanut Brittle For Preggers

Photo from Edwart Visser Flickr Creative Commons

Photo from Edwart Visser, Flickr Creative Commons

“Children appear to be less at risk for developing peanut or tree nut allergies if their mothers are not allergic and ate more nuts during pregnancy,” according to a study published today in JAMA Pediatrics. And although this doesn’t mean that you need to run out for the peanut brittle the minute you’re pregnant, it may mean we can reassure pregnant women that if they have no allergies themselves, what they eat during pregnancy should contain nuts, among other things.

As you’ve likely heard, children with peanut allergies have more than tripled in the United States this last 15 years. Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children in the United States and up to 40% of children have had a life-threatening or severe reaction. Any family with a food-allergic child will tell you this is a BIG deal.

The rapid rise of food allergies is incompletely understood, but more and more research suggests that waiting to introduce “high allergy” foods (traditionally thought of as peanut, egg, or shellfish for example) may have actually caused more allergies than prevented them. As this was being discovered this last decade or so, flip-flopping recommendations on what to eat ourselves when pregnant and what to feed our babies have left many of us confused.

When Should I Start Baby Food?

New recommendations really encourage introduction of a variety of foods, including nuts, eggs, shellfish, wheat, and soy within the first year of life. The theory is that early introduction of the components of these foods allow a child’s developing body to create a tolerance to them, thus potentially avoiding any allergy or reaction to them later on. Read full post »

Alcohol At The Holidays?

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 10.12.17 AMOur children are growing up with mixed messages about alcohol and drugs, at least that’s how it feels to me here in Washington. It seems to me we’re grappling with using pot and what to do with alcohol as a community. As our state legalized marijuana use this past year, we sent a big flare into the sky. It’s possible we really do one thing and then say another in front of our children and teens, particularly at times of celebration. No question they are watching. Can you seriously imagine a pro football game without beer ads or a holiday party without booze? I can’t. The great luck is that we have profound influence over our children (tah dah!); we have a huge opportunity to help them survive.

One of the biggest mistakes parents to teens make is to believe that they no longer have influence on their kids — Lara Okoloko, LICSW

I read a tweet about a month ago suggesting that perhaps we should never drink alcohol in front of our children. At first glance it seemed somewhat absurd — that we’d ban a legal adult substance from our lives as parents to young (or teen) children that we can enjoy and drink (even in moderation) all because of the risk that our children may abuse it if they saw us drink while children. However when I read the statistics on teens and alcohol it got me thinking that perhaps I needed to be more thoughtful, not only how I talk about this but how I live with my children these next 15 years. At first glance, avoiding alcohol just seems like an inconvenient annoyance. Yet I started to read the data I recognized the incredible opportunity we all have to speak clearly and repeatedly about alcohol and risk with our children, early on.

Parents are the #1 influence on whether teens choose to drink (or smoke weed). Experts really stress we need to share data and opinions with our teens before they start drinking. The hope is that when we explain how we feel, when we share facts, when we clearly articulate that alcohol could kill a teen or their friends, that we can help our children understand their actions can greatly affect their happiness and their survival. I really don’t think I’m over-framing this in terms of survival. Teens are 3 times as likely to be in a fatal crash than older, more experienced drivers and the 3 main causes of fatal crashes among teens are drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving (think cell phone). Alcohol-related car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults.

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