Seattle Mama Doc 101

All Articles in the Category ‘Seattle Mama Doc 101’

Baby’s Ears When Flying

First off, I have connected with a few engineers and pilots — I may be wrong on one point here: Commercial airplanes typically ascend/climb faster than they descend for a landing. My apologies. I’m clearly no pilot…

That being said, you can help support your baby or child’s potential ear discomfort during flying by having them suck on something like a pacifier, having them breast feed, or offer a bottle during take-off and landing. The motion of their jaw and mouth during sucking and swallowing will help them equalize to the pressure changes. When they move their jaw to suck and swallow this helps facilitate venting in the Eustachian tube that allows your child to equalize pressure from the outside world with the middle part of their ear. That click or pop you feel when you yawn is your ear drum moving back to middle after getting pushed one direction in your ear from a pressure change.

It’s true that discomfort is far greater during pressure changes when there is fluid in our middle ear (from colds to ear infections). Check in with your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner prior to flying if you’re concerned about a potential infection. If that’s not ideal, consider getting Cellscope (an iPhone app that helps you look into your child’s ear, and/or allows you to send the image to their doctor) if you’re a frequent flier and your child is prone to fluid in the middle ear.

Here’s tips for parents about fluid in the middle ear and nice summary about ears & pressure changes from Kid’s Health.

Help Your Anxious Child: Blow Colors

This is a little trick I use to help coach anxious children whose minds just seems to “spin.” Patients have given me great feedback over the years that “blowing colors” really helps. Sometimes it’s for children and teens who can’t drift off to sleep, sometimes for those who are worriers, and sometimes for those who get anxious or overwhelmed at school. Blowing colors is a great exercise to return to regular belly breathing patterns, buy time and space for mindfulness, and improve control over feelings of overwhelm. See if it helps…

Greatest thing is–this is a good tool for a child or teen to regain control.  They can use the exercise anywhere, at any time. Lots of children and teens who get anxious feel ashamed of their anxiety and don’t want to reach out for help. Reassure them that no one will ever know they’re blowing colors or changing the hue of a room. Practice at home before bed, in school during moments of overwhelm, or even remind a child or teen they can blow colors while out with friends or at a sleepover.

Safe Holidays For Your Children

This is a wonderful time of year. It’s also a really stressful one for many of us. Some quick reminders about ways to stay safe while bringing holiday decor into your home, traveling, while arguing with your brother about gifts, and when potentially having more alcohol around than is typical…

  • FIRE: Be careful of lit candles and check the safety of lights you place on trees or around the outside of your home. Christmas trees are like kindling for house fires. Check out National Fire Protection Agency’s info or watch this video of a tree catching fire.
  • DECOR: Holiday decorations often bring hazards for young children. This include candle holders, Christmas tree ornaments, plants, decorative garlands, and hot liquids. I’ve cared for many children with scald burns from soups and hot liquids. With decorations, anything longer than 12 inches can pose a strangulation risk. Make sure your trees and larger decorations are mounted in a way that your child (of any age) can’t pull them down upon themselves.
  • ALCOHOL: With holiday and New Year’s parties fast approaching, it’s good to have a plan for alcohol–if you’re serving it or drinking it. Many sober alcoholics relapse this time of year and many small drinkers consume alcohol more excessively. We have to be careful with our guests and ourselves — for our children. Clean up after parties, too–don’t want toddlers finding the punch!

This kind of advice feels heavy-handed and self-evident. It’s not as if we wouldn’t have thought of most of this. Read full post »

Teasing Out Self-Talk: Our Inner Critic


I had the good fortune to hear Jim Webb, PhD give a lecture on the emotional needs for children.

During his talk he mentioned children and their self-talk. You know what that is, yes? Self-talk is that voice that constantly evaluates how you’re doing things, how the world is playing out, and ultimately how you feel about it. Dr Webb shared the tip that we can tease out and bring to light the inner critic our children have, too. Not only can we mention that this self-talk exists, we can demonstrate and model that voice for our children. We can show them we also have a voice that hovers to illuminate what we do wrong or what we do well.

Dr Webb made me realize we identify this self-talk early and help children acknowledge and own it. If I remember correctly, no one taught me about my self-talk growing up. I wonder if they had if my critic would be a bit more forgiving or generous…Maybe we can help our children identify their inner-critic and help them shape their critic into a more productive coach. Just knowing self-talk exists and bearing witness to this critic could be a great start to insight…

Teach Children About Self-Talk Early

  1. Teach children that self-talk exists. Once children are in school, start mentioning and letting them know that their voice and inner-critic is there. Help them recognize the self-talk they are participating in and ask them how it helps them during they day. Ask them if it trips them up. Read full post »

Buy Organic Food Or Not?

I was surprised by a recent clinical report on organic foods. I summarized the findings in the video. Sure, I thought organic foods didn’t offer any more nutrition (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids) than foods grown conventionally. I’d seen a large study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine evaluating research spanning 1966 to 2011 that didn’t cite evidence that foods were more nutritious or better for us, per se. But I did recognize that data was on the side of organics when it came to keeping our children healthy and safe–because of pesticides.

I wasn’t entirely correct.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ clinical report found that although levels of pesticides differ on fruits and produce, the effects on the health of our children remain inconclusive for recommending organics. Read full post »

Should I Feed My Children Rice? Arsenic & Rice

Recent reports have heightened concerns about arsenic levels in rice products here in the US. This has left many parents wondering if we should be serving rice to babies and children. The video summarizes my current recommendations.

Read the report from the Pediatric Health Environmental Specialty Unit mentioned in the video. References on authors and sources are at the end of the report. This report is calm, informative, and backed by experts—there appear to be no false claims.

Remember, arsenic is a naturally occurring element on earth. However, natural doesn’t necessarily mean “good for you.” There are two types of arsenic–organic and inorganic. In general, it’s the inorganic arsenic that we worry about. The big picture goal for all of us is to eat a diverse diet full of a variety of foods thus protecting us by decreasing exposures to any one thing.

Arsenic is large quantities has been found to pose health risks. So taking steps to minimize consumption of foods high in arsenic may be beneficial. Before you bail on rice althogether, know that not every group is ready to tell you to rid your pantry of rice. Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics says currently (fall 2012).

5 Tips To Reduce Arsenic Consumption For Your Family:

  1. Have your water checked for arsenic if you have well water or a private water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates arsenic levels in public water. But if you have any questions or concerns about public water, call your water company and ask about report data. Read full post »

All Children Need A Flu Shot

This is part deux to an earlier video/post describing the global effort to reduce flu & reasons why we need one every year. Infants and children under age 5 are at higher risk for serious complications from influenza infection. Influenza (“the flu”) is an illness that strikes during the late fall and early winter annually in our country. Great thing is, there is a global effort to coordinate knowledge to reduce the consequences of severe infections. Each year a new flu shot is released to protect us. All children need a flu shot. The reason? It’s estimated that somewhere between 10-40% of all children, each year, get influenza. Sometimes it’s a mild upper respiratory infection, but sometimes it can cause severe lung infections and even death. Each year hundreds of children die in our country from flu even though it is a vaccine-preventable illness. I hear lots of myths and rumors about the flu shot in clinic (more than any other vaccine). Check out my friend Dr Claire McCarthy’s post on de-bunking the myths.

Of those children who are seriously ill and hospitalized, somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 can be children with no underlying medical issues. Healthy children get the flu, too. If your child has underlying neurologic problems, wheezing or asthma, or diabetes they are also considered higher risk for severe infection.

It takes a well-immunized community to reduce the spread of influenza. And our children, swapping spit and snot at school, are one of our most precious groups to protect.

Which Flu Vaccine And How Many to Get?

Infants 6 months of age and up can get flu shot. Most infants will need two doses, separated by 1 month, while all children over age 9 years need only one dose. If you have a young child (<9 years) and they have never had the flu shot before, they will need two doses. Ask your child’s doctor how many doses your baby, toddler, or child needs this year.  What you need to know about flu.

There are two types of vaccine, the flu shot & the nasal spray. Both protect against the same virus strains. Check out www.flu.gov. Here’s a quick explanation: Read full post »

Why A Flu Shot Every Year?

We need a flu shot annually because influenza virus changes structure and shape as it moves around the globe each year. The strains that cause human disease are different from one year to the next, so we update and add to our protection annually by getting a shot or nasal flu spray. Children, especially those under age 5, are at higher risk for severe disease from influenza. In children and adults, influenza can cause a mild illness, but unfortunately, sometimes it can cause severe or even life-threatening complications. Children may have a more difficult time fighting off influenza partly because they don’t have years of exposure to other strains of flu and no real immunity built up. Therefore all children are considered a priority group for flu shots. Pregnant women, families with infants at home, and those with underlying medical problems like asthma, diabetes, or neurologic problems really need to get them, too.

It takes a well-orchestrated, worldwide effort to help predict which strains come to our country and which 3 strains are included in the annual flu shot or flu nasal spray here in The United States. The video explains more.

What You Need To Know About “Flu Season

How Experts Determine Flu Strains for Shots/Nasal Spray

Find A Flu Shot Clinic Near You

Every Year Is An Influenza Pandemic For Children (commentary)

BPOD: A New Acronym

This may be the best decision I’ve made in a decade. In August, we came up with a new acronym around our home and a tradition was born. Our boys take this very seriously now. Consider starting one at your home, too? Gratitude is powerful stuff.

Screening For Risks Of Sudden Cardiac Death

More than anything else, we want our children protected from harm. Particularly when we hear about sudden cardiac collapse and death in young athletes. The far majority of children who suffer from sudden cardiac events and sudden cardiac death have no symptoms prior so comprehensive cardiac screening can improve protection for all children.

5 Things To Do Before The Sports Physical:

  1. Print out the pre-participation sports physical form and medical history form. Bring it to the appointment for your child’s doctor or ARNP to fill out. This form can help direct a more comprehensive sports physical and will require documentation of necessary medical history and physical exam findings as recommended by the American Heart Association.
  2. Find out about your own family’s medical history. Inquire is there is any heart disease, any history of seizures, or unexplained or sudden death. Complete that medical history form.
  3. Check in with your child/teen to find out if they ever have any symptoms during exercise that may require more attention–things like fainting or near-fainting, chest pain with exercise, easy fatigue with exercise.
  4. Find out if your school has an AED. If they don’t, work on having the sports director get one for play fields and gymnasiums.
  5. Refresh your CPR skills. Review how to do hands-only CPR (this links to a 1 minute video)

Your child’s physician or nurse practitioner can screen them however there are also free screening events for sudden cardiac death in our area include (please include others you know of in the comments and I will add to the list):

Nick Of Time Foundation (Auburn, WA on 9/29 & Renton, WA 10/3 and ongoing)

Play Smart Youth Heart Screenings (ongoing)