Vaccine hesitancy comes in all flavors. It’s not always concerns about safety that causes children, teens, and parents to hesitate or even refuse vaccines. Sometimes it’s about pain. Or simply discomfort. Or anxiety. It’s perfectly natural, of course, to have a fear of needles. It’s rare that a child enjoys the pain of an injection (although those kids, even at young ages, are out there).
Sometimes the fear and anxiety of needles really can manifest itself as a sincere phobia. In those cases, the fear is so overwhelming that it changes family decision-making around vaccinations and leaves children unprotected. It can torture parents when they have to scoop their kids up from under the chair. And parents get embarrassed when their child/teen becomes combative with shots. Sometimes they avoid coming back to clinic simply to avoid the conflict. Makes sense in a hectic world.
However recently in clinic I took care of a teen soon after she’d had a terrible experience with Influenza (the “flu”) and it’s changed how I care for my patients. She was an asthmatic, high school student. Because of her asthma, her doctor had recommended a flu shot. Even though doctors recommend flu shots for all children between 6 months of age and 18 years, we work very hard to get high-risk patients protected. Children and teens with asthma are more likely to have a severe pneumonia after contracting Influenza. We worry about children who wheeze and have asthma (even mild asthma) because it can land them in the hospital and/or can cause a life-threatening illness.
Most parents with asthmatic children get flu shots yearly, early in the season. But not all.
When I saw the girl in clinic she was exhausted and stressed, confused and scared. Through the course of her Influenza illness she had missed 2 weeks of school and lost over 15 pounds. She was still coughing a few weeks later. I looked back to the chart note visit prior to her infection where her pediatrician had recommended the flu shot. “She’d declined,” it said.
Although this video feels a little bit like a video game (and takes you back to the 1970’s), it’s 1 minute of your life you don’t want to miss. Recommendations for CPR have changed this past decade. If you don’t have time to re-certify, take 1 minute and watch this video. Don’t ever be afraid to help immediately in a emergency situation where a teen or adult has potentially suffered a cardiac arrest. Channel your inner-John Travolta. Your actions can only help. Check out the American Heart Association CPR page for more. You can take a CPR class IRL (in real life) or online.
Bystander CPR dramatically improves survival from cardiac arrest, yet far less than half of arrest victims receive this potentially lifesaving therapy.
Parents who have learned how to do CPR are often more confident about their ability to manage an emergency of any kind. As a mom, I always feel more confident after reviewing these recommendations.
CPR For Infants & Children Is Similar But Different
Click on these links for drawings and nice summaries of CPR recommendations. Hands-only CPR is not recommended for children. However, the rate of compressions for infants and children also matches the Stayin’ Alive beat…
This post sounds a lot like it’s written by a doctor (I’m colored by the holidays I’ve spent working in the ER). I feel strongly about not using fireworks with children. Fireworks have always kind of freaked me out. When I was a child my father loved fireworks, he used to terrify us by surprising us with hidden explosions in the bushes and whirling bottle rockets off the deck. I like professional fireworks in the sky but I do tend to keep a good distance from the others…scarred for life, I guess.
The Fourth is one of those days we can do better. As the holiday week(end) begins, take a minute to plan ahead. The Fourth of July is one day where we don’t follow our typical routine, and each year July 4th marks a day with a huge bump in injuries. Talk to your children about ways to protect themselves and plan ahead to protect your young children from potential injuries:
Children between the age of 5 and 14 are the highest risk for firework injuries—over double the risk of the rest of us. I don’t recommend you use any fireworks but if you do, make some serious rules. Ensure that adults don’t let young children light fireworks and supervise older children using any type of firework. Nearly 1/2 of all injuries each year from fireworks occur in children under age 15. Research finds that the hands (40%), eyes (20%), and head and face (20%) are the body areas most often involved. “Every type of legally available consumer (so-called “safe and sane”) firework has been associated with serious injury or death.
Sparklers seem fairly benign, yet use caution with your kids if you let them hold them. Sparklers burn at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit–hot enough to cause a 3rd-degree burn.
Remind your teen children and their friends about of risks associated with teens on the road for the holiday. Pull a parent and remind them to wear their seat belt, avoid texting and driving, and ban the use of alcohol for those behind the wheel. The Fourth of July ranks as the deadliest day all year for teen drivers according to AAA.
As you construct a schema for your summer, plot vacation time, and plan for summer camps, more than anything I think you should build in some unstructured time. Carve out hours, half, or even full days each and every week with an absent itinerary. Wide-open days inspire creativity (in us all) and allow children to stumble upon a little boredom. I would suggest boredom is a helpful tool for everyone here and there, especially our children. Just think of the motivation that comes from it! Read this perspective: What Caine’s Arcade Teaches Us About Modern Parenthood.
Good thing for those of us who are less organized: unstructured time comes without difficulty as the camps fill up and we run out of options. Now (May) is the time to sign up for many camps, so get on it. The unstructured time I mention is only delightful if peppered into a summer filled with adventure and discovery. Summer camps offer a great place and space for fostering independence, building skill and esteem, and forging new friendships. Choosing a camp may feel entirely daunting if your child has special health needs, you have limited money for camp, or you’ve never separated from your child for long periods prior. Here are a few tips and resources I’ve found that may help: Read full post »
This is a position post where I take a stand that represents no one other than myself as a mom and a pediatrician. The reason I clarify this, is that my position is a strong one. No one wants to go up against someone like the NFL, it seems. But let me say this very clearly: It if it were my child, I’d never let them play football. No way. For my boys, the risks are too large, the sentiments too cruel, and the gains simply not worth it. There are plenty of other sports teams out there to grow, exercise, form friendships, and excel. I never want my children to be a part of any institution that houses intent to harm another human being. Although direct harm may not be a tenet in pee wee football, we all know that young sports teams are built to emulate the pros. If the NFL is the inspiration, for now, count my boys out. This isn’t just about the risk of concussion…
On my way into clinic on Saturday morning, I heard the alleged tape of Gregg Williams directing players to seriously harm opposing teammates. In the tape Mr Williams, the previous defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, employed his players to inflict harm on multiple players–for example, attempt to tear the ACL of Michael Crabtree and work to re-concuss another player, Kyle Williams. Let me point out, some data finds the harms of concussions (particularly in adolescents) may be longstanding, and the risk of a second concussion may rarely be deadly.
In the tape you hear Gregg Williams repeatedly say, “Kill the head, the body will die” followed by, “We want his head sideways.” The tape goes on to capture more directives for harming additional players. It’s nauseating and provoking–got my fingers shaking during my drive. And really more than anything else, it was wholeheartedly disappointing. Particularly for me as a pediatrician. When parents now ask me about football, instead of talking about concussions as a significant risk, I’ll also be talking about ethics, sportsmanship, and integrity.
This week, Washington State declared that whooping cough (pertussis) has reached epidemic levels. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had more than 600 documented cases in the state, a dramatic increase since last year. The increase puts our new babies at risk.
In clinic I’ve been urging new parents to cocoon their babies. That is, provide a family of protection by having every single child & adult immunized against whooping cough, influenza, and other vaccine preventable illnesses. By surrounding a baby with only immunized people, you cocoon them against serious infections.
Whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory illness spread by sneezing and coughing that can be deadly to young infants. Getting a Tdap shot is the best way to avoid getting whooping cough. Amidst an epidemic, we worry most about newborns because they are most vulnerable to complications and lack vaccine-protection. If every child and adult that surrounds a newborn gets a Tdap shot, the likelihood of the baby getting whooping cough approaches zero.
Most newborns get whooping cough from their family or adults around them. That’s where an email comes to play.
You’re going to have to be fairly Mama-Papa-Bear about this. You’ll have to show some strength to create a very safe home, even when it feels somewhat over-the-top. As I said to a number of families in clinic today, “It only seems entirely over-the-top-nuts until we lose another newborn to pertussis.” Being smart now will save lives.
Make a new rule: no visits with a newborn until all visitors have had the Tdap shot. Even Grandparents.
Write an email to family and friends to explain.
A sample email for you to use/copy/share –written today by a friend of mine–mother to that darling baby girl born last week: Read full post »
I’ve been mentioning the cinnamon challenge in clinic with my teen patients after I learned about it earlier this month. Read this nice summary. The challenge is to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon in less time than it takes me to explain what it is (60 seconds). Reality is, my patients tend to know about the challenge, but their parents don’t. I usually talk about it along with a whole list of other topics while their parents are out of the room (bullying-the choking game-sex-drugs-violence-texting & driving or other threats to their safety). Recently, a patient was able to explain the challenge to her mom with me in the room right after her mom returned and joined us. We discussed the reasons the cinnamon challenge can be life threatening and stupid. Teens don’t want to get hurt, but they really do want to be strong, and ohhhh, competition is seductive. Teens (like most grown-ups) love to preserve that feeling of invincibility. Precisely why the challenge has caught on.
The cinnamon challenge has its own website and has gone viral with the help of social media. The topic has been viewed online more than 60 million times with some pages boasting over 10,000 “likes.” The reason? The challenge itself is so visual and so inexpensive to replicate, teens are capturing videos of the challenge and putting them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on their phones. Pretty funny, right?
This is the part where I sound like a doctor. The dangers from the cinnamon challenge are real; multiple children have been hospitalized. Some children have had serious complications including loss of consciousness, collapsing lungs, ICU care, and days on a ventilator. Cinnamon is easily aerosolized but not easily dissolved. Once it lodges into tissue, it can cause great havoc and remain there. Coughing while gasping and/or choking on cinnamon can cause it to be easily inhaled or aspirated or swallowed leading into tissues in our bodies. We worry most about it collecting in the lungs.
The challenge is real. The side effects even more so.
As a parent and pediatrician, any mention of sudden cardiac death leaves me feeling uneasy. The stories of young athletes dying or falling on the field are agonizing. All of us here on earth would like to do something to prevent these deaths.
Researchers and cardiologists are working tirelessly to understand predictors for sudden cardiac death in children alongside techniques to improve screening and prevention for young athletes. Dr Nicolas Madsen talked with me about recent work here in Washington State. There’s a video at the end of this post from the interview. I’m lucky, I met Dr Madsen when he was a medical student and now he’s an old friend. He’s one of those bright lights: a compassionate physician and father of three who just gets it and wants to solve big problems. He’s about to finish his fellowship here in Seattle and while completing his training, he’s uncovered some holes in the system. He’s helped me understand how to screen children better. As a parent, there are some simple things you can do to improve the screening your child receives prior to athletic participation.
“Sudden Cardiac Death is a needle in a haystack, but a very sharp one.” Read full post »
Some of my best friends are about to have a baby, the due date only a few weeks away. I’m teary thinking about it as my excitement for her arrival exceeds the speed limit. They asked my opinion this week for getting their extended family immunized in light of the recent Whooping Cough (pertussis) outbreak in our area. I advised them that all teens and adults (including grandparents) need a Tdap shot before they are with the baby. Even pregnant women are getting immunized after 20 weeks gestation to protect their newborns at and after birth.
Ideally, everyone should have the Tdap shot at least 2 weeks before the baby arrives.
My friends advised their parents. But both grandmas were turned away–one here in the US and one abroad. Each were told by a physician that they didn’t need the Tdap shot because they were over 65 years of age.
That physician was wrong. Whooping Cough (pertussis) knows no age. And immunization recommendations for pertussis protection have changed this past year because of rising rates of infection and infant deaths.
The best way to protect a newborn baby from getting Whooping Cough is to cocoon them with family and friends who are immunized against it.
All grandparents, all adults, and all teens need a Tdap shot before holding a newborn baby.
Ask questions, please. And one more thing, can you suggest girl names? My friend is beside herself that they don’t have one picked out…I’ll buy you coffee if you suggest the name she chooses (hint: use a real email)
I had a great trip to the grocery store today with the boys. Life has been so hectic these past few weeks, we haven’t had weekend time for a leisurely trip to the aisles of fruit and fondue. Today, we had the luxury of time, a list, and a proper plan. They weren’t hungry (and neither was I) so our stomachs didn’t drive the cart and the boys were uniquely engaged. We perused the produce area. We made peanut butter in the machine that crushes raw peanuts. We talked about some of the beginnings of the food we bought (the avocado came from Mexico, the mini-oranges from California). But I thought most about how pleased I am when I end up at checkout with more fresh food in the cart than food stuffed into packages. Today I think I came close.
And that’s the lesson. One thing I say over and over again in clinic is, “If at all possible, for every single meal you offer your child at home, make sure 1/2 the plate is covered in fresh fruit and veggies.”
So if that’s the goal, the cart should always look the very same way.
Seattle Children’s provides healthcare for the special needs of children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex (gender), sexual orientation or disability. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho.