Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

Savoring Versus Saving

dock calling me

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning, torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day.

E.B. White

It’s an entirely challenging task getting to live this     just     one     life.

E.B. White summarizes the dilemma as well as I can imagine when he describes the tension between wanting to savor and wanting to save. For most of us who are raising children there is a constant tug-o-war in our minds/hearts as we decipher how best to live each day, especially when making choices about how we work. Nothing better than savoring the delight of our children, though, most all of us agree on that. Sure my boys fight and squabble, they ignore me when I ask them to put on their shoes, they leave their room a mess, and they forget to say, “please” in front of Grandma. But not a cell in my body denies this: my boys are simply miraculous. I constantly remain awestruck while in the midst of my family. And yes, just like those ahead of me warn, it does feel as if their childhood is coming at lightening speed.

So as the torrid waves of “work-life-balance” perpetuate, I’m unplugging for a few weeks just as I’ve done the last 2 years.  A true believer that digital-free time is essential,  I’ll use this post to ensure I check-out of the Internet for a bit. After sundown Friday I’ll be off Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (maybe even Instagram), off the blog, and only sporadically into my email. I’ll still be at clinic and also on KING5 News. The rest of the time I’ll be with my family as we work to live mindfully, enjoy the end of summer, and prep for the onslaught of autumn.

Be well until September. In the meantime here’s some good reading:

Simply Not Factual

No-SymbolSimply not factual. That’s really all that needs to be said in response to Michael Edwards’ opinion piece entitled “Vaccine Side Effects and Why You Shouldn’t Vaccinate” published in Organic Lifestyle Magazine last week. This is clearly a non-peer reviewed, non-fact-checked online publication that Mr Edwards edits and owns. Fortunately, the magazine is reported to get about the same amount of traffic as my blog so it’s not exactly the Washington Post…

That being said, Edwards’ piece is so egregious I’m unable to hold my breath. Although I’m no watchdog, the dangerous writing demands physician attention partly because it’s been published amidst a noteworthy week in the world of vaccine misinformation:

  1. A segment aired last week by a local TV station in Las Vegas claimed doctors debating a need for vaccines. The TV station reported false information and misrepresented a chiropractor as a “holistic physician.” There was a noted uproar online, especially when original comments from physicians were, at first, taken down. Here’s more from news watchdog Gary Schwitzer, “Back To School Anti Vaccination Woo.”
  2. Mr. Edwards published false information claiming families shouldn’t vaccinate. More below.
  3. Jenny McCarthy’s credibility erodes further as it’s announced she is now advertising e-cigarettes. A pediatric colleague wrote a blog post entitled, “Jenny McCarthy continues tireless crusade to kill us all.”

Back to the piece in “Organic Lifestyle” though. What is so dangerous is not just Mr. Edwards’ misinformation but the way his article appears to the eye. Mr. Edwards published his vaccine opinion in a structure that misleads a reader to believe it’s based in fact. There are sections with headers, subtitles with supposed historical reference, and a list of resources at the end. All the while Mr Edwards warps truth and paints a picture of a fictitious world—one where those diseases now eradicated (small pox) or nearly so (polio) thanks to vaccines, aren’t.

Small pox has been eradicated by worldwide vaccination and thanks to vaccines married with a remarkable commitment from the Gates Foundation, polio is nearly gone too. Read full post »

Kids In Hot Cars

car seatUnthinkable really, leaving a child in a car and forgetting about them. But it happens more than a dozen times every single year here in the US. On average, over 30 children die from the consequences of heat stroke after being left or trapped in a hot car.

Children are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke because their bodies heat up 5 times faster than adults. The reason for their quicker warming stems from a child’s inferior ability to cool themselves (sweat) and their high surface-area-to-mass ratios.

A car heats up rapidly on a hot day. For example, if it’s 80 degrees outside your car can heat up to 123 degrees in an hour. Heatstroke can happen when it’s only 60-70 degrees outside and we all know from experience that in just 10 minutes, your car can rise 20 degrees in temperature.

Most people instantly feel that they could never forget their sleeping children in their car on the way to work. Read this incredible 2009 award-winning Washington Post article if you’re in doubt. Gene Weingarten chronicles the experience of a man on trial for murder after forgetting his child in the car. He weaves in details about the science of distraction. It’s a haunting and terribly difficult article to read but it’s wholly instructive: this could happen to any of us.

We have to create reminders and habits that prevent the possible mistakes of leaving an infant or child in a hot car (see below).

Parents may leave children in a car that can overheat by accident after forgetting to drop them at school in the morning. Mr Weingarten writes: Read full post »

Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Alex and MomThis is a guest post from Liz Scott, mom to Alex, Patrick, Eddie and Joey. She’s looking for support and in doing so she is sharing her story. She talks about instincts and love, commitment and courage. Here’s more on how you may be able to help:

Some of you may be familiar with my place of work, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for all kids with cancer, where I am the Co-Executive Director alongside my husband Jay. If you are still reading this, you may be wondering why exactly I’m telling you all of this? The reason is simple, because like your very own Seattle Mama Doc, I too am a mother, and my daughter Alexandra “Alex” Scott battled childhood cancer from before her first birthday until the time of her death at the age of 8 in 2004.

I am hoping that through sharing her story with you, and my part in it, that you will join me in an initiative, The Million Mile Run, this September to raise the profile of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Alex was my second child, born only a few short years after my husband Jay and I welcomed our first child, a son, Patrick. To say that we were experienced parents during Alex’s first year of life would be a gross overstatement, but something I learned quickly was to trust my instincts. Read full post »

Swimming Across The Pool

Splash

Our 4 year-old swam across the pool this past weekend for the first time. After years of swimming lessons this was a reason to celebrate: big throw! I hate to admit it but I’ve really disliked doing swimming lessons. Both boys often brought more tantrum and tears than tangible joy to the pool deck. After a day at work I would often leave evening swim lessons embarrassed, exhausted, or somewhat disappointed. They felt like #fails. So when we got across the pool this past weekend, we were all delighted. Finally the big win.

Swimming across the pool doesn’t mean I’m off the hook, of course.

I will say, however, that eating those veggies has paid off. Now that we’re finally swimming I’m thrilled we did lessons early. There is a lot more both our boys still need to learn about water safety and skills they’ll both need to be strong swimmers. For example it’s much harder for them to swim in the lake than the pool secondary to the waves and distractions. They still don’t understand risks of the water. So we have years of swimming lessons ahead but I’m feeling optimistic with the epic win last Sunday.

New data published in the last few years encourages swimming lessons earlier, as early as age 1 to 4 years. Data finds early swimming lessons reduce drowning risk in those children most at risk–toddlers (especially boys). Although swim lessons are never a replacement for close supervision, there may be some protection against drowning when children get started early. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says this about early swim lessons: Read full post »

Your Social Network, Your Kids’ Vaccines

network

We live in a profoundly different time today when it comes to caregiving, parenting, and gaining health care/advice than we did even 5 or 10 years ago. The internet has changed things dramatically. During an interview recently a reporter asked, “You were raised on digital media, yes?”  Well, no. I didn’t started using email until late 1995 just prior to leaving college, didn’t get a cell phone until I was teaching, didn’t have a working computer in my apartment until I started my master’s degree (after med school), and didn’t join social media until 2008. It was bedrest with my second pregnancy that urged the establishment of a profile on Facebook. That online community changed everything.

I’m no digital native but I may act like one.

My husband, my friends, and the doctors I’ve chosen to help me raise my boys certainly do color my belief about the world. So do the things I read and watch online.

There has been 3 measles cases in Seattle this July and 58 cases of measles in Brooklyn, NY since March. Measles is preventable with a very effective vaccine. The vaccine is so good that after 2 doses of the MMR shot, over 99% of people are protected against measles for life. However, often our community shapes our decisions to vaccinate…

An insightful Pediatrics study and accompanying editorial published earlier this year illuminate the reality that social networks carry big weight for parents making decisions about immunizations. We do make decisions in the context of our lives and the social network we choose to use as a sounding board really does help us determine what to do in moments of confusion. Read full post »

Measles In Seattle

There is a report of more measles here in Seattle. Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe infection that causes fever, rash, cough, and red, watery eyes. It is mainly spread through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes. King County Public Health released information today detailing new cases and potential places for public exposure to measles infections between July 9th & July 15th. These two new cases are unrelated to the measles case earlier this month in a traveler at the Sea-Tac airport. Much of the information here is thanks to the public health department.

Local public health officials have confirmed measles infections in two siblings, an adult and a child, who were in several public locations during the time that they were contagious. The siblings have been visiting from out of state and public health officials believe that they acquired measles outside of Washington State.

Locations where possible exposures may have occurred:

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Read full post »

Jenny On The View

450px-Jenny_McCarthy_Addresses_AudienceJenny McCarthy is officially joining The View. “Do I have opinions?” one reporter asked today. Yup.

My concerns center around Jenny McCarthy’s past willingness to trade-in her experience for expertise. That is, she widely shared her theories and anecdotes about her son’s experience with learning challenges and falsely placed blame on vaccines for his then-diagnosed autism. I will not discount her private experience. What I discount is her decision to leverage a modeling/pornography career to message about health. She aligned herself with pseudoscience. She mistook “mommy instinct” for fact. She partnered with the debunked Andrew Wakefield and has been an ardent spokesperson for Generation Rescue. She directed families away from life-saving vaccines and pointed them towards costly and unproven treatments like chelation for learning and behavioral challenges. In sum, she created fear.

She created myths around “greening” vaccines, a concept that lives on today and make very little sense.

Her myth (stating the MMR vaccine caused her son’s autism) has potentially increased disease burden. Outbreaks of measles in Europe have overwhelmed France and Wales in the past few years and under-vaccinated communities persist here in the US. In part, this is because of Jenny’s megaphone.

The auspicious truth is when Andrew Wakefield was debunked her fervor slowed. I hear less about Jenny McCarthy in the exam room these days. She’s retreated from the vaccine discussion. Trouble is, I still hear about the myth she methodically created. Some families remain scared and confused about true benefits/risks when it comes to life-saving vaccines. I’m angry she’s made so many parents falter. Read full post »

Arsenic In Apple Juice

apple juice?Juice is never necessary is a child’s diet. Unpopular as this is to say, juice is always an extra, add-on, treat-type part of what children should eat. High in sugar and low in nutrition, excess juice in a child’s diet is linked to poor nutrition, obesity, and dental cavities.  Although 100% juice comes from fruit, after it’s smooshed and pushed through machines to produce clear juice it’s separated from much of the health benefits (fiber) from whole fruit.

Late last week the FDA provided an updated “action plan” and recommendation for monitoring inorganic arsenic levels in apple juice. Back in 2011, the controversy about arsenic in apple juice began when Dr Oz presented data on his afternoon television show that was quickly rebutted by Dr Richard Besser on Good Morning America. Dr Oz reported high levels of total arsenic (organic and inorganic) in apple juice but there were concerns of unnecessary scares. Up until this point, the FDA wasn’t mandating arsenic levels in apple juice. After a cascading series of events (much criticism and then more reports and analytics) it is now more widely accepted that up to 10% of apple juice may have higher levels of inorganic arsenic than we tolerate in drinking water. Inorganic arsenic consumption can damage organs in our body and in high quantities it’s linked to an elevated cancer risk. Organic arsenic isn’t harmful to our body (it passes right through) and is found naturally in many foods we eat like shellfish or seafood.

Consequently, the FDA has decided to decrease the level of inorganic arsenic they tolerate in commercial apple juice to that of levels acceptable in drinking water (10 parts per billion). Inorganic arsenic in our diet typically comes from food contaminated with and/or grown in soil with high levels of inorganic arsenic (animals fed food with arsenic or food grown in contaminated fields with heavy industrial products). In the past couple of years arsenic has enjoyed quite a bit of media spotlight, especially in light of evolving 2012 information about elevated arsenic levels in rice (cereal, noodles, white or brown organically grown or not). Because of this, most pediatricians now recommend offering infants rice cereal only once weekly. As with all concerns about the food we eat, moderation is key…5 tips: Read full post »

Sprinklers

sprinklers

Just a photo. Couldn’t resist sharing this tonight as the moment washed over me and I realized that there’s something about children running in sprinklers that really makes it summertime.

Every once and a while we get ridiculously indulgent moments hand-delivered by our children. I was lucky enough tonight…