Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

Seattle Mama Doc 101: Teen Texting when Driving

Autism Screening At 1 Year Check Up?

A recently published study proposed and evaluated a new autism screening checklist for the 1-year well baby check-up. I had a hard time getting my hands on the study (crazy but true–even pediatricians sometimes are boxed out of research studies), but read lots about it first in the press. I was excited about the potential for early screening. The checklist, designed to be administered by a pediatrician, intends to improve early detection and diagnosis of autism. The goal: to enable early intervention and treatment for at-risk children. It’s clear that early intervention improves autistic children’s outcome with autism spectrum disorders but the media may have provided false information and false hope. So before you expect this checklist at your baby’s next 1-year check up, let me explain what the study found, my concerns about the results, and how the checklist may become useful.

I take care in using any screening tool–any intervention can cause unnecessary harm. My main concern resides around false positives (when a test suggests there is a problem when in reality there isn’t) and the numbers from this study… Read full post »

The Differences

While I was at my 15-year college reunion this weekend, I found myself repeatedly describing my boys to old friends and peers who had never met them. I told variant stories, but ultimately spent time on their differences. The contrast helps illuminate their truths. Eventually, it became clear that the easiest way was this:

The boys are entirely different but made of the same things.

Yet, F is really going to need O to drag him into the ocean to play in the waves.

And O is really going to need F to remind him that they could drown while in there.

Seattle Mama Doc 101: Baby Proofing Your House

I’m A Physician On Twitter: Patient Privacy

On Monday night, Dr Bryan Vartabedian, a pediatric gastroenterologist in Texas, wrote a blog post about physician behavior on Twitter. In the world of health and social media, it’s caused a near nuclear explosion of thought, an outpouring of opinion, and most importantly a much-needed discussion. Discourse is perfect for progress.

I think about this all the time.

In the post, Doctor V called out an anonymous physician blogger and tweeter, (@Mommy_Doctor), on her tweets about a patient suffering from an embarrassing and painful medical condition. Nearly 100 comments later and numerous other blog posts, physicians and patients are openly battling and exchanging perspectives.

I wonder, what do you think? I rarely write about patients directly. More, I write about what I learn from patients. I never want a patient or family member to stumble upon anything I write and wonder if I’m writing about them. When I have written about patients, I have asked permission and even then, waited for a period of time before writing about them to avoid the time-stamp the internet provides. Read full post »

2 Questions For School On Community Immunity?

My phone wasn’t working well today so I stood in line at the “genius” bar this afternoon to resolve the problem. To be clear, that was 2 1/2 hours ago and I’m home with the promise from a very nice genius that it would be activated by the time I reached my home. It didn’t happen and I’m phoneless (a new thing for me) so it’s quiet around here. In lieu of being able to communicate by phone, I’ll share something I learned while waiting for help. It turns out to have shaped my thoughts for the afternoon.

While at the store, I ran into a researcher who works at the interface of vaccine hesitancy and immunization rates. We got to talking about his work, my writing and work in clinic, and what will ultimately help families. I mentioned what I really want is for families to get good information from their pediatricians (online and off) so when they immunize their children, they rest easy knowing that their children are protected. He asked a question, well two questions, that I didn’t have the answer to in my own life. I wonder, do you? Read full post »

Mama Doc 101: Introduction of Solids

If It Were My Child: No Texting And Driving

Warning: this is a rant. Recently I was on my way to meet a physician for coffee to talk about my work in social media and health. While driving in front of Children’s Hospital, I saw a car going more slowly than I’d expect, changing the traffic patterns. We stopped at the light, it turned green, and she didn’t move. I looked over and saw her punching away at her phone, composing a text message. I laid on the horn. I pointed to her phone. I screamed! She looked surprised and confused that she’d done anything dangerous. I think she wondered why I was fanatical. You’re 23 times more likely to have a crash while texting and driving compared to someone who is simply driving. I wish I could have mentioned that, too.

No one was hurt, no one was injured that morning. Yet it appeared the last thing this driver was thinking about was the road, the traffic light, the children and their parents crossing at the walk while entering and leaving the hospital. Imagine.

Texting while driving was responsible for 16,000 deaths in a 6 year period. Over 5,000 lives were lost in 2009 alone and almost 1/2 million were injured in accidents related to distracted driving. Read full post »

Introducing Seattle Mama Doc 101

Pile On The Paperwork: Vaccine Exemption In WA State

I’m happy about a new pile of paperwork coming my way. To be clear, I’ve never said this before. But I’m serious. Instead of stewing controversy, I suspect a new bill around here could open up lines of communication. I’m not living under a rock; I understand that some feel this new bill requiring signatures for vaccine exemption is heavy handed. I wholeheartedly disagree.

Yesterday Governor Gregoire signed a new bill into law that will demand families talk with a health care worker about the risks when exempting from immunizations. It turns out, WA state lags in their vaccination rates compared to national averages. In the last 10 years there has been a doubling in the number of students with exemptions for vaccinations in our schools. The biggest reason may be a convenience factor. The state suggests that 95% of exemptions are not for a medical reason, but one for convenience. Seems like you’d never opt out of immunizations for convenience putting your child or another child at risk. Right? But then think about how nuts your life is, how chaotic it is to raise children, and work, and pay bills and and and….

Imagine this: you’re a busy mom/dad, your child is about to start Kindergarten or 6th grade. The records you have for their immunizations are incomplete. You didn’t keep the book and like me and everyone else, your paper work isn’t filed perfectly. You’re pretty sure your child is “up to date.” You’re standing at registration at the school. You’ve been waiting in line and your left heel hurts. Come to think of it, your head hurts, too. Your daughter just tugged on your pant leg; she’s hungry. Quickly, when you realize you’ve got an incomplete record, you call your daughter’s doctor office while still in line. No one picks up when you call and you’re put in a queue waiting to talk with someone in medical records. You have a choice, would you rather just sign your name, exempting your child from vaccines, or go on a hunt for the records to ensure your child truly is up to date? Sure, the answer for most any parent is clear.

You sign your name. Read full post »