Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

My Three Valentines

Valentine constructionI had to bring my valentine supplies to work today. Have yet to construct them or profess my love on these big red hearts but I will before heading home. I’m not buying the boys any flowers or candy (their school friends did, thank goodness) but I do revel in the opportunity to put words on a heart each year on February 14th.

Yesterday I had meetings all day. The best part of my work day came at the end during a delightful interview (with ParentMap) when I was asked, “What time do you love or treasure most with your boys?” My response was totally off the cuff. But I’ll say, even just getting an opportunity to respond to the question was a huge delight. I’ve been reading and reflecting on how we share our journey of parenthood because of a Slate article I read earlier this week entitled, “My Life Is A Waking Nightmare.” The author protests the amount of negativity we share about parenthood.

As I reflected on the interview last night I realized it was the foundation for my three valentines. Everything in my heart is different after having children, of course. My romantic love for my husband remains and is nurtured with time but these little boys take up huge real estate now. For the rest of time I’ll always send at least 3 valentines. Just the way it is now after having my boys.

If you’re curious, here’s what I said (I’m paraphrasing). Don’t worry I’ll condense this for the cards!

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Caffeine Intake High For Children But Shifting

CoffeeI was up helping my son for the majority of the night. He’s got a stomach bug (which he got from his brother) therefore I was up dealing with the enormous mess that comes with vomiting in the middle of the night. I know you know my woe. This is the second round of this bug at our house so I was clearly exhausted when 6 am rolled around.

First thing I reached for was my cup of coffee. Pretty typical for a working mom just trying to get by. As I write about caffeine, from my perch in this dear coffee town, I’m in no way suggesting we parents should ditch the latte! In fact the health benefits of moderate coffee intake during adulthood continue to unfold amidst ongoing small concerns. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth on the health benefits lurking in coffee. Moderation, like always, is key.

Yet when it comes to children, we may be more lax about caffeine intake than ideal. Caffeine consumption is pretty high in the US with more than 70% of children having caffeine on a daily basis. New research out today evaluating trends in caffeine intake from 1999 to 2010 illuminates the shifts in our children’s consumption. The researchers summed it up best here:

Mean caffeine intake has not increased among children and adolescents in recent years. However, coffee and energy drinks represent a greater proportion of caffeine intake as soda intake has declined, and generally have higher concentrations and amounts of caffeine than soda.

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CVS Stops Selling Tobacco

Doctors are tough critics — as well they should be. Today the news that CVS Caremark pharmacies will no longer sell tobacco brought about quite a bit of rapid online dialogue. Even President Obama chimed-in with praise, a response that some in the business world say is worth billions for CVS. Having a good reputation, particularly when you’re in the business of delivering health care and lending health advice, seems essential. In my mind we should praise and celebrate what today brings – leadership for making it harder to get addicted to tobacco products we know seriously harm health.

But not all doctors may think a move to ban the sale of tobacco in a health care environment is enough. Dr Sunny Chan, a family doctor in Canada, asked the tough question about our health care providers (HCP) working environment:

Meanwhile, Texas pediatrician Dr Bryan Vartabedian wrote a blog post this morning asking CVS to take a bigger step  by banning sales of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages (that we know are associated with obesity) and junk food. He wrote,

You can’t make money peddling savory snacks while at once setting the pace for a healthy lifestyle.  And condemning one vice works for the press release, but not as a brand offering health solutions.

When focusing singularly on CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco products, it’s easy to say the choice is a phenomenal one. Not promoting (or profiting) from the sale of carcinogens is always in the best interest of our communities and our long-term health. I return to what Centers For Disease Control’s Director, Dr Thomas Friedman, recently wrote in JAMA , “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 »

A Detour From The Kid’s Menu

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Last weekend while heading home from a weekend medical conference in Canada we exited off the interstate to drive through the Skagit Valley on the country roads. The skies were clear and the valley stunning. The land is so spacious in the valley, stuck between the mountains and the sea, it inspires a feeling of brimmed, fertile opportunity. The moment we exited the highway the drive home immediately felt more of an adventure.

Unsurprising to any parent who drives with children in the car, as I ate up the scenery the boys got hungry. We pulled off the road to grab a late, impromptu lunch. For once we weren’t in a hurry so spontaneity governed as we honed in on a spot where we could sit down and eat while looking over the Puget Sound. The plan was nearly thwarted–as we opened the door to the tiny restaurant just off Chuckanut Drive I immediately saw a sign declaring they didn’t serve children under age 9. Instead of being outraged by the ageism, I asked if we could have lunch. The boys were tucked under my arm. They’re 5 and 7 and clearly look nothing like a near 10 year-old. The restaurant was nearly empty as it was close to 2pm. The waitress smiled.

Turns out we looked like better business than no business and we were seated in the back corner. Read full post »

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 »