Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

Protecting Children In The Sun: What To Use & Why

It’s cloudy and cold in Seattle. The rest of the northern hemisphere is starting to grill, swim at the beach, and play in the sun. Here in Seattle we’re shivering (literally) under raincoats and fleece. It’s pouring. My space heater is running. Think rain, space needle, cold. It’s not always like this, though. And in the great hope that the clouds will clear and the ball of fire will reappear in the sky, I’ve been thinking about sunscreen and ways to prevent melanoma.

Every season we hear that cancer of the skin related to sun exposure (and tanning bed use) is rising, even in children. This post covers my thoughts, the off-the-cuff thoughts of 2 dermatologists and 1 environmental health expert/pediatrician. We’re all still learning. But we do know a few things that may help.

Although melanoma is rare in children, sun exposure is more dangerous for children than adults. Here’s why: the more sun exposure children have, the more moles they make in their first few decades. The more moles, the bigger the risk of a mole turning into a melanoma. So, here’s how to stop being scared of the sun and enjoy it safely. Sunscreen is what most parents reach for when they worry about the sun, yet when it comes to infants and toddlers, long sleeved UV suits, hats and sunglasses are far easier. And maybe cheaper depending on how many times you use them.

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Mama Doc Cliff Notes? Immunizations, Organic Milk, Formula & Swimming

Take a peek at this KCTS video interview for a recap on the science and rationale behind the most recent blog posts. My condensed (well, kind of) thoughts about a few recent studies, an AAP statement, and the news. It’s a little like Cliff Notes for the blog. But you don’t even have to turn any pages…

Links to studies discussed:
Study on immunization and neuropsychological outcome
Study on pesticide exposure

Reciprocity

Reciprocity. It happens in clinic sometimes, genuinely and lovingly. Someone says something in a way that gives me far more than I can dish out in a 20 minute clinic visit. It’s things like this, on top of genuinely getting to know my patients and their families, that keep me going back in each week. To steal a phrase from a friend, I’m really “happy to help & thrilled to be here.”

Really and truly. I’m not a PollyAnna; there certainly are bad days when I want to go home and snuggle with my boys, turn off the computer, and slow down. But really the general pulse of my life is that I’m thrilled to be here working, sharing, learning, and giving.

Primary care is fraught with difficulties. There is paperwork (read: piles), tedious e-mails, phone messages to return, lab values to review, refills to sign, new protocols to incorporate. This all sandwiched in between clinic visits with sick children and worried families. Emails and Twitter feed wedged between heart disease and plantar warts. It is complicated to manage this and busier that I ever imagined it would be. But it is still really good.

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To Cry It Out or Not To Cry It Out…

Sleep. We’d all love a little. Especially once we have children.
How have you, did you, or will you help your baby (and you!) sleep through the night?

Everyone has an opinion. Really, one opinion is rarely better than another. It’s one of those beautiful parenting truths where often, we’re all a little “right.”

Watch this segment from KCTS with insights from me and from sleep expert, Elizabeth Pantley.

AAP Speaks: You Swim? Swim Lessons For Toddlers

We were on the waitlist for swim lessons for over a year. Once off the list, F went in for the first lesson (pictured here) jumped in, did a great job, and then refused to ever go back in again. We went every week, twice a week, sat on the pool deck, and watched his peers swim. We waited. We watched. He often tantrumed. Parents stared. Friends commiserated. My mom tried to tell me what to do.

But then for the last class, last week, auspiciously F jumped back in again and gave it a go. Nothing is ever quite what I expect to be. When it comes to swimming lessons, at least in my world, everyone has an opinion and maybe a plan.

Yesterday, the AAP published a revised policy statement about the prevention of drowning. Most noteworthy, they have lifted the recommendation against swim lessons before the age of 4 for most children. With a cautious brush stroke, the AAP has painted the picture that swimming lessons are okay after age 1, depending on physical, emotional and developmental maturity. For most children, it is okay to start lessons after age 1. Really, it’s up to you if you feel your toddler is ready to take the plunge. Read full post »

More Distaste For Chocolate “Formula”

More information on the chocolate and vanilla product from Enfamil being marketed as “formula” for Toddlers:
King 5 Children’s Healthlink:

This video is no longer available from King 5.

Community: On The Phone Or While On Twitter

Community can mean different things to each of us. Yesterday, a 3 year old came to see me in clinic. She must have been a little nervous about the visit. When I got into the exam room, I found her accompanied by her dad, 3 baby dolls in a stroller, and 2 on her back. You see, I think she felt quite a bit safer surrounded by her community. I was charmed. But then reminded. Community is a combination of the people, words, geography, support, and sometimes even sounds that surround us.

A study published last week demonstrated the calming effect of a mother’s voice. In the study, while completing a stressful task, 7 to 12 year old girls’ levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) rose in expected ways. You get stressed, your cortisol surges. But when comforted by their mother’s hug or their mother’s voice on the phone after the task was completed, levels of oxytocin (a hormone associated with bonding) soared while the stress hormone cortisol washed away. Girls who didn’t get to talk with their moms didn’t have this hormonal shift. Just the sound of a mother’s voice was enough to shift the stress response in these girls.

This data help confirm what we already know; hearing Mom’s (or Dad’s, I suspect) voice can simply make things feel better. Read full post »

Chocolate “Formula”: More Sugar Than A Pop-Tart

Enfamil just came out with chocolate and vanilla flavored “toddler formula.” I heard about it first on Twitter and have been following the reaction of moms, obesity experts, activists, and nutritionists over the past week or so. The online world is a-flutter with the news. If Enfamil produced the “formula” as an advertising gimmick, it worked. I hate this stuff.

Read more of my tips in the full post.  Read full post »

Guest Blog: “Image Gently” 5 Things You Can Do

Here’s The Husband. There is no ghost-writing, I promise. I’ve kept my hands tied behind my back for the past few days.

The Husband is a pediatric radiologist. He works at Children’s. He’s passionate about reducing the amount of radiation a child receives when they have any imaging. In the medical world, “imaging” includes x-rays, CT scans (“cat” scans), bone scans, MRI studies, ultrasound, and procedures like “swallow studies” and VCUGs. He’s real smart and has taught me why to reduce the number of x-rays and CT scans I obtain in my own clinic.

Our tale began when we met the first day of medical school. I went up to the physician lecturer and made a comment after a lecture on gun violence. Jonathan stood right behind me. He said, “Ditto to everything she said.”  I don’t think he’s ever said ditto again. Darn.

Read his guest post. You’ll learn ways to reduce radiation exposure for your children. I say, “Ditto to everything he said.”

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My Mother’s Day

You know, I had a nice Mother’s Day. There was a picnic, some hugs, my sweet F saying, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” There were tulips and time with my boys. I had time alone with my mom. But it wasn’t simple. Even with the gourmet Seattle sunshine and the flowers in the grass for airplane rides, I really did spin through variant emotions as the day unfolded. I think a lot about parenting now that I write a blog. Fortunately, by the end of the day, at least for 2010, I think I knew what Mother’s Day meant to me.

Mother’s Day may be complex, especially for non-traditional families and for those whose lives are surrounded by illness or loss. This year was the first time I really got that. Read full post »