Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

Guns In Your House?

Asking friends about guns is like asking about their underwear. Not in the pediatric office, but at home, on the street, and in the neighborhood. Hear me out…

My next-door-neighbor (NDN) is a stay at home dad (SAHD). On most days, he runs his household and wrangles 8 and 6 year-old boys until his wife joins him after work. The three (or four) of them seem to weave and pedal through life, on and off their bikes. I can see them coming and going throughout the day; it’s my crystal ball of sorts as to what life with 2 boys may look like about 5 years from now…

Last Friday, NDN approached me from his porch. We often talk, porch-to-porch, about life, the trees, our favorite noodle shop, or the weather. Last Friday, it was different. He said, “You should write a post about gun violence.” I said, “Yah, I know, I should write about 2 million posts…”

But then he framed the issue for me. And I knew he was right.
Read full post »

A Sunday Drive

Out for a Sunday drive. Just two little boys and the open road…

“Eeeeee” My New Favorite Syllable

O has added some syllables to his vocabulary over the last 10 days. And they are simply delightful. Precious, really.

Warning: this post sounds like it’s written by his mom.

O has been embellishing his sentences with a little “eeeee” at the end of words. The Popsicle is now “cold-eeee” when he grabs it. The stove is “hot-eeee.” And when “Momm-eee” and “Dad-eee” walk in the door, it’s, “Hi-eeee!”

I love it. The error, the innocence, and the experimenting. It’s as if he’s trying English on and adding accessories. A belt here, an extra bracelet there. He’s learning how to use his language rather than just repeat it and mix it up. When people say, “Gosh O looks like you,” or “O looks just like _____,” I usually say, “To me, he looks like O.” Because that’s how I see it. But now he sounds like O, too. A pattern and change that are all his own. Just like when F used to say, “kokay.”

It’s one of those delectable little things your toddler says in error that you hold on to for dear life. I know that like grasping at time or holding onto air, it’s senseless. Too soon, the “eeeee” is going to vanish. So for now, I’m holding on as tightly as I can while trapeeeeezing through time.

Drowning: Quieter, Faster, & Closer Than You Think

Two teenagers died in New York yesterday. Not from a gun shot, a car crash, or suicides. Rather, they drowned in a popular swimming hole in the Bronx river on a hot summer day. I hate stories like that. Hate hearing it, hate seeing the headline. A total failure for prevention efforts.

I talk about drowning in clinic every day I see patients. I should probably talk about it more often. As I said in my earlier post outlining the new AAP Prevention of Drowning guidelines (& swimming lessons between age 1-4 yrs), drowning is the second leading cause of injury related death in children 1 to 19 years of age. And most drownings in the US happen this time of year. When it’s hot outside, the lake, stream, or pool can look really gooood. Even to those who don’t know how to swim.

I talk about drowning mostly with the parents of toddlers. But I should spend more time talking with adolescents. I get distracted by all the drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll stuff I talk about. Today, I am reminded of the importance of talking with teens about drowning, because of those teens but also this perspective about drowning.

See drowning isn’t what you think it is. It’s not loud and splashy and outrageous. It’s not like it looks in the movies… Read full post »

The Working Mom Wonders, “What Am I Doing?”

I’ve been caught in a recurring cloud this week even though the sky has been essentially spotless. It’s been one of those weeks where I find myself spinning around to grab the cup of milk or the steering wheel, muttering, “What am I doing?”

I am back perseverating on how to do this right. Life, I mean.

The issue of balance between work and parenting while trying to contribute to the world and use my skills (read: loaded issue) bubbles up at times. I never quite know what will trip me up, triggering a re-evaluation. But it comes up. Quarterly, let’s say, like state taxes…

There are days I am astonished by my opportunities and the children I get to take care of. And days where I am so delighted by my kids, I cry when I leave for work. And days I question if I have the stamina to endure. Last night by the end of clinic, I was so tired and my eyes so bloodshot (no idea why), that my medical assistant took my temperature. It was normal. But, point is, it happens; I do get really tired.

The real trouble is this: I liked my day in clinic yesterday and the things I discovered: the broken bone I found in a 2 week old, the teenager I helped with depression, the 20+ check ups I completed. But tired and missing my boys, yes. See, this would be far easier if I was only pulled in one direction. It’s not how it works for me; I have tugs on each limb. Read full post »

Verbatim: Does My Child Need Vitamins?

Every single day in clinic a parent asks me, “Do I need to give my child a multivitamin?

The short answer: No. The long answer is, of course, more complicated and evolving.

There is no research that finds young children, even the “pickiest” eaters out there, need a daily supplemental multivitamin. But there’s one sneaky little exception: Vitamin D. Over the past 5-10 years there is mounting evidence demonstrating that the majority of children in the US have low vitamin D levels. Children lack both the dietary intake of vitamin D and the exposure to UVB light from the sun they need. My blog posts explaining Vitamin D supplements in infants and children go into more detail.

All infants and children need 400 IU of Vitamin D every day but not a whole multivitamin. You can usually get 400 IU from a multivitamin (read the label), but also just as easily from an isolated vita D supplement.

So, you really may be able to bid Fred Flintstone farewell…

Less Is More: 4 Ways To Know

I keep saying less is more. So often, with children, the less we do, the better. Pediatricians often pride themselves on being smart enough to know when to do…..nothing.

Take pink eye, for example. You know, the gnarly ooey-gooey, eyes-sealed-shut-yellow-crusty-“sleep”- in-the-eye that never goes away? The highly contagious infection where your child looks uber-crummy and straight-up, infectious? When it happens, you create a self-imposed lock-down-blinds-drawn-cancel-all-plans-covert-stay-home and watch a movie to hole-up the contagion. You or your child may want to hide from the world until it improves.

In my practice, pinkeye is one of the those infections that inspires me to wash my hands over and over and over again.  It is really contagious. And the best thing you can do when you see a glimpse of it, anywhere, is wash.your.hands.

So you haul in to see your pediatrician. Question is, what does your doc do for your child? School is asking for a note to come back and you’re there for a quick-fix thinking, “Just give me something to make this go away. And fast.” And like always, it depends on a number of things. Read full post »

Eat Your Veggies, Create A Rooster Tail At 74

This is my Father-in-Law. He’s turning 75 this year. He’s a smart, earnest man. I learn from him every time I have the luxury to see him. It’s not just the little things he says, the wisdom he imparts, the places and spaces we disagree, or  the way he parents the husband. More, it’s the way he lives his life.

I was in the back of the boat last week while he skied around a deep lake in Wisconsin. Picture me, snapping photos, jaw dropped way open. Mosquitoes stuck between my central incisors. We were attending a family reunion, an 80th birthday party, and had a whole week with the boys. More on that later, but let me just summarize the time with them (except for one afternoon): yum. During this whimsical boat ride, and after the jaw drop, I had a cartoon-ish grin on my face. I mean, this is kind of awesome, yes?

The trip really made me think he’s figured something out. Yesterday in clinic I was loaded down with check ups (count them: 20+), which often translates to lots of time talking about overweight. Read full post »

Silent Deliciousness

When I first watched this video, the computer volume was off (I didn’t know it) and I thought this was a silent video. I loved the stillness of the quiet mixed with the emotion of the ad.

I cried (yes, I’m the kind of person who always does) one of those quiet cries, the kind where you’d never know I was crying unless you were looking straight into my eyes. Tears just dripped silently.

Instead of being impregnated with fear, this public service announcement is loaded with hope.

Such a simple, kind way to illustrate why we take the time to buckle-up.

Isn’t it amazing how much people love you?

PS–Because it was such a stunningly nice way to watch this, I recommend you watch this first without sound, then watch it again with the music turned way up. Also, if you share this with teens, will you share with me what they thought of it? I’m on the fence thinking this will resonate with those 12-18 year olds. As I am in the process of creating a list of videos for children to watch on YouTube (to hand out at check-ups), I wonder if I should include this. Digame.

The Most Devastating Article: Fatal Distraction By Gene Weingarten

Happy July. In Seattle that usually means that summer is soon to arrive. For the rest of the US, I know, it has already begun. Ever since last week though, I have thought about July differently. I was midway through this post last Friday when I was forced to abandon it. Overwhelmed by the article I read, I wrote about sighing. I’ve now taken a big sigh… But this information has not left me. Today, we enter July, the month out of the year in which more US children die after being left (and trapped) in hot cars, than any other. Windows up and forgotten, these children die of hyperthermia and overheating. They overheat, cry for help, and are left unheard. It’s unthinkable, really. 18 children have already died this year, 8 of them in the first two weeks of June. Unfortunately, now that two weeks has passed, this statistic has likely changed.

This utterly alarming trend has caught the attention of safety experts. And mine. We all need to create systems in our life to prevent this from happening. Make a system to check the back seat of your car every single time you walk away from it. Kids in it or not.

You can read right over this stuff feeling like it’s irrelevant.

You’re thinking, this will never happen to me. No way would I forget my kid in the car. Before you convince yourself, read this 2010 Pultizer Prize winning article by Gene Weingarten published in March, 2009. It has changed my life; It is the most devastating article I’ve read all year. I’m not overstating this. The handful of others that I have had read this say the very same. Share it with anyone who will ever drive a child in a car seat or booster seat, anywhere. Read full post »