Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

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 »

If It Were My Child: No MMRV Shot

A study published in Pediatrics today confirms a slightly elevated risk in febrile seizures in children who receive the combo MMRV (Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Varicella) shot between 1 and 2 years of age. If it were my child, I would NOT get the combo MMRV shot, even if the elevated risk of seizure is extremely low. The American Academy of Pediatrics will likely recommend the same. None of us ever want our child to be put at increased risk. Or to be part of a statistic.

This study found children receiving the combo MMRV had double the risk of febrile seizure compared with those children who got the MMR and Varicella (Chicken Pox) shots individually. Data shows 1 in 2300 children could have a febrile seizure after the combo shot. So, like journalist Madonna Behen reported today, I do not recommend the combo.

From the way I see it, both as a mom and as a pediatrician, if the risk is increased, it is meaningful. And, because children who get the 2 shots separately are equally protected against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Chicken Pox (Varicella) I recommend the safer route of 2 shots. Read full post »

A Sigh Breath: More Than A Metaphor

It’s been a thunderous week. I’ve swept through emotions like a teenager. People who know me, know what these weeks look like. Not unstable, just exuberant.

I consider my emotions a strength. I know they help me empathize and advocate for my patients. I count on my ability to feel and connect with others to define and paint my life’s landscape. Without this raw, and sometimes outrageous emotion, I wouldn’t be happy and I wouldn’t be able to care for my patients and my family like I do.

So a week all over the map. Mountain ranges of emotion peaked between panic, hope, celebration, connection, distance, activation, and then plain old, tired. Feeling celebrated and understood by my peers (thank you), and then alone in caring for children in clinic. It can feel so good to see patients. I’m so fortunate to be able to solve problems and answer questions. But then, it can be isolating somehow, too. Being singularly responsible for answers at times is something I am well trained to do. But it doesn’t always leave me feeling whole. Read full post »

Dreaming of Being A Big Boy

F watching the big boys play ball.

With the World Cup capturing the attention of most of us on the globe, I trust there are kids scattered around the entire planet dreaming. Doesn’t matter on what continent you plant your feet, or which game you call your own, at one point or another, we all dream of being in the “bigs”…

Dropper, Syringe or Cap? Dosing Liquid Medications

Here’s a quick video about dosing liquid medications for infants and children. Some tips on how to avoid giving the incorrect dose. Measuring liquid medications & vitamins for children demands having the proper tools–which we don’t always have. It seems, 12 minutes after I come home with medications, I lose that pesky cap…
So take a look at the video and see if it helps. For me it was a great reminder to organize the medicine cabinet again. And possibly the kitchen counters…

Latitude: 47 Degrees

Today is Monday and my g-calendar says, “Vancouver.” That’s where I am supposed to be for the better part, of the longest day, of the year. My latitude however, remains at 47 degrees. And I trust, like so many others, this day isn’t turning out as planned.

Reasons for the change of location include: the realities surrounding my being a mom, tonight’s swim lesson, a long leg cast, colon cancer, the necessity for using logic, and a dog who sneezed. And because of all of this, if written, the epitaph of this particular day will likely be something like: Latitude for the summer solstice, the day Wendy Sue found her calculated position and knew that leaving was the wrong thing to do.

Being practical when you’re a parent is so alarmingly necessary. One of the quintessential truths no one tells you at the baby shower. It feels good to do the right thing, it’s just wholly inconvenient when you’re desperately trying to make space for some sociability and connection to your friends. It’s back to the grown-up stuff I write about, that being caught in a generational sandwich thing. Read full post »

Answer Key: Measuring Medications For Children

Pop Quiz time up. If you haven’t taken the quiz, scroll back two blog posts. If you have, check your work below.

To be clear, dosing for children isn’t about memorizing conversions. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know these. Rather, getting your kids the proper meds requires being given or searching out, the proper tools for the prescription that is written. When you lose the cap to the bottle, or the syringe, or the dropper that comes with the medication, it’s worth getting another equivalent bottle with the proper dropper-cap-syringe. That is what the FDA warning for Vitamin D was all about.

As a parent you’re not alone in having difficulty converting and dosing liquid medication. A Cornell University study published early this year found that measuring a dose of liquid medicine was far more complicated than it seemed. When asked to measure out 5 cc (a teaspoon) of liquid medication using a medium sized spoon, subjects under-dosed by about 8%. When using a large spoon, they over-did the dose by over 10%. So, guessing really isn’t the right thing to do when giving your children medication. Using a teaspoon from the silverware drawer, not the right thing, either. Got to find the proper syringe, dropper, or dispensing cup when giving medications to children. In a pinch, it’s okay to use your measuring spoon…

The quiz takers did wonderfully, but even a few doctors hesitated on their answers. We all can learn and re-learn how to dose and dispense medication… Read full post »