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Tips for parents dealing with toddler’s diarrhea

Toddlerhood is a time when children are going through a lot of changes.  Children enter pre-school, toilet-training begins, diets change, and sometimes stooling patterns become different as well.  The latter issue often leads to parental worry.   One of the most common changes that parents of toddlers bring up during visits with me is that their toddler’s stools seem very loose or watery (“diarrhea”).  More often than not, the diagnosis ends up being “toddler’s diarrhea”, a harmless type of diarrhea that generally starts after a child is weaned.  (Other names for this condition include “functional diarrhea of childhood” or “chronic non-specific diarrhea of childhood”.)

Toddler’s diarrhea occurs due to a relative immaturity of the intestinal tract of young children.  Relatively speaking, sugars and some fluid get poorly absorbed.  The stools often contain undigested food particles (carrots and corn being the most commonly noticed).  The key differentiating factor that sets toddler’s diarrhea apart from other causes of diarrhea at this age is that except for loose stools, there are no other symptoms.  There is no malabsorption of nutrients, so children with toddler’s diarrhea have normal growth and weight gain.  Otherwise, they are perfectly healthy.  There won’t be anything abnormal found during their physical exam.  Tests are not generally needed, because those, too, will be normal.

Even though toddler’s diarrhea resolves on its own, I often tell families to follow the “4 Fs” as a guide to treatment:

Visiting Your Hospitalized Child

When your child is hospitalized, it’s understandable that family and friends will want to visit. This is often a help to both the patient and the parent at the bedside. To maximize the benefit of this support, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Visiting hours: Check with your nurse for the visiting hours and let your nurse know when you are able to visit. If there are extenuating circumstances for your family’s situation (e.g., a parent works night or swing shift and can only visit before or after), let the nursing staff know.

  • Security ...

Pediatric Experts Voice Concern Over Feeding Children Rice

A recent consensus statement written by international pediatric nutrition experts has recommended that infants and young children avoid rice-based drinks.  This is due to the fact that some types of rice contain large concentrations of inorganic arsenic, a first-level carcinogen.  There is no safe level of intake, because any exposure is risky.  The longer the exposure to inorganic arsenic, the more toxic its effects.

The newly published report reminds us that rice and derived products such as starch, flour and syrup are used to fortify different foods, including drinks, purees, and snacks.  These are foods often fed to infants and young children.  Since most of the inorganic arsenic in rice is concentrated in the outer bran layers, the report also highlights that potentially, the most harmful type of exposure is that which comes from products manufactured from brown rice.  

To reduce the harmful effects from arsenic exposure in rice-based foods, experts recommend the following:

FDA Questions Safety of Constipation Medication

On Monday the New York Times published an article about the FDA’s plan to research the safety of a very commonly prescribed medication, polyethylene glycol 3350 or PEG 3350 (most commonly known under the brand name, MiraLAX®).  As a pediatric gastroenterologist who often recommends this medication, I wanted to share my personal thoughts after reading the article.

First of all, although the news was certainly a surprise to me, it was a pleasant one. I was ...

Seattle rain? You can still play inside!

In the last few years, I’ve taken note of various national campaigns encouraging improved health and wellness in children. Some aim to inspire at least an hour of play daily. Others focus on movement in conjunction with eating nutritious food to help fight childhood obesity. All of these campaigns share a common important message: regular physical activity improves a child’s overall health.

With the winter months upon us, my patients and families are concerned how to maintain activity levels when it’s cold, rainy, and gets dark outside too early. Even in the warmest months, there may be reasons a child might be inside more than out – including safety concerns. Fortunately, there are many fun ways children CAN stay active indoors when playgrounds are cold, ball fields are icy, yards are soggy, or the sun goes down too early.

Here are some ways kids can play inside while also working on strength, balance, flexibility, or coordination:

Circumcision: Yes or No?

On December 2, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a draft of its proposed recommendation that doctors should counsel all males (including parents of all male children) on the benefits and risks of circumcision.  This comes after a policy statement was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2012, stating that the benefits of infant circumcision outweigh the risks. 

The federal regulation has sparked a national debate, which I thought would be a good time to remind families about the pros and cons of the procedure.  

Support siblings when a child is in the hospital

Anytime a child is admitted to the hospital, it’s a scary and stressful experience for the entire family, including siblings. Siblings may have a vast range of different reactions and feelings so it’s just as important to support the siblings through this difficult time as it is for the patient.
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