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Mother Nature’s Role in Healing Our Children

I am a pediatric hospitalist. That is, I am a pediatrician who takes care of children sick enough to be hospitalized. So my writing about the importance of children spending time outdoors and enjoying nature might be surprising. Even though I may only take care of a child for the worst few days of their life, I am still quite passionate about the fundamental role of outdoor play in a child’s health and well-being.

Even during acute illness, I find that children often heal faster when they are given more opportunities to be playful and (illness-allowing) go outdoors to allow Mother Nature to heal them from within. So needless to say, I am often amazed at how little exposure many of these children have had, even prior to becoming ill, to spend time playing outdoors and getting to know their environment.

Now especially, as the days begin to get longer, and the refreshing spring air returns to our beautiful Pacific Northwest, I start thinking about all the wonderful outdoor fun I used to have as a child, and the importance such activities had on my own health and overall sense of well-being.

I worry that children of today encounter ....

Due July 2013: The Lytle Center for Pregnancy & Newborns

No matter how many times you’ve been through it, expecting, having, and raising a baby are truly some of life’s biggest challenges. Making that adventure a little less stressful is what The Lytle Center for Pregnancy & Newborns will be all about when it opens in July 2013 at Swedish/First Hill.

It will be the “go-to” place for moms and dads (and brothers and sisters and grandmas and grandpas) expecting a new baby. In this warm, welcoming space, new families will take classes, gather support from each other, get help with lactation, purchase necessities, and take advantage of a new mom and well-baby exam a few days after birth to make sure everything’s going just right.

Here are just a few of the services that will be available at The Lytle Center:

When a belly ache or stomach pain might mean appendicitis

As a pediatric surgeon, I am often asked when to “worry” about abdominal pain. Children often report aches or pains near the belly button (umbilicus), and the question arises around when this might mean something significant such as appendicitis.

Appendicitis is a common occurrence affecting about 7% of people over their lifetime, and it begins with vague abdominal pain of the central abdomen. Once the appendix becomes obstructed and begins to suffer from lack of circulation (ischemia), the body can detect more accurately the exact source of the pain. After this localization occurs, children older than 6 or so can identify that the pain is most severe in the right lower part of the abdomen. The localization usually occurs within 24 hours of feeling unwell. The pain is typically worse with movement of the appendix during activities such as walking, coughing, and change in position. I often ask children to jump up and down (on their bed is something kids are excited to do!) and watch their face to see if they wince. Typically with appendicitis, a child will either refuse to jump or may try it once but will not continue due to the pain.

Distraction is also frequently used in children that seem to be particularly “focused” on their pain. In gently feeling the abdomen of a child with early appendicitis that is distracted, the abdomen is soft until palpating the area of the appendix. This right lower part of the abdomen is...

Helping your child cope with medical experiences

The hospital or any medical experience can be a stressful and frightening place for anyone, especially a child. They may encounter new faces, scary equipment and overwhelming feelings of loss of control.

Did you know that there are professionals who aim to reduce negative effects of medical experiences that may affect the development, health and well-being of children and families? These professionals are called certified Child Life specialists and are available at most hospitals who serve children to help you and your child cope with these experiences.

Swedish has four full-time Child Life specialists who cover First Hill and Issaquah campuses from surgery to radiology to inpatient stays. At Swedish, our Child Life team strives to reach every pediatric patient who walks through our doors in an attempt to make their stay a little easier.

Here are some tips for parents on how to help your child cope with medical encounters:

What to do if you suspect your child has an ear infection

Ear infections are the most common illness in kids. Almost every child will have at least one ear infection by the age of 5. What do you do when your child complains of ear pain?

Ear pain in children is most often caused by a middle ear infection. These infections often follow an upper respiratory illness, like a cold or the flu. Common symptoms include fever, ear pain and irritability, like not sleeping through the night. It is possible for the buildup of pressure from fluid and infection behind the eardrum to cause the eardrum to rupture. In this situation you will most likely see drainage from the ear.

What should you do if you suspect your child has an ear infection?

  • Treat the pain. Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are best.
  • Have a doctor look in your child’s ear to confirm an ear infection.
  • Decide with your doctor...

Helping kids eat, thrive, and grow

Is your child under the age of 6 and having problems with feeding or weight gain? Swedish’s GAINS program can help you and your pediatrician by doing a full assessment and providing specific recommendations. The Growth and Integrated Nutrition Service at Swedish (GAINS) is a multidisciplinary program, which includes doctors, nurses, dietitians, behavioral specialists, and feeding therapists.

There are many medical conditions that lead to growth and nutrition problems in children. We are experts at working with children with:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • Poor weight gain
  • Malnutrition
  • Failure to thrive
  • Prematurity
  • Children with feeding tubes
  • Aspiration
  • Breastfeeding Difficulties

Here are some frequently asked questions about the GAINS program:

Increasing Your Child’s Comfort with Nitrous Oxide

You may be familiar with “laughing gas” as something you find at the dentist’s office but did you know it can also be used when your child is a patient at Swedish? Laughing gas is a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen, but you might hear your pediatric nurses just call it “nitrous.” In pediatrics, we use it to help a patient relax and feel more comfortable during certain procedures such as IV placement or urinary catheterization.

Once your doctor or nurse has determined that your child is a good candidate for nitrous (without any contraindications such as conditions where air may be trapped in the body, pregnancy, or impaired level of consciousness), your nurses and certified child life specialist (CCLS) will explain the process: Your child will choose a flavor for the inside of their mask used to administer the gas. They will be on a stretcher or bed and have a saturation probe attached to a finger to monitor their oxygenation. One nurse will administer oxygen, then the nitrous, gradually increasing the amount until your child is suitably relaxed for the procedure, while remaining responsive to directions. Another clinician will perform the procedure, e.g., place the IV. A doctor is also available.

As a parent ...

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