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Croup: coughs that go bark in the night

Croup is a common childhood illness that can be very frightening to a parent or child. It often starts with the symptoms of a mild cold, such as a runny nose, or sore throat. The child goes to bed as usual and then wakes suddenly in the middle of the night with a barking cough. Often they gasp in between the coughs and make a high-pitched noise called stridor when they breathe in.

Thankfully, croup is rarely dangerous. Most children can be treated at home. But it can be a scary illness for both the parent and the child.

It is important to know how to treat croup at home and when to seek help from your doctor or the emergency room....

Caring for your child's cast

Kids of all generations from all walks of life have one thing in common and that is the love of play and imagination. Play structures, a couch turned to a fort, or their sworn innate ability to fly can take a sour turn. As much as we would like to wrap our little Spider Mans, Incredible Hulks and Wonder Women in bubble wrap, unfortunately life’s little incidences are inevitable.

If ever the time comes where your Super Hero suffers from an injury and needs a cast, it is time to put on your Super Parent costume.

Here are some helpful tips on cast care for the Super Parent:

  • Bathing: Absolutely no showers. We ask parents to give kids a bath instead, keeping the casted limb outside of the tub. In addition, we suggest wrapping the cast with a towel and covering with a newspaper bag or bread bag and closing it off with a rubber band at the top for added protection.
  • Itching: The golden rule of having a cast is DO NOT STICK ANYTHING IN THE CAST! Scratching an itch with an object can cause the skin to break underneath the cast, leaving room for infection. If your child has itching, tapping on the outside of the cast or using a hair dryer set on cool can help.
  • If a cast...

Tips for getting the most out of your inhalers

“Darn! My inhaler is out and I am going to have to call today, a Sunday, to get a refill…”

Spring is here! And that means asthma season is back, and with the nicer weather, pollen counts are high. Flowers are wonderful and the trees beautiful, but if you are like me, some of those plants have your number. The beautiful smells come with itchy eyes, sneezes, and for some, a serious amount of wheezing.

Patients are reaching for their inhalers more often, and sometimes getting into serious respiratory trouble, especially if their medication is running short. Inhalers are expensive, too, and so using them optimally is both financially and healthfully important.

Fortunately, a couple of tricks can really help maximize an asthma spray’s value.

The medication comes out fast and hard when you squeeze the canister, and it can be difficult to time your breath to inhale the dose well, plus with the energy of the release being so high, a lot of misted drug can zoom right out of your mouth. The trick is to use a ‘spacer’, and the simplest is a rolled up piece of paper, to about a one inch diameter. Tuck the sprayer in the far end, wrap your lips around the outside of the other end, and take your leisure squeezing and breathing! The tube holds the mist in place for a few seconds, letting you better coordinate your inhalation and improve substantially the amount of drug you get to where it is needed.

The second tip is to use a steroid inhaler daily if you need your rescue inhaler more than a few times a week. The rescue inhaler will become less effective the more you use it if you don’t directly treat the inflammation of the allergic response in your bronchial tubes with a low dose of cortisone type medication. The dose of the latter is small and will not cause harm to the rest of your system if used according to directions, but it will keep your rescue medication most beneficial!

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:

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