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'Pediatric Specialty Care' posts

Child’s Belly Discomfort Caused By Allergies

This is one of the most common questions that I get asked in the office. Allergic diseases are certainly becoming more and more prevalent in the developed world. General pediatricians and specialists are on ‘high-alert’ for this when evaluating a child that may be sick. Within the realm of intestinal diseases, however, a true allergy is actually not very common. To understand this, we must first understand what ‘allergy’ means.

An allergy is a biologic response from our body’s immune system. When our body senses a foreign invader, our army of immune cells attacks it. It does this by releasing chemicals into the blood stream and/or in to the organs where the threat may lie. Those chemicals are meant to destroy the invader, but often hurt our healthy organs as well. For example, airborn pollen may land in your eye, the immune system senses that pollen, releases those chemicals, and as a consequence we get itchy, puffy, watery eyes. The same thing can happen in the bowel if we ingest food that we are allergic to.

Intestinal manifestations of food allergies

One of the more common sites of an allergic response to food is in the esophagus—the food pipe. When the esophagus gets inflamed, it can manifest in a few different ways: heartburn symptoms, chest pain, chronic dry cough, upper abdominal pain, frequent regurgitation, or food that is stuck the chest. The name of this is Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Food allergies lower in the bowels can cause diarrhea, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and fatigue.

There are usually other red flags

One of the most important things to remember is ....

The 'pigeon toed' problem

Have you noticed that your child walks with his or her feet rotated inward instead of pointing straight ahead? This could be described as intoeing and is sometimes referred to as being “pigeon toed.”

As a parent, you may raise concerns with your child’s physician about how your child is walking or running, or perhaps a concern was raised by the child’s grandparents who may have known a child years ago who was treated with a brace or special shoes for a similar issue. Intoeing gait is a common reason for referral of your child to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Intoeing stems from one of, or a combination of, three areas: the foot, the lower leg and the hip. Which area is contributing determines the likelihood that it will resolve over time and determines up until what age one may expect improvement.

The most frequent case of intoeing in infants and young toddlers arises ...

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...

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 ...

Introducing solids to your infant

As your baby grows, you’ve probably started wondering when and how to start feeding your infant solid foods. Here are some general tips to consider:

Is there a safe age to start feeding solid foods to my infant?

Yes, most infants this is between four and six months of age.

Why is there a ‘safe’ age to start feeding solids?

There are a few reasons why this age is safest. The first reason is because prior to four months of age, an infant is not developmentally ready to safely eat from a spoon.

To be able to swallow solids safely, an infant needs good head control; to be able to sit well with support; and to have lost the “extrusion reflex” (the reflex which enables newborns to tightly latch and suck from a nipple, but makes them shove a spoon out of their mouth).

The second reason an infant should be fed solids between four and six months is something many families are not aware of: it is also a strategy to prevent common food allergies. This is one of the strongest reasons I passionately advocate for infants to be exposed to as many foods as possible during this crucial three-month window.

Starting solids and preventing food allergies:

In the past, healthcare providers have advised parents to avoid potential allergens such as peanuts, eggs, and milk. New evidence is now showing that this practice might have played a role in the increased incidence of childhood food allergies in the U.S

Why might this occur? The ...

Swedish Pediatrics to Host Annual Holidays at The Hospital Community Event Dec. 2

SEATTLE, Nov. 20, 2012 - Swedish Pediatrics is hosting its third-annual Holidays at The Hospital event for their patients, families, friends and the community at large. This free and festive holiday celebration will be held Sunday, Dec. 2 from 1-4 p.m. in the 1101 Madison Medical Tower lobby on the Swedish/First Hill campus in Seattle.

Neck lumps in children: focus on the thyroid

There are a wide variety of nodules or lumps of the neck. We often group these growths by their location. While many lumps are simply lymph nodes, which come and go, growths near the “Adam’s apple” merit special attention. Lumps in the front/center of the neck are most likely related to the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone ,which is a chemical that influences a wide range of the body’s functions such as digestion, heart rate, mood, appetite, temperature, and growth. Younger children tend to have a congenital remnant called a thyroglossal duct cyst. During fetal development, the thyroid gland originates from the base of the tongue and then descends down the front of the neck to its eventual home just below the “Adam’s apple.” These cysts often get infected because they maintain a connection to the throat allowing bacteria to enter. If infected, we treat these initially with antibiotics and then perform a surgery to remove the cyst and its connection. The procedure is typically performed as a day surgery.

Actual thyroid nodules are increasing in number with an estimate around 1% of children developing an abnormal thyroid growth. These can vary from not at all threatening to cancerous (malignant). Firm, solid nodules that grow over time tend to be more concerning; but regardless of how they feel, these lumps should be evaluated by your physician. Sometimes the nodules cause an overactive thyroid gland which can lead to symptoms such as: feeling warmer than others, rapid or irregular pulse, anxiety/nervousness, insomnia, tremor, weight loss. Other times the nodule due to its size may cause symptoms such as pain, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing.

Evaluation of these nodules includes ...

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