Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Woes/ What's going around

For those of you who have had illness sweeping through your households, or you loyal readers who check my Monday Noe Valley Pediatrics Updates blog, you know that we have seen a bit of everything so far this winter.
Our patients and families have been dealing with RSV, tons of colds and coughs, fevers, strep throat and tummy woes.
There have been a number of cases of Influenza type A.
I also think I am also starting to see some hand foot mouth. When that comes around it has a way of sweeping through the day cares.
Quite a few of our families have been traveling these past several weeks. It is common for us to see even a larger influx of virus illnesses right after the holidays. If the fifty states were a deck of cards, I always imagine that they do a great big shuffle right about now, thanks to all the travelers, and spread all the germs.

Many of these illnesses have been addressed in earlier blog posts but for your convenience, here are are some of the common themes, just a click away.



General guide to dealing with coughs and colds

Dealing with fevers

Hand Foot and Mouth Virus

Tummy bugs

Tylenol/ Motrin dosages charts

Happy and Healthy New year to all of you.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Vaporizer vs humidifier

Please see updated post January 2019
A lot of folks who live in San Francisco keep their homes fairly cool  (I can hear my out of town visitors laughing at that understatement while thinking about shivering in their long underwear and never taking their coats off while visiting my house)
Recently the weather got cold enough that even the most stubborn of us cranked up the heat.
When the heat is on, the air gets terribly dry and getting out the Humidifier/ Vaporizer will make sleeping much more comfortable.
If you have sparks and static electricity in your house or apartment, I am talking to you.

Humidifying the air is also one of the first things I recommend for patients who have colds/ cough and congestion. I find it essential for kids with Croup and RSV (both of which are going around).
Does somebody in your family snore? Humidifiers may help that as well.  

Vaporizers and Humidifiers essentially do the same job, but they have a few differences that you should be aware of.

Vaporizers heat the water to make steam.
The downside for them is the potential for getting burned (and it does happen, trust me, I get the calls)
Burns can happen from contact with the hot water or from getting too close to the steam.

On the other hand, Vaporizers have LESS change for growing bacteria (still change the water please)
On a cold night, I find the warm mist more comforting.

Humidifiers use a cold mist.
A humidifier has a greater chance of growing bacteria if not cleaned properly.
Many units also strongly suggest using distilled water so that you don't get a white coating of minerals from hard tap water..

There are a lot of great machines out there with huge price ranges. I have seen some for under $30.
If you are just going to bring out the machine for the occasional cold symptoms, you should be fine with an inexpensive machine.

If you think that you are likely to use it more often, you may want to invest in a more expensive unit.
(This is a great way to use one of the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons)

There are tons of sites out there that rate different machines. I do not have a favorite. 

A few Features that I would pay attention to would be the ease of cleaning and an auto shut off.
Some machines give you the choice of hot or cold. 

Regardless of which type you use, we don't want to keep the rooms overly damp. In San Francisco you can grow mold very quickly.
Don't run the machines 24/7..Make sure you turn them off during the day and dry up any dampness on walls or around windows.
Also don't be lazy. Change the water and clean your machines appropriately according to the directions.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Best Present is your Presence

I saw a bumper sticker a while ago that said:

Good parenting requires Twice as much time and half as much money.
So true!

This is the season for gift giving, but we all actually could do with a lot less stuff!! The best present I think that families can give to each other is the gift of self.

For kids who are old enough to understand, give a certificate that promises a special activity that you might do some time in the future.

It is great for families to do outings all together, but one on one time is so important if you can manage it. Mix and match so that you make sure that everyone gets special time with one other family member. This includes one on one time for you parents as well.

The list below has some old and new ideas. 

Nurse Judy's Inexpensive and creative activities 

  • Collect and decorate rocks with colorful paints and glitter for a rock garden.
This is a great one to use as a reward for good behavior. When they see the pretty rocks, they will remember that they earned them.

  • Make a collage. Old magazines and old photos are great for this activity.

  • Make a musical instrument... Use your imagination: a shoe box with rubber bands can be a guitar; Glasses filled with different levels of water make different tones; Tapping different surfaces with chopsticks makes different sounds.

  • Go on a 'use all your senses' walk. What do they see, smell, hear, and feel?

  • Make a personalized place mats. Take some family photos, glue onto cardboard and cover with clear contact paper. Kids will love to use these with meals. 
  • Create a scavenger hunt walk. Plan a list ahead of time of thing to a dog, an airplane, or even a girl with purple hair.

  • Go on an ABC walk. Find things that start with all the different letters...or find the actual letters on signs and license plates. This is a great game in a supermarket.

  • Download Free coloring pages from the internet. With a little searching, you can get a picture of just about anything.

  • Draw with chalk. Make a hopscotch board.

  • Make your own play dough. You can find the recipe on line

  • Make a fort using the couch cushions,

  •  For a really special occasion, set up the tent and have a backyard camp out 

  • Write a story and illustrate it together.

  • Decide on a recipe and bake or cook something. Kids will often try foods more eagerly if they helped with the cooking. Let them help sprinkle in different spices and be the taste-tester.

  • Have a Tea party. Invite the dolls, and get out the good china that you never use.

  • Trace your hands and feet and color them in.

  • Have some down time while watching a video or a special TV program. There are some lovely educational TV programs and videos out there.

  • Play a computer game. Don't be afraid of controlled use. Children that don't learn how to be comfortable on computers at a young age are at a distinct disadvantage in this high tech culture.

  • Blow bubbles

  • Playing board games with the family is the stuff that great memories are made of 

  • There is little out there that is as much fun as a giant box to get inside of . If you buy a new appliance or see a neighbor buying one, ask for the box.

  • Wash the car!

  • Play dress up. In my opinion, every house needs a good dress up box, (after Halloween is a great time to pick up costumes and things on sale) 

  • Read!

  • Take advantage of where we live, there are always fairs, festivals and museums that are so close. SFKIDS.ORG is a great resource for all of the happenings that are going on  

  • Make a scrap book with keepsakes and photos of all the fun activities 
Unless you are using the phone or tablet as part of the activity make sure you put them down and be fully engaged in what you are doing  
(emails can wait) 

Happy Holidays...go out and make some wonderful memories! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Vicks VapoRub on your feet?

The internet is a minefield.
It is a goldmine of valuable information.
Unfortunately, it also has the power to terrify unwitting folks who go online to look up symptoms or whatnot.
Most wise folks know enough to realize that the good information is muddled up with loads of crap. It is hard to know what is real.
Therefore, when I got an email several years ago touting the magic of applying Vicks VapoRub to your feet to stop a cough, I promptly dumped it into my spam.
Frankly anything that tells you that it works 100% of the time is 100% false (Have fun with that statement!)
But then a variation of the same email came to me again and I thought it might be fun to see if there was any merit to it.
The claim is that covering the soles of the feet with the VapoRub and then putting socks on is very helpful for coughs.
I am always looking for safe, natural remedies to help relieve symptoms of colds and coughs for my patients without loading them with systemic medications.
So, several winters ago I set out to do a completely unscientific study.
While talking to the hundreds of my Noe Valley Pediatric parents who were trying to relieve the coughs that were keeping their kids up at night I enlisted them to give the Vicks on the feet a try. I asked them to report back.
To my surprise, well more than 50% of the folks who tried this seemed to find that it was quite helpful....imagine that! Even Snopes doesn't completely debunk it, just labels it as unproven.
No one who tried it had any ill effects.
I occasionally completely forget about this, but someone asked me about it the other day. With the colds and coughs out there in full swing, this might be something you want to try.

Before applying anything topical, it is important to make sure you or your child do not have a reaction. Place a small dab on the leg and rub it in. If there is no irritation within 30 minutes or so, you should be fine. (I do this same test with a new sunscreen) 

If you have an infant who is under 4 months of age with a cough that is keeping them up or interfering with their eating, they need to be seen.