It’s common for people to use baby powder after showering to keep dry, especially during the warmer months. Similarly, parents often use baby powder on their baby’s bottoms after diaper changes. I disagree with the latter use for two reasons. First, I’m not convinced it does any good. Although baby powder may absorb perspiration on an adult, it’s hard for powder to contend with the volume of urine a baby produces in between diaper changes. More importantly, baby powder can be dangerous. A number of reports have been published in medical journals where an older infant had grabbed a container of baby powder while he was lying on his back during a diaper change. Because baby powder containers look like bottles, these infants held the bottles up to their mouths and inadvertently aspirated the powder into their tracheas.
Parents frequently hear that they should never compare children to each other. As a pediatrician, I can unequivocally state that this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Not only do we compare our children to each other, but we also compare them to other people’s children. Why? Because it’s instinctive for humans to compare things. We compare which apples to pick at the grocery store. We compare which shampoo to buy. We compare which clothes to wear to work.
So where does this “wisdom” come from? I think it’s derived from the difference between comparing and judging. Things can be different without one being superior to the other. When it comes to children, there is never one thing you are comparing. People are more complicated than apples or shampoo so most parents find they appreciate each child for different things. The flip side of this is also true. Namely, each child can make us crazy in different ways.
When this topic comes up in my office, I start by telling parents what I just said. I then expand on the topic by reminding them that what you never want to do is to compare your kids unconsciously and not be aware of it. It’s also a bit perilous to censure one child by invoking the more desired attributes of his sibling.
I have two teenagers who are very different. I horse around with and go to movies with my son, but have intellectual conversations with my daughter. I am proud of both of them, but in different ways. Sometimes I wish my daughter and I could do things like I do with my son and visa versa. That is comparing them, but neither one is a better child than the other. The flip side is that they each annoy me in different ways as well.
Comparing your kids to your friend’s kids is a bit trickier because you don’t have all the facts regarding someone else’s children. You may still find that you like certain aspects of your friend’s children more than your own. Just remember that most kids behave better with people other than their parents.
It’s also very important to remember that children have big ears. They love to eavesdrop on their parents because it’s exciting to hear what grownups have to say when they are alone. If my son heard me saying something comparing him to his sister, I am setting myself up for trouble. I can think it, and I can discuss it with my wife. But this should only be done when all children are accounted for.
While every parent hopes his or her teenager will be able to “just say no” when asked to use drugs or alcohol, it’s clear that many adolescents will have difficulty resisting peer pressure. One way to handle this situation is to give teenagers an excuse so it won’t look like they’re not “being cool” when asked to use an illegal substance. Here are some comebacks that may help kids get out of tricky situations:
- “I can’t drink/smoke because I’m taking a medication for my allergies (or some other condition) that interacts badly with alcohol/marijuana.” If someone asks the teen what he’s taking, he can say he doesn’t know because his mom just gives it to him in the morning.
- “I’ve had a stomach ache all day, and the last thing I need is to drink tonight.”
- “I’ve got asthma so I can’t smoke weed.”
- “My parents are planning to buy me a car for graduation, but if they ever catch me doing drugs or alcohol, they told me I can kiss the car goodbye.”
- “My brother/sister/cousin got into a lot of trouble doing alcohol/drugs so I’m not into this stuff.”
- “I’ve got plans tomorrow morning so I need to be clear headed.”
- “I’m the designated driver tonight.”
- “My brother/sister/pet is sick, so I know my parents will be awake when I get home tonight.”
- “I’ve got relatives in town so I need to be straight when I get home tonight.”
- “My dad goes to sleep late every night, so I can never get away with this stuff.”
Have your own tips? Let me know by posting a comment or sending me a note on the contact me page.
Because I’m a pediatrician, most of the spider bites I see happen to children. I have also noted that the ear is the most common place where these bites occur. (The above picture is one of my patients.) I’m not sure why this happens, but I’ve often wondered if it’s because the ear has a large, convoluted surface area that attracts the spider or gives it a place to hide. It’s also possible that the warmth of the ear attracts spiders.
Spider bites usually occur when kids are outside playing or at night while they’re asleep. However, don’t worry that Aragog is stalking your children at night. (Aragog is the name of Hagrid’s spider friend from the Harry Potter books.) The spiders that bite people are tiny ones that are easy to miss even in the daytime.
The typical spider bite presents as a red, swollen area that is warm or hot to the touch, but doesn’t hurt much. In fact, most of the time, they itch more than they hurt.
The bites from black widow spiders and brown recluse spider scan be very dangerous, but in 30 years, I have never had a patient in this region of the country bitten by one of these species.
Parents often give children Benadryl for spider bites assuming the child is having an allergic reaction to the bite. Benadryl doesn’t usually work because the swelling that accompanies spider bites is a local inflammatory reaction to venom rather than an allergy. However, Benadryl may help if the bite itches. The main first aid treatment is to put something cold on the area to reduce the swelling. My favorite remedy is a bag of frozen peas because it conforms to the swollen area.
Kids who get spider bites are often treated with antibiotics because of a concern that the area is infected. Although this is possible, “garden variety” spider bites rarely get infected, possibly because the venom kills any bacteria in the area.
If a spider bite is very swollen, oral steroids may help because they are anti-inflammatory medication.
This is a simple tip, but one that makes a big difference when you have to take a medication for 10 days. The basic difference between capsules and pills is that capsules float and pills sink. If you put a capsule in your mouth, take a sip of water and throw your head back to swallow the capsule, it will be hard because the capsule will float on the water and move away from the back of your throat. The best way to take capsules, therefore, is to take a mouthful of water, put the capsule in your mouth and then lean your head forward as you swallow. When you do this, the pill will still float on the water, but now it will be at the back of your mouth and go down more easily.
Because tablets sink, the best way to swallow them is with the opposite maneuver. Take a mouthful of water, put the pill in your mouth and lean your head back when you swallow.
If you have trouble swallowing pills and capsules, I discussed a trick for doing this in an earlier blog.
The most common blood test doctors order is a CBC, which stands for complete blood count. The test provides information about a person’s red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. We get CBCs for different reasons, but the two most common are to check for anemia (red blood cells) and infection (white blood cells).
Lots of patients ask me what their blood type is. When I tell them this information isn’t important on a day-to-day basis, they often say, “Wouldn’t it helpful if I needed a blood transfusion?” The answer is no.
The basic blood groups that everyone knows about are A, B, AB and O. In addition, blood can be “positive” or “negative.” These designations refer to markers in blood that allow your body to recognize itself. Except for people with AB positive blood, everyone has naturally occurring antibodies to blood types other than their own. Getting transfused with mismatched blood can result in serious or even fatal reactions.
What people don’t know is that we have also minor blood groups in our system. Without getting into details, this basically means that not all A positive blood is the same. Although minor blood group incompatibilities don’t usually cause serious reactions, they can lead to mild transfusion reactions, which should be avoided.
If a person needs a transfusion on an emergency basis, he will always get O negative blood even if he shows up with a blood donation card that says he is A positive. That’s why doctors on TV shows always shout the following order to the closest nurse: “Type and cross the patient and get me six units of O negative blood, STAT!” (If you haven’t seen this before, STAT, means immediately.)
“Typing the patient” means finding out what type blood he has. “Crossing the patient” means cross-matching his blood with similar blood types available in the blood bank. That way, the patient will get the most similar A positive blood on hand, including the minor groups.
Many years ago, I took my 3-year-old son to the Montgomery County Fair. We were having a grand time until I lost sight of Ryan for a second. When I turned around to find him, he was lost in a sea of parents, babies and screaming children. As my heart raced, I vainly tried to find Ryan’s face the crowd. What I noticed instead is that when you’re panicking, all toddlers look alike. Luckily for me, he hadn’t wandered off, but just went to throw a pizza crust in a nearby trashcan.
When I bent down to pick Ryan up, I noticed that he was wearing blue shorts and a bright orange T-shirt. In my three seconds of panic, it would have been easier to look for an orange shirt and blue shorts than my son’s face. From that point on, whenever I was out with one of my kids, I always kept a mental image of what they were wearing in case we got separated.