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The Children's Wellness Blog

Is it Strep Throat or Just a Cold?

September 20, 2017

Is it Strep Throat or Just a ColdNo parent wants to see their child sick, but the closer we get to winter, the more frequent those illnesses will become. One very common symptom that we expect to see often at Children’s Wellness Center is a sore throat. Because parents know that one particular type of sore throat (called strep throat) can become serious, this is their first worry when their kids start complaining of a sore throat. So how do you know if your child might have strep throat? Our board-certified pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners are here to help with a few tips.

Strep throat is an illness caused by a specific type of bacteria. A sore throat is a common symptom in many types of colds and other illnesses as well as strep throat, but the difference is in the other symptoms that can accompany it. On top of a sore throat, strep throat often causes a fever, loss of appetite (the primary symptom in most cases), a stomach ache, and vomiting. Kids with strep throat can also have spots of pus on their tonsils. However, if your child has other symptoms, like a cough, a runny nose, or diarrhea, it’s likely that they don’t have strep throat but that they have another type of illness instead, like a viral cold or flu.

While guidelines like this list of symptoms can help, remember that any time your child has a persistent sore throat, you should schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center. This is true regardless of whether or not you suspect strep throat, because we may be able to help kids recover from other illnesses more quickly as well. If our providers believe your child may have strep throat, they will perform a quick in-office test. It’s important to find out whether your child truly has strep throat before receiving treatment (and not to attempt to self-diagnose and treat your child), because strep throat requires antibiotics while other causes of sore throats generally should not be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, strep throat can advance into rheumatic fever, so getting your child treatment can help them heal before their symptoms worsen.

If your child is indeed diagnosed with strep throat, we will generally prescribe an antibiotic to fight the strep bacteria. Be sure to follow all of the instructions about how and when to give your child the medication. While many kids start to feel better before their antibiotics are finished, it’s very important to continue giving your child the medicine until the full prescription has been used. This ensures that all the bacteria is truly gone. In order to keep the strep from continuing to spread, you should also keep your child home from school, day care, and other activities until the fever is gone and they have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

Ultimately, the bottom line is this: when in doubt, schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or nurse practitioner at Children’s Wellness Center. Using the wrong medication can be ineffective and can also cause unintended side effects. If your child has a sustained sore throat or any other persistent symptom, our providers are here to provide them with the same expert care and warm welcome that they would give their own families.

Parent Health Information: Childhood Allergies

September 8, 2017

Now that September has begun, fall allergy season is well underway in the Atlanta area, and so many of us are suffering from hay fever. For some parents, childhood allergies are easy to spot (especially seasonal ones), but others may think their kids’ symptoms are from a cold. Some allergies, on the other hand, cause symptoms that are not at all respiratory. While most people think of allergies as nothing but a mild inconvenience, they can escalate and create serious problems. As a parent, catching your child’s allergies at a young age (or whenever they arise) and learning how to control them can be instrumental in keeping your kids safe, healthy, and comfortable all year long. In order to help with that task, our board-certified pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center have created the infographic below, packed with all the helpful information parents want to know about allergies and allergic asthma in kids.

08.28.17 Parent Health Information Childhood Allergies

As a parent, education is your best defense against a number of childhood illnesses because it will help you know what warning signs to look for and what to do if they appear. Ultimately, it’s better to stay on the safe side and contact Children’s Wellness Center for an appointment if you have any concerns about your child’s health. As an added bonus, be sure to follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more helpful health tips for parents.

What Parents Should Know about Childhood Asthma

August 31, 2017

What Parents Should Know about Childhood AsthmaAsthma is a very common childhood illness, but that doesn’t make it any less scary for a patient and their parents. Any condition that affects your child’s ability to breathe can be highly stressful. That’s why, as a parent, you’ll want to know the basics about asthma, so you can recognize symptoms if they appear, know how to help your child maintain healthier breathing, and rest easy knowing that your child’s asthma is well controlled. To this end, our board-certified pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center are here to offer you some helpful insight.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that causes your airway to be both inflamed and constricted, leaving less room for air to pass through. Certain triggers (like illness, allergens, pollutants, and exercise) can also make the symptoms worse and quickly constrict the airways even further. The severity will vary, but these triggers can bring on an asthma attack which can limit breathing to a dangerous level. Asthma may or may not get milder with age, but regardless, the symptoms are very treatable and controllable with the right medicines. In other words, while you should take your child’s asthma seriously and stay on top of their medications, you don’t need to be in constant fear for their safety.

How is Asthma Treated?

Asthma is primarily treated with inhaled medications because this delivers the medicine directly to the airways. There are two categories of asthma medicines: long-term and short-term. Long-term medications are taken on a daily basis to keep your child’s symptoms under control, while short-term medicines are only to be taken when your child is having an asthma attack. The purpose of the long-term medications is to limit the number of times you need to use the short-term ones, but it’s always best to have your child’s short-term medicine available in case of an emergency.

There are a few different ways asthma medication can be used. Most parents have heard about inhalers, and they come in two forms: metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) and dry powder inhalers (DPIs). MDIs are the most common type, and they are used with a valve-holding chamber, commonly called a spacer.  Using a spacer is recommended for all ages, as studies show even older children and adults will get 20-30% more medicine delivered to their lungs if a spacer is used.  DPIs are not recommended for young children as they require some degree of motor control and cannot be used with a spacer.  For young children, a nebulizer might be used.  This product converts liquid medication into a mist that kids can inhale through a mask or mouthpiece.

What to Do if You Think Your Child Has Asthma

As a parent, there are a few signs you should look for in your kids:

  • Frequent dry coughing, especially at night
  • Frequent wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest congestion
  • Difficulty recovering from respiratory illnesses
  • Frequent dry coughing in children after or during exercise, laughing, or crying

If you’re concerned that your child might have asthma, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. We’ll gather information and evaluate your child to determine if your child has asthma. In some cases, the best way to diagnose asthma is simply to start treating it and see if your child improves. When we reach a diagnosis, we’ll be able to categorize your child’s condition as intermittent asthma (with symptoms happening only rarely), mild persistent asthma, moderate persistent asthma, or severe persistent asthma. This will help us determine the best medications for your child.

Tips for Managing Your Child’s Asthma

If your child is diagnosed with asthma, you will be given instructions about how to manage their condition, but here are a few more helpful tips:

  • Follow all medication instructions carefully, and teach your child how to do the same, because you may not be there every time he/she needs medicine.
  • Inform all of your child’s coaches, teachers, group leaders, child care professionals, babysitters, and anyone else who cares for him/her. Tell them your child’s asthma diagnosis, explain the signs of a potential asthma attack (especially coughing), and instruct them about what to do in that situation.
  • Have an open line of communication with your child’s school, and use it well. Make sure all the proper consent forms are in place for your child to be able to have his/her medication at school, and find out what your child needs to do to access the medicine and explain it to him/her.
  • Find out which specific triggers make your child’s asthma symptoms worse. The most common ones includeillness, allergens (pollen, mold, dust, animal dander), air pollution, cigarette smoke, chemical deodorizers (like scented cleaning products and air fresheners), exercise, and stress. Take steps to minimize the presence of these triggers in your home.

An asthma diagnosis can be understandably stressful for any parent because, after all, you just want your child to be happy and healthy. Fortunately, asthma is a very manageable condition, so kids with asthma typically lead very normal, healthy lives, and so can you. If you think your child might have asthma or if his/her asthma is not well-controlled, schedule an appointment with us. For more tips about asthma and other aspects of pediatric health, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Rising Risks: Teen Hearing Loss

August 22, 2017

Rising Risks Teen Hearing LossHearing loss (unless it occurs at birth) is one of those health concerns that people tend to associate most with the elderly – and it’s been the punch line for countless “over the hill” jokes. Unfortunately, this can lead young people to take their hearing for granted, even though the reality is that this problem is actually affecting today’s teenagers at an alarming rate.  The good news is that as a parent, there are plenty of steps you can take to protect your kids’ hearing, and it starts by understanding more about the issue.

The Problem of Teen Hearing Loss

According to a study conducted by a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nearly 1 in 5 teenagers are showing signs of at least mild hearing loss. For a health issue that most people think they won’t need to worry about until their hair is gray, that’s a shocking number. Here’s another statistic to consider: that same study, which analyzed hearing loss among teens in 2005-2006, found that this number was over 30% higher than it had been in the late 80s and early 90s. Another study was conducted in 2010 by two physicians at the University of California in San Francisco actually found that teen hearing loss had stopped rising. While this sounds like good news, this stability occurred when new vaccines were significantly reducing the number of pediatric ear infections (one of the most common causes of acquired hearing loss in kids and teens). That should have caused a significant decline in adolescent hearing loss, but the numbers have stayed rather stable, which means that something else is hurting our teens’ hearing.

The Cause of Hearing Loss in Teens

Most teenagers who have developed hearing issues are suffering from high-frequency hearing loss (meaning they have difficulty hearing high-frequency noises), and this is usually due to excessive noise exposure. While loud music has always been prevalent among our country’s youth, the past few decades have seen a whole new era of music: personal listening devices and headphones. Today’s devices have much longer battery life and more storage capacity than earlier ones, which means kids and teens are exposed to loud music for a longer period of time. Just like sun damage to a child’s skin, exposure to loud music simply accumulates over time, often damaging a specific part of the cochlea and causing permanent hearing impairment.

How to Prevent Hearing Loss in Teens and Kids

No matter how old or young your kids may be, you can help them protect their hearing for the future with a few tips and guidelines:

  • Keep up with regular auditory screenings. At Children’s Wellness Center, hearing tests are part of every annual well child visit for ages 4-11, and after age 11, we can perform a hearing test if you are concerned that your child may have difficulty hearing.
  • Only allow your kids to listen to music for an hour at a time, and make sure they keep the volume at 60% or lower. Some devices will actually allow you to manually set a volume limit, so investigate whether this is possible with your child’s device.
  • Teach your kids and teens that if their ears feel “full” or if their hearing is muzzled after listening to music, or if they have ringing in their ears, it means that the music was too loud. If this occurs, they should keep the volume lower next time.
  • Have you child use headphones rather than earbuds, because these don’t force the sound into your teen’s ear in such a direct way.
  • Any time your kids are in a loud environment (like a concert, an area with loud equipment or machinery, etc.), make sure they wear earplugs.
  • Teach your children that if they’re listening to headphones, the volume is too loud if:
    • They can’t hear conversations around them at a normal volume.
    • They need to raise their voice to hear themselves speak.
    • They have muffled hearing, poor hearing, ringing, or pain in their ears after they turn off the music.

Hearing loss might be joked about as a problem for grandparents, but in today’s world, it’s something that even kids and teenagers need to know about. By teaching your kids how to protect their ears and how to recognize the signs of hearing damage, you can help them keep their hearing at its best for many decades to come. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center. Plus, for more health tips for kids, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.