Why We Vaccinate Kids

A colleague of mine sent me an email this week to let me know about a pro vaccine blog posting that he found very interesting. I would encourage you to take a look.

At times, those of us in the medical community can get too scientific in trying to explain something and loose our audience. This blog does a nice job of stating the facts in a simple way.

The diseases we are trying to prevent do still exist in the world that we live in today. With international travel being so common, the perception that I am safe here in my local town is not realistic.

The single most important thing I do on a day to day basis that saves more lives than anything else I will do in my career is to vaccinate children. 


Goblin Gallop Time


I wanted to put in a plug for the second annual Goblin Gallop. It is put on by the Group Health Foundation and GLY Construction. This is a great event to get the family moving going into the holiday season.

5K Run and Walk, Kids Dash and Toddler Trot

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Marymoor Park

Pre-Gallop Info

What’s the Goblin Gallop all about anyway?

Think family. Think healthy. Think fun. The Goblin Gallop is a non-competitive 5K that is fun for the whole family—that includes a free kids dash and a toddler trot.

Yes, but what makes it different from all those other 5Ks?

Besides the costumes? This is the only event of its kind on the Eastside. At Group Health we know healthy can also mean fun and we’re out to prove it. We’re kicking off the Halloween season with a healthy and family-friendly event. To encourage the whole family to join the fun, kids 12 and under can participate for free (with a registered adult, of course). You won’t want to miss GoblinFest, which will include trick-or-treating, music that will knock your runners off, and some other spooktacular activities for kids of all ages.

Time to Get Your Flu Shot

Children are back in school and fall is in the air. Sooner than you know it, it will be time to break out those sweaters but at least for now, I personally am not ready for the Sun to disappear for 9 months.

It is time to get the flu vaccine. I personally got mine earlier this week. For Group Health members, you can come into the clinic anytime to get the vaccine for you and your children. The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age or older. Certain populations like pregnant or breast feeding mothers, households where children are under six months of age, or patients with chronic health conditions like diabetes are at particularly high risk and need to be vaccinated.

There also seems to be some confusion out there around which vaccine to get. There is a trivalent and new quadrivalent vaccine out this year which basically means 3 versus 4 strains of the virus. The AAP says “Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain a specific vaccine,” lead author Henry Bernstein, DO, said in a news release. Dr. Bernstein is the Red Book Online associate editor. “Influenza virus is unpredictable, and what’s most important is that people receive the vaccine soon, so that they will be protected when the virus begins circulating.”

For those who have shied away from getting the vaccine out of concern for egg allergy, recent evidence suggests that the inactivated flu vaccine can safely be given to most people with an egg allergy. Those with extreme egg allergy may be at greater risk so please consult your doctor.

Back to School

It is that time of the year where many parents are anxious to get their children back to school. My wife would say that summer has been great but it’s time for a break from the kids again. With both of my children having summer birthdays they have been in for their well checks and immunizations already.

My practice is busy right now with lots of those last minute well checks. In addition, I have lost count of how many school physical and medication forms I have signed. For those that have not had those forms signed, now is the time to get them to your doctor.  I will speak for all of us pediatricians out there; please don’t wait until the last minute.

This is also a good time to make sure that your child’s immunizations are up to date. For all children entering Kindergarten, they need to have had their 5 year old shots which typically include the Dtap (pertussis), Polio, MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) and chickenpox vaccines. The 11 year olds need to have their Tdap (pertussis booster) and meningococcal vaccine. Beginning the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is also a good idea.

Another thing to consider is a trip to the school to ease the anxiety that some children will have around that first day of school. For many children, a day or two of a trial run prior to the big day can really help out. Now is also the time to start shifting back to the usual bedtime for school. It is much easier to transition by moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every day or two than making a big jump the night before.

Have a great last few weeks of summer and a great school year.

Summertime Colds

Both of my children have been sick at least once this summer and I am sure things are not much different for many of you as well. This video talks about colds in the summer.


Summertime Fun

It is great that summer has finally arrived here in Washington. Kids are running through sprinklers to stay cool and beat the heat. My kids had fun with a homemade slip and slide we set up yesterday. I look forward to taking a slide this evening when I get home.

During this hot weather, make sure to take some simple precautions to prevent overheating.

  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid the peak sun hours and seek shade
  • Apply sunscreen every 1-2 hours
  • Take a dip in the pool, but make sure that children are always supervised.

Have fun and be active.

Treating Minor Cuts and Scrapes: Video

My youngest just turned six. We have been through a lot with him when it comes to bonks and bruises. He has required sutures or glue for cuts three times. There would have been a fourth, but fortunately the wound closed up on its own without the need for repair. In this video, I share the go-to treatment for minor cuts and scrapes that you can use for your kids no matter their age, along with some advice when a wound might require more attention.

Tips for a Safe, Splashy Summer

We’ve been blessed with a good number of sunny, warm days this year, which means kids and families are back in the water. Swimming is great exercise and can be really fun. However, water can pose big dangers if kids are unprepared for it.

Swimming lessons are the best place to start when it comes to water safety. Babies as young as four months can take “waterbaby” classes with their parents to get more comfortable with being in the water. Swimming lessons are typically offered at public pools for a range of ages and abilities. Sometimes municipal parks and recreation departments offer vouchers for a series of free lessons. Giving kids this important life skill is one of the best things a parent can do for their child, especially in the Pacific Northwest where we are surrounded by water.

Another crucial element with water safety is having responsible supervision for kids around the water. Recently I learned of this excellent article from a retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer who explains that the signs of drowning can be hard to recognize, even at close range. As he explains, actual drowning doesn’t look like the drownings depicted on TV and in the movies. The actual signals of drowning in a child could look like they’re doing the dog paddle in place. A drowning person has difficulty calling for help, and their motions can be very small and subtle in the water. Parents or caregivers should not only be present when their kids are in the water, they should also be watching closely and should know what to look for if a child is in distress.

I also like to point out that even people who know how to swim well can become uncomfortable in the water at times. This is especially true of lake or other open-water swimming, which can be a wonderful experience on a hot day, but dangerous if the water is very choppy or murky.  I advise families to do their lake or ocean swimming in areas with a lifeguard. Inexperienced swimmers should stay in designated areas that aren’t too deep for their age and ability. An adult should be in the water with inexperienced swimmers at all times. Even experienced swimmers should use care in the lake, ocean, or in rivers.

My children love to swim. My daughter is quite skilled. My son is in what I call the danger zone. He has lost his fear of the water, is over confident, and cannot “swim” which is why they both are taking another round of lessons this summer.

Here are more water safety tips from the Red Cross.

Empowering Kids to Stay Safe from Predators

Just about a year ago I published a post about child sexual abuse, related to events in the news. Now a year later, I’m compelled to write another post on this subject in reaction to several attempted child abductions in Seattle in the past few weeks. Thankfully, the actions of parents, caregivers and other adults have been able to thwart these would-be kidnappers. Many times kids themselves can also repel an attack or abduction if they have some education and tools. This is an area where both education and quick thinking can make a big difference in keeping kids safe.

I often encourage parents to talk with their children about safety as part of well visits in clinic. There’s a real balance between giving your children age-appropriate autonomy and helping them be more self reliant, with also keeping them safe. You don’t want to instill fear in your kids, but you do want them to be able to recognize dangerous situations as much as possible and to be able to have some tools for handling those situations in the event that they occur.

This article in the Seattle Times has some excellent advice drawn from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about ways you can educate your kids to be aware and know what to do if someone threatens them or tries to grab them. I like how it mentions that telling kids “never to talk to strangers” isn’t realistic or effective. It’s more about prevention—walking more safely by sticking with a buddy, for example, or understanding when a stranger might be acting inappropriately or have intent to harm them. They mention that role play with your child can be an effective tool to help them recognize and avoid dangerous situations and people–I’m a huge fan of that.

It’s also important to explain to kids that even some people who aren’t strangers can do harmful things. This is where teaching your child an understanding about their own bodies and what is and isn’t appropriate touch is important, for example. Something I talked about in a previous post.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has many resources to educate both you and your child about safety.



Strategies for Tackling Seasonal Allergies

A lot of kids have been coming in to clinic with symptoms that look like seasonal allergies in the past few weeks. Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis, as known to the physician crowd) can show up as itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing, sore throat, or throat clearing, to name a few complaints. As a general rule, it takes a few years of exposure to pollen to develop symptoms, so we typically do not see seasonal allergies in infants and early toddlers. Serial colds are much more common in that group.

So if you suspect allergies, what is the next step? It’s perfectly safe and reasonable to do an experiment and try an antihistamine with your child and observe the response. There are some great 24-hour antihistamines now that are sold over the counter and approved for children aged 2 and up. Loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) are two of the more common varieties found in the store and come in a liquid form.

If you see marked or mild improvement with this first step, then you’re probably on the right track. It’s perfectly fine to take antihistamines every day. It’s also human nature to forget—and at some point you will forget to give the medicine to your child. When you do, one of two things will happen. They will be perfectly fine, which means whatever was floating around in the air is gone, or they will have symptoms again, reminding you to give the medicine again.

If there’s no benefit from antihistamines, then seasonal allergies are not the likely culprit. If there’s improvement but things are still not great, there are some other prescription medications, like nasal steroids, that are FDA approved for children 4 years of age and older. These medicines have to be used everyday, but they can be extremely effective for both the nasal and eye symptoms.