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Current Health Topics

Please click on any of the health topics listed below to learn more information. Additional downloadable resources for parents, guardians, and teachers are available in the sidebar at right.

Baking Soda and Skin Irritation

Itchy body rashes, diaper rashes, and bug bites can be difficult to deal with in a very young child. Baking soda is non-toxic and inexpensive. For skin irritations, simply sprinkle some into the bath water.

It is also possible to make a soothing lotion that is safe to apply to the face or any other area where you might otherwise be concerned about applying a medicated cream. Just mix some baking soda with water and dab it on the affected areas. Store the mixture in the fridge so it is cold when it is applied. The cold temperature will help alleviate the itch. Baking soda will not sting eyes and will not harm your young child if it gets into his or her mouth.

Browntail Moth Rash

Browntail moth rash tends to be red, bumpy, and itchy. If you suspect your child has browntail moth rash, start by giving him or her a comfortably cool bath with either baking soda or Aveeno Oatmeal Bath.

You may apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, such as Cortaid, sparingly to the itchiest areas. To all areas, you may apply Calamine or Caladryl lotion. For very young children, be careful not to apply any creams or lotions to places where they may rub them into eyes or mouth. In these areas, apply a mixture of baking soda and water as a lotion.

Keep fingernails short and hands clean. Be sure to wash all clothing your child was wearing when outdoors. If symptoms are not at least somewhat relieved by these measures, contact our office for additional advice.

Learn more about browntail moths and ways to decrease exposure at the Maine CDC website.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when skin is exposed to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time, especially if there is a low wind-chill factor, or to extreme frigid temperatures for even a short time. Freezing results when blood vessels contract, reducing blood flow and therefore oxygen to the affected body part. Fingers, hands, toes, feet, nose, and ears are most often affected. Frostbite may be superficial or deep.

If your child has frostbite, he or she may not realize it at first because the area is numb. Most children will recover fully without permanent damage as long as treatment is prompt. If severe frostbite occurs, damage may be permanent depending on the length and depth of exposure.

Skin that is frostbitten may look white or grayish yellow. It may feel hard or numb, or it may blister or become very dark or black. There may be swelling, itching, burning, or severe pain on rewarming.

If your child has blisters or blackened skin present, they need to be seen in the office right away. If color and sensation do not return to normal after one hour of rewarming, call the office right away.

To rewarm a frostbitten area, place the body part in very warm water. A bath is often the best method. For the face and ears, apply warm, wet washcloths. The water should be very warm but not hot enough to burn. Continue to soak the affected body part until a pink flush returns to the skin. This may take 30 minutes. The last few minutes may feel particularly painful for your child. Warm fluids to drink are also helpful. For acute pain, ibuprofen may be given for pain relief.

Do not:

  • Apply snow to the frostbitten area.
  • Massage/rub the affected area, which can cause damage to the thawing tissues.
  • Use dry heat, such as a heat lamp or electric heater, because the frostbitten skin cannot sense the burning.

Prevention is the best way to avoid frostbite. Make sure your child is dressed appropriately for the cold weather. Dress him in layers with a waterproof outer layer. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Make sure they wear a hat and avoid tight gloves or shoes that might interfere with circulation. Change wet socks and mittens immediately.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a common viral illness that most often occurs in children under the age of five, but can also occur in adults. The illness usually starts with a fever and generally feeling unwell. Symptoms can vary from person to person.

Generally, one or two days after the fever presents, painful mouth lesions usually develop. These sores can be anywhere in the mouth and throat. A skin rash then develops over the course of a couple or few days. These start out as tiny red, raised spots that then become distinct little water blisters. They can occur anywhere on the body, but are often more localized to hands and feet. The rash may be somewhat itchy, or not seem to bother the child at all. It may take mouth lesions a week to resolve and the rash up to ten days.

Generally, a person with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is most contagious during the fever stage and for the first week of the illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children with the disease not return to school or daycare until they have been without a fever for at least 24 hours.

Good hand washing, avoiding kissing, and avoiding sharing of utensils and drinks are helpful, though no guarantee of avoiding the disease.

Ibuprofen for children greater than six months of age, encouraging clear liquids, avoidance of citrusy, spicy and salty foods, offering soft, soothing foods, and rinsing and spitting after meals are all helpful. If your child is too young to rinse and spit, please contact our office for further advice from our nurse.

Keeping fingernails short and giving cool, baking soda or Aveeno baths may relieve itching from the rash. If your child is extremely itchy, please contact our office for advice regarding administering Benadryl for relief.

 

Head Lice

Lice infestations are a major nuisance, and the necessary treatment and cleaning are both time consuming and expensive. Topical lice shampoos are also toxic, so proper application and follow-through of treatment and cleaning of the environment is very important in order to be successful. Please follow this link to the CDC Head Lice information page for details.

Infant Constipation

New babies may strain, cry, or get red in the face when having a bowel movement. However, if your baby is straining for long periods of time without producing a stool, having very hard stools, not stooling for days, or not eating, he or she may be truly constipated.

If your baby is at least one month of age and you believe they are constipated, you can try giving them a little apple or pear juice. The sugars in fruit juice will allow more water to be drawn into the bowel and help to loosen the stool. The rule of thumb is to give 1 ounce a day for every month of life up to about 4 months (a 2-month old baby may have 2 ounces of juice). If you prefer, you may dilute the juice with warm water instead of giving full-strength juice. A 50/50 dilution works well; instead of 2 ounces of juice, use 1 ounce of warm water to 1 ounce of juice.

Sometimes, the doctor may recommend using dark corn syrup added to the bottle feeding to get the same effect. Generally, this is around 1 to 2 tablespoons per day. Once your infant is taking solid food, you can try vegetables and fruits, especially prunes.

In addition to these dietary alterations, it can be helpful to keep your baby upright as much as possible. It is much easier to have a bowel movement when upright than when laying down. Placing your baby in an infant car seat (safely secured) or using a front-carrying snuggly sack works well.

In some cases, you may see evidence that your child is obviously trying to have a bowel movement, but having difficulty doing so because of the size or firmness of the stool. In this case, giving your baby a warm bath to relax their muscles, then using a rectal thermometer lubricated with some Vaseline may be helpful. Insert the tip of the thermometer into your baby's bottom. This will not hurt him or her, but it may stimulate the rectal muscle and lubricate the area enough to allow them to produce the stool more easily. If there is no stool present, this technique will simply not do anything.

If none of these suggestions relieve the constipation, please give our office a call for further advice.

Scabies

Scabies, like head lice, is contagious, though perhaps slightly less so. Unlike head lice, symptoms of scabies may not show up for as long as four to six weeks after exposure. Scabies is skin infestation of mites that cause extreme itching. For details about scabies and treatment, please click on this link to the CDC Scabies Information page for details.

Stuffy Noses

Up until six months of age, babies are nose-breathers. When your infant gets a stuffy nose, he or she may be quite fussy.

The best way to clear an infant's nose is to suction with the bulb syringe. To make it easier to suction, you can use saline nose drops which may be purchased at your local pharmacy. You can also make saline drops yourself by mixing 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 4 ounces of lukewarm water. Stir it until the salt dissolves.

Then, using a clean medicine dropper, place 3 to 4 drops into one of your baby's nostrils and suction. Do the same with the other nostril. This will loosen up any dried mucus and make it easier for you to clear your baby's nose. It's helpful to do this before feedings and bedtime.

Using a cool mist humidifier in your baby's room will also help to keep noses clearer and less dry and stuffy. Find an inexpensive humidifier that is easy to keep clean.

Babies are better able to deal with nasal congestion and mucus if they are upright. Your baby may sleep in his/her car seat or infant seat during the day. Just be careful to fasten them safely into the seat.

At night, you may want to elevate the head of the crib mattress. You can do this by raising the springs up a notch, or by placing a folded blanket under one end of the mattress.

Ticks and Lyme Disease

The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to be aware of the risk of tick bites and to act accordingly. Deer ticks usually do not transmit Lyme bacteria until they have been attached for at least 24 hours and rarely before 36 hours— up to 48 hours for adult ticks. In addition, even in highly endemic areas, only 40-50% of adult deer ticks may be infected. In a recent study, no more than 3.4% of individuals seen by physicians for deer tick bites that were not treated with antibiotics eventually developed Lyme disease. Diagnosed in its early stages, Lyme disease is easily and effectively treated with oral antibiotics. If Lyme disease is unrecognized and untreated, it may progress to cause arthritis and neurological problems but treatment is still usually effective.

Precautions to Avoid Tick Bites:

  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants when walking in woods, brush, or tall grass. Deer ticks attach to clothing and then walk upward.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks may be seen more easily.
  • Use a repellent containing DEET according to label directions, particularly on shoes, socks, and pant legs. Avoid applying high-concentration products to the skin, especially on children.
  • People who must be in areas where ticks are prevalent may pretreat protective clothing with a permethrin-containing product, which both repels and kills ticks. Caution: this is not for use on skin; use only as directed on the label.
  • Inspect yourself, your clothing, your children, your companion, and your pets for ticks when you get in from the field. Ticks often attach in body folds, behind ears and in the hair. If possible, shower and wash clothes immediately. Heat drying is effective in killing ticks.
  • Mowing grass and cutting brush in yards may reduce tick habitats in problem areas.
  • When transporting pets or game, precautions should be taken to avoid bringing ticks into new areas.

Prompt removal of attached ticks is extremely important. Lyme disease is rarely transmitted before the tick has been attached for 36 hours.

Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, preferably with fine tweezers, and pull gently but firmly until the tick lets go. Do not handle ticks with bare hands. Do not squeeze the tick. Apply antiseptic to the bite. Save the tick in a small vial of 70% alcohol.

Common tick removal methods, such as scorching the tick with a match, or applying Vaseline or nail polish, are not recommended because they may cause infected tick body fluids to be expelled into the skin.

One recent study showed that a single dose of antibiotic for anyone over 8 years of age was effective in preventing Lyme disease if given within 72 hours after a deer tick was removed. Unfortunately, antibiotics for prevention of Lyme for children under the age of 8 have not proven to be very effective. Consult your physician if you remove an engorged deer tick.

For more information about insect repellent use for children, please visit healthychildren.org.