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Sick Child

New Parents: When to Call the Doctor

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New parents often marvel that such an adorable and precious bundle of joy has become part of their lives. But the responsibility for another human being – one who can only communicate by crying, pooping and sleeping – can be overwhelming. Especially if you think your baby might be sick.

“New parents should never hesitate to call their child’s doctor if they are concerned,” says Rebecca Fazilat, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “Doctors who care for children, such as pediatricians and family medicine doctors, expect a lot of calls because it takes experience for parents to learn how and when to respond to their child’s illness.”

While you are still learning to understand “baby language,” follow Dr. Fazilat’s guidelines on when you should seek medical help for your little one. Read More

Soothing Kids’ Seasonal Allergies

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Sneezing, coughing, puffy eyes and an itchy nose are some of the uncomfortable signs that allergy season is under way and your child is affected. Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, happens when your child’s immune system overreacts to allergens found in the air he or she is breathing.

“Seasonal allergies are typically caused by plant pollen, and different plants release pollen at different times of the year,” says Steven Rubinstein, M.D., an Allergy and Immunology specialist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “This means that the worst season for a child who suffers from allergies will depend on what plant pollen causes his or her allergies.”

Although it’s impossible to avoid certain trees and plants, and on a windy day pollen can reach your child anyway, Dr. Rubinstein explains that, “Knowing your child’s trigger season can help you prepare in advance so you can minimize allergy symptoms.”

Dr. Rubinstein offers these simple measures to help reduce the likelihood of your child experiencing an allergy attack: Read More

Relieving Kids’ Cold Symptoms

Young child blowing her nose.

Parents are often surprised to learn that young children typically have between seven to 10 colds (viral respiratory infections) a year for the first few years of life, especially if a child is in daycare or preschool.

Although colds can create a lot of misery for children and parents, most of them resolve within two weeks. The typical course is fever (and often a sore throat) for the first one to three days of illness followed by a runny nose, congestion and coughing. These symptoms worsen during the first week and then gradually improve over the second week.

“Parents often have two pressing questions when their child has a cold,” says Cara Barone, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “They want to know how to ease their child’s discomfort and how to know when it is something more serious.”

Dr. Barone offers three tips for making children comfortable while the cold runs its course.

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Is It a Cold or Is It Whooping Cough?

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At first it starts with a cold and a mild cough that doesn’t go away. Then it gets worse – especially at night – and you find your child gasping for breath when he coughs.

Is it a winter cold or is it whooping cough?

“Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a constant concern for parents,” says Cara Barone, M.D., a pediatrician with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, (PAMF).

Parents have good reason for this concern: Colds and pertussis begin with similar symptoms, so it’s hard to tell the difference at first. But whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that gets worse after a few weeks, while common colds improve. People develop uncontrollable coughing fits that make it hard to breathe. In rare cases, especially in young babies, it can be fatal.

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Cold and Flu Care for Kids

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During the winter season, nearly every parent worries about “the flu” (influenza). This year the predominant influenza strain circulating is pH1N1, the same strain that caused severe illness in adolescents and young adults, as well as older adults, in 2009-2010.

If your child comes home sick with a sore throat and runny nose, how can you tell if it’s the flu or a common cold virus? That’s a question pediatric infectious disease specialist Mary Ann Carmack, M.D., Ph.D., hears every week at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.  

“Both are caused by upper respiratory viruses, so the symptoms can be similar. But the hallmark of influenza is that it’s generally much more severe, with higher fever which typically lasts days longer, muscle aches, headache and cough,” she says.  Cold viruses typically cause a runny nose, sore throat, cough and a lower fever if one at all.

Dr. Carmack offers these five tips for parents to help their children stay healthy.

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When to Worry About a Fever

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Nearly every parent has felt their child’s hot, feverish forehead and worried. Is it serious? How high is too high? Should they go to the doctor?

Few symptoms scare parents more than fever, says Palo Alto Medical Foundation pediatrician Cara Barone, M.D.  But it’s important to know when to treat, and when to let nature take its course. Here, Dr. Barone answers parents’ most common questions about fever, and offers tips on how to take your child’s temperature properly.

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