PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Bringing Home Your Newborn Baby


Bringing home your newborn baby is one of the most thrilling and scary moments in life. New parents are filled with many emotions – fear, excitement and, of course, exhaustion. Often parents leave the hospital feeling unprepared to care for their newborn baby on their own.

Julie Kim, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, offers these tips to help expecting parents prepare for a smooth transition home from the hospital.
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Antibiotics: Yes or No?

Antibiotic pills

Parents may often perceive antibiotics as a cure-all for every illness. But although antibiotics are a powerful tool for fighting bacterial infections, there are downsides to using them. Overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of bacteria that are stronger and resistant to the current antibiotics we have available. In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared antibiotic resistance as one of the world’s most urgent health problems.

“When parents come in with their sick child, they want them to get better as quickly as possible and may assume an antibiotic prescription is the answer,” says Stephanie C. Chiang, M.D., MPH, a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “But they should only be prescribed when truly necessary.” Read More

The Truth About Heart Health


We are bombarded with messages about heart health these days – on the TV, on radio, on billboards. But are they the right messages? Maybe not.

“There’s a lot of mixed information in today’s environment,” says Terence Lin, M.D., a cardiologist with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Fremont. “People get obsessed with fad diets, drinking coconut water, taking fish oil. But these things are not as influential as people think.”

Dr. Lin has seen young, trim software engineers who go to the gym regularly, but don’t know that the all-nighters they pull on an important project, fueled by six cups of coffee, is undermining their heart health.

He has seen well-educated professionals in their 50s take supplements to lower their cholesterol, but turn down statin medications or avoid the dietary changes that could really make a difference.

Advertising and fads can overwhelm good health sense, Dr. Lin says. He tries to keep his tips simple and very specific.

Burn as Many Calories as You Eat

“If you eat 2,000 calories a day, make sure you burn 2,000 calories a day,” Dr. Lin says. That means getting at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week. Swim, spin or walk briskly. At a brisk pace, you can speak a sentence, but you don’t have enough breath to speak a paragraph or to sing. If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you eat. Read More

Sleepless in Silicon Valley

They say Silicon Valley is fueled by Red Bull, pizza and sleepless nights. Young entrepreneurs and software engineers often work 60 hours or more, determined to grab the brass ring – stock options or a successful startup.

“ ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ That’s the most common thing I hear from people,” says sleep specialist Ross Liebman, M.D., a neurologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Sleep Center. Or ‘I’ll try to make up my sleep on the weekend.’ ”

The truth? “There’s only so much sleep you can catch up,” Dr. Liebman says. “If you’re working five days a week and trying to catch up on two days a week, the math just isn’t there.”

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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?

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

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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