Treat your child’s sore throat

sore throatMany times parents bring their children with sore throats to our office to “check if it’s strep.” Some are disappointed to find out that their child does NOT have strep. Moms and Dads lament, “But what can I do for him if he can’t have an antibiotic? At least strep is treatable.”

Take heart. Strep or no strep, there are many ways to soothe your child’s sore throat:

  • Give  pain medication such as acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) or ibuprofen (brand names Advil or Motrin).  Do not withhold  pain medicine before you bring her in to see her pediatrician. Too many times we hear “We wanted you to see how much pain she is in.” No need for this! Pediatricians are all in favor of treating pain as quickly and effectively as possible. Pain medicine will not interfere with physical exam findings nor will it interfere with strep test results.
  • Give lots to drink. Some kids prefer very cold beverages, others like warm tea or milk. Avoid citrus juices since they sometimes sting sore throats.  Frozen Slurpies, on the other hand, feel great on sore throats. Tell your child that the first three sips of a drink may hurt, but then the liquid will start to soothe the throat. Watch for signs of dehydration including dry lips and mouth, no tears on crying, urination less than every 6 hours and  lethargy.
  • Provide soft foods if your child is hungry. For example, noodles feel better than a hamburger on a sore throat. And ice-cream or sherbet therapy is effective as well.
  • Try honey (if your child is older than one year) – one to two teaspoons three times a day. Not only can it soothe a sore throat but also it might quiet the cough that often accompanies a sore throat virus. Give it alone or mix it into milk or tea.
  • Kids older than three years who don‘t choke easily can suck on lozenges containing pectin or menthol for relief. Warning: kids sucking on lozenges may dupe themselves into thinking they are hydrating themselves. They still need to drink and stay hydrated.
  • Salt water gargles are an age-old remedy.  Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 6 ounces of warm water and have your kid gargle three times a day.
  • Magic mouthwash: For those older than 2 years of age, mix 1/2 teaspoon of liquid diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl 12.5mg/5ml) with 1/2 teaspoon of Maalox Advanced Regular Strength Liquid (ingredients: aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide 200 mg, and simethicone) and give a couple time a day to coat the back fo the throat prior to meals. Do not use the Maalox formulation which contains bismuth subsalicylate. Bismuth subsalicylate is an aspirin derivative and aspirin is linked to Reye’s syndrome.
  • For kids three years and older, try throat sprays containing phenol (brand name Baker’s P&S and Chloraseptic® Spray for Kids). Use as directed.


Strep throat does not cause cough, runny nose, ulcers in the throat, or laryngitis. If your child has these other symptoms in addition to her sore throat, you can be fairly sure that she does NOT have strep. For a better understanding of strep throat see our posts: “Strep throat Part 1: what is it, who gets it and why do we care about it” and “Strep throat Part 2: diagnosis, treatment, and when to worry.”

Any sore throat that prevents swallowing or prevents your child from opening his mouth fully, pain that is not alleviated with the above measures, fever of 101F or higher for more than 3-4 days, or a new rash all merit a prompt visit to your child’s doctor for further evaluation. Please see our prior post on how to tell if you need to call your child’s doctor for illness.


Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2012 Two Peds in a Pod®, reposted 2015


Is my teen listening? Tips on talking to your teen

Talk to your teen

As my own son becomes the proud owner of a driver’s learner’s permit (yikes!), I know he and I will have many talks about driving. Books and community lectures on the topic of “how to talk to teens” abound, and in the office we hear exasperated parents searching for ways to talk effectively to their teens and bemoan “She never listens to me, maybe she will listen to you.”

Here’s the secret: while teens wear their “bored face” or may act as if they do not hear their parents, in fact they are listening. Below are suggestions on how to talk to your teen in ways your teen will find palatable.

1-Express your opinion as your opinion, such as “I believe…” or “Your dad and I feel…,” which implies to your teen that you understand that he or she may have a different opinion.

2-Remember that while teens do have opinions, they lack life experience. Use anecdotes: “I remember when I was in high school, a friend of mine found himself in this situation…” Anecdotes are less confrontational than directly warning your child about a situation that you are concerned he may be in.

3Join your teen when she watches TV. Comment on the characters or plot theme, and ask what your teen would do, or if she thinks that the show reflects reality. Criticize the character if you disagree with the way the character is reacting to a situation and allow your teen to hear your thought process. She will file your thoughts away for future consideration even if she disagrees with you at the time. Encourage dialogue from your teen.

4Say good-night to your teen in his room. Stay and visit a bit. Just like when they were young, teens often choose bedtime to bring up an event or dilemma from earlier in the day. (Hopefully they are getting to bed before you do.)

5-If your teen actually does choose to ask your advice, avoid jumping in immediately with a solution. Remember to pause and ask first how he thinks he could solve the problem or what he has already tried. Then you can encourage your teen’s ideas if you think they have merit and praise his insights, or you can offer your suggestions as further options.

6Attend your teen’s sporting events or concerts. Your child is the same one who at age four looked for you in the stands during the T-ball game. The event will give you both something to talk about later. Just refrain from yelling out anything embarrassing. Or anything at all!

7-Preface your rules with “So you are safe.” Teens stomach house rules better when they hear you are concerned about their safety rather than about being the boss. For example, “So I know you are safe, please call or text me if you are running late,” rather than “You will be punished if you break curfew.”

8Put down your phone when you talk to your teen, and insist that he does the same. When you are using your phone, your teen feels ignored (think back to trying to talk on the phone when your teen was a toddler) and thus you encourage him to ignore you back.

9- Car trips are excellent times to talk with your teen, so volunteer to drive him rather than always relying on the other teen’s parent. Maybe it’s the lack of eye contact, but when you drive your teen somewhere, you are not otherwise distracted- your teen might be encouraged to talk to you in the car. Do not, however, invite possible heated conversation while YOUR TEEN is behind the wheel- especially when he is still learning to drive!

In addition to strengthening bonds with our kids, routine talking with our teens encourages them to talk to us when they need help, to consider our advice, and to learn from our own life experiences. In turn we impart communication skills and independence as teens learn to problem-solve and avoid life-altering mistakes. Talking with our teens encourages positive attention. Again, remember your teen as the toddler who might have thrown a toy or hit his brother to get your attention.

Dr. Lai’s friends  joke that they renamed their children “Door 1” and “Door 2” when they became teenagers because the parents spent a lot of time talking to closed doors. But her friends kept talking, because they knew, even behind closed doors, teens do listen.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD

©2015 Two Peds in a Pod®

thanks to therapist Dina Ricciardi for her input


Breast feeding your newborn: the first two weeks

breast feeding cartoonI always tell new moms that if you can breastfeed for two weeks, then you can breastfeed for two years. The point is, while our species has been breastfeeding for millions of years, sometimes it’s not intuitive. Getting to the two week point isn’t always easy, but once you’re there, you’ll be able to continue “forever.”

So, how to get through those first two weeks? Practice. Fortunately, your newborn will become hungry for a meal every two hours, on average, giving you many opportunities to practice. For the first few meals, a newborn can feel full after eating only one teaspoon of colostrum (the initial clear milk). The size of a person’s stomach is the size of his fist. For a baby, that’s pretty small. So relax about not making a lot of milk those first few days. But remember, your baby’s needs will change and she will start to require more milk. A nursing baby tells the mom’s body to produce more milk by stimulating the breast. Nurse more often and production will increase. Traditionally, moms are told to attempt a feeding every 2-3 hours. But babies do not come with timers, and Dr. Lai tells moms the interval of time between feeds is not as important as the number of times the breast is stimulated. Around 8-12 feedings a day is usually enough to get a mom’s milk to “come in.”

Some lactation consultants advocate allowing the baby to feed on one breast as long as she wants before switching sides. I am more of a proponent of efficiency (I had twins, after all). What works well for many of my patients for the first few days is to allow the baby to nurse for 5-8 minutes on one breast, then break suction and put the baby on the other breast for the same amount of time. If your baby still seems hungry, you can always put her back on the first breast for another five minutes, followed by the other breast again for five minutes. Work your way up to 10-15 minutes on each side once your milk is in, which can take up to one week for some women. Nursing the baby until a breast is empty gives the baby the rich hind milk as well as the initial, but less fatty fore milk. Close mom’s kitchen for at least an hour after feedings. Beware of being used as a human pacifier.

Advantages for this feeding practice:

  1. Prevents your newborn from falling asleep before finishing a feeding because of the activity of changing sides
  2. Stimulates both breasts to produce milk at every feeding
  3. Prevents mom from feeling lopsided
  4. Prevents mom from getting too sore
  5. Allows time in between feedings for mom to eat, drink, nap, use the bathroom, shower (remember, these are essentials of life)
  6. Teaches baby to eat in 30 minutes or less.

I have seen improved weight gain in babies whose moms breast feed in this way. However, if your baby gains weight well after feeding from one breast alone each feeding, or if you are not sore or dangerously fatigued from allowing your baby to feed for a longer time, then carry on!

How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk? While all babies lose weight after birth, babies should not lose more than 10% of their birth weight, and they should regain their birth weight by 2-3 weeks of life. Young babies should also pee and poop a lot (some poop after EVERY feeding) which is a reflection of getting enough breast milk.  Count on about one pee diaper for each day of life and one poop diaper for each day of life (three days old = 3 poop diapers and 3 urine diapers). Yellow poop is a sign that milk in going through your baby. Good urine output shows that your baby is well hydrated. Your child’s doctor will weigh your baby by two weeks of life to make sure he “makes weight.”

Many good sources can show you different suggestions for feeding positions. Experiment to see which is most comfortable for you and your baby. If you notice one spot on a breast is particularly full and tender, position your baby so that his chin points towards that spot. This may make for  awkward positions, but in this way, he drains milk more efficiently from the full spot.

When you first get home with your newborn, if the visitors in your house aren’t willing to do your dishes, then kick them out. It’s time to practice feeding.

Helpful websites:

To find a  lactation consultant near you see the International Lactation Consultant Association

For our moms across the world and the States- La Leche League International and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia- breastfeeding tips for beginners

For moms in Bucks, Mongomery and Philadelphia Counties, Pennsylvania- Nursing Mother’s Advisory Council

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD

©2012, 2015 Two Peds in a Pod®


Getting back to basics: How do vaccines work?


Recent comments by politicians have brought vaccines back into the public eye. In this post, we get down to basics.

Did you ever wonder how a vaccine works?

To understand how vaccines work, I will give you a brief lesson on the immune system. Trust me, it is interesting. Let me give you an example of me. When I was eight, I had chicken pox. It was a miserable week. I started out with fever and headache, then suffered days of intense body itching from blister-like spots, and ultimately, because I scratched off some scabs, ended up with scars. During this time, my immune system cells worked to battle off the chicken pox virus. Immune cells called memory cells also formed. These cells have the unique job of remembering (hence the name “memory cells”) what the chicken pox virus looks like. Then, if ever in my life I was to contact chicken pox again, my memory cells could multiply and fight off the virus WITHOUT MY HAVING TO GET SICK AGAIN WITH CHICKEN POX. So after I recovered, I was able to play with my neighbor even while he suffered with chicken pox.  I returned to school where other children in my class had chicken pox, but I did not catch chicken pox again. Even now, as a pediatrician, I don’t fear for my own safety when I diagnose a child with chicken pox, because I know I am immune to the disease.

This is an amazing feat, when you think about it.

So enter vaccines. A vaccine contains some material that really closely resembles the actual disease you will protect yourself against. Today’s chicken pox vaccine contains an altered form of chicken pox that is close to but not actually the real thing. However, it is so similar to the real thing that your body’s immune system believes it is, in fact, real chicken pox. Just as in the real disease, your body mounts an immune response, and makes  memory cells that will remember what the disease looks like.  So, if you are exposed to another person with chicken pox, your body will kill off the virus but YOU DON’T GET SICK WITH THE CHICKEN POX. What a beautiful system! Rather than thinking about a vaccine as a foreign substance, think of it as a substance that is able to strengthen your body’s natural immune system.

Before chicken pox vaccine, about 100 children per year in the US died from complications of chicken pox disease. Many thousands were hospitalized with pneumonia, skin infections, and even brain damage (encephalitis) from chicken pox disease. Now a small injection into the arm can prevent a disease by creating the same kind of immunity that you would have generated from having the disease, only now you have one second of pain from the injection instead of a week of misery and possible permanent disability or death. I call that a Great Deal!

I used the example of chicken pox because the vaccine was invented during my own lifetime. However, I could have used the example of polio, which, prior to its vaccine development in 1955, paralyzed 10,000 children per year in the United States, or measles, which infected 4 million children per year and killed 3000 per year in the United States before doctors began to give children a vaccine against measles in 1963.

All vaccines operate by this principle: create a safe environment for your immune system to make memory cells against a potentially deadly disease. Then when you are exposed to someone who actually has the disease, you will not “catch” it. Your body will fight the germs, but you do not become sick. If everyone in the world were vaccinated, then the disease itself would eventually be completely eradicated. Even if MOST people were vaccinated, this disease eradication can occur, because the majority of immunized people protect the few who are too young or too ill to receive vaccines themselves. This happened with small pox, a disease that killed 50 percent of infected people. There is no longer small pox because nearly everyone on earth received the small pox vaccine. Now we do not need to give small pox vaccine because the disease no longer exists. This is a huge vaccine success story.

Friedrich Nietzsche said “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” We pediatricians feel this is unacceptable risk for children. We would rather see your child vaccinated against a disease in order to become immune rather than risking the actual disease in order to become immune. The vaccines that we give children protect against diseases that can cause serious, lifelong disability or death.

Hopefully this blog post answers your questions about how vaccines work. For more details or more in-depth explanations, I refer you to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) website, the Immunization Action Coalition, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center,  and the book Vaccines: What You Should Know, by pediatricians Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Louis Bell.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

© 2009, 2015 Two Peds In a Pod®, updated 9/2015

For more information about vaccines, please see our prior posts: Should I vaccinate my child?, Closure: there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, Fact or Fiction: a flu vaccine quiz for all teachers, babysitters, parents, and anyone else who breathes on children, Do vaccines cause autism?, Measles outbreak: would you recognize measles in your child?, A vaccine parable , and Are my teen’s vaccines up to date?


In need of school snack ideas?


It’s only a few weeks into the school year and we are running out of snack ideas for our kids. We looked back and found a couple of our favorite posts for snacks by guest bloggers Dr. Roxanne Sukol and  Health Coach  Mary McDonald .  Click here if you are in the same boat:

Packing your child’s school lunch: Beware of junk food disguised as healthy food

Overhauling the Sports Snack Stand


Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

2015 Two Peds in a Pod®


Is my kid’s backpack too heavy?

Dr. Lai staggers under the load of her high schooler's back pack

Dr. Lai staggers under the load of her high schooler’s back pack

Although we see in the news that  ebooks are replacing textbooks, and that even JanSport is reconfiguring backpacks with this in mind, our kid’s backpacks look heavier than ever. Returning is physical therapist Dr. Deborah Stack with backpack pointers. -Drs. Lai and Kardos

With the return to school, we wanted to remind you of some healthy backpack tips. I recall the first day of school one year when the “first day of school” photo showed my not-quite-100-pound child bending in half under the weight of a backpack, trombone, lunchbox and art portfolio. I quietly decreed that it would not happen again. To make sure it does not happen at your house either, consider a few suggestions to keep your children healthy:


  1. A traditional backpack with two shoulder straps distributes the weight more evenly than a pack or messenger bag with a single strap.
  2. Look for wide, padded straps. Narrow straps can dig in and limit circulation.
  3. Buckle the chest or waist strap to distribute weight more evenly.
  4. Look for a padded back to protect your child from pointy pencils etc.
  5. Look for a lightweight pack that does not add much overall weight.
  6. Multiple compartments can help distribute weight.
  7. Place heavier items close to the spine instead of in front pockets.
  8. Compression straps on the sides or bottom of the backpack can compress the contents of the backpack and stabilize the articles.
  9. Reflective material allows your child to be visible on those rainy mornings.
  10. A well fitting backpack should match the size of the child. Shoulder straps should fit comfortably on the shoulder and under the arms, so that the arms can move freely. The bottom of the pack should rest in the contour of the lower back. The pack should “sit” evenly in the middle of the back, not “sag down” toward the buttocks.


How much should that tike be toting? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 10-20 percent of body weight and the American Physical Therapy Association recommends no more than 15 percent of a child’s weight. Here’s a chart to give you an idea of the absolute maximum a child should carry in a properly worn backpack:


Child’s Weight


Maximum Backpack Weight (based on 15% of body weight)


50 7.5
60 9
70 10.5
80 12
90 13.5
100 15
110 16.5
120 18
130 19.5


Here are some ideas to help lighten the load, especially for those middle school kids who have a plethora of textbooks:

  1. Find out of your child’s textbook can be accessed on the internet. Many schools are purchasing access so the students can log on rather than lug home.
  2. Consider buying an extra set of books for home. Used textbooks are available inexpensively online.
  3. Limit the “extras” in the backpack such as one free reading book instead of five. I am not exaggerating; one day I found five free reading books in my child’s backpack!
  4. Encourage your child to use free periods to actually study, and leave the extra books in his locker.
  5. Remind your child to stop by her locker between classes to switch books rather than carrying them all at once.
  6. Consider individual folders or pockets for each class rather than a bulky 3-ring notebook that holds every subject.

You may need to limit the load even further if your child is still:

  • Struggling to get the backpack on by herself
  • Complaining of back, neck or shoulder pain
  • Leaning forward to carry the backpack

If your child complains of back pain or numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.

When used correctly, backpacks are supported by some of the strongest muscles in the body: the back and abdominal muscles. These muscle groups work together to stabilize the trunk and hold the body in proper postural alignment. However, backpacks that are worn incorrectly or are too heavy can lead to neck, shoulder and back pain as well as postural problems. So choose wisely and lighten the load. Happy shopping!


Deborah Stack, PT, DPT, PCS
With nearly 20 years of experience as a physical therapist, Dr. Stack heads The Pediatric Therapy Center of Bucks County in Pennsylvania. She holds both masters and doctoral degrees in physical therapy from Thomas Jefferson University.

2010, 2015 Two Peds in a Pod®


Mommy, my friend dumped me

friend dumping

Dr. Kardos says she still remembers when her friend dumped her back in 7th grade. Guest blogging for Two Peds in a Pod, is child and adolescent counselor Dina Ricciardi with advice to help walk your kids through the experience.

It can happen very quickly, and often without explanation: your son or daughter gets “dumped” by his or her best friend or group of friends. One minute they are inseparable; the next, your child is left out and being ignored, and is completely bewildered as to why or what happened. Welcome to cliques, a typical part of the tween and adolescent landscape. While enduring these shifts in peer relationships can be extremely painful for both of you, there are some things you can do to help your child emerge safely on the other side of the experience.

Do empathize. Make sure your child knows that you understand why they are upset, and that you would be too.

Do take your child’s grief seriously. We adults know that friendships change and shift over time, and that we all survive. However, your child may see this as the worst thing that has ever happened to her, and she may be right.

Don’t downplay your child’s pain. It’s normal for him to feel hurt and rejected, and to question his own actions and the authenticity of the friendship.

Do keep an eye out for bullying or name-calling. If the situation seems to require it, enlist the support of school personnel to monitor things under their watch.

Don’t disparage or belittle the offending friend(s). It might feel good in the moment, but it can set the wrong example and make it difficult for your child to reconcile if the opportunity presents itself.

As a parent, it is hard to watch your child suffer. Our instinct is often to try to fix the situation, which we need to resist. Part of adolescence is allowing our children to develop their own identity and to learn relationship skills. Through their peer relationships, they learn sophisticated concepts such as trust, loyalty, empathy, compassion, and tolerance. They also start to encounter difficult emotions such as jealousy. The most important thing we can do as parents is be available to help our children sort out their feelings and to give them a different perspective. We can also help them discover that while peers are important, they can be strong and fine on their own, and do not need other people to give them their identity. This helps them value themselves as individuals. In the process, maybe we parents learn something new also. Buckle in; it can be a bumpy ride!

Dina Ricciardi, LSW, ACSW

Dina Ricciardi is a psychotherapist in private practice treating children, adolescents, and adults in Doylestown, PA. She specializes in eating disorders and pediatric and adult anxiety, and is also trained in Sandtray Therapy. Ricciardi is a Licensed Social Worker and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She can be reached at

Dr. Lai adds: Help your kids cultivate their interests. As they do their interests, they will look around and find that  those kids will become their friends. The hardest part about adolescence is figuring out your own interests, and not those of your peers.

2015 Two Peds in a Pod®


Ouch! Bee and wasp stings

Ouch! (photo courtesy of

(photo courtesy of


Ouch! Stung on the scalp.

Ouch! Stung on the hand.

Ouch! Stung on the leg.

Ouch! Ouch! Stung TWICE on the lips.

Those nasty, nasty wasps. During the hot days of August, they become more and more territorial and attack anything near their nests. Today, in my yard, wasps mercilessly chased and attacked a fourth grader named Dan.

As everyone knows, you’d rather have something happen to yourself than have something negative happen to a child who is under your watch. As I had rolled out the Slip and Slide, I was relieved not to see any wasps hovering above nests buried in the lawn. I was also falsely reassured by the fact that our lawn had been recently mowed. I reasoned that anything lurking would have already attacked a lawn mower. Unfortunately, I failed to see the basketball sized grey wasp nest dangling insidiously above our heads in a tree. So, when a wayward ball shook the tree, the wasps found Dan.

What will you do in the same situation?

Assess the airway– signs of impending airway compromise include hoarseness, wheezing (whistle like sounds on inhalation or expiration), difficulty swallowing, and inability to talk. Ask if the child feels swelling, itchiness or burning (like hot peppers) in his or her mouth/throat. Watch for labored breathing. If you see the child’s ribs jut out with each breath, the child is struggling to pull air into his/her body. If you have Epinephrine (Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q) inject immediately- if you have to, you can inject through clothing. Call 911 immediately.

Calm the panic– being chased by a wasp is frightening and the child is more agitated over the disruption to his/her sense of security than over the pain of the sting. Use pain control /self calming techniques such as having the child breath slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth. Distract the child by having them “squeeze out” the pain out by squeezing your hand.

If the child was stung by a honey bee, if seen, scrape the stinger out with your fingernail or a credit card. Removal of the stinger prevents any venom left in the stinger from entering the site. Some feel scraping, rather than squeezing or pulling a stinger with tweezers lessen the amount of poison excreted. However, one study suggests otherwise. Wasps do not leave their stingers behind. Hence the reason they can sting multiple times. (Confused about the difference between wasps, hornets and yellow jackets? Wasps are members of the family Vespidae, which includes yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps.) Relieve pain by administering Ibuprofen (trade names Motrin or Advil) or Acetaminophen (trade name Tylenol).

As you would with any break in the skin, to prevent infection, wash the affected areas with mild soap and water.

Decrease the swelling and itch. Histamine produces redness, swelling and itch. Counter any histamine release with an oral antihistamine such as Diphenhydramine (trade name Benadryl). Any antihistamine will be helpful, but generally the older ones like Diphenhydramine tend to work the best in these instances. Just be aware that sleepiness is a common side effect.

To decrease overall swelling elevate the affected area.

Soothe the area by spreading on calamine lotion or by applying a topical steroid like hydrocortisone 1%.

And don’t forget, ice, ice and more ice. Fifteen minutes of indirect ice (wrap in a towel, for example) on and fifteen minutes off helps relieve both pain and itching.

Even if the child’s airway is okay, if the child is particularly swollen, or has numerous bites, a pediatrician may elect to add oral steroids to a child’s treatment

It is almost midnight as I write this blog post. Now that I know all of my kids are safely tucked in their beds, and I know that Dan is fine, I turn my mind to one final matter: Wasps beware – I know that at night you return to your nest. My husband is going outside now with a can of insecticide. Never, never mess with the mother bear…at least on my watch.


Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD

2015, updated from 2009,  Two Peds in a Pod®


Does my baby have GERD or spit-up?

Baby spew doesn't always require reflux medications

Baby spew doesn’t always require reflux medications

In our office, two-month-old Max smiles ear to ear, naked except for a diaper and a bib. His worried mom asks me about the large amounts of spit up Max spews forth daily. “He spits up after every feeding. It seems like everything he eats just comes back up. It even comes out of his nose!” she says. Max gained the expected amount of  weight, an average of one ounce per day, since his one-month check-up. He breastfeeds well and accepts an occasional bottle from his dad. Even after spitting up and drenching  his bib and everything around him, he remains comfortable and cheerful. He is well hydrated, urinates often, and poops normally.

In short, Max is a  “happy spitter”  Other than creating piles of laundry, he acts like any healthy baby.

Contrast this to two-month-old “Mona.” She also spits up frequently. Sometimes it’s right after a feed and sometimes an hour later. She seems hungry, yet she’ll cry, arch her back, and pull off the nipple while feeding. She cries before and after spitting up. Her weight gain is not so good— she averaged one-half ounce of gain per day since her one-month visit. She seems more comfortable when upright and more cranky lying down.
Mona is not a “happy spitter.”
Last story and then the lesson:
“Chloe” is a two-month-old baby who cries. Often. Loudly. Although most of the wailing occurs in the late afternoon and early evening, she also cries other times. She eats great and in fact, seems very happy while she feeds. She smiles at her parents mainly in the morning. She  also smiles at her ceiling fan and the desk lamp. Movement calms her and her parents worry that she spends excessive time rocking in their arms or in her swing. Her cries pierce through walls and make her parents feel helpless. She often spits up during crying jags, and erupts with gas. She gained weight well since her last visit.
Here’s the lesson:


All babies cry. All babies pee and poop. All babies sleep (at times). AND: all babies spit up. The muscle in the lower esophagus that keeps our food and drink down in our stomachs and prevents it from sloshing upwards, called the “lower esophageal sphincter,” is loose in all babies. The muscle naturally tightens up and becomes more effective over the first year of life, which is why younger babies tend to spit up more than older babies.
Max has GER (gastroesophageal reflux) , Chloe has GER/ colic and Mona has GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Max and Chloe have physiologic, or normal, reflux. Mona has reflux that interferes with her mood, her feedings, and her growth.

GER, GERD and colic (excessive crying in an otherwise healthy baby) improve by three to four months of age. If your baby cries often (enough to make you cry as well) then you should see your baby’s pediatrician to help determine the cause. It helps, before your visit, to think about when the crying occurs (with feedings? At certain times of the  day?), what soothes the crying (feeding? walking/rocking?) and other symptoms that accompany the crying such as spitting up, fever, or coughing. Keeping a three day diary for trends can help pinpoint a diagnosis.  We worry a lot when the babies are not “spitting up” but are actually “vomiting.” Spit blobs onto the ground. Vomit shoots to the ground. Vomit which is yellow, is accompanied by a hard stomach, is painful, is forceful (think Exorcist), or enough to cause dehydration, all may be signs of blockage in the belly such as pyloric stenosis or vovulus. Seek medical attention immediately.

The treatment for Max, the happy spitter with GER? Lots of bibs for baby and extra shirts for his parents.

Treatment for Chloe, the crier? Patience and tincture of time. You can’t spoil a young baby, so hold, rock and sway with her to keep her calm. Enlist a baby sitter or grandparents to help.

The treatment for Mona, the baby with GERD? Small, frequent feedings to prevent overload of her stomach, adding cereal any bottle feeds to help thicken the milk and weigh down the liquid, thus preventing some of the spit up (ask your doctor if this is appropriate for your baby), holding her upright after feeds for 15-20 minutes, and inclining her crib by putting a thick book under each of 2 crib legs to help her upper body stay higher than her feet which helps her stomach to empty sooner. To prevent Sudden Infant death Syndrome, she should still be placed on her back to sleep.  Sometimes, pediatricians prescribe medication that decreases the acid content of the stomach to help relieve the pain of stomach contents refluxing into the esophagus.

Treatment for parents? Knowing that someday your baby will grow up, no longer need a bib, and probably have a baby who spits up too.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
2015, 2012 Two Peds in a Pod®


Marijuana: Hashing out Fact from Fiction

marijuanaWith some states now legalizing pot for recreational use, drug education for kids has never been more critical. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement this past year opposing legalization because of its potential harm to children, teens, and young adults. We welcome Dr. Shannon Murphy who dispels myths surrounding marijuana. – Drs. Kardos and Lai

Why is pot so different today than 30 years ago? Pot is 5 times stronger than the 1980’s.

THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant, previously hovered around 3%. Now the average THC level is closer to 16%. As of this year, some plants have been tested with levels reaching between 20-30% THC. There is a new form of pot known as hash oil that is almost pure THC with levels around 90%

I heard pot was not addictive. Is that true?  Pot is addictive.

In fact, the younger you are when you start using pot, the more likely you are to get addicted.10% of adults and 17% of young adults who try pot will become addicted to it. If one chooses to use on a daily or near daily basis, the addiction rate climbs to 25-50%.

How long does pot stay in your body? Pot is different from many other drugs because it can stay in your body for days after use.

In addition, the more you use pot, the longer it stays in your body. For regular users, it can remain in your body for several weeks. As a result, there is a sub acute impairment that persists with many users once the initial “high” has worn off.

When used, pot is distributed throughout one’s body. These areas include the brain and spinal cord, heart, lungs, muscles, and fatty tissues. In fact, it is stored in fatty tissue. If one is pregnant and one uses pot, not only will the mom be affected by pot, but so will her unborn child. It also concentrates in breast milk. People who use marijuana should NOT breastfeed their baby.

Isn’t pot safe to use? I heard it was safer than other drugs. Pot is harmful to the brain, heart, and lungs.

Regular use of marijuana, particularly at a young age, can create biochemical and structural changes to the brain. Some of these changes are not reversible. Moreover, the effects are dose dependent. The more you use, the more likely to affect change.

Marijuana causes cognitive impairment. It harms learning, memory, attention, and critical decision-making. A recent study showed that regular use of marijuana at a young age causes a permanent decrease in IQ of up to 8 points.

Marijuana is linked to the development of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Research has shown that regular daily to weekend use of pot increased one’s risk of psychosis 3-5 times that of the general population. Sadly, we are seeing this played out in states like Colorado where people have died from psychosis related events.

The American Lung Association has reported that pot has more cancer causing agents than tobacco smoke. Like tobacco, it causes chronic cough, wheeze, phlegm production, and frequent infections.

Marijuana has cardiac effects as well. Temporal links have been found between using pot and arrhythmias, stroke, and other major cardiac events.

What are “edibles”?

In 2014, with the legalization of pot in Colorado, the marijuana industry began selling food products with infused THC. These products, which include candy, cereal, pop tarts, and sodas, are indistinguishable from regular food.

In fact, exposure of kids to marijuana increased by 200% over this last year because of these products. These accidental poisonings were secondary to exposure of kids to edibles typically in their home. Many kids ended up in the ER, some with serious complications like seizures and difficulty breathing.

What does “dabbing” mean?

Dabbing is inhaling vapors from heating a concentrated form of pot. Dabs, which are also known as BHO (butane hash oil), “budder”, “honeycomb”, or “earwax” contain much higher concentrates of THC, usually upwards of 90%. Dabs are much stronger than a single joint and the high is administered all at once.

How does smoking pot affect driving?

Driving high is dangerous to the driver, others in the vehicle, and people sharing the road. In fact, marijuana is the number one illicit drug found in the blood stream of drivers involved in fatal car accidents.

Pot impairs skills needed to drive safely. It negatively impacts alertness, coordination, and reaction time.

Pot and alcohol don’t mix. Using both drugs at the same time has been shown to increase the THC level in one’s blood stream. This makes for a deadly combination on the road.

Is it okay to use pot while pregnant?

It is NOT okay to use pot while pregnant. As mom gets high and feels the effects of the drug, so does the unborn child.

Studies have shown that children exposed to marijuana in utero have lower scores on visual and motor coordination as well as lower scores on visual analysis and problem solving. In utero exposure is also associated with decreased attention span and behavioral problems. Finally, studies have shown that teens are more likely to be marijuana users if their mom used while pregnant.

What if my teen says that since pot isn’t a big deal anymore and many of their friends are using it?

Now more than ever, it is incredibly important to speak clearly regarding the risks of pot use. Many teens see legal as meaning safe, so we are entering a critical time when it comes to our kids and marijuana use. Here are a few suggestions when it comes to talking to your kids about drug use in general.

Talk early and often. This should not be a one-time conversation.

Make sure your child knows your rules on drug use and set clear consequences if these rules are broken. Role-play real life situations so kids can know how to respond when confronted with scenarios that may involve drugs.Base education about pot and other drugs on facts.

Check out the National Institute of Drug Abuse website for up to date information. To learn more visit .


Shannon Murphy, MD, FAAP

Dr. Murphy is a board certified general pediatrician who currently serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Practice Advisory Committee for Adolescent Substance Use. She heads a non-profit coalition, SAM Alabama, whose goal is to educate parents and kids on the public health issues and safety concerns associated with marijuana.

2015 Two Peds in a Pod®