What’s up, Doc?

Norton Children’s Hospital pediatricians answer your questions about keeping kids and teens healthy.

Parents play the biggest role on their child’s health care team. Know how to keep your child healthy and what to expect as your child grows with these tips from Drew Duerson, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Hospital Medical Associates – Shepherdsville, and Erika C. Cravanas, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Hospital Medical Associates – Okolona.

Newborns and infants

My baby’s cough sounds like a bark with a lot of wheezing. What should I do?

A bark-like cough may indicate that your baby has croup. Croup typically causes stridor, which is high-pitched, noisy breathing rather than wheezing. Croup usually is caused by a viral infection. The upper portion of the child’s airway may swell so that when coughing, the air is forced through the narrowed, swollen opening, causing a seal-like barking sound. Croup can be serious, but it usually can be managed at home. If you notice your child is having stridor, try to keep your child calm. Crying and becoming upset can make breathing more difficult. Use a cool-mist humidifier at night or take your child outside briefly to breathe cool air. If your child is having difficulty breathing or breathing is noisy while completely at rest and not upset, then your child should be seen by a medical professional immediately.

–Erika C. Cravanas, M.D.

How can I ensure my baby is in a safe sleep environment?

Babies should always be placed on their back to sleep and on a firm, flat surface like a crib or bassinet. Your child should never sleep in the bed with you. Babies should have their own sleep environment, which should not include extra blankets, bumper pads, toys or stuffed animals. Once breastfeeding has been well established, usually after four weeks, it is safe to have your child sleep with a pacifier. Additionally, do not leave your baby sleeping in a car seat or other seated device.

–Drew Duerson, M.D.

Families

What is the best way my family can avoid getting the flu other than getting a flu shot?

An annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu, as is good hand hygiene with frequent handwashing using soap and water. The flu vaccine comes in two forms: an injection (shot) and a nasal mist. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a flu shot be given annually to all children beginning at 6 months. The nasal mist can be given beginning at age 2 for those who are in good health.

–Erika C. Cravanas, M.D.

Toddlers

At what age should my child have his/her first dental exam?

Most dentists will see your child soon after the first tooth erupts. Otherwise, it is recommended that children have their initial dental visit on, or around, their first birthday.

–Drew Duerson, M.D.

At what age should I start potty training my child and how can we ease into the process?

There is no specific age that potty training should start. Every child is different, but most children will begin to show an interest in using the toilet between 18 and 24 months. Be ready to provide daily encouragement and positive reinforcement to your toddler.

–Erika C. Cravanas, M.D.


Easing into the process can be achieved by buying a potty chair and putting it in a convenient location. Start by sitting your toddler on the chair fully clothed and allow the child to look at books or play with toys. After a week or so, the child should make the connection between the chair and elimination. Your child may be frightened by flushing the toilet, so start by saying “bye-bye” and do not flush while he or she is still sitting on the toilet.

–Drew Duerson, M.D.

Adolescents

What is the best way to talk to my child about the “birds and the bees” and puberty?

First, don’t avoid the conversation. If you don’t educate them at all, someone else will. Talk about sex early and take teaching moments as they come, answer your child’s questions honestly and don’t have conversations that are all about the “do nots.” There are very good resources out there on the topic that your child could turn to if he or she feels too uncomfortable talking to you. Your pediatrician can recommend some good options.

–Drew Duerson, M.D.

What are the most important things my teenager should do to stay healthy?

For adolescents, the biggest recommendations are to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily and to avoid drinking sodas and other sugary beverages. Their primary beverage should be water.

–Erika C. Cravanas, M.D.


Adolescents should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, avoid spending too much time in front of a television or computer, and stick to a healthy diet.

–Drew Duerson, M.D.

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