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Seasonal Allergies in Children

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Apr 7th, 2016

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Does your child have itchy, watery eyes right now? A runny nose? It could be the start of allergy season or it could be a spring cold. Allergist Dr. Joel Doctor says seasonal allergies are very common in kids, for those genetically prone they occur in about 30 percent of the population.

Allergies don’t typically start in children until after the age of four, because children need exposure to pollen for about four seasons and then develop allergies in subsequent summers. Symptoms usually start in the spring, peaking in June and July in Calgary, and then resolving by the fall. Dr. Doctor says symptoms usually appear before the age of 10, peaking in the teens and early adulthood.

Dr. Doctor says typical symptoms of seasonal allergy include itchy eyes, where kids rub their eyes often, sneezing fits, nasal congestion, runny nose and sometimes breathing problems. Seasonal allergies can also be a trigger for asthma. And if itch is dominating the picture and the child has a family history of hayfever, Dr. Doctor says it’s likely allergies and not a cold.

The first step is to avoid triggers. Dr. Doctor says if it’s a dry, hot, windy day maybe that’s a better day to take your child to the movies rather than the park. That said, we want to keep kids outside and active and it’s pretty hard to avoid all those triggers. So, Dr. Doctor recommends starting with an over the counter antihistamine that is non-sedating and long-acting. Dr. Doctor says these medicines are very effective and very safe and can be taken daily for months at a time with no concern for side effects.

If these drugs do not work for your child, then it’s time for a visit to the doctor. Your family physician will confirm the diagnosis of seasonal allergies and then likely prescribe nasal sprays and eye drops. This combination of an antihistamine and prescription eye drops and nasal sprays usually do the trick for most kids, says Dr. Doctor. For those children who are not responding to these therapies a referral to an allergist is required. The allergist will then look at desensitization therapy which is a long and involved process that requires injections or pills taken regularly under the tongue for up to three years. However, the payoff is big with most symptoms being resolved forever.

Dr. Doctor says treating a child for seasonal allergies is very important. New research suggests children with untreated allergies do not perform as well in school. They’re not feeling well, they’re distracted by their itchy eyes and runny noses and their school performance suffers. So, Dr. Doctor says that should be reason enough to get these children the relief they need.

For more information on seasonal allergy visit this website.

 

 

World Autism Day

Leah Sarich | posted Friday, Apr 1st, 2016

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April 2nd is World Autism Day. According to the World Health Organization one in 160 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other estimates say one in 68 kids, so a lot of families are dealing with this diagnosis. And researchers here at the University of Calgary have noticed much of the services and supports out there for families are based on the idea that there is a stay at home mom able to help the child. Assistant Professor Bonnie Lashewicz says she and her team feel this idea of the mom at home reinforces the idea that dads have little to offer, when in fact, this is not the case at all.

Her research suggests dads are thinking very hard about parenting their child with autism and reflecting on what it means for them as a person. Research already shows dads are often more hands on with their autistic child, more experimental and often help them develop language in different ways.

But Professor Lashewicz’s research suggests there is even more going on with dads. She’s found dads are boldly reclaiming their role as parent, defying the idea that just because they are a dad doesn’t mean they don’t understand their child. Lashewicz tells the story of one dad, tired of the stares and judgement he feels from strangers when he takes his autistic son out in public, had a t-shirt made for his son that says “F-U I’m fine.” She speaks of another dad who takes his autistic son to the movies and to buffer the loud noise of the theatre, he nestles his son against him covering the boy’s ears with his chest and hand.

The goal of this research into dads is to understand the needs and contributions of dads with children on the spectrum. The hope is, in the same way we’re seeing more dads washrooms with diaper changing stations, there will soon be more services, programs and resources for dads with autistic children.

Lashewicz says if all parent resources, both mom and dad, are being supported everyone’s life is smoother.

For more information about this research visit this website. 

 

Growing Pains

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Mar 30th, 2016

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Has your child woken up in the middle of the night complaining of pain in their legs?? It could be growing pains.

Pediatrician Dr. Peter Nieman says growing pains are very real and very common with about one in five kids experiencing them. The pains usually occur in two age groups 3 to 5 year olds and 8 to 12 year olds. Dr. Nieman says growing pains are uncommon in teenagers. The pain usually occurs in the legs specifically the thighs, calves or behind the knee. And the pain is felt in muscles not joints. The pain usually occurs later in the day or at night and can be severe enough to wake a sleeping child. But the pain should be gone by morning.

So just what is this pain? Dr. Nieman says doctors don’t really understand the cause of the pain but they do know there are a few correlations. He says the pain is more common in children who are very active, who may not drink enough water and who may be picky eaters. Dr. Nieman suggest perhaps those picky eaters are not getting enough Vitamin D, calcium or hydration.

However, leg pain can be caused by other more serious diseases. Dr. Nieman says if the pain occurs every night instead of sporadically or if the child doesn’t respond to a parent comforting them with hugs, massage or a heating pad, then the pain needs to be investigated further by a doctor. Also if parents notice swelling of the joints or that the child is pale or more fatigued or if they’re limping or have an uneven gait then the child needs to be assessed by a doctor. At that appointment, doctors will be ruling out conditions like arthritis, bone tumours or even leukemia. But remember it’s likely growing pains because that type of pain is much more common that anything else.

If the pain is in fact growing pains Dr. Nieman recommends parents should comfort the child with hugs and massage, give them some water to drink and offer a painkiller like ibuprofen that will reduce any inflammation. Dr. Nieman says the pain should occur sporadically and not every night. And the good news is children will grow out of the pain.

For more information visit this website.

 

Asthma Study

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Mar 23rd, 2016

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Breathing is something we do all the time without thinking about it. But according to Respiratory Physiotherapist Jessica DeMars, many of us are not breathing correctly. And for those with asthma that can make their symptoms worse. In fact, DeMars noticed that in her adult patients with asthma, if she taught them how to breathe properly it helped with their asthma. So now, she’s doing a study to find out if proper breathing will help children with asthma too.

Izzy Stevenson is 13 years old and has had asthma since she was a baby. She takes controller asthma medications every morning and night and also has an emergency inhaler. Izzy says she sometimes has asthma attacks when she is exercising… which is often because she’s a dancer and dances up to two hours every day. Izzy is participating in DeMars’ study. First, the study requires a rigorous patient assessment. DeMars says each participant fills out a questionnaire about their life with asthma, each has their respiratory chemistry measured and the strength of their breathing muscles assessed. Based on this assessment, DeMars gives the patient an individualized set of exercises to learn and do for six weeks.

Izzy says the exercises are pretty easy to learn and that they’ve already helped her. She says she forgot her inhaler at dance once and that the breathing exercises helped to calm her down. The hope is these exercises will improve patients’ symptoms over the long term. DeMars says the idea is not to replace medications. Medications are necessary to control asthma. However, DeMars hopes the exercises may be another tool in the fight against asthma.

DeMars hopes to have her study finished by this time next year. However, she is still looking for children to participate in the study. For more information on Jessica DeMars visit her website or call the Running Injury Clinic at 403 460 5642 if you would like more information on the study.

Juvenile Arthritis

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Mar 15th, 2016

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When Jarad Hauck was 11 years old he was angry all the time. He had stiff, painful fingers that prevented him from doing the things he loved like playing basketball or building with Lego. But Jarad was soon diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Jarad is now 17 and is back to doing what he loves… he was captain of his volleyball team this year, longboards regularly with his friends and goes skiing every weekend. He’s well because he’s managing his arthritis appropriately with several medications a day and an injection once a week.

Jarad is not alone. In fact, 24 thousand Canadian children and teens are living with the disease. For Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, it’s important we understand that arthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic disability in children. It can mean they can’t carry a backpack or play the sports they love. This is because they are often in a lot of pain with swollen and stiff joints. But like Jarad, if they manage their disease well, they can often get back to normal. But their normal is not like ours. Juvenile arthritis is a chronic disease which means it will never go away. And these kids grow up and their disease changes which means staying well is a never ending challenge.

Pediatric Rheumatologist Dr. Nicole Johnson says one of the biggest challenges is transitioning these children with arthritis into the adult system. Jarad has been working on his transition with his doctor and family for years. Jarad is now learning about his medications and what they’re supposed to do and not do. Jarad has even gotten over his fear of needles to give himself his weekly injection. Dr. Johnson explains it’s a difficult time for these teenagers because they have a lot of distractions at this time in their lives. Jarad is graduating this year, he’ll be upgrading and working full time, he has a girlfriend and plays lots of sports. But Jarad maintains an active lifestyle and this is something he doesn’t want to lose. So he knows learning how to manage his disease is paramount if he wants to continue to life an active and full life.

For more information about juvenile arthritis and how you can help visit this website. 

 

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