Lead Test Warning

The FDA has warned about the potential for falsely low test results from certain lead tests.
The CDC and FDA have warned about the potential for falsely low test results from certain lead tests.

Has your child had a lead test in the past three years?

Then he might need to be tested again.

The FDA, CDC, and AAP are warning about a possible problem with lead tests that have been done on children since 2014.

FDA Blood Lead Test Safety Alert

Specifically, the FDA is warning about all four of Magellan Diagnostics’ lead testing systems, including their LeadCare, Lead Care II, LeadCare Plus, and LeadCare Ultra test, as they might “provide results that are lower than the actual level of lead in the blood.”

Your child is not affected if they:

  • are over 6 years old (as of May 17, 2017)
  • had a lead test done from a finger or heel stick (the warning is about tests done on blood drawn from a vein, like in their arm)
  • had a lead test done using a different, non-Magellan Diagnostics testing method
  • had a lead test that was higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter (as they would hopefully have undergone retesting and a look for possible sources of lead exposure in and around their home if it was over 10)

Where are these Magellan Diagnostics’ lead testing systems used? They are used in some doctors’ offices and clinics and in some laboratories that do lead testing.

“While most children likely received an accurate test result, it is important to identify those whose exposure was missed, or underestimated, so that they can receive proper care. For this reason, because every child’s health is important, the CDC recommends that those at greatest risk be retested.”

Dr. Patrick Breysse, PhD, CIH, director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health

The American Academy of Pediatrics is also “urging parents of children ages 6 and younger who received a venous blood test for lead (in which blood is drawn from the arm), to discuss with their child’s pediatrician whether a new test is needed.”

Risks for Lead Poisoning

Do we still need to worry about high lead levels and lead poisoning so long after lead was removed from paint and gasoline?

Tragically, yes.

It is estimated that children in at least 3 to 4 million households in the United States are still exposed to high lead levels.

Children are especially at higher risk if they:

  • live in a home built before 1978, with the risk increasing with the age of the home, especially if it was built before 1960
  • have family members, friends, or neighbors with lead poisoning
  • live in a community with high levels of lead poisoning in children or a possible source of lead contamination, like a lead smelter or battery recycling plant
  • have pica (eat non-food substances)
  • are exposed to alternative medicine that might be contaminated with lead
  • live with a family member that works has a hobby in the lead-industry

And the latest recommendations are that all children have a risk assessment for high lead levels when they are 6-12 months old and again at 18-24 months. Those at high risk, on Medicaid, or in high prevalence areas should be formally tested at those ages.

What to Know About the FDA Blood Lead Test Safety Alert

If your child is under age six years and “had a venous blood lead test result of less than 10 (µg/dL) from a test analyzed using a Magellan Diagnostics’ LeadCare analyzer,” then he or she needs to have a repeat lead test.

More About the FDA Blood Lead Test Safety Alert

Why Not Watch 13 Reasons Why?

After a teenage girl's perplexing suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice.
After a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice.

My kids won’t be watching 13 Reasons Why, the new series on NetFlix about a teen who kills herself.

It’s not that I won’t let them. It has more to do that they don’t seem to watch anything that isn’t on YouTube.

Would I let them watch it? Sure. It is impossible to hide the fact that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers.

That should be the nationwide controversy that we are all talking about!

“Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Should you let your teen watch 13 Reasons Why? As it is rated TV-MA, they almost certainly shouldn’t watch it without supervision or support.

The 13 Reasons Why Controversy

By offering immediate counseling to everyone that may need it, local crisis centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to local services.
By offering immediate counseling to everyone that may need it, local crisis centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to local services.

Did your school send home a warning telling you to make sure your kids avoid the show?

How does that work? Even if they don’t watch it, they might have friends that do.

Whatever you decide, you should at least talk to your kids about it. They probably are already talking about it with their friends.

And see what other folks are saying to help you make your decision:

Keep in mind that while many folks have pitchforks out because of the series, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association and the National Association of School Psychologists suggest using 13 Reasons Why as a teachable moment to initiate a helpful conversation about suicide prevention and mental health.

And that conversation can start even if your kids don’t watch the show.

Continue reading “Why Not Watch 13 Reasons Why?”

Treating Hard to Control Poison Ivy

Poison ivy growing on a tree, ready to give your kids a rash.
It is better to learn to avoid poison ivy than to get a rash and have to get it treated. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

It is usually not hard to identify a child with a poison ivy rash, especially a classic case of poison ivy, which might include a child with a known exposure to poison ivy after a camping trip, hike in the woods, or day at the lake, who a few days later develops a red, itchy rash all over his body.

The problem is that many parents don’t remember the “known exposure,” especially if it is the child’s first poison ivy rash.

The Poison Ivy Rash

Aerial roots on the stems can help you identify poison ivy, and yes, they can trigger a rash too.
Aerial roots on the stems can help you identify poison ivy, and yes, they can trigger a rash too. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

After exposure to the leaves, stems, or roots of a poison ivy plant, children develop symptoms of poison ivy within 8 hours to a week or so, including:

  • an intensely itchy rash
  • red bumps that often may be in a straight line or streaks, from where the poison ivy plant had contact with your child’s skin
  • a rash that appears to spread, mostly because the rash appears at different times depending on how big or small a dose of the urushiol oil that area of skin got, with the rash appearing first on the spots that got exposed the most
  • vesicles and blisters that are filled with fluid

Keep in mind that children exposed to poison sumac and poison oak, other members of the genus Rhus or Toxicodendron, can get these same symptoms that we generically refer to as poison ivy symptoms.

(Using medical terminology, these children develop rhus dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, an intensely pruritic, linear, erythematous, papulovesicular rash after exposure to the urushiol oil in poison ivy.)

Treating Poison Ivy

It seems like everyone has their favorite treatments for poison ivy.

These basic treatments for poison ivy are usually going to help control the itch, and might include:

  • oral antihistamines (Benadryl or Atarax)
  • modified Burow’s Solution
  • Calamine lotion
  • Aveeno oatmeal baths
  • over-the-counter or prescription topical steroid creams

Is that all you need?

While these treatments might provide temporary relief and might be enough for very mild reactions, those with more moderate or severe symptoms will likely require systemic steroids.

Does that mean a steroid shot?

That might be what your doctor suggests or what some parents request, but keep in mind that it might wear off too soon, leading your child’s poison ivy symptoms to flare up again (rebound rash). That’s why most experts recommend a longer, tapering course of oral steroids instead of a single shot. A steroid dose pack is also often avoided as treatment for poison ivy, as the dose might be too low and it typically doesn’t last long enough.

Since the poison ivy rash might not go away for as long as three weeks, getting treated with systemic steroids can be an especially good idea if you have a moderate or severe case.

Avoiding Poison Ivy

A classic poison ivy plant in the 'leaves of three, let it be' configuration.
A classic poison ivy plant in the ‘leaves of three, let it be’ configuration. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

Since very few people are actually immune to poison ivy, it is best to learn to avoid getting exposed to it in the first place.

You can start with the old adage, ‘leaves of three, let it be,’ but you really have to look at a lot pictures of poison ivy to get good at avoiding it. And to be safe, learn to avoid the places where poison ivy grows – along tree lines, around lakes and ponds, along trails, and in wooden or wild areas, etc.

Or at least do your best to avoid the plants by wearing long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, and gloves, etc., to avoid skin contact even if you are around poison ivy while hiking, playing along a creek, or fishing near a lake.

What can you do if you have been exposed to poison ivy? If you can rinse the exposed area with rubbing alcohol, like within 10 minutes, then you might avoid a reaction. After that, the oil in poison ivy, urushiol, will likely be stuck and trigger a rash. Of course, you don’t want to be applying rubbing alcohol to a large area of your child’s skin though or allow your child to use it if they will be unsupervised. And be sure to wash it off afterwards.

Commercial products might be more useful (and safer) to help you avoid poison ivy reactions and  include:

  • Ivy Block – was an over-the-counter barrier lotion that was supposed to prevent poison ivy, but unfortunately, it isn’t being made anymore
  • Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser
  • Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy & Oak Scrub
  • Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash

Although it is best to use the products immediately, within 10 to 30 minutes after exposure to poison ivy, if used anytime before you get a rash, you might decrease your symptoms. And if you get lucky, you might not get any symptoms at all.

Myths and Facts About Poison Ivy

Would you recognize this is poison ivy? It will still trigger a rash...
Would you recognize this as poison ivy? It will still trigger a rash… Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

As common as poison ivy is, there are many myths and misconceptions about it, including that:

  • poison ivy is contagious (false) – scratching doesn’t spread poison ivy, although it may seem that way as the rash spreads to new areas over the days and weeks after being exposed. That’s only because some areas of a child’s skin that had less exposure to the poison ivy plant than others will get the rash later, not that they are continuing to spread it by scratching.
  • you can get poison ivy from your dog (true) – although not as common as direct contact with a plant, indirect contact, like if you touch the oil from poison ivy that got on your dog’s fur or on your clothing, could trigger a reaction
  • it is easy to spot poison ivy (false) – poison ivy plants are often found growing among other plants, can trigger reactions year round, even when they don’t have any leaves (the stems  and roots can trigger a reaction too), and even dead poison plants can trigger a reaction, which can make it extremely hard to simply use the ‘leaves of three, let it me’ advice to spot plants.
  • birds help spread poison ivy (true) – ever wonder why poison plants grow along tree lines? Birds and small mammals eat the poison ivy berries and then poop out the seeds, allowing new plants to grow wherever the birds commonly hang out, including tree lines, around lakes and ponds, and your garden.
  • it’s easy to get rid of poison ivy plants (false) – poison ivy plants are very persistent and can be hard to get rid of
  • goats like to eat poison ivy (true) – well, goats like to eat everything, but a goat in your yard will likely eat up all of the poison ivy plants.
  • it is easy to identify poison ivy (false) – many other plants mimic the ‘leaves of three, let it be’ pattern, like Virginia creeper and Boxelder
  • burning poison ivy plants is dangerous (true) – the oil that triggers the poison ivy rash can vaporize, meaning exposure to the smoke from a burning plant can cause severe reactions.

And remember that your pediatrician can be helpful if you think your child has poison ivy. (true)

What To Know About Hard to Control Poison Ivy

While poison ivy isn’t contagious, it can make you miserable if you don’t learn to avoid it and treat poison ivy rashes properly with anti-itch creams and steroids.

More About Hard to Control Poison Ivy

Don’t Skip Your Baby’s Vitamin K Shot

Most parents understand and expect that their baby will get a vitamin K shot when they are born and before they leave the hospital.

It helps prevent bleeding from vitamin K deficiency.

Vitamin K for Babies

Leave the formula samples at the hospital, but don't leave without your baby's vitamin K shot.
Leave the formula samples at the hospital, but don’t leave without your baby’s vitamin K shot.

Newborns have been routinely getting vitamin K shots since at least since 1961.

While it was well known that newborns could suffer from hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (the old name for vitamin K deficiency bleeding) since 1894 (thanks to Dr. Charles Townsend), it wasn’t until later that it was connected to a temporary lack of vitamin K in newborns and younger infants. This occurs because:

  • vitamin K doesn’t pass through the placenta well, so your baby doesn’t build up a good supply during pregnancy
  • breast milk is a poor source of vitamin K, even if the breastfeeding mother eats well and takes supplements, so your baby isn’t able to quickly build up a good supply after she is born
  • babies have a mostly sterile gut and are not born with the bacteria in their intestines that can make vitamin K
  • some clotting factors need vitamin K to work

Although vitamin K deficiency bleeding was never very common, before newborns began it get vitamin K shots, it did affect from 1.7% (classic onset disease) to 7 in 100,000 newborns (late onset disease).

Since many of these bleeds were fatal, even though they were rare, no one thought that there was a benefit to being low in vitamin K and getting a vitamin K shot wasn’t controversial. At least not until a 1992 paper suggested that vitamin K shots could be associated with childhood cancer. That soon led some parents to refuse their babies vitamin K shots for a short time, at least until the link was refuted.

In 1996, a student called for the ‘End of the Vitamin K Brouhaha:’

“Because hemorrhagic disease of the newborn can be life-threatening but preventable, the studies by von Kries et al and Ansell et al should allay our fears and doubts about the dangers of administering intramuscular vitamin K immediately after birth. It seems that hemorrhagic disease of the newborn can be completely eradicated without the threat of leukemia and childhood cancer as a side effect.”

And the vitamin K brouhaha did seem to end.

The Vitamin K Controversy

It came back though.

In addition to holistic and natural parenting groups, there are some who are against vaccines who are also against vitamin K shots.

This is surprising to many people, as those who oppose giving babies vitamin K are often the same folks who push many other types of vitamins, including megadoses of vitamin C, vitamin B12 shots, and extra vitamin D.

Vitamin K Misinformation

So why do some parents skip giving their new baby a vitamin K shot?

It is possible that in doing their research, they have been mislead by some of the misinformation about vitamin K that you commonly find on the internet.

This includes claims that:

  • there is mercury and other toxic ingredients in the vitamin K shots (the truth is that neither mercury or thimerosal nor any other heavy metals are used as a preservative in vitamin K shots and all of the other ingredients are safe too)
  • vitamin K shots cause cancer (the truth is that they don’t and an early study that suggested they did was later refuted many times)
  • babies don’t need extra vitamin K (the truth is that some do though and it is typically impossible to identify them, except maybe for babies born to mothers taking certain medications, mostly seizure medicines, that put them at extra risk of early vitamin K deficiency bleeding)
  • babies start making enough vitamin K when they are 8 days old (the truth is that some babies don’t, especially those with liver disease and other disorders that might interfere with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins)
  • babies did fine before we started giving them vitamin K shots (the truth is that some died, which is why we started giving vitamin K in the first place)
  • you can just give babies oral vitamin K instead of a vitamin K shot (the truth is that oral vitamin K doesn’t work to prevent all cases of late onset vitamin K deficiency, which is also deadly)
  • only boys who get a circumcision need vitamin K (the truth is that we don’t know why some infants with vitamin K deficiency bleeding develop bleeding in their brains, as it isn’t usually any kind of big trauma, so it doesn’t have to be something like a circumcision or a fall or whether you delivered vaginally or by C-section, etc. In fact, late onset bleeding can occur up to 12 weeks, and sometimes as long as 6 months, after a baby is born!)
  • there must be a benefit to having low vitamin K levels when we are born, otherwise God wouldn’t have made us this way (even if this were somehow true, it doesn’t negate the fact that some babies die from their low vitamin K levels…)

Just as with vaccine preventable diseases, since vitamin K deficiency is now rare (because most parents make sure their babies get a vitamin K shot), it is easy for parents to be misled by this type of misinformation.

Bad Advice about Vitamin K

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vitamin K deficiency bleeding “is most effectively prevented by parenteral administration of vitamin K.”

That’s the vitamin K shot.

While early (birth to 2 weeks) vitamin K deficiency bleeding can be prevented with either oral vitamin K or a vitamin K shot, late onset (2 to 12 weeks) vitamin K deficiency bleeding is best prevented with a vitamin K shot.

Some people didn’t get the message though, advising parents to skip the vitamin K shot against all standard medical advice:

  • Dr. Mercola still warns parents about the ‘jab with a syringe full of vitamin K.’
  • Sarah Pope at the Health Home Economist tells parents to ‘Skip that Newborn Vitamin K Shot’
  • 28 percent of parents who delivered at local private birthing centers in Tennessee had recently declined the vitamin K shot

So what are the consequences of this kind of non-standard, non-evidence based advice?

They are much as you would expect when dealing with a potentially life-threatening condition – a rise in vitamin K deficiency bleeding in newborns and infants.

Among the recent cases of early and late vitamin K deficiency bleeding include:

  • seven babies over eight months in  2013 at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, including three who required surgery to remove clots “out of their head” and who may “have issues with seizure disorders and will have long-term neurological symptoms related to seizures and developmental delays.”
  • a 5-week-old in Florida with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding. The youngest of 6 children, none of whom had been given vitamin K, the baby had a seizure and stopped breathing after developing two brain hemorrhages.
  • a 3-week-old in Indiana with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who was born in a birthing center and whose “parents signed a waiver to forego vaccination and prophylactic therapies,” and required an emergency craniotomy to evacuate braining bleeding, prolonged intubation, and difficult to control seizures
  • a 6-week-old in Illinois with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who never received vitamin K prophylaxis at birth and developed brain bleeding and swelling, seizures, a DVT, and who was hospitalized for 10 days
  • a 6-week-old in South Texas with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who never received vitamin K prophylaxis at birth and died after developing brain bleeding and seizures
  • an infant in Australia who had not been given a vitamin K shot as per her mother’s birth plan and  died of late vitamin K deficiency bleeding (at 33 days of life)
  • another infant in Australia who is in critical condition after his parents refused a vitamin K shot
  • infants in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands who have suffered from vitamin K deficiency bleeding while receiving oral vitamin K, often because their parents refused a vitamin K shot

Tragically, most parents who refuse vitamin K shots also refuse other potentially life-saving medical interventions, including getting a hepatitis B vaccine and even getting erythromycin eye ointment. And many go on to refuse all childhood vaccines.

On the bright side, the great majority of parents do allow their newborn babies to receive vitamin K when they are born. One study found that only 0.3% of parents refused vitamin K.

What To Know About Vitamin K Shots for Babies

The bottom line is that vitamin K shots are a safe way to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding. This is no good reason to skip this shot for your baby.

More Information About Vitamin K Shots for Babies

Save

Autism Acceptance vs Autism Awareness

Apple has added an autism acceptance page to their app store.
Apple has added an Autism Acceptance page to their app store.

April is traditionally recognized as Autism Awareness Month and April 2 as World or International Autism Awareness Day.

These awareness campaigns are supported and driven by Autism Speaks and their “light it up blue” drives.

Many people will likely be surprised that there isn’t universal support for the “light it up blue” campaign of Autism Speaks to “shine a light on autism” on World Autism Awareness Day. Instead, in addition to the many people who think that April should be more about Autism Acceptance and less about autism awareness, there are many people who think that “Autism Speaks’ statements and actions do damage to that work and to the lives of autistic people and those with other disabilities” because they don’t listen to #AcuallyAutistic people and historically:

  • have not included an autistic person among their senior leadership
  • have advocated anti-vaccine ideas
  • use a very small amount of their budget to directly help autistic people pay for the services and supports that they need

Instead of Autism Speaks, the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism suggests that people look for an autism group that focuses on support (not a cure), evidence based interventions, inclusiveness, and advocacy for the human and civil rights of all autistic people. And that the focus move to acceptance.

Similarly, Steve Silberman, the author of Neurotribes, explains why autism awareness is not enough.

Autism Advocacy Groups

As everyone because more aware of autism, they are also becoming more aware of the differences in all of the autism organizations out there. And that some provide bad autism information.

Consider the Chili’s public relations blunder, in which they were planning to donate 10% of sales on April 7, 2014 to the National Autism Association, an anti-vaccine autism organization. That situation highlighted how important it is to know the organization you are supporting and or visiting information and advice.

The organization in question, in addition to promoting unproven autism treatments, like chelation, clearly states that they believe that “vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.” They also state that “research to investigate, and reduce, adverse events in immunized individuals is currently nonexistent.”

The National Autism Association is the same organization that used anti-vaccine talking points to attack Dr. Paul Offit and his appearance on Dateline in an appearance with Matt Lauer that was critical of Andrew Wakefield. And it is the same organization that has tried to defend Andrew Wakefield’s fraud.

While many other autism organizations have distanced themselves from the idea that vaccines cause autism, this group is pressing on with the idea.

Why is that a problem? Keeping the focus on vaccines, after so many studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism, diverts resources away from services and support for children and autistic adults.

Especially with the rise in vaccine-preventable diseases, including large measles outbreaks, it is very disappointing that Chili’s chose this organization to support.

Do you know how to find a reputable autism group that provides good autism information.

Reputable Autism Groups and Organizations

Among the most reputable autism groups and organization are the:

  • Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) – Our projects seek to improve public understanding of autism, to involve the Autistic community in research that is relevant to the community’s needs, to empower Autistic people to take leading roles in advocacy, and to promote inclusion and self-determination.
  • Autism Society of America – Founded in 1965, the Autism Society helps over a million people each year through a grassroots nationwide network of local and state affiliates.
  • Autism Women’s Network (AWN) – a supportive community for Autistic women of all ages, our families, friends and allies.
  • National Autistic Society –  the leading UK charity for autistic people (including those with Asperger syndrome) and their families.
  • The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) – works to improve and enrich the lives of adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families through, community advocacy & outreach, education, peer supports, programming and services.
  • The Arc and autism NOW – provides high quality resources and information in core areas across the lifespan to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, their families, caregivers, and professional in the field.
  • Autism Science Foundation – supports autism research by providing funding and other assistance to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research.
  • Autistica – funds and campaigns for medical research to understand the causes of autism, improve diagnosis, and develop new treatments and interventions
  • NOS Magazine – a news and commentary source for thought and analysis about neurodiversity culture and representation.
  • Golden Hat Foundation – changing the way people on the autism spectrum are perceived, by shining a light on their abilities and emphasizing their great potential.
  • Simons Foundation Autism Research Foundation (SFARI) – sponsors research that promises to increase our scientific understanding of autism spectrum disorders, thereby benefiting individuals and families challenged by these disorders
  • Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership In Research and Education (AASPIRE) – brings together the academic community and the autistic community to develop and perform research projects relevant to the needs of adults on the autism spectrum.

Are you still going to “light it up blue?”

How about checking out these other autism groups instead and learn more about autism acceptance. You might also be interested in these blogs by autistic people.

How to Clean Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord

It is very important that a baby’s umbilical cord is well cared for, as infections of the umbilical cord stump have historically been a major cause of disease and death in newborn babies.

These infections can include funisitis (foul smelling, purulent discharge from the umbilical cord stump), omphalitis (infection of the umbilical cord stump), omphalitis with necrotizing fasciitis (more severe infection with sepsis and shock), and neonatal tetanus.

History of Umbilical Cord Care

Over the years, many things have been used to try and keep a newborn baby’s umbilical cord free of bacterial colonization until it falls off.

“To achieve the goal of preventing omphalitis worldwide, deliveries must be clean and umbilical cord care must be hygienic.”

AAP Umbilical Cord Care in the Newborn Infant – 2016

These substances include:

  • triple dye
  • isopropyl alcohol  or rubbing alcohol
  • povidone-iodine or iodopovidone (Betadine)
  • chlorhexidine
  • hexachlorophane
  • antimicrobial ointments, such as neomycin and bacitracin

Remember when your baby came home from the nursery with his or her cord covered in purple dye? That was triple dye. It is rarely used anymore.

Umbilical Cord Care Recommendations

So what is used now that we don’t use triple dye?

Although many parents are still tempted to use alcohol, the main advice is now to ‘do nothing’ and just let the cord fall off.

That is not a universal recommendation though.

“Ensuring optimal cord care at birth and during the first week of life, including use of chlorhexidine, especially in settings having poor hygiene, is a crucial strategy to prevent life-threatening sepsis and cord infections and avert preventable neonatal deaths.”

Chlorhexidine Working Group

Why the different recommendations?

Because, in some countries, 10 to 20% of live births are still complicated by umbilical cord infections.

But if antiseptics can help keep the umbilical cord stump free of infections, why not just use them?

It is thought that using these antiseptics when they aren’t necessary, like when a baby is born in a hospital under hygienic conditions in a “high-resource country,” then they may:

  • lead to the development of resistance and selection of “more virulent bacterial strains”
  • cause the cord to take longer to fall off – especially if you applied alcohol to the stump at each diaper change
  • waste money and resources

That’s why, when appropriate, it is now recommended that we practice dry cord care. And that’s great news, as it still seems like most parents don’t want to ever touch their baby’s umbilical cord stump!

Dry Cord Care

Give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord comes off to help it stay dry.
Give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord comes off to help it stay dry.

With dry cord care, you simply:

  • keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry (sponge baths only until the cord comes off)
  • leave the umbilical cord stump exposed to air or loosely covered by a clean cloth (fold your baby’s diaper down, which will also help prevent the cord from getting soaked with urine)
  • clean the umbilical cord stump with soap and sterile water if it does get soiled
  • watch for signs and symptoms of omphalitis, including a foul smelling discharge, red skin around the umbilical cord, or if the cord or skin around it becomes tender

Keep in mind that dry cord care is likely not appropriate if your baby was born at home, was born in a “resource limited country” or community, or if you are putting any non-sterile products on the cord to ‘help’ it come off more quickly.

These natural products to avoid include clay, cord care powders, dried herbs, honey, and oils.

When should your baby’s cord come off? While the average time is about two weeks, it is usually not considered delayed unless it hasn’t fallen off by the time your baby is three or four weeks old.

What To Know About Umbilical Cord Care

Taking care of your baby’s umbilical cord stump is now easier than ever for most parents. Just keep it clean and dry and watch for signs of infection until it falls off.

More Information on Umbilical Cord Care

Understanding the Risks and Benefits of Drinking Raw Milk

Understand the many risks of drinking raw milk and don't be fooled by propaganda, such as that 'raw milk heals.'
Understand the many risks of drinking raw milk and don’t be fooled by propaganda, such as that ‘raw milk heals.’ (CC BY 2.0)

Surprisingly, more and more people are starting to drink raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk.

Or maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising as most people associate things that are raw or natural as being safer and healthier for them, often without understand the consequences.

Unfortunately, drinking raw milk can be dangerous, especially for young children.

There are plenty of risks and no real health benefits.

Drinking Raw Milk

Just as you would have thought, is basically “straight from the cow,” and hasn’t been processed or pasteurized.

Although most experts consider pasteurization to be one of the most important health advances of the last century, some people think that it removes nutrients and kills beneficial bacteria. They also claim that raw milk can taste better than pasteurized milk, which if you believe it, is really the only possible benefit of drinking raw milk.

It’s not even a good way to avoid growth hormones in milk, as most milk is now growth hormone free anyway and is labeled rBST-free.

Is raw milk healthier than pasteurized milk? There is no research to support that raw milk is healthier or, according to the FDA, that there is a “meaningful difference between the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk.”

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “substantial data suggest that pasteurized milk confers equivalent health benefits compared with raw milk, without the additional risk of bacterial infections.”

Dangers of Drinking Raw Milk

According to the FDA, raw milk can be contaminated with bacteria, including:

  • Brucella species
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Coxiella Burnetii
  • Escherichia coli
  • Enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Salmonella species
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

These bacteria can cause people to get sick, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and headaches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 200 to 300 people get sick each year from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk.

Another big danger of drinking raw milk that some people may overlook is that raw milk is very low in vitamin D. In addition to being pasteurized, processed milk that you routinely buy in a store is typically fortified with vitamin D, which is important to keep your bones strong.

Since young children are at big risk for getting sick from any bacteria that may be in raw milk and they need vitamin D, it is important that you not give your child raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “children should not consume unpasteurized milk or products made from unpasteurized milk, such as cheese and butter, from species including cows, sheep, and goats.”

We will have to add unpasteurized camel milk to the list, as that seems to be a thing now too.

Keep in mind that kids should also avoid unpasteurized fruit juices, including unpasteurized apple juice and apple cider.

Lastly, raw milk is about the same as whole milk in terms of fat content and calories. Experts recommend that children start drinking reduced fat milk, which has less fat and calories than whole milk, beginning at age two, you won’t be able to do that if your kids are drinking raw milk.

What To Know About Drinking Raw Milk

If you are still thinking of giving your child raw milk, keep in mind that “the AAP strongly supports the position of the FDA and other national and international associations in endorsing the consumption of only pasteurized milk and milk products for pregnant women, infants, and children.”

And remember that you are basically giving raw milk to your kids because you think it tastes better, as it certainly isn’t better for them, is missing key nutrients, and it could be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

More Information on Drinking Raw Milk: