Author: Vincent Iannelli, MD

Is There Evidence for That Therapy, or No?

What do you think of when you think of alternative medicine?

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”

Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic

Do you think of acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, or reflexology?

And do you wonder if they really work?

Evidence Based Medicine, or No?

Unfortunately, there are many things that parents do for which there is absolutely no evidence that they can actually help their kids.

Some parents are even encouraged to do them by well meaning pediatricians, who may not know the latest evidence about:

  • If her jaundice had been much worse, she would have gotten phototherapy, not sunlight.
    If her jaundice had been much worse, she would have gotten phototherapy, not sunlight. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

    exposing jaundiced babies to sunlight – not only does it not work, unless they were in the sun all day long (this is done in some parts of the world, but under tinted windows to block UV and infrared light), it isn’t very practical and the AAP advises against it

  • changing your child’s toothbrush after they have strep throat – a study has shown it is not necessary
  • alternating Tylenol and Motrin – it isn’t necessary, promotes fever phobia, and can be dangerous if you mix up the times or dosages
  • putting kids on a BRAT diet when they have diarrhea – not necessary and doesn’t help kids get better any faster

For other therapies, your pediatrician isn’t likely to recommend them unless they are a so-called integrative or holistic pediatrician.

“Attaching the word “therapy” to the back end of an activity is an attempt to give it a status it may not deserve – and that status is subsequently used to garner insurance coverage, hospital resources, consumer patronage, and research dollars. It is also used to constrain how we think about an intervention – implying that perhaps there is some specific mechanism as work, when none need exist.”

Steven Novella on Aroma”therapy”

These non-evidence based “therapies” include:

  • acupressure – acupuncture without the needles
  • amber teething necklaces – if your baby’s amber teething necklace doesn’t seem to be doing anything, it isn’t because it’s fake and not made of genuine Baltic amber, it’s because it’s a teething necklace…
  • aromatherapy
  • chiropractic care of newborns and infants – understand that chiropractors don’t adjust real dislocations or misalignments in your spine, but instead manipulate what they think are subluxations that block the flow of energy that prevent your body’s innate ability to heal itself from working. Since these subluxations can’t be seen on xray, it makes you wonder why they chiropractors do so many xrays, doesn’t it?
  • craniosacral therapy (osteopathy) – has to do with tides and rhythms of cerebrospinal fluid, which these practitioners think they can feel and manipulate…
  • dry or wet cupping – what’s next, leeches?
  • essential oils – they don’t even smell good a lot of the times…
  • gripe water for colic
  • Oscillococcinum will not prevent flu complications.
    Oscillococcinum will not prevent flu complications.

    homeopathic “medicines” for teething, colic, gas, and the flu, etc. – do you know what’s in Oscillococcinum, the homeopathic flu medicine? It’s a mix of the pancreatic juice, liver, and heart of a duck, although it is diluted so many times, it is only the memory of those substances that remain in the little pills you take. How does that help treat your flu symptoms?

  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy – this can actually help treat folks with carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness (divers), but HBOT isn’t going to help your autistic child
  • hypnosis and hypnotherapy for pain, anxiety, and insomnia – hypnosis might work as a distraction technique, but there is no good evidence beyond that
  • magic socks – please don’t make your kids wear ice-cold socks at night, either with or without first covering them with Vicks VapoRub. It’s as helpful as putting a raw, cut onion in their socks, which your shouldn’t do either…
  • magnetic field therapy – do your kids still wear one of those magnetic bracelets to “help” their balance?
  • mindfulness – while a nice idea and it may help you relax, it doesn’t have all of the health benefits that folks claim
  • restrictive and fad diets – from gluten-free diets for kids who don’t have Celiac disease to the GAPS and Gluten Free-Casein Free (GFCF) Diet, these diets don’t help, can be difficult and expensive to follow, and can be dangerous if kids don’t get all of the nutrients they need

Have you tried any of these therapies on your kids?

If you have, do you understand that they “work” by way of meridians (acupuncture), the memory of water, like cures like, and law of the minimum dose (homeopathy), energy and spinal fluid tides (craniosacral therapy), manipulating energy fields in your hands or feet (reflexology), and spiritual energy (Reiki)?

What’s the Harm of Trying Alternative Treatments?

But even if you don’t go to a holistic pediatrician that recommends any of these therapies that don’t work, does your pediatrician discourage you from trying them?

If they do, how strongly?

Do they say it isn’t going to work, so don’t do it, or do they use more permissive phrasing?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, tells parents that amber teething necklaces don’t work and pose a risk for strangulation and choking, but then gives advice for “parents who choose to use these necklaces.”

Since they don’t work, why not just tell them to save their money and not use them?

Do you ever wonder, what’s the harm in using these things that don’t work?

“Rather than getting distracted by alluring rituals and elaborate pseudoscientific explanations for how they work, we should focus on maximizing the non-specific elements of the therapeutic interaction, and adding that to physiological or psychological interventions that have specific efficacy.”

Steven Novella on EMDR and Acupuncture – Selling Non-specific Effects

If your pediatrician knows that homeopathic medicines aren’t going to work, but tells you to try them if you want, what are they going to let you try next – black salve, coffee enemas, colloidal silver, dry needling, earthing, faith healing, iridology, psychic surgery, slapping, tapping, or shamanism?

In addition to kids actually being harmed by many of these alternative therapies and by missing out on real medicine that could have helped them, putting so much focus on these non-evidence based “treatments” is a waste of time and money that could go towards really helping people.

And be many of the folks who pursue and push these types of alternative treatments also push myths and propaganda about vaccines or seek to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, choosing to follow a follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule that leaves their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Don’t be fooled.

Learn to be skeptical, stick to the evidence, and stick with medicine that works.

What to Know About Evidence Based Medicine

There is plenty of evidence that alternative therapies don’t work and can do harm. Stick with medicine that works to keep your kids safe and healthy.

More on Evidence Based Medicine

Learn How to Spot and Treat Poison Ivy

You can probably spot poison ivy if you were looking out for it, right?

Leaves of three, let it be…

You know the problem though, right? Most of the time, you aren’t actually looking out for it.

Spotting Poison Ivy

It would be nice if we got a warning anytime we were going to be around poison ivy.

Poison Ivy Warning Sign
Our local YMCA used to have a sign warning kids to stay out of the surrounding woods.

Or if someone was nearby to point it out to us.

Poison ivy won't always be this easy to spot.
Poison ivy won’t always be this easy to spot.

That’s not usually going to happen, so you need to learn how to spot poison ivy if you want to avoid it.

What’s the first step in learning how to spot poison ivy? Understanding where poison ivy is likely to be growing.

Any “wild” area, especially along tree lines and fences, just off paths and trails, and around ponds and lakes, are likely places you will find poison ivy.

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Whether it is a tree line, fence, or edge of a path, you will likely find poison ivy growing nearby.
DSC_0358
Yup, there it is on one of the posts.
DSC_0366
Looks like a great place to go fishing… and get exposed to poison ivy if you aren’t careful.

If you really want to avoid getting a poison ivy rash when you are outside in an area that might have poison ivy plants, it is likely a good idea to wear long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, gloves, and boots. There are also products, like IvyX, that you can apply to your skin that are supposed to protect you from poison ivy oils.

Identifying Poison Ivy

While it is a good rule of thumb that you might run into poison ivy in a wild area, in some parts of the country, you might even encounter poison ivy in your own backyard. That’s why learning how to identify poison ivy plants is so important, especially if you or your kids have severe reactions to these plants.

This poison ivy plant is growing out of the edge of a lawn.
This poison ivy plant is growing out of the edge of a lawn. Photo by CDC/ Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr..

What’s the key to identifying poison ivy? That’s right – think of the old adage – leaves of three, let it be.

DSC_0353
Birds eat the poison ivy berries and poop out the seeds, which is why you find these plants growing along tree lines… or in your garden.
Poison ivy plants use aerial roots to grab on to trees and fences.
Poison ivy plants use aerial roots to grab on to trees and fences.

There is a little more to it than that though. After all, other plants have three leaves. If you really want to be a pro at identifying poison ivy, you also need to know that with poison ivy:

These dead poison ivy plants on this tree could still trigger a reaction.
The dead poison ivy plants clinging to this tree could still trigger a reaction.
  • the middle leaflet has a longer stalk (petiole) than the other two
  • leaflets are fatter near their base, but are all about the same size, are green in the summer, and can be red in the fall
  • you can sometimes find poison ivy plants with clusters of green or white berries
  • their stems don’t have thorns, but do have aerial roots, which help them cling to trees and fences

Most importantly, understand that even a dead poison ivy plant or a plant without leaves can trigger a reaction.

Thinking about burning poison ivy? Don’t! Inhaling the smoke from a burning poison ivy plant can be deadly.

What about poison oak and poison sumac?

They look very similar (well, except poison sumac, which has 7-13 compound leaflets, instead of just 3), but unlike poison ivy, which grows as a vine, these other plants that can cause the same type of reaction grow as a low shrub (poison oak) or a tall shrub/small tree (poison sumac).

Avoiding Poison Ivy Rashes

If your kids are active and adventurous, it is likely going to be a little harder to avoid poison ivy than for kids who rarely go outside.

And even if they get good at spotting poison ivy, the next time they spot it, might be when they are climbing down a tree that is covered in it.

What can you do if your child is exposed to poison ivy?

  1. You can quickly cleanse the exposed areas with rubbing alcohol. How quickly? You have about 10 to 15 minutes to prevent a poison ivy reaction after an exposure.
  2. Next, rinse the exposed areas with cool water. Don’t use soap, since soap can move the urushiol around your body and actually make the reaction worse. It is the urushiol oil from the poison ivy that actually triggers your poison ivy rash.
  3. Don’t forget to scrub under your nails with a brush.
  4. Now, take a shower with soap and warm water.
  5. Lastly, put on disposable gloves and wipe everything you had with you, including shoes and tools, etc., with rubbing alcohol and water. And wash the clothes you were wearing. It is possible that urushiol that remains on these things could trigger another reaction if you touch them later.

Instead of rubbing alcohol, several over-the-counter  products are available, like Zanfel, IvyX Cleanser Towelettes, and Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub or Cleanser.

You could even use a degreasing soap (dishwashing soap, like Dawn). One group of dermatologists has suggested that you could prevent a poison ivy rash after getting exposed by using a damp washcloth and liquid dishwashing soap, washing for three minutes with “repetitive, high-pressure, single-direction wipes under hot, running water.” Repeat this full body wash two more times within one to two hours of your exposure.

If these methods don’t work and your child gets a poison ivy rash, look for treatments to control the itching and inflammation, which will likely mean visiting your pediatrician for a prescription for an oral steroid (tapered over two to three weeks to prevent a rebound rash) and a steroid cream. In addition, other anti-itch treatments and home remedies can be helpful, including an oral antihistamine, calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, cold, wet compresses made with Domeboro powder packets (modified Burow’s Solution), etc.

Keep in mind that without treatment, poison ivy rashes typically linger for about three weeks. Fortunately poison ivy isn’t contagious, so you wouldn’t have to keep your child our of school for that long, but except for very mild cases, see your pediatrician for treatment if they have poison ivy.

What to Know About Poison Ivy

Learn to avoid poison ivy, so that you can avoid getting a poison ivy rash.

More on Poison Ivy

Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Babies and Kids

I know, we tell you that kids should get less time in front of screens and need more time outside playing.

And we tell you that they shouldn’t be tanned or get sunburned.

In addition to raising your risk of skin cancer, sunburns are painful.
In addition to raising your risk of skin cancer, sunburns are painful. Photo by Chelsea Marie Hicks (CC BY 2.0)

So what can you do?

Sun Protection

Use sunscreen!

But you are using sunscreen and your kids still get real dark and tanned?

Then make sure to apply it 15 to 30 minutes before your kids go outside, use enough to get good coverage, and reapply it every few hours.

Any other tricks?

Slip on clothes. Slop on sunscreen. Slap on a hat. Seek shade. And Slide on sunglasses to stay safe in the sun.
SLIP on clothes. SLOP on sunscreen. SLAP on a hat. SEEK shade. And SLIDE on sunglasses to stay safe in the sun.

You want to use sunscreen every time they go out, even if it is cloudy, and not just when they are going to be at the pool all day, limit exposure during the hottest parts of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), use sun protection clothing with a UPF of 15 to 50+, a hat, and sun glasses, and find shade when it is available.

Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Babies and Kids

Are there any tricks to choosing the best sunscreen for your kids?

Although I’m sure you can find a lot of buying guides that try and score or rate sunscreens, it is a lot simpler than that.

The best sunscreen is the one that you are actually going to use and:

  1. provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection
  2. has an SPF of at least 15 to 30 (you can go higher, but get a minimum of 15 to 30)
  3. is water-resistant (even if your child isn’t going to be in the water, they will likely be sweating…)

For infants, or a child with eczema or sensitive skin, also make sure your child’s sunscreen is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.

What else?

Do you want your child’s sunscreen to be tear-free and non-greasy?

Do you want sunscreen that comes in the form of a stick, gel, foaming lotion, lotion, dry touch lotion, wet skin sprays, spray, or continuous spray?

Do you want a kids’ brand, like Aveeno Baby, Banana Boat Kids, California Baby, Coppertone Kids, Coppertone Waterbabies, Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids, Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby, etc.?

There are plenty of options to help you get a sunscreen that you will actually use regularly. Personally, I like the dry touch lotions. They go on quick and easy, don’t leave a lot of left-over residue if you over apply, and don’t leave you feeling greasy afterwards.

I strongly dislike all of the spray sunscreens. What’s my beef with them? Ever see someone apply a spray sunscreen on their kids outside? If you have, then you have seen that the sunscreen doesn’t just end up on the kid. That’s also easy to see if you ever make the mistake of trying to apply spray sunscreen inside your home. It leaves a big greasy puddle on the floor. What does that mean? You likely aren’t applying as much sunscreen as you think you are when applying a spray sunscreen.

More on Sunscreen and Protecting Kids from the Sun

What else should you know about sunscreen and keeping your kids safe in the sun?

  • It is best to keep younger infants out of the sun, until they are about six months old, when you can start using sunscreen safely.
  • An SPF or Sun Protection Factor of 15 to 30 blocks 93 to 97% of UVB rays. Going up to SPF 50 only increases that to 98%. In theory, that is supposed to mean that it would take you 50 times longer to get a sunburn wearing SPF 50 sunscreen than if you were lying in the sun unprotected. Of course, even with SPF 50, your kids would eventually get a sunburn if you didn’t reapply their sunscreen every few hours.
  • On clothing, a UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating of 15 is considered good sun protection, but for excellent sun protection, look for a UPF of 50+.
  • The UV index forecast can help you figure out when you should avoid being out in the sun, especially when UV Alerts are issued for your area.
  • Many people only use about 25% of the amount of sunscreen that is needed to provide real protection and keep kids from getting a tan or a sunburn. How much do they need? You can use the teaspoon rule (half a teaspoon for each arm, a full teaspoon for each leg, a full teaspoon for their chest, abdomen, and back, and half a teaspoon for their face, head, and neck) or just use a palmful of sunscreen to cover your child’s body. Of course, that’s your child’s palm, not yours. And for older teens and adults, you should use about 5 to 6 teaspoons of sunscreen at a time to cover your entire body.
  • If you think that your child had a reaction to their sunscreen, try a sunblock with Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide, or simply try another sunscreen that uses different ingredients. Apply a small amount to a small area of their body to see if they have a reaction before using it regularly though.
  • Sunscreen expires and becomes less effective after its expiration date. It also needs to be stored properly. Don’t use expired sunscreen or sunscreen that has been left in a hot car.
  • The ideas around “chemical-free” sunscreens, the need to avoid certain sunscreen ingredients, and that some sunscreens are safer than others is the same kind of hype that scares folks into thinking that they have to eat organic food, avoid GMOs, and that their are toxins in vaccines.

And remember that sunscreen is for everyone, not just people with light skin.

What to Know About Sunscreen and Sun Protection

Think about sun protection before your kids go outside, making sure you use a good amount of sunscreen every time they go outside, reapplying it often, and using other methods of sun protection too, including clothing, sun glasses, and shade.

More on Sunscreen and Sun Protection

Common Questions About Baby’s Eye Color

Pediatricians learn a few things about babies eye colors in school.

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Most people have brown eyes.

We learn that they can have eyes with two different colors – heterochromia. And they can have ocular albinism, very light colored eyes caused by having reduced amounts of pigment.

And we learn that eye color is a genetic trait, although lately, we have come to learn that the genetics of eye color is fairly complex. That’s why two parents with blue eyes don’t always have a baby with blue eyes. Or why two parents with brown eyes can have a baby with blue eyes.

Common Questions About Baby’s Eye Color

What questions do parents usually have about their baby’s eye color?

There are a few basic variants that revolve around if and when a baby’s eyes will change color and how they got to be that color:

  1. My baby’s got blue eyes, will they stay blue?
  2. Why does my baby have blue eyes?
  3. How can I turn my baby’s brown eyes blue?

The first question is easy.

Your baby’s eyes can change color until they are about six to nine months old, or sometimes even later.

Well not exactly change color. They usually just get a little darker, sometimes changing from blue to green, hazel, or brown, as they get more pigmented. They don’t usually become less pigmented though, or become lighter, which is why a baby’s brown eyes won’t turn blue.

“Many studies divide eye colors into three categories: blue (or blue and gray); green and hazel; and brown.”

Eye color: The myth

The second question is harder to answer, involving some complicated genetics.

“The inheritance of eye color is more complex than originally suspected because multiple genes are involved. While a child’s eye color can often be predicted by the eye colors of his or her parents and other relatives, genetic variations sometimes produce unexpected results.”

Is eye color determined by genetics?

What makes it complicated?

To begin with, several different genes (at least three and perhaps up to 16) are involved in determining our eye color. There is not a single gene for blue, green, and brown eyes. Instead,  there are multiple genes that interact with each other.

Basically, the original concept of dominant and recessive eye color traits has been found to be too simplistic.

Still, you can try an eye color calculator if you really want to try and predict what eye color your children will have. It’s fun and while not perfect, it will be right most of the time.

What color eyes will your kids have?
What color eyes will your kids have?

What about the last question? How can you make your baby’s brown eyes blue? Tell him that you wish he had blue eyes…

What to Know About Baby’s Eye Color

While your baby’s eye color is determined by genetics, predicting the eye color of your baby  is not as simple as knowing the eye color of each parent.

More on Baby’s Eye Color

News on the Latest Food Recalls and Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

It is not unusual for a food to get recalled.

Many have to do with undeclared eggs, gluten, peanut, or milk, things that can trigger food allergies, but some are because of potential bacterial contamination.

“When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne disease outbreak.”

CDC on Reports of Selected Salmonella Outbreak Investigations

And some lead to outbreaks that get people sick.

In fact, since 2006, there have been between four and fourteen multistate foodborne outbreaks each year, involving everything from ground beef and cantaloupes to sprouts and peanut butter.

The Latest Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

Do you remember any of these outbreaks?

Unfortunately, many people don’t know about these recalls and outbreaks until it is too late – when they are or someone they know gets sick.

That’s why it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest food recalls and outbreaks, including:

  • an ongoing Salmonella outbreak that has been linked to recalled shell eggs from Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County farm of Seymour, Indiana and has gotten at least 35 people sick in 9 states. Over 200 million eggs are being recalled that were sold in restaurants and stores (Target, Food Lion, and Walmart) in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • an ongoing E.coi 0157:H7 outbreak that has been linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region and has gotten at least 149 people sick in 29 states, including one death. Although there has been no official recall, we have been warned to not buy or eat romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region (it is no longer being sold, but some product may still be in homes) or if you don’t know where it is from.
  • an ongoing Salmonella outbreak that has been linked to recalled bulk packages of International Harvest, Inc. brand Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw that has gotten 13 people sick in 8 states

How can you avoid these outbreaks?

“Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella and E. coli.”

Sprouts: What You Should Know

Although proper cooking and food handling can help keep your family from getting sick in some cases with these recalled foods, it likely won’t with others, such as when fruits and vegetables, that you eat raw, are contaminated with bacteria.

Got Salmonella? You might, if you eat these recalled eggs.
Got Salmonella? You might, if you eat these recalled eggs.

That’s why you have to be aware of food recalls and be sure that you don’t eat foods that have been recalled, especially if anyone in your family is considered to be at high risk to get sick (younger children, anyone with a chronic illness, anyone who is pregnant, etc.). Many experts suggest avoiding those foods that are at high risk of contamination for high risk people, including raw sprouts, uncooked and undercooked beef, pork, and poultry, eggs that aren’t pasteurized, and of course, raw milk.

Also be sure to seek quick medical attention if you have eaten them and get sick (diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever, etc.).

What to Know About Food Recalls and Foodborne Outbreaks

It is important to be aware of food recalls and foodborne disease outbreaks, whether they are caused by Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria, so that you can take steps to avoid those foods and keep your family from getting sick.

More on Food Recalls and Foodborne Outbreaks

Can You Really Predict or Calculate Your Child’s Future Height?

What’s the most common question most pediatricians get?

No, it is not about eye color, although that’s a common one too.

It’s about how tall a child is going to get when they finish growing.

Can You Really Predict or Calculate Your Child’s Future Height?

Your pediatrician can’t see into the future, so how can they predict how tall your kids will be when they get older?

While it is true that we don’t have a crystal ball to help us see into the future, we do have a lot of science on our side that can help us get a glimpse.

So it’s not a trick, just basic genetics, which tells us that tall parents typically have tall children, and vice versa.

How To Predict Your Child’s Height

How tall will your kids be when they grow up?
How tall will they be?

So how tall will your kids be?

How tall are you and your spouse or partner? In general, you can predict your child’s future height based on their genetic potential, which is based on their biological parents’ average height.

To see how tall your kids will be, you can:

  1. Record mom’s height (in inches).
  2. Record dad’s height (in inches).
  3. Average the two heights together.
  4. Do you have a girl? Subtract 2 1/2 inches from your average heights and that is your daughter’s predicted height as an adult.
  5. Do you have a boy? Add 2 1/2 inches from your average heights and that is your son’s predicted height as an adult.

While not perfect, your kids have a 68 percent chance of being within 2 inches and a 95 percent chance of being within 4 inches of this predicted height.

Want to test it out? See if you reached your own genetic potential by calculating what your own height should have been using your mom and dad’s height. Are you close?

But can’t you just double your child’s height when they are two year’s old? Doesn’t that predict their adult height too? While that is another method, it isn’t clear how accurate the prediction might be.

Another method might be to simply follow your child’s growth curve on a growth chart and see where they end up. Like the two years times two method, following the curve might not be accurate, as the growth curve incorporates an average age for starting puberty. Kids who start puberty on the later side of normal can benefit from a late growth spurt and continue growth in their late teen years that can push them up a few percentiles on the growth chart.

Being a late bloomer can be genetic though, so even if other methods underestimate your child’s height in this case, the genetic potential method might still be accurate.

Does any of this matter? It actually does and monitoring your child’s growth isn’t just something that parents do for fun.

If a child doesn’t seem to be reaching their genetic potential for growth, that could be a sign that something is getting in the way of their growing properly. Do they have uncontrolled asthma? Are they taking a medication that could affect their height, causing short stature? Do they have a thyroid, metabolic, or genetic condition?

Is your child already much taller than everyone in the family? While that is also sometimes a concern, as some conditions lead to excessive growth or a tall thin body type, the most common reason for a child to be taller than their parents is that their are other tall relatives in the family.

Talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s growth or have questions about how tall or shot they might become.

What to Know About Predicting Your Child’s Height

While trying to predict your child’s future height is fun to do, it is also an important tool that your pediatrician might use to make sure they are growing properly and meeting their genetic potential for growth.

More on Predicting Your Child’s Height

What to Do If Your Teen Is Talking About Suicide

Suicide is a public health issue that concerns all of us. It is one of the reasons that many pediatricians get involved in pushing for stronger gun safety laws and teach parents to store any guns that they have locked, unloaded, with the ammunition locked elsewhere.

As you will learn, “reducing access to lethal means” is one of the first things you should do if your child is talking about suicide.

Is Your Child Talking About Suicide?

Although there are many warning signs of suicide, one is that a child or teen might simply starts talking about wanting to die.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), they might also:

  • Talk about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Talk about great guilt or shame
  • Talk about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Talk about feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talk about being a burden to others
  • Talk or think about death often

And it is important to keep in mind that instead of actually ‘talking’ about any of this with you, a parent, your child might instead talk about it with their friends, text someone, or post messages on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or inside a chat room of one of the games they play.

What to Do If Your Child Is Talking About Suicide

So what do you do if your child is talking about suicide?

Get help as soon as possible.

“Asking someone about suicide is not harmful. There is a common myth that asking someone about suicide can put the idea into their head. This is not true. Several studies examining this concern have demonstrated that asking people about suicidal thoughts and behavior does not induce or increase such thoughts and experiences. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself,” can be the best way to identify someone at risk for suicide.”

Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions

While getting help might start with a call to your pediatrician, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 1–800–273–TALK (8255). Call immediately to figure out the best way to help your child, before they have a chance to hurt themselves.

Let your kids know that there are hotlines to call if they ever need to talk to someone when they are feeling anxious or depressed.

And know that help is available.

Most importantly, don’t ignore or dismiss your child’s talk because you don’t believe them.

Talking to Your Kids About Suicide

What would your kids do if a friend texted them and said they were thinking of killing themselves? Would they come tell you?

What if their friend told them to keep it a secret?

What if they were thinking about suicide?

Since we know that talking about suicide is not harmful, is there any good reason to not talk to your kids about what to do in these situations?

Have you?

Your kids should know that they can always come talk to you and:

  • how to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1–800–273–TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day for anyone who needs help
  • how to contact the crisis text line – text HOME to 741741, and text with a trained Crisis Counselor 24 hours a day
  • what to do when a friend is talking about suicide
  • about the Lean On Me anonymous peer support via text network
  • about the Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth, including a hotline, chat and text help service
  • about the Disaster Distress Helpline for “24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.” Anyone can call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • how to report suicidal content on Facebook
  • how to report suicidal content on Twitter
  • how to report suicidal content on Instagram (tap “…” below the post and then tap “Report Inappropriate,” select “This Photo Puts People At Risk > Self-Harm”)
  • how to report suicidal content on YouTube (click “More” and then highlight and click “Report” in the drop-down menu. Click “Harmful dangerous acts,” then “Suicide or self-injury” to trigger a review)

Again, talk to your kids so that they know not to ignore any warning signs, as one day, they might be in a position to save one of their friends.

What to Know About Talking to Your Kids About Suicide

Talking and asking about suicide is a good first step in getting someone who might hurt themselves help.

More on Talking to Your Kids About Suicide