Treating Hard to Control Bedwetting

Although bedwetting can be hard to control, it is easier if your child understands that it is not their fault and that they will almost certainly eventually outgrow it and stay dry at night.

All kids wet the bed when they are younger.

When do they stop?

Bedwetting Basics

Although parents typically understand that their kids will become potty trained sometime around age three years, they often have unrealistic expectations for when they will stop wetting at night.

So the first thing to understand about bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is that it is consider a normal part of development to continue to wet the bed up until about age six years. That’s the age when most kids can stay dry all night.

But even after age six years, many kids still wet the bed. In fact, at age eight years, up to eight percent of kids still wet the bed. Fortunately, there is a 15% chance that these kids will outgrow their bedwetting each year.

Treating Bedwetting

In addition to waiting it out, classic treatments for bedwetting often include:

  • protecting the mattress from getting wet by using a plastic cover under the sheets
  • make wearing pull-ups seem routine and not a punishment
  • limiting the amount of fluids your child drinks in the evening
  • severely limiting the amount of fluids your child drinks right before bed
  • making sure your child goes to the bathroom right before going to bed
  • sticking to a good bedtime routine

Most importantly, make sure that your child knows that it is not his or her fault that they wet at night. Staying dry at night is just another developmental milestone that kids have to reach. Unfortunately, like many milestones, you will likely have to wait until your child reaches this one and stops wetting at night.

Usually bedwetting stops by puberty.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

If your child is getting older and is tired of waiting, especially if he is approaching the age of sleepovers or overnight camping trips, there are  other options to treat bedwetting, including the use of bedwetting alarms and prescription medicines, like DDAVP (desmopressin) tablets.

DDAVP can be an especially good option for sleepovers, etc., as it only works to stop wetting on the nights your child takes it. It is a synthetic version of a natural hormone, antidiuretic hormone (ADH), that normally reduces urine volume at night in our bodies.

Treating Hard to Control Bedwetting

Why is your child continuing to wet the bed at night?

Maybe he is just a deep sleeper. Maybe he has a small bladder. Maybe bedwetting runs in the family and she will just have to outgrow it, like other family members have.

Although most children eventually outgrow wetting the bed, if you think your child’s bedwetting should have already stopped, you should ask yourself these questions and share the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Has your child ever been dry at night for more than a few weeks or months or has he always wet the bed?
  • If the bedwetting is a new issue, have there been any changes in your child’s life?
  • Is your child constipated?
  • Is your child losing weight?
  • Does your child wet during the day?
  • Does your child avoid going to the bathroom during the day, holding their urine for long periods of time (voiding dysfunction)?
  • Is your child drinking any caffeine during the day?
  • Does your child snore very loudly at night? Some people think that bedwetting can be associated with sleep apnea.
  • Have you tried waking your child an hour or two after he has gone to sleep and having him go to the bathroom?
  • Are you relying on alternative treatments for bedwetting, such as hypnosis, psychotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, or medicinal herbs, which have been proven to not work?
  • Have your tried using a star chart to encourage and reward nights that she stays dry?
  • Although they only work half the time, did you try using a bedwetting alarm?
  • Did you try DDAVP (desmopressin), thinking it would cure your child’s bedwetting, but not understanding your child would likely wet again once they stopped taking it?

A pediatric urologist can also be helpful for your child with hard to control bedwetting.

What To Know About Treating Hard to Control Bedwetting

Although bedwetting can be hard to control, it is easier if your child understands that it is not their fault and that they will almost certainly eventually outgrow it and stay dry at night.

More Information About Treating Hard to Control Bedwetting

Treating Hard to Control Warts

Although multiple wart treatments are available, warts are not easy to treat and so it is not unreasonable to just leave them alone if they aren’t bothering your child.

Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy ways to treat warts.

In fact, because there are no quick and easy ways to treat warts, many pediatricians suggest that parents simply wait it out, and let the warts go away on their own.

Common Wart Treatments

If you don’t have the patience to wait for a wart to go away on its own, which can take months to years, you can try:

  • OTC topical liquid or gel wart remover treatments with salicylic acid
  • OTC wart remover treatments with salicylic acid on a pad
  • OTC wart remover treatments that freeze warts
  • duct tape

Your pediatrician might also try:

  • cryotherapy – “prescription strength” wart freezing, which may have to be repeated multiple times
  • cantharidin – not FDA approved in the US, but this blistering agent is often applied to warts to induce them to go away

And of course, your pediatrician might also simply recommend that you wait it out for a few more months or years, as the warts should eventually just go away.

But why not treat the warts if treatments are available? Many experts say that at best, standard wart treatments only work half of the time. And they can be painful or leave scars.

Treating Hard to Control Warts

Again, treating warts is often hard, even in the best of circumstances. Warts can be even harder to treat if they are around your child’s nails (periungal warts) or on the bottom of their feet (plantar warts).

Plantar warts can be hard to treat.
Plantar warts can be hard to treat. Photo by happyfeet34 (CC BY 2.0)

Still, if you are not getting anywhere, you should ask yourself these questions and share the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Does your child really have warts?
  • Did you follow the directions on the label carefully?
  • Are you gently rubbing away hard skin from the surface of the wart with a pumice stone or emery board each week?
  • Are you softening the skin on and around the wart by soaking the area in warm water for at least 5 minutes before your wart treatments?
  • Did your child’s wart mostly go away and then come right back in the same spot?
  • Did your child’s wart completely go away, but new warts came up in different places?
  • Did your child get a much bigger wart around the site of a previously treated wart (a ring wart)?

A dermatologist can treat your child’s truly resistant warts with cryotherapy, cantharidin, higher strength salicylic acid paste than is available OTC, yeast injections, electrosurgery, or pulsed dye laser therapy, etc.

What To Know About Treating Hard to Control Warts

Although multiple wart treatments are available, warts are not easy to treat and so it is not unreasonable to just leave them alone if they aren’t bothering your child.

More Information About Treating Hard to Control Warts

Treating Hard To Control Head Lice

Treating your child’s head lice doesn’t have to be a nightmare, even when it seems like the lice are resistant to routine treatments.

Treating head lice probably never seems easy.

Washing your child’s hair with a head lice shampoo, washing things that had contact with your child’s hair, removing nits, and retreating your child in a week can be a hassle.

As you can imagine, it can be incredibly more frustrating when you can’t seem to get rid of the lice or they keep coming back.

Treatments for Head Lice

Although you could just manually remove all of the live lice on your child’s head and new lice as they hatch, most people choose to treat their kids with an over-the-counter head lice shampoo, such as:

  • Permethrin 1% lotion – Nix
  • Pyrethrins – Rid

If your community has a lot of problems with resistance to Nix or Rid (they don’t work), your pediatrician might recommend that your first choice be a prescription head lice treatment instead, such as Ovide (malathion), Natroba (spinosad), Sklice (ivermectin), or Ulesfia (benzyl alcohol).

Never initiate treatment unless there is a clear diagnosis with living lice.

AAP Clinical Report on Head Lice

While all of the prescription head lice treatments work well, Sklice has the added benefit that it should only require one treatment, and like Natroba and Ulesfia, can be used on infants as young as six months old.

Ovide works well, but is flammable because of its high alcohol content, can only be used on kids who are at least two years old, and some lice are already resistant to it.

Unfortunately, these prescription head lice treatments are much more expensive than Nix or Rid, although coupons can help with some of that expense. Of course, even Nix or Rid can quickly get expensive if you have to keep buying them over and over and over again because they aren’t really working.

Buying all of the things that parents sometimes do to prevent head lice, most of it not proven to work, can get expensive too.

Treating Hard To Control Head Lice

What do you do if your kids still have lice after they have been treated?

Ask yourself these questions and discuss the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Does your child really have lice?
  • Do you really see live lice moving around in the hours or days after you treated your child with an OTC head lice shampoo?
  • Do you just see dead or dying lice on your child’s head? Can you easily remove them?
  • Do you just see old nits on your child’s head?
  • Are you relying on natural or other home remedies to treat your child’s lice, such as essential oils, mayonnaise, or olive oil?
  • Do you see live lice about a week after you had treated your kids with an OTC head lice shampoo? Did you remember to do a second treatment to kill hatching eggs?
  • Are the live lice that you are seeing in the days after treatment very small and about the size of a pin head? These may be newly hatched lice. You can pick them off manually and know that any that remain will be killed when you do your second treatment. Ideally, any residue of the treatment left on your child’s head would have killed these newly hatched lice though.
  • Do you see live lice several weeks to months after you had treated your kids with an OTC head lice shampoo?
  • Are your kids continuing to share brushes or combs with other children?
  • Did you closely follow the instructions on the medication’s label?
  • Did you check other family members for head lice?
  • Have other infested children that are around your kids been checked and treated?
  • Are you at the point that you are considering shaving your child’s head?

While your kids may still have head lice after they have been properly treated with an OTC head lice shampoo, it is also possible that they don’t have an active head lice infestation anymore or that they simply got lice again. Getting reinfested is even more likely if you went weeks and weeks without seeing live lice and you don’t see many new nits yet. In that case, it is not that the OTC treatments are failing to work, it is that your kids keep getting new lice on their head.

Most importantly, remember that seeing live lice is the main sign to look for as to whether or not your kids need to be treated for an active head lice infestation. Simply having nits alone does not mean that your kids still have lice.

What To Know About Treating Hard To Control Head Lice

Treating your child’s head lice doesn’t have to be a nightmare, even when it seems like superlice are resistant to routine treatments.

For More Information On Treating Hard To Control Head Lice

Treating Hard To Control Eczema

While eczema can usually be controlled and most kids eventually outgrow having eczema, you may need some help to really understand how to really manage your child’s eczema effectively.

Eczema or atopic dermatitis very commonly affects kids.

Few conditions are as frustrating for parents and pediatricians, because even when properly treated, you can expect eczema to flare up from time to time after it gets better. Eczema is even worse when it isn’t properly treated though.

What Triggers Your Child’s Eczema?

Like other things that are supposed to have triggers, like asthma and migraines, it is often hard to figure out what triggers a child’s eczema.

Dress in soft, breathable clothing and avoid itchy fabrics like wool, that can further irritate your eczema.

National Eczema Association

Common eczema triggers to avoid might include:

  • harsh soaps and cleansers, shampoos, and body washes, including those with fragrances
  • food allergy triggers – milk and eggs
  • environmental allergy triggers – dust mites and animal dander
  • low humidity
  • temperature extremes – either getting too hot or too cold
  • skin infections

And anything else that might make your child’s skin dry and itchy.

Eczema Treatments for Kids

Although there is no cure for eczema, it is usually possible to control your child’s eczema, including getting rid of all or most of her eczema rash and decreasing how often your child has eczema flares.

These basic treatments include:

  • using lukewarm water for daily baths and showers
  • using a soap substitute or cleanser that is unscented, fragrance-free, and dye-free – Cetaphil, Dove, Aveeno
  • using a tar-based shampoo if your child’s scalp is red and itchy – T-Gel
  • daily use of moisturizers, especially within a few minutes of taking a bath or shower (soak and seal therapy)
  • prompt use of a moderate strength prescription topical steroid (like traimcinolone acetonide 0.1% cream) as soon as your child has a flare, with red, rough itchy skin
  • as needed use of oral antihistamines to help control itching during flares – Benadryl
  • keeping your child’s finger nails short to minimize damage from scratching

A written eczema action plan can make sure that you understand how and when to do each of these treatments.

Best Moisturizers for Eczema

Everyone seems to have their favorite eczema moisturizer.

Which is best?

The best moisturizer is probably the one that your child will use and which works to keep his skin from getting dry. In general though, ointments are better than creams, which are better than lotions.

Some favorites include Aquaphor (too thick and greasy for some people), Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, Eucerin Original, and Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream.

Whichever moisturizer you use, be sure to apply it to your child’s skin within three minutes of his soaking in a bath or shower so that you can seal in the moisture (soak and seal therapy).

Treating Hard To Control Eczema

What to do you do when basic treatments aren’t working?

Although a pediatric dermatologist can evaluate your child to see if she needs a systemic medication, phototherapy, or other treatment, most kids with hard to control eczema simply need more education to make sure they are using standard treatments correctly.

  • Is your child bathing correctly?
  • Are you putting on the right moisturizer, using enough moisturizer, and using it often enough?
  • Is your soap too harsh?
  • Are you afraid to use a topical steroid?
  • Are you applying a steroid over a moisturizer, which can make it less effective?
  • Could you be doing more to avoid triggers?
  • Could stress be triggering your child’s eczema?

What’s next?

A Staph skin infection might be a problem. In addition to oral antibiotics, weekly dilute bleach baths might help if this is an issue for your child.

Your child with hard to control eczema might also benefit from:

  • using more moisturizer over his entire body – don’t spot treat the areas that you think are a problem
  • using a thicker moisturizer – put your jar of Aquaphor in the freezer or refrigerator if your child doesn’t typically like using a moisturizer or complains that it stings or burns
  • a prescription barrier cream to control itching – Atopiclair, MimyX
  • a prescription topical Clacineurin Inhibitors – Elidel, Protopic
  • a 504 school plan
  • changing your laundry routine – wash new clothes, use mild, dye free laundry detergent and rinse twice after washing
  • using sunscreen and rinsing after swimming in a pool or excessive sweating, applying a moisturizing quickly afterwards
  • allergy testing to better identify triggers

You might also talk to your pediatrician about wet wrap therapy. With this treatment, you have your child take a bath or shower, applying a topical steroid to the affected areas and a generous amount of moisturizer to the rest of your child’s skin. Next, cover the area in wet cotton clothing or a wet dressing, and lastly, dress your child in dry cotton clothing, removing them all once the clothing dries out. You can then repeat the whole process or start again the next night, continuing until your child’s eczema is under better control.

Wrap therapy can be done with wet pajamas if you have to cover a big area, tube socks with the end cut off if you just have to do his arms, or cotton gloves for hard to control hand eczema. Some experts even recommend using a chilled wet dressing, putting the wet clothes in the refrigerator for a short time before using them on your child.

If you are at the point of considering wet wrap therapy, seeing a pediatric dermatologist might also be a good idea.

What To Know About Treating Hard To Control Eczema

While eczema can usually be controlled and most kids eventually outgrow having eczema, you may need some help to really understand how to really manage your child’s eczema effectively.

More Information About Treating Hard To Control Eczema

Treating Hard to Control ADHD

Learn why ADHD can sometimes be hard to control and require more than just a quick prescription for Ritalin or Adderall, including adding behavior therapy, careful monitoring, and special accommodations at school.

ADHD is often much harder to treat than many people imagine.

It isn’t always just a matter of writing a script for Adderall or Ritalin and then have kids who had been failing suddenly jump to the ‘A’ Honor Roll.

ADHD Treatments

Whether your child’s ADHD symptoms include problems with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, or both, the treatments are the same:

  • Stimulants – Adderall vs Ritalin based
  • Non-Stimulants – Intuniv (extended release guanfacine), Kapvay (extended release clonidine), Strattera
  • Behavior Management Therapy

Although often underused, it is recommended that behavior therapy be the first treatment for younger, preschool children with ADHD. Both medication and behavior therapy are typically recommended for older children with ADHD.

ADHD Medications

Surprisingly, there is really no one best ADHD medicine. Those that aren’t yet generic (in bold) are going to be much more expensive than the others.

  • Short Acting Stimulants – Adderall, Focalin, Methylin (chewable), ProCentra (liquid), Ritalin
  • Intermediate Acting Stimulants – Dexedrine, Ritalin SR, Methylin ER
  • Long Acting Stimulants – Adderall XR, Adzenys XR-ODT, Concerta (Methylphenidate ER), Daytrana (patch), Focalin XR, Metadate CD, Metadate ER, Quillichew ER (chewable), Quillivant XR (liquid), Ritalin LA, Vyvanse
  • Non-Stimulants – Intuniv, Kapvay, Strattera

In general, stimulants are thought to work better than non-stimulants, but again, there isn’t one stimulant that is consistently better than another.

Treating Hard to Control ADHD

What do you do when your child’s ADHD treatments aren’t working?

While it is important to “initiate an evaluation for ADHD for any child 4 through 18 years of age who presents with academic or behavioral problems and symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity,” it is important to remember that not all kids with academic or behavioral problems have ADHD.

So the first thing you should do is confirm that your child really does have ADHD. Is it possible that your child was misdiagnosed and doesn’t have ADHD at all? Or could your child have ADHD and another co-morbid condition, including “emotional or behavioral (eg, anxiety, depressive, oppositional defiant, and conduct disorders), developmental (eg, learning and language disorders or other neurodevelopmental disorders), and physical (eg, tics, sleep apnea) conditions.”

Next, ask yourself these questions and discuss the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Is your child taking his medicine?
  • Does your child need behavior management therapy?
  • Are you not getting your child’s ADHD medicine because of how expensive it is? Ask your pediatrician about a lower cost generic ADHD medicine.
  • Has there been a sudden worsening of previously well controlled ADHD, which might indicate a problem with bullying, social changes at home, abuse, or depression, etc.?
  • Are you relying on restrictive diets or other alternative treatments for ADHD that have been proven to not usually work?
  • Does your child need a different dosage of his current stimulant, either a higher or lower dose?
  • Is your child’s medication wearing off too soon?
  • Does your child’s medication take too long to work?
  • Does your child need to switch to a different stimulant or to a stimulant with a different delivery method?
  • Does your child need to switch from a long-acting stimulant to a short-acting stimulant?
  • Does your child need to switch to a non-stimulant, keeping in mind that these are often used in combination with a stimulant and not by themselves.
  • Do you need to adjust your expectations for what kind of control you can get from even maximal treatment?
  • Does your pre-teen or teen with ADHD not want to take his medication anymore?
  • Are side effects keeping your child from taking his ADHD medicine everyday?
  • Does your child need 504 plan accommodations at school and/or an IEP?

And perhaps most importantly, what is making your child’s ADHD hard to control? Is he just still having some ADHD symptoms or are those lingering ADHD symptoms causing an impairment? If they aren’t causing an impairment, such as poor grades, problems with friends, or getting in trouble at school, etc., then your child’s ADHD may be under better control than you think.

What To Know About Treating Hard to Control ADHD

ADHD can sometimes be hard to control and require more than just a quick prescription for Ritalin or Adderall, including adding behavior therapy, careful monitoring, and special accommodations at school.

More Information About Treating Hard to Control ADHD

Treating Hard to Control Acne

After you get past getting your teen to use an acne medicine every day, there are many option for treating hard to control acne.

Does your teen or pre-teen have acne?

Does he want to get it under control? Will he actually follow a daily regimen your pediatrician prescribes?

Acne Treatments for Kids

While treating your child’s acne on you own with an over-the-counter product can be a good way to start, there are so many products, you do want to make sure you are using the right ones. In general, you should likely start with:

  • products with benzoyl peroxide (BP), which might include OTC 5-10% BP wash for your child’s back or chest
  • a gentle, soap free, pH-balanced cleanser to wash your child’s face twice a day or a salicylic acid cleanser
  • a facial toner, only if necessary to remove excess oil or makeup

When those regimens aren’t working, your pediatrician can prescribe stronger acne medicines, usually in a step-wise fashion, including:

  • a topical retinoid –  Tretinoin (Retin A), Adapalene (Differin), or Tazarotene (Tazorac)
  • a combination topical product – BP/clindamycin (BenzaClin), BP/adapalene (Epiduo), BP/erythromycin (Benzamycin),  tretinoin/clindamycin (Ziana)
  • oral antibiotics – doxycycline, monocycline, tetracycline

If your child isn’t tolerating these medicines, like if it is causing his skin to become dry, make sure he is also using a moisturizer and washing with a mild soap substitute, like Dove. Starting with the lowest strength medicine can also be helpful, perhaps even just using topical medicines every other day until your child gets used to them.

Treating Hard to Control Acne

What do you do if your child’s acne isn’t getting better?

Ask yourself these questions and discuss the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Has your child started puberty yet? If not, talk to your pediatrician or a pediatric endocrinologist to see why he or she has such bad acne.
  • Are you avoiding picking up an acne prescription because of the cost? Ask your pediatrician about lower cost alternatives.
  • Is your child really using his acne medicines each day?
  • Is your child correctly using his acne medicines each day, avoiding spot treating problem spots and using a pea-size amount of cream or ointment to cover his whole face? Teach her to use the 5-dot method of applying acne cream – with a small pea-size amount of cream, place dots of the cream on their forehead (1), cheeks (2, 3), nose (4), and chin (5). Rub the cream in until, keeping in mind that they are using too much if you can see or feel any left over cream.
  • What kind of acne does your child have? Comedonal (whiteheads and blackheads) and inflammatory acne (classic zits or pimples) are treated differently.
  • Does your child frequently touch or rub his face, which can make acne worse?
  • If using makeup, is it oil-free and noncomedogenic?
  • Is your child overdoing washing, using a harsh soap or astringent, thinking that dirt is making her acne worse?
  • Does your child use a non-comedogenic sunscreen, remembering that a sunburn will make her acne worse in the long run?
  • Does your child have severe acne, which should probably be treated with a combination of oral antibiotics plus topical retinoids with BP, with or without topical antibiotics?
  • Did you give the medicines enough time to work or have a relapse because you stopped them too soon? Acne often worsens before it gets better and oral antibiotics are often continued for months and months,  with a goal of being tapered and stopped after about three to six months.
  • Does your child need a step-up in therapy? Ask your pediatrician if you need to add on a new medicine, switch to a combination product, or move to a higher strength product.
  • Have you considered adding hormonal therapy (combination oral contraceptives) for your pubertal daughter with severe acne, such as Ortho-Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, or Yaz?

Lastly, even with worry about possible side effects, oral isotretinoin (Accutane, Amnesteem, Sotret, and Claravis) is still a good option for teens with severe, refractory, and scarring acne. At this point, and perhaps even before, an evaluation by a dermatologist would be a good idea.

What To Know About Treating Hard to Control Acne

There are no quick fixes for acne, but your pediatrician can offer you a step-by-step regimen of topical and oral acne treatments.

More Information On Treating Hard to Control Acne

Treating Hard To Control Constipation in Kids

Learn how to treat kids with hard to control constipation.

Constipation is very common for kids.

Since your kids will almost certainly become constipated, at least briefly, at some point in their lives, it is important to understand how to recognize the symptoms of constipation.

Symptoms of Constipation

How do you know if your child is constipated?

In addition to grunting and stomach pain, more traditional signs and symptoms of constipation include having:

  • fewer than two bowel movements in a week
  • bowel movements that are small, hard, and like little balls
  • bowel movements that are very big and hard and which may frequently clog the toilet

Most importantly, your constipated child will have bowel movements that are painful and difficult to pass. Very big bowel movements might also lead to small rectal tears and bleeding (usually some bright red blood on the toilet paper when wiping, not blood that fills the toilet bowl).

Not surprisingly, large painful bowel movements commonly lead kids to avoid going to the bathroom, creating a viscous cycle of worsening constipation that can become chronic. Your child with chronic constipation may eventually develop encopresis, having soiling accidents that you mistake for diarrhea. Or because they are holding their stool, they might also hold their urine and develop multiple urinary tract infections or just have urine accidents.

What about grunting and straining? If your baby grunts, strains and even cries briefly, but then passes a soft bowel movement each day, then she probably isn’t constipated (Infant Dyschezia).

Young Children with Constipation

It is often most obvious when young children get constipated, as you are still changing diapers or helping them use the potty.

Keep in mind that:

  • you should talk to your pediatrician if you think that your newborn baby is constipated (not pooping can be a sign that newborn babies aren’t eating enough) or if your child has had constipation problems since he was born (sign of Hirschsprung disease) or is constipated and isn’t gaining weight (Celiac disease)
  • exclusively breastfeeding infants, especially before they start solid foods, once they are gaining weight well, are unlikely to get constipated, but they may only have their soft bowel movements every few days or weeks
  • infants sometimes get constipated when they start rice cereal or other baby foods
  • toddlers sometimes get constipated when they start potty training – this is an especially important time to make sure your child doesn’t get or stay constipated, or it will interfere with potty training

Again, be aggressive if your child becomes constipated when potty training. It is easy to imagine that your toddler is not going to want to have regular bowel movements on the potty if he associated them with pain.

Children with Constipation

Although it is typically harder to recognize, because you likely don’t know how often they are going to the bathroom, constipation is common in older children too.

Common times to develop constipation might include:

  • when they start kindergarten, especially if they don’t feel comfortable going to the bathroom at school
  • after going to camp, on a trip, or any other situation where their diet and routine might have changed
  • after a brief illness, especially if they took or are taking a medication that might have constipation as a side effect
  • during a period of stress, such as starting a new school, moving to a new house, bullying, or social changes (divorce, death in the family, etc.) at home

It is so common, you might even want to watch for constipation at those times, especially if your child has had issues with constipation in the past.

Hard To Control Constipation

Most parents know how to treat simple constipation – more fluids, more fiber, stool softeners, and the occasional glycerin suppository or pediatric enema (the last treatments should likely only be used when nothing else is working and your child is uncomfortable).

But what do you do when that’s not enough?

To help treat kids with hard to control constipation, it usually helps to:

  • make long term changes to your child’s diet, including more fluids (especially water), less fat,  and more fiber, as kids with constipation may have a diet high in fat and low in fluids and fiber
  • make long term changes to your child’s behavior, encouraging him to sit and try to go to the bathroom after breakfast and dinner, but not making him sit until he goes
  • encourage your child to be physically active
  • continue your child’s daily maintenance constipation medicine (usually polyethylene glycol (PEG), lactulose, Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide), or mineral oil) until he is having a soft stool each day for several months and continues having a daily soft stool as you gradually decrease (over several months) and then stop the medicine (stopping a laxative as soon as kids begin having regular bowel movements is the biggest mistake that parents typically make when their kids are constipated)
  • consider a clean out regimen over a few days if your child is very constipated, using high dose polyethylene glycol or magnesium citrate, which unfortunately might cause some diarrhea as a side effect of getting a lot of hard stool out

What do you do if your child relapses? You usually just start over, especially if the relapse is because you stopped one or more of your child’s constipation treatments.

If your child relapses even though you had been consistent and had been continuing all of his previous treatments that had been working well, you might consider:

  • switching to an alternative to cow’s milk, like almond or soy milk, as some people think constipation can be due to a cow’s milk protein allergy, plus they will likely be lower in fat than cow’s milk
  • increasing the dose of stool softeners and make sure that you don’t stop them too soon
  • avoiding treatments that have not been found to be helpful, including very high fiber diets, prebiotics or probiotics, biofeedback and other alternative treatments
  • avoiding suppositories and enemas, as oral constipation medicines are just as effective and will be better tolerated by your child

Your pediatrician and/or a pediatric gastroenterologist can be helpful if your child has hard to control constipation. In fact, up to 25% of the visits to a pediatric gastroenterologist are for constipation.

For More Information on Constipation

The Numbers Behind Keeping Food Safe

Learn the numbers behind food safety to help keep your kids safe from poisoning.

Learn the four basic steps to keep your food safe from germs.
Learn the four basic steps to keep your food safe from germs.

There is no safe food when it comes to food poisoning. Eggs, fruits, meats, vegetables and even organic sprouts can all become contaminated.

That makes it important to learn how to keep your food safe.

Although many things are being done to reduce contamination before food gets to us, it is just as important to prepare, cook and store food properly so that our kids don’t get sick.

Food Safety Numbers

There are some numbers related to food safety that you might be all too familiar with – about 48 million people get sick from food poisoning each year, sending 100,000 people to the hospital, and causing about 3,000 deaths

Reducing food poisoning is a “winnable battle” though, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But of course, safe food doesn’t just happen. It takes a little work, starting with understanding some of the other numbers associated with food safety, such as:

  • 4 – the number of steps to proper food safety – clean, separate, cook, chill
  • 0˚F – the temperature to set your freezer (0˚F or below)
  • 40˚F – the temperature to set your refrigerator (between 40˚F and 32˚F)
  • 140˚F – the temperature you should keep food after cooking
  • 145˚F – the minimum internal temperature to cook pork, fresh ham, steaks, roasts, chops and other whole meats (cook to the right temperature)
  • 160˚F – the minimum internal temperature to cook egg dishes and ground meat (cook to the right temperature)
  • 165˚F – the minimum internal temperature to cook poultry and reheat leftovers (cook to the right temperature)
  • 3 minutes – the amount of “rest time” you should wait to make sure harmful germs are killed after cooking food, which is especially important after cooking steaks, roasts, chops, fresh pork and fresh ham. Don’t just heat and eat your food.
  • 2 hours – the maximum about of time that perishable food should be left out before you put it in the refrigerator
  • 90˚F – the outside temperature that should alert you that you need to refrigerate perishable food after just one hour, instead of the usual two hours
  • 20 seconds – how long you should wash your hands before, during and after preparing food and before eating.
  • 4 hours – the amount of time that a refrigerator will usually keep food cold if the power goes out and the refrigerator door is not opened. After that time, throw out perishable food that has been above 40˚F for two hours or more.
  • 3 to 4 days – how long most leftovers can be safely stored in the refrigerator
  • 15 to 20 – the number of Salmonella cells in undercooked food that can cause food poisoning
  • Less than 5 minutes – how long it takes to report a case of food poisoning to your local health department so that you can help to prevent a larger outbreak.

How can you tell the internal temperature of foods that you are cooking? Use a food thermometer, as you can’t tell when foods are safely cooked by simply looking at them.

And be on the alert for food recalls, to make sure that you don’t have contaminated foods in your home.

What To Know About Keeping Food Safe

Do all of these numbers sound too hard to do or keep up with, especially when you are trying to have fun at a cook out or family dinner?

Remember, it is better than the alternative, 2 to 10 days of vomiting and diarrhea because your family developed symptoms of food poisoning…

For More Information on Food Safety Numbers:

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Fire Ant Bites

Learn how to treat and avoid fire ant bites and stings.

A classic fire ant mound popping out of a nice green lawn.
A classic fire ant mound popping out of a nice green lawn. Photo by Bart Drees.

Are you worried about your kids getting bit by fire ants?

If not, then you don’t live in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas, where they have been around for a while.

Fire Ants

Fire ants are thought to have been imported on ships into Mobile, Alabama from South America. They have continued to spread ever since, lately making it as far as eastern New Mexico, the southern half of Oklahoma, and parts of California.

Like imported killer bees, fire ants are more aggressive than native ants.

Many of us get annoyed when we see large fire ant mounds pop up in our yards after it rains, but it can be really concerning one or more fire ants bite or sting your child.

Symptoms of Fire Ant Bites

While many insects bite, it is the classic behavior of fire ants that can make their bites so much worse.

When disturbed, fire ants emerge aggressively, crawling up vertical surfaces, biting and stinging “all at once”.

Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project

In a typical situation, a toddler or preschooler steps on a fire ant mound in the yard, and before you know it, dozens of fire ants are covering their feet and legs. Or they fall onto the mound, with the fire ants all over their hands and arms.

As you scramble to move your child and get the ants off (quickly rub them off with a cloth or your own hand), they will likely all start stinging.

Multiple fire ant bites on a child's hand.
Multiple fire ant bites on a child’s hand. Photo by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Fortunately, very few people are allergic to fire ant stings, which might trigger a whole body reaction, with dizziness, shortness of breath, and hives, etc.. The redness, swelling, and white-yellow pustule at the site of the bite are usually the normal symptoms of a local reaction to the fire ant venom.

The pustules go away over a few days to weeks. There is no need to pop or try to drain them. In fact, popping them might lead to their getting infected. It’s better to leave them alone.

After you are bit, it is going to hurt or burn for a few minutes too – that’s why they are called fire ants.

How do you treat fire ant bites?

After you remove the ants, basic first aid and treatment for fire ant bites might include washing the area with soap and then using a cool compress, oral antihistamines, and topical steroids to treat itching.

And of course, seek immediate medical attention if your child is having an allergic reaction to the bites or if it appears that the bites are later getting infected, with increased pain and swelling when you would think that they should be improving.

What To Know About Fire Ant Bites

Although fire ant bites are rarely dangerous or life-threatening, your best bet in protecting your kids is to get rid of any fire ants in your yard and in other places that they play. You might also encourage your kids to wear shoes (not sandals or Crocs) and socks when walking or playing outside.

For More Information on Fire Ant Bites

The Best Milk for Kids – Does It Still Come from a Cow?

While each type of milk has its fans, in general, unless your child has food allergies or intolerances, the best milk is going to be the one you can afford, with the nutrients your child needs, and which he is going to drink, whether it comes from a cow, soybean, almond, or hazelnut.

You wouldn’t think that the idea that kids should drink milk would be controversial.

Of course, it is…

The new joke seems to be that you can turn anything into milk.
The new joke seems to be that you can turn anything into “milk,” even peas.

The controversy is more over the type of milk now and not so much over the amounts though.

Few people disagree with the American Academy of Pediatrics 2014 clinical report on Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents, in which they recommended that “Children 4 through 8 years of age require 2 to 3 servings of  dairy products or equivalent per day. Adolescents require 4 servings per day.”

Which Kind of Milk You Got?

While you used to have to go to Whole Foods to get soy milk, nearly every grocery store now has every type of “milk” you can think of, and some you haven’t.

So in addition to raw milk and pasteurized cow’s milk, it is possible to buy:

  • almond milk
  • cashew milk
  • coconut milk
  • flax milk (flax seeds)
  • goat milk
  • hazelnut milk
  • hemp milk
  • lactose free milk (cow’s milk without lactose)
  • oat milk
  • potato milk (as powdered milk)
  • quinoa milk
  • rice milk
  • ripple milk (peas)
  • 7 grain milk (Oats, Brown Rice, Wheat, Barley, Triticale, Spelt and Millet)
  • soy milk
  • sprouted rice milk

Complicating matters even more, once you decide on the type of milk to give your kids, you will have a lot of other options to choose from – organic, hormone free, sweetened vs unsweeted, enriched vs original, and a long list of flavors, etc.

The question is no longer simply Got Milk?

Best Milk for Kids

So which milk is best for your kids?

While each type of milk has its fans, in general, unless your child has food allergies or intolerances, the best milk is going to be the one you can afford, with the nutrients your child needs, and most importantly, which he is going to drink.

What about the idea or argument that cow’s milk is made for baby cows?

Following that logic, if you weren’t going to give your kids cow’s milk, then you probably wouldn’t give them most plant based milks, as they are commonly made from seeds. Almonds, peas, and soybeans, etc., aren’t “made” to make milk. They are produced to make more plants. But just like we pasteurize and fortify cow’s milk so that we can consume it, we have learned to use these other foods.

Best Milk for Kids with Food Allergies

While the wide availability of so many different types of milk is confusing for many parents, it has been great for pediatricians and parents of kids with food allergies and intolerances. Having more of a variety has also been helpful for vegan families.

In general, you should breastfeed or give your infant an iron fortified formula until they are at least 12 months old, avoiding milk or other allergy foods as indicated if you are breastfeeding and your child develops an allergy to that food, or switching to a hypoallergenic or elemental formula if your child develops a formula allergy.

And then, after your toddler is old enough to wean from breastmilk or formula, you:

  • should avoid cow’s milk, lactose-free cow’s milk, and goat milk if your child has a milk protein allergy
  • should avoid almond, cashew, coconut, and hazelnut milk if your child has a nut allergy (yes, even though almonds and coconuts are really stone fruits and not true nuts, they have been rarely known to cross react and trigger allergic reactions)
  • should avoid soy milk if your child has a soy allergy
  • should make sure your child’s milk is fortified with calcium and vitamin D

Most importantly, talk to your pediatrician and/or a pediatric allergist before switching to a plant based milk if your child has food allergies and before trying to switch back to cow’s milk after you think they have outgrown their allergy.

Other Things to Know About Kids Drinking Milk

Kids don’t necessarily need to drink any kind of milk.

They do need the nutrients that you commonly get from milk, including fat, protein, calcium, and vitamin D, etc.

You should also know that:

  • the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that most toddlers drink whole milk until they are two years old, when they should switch to reduced fat milk.
  • switching to reduced fat milk can be appropriate for some toddlers who are already overweight or if their pediatrician is concerned about their becoming overweight or about their cholesterol, etc.
  • most cow’s milk that you buy in your grocery store doesn’t have any added growth hormone (labeled rBST-free), even if it isn’t organic
  • the AAP, in a report on Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages, states that “there is no evidence of clinically relevant differences in organic and conventional milk”
  • if a company makes more than one type of non-dairy milk, such as rice, almond, and soy, then cross-contamination could be a problem for your child with food allergies
  • most kids with a lactose intolerance can tolerate some lactose in their diet, so may be able to drink some cow’s milk and eat cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, even if they can’t tolerate a lot of regular cow’s milk
  • while plant based milks are lactose free and some are unsweetened, others might have added sugar, including cane sugar or cane syrup
  • reduced-calorie and no added sugar flavored cow’s milk often use artificial sweeteners
  • unlike cow’s milk, most plant based milks are very low in protein, so look to give other protein rich foods to make up for it, like eggs, peanut butter, beans, tofu, and of course meats
  • although they aren’t labeled as 1% or 2%, plant based milks typically have less fat than whole milk, so look to give other foods with healthy fats to make up for it, like avocados, hummus (provides protein and fat!), peanut butter, some fish (salmon), and use olive oil, coconut oil, and real butter when possible
  • phytoestrogens in soy milk are a concern for some people
  • most milk, even oat milk, is gluten-free, with the exception of 7 grain milk, which obviously contains wheat
  • UHT milk undergoes ultra-high temperature processing or ultra-pasteurization to allow it have a longer shelf life, even if not refrigerated, at least until the carton is opened
  • although some experts warn about cross reactivity, like between peanuts and green peas, the Food Allergy Research & Education website states that “If you are allergic to peanuts, you do not have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume (including soy) than you would to any other food.”
  • raw cow’s milk, in addition to being a risk for bacterial contamination and outbreaks of Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella, is very low in vitamin D and has no proven health benefits over pasteurized milk
  • some brands of almond milk contain only about 2% of almonds, which leads some critics to say that you should just eat a few almonds to get even more nutritional benefits

But don’t forget about cost. Plant based milk can be at least two to four times more expensive than cow’s milk.

So again, remember that while each type of milk has its fans, in general, unless your child has food allergies or intolerances, the best milk is going to be the one you can afford, with the nutrients your child needs, and which he is going to drink, whether it comes from a cow, soybean, almond, or hazelnut, etc.

For More Information On The Best Milk For Kids:

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