Author Archives: ChildrensMN

Get screened for type 1 diabetes at Twin Cities walk

The McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center at Children’s – St. Paul is part of an international research network called Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet. It currently is screening relatives of individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to see if they are at risk for developing the disease.

subscribe_blogThe TrialNet research study offers a blood test that can identify an increased risk for T1D up to 10 years before symptoms appear.

TrialNet offers screening to:

  • Anyone ages 1-45 with a parent, brother, sister or child with T1D.
  • Anyone age 1-20 with a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandparent, half-brother/sister or cousin with T1D.

Children’s will host a free screening event from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Feb. 21 at the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes at the Mall of America. For more information or to refer eligible families, contact Brittany Machus, clinical research associate, at [email protected] or (651) 220-5730.

Mom grateful for Children’s care before, after daughter’s double lung transplant

Janice Eason and her daughter, Kali, 8 (Photos courtesy of Janice Eason)

Janice Eason and her daughter, Kali, 8 (Photos courtesy of Janice Eason)

Janice Eason

My dreams came true 8½ years ago when I became a mother to Kali Grace, the most beautiful baby girl. But little did I know how many people I would need to keep my dreams alive.

My water broke at 22 weeks, and Kali had to be delivered at 24 weeks. She came into this world weighing 680 grams, less than 1½ pounds, and with underdeveloped lungs. Before I could even see her, she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, where she would spend the first eight months of her life.

Kali's baptism

Kali’s baptism

Kali was always one of the most critical patients on the unit and liked to keep all of her doctors, nurses and therapists on their toes to be sure they could handle anything. Her team did handle everything and more that Kali gave them. She was cared for greatly, and everything was done to be sure Kali was always getting what she needed. And her team always made sure that as her mother I was heard.

I was told that Kali would need to go home for hospice care if she didn’t receive a double lung transplant. We found a transplant center in Houston to perform the difficult surgery do the transplant. After a delicate recovery period, we came back home just after Kali celebrated her first birthday.

While there were other hospitals, doctors and nurses that helped care for Kali, Children’s, including the team at the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic, always has been the place where we received the best and greatest care.

Kali at Children's

Kali at Children’s

Kali is 8 now, but we have never been far from Children’s. We’re here multiple times a month for appointments and have a few hospital stays a year dealing with Kali’s ongoing conditions.

The Children’s staff have made Kali feel so comfortable with all she has to deal with in her life, and she loves everyone at the hospital who cares for her. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful place to call our second home that is able to make my child feel like such a normal girl given all of her circumstances. We forever will be thankful to everyone who makes Children’s such an amazing place.

Kali continues to visit Children's for checkups on a regular basis.

Kali continues to visit Children’s for checkups on a regular basis.

Measles and how to protect against it

A rash forms three to five days after other measles symptoms start. (iStock Photo)

A rash forms three to five days after other measles symptoms start. (iStock Photo)

Joe Kurland, MPH

Something strange has been happening over the past few years. Infectious diseases are fighting back against the tools that have previously succeeded in protecting us all. In 2000, the U.S. announced that measles had been eliminated from the country. Our tools were so effective and some vaccine-preventable diseases were so rare, that they were all but unknown to a generation of parents and doctors. Sadly, these tools became a victim of their own success.

Measles

Measles is caused by a virus. Sometimes people say “it’s just a virus,” which ignores the fact that some of the most dangerous germs we know are viruses, measles included. It gets into your body when you inhale droplets sneezed or coughed out by someone who’s infected and is considered to be one of the most contagious diseases of which we known, with research showing that, on average, one sick person will infect as many as 18 people who are not protected. Nine out of 10 unimmunized people exposed will get measles because it is that easy to catch. This is partly because measles is an airborne virus; it can survive and infect other people who simply walk through the same room as an infected person. And the infected person doesn’t have to be in the room. The droplets are so small that the air in a room stays infectious for up to two hours after the ill person has left.

OK, measles spreads easily. But is it really that scary? What does it do?

After you’re exposed to measles, it takes between seven and 14 days to develop signs of the infection. The signs include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. You get a rash three to five days after those symptoms start. At first it looks like flat, red spots that show up on your head by your hairline and then spreads like a bucket of rash downwards. It covers your face, neck, chest, belly and finally your arms, legs and feet. The rash may be small, individual, raised, red bumps with flat tops, or they can join into large patches. Four days before the rash shows up, you can spread the virus to others.

For many people, the rash and fever go away after a few days, but for some there are complications. These can vary in severity from mild effects like ear infections and diarrhea to more severe symptoms such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain (encephalitis). Pneumonia is the most common (1 in 20 cases) cause of measles-related death in children, and encephalitis, while less common (1 in 1,000 cases), can cause seizures which may lead to deafness or mental disabilities. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it. Infections in pregnant women may result in premature delivery or a low-birth-weight baby.

You have my attention. What can I do if I’ve never had my shots and may have been exposed?

In the U.S., there are several factors working in a person’s favor:

A modern health system: Clinicians watch for measles and other diseases. If a case is found, they are required, by law, to report it to their local public health departments. The public health experts (epidemiologists) interview the sick person, notify anyone who may have been exposed and work to stop measles in its tracks by having people stay home while potentially contagious. 

Effective medication: There are no antiviral medicines available to treat measles. People exposed to the sick person can protect themselves if they act quickly. If the measles vaccine (MMR shot) is given in the first few days after exposure, it can stop the virus from making you ill.

Community immunity: This is perhaps the most effective tool we have. Community immunity (also known as herd immunity) stops a disease outbreak like a firewall by stopping the virus from reaching new hosts. If you surround an infected person with people who can’t get infected with measles — because they are immune, immunized or were previously infected — the virus cannot spread and the outbreak will end. Community immunity is especially important for families where someone is immune-suppressed or who have children younger than 1 year old who are too young to be immunized.

subscribe_blogSo, the vaccine is the best protection against measles. But some say the MMR vaccine is safe, while others say it is risky and may harm my child. What’s true?

All medical treatments have some risk. But after many studies examined MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and other vaccines, the final word is the MMR vaccine is safe and rarely causes a severe allergic reaction.

And there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorders. The association between the two repeatedly has been investigated, and no study has shown results linking the vaccine to the symptoms. In fact, newer research into autism suggests that it’s the result of unusual networking in the fetal brain in the weeks following conception.

What were you saying about our tools being a victim of their own success?

Because the vaccines and immunizations our medical system uses are so effective, the scary, deadly diseases they prevent are now rare. Paralytic polio, babies born with congenital rubella syndrome, tetanus, diphtheria are unknown and forgotten to an entire generation of parents. Because the effects of these diseases were forgotten, the tiny risks for side effects from the vaccines became the focus of concern. Combined with questionable sources in media and on the Internet, fear of vaccines grew. Pockets of underimmunized communities sprung up in cities across the U.S. and provided a foothold for vaccine-preventable diseases, imported from countries with lesser health systems, to resume their toll on a new generation of susceptible children.

But I heard the anti-vaccine community is pretty small and most people follow their pediatricians’ recommendations.

It’s true. Nationally, the number of parents electing to refuse vaccinations is low; however, in some communities, vaccine coverage is less than in war-ravaged Sudan. And this gives the diseases a chance to attack. Measles is so contagious that outbreaks may occur if any more than 5 percent of the community is unvaccinated. Some schools in Oregon and California have reported vaccine rates of 50 percent to 69 percent when anything less than 95 percent vaccinated has great potential for an outbreak.

Vaccines have been so effective that we lost our fear of the diseases they prevented. Amnesia created doubt and hostility towards the utility and need for protection. It is up to parents to protect not only our own children against measles, but in doing so, know that we protect others, too.

For more information:

Joe Kurland, MPH, is a vaccine specialist and infection preventionist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

The scoop on a good night’s sleep

Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics. (iStock photo)

Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics. (iStock photo)

Erin Fritz, CNP

The significance of good sleep habits often is overlooked. It seems so simple; when the hour is late and it’s dark outside, it’s time to get some rest. Unfortunately for millions of kids and young adults, it’s not that simple. With busy school schedules, after-school and weekend activities, and maximizing time with family and friends, sleep often is one of the first things to become compromised. Not only does lack of sleep make for a tired person, but it has a critical impact on many aspects of health, daytime function and cognitive development.

Snoozing significance

The direct effect that sleep has on health has been well-studied over the years and is known to lower a person’s resistance to illnesses. Decreased amounts of sleep alter immune function, making it more likely for illness to occur. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares evidence for a higher risk of getting the common cold, pneumonia and influenza when sleep deprivation is a factor. Once illness occurs, sleep is necessary to boost the immune system and fight off illness. Sleep is the body’s time to repair and rejuvenate itself.

Daytime function also is altered with sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released recommendations for later start times in middle and high schools after noting an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance related to decreased amounts of sleep. Poor test scores, increased behavioral problems and children falling asleep in class have been highlighted as inhibited daytime functions directly related to sleep deprivation.

Sleep suggestions

Recommendations per the CDC:

Age Recommended amount of sleep
Newborns 16-18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11-12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teens 9-10 hours a day
Adults (and elderly) 7-8 hours a day

Sleep solutions

subscribe_blogWhile it’s easy to perpetuate the cycle of being sleepy, it’s possible to make a conscious effort to improve this problem. Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics.

It’s important to keep in mind that sleep deprivation might not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences. Incorporate healthy sleep habits to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.

Sleep well!

Erin Fritz is a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Taking a proactive approach to preventing sexual abuse

Parents may become concerned about sexual abuse, particularly in younger children, due to behavior. (iStock photo)

Parents may become concerned about sexual abuse, particularly in younger children, due to behavior. (iStock photo)

Alice Swenson, MD

Parents worry about many things that might happen to their children when they’re in the care of others. Sexual abuse often is one of those concerns, so it’s important for parents to be aware of the risk of sexual abuse in young children and to take steps toward prevention.

  1. Teach kids from a young age that their bodies belong to them and that if someone touches them in a way they don’t like, they are allowed to say no. Model this behavior by allowing your child to say no to things like hugs.
  1. Children should be taught that the private parts of their bodies are just that, private, and that only specific people should be allowed to look at or touch those parts. This may include people who are changing diapers or helping with toileting, or, in older, more-independent children, only doctors or nurses who are making sure that their bodies are healthy. Children should know the proper anatomical terms for body parts so if something happens they can communicate to protective adults. Parents should have regular conversations under non-stressful circumstances with their children about who they can talk to if something happens to their bodies that they don’t like, naming specific people such as a parent, teacher, doctor or nurse.
  1. Talking to your children about secrets is important. Explain that families don’t keep secrets from each other and that if someone tells them not to say something to their parents they need to tell right away.

subscribe_blogThe most common way that sexual abuse is discovered is when a child discloses that it has occurred. When this happens, parents should refrain from questioning the child at length. At that point it is crucial that the concerns be reported to local child protection and law enforcement. Trained professionals can then investigate the allegations and help keep children safe.

Most children who are sexually abused have no physical findings on an exam, and exam findings that may cause concern for parents, such as redness of the genital area, are not necessarily associated with sexual abuse.

Parents may become concerned about sexual abuse, particularly in younger children, due to behavior. Sexual development begins in early childhood, and children by age 3 may express interest in their private parts and touch themselves to experience pleasure; this can be normal behavior. Other common sexual behaviors may include expressing interest in other children’s private parts, showing their private parts to others and trying to look at adults’ private parts.

There are, however, sexual behaviors that may be outside the “norm” (trying to put things into their private parts, simulating sex with other people), but these may indicate other problems such as exposure to pornography rather than indicating sexual abuse.

It’s the responsibility of everyone in the community to keep children safe and healthy and protect them from abuse. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, including the Midwest Children’s Resource Center, is a community partner in this endeavor, offering services such as medical evaluation of child abuse and therapeutic resources.

Alice Swenson, MD, is a child abuse pediatrician at the Midwest Children’s Resource Center, a clinic which is dedicated to the medical evaluation of suspected child abuse and neglect.

‘Flu’ may not be flu

fluheader1121

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has seen a large number of influenza cases over the past several weeks, and many children have needed to stay overnight to help treat their symptoms. (iStock photo)

Joe Kurland

Influenza, or “the flu” as his friends call him, is a horrible bug. He wipes you out. He gives you a fever and makes your muscles and joints ache. Your head pounds and you just want to crawl into a warm cave and sleep.

There are many other bugs out there that want to be like the flu. Some of them are bad enough that people even use the term “flu” in their names like “the 24-hour flu” or “stomach flu.” Know this: Real flu does not last only 24 hours, and the real flu does not limit itself to your belly.

If you or a loved one is suffering from sudden vomiting, diarrhea and fever but get better within a day or two, that wasn’t influenza. Those symptoms usually are due to bugs that spread through food. And those bugs love this time of year. With family holiday gatherings, school or office parties, and shared meals, there are lots of chances for the bugs to spread and make people sick.

Some of the infections can come on quickly, such as Staphylococcus aureus infections, that can make you nauseated, vomit or suffer belly cramps and diarrhea in as little as an hour. Other infections can take days. Norovirus, which may show up two days after eating contaminated food, makes you feel miserable with abdominal cramps, vomiting and watery diarrhea. E. coli is another bug that can take as many as eight days or more before you are hit with gas, fever, stomach cramping and even bloody diarrhea.

Fortunately, most people recover quickly from these infections and many don’t need medical care. While you may not feel well enough to eat after infections like those above, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids (water, ginger ale, sports drinks) to prevent dehydration. When you feel well enough to eat, begin slowly and start with easy, bland foods such as toast, oatmeal or crackers. You don’t want to shock your belly with strong flavors, spice or heavy food.

___________

ABC NEWS: Flu shots are dangerous… and 5 other flu myths busted

___________

Things are different with the real flu, which is a respiratory illness. Influenza can come on suddenly, with symptoms often including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches and fatigue. Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, but they are not always present. Influenza infections can be life-threatening and require multiple days in the hospital. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has seen a large number of influenza cases over the past several weeks, and many children have needed to stay overnight to help treat their symptoms.

And this is why we have an influenza vaccine: it helps prevent you from getting really sick. Sometimes (like this year) the flu changes (mutates) a bit. This can cause you to get real influenza symptoms even though you got your flu vaccine earlier in the season.

subscribe_blogNot fair, right?

Well, we may still have the advantage. The vaccine helps train your body to react to the influenza invader and keep the infection under control. You might feel sick for a week and spend some time doing puzzles in your bed (or warm cave), but the vaccine helps keep you out of the hospital. And good news: It’s still not too late to vaccinate against influenza.

Not every illness is the flu. But if you’re feeling sick and are concerned, it’s a good idea to contact us. Whether it’s a wicked seven-day coughing influenza or 24 hours of bathroom misery from a stomach virus, we’re here for you at Children’s.

Joe Kurland is a vaccine specialist and infection preventionist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Ensuring kids get enough exercise in every season

Games like hide and seek, building forts and even cleaning the house can get kids active and exercising. (iStock photo)

Games like hide and seek, building forts and even cleaning the house can get kids active and exercising. (iStock photo)

Samara Postuma

We all know that kids need exercise, but how much exercise should kids be getting? And how do we ensure they’re getting enough when those too-cold- (or too hot) to-play-outside days come around? Julie Boman, MD, a Children’s pediatrician, has some tips and ideas to share on making sure kids are getting the full 60 minutes a day of the exercise they need.

It’s important to note that while all kids need 60 minutes of exercise, the way that looks for your preschooler and the way that looks for your middle-schooler might be different.

“Younger kids need frequent bursts of activity versus an hour of activity straight, where an older child can get their exercise by being active for an hour,” said Dr. Boman.

So what about those days — those miserably cold days — where it’s deemed unsafe for kids to play outside? Or, as we dream of warmer days, those hot summer days where the heat index is so high it’s dangerously hot for kids to be outside?

subscribe_blogWell, according to Dr. Boman, it’s time to get creative.

Some of the more obvious options to get your kids active would be indoor parks, community centers, YMCAs and parks and recreation centers, most of which will offer special extended hours on the days that outside play might be limited.

“Younger kids just need a space to run,” Dr. Boman said, noting that this is when an unfinished basement can come in handy.

You don’t have to get too crazy to get kids active, though — games like hide and seek, building forts and even cleaning the house can get kids active and exercising.

The only time you’ll hear Dr. Boman suggest video games is when it comes to moving your body versus your thumbs, and there are plenty of games out there that do just that.

“Dancing games on the (Nintendo) Wii (or Wii U) are a good workout, even for adults,” she said.

Another more creative way to get kids active is by looking for active apps or videos such as the IronKids App, which was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is available for iPhone or iPad for $3.99. The app has several different workouts for cardio and core, and kids can follow the app for five-minute bursts of circuit training and weightlifting using household items.

Don’t have a smartphone or tablet? No problem. A simple YouTube search will bring you thousands of workout videos for kids and adults.

“It’s all about exploring ways to keep kids interested,” Dr. Boman said.

What are your tried-and-true ways to keep kids active and exercising all year round?

For more information about Children’s childhood obesity efforts, contact Anna Youngerman at [email protected].

Read Samara Postuma’s blog Simplicity in the Suburbs, and follow her on Twitter.

Funds from triathlon to benefit Children’s-attended camp

Victory In Progress (VIP) is a newly renamed camp that has helped kids, including Children's patients, with cancer or blood disorders for 31 years. (Photo courtesy of CycleHealth)

Victory In Progress (VIP) is a newly renamed camp that has helped kids, including Children’s patients, with cancer or blood disorders for 31 years. (Photo courtesy of CycleHealth)

Q4_mighty_buttonCycleHealth, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit that raised more than $62,000 for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with its first-ever BreakAway Kids Tri (triathlon) in August, announced that funds raised from its 2015 event will benefit the newly renamed Victory In Progress (VIP), a camp for kids, including Children’s patients, with cancer or blood disorders.

The camp, which had lost its previous source of funding, was chosen in a unanimous vote by CycleHealth’s Kid Advisory Panel. Money raised at the BreakAway Kids Tri will cover the costs of sending more than 100 kids to the camp, which has helped kids for 31 years.

The second annual BreakAway Kids Tri takes place Aug. 22, 2015, at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

CycleHealth on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Meet Madeline

Madeline

What Madeline loves most about Children’s is that they care for her.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Madeline

Age: 7

Hometown: Elk River

Madeline has received care from Children’s for heart surgery and C. difficile, a bacterial infection.

When Madeline grows up, she wants to be a house designer and build a house for her parents.

What Madeline loves most about Children’s is that they care for her.

Meet Aden

Aden

What Aden loves about Children’s is his nurse, Linda, who he says is “the best nurse in the nurse history!”

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Aden

Age: 8

Hometown: Eagan

Aden came to Children’s due to inflammation on his pancreas. He had a cyst removed from his bile duct.

When Aden grows up, he wants to be a doctor because he enjoys school.

What Aden loves about Children’s is his nurse, Linda, who he says is “the best nurse in the nurse history!”