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Children's Health: 11 Questions, With Expert Answers

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Raising kids is a constant learning experience—including when it comes to their health.

Whether it's figuring out when to keep a sick child home, how to get eye drops in those squinching eyes, or why you have to keep going back to the doctor for pinkeye, we've got answers to your common questions here—straight from the experts.


Q:
My child is scared to have her stitches removed. Why don't doctors use dissolving sutures for all cuts?

A: Remove stitches too soon, and the healing skin won't be strong enough to stay together. Leave stitches in too long, and an unsightly scar forms.

Removable sutures permit the doctor to control how long they stay in place. Nobody has yet designed stitches that dissolve completely at the precise moment when they're no longer needed, so dissolvable sutures are only appropriate in certain situations.
Briggs

Q: When should I keep my child home from school due to an illness?
A:
Keep him home if he has a fever; is vomiting; has diarrhea; or has something very contagious, like pink eye. And if your child is feeling too sick to concentrate, he'll be better off spending the day at home to recuperate.
Briggs

Q: My child hates eye drops. How can I make it easier for her?
A:
One trick is to have your child lie down with her eyes closed. Place the drops in the inner corner of her eyes and encourage her to blink several times. The drops will flow into her eyes without the struggle of prying them open while a scary bottle approaches.
Briggs

Q: How can I teach my child to swallow pills?
A:
Start when he isn't sick by practicing with something non-threatening and small. You can begin with tiny decorative sprinkles and work up to M&Ms or Skittles. Have him lean forward, rather than tip his head back, which closes the throat. Wash the pill down by drinking liquids with a straw.
Briggs

Q: But, Doctor, I KNOW it’s pinkeye. Why do you want to examine my child? Why can’t you just call something in?
A:
A foreign body in the eye, a scratched cornea, or inflammation of the iris can make an eye red, mimicking pinkeye. Without an exam, the doctor is only guessing at the cause and might prescribe the wrong treatment, with disastrous results.
Briggs

Q: But we’re CLEAN! How could my child have lice?
A:
Head lice feed on human blood. Just as a mosquito will bite a freshly showered person as eagerly as a stinky one, hungry lice don’t care whether their next meal comes from a clean or a dirty scalp. Mere shampoo won’t remove lice, which can grip hair tenaciously. Medication combined with a fine-toothed comb will do the trick.
Briggs

Q: What is scabies?
A:
It’s an infestation by mites—tiny cousins of ticks. Too small to be seen by the naked eye, these critters burrow under the skin and cause an intensely itchy rash.
Briggs

Q: Is alternating Tylenol and Motrin safe for children?
A:
Alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen is a common practice to try to lower fever. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, recommends using a single medication to avoid drug interactions, organ toxicity and accidental overdose.
Kassir


THE EXPERTS

Eva F. Briggs, M.D., board-certified family physician in Marcellus, N.Y.

Kari Kassir, M.D., board-certified pediatrician and pediatric critical-care physician, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Mission Viejo, Calif.

D. Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian, One Source Nutrition, Norwalk, Conn.; spokesperson, American Dietetic Association.

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., registered dietitian, National Clinical Research-Norfolk, in Virginia; consultant to the food industry, Jill Weisenberger Health Communications LLC.


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Last updated and/or approved: September 2010. Original questions and answers appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bios current as of those issues. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
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