Category Archives: Health Guide

Autism: What is it and what are the first signs?

Autism is a developmental disorder that comes down to differences in an individual’s brain development. The causes of autism are still unknown, but it is believed to be due to several factors, including genetic components and environmental factors. Now, it is important to emphasize that upbringing and vaccines aren’t among the factors that cause autism.

Every person with autism is different; however, there are common features that unify them. These characteristics include social and emotional traits, like: difficulty to communicate, interact with others, make friends, perceive what others feel, make eye contact, detect sarcasm, among others. It is also common for an individual with autism to perform repetitive movements and seek routines. Certain noises or subtle changes can bother them, they may have a strong interest in a particular topic and may even be experts on it, but on the other hand they may have a learning disability.

Autism is so broad that it is part of a spectrum called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Within this range there are different types of autism, among them there is Asperger Syndrome, which has similarities with autism in the need for routines, frustration over changes, difficulty to socialize, and a passion for a particular topic. The main difference is that there is no learning disability.

The diagnosis of autism is often late, most of the time it is not detected until a later age. However, experts have noticed that early detection is extremely beneficial because steps can be taken to help foster a greater adaptability and independence. We know that every child is different and develops at his or her own pace, but there are certain developmental milestones that if not met at certain age, may raise a flag. Below are a few signs related to autism, these milestones are normally reached by the time a child is 12 months old. If your child presents most of them and you are worried about his development, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor and talk to him or her about it.

Key signs after 12 months:

• Doesn’t respond to his name.

• Doesn’t socialize reciprocally with caregivers.

• Gets mad when small changes occur.

• Rocks his body, flaps his hands or turns in circles.

• Prefers to play by himself.

• Avoids or resists eye contact.

• Doesn’t show much facial expression.

• Doesn’t point to objects or responds when you point to an object.

• Uses little or no gestures, like to say “hello” or “goodbye”.

• Doesn’t answer or understand simple instructions like: “Show me the cat.”

• If he babbles, he doesn’t seem to be having a conversation.

• If he speaks, he talks in a robotic voice.

• He can’t say any words.

• There is a loss of milestones that were already achieved.

• Doesn’t look for things that he sees you hiding.

• Has obsessive interests (for instance, he can spend a lot of time watching objects that turn around, like a fan or toy tires).

• Plays with objects in the same way every time, and often shows interest in only part (for example, he may play with a toy with lights specifically only turning it on or off).

• Tends to follow a routine.

These are just some signs of autism. Your child meeting some of them doesn’t necessarily mean he has autism; however, if you are worried that your baby shows most of them, it’s best to contact your pediatrician and talk to him/her about it. That way, together you can see if your baby’s development is on track or if it’s a good idea for him to be evaluated by a specialist.

Anemia: What is it and how do I prevent it?

Iron is a very important and essential mineral in our diets because it keeps our body oxygenated. It is part of hemoglobin, the substance found in red blood cells that’s responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It gives us our healthy skin color and is essential for a child’s healthy development.

It is important to provide a diet rich in iron because it helps us maintain a healthy level of red blood cells. If the body doesn’t obtain enough iron, the most common type of anemia can appear.

Babies that were born at term and with good weight have a reserve of iron that lasts during the first six months of age. However, at the end of this period it is essential to get iron from other sources because the body no longer contains it. It is very important to do so because anemia that’s not treated could lead to delays in growth and development.

What are the symptoms of anemia?

• Paleness

• Persistent irritability

• Drowsiness

• Poor appetite

How do I prevent anemia?

To prevent anemia, it is important to ensure that your child receives adequate amounts of iron through food. Here’s how:

• Offer your child a balanced diet with iron-rich foods such as:

o Red meat

o Fish

o Chicken

o Spinach

o Yolk

o Sweet potato

o Beans

o Peas

o Iron-fortified cereals

• Remember not to give cow’s milk to your baby until after his first year.

• If your baby drinks formula, choose one that is fortified with iron.

• Include solids rich in vitamin C in his diet because it helps the body absorb the consumed iron.

Remember if you suspect your baby has anemia, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. By means of a simple blood test, he can detect it and indicate the proper treatment.

My baby has swallowed something, should I be concerned?

At this stage of your baby’s development, his mobility has increased immensely. He’s probably starting to crawl and wants to grab any object that is in sight. Babies want to explore and discover their world and they do it in the best way they know: taking objects to their mouth. They discover textures and shapes this way, not to mention taste! Knowing that babies are highly mobile, it is very important to child-proof your home and verify that there aren’t any harmful objects at your little one’s reach.

For babies, there is no object that is off limits. If they see an object that gets their attention and is within their reach, they will take it whether it is dangerous or not. At this age, they can’t discriminate between safe and dangerous objects. That’s why it is recommendable for parents to “walk in their babies shoes” by crawling around the house and identifying and removing any possible danger that might be in their reach.

Sometimes, despite our effort to eliminate dangerous objects, our babies cleverly find objects that we don’t see. The objects that our children find can be dangerous, like batteries, sharp objects or other objects small enough to be swallowed, but large enough to obstruct their breathing. When swallowed, some small objects like coins or small marbles, go directly to the stomach without causing much trouble. Larger objects can cause damage to the esophagus, stomach and intestines, or cause obstruction in breathing.

Is it stuck?

Swallowing small objects must be evacuated through feces regularly within 2 days, but it can take up to 4 to 5 days.

Watch out for these signs that the object could not go through:

• Chest or stomach pain

• Your baby can’t drink or eat

• Vomiting

• Fever

• Excess salivation

Contact emergency paramedics if your baby:

• Has trouble breathing or crying

• Has trouble swallowing

• Fainted

• Is drooling or salivating to much

• Is breathing loudly or making a whistling sound

Take your child to the doctor he has swallowed a dangerous object such as a battery, sharp item, or medication.

Your guide to choosing a pediatrician

If you have not yet chosen a pediatrician, here’s a list of the six most important things we consider you should take in account.

1. Ask for references from friends and family because they can give you their opinion and share personal experiences.

2. Compare between doctors who you might be interested in, having at least three options is an excellent idea.

3. Check their credentials.

4. Ask them for an interview and keep in mind to:

• Talk about a subject that is important to you, such as breastfeeding.

• Ask the questions that are most relevant to you.

• Check availability in his office.

• Observe his interaction with your child.

• Discuss the frequency of your appointments. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatricians must check children at the first, second, fourth, sixth, ninth, and twelfth months of age. They also recommend that babies be checked at both 18 and 24 months of age and once a year after that.

• Ask if he works in a group or alone.

• Ask if he will be available if an emergency arises.

• Talk to him/her about how you can communicate outside the office; if he has an email address where you can write or separate phone to call.

5. Decide whether you and the pediatrician bonded after the first appointment. It’s crucial to feel secure and that you trust your pediatrician.

6. Location might also be a factor to consider. Check how far his office is from your residence.

Remember it’s important to choose a pediatrician that truly values your child’s health and development. This way you’ll feel secure knowing that your baby is in good hands.

Myths about vaccines and autism

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) encompass a wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of disability that an individual may have. This disability falls into the category of developmental disorders and it is caused by differences in brain functioning. This spectrum is characterized by a lack of communication and socialization skills, as well as repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. People who have it communicate, behave, and learn differently, developing from an early age.

The information that the media spreads about vaccines and autism causes a lot of fear and doubt among parents. We may hear many opinions, but the important thing is to know if they are backed by scientific evidence or not. Research has shown that vaccines and autism are not related. Within the last two decades, a wide range of studies in various countries found that vaccines are not associated with autism.

In 2013 the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Diseases) conducted a study in which they proved that vaccines don’t cause autism. Since 2003, the CDC has conducted many studies that reject the association between vaccines and autism. The medical journal Pediatrics has also conducted studies that didn’t find any link between the effects of vaccines and the risk of developing autism. Many more research has been conducted around the world and the evidence and the scientific community agree that vaccines don’t cause autism.

My baby has Jaundice, what should I do?

If you notice that your baby has a yellow appearance both in his skin and the whites of his eyes, it might be a sign of jaundice. Jaundice is a common condition in infants that occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance produced by the body to replace old red blood cells. The liver is responsible for processing and disposing bilirubin through feces. Now, since your baby’s liver is still developing, it can’t eliminate everything that it accumulates in the blood causing the yellow look. Jaundice may appear since the second or third day of life or after the first week. You will notice it first in your baby’s face and eventually the color will spread and appear in his legs.

Why does jaundice occur?

There are several reasons why this may occur. For example:

• High level of red blood cells.

• Lack of important proteins.

• The immaturity of the liver.

• The intestine reabsorbs bilirubin before it’s eliminated.

What are the types of jaundice?

• Physiological: The most common type. It appears between the second and fourth day of birth and it disappears when your baby is one to two weeks old.

• Premature: Usually occurs in premature babies due to the immaturity in their development. It must be treated soon to avoid complications.

• Associated with breastfeeding: It can occur when your baby is not getting enough milk.

• Associated with breast milk: It is rare but some babies develop jaundice due to substances found in breast milk. Usually, they get better after the third or twelfth week.

• Blood type incompatibility: It may occur when your baby has a different blood type than you. By having a different blood type, the mother’s body can create antibodies that destroy her baby’s red blood cells, creating an accumulation of bilirubin at birth.

If you notice that your baby’s skin is turning yellow, he has a high temperature, or that the jaundice he already had is spreading, contact your doctor to determine an accurate diagnosis and necessary treatment.

The best ways to calm a fussy baby

Crying is the way babies communicate their discomfort, hunger, or need for attention. It’s quite normal for babies to be fussy on average about 2 – 4 hours per day, usually at the same time every day. After a few weeks, the crying diminishes, and by around three months, most babies only cry for approximately an hour a day.

All babies cry, but some do it significantly more than others. This is known as colic, and it is crying that begins and ends for no clear reason, lasts at least three hours a day and happens at least three times a week for a period of 1 – 3 months.

It’s important to keep in mind that excessive crying may have a medical or physical cause, so first you must try to identify if there’s a reason behind the crying by looking for patterns. Does it happen at certain times of the day or in specific situations like a crowded place or right after feeding? Can you tell if there are differences in his or her cries for food, fatigue, etc? Keep a record of this so that you can compare with previous weeks.

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Health Corner: Pinkeye – causes, symptoms, and treatment

Does your child have pink, itchy, or watery eyes? He may have conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, better known as “pinkeye”, may sound a bit scary but it’s actually the most common eye infection among children. Pinkeye is an infection of the conjunctiva, the membrane coating of the eyes and lids. The main symptoms of the infection are when the white part of the eye turns pink or red, as the eye’s blood vessels become inflamed. You might also notice your little one has dried secretions around his eyelids or some swelling. 

One thing you should be aware of is that not all pinkeye infections are treated equally. There are three types of conjunctivitis – viral, bacterial, and allergic and this is what each of them does:

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Health Corner: Baby Reflux Symptoms and Tips

Does your baby vomit, is irritable, and cries often after eating? If he does, he is probably suffering from gastro-esophageal reflux (GOR/reflux).  Whether a baby is breastfed or formula-fed, it doesn’t matter – they can both suffer from reflux. This ailment occurs when food and stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, and sometimes out of the mouth. Babies usually suffer from reflux because the ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus (which opens and closes to allow food to enter the stomach) hasn’t fully developed yet. This means that when your baby’s tummy is full, milk and acid can come back up the food pipe, causing discomfort. Although this problem is messy and may be frustrating, you shouldn’t be alarmed – it is actually one of the most common baby feeding problems! In fact, around 25% of all babies experience some degree of it. The good news is that GOR usually resolves on its own without any treatment by 12 to 18 months of age. Only about 5% of infants over the age of 12 months will continue to regurgitate.

 

But how can you know if your baby suffers from reflux? Here are some of the signs you should lookout for:

  • Regurgitates milk/food
  • Irritability
  • Feeds poorly
  • Coughs frequently
  • Vomits frequently
  • Cries after being fed
  • Experiences discomfort, gas or abdominal pain after feeding (heartburn)

 

If your baby experiences mild reflux but is feeding well, the following tips may help:

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Health Corner: Teething safe remedies and dangers

Babies usually show signs of their first tooth between 4 and 7 months of age, although some early developers may begin to show at 3 months. This milestone is considered one of the most exhausting and frustrating for parents. When a baby’s teeth start to come out, he tends to be very fussy, which means he might be crying more often than usual and may even get a fever. Some common signs parents can look out for are: irritability, decreased appetite, increased drooling, and inflamed gums. Far too often, parents use fast-acting numbing medications to soothe their baby’s pain and although this might provide a quick fix, by doing so they might be using harmful drugs that can in the worst cases even be fatal.Health officials, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently issued a warning about the dangers of using oral anesthetics to help babies relieve their teething pain. In fact, the FDA notified caregivers to discontinue the use of viscous lidocaine and benzocaine products for children under 2, an ingredient that is commonly found in popular products such as: Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Hurricaine, Viscous Lidocaine, and Orabase. Although most of these items are over the counter products and claim to provide instant pain relief, they can put your baby’s life at risk. Continue reading