Category Archives: General Commentary

In the News: Detoxifying Fakery

You must listen to this hilarious piece from one of my favorite local public radio reporters, Sarah Varney.

She starts her report with this:  “I know, you’re probably thinking, what kind of moron would believe that a toxin sucking foot pad could work.  Well, the photos on the front of the box are really convincing.”

The reporter goes on to discuss her own experiment with the newest craze in consumer health: toxin removing foot pads. Continue reading

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A Spoonful of My Own Medicine

The first time I meet the parents of a newborn, I always give them a little lecture.

In order to be a good parent, I say, you have to take care of yourself first.  You cannot be a good parent (or a good partner, or good at your job) unless you are well rested and practicing excellent self care.

A well rested parent, you ask?  Yeah, right.  But the point remains.

Well, I’m going to take a spoonful of my own medicine and will be on holiday for a month, unplugged.  I will return at the end of June, with renewed vim and vigor.

What is that old saying?  Doctor, heal thyself. 

And so I will.



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Humor in Chaos: Watching The Swine Flu Epidemic Evolve

As I said in a previous post, being on the front line of a potential global pandemic is fascinating and not a little scary.  Since I shared my thoughts about swine flu, it appears that though the disease continues to spread, it is currently neither as contagious nor as deadly as experts feared.  We will see how it evolves and whether it adapts to become a serious threat or not.

In the meantime, because sometimes we have to find humor to ease our stress, I will share several of my favorite moments in the epidemic so far:   Continue reading


Filed under Common Illnesses, General Commentary, In The News

It’s All Fun And Games Until Someone Pokes An Ear Out

I have been getting great pleasure from parents telling me about how their children evoke my name at home (ah, the ego).
A 3-year-old patient of mine recently got a *very* small splinter and said to her mother:  “If this doesn’t get better soon I’ll have to go and see Dr. Kim.”  I think she is displaying excellent judgment in her self care, quite precocious in fact.
Sometimes, however, it seems that my name is a source of less positive behaviors.  A mother told me that her 2 1/2-year-old son was playing with another child’s doctor kit at a party.  As he placed the toy stethoscope on his playmate’s chest, my patient said “I’m Dr Kim, and I’m going to listen to your heart.”  It turns out that I am the pediatrician for both of these children and thus ensued, the mother related, quite a struggle between these two doctor proteges about who was going to be my namesake in their games.  Not exactly the way that I used to imagine boys fighting over me, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Today, however, a story from a mom gave me pause when thinking about the power that my words may have on the actions of my patients.  While playing, her 4 year old attempted to stick a carrot into his ear.  “Don’t do that!” she scolded.  “But Dr. Kim does,” he replied, quite pleased with himself.
In my attempts at distraction, I do frequently search for carrots in the ears of small children.  A word to the wise:  I think I’ll switch to butterflies.

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Filed under General Commentary, Kids Say the Darndest Things

Teething Woes: Tools to Soothe Teething Pain

The mother of one of my patients, who herself is a doctor (a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases), walked into my office the other day saying: “I’ve just realized that I have been killing my child.” 

What could make this mother fear for the health of her 6-month-old child, despite the excellent care of two well-trained pediatricians (his mother and me, if I may be so presumptuous)?  A gaggle of well-meaning but very opinionated mothers at a baby shower. Here are the things that my friend realized she was doing wrong.  Terribly wrong.

  1. She had been using conventional formula.  In fact, she did not even know that there was organic formula!
  2. She had used baby wipes on her son’s bottom from the minute he was born.  She learned that this habit might be suspect when a seasoned mother gave a pack of 20 small washcloths to the mom-to-be, saying “Since you can’t use baby wipes until babies are two months old, you’ll need a lot of these!”  Who knew?
  3. She had just bought several teething rings (on sale!) at Target.  “But didn’t you hear that those have been recalled?”  “What if he bites them and then the liquid comes out and he swallows it!  It causes cancer.  Or some kind of infection.  Anyway, it’s toxic!” Apparently, every good mother knows that teething babies are supposed to have–you guessed it–a teething giraffe. Silly her.

When my friend came to me asking for advice about these other mothers’ recommendations, what did I suggest?  No more baby showers.

In reality, however, there is no way of avoiding bits (gobs,really) of parenting advice.  So, in the face of conflicting information about how to care for babies, my real advice is to do a little research, use your intuition, and trust yourself.  And ask an expert (your pediatrician) if you still have concerns.

To start, here’s the lowdown on safely relieving pain and suffering during teething.  Posts about choosing formula and soothing your baby’s bum are forthcoming. Continue reading

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Fresh or Frozen: Assisted Reproductive Technology Works Both Ways

I knew that one of my favorite families had two sons who were conceived through IVF but I hadn’t asked their mother the details. On a recent visit for the younger child’s checkup, I did. “Our first was fresh”, she said. “This one”, she said, pointing to the giggling, curious, healthy 6 month old on my exam table, “was frozen.” She and her husband are quite pleased, she told me, with how they both turned out.

Fresh vs frozen? Though the couple had suffered from infertility for a number of years, they were able to conceive with the use of modern reproductive technology. These boys were both conceived in a test tube with her husband’s sperm and the eggs of a donor. They were both fertilized at the same time, but they waited for a couple of years to implant the second embryo: in the meantime, my now 6-month-old thriving patient was frozen.

I’m very pleased to relate that from my point of view, as their pediatrician, both the fresh and frozen are perfect: healthy, happy, and thriving. This family is very thankful for modern assisted reproductive technology, which has helped them create a lovely lovely family.

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Rejoicing in Wrinkles: How to Pick a Pediatrician

As a relatively young female physician, I need to balance professionalism and personality.  I try to be a young, hip, vibrant pediatrician that connects with parents and kids, while at the same time projecting an air of competence, authority, and even wisdom so that families trust me.

I have a relatively informal manner, and I laugh a lot.  But when I need to be serious, I am.  

I wear a white coat, and I wear red boots.

I am still mistaken for a nurse and often get comments about how young I am to be a doctor.  But I also care for patients whose parents are degree-decorated professionals ten to fifteen years older than I am, and they need my advice and listen to what I say. Continue reading

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Tip for Masking Medication Taste


Does your child refuse to take medicine?  Have you been sent home with a completely unpalatable concoction?  In a previous post I wrote about a patient who refuses her medicine.  I gave her mother this photocopied and pencil-annotated list, which is rumored to have been created by someone on the pediatric hematology-oncology service at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I added some personal commentary, just for fun. Many thanks to its authors for the original ideas. Continue reading

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A Spoonful of Sugar, Peanut Butter, or Grape Juice: How to Get Kids to Take Their Medicine

What is it about some kids?

Some kids take their medicine (ok, expect the really disgusting ones) without a peep.  Some even love the taste of medicines and ask for them when they’re not ill at all.  I was one of these strange kids.  Grape-flavored dimetapp was definitely incentive to develop a little sniffle. Most kids seem to struggle a bit but eventually remit.  But some will not ever-ever-ever-under-any-circumstance-even-if-they-feel-horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad-and-are-old-enough-to-understand-that-the-medicine-will-make-them-feel-better let that icky stuff get anywhere near their mouths.

I have recently been struggling to find a formulation of medicine that will be tolerable to a 5-year-old patient of mine with acid reflux.  Her stomach makes more acid than is necessary to digest her food, and the stomach contents manage to sneak back up into her esophagus, a common problem in adults and also in some children.  However, this is not your garden variety acid reflux.  This stuff is so toxic that the stomach acid sneaks out of the esophagus, scoots over into the trachea and dives down into her lungs where it creates general havoc: inflammation and infection.  She had now had pneumonia six times, each episode requiring several nights in the hospital on oxygen.  A medication that reduces the acid in her stomach can prevent the pneumonia.  Without this medicine, the inflammation can create permanent lung damage.  She needs her medicine. Continue reading


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“I’m going to break my child!” 

Every day in my pediatrics practice in San Francisco, California, parents come into my office in a bit of a tizzy.  Or a really big tizzy.  It is my job, one in which I take great pleasure, to help to calm their worries.

Who can blame parents for freaking out?  As a parent, you face weighty decisions about how to keep your child safe and healthy every day.  Parents have doubts about whether they should vaccinate their child, how they can prevent the so-called “super bug,” and which sunscreen to use.  Parents worry about lead exposure and toxins in fish and cancer-causing chemicals in plastic.

We are inundated with interesting, frightening and often conflicting advice about our children’s health from family, friends, and the media.  Even strangers in the coffee joint can make us question our parenting and the things we do to keep our kids healthy.

It sometimes seems there are untold threats to your child’s health and safety, and to your sanity. What are you to do as a parent but *panic*?!?

My message to parents is to take a deep breath.  There is no need to panic.

In my office and in this blog, I would like to help parents and families process the information that they read and hear about their family’s health.  Armed with sensible information from the middle ground parents can make sound, rational, evidence-based choices that promote growth, health and development.

I would like to take some of the anxiety out of parenting.  I hope to create a little lightness and laughter about the latest health controversy.  And perhaps I can bring some joy to the often hefty task of healthy living.

In the meantime I will shamelessly exploit the hilarious stories of the kids I take care of and equally shamelessly flaunt pictures of some of the cutest kids and families that I know.

As my very wise friend Shay (father of 2) said to me:  “We do shop around for the worst news–just so that we have something to worry about.”

And so, shopping around for the worst news and finding its lighter side, let us begin…

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