Category Archives: In The News

Three Simple Tips for Preventing Obesity in Kids

I am always skeptical of easy fixes.
If a diet or a product or a book claims that they will have astounding results with little pain, my first instinct is to run in the other direction.
However, a study that will be published in March in the journal Pediatrics looks at risk factors for obesity and has three simple bits of advice that I think are worth following.
1)  Eat with your family.
2)  Decrease TV time.
3)  Get more sleep. 

Simple, right?
But are these recommendations really so simple? If so, why aren’t we all doing them?
Our lives are busy and some families do have difficulty intergrating consistent mealtimes during a week filled with work and kids activities.
Parents allow their children to watch a lot of TV and playing video games and spend hours on the computer for a variety of reasons, including their children’s insistence and their fatigue at fighting and limit setting.
And bedtimes creep later when kids fight and scream and yell and refuse to go to bed, and parents just don’t have the energy to fight it.
But making little steps towards these goals can really be a game changer for your family, and for your kids health now and in the future.  According to one of the authors of the Pediatrics study, children who practiced all three of these behaviors had a 40% lower risk of obesity than those who did not.
So try it.
This week, eat one more meal with your family than you usually do.
Make some rules for kids about “screen time”. And enforce them. Every time.

And put your kids to bed earlier: maybe start 15 minutes earlier, and go from there.

And while you’re at it, put yourself to bed a little earlier too.  Sweet dreams….
Tips for parents:
To keep your family healthy and decrease your risk of obesity:
  • Eat family meals together more than five times a week.
  • Limit your children to no more than 1 hour of screen time on weekdays, and less than 2 hours on weekends.
  • Aim for 10 1/2 hours of sleep for young and school-aged children.

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Filed under Healthy Eating, In The News

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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Filed under General Commentary, In The News

H1N1 Update: Finding Laughter in a Global Pandemic

A firm believer that humor eases our stress in times of crisis, I wrote a previous post about my favorite moments in the virus-formerly-known-as-the-swine-flu epidemic (now pandemic).  But they just keep coming.  Here are several that hit my funnybone recently.

  • Thanks to Dr. Rahul Parikh for pointing me to the variety of multimedia tools that the CDC has pulled out for this one! 
    • You can send your coworkers and friends an e-card to remind them to wash their hands, cover their sneezes, and keep their snotty little ones out of your kid’s school.  But please “send all”– I’m pretty certain I would be offended if I received one of these directed just at me.
    • You can browse flikr to see electron micrograph pictures of the dastardly flu virus itself.  There are also pictures of people getting immunizations, presumably part of a vaccine campaign:  don’t miss the black and white photo of a woman getting an immunization from a device that looks like a nail gun.  Now that’s going to make the kids rush in to get their flu shots!
  • Dr Parikh also highlighted the potential of this outbreak to start a whole new fashion movement.  I’m heading in to work today with a sharpy and my favorite red lipstick to make sure that my N95 mask is tres chic.
  • Many of my patients ask me about the prudence of so-called “chicken pox parties” but the idea of a swine flu party is altogether batty.  I agree with US officials who call it a “bad idea.”  Though most people who get swine flu have only a mild or moderate illness, young healthy people–both children and adults–have developed very severe illness and even died.  I would try to make a joke about swine flu parties about I cannot touch the British humor of Bryony Gordon.  

Are you finding some humor amidst the chaos and tragedy of this pandemic?  If so, please share.  We can all use a laugh in these trying times.

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    Filed under In The News

    The Mystery of the Cookie Dough Recall

    OK, pistachios  is one thing, but cookie dough?  
    The comfort food of modern America is now contaminated with E. Coli?

    According to food safety investigators, a national outbreak of E. Coli 0157 has been liked to Nestle’s refrigerated cookie dough and sickened at least 65 people in 29 states.

    Yet another reason to eat real food, made from scratch. Flour, butter, sugar and eggs: not really that difficult to whip up into a chocolate chip cookie. And the kids will love making them almost as much as they enjoy eating them.
    Useful Links: 

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    Filed under In The News, Safety

    Going Nuts: The Latest on the Pistachio Recall

    First peanuts, now pistachios….  What can a hungry child eat anymore?


    After Salmonella infections were identified in peanuts, many parents are nervous about feeding their young children products containing peanuts and have switched to alternative nut products.


    Recently, however, Salmonella bacteria have been detected some pistachio products processed by Seton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc.


    Salmonella is a bacteria that causes gastrointestinal infection:  vomiting and diarrhea.  These infections can be mild or they can be severe, especially in young children.

    Continue reading


    Filed under In The News, Safety

    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

    Top Child Health News of 2008, Continued

    Part 2:  Here is my synopsis and opinion on the 2nd half of the top 10 most read online pediatric and adolescent medicine stories of 2008.  The previous post is here.

    • When Are Temper Tantrums in Preschool Children Cause for Concern? 
      • Most toddlers and pre-schoolers have the occasional, or even frequent, tantrums but are generally healthy. In some children, however, they can be an early sign of depression or disruptive disorders.  If you have concerns about the frequency or quality of your child’s tantrums, please see your doctor.  
    • Vaccines in the News
      • Two new combination vaccines have been approved this year.  The AAP strongly encourages the use of combination vaccines, as it helps assure that children receive their vaccines on schedule.  I think they’re nice because in my quest to prevent life-threatening illnesses, I have to stick fewer needles into children.  The kids seem to agree. Continue reading

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    Filed under Common Illnesses, Healthy Eating, In The News, Newborns and Infants, Vaccines

    Nearing Global Pandemic: What You Need to Know About Swine Flu and Children


    What do you do when you hear “global pandemic?”  Is it time to build a bunker?  Should you and your family lock yourself in with enough PB&J for weeks of sustenance? With swine flu creeping towards meeting the definition of global pandemic, everyone is in a flutter.  Parents especially are wondering how to protect their families from this illness.


    Today it was announced that there is at least one case of swine flu in my home, San Francisco.  Being on the front line of a potential pandemic is quite an experience, and at times I am tempted to feel a little nervous myself.   At the moment, however, the best thing that all of us can do is use common sense, stay informed, and, as usual:  don’t panic.


    What do we know about the swine flu?   Continue reading


    Filed under Common Illnesses, In The News

    Top 10 Child Health Articles of 2008: The Science of Medicine

    Physicians are always trying to stay abreast of the latest news in order to provide excellent care for their patients.  Parents, too, can learn from cutting edge medical news.  

    Do you want to know what your child’s doctor is reading about?  Here is my take on the first five of top 10 most read online pediatric and adolescent medicine stories of 2008, according to Journal Watch.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on the 2nd half later this week.  

    • Regularly Eating Breakfast Reduces Weight Gain
      • Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.  This one we’ve known for a while.  So get up a few minutes earlier to make sure that breakfast fits into the morning rush every day. Continue reading

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    Filed under Common Illnesses, Healthy Eating, In The News

    Dog Food May be Yummy, But Beware: On The Pet Food Salmonella Outbreak

    My general philosophy about childhood is that kids should get down and dirty as much as possible. I think that dirt is good for kids (as are stubbed toes and scraped elbows). Builds character!

    So when parents tell me that their kid ate some sand at the beach or the playground, I tell them not to panic. It’s good for them!

    A mother of one of my patients called me to report that her child had recently dined on some gourmet goose poop at the local park. Delish! And, luckily, ingestion of goose poop is unlikely to transmit any severe infections.

    When I was growing up the family that lived next to us had a great brood of kids. Andrew, the 3rd child of 4, was always getting into their pantry and eating the dog food. Gross! But I never imagined that it was harmful for the little tike.

    Well, Andrew, I hope that you have grown out of that habit. The CDC has reported an outbreak of salmonella in humans, which was transmitted from dry pet food. Apparently most of the cases are transmitted when young children touch or eat the contaminated pet food.

    Despite this news, I am still going to advocate for kids to jump in puddles, to make mud pies, and occasionally to eat a little dirt. But, at least for the time being, please stick to human food. Continue reading

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    Filed under In The News, Safety