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About Dr. Howard Bennett

Dr. Howard J. Bennett is a practicing pediatrician in Washington, DC and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at The George Washington University Medical Center. When he's not sharing humor with patients, Dr. Bennett loves to poke fun at doctors and medicine.

Here are my most recent posts

Does Yellow Nasal Mucus Mean Your Child Has a Sinus Infection?

In the first few days of a cold, the mucus that comes out of your child’s nose
is clear. This occurs because the virus that is invading your child’s nose and
sinus cavity causes inflammation that stimulates his mucus-producing cells.
After a few days, the body’s immune system begins to attack the virus. When this
happens white blood cells die and become mixed in with the mucus giving it a
yellow or green color.

This progression is part of the natural history of a cold
and does not imply that you child has a bacterial infection. Doctors become
concerned about a bacterial sinusitis when a cold lasts longer that 10 to 14
days or a child is much sicker than one would expect for a typical cold.

Overuse of Antibiotics Doesn’t Apply to Strep Throats

In the past few years, more and more has been written about the overuse of antibiotics. In most cases, this applies to the use of antibiotics for viral infections. This practice is not recommended for two reasons:
1. Antibiotics do not kill viruses and
2. Using antibiotics needlessly increases the risk for getting bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

However, it is important to realize that a strep throat is a different animal. If your doctor recommends letting a cold get better on its own, that is because we have research supporting this approach. A strep throat is different because if it goes untreated it can lead to rheumatic fever. Therefore, if your child has symptoms of a strep throat or is acting sick and has been exposed to someone with strep, it is important to make an appointment to see your doctor.

Helping Babies with Tummy-time

Now that babies sleep on their backs to reduce the incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), doctors recommend that they get tummy-time during the day to help strengthen their arms and upper body.

Unfortunately, some babies do not like being placed on their bellies. One reason this occurs is because they’re used to sleeping on their backs. Another reason is because babies may get frustrated if they can’t see much while in the tummy-down position. There are a few tricks that you can do to make tummy-time easier for your baby.

1. Tuck your baby’s forearms and elbows under her chest. This stabilizes her shoulder girdle and makes it easier for her to lift her head and chest.

2. Put something interesting in front of your baby to encourage her to look up. This could be a pet, a toy, or a brightly colored object.

3. Put your baby on a firm surface that is raised 20 to 30 degrees. This will make it easier to lift her head.

4. Place the baby tummy-down on your chest. That way, she will feel close to you and has the added incentive of seeing your face when she looks up.

NOTE: You should NOT leave your baby unattended during tummy-time for two reasons. First, you do not want her to fall asleep in this position. Second, if you walk away even for a second, she could roll over and fall on the floor.

Discolored mucus doesn’t necessarily need antibiotics

In the first few days of a cold, the mucus coming out of your child’s nose will usually be clear. By the 3rd or 4th day, it’s common for this mucus to turn yellow or green. Parents may misinterpret this to mean that the child has a bacterial infection. The reason your child’s nasal mucus turns color is because her body’s defenses begin to kill the virus. As white blood cells “ingest” viral particles, they die and mix in with the clear mucus creating a lovely shade of yellow or green. This process will go on for three or more days until the viral infection is eliminated. Doctors become concerned about sinus infections if a child is very sick or if the infection goes on too long (usually more than 10 days) regardless of the color of the nasal mucus.

Be careful to avoid nursemaid’s elbow

Most dads enjoy being physical with their kids. Whether it’s rolling around on the floor or being swung through in the air, kids respond to physical play. However, young children are more susceptible to dislocating their elbows than older kids. The injury typically occurs when an adult is holding a child’s hand as they walk. If the child stumbles, the adult will yank the child’s hand to keep him from falling. The forces generated by this action may dislocate the elbow by pulling the radius bone out of position. (There are two bones in your forearm; the radius is the one that attaches to the wrist behind the thumb.) The radius may also be dislocated if a child is lifted off the ground by one hand or is swung through the air with one arm. Therefore, be very careful if you lift your toddler off the floor or swing him through the air. Always do this holding both arms.