Monday, August 30, 2004

Help, My teeth just got knocked out!

Just the other day my cousin had a traffic accident. She fell of her 2 wheeler, and though she escaped serious injury one of her tooth came out.
Luckily for her she had the presence of mind to notice it and she immediately carried it to the nearby dentist who fixed it back and wired it in. Hopefully in the next 2-3 weeks the tooth will set in and she will be fine.
If however you are in a similar predicament with no dentist nearby, I would suggest that you 'store' the tooth till you reach the dentist.
Putting the tooth in water, or whatever liquid is available, is better than letting it dry out, but water can damage the cells of the tooth within minutes.
Milk is largely free from harmful bacteria, and the cells on the tooth are less likely to absorb milk and ultimately burst, which can happen far more quickly in water.
With proper care and quick action, the dentist or endodontist may be able to place the tooth in the socket so it can re-attach itself and function for many more years.
Source: Medicine Net

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Is your child an (under) achiever?

Just like children can make up their minds to be sick, they can make up their minds to do badly at school. Since the time Psychologists started earning their keep in schools, there has been a debate about whether parental ambitions push children to depression by over-pressurising them to succeed or do kids perform badly because they are not being pushed enough by grown-ups. We are lucky to have finally gotten the "spare the rod and spoil the child" adage out of contention for best parenting advice award, but how much pressure is good pressure is a question that still haunts us.

There are myriad reasons why a child does how he does in school. There is no denying that genetically some children will be more blessed than others. But since we can't mess around with that much (yet!) let us turn to other factors. Kids who train in music (either vocal or any instrument) are shown to develop better concentration and generally improve their grades. Of course this result cannot be expected if the child is spending 6 hours daily at school, 4 hours at tuitions, 2 hours on homework and is then started on another hour of music. For such kids, sleep may be all they need for better grades.

Importantly what is happening to many poor performing students at school may be partly the result of LABELLING. According to the ongoing research at Princeton University Department of Psychology, a kid who performs badly at school may react in two ways. One is to assume that he will perform better in the future or conversely to assume that failure will be repeated frequently. The second type of response leads to what is called "learned helplessness". What this means is that the child eventually stops trying and consistently does poorly thereafter. Thus as teachers, parents and significant adults in the life of a child, we must determine that the child is giving his very best to every attempt. If failure does occur, it is important to help the child understand the factors for it and then overcome it before the next attempt. If you tell children "You are lazy" or "You are worthless", they will soon start believing it, and acting it out.

Achievement is more than just genetic intelligence. It is about the right attitude, knowing the trade as well as its tricks and feeling passionate about success. And parents have to share these secrets with their child.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Care for your pearly whites!

Do you know the single most common chronic childhood illness?
It is Tooth Decay.
It is estimated that more than half of children aged 5-17 years have it!
Dentists have a saying, 'Snack and sip all day, risk decay.' Constantly bathing the teeth in sweetened beverages and unhealthy snacks is like providing an all-you-can-eat buffet for the bacteria in your mouth -- the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
So here are some meal and snacking tips to keep tooth decay at bay:
  • Decrease intake of Fizzy drinks like Coke and Pepsi and high sugar snacks; they are no good for your teeth.
  • Sugary foods and drinks consumed as part of a meal are less harmful than when they're consumed as a snack. That's because saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between meal snacks.
  • Brush teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily, it is extremely important to brush at night to avoid cavities.
  • Encourage your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, less sweets.
  • Regular dental visits starting at 1-2 years and done 6 monthly are important to get your child to appreciate dental hygiene.
  • In case you find any evidence of plaque or suspicion of tooth decay, consult your dentist.

More information on this subject can be had from the American Dental Association link on oral health.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Vaccinations:How do they work?

I am starting a series (hopefully!) dealing with common vaccination related questions. Hope that they will be useful, comments and questions are appreciated!
How do vaccinations work?
The main purpose of our Immune system is to fight infections. Every day, the body is bombarded with bacteria, viruses and other germs. When a person is infected with a disease-causing germ, the immune system mounts a defense against it. In the process, the body produces substances known as antibodies against that specific germ. The antibodies eliminate the germ from the body. The next time the person encounters the germ, the circulating antibodies quickly recognize it and eliminate it before signs of disease develop.
This is why a child who has had chickenpox will only rarely develop the disease again. The immune system has memory. The next time the child encounters the virus that causes chickenpox, the antibodies destroy the virus before disease causes sickness. Medical experts estimate that the immune system can recognize and effectively combat hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of different organisms, or more.
A vaccine works in a similar way. However, instead of one natural infection, for immunity to develop after a vaccine it usually takes several doses over several months or years. The vaccine contains an inactivated (killed), weakened form of the germ, or a germ component. When introduced into the body, the dead or harmless germ causes an immune response without causing the disease. The immune system develops antibodies that will effectively kill or neutralize the germ if exposed to it in the future. The antibodies circulate in the bloodstream. Vaccination protects a child against infection with a germ without the child ever suffering through the disease.It does this by creating antibodies that fight foreign proteins (antigens) that cause disease.
There are two types of vaccines: live attenuated (weakened) and inactivated forms.
Live attenuated vaccines are produced by ‘weakening’ a bacteria or virus so that it can replicate and produce immunity without causing disease. Examples of live vaccines would include Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Chicken pox, Yellow fever and Polio drops.
Inactivated vaccines are made of bacteria or viruses that have been modified or killed with heat or chemicals. Repeat administration of booster doses are often needed to maintain immunity with inactivated vaccines. Inactivated vaccines would include Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus (DPT), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hib, Typhoid, Rabies, Influenza, Pneumococcal, Meningococcal etc.
When these vaccines are given, the immune system starts producing antibodies against the respective diseases. Thus when an actual infection occurs, our immune system ‘remembers’ the previous dose of antigen (given by way of vaccination) and starts fighting the disease immediately, protecting us from the disease!
More information on how vaccines work can be got by clicking on these links;
UNICEF vaccine & National Network for Immunization information

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Playing Sick

How often have you heard your kid say "I can't go to school today, I have a stomach ache!" and wondered whether to be concerned? Children have very fertile imaginations when it comes to excuses, including imagining themselves ill. Most such cases are no more than a simple lie to avoid an unpleasant situation. How you should respond as a parent depends to some extent on the age of the child as well as the situation he is avoiding. For a 3 -5 year old avoiding day care or school your best strategy is to distract them instantly, by just a tickle or a mock fight. Then make brushing and dressing sound exciting. For an older child who usually enjoys his routine and is acting out-of-character, it is important to first get them to leave the bed and freshen up. Then ask indirect probing questions to learn the reason for this act. Be sure never to ridicule the child or openly call his bluff. Play along and win his confidence. His concern may be a notebook he can't find, or a bully who has challenged him. These simple things can overwhelm young children. Try to resolve the real issue. This way you would have given him an important coping tool he can use all his life.
Gaining the confidence of a malingering child is critical for another reason -a closely related condition technically known as a "psychosomatic disorder". Extremely young, sensitive or reserved children are more likely to develop psychosomatic illness. Here too the kid is complaining of, say, a stomach ache for which there is no "medical" reason. But this is not the same as malingering. The difference is that the child is in fact truly experiencing physical symptoms like pain, even though there is no physical reason for it. This kind of behaviour is not routine and must not be taken lightly. How can you tell if the child has a "real" illness or his problem has a psychological root? There may be small signs. Most important one being, does this illness at this point, serve some purpose for the child? Has the situation around the child changed lately? This may be the birth of a sibling, parental discord or move of residence/ school. Does it start when he needs attention desperately or when he is supposed to do an unpleasant activity? Has the child observed a patient of the same condition? Does having this symptom save him from an anxiety producing situation?
Obviously such behaviour is as much a cause of concern for a parent as any other type of disorder and a paediatrician must be consulted. Once we know that it is indeed a psychosomatic disorder, treatment consists of change of environment and lots of emotional support to reduce anxiety. Most importantly, remember that just because a symptom has a psychological reason behind it does not mean it will go away on its own!
Bringing up physically and emotionally strong children is no easy task. But a good dose of attention, affection and criticism along with a trusty Paediatrician can go a long way. :)

Monday, August 16, 2004

First day at school! Tips to reduce anxiety

I know a 4 year old kid who started day 1 of school crying! On day 27 of school he was crying too, in fact things had gotten worse! So much so that his mother actually thought of dropping a whole academic year and restart next year. Fortunately saner council prevailed and on day 28 the mother was instructed NOT to accompany the child to school. Over the next month or so the boy actually slowly started adjusting to school and finally learnt to like it and enjoy. Later he went to med school and is writing this article today. Of course not all kids behave this way, my wife apparently had a lovely first day at school she waved back happily to her parents from the school gates and never looked back!
I suppose children fall somewhere between these 2 extremes!
Most mothers are aware of horror stories about starting school by the time their child is a toddler. Here are a few tips to ease the transition
  • Talk to kids about school before classes begin. It may be helpful to describe what will happen during the school day.
  • Consider bringing children to their school before the school year starts. If possible, show them around the school, including their classroom, the playground, the lunch room and the rest room.
  • Getting children into a routine may help them get ready for school. Allow children to participate in decisions, such as what clothes to wear and what to have for breakfast or lunch.
  • For children who are especially anxious about starting school, taking a few reminders from home, such as photos, may help put them at ease.
  • Once school starts, make plans to spend time with classmates outside of school to encourage friendships.
  • After school, talk to children about their day and give them positive feedback about what they say.
  • Finally, parents should let children know that it is OK to be a little nervous about starting school, because everyone gets a little nervous when doing something for the first time.

For most kids, school is a very positive experience, though it’s certainly true that some kids have more difficulty than others when they start school. Usually, this anxiety passes within the first couple of days or weeks.
But if a child seems to be having difficulty adjusting -- makes lots of calls home during the day or has physical symptoms like headaches and stomach aches – then it may make sense to speak to the child's teacher or talk to a pediatrician or family doctor, who may make a referral to a mental health professional (child psychologist). Usually, these kinds of consultations tend to be relatively brief, and may involve some sort of play therapy to help understand a child's anxiety.

Source: Reuters Health eline, 8th August, 2004

Friday, August 13, 2004

School bags may be hazardous to your health!

School bags can hurt your (child's) back!

In India school time invariably means huge school bags (back packs) stuffed with heavy books. In spite of various recommendations from time to time no steps have been taken to reduce this back-breaking load for children.
Here are a few tips to prevent back pain due to heavy school bags

  • Because narrow straps can dig into shoulders, choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Make sure that only books that are needed are carried, ask the child to prepare the bag according to next day’s time-table at night…too often in a hurry in the morning the child carries all the books resulting in a heavier bag.
  • Parents can minimize the risk of injury by making sure that children do not over-pack their backpacks. A child should never carry a pack that weighs more than 10 percent to 20 percent of his or her weight.
  • Children should be taught always to use both shoulder straps. Using only a single strap can strain muscles and may increase curvature of the spine
  • Another recommendation is to use all compartments of the backpack. Place the heaviest materials nearest to the center of the pack.
  • Use a small school bag, this will prevent a child from cramming it with useless items
  • Periodically remind your child to clean out trash and remove old papers and homework.
These tips are based on the latest American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations as published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, August 2004

Monday, August 09, 2004

What's in a NAME? ........A lot if its my baby!

Normally I create original content for my website, but today is an exception.
I keep on getting requests by parents for helping them name their child. Since the Internet is a great source of information for finding out about almost anything, I decided to provide a collection of links for naming your baby. A brief description is provided for many of the websites that I have personally visited. I have limited myself to Indian baby names at the present, since that is where most of my requests originate from. As usual suggestions are more than welcome!
Indiaexpress: Small list of Sanskrit names with meanings categorized alphabetically. Fast loading with a clean interface
Babynamesindia: A collection of around 3000 names (claim to be one of the largest collections of Hindu names), lots of invasive ads, but the site loads at a fair speed
Nameandfame: An interesting site, lots of names including mythology, around the world and a ‘rare names’ section, nice tips for naming babies, and trivia like the commonest names in Bangalore! Fast loading, has interesting tips, though the design could be better. A valuable resource nevertheless!
Indiaparentinglinks: Nothing in the world of Internet is unique; it’s all been done before! A collection of links to various baby names sites (worldwide). Has its own set of baby names too, but not really unique in any aspect.
Indiaparenting: A slickly designed website, needs free registration though.
Nriol: Extensive baby names collection including the common and the uncommon too
Sanyal: A small collection of names, all names load on a single page and no meanings given
Sulekha: An Indian name search engine, nice design and well executed, has interesting choices like unusual names, multiple syllables in name search etc., definitely recommended!
Shaivam: Interested in Hindu holy names? The site has a lot of really difficult to pronounce mythological names, with a South Indian bias. Good collection nevertheless. But if you are looking for a ‘regular’ name give this one a miss!
Sysindia: A decent collection of South Indian Names, no meanings though!
Indiaserver: Has a combination of Hindu & Muslim names.
Indastro: Good collection of baby names, no meanings though. Also has baby name collections from different countries
Indianchild: A small collection, interesting names, has a collection of Sikh names too, plus a page on Naamkaran ceremony
Iomx: Too many ads, not too many names, not recommended
Indiayogi: If you want an online (paid) astrologer consultation for naming your baby look no further
Yahoo directory: Baby names from the world!
Indianastrology: Baby names, horoscopes through email and more!
Pdom: If you want to book a website for your babies’ name, this is the place to go. Did you know the most common 100 Indian surnames? Visit for some trivia, but not if you are seriously name hunting.
Jnjbaby: A very pretty site, with lots of interesting material on pregnancy and baby care like individual immunization schedule for your baby, SMS reminders for vaccination etc. A good collection of baby names, marred by lots of popups ads. Recommended
If you want to read from paper books rather than from the computer here are a few recommendations:
Penguin book of Hindu Names by Maneka Gandhi
What's In Your Name? Indian Baby Names and Their Roots
by Vimla Patil, Naishadh Patil
Babies' Names from the Indian Sub-continent (Family Know How Series)
by Vimla Patel
In case these books are not available in your nearby bookstore you can always purchase them online from Amazon

Monday, August 02, 2004

Kids say the darndest things!

Being a pediatrician has its positives, you can mix with business with pleasure!
What I mean is that in an office practice most of the children that I see are either mildly ill or scheduled for a healthy visit, and it can be fun interacting with them.
Plus they come up with some real 'truthful' answers! Check these out

Question to a 5 year old: Do you go to school?
Answer: No
Why not???
Because its the summer holidays!

Question to a 2 year old: So how was your birthday?
Answer: ( after some cajoling by parents): Happy!

Question to 5-6 year old: So do you stay in chandigarh?
Answer: Nope.......
Puzzled redirect question: So where do you stay?
Answer (matter of factly): At my home

As I say,
ask a dumb question........................
get a kid's intelligent answer!