Need to Know: Pediatric Healthsource

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

There seems to be an epidemic of athlete's foot going around my daughter's high school track team. The over-the-counter treatments are working for most people but I'm concerned about making sure we get rid of this completely. What is it and what should we do?

Athlete's foot is a fungal skin infection that typically affects the soles of the feet, the areas between the toes and sometimes the toenails. It can also spread to the palms of the hands, the groin or the underarms if your child touches the affected foot and then touches another body part.

Symptoms generally include itching, burning, redness and stinging on the soles of the feet, and skin may flake, peel, blister or crack. A doctor can often diagnose athlete's foot simply by examining the foot.

Over-the-counter antifungal creams and sprays may treat mild cases of athlete's foot. Be sure to stay consistent and patient with these treatments, as it may take weeks to clear. Athlete's foot can recur and be more serious, though. If this is the case, ask your daughter's physician about a stronger treatment.

Because this fungus thrives in warm, moist areas, your daughter should try to keep her feet clean and dry as much as possible. Suggest wearing cotton socks and well-ventilated shoes, or even alternating shoes to prevent moisture buildup.

Remember that athlete's foot is contagious and spreads easily in damp areas, so it is recommended to wear flip-flops in public showers or locker rooms.

My son sometimes complains about stomach pain, but I'm not sure if it's something to be concerned about. What are some possible causes and associated symptoms I should watch for?

Recurrent abdominal pain is very prevalent in children and adolescents, making it one of the most common reasons children are referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist (doctor that treats problems with the digestive tract and liver).

One common disorder that children may experience is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is an intestinal disorder that can cause cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but certain foods, stress, infection and physical trauma can trigger symptoms. Although uncomfortable, IBS doesn't generally cause serious health problems.

Functional dyspepsia (indigestion) is another common disorder. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, stomach pain and/or bloating and gas. Recurrent indigestion can possibly be a symptom of another digestive disorder, so it is important to monitor your son's symptoms and consult his primary physician with concerns.

More serious yet rare diseases such as appendicitis, Crohn's disease, stomach ulcers and intestinal blockage cause sudden and persistent pain.

Diagnosis of any functional gastrointestinal disorder is based on a thorough history and physical exam, along with a few basic labs tests. Treatment may involve dietary and lifestyle changes and/or medication. Consult your primary care physician if you suspect your son may be suffering from any of these disorders.

When I was growing up, just about everyone got their tonsils out. Nowadays it doesn't seem that common. Has something changed?

Tonsillectomies (removal of the tonsils) have decreased significantly in the past 30 years, though they are still the second-most common outpatient surgical procedure performed on children.

The main reason for tonsillectomies used to be for recurrent throat infections. Now, we have antibiotics that treat bacteria more efficiently, so complications from infections are less likely to occur. Also, recent studies have shown that the tendency to develop recurrent throat infections will improve over time, without surgical intervention. Because of this, we follow strict guidelines to determine whether or not a tonsillectomy is necessary.

Tonsillectomies resulting from obstructive sleep apnea (momentary pauses in breathing) have increased significantly, however. Obstructive sleep apnea is usually caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids and occurs in about one to four percent of children. Symptoms include snoring, frequent nighttime awakening and/or restless sleep.

Children who have sleep apnea often have daytime sleepiness or hyperactivity, behavior problems and worse school performance than children who do not have sleep apnea. Multiple studies have shown that removing the tonsils may help resolve these symptoms.

If you are concerned that your child should have his or her tonsils removed, speak to your pediatrician, who may refer you to one of the Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat specialists at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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Summer brings out the kids - and the bees! Though many stings are nuisances, some can cause infections or trigger allergic reactions that require medical attention. Follow these tips to manage stings:

• Remove the stinger. Use tweezers if necessary. Unlike bees, wasps do not leave behind stingers.

• Cool. Apply an ice pack for a few minutes.

• Wash. Use soap and water two to three times a day until skin is healed.

• Seek medical attention. Go to the doctor if your child is allergic to bee stings, stung in the mouth or experiences difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting or severe rash or swelling at the site.