Need to Know: Pediatric Healthsource

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

A few summers ago there was an outbreak of an intestinal bug at our local pool, something with a long name that I can never remember. I know the management has put safeguards in place to prevent that from happening again, but I still worry. What exactly would have caused this and is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?

You may be referring to Cryptosporidium (a.k.a. "crypto"), one of the most common causes of illness when it comes to recreational water activities. This germ is found in the feces of an infected person and causes diarrhea.

Young children, pregnant women and people with immune problems are more susceptible to getting sick from the germ. Proper chlorination is important to keep bacterial growth down, though crypto is only sensitive to chlorination at high levels. Therefore, it can survive for days in chlorinated pools, where it then easily spreads.

When your family visits the pool, remind kids not to let any water get in their mouths. Anyone with diarrhea symptoms should not swim, and children not yet potty trained should wear swim diapers which prevent leakage. Be sure your children take bathroom breaks and if you must change a diaper, do so away from the pool.

Your family should shower with soap before and immediately after swimming to rid the body of as many germs as possible. This will also help keep other swimmers safe. Risks of infection are higher in lakes and ponds, so try to swim in areas that are monitored.

If you suspect your child may be infected, consult your primary-care physician, who will be able to evaluate your child's symptoms and prescribe treatment.

Dr. Dennis Cunningham is a member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

With all the warnings about what types of UV rays you have to be protected against, it's hard to sort through all the products available out there. What SPF do kids really need? And what ingredients should we avoid or should we be looking for in a sunscreen?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all kids wear a broad-spectrum, sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

Two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the earth and are harmful to the skin: UVA and UVB. Check the ingredient label to be sure the sunscreen will cover both. The presence of one of three ingredients (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and avobenzone) assures the sunscreen is one that will adequately protect your child.

Most sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the chemicals to take effect. Be sure to reapply every two hours and again after water exposure. Parents should also practice other sun protection measures including wearing hats, sunglasses, other protective clothing and seeking the shade during peak hours of sun exposure (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages use of sunscreen in infants younger than 6 months of age. Young infants have exceedingly delicate skin and are more sensitive to the effects of excessive sun and heat exposure. Therefore, direct sun exposure should be avoided as much as possible in infancy. Chemical-free sunscreens that rely only on physical blockers (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) as their active ingredients are considered safe for young infants but are not as effective as avoiding direct sunlight.

Dr. Patricia Witman is the Chief of the Section of Dermatology at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Clinical Dermatology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

My teenage daughter plays soccer and often remarks after practices and games that it feels like her heart is going to beat right out of her chest, and that it seems to "skip beats." I know that playing sports raises a person's heart rate, but could this be an indication of something more serious?

Your daughter may be experiencing what are known as heart palpitations. People that experience heart palpitations often report exactly what your daughter has described - racing, pounding or skipping heart beats. Some individuals also report feeling these symptoms in their necks.

There are a number of factors that may influence someone's heart rate and rhythm, including exercise, stress, caffeine and certain medications (such as those to treat asthma or heart conditions). Some kids may simply notice their own heart rhythms and think they're abnormal. Sometimes, though, palpitations can be an indication of an abnormal heart rhythm.

You should consult your primary-care physician if your daughter experiences palpitations. The physician will evaluate the frequency and intensity of these palpitations, your daughter's medical history and that of your family. In many cases, treatment is not necessary.

Here at The Heart Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital, our comprehensive care includes a thorough medical history and potentially an electrocardiogram (EKG). In addition, we offer portable monitors that can record your daughter's symptoms. These can be worn anywhere from one to 30 days, or only when your daughter experiences palpitations. Our nationally ranked program offers care for all kinds of pediatric heart conditions.

Dr. Naomi Kertesz is Director of Electrophysiology and Pacing at The Heart Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

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Many families love visiting the pool on hot summer days - what a great way to cool down and unwind! Before letting your kids dive in, though, review some important water safety tips:

Supervise: Kids should never swim without adult supervision.

Walk: Many injuries occur when kids run and slip on wet surfaces.

Teach your kids how to swim: Don't rely on floats alone; children should know how to swim, even if they stay in the shallow area.

Build a fence: If you have a pool at home, install a fence so kids can't get into the pool without your knowledge.

Wash: After swimming, use soap and water to remove bacteria. Be sure to dry out infants' ears to prevent swimmer's ear.