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Posted on 10/23/2018 18:56


With October almost over, influenza or flu season is upon us.  The flu is one of the most common illnesses and it can be dangerous for children. Influenza can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, heart inflammation, and seizures. It could also worsen existing medical issues such as asthma. In rare cases, influenza could even lead to death. Thousands of children are hospitalized each year for the flu.  

Influenza is a contagious virus that can be spread by coughing or sneezing droplets to surrounding people.  It is difficult for anyone during flu season to avoid exposure to the flu, especially young children in close daycare and school environments.  The first line of defense to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?

  • All children age 6 months and up
  • Pregnant women
  • Parents and close caregivers of infants under 6 months of age, to protect the infant that cannot get vaccinated
  • All adults, especially over 65 years of age
  • Anyone with chronic medical problems or who is immunosuppressed

When Should My Child Get a Flu Vaccine?  

According to the CDC, every child aged 6 months or older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes about 2 weeks after receiving a flu vaccination to be protected. Therefore, it is a good idea to get your children vaccinated at the beginning of the flu season, as early as September. However, it is never too late to get vaccinated as the flu season can last until May.  If your child under age 9 years old is receiving a flu vaccine for the first time, they will need 2 doses, making it especially important to begin the process early.

Are Flu Vaccines Safe?

Years of experience have shown that the influenza vaccine is very safe. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. Influenza vaccines cannot infect your child with the flu.   Common side effects, like most vaccines, include low-grade fever, achiness, and soreness at the shot site.  These side effects are NOT the flu and usually go away within a few days.

Should My Child Get the Flu Shot or Nasal Spray this Year?

In past years, the flu vaccine has been offered a shot or nasal spray.  For the last 2 seasons, the flu shot is preferred for children of all ages because it has been shown to be safe and more effective than the nasal spray.  While the flu vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing getting the flu, it has been shown to lessen disease severity.  Most vaccinated patients that still get sick with the flu report less severe symptoms and quicker recovery.  Among the 183 child deaths reported to the CDC last season, about 80% were in children who were not vaccinated.

What if I have Questions about the Flu Vaccine?

It is inevitable that your children may be exposed to the flu. Getting vaccinated, covering coughs and sneezes, and good hand-washing practices are the best steps to prevent spreading flu. To schedule an appointment for a flu shot or talk with your Capital Area Pediatrics provider about other flu vaccine-related questions, find your nearest location and our staff will be happy to assist you!

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Posted on 10/01/2018 13:27

Most adults know how it feels waking up after a poor night’s rest.  Simple tasks are difficult, time drags on, anxiety is high and a lot of coffee is required.But for children, a sleepless night or two can be more detrimental. Consistent sleep is an essential aspect to early child development from both a physical and cognitive standpoint. Without it, children aren’t growing or learning at the rate they should be. 


Age is the primary variable in how much sleep your child should be getting each night. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Infants (4 to 12 months): 12-16 hours (including naps)

Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours (including naps)

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours (including naps)

School-Age Children (6 to 12 years): 9 to 12 hours

Teenagers (13 to 18 years):8 to 10 hours 

Parents need to establish a plan for developing healthy sleep habits in their children. These habits begin their early years, but can be altered over time as they grow older and are exposed to different types of distractions. We’ll explore some different methods below. 



Be observant. Newborns often sleep most of the day and night, averaging 16-20 hours a day. However, their sleep cycle is irregular depending on when they need to be fed, changed or nurtured. As parents, it’s important to remain observant of your infant’s needs. Typically, babies will express their desire to sleep by crying, rubbing their eyes, fussing or displaying their non-verbal cues unique to their personality. Know how to spot these signs in order to begin identifying sleeping patterns and habits. 

●  Proper crib use. Teach your infant that their crib is a place for sleeping – not playing with toys or laying wide awake while waiting for their parent to sing them a lullaby. Safe sleep practices for infants up to one year of age include room sharing without bed sharing. An infant under one year of age must sleep on his back in his own bed.  Take them to the crib when they’re drowsy to establish the same routine for falling asleep by themselves. 

●  Don’t be afraid to adapt. As your baby grows older, night-time feedings can be spread out, usually around 4 months) They can sleep through the night for more than 8 hours, which allows you to as well. Once a baby begins to regularly sleep through the night, parents are often dismayed if night wakings happen again. This typically happens at about 6-9 months of age. Babies may also begin to have difficulty going to sleep because of separation anxiety, overstimulation, or overtiredness.  It is important to adapt  your strategies with these developmental changes.




●  Routines and schedules are great.   Make bedtime the same time every night. This helps your child know what to expect and helps him establish healthy sleep patterns. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Establish calm and enjoyable activities in the 30 minutes right before bedtime, such as taking a bath or reading bedtime stories to help your child wind down. Whenever possible, keep morning wake up and nap time consistent to avoid confusion. 

●  Limit electronic use. While electronics are commonly used in most families, they should be avoided before bedtime. The light from devices can result in later fall-asleep times and shorter amounts of sleep by affecting natural melatonin levels in the brain and our natural body clock.  It is best if your children should not use their electronics after a certain hour – preferably 3-4 hours before bed. 




●  Don’t forget: they still need sleep. School aged children need 9-12 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time: homework, sports and other extracurricular activities. They also become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products.  All of these factors can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. Sleep-deprived children can become hyper or irritable or have trouble paying attention in school.

●  Consisency is key. Just like routines and schedules as toddlers, consistency with their day will help their night be smoother.  Keep them active during the day with exercise, sports or other after-school activities; continue limiting electronic device use; stress the importance of proper hygiene with a nightly routine of brushing their teeth, flossing and taking a hot shower. 




Talk to them. Teens are not as likely to change bad sleep habits unless they recognize more sleep makes them feel better. Lack of sleep not only undermines teenagers’ safety and their academic performance, but puts them at higher risk for depression and obesity. Despite adolescents’ expectations of autonomy, parental influence and expectations really do help kids make better decisions about managing their time. Talk to your teens about their sleep hygiene and how changes might make them feel better.

●  Routines still rule. You can see routines from infancy are still important as your children age. Stay active during the day, limit screens (even homework) to earlier in the evening, watch their snacking, dim lights in the house closer to bedtime.   It’s important for your teen to go to bed as close as possible to the same time every night, including weekends within reason.  If a teen’s sleep schedule shifts dramatically on the weekends—staying up most of the night and sleeping until midafternoon Saturday and Sunday—the chances of getting back to normal Sunday night are slim.


These guidelines can help you establish healthy sleep habits in your children regardless of their age! If you are seeking additional advice, don’t hesitate to contact your Capital Area Pediatricsphysician. Our team can individually assess your children’s health and safety needs, and provide specific advice for ideal parenting methods. To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician,find your nearest locationand contact us today! 

Posted on 08/27/2018 13:20

It’s that time of year again - back to school! It’s a time that can be fun and exciting, but one that can also bring worries and stress along with it. Transition of any kind isn’t the easiest process for a child, and returning to school is no different. Gone are the laid-back days of summer with later bedtimes, no homework and looser schedules. 


What’s an example of back-to-school anxiety? 


Will I fit in with the other kids? Who will I sit with at lunch? Who’s my new teacher? Is he/she mean? How difficult will my classwork be? What if I can’t understand it? Will my parents be mad if I get bad grades? Will I fit in? Will my outfits look dumb? Will I get made fun of? Will I get bullied? Will I experience peer pressure?


These are just some of the anxious thoughts your child could have at the start of the new school year. Anxiety affects everyone differently, but for some children it can be overwhelming. With all of this in mind, it’s essential that your child understands there are resources available to overcome it. Below are five ways you can help your child through the transition and enter the school year relaxed and ready.


Encourage communication


Establishing healthy, open communication with your child should be considered a top priority. Try to find a time to sit down with your child and ask about how they feel going into the new school year.  Find out what they are most concerned about and help them come up with some solutions that might work to relieve the concern.  Remind them they can always come to you to talk if they have worries in the future, as well.  Maintaining an open line of communication, without smothering them with too many questions, can keep them from shutting you out and keeping their worries to themselves.  As parents, you cannot fix what you do not know exists.  


Some phrases you can try to keep the communication going:


●“Hey, I’m here if you need to talk.”

● “I’m a good listener.”

● “If there’s something on your mind, I’m here to help...not to judge.”

● “What’s wrong? Let’s talk.”


Form healthy habits


Anxiety can cause your child to eat poorly, avoid physical activity or have trouble sleeping.  Make sure this trio of important everyday habits don’t go by the wayside. 


Provide nutritious meals while decreasing the amount of junk food (sweets, soda and other

sugary drinks, chips, processed foods, etc) you have at home. These foods are OK in moderation, but shouldn’t be used by your child to suppress their symptoms of anxiety - a poor habit that can last into adulthood.  As much as possible, try sitting down as a family to eat a healthy dinner.  This not only provides your child with the nutrients they need to do well in school, it also provides the entire family with time to talk and discuss the good and bad parts of their day.  


Establish a routine at least one week before school begins that includes a consistent sleep schedule and daily physical activity. Both are proven to help aid anxiety and other mental health issues.


Be positive


Keep a positive outlook!  Remind your child that there are also fun aspects associated with

heading back to school that can help alleviate their symptoms. A few examples include:


●Participating in sports 

●Participating in after-school clubs or projects based around other non-sport interests

●A fall class field trip 

●Regularly scheduled playdates with friends 


Encourage them to get involved as much as they can. Joining different teams or clubs can help

them develop new friends and new interests that make them happy.


Get to know the teacher


Make sure you’re on the same page with your child’s new teacher(s). It might be worth calling or

emailing them in advance just to introduce yourself, and elaborate that your child is experiencing some anxiety about returning to school. They’ll keep it in mind over the first few weeks, and will know to contact you if it’s impacting their performance or overall well-being.


Act as a problem-solver


If your child comes to you for help or advice, act on it. Using common phrases like “Don’t

worry” or “You’ll be fine” do not address the root of the issue, and offer little help on how to fix it.

Instead, start a conversation about their concerns and help find a solution. Questions you can

ask include:


● What are some things we can do to get through this?

● Let’s think of some ways we can solve this problem.


Using “we” instead of  “you” assures you’re there to help them through the process. They’re not in it alone.


These tips will help ensure a strong start to the new school year for your child. And if the anxiety

worsens, don’t hesitate to seek professional help with your provider at Capital Area Pediatrics.

Posted on 07/25/2018 17:15

Summer is the optimal time for families to take advantage of their backyards. Being
able to head outside without leaving the home allows families to play games, catch
fireflies, dig in the garden, and enjoy a range of other activities.
Safety is key, however, when we’re spending time outdoors. The last thing anyone
wants is for our backyard adventures to require any medical care. With that in mind, here are some tips that can help you make your backyard the safest play area

Always set boundaries and supervise children. It’s important to help
children understand how far they can and cannot go when spending time
outside. Granted, this is easier if you have fences! But no matter what, it’s
important to teach children to play within a set area. It’s also important to
keep at least one adult in the yard, particularly for kids 8 years-old and under.

Check for poisonous plants. Plants are one of the leading causes of
poisoning among children, especially preschoolers. You can use Google or
contact your local Poison Help Line to figure out which poisonous greens
grow in your specific area. If you do find any poisonous plants, it is best to
remove them altogether.

Teach children to never eat straight from the backyard. Even after
checking for poisonous plants, it’s best to teach children not to eat anything in
the backyard – not even berries or flowers. Even if you maintain a garden, it’s
important to make sure children don’t eat any produce prior to it being
properly washed.

Beware of lawn care. If you treat your backyard or garden with pesticides
or herbicides, be sure to follow any exposure instructions that come with the
product you buy. Generally, it’s recommended that parents prohibit children
from playing on a treated lawn for at least forty-eight hours. Additionally, it’s
recommended that children stay inside when you mow the lawn, as lawn
mowers can kick up debris that may injure a child.

BBQ with caution. When cooking outdoors, families need to make sure
children understand that BBQs are as dangerous to touch as a stove. Parents
should supervise a grill at all times, and ensure that any propane tanks
are stored in a place where children cannot touch them.

Stay away from heights. Falls are the leading cause of injury among
children and should be considered when spending time outside. Treehouses
should never be set higher than 10 feet above the ground. If your yard
includes a swing set, treehouse, or other playground-type equipment, you
should layer 12 inches of wood chips or mulch beneath them
to reduce the
shock of a fall. Teach children to never attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines,
or pet leashes to play equipment, as they can become a strangulation hazard.
Finally, as fun as they may be, injury experts recommend not having any kind
of trampoline in your backyard - they’re just not worth the risk.

Be careful with insect repellent. Mosquitos, biting flies, and ticks can be
quite an annoyance for children in the summer. While most bug bites only
cause mild reactions, there are still instances where children can develop a
serious illness that requires medical attention. It’s important to protect your child from insects, but still do so with caution. DEET, a chemical found in some of the strongest repellents, should not be used on children younger than 2 months. Never spray it on wounds, cuts, or irritated skin, and keep it away from your child’s eyes and mouth. Also, read the label to make sure your repellent doesn’t contain more than 30% of DEET.

These guidelines can make any backyard that much safer and more
enjoyable for families and their children! If you are seeking additional
advice on how to safely enjoy the season, please contact your Capital Area
physician. To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, find
your nearest location
and contact us today!

Posted on 06/29/2018 15:07

Earlier this year, a four year old girl was hospitalized for a suspected case of dry drowning. Her case understandably sparked frightening warnings to parents. With pool season approaching, many parents asked: is it still OK for my child to play in the water?

Children Water Safety Dry Drowning Summer

If you have questions about dry drowning and what it means for your family, then this blog is for you:

Dry Drowning: What It Is

“Dry drowning” is a non-medical term used to describe certain symptoms experienced after being submerged in a body of water. Dry drowning is one type of post-immersion syndrome, along with near drowning and secondary drowning. Post-immersion syndromes are notably different than a standard drowning case, where a child tragically passes away due to submersion in and inhalation of water.

In so-called dry drowning cases, large amounts of water never reaches the lungs. Instead, breathing in a small bit of water by mistake triggers spasms of the vocal cords and the airways, making them narrower and even closing them off. This happens because the body is trying to keep the water from entering the child’s lungs. However, the spasms and closing of the airway can make it difficult for a child to breathe, resulting in a “dry drowning” case.  This chain reaction takes place quite quickly, and dry drowning sets in less than an hour after inhalation.

Dry Drowning: How Common Is It?

It’s important for parents to know that this condition is very rare! According to news reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the approximately 4,000 drowning or near drowning incidents that occur in the United States annually, post-immersion syndromes account for 1% - 5% in total. So while frightening, the risk of dry drowning is low. 

Dry Drowning: What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms of dry drowning develop within an hour of a child leaving the water:

  • Primarily, coughing and difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain due to pressure building on their lungs
  • Headaches
  • Change in behavior, such as sleepiness or agitation

Dry Drowning: Treatment

Dry drowning symptoms will develop within an hour of a child exiting the water. If you do see any symptoms, dial 911 for emergency medical assistance. While waiting for help, try to help your child stay calm, so that their panic does not contribute to their muscle tightness.

Paramedics will be able to administer treatment on the scene and will take your child to the hospital for observation and possible further treatment.

Dry Drowning: Prevention

In addition to monitoring children after they spend any time in water, you can take action to help to prevent dry drowning:

  • Children under the age of 4 should always be supervised when in water, even if they're just in the bathtub.
  • Consider investing in swimming lessons to ensure that children learn how to swim safely early on.
  • Never let children swim in a pool or in the ocean unless a lifeguard is present.
  • Teenagers are more likely to have drowning incidents while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Discuss these risks with your teens.
  • Discourage rough play in and around water.
  • Ensure pools are properly guarded.
  • Always wear life jackets while boating.

A Final Note From Our Doctors

Knowing how to address dry drowning in case of an emergency is very helpful. However, it’s worth remembering that these cases are very uncommon. And basic water safety can go a long way in preventing this rare but possibly tragic phenomenon!

If you are seeking additional advice on how to safely enjoy the summer, please contact your Capital Area Pediatrics physician. Our team can individually assess your children’s health and safety needs, and provide specific advice for your child. To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, find your nearest location and contact us today!

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Posted on 05/22/2018 17:55

Children should not play summer sports without a sports physical.While summer is almost here and the school year is coming to an end, you and your child may already be looking at various sports for them to participate in during the upcoming school year. Allowing your child to play a sport is a fun way for them to socialize with other children and keep them healthy and active. Before the season starts, however, it is important for your child to visit their pediatrician and get a sports physical exam.

A sports physical exam, also known as a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE), helps determine whether or not a student athlete is healthy enough to participate in a sport. In the state of Virginia, sports physicals are required by individual schools and by the Virginia High School League prior to participation in a sport. Even if a sports physical isn’t required by your child’s school, it’s still recommended that your child gets one as a safety precaution.

There are two parts of a sports physical: the medical history portion and the physical examination. The medical history portion includes questions related to family history, past illnesses, recent injuries, allergies, and current medications. During the physical exam, the pediatrician will record your child’s height, weight, pulse and blood pressure; check their ears, nose, throat, heart, lungs, and abdomen; and evaluate their flexibility and strength.

Sports physicals are important because they ensure that your child is healthy enough to participate in the sport that they choose. The exam can help uncover current health problems that you and your child need to address prior to participating in the sport. It can also help recognize potential health problems that could affect your child in the future and determine solutions for preventative care.

A sports physical also gives you and your child the opportunity to voice your concerns about particular sports and ask the pediatrician about risk factors associated with them. Your child’s pediatrician knows your child and their health history better than anyone else, making them the best option for your child’s physical.

Start the summer off right by scheduling a physical exam for your child before they begin their sport! We would also be happy to complete your sports form at the time of your visit. At Capital Area Pediatrics, our team can help you and your child address any health issues and give you both the go-ahead for the upcoming season. To schedule an appointment with one of our pediatricians, find your nearest location and give our staff a call today.

Image courtesy of pexels.com

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