The weekend in California was mainly about prevention and patient problems pediatricians have to face everyday. We’ve known before that in the western world and in the USA prevention is emphasized constantly, but it was interesting to see that this starts to include issues which pediatricians haven’t paid much attention to before.
Previously, for instance, we didn’t really care about tattoos or piercings. Many doctors still take care of the issue by solely telling the kids that they shouldn’t do it. But they will still want to do it so we should accept this and instead of judging, offer help. That’s what the conference was about: get to know the issue, find trustworthy professionals to whom children can be sent and warn the kids about preconceptions. Like that these days a tattoo can be removed easily because this is not exactly true.
I haven’t really seen kids lining up at the tattoo parlors of the city…
You would be surprised how many children want these. But let me give you a different and much more popular example. A whole seminar was dedicated to moles and within this the dangers of tanning beds and that one should see a doctor even if the skin has the slightest discoloration.
You say that prevention was important aspect of the conference. What kind of practical things were mentioned that you can apply in your practice?
Regular screenings and a heavy emphasis on prevention were in fact the most important messages of the conference. By closely following a child’s growth patterns, certain problems can be identified more easily. These include developmental delays in movement and speech, irregularities relating to growth hormones and other problems that present themselves at a later time in childhood or even in the teens. There was a video seminar where different types of walking in small children were presented. It is astonishing how many problems can be identified just by looking at how a toddler walks. But seemingly simple things were also mentioned. Diaper dermatitis for example affects almost everyone and yet it can present a tough challenge for both the parents and the physician. Or there is the issue of preventing HPV via vaccination which can help avoid a shocking number of teenage illnesses.
You mentioned that one seminar was about how dangerous tanning beds are. We usually hear doctors tell us about the risks of spending time in the sun.
It may be surprising but tanning beds can actually be more dangerous. Dangerous UV rays are bombarding the body and because of the lack of sunscreen, the danger of skin cancer is extremely high. Perhaps you should write down again: similarly to cigarettes, a tanning bed is a known carcinogen! And it can be more dangerous than sunbathing, because the majority of people use sunscreen when going to the beach. We did talk about selecting the proper sunscreen and its proper application as well.
Ok, sun protection factor I get. But how can you use sunscreen improperly?
Did you know that it is recommended to shake sunscreen before use so you can apply all the ingredients equally? Or that sunscreen must be applied about thirty minutes before the skin is exposed to the sun? That it must be applied thickly? That most of the people do not use enough or that you have to reapply every two hours even if you did not go in the water or you are not the sweaty type?
I get the feeling that it’s better if we don’t go outdoors at all…
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. One other issue mentioned at the conference was Vitamin-D Deficiency. The body can synthesize Vitamin-D when sun exposure is adequate. Because of skin cancer fears we protect ourselves and our children from the sun which can lead to Vitamin-D Deficiency. We should, of course, protect our family but we should make up for the lack of Vitamin-D in other ways. This is a very interesting question and parents probably know less than they should.
What other things were emphasized as important?
We talked a lot about alternative therapies, mainly used to treat allergies. Things like kinesiology and acupuncture. I really don’t want anyone to misunderstand me so I would like to emphasize that as physicians we still think that if someone is ill they should see a doctor. The problem is that as doctors we don’t necessarily know a lot about these methods and without proper knowledge it is difficult to explain to parents that it is probably not the most efficient way to treat an illness. If all they hear is that these are nothing more than quackery then they will not get answers to their question and will end up only hearing one side of the story.
But the most important thing is that everything we learned in these three days can only be used effectively if parents take their kids to the doctor for a routine check-up on a regular basis and don’t only come rushing when the child is already sick. This also helps preventing or changing the dislike and negative feelings some children develop towards their pediatrician.