Category Archives: Illness

Sugar substitutes and metabolic syndrome

I’m assuming you guys have seen this article about the study that found that even a can of diet soda a day increases your risk for metabolic syndrome by 34%.

Or this piece on Good Morning America about the article. (You have to sit through an ad first before the story starts.)

I wonder if this is going to make companies stop putting sugar substitutes in otherwise healthy things, like yogurt and food for kids.

I think this also puts the nail in the coffin of soda consumption for many of us. Too dangerous to drink sugar substitutes, and way too dangerous to drink high fructose corn syrup. Plus the caramel color is bad for us, and so is the carbonation.

I guess it’s back to water. (Until Passover, when some of the stores in NYC stock kosher-for-Passover Coke sweetened with regular sugar, which I’ll indulge in.)

I also wonder if this is going to give stevia (a no-calorie sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant) any traction, since it’s just a refined leaf, not a chemically-altered substance.


I don’t have a post in me this morning. I was working on one last night, and planned to put the finishing touches on it this morning while the kids are eating breakfast, but can’t do it.

After school drop-off and before I go to work this morning, I’m going to visitation* for my neighbor, who died last week. He’d been an alcoholic for years and years. I remember when I first moved into the building, the police came at least once a month because he and his girlfriend were having a fight and she was attacking him (and then trying to press charges against him). I’d see him around the building, and he was kind and gentle, with this mellow, sweet energy. In the last few years he dropped a lot of weight and started using a walker (I’m guessing he was around 70 when he died) and his speech was labored and slurred even when he wasn’t obviously drunk.

I just feel so horrible for him, that his whole life was so wasted by this disease. He was in bondage to alcohol and couldn’t free himself. Who knows what he was when he was young, and what he could have accomplished? He should have been New York City Grandpa, taking his grandkids to the Museum of Natural History and out to diners and to the playground, instead of this sad, kind man in a bathrobe reeking of booze.

I feel so bad for his children, who didn’t really get to have a dad.

I have no idea where I’m going with this. I think I’m just wondering how people make peace with needless waste and loss. And also how we keep working on ourselves so we don’t end up wasting our own lives.


* This is when the family is at the funeral home and people come to sign the guest book and pay their respects to the family. I grew up with this in American Midwestern gentile subculture, but don’t know if it’s universal, or is called visitation or something else in other places and subcultures.

Reader call: Mother with MS

Angela writes:

"I’m in the process of being diagnosed with MS (clinically likely – no official diagnosis yet). The worst part of it is that my husband and I planned on starting to try get pregnant the month that I started having symptoms (last month). I’m terrified, and am still hoping that my symptoms could be something else. But, if it’s not, I’d love to hear from other mothers who have MS – I know that you can get pregnant (as long as you take a break from the medications) – but Iwant to know what life is like for a mother with MS. Is it do-able? Should I rush and have babies as soon as possible (I’m 29) before my symptoms worsen? Is it fair to kids to have a mother with MS?"

I don’t know much about MS (multiple sclerosis). What I do know is that people have used T-Tapp to control MS symptoms, so that’s something to look into.

Also, I think what’s fair to a kid is to have a mother who loves them, whose eyes light up when she sees them. What she looks like or how much money she has or what kinds of illnesses and conditions she has are so minor compared to how she treasures them and treats them. It’s possible that your children will wish you didn’t have MS (for your sake and for theirs), but I can’t imagine that they’d wish you weren’t their mother.

Anyone out there with MS (or any other autoimmune disease or other chronic health condition) want to comment?

Comments, Christmas week, and other crap

First of all, I know there’s something wrong with accessing comments on all the posts from before I switched domain names last Wednesday, and am trying to figure it out with the Typepad people. The comments are all still there, I just don’t know how to get to read them yet, but it will all get straightened out soon.

Second, I’m going to be out of town with very limited internet access next week (December 24-28), so I’m going to set posts to autopost every day that week. But in the spirit of combating the stress of that week, I’m going to put an open post up that stays at the top of the screen, so people can just stop by and comment about whatever they feel, whether they need advice, want to vent, or are just looking for some non-family conversation. If you’re feeling bored or sad or irate or like you could use a little community, please stop by and see what’s up.

Third, we’ve got another disgusting topic today. In the spirit of the vomit conversation from a few weeks back and the pee overflow question of Friday, can we talk about poop explosions and diarrhea? One of my co-workers was out a few days last week because his toddler had the stomach flu and they were just drowning in vomit and diarrhea. OK, maybe I could have used a different verb there. They were overwhelmed by keeping up with the substances coming out of both ends of the little lad. That’s better.

So we’re looking for tips on dealing with diarrhea. While we’re here, we might as well talk about regular old poopsplosions that newborns have.

I’ve pretty much got nothing on diarrhea.

I do know about projectile poop, though, and my biggest tip is to put layers on the child’s butt to catch the poop. That’s one reason I did cloth diapers at the beginning with each of my kids, and not the fancy pocket diapers either. It seems like the extra layers of prefold + cover helps contain the runny newborn poop so much better than a one-layered disposable can, or a pocket diaper that has the effect of a one-layered diaper. The times there was a big poop in a disposable or pocket diaper, the poop got all over the clothes. In a prefold + cover,it all stayed inside the cover.

I’ve even heard of people who use disposables buying PUL (laminated fabric, what modern cloth diaper covers are made of) covers and putting them over the disposables to make that extra layer to protect the clothes.

Another thing I know about is the two kinds of normal poop that can mimic diarrhea. One is runny green poop. Green poop happens when the milk runs through the kid’s system too fast. Sometimes that will happen with a stomach bug (and can continue to be green even after the other symptoms are gone). The other thing that can make green poop is if there’s a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, or the mom has oversupply. The foremilk is the first milk the baby gets, and it’s watery to hydrate the child, plus it has lots of lactose. The hindmilk is the milk that comes at the end of a nursing session, and it’s full of fat to bulk up the child.

If the mother has oversupply, the child gets mostly foremilk and can never drink enough to get the hindmilk, so they have too much lactose in their systems and their poop can be green. (Other symptoms of oversupply are: falling asleep within a few minutes at the breast then waking up ravenous an hour or so later; putting on weight really rapidly; and making little goat baby noises. If your child is doing this, you may have oversupply.)

The other normal poop that can mimic diarrhea is "drool stool"." When a child is teething, s/he produces drool, and lots of it ends up going down the back of the baby’s throat. (If your teething baby has what sounds like a smoker’s cough in the mornings, it’s from the drool down the back of the throat.) It passes through the stomach and will come out in the poop, as slimy long shards of drool. The drool can also make your baby’s poop so acidic you can smell it (eew) and can cause patches on the butt and anus that look almost burned from the acidic drool. (So now your child is in pain in the gums and the butt. Lovely, isn’t it?) Use a non-zinc oxide diaper rash barrier cream (plain old Vaseline or Aquaphor will work well) proactively each time you change a diaper to make a coating to prevent the next poop from touching the skin.

I hope you finished your breakfast before you started reading this morning. Please post your poop-related tips for all to enjoy.

Helping a 3-year-old with a parent’s serious illness

K writes:

"My husband has just been diagnosed with a very advanced stagecolorectal cancer, and we are in that horrid little wait between
diagnosis and CT scan results and the beginning of chemo/radiation.

daughter is 3 years old in 2 weeks. I am trying to educate myself about
the cancer and the treatments, how to help my husband and support his
healing, but my question to you all is: How can we help our daughter?
She already knows that daddy is in pain and that sometimes he needs to
cry and that often he goes to the doctor, but she is finding it hard to
understand that daddy cannot play wildly like before and that sometimes
mommy and daddy are having serious conversations and sometimes we are

So she is angry and difficult and she needs everything to be just
so. We have 5 weeks of intense treatment coming up and this will just
be the first little step in a long and difficult process. What can we
do to help her? How can we help her later in the process? I am looking
for any experiences and ideas of how to help a child deal with serious
illness, death, grief… I will be happy for tips on reading and well,
anything really.

one additional aspect of my question i just realized is that our daughter is
turning away from her dad, not wanting to cuddle, often turning her
back to him during dinner etc. you can imagine how sad that makes her
dad and it really makes it clear that we need to help her understand
all this or at least deal…

Oh, K, I am so very very sorry for all of you that you are going through this.

I wish I knew what to say and do. I think this post-3-year-old stage can be hard enough for parents and kids to negotiate together, so adding all this on top is going to make things even more difficult for you.

I wonder if it would help to enlist family and friends to help entertain your daughter. Maybe ask if they could take her on outings with their children, playdates, and things like that. It will give her other things to think about and do, and will give you and your husband some time to be able to break down if you need to without having her there.

Readers, do you have any suggestions for K? This is way out of my scope of knowledge.

Q&A: Vomit for Beginners

Amy writes:

"I wonder, if you don’t have other, more pressing topics to consider, if you’d post my query for the readers to help me with?

I dare not so much as whisper this aloud, but my 3.5 year old has never had a stomach bug. Historically she has projectile vomited when presented with foods or meds (she has tactile and taste defensiveness from birth), but never as part of a virus. Look, I am not stupid. I know she will eventually catch a stomach flu or get hit with food poisoning, but I don’t know how to deal with it. I want to be prepared, because of all the bodily fluids, vomit is the one that I have never been able to deal with well.

There are some basic things I do know, like my day care’s rule about vomiting (24-hours minimum vomit-free + standard rules about fevers), and I know to watch my daughter’s temperature, to track how many times she vomits in a hour/day, and to do what I can to prevent or treat dehydration. So I guess my questions are primarily practical.

*How do you train a child to vomit into a container? Do you have to train them? Or are they like cats and they pretty much self-train, like with a litter box?
*What do you do with a vomiting child? Resign yourself to sitting with them while the retch, sure, but do you put out drop cloths in between episodes? Or do you isolate yourselves to one room and let it go, knowing you’ll just rent a steam cleaner when it’s done with?
*Do you make the child rinse her mouth or brush her teeth after vomiting?
*Wait. Aside from Pedi@lyte, how do you prevent or treat dehydration? There’s no guarantee I could get that into my daughter, especially if it’s unfamiliar."

I hate to say it, but this series of questions made me chuckle. I guess I just can’t imagine worrying about puke in this much detail! But maybe that’s because my experience of kids vomiting is that it just sort of happens in a flash–one minute the kid’s looking a little off, and the next minute there’s barf all over everyone’s clothes, in my hair, and all over the floor/sheets/couch/whatever. From normal to three loads of laundry in 5 seconds.

In short, I don’t think you can really plan for it.

The puking game is different with babies (who often projectile puke, often into a parent’s mouth or eyes–I’ve had both, although thankfully not on the same day) because they kind of just throw up and move on happily with their lives, unless they’re really sick.

But preschoolers and up (IME) tend to be more like adults when they get pukey-sick. They just want to lie on the couch and moan. And moan. And ask you questions like, "Mom, am I ever going to feel better again?" with those big sad sweet eyes that break your heart.

I don’t think you can train them to puke into a container. If there’s a container there they won’t avoid it, but they won’t be able to hold the barf back, so you’ll probably end up doing a bunch of laundry anyway.

On the other hand, I doubt the kid will want to be up and around, either. So the vomit area will be contained, and after the initial shocking vomit episode, subsequent puking will probably be just more of the same, in the same place.

I wouldn’t bother with a steam cleaner (assuming you didn’t feed your kid a big bowl full of permanent ink right before the vomiting episode), but would just go with Bac-Out or Nature’s Miracle or one of the other pet stain cleaners.

Your daughter will want to rinse the taste of the puke out of her mouth. She may not like the taste of the Pedialyte, but you can try a sports drink, or just plain water alternating with juice.

You’ll know she’s better when she’s ready to eat something that’s not bananas, rice, applesauce, or toast.

Anyone have any conflicting or additional tips on vomit? Do you have other regional terms for vomit? (I think I covered the standard Americanisms: vomit, throw-up, puke, barf.)

Q&A: thrush + diarrhea = diaper rash X vicious combination

Simone writes:

I’ve looked through your illness
section, and while I have found some information about diaper rashes and
teething, I couldn’t find anything that throws thrush into the equation. Three
weeks ago, my 6 mo-old son was diagnosed with Thrush. (Which in itself is weird
since he’s on the older side for Thrush, and I’m no longer nursing.) We were
given Nystatin, and after now our third round it has proven to be ineffective.
Several people have suggested Gentian Violet, and I’ve heard it’s
messy. I’m OK with his mouth being blue/purple for a few days. But is it one of
those things where if he drools, the drool will then also be purple? How badly
does it stain? Is it worth the trouble? I have visions of having to replace
clothes, carpeting, etc.! But, we need to try something different because the
Nystatin is not working. (Plus, I’m freaked out over the sugar content, and also
read somewhere that yeast thrives on sugar…in other words, it sounds like the
WORST thing to give.) During all of this, he also developed diarrhea (5 days
ago), and subsequently a HORRIBLE diaper rash that we’re finding hard to battle.
He’s vaccinated against rotavirus, but we took him to the doc to be sure and
they’ve ruled that out. It took two poopy diapers to cause the rash, and every
time I think we’re on top of it, he poops once and it flares up. So obviously
the poop itself is an irritant. I am wondering if the two things are
related, and that perhaps the Nystatin is what caused the
diarrhea. Has anyone else experienced this side effect? He’s also
teething, which could be a contributing factor, and also why I mention the
drooling/staining thing. In the meantime we are limiting his solids to rice
cereal and bananas in an effort to help the diarrhea. This is a vicious
cycle that we’re anxious to break, and my little boy is miserable!! If
any of your readers have dealt with a similar situation I’d love to
hear how they fixed it.

Oof. This is a big cluster of hideous.

I don’t remember what the guaranteed thrush cure is, but I know it was mentioned somewhere in the comments section of Julie’s A little Pregnant blog back when her son was a few months old. Does anyone remember what I’m talking about, and remember what the cure was? It contained the word "grape" (grapeseed, grapefruit, grape-something) and was topical and was far more effective (and less messy) the Gentian violet and less disruptive to the system than Nystatin.

Now, if the thrush was out of the picture I’d offer that the diarrhea and diaper rash could be caused solely buy the teething if he’s got a ton of drool. Many kids get what’s called "drool stool," which is watery diarrhea-like poop, often with strands of viscous drool in it. Talk about things you could never even imagine before you had kids! Anyway, the poop seems to get highly acidic because of the drool, and that can cause diaper rash that’s really hard to battle. I also think sometimes the body just causes a rash on the anus the same way some kids get a rash on the face around the mouth near where the upcoming tooth is located. The human body is both wonderful and creepy sometimes.

So I’m hoping someone either remembers or can find the archive of the thrush treatment (I really really want to say grapeseed oil, but have no idea if that’s what it actually was) so you can get the thrush under control. Once that’s gone you can start working on the other layers. In the meantime, the more you can keep his poor little butt exposed to the air the better you’ll probably be. If you can just let him roll around on a waterproof pad for periods during the day it might be the only thing that doesn’t make his butt pain worse.

And now let the magic of the internets commence, with the thrush cure appearing in the comments section ASAP.

Q for medical types: severe headache in 11-year-old

Rajesh sent me a question I’m totally not qualified to answer, but maybe some of you non-American medical types have an idea:

"My son is having headaches for past 2 months.

It is acute throbbing in the fore head, lasts for about 5-10 minutes. Happens one/twice a day. CT scan and EEG reveal no clinical symptoms. Blood report report is also normal. HB is 10.5. TLC/DLC is normal.

He is being treated for migraine for 45 days. The severity of pain has reduced but it is persisting. Now feels weakness in legs and other parts of body too."

Your poor son! This is horrible, and you must feel so helpless.

If the CT scan is normal, I can’t think of what could be causing this pain and also the weakness. Anyone with actual medical knowledge have any ideas?

Q&A: summer hives and getting rid of old car seats

Kamilah writes:

"My 19 month old is
thoroughly enjoying the summer weather (we’re in Southern
Ontario, so it’s a novelty to her); however, we are having
some issues with hives.  I’m pretty sure that they only develop when
she’s hot, regardless of actual sun exposure (e.g. she got them while
sleeping late last night after a rainy hive free day; her room was hot and
muggy).  I have no idea how to combat being hot while outdoors in the
summer!  Do I just need to accept Benadryl as a part of our daily routine?"

Yikes. That’s pretty gross for the poor little peanut. I know nothing about hives, so I’m hoping someone else will jump in here. My only suggestions would be to make sure she’s sleeping in and on only natural fibers (cotton, wool, modal, bamboo, etc.) because even a little bit of synthetics can causy rashy prickly heat in some kids (like mine). Also, make sure that her room has plenty of good air circulation (a fan or air conditioner).

Does anyone else have hive-prevention strategies for the hot weather?

CCP writes:

"Help. I’ve got a basement with – amongst other things –  one
newborn w/base car seat, a convertible car seat that a friend gave me
but turned out to have a missing piece and then an extra booster seat
that we no longer need. I’ve been searching high and low throughout the
web and can’t seem to find any information on how to properly dispose
of previously used car seats. I live in Seattle and so far it appears
that none of the local charitable organizations or child consignment
stores will take them due to safety reasons – which makes sense. So,
where do all the used car seats end up?

Many thanks for any direction you can steer me. Our basement is already overflowing with stuff we no longer need."

Good question. Here in the city people are so desperate to get grown-out-of car seats out of their apartments that we pass them on to anyone who’ll take them as soon as we can. I’ve never had to deal with getting rid of expired car seat.

You can’t donate them to someone who might use them in a car. It’s just not safe, and there are enough programs to give current seats to families who can’t afford them that you wouldn’t be filling a need.

My first thought was that maybe the plastic could be recycled, so I did a little internet research. Recycling + baby gear = MotheringDotCommune, no? Sure enough, there was a very helpful thread about this exact topic from last summer. It seems that you can’t recycle the seats, so they have to be thrown into the regular trash. To prevent people from dumpster-diving to get them and using unsafe seats, you should smash them into pieces first. A disappointing answer, but one that doesn’t surprise me. (The other suggestion was to call the local police department to see if they needed any more used seats for a passenger safety training program.)

Q&A: baby with compromised immune system

This is going to be more of a reader call, because I’m at a loss. We really need help from anyone with experience with anything like this. Kim writes:

"I’m hoping you can help with an issue with my
baby.  He was 11 months old on Friday and has been consistently sick
throughout the first year.  Severe colic, acid reflux and after an
anaphilactic reaction diagnosed with severe food allergies at 5 months. 
Lately (since Christmas) he has been sick almost non-stop with several different
things, one was a double ear infection but the others we more confusing. 
He has had two viral infections (sores on the throat) and two fevers with
vomiting a week apart.  The throat thing he has has about a half a dozen
times in six months but twice in the last month.  When he has vomiting by
itself we assume it’s tied to the allergies but when it is accompanied by a
fever it indicates some sort of infection……he has no other symptoms….just
fever and vomiting.  We have a three-year-old that hasn’t been sick since
last summer.

My worry is that his immune system is somehow
compromised……maybe because of the allergies.  He is allergic to beef,
all dairy, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, celery, green beans and cantelope (also
house dust & dogs).  He has no environmental allergies so spending
time outside doesn’t seem to effect him at all.  We live in a mild climate

I have tried some natural remedies for the viral
stuff but the only thing that seems to give him any relief is

He was 9 pounds at birth, breastfed until this
past weekend (he weaned on his own) and is 26 pounds now.  He has a very
hearty appetite and we buy all his food fresh from the natural food market and
blend what he can’t eat on his own."

I’m definitely out of my depth with this one.

It doesn’t seem to be environmental, since the 3-year-old isn’t affected.

It’s not a reaction to his diet, since you’ve diagnosed the food allergies and are eating as clean as possible. And the viral infections wouldn’t have anything to do with food allergies.

It sounds to me like you’re right, and his immune system is weak. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what to do to help you improve it. I’d definitely start with probiotics and also cranio-sacral therapy. The probiotics will help him get good flora in his stomach, and the cranio-sacral therapy will help release anything blocking his nerve and lymphatic flow. But after that, I don’t have any other suggestions.

Anyone else have any insights into this tough situation?