I’ve been involved in several boisterous Twitter debates about vaccines, at least to the extent that one can debate using snippets of 140 characters or less. I’ve also been a "super moderator" at a very large Internet message board for many years and have seen my share of passionate vaccine debates there. I’ve been a pediatrician for over 30 years and trained in the subspecialty of pediatric infectious diseases before ...

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A large number of pediatric practices these days use after-hours call centers for parents who have questions about a sick child. I’ve been looking around to find some data about how common this is, but my sense is that the majority of pediatricians use them. There is no question these call centers make live easier for the doctor; having somebody screen the calls, answer easy questions, and only call you ...

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Clinical medical research -- finding out which treatments help and which ones don’t (or even make the situation worse) -- is tough research to do. In the laboratory a scientist can control conditions so that only one thing is different between the control and the experimental groups. This isolates the effect of the particular thing and one can see if there is any difference in outcomes depending upon what is ...

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One aspect of the endless vaccine debate is the aspect of coercion some parents feel about requiring children to be vaccinated before they can go to school. The government mandates vaccination. But this isn’t really an absolute requirement. Although all 50 states ostensibly require vaccination, all but 2  (Mississippi and West Virginia) allow parents to opt out for religious reasons, and 19 states allow this for philosophical reasons. (See 
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It seems lately that questions of medical ethics are coming up more and more in the news, things like the rights of patients to make decisions, definitions of futile care, and end of life care. The way to look at these things is not in a vacuum. All of us may have our own opinions about right and wrong, but the field of medical ethics is actually one that has ...

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The recent tragedy of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who died following complications of tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, has focused many people on the question of brain death. Although I have no more details about this case than anyone else reading the news, I am quite familiar with the sort of things that happened to this unfortunate child. As many of you know, her family does not believe she is ...

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It’s time again for bronchiolitis, which usually comes in winter through spring. In some ways this problem is similar to asthma, but in other important ways it is very different. With winter upon us it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with this common entity. There is a reliable seasonal arrival of the virus we call RSV, the chief cause of bronchiolitis. The letters stand for respiratory syncytial virus, a description ...

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Gastroenteritis, often called “stomach flu,” is common in children. It has nothing to do with influenza, the “true flu,” which is caused by a respiratory virus. Gastroenteritis is caused by a different set of viruses. These viruses are generally transmitted by what physicians call the fecal-oral route, which sounds kind of gross. What we mean by that term is that the bug is in our intestinal tract and gets on our ...

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The measles virus is among the most infectious of all know viruses, with an attack rate of well over 90%. That means that over 90% of susceptible people -- those who have not been vaccinated or who have not had the disease -- will get it if exposed. I’ve seen one case, and that was thirty years ago, although my parents showed me a picture of what I looked like ...

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It’s once more cold season, bringing up the question parents commonly face. Should they buy one of those rows and rows of cough, sneeze, and runny nose medicines one finds in every drug store and supermarket? In a nushell, no -- none of the preparations sold over-the-counter to treat upper respiratory infections in children work, and all could be dangerous. That’s the conclusion of a report some years ago by the Food and Drug Administration, ...

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