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Making sense of your child's health numbers
Eyeballing a child to determine a healthy weight and height can be difficult, but objective measurements can be helpful.
February 14th, 2012
09:46 AM ET

Making sense of your child's health numbers

Dr. Jennifer Shu, CNNHealth's Living Well expert doctor, is a pediatrician, mother of two and co-author of "Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed With Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup."

In my pediatric practice, it is sometimes difficult to look at a child and tell whether he or she is at a healthy weight for his or her height and age.

Many children tell me they think they are overweight, while parents believe their children are just right, or perhaps too thin.

This is where numbers come in handy objective measurements, including a child’s weight, height and body mass index, or BMI are useful tools when talking to families about a child’s size.

While factors such as body frame and muscle composition may make a person’s BMI higher or lower than expected, these measurements are generally more accurate than eyeballing a child to see if he or she is over- or underweight.

So, what do all these numbers mean? Weight and height are self-explanatory. BMI, a calculation that takes into consideration the height and weight, is a fairly good reflection of a person’s body fat.
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HPV vaccine for boys
October 27th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

HPV vaccine for boys

Jennifer Shu. M.D., CNNHealth's Living Well expert doctor is a practicing pediatrician and mom of two.

A federal advisory panel has recommended that, along with young females, adolescent boys and young men should get the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, which protects against many strains of a virus that can cause genital warts and cancers of the cervix, anus, penis, mouth/throat, and more.

As a pediatrician and a mother, I am not surprised by this recommendation. In fact, several parents of my male patients have already requested this vaccine as their sons enter young adulthood.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Parents make medical decisions for their children based on the best information known at the time. Current research shows that the HPV vaccine is both safe and effective. Waiting for a child to reach adulthood and make his own decision may be too late.
  • For maximal protection, the vaccine should be given before an individual exposed to the virus, usually through sexual activity. However,  HPV can be transmitted in the absence of intercourse - such as through close contact with the genital area of another person - and even people with one sexual partner over the course of a lifetime can get infected.
  • It is difficult to test for HPV, and people are often infected without having any symptoms. Both males and females can transmit the HPV virus unknowingly, and parents want to protect their sons as well as their daughters.

Having seen the serious effects that HPV infection can have on an individual, I advise my own patients and family members to receive the vaccine when they are the right age. Parents with questions about HPV infections and vaccines can talk with their child’s pediatrician for more information.


October 24th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

Is it OK to take antidepressants while breast-feeding?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Eliza from Indiana

I recently had my first baby and just learned I have OCD. My doctor put me on a very low dose of antidepressant and my symptoms are much better. I am breast-feeding my son and don't want to use formula but am worried about side effects. What problems should I look for?

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October 17th, 2011
03:08 PM ET

Will a bleach bath help a child's eczema?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by LaDonna, via e-mail
My grandson is suffering with eczema. Over-the-counter creams aren't working. His skin has been getting worse for the past three weeks. I've heard that bleach baths can help. Is it safe to give him a bleach bath?

October 10th, 2011
08:55 AM ET

Why is my urine red?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by asked by Cassandra of Hamden, Connecticut:

I notice the color of my urine has gone from looking like champagne to looking like cranberry juice in three days. Should I be concerned? I am not on any medications.

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September 26th, 2011
10:07 AM ET

How do we prevent kidney stones in kids?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Aaron from California:

My 12-year-old daughter was found to have calcium oxalate crystals in her urine. The doctor said to watch out for kidney stones, which happen to run in our family. What should we do to prevent my daughter from developing stones?
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September 5th, 2011
10:14 AM ET

What are Mongolian spots?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by C.C. from Atlanta:

My newborn son has blue birthmarks on his back. The doctor called them Mongolian spots (but we are not Asian) and said they are found in darker skinned babies and not to worry. Our other kids didn't have them. What are they? Will they go away?
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August 29th, 2011
07:59 AM ET

Rabies shots needed for bat exposure?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Dan from South Carolina:

During a recent family trip to the mountains, our kids, who were sleeping in the attic, were awakened by a bat flying around the room. We called our doctor, who told us to go to the emergency room, where the kids got the rabies vaccine and immune globulin. Was that really necessary?
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August 22nd, 2011
07:29 AM ET

Is it too early to get the flu vaccine?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question:

My doctor's office started offering this season's flu vaccine in early August. Should I get it now or wait until closer to flu season?

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August 15th, 2011
08:06 AM ET

Can melatonin prevent jet lag?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Ken from Palm Springs, California:

I'm about to travel to the other side of the world for a week and have to work the day after I get back. I've heard melatonin can help prevent jet lag when I return and would rather take that than medicine. What else can I do?

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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