Dr. M’s SPA Newsletter Audiocast Volume 12 Issue 26

Depression has been a problem for humans for a very long time. It is the leading cause of suicide and lost vitality for life. It is a tricky disease that has been more prevalent and severe in the last few decades. the pandemic was not kind to people suffering from mood dysthymia. Traditional pharmacological and verbal based therapies have been useful for some while not so much for others. The treatment resistant group is the focus of a new series of studies with psychedelic medicines. These studies are offering hope for many individuals that previously had none.

In this audiocast, we also cover critics and school start times. 

Dr. M

Dr. M’s SPA Newsletter Audiocast Volume 11 Issues 33 and 35 Covid Update #41/42

A few people are asking about the need to vaccinate if you have already had COVID natural illness. What is the story here? Hot off of the press from Cell Reports Medicine, we see: “Ending the COVID-19 pandemic will require long-lived immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Here, we evaluate 254 COVID-19 patients longitudinally up to 8 months and find durable broad-based immune responses. SARS-CoV-2 spike binding and neutralizing antibodies exhibit a bi-phasic decay with an extended half-life of >200 days suggesting the generation of longer-lived plasma cells. SARS-CoV-2 infection also boosts antibody titers to SARS-CoV-1 and common betacoronaviruses. In addition, spike-specific IgG+ memory B cells persist, which bodes well for a rapid antibody response upon virus re-exposure or vaccination. Virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are polyfunctional and maintained with an estimated half-life of 200 days. Interestingly, CD4+ T cell responses equally target several SARS-CoV-2 proteins, whereas the CD8+ T cell responses preferentially target the nucleoprotein, highlighting the potential importance of including the nucleoprotein in future vaccines. Taken together, these results suggest that broad and effective immunity may persist long-term in recovered COVID-19 patients.” (Cohen et. al. 2021)

Read more for COVID #41……

Read more for COVID #42……

Happy listening

Dr. M

Can We Safely Open Schools During a Pandemic? (Pedcast by Doc Smo and Sonya Corrina Williams)

I recently came across an excellent article by an infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Linas, who addresses the question on every parent’s mind, “will there be school for my children this year?”  I strongly recommend you read his analysis which addresses five questions everyone is asking about reopening schools:

  1. Are Kids Going to be Safe?
  2. Are our teachers going to be safe?
  3. Will kids bring Covid -19 home to their family?
  4. Will opening schools lead to a second wave and lock down?
  5. What are the risks of not reopening?

In today’s pedcast, we are going to breakdown what Dr. Linas says and take a look at what a “safe” reopening of schools might look like.

Image by Pixabay Continue reading

4 Parenting Tasks Vital for Your Child’s Academic Success ( Archived Pedcast)


Welcome. Doc Smo here, your pedcast host. I had an amazingly gratifying experience recently that I want to share with you, especially if your child is struggling in school. In today’s pedcast, we are going to talk about some simple parenting task that is bound to help your children. Curious about what those tasks could be?  Then stay tuned to learn more in today’s installment of Portable Practical Pediatrics.  Continue reading

Distraction Free Thinking Vital for Kids (Pedcast)


Topic Introduction

I’ve got a very interesting subject to talk to you about today that I discovered while listening to a podcast! Yes, not only do I make podcasts but I am an avid listener of them as well. In this particular podcast, I heard Dr. Cal Newport, a computer scientist, interviewed about the negative effects  of interruptions on learning, memory, and creativity. I thought that what he was saying had so much relevance for your children that I couldn’t wait to introduce my listeners to his research and ideas. Please take a few minutes to listen to this post that I call Distraction Free Thinking Vital for Kids. The message is so vital for all parents to hear that I don’t want you to miss it. Continue reading

Migraine, what a pain! (Pedcast)

Welcome to the pediatric blog I call  I am Dr. Paul Smolen, founder and curator of this blog dedicated to parents and children.  We go beyond the office and give parents a little more depth in their understanding of pediatric health topics.  From diapers to the degree, we talk about it here.  Thank you for joining me today. The only thing better than the kids in pediatrics, are their parents.  I love bringing information to help parents. Today we are going to talk about a topic that is very close to my life experience, since I am a sufferer, of migraines… an incredibly common pediatric disorder. Believe it or not, most parents don’t recognize this headache in their children when they first begin. Well, we don’t want that to happen to informed, sophisticated DocSmo listeners so here we go.   Lets start with what is migraine?  It is a syndrome meaning a constellation of symptoms that follow a typical pattern.  Usually, a migrainer as they are called will first start feeling weak and very tired, possibly preceded by vision changes called a “visual aura”.  If you have never had one of these think of this as what the world looks like if you were looking through the air coming off a very hot road in the summer… it scintillates, it dances and distorts everything. That’s what an aura typically looks like but they can vary from person to person.  Next usually comes a throbbing headache, often focused around the eye or neck which steadily increases in intensity, a crescendo so to speak for you music lovers.  Often this head pain is more intense on one side of the head. Many migrainers get associated symptoms such as sweating, nausea, light and noise sensitivity, and vomiting as part of the mix. These headaches can be brief or last for days.  In between these “spells”, the child is completely normal.  So remember, fatigue with or without an aura followed by a crescendo type headache, often more intense on one side of the head and not responsive to rest or common pain meds is probably a migraine if the child is perfectly normal in between these spells.  If rest and mild analgesics help, this was probably just “I’m tired” headache.   So what causes migraine?  No one really knows but usually close relatives will have similar headaches so there is certainly genetics to this.  They might not call it migraine but maybe “sick headaches”, “menstrual headaches” or “sinus attacks”, but if they follow this pattern, they are likely migraine.  Estrogen and testosterone have a lot to do with these headaches so for children who have this tendency, that means onset most often in middle school.  Migrainers usually have triggers, whether that be stress, noise, bad smells, dehydration, missing a meal, certain foods, or in my case, calculus class in college.  If you are a sufferer, you often think you have a brain tumor.  I did.  What actually happens in the brain is not definitely known but the large nerve in a child’s face called the trigeminal nerve seems to be involved and cause real physical swelling and inflammation around the brain. That’s why the earlier the treatment is started, the better it works.  Stop the swelling and inflammation and the headache subsides. That also explains why acetaminophen usually doesn’t work… it doesn’t reduce inflammation like aspirins.   If your child has been examined and diagnosed with migraine, here is a useful approach I have learned and used over the years. I think it is vital to HAVE A PLAN LAID OUT BEFOREHAND, before the headache comes.  Here is what I recommend if your child starts to get sick at school with a headache you think is migraine:   -Should a headache start at school, have your child go to the school office and ask to take a usual headache reliever that reduces inflammation like Ibuprofen or Naproxen.  Make sure you supply the school with whichever you want. -Have your child be allowed to be in a quite place for 30 minutes after taking their medicine.  Make sure your they rate their pain on a 1-10 scale before they lay down.… if the headache starts getting better…muscle tension and fatigue was likely the culprit.  Time to go back to class.   -If things don’t get better and they are rating their headache as the same or worse, time for stronger medicine.  I go right to what is called the triptans… these are specifically designed meds for migraine. You can also leave a few of these in the nurses station for use because time is of the essence… the sooner the better. Two that are approved by the FDA for children, Axert or almotriptan and Maxalt or rizatriptan.  Maxalt tablets are available in a generic tablet and are very cheap… this is what I start Maxalt.  If a child cannot swallow a tablet or has a lot of nausea with their headaches, I go for the Maxalt melting tabs  (ODT’s)( currently much more expensive).  If a child gets to this stage, time to call Mom or Dad and go home.   -Pay attention to what triggered the migraine and file that information away for future use.  I have found personally, that ibuprofen, naproxen, or Motrin migraine, taken at times when I think I might be migraine prone, can prevent migrainous headaches.  I think this is only for frequent migraine suffers which hopefully no one in your family will ever be.   So remember, that migraine is episodic, escalating, severe, often localized pain in the head and associated with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, noise and light sensitivity.  Most often they are incapacitating. If you think your child suffers from these, provide your child’s school with a written plan, some ibuprofen or naproxen, and a few triptan tabs.  See if that strategy doesn’t can’t work for you.  I hope it does.   As always, thanks for making me one of your trusted healthcare sources of information.  I will always try and bring you relevant, practical information that you can use with your children.  Your comments are welcome at my blog, or on facebook or itunes.     This is Doc Smo, hoping every parent has an advanced degree, in how to keep their children pain free.  Until next time.

How Children Succeed (Book Review Pedcast)

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How Children Succeed


How Children Succeed

by Paul Tough

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

I hope you are having a good day. I am your host, Dr. Paul Smolen also known as Doc Smo. Thank you for joining me today for another installment of, the pediatric blog where we talk about everything kid, from diapers to the diploma, from the bassinette to the board room, from the swaddle to the sware, we talk about it here. With the help of one of my superb intern, Angela Solis, today we are going to continue with my book review series.

A friend of mine from college recently sent me a book he thought might interest me. He knows me well. I was immediately intrigued by the title: How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough, a journalist with expertise in education and poverty. After reading the first chapter where he introduced me to the recent research about how crucial early brain development is in children under 2 years of age is, I decided that parents who follow the blog should hear about this research. The author introduced me to the concept of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Events) score which is a way psychologists measure the amount of “stress”, both physical and psychological that a child endures in their early childhood.  Mr. Tough admits that measuring a child’s ACE score is not easily obtained but, does seem to measure something important. According to Mr. Tough’s many experts believe that the higher the ACE score a child has in the first 3 years of life, the poorer his or her educational outcome is likely to be. He claims further that research supports the concept that this “toxic stress” a child experiences changes the way these children react to the world for the rest of their life. Experts believe that high ACE scores tends to create children with short attention spans, less curiosity and confidence to explore their world. Fascinating! These observations seem to explain a lot of what we see in children. To me it appears that factors outside the classroom seem to determine their success or failure far more than the quality of the teaching they experience.

Unfortunately, after this initial enlightening chapter, I did not find the other information and commentary as interesting. The rest of this long book explores, in great detail I might add, the following themes:

-how character traits such as determination, grit, and self regulation, and curiosity affect success
-how different school systems have tried to implement character education programs
-what mental strategies successful students have learned to implement when faced with trials
-what programs are in place currently trying to help disadvantaged children
-future paths for educational reform

As you can see from the extensive list of topics covered in this book, my hope of finding a great parenting book capable of giving parents insight into factors that might point their children in the direction of success did not materialize. Based on the jacket summary, this seems like a revolutionary book that holds the key to make your own child successful beyond the academic skills emphasized in a traditional classroom. Do not be fooled. This is not a parenting book with solutions of how to instill character traits in your child, or how to mitigate the long-term effects of painful emotional situations. This is investigative journalism in which Tough immersed himself into various educational cultures, from the south side of Chicago to the elite Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx. He scoured scholarly journals and interviewed experts in the fields of education, neuroscience, and child psychology. There is no doubt that this book is thoroughly researched and well-written for he is able to keep a narrative tone throughout the book, while stringing together study after study to validate his points. This book, therefore, is aimed at individuals specifically interested in education policy or political science majors destined to annotate it for class in the hopes of one day emerging from DC as the next Michelle Rhee. If you have the time, the book certainly opens your eyes to the current education policy trends, but be prepared for what begins as an informative piece on the influence of character strengths on children’s success to turn suddenly political within two chapters. We think this is a very informative book for educators, policy wonks, school administrators, psychologists, and anyone interested in social policy… but not for parents looking for useful parenting information. We give it two and a half out of five Doc Smo stars.

Again, I would like to thank my more than capable intern, Angela Solis, who helped in the writing of this pedcast book review. Both she and I would love to hear your comments at or on Facebook or iTunes. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping your children have an overwhelming need, to go ahead and succeed. Until next time.