Tag Archives: disease

The Chickenpox/ Shingles Story (Pedcast)

Voice introduction

I was having a discussion the other day with the mom of one of my patients. She was asking me why we vaccinate children against chickenpox; a disease that her mother told her was a benign mild childhood illness that doesn’t hurt kids.  Keep in mind that almost none of the parents of my current patients have ever seen or had any experience with the disease of chickenpox.  The disease is virtually gone in the United States so everything parents know today is based on what they have heard.  This particular mom had so many questions and a few misconceptions about chickenpox. Because of this I thought many of my blog listeners probably have many of the same questions, so today were going to talk about the disease known as chickenpox: the myths and facts and the rationale behind vaccinating today’s children. Why do we bother vaccinating for a harmless childhood illness? Continue reading

New Insights About Obese Children (Pedcast)



I was lucky enough to be riding my bike on a beautiful fall day recently when my “Biking friends” and I passed a soccer field of one of the private schools in Charlotte. The school was at the top of a hill so we stopped for a moment to rest and watch the kids play on the playground.  Two things immediately struck me as we watched the children– first, the diversity of the racial backgrounds of the kids on that field. I think of the forty or so children out on the field running around, every ethnic group was represented, all playing with one another without any apparent animosity or segregation.  I found that very refreshing and encouraging.  The other thing I noticed was that there was not one child on the field who was overweight–not one!  This is not the norm in America these days where  35% of children are now overweight and 20% are obese. So in today’s pedcast, I thought we might do a thought experiment to see if we can explain why these children seem to be different than the average group of kids in America today; why weren’t there overweight and obese kids on that playground? Continue reading

Vaccine Costs and Benefits (Article)

In all aspects of our lives, it is useful once in a while to stand back and evaluate our decisions, our priorities, and our courses of action. This is true in our personal lives as well as our societal decisions. Are we making the best use of scarce resources, are we as a society helping our most vulnerable, and are our decisions cost effective? In other words, does the benefit of an action outweigh its costs?

Fortunately, the geniuses at the Center for Disease Control did such an analysis for an action that every parent must confront: vaccinating or not vaccinating their children. The CDC analyzed costs and benefits that the 78.6 million children born between 1994-2013 received from vaccines in the US. Pediatricians, family doctors, state and federal policy makers, and health departments did a great job of vaccinating children, achieving a 90% vaccination rate during these years. Here were the staggering estimates of benefits of vaccines for this cohort of children during these years:

  • 322,000,000 childhood illnesses were prevented
  • 21,000,000 hospitalizations were prevented
  • 732,000 premature childhood deaths were prevented
  • Net savings in healthcare cost to families, insurance companies, and taxpayers were estimated to be $295 billion dollars
  • Net savings to society: a whooping $1.38 trillion dollars!

I think by anyone’s standards vaccines are incredibly effective tools. Think of all the family turmoil, pain and suffering, and long-term injury to children that getting routine childhood shots was able to prevent. Take a good look at these staggering numbers and imagine all those sick children and agonized families who never even had to step into a healthcare facility. From a cost-benefit standpoint, can it get much better?

I welcome your comments at my blog, www.docsmo.com. Until next time.

Smo notes:

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

Benefits from Immunization During the Vaccines for Children Program Era — United States, 1994–2013

 April 25, 2014 / 63(16);352-355


Written by Paul Smolen M.D.

The final defeat of polio (Article)


Imagine that  your local sewage system broke down and you unwittingly used polluted water to cook, wash dishes, bathe, and  drink. You hear the breaking news a day later because you have been too busy to read a newspaper or watch TV, and the first thought that comes to your mind is your child’s health. Fortunately, your child shows no symptom of illness.  A few days later, however,  your child suddenly develops a headache, neck  with back and abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, lethargy, and irritability.  Then, your child loses strength in his arms and legs.  He can’t run, he can’t carry heavy objects, and he can’t even use a pencil or pen.  Soon, your child is completely paralyzed. Without heroic medical care, your child may well die. Your child has polio.

Three generations ago in the United States, polio was one of the childhood illnesses that devastated so many previously healthy children and their families.  The development, distribution, and subsequent eradication of polio stands as one of the truly great medical achievements of the twentieth century.  The vaccines and their implementation have been so effective that the “wild polio virus” ( disease causing form found in nature) no longer exists in North America, South America, Europe, and 37 western Pacific countries.  In 2012, new cases of children with polio were mainly seen in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afganistan.  The world is on the verge of complete eradication of polio.  Sensing imminent victory, scientists, governments, funding organizations, and the World Health Organization have set as their goal the elimination of all polio cases on earth!  The near-eradication of polio worldwide reminds us of the importance of vaccinating our children.  Polio was successfully eradicated in the United States only because most parents, beginning in the 1950’s, followed the advice of their pediatricians and local health experts and vaccinated their children.  Let us hope that the current goal to  eliminate all polio comes to fruition soon.  Maybe your children’s children won’t even need to be vaccinated against polio, just as many of us didn’t need a smallpox vaccine.  Wouldn’t that be nice!


Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com. While you at my website, check out the literally hundreds of articles and podcasts that are available for you to explore.  Until next time.


Smo Notes:


Written collaboratively by John Eun and Paul Smolen MD