WebMD’s Expert Pediatrician, Dr. Hansa Bhargava Answers Your Questions

Whether you’re a new mother or a seasoned mommy, you will always have questions regarding the health and wellness of our child. And no matter how vigilant we are at the doctor’s office, we sometimes forget to ask those questions that have been on our mind. When does the risk of SIDS decrease? Can I put bug spray on my baby? What’s up with food allergies in kids these days and how do I know if my child is at risk?

Enter Dr. Hansa Bhargava, WebMD‘s expert pediatrician.  Dr. Bhargava has extensive experience in the areas of health and wellness of infants, toddlers, and children, and oversees the team of medical experts responsible for ensuring the accuracy, credibility, and timeliness of all content on WebMD FIT, Raising FIT Kids and the new WebMD Pregnancy app for iPhone.

WebMD’s Expert Pediatrician, Dr. Hansa Bhargava Answers Your Questions

I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Bhargava recently to ask he questions about summer safety with our little ones, as well as questions posed by fans of our Akron Ohio Moms Facebook page. Here’s what she had to say.

AOM: Today there are so many children being labeled gluten-intolerant or lactose-intolerant, should I get my child tested for food allergies for their optimal health and what signs a child might display if he or she has a mild food allergy?

Dr. Bhargava: Food allergies can range from just having an upset stomach to having a rash or having a full-blown reaction to something, such as peanuts. So if parents are concerned about any of these symptoms, they definitely should talk to their doctor and some allergy testing can certainly help with deciding what should be in the diet. Also, the doctor may advise that maybe no allergy testing but eliminating certain foods to help with that as well. Food allergies [are] definitely a concern for a lot of parents. The best thing to do is to keep a food diary find out what the symptoms the child may have and then are and discuss it with your physician. Then parents and the doctor can actually decide what the next steps are.

AOM: Are allergies passed down from parents? If a parent has a peanut allergy or a shellfish allergy, is there a higher chance that their child will also have an allergy to that type of food?

Dr. Bhargava: There is some inheritance to it, for sure. But I think most physicians would recommend trying the food and keeping a really close eye on the child. And then if there are any, even mild, symptoms, basically stopping [with feeding them that food] and discussing it with your doctor.

AOM: We know placing a baby on their back reduces the risk of SIDS but at what point is it safe that it should no longer be a concern? And at what point should parents be worried if they find that their infant keeps rolling over [on to their stomach] at night?

Dr. Bhargava: SIDS is a really important syndrome to prevent and the studies have shown that SIDS can be prevented. In fact, the rates have dropped dramatically since the SIDS campaign started. I think it’s really important that babies sleep on their back but also, that there are no pillows or stuffed toys or blankets or anything like that in the crib with the child. Generally when a child can rollover from front to back and back to front AND is over six months of age, then the risk of SIDS goes down. But until then, you should definitely follow all of the SIDS precautions. And of course, talk to your pediatrician to make sure that it’s ok not to follow the prevention anymore.

AOM: My seven month old nephew has eczema all over his face. What causes this is babies, are their foods associated with it and what treatment is recommended for eczema in babies?

Dr. Bhargava: Eczema can be caused by a lot of things but most of the time it’s just dry winter air so a lot of babies have eczema. What I would suggest is just not using harsh detergents, making sure you put moisturizer on the baby and trying to stick cotton only clothing rather than wool or synthetic fibers. Some foods can cause eczema but it’s really rare. And foods such as milk, peanuts and other nuts can have some skin rashes associated with it.

AOM: Regarding summer safety with infants and children, when is it OK to take a baby swimming in a pool or in the ocean?

Dr. Bhargava: I think babies can certainly go into the pool [but] I would suggest that they be more than four months of age. But more important [than age] is that they are either with an adult who is constantly holding them and supervising them or in a flotation device with an adult constantly supervising. And of course if they’re in the sun it’s really important that they wear a sun hat and wear sunscreen, and that sunscreen is reapplied every time they get out of the pool. It’s really important to make sure safety is there but otherwise they can certainly enjoy it, four to six months and onward.

AOM: Is it different if you want to take them into the water at a lake or the ocean? Should they be older?

Yes, in the ocean and lakes I think it’s probably better to be older. Generally speaking, over 18 months is a good idea. But again, the most important thing is they need to be with an adult who knows how to swim, who’s cognizant of [the child], is constantly holding [the child], is supervising the child one-on-one. And children shouldn’t swallow water, be in the water for more than 10-15 minutes at a time and be sure to reapply the sunscreen constantly.

AOM: What is the youngest age that a child can wear sunscreen and bugspray.

Dr. Bhargava: The AAP used to say six months but now they are saying younger. And the reason they are saying that is because they really want to make sure that younger babies are protected. The best way to really protect a baby under six months is not to have them in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at all. If they are out during that time, always have a hat on them and have them well covered. If a baby is really young, less than 3-4 months, then it’s a good idea to be really watchful about how long they are in the sun because their skin is really delicate and can absorb the UV radiation much more than our skin would.

And bug spray is OK [for children] but you don’t want to use a large concentration of DEET.

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Toni Craig
I came to Akron 10 years ago for school and have been here ever since. My husband Matt, little guy Spencer and fur baby Mason call Green home and love taking advantage of the lakes, parks and fresh farmer's markets right in our backyard! A graduate of The University of Akron with a degree in Mass Communication and English, I've worked in news, radio, publishing and magazine writing, education, and public relations--but writing is my passion. In my free time I enjoy cooking, a good book, yoga, running, cheering on the Zips and experiencing all the great things the Akron area has to offer! Toni blogged for AkronOhioMoms in 2013.
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