Bend Pediatrician: Q & A with Dr. Hanna
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Dear Dr. Hanna: My eight-year-old son still sucks his thumb. Although I have been reluctant to step in, thinking he would stop once he went to elementary school, I am beginning to have very negative feelings when I see him doing this. I worry about his teeth being affected by this habit, and I don’t know how to approach this very sensitive subject.
Dr. Hanna: You are right; thumb sucking is a very sensitive subject. It is a self-soothing calming habit that many young children do, and putting pressure on him to stop or punishing him may make matters worse. The good news is he will wean himself off of his thumb, slowly but surely. We can support him in the process. Consider identifying the trigger; does he do it out of boredom?, or, does he do it when there is a stressful situation? If out of boredom, keep him busy with fun activities, get him to use his hands with coloring or painting. If it is associated with stressful circumstances, give him comfort with reassuring words and a hug. Perhaps giving him a stress ball or a stuffed animal to squeeze and release anxiety will help. Also, praising him and rewarding him when he is not sucking on his thumb will increase his self-esteem and encourage him to kick the habit. If at any point in this process, he appears overwhelmed and the habit worsens, just ignore it. It might be a good idea to bring him in to see a pediatrician or a pediatric dentist to evaluate the development of his teeth. It will also provide the doctor the opportunity to show your son his teeth in the mirror, the callus on his thumb, and discuss the risks of bringing germs into his mouth, thus appealing to his reasoning and hopefully encouraging him to want to quit himself.
Dear Dr. Hanna: Is there any harm in my 10-year old drinking tea? He started drinking one cup in the morning about a year ago, and now he wants to take a thermos to school every day. He says it really wakes him up. This is black tea we are talking about, which I know contains caffeine. How much is too much for a child, and is it a bad idea to allow him to drink it throughout the day?
Dr. Hanna: As difficult as it is for me to say the following, as I too enjoy the effects that caffeine has on me, but… caffeine is a drug; it is a stimulant drug. Its consumption, regardless of its presentation as tea, or a blended coffee drink, or soda pop, or high energy drink, causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. It can cause an increase in anxiety and hyperactivity and disturbs the sleep cycle. In addition, caffeine provides no nutritional benefit to your child’s diet. Young children do not need caffeine at all, and drinking it throughout the day is a bad idea as he will be replacing good hydration with this stimulant drug. My suggestion would be to stop the use of caffeine for your son and to encourage him to establish better sleeping habits, drink more water and milk, and get involved in physical activity.