Q Is it safe to give kids probiotics? If so, do you recommend chewables, gummies, or something else?
A It is safe in nearly every case to give your child probiotics containing Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus. The exceptions are if your child is immunosuppressed or has an indwelling catheter—those cases are a little more complicated. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of data that clearly says if probiotics help or not, though limited studies note some benefit in preventing asthma, eczema, some infections and maybe colic. I don't have a particular recommendation, but like many things in pediatrics, the type your child will safely take is usually the best.
My daughter is 15 and she is taking the same women's multivitamin that I take. Is there any harm in that?
A For your daughter who is probably well on her way through puberty and close to her early adult weight, this is probably safe. That said, I would be careful generalizing this to all children. Kids are not just little adults, which is why there is a whole field of medicine dedicated to taking care of just them. Some adult medicines and vitamins contain higher doses than recommended for kids, so it's always a good idea to read labels and check with your physician or pharmacist if you're concerned.
Q My teenage kids are too rushed before school and seldom want to eat breakfast. I've tried forcing them to eat, but that hasn't worked at all. I'm worried they won't have the energy to thrive during the day.
We just moved here from Florida and I am wondering how the decrease in sunshine in the winter will affect my family. Should I give the kids vitamin D?
A All children need vitamin D for normal development and strong bones! If an infant is breastfed, they need 400IU daily; formula-fed infants need 400IU daily until they're taking at least 32oz of formula a day. Older children need up to 600IU daily, and to get that, some vitamin D rich foods include fortified cereals, fish, mushrooms, eggs, yogurt and obviously milk. Though many children here in the Northwest are deficient regardless of weight, I always emphasize dietary changes first. That said, I never talk about vitamin D without mentioning sunscreen! Being outside here in Bend is a way of life but remember to always use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen on all children older than 6 months and reapply often! Children younger than 6 months should avoid direct sunlight if possible. Protective hats and lightweight clothes are also recommended!
My son's eyes have been red, itchy and a little goopy this fall. No swelling though. How do I know if this is seasonal allergies or pink eye?
ARed and goopy eyes are hard, especially since the color or thickness of the goop is not always helpful! The itchiness, runny nose, and scratchy throat (especially in the morning) are SUPER helpful though. These latter symptoms help distinguish seasonal allergies from pink eye (also called conjunctivitis). There are many over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays that could help with this, but talk to your pharmacist or doctor first. For pink eye, hand washing, avoiding direct contact and time are usually best. Sometimes we'll prescribe a topical antibiotic, but the evidence is mixed on if it will help speed the resolution.