Children’s Health

Why does a boy’s voice change during puberty?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son is 14, and his voice has started to change. Why does this happen?

DEAR READER: Your son is going through puberty. A change in his voice is just one of several changes in this phase of life. The first thing that generally happens to a boy during puberty is that his testicles begin to get larger and to make testosterone. Then, the penis begins to grow and sexual hair begins to appear. He will become more muscular. He will have more frequent erections, become capable of making sperm and thus become fertile.

What do I need to do if my child get head lice?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A child in my daughter's classroom has head lice. What do I need to do if my daughter gets it?

DEAR READER: Lice -- the visitor dreaded by parents everywhere. Head lice are small insects that infest hair on people's heads. A single insect is called a "louse." The female lays up to 100 eggs, or nits, at a time. She secretes a kind of glue that attaches the nits onto strands of hair near the scalp. Once the eggs hatch, their six legs allow them to grasp and wander between hairs. In their remaining days or weeks of life, they feed on human blood. They're sort of like vampires, only much smaller.

How can I get my 9-month-old to sleep through the night?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 9-month-old is still waking up three to four times during the night. How can I get her to sleep through the night?

DEAR READER: By the time a baby is 4 or 5 months old, he or she is capable of sleeping through the night. We tend to think of "sleeping through the night" as a long stretch of uninterrupted sleep. But in reality, all babies wake up during the night. Some discover their own way of comforting themselves and getting back to sleep. Others must be taught. Different experts recommend different techniques for helping your baby get to sleep and then to sleep through the night.

Should I read with my toddler every day?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My pediatrician has urged me to read with my toddler every day. Why? And where do I begin?

DEAR READER: Reading with children at a young age helps them develop their reading skills and language. A child who reads with his or her parents will learn to enjoy books, learn to read faster and want to read more. But reading to a baby is more than that. It's also a bonding experience. Even though the baby can't really understand, he or she will begin to connect spoken words to the words printed on a page. The baby will enjoy the sound of your voice and start to develop listening skills. And the book will have pictures that awaken the baby's curiosity.

How do I give my newborn a sponge bath?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm about to become a new mom. I've heard it's best to give my newborn son a sponge bath, but I've never done this before. Can you give me some guidance?

DEAR READER: Don't worry; giving the baby a sponge bath is easy, even enjoyable, with experience. Give your baby a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off. When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut. A small stump of cord remains where the baby's belly button is. That stump of cord usually falls off in the first week or two after the baby is born. Once the cord falls off, you can give your baby a tub bath.

How can I get my child to swallow pills?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 7-year-old was recently prescribed a medication that comes only in pill form. The problem is, he can't swallow pills. Any advice?

DEAR READER: It's perfectly normal for children to have trouble swallowing pills. The good news is that there are techniques you can try to make it easier. A review article in the journal Pediatrics looked at a variety of techniques. These included using a special cup and teaching children different ways to hold their heads while swallowing. All of the techniques worked well for most of the children. More important, most children overcame their pill-swallowing problems. That's important because children who need medicine must be able to take it.

How can I tell if my daughter has a concussion?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last week my 14-year-old daughter fell while skateboarding. She hit the back of her head and was dazed and had blurry vision for a few seconds. But she felt fine once she sat down and rested a bit. Now the left side of her head hurts, but otherwise she feels normal. Should she see a doctor?

DEAR READER: Yes, she should. In a child, particularly, it is often hard to know when trauma to the head may have caused a brain injury. That's why you should never ignore a head injury, no matter how small it seems. It may sound like I'm overreacting. After all, children bump their heads all the time. And in most cases, this results in nothing more than minor bumps, bruises or cuts in the scalp.

How can I stop my son from sleepwalking?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 8-year-old son has started sleepwalking. I'm worried he will hurt himself in his sleep. Is there anything I can do to stop him from sleepwalking?

DEAR READER: A person who is sleepwalking walks or makes other movements while being still largely asleep. A sleepwalker can be difficult to awaken fully and typically has no memory of the episode in the morning. I hope it will ease your worry to know that episodes of sleepwalking are usually brief and harmless.

How is OCD treated in children?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think my 9-year-old son may have OCD. How is this condition treated in children?

DEAR READER: Before discussing treatment for OCD, it's important to describe what it is. You know, of course, but other readers may not. Children (and adults) with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are troubled by repeated, intrusive, distressing thoughts (obsessions). These obsessions cause great anxiety. As a result, people with OCD often have a strong urge to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions) in order to reduce the anxiety. For example, people who have obsessive thoughts about germs may repeatedly wash their hands.

What can I do to make sure my children are safe while biking?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Summer is here, and my children are out all afternoon riding their bicycles. What can I do to make sure they're as safe as possible?

DEAR READER: Bicycling is a wonderful activity for children -- and for families. As with any sport, bicycling carries a risk of injury. Proper safety skills and equipment are essential for all children before heading out on the road. It can be tricky to find a safe place to teach your child to ride a bike. The streets near your home may be too busy.