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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sally Smith

January Newsletter

Hello to my fantastic families,

Wishing you a belated but heartfelt happy holidays and a joyous new year! This past December, viral illnesses really took off - in both frequency and severity! I crossed paths with a multitude of fevered and coughing little ones, and some of you more than once! But here we are, triumphing over it all. I'm sure you're feeling the exhaustion too – it's been quite a month!

Even with your hands being full taking care of your sick kids, you parents continually amaze and inspire me, From the strength you had taking care of your ailing loved ones while being just as ill yourself, to the delightful holiday traditions you've shared, the entertaining stories of extended family get-togethers, to your lovely and much appreciated holiday cards – you've truly made this season memorable. I admire your resilience and dedication, and it's a joy to hear it all.

As we step into 2024, I carry a sense of hope and excitement for the opportunities the new year holds. I hope you share the same sentiment.

 In this newsletter, I'll be covering important topics like the flu, sharing a couple of sweet, fun, and informative finds, and getting up on my little soap box about gratitude and how important and healthy it is!

Virus Watch: Flu

Influenza (Flu): Flu is in full swing! As happens every year, influenza has made its way to southern California, and I’m seeing worried parents bringing in their sad little ones with flu nearly every day! 

As we enter deeper into the winter months, it's essential to be aware of the “Flu,” a viral respiratory illness caused by various strains of the influenza virus. While it shares some symptoms with the common cold, the flu can be more severe and can potentially lead to complications, especially in infants and in kids with underlying health conditions like asthma or recurrent coughs.

Common symptoms of the flu include a sudden onset of high fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, a persistent cough, a sore throat, and sometimes even vomiting and diarrhea. Unlike the common cold, the flu often hits hard and fast, making children feel extremely unwell. It can also lead to complications such as respiratory distress, pneumonia, dehydration, and ear infections. The symptoms last about 7 long days, but the amazing human body does eventually fight it off. During those days, it's best to keep your child well-hydrated and resting. Please don't worry if he or she isn't eating much, that's normal and okay. Also, try to not overdo the acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as a fever can be beneficial in fighting off the virus, and it forces the body to rest, which is exactly what it needs to do! Of course, these meds are generally safe and okay to occasionally help with the misery and discomfort that influenza causes. And please contact me if you're worried, have questions, or need guidance.

Don’t forget that we have a valuable tool to help protect your child from influenza - the flu vaccine, and it’s not too late! Although this sickness is in full swing, we often continue seeing cases of flu through April or so. The annual flu vaccine is very safe and is recommended for all children over 6 months of age. It can significantly reduce the risk of getting the flu and its severity if contracted. Vaccination also helps prevent the spread of the virus in our community, which is especially important in school and daycare settings. The flu vaccine is “quadrivalent,” meaning it protects against 4 strains of influenza, and for the 2023-24 flu season, those 4 strains are 2 Influenza A types, and 2 influenza B types. So remember, even if you got the “flu” already this season, the flu shot is still helpful in preventing the other strains!

I understand how worrisome it can be when your child is sick! Rest assured that I’m here to provide guidance and support every step of the way. While fall- and winter-time illnesses can be distressing, most cases are manageable, and your child will bounce back in no time. If you ever have questions or concerns about your child, please don't hesitate to reach out to me by text or phone call. I’m here to support you and ensure your child's well-being. Wishing your family a healthy and happy winter season!

Tackling the Top Questions of the Month

Question: Should I be careful around my newborn if I have a cold sore?

Answer: Are you aware that cold sores pose a significant risk to newborns? Also referred to as fever blisters or "Herpes Labialis" in medical contexts, these sores stem from the herpes simplex virus Type 1 (HSV-1), affecting nearly 70% of the global population. This virus spreads easily through oral secretions and close contact, making it possible for a parent or grandparent with a cold sore to inadvertently transmit the virus to their newborn through kissing or close snuggling.

Direct contact can swiftly transmit the virus to a newborn, potentially leading to severe and life-threatening consequences if not promptly identified and treated. It's crucial to be vigilant and ensure that anyone with a cold sore refrains from close contact with your newborn baby to prevent the transmission of this virus!

Question: Why is it so important that my newborn doesn't have honey?

Answer: Honey and Botulism - I’m sure you’ve heard that all infants should avoid honey throughout their first year of life, but do you know exactly why? It’s really quite interesting! Honey can contain spores from the environmentally ubiquitous bacteria Clostridium botulinum, and infants’ immature gastrointestinal tracts are susceptible to the toxic effects of these spores. The ingested spores release their botulinum toxin, which gets absorbed into the infant’s blood stream, affecting their neuromuscular functioning, causing paralysis! The botulinum toxin is the most potent bacterial toxin that exists, and it causes life-threatening paralysis, so no honey for those infants! After the age of 12 months, an infant’s gastrointestinal system is more mature and can handle potential spore exposure, so then honey ingestion is just fine! And FYI, a nursing mom can have honey, as those spores do not make it into breastmilk :)

Fun Fact: I (Dr. Sally) work for the California Department of Public Health Infant Botulism Program! If any child in the world contracts botulism, I am one of the clinical consultants who assists the physicians and hospitals with the treatment process! 

Question: Any good activities to do with my kids during these chilly winter months?


  • Long Beach Aquarium (Aquarium of the Pacific) - about 90 miles away, so a bit of a trek (1.5-2hrs), but I’ve heard it’s well worth it!

  • Getting some fresh crisp air at any of the numerous local parks and trails (this outdoor time is immensely good for children of all ages - and for your own soul!) - Arroyo Verde Park, Ventura Botanical Gardens, Ventura Community Park, the San Buenaventura Beach Trail, Harmon Canyon, Santa Rosa Valley Park, Wildwood Regional Park and Sycamore Canyon / Rancho Sierra Vista (the Satwiwa loop trail) in Thousand Oaks, and so many more!

  • One of my amazing patients takes her son on Friday night Barnes and Noble dates, where they read books together and explore! Such a healthy and wholesome idea!

  • Another fantastic patient told me she and her two daughters had a blast roller skating at Skating Plus in Ventura.

  • Yoga is always uplifting for the spirit, healthy for the soul, and transformative! Yoga Jones in Ventura has some great classes for kids, pregnant mamas, and even infant massage!

  • Movie theaters are always fun! I’ve heard the newly released “Migration” is great!

  • Spend the day in Ojai, so many fun little shops in the fabulous downtown area. Ojai Pizza has scrumptious pizzas and is owned by good humans!

  • Pottery / ceramic painting is a blast! There’s a fun place in Oxnard at the Collection

  • Bowling!

  • Santa Barbara Zoo and the Museum of Natural History

  • Farmer’s Market for nourishing fruits, veggies, organic foods - Ventura, Camarillo, Oxnard, Channel Islands, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks...

January Finds!

Something Educational: “9 Things Every Parent Should Know About Kids’ Health - The Most Important Medical News of 2023" (from one of my favorite pediatric podcasts: The Pediatrician Next Door)

Final Thoughts…

“I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.”- Brene Brown (Brene is one of my favorites!)

I know this crazy world can be so stressful! I hear stories every day from my patients about truly difficult things going on in their lives. And the era of Covid and masking and humans being scared of other humans just made things so much worse! Humans, especially children, need other humans - we need to see smiles and friendly interactionsI As my wise daughter says, 2024 should be the year of being authentic and genuine, of showing gratitude, compassion, and kind human interactions! Even if we have opposing opinions, the vast majority of humans are really good caring people. People get mean and snippy because they are hurting and stressed out. Let’s be kind and try to give each other a break!

Children need to learn gratitude and compassion from their parent(s). I encourage you to take your kids outdoors and point out the extraordinary beauty of this world and be grateful for it! Be a good role model in showing gratitude for all the little things that we so often take for granted - the warm sunshine, the bees that pollinate the flowers and help make the world go round, the trash companies that have to deal with our stinky trash, the scientists who work so hard behind the scenes and get such little acknowledgment for their brilliant life-saving discoveries… Get outdoors with your child every single day and point out the wonders, speaking gratitude for all that you see. 

Be consciously thankful throughout the day, it’s healthy for the body and soul! Did you know that there are massive health benefits when gratitude, or focusing on the positive parts of your everyday life, becomes a habitual part of your thought process? Studies show that practicing gratitude reduces both depression and anxiety, betters social relationships and increases self-esteem. Having grateful thoughts has been shown to lower blood pressure, slow down your heart rate, decrease the risk of heart disease, and regulate your breathing. It decreases stress, improves sleep, and promotes positive activities like eating healthy foods and exercising! The list goes on and on!

I am grateful every day for my patients and their kindness, humor, wisdom, and for our stimulating interactions. I dearly appreciate you all :) Over the next few weeks I'll be working on my next blog post, all about sleep! If you have any specific questions/concerns or even life changing advice for me to include, send it all my way!

All the best,

Dr. Sally

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