Part II of Kids and Electronics (Ages 6-18)

By Daniel E. Gershon, D.O. and Laura Salitros, D.O. – Lee’s Summit Physicians Group

We recently posted a blog about social media and young children (ages 0-5).  Now we move on to a more challenging situation: media and how it applies to school aged children and adolescents.

When our children are young, they’re more easily entertained by the simple things. As they get older, their interests become much more specific and much more influenced by their peers. Kids start participating in sports, music, theater, cooking, reading, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and many other activities. However, electronics remain a fierce competitor for their attention and time, whether they are participating in these activities or not.

Get Them Involved

Get Kids InvolvedThe more involved they are, the less idle time they have at home to engage in electronics. This is one of the reasons why pediatricians recommend getting your kids involved in activities outside the school and home.

We worry about kids who have few interests and prefer to stay home. Sadly, there are also many families that do not have the means to allow their kids to participate in organized activities. Because electronics are a very appealing activity that is part of almost every household, they can very quickly become the preferred activity for children.

As parents raising children in this digital age, part of our job is to help them navigate media so they can reap the benefits while also being protected from the risks.  In order to teach our children to use media safely and respectfully, we first need to educate ourselves about what is out there, what the potential risks and benefits are, and what the recommendations are.

What are they watching?

Teens and Smart PhonesIt is important to understand the types of media that kids are consuming. There is broadcast media (TV and movies) and interactive media (social media, video games). In recent years, we’re seeing a shift toward more interactive media. There are many devices that allow us to connect to digital media, perhaps the most important being the smartphone.

Smartphones give kids and teenagers the ability to stay connected constantly. In fact, according to a study published in 2015, about three-quarters of teens have access to a smartphone and one-quarter of teens describe themselves as being “almost constantly” online (Lenhart A. Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project; 2015).

So what exactly are the risks?


If you read our last blog, we discussed how electronics cause DOPAMINE to be released. This neurotransmitter creates a similar response to the one seen from a cocaine high on a functional MRI of the brain. When the reward pathways become overused, the brain craves more and more dopamine. As we are seeing more addictive behaviors related to screens, the medical community has needed to respond. The most recent version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has even added Internet Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis.

Sleep problems

The light that is emitted by screens mimics daylight and suppresses MELATONIN release. This leads to an upset of the circadian rhythm, which leads to sleep disorders. Beyond that, being woken throughout the night because of phone alerts can lead to poor sleep quality. Inadequate sleep has been linked to physical and mental health problems, as well as problems with executive function and learning.


Screen time has a tendency to displace active time with sedentary time. It also encourages mindless snacking, which tends to lead to excess caloric intake.


Digital media gives kids a new platform to use for bullying. Cyberbullying is something that all parents should be aware of, and has a good article for parents about this (


There is evidence that increased social media use is associated with increased depression rates in adolescents. There are many potential reasons for this association. Teens spend less time connecting to their peers in person, which may lead to feelings of isolation. They also have a tendency to compare themselves to their peers’ online identities, which may lead to feelings of inadequacy.

They are constantly aware of what their peers are doing, which may lead to feeling left out. Teens also have a tendency to associate the number of “likes” with their self-worth. This article from the Child Mind Institute has some good information about depression and media use (

Earlier exposure to adult content

Pornography, sexting, and online solicitation are all concerns here. Exposure to pornography can have long-term adverse effects, as discussed in this article: (

Our youth are also becoming desensitized to sexting, as it is becoming more common.  This article ( from 2018 discusses the prevalence of sending and receiving sexual content.

Are you seeing the problem?

We are treating more children and adolescents for ADHD, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, anger and aggression issues, sleep problems, and poor social skills. We’re also seeing interesting trends, such as teens beginning to drive at older ages and lower rates of sexual activity.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center showed lower levels of teenage reported sexual activity, drinking, and drug use, but higher levels of depression and loneliness.  Could these trends be due to the

Question MarkAre there any benefits?

Despite all the risks we tend to name regarding digital media, we still need to remember that there are some benefits.

Social media and video chatting help us keep in touch with friends and family members, especially those who live far away. Digital media exposes us to new knowledge, new ideas, and can help us keep up with current events. The Internet and social media allow us a large platform to access in emergencies or to promote charitable events or programs. There are apps and online communities that help support a healthy lifestyle.

There is evidence to suggest that the use of social media may provide valuable support to some of our kids and teens who may feel isolated, including LGBTQ individuals and their allies (Krueger EA, Young SD. Twitter: a novel tool for studying the health and social needs of transgender communities. JMIR Ment Health. 2015;2(2) ).

Social media likely also provides valuable support to those who are struggling with serious mental illnesses (Naslund JA,Aschbrenner KA, Marsch LA, Bartels SJ. The future of mental health care: peer-to-peer support and social media. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2016;25(2):113–122pmid:26744309)

So what recommendations do we have?

1) Develop a plan and stick with it.

This website ( can help you develop a plan that works for your family.

2) Limit, reduce, and restrict the amount of time spent in front of screens.

– A recent study showed actual brain changes in kids getting more than 7 hours of screen time per day, while another study showed kids who spend more than 2 hours per day scored lower when tested on language and thinking skills.

– Do not focus only on hours per day.  FOCUS ON TAKING MORE BREAKS.  Try to limit a single screen time session to less than 1-1.5 hours, then have them take a break for an equal amount of time.  In front of a screen for 1 hour?  Off all screens for an hour.  Simple.

Keep Bedrooms Screen Free3) Keep bedrooms screen free – No TVs in rooms and charge other devices in another place overnight.

Kids are less likely to access dangerous or otherwise unhealthy content if they are using screens in a high traffic area in the home while parents are nearby monitoring their screen use.  Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go to bed worrying about what my kid is watching and how late they may be staying up on a school night.

4) Never let screen time be a part of routine daily activities.

What we mean here is to avoid making screen time part of meals, car rides, grocery store trips, and other daily activities.  Kids need to lean to be patient, to tolerate boredom, and to interact with people around them.  Allowing them screens all the time will create a sense of entitlement to having the screen.  Screens should either be earned or reserved for special occasions like long car rides, vacation, illness, bad weather, etc.

5) Make kids EARN screen time.

This is ONE OF OUR ALL TIME FAVORITE RECOMMENDATIONS! It will help develop the habit of DOING THE WORK BEFORE HAVING THE FUN.  This is a habit of successful people.  I like to have kids and teenagers do 3 things before they get screen time:

HOMEWORK – Grab a glass of water and snack.  If they have no homework, have them find an activity that requires mental effort or creativity (studying, reading, drawing, LEGOs, etc).  If their homework is only available on a computer, that’s ok.

CHORES – ALL kids are capable of helping contribute to the household.  We all participate in the fun activities, so we should all help the house run.  In general, keep chores short, simple, and mix them up.  Give kids more responsibilities as they want more freedoms.

EXERCISE – Have your child spend 30-60 minutes engaged in an activity that they love, which also gets their heart pumping and their body sweating!  If they have a game or practice that night, that can be their exercise for the day.

Kids and Family6) Make sure your kids have time to socialize with family and friends.

These days, you can do just about anything without leaving your home.  Kids need to learn to talk politely, make eye contact, and interact with people if we want them to be successful adults.

7) Know what types of media your kids are using as well as what apps they are using. You can do this by having a family account through the app store, which allows you to see all of the app purchases and downloads for each individual. Once you know what they’re using, download the same apps so you can know what they are, how they work, and what advertisements your kids are being exposed to.  Make a habit of “following” or “friending” your kids on social media.  Also, don’t be afraid to periodically check their devices to monitor their use.

8) Help your kids protect themselves from misinformation. There are many websites out there that appear to be legitimate that are actually spreading misinformation. Common sense media has put together a list of websites to help with fact checking (

9) Consider an alternative to a smartphone when you feel your child may need a phone. According to this article (, the average age kids are when they get their first phone is 10.3. Fortunately, smartphones aren’t the only option.  There are multiple options available for basic or “dumb” phones.  There are also several watches that allow texting or two way calling.  Wait until 8th ( is a pledge that parents can make to wait until at least 8th grade to give their children smartphones.

10) Lastly, make sure you are modeling healthy digital media use.

Make sure you find time to put your phone away and talk with your kids.  Show them how you can wait in a line or on an elevator without having your eyes on a screen.

Additional resources used for this article:

Here are some great tips to get you prepared for seasonal allergies.

By Cindy Aldrige, F.N.P., Provider for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group

Seasonal AllergiesAllergy season is upon us. Do you know what the symptoms are? Of course sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes are the first symptoms we think of, but clearing the throat frequently, coughing and head pressure or headaches are other more subtle signs that some don’t think about.

There are different ways to treat allergies and specialist recommendations start with some of these basic non-medication steps.

  • Did you think about how much dust and particles are in carpets? Vacuuming doesn’t get rid of anything down deep or tiny particles. Also there are special filters on HVAC units that can greatly reduce symptoms of those in the building.
  • Changing your pillowcase regularly because your face rubbing in it overnight can make allergy symptoms start or worsen depending on what the individual is sensitive to.
  • How about avoiding smoke/pollutants as a treatment? Not many remember that step!
  • OK, here is one that I can attest to the most… KEEP THE WINDOWS CLOSED in your home. For those that suffer from pollen and mold allergies, this is one of the best things that you can do to keep symptoms controlled. I requested windows that don’t open in most of my house because that drives my allergies CRAZY!
  • Another one that is less popular these days is hanging clothes/linens out on the line… a bad mistake for allergy sufferers.
  • Using a sinus irrigation system that you can get at your local drug store is one of the best preventive and treatment measures. Using distilled water only, not bottled or tap, you can actually rinse out the tiny particles that cause your body to react with tons of mucus and tears!

Okay, what about over the counter allergy medications? How do I choose?

Over the counter products use to be prescription only. They can actually be used effectively and are main line treatment. Allergy specialists are now using nasal steroids like name brand Flonase/Nasacort/Rhinacort for baseline therapy once daily. Be sure to follow the package instructions on administration because often they are not administered correctly. And ideal results are not achieved. (So reading the package insert is really helpful.)

If that alone is not enough to control your allergies, then consider Claritin/Allegra/Zyrtec/Xyzal or a generic equivalent. They work well at stopping the mucus production to help control symptoms.

As we always recommend, please talk to your health care provider about these specific recommendations and what might be right for you and your health. Have a great and active spring /summer 2019!

The Epidemic of Kids and Technology – Part One: Ages 1-5

By Daniel E. Gershon, D.O. and Laura Salitros, D.O. – Lee’s Summit Physicians Group

This is the first in a series of blogs about children and technology.

Child with Cell PhoneWe’ve wanted to write about this subject for the past two years. It has become painfully clear to us that electronics/screen time (TVs, computers, tablets, and smart phones) has become a major concern as pediatricians. The effect it’s having on kids and adolescents is staggering. A typical day in our office will involve evaluations for ADHD, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, and extreme behaviors.

We’ll go ahead and call it an EPIDEMIC.

Most parents today grew up with electronics, including smart phones while they were in high school. It is a big part of who they are and their way of life. Consequently, they introduce screens to their children at young ages. Kids will often see their parents in front of screens. No one is to blame. Technology moves lightning fast. It moved so fast that science got a late start and is now telling us there are inherent dangers in what we are doing.

Let’s start with some science first:

When every finger swipe brings about a response of colors and shapes and sounds, a child’s brain responds gleefully with the neurotransmitter dopamine, the key component in our reward system that is associated with feelings of pleasure. Dopamine hits in the brain can feel almost addictive, and when a child gets too used to an immediate stimuli response, he/she will learn to always prefer smartphone-style interaction – that is, immediate gratification and response over real world connection. This is a mild version of the dangerous cycle psychologists and physicians see in patients with drug and alcohol addictions.

The Critical Period

Toddler and ComputerBetween birth and age three, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us. This is called the critical period in some circles because the changes that happen become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built.

A child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment for the brains neural network to develop normally. Spend too much time in front of a screen and development becomes stunted. Their social skills (frontal lobe) can be effected as well. Empathy, the near-instinctive way you and I read situations, get a feel for other people, can be dulled, possibly permanently. Heavy parent use of mobile devices is associated with fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions between parents and children.

AAP recommendations for children younger than 2 years were based on research on TV and videos, which showed that in-person interactions with parents are much more effective than video for learning of new verbal or nonverbal problem- solving skills.[1] Before 2 years of age, children are still developing cognitive, language, sensorimotor, and social-emotional skills, which require hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers for successful maturation. Therefore, adult interaction remains crucial for toddlers to learn effectively from digital media.

For example, from 12 to 24 months of age, toddlers can begin to learn novel words from commercially available “word learning” videos, but only if their parents watch with them and reteach the words, essentially using the videos as a learning scaffold to build the language skills.[2]  In fact, recent reviews of hundreds of toddler/preschooler apps labeled as educational have demonstrated that most apps show low educational potential, target only rote academic skills (eg, ABCs, colors), are not based on established curricula, and include almost no input from developmental specialists or educators.

An additional concern is that the formal features (ie, bells and whistles) that are designed to engage the child in an interactive experience may actually decrease the child’s comprehension or distract from social interaction between caregivers and children during use.[3]

Here are some troubling numbers:

In 2011, 52% of children zero to eight years of age had access to a mobile device. By 2013, this access had increased to 75% of 0- to 8-year-olds.[4]

A large international study (2013) with almost 300,000 children and adolescents found that watching between 1 and 3 hours of TV a day led to a 10% to 27% increase in risk of obesity.[5]
(It should be noted that TV viewing in children has decreased dramatically in the past two years with content moving to smart phones and tablets)

Here are some frequently heard comments from our parents:

“Sometimes I just need to get things done.”

YES! Sometimes we parents need to get stuff done and cannot supervise our kids like we would like to. We like to think of these as worst case scenarios, not something we do regularly. Don’t forget that engaging even our youngest toddlers in household responsibilities early on results in benefits for the entire family in the long run. Yes, it requires a lot of work up front, but it will be worth it

“He focuses better on the TV or tablet than on anything else.”

Boy and TVDigital content can be very stimulating. However, evidence shows that digital media is likely harmful to attention and executive function.  See this article about a study that was published in Pediatrics in 2011. This may be one of the factors as to why ADHD numbers have significantly risen over the past decade.

As a child spends more time in front of a screen, their frontal lobe has a harder time turning on when acknowledging a spoken voice, looking at books, or picking up visual clues. It prefers the digital or electronic format.

“I don’t really have a strict limit because we only use educational media.”

Even the AAP distinguishes between quality digital media and media that should be avoided, such as violent or fast-paced media. This doesn’t mean that “educational” shows/apps don’t count. Kids need time to engage in unstructured play. They need to be read to, talked to, and engaged with. They also need regular physical activity and adequate sleep.

“My kids can’t settle down for the night without having the TV on.”  

Results from one study show a relationship between screen time and poor sleep, especially when screens are used in the evening hours.[6]  As mentioned above, we are seeing a lot of kids with sleep issues. Some are due to common, age appropriate reasons, but many are due to screen time.

“It helps my child calm down when she gets upset.”

Distraction can be helpful in distressing or painful situations. This is why many children’s hospitals have child life departments available to help during painful or otherwise anxiety provoking procedures.  We use virtual reality in our office for vaccines and blood work.  However – Using screens to alleviate the discomfort of everyday disappointments or frustrations interferes with our children learning healthy emotional regulation without reaching for an external device.

One reason that children may be less socially engaged during digital play is that gaming design involves behavioral reinforcement meant to achieve a maximum duration of engagement, which may explain why interrupting children’s digital play leads to tantrums.[7]

“The TV is on in the background all day, but they’re not actually watching it.”

However, having the TV on in the background distracts children from their play, interferes with good language exposure, and decreases parent-child interaction, all things that can have an effect on their development. It is amazing what kids pick up from background TV. Yes, my son, at 4 years old, asked me if my heart was healthy enough for sex!

Here are our recommendations for ages 1-5:

1) No screen time for anyone under 24 months of age
Exceptions are video chatting (Facetime) or worst case scenarios (DMV, illness/doctor’s visit, etc.)

2) No screens in bedroom
Having screens in the bedroom was an independent factor associated with obesity. As kids get older, the temptation and addiction will only get worse. This is a place for quiet time, music, drawing, reading, sleeping, etc.

Limit Screen Time3) For ages 2 through 5 years old: No more than 1 hour a day of quality content.
Use sources like Common Sense Media to help you determine what is quality and what is not. Most evidence now suggests that long amounts of time in front of a screens is more damaging than short exposure (30-45 minutes).

We recommend teaching your kid that screens are an earned privilege not an expectation. It should never be a part of your everyday routine. Kids can look out the window while in the car. They can eat their meal or they can be hangry by their next one.

4) Find apps and games that you can play with your child.
Studies show that retention is much better when educational apps/games are played with a parent vs. alone with a device.

5) Develop a Family Media Use Plan

6) Watch the time YOU spend in front of screens
Try your best to wait until the kids are asleep. If it is work related, let them know.

Finally, we know parenting is the hardest job there is. There is no perfect parent. It is our goal to let you know electronics can be harmful and potentially damaging to a child’s developing brain through the age of 5. Hopefully we have given you some tips on how to safely raise your kids in an electronic/digital world.


[1] Brown A; Council on Communications and Media. Media use by children younger than 2 years. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):1040–1045

[2] . DeLoache JS, Chiong C, Sherman K, et al. “Facetime doesn’t count”: video

Do babies learn from baby media? chat as an exception to media Psychol Sci. 2010;21(11):1570–1574 restrictions for infants and toddlers.  Richert RA, Robb MB, Fender JG, Wartella E. Word learning from baby videos. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(5):432–437

[3] Vaala S, Ly A, Levine M. Getting a Read on the App Stores: A Market Scan and Analysis of Children’s Literacy Apps. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop; 2015. Available at www.joanganzcooneycen  Guernsey L, Levine MH. Tap Click toddlers learn language. Child Dev. Read: Growing Readers in a World of

2014;85(3):956–970 Screens. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2015

[4] Rideout V. Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media; 2013

[5] Braithwaite I, Stewart AW, Hancox RJ, Beasley R, Murphy R, Mitchell EA; ISAAC Phase Three Study Group. The worldwide association between television viewing and obesity in children and adolescents: cross sectional study. PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e74263

[6] Michelle M. Garrison, Kimberly Liekweg, Dimitri A. Christakis Pediatrics July 2011, VOLUME 128 / ISSUE 1

Article Media Use and Child Sleep: The Impact of Content, Timing, and Environment

[7] Hiniker A, Suh H, Cao S, Kientz JA. Screen time tantrums: how families manage screen media experiences for toddlers and preschoolers. In: CHI’16. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems; May 7–12, 2016; New York, NY. 648–660. Available at: http:// dl. acm. org/ citation. cfm? doid= 2858036.2858278. Accessed May 9, 2016

Reflecting on Star Wars and Lightsabers in examination rooms.

By Dr. Gershon and Dr. Yannette

Thoughts on Star Wars from Dr. Gershon

Daniel Gershon, D.O.Dr. Yannette likes to tell his parents that his Star Wars rooms are better than mine. It’s a fun competition between us, but ultimately something that entertains our patients, their parents, and both pediatricians. Some days I hear the sounds of lightsabers being turned on inside the rooms, and sometimes I get to hear my patients tell me the name of every character or spaceship on the walls. Star Wars is still (amazingly) a part of so many peoples lives.

For me, Star Wars was and remains my escape from reality.

When I was little, I would spend hours recreating scenes from the movies. I would carve out Styrofoam or cut and tape cardboard pieces to create new scenes for my action figures and ships. My Mom would take me to Dolgins, Children’s Palace, and Venture to see what new Star Wars toys were available. I used to send in my proof-of-purchases to get the “not available in stores” action figures and bring my toys over to other kids houses to “battle.”

Return of the Jedi came out in 1983.

I was in 3rd grade. There were new toys over the next few years, and eventually some ‘special edition’ releases to get excited about. But I was getting older and Star Wars became a poster on my wall and fond memories. Then word of the prequels came out. I was a kid all over again. I remember downloading (on a zip drive!) the teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace. I convinced a medical school professor to allow me to play it for the entire class before the lecture. The lights dimmed, I played the trailer, and the class went wild!

Dr. Gerhon - Star Wars BlogA Star Wars Marathon

The next few years were spent collecting lightsabers (now displayed in exam rooms), debating what was good and bad about the new movies, and even incorporating Star Wars into my wedding! I’ve spent hours in line for tickets to the premiers and even made if to a Star Wars convention before Revenge of the Sith. I even did a Star Wars marathon with my brother before The Force Awakens… We didn’t run 26 miles in costume, but rather watched Episodes I through VII in one theater with other crazy fans like myself.

Important Themes

Luke Skywalker always defeated Darth Vader. Han Solo always escaped. Princess Leia and Luke always fell in love (until I realized they were brother and sister!)  Good always triumphed over evil. One person can change the fate of a galaxy. Hope is all you need. These themes were and remain a large part of who I am and how I operate. They’re also a large part of pediatrics.

When I examine a newborn, I see potential. I see the look in parents eyes that their new child may live a life of meaning, do something to improve their community or even the world. Infants, toddlers, kids, teens all fight to get better. They make amazing recoveries from set backs, infections, cancers, chronic diseases and disabilities. It is the one consistently optimistic field of medicine and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Thoughts on Star Wars from Dr. Yannette

Jeffrey Yannette, M.D.May 26, 1977. That was the day after Star Wars Episode 4 – A New Hope debuted in the United States. I could tell it was a special day because my father was actually excited about going to see a movie with his three boys. Previous to this, it was mostly cartoon type movies from Disney that he was subjected to. In any event, it is one of my earliest memories involving my brothers and my father.

Back then, of course, there was no going online to reserve you desired date, time and seat.

I can remember going to the theater two hours before showtime, waiting in what seemed like an eternal line, and wondering if we were going to get tickets at all. My oldest brother even counted the number of people in front of us.  He assured me, this 5-year-old boy, that we were going to get tickets. I was still doubtful.

In the end, it worked out just fine. As we waited in our seats, I can remember that the popcorn never smelled or tasted so good and there was an electric vibe in the air. Then… the lights dimmed, and the ever iconic Star Wars theme played with the movie’s narrative being set by words scrolling from the bottom of the screen towards the top. It was a magical moment for me and my family which would prove to have a lifelong effect on us all. Over the next 40 years, we would continue to discuss the movies and debate the meaning of, well, everything Star Wars.

For those that do not know me well, I have passion for two things – North Carolina Basketball and Star Wars.

They are so meaningful to me that I had no choice but to decorate some of the Raintree Office rooms with these two themes. Room #1 is, of course, the North Carolina Room because – yep, you guessed it, UNC is #1 (sorry to all you KU and MU fans). Star Wars deserved two rooms – decorated with vintage memorabilia and replica lightsabers – so if you’re ever in the area, stop in and see Rooms #3 and #22 – I think you will enjoy them.

I know that most people have a “Star Wars Moment” that they remember. If you do, I would love to hear it! Comment away by responding to this post and as always – May The Force Be With You!

Juuling and Vaping: The nitty-gritty on E-cigarettes.

Sarah Dedrick, C-P.N.P.By Sarah Dedrick, PNP

It’s hard as a parent of an adolescent to know what the latest trend is and what all the kids are doing.

Being the mother of four children, two of those being teenagers, along with being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I try to stay in tune with what is the newest and “coolest”’ thing to do as a teenager. The most recent hype the past few years has been with E-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes: Vape and Juul

There are many different types of E-cigarettes. I will be giving you some quick facts about the two most popular among teenagers: the ‘’Vape’’ (medium to large tank device) and the Juul.


The ‘’Vape’’, as my teenagers and others call it, can be either a medium or large tank metal device. It’s used by having a separate bottle of liquid that you pour into the holding tank on the device. The liquid is heated up as you smoke. This is where the ‘’vape’’ gets tricky. The liquid that is being put into the device may or may not contain nicotine. There are liquids that vary in nicotine concentrations from 0 mg/ml to as high as 36 mg/ml. A normal cigarette contains an average of 12mg per cigarette.

The only way you will know, as a parent, is by seeing the bottle containing the liquid and knowing this is for sure the liquid that was used. A big trend with these type of devices is doing ‘’tricks’’ with the smoke that is produced. They may not be smoking for the nicotine but using the device to make ‘’donuts’’, ‘’jellyfish’’, ‘’tornados’’, or a ‘’waterfall’’ to name a few with the smoke that’s exhaled. Even though they’re not inhaling nicotine, they’re still inhaling toxic chemicals and metals produced with the device when it heats up and the smoke is inhaled.


E-cigarettesThe Juul is the newest and, likely, most popular among the teenagers. It’s also one that most parents are not aware of. Many have no knowledge regarding this device.

The Juul is another form of an E-cigarette. It looks like a flash drive and is even charged using a USB port. It’s very discrete and does not resemble a typical cigarette or other larger vaping device (like the one mentioned above). It has very few parts and is uncomplicated (again unlike the one mentioned above). Due to this, it can be very easily hidden. It can be hidden in a hand while the adolescent is smoking it. Which makes it easy to smoke at school, in the classroom or bathroom, and at home. It operates by heating up a ‘’pod’’ that is filled with the nicotine containing liquid. You buy the pods and change them out when the liquid is done.

Besides charging it, this is as easy as it gets. The one small ‘’pod’’ contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, making it highly concentrated and addicting.

For all E-cigarettes, the fear in the medical community is increasing regarding the potential harm to the teenagers.

E-cigarettes are not only popular because of their discreetness, but also the appealing flavors that are possible: mango, crème, cucumber, mint, fruit, etc. The smoke has a sweet scent and doesn’t make the adolescent smell. Their clothes, car, room, breath, etc, don’t smell like a traditional cigarette.

The nicotine in these devices is a highly addictive drug.

E-cigaretteWhen the concentration of nicotine is even higher, teenagers are getting more of a ‘’high’’ from it. They get an energetic boost or a calming experience from smoking/vaping. Even if they’re smoking a vape device that has no nicotine… just developing the habit of smoking can lead to smoking traditional cigarettes or  engaging in other drug use.

Besides developing the habit and/or addiction, there’s worry of the damage to an adolescents developing brain.

The adolescent brain is not developed like the adult brain. When they’re exposed to nicotine, it affects the ‘’reward’’ system in the brain which leads to addiction. The nicotine can also affect the brain circuits that control attention and learning along with mood and impulse control. These, along with the obvious harms of smoking and inhaling foreign substances into your lungs, are becoming a real concern for parents and the medical community.

We recently visited a Cardiologist for my husband. The Cardiologist briefly mentioned nicotine, specifically with the Juul, stating how bad the nicotine is on the heart muscle. In the years to come, it will be interesting to see how many young people end up having heart issues related to nicotine use.

Parenting is hard.

There’s no right way or wrong way to parent. It’s easy to point fingers or say that a child is doing this because of their home life or the type of parents they have. I think I’m a decent parent =) And yet I’ve caught my teenage daughters Juuling.

Educating ourselves and being aware is what we can do as parents. This is not only with smoking/vaping but with all aspects of teenage life: drinking, texting and driving, speeding, drugs, sex, social media, etc. We need to know what the newest trends are so we can know what signs to watch for…  and how to, hopefully, dissuade them from taking chances with their health. They are teenagers, and we should expect mistakes and curiosity. Mistakes are part of their journey and how they learn. Even as adults, we’re still making mistakes and learning from them.

Loving your teenager, accepting their mistakes, educating them and encouraging them are the some of the most valuable aspects of parenting (in my opinion).

Mystery virus causing paralysis? What parents need to know.

By Danielle Leivian, M.D.

Danielle Leivian, M.D.Another day, another disease to worry about, right? In between “reasons my child is crying” memes, there’s a good chance that your news feed has been highlighting a scary type of childhood paralysis called Acute Flaccid Myelitis.

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

There we go with the med-speak again. Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, is a descriptive term for a medical condition that is still shrouded in mystery. Acute simply means sudden in onset. Flaccid refers to the “limp muscle” type of paralysis that we see in diseases that affect the spinal cords or motor nerves exiting the spinal cord. Myelitis refers to inflammation in the spinal cord.

AFM is a curious disease. There were rare reports of it before this decade, but in 2014, it sprang onto the scene and numbers have flared up every 2 years since. We aren’t sure what causes it yet, but it seems to cycle with peak occurrence during late summer and early autumn. It happens almost exclusively in children and teens.

The vast majority of afflicted kids have had cold symptoms (cough, runny nose, fever) during the prior week and some AFM patients test positive for viruses in their spinal fluid. This suggests that certain viral infections may trigger AFM. The CDC has some leads, but is casting a wide net and has not ruled out the possibility of an environmental or toxic cause.

When should I worry?

While AFM cases are increasing, it’s very important to understand that this is still an incredibly rare disease. There have been 430 confirmed cases in the US since 2014 and 106 confirmed cases this year. This disease happens to fewer than 1 out of 1 million children.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Sudden onset of weakness in an arm and/or leg on one side of the body.
  • Facial droop, difficulty with eye movement, drooping eyelids, swallowing difficulty, or slurred speech may also occur.
  • Numbness and tingling is rare, although some patients report limb pain.
  • In rare and severe cases, AFM may affect the respiratory muscles and cause breathing problems.

If your child has any of these symptoms, they should be seen in clinic (or the ER if they are having breathing problems). Workup typically involves blood work, spinal cord imaging, and possibly a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Treatment is typically determined on a case-by-case basis and would likely be led by a pediatric neurologist.

Can AFM be prevented?

We do not yet have a sure-fire way to prevent AFM, but for now, wash your hands well and frequently, protect your family from influenza with yearly flu vaccines, and try to share holiday meals rather than winter germs. Rest easy by remembering that while virtually all kids will get a cold (or 10 of them) this fall and winter, exceedingly few will get AFM. Let us know if you have questions!

Pediatric Walk-In Flu Shots Now Available

By Jennifer M. Sauer, M.D.

Walk-In Flu ShotsWe strongly believe in the importance of giving the flu vaccine to our patients. Therefore, we allow our patients to walk in for flu vaccines while we’re open with the hours listed on our website. Staffing has even been increased while kids are out of school to make it quick and convenient for our patients and families to get their flu shot at all three of offices.

Influenza Cases Reported in Missouri

Influenza is already in the area with the CDC report showing 147 lab confirmed cases in Missouri during the week of October 7th – October 13th. There’s also been the death of a child because of influenza this year in Florida. (Per the Florida Health Department where the CDC reports sporadic activity of influenza currently.)

Per the American Academy of Pediatrics in September 2018, excluding the 2009 pandemic, the 179 pediatric deaths reported through August 18th, 2018, during the 2017–2018 season (approximately half of which occurred in otherwise healthy children) are the highest reported since influenza-associated pediatric mortality became a nationally notifiable condition in 2004.

As of October 6, 2018, a total of 183 pediatric deaths had been reported to CDC during the 2017-2018 season. This number exceeds the previously highest number of flu-associated deaths in children reported during a regular flu season (171 during the 2012-2013 season). Approximately 80% of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season.


Some sources estimate the total death toll from influenza nationwide last year to be 80,000 people. But only flu deaths in children are directly reported to the CDC.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, including children and adolescents, during the 2018–2019 influenza season.

Special effort should be made to vaccinate individuals in the following groups:

  • all children, including infants born preterm, 6 months and older (based on chronologic age) with chronic medical conditions that increase the risk of complications from influenza, such as pulmonary diseases (eg, asthma), metabolic diseases (eg, diabetes mellitus), hemoglobinopathies (eg, sickle cell disease), hemodynamically significant cardiac disease, immunosuppression, renal and hepatic disorders, or neurologic and neurodevelopmental disorders;
  • all household contacts and out-of-home care providers of children with high-risk conditions or younger than 5 years, especially infants younger than 6 months;
  • children and adolescents (6 months–18 years of age) receiving an aspirin- or salicylate-containing medication, which places them at risk for Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection;
  • children who are American Indians and/or Alaskan natives;
  • all health care personnel (HCP);
  • all child care providers and staff; and
  • all women who are pregnant, are considering pregnancy, are in the postpartum period, or are breastfeeding during the influenza season.

Also per the AAP, those patients with history of egg allergy can safely receive an influenza vaccine as long as there are no other contraindications to the vaccine.

Be sure to visit our contact page for office hours so you can plan a good time to get your flu vaccine.

Provider Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Huss

Interview of Dr. Huss by Matthew Hornung, Director of Information Technology for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group

Dr. HussDr. Huss is a board certified pediatrician who joined our practice in 2015. He graduated from University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 2012, and completed his pediatric residency training at Children’s Mercy Hospital in 2015. Dr. Huss chose pediatrics as it combines the science of medicine with the opportunity to educate and have fun, rewarding interactions with families. Outside of work he enjoys soccer, travel, and home improvement projects.

The following is a Q&A session we had with Dr. Huss.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
It would be cool to learn to fly a helicopter or land a passenger plane.

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
I love hiking, whether ‘hiking’ around town or real hiking at state/national parks!

What is your favorite thing about working at LSPG?
I love coming in to work every day. Seeing kids learn new things and grow and develop is a joy, and it’s also great seeing parents grow and learn to deal with all of the curve balls their little ones learn how to throw.

What drew you to LSPG originally? And how has LSPG changed since?
I was drawn to LSPG because I loved the great attitude of the group and the staff – when I saw the clinic in action I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Although some small things have changed in the 3 years since I arrived (such as new evening hours) the overall atmosphere remains the same.

What is your least favorite food? And your favorite?
Least favorite? Gummy bears.
Favorite? Dark chocolate.

We are so glad to have Dr. Huss on our team!

Provider Spotlight: Valerie Monroy

Valerie Monroy, C-P.N.P.One of the things we plan to share with you every month is a provider or employee spotlight. This month, we asked provider Valerie Monroy some questions that hopefully give you a little more insight into what makes Valerie tick.

What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?

Becoming a mother has been an amazing experience. My husband and I welcomed Anna into our family three years ago, and she has made me a better person and a better provider. Being a parent has been challenging, humbling and the most rewarding experience thus far. We welcomed our second child, a son, a year ago. Since becoming a parent, I am able to better understand parent’s concerns about my patients and my own experiences provide me with better understanding outside the medical realm.

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?

Indoor; I love to cook and try new things in the kitchen. Outdoor; I love to travel and learn new cultures.

I guess I was bitten by the travel bug early in life. During college I was fortunate enough to study abroad for a semester in Sevilla, Spain. While there, I took the opportunity to visit neighboring countries. I have traveled to most of the continents but one of my favorite trips was to South America to meet my husband’s family. We hope to return and take our whole family soon. In the meantime, we practice Spanish at home and are raising our children bilingual so they will be familiar with this part of their heritage and be able to communicate with all of their family members.

What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?

I would have my own food truck! That way I can travel and cook.

How do you define success?

Success for me starts at home. No professional or personal achievements can compensate for a lack of meaningful relationships in my life. If I am able to succeed as a wife and mother the rest seems to fall into place.

What is your favorite thing about working at Lee’s Summit Physicians Group?

Lee’s Summit Physicians Group is very family oriented. We provide great care and I am always proud to tell people about where I work.

What drew you to LSPG originally? And how has LSPG changed since?

LSPG has an outstanding reputation in the community. As a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse at Children’s Mercy for over 6 years, I always knew I wanted to continue my career in a clinic that was well regarded and known for the good care provided to their patients. That is how I found LSPG. Many things have changed and will change in the future, but I believe our reputation will remain the same; a welcoming office that provides outstanding care to all.

What is your role at LSPG. What does that really mean you do on a daily basis?

As a Nurse Practitioner I see patients in the urgent care or in clinic during scheduled appointments. One of my favorite things about this job is being able to see my patients grow and watching families grow over the years. It is always exciting to see the newest member of the family.

What is one thing that the rest of the staff at LSPG doesn’t know about you?

I played the saxophone for many years and I plan to join a jazz band when I retire. (Well, only the first part is true!)

The Magic of Disney, Mickey and the Carousel of Progress

Jennifer M. Sauer, M.D.By Jennifer M. Sauer, M.D.

Where is Your Happy Place?

If anyone were to ask me “Where is your happy place?” my immediate answer is Disney World, The Happiest Place on Earth.

My obsession with anything Mickey Mouse began in 1989 when my family was able to take our first planned vacation. I happened to turn 16 while we were there, but the trip was NOT for my 16th birthday. It just happened to occur while we were there since my birthday is around spring break.

My mom has had Multiple Sclerosis for as long as I can remember. Anyone can tell you that living with, or caring for someone with a chronic illness isn’t easy. But for those four days in Disney World, my Mom wasn’t sick. Disney took care of everything. Mickey mouse shaped ice cream bars, a birthday cake with my name on it, fixing the door in our hotel room and then leaving a porcelain Mickey as a gift for the inconvenience. I just remember a sense of calm and pure joy!

Lees Summit Physicians Group: Disney Lees Summit Physicians Group: Disney


Some of my most precious memories have happened at Disney World.

Lees Summit Physicians Group: DisneyI’m blessed with a husband that takes all of my Disney passion and embraces it. We went to Disney World for our honeymoon, and on the first night we had a nice table overlooking the water. But as soon as Mickey came in the dining room, I was jumping up and waving him down. The waiter had to come reassure me that Mickey would be over in a minute.

I’ve been able to watch my kids light up when seeing the characters and run to hug them as young children. And then taking pictures in the same places many years later, but no longer being held on my hip. Within Disney World, they’ve watched many firework shows and parades, have overcome their fear of roller coasters, and continue to eat Mickey shaped food items and wear Mickey ears.

A recent visit to Magic Kingdom was like getting a history lesson.

Carousel of Progress is my all-time favorite attraction due to its sentimental/nostalgia value to me. Walt was intimately involved in this exhibit, and it is the only ride in Disney World that he actually rode. The exhibit was originally developed for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair,. It was originally in Disneyland and then moved to Disney World in 1975. (Walt died approximately five years before Walt Disney World opened.)

While riding the Carousel of Progress, the song “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” plays between the scenes. Our tour guide said if you change the word “Man” in the lyrics to Walt, it has a new meaning:

Man (Walt) has a dream and that’s the start.
He follows his dream with mind and heart.
And when it becomes a reality,
It’s a dream come true for you and me.

Walt Disney was a visionary and a dreamer. He believed “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I was inspired to be able to follow my dream of becoming a doctor. Naturally, I needed to be a pediatrician so that I never had to grow up and can still wear Mickey Mouse shoes to work.