Dr. Peter Dehnel
Ask the Pediatrician
Q: I keep hearing about pinworms: How will we know if our kid gets them?A: Many aspects of pinworms — how to find them and how they’re spread — are very unpleasant. Fortunately, pinworms usually aren’t a serious health issue. These creatures are small, thin worms that live in the intestinal tract. When an adult worm is ready to lay eggs, she migrates out to the skin around the anal opening and deposits the eggs. This usually happens at night. The presence of the adult worm and/or eggs can... more
Abuse concerns at daycare?
Q: Who should parents call if they suspect abuse at daycare?A: If you ever have any concerns that your child has been abused or neglected by a caregiver, contact your child’s doctor right away for advice on what to do next. This may involve an immediate office visit. If the issue is something that goes beyond what a doctor’s office can... more
The side effects of teething
Q: Can teething cause diarrhea or fever?  A: There are many misconceptions about symptoms associated with teething. Research has shown that low-grade fevers can be seen with teething. However, any temperature of 101 or higher very likely isn’t due to teething, but rather some sort of infection. Looser... more
Find the right formula
Q: Which baby formula should we choose?A: Though the formula options available on store shelves can be dizzying — organic, iron-fortified, non-GMO, probiotic- and DHA/AHA-enhanced — the good news is, the major “brand name” formulas contain all the essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins needed for healthy infant growth and development... more
Should I separate my twins?
Q: Should twins sleep in separate bedrooms?A: Sleeping arrangements for your children is really a matter of what works best for your family. There’s no compelling need for twins to have separate bedrooms, nor do they automatically do best if they’re in the same room, especially when they’re very young. However, keep in mind that,... more
Should I worry about a bloody nose?
Q: Should I worry about the occasional bloody nose for my 4-year-old?A: Most minor spontaneous bloody noses are nothing to worry about. In Minnesota, in the winter months, dry air is one of the leading causes of these occasional, spontaneous nose bleeds.Children with nasal allergies are more likely to experience nose bleeds,... more
Sports: How to stay out of the ER
Q: My daughter has started playing hockey. What do I need to know to keep her from ending up in the ER?A: In the State of Hockey, it almost seems as if some children are born with hockey sticks in their hands and skates on their feet. Fortunately, organized youth hockey programs have made safety a priority and have taken a number of... more
What is thrush?
Q: My baby boy has white patches on the insides of his cheeks. What is it?A: Generally, when parents notice white patches on the insides of their infants’ cheeks, it’s usually a condition known as thrush.Thrush is an excessive growth of a yeast (fungus) in the mouth and is very common among infants in the first few months of life. ... more
Chiropractic care recommended for infants?
Q: What do you think of chiropractic care for babies? I’ve heard it can cure colic and help with many other infant problems. A: There are a variety of opinions regarding the effectiveness of chiropractic care for infants. I believe if the purpose of the care is mainly to help with soothing, muscle relaxation and using muscle... more
Can bee stings lead to future allergic reactions?
Q: Our son was stung on his finger by a bee and his whole hand became swollen. Will his next sting be worse or cause an allergic reaction?A: Local reactions to bee stings — redness, swelling, pain and itching — are very common in children.The good news is that previously stung kids aren’t likely to have worse reactions the... more
Toddler sunburn triage
Q: What's the best way to treat a toddler’s sunburn? Ouch!A: Sunburns are especially unpleasant for toddlers because they don’t understand the cause of the pain. Prevention, of course, is really the most important step to take. Sun blocks with an SPF of 30 or higher are important to use frequently, even on cloudy days if your child... more
Can tubes stop ear infections?
Q: My daughter gets so many ear infections. How do we know if she should get tubes?A: Thank you for this question! Frequent ear infections are common for many families. This is a problem that involves persistent fluid and/ or infection in what is called the middle-ear cavity — normally a very small, air-filled space behind... more
Diaper rash creams
Q: What products do you recommend for chronic diaper rash? A: Diaper care and the prevention of rashes have become much easier in many ways as diaper technology has evolved. Improved absorbency of diapers prevents persistent wetness on the skin. Changing diapers as soon as they become wet or soiled also helps prevent rashes.... more
Zika virus
Q: I’m pregnant. What can I do to protect myself against the Zika virus?A: Zika virus disease has become an international health concern because of the multiple countries currently affected by the virus. Mexico, Central America and the northern two-thirds of South America are countries where the virus currently is causing... more
Car-seat colic
Q: Help! My baby despises her car seat and cries during every ride. A: This is a very challenging situation and a very good question. Being unhappy in a car seat can be related to a number of different causes: She may be tired and a car seat position may be one in which she can’t fall asleep. Some infants are... more
Toddler word count
Q: How many words should a normal 2-year-old be using?A:  2-year-old should have two to three dozen words that are generally easy to understand.  To start, it’s helpful to think about language in two parts: The first is receptive language: Does your toddler seem to understand what you’re saying? This part generally develops... more
Overfeeding your baby?
 Q: I’m bottle-feeding our baby and I’m worried about overfeeding. Can you share your tips to avoid giving her too much?A: This is an excellent question. Infants, for the most part, take in only the calories they need to maintain their current health and provide for good growth. They rarely over-eat — or under-eat. If your... more
Kids and probiotics
Q: Do you ever recommend probiotics for children?A: Probiotics may benefit kids in a number of ways, but research still needs to be done to understand exactly how they can be most beneficial.The intestinal tract contains millions of microorganisms — primarily bacteria and fungi (yeast). These microorganisms are generally considered... more
Say no to cold meds
Q: Our 3-year-old daughter has a terrible cold, but none of the available OTC medications are listed as safe for ages 3 and younger. Our friends give their toddlers these medications anyway. Is this safe? A: For years, there were dozens of medicines to help relieve kids’ runny noses, watery eyes and harsh coughs. Today, however... more
Goodbye, binky?
Q: What’s the best time to take away a pacifier?  A: The easiest time to get rid of a pacifier is to never start using one in the first place. I realize this isn’t a practical or popular suggestion, since the vast majority of infants probably use pacifiers to some extent. But I believe they really don’t need them. The... more
Does our son have ADHD?
Q: Our 5-year-old son’s teacher is hinting that he has ADHD because he can’t sit still in class. And yet, his grades are nearly perfect. We think he’s just being a normal kindergartener. How should we proceed?A: There’s a wide range of activity and attention levels in 5-year-old children. If your son is doing well... more
Backpacks: How heavy is too heavy?
Q: Our kids’ backpacks get heavier every year. How much weight can a child safely carry? A: This is an excellent question. Planning for what to put in a child’s backpack is an ideal opportunity to work with your child on effective school and homework planning. A number of health groups recommend that a child shouldn’t... more
Asthma action plan
Q: I’ve heard that kids with asthma should start their medications before school starts in anticipation of cold season. What do you advise?A: Any child with a diagnosis of asthma, especially if the child has frequent or persistent symptoms, should have an asthma action plan. Some children are especially susceptible to wheezing when... more
Pink eye diagnosis?
Q: How can we tell if our 1-year-old daughter has pink eye?A: This is a common and challenging situation for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. Typically anytime a child has a redder than normal eye — or if there’s any drainage from the eye — he or she is thought to have a contagious form of pink eye (conjunctivitis). ... more
18-month-old not talking?
Q: Our son is 21 months old and not talking beyond the word “Mama.” Should we be concerned? His older sister was talking in sentences much earlier.A: This is a great question and important issue to address with your pediatric clinician sooner rather than later. Optimal speech and language development in toddlers depend on a lot... more
Teen acne: Help!
Q: Help! Our teenage son has terrible acne. Over-the-counter products are just not working. Is this a hormone issue? Would prescription medications fix it?A: Yes, it’s a hormone issue. And, yes, there are many prescription options that can work if the over-the-counter products aren’t helping.Acne results from increased sebum (oily... more
Spicy foods for toddlers
Q: Our 2-year old loves spicy food (really spicy!). Is there any harm in him eating these foods?A: Spicy food isn’t a problem for children. Usually the problem is getting them to try spicier than normal foods. There are only a few rare foods that can actually cause a chemical burn to the skin and mucous membranes, and most families... more
Safely swaddling
Q: How long is it safe to swaddle our baby? She’s now 3 months old and starting to break out, even as we swaddle her tighter, sometimes double-wrapping her.A: Swaddling infants to help them sleep has been around for a very long time. It’s a classic way of helping comfort young infants and it allows them to sleep for longer stretches... more
Recurring stomach aches
Q: Nearly every morning lately our 4-year-old has a bad tummy ache (cramping pain), followed by painful diarrhea (usually after eating milk and cereal for breakfast). Then he’s fine for the rest of the day. Could he be lactose intolerant?A: As strange as this may sound, some of this may just be a normal pattern for your child.... more
Talking about sex
Q: When should we start talking to our daughter about sex?A: The short answer to this question is as soon as she starts asking questions. Discussions should be at an age-appropriate level. These questions often start with questions like, “Where do babies come from?” Questions about an obviously pregnant woman are likely to come up, too.... more
Winter weather risks
Q: Can you please explain the risks associated with frigid weather so we can get our teenager to dress sensibly this winter?A: Winter weather presents two big risks for anyone, regardless of age: Frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is a condition in which skin tissue will get cold enough to freeze. It’s most commonly seen when... more
Protecting kids against enteroviruses
Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about enterovirus D68 (as well as Ebola). What can I do to protect my kids?A: Enterovirus D68, which first hit the news in late summer, causes primarily respiratory symptoms. Even though the enterovirus family of viruses is very large, this particular strain is uncommon and hasn’t been around much,... more
What counts as screen time?
Q: My 5-year-old watches a lot of TV, but he’s also playing at the same time with LEGOs. Does this count as screen time?A: Yes, it counts. Reducing screen time to no more than two hours per day is a good approach with all children, regardless of what else they may be doing at the same time. Multitasking with LEGOs is... more
Ice for a toddler's injury
Q: Do toddlers respond to ice treatment after an injury the same way adults do? It’s nearly impossible to apply ice to a bump on a 2-year-old child, but is it worth trying?A: Ice can be very helpful in treating a variety of toddler injuries, but its use may require some creativity on your part. Wrapping an ice bag or pack in a wash cloth... more
The importance of well-baby visits
Q: I’m wondering about the value of the many well-baby visits required for my 6-month-old. She seems very healthy. Why do they need to see her so often?A: Children should have routine well-child visits quite frequently, especially during the first two years. Though it can feel taxing, this schedule of visits was developed by... more
Helping your children embrace their school sleep schedule
Q: How can I get my kids to better embrace their fall sleep schedules? A: Sleep issues are common for infants, children and teenagers. It’s rare for families not to have to deal with this issue after summer breaks, especially. The best advice is patience and age-appropriate expectations. One of the biggest obstacles to a... more
Storing expressed breast milk
Q: I’m nursing my newborn and want to give her expressed breast milk when I eventually go back to work. What’s the best way to store breast milk, and how long can it be at room temperature before I have to throw it out?A: Clinicians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester (mayoclinic.org) recommend the following for the handling and storage of... more
Pacifiers, nipple confusion and nursing
Q: What’s the story on pacifiers, nipple confusion and nursing? What about thumb sucking? I’m expecting next month and would like some information.A: Infants find sucking to be very soothing. They also like to exercise their facial structures and this probably helps enhance speech and language skills. It’s an important developmental task... more
Getting your child ready for kindergarten
Q:  What can I do to help my child get ready for kindergarten?A: Transitioning to school can be a big deal for many 5-year-olds — most of the time in a very positive way. Reinforcing the notion of this being such a “big boy” thing to do — and how great it is that he’ll be starting kindergarten this fall — will ease... more
Sunscreen and skin sensitivity
Q: My daughter seems to react strongly when sunscreen is applied near her eyes, nose and mouth, and now she refuses to let us put it on. What can we do?A: In many ways, sunscreen lotions have great success preventing sunburns — and also reducing long-term cancer risks. And, in recent years sunscreen lotions have been made... more
Life vests: Not optional
Q: My son refuses to wear a life vest each time we go out on a boat. What can I do?A: Life vests, especially for younger children and toddlers, are an essential safety need, so this really can’t be optional. If you meet significant resistance, here are some things you can try:• If possible, have... more
Twins and triplets sharing a classroom
Q: Our 4-year-old triplet girls are starting preschool. Should they be in separate classrooms?A: In working with families that have twins or triplets, one of the biggest challenges is for the children to develop their own, separate identities over time. Having them all in the same classroom, unless there isn’t another option, tends... more
Food allergies and picnics
Q: My 3-year-old son was recently diagnosed with severe food allergies. We frequently enjoy picnics during the summer with our friends and family. What can we do to prevent exposure to foods that will cause reactions?A: Be very aware of all the foods available at the picnic. Since you know what foods your child is sensitive to, this will... more
Bee stings and Epi-Pens
Q: My 10-year-old daughter is highly allergic to bee stings and has been prescribed an Epi-Pen to use if she ever gets stung. How can I help her overcome her fear of having to use this shot?A: Practice, practice, practice. If it’s been a while since you received this prescription for your child, you may want to check with the office that... more
Lyme disease
Q: How can I protect my kids from ticks and Lyme disease this summer?A: Think small. The kind of tick bites you should be most concerned about come from deer ticks, which are smaller than the larger and more common wood ticks, also known as dog ticks.Many parents mistakenly think wood ticks can transmit Lyme disease. They can’t. (Be... more
Water safety
Q: We’re past the stage of baby-and-me swimming classes. When is a good time to enroll my twin sons in swimming lessons?A: Helping children be safe and comfortable in and near the water can start at a very young age, as you’ve already learned. Once a child is about 3 years old, families can usually find places in their community... more
Sports overload
Q: My kids love sports, but I’m concerned with overloading their schedules. How much is too much? A: Participation in sports can be very good for children and teens. It can promote positive socialization and help them develop skills for working through disputes and disagreements. It also helps them stay busy in positive... more
Talking to your kids about cancer
A: Cancer is an extremely challenging topic. And children have a limited ability to understand concepts like this. To help them understand, you will have to say repeated, short messages in very concrete and specific ways. It is important to tell them the truth. This can be very difficult for you personally because of the likely... more
Tips for a young left-handed child
A: The good news is that gone are the days when children were basically forced to do everything right handed — even if they preferred their left hand. Your daughter will likely learn a variety of techniques to help her adjust to many right-handed activities. If you know someone who is left-handed — like your husband — they will be... more
Supplies for warm weather vacation
Q: We are soon going on a family vacation to a very warm climate. What items will we need — beside our swimsuits, that is!A: Family vacations can be a great experience. A warm weather vacation after a very cold Minnesota winter will be welcome by your kids as much as you. Much of what you need to know and bring would also apply to a... more
Preparing children for a new baby sibling
Q: We are expecting a new baby in three months. How do we get our toddler ready for the arrival of her baby brother or sister?A: In spite of the great joy that it brings to parents and grandparents, the birth of a new brother or sister can be very disruptive to the future older sibling, especially if the older sibling is a first born.... more
Selecting a new pediatrician
Q: We are new in town. How do we pick a new pediatrician for our three kids?A: Many parents are often faced with choosing a new pediatrician for their children, whether moving to a new area or changing clinics with new insurance coverage. Depending on your personal preference, wants, comfort level and style, you are highly likely to... more
Lice: What to do
I am terrified of my child catching lice and there is an outbreak at her school. What can I do to prevent her from catching this?Lice continue to be a very commonly shared infestation by kids in preschool and elementary school settings. And, unfortunately, a number of misconceptions about families whose children get lice remain. Families... more
Diaper Rash Solutions
How can I cure diaper rash?The good news here is that most diaper rashes are skin irritations instead of actual infections or more serious skin disorders. The best approach will depend a little on what kind of diapers you use, but a few general rules will help reduce irritation. Frequent diaper changes and keeping the diaper area dry are... more
Wheezing: Asthma or just a cold?
How can I tell if my child is wheezing from a cold or if they have asthma?Winter months can be a tough time for infants and young children who can develop wheezing as part of an upper respiratory infection. Most of the time this wheezing, which is also known as bronchospasm, is relatively mild and self-limited. For a small percentage of... more
Keeping a sick child home from school
How long should I keep my child home from school when he or she is sick?In many ways, taking a common sense approach will be very helpful in making this decision. Also, many schools and daycare facilities will have specific guidelines to help you decide when returning is a good idea.In general, your child should be fever free for at... more
When to see the doctor
Q1: When do I need to make sure my preschool/school-aged child is seen by a doctor if they are sick with a sore throat, cough, fever, aches, or other symptoms?First of all, it is important to say if your child looks ill or distressed, please act on those concerns right away. Many clinics will have a nurse advice or triage line that... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: We’re first time parents. What sorts of things should we look for in a daycare provider?The biggest question to consider as you are choosing a setting is whether it will be a smaller home-based daycare or a larger center. It’s also a good idea to ask to talk with one or two of the current parents at a facility you are interested in,... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: My child is extremely afraid of the dark and cannot go to sleep unless a light or music is on. What can I do to help him overcome this fear?Being afraid of the dark is a very common fear for children. Even older teens can retain a fear of the dark for a number of reasons. For children, the “dark” also represents all those things that... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: My four-year-old is stuttering a lot, and I am worried that he will have problems a year from now when he starts kindergarten. What can I do? Stuttering is a very common in preschoolers and is seen in many three- to five-year-olds. Speech and language development is rapidly progressing at this time. The child’s ability to... more
Ask the pediatrician
Q1: My kids all have pretty bad allergies beginning in late summer. What can I do to minimize their symptoms of sneezing, runny noses, and itching eyes?Seasonal allergies are very common in children and teens. They can range from a mild inconvenience to a major disruption in day-to-day life. The symptoms described above are the most... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: My 16 year old is really struggling with acne. Is there anything that can be done to help treat this condition? Acne is, of course, a very common skin condition, affecting roughly 80 to 85 percent of teenagers.It is caused by a combination of four processes that affect skin pores causing “pimples,” which are basically an infection in... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: Should I apply SPF lotion to my baby and if so, what number should I apply?Protecting all children and teens from excessive sun exposure and the damaging effects of ultraviolet light is an important effort to make as a parent. Starting early in life and continuing throughout childhood and adolescent years will go a long way to help... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: I have not vaccinated my son. He's now two and she's been just fine. If all of the other children have been vaccinated, why should I concern myself about vaccinating mine?Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about vaccinations that parents can easily find. There is also an excessive fear by some parents that vaccines will... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: Tell me more about the importance of “family meal time.”Having family meals regularly can have many positive effects that extend far beyond the nutritional advantages. Being able to connect together on a daily basis to hear all about the events of your child’s day—both the good and challenging portions—is essential for emotional... more
Ask the Pediatrician
Q1: I have heard a lot about concussions lately. I want my child to participate in sports but now I am very concerned about permanent brain injury. What do I really need to know about concussions?The term “concussion” can be very concerning for parents, but thankfully very few of them lead to any longer-term problems. On the other... more
I am about to return to work and ...
Q1: I am about to return to work and my three-month old infant is not yet sleeping through the night. What can I do? Having an infant sleep through the night is a combination of two factors: your baby’s internal “clock” or sleep-wake cycle and a learned pattern of falling asleep. The first factor you do not have much control over,... more
What can you tell me about croup?
Q1: My two-year-old has a very harsh cough. What can you tell me about croup?Croup is a very common infection in young children under four. It generally refers to a harsh, barky, high-pitched cough that some parents describe as a “seal bark.” It is usually caused by a viral infection that produces some swelling and infl ammation of the... more