Author: Claire McCarthy

Why Don’t We Treat Gun Safety Like Car Safety?

McCarthyClaire_201108_047Here’s a question for you: Which causes more deaths, motor vehicle traffic accidents or firearms?

I asked a bunch of people that question, including a bunch of doctors, and everyone said that motor vehicles did, by a lot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2013, 33,804 people died from motor vehicle traffic accidents — and 33, 636 died from firearms.

They kill the same number of people.

I was really surprised by this statistic — mostly because of how we differently we think about safety with each.

With cars, we seem to just accept as a society that they are dangerous — and that we should make laws and rules to try to limit injuries. Along with licensing requirements that universally require that you show you know both the laws and how to drive, we have all sorts of rules of the road, we require insurance, regular inspections — not to mention car seats and seat belts.

It’s different with guns.

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The 5 pieces of advice I’d give about screens if parents ever asked

McCarthyClaire_201108_047The explosion of tech and screens into the lives of children is outrageously obvious to me as a pediatrician. Besides the fact that most kids and parents seem to be attached to a phone or tablet when I enter the exam room, when I ask questions about how kids spend their days (and nights), screens seem to be part of everything.

You’d think that I’d get questions from parents about screen time and about how best to use devices with their kids. But I don’t. Like, never.

This is weird, because I feel like I get asked about everything else that touches a child or is part of a child’s life. I think I have been asked every possible question about food, sleep, toys, school, after-school activities, playgroups, strollers, summer camps, shoes, coats, soaps, pajamas… I’m not kidding; I get asked about everything.

But not screens. I used to get asked about when kids should get a cell phone, but I don’t even get that question anymore.

I figure that there are three possible reasons. It could be that screens are so commonplace that people don’t think to ask about them. It’s certainly true that they are becoming ubiquitous; currently two-thirds of US adults have a smartphone, a proportion which has nearly doubled since 2011.

Yeah, but shoes are even more ubiquitous and I get questions about those. So maybe not.

It could also be that parents feel like they know everything there is to know and don’t need my advice. I think that’s probably the case for some parents — although given how new some of this technology is, I am impressed with their knowledge.

I think that the most likely reason is that parents are afraid of what I’ll say. They think that I will tell them to turn off all the screens or take the screens away from their kids. And that would be such a drag, right? Because let’s face it, screens are pretty great. Besides the fact that smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices are remarkably useful, they are remarkably entertaining, too. And we all know that happy kids make for happy parents.

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4 Mistakes Parents Make at the Pediatrician’s Office

McCarthyClaire_201108_047I love being a pediatrician; there’s nothing I would rather do. But sometimes I get frustrated by things that parents do — or don’t do.

I’m not talking about things like being late (hey, I run late, it would be unfair to complain), or getting upset with the staff about waiting (hey, I’m going as fast as I can and what if it were your kid who needed more time?), or not holding their kid still while I examine him (I understand that some parents are better at that than others), or stuff like that. That comes with the territory.

I’m talking about stuff that makes it harder for me to give good care.

Here are the four mistakes many parents make that I wish they wouldn’t:

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What I Tell Parents Who Ask Me About Alternate Vaccine Schedules


It happens every once in a while in my practice: Parents ask if we can delay or skip certain vaccines, or spread them out.

According to a study just published in the journal Pediatrics, I’m not alone — in fact, 93 percent of pediatricians get asked the same thing.

Now, it’s important to point out that most families don’t ask for this. Most families are fine with the current vaccine schedule — as they should be, since it has been carefully studied and is felt to be safe. We give so many vaccines to babies because they are the ones who are most likely to get very sick from vaccine-preventable diseases. Not only do we think they can handle it, we think it’s the best thing for their health and safety.

But some families worry. They have heard things. They don’t like all the shots at once. There are certain shots that particularly frighten them — or that they don’t want at all. It’s uncommon for parents to refuse all vaccines, but refusing some or wanting to do them differently is more common — a recent survey showed that 13 percent of parents of young children used some kind of alternative schedule.

Now, most of us pediatricians don’t like this alternative schedule idea. The reasons doctors gave in the study are the same ones I have. Mostly, we think it puts children at risk of disease. I have seen babies die of meningitis caused by haemophilus influenza or pneumococcus, or get very sick from whooping cough or rotavirus (there have been deaths from whooping cough in newborns). I am worried about the resurgence of polio. I am very worried about the resurgence of measles.

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