Category Archives: OPD

Medication Overuse Headache

Well recognised condition where regular long term use of pain killers eg paracetamol leads to chronic headaches.

Of course, might be difficult to differentiate from chronic daily migraine or other headache that is not well controlled!

To exclude, always have a day free of analgesia after any day where it has been used, and use a maximum of 3 days per week [Dr Abu-Arafeh’s advice].

Short Stature

Are they really? Plot height and weight, and check figures if in doubt!

Investigate if:

  • More than 2 standard deviations below mean worthy of investigation,
  • more than 2 standard deviations below mean parental height.
  • Height velocity less than 5cm per year

Is there evidence of chronic disease? Needs full history and examination, including urine dip. Common things would be renal failure, coeliac disease, IBD, hypothyroidism. Endocrine causes tend to produce relatively heavy children, other chronic diseases tend to produce relatively slight children.

Are they dysmorphic? Main syndromes to look out for:

  • Turners – besides short stature, webbed neck, characteristic facies, short metacarpals, broad chest with widely spaced nipples, hyperconvex fingernails and toenails (but can be missed); decreased growth velocity and delayed puberty

Bone age will be delayed in all except familial and idiopathic. Progressively falls behind in endocrine disorders.


Constitutional delay – good weight at birth, then “catch down” growth, dropping through centiles in infancy. Growth velocity is then normal, but with delayed bone age and delayed puberty.

Small for gestational age babies tend to catch up in first few years of life with their genetic potential, but can take up 4 years or more. 10% however remain small (more than 2 SDs below MPH) through life. Consider other causes if no catch up in first 6 months of life or still small at 2 years.

Growth hormone deficiency – can be congenital or acquired (head injury, meningitis etc). Early growth tends to be normal (growth hormone doesn’t contribute much in first few years of life). Look for microphallus and midline facial abnormalities.


  • Karyotype if dysmorphic or if girl
  • TFTs
  • IGF1 – screening test for Growth hormone problems, but may need GH stimulation testing
  • U&Es, LFTs, CRP/ESR
  • Urinalysis
  • Bone age


A functional gastrointestinal problem, where food or other stomach contents effortlessly comes up into the mouth, where it is either then vomited, spat or swallowed. Odour may be a clue.

Diagnosis is on history, but often misdiagnosed as reflux (and resistant to reflux treatment). Typically no nausea, no nocturnal symptoms, no dysphagia but these do not necessarily exclude the diagnosis.

Treatment is diaphragmatic breathing! Baclofen has been used.

Rome IV criteria. Beware eating disorder.


Baby strains and cries to pass stool but it comes out soft or not at all.  Functional gastrointestinal disorder thought to occur in 0.9 – 5% of infants under 6 months (Rome IV criteria).

Due to poor co-ordination of pelvic floor muscles with increased intra-abdominal pressure generated during stooling. Seen in babies up to 9 months.

Studies have reported symptoms of discomfort around passing normal stool in up to 18% of babies, not all of these children will strictly meet the diagnostic criteria for dyschezia.

Differentiating from true constipation etc requires a clinical history and a normal clinical examination, with the key difference being that the stool is not hard in dyschezia.

No medication (or any form of rectal stimulation) required, can be expected to resolve spontaneously.


Seizures, fits, funny turns, convulsions, attacks…  None of these really has a medical meaning.  Convulsion suggests rhythmic motor activity, but that’s about it.  The implication of all of these is that there is excessive abnormal muscle contraction, usually bilateral.  Can be sustained or interrupted.

Nottingham RCPCH approved guideline distinguishes:

  • Febrile?
  • Already on anti-epileptic medication?  Consider checking levels, or at least storing sample.
  • Predisposing conditions? eg neurodevelopmental problem, brain injury/surgery.
  • Neonate or young infant? Some additional possibilities eg hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE), Fifth day fits, drug withdrawal (neonatal abstinence syndrome), pyridoxine dependent epilepsy.

Most commonly Febrile convulsions ie age related, benign.  Beware complex (multiple seizures in same illness, focal features, prolonged >15 mins) and any abnormal findings eg neck stiffness, bulging fontanelle, prolonged illness, abnormal cognition before/after.

Important differentials are:

  • meningitis
  • encephalitis
  • shaken baby (non-accidental injury)
  • brain tumour/haemorrhage, hydrocephalus
  • ingestion (deliberate or accidental)
  • metabolic (low glucose, calcium/magnesium, low/high sodium)

May represent first evidence of epilepsy.


See BTS/SIGN guidance on asthma, also asthma prevention.

National asthma guidance conflicting – NICE recommends both spirometry and Fractional exhaled nitric oxide to confirm diagnosis, has rejected “trial of treatment” and de-emphasized peak flow monitoring.

FeNO is expensive and available in only a minority of GP practices and hospital services.  Requiring it means GPs can no longer make diagnosis themselves.

Spirometry results in most primary care patients with asthma are normal!

Other difference from SIGN/BTS is Leukotriene Receptor Antagonist (LRA) as first choice add on rather than Long acting Beta agonist (LABA), on basis of marginal benefit but increased cost.

Primary care respiratory society UK has produced advice on how to deal with conflicting national guidelines – reasserts prime importance of good clinical method and regular reassessment, prioritises peak flow monitoring alongside trials of treatment if necessary.

[BMJ editorial 2017]

Spacer best for everyone!

200 doses in an MDI.   2 puffs BD exhausts an MDI in 50 days. Multidosing 5 puffs 4hrly will exhaust it in 6 days.

Stage 3 for over 5yrs is LABA. Montelukast is only recommended as an option in older kids if failure to respond to LABA.  The other option is slow release theophylline.

Growth Restriction

Children who use inhaled steroids for asthma grow slower than their peers in the first year of taking the medication, by about half a centimetre per year. Metanalysis of 25 trials, various types of steroid.  Seems to be most obvious in initial year of treatment.  Only 1 study followed children into adulthood – budesonide, used for average of 4 years – reduction in final height of  1.2cm (Kelly, PMID 22938716).

Should therefore be prescribed at the lowest effective dose. Cochrane 2014 found significant difference between low dosing (50-100 Clenil equivalent) and medium dosing  of 0.2cm per year but noted that the  majority of trials did not report height data.

However, the small effect on growth needs to be weighed against the proven benefits of these drugs in controlling asthma, and ensuring children’s lungs grow to their full capacity.   Undertreated asthma is much more likely to have a harmful effect on a child’s development than a small reduction in growth.

Newer Therapies

Xolair=Omalizumab, monoclonal vs IgE. Subcut, 2-4 weekly, for age 6+ where conventional therapy not working.  Other criteria are total igE >30, positive tests for aeroallergens, FEV1<80%.

Airsonett is evidence based, temperature controlled laminar flow system for bedroom. Noisy!


See National review of asthma deaths.  Recommendations include:

  • Refer specialist if >=2 courses oral steroids within 12 month period
  • Follow up after every ED/OOH attendance
  • Hospital follow up after every hospital attendance
  • Annual inhaler technique check
  • Personal asthma plan for everyone

See website for self management.

Penis problems

The foreskin cannot, and should not, be retracted in newborn babies.  It should gradually begin to separate in the first few years of life.

Recurrent balanitis leads to scarring around the meatus, so that you cannot see the slit opening of the penis itself.  In this case, the foreskin will balloon on passing urine (a minor degree of this can still be seen in children without scarring.

Can try application of topical steroid creams: 0.05% betamethasone cream should be used twice daily for 2 to 4 weeks.  Gently retract foreskin without causing any discomfort and apply a thick layer of cream to the tightest part of the foreskin.  Steroid creams of higher potency may be tried if this fails.

Circumcision if significant phimosis and steroid creams fail.

Smegma pearls

Retained smegma can accumulate into substantial but painless lumps down the shaft of the penis.  Can be ignored.

Balanitis Xerotica Obliterans

A form of lichen sclerosus affecting the tip of the penis, causing white, crinkly thickening.


Or repetitive hair pulling.  Previously classified as an impulse control disorder, ie a sense of tension that is only “satisfied” when hair is pulled out. However, many children do not get this tension and gratification so in DSM-V trichotillomania is included among ‘obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

Dutch cohort mostly girls, literature says no gender difference!   Nail biting can co-exist, as can stereotypies.  Many kids will also eat their hair once it is pulled out.  Most common age of onset is in early adolescence (9-13 years), but frequently occurs in early childhood, even as early as 12 months of age.  Triggering factors identified include concerns about physical appearance, family and school issues, and concurrent illness.  Parents sometimes also pull their hair, so maybe (partly) learned.

Two distinct types of trichotillomania described: automatic and focused

  • Automatic – outside of own awareness, may not recall actual pulling, but may admit to ‘playing with their hair’ or may have been noted to pull their hair in a distracted state.  Children tend to fall into this category.
  • Focused – aware, in response to negative emotion or urges

Parents often miss the hair pulling and only present when hair clumps noticed on surfaces (esp bed –  presumably due to pulling in sleep) or bald patches appear.

On Examination

Exclamation mark hairs (thin proximally, at scalp, normal distally), usually thought of being evidence of alopecia areata, may be seen, so not very predictive.  Pull test – gentle traction on about 20 hairs in 3 different locations.  Positive if more than 5 hairs extracted – suggests active alopecia areata.  You may miss dormant alopecia, but in that case hair regrowth should occur.



Where children present with abnormal movements, consider:

Stereotypies are repetitive non-functional movements, typically hand flapping or twisting, body rocking, head banging/nodding, grimacing, arm flapping. As with tics, there is often a family history, and there is an association with obsessive compulsive tendencies.

They can be present in children with normal development, but are a feature of neurological disorders especially autism spectrum disorder and sensory impairment.  In these children, the movements are part of a period of introspective absorption, they make prefer such activity to conventional social interactions.

There are a number of differences from tics, although they can co-exist:

  • Sterotypy presents younger, eg under 2 yrs.  Tics present from 4 onwards.
  • Tics can vary over time, so grimacing moves on to  shoulder jerks, then moves on to clearing throat.  Stereotypy movements are unchanging.
  • Stereotypy movements are rhythmic, rather than just a single jerk
  • Tics are brief, stereotypy can be prolonged
  • Tics have a premonitory sensation (although only older children may be aware)
  • Tics can be suppressed with effort.  Children with stereotypy can be distracted but may resent it! (Similarly self gratification)

Excitement and stress are triggers for both.  Over time, the child usually becomes aware of social disapproval and may suppress the behaviour except in secret!

[Ulster Med J 2014;83(1):22-30]