50 episodes

Paul Smolen, M.D., affectionately known as Doc Smo, brings you the “Pedcast”: a short, entertaining, and educational set of audio talks about childcare. For over 37 years, Doctor Smolen has listened to the concerns of parents about the health of their babies, toddlers, and teens. The pedcast format offers an innovative way to explore general pediatric and parenting topics in a thorough manner, while giving both Mom and Dad a chance to listen and learn at their own convenience. DocSmo.com provides parents a way to start conversations. So sit back, download a few pedcasts, and “Let’s Talk Kids” today!

Portable Practical Pediatrics Dr. Paul Smolen "Doc Smo"

    • Kids & Family
    • 5.0 • 42 Ratings

Paul Smolen, M.D., affectionately known as Doc Smo, brings you the “Pedcast”: a short, entertaining, and educational set of audio talks about childcare. For over 37 years, Doctor Smolen has listened to the concerns of parents about the health of their babies, toddlers, and teens. The pedcast format offers an innovative way to explore general pediatric and parenting topics in a thorough manner, while giving both Mom and Dad a chance to listen and learn at their own convenience. DocSmo.com provides parents a way to start conversations. So sit back, download a few pedcasts, and “Let’s Talk Kids” today!

    Doc Smo’s Annual Holiday Message 2020 (Pedcast)

    Doc Smo’s Annual Holiday Message 2020 (Pedcast)

    Ten years of weekly podcasting, 569 published posts, and I am still going strong connecting to you, my listeners. And, it's time for one of my favorite posts of the year, my annual holiday message. Today's message is kind of personal and equally important. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

    Image complements of Pixabay

    Musical Intro

    Why Healthcare for Doc Smo?

    As a child, I had no idea that I could or would turn out to be a doctor. I liked math and science in school but mainly I wanted to be outside playing sports. When I got to college, I was forced to confront the question, "What am I going to do with this fancy education I am getting and what am I going to do with the rest of my life?" My strengths were in math,  science, and... hard work. The latter being the most important. I was an overachiever who knew my most powerful weapon was a good work ethic and persistence. Hard work and persistence were my secret weapons that had taught me that if I wanted something enough, I could get it with sheer determination. A career in medicine came up on my radar as a career path, initially, because a full 50% of my undergraduate class were pre-med.Maybe I could do that?  We all tend to want others around us want, right? So, I set out to find out if it was for me. As an undergraduate, I volunteered at a VA pharmacy, I worked summers in a neurosurgeon's research lab doing dog and cat experiments, I got a part time job in a neurology lab doing some of the earliest research on brain neuro-transmitters, and I helped staff a free community medical clinic for disadvantaged residents in Durham, NC. The more I explored the world of healthcare, the more intrigued I became. Yes, medicine was going to be my path I thought.

    I remember coming home during my 4th year of medical school and having a conversation with my father about my future. It's in your fourth year that you have to choose a residency specialty. Its fish or cut bait time for a major life decision. I had decided on pediatrics for two reasons... I enjoyed taking care of acute illness in patients, children, who had incredible powers to bounce back from adversity and I loved the energy that children gave off. I just liked being around them. When I told my father of my decision I'll never forget his response, "You have a license that allows you to do brain surgery and you are going to do what with it?" I explained my reasoning and he just listened. I knew what he was thinking though; he thought I was crazy to go into the lowest paying medical specialty that carried little status when I could have so much more. But to his credit, he never said another thing about my choice. He supported me in my decision. When the time came to start my residency, he even helped drive the 16 hours’ drive to my new life as a budding pediatrician.

    The Reality of the Job

    Pediatrics turned out to be everything I expected-lots of acute life-threatening illness where quick action rescued a lot of little souls. I was literally saving and changing lives on a daily basis. As my skills grew, the job became even more satisfying. When I entered the world of private practice and was making important decisions without supervision, I knew I had arrived. I was even beginning to get enough life experience to help children and families work through psychological stress and grow. Oh sure, there is a lot not to like about primary care pediatrics in those days, 80-hour work weeks, middle of the night trips to delivery rooms and EDs, and the nearly constant intrusion of phone calls. But underneath all that, there was the knowledge that I was doing something important to improve people's lives. I was helping my patients and they were proving to me that I had made the right career choice.

    Would I Do it all Over Again?

    People often ask me if I would do it all over ag...

    • 10 min
    Are Your Children Getting Enough Distraction Free Thinking (Archived Pedcast)

    Are Your Children Getting Enough Distraction Free Thinking (Archived Pedcast)

    I've got a very interesting subject to talk to you about today that I discovered while listening to a podcast! Yes, not only do I make podcasts but I am an avid listener of them as well. In this particular podcast, I heard Dr. Cal Newport, a computer scientist, interviewed about the negative effects  of interruptions on learning, memory, and creativity. I thought that what he was saying had so much relevance for your children that I couldn't wait to introduce my listeners to his research and ideas. Please take a few minutes to listen to this post that I call Distraction Free Thinking Vital for Kids. The message is so vital for all parents to hear that I don't want you to miss it.

    [display _podcast]

    Image by Pixabay

    Musical Introduction

    The Essence of Dr. Newport's Research

    First, a confession. I have not read Dr. Newport's book, Deep Work, Grand Central Publishing, 2016, but I have heard him speak in a fairly extensive interview and I feel I have a good grasp of his main idea! He has coined the term "Deep Work" to describe the kind of quiet uninterrupted thinking time that scientists tells us unleashes our brain's best creativity and important thoughts. The kind of quiet contemplation that so many great thinkers have used to create great works. Dr. Newport says there is  good evidence that any interruption to deep work thinking derails and diminishes the creativity of the work we do and degrades our learning ability. I am sure that includes not only your best thinking but also your children's. In fact, deep work is probably more important for your children to achieve than it is for you since you have likely completed your education and they have not!

    Your children live in a super distracted world

    Now, let's consider the distracted world your children are immersed in today and how it can negatively affect them.  Even in the quiet of their bedrooms, they likely are having their studies and thinking time interrupted by texts, cell phone calls, and popup instant chat requests on their computers. They have likely fallen prey to the idea that multitasking is efficient and desirable. It's not! Working with frequent interruptions is rapidly becoming the reality for today's children. Unfortunately, not only does this short attention span work lead to sloppy thinking, but likely contributes to the growing incidence of ADHD. Let me remind you, frequently interrupted learning is totally new. Just a generation ago, most children's study place  (likely their bedroom or library) was devoid of all electronics and communication devices. Likely a much quieter place than the bedrooms of today. A place that was much closer to an environment conducive to producing what Dr. Newport describes as deep work.


    Limiting access to technology is often unpleasant but necessary

    I think it is safe to say that every parent want their children to get the most from their education. But for today's children, the constant distraction of technology limits achievement.  This is the point Dr. Newport is making.  I'm sorry, but you can see that this forces parents to be at odds with their children's wishes to immerse themselves with technology.  It's my opinion that you must deal with this issue.   If parents keep the goal of maximizing their children's education as their overarching goal, they just can't avoid putting their mark on their children's study environment. Unfortunately, that intervention is likely to lead some conflict. More on that in a moment.

    I think Dr. Newport's research has illuminated the fact that the fewer interruptions your children have when they are doing their schoolwork, or mastering cognitive tasks or just being creative, the better. Their learning, memory, and creativity will be better without distractions. That means limiting all electronics, phones, tablets, TV's, and possibly even some types of music i

    • 11 min
    Your Children Eating Themselves Sick? (Archived Pedcast)

    Your Children Eating Themselves Sick? (Archived Pedcast)

    Many children are literally getting a chronic liver disease from their poor diets. Learn more in today's pedcast.

    Photo compliments of Pixabay images

    Musical Intro

    What is NASH?

    Today we are going to talk about an emerging disease… not an emerging infectious disease but one that clearly comes back to lifestyle choices. A newly recognized, silent liver disease (hepatitis) is spreading across America among children that is called NASH or non alcoholic steatohepatitis. While the cause is not fully understood, the injury to these children’s livers seems to be associated with an excess intake of food, calories and high fructose corn syrup so common in our diets. Yes, these children seem to be literally eating themselves into a seriously poor health. Their excess consumption of food seems to cause the normal red brown healthy liver tissue to be replaced with yellow fatty sick liver tissue. Recent studies estimate that 1 out of every 10 children in the United States, or more than 7 million children, have fatty liver disease, the first step in the progression to the development of NASH and possibly irreversible cirrhosis or scarring of liver. A cirrhotic liver has had the healthy liver cells replaced with scar tissue...a liver that simply cannot keep a child growing and healthy. Unfortunately, once a liver has become cirrhotic, there is no going back to healthy.

    Which Children are at Risk

    Here is what experts are currently thinking is behind this newly recognized liver disease: a major excess intake of certain foods  first triggers the development of a fatty liver, followed by a type of hepatitis called NASH, and finally for some unfortunate children, cirrhosis. All of this can occur without symptoms. Currently about 40% of obese children (those with a BMI greater than 30) seem to be afflicted with fatty livers and possibly the more serious NASH or cirrhosis. Mexican-American children seem to be unusually susceptible, while interestingly, African American children seem to be more protected from the disease.

    Based on current knowledge, many experts suggest the following:

    1.  Children who are obese should have blood testing to check their liver function as well as the other related conditions such as diabetes, and elevated blood cholesterol.

    2.  If a child is found to have abnormal liver function tests, weight loss through diet and exercise is imperative.

    3.  Vitamin E supplement as well as a diet rich in green leafy vegetables seems to help reduce the liver inflammation.

    4.  Elimination of foods produced with high fructose corn syrup may also help.

    If your child struggles with their weight, the emergence of NASH is yet another reason to make some radical life changes for the sake of their health. Remember that DocSmo pearl, Grandma didn’t waste her time telling us things that weren’t important… eat your spinach!


    Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com. From studio 1E, this is Doc Smo, hoping your family makes a quick DASH to avoid foods that might cause NASH. Until next time.

    Smo Notes;

    1.Wang,Shirley, Fatty Liver: More Prevalent in Children, Wall Street journal, September 9th, 2013 http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142412788732454900457906490305169278 - See more at: https://www.docsmo.com/are-our-children-eating-themselves-to-poor-liver-health-article/#sthash.RVvP38sh.dpuf

    • 6 min
    Are Your Children’s Brains Getting the Sleep They Need? (Pedcast)

    Are Your Children’s Brains Getting the Sleep They Need? (Pedcast)


    Who would have thought a generation ago that lack of sleep would be a huge health issue for children? I certainly didn’t but the reality is that many children today struggle with insomnia. Stay tuned and I will tell you how you can avoid much of the insomnia trouble plaguing American children.

    Photo compliments of Pixabay

    Musical Intro


    Modern Life and Your Children’s Sleep

    It feels like the world is speeding up sometimes, doesn’t it? Change is coming at you and your family at a blistering pace. Chances are high that compared to your childhood, your children are spending far less time outdoors, hanging out with friends less, and participating in way more structured activities than you did.  They are also engaged with far more technology like video games, entertainment media, and internet-based activities. For many, modern American childhood is changing the quality and quantity of children’s sleep. In fact, the average amount of sleep that children get every night has been steadily decreasing over the past twenty years. And that is a health crisis! As you are about to see, good quality sleep is absolutely fundamental to raising healthy children. As a parent, you just have to get bedtime right for your children. So, in today’s pedcast, we are talking about sleep and its importance to your children.


    The purpose of sleep

    You may be wondering why is sleep so important? It may seem like not much is going on in your children’s brains and bodies while they lay motionless, but in actuality, a lot is happening biologically. Good sleep is your children's gateway to health and well-being.  We now know that the process of sleeping isn't at all random but rather a carefully regulated process controlled by a complex symphony of hormones and physiologic changes. As your children sleep, their respiratory and metabolic rates slow, their body temperature falls relieving a lot of the stress of their daytime life. This gives their bodies time to repair damaged cells and muscles, grow new tissues, help their brains to store short and long-term memories, remove waste products from various organs including their brains, rebuild energy stores, among many other functions.  Getting good quality sleep is as important to good health for your children as feeding them good quality food, providing them exercise, or having them breath clean air.



    What are the consequences of poor sleep in children?

    As I just told you, on average, today’s children are getting less and less sleep. And there are bad consequences to this. Insufficient sleep has been shown to cause cognitive impairment, poor and immature behavior, increased behavioral problems, ADHD like behavior, increased susceptibility to illness, and slower growth. Additionally, insufficient and poor-quality sleep has been correlated with increasing obesity among children.  Just one hour of sleep deprivation a night makes a child function at a full grade level below their age. Think of the consequences for a child who has any one of these conditions- tragic but possibly prevented by good sleep nightly.


    How Can You Promote Healthy Sleep in Your Children?

    OK Doc Smo, you have convinced me that sleep is really important for my children so what can we do to make sure your family gets it right? Good question. The answer is to make sleep a priority by adopting what experts call good “sleep hygiene”- you know, the stuff your grandmother thought was important. Grandma knew that, for a child, getting good quality sleep is just as important as brushing their teeth or washing behind their ears.  Good sleep hygiene refers to the time tested cumulative best practices for maximizing a child's sleep, something we should all be prioritizing.  In fact,

    • 11 min
    4 Pediatric Studies Every Parent Needs to Know About (Archived Pedcast)

    4 Pediatric Studies Every Parent Needs to Know About (Archived Pedcast)



    Welcome, I am Dr. Paul Smolen, also known as Doc Smo and this is Portable Practical Pediatrics. Every once in a while I like to give my listeners a glimpse of what is new in pediatric research that can translate into practical knowledge.  I'm not talking about new high tech treatments for exotic diseases but rather new information that most parents can use in their everyday parenting. So here goes with a conversation about four, high quality, peer reviewed articles that I think you will find interesting. Stay engaged, stay informed, and of course, stay tuned.  Today's pedcast is brought to you by audible, the new way to digest books. For me, Audible has become my preferred method of exploring books, whether I am cutting the grass or driving in the car. Expand your world today by subscribing to audible. Just hit the link that accompanies this podcast to get started.

    Photo compliments of Pixabay

    Musical Introduction

    Article #1- Every year, most parents are put in the position of deciding if their children should get a flu shot or not. Is that flu shot important for your kids?  Is it worth all the effort, hassle, and expense to arrange for them to get vaccinated? It's only the flu, right? Besides, many parents claim that flu shots can give the flu to their children (not) and worst of all, my little junior hates shots. Why do I have to deal with this every year you may be asking? Which brings us to a recent excellent article by Dr. Mei Shang et al at the CDC.  Dr. Shang analyzed all the known pediatric deaths from influenza in the U.S. between the years 2010 until 2016. He discovered that 70% of those children who died from flu had not been vaccinated and that 1/2 of the those deaths occurred in children who were perfectly healthy prior to the having the influenza infection with no sign of asthma, diabetes, neurologic disorders, immune deficiencies or any other underlying complicating factors. This is new information since previously; we thought that most pediatric deaths from the flu were in children with pre-existing medical conditions. No, fully 1/2 of the deaths occurred in previously healthy children, most of whom were not immunized. What a shame. You can't do much to prevent your children from heaven forbid coming down with leukemia but according to Dr. Shang, you can likely prevent them from having a severe life threatening case of influenza. Dr. Shang's study also revealed that the most vulnerable children were those infants less than six months of age, too young to be vaccinated. Protecting them depends on vaccinating those around them and especially mom during pregnancy. Again, according to Dr. Shang, we are not doing too well at getting pregnant moms vaccinated, with only a 50% success rate in his sample.  I want you to factor all this into your decision whether or not to get your children vaccinated this fall.

    Take home message:  Is the flu vaccine perfect-no/ is the flu shot some seasons not very protective-yes/ but in most seasons, it is about 70% protective. If I knew that 7 out of 10 times I visited Las Vegas I would win money, I would go regularly. I'd be in. In the same way, you should plan on a seasonal flu shot for all your children since there is a very good chance, it will protect them from a severe influenza infection.


    Article #2- There has been a lot of talk about the safety of cough and cold medicines in children. We have talked about it quite a few times in the past on Portable Practical Pediatrics.  Yes, there have been deaths from children taking these medications and the CDC is strongly opposed to their use in children but how dangerous are they really?  To answer that question, Dr. Green from The Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center, looked at 4202 "events", where a child or their family sought treatment and evaluation for a specific symptom or symptoms that was

    • 12 min
    Covid-19 Preventable in Kids-Magryta M.D. Says Yes (Pedcast)

    Covid-19 Preventable in Kids-Magryta M.D. Says Yes (Pedcast)

    Are some children more likely than others to get sick with Covid-19? If so, why? Integrative pediatrician Dr. Chris Magryta has given this question a lot of thought and his answer may both surprise you and help you prevent severe illness in your children. Listen to integrative pediatrician Dr. Chris Magryta explain all this in this special edition of “Portable Practical Pediatrics”.

    Image provided by Pixabay

    Introduction: I am very excited to have a special guest today, the brilliant integrative pediatrician Dr. Chris Magryta, who practices at Salisbury Pediatrics in Salisbury NC..  In addition to the standard education all board-certified pediatricians get, Dr. Magryta added an integrative fellowship with the famous Dr. Andrew Weil to his database of knowledge. As you will quickly see after we start talking, this added education added an additional layer of knowledge that Dr. Magryta uses extremely well. I strongly recommend that you subscribe to his weekly newsletter (linked in the show notes) where he discusses a wide range of topics affecting the well-being of children.  Reading his newsletters is one of the highlights of my week.  Welcome Dr. Magryta.

    The Interview with Dr. Chris Magryta

    Question 1: Let’s start by explaining to my listeners what “Integrative Pediatrics” is and how it differs from traditional pediatrics.


    Question 2: Dr. Dr. Magryta, you’ve written a lot about Covid-19 in the past six months and I think it is safe to say that you are an expert on the subject. Tell us why you think there is such a wide variety in incidence and severity of Covid-19 in both children and adults? It’s the same germ infecting everyone but the outcomes range from no symptoms to life threatening disease. How can this be?

    -Disease with SARS-CoV-2 more about the host than the germ?

    -Inoculum related or more about the host?


    Question 3: From what you just said, it sounds like you saying that some children may look perfectly healthy but are not actually healthy, setting them up for a bad encounter with SARS-CoV-2?  Could you explain this please?

    -Link inflammation?

    -Can the inflammation be measured accurately?


    Question 4: How can a parent tell if their children are metabolically healthy and more importantly, what can parents do to remedy this poor metabolic health? In other words, what is the formula for good metabolic health in children?


    Question 5:  Do you think that poor metabolic health explains why African American, Native American, and Hispanic children are more likely to have a difficult time with SARS-CoV-2?



    Question 6:  Dr. M, would you please summarize your recommendations to my parent listeners of what they can do, today, to prevent their children from getting sick with Covid-19.

    -By maximizing healthy immune response.

    -By minimizing inflammation.


    Question 7: Could Covid-19 be a huge wake up call for America and our convenience lifestyle? Could this be the silver lining behind all this tragedy?

    -We might to need to end the lifestyle of convenience.

    -Crept into this lifestyle

    -Duncan Heinz instant cake. They eased us into the convenience lifestyle. Need to ease us out!


    - Maybe vertical gardens ending fresh food deserts, the death of fossil fuels that will improve air quality, more attention to water quality, and a slowing down of childhood will make things better.



    Outro: Dr. Magryta, you have presented us with some great insights to minimize the effects of what we are all experiencing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
42 Ratings

42 Ratings

Kiddynurse ,

Positive of Covid

Great podcast. It always seems easy to look at the negative of a situation. I, too, try to look at the positive aspect. Thanks.

Emily Katherine Grace ,


I love these bite size pedcasts! Doc Smo gives meaningful advice and I always walk away with tips I can implement right away! Thanks Doc Smo!

Jamerial ,

The power of honey

I really enjoy listening to Dr. Smolen and learning new things about how to treat my child at home when they are sick

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