- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2000

Anyone with a child immediately understands the word "panic." I admit to being a bit overprotective of my 6-month-old even the slightest sniffle or sign of a rash has me pleading with my wife to pull out the pediatrician's emergency number.

Luckily, I have calmed down a bit thanks to an avalanche of medical Web sites offering tips and advice for dealing with children's health. Among the cyber-stops, KidsDoctor.com takes a simple approach with answers and advice to soothe the fears of nervous parents.

KidsDoctor.com

Site address: www.kidsDoctor.com

Creator:

Atlanta-based KidsDoctor.com has been providing health information to parents of newborns to teens from pediatrician Lewis A. Coffin III since 1996.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site to provide this great information in as easy-to-navigate a manner [as] possible. This concept is just as successful today as it was when we first launched," says Tris Coffin, managing partner at KidsDoctor. "Our content is valuable, convenient to access and extremely relevant to anyone who has a young child in their lives."

Word from the Webwise:

KidsDoctor.com is the perfect name for a site featuring the wisdom of Dr. Coffin, a 40-year veteran of pediatrics work. Giving the simplest presentation of medical information I have seen in a long time, the doctor has forsaken bells, whistles and long-winded multicredited explanations in favor of right-to-the-point explanations.

Of course, with a last name like "Coffin," the pediatrician was wise to offer his credentials quickly, under the first tab on the main page, "About the Doctor."

After getting his graduate degree at Duke University in Durham, N.C., the doctor performed his residency at Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations in Arizona. Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, he has four children and six grandchildren. Dr. Coffin practices at the Egleston Children's Hospital of Emory University Medical Center in Atlanta.

As for the site's medical advice, the front page gets to the point quickly with other tabs "Articles," "Reading Room," "Q&A;," and "Contact Us" getting visitors to the core of KidsDoctor's information.

A click on "Articles" reveals subsets of listings, including "General Health," "Diet/Nutrition," "Injuries/Trauma," "Allergy," "Infectious Diseases," "Birth Anomalies," "Infancy and Early Childhood," "Growth and Development," "Family Life" and "Behavior."

Visitors also can sort content by anatomy, breaking down articles into "Head, Ears, Eyes, Nose & Throat," "Skin/Hair/Nails," "Digestive Tract," "Urinary Tract/ Genitalia," "Skeletal System," "Glands/Lymph Nodes," "Respiratory System," "Nervous System" and "Circulatory System."

Dr. Coffin has covered all the bases, but the 220 articles, including "The Snoring Child," "Oozing Belly Button," "Smelly Feet" and "Wheeze or Croup?" are more like snippets of advice and are not detailed or extensively referenced.

Herein lies a bit of my frustration with the site. My 6-month-old son appears to be suffering from night terrors. At least once each night, he will cry uncontrollably until he is awakened gently. He immediately goes back to sleep without further incident.

Dr. Coffin's article explains that night terrors usually occur at the same time each night. He suggests that parents keep a record of when the child wakes screaming, then set an alarm 15 minutes before an episode can be expected and gently wake the child. Do this for the next several weeks, the article advises, and the night terrors soon should be a distant memory.

Good advice, but I would have loved to have seen more information on the problem, possibly other opinions or specific sites featuring more articles on the subject.

As another example, any parent terrified of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) might appreciate seeing Dr. Coffin offering the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for reducing a baby's risk for SIDS, but some in-depth information needs to be presented. Are any foundations or organizations or alternative methodologies available to expand the topic? I guess I could keep surfing, but the best sites give me a well-rounded wealth of information on any topic.

Visitors will appreciate the "Q&A;" section, in which the doctor answers e-mails on topics ranging from pinworm reinfestation to when to add rice cereal to formula to what to do when a 3-year-old refuses to use a toilet. This is Dr. Coffin's strong suit, as he efficiently answers the queries.

Overall, KidsDoctor.com presents an adequate starting point for a nervous parent, but I would immediately confirm any information with the child's doctor or do a bit more digging at sites such as the American Medical Association (www.ama.org) or through the Yahoo search engine (www.yahoo.com), which lists 153 cyber-possibilities dealing with children's health, or using a newer engine, Google (www.google.com), which shows an overwhelming 770 possibilities under its "Child Health" section.

Don't miss:

The KidsDoctor's main page offers a box titled "Solutions," which spotlights a topic for the week. The week I checked the site, visitors got the basics on poison ivy and Dr. Coffin's advice for dealing with the itchy dilemma.

Ease of use:

Aside from some misspelled words, the site's orderly presentation, static menus and prominent search engine contribute to easy navigation. An occasional photo would have been nice to illustrate disorders.

I found the blinking ad banners annoying. Also, considering the small costs involved in maintaining a Web site, I question Dr. Coffin's recommended reading and product lists, which quickly link to Amazon.com and e-toys. That reveals that this is a commercial site and not just a place to find answers from a kindly doctor.

Information grade: B-

Have a site about health or science? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com).

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