Meet Dr. Laura Totaro

CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Laura Totaro, a pediatric hospitalist at CHOC Children’s, as well as CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital. After attending Loma Linda University Medical School, Dr. Totaro was part of the first pediatrics residency class through the University of California Irvine and CHOC. She has been on staff at CHOC for three years.

Dr. Laura Totaro, a pediatric hospitalist at CHOC Children’s, as well as CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital.

Q: What are your administrative appointments?
A: I am the hospitalist representative for both the CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital Intensive Care Committee and the CHOC Children’s Infection Prevention Committee.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?
A: I am most interested in infectious disease and autoimmune disorders.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?
A: Seizures, asthma, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and gastroenteritis/dehydration.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you or your division at CHOC?
A: In an effort to better facilitate transfer of care, we now offer 24/7 hospitalist coverage at both CHOC campuses.

Q:  What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?
A: The CHOC community provides a unique focus on healthcare for kids that goes beyond just the basics. The entire care team including the doctors, nurses and additional staff who strive to provide personalized care that not only treats a physical illness but also addresses the needs of the entire family. I am inspired by the culture of physicians and nurses that are constantly learning and trying to provide the best care they possibly can. It is such a pleasure to work in a place where everyone seems to truly enjoy their job and are trying to find ways to be even better at them.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?
A: I grew up in a healthcare-focused community where I was exposed to medicine from a young age. I was inspired by the doctors around me and was fascinated by the human body. I also wanted a career that would allow me to help others here in my immediate community and abroad.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?
A: I would run a travel blog and be a food critic.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
A: Travel, exploring new restaurants, art, and music.

Q: What’s the funniest thing a patient has ever told you?
A: I was examining the mouth of my patient when he proudly showed me his loose tooth and whispered to me that his family had a secret. He then excitedly admitted that his mom was the tooth fairy!  His mother looked at me quizzically and then burst out laughing when she realized what had taken place. Earlier she had admitted to him that she played the role of tooth fairy at home but her son took this quite literally and believed it to actually be her secret full time job for all children.

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    When a child gets sick, parents may be surprised if the pediatrician isn’t quick to pull out the prescription pad for an antibiotic. Most seasonal illnesses like respiratory infections, the flu ...

A Parent’s Guide to Antibiotics

girl_parents_doctor_antibioticsWhen a child gets sick, parents may be surprised if the pediatrician isn’t quick to pull out the prescription pad for an antibiotic.

Most seasonal illnesses like respiratory infections, the flu and the common cold are actually viral infections, for which antibiotics have no effect. In many cases, your child’s doctor will recommend treating the symptoms until the infection runs its course.

“It can be hard for parents because when our children are sick, we want to be able to do something for them,” says Dr. Katherine Andreeff, CHOC Children’s hospitalist. “In the case of viral illnesses, all we can do is support the body in its own process to fight the infection.”

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, which can include urinary tract infections, blood stream infections and cellulitis, a common skin infection. Some infections – like pneumonia or ear infections – may be either viral or bacterial. Your child’s doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotics or wait it out to see if symptoms improve on their own.

If your child’s doctor prescribes an antibiotic, Dr. Andreeff recommends following these guidelines:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask the doctor what type of infection your child has and whether it is viral or bacterial, and discuss why the antibiotic is justified. “Antibiotics can change our body’s natural balance of good bacteria, so you only want to take them if they are necessary,” Dr. Andreeff says. “Repeated or lengthy courses of antibiotics may cause additional problems.”
  •  Take the antibiotic as directed. If it isn’t taken as frequently as prescribed or for the full duration of treatment, bacteria may survive and your child won’t be fully healed. It also can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria – a real problem as researchers attempt to stay a step ahead and formulate new medicines that will work.
  •  As with any medicine, beware of side effects. According to Dr. Andreeff, “It’s very important to only take medicine when the benefit of it outweighs the risk for side effects. Discuss this with your doctor and tell them about any reactions your child has.”
  • Don’t underestimate viral infections. Even though they can’t be treated with antibiotics, they can be severe. Always consult a doctor when your child is showing signs of illness.

Bottom line: Antibiotics are powerful medicines that are essential in treating certain infections. The key is their appropriate prescription and use.

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