Straight from the OB: Dr. Chris Johnson Offers Insight

JohnsonDr. Chris Johnson is a family practice/obstetrics physician at Rogers Medical Center. He answered some of our most pressing questions on pregnancy, family practice and being a doctor.

On pregnancy:

How long should a woman be off the birth control pill before trying to conceive? I usually tell women they should be off for 3 months. The reason is not so that the medicine gets out of your system, but rather this may be how long it takes before you begin to ovulate again. Many people, however, get pregnant the first month off of the pill.

How long should a woman be taking pre-natal vitamins before trying to conceive? I encourage women to start 6 months before becoming pregnant. Our western diet is notoriously low in folic acid. In fact, women who do not tolerate prenatal vitamins can take 400-800 IU of OTC (over the counter) folic acid a day.

What’s the one thing you wish more pregnant women were aware of? It does make a difference how well you take care of your body before, during and after your pregnancy. The three most important things that I could do to improve the health of my patients before they get pregnant is to have them stop smoking, get to a healthy weight and start a modest exercise program.

What’s the most prevalent pregnancy myth you wish you could dispel? You are not eating for two. In fact, your caloric intake does not need to increase by more than 300 calories per day. It can be very depressing for women when, right after they deliver, they realize that they still look pregnant. A lot of mothers also find that they do not lose this baby fat and it continues to accumulate during each pregnancy. (My favorite old wives’ tale is that putting your hands over your head will cause the cord to be wrapped around the baby’s neck at delivery. For those people who actually believe this, don’t worry. One-fourth of all babies are born with what is called a “nuchal cord.”)

If you could order the most nutritious breakfast for a pregnant woman, what would it be? Balance is good in almost all aspects of our lives, especially our diet. I would suggest yogurt, cereal (preferably high in fiber, not Frosted Flakes), 1-2 eggs, and lots of fruit. This will give a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Milk products are a great source of protein in a pregnant woman’s diet. However, always remember to use low/no fat dairy products.

On family practice:

What are the top three things a parent can do to help prevent their kids from catching colds and other viruses?
Good hand washing (both yours and theirs) is the most important. I would also have the second be good hand washing, but that would be no fun. Seriously, it is very important. The viruses that cause colds and flu can live on toys, door knobs, hand rails…. you name it, for weeks. Keep a tube of antibacterial hand gel in your purse for emergencies. Do keep in mind, however, that bacteria are not only becoming resistant to our antibiotics, but also to many of our antibacterial products. Washing hands with soap and water is still the best.

The second thing that parents can do is to keep their kids away from sick adults and children as much as they can. For many parents it’s not practical to keep their kids out of school, day care, activities, etc…., during high-risk periods but do at least try to avoid being around obviously sick people. Also be courteous to others by not taking your sick child to school / daycare. Teach kids to cover their mouths when they cough. Also lots of sleep and plenty of fluids can help you keep them healthy so they can fight off colds.

Finally, I think that having your kids get flu shots every year can be helpful. You can immunize your child down to 6 months old. Although the flu vaccine is not always effective (like this year), most years it is effective and can prevent your kids from getting it. Remember that the flu shot only protects against the flu. They can still get colds and other viruses.

If the flu shot was largely ineffective at preventing flu last winter, why should I bother getting another one next winter?
More often than not, the flu shot is very effective at preventing the flu. My wife, my three children and myself get the flu shot every year. Knock on wood… I’ve not gotten the flu in the 22 years I’ve been getting the shot.

Allergy season is in high gear. At what point should a parent seek the help of an allergist for their child’s seasonal allergy problems? This is a good question. If the medications that your primary care physician is using to treat their allergies is not helping or if it seems like they are always on medication, you should get a referral to an allergist. Allergists can perform tests either on the skin or do blood work to tell what your child is allergic to. This can help you remove the allergens from the child’s environment or the allergist might prescribe immunotherapy (allergy shots).

If a person has a strong history of heart disease in the family, what tests can be done to screen for a potential problem before it causes a heart attack? At what age should a person be tested? The major risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cigarette smoking and family history of heart disease. The tests that we run are used to isolate these risk factors. These can easily be done with a fasting lipid profile (cholesterol), a fasting blood sugar (diabetes), and a blood pressure ( high blood pressure). I usually start these tests in males at 35 years of age and females at 40 years of age. If there is a family history of early heart disease or extremely high cholesterol, I might start these at a younger age.

In your experience, what are the most common types of childhood injuries? Any advice on how to best prevent them? I see a lot of arm fractures in children. Since young children fall so easily they tend to land with their arms outstretched which makes it easy for them to fracture their forearm near the wrist. Most of these are “green stick” fractures” so they are easily treated with a splint. Preventing these injuries can be more difficult. Many children’s (infant to teenager) activities place them at a very high risk for these injuries (skate boarding, biking, skating, jumping out of trees… you see what I mean). Try to have your children use wrist protectors when they can. Also, by all means, have your children wear a helmet when they bike, skate board, or skate. It will make it easier for you to get your children to wear their helmets if they see you also wear your helmet when you bike with them.

On Dr. Chris Johnson:

Were you ever afraid of needles as a kid? Absolutely! It is a wonder that I became a doctor given this. Fortunately, I got over the fear of needles.

Does anything gross you out? Yes, but I can’t repeat the things that gross me out…… They really tend to be very disgusting.

Do any of the medical drama shows on television come close to representing what it’s really like to be a doctor? Yes and no. Many of the TV shows do a better job of getting their medical facts straight than they used to. They do, however, tend to exaggerate some of the things that happen in a hospital. It is entertaining, though.

What’s your favorite spot in the new hospital? I love the view from my office window. Mercy Medical has done a very good job of maintaining the green space around the hospital which has made one of the most esthetically pleasing hospitals that I have ever seen.

Where did you live before coming to Northwest Arkansas? What’s the best part of practicing medicine in Northwest Arkansas? I grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas. My wife is from Rogers, which is what brought us here. Northwest Arkansas has been a great place to practice. In my 17 years in practice, Rogers has grown from a population of 21,000 to 49,000 today. This growth has kept me very busy which has been really nice.