Craig Nakamura, MD, is a Pediatric Pulmonologist at the Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital and director of Children’s Lung Specialists.
What is your role as a pediatric pulmonologist?
A pediatric pulmonologist is a pediatric subspecialist who treats children with lung problems, which means treating a common condition like asthma that affects nearly 10 percent of people in the world or a rare lung disease like cystic fibrosis. We treat newborns to 18-year-olds. My patients could be preemies with underdeveloped lungs and infants who need oxygen or life support at home, as well as young athletes with breathing problems. I help children with tracheostomy tubes, children with congenitally abnormal breathing tubes and children with severe or recurrent pneumonias and many other conditions. I also conduct sleep studies for childhood sleep disorders, run a monthly pediatric tuberculosis clinic to screen for the disease and offer a vaccine clinic for RSV, a common virus that affects most children but can cause complications for higher-risk babies and children.
What may be some common signs of a possible pulmonary problem?
Common signs or symptoms that may indicate a possible pulmonary problem include shortness of breath, feeling tired or easily winded during exercise, a chronic cough, chest pain or tightness, chest congestion, wheezing, a croupy or barky cough and coughing up blood or phlegm. Other things to look out for include snoring at night with sleep disturbances or apnea—when you stop breathing. Sometimes a sign of low oxygen levels could be a “blue spell” when your child’s skin has a blue or purple color, which means he or she is struggling to breathe and could have an underlying pulmonary disease.
Is there anything parents should know about vaping or Juuling?
Often people think it’s less dangerous, but you are breathing carcinogens and that can lead to other nicotine abuses. The theory is that vaping is not bad because you don’t have the carcinogens, but when you are vaping, you are still breathing in toxic chemicals. If you’ve seen pictures of a Juul e-cigarette, it doesn’t look like a real cigarette, so kids think it’s not as bad. A lot of times people look at that as a gateway to other nicotine abuses. Kids who vape or Juul often dip or chew tobacco also, which can lead to a disease like mouth cancer.
What do you enjoy about your work?
It’s rewarding to be able to make a difference in children’s lives by fixing a sleep problem, so they do well in school; allowing them to function without coughing or shortness of breath; enabling a young athlete to function and achieve full potential; and just generally making their lives better and more comfortable. It’s rewarding to see their smiling faces and to help them be worry-free.
The Children's Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital
The Children's Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital provides advanced care to infants, children, adolescents and teenagers.