AAP: Vaccinate At-Risk Infants, Kids Against Meningitis

Infants and children who are at particular risk of contracting the serious infection called meningitis should receive a vaccine at an early age and receive routine vaccinations through their college-aged years, according to an updated recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the largest organization of pediatricians in the United States.

The update is the first time the group has made a statement on “meningococcal” vaccines since 2011, and it notes that since its last update, three such vaccines have been approved for use in infants.  Though the guidelines don’t urge the vaccines for every young child (the current standard of care is to begin vaccination at age 11), they do recommend early vaccination for children aged 2 months and older who have immune deficiencies, are missing spleens, or have sickle cell disease or other higher infection risks.

More from HealthDay.com:

“We needed to have new recommendations so that pediatricians would understand how to use these vaccines in young infants and children, since they’re now available,” said guidelines author Dr. Michael Brady, associate medical director at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“We’re telling pediatricians that we don’t feel it’s necessary to give this vaccination routinely to young children,” he added, “but for children with select risks, it’s a good vaccine to give.”

The updated meningococcal recommendations are published online July 28 in the journal Pediatrics.

Meningococcal disease is linked to a variety of infections, including meningitis and pneumonia. Meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, strikes between 800 and 1,200 people in the United States each year, according to the National Meningitis Association.

Image: Infant vaccine, via Shutterstock

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What the Annual ‘Kids Count’ Report Discovered About U.S. Kids

The annual “Kids Count” report that measures the well-being of American children based on 16 indicators of economic, educational, health, and family welfare, has found encouraging improvements in several areas nationwide, chiefly a rising number of children who are attending preschool, and a steady decline in the number of kids who lag behind in reading and math. Also, national declines in the teen pregnancy, birth, and death rates suggest a brightening future for U.S. youth.

But the news from the report, which is published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is now in its 25th year, is not all good. It also found a concerning rise in the number of children growing up in poor communities, and an increasing percentage of kids who are growing up in single-parent households.

“We should all be encouraged by the improvements in many well-being indicators in the health, education and safety areas,” said Patrick McCarthy, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s president and CEO said in a news release. “But we must do much more. All of us, in every sector — business, government, nonprofits, faith-based groups, families — need to continue to work together to ensure that all children have the chance to succeed.”

The foundation published the list of state-by-state rankings, which listed Massachusetts as the top-ranked state in education and overall, and Mississippi as the lowest-ranking state overall as well as in the economic well-being and family and community categories.  Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Minnesota rounded out the top 5 states, and New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana, and Arizona joined Mississippi in the bottom 5.

Image: Chalkboard, via Shutterstock

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In-Utero Surgeries More Common, Life-Changing

New methods of performing surgeries while babies are still inside their mothers’ wombs are becoming more common, in many cases greatly improving the quality of life of babies who are diagnosed with potentially serious conditions affecting the heart, bladder, larynx, and more.  One medical group in Mexico has successfully performed 200 such surgeries, and its doctors note that the new technologies and technique for what’s called “fetal medicine” are improving and becoming more widely available, parents need to be better educated about their medical options, especially if they are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. More from ScienceDaily:

Although Mexico Fetal Medicine Group, located in Queretaro, has established itself as a cross reference for prenatal health in the country, Méndez González recognizes that there is a lack of prenatal drug culture among Mexican parents. “Generally the pregnancy situation is consulted to gynecologists, who are not necessarily specialists in fetal medicine. Lacking experience in this discipline, sometimes the detection of health problems is too late for the baby,” said the specialist at Fetal Medicine Mexico.

In the words of the medical specialist, consolidating a cross reference in fetal medicine in the country has positive effects such as the accumulation of knowledge and experience to practice and investigate medicine in unborn babies. Méndez González noted that the emergence of ultrasound changed the way people see pregnancy as the unborn baby began to be considered as a patient in need of its own care.

Last month, a new technology was announced that can perform in-utero surgeries, using a tiny robotic arm, on babies who are diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition which affects 1 in 2,500 babies worldwide.

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Moms: Your Fitness Level Will Impact Your Kids’

Moms who lead active lifestyles and get regular physical exercise tend to have children who are also physically active, according to a new study conducted by British researchers.  Importantly, the study could not definitively conclude that the correlation only went into the mother-to-child direction–it was also possible that more active kids demanded more physical involvement (also known as baby-chasing) from their mothers.  Because of this possibility, the researchers urged both parents and children to be mindful of their activity levels, and increase them to a healthy level whenever possible.

More from NPR on the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics:

[Lead author Esther] van Sluijs says just small changes – walking to the park instead of driving or playing a good game of tag instead of a board game – can make a difference.

“Increasing your physical activity just by a little bit already helps, you don’t have to become an athlete.” she says. “If you look at [small increases in activity] over a month or a year, that can actually have quite large benefits.”

Fathers weren’t part of the study, but van Sluijs says that doesn’t mean the call for more exercise should single out mothers.

“We do recommend that interventions are not just targeted at mothers and their children,” she tells Shots. “They’re actually targeted at the family unit because we know that siblings as well play an important role for children’s physical activity.”

Exercise With Baby: Biceps
Exercise With Baby: Biceps
Exercise With Baby: Biceps

Image: Mother and son doing yoga, via Shutterstock

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Are Overprotective Moms Hurting Kids’ Health?

Moms who are overprotective of their children–especially in the arena of avoiding risks in physical activity–may actually be increasing their kids’ risk of health problems, specifically obesity.  A longitudinal study conducted by Australian researchers found that moms who are overprotective tend to limit physical activity for their kids, and by age 10 or 11, the kids are at a higher risk of being overweight or obese.

The data came from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, which followed more than 2,500 children from ages 4 to 11.  They used a measure called the Protectiveness Parenting Scale to rank parents’ degrees of protectiveness in three main areas:

  • How difficult a parent finds it to be separated from their child
  • How much they try to protect their child from problems or difficulties
  • How difficult it is for them to relinquish control of their child’s environment as they get older.

As the Science Network of Western Australia reports, moms who scored moderately high on the scale were 13 percent more likely to have overweight or obese kids; moms who scored high on the scale were 27 percent more likely.  More from the Science Network:

“However, we only found this pattern once kids reached the age of about 10-11 years.”

“This could be to do with the amount of independence and physical activity that kids get.”

“At 10–11 years some kids will be allowed to walk or ride to school on their own, or with friends, or participate in sport… others will be driven around and have greater restrictions.”

“So while some kids have many options for physical activity, kids with an overprotective parent might miss out, [which] could explain why we found higher rates of overweight and obesity.”

They also found higher protective scores across mothers from greater socioeconomic and environmental disadvantage, which Ms Hancock says is understandable.

“If they’re living in areas with increased traffic congestion, or in neighbourhoods that are less safe, then we need to remember that… it isn’t as simple as saying ‘let your kids be more active’ if the opportunities aren’t there.”

What is your parenting style?

Parenting Style: Attachment Parenting
Parenting Style: Attachment Parenting
Parenting Style: Attachment Parenting

Image: Mom and child holding hands, via Shutterstock

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