Archive for the ‘ Child Health ’ Category

Study: Babies Worldwide Are Strikingly Similar in Size—If Mom’s Healthy

Monday, July 7th, 2014

How do babies worldwide measure up? Pretty strikingly similar, if the baby’s moms are healthy, according to a new international study by INTERGROWTH-21st, led by Oxford University.

The study, published in The Lancet, Diabetes & Endocrinology, showed that while there’s a huge disparity in newborn size that’s often been attributed to race and ethnicity, the bigger factors in determining a healthy newborn size are a mother’s health, educational level and nutritional status. In 60,000 pregnancies reviewed, from urban areas in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Kenya, Oman, the UK and USA, only 4 percent of the growth and birth size difference could be attributed to the baby’s ethnicity. Instead, the mother’s health, nutrition and education directly impacted the baby’s growth during gestation, and after birth.

According to Science Daily: “Currently we are not all equal at birth. But we can be,” said the lead author Professor Jose Villar of the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Oxford. “We can create a similar start for all by making sure mothers are well educated and nourished, by treating infection and by providing adequate antenatal care.”

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Watch Your Baby Grow
Watch Your Baby Grow
Watch Your Baby Grow

Image: Newborn baby by  Ventura/ Shutterstock.com

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Kids Born After Fertility Treatments May Have Mental Health Risk

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Thousands of children are conceived each year through assisted reproductive technologies, treatments meant to help couples who have fertility problems.  But a new study of Danish children is linking fertility treatments with an increased risk that the children will develop a mental health problem later in life.  Researchers described the increased risk as “modest,” but identifiable nonetheless when they compared children born to parents who underwent fertility treatments with children who were conceived without intervention.

The study looked at nearly 2.5 million children born between the years 1969 and 2006, most of whose parents who had no known fertility problems.  Five percent of the parents had “registered fertility problems.”  The children’s medical histories were followed until 2009, with researchers looking for any psychiatric disorders that required hospitalization.  The children born to women with fertility problems were 33 percent more likely to have a psychiatric disorder, as ScienceDaily reports:

When separate analyses were performed for psychiatric disorders diagnosed during childhood (0-19 years) and in young adulthood (≥20 years), the investigators found that the risk estimates were not markedly changed, indicating that the increased risks persist into adulthood.

Commenting on the results, Dr. [Allan] Jensen said that professionals involved in the diagnosis and treatment of women with fertility problems should be aware of “the small, but potentially increased risk of psychiatric disorders among the children born to women with fertility problems.” However, this knowledge, he added, “should always be balanced against the physical and psychological benefits of a pregnancy.”

Only a few studies have investigated the risk of psychiatric disorders among children born after fertility treatment. Although results from most of these studies do not find an increased risk, the results do show substantial variation, said Dr Jensen; this may be because of the limited size and follow-up time in most of them. This study is the first with sufficient numbers and an adequately long follow-up period to enable a realistic assessment of risk patterns into young adulthood.

Jensen added that the study did not make a conclusion on whether it was fertility treatments or the underlying cause of the infertility–possibly genetic–that was responsible for the increased mental health risk.

Image: Fertility lab, via Shutterstock

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Senator: E-Cigarette Refill Containers Should Be Child-Proofed

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, has called on the federal government to make the containers that hold liquid refills for electronic cigarettes–the containers essentially contain liquid nicotine–to be required to have child-proof caps just like medications and other potentially hazardous substances.  Schumer cited a sharply rising number of reported accidental poisonings when children ingest the liquid, with 70 poisonings reported in New York so far this year, compared to just 46 such incidents in all of 2013.

So-called “e-cigarettes,” which contain nicotine but no tobacco tar or smoke, are getting the attention of parents, doctors, and policymakers nationwide.  The FDA is currently considering a ban on their use by minors amid findings that show the use of the products by American teenagers has doubled between 2012 and 2013.  Further, young people who use e-cigarettes have been found to be less likely to quit smoking traditional cigarettes–and more likely to start.

Examiner.com has more on why Sen. Schumer believes child-proofing e-cigarette refill containers is an important part of solving the problem:

Poisoning can result from swallowing the liquid, inhaling the liquid or absorbing it through the skin or the eyes. Liquid nicotine poisoning can bring on nausea, vomiting, seizures, heart problems and even death.

Because some e-cigarettes are refillable, liquid nicotine is available in separate containers. With flavors such as bubble gum and chocolate, it is easy to understand why the containers are attractive to children.

It is for this reason that Schumer is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include his proposal for child-proof caps and warning labels on the containers in the final draft of the agency’s e-cigarette regulations. The draft is part of the implementation for the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that was passed in 2009.

For users of e-cigarettes, the American Association of Poison Control Centers recommends that e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine should always be locked up and out of the reach of children. They also advise anyone using the products to protect their skin from exposure to liquid nicotine.

Image: E-cigarette refills, via Shutterstock

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Vaccines Cleared–Again–in Autism Risk Debate

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Since a 1998 article published in the medical journal The Lancet argued that childhood vaccines–specifically the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine–can cause autism spectrum disorders (ASD), debate has crested and fallen, ebbed and flowed.  Neither the retraction of the article–partially in 2004 and fully in 2010–nor the failure of any scientist since to replicate author Andrew Wakefield’s findings has dissuaded some who still believe that autism may be caused by vaccines.  In fact, earlier this year a study came out reporting that parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children–partially or entirely because of the autism fear–are rarely persuaded to change their opinions even in the face of solid scientific evidence that vaccines do not cause autism.

Study after study has been published in the intervening years confirming no link between vaccines and autism.  Meanwhile, amid growing numbers of families who do not have their children vaccinated, outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases are on the rise. This year, measles cases have reached a 20-year high, and whooping cough was declared an epidemic in California.

This week, a new study was published, once again vindicating vaccines of having any causal relationship with autism.  Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study reviewed a large of body of scientific findings and concluded that parents should be reassured about vaccines’ safety.  More from HealthDay News:

The researchers behind the new study also found no link between childhood leukemia and vaccines for MMR, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), tetanus, influenza and hepatitis B.

Overall, vaccines given to children 6 or younger are safe, causing few side effects, the review concluded. The findings are published in the July 1 online edition and the August print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“We found that the serious adverse effects linked to vaccines are extremely rare,” said lead author Margaret Maglione, a policy analyst at RAND Corporation.

These findings should provide solid support for pediatricians and family physicians in their discussions with parents about the benefits and risks of immunization, said Dr. Carrie Byington, a professor of pediatrics and vice dean of academic affairs and faculty development at the University of Utah College of Medicine.

In an accompanying editorial, Byington noted recent medical school graduates have reported themselves more skeptical of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines than did older graduates.

“I’m hopeful younger physicians who have not seen the devastating vaccine preventable infections may see the data and strengthen their will to communicate the importance of vaccines to parents,” Byington said.

The Vaccine Schedule
The Vaccine Schedule
The Vaccine Schedule

Image: Child getting vaccine, via Shutterstock

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Pro-Marijuana Tweets Connecting with Kids Multiple Times Daily

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

As a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana or considering legislation to do so, pot’s public profile is on the rise–and so is its presence on Twitter and other social media sites.  A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has found that a number of those tweets are reaching young people each day, with hundreds of thousands of American youth getting pro-pot messages through their Twitter feeds multiple times a day.

The study, which was conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, followed a Twitter account, Weed Tweets@stillblazintho, which has 1 million followers.  Analyzing data over an 8-month period, during which time the group posted an average of 11 tweets a day, the study reported that 73 percent of the group’s followers were under age 19.

ScienceDaily has more:

“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained [principal investigator Patricia A.] Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”

Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.

“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”

The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.

“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.

The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.

Image: Tween holding a tablet, via Shutterstock

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