Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Every mother has been faced with what to do with a baby’s pacifier that has been tossed onto the floor. Do you rinse? Wash carefully with hot water? Or, do you just suck it for a moment to clear away the debris, and hand it back to your baby? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that the latter method may actually have some health benefits. The New York Times has more:
In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them. They also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders.
The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.
The study, carried out in Sweden, could not prove that the pacifiers laden with parents’ saliva were the direct cause of the reduced allergies. The practice may be a marker for parents who are generally more relaxed about shielding their children from dirt and germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research.
“It’s a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children,” he said. “I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less ‘disinfected’ environment in their homes.”
Studies show that the microbial world in which a child is reared plays a role in allergy development, seemingly from birth. Babies delivered vaginally accumulate markedly different bacteria on their skin and in their guts than babies delivered by Caesarean section, and that in turn has been linked in studies to a lower risk of hay fever, asthma and food allergies. But whether a mother who puts a child’s pacifier in her mouth or feeds the child with her own spoon might be providing similar protection is something that had not been closely studied, said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, the lead author of the study.
In fact, health officials routinely discourage such habits, saying they promote tooth decay by transferring cavity-causing bacteria from a parent’s mouth to the child’s. In February, the New York City health department started a subway ad campaign warning parents of the risk. “Don’t share utensils or bites of food with your baby,” the ads say. “Use water, not your mouth, to clean off a pacifier.”
Despite the study’s findings, parents should exercise common sense when cleaning pacifiers that have been dropped into very germ-laden situations, such as a garbage can or bathroom floor.
Image: Red pacifier, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
A study conducted by the international organization Save the Children has found that more than 1 million children around the world die the same day they are born, with the U.S. having the highest number of birth-day deaths in the industrialized world.
The 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report focuses in on newborn health and the theme “Surviving the First Day.” A new Birth Day Risk Index ranks 186 countries by the chances a baby will die on the first day of life.
The United States is a riskier place to be born than 68 other countries, according to the new analysis conducted by Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
In the industrialized world, the United States has 60 percent of all first-day deaths, but only 38 percent of live births. Approximately 11,300 U.S. babies died on the first day of life in 2011, the report says. Some U.S. counties have first-day death rates common in the developing world, where 98 percent of all first-day deaths occur.
“It’s hard to imagine the depth of one mother’s pain in losing her baby the very day she gives birth, let alone a million times over,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children in a statement. “Yet, this report is full of hope. It shows there is a growing movement to save newborn lives and growing evidence that we can do it—saving up to 75 percent of them with no intensive care whatsoever.”
Since 1990, overall child mortality has dropped dramatically around the world, from 12 million annual deaths to less than 7 million. But the report shows that lack of global attention on newborns has translated into a much slower decline in newborn mortality. In sub-Saharan Africa, as many newborns die now as two decades ago.
Globally, a rising share of child deaths—43 percent—now occur in the newborn period, or first month of life. The new report finds that more than a third of newborn deaths, or 15 percent of all child deaths, occur on the same day—the first.
The three leading causes of newborn death are prematurity, birth complications and severe infections. Among wealthier countries, higher U.S. rates of prematurity contribute to higher newborn mortality. Whether in the United States or the developing world, the poorest mothers are more likely to lose a newborn baby, the report finds.
Image: Sad doctor, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
As many as one in five American children who are considered to be at risk of committing suicide have access to guns–the most effective method of killing yourself–in their homes, says a new study that was presented to the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting this week in Washington, DC. NBC News has more:
They said their findings show it’s extremely important to screen children for suicide risk, and to educate parents about how to keep guns out of their hands if they are. And early treatment is also vital.
The researchers, who presented their findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Washington, D.C., say they don’t want their results to get mixed up in the current debate over firearms regulation. They just want to keep kids safe.
“A lot of kids, surprisingly, don’t have a history of mental illness but they attempt suicide,” says Dr. Stephen Teach, an emergency room doctor at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Suicide is the No. 3 cause of death for children and youths aged 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 4,600 kids and young adults kill themselves each year, and 45 percent of them use guns. Another 40 percent suffocate or strangle themselves and 8 percent poison themselves.
“Guns are the most lethal method that is commonly used in suicide attempts,” says Dr. Matt Miller, an injury control expert at the Harvard School of Public Health. People who try to commit suicide using pills or by cutting themselves complete the suicide just 3 percent of the time, he said.
Teach and colleagues made their discovery while trying to come up with an easy, short questionnaire for emergency room doctors to use while seeing children for a range of troubles. Their study included 524 patients ages 10 to 21 being seen at three pediatric emergency rooms.
“When we were asking kids these questions, we also asked kids questions about firearms and bullets. To our surprise, one-fifth reported firearms in the home,” Teach said in an interview. “That’s a pretty volatile mix. Nearly half of all completed suicides involve firearms, which is pretty scary.”
Image: Depressed child, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Teenagers with asthma have better oversight of their care from parents and doctors than young adults in their early 20s, so teens’ care is more consistent, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. More from Boston.com:
Parents of teens with asthma can remind them to take medications, fill their prescriptions, and make appointments with pediatricians who probably know the child well. But a few years later, when the young adult has left home for college or to live independently, that oversight is gone — and their care can suffer.
Twenty-nine percent of young adults with asthma received treatment at an emergency room during the previous year, compared with 19 percent of younger teenagers with the condition, according to an analysis of national survey data collected between 1999 and 2009. Losing health insurance coverage is a major — but not the only — factor in this declining care, the study found.
The research, led by Dr. Kao-Ping Chua of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, suggests that many young people wait for a medical crisis rather than seeking preventive care from primary care doctors they may not know well.
Image: Teenager using inhaler, via Shutterstock
Monday, May 6th, 2013
One hundred forty eight people across four states were sickened in January 2012 with camphylobacter bacteria that was traced back to raw, or unpasteurized milk sold by a Pennsylvania dairy farm. As MSNBC.com reports, the milk outbreak affected people from ages 2 to 74, and is particularly alarming because the dairy had all its proper permits, and had passed all inspections required for selling unpasteurized milk:
The [CDC] report, which details what happened during the outbreak, said the dairy that sold the milk had a permit for selling unpasteurized milk, and had passed all inspections. The farm was among the largest sellers of unpasteurized milk in the state.
The dairy also tested its own milk for E. coli bacteria more often than was required. The vast majority of the sick people drank the milk before its “best by” date.
The only deficiencies that investigators found were that a mechanical milk bottle capper was broken, so employees had capped the bottles by hand, and that the water used to clean equipment was cooler than recommended (110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 160 to 170 degrees F).
But these issues were “minimal,” and this campylobacter outbreak demonstrates “the ongoing hazards of unpasteurized dairy products,” according to the report authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments. The findings were detailed online April 26 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“Raw milk is riskier than most foods,” said Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University. While certainly a larger number of people get sick yearly from eating tainted tomatoes or lettuce, there are many more consumers of those foods than consumers of raw milk, he said.
Bacteria commonly found in the digestive tracts of farm animals, including campylobacter and E. coli O157, can easily find their way into milk as it is pumped and bottled on a farm, Powell said.
“Fecal matter just ends up in the milk — it’s not like you can see it,” he said. “No inspectors can see it — this isn’t CSI, where the bacteria just magically line up.”
Nearly a third of those sickened in the outbreak were children, the report said. Children, along with pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, are at high risk of complications from campylobacter infections.
Powell said he advises that raw milk not be given to children. “As adults, you’re free to choose,” he said. “But don’t give it to your kids.”
Image: Milk via Shutterstock