Archive for the ‘ Child Health ’ Category

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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CDC: Nasal Flu Spray Is More Effective for Young Kids

Friday, June 27th, 2014

nasal sprayBelieve it or not, flu season isn’t as far away as it seems, and now there’s good news for kids who hate getting an annual flu shot (and that would be all of them, right?): According to experts from the Centers for Disease Control, the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is better at preventing the illness in kids ages 2 to 8. More from Time:

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of experts that makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control for which vaccines children and adults should get, voted to recommend the spray over the shot late Wednesday. The panel said studies show children who had the spray are half as likely to get the flu as those who had the shot.

So far, there is only one nasal spray flu vaccine available — AstraZeneca’s FluMist, which was approved in 2003 for people ages 2 to 49.

The spray differs from the needle-based vaccine in another important way — it’s made from a live, weakened influenza virus, while the shot drums up an immune response using killed virus. Studies have shown the spray can lead to a stronger immune response in children who have not had the flu before, but the same may not hold true for adults.

Of course, it’s important to note that the nasal spray version of the vaccine isn’t recommended for all kids (or adults, for that matter), so ask your pediatrician which version of the vaccine is best for your child.

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Childhood Obesity Rate May Be Undercounted

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The obesity rate among American kids may actually be higher than the 18 percent of children the Centers for Disease Control currently classifies as obese, according to an analysis published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.  As many as 25 percent of obese or overweight kids may not be counted because the tally is based on the body mass index (BMI), a calculation that researchers say is flawed because children’s height and weight change rapidly as they grow–and not always in proportion with each other.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

“BMI is not capturing everybody who needs to be labeled as obese,” said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, director of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who headed the study with Asma Javed, a pediatric endocrinology fellow.

Measuring body-mass index is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to screen for obesity among large groups of people, such as children in a school setting. A problem is that BMI, a calculation based on a person’s height and weight, isn’t well suited to children because their height and weight don’t proportionally increase as they grow, said Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who wasn’t involved with the Mayo study.

“It doesn’t mean that we cannot use BMI in childhood but it requires extra caution,” she said.

Other recent research has linked everything from sleep deprivation to weight-based name calling with an elevated risk of childhood obesity.  Research released earlier this year had claimed a significant drop in the childhood obesity rate in the U.S., but subsequent research actually showed a sharp increase in the number of severely obese kids.

Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns

Image: Scale, via Shutterstock

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Father Charged with Murder in Toddler’s Death in a Hot Car

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

A Georgia man whose 22-month-old son died after allegedly having been accidentally left too long in a hot car has been charged with murder after police discovered evidence that he may have knowingly left the child strapped in his seat for hours on a day when the temperature topped out at 92 degrees.  Justin Ross Harris, the arrest warrant alleges, strapped his son Cooper into his rear-facing car seat after they ate breakfast at a fast food restaurant.

Harris allegedly then drove to work at a Home Depot corporate office about a half-mile away, leaving Cooper in the car until his lunch break, at which point he reportedly visited the car to put something in the front seat.  Just after 4 pm, he returned to the car and left work.  Moments later, he pulled into a shopping center parking lot and called for help with Cooper, who had been in the car for seven hours by that point.  The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

The story was first reported as an accidental death–and a horrifying cautionary tale for harried parents who read accounts that Harris had simply forgotten to drop Cooper off at day care.  But further investigation led to the felony murder and child cruelty charges, as CNN.com reports:

“Within moments of the first responders getting to the scene and doing their job and questions began to be asked about the moments that led up to their arrival at the scene, some of those answers were not making sense to the first responders,” [Sgt. Dana] Pierce [of the Cobb County police] said.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 34 years. What I know about this case shocks my conscience as a police officer, a father and a grandfather.”

Last week, Harris pleaded not guilty to felony murder and child cruelty charges. He’s being held without bond at the Cobb County Jail and is scheduled to appear before a county judge July 3.

Cooper’s mother, Leanna Harris, told CNN last week that she’s been advised not to discuss the case with the media.

“We have been in communication with the mother throughout the investigation. At this time, I’m not at liberty to discuss her involvement. That’s a part of the case our detectives are working on,” Pierce said.

Cobb County Medical Operations Manager Mike Gerhard confirmed that the autopsy of the child is complete, but the boy’s manner of death has not been released.

Forty-three children died from being left too long in hot cars in 2013, Parents magazine reports, and children are at greater risk than adults of overheating in a car because internal cooling systems–chiefly through sweat–are not as quick to react as adults’.

Click here to read 7 tips for ensuring you never forget your child in a hot car, including practicing extra vigilance when you are starting a new routine, and adopting a “Look Before You Lock” habit whenever you leave your car.  The Parents report also shares how quickly temperatures can rise inside a closed vehicle even on a day when the weather is relatively mild:

This is how quickly the temperature inside a vehicle rises on a 70°F day, based on research by Jan Null, department of earth and climate sciences, San Francisco State University. Null also found that keeping the windows open slightly had little effect and that car interiors with darker colors heat up faster.

After 10 minutes = 89°F

After 20 minutes = 99°F

After 30 minutes = 104°F

After 60 minutes = 113°F

After 2 hours = 120°F

Image: Car door, via Shutterstock

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