Archive for the ‘
Trends ’ Category
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Doctors are increasingly making the diagnosis of “GERD,” or gastroesophageal reflux disease, in infants, and the label may be prompting parents to medicate for infant issues that pediatricians would otherwise regard as normal, such as crying and spitting up.
A new report published in the journal Pediatrics argues that the use of the disease label is leading to the growing use of medication. “Labeling an otherwise healthy infant as having a “disease” increased parents’ interest in medicating their infant when they were told that medications are ineffective,” the article concludes. “These findings suggest that use of disease labels may promote overtreatment by causing people to believe that ineffective medications are both useful and necessary.”
Previous research has already established the growing number of medical interventions for GERD. One 2010 study by the Food and Drug Administration found that the prescription rate for a particular class of acid blockers increased 11-fold in the years between 2002 and 2009 for babies under age 1.
The new study, which was conducted as a survey of parents in a general pediatric clinic, attributes the rise to the use of the disease label GERD. From the survey’s abstract, “Parents who received a GERD diagnosis were interested in medicating their infant, even when they were told that the medications are likely ineffective. However, parents not given a disease label were interested in medication only when medication effectiveness was not discussed (and hence likely assumed).”
Image: Crying newborn baby, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Over the past decade, diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have grown exponentially, with 11 percent of school age children–and 1 in 5 boys–having a diagnosis. The New York Times reports on the new numbers, which come from research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.
“Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”
And even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment. A.D.H.D. is described by most experts as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain that impair a person’s impulse control and attention skills.
While some doctors and patient advocates have welcomed rising diagnosis rates as evidence that the disorder is being better recognized and accepted, others said the new rates suggest that millions of children may be taking medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school. Pills that are shared with or sold to classmates — diversion long tolerated in college settings and gaining traction in high-achieving high schools — are particularly dangerous, doctors say, because of their health risks when abused.
Image: ADHD, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed only formula or breast milk until they are 6 months old, but more than 90 percent of mothers are offering solid food to their babies earlier than that, with 40 percent offering solids before 4 months, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC survey, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, said the findings are “worrisome” in that babies may be at increased risk for developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, eczema, and celiac disease. More from NBC News:
The mothers who volunteered for the CDC study filled out food diaries and questionnaires designed to ferret out their opinions on why and when solid foods should be offered.
Among the moms offering solid foods to infants younger than 4 months, the most commonly cited reasons for doing so included: “My baby was old enough;” “My baby seemed hungry;” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate;” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food;” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night,” researchers reported.
What’s more, moms who fed their babies formula were far more likely to start solids too early versus those who exclusively breast-fed (53 percent versus 24 percent), the study showed.
One food expert unaffiliated with the CDC study suggested that some health-care providers may simply be unfamiliar with current baby-feeding recommendations.
“I think this is worrisome,” said Ann Condon-Meyers, a pediatric dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “I think it may show that word isn’t getting out that … it is 6 months before solid foods should be offered.”
Image: Baby being fed, via Shutterstock
Monday, March 25th, 2013
The seasonal flu claimed the lives of 105 children, almost none of whom receives their annual flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting. That figure is more than triple the usual number of children who die from seasonal flu, according to NBCNews.com:
“We are getting close to the end of the flu season now but it’s not over,” says CDC flu expert Dr. Michael Jhung.
Deaths from flu and pneumonia are “barely” above the annual level designated as “epidemic”, he said. “We get an epidemic of flu every year,” Jhung added in a telephone interview. “It’s just the flu season. We assign the name epidemic to it.”
Officials reported that six children died of flu last week, the CDC said. That brings the total to 105 for this season, compared to 34 last year. But in the 2010-2011 flu season 122 died, and when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit in 2009-2010, it killed 282 U.S. children.
Most of the children who died – 90 percent of them – had not been vaccinated against flu.
This may be confusing, as CDC had reported that the flu vaccine was not especially effective in those most at risk from flu – the elderly. But Jhung says it protects children pretty well.
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has come out in favor of same sex marriage, saying that partners who are raising children together can offer better benefits and security for their children if they are married.
“Children thrive in families that are stable and that provide permanent security, and the way we do that is through marriage,” said Benjamin Siegel, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, and a co-author of the policy statement. “The AAP believes there should be equal opportunity for every couple to access the economic stability and federal supports provided to married couples to raise children.”
The AAP’s previous policy statement, which was last affirmed in 2010, supported second-parent adoption in cases where one member of a couple had a child, but stopped short of calling for the legalization of gay marriage.
“The AAP has long been an advocate for all children, and this updated policy reflects a natural progression in the Academy’s support for families,” said Ellen Perrin, MD, FAAP, co-author of the policy statement. “If a child has two loving and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond, it’s in the best interest of their children that legal institutions allow them to do so.”
The AAP cited scientific research that indicates no relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and the well-being of children in the policy statement.
Image: Same sex couple with child, via Shutterstock