Monday, August 4th, 2014
Don’t freak out: Scentists are finding that a mom-to-be’s stress levels can have significant effects on a child’s future health, including delays in cognitive development, behavioral issues, and even an increased risk of autism. The latest link? Scientists have found that maternal stress could increase the risk that babies develop allergy-induced asthma.
The study, produced by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, focused on mice, and found that even a single stressful situation could flood the baby’s bloodstream with stress hormones like corticosterone, and lead to a greater chance that the baby develops allergy-based asthma after birth.
What’s the takeaway? Do what you can to relax, unwind, and reduce stress throughout your pregnancy, to help protect your baby’s health.
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Child Health, New Research
Friday, March 28th, 2014
Cases of premature births and asthma-related hospital visits dropped 10 percent since the introduction of public smoking bans across North American and Europe. Data of 11 recent studies where compiled to determine the overall impact of smoke-free legislation. The studies included more than 2.5 million births and about 250,000 hospital visits for asthma attacks. According to the study, 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. More from Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
In the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws are affecting the health of children, researchers from University of Edinburgh collaborated with researchers from Maastricht University, Hasselt University, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke-free legislation on child health. They found that the introduction of new laws that ban smoking in public places in North America and Europe has been followed by a decrease in rates of premature births and hospital visits for asthma attacks in children. These findings are published on March 28, 2014 in The Lancet.
Researchers analyzed 11 studies conducted in North America and Europe that included more than 2.5 million births and approximately 250,000 asthma-related hospital visits. They report that while the impact of anti-smoking laws varies between countries, the overall impact on child health is very positive. Specifically, the data show that rates of both preterm birth and hospital admissions for asthma were reduced by 10 percent following the implementation of laws that prohibited smoking in public places.
“This research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks. The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question,” said Aziz Sheikh, senior author and a physician-researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, visiting professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at The University of Edinburgh.
According to information in the article, 16 percent of the world’s population is covered by smoke-free laws, while 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Laws that prohibit smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants and work places, are already proven to protect adults from the health threats associated with passive smoking, but research to date has not systematically evaluated the impact of smoking bans on children.
Passive smoking can cause babies to be stillborn or born prematurely and is linked to certain birth defects, asthma and lung infections. Studies have also suggested that being exposed to second hand smoke during childhood may have long term health implications, contributing to the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes in later life.
Lead researcher, Dr Jasper Been of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences said, “Our research shows that smoking bans are an effective way to protect the health of our children.
These findings should help to accelerate the introduction of anti-smoking legislation in areas not currently protected.”
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Image: Smoking endangers the health of the child via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Being around people who smoke is dangerous for children diagnosed with asthma, but many times parents are hesitant to reveal to doctors the extent of their kids’ exposure to cigarette smoke. A new saliva-based test conducted on children admitted to the hospital for asthma-related issues confirms researchers’ suspicions–nearly 80 percent of the children’s saliva showed traces of cigarette smoke, but only a third of the parents had reported known cigarette exposure. More from Reuters:
What’s more, finding evidence of nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, in children’s saliva was a better predictor of whether they would need to come back to the hospital, compared to the information parents gave to doctors.
“We think saliva is a good and potentially useful test for assessing an important trigger for asthma,” Dr. Robert Kahn, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health.
Previous research has found that being exposed to tobacco can lead to airway problems and poor asthma control among children, Kahn and his colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.
By figuring out which children are being exposed to tobacco, doctors may be able to step in and identify and possibly eliminate the exposure, said Kahn, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
For example, if a parent is still smoking cigarettes and exposing the child to smoke, doctors can offer the parent smoking cessation tools while the child is hospitalized.
For the new study, the researchers assessed data from 619 children admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for asthma or other breathing problems between August 2010 and October 2011. The children were between one and 16 years old.
Image: Asthmatic child, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 20th, 2013
Research has long shown that children who grow up with family pets have a lower incidence of pet allergies and asthma, but a new study is closer to identifying the reason why. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco discovered that homes with dogs have higher levels of certain beneficial bacteria that help kids’ developing immune systems be in balance and less likely to “overreact” to pet dander and other airborne allergens. More from Boston.com:
Previous research suggests that the establishment of certain gut bacteria in the intestinal tracts of newborns could affect their development of asthma later in childhood. Certain harmful bacteria associated with the use of antibiotics, for example, were found by European researchers to increase a child’s risk of asthma, while living with a dog or cat in the house was found in other studies to decrease the risk.
“We wanted to see which organisms were protective,” said study co-author Susan Lynch, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. She and her colleagues exposed some young mice to both dust from a dog owner’s home as well as dust from a dog-free home. Then, they exposed the mice to common allergens. The researchers found that those exposed to dog dust were less likely to have allergic reactions and inflammation in their breathing passages (a sign of asthma) than those exposed to the regular dust. The results were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers identified a particular bacteria in the dog dust—Lactobacillus johnsonii—and found that giving it to the mice protected them against respiratory virus infections, though not as well as the dog dust itself.
Likely, other beneficial bacteria also exist in this dust, and Lynch said future studies will try to determine what those are. “Lactobacillus could play an important role in structuring a healthy bacteria biome in the gut early in life,” Lynch said, “but we have no actual evidence of that yet.”
Image: Child and dog, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
In spite of repeated public health messages warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke, too many children with asthma are still exposed to it. Secondhand smoke is known to exacerbate their symptoms and raise their risk of serious complications, according to new research published in the journal Academic Pediatrics. Reuters has more:
According to national data from 2003 to 2010, half of all children ages 6 to 19, even those with asthma, have been exposed to secondhand smoke.
For kids ages 6 to 11, even low levels of second hand smoke were linked to more missed school days, trouble sleeping, less physical activity and more wheezing, the authors write in Academic Pediatrics.
The fact that kids with asthma are still inhaling others’ smoke is a real problem, said Dr. Karen M. Wilson, who studies children’s’ exposure to secondhand smoke at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.
“Secondhand smoke consists of particulate matter, and chemicals, both of which induce an inflammatory response in the airways, which can cause an asthma attack,” said Wilson, who was not involved in the study.
Limiting physical activity is also dangerous because it increases the chances a child will become obese, which worsens asthma, she told Reuters Health.
For older children, secondhand smoke was not linked to those negative symptoms.
Image: Asthmatic child with a smoker, via Shutterstock
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