Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Children who receive multiple CT scans, which expose them to radiation, are at a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. More from NBC News:
While CT scans provide “beautiful 3-D pictures of the inside of the body,” they also subject patients to a significant amount of radiation, which may boost the risk of future cancer, said the study’s lead author Diana Miglioretti, a professor of biostatistics at the University of California, Davis, and a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute.
Between 1996 and 2006 CT scans in children under age 5 nearly doubled, while they almost tripled in kids aged 5 to 14 years, according to the report in JAMA Pediatrics. While the number of scans in children has declined since 2006, it’s still much higher than in 1996.
While the researchers suspect many of those scans could be avoided, for some kids, like 5-year-old Dezhan Frajer, the clearer 3D images that come from CT are the only way to figure out what’s wrong. Dezhan has been suffering from some complicated ear and eye symptoms, and his mom, Tamika is hoping his scans will explain what’s going on.
CT scans are often used in kids when appendicitis is suspected or to rule out severe damage when children hit their heads hard or if there is concern that the spine has been injured. They are also used to diagnose brain tumors and other abnormalities.
CT scans became more popular because, “it is a great tool and is very sensitive and accurate,” Miglioretti said.
Miglioretti and her colleagues scrutinized data from six large HMOs. Included in the study were data from 152,419 to 371,095 children each year. They found CT scan use jumped between 1996 and 2005, remained stable until 2007, and then started to decline.
Even with the decline, in 2010 scans were still being done at nearly two and a half times the rate of 1996 in children aged 5 to 14 and one-and-a-half times the 1996 rate in children under age 5.
Image: Pediatric CT scan, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Medical marijuana, which is legal in 18 states, can bring relief to the patient taking it, but it can also be a risk if it inadvertently falls into the hands of children. The rise in medical marijuana prescriptions over the past few years has also increased the number of emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers when young children ingest marijuana-laced products, such as brownies, cookies, and candies. The Boston Globe reports on the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics:
Marijuana-infused products have become popular for patients who are unable, or do not want, to smoke the drug.
“In our study, most exposures were due to ingestion of medical marijuana in a food product,” wrote the study authors.
Dr. George Sam Wan of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center and his colleagues compared the proportion of marijuana ingestions by young children who were brought to the emergency room before and after October 2009, when drug enforcement laws regarding medical marijuana use were relaxed.
The researchers found no record of children brought to the ER in a large Colorado children’s hospital for marijuana-related poisonings between January 2005 and September 30, 2009 — a span of 57 months.
By comparison, they found 14 cases involving marijuana ingestion between October 1, 2009, and December 31, 2011, a span of just 27 months.
Eight of the 14 cases involved medical marijuana, and all but one of those came from food products, the authors said. In all, eight of the patients had to be admitted to the hospital, with two of them ending up in intensive care. None died.
The ages of children studied ranged from 8 months to 12 years old. During those years, Colorado had no laws requiring medical marijuana to be sold in child-proof packaging.
Image: Child reaching for cookie, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 22nd, 2013
The foods that many American babies and toddlers are eating contains too much sodium, according to new information compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and presented to a scientific meeting of the American Heart Association. Consuming too much sodium can lead to elevated risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, among other things. From a release announcing the findings:
In the first study to look at the sodium content in U.S. baby and toddler foods, researchers compared the sodium content per serving of 1,115 products for babies and toddlers using data on major and private label brands compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Baby food was categorized as intended for children less than one year old, and toddler food was categorized as intended for children between the ages of one and three.
A product was defined as high in sodium if it had more than 210 mg of sodium per serving. Toddler meals had significantly higher amounts of sodium than baby meals, and the amount of sodium in some of the toddler meals was as high as 630 mg per serving – about 40 percent of the 1,500 mg daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association. The foods with the most sodium were savory snacks and meals for toddlers.
“Our concern is the possible long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child’s diet, because high blood pressure, as well as a preference for salty foods may develop early in life. The less sodium in an infant’s or toddler’s diet, the less he or she may want it when older,” said Joyce Maalouf, M.S., M.P.H., ORISE, lead author and Fellow at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium consumption to less than 1500 mg a day. Sodium is in regular table salt and many foods, including most prepared meals and snacks for toddlers.
The CDC listed the following 10 foods as the biggest sodium culprits affecting Americans from ages 2-19:
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and processed meats
- Savory snacks
- Mixed pasta dishes
- Frankfurters and sausages
Image: Salt, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Fast food, which is often cited as a major factor in the U.S. childhood obesity epidemic, is now being associated with asthma and eczema, two allergy-based illnesses. More on the study, which was published in the medical journal Thorax, from Yahoo! News:
The researchers found that, out of the 15 food types in the questionnaire, only fast food showed an association with asthma and eczema in both age groups regardless of gender and socio-economic status. Three or more servings a week was linked to a 39 percent increase in severe asthma among teens and a 27 percent increased risk among younger children.
“A consistent pattern for the adolescent group was found for the relationship between symptoms and fast foods,” the researchers wrote in the study. “As adolescents are generally known to be high consumers of fast food, these results that show a significant increased risk of developing each or all three conditions may be a genuine finding.”
Though both eczema and asthma can be triggered by food allergies—and typical fast-food meals are filled with common allergens like gluten, dairy, egg, and soy—Williams told Yahoo! Shine that allergies probably aren’t the main issue here.
“We did not look for gluten, although bread and pasta both have gluten (however gluten free pasta and bread are now widely available so when someone says yes to eating bread 3x per week it may well be that they ate gluten free as this practice is growing in some countries). So we cannot tease this out,” he wrote in an email. “There is no doubt that food allergy plays an important role in some people with severe asthma and eczema, but those people tend to recognize it and avoid those foods.”
“I doubt if our observation of an association between severe allergies and fast foods is mediated much by increased food allergens,” he added.
A 2011 study published in Nutrition Research and Practice suggested that additives in processed foods could also trigger an allergic reaction in some kids, but Williams and his team say that fat intake, not food allergies or additives, is probably the main culprit.
Image: French fries, via Shutterstock
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Monday, December 31st, 2012
A report on the possible health effects for children of chemicals in everyday products, long in the works at an agency of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been sidelined by bureaucratic entanglements and serious opposition from the chemical industry. NBC News calls the “America’s Children and the Environment” (ACE) report a “landmark” that contains information linking toxic chemicals to illnesses from asthma to learning disabilities, analyzes the extent to which the air inside schools and day care centers may be polluted, and discusses possible health risks to pregnant women and their fetuses. From NBC:
In the making since 2008, the ACE report is based on peer-reviewed research and databases from federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health officials view it as a source of one-stop shopping for the best information on what children and women of childbearing age are exposed to, how much of it remains in their bodies and what the health effects might be. Among the “health outcomes” listed as related to environmental exposures are childhood cancer, obesity, neurological disorders, respiratory problems and low birth weight.
The report cites hundreds of studies — both human, epidemiological studies that show a correlation between exposure to certain chemical pollutants and negative health outcomes, and animal studies that demonstrate cause and effect. In some cases, the authors note, certain chemicals have been detected in children, but not enough is known about their effects to draw conclusions about safety.
In a section on perfluorochemicals (PFCs), for example, which are used to make nonstick coatings, and protect textiles and carpets from water, grease and soil, among other things, the draft notes that they are found in human breast milk.
The report said that “a growing number of human health studies” have found an association between prenatal exposure to PFCs and low birth weight, decreased head circumference and low birth length. It also stated that based on “emerging evidence suggests that exposure to some PFCs can have negative impacts on human thyroid function.”
Furthermore, it noted that animal studies produced similar results, although exposures were typically at higher levels than people are exposed to.
The EPA’s website still notes that the report will be published by the end of 2011. But after a public comment period that was marked by unusually harsh criticism from industry, additional peer review and input from other agencies, the report landed at OMB last March, where it has remained. No federal rule requires the OMB to review such a report before publication, but EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine said the agency referred it to the OMB because its impact cuts across several federal agencies.
The spokeswoman said EPA had no idea when OMB would release it, allowing publication.
Image: Child near factory, via Shutterstock
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