Thursday, September 27th, 2012
While most parents whose low income qualifies them for health coverage through Medicaid fill prescriptions for antibiotics and other medications for acute illnesses, many fail to fill pediatricians’ orders for vitamin and mineral supplements, a new study has found. Reuters Health reports:
Antibiotics and other drugs for infections were filled 91 percent of the time, versus 65 percent of prescriptions for vitamins and minerals, for example.
“When your child has an ear infection and is in pain, you have much more of a sense of urgency,” [lead researcher Dr. Rachael] Zweigoron [of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston] said. But if a doctor recommends a vitamin D or iron supplement, she added, parents might not see the immediate need.
That raises the question of whether parents always know why a pediatrician has prescribed a medication or supplement. “Are we, as pediatricians, doing a good enough job of explaining the importance to parents?” Zweigoron said.
The findings, which appear in the journal Pediatrics, are based on 4,833 kids seen over two years at two clinics connected to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
All of the children were on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. So it’s not clear if the findings would be the same for U.S. kids with private insurance.
Image: Child taking medicine, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
U.S. children are consuming as much salt on average as American adults, and as a result face an elevated risk of health problems including elevated blood pressure and even heart disease, according to a new report published in the journal Pediatrics. CNN.com has more:
Health experts recommend that most people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day, the equivalent of 1 teaspoon. But children and adults alike are consuming, on average, about 3,400 milligrams daily, according to the study.
The study authors found that when young people increased their daily salt levels by 1,000 milligrams, the risk for high blood pressure increased 74% for overweight or obese youngsters, but only 6% for kids in the normal weight range. The researchers looked at more than 6,200 young people, ages 8 to 18. More than a third were overweight or obese and 15% had elevated or high blood pressure.
Most of the salt we consume is already in the foods we eat, not what we add at the dinner table.
Breads and rolls, cold cuts, pizza, fresh and processed poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes and snacks are the top 10 food sources that account for 44% of sodium consumed, according a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February.
“If you have high blood pressure in childhood, it’s likely that the effects will last into adulthood. Increased blood pressure is one of the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease (heart disease),” explains lead study author Quanhe Yang, who works with the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image: Salt shaker, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Sleep-training techniques that fall into the controversial “cry-it-out” category are actually effective and do not cause psychological harm if conducted in a controlled, consistent way, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Time.com has more:
The study looked at two sleep-training methods known as controlled comforting and camping out, both of which let babies cry it out for short amounts of time. Controlled comforting requires the parent to respond to their child’s cries at increasingly longer intervals to try to encourage the baby to settle down on her own. In camping out, the parent sits in a chair next to the child as he learns to fall asleep; slowly, over time, parents move the chair farther and farther away, until they are out of the room and the infant falls asleep alone.
While neither strategy is as extreme as letting babies cry all night by themselves, they have been criticized over concerns that they may cause long-term emotional or psychological harm in babies, interfere with their ability to manage stress or cripple their relationship with their parents.
The new study by Australian researchers involved 326 children who had parent-reported sleep problems at 7 months. Half of the babies were put in the sleep-training group, in which parents learned helpful bedtime routines as well as the controlled-comforting or camping-out technique (parents could choose which strategy they wanted to use), and half were put in a control group that did not use sleep-training. The researchers followed up with the participants and their parents five years later. (By the study’s end, about 30% of families had dropped out.)
By age 6, the researchers found no significant differences between the kids in either group in terms of emotional health, behavior or sleep problems. In fact, slightly more children in the control group had emotional or behavioral problems than in the sleep-trained group.
Researchers also found no differences in mothers’ levels of depression or anxiety, or in the strength of parent-child bonds between families who had used sleep-training and those who hadn’t.
Image: Crying baby in crib, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
An article published in the journal Pediatrics is criticizing recent government recommendations that 9-11 year-old children have tests to screen their cholesterol levels. The Associated Press reports that one of the major critiques is that members of the government panel that made the recommendations have ties to the drug industry.
Eight of the 14 guidelines panel members reported industry ties and disclosed that when their advice was published in December. They contend in a rebuttal article in Pediatrics that company payments covered costs of evaluating whether the drugs are safe and effective but did not influence the recommendations.
It also is not uncommon for experts in their fields to have received some consulting fees from drug companies.
Even so, the ties pose a conflict of interest that “undermines the credibility of both the guidelines and the process through which they were produced,” says the commentary by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco. The authors are Dr. Thomas Newman, a researcher and former member of a Food and Drug Administration pediatrics advisory committee, and two heart disease researchers, Drs. Mark Pletcher and Stephen Hulley.
Pletcher has received research funding from drug and device makers; the other authors said they had no relevant industry ties.
Other criticism was published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That critique raised concerns about putting children on cholesterol drugs called statins, noting the medicine has been linked with a rare muscle-damaging condition in adults. Those authors were heart specialist Bruce Psaty and pediatrician Frederick Rivara, both of the University of Washington in Seattle.
Image: Child getting blood drawn, via Shutterstock.
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
Babies who are born at 37 or 38 weeks–considered to be “full term” but on the early end of the 37-41-week spectrum–may face increased risk of academic performance issues in school, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The Huffington Post has more:
The study involved 128,000 New York City public school children and included a sizable number of kids from disadvantaged families. But the authors said similar results likely would be found in other children, too.
Of the children born at 37 weeks, 2.3 percent had severely poor reading skills and 1.1 percent had at least moderate problems in math. That compares to 1.8 percent and 0.9 percent for the children born at 41 weeks.
Children born at 38 weeks faced only slightly lower risks than those born at 37 weeks.
Compared with 41-weekers, children born at 37 weeks faced a 33 percent increased chance of having severe reading difficulty in third grade, and a 19 percent greater chance of having moderate problems in math.
“These outcomes are critical and predict future academic achievement,” said Naomi Breslau, a Michigan State University professor and sociologist. Her own research has linked lower IQs in 6-year-olds born weighing the same as the average birth weights at 37 and 38 weeks’ gestation, compared with those born heavier.
Image: Girl in school, via Shutterstock.