Monday, July 1st, 2013
A new genetic test may be able to predict a child’s risk of having asthma that lasts into adulthood. With the cost of medical treatment for asthma and it’s complications adding up to around $56 billion each year according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this test could help doctors determine which children need intensive childhood care to potentially lower their risk of long-term symptoms. More from Time.com:
This new study, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, uses fifteen specific, isolated genetic markers that are thought to be associated with the physical symptoms of the disease to develop what is called a genetic risk score. Over the course of the 40-year study of 880 participants conducted by researchers at Duke University, those with higher genetic scores were more likely to miss school or work or be hospitalized due to their asthma-related symptoms than those with lower scores. Based on a 38 year follow-up, those with higher scores also were more likely to have symptoms as adults.
Physicians currently use a patient’s family history of asthma to help determine the patient’s risk of the disease. However, since he genetic markers used to develop a person’s genetic risk score do not take into account this family history of the disease, this research may mean that doctors need to rethink how they evaluate asthma risk factors in their patients.
Image: Child with asthma inhaler, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
A new study is adding to the growing body of literature that is trying to conclude why teenagers engage in measurably risky behaviors, and why teen brains appear to be wired to tolerate more uncertainty than child or adult brains. CNN.com reports on the new study, which compared teenagers to adults around a risk-taking behavior:
To examine the differences in risk-taking between teens and adults, researchers studied 33 healthy adolescents aged 12 to 17, along with 30 normal adults aged 30 to 50. They all engaged in a gambling game, in which they could take a definite $5 reward or choose between the possibility of getting a much larger payout or nothing at all.
The payout was based on whether there was a greater number of red or blue poker chips in a stack of 100; to vary the ambiguity, larger or smaller portions of the stacks were hidden from view.
In this way, the trials provided different amounts of information about the risks involved: for example, in some trials, participants could choose between the $5 and a clear 50% chance of winning $50. In others, however, they had a choice between $5 and varying amounts of money, up to $125, but the probability of winning appeared to vary from 25% to 75%. In reality, they always had a 50% chance of winning, but were led to believe their odds varied, which allowed researchers to look at how participants thought about ambiguity.
“If the risks are known, adolescents engage (in risk-taking) less than adults do, but if they are unknown, this is reversed,” Tymula says. In fact, when the payout was known to be $125, adults always gambled — but this was not so for teens.
Image: Teenaged boy gambling, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
The New York Times has published an analysis of a body of research on playground construction designed to be “safe” and minimize the risk of injury. The changes include replacing asphalt surfaces with rubber or wood chips, lowering overall play structure heights, and removing see-saws and other equipment that could hurt ankles or cause other injuries.
Researchers have found that while the changes prevent some injuries, they also hold back a key function of playgrounds–to allow children to encounter risks and overcome fears. Ironically, the researchers conclude, parental fears of injury actually end up having psychological consequences for the children, including overblown anxiety over minor injuries.
From the Times article:
“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”
After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play: exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision. The most common is climbing heights.
“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”
Sometimes, of course, their mastery fails, and falls are the common form of playground injury. But these rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally. While some psychologists — and many parents — have worried that a child who suffered a bad fall would develop a fear of heights, studies have shown the opposite pattern: A child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.
Also, children who feel they are in “safe” spaces may relax their self-protective instincts and wind up engaging in more risky play than if they were on a traditional playground set:
“There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,” said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.
“This sounds counterintuitive, but it shouldn’t, because it is a common phenomenon,” Dr. Ball said. “If children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, they will take more risks. An argument against softer surfacing is that children think it is safe, but because they don’t understand its properties, they overrate its performance.”
(image via: http://www.myremoteradio.com)
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