7 Things I Learned from Pediatricians
A few weeks ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics held its annual conference, this time in Orlando. Each year, roughly 8,000 doctors from around the United States (as well as other countries) attend this four-day meeting in order to share the latest research and help pediatricians manage their practices more effectively. Several reporters and editors go as well, myself included. I think of myself as a fly on the wall–it’s a phenomenal opportunity to learn about the issues that resonate most strongly with doctors and to hear firsthand what they encounter when they’re interacting with children and their parents. I come away with all kinds of story ideas, leads on experts, and blog fodder. I’ve got a steno book full of notes (yep, I’m old-school) that I’ll put to use all year, but in the meantime, here are some of the findings that jumped out at me.
1. Not enough kids are wearing bike helmets. In one study, only 11 percent of children involved in bike accidents had been wearing one.
2. Asthma often goes hand in hand with allergies. We report on this all the time, but the numbers are pretty startling: Between 60 and 80 percent of kids with asthma will also have allergic rhinitis.
3. Apps for babies may have a big drawback. Studies are underway looking at “poking” apps (such as ones where your little one pops bubbles on the screen); researchers suspect that they may cause kids to be behind later, when it’s time to grasp pencils. We’ll be following this for sure.
4. Every family should have two non-negotiable electronics-free zones. They are the dinner table (or wherever your family eats together), and your child’s bed. The doctor who led this talk said that banning electronics from the bedroom simply isn’t realistic anymore, but every parent ought to be able to keep them out of your child’s actual bed.
5. Melatonin may help kids sleep, but only to a point. In a session about alternative approaches to developmental disorders, the doctor said that melatonin can be helpful in making kids fall asleep faster, but it doesn’t necessarily make them sleep longer.
6. Tics are more common than you may think. Between 10 and 20 percent of school-age kids have them, and they typically appear in kids between the ages of 2 and 6. Luckily, they tend to go away, but if they persist for more than a year (which admittedly sounds like a long time), your pediatrician should refer you to a specialist.
7. Pot is addictive. (By the way, the session on marijuana was packed.) It’s a common misconception that you can’t become addicted to marijuana, but loads of research says otherwise. And when it comes to “medical marijuana,” we need to be careful, since no studies have included kids or adolescents. Speaking of older kids, more of them now smoke pot daily than they smoke tobacco, and that trend is expected to continue.
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