Your Child

Bullied Kids at Risk for Health problems as Adults

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Being teased or humiliated by fellow classmates in school was once just a part of growing up for many kids. No one took it very seriously and children were basically told to either deal with it or physically fight back.

That began to change when bullying tactics changed from one-on-one painful snubs or pushing in the hallways to shaming and hateful social media taunts. All of a sudden everyone was in on the game and there was no where to hide or seek refuge from the never-ending onslaught of mean spirited and sometimes violent threats to a child’s very existence.

Bullying had reached a new stage of hurtfulness and too often the coping mechanism from children who were bullied was and still is suicide. Schools, parents and peers began to take notice and implement strategies to stop the bullying – at least in public environments.

Some of these strategies have been very effective and kids, as well as parents, are much more aware of the dangers that can come from bullying. However, there is always someone who thinks that they have a right to humiliate someone else. While it is more a reflection of the insecurity and abnormal personality of the person doing the bullying, the recipient still feels the pain and harbors the emotional damage to their self-value.

A new study looks at the possible future health hazards for children who have been bullied. Their findings reveal that adults who were bullied in childhood may be at an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Our research has already shown a link between childhood bullying and risk of mental health disorders in children, adolescents and adults, but this study is the first to widen the spectrum of adverse outcomes to include risks for cardiovascular disease at mid-life," said senior study author Louise Arseneault. She is a professor from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Evidently, being bullied in childhood does get under your skin," she said in a college news release.

The long-term study involved analyzed data from more than 7,100 people.  Participants in the study included all the children from England, Scotland and Wales that were born during one week in 1958. Their parents provided information on whether the participants were bullied at ages 7 and 11.

By age 45, more than one-quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied during childhood were obese, compared to 19 percent of those who never experienced bullying, the study found. Both men and women who were bullied during childhood were more likely to be overweight.

Compared to those who weren't bullied, men and women who were bullied had higher levels of blood inflammation, putting them at increased risk for heart attack and age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.

Like most studies, results didn’t show an actual cause and effect relationship, only an association or link between being bullied and future health risks.

"Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups," Arseneault said. "While many important school programs focus on preventing bullying behaviors, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering. Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood."

Andrea Danese, a study co-author, pointed out that obesity and high blood inflammation can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking steps to prevent these conditions is important, Danese said in the news release.

"The effects of being bullied in childhood on the risk for developing poor health later in life are relatively small compared to other factors," Danese added. "However, because obesity and bullying are quite common these days, tackling these effects may have a real impact."

Counseling coupled with family support for children who have been or are being bullied can offer tremendous value to helping a child disconnect with the hurtful words and actions of others. No one likes to be made fun of or taunted for some slight “imperfection”, but those kinds of things can linger in the mind and wear on one’s self-value. The sooner they are dealt with and put in their true perspective, the quicker one can let them go.

The study was published May 20 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/bullying-health-news-718/bullying-heart-disease-psych-med-kcl-release-batch-1756-699576.html

Your Child

When Are Kids Ready to Stay Home Alone?

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There will come a time when your child is going to want to stay home alone whether it’s after school (or during school breaks), on the weekend or when mom and dad need to run errands or go on a much deserved date night.

How do you know when your child is ready to stay home alone? A lot depends on your child and their ability to take home-alone responsibility seriously.

Child experts generally agree that children should be at least eleven or twelve years old before parents consider leaving them without supervision, but there are other factors to consider as well. Is the neighborhood mostly a safe one? Are there neighbors that are around that can lend a hand during an emergency? Does your child know what to do if a stranger comes to the door or calls? Is your child generally responsible with such tasks as homework, chores, and day-to-day decisions?

Kids who are allowed to stay by them selves should be able to handle the following routine tasks:

  • Knows how to properly answer the telephone. Kids should never disclose to an unfamiliar voice that they are alone. An appropriate response would be: “My mom’s not able to come to the phone right now; can I take your number and have her get back to you?”
  • Knows what to do and who to call in the event of a fire, a medical crisis, a suspicious stranger at the door or other emergency. Teach your child the correct way to respond to each of these situations. Make sure emergency phone numbers are placed in easy to find areas such as on the refrigerator and by the phone. If your child uses a cell phone, have emergency numbers ready in “favorites” or together in a group contact page titled emergency. Go over all exits (including windows- make sure they can be opened quickly) in the house and be sure they know at least two escape routes from the home.
  • Knows where to find the first-aid supplies and how to handle basic
first aid (or whom to call) for cuts, scrapes, nosebleeds, minor burns and so on.
  • Knows where the breaker box is in the house and how to switch on and off an electrical circuit breaker or replace a fuse.
  • Knows where to find the shutoff valves on all toilets and sinks, as
well as the main water valve, in the event of a leak or overflowing toilet.
  • Knows how to put out a cooking fire. Keep baking soda, flour or a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Kids should be taught to never to throw water on a grease fire.
  • Knows how to contact you in an emergency.
  • Knows the names of his or her pediatrician or family doctor and the preferred family hospital.

Some of these ideas may seem like overkill for kids who may be staying by them selves for only a couple of hours, but knowing any of the undertakings listed above is helpful even when the whole family is home.

Before your child is allowed to go-it-alone for a bit, make sure they understand the rules and what you expect of them. Create a “contract” so there is no confusion or misunderstandings and have them read it and sign it. Contracts also work well when kids are learning to drive or when they get their first cell phone. It’s simply rules set in writing that outline expectations – as well as consequences when the rules are broken.

A few things to consider covering when setting rules are:

  • Is he/she allowed to have friends over? How many? Same-sex friends only?
  • Under what circumstances is he/she to answer the door? Or are they not to open the door at all?
  • Which activities are off-limits? For example, if your home is wired for cable television, are there channels he/she is prohibited from watching? (Parents who are not home in the afternoon might want to investigate purchasing parental-control tools for TVs and for computers linked to the Internet. Though by no means infallible, the “V-chip” and Web filters do enable you to choose the types of programming that come into your home).
  • Is he/she expected to complete her homework and/or certain chores before you get home? Try your best to contact your child while you are away, even if it’s only a brief conversation to find out how his or her day went. Kids should always be able to reach you or another responsible adult, either by phone, e-mail, text or pager.

As for parents, turn about is fair play. If you’re not going to be home when you say you are, let your child know and give them a time when they can expect you. While they may act all grown up because they have the run of the house, studies have shown that kids who are by them selves, even for short periods of time, can become anxious and overwhelmed especially if anything out of the ordinary happens.

These days there are plenty of temptations from the Internet, television programs, peers and social media that can get even a “good” kid in trouble, but that doesn’t mean they should be kept in a bubble. Children need to experience greater doses of independence as they get older, but they need to know the rules.

Summertime is when a lot of kids are going to experience being unsupervised for one reason or another. If your child is itching to go it alone, consider the above outline and how he or she typically handles responsibilities. You may decide it’s time to give it a try, or you may feel that they’re just not ready yet. Either way, you’ve given it serious consideration and know the time when they will have that opportunity is probably drawing near.

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Is-Your-Child-Ready-To-Stay-Home-Alone.aspx

Your Child

Study: Bedtime Routine Offers Kids Many Benefits

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If your child doesn’t have a nightly bedtime routine, he or she is missing out on a tremendous amount of health and behavioral benefits according to a new study. And you’re not alone.

A multinational study consisting of over 10,000 mothers from 14 counties reported that less than 50 percent of their infants, toddlers and preschoolers had a regular bedtime routine every night.

Researchers determined that the participant’s children who did have a regular bedtime routine benefitted on many levels. The study found that children with a consistent bedtime routine had better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter amount of time in bed before falling asleep, reduced night waking, and increased sleep duration. Children with a bedtime routine every night slept for an average of more than an hour longer per night than children who never had a bedtime routine. Institution of a regular bedtime routine also was associated with decreased sleep problems and daytime behavior problems, as perceived by mothers.


“Creating a bedtime routine for a child is a simple step that every family can do,” said principal investigator and lead author Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and associate director of the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It can pay off to not only make bedtime easier, but also that a child is likely to sleep better throughout the entire night.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, positive bedtime routines involve the institution of a set sequence of pleasurable and calming activities preceding a child’s bedtime. The goal is to establish a behavioral chain leading up to sleep onset. Activities may include giving your child a soothing bath, brushing teeth and reading a bedtime story.

“It’s important that parents create a consistent sleep schedule, relaxing bedtime routine and soothing sleep environment to help their child achieve healthy sleep,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler.


Researchers found that consistency was an important factor in helping children sleep well

“For each additional night that a family is able to institute a bedtime routine, and the younger that the routine is started, the better their child is likely to sleep,” said Mindell. “It’s like other healthy practices:  Doing something just one day a week is good, doing it for three days a week is better, and doing it every day is best.”

Mothers participated in the study by completing a validated, online questionnaire that included specific questions about their child’s daytime and nighttime sleep patterns, bedtime routines and behavior. The questionnaire was translated into each language and back-translated to check for accuracy.

“The other surprising finding is that we found that this effect was universal,” said Mindell.  “It doesn’t matter if you are a parent of a young child in the United States, India, or China, having a bedtime routine makes a difference.”

Sleep deprivation is becoming an all too common problem with today’s children and adults. The earlier a good sleep routine can be established and practiced, the better for a child in the long run.

Study results are published in the May issue of the journal Sleep.

Source: http://www.healthcanal.com/disorders-conditions/sleep/63298-study-shows-that-children-sleep-better-when-they-have-a-nightly-bedtime-routine.html

Your Child

Are Some Kid’s Behavioral Issues Really Medical Problems?

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If a child has a cold, rash or any other number of other physical problems, just about every parent is willing to take them to the doctor for treatment. But parents typically don’t seek medical treatment when their child’s anxiety; depression, tantrums or inability to organize their homework are beyond the norm according to a new poll.

A recent University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds that many parents of children age 5-17 don’t discuss behavioral or emotional issues that could be signs of potential health problems with their doctors.

According to the poll, more than 60 percent of parents definitely would talk to the doctor if their child was extremely sad for more than a month, only half would discuss temper tantrums that seemed worse than peers or if their child seemed more worried or anxious than normal. Just 37 percent would tell the doctor if their child had trouble organizing homework.

Almost half of the parents polled said they didn’t see these types of behavioral issues as medical problems. Another 40 percent said they prefer to handle the problems themselves and 30 percent said they would rather talk to someone other than a doctor.

“Behavioral health and emotional health are closely tied to a child’s physical health, well-being and development, but our findings suggest that we are often missing the boat in catching issues early,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.

“Many children experience challenges with behavior, emotions or learning. The key is for parents to recognize their children’s behavior patterns and share that information with the doctor. Unfortunately, our findings suggest that parents don’t understand their role in supporting their children’s behavioral health.”

Behavioral health problems, also known as mental health problems, affect boys and girls of all ages and can have an impact on their learning, social interactions and physical health.

Some behavioral and emotional issues are short lived and mild – typical childhood behaviors and responses.  However, some behaviors can be signs of long-term problems such as depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, mood and behavior disorders or substance abuse. All of these are medical issues that can and should be addressed by physicians or pediatric medical therapists.

“Some behavioral and emotional changes are just part of a child’s natural growth and development and just part of growing up,” Clark says. “However, health care providers rely on parents to describe how children act in their regular, day-to-day lives outside of the doctor’s office in order to identify situations or behaviors that may be signs of larger problems. This conversation between doctors and parents is an essential step that allows providers to assess the severity of the problem, offer parents guidance on strategies to deal with certain behaviors and help families get treatment if needed.”

Many children need help dealing with school stresses such as homework, test anxiety, bullying or peer pressure. Other kids can benefit from an objective third party to help sort out their feelings about family issues, particularly if there is a major transition going on such as divorce, a move or a serious illness. These significant events can trigger behavioral problems that can be addressed and worked through with a therapist.

Sometimes unseen medical issues can be tied to over-anxiousness, depression or ADHD that can be diagnosed and treated successfully under a physician’s care.

If a parent suspects that their child is withdrawing from the family or experiencing panic attacks or prolonged sadness, it’s a good idea to make sure your child has a complete physical and to discuss their symptoms with your pediatrician or family doctor.

The poll was part of a household survey conducted exclusively for GfK Custom Research for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Methods used were typical for previous published studies. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau and do not represent the opinions of the University of Michigan, the University of Michigan Health System, or the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Sources: University of Michigan Health System, http://newswise.com/articles/temper-anxiety-homework-trouble-are-medical-issues-many-parents-don-t-realize-it

http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/finding_therapist.html#cat145

Your Child

Music Improves Kids' Memory and Reading Skills

2.00 to read

Maybe Plato was right when he noted that music “…gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

A new study suggests that children who practice singing or learn an instrument are also more likely to improve in language and reading skills.

Previous research has shown a positive link between music and learning skills, but was mainly conducted on children in upper or middle class families. This new study looks at whether the same results apply to children living in impoverished and low socioeconomic neighborhoods. The present study included students from musical training programs in Chicago and Los Angeles public schools.

The findings support the idea that musical training can help any child not only benefit from the joy and discipline of musical training, but also the stimulation that the mind acquires through music.  This could prove particularly helpful to children living in difficult circumstances.

"Research has shown that there are differences in the brains of children raised in impoverished environments that affect their ability to learn," said Nina Kraus, PhD, a neurobiologist at the Northwestern University. "While more affluent students do better in school than children from lower income backgrounds, we are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner and help offset this academic gap."

How does music help a child learn better? According to researchers, musical training improves the brain's ability to process sounds. Children who learn music are better equipped to understand sounds in a noisy background. Improvements in neural networks also strengthen memory and learning skills.

For the study, scientists used two groups of children. One group was given music classes, while the other received Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps classes. Each group had comparable IQs at the beginning of the study.

The researchers recorded children's brain waves as they listened to repeated syllable against a soft background sound. The children were tested again after one year of music training/JROTC classes and again after a two-year study period. The team found that children's neural responses were strengthened after two years of music classes. The study shows that music training isn't a quick fix, but is a long-term approach to improve academic performance of children belonging to lower socioeconomic classes.

"We're spending millions of dollars on drugs to help kids focus and here we have a non-pharmacologic intervention that thousands of disadvantaged kids devote themselves to in their non-school hours-that works," Margaret Martin, founder of Harmony Project in Los Angeles, said in a news release. "Learning to make music appears to remodel our kids' brains in ways that facilitates and improves their ability to learn."

In other studies, music has also been shown to be effective in promoting better social behavior in teenage boys who have learning difficulties and poor social skills.

Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, many school districts have either cut back or completely eliminated music and arts programs. The loss of such a treasure in our school systems is tragic. Music not only “hath charms to soothe a savages beast,” but also to refresh and calm an anxious mind. It’s time we rethink the importance of music and the other arts programs in our schools. Fund them and bring them back – for all of our children’s sake.

The study was presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.

Source: Staff Reporter, http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/8472/20140809/music-training-improves-memory-reading-skills-children.htm

Your Child

Kid’s Insomnia Linked to Mental Health Problems

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As a parent and an adult, you know how important a good night’s sleep is to one’s well being.  Children need a good night’s sleep too and if they consistently suffer from sleep problems it could affect their mental health.

A new study examined the possible connection between sleep and young children’s mental health and found that there was a link for children as young as age 4.

Researchers looked at sleep patterns and the mental health of 1,000 children starting when they were toddlers. They found that those with sleep disorders at age 4 were at increased risk for mental health problems -- such as anxiety and depression -- at age 6. They also discovered that children with mental health problems at age 4 were at increased risk for sleep disorders at age 6.

The study wasn’t designed to prove that a lack of sleep actually causes mental health issues or vice versa; the researchers could only show an association between these factors.

The most common type of sleep disorder is insomnia.  Not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep was diagnosed in 17 percent of the children at age 4 and in 43 percent of them at age 6. Insomnia increased the risk of anxiety, depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at age 4 and the risk of behavioral problems at age 6, the study authors said.

Children with anxiety, depression, ADHD and behavioral problems at age 4 were also at increased risk for insomnia at age 6, the researchers said.

"It is common for children to have periods when they sleep poorly, but for some children, the problems are so extensive that they constitute a sleep disorder," study author Silje Steinsbekk, an associate professor and psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said in a university news release.

"Our research shows that it is important to identify children with sleep disorders, so that remedial measures can be taken. Sleeping badly or too little affects a child's day-to-day functioning, but we are seeing that there are also long term repercussions," she explained.

This study’s findings are not unique, previous studies have also found a connection between 4-year-olds with sleep disorders that show symptoms of mental health problems. The new study shows that this link also occurs over time and goes both ways.

It may be that both problems have similar genetic causes or share the same risk factors, the researchers theorized.

"Given that so many children suffer from insomnia, and only just over half 'outgrow it,' it is critical for us to be able to provide thorough identification and good treatment. Perhaps early treatment of mental health problems can also prevent the development of sleep disorders, since psychiatric symptoms increase the risk of developing insomnia," Steinsbekk said.

If your child has sleep problems he or she may benefit from an overnight sleep study. The study can help determine if your child has diagnosable problems such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, snoring or something more serious. Talk to your pediatrician  if you feel your child is having difficulty sleeping on a regular basis.

Source: Robert Preidt: http://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/anxiety-news-33/study-links-sleep-troubles-to-children-s-mental-health-699182.htmlanxiety-news-33/study-links-sleep-troubles-to-children-s-mental-health-699182.html

Your Child

Whooping Cough Vaccine Effectiveness Fades

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While the measles outbreak was making headlines around the country, another vaccine related outbreak was already an epidemic.

In the last five years, state health officials twice declared whooping cough (also known as pertussis) an epidemic – once in 2010 and again in 2014. Eleven thousand people were sickened and three infants died.

Whooping cough is a serious infection of the respiratory system caused by bacterium. It is easily spread from person to person.

Symptoms include runny nose, nasal congestion, fever and severe coughing that can sometimes end in the “whooping” sound when a person gasps for air.

Pertussis mainly affects infants younger than 6 months old before immunizations, and kids 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has started to fade.

Although whooping cough can also make adults very ill, sometimes leading to pneumonia and hospitalization, another major concern is that adults are the most common source of infection in infants.

An analysis of a recent whooping cough epidemic in Washington state shows that the effectiveness of the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)  used to fight the illness waned significantly over time.

For adolescents who received all their shots, effectiveness within one year of the final booster was 73 percent. The effectiveness rate plummeted to 34 percent within two to four years.

The vaccine has changed over the years and those changes may be responsible for the fading effectiveness. The pertussis protection is from the acellular pertussis vaccine. It was introduced in 1997 to replace the whole-cell vaccine, which caused more side effects. Monday's report confirms earlier analysis that the acellular pertussis vaccine may be safer, but less effective, than the old one.

The latest analysis does not mean or even suggest that children and adults should not get the pertussis vaccine. Someone who is vaccinated, but becomes sick with whooping cough, should have a less severe course of illness. The Tdap vaccine is also recommended for college students who did not receive the vaccine as a preteen or teen.

The authors said that new vaccines are "likely needed to reduce the burden of pertussis disease." But Dr. Art Reingold, who leads the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices group on pertussis, said he doesn't know of any pertussis vaccine development in the pipeline.

An added dose doesn’t seem to help either according to research that was presented to the ACIP group. "(An additional dose) would have very little impact on pertussis," Reingold said, "in terms of cases prevented."

Unvaccinated babies are at the highest risk for whooping cough. Since infants can’t be vaccinated until they are 2 months old, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women get the Tdap vaccine during the last trimester of their pregnancy.

"Babies will be born with circulating antibodies," Reingold said, "and there's pretty good evidence that that will reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in babies."

Reingold also drew an interesting distinction between measles and pertussis having to do with herd immunity. If a large enough percentage of the population is immunized against measles, both individuals and the broader community are protected against outbreak. That's because the measles vaccine protects you against the virus that actually causes the measles illness.

But in pertussis, toxins that are released by bacteria cause the disease. The pertussis vaccine protects you against those toxins, but may not prevent you from spreading the bacteria to others — and causing illness in them.

While the vaccine is helpful in reducing symptoms, Reingold believes that "Pertussis is not going to go away with the current vaccine."

Sometimes there can be a bit of confusion between the DTaP and Tdap vaccines; the letters are similar and they are used to help prevent the same diseases.

DTaP is the vaccine that helps children younger than 7 - years  - old develop immunity to diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Tdap is the booster immunization given at age 11 that offers continued protection.

The Tdap vaccine is the one discussed in this study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Lisa Aliferis, http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/05/05/404407258/whooping-cough-vaccines-protection-fades-quickly

http://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/dtap-and-tdap-vaccines

 

 

Your Child

Measles Vaccine May Help Prevent Other Diseases

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The measles vaccine may provide additional benefits beyond protecting children from the highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease.

According to a new study, by blocking the measles infection the vaccine may also prevent measles-induced immune system damage that makes children much more vulnerable to other infectious diseases for two to three years after immunization.

The immune system has the advantage of having “cellular memory” for previous infections to help fight invading microbes.

The study focused on a phenomenon called "immune amnesia" in which the measles infection destroys cells in the immune system that remembers previously encountered pathogens.

Prior research had suggested that “immune amnesia” typically lasted a month or two. The new study, based on decades of childhood health data from the United States, Denmark, England and Wales, showed the measles-induced immune damage persisted on average for 28 months.

Because of the long-term damage to the immune system by the measles infection, children that were not vaccinated and got the measles were more likely to die from other infections.

"The work demonstrates that measles may have long-term insidious immunologic effects on the immune system that place children at risk for years following infection," said Princeton University infectious disease immunologist and epidemiologist Michael Mina, whose study appears in the journal Science.

"The work also demonstrates that, in these highly developed countries prior to the introduction of measles vaccine, measles may have been implicated in over 50 percent of all childhood infectious disease deaths."

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but increasing numbers of cases have been reported in recent years, as more people remain unvaccinated. Last year's 668 U.S. measles cases were the most since 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

"Our work reiterates the true importance of preserving high levels of measles vaccine coverage as the consequences of measles infections may be much more devastating than is readily observable," Mina said.

The study provided data showing that measles prevention through vaccination lowered childhood deaths from the pathogens that cause conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and diarrheal diseases.

The study comes as many parents opt out of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for their children based on discredited claims about the vaccine's safety or for religious and other reasons.

The MMR vaccine has been thoroughly studied by scientists around the world and has been found safe for children. This new study shows that its benefits may last much longer than previously thought.

Source: Will Dunham, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/07/us-health-measles-idUSKBN0NS23N20150507

Your Child

Playing With Food May Help Picky Eaters

2:00

If your child is a picky eater, encouraging them to play with their food may help them overcome the reluctance to try new foods according to a new study.

Researchers in the United Kingdom asked a group of 70 children – ages 2 to 5 – to play with mushy, slimy food while their parents observed, watching to see if kids would happily use their hands to search for a toy soldier buried at the bottom of a bowl of mashed potatoes or jelly. Children who wouldn't use their hands were offered a spoon.

Parents and researchers each rated how happy the kids were to get their hands dirty on a scale of one to five, with a higher number indicating more enjoyment. Children could get a total score as high as 20, a tally of the scores from researchers and parents for play with both the mashed potatoes and the jelly.

Researchers also gave parents a questionnaire to assess children's so-called tactile sensitivity, quizzing them about things like whether kids disliked going barefoot in the sand and grass or avoided getting messy.

The study found that kids who liked playing with their food were less likely to have food neophobia (the fear of trying something new) or tactile sensitivity.

"Although this is just an association, the implication is that getting children to play with messy substances may help their food acceptance," lead study author Helen Coulthard, a psychology researcher at De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K., told Reuters Health by email.

Previous research has linked food neophobia to limited fruit and vegetable consumption. Courtland and her team wanted to see if they could establish a link between touching food and tasting unfamiliar foods.

Courtland suggested that parents of picky eaters begin introducing new foods to their child by creating “food art.” Food art is making pictures or images with different foods on a plate.  The first step is letting your child make a picture or design by arranging various colored foods on the plate.  Don’t pressure them to taste their creation, but wait till they are ready to give it a try. Make it a game and eventually begin encouraging them to taste what they have created. Start small and expand to larger food groups and pictures.

Offering as much variety as possible from a young age also helps children experience lots of textures and flavors, which may minimize their fear of unfamiliar foods.

You’re probably going to have to join in on the taste experimentation to show how good these food pictures taste! You might also take a picture of your child with their creation on your phone and then show it to them – to make it a little more fun.

It’s fairly normal for kids to go through a period of refusing to try new foods, though most kids will grow out of this phase by the time they start school. However, there are some children that carry new food aversion on into adulthood. It isn't necessarily harmful as long as the children maintain a healthy weight for their height, pediatricians say.

But over time, neophobia can make it very difficult to enjoy social engagements. Parents that have a hard time trying or enjoying new foods themselves too often pass that trait onto their own children.  Most of the time it’s just a phase that kids go through and finding creative ways to help them work through it eliminates the problem.

Source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/19/us-food-fears-children-idUSKBN0O41MD20150519

 

 

 

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