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Daily Dose

Breaking Bad Habits

1:15 to read

Do any of your children bite their nails or suck their thumbs? If so, are you always saying, “take your fingers out of your mouth, they are dirty”, or “if you keep biting your nails you will get sick due to all of those germs on your fingers”!  I was guilty of saying those very things to my own children, and I also remember being a nail biter and my mother saying the same thing to me.

Well, who would have thought that a study just released today in the journal Pediatrics might make us parents eat our own words (it wouldn’t be the first time).  The study, “Thumb-Sucking, Nail-Biting and Atopic Sensitization, Asthma and Hay Fever” suggests that “childhood exposure to microbial organisms reduces the risk of developing allergies”.  Who knew that there might be something so positive coming from a “bad habit”.  

This study was done in New Zealand and followed over 1,000 children born between 1972-1973 (dark ages) whose parents reported that they either bit their nails or sucked their thumbs at 5,7,9 and 11 years old. The participants were then checked at ages 13 and again at 32 years old to look for an allergic reaction ( by skin prick testing) against at least one common allergen.  And guess what…at 13 years of age the prevalence of an allergic reaction was lower among those children who HAD sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails.  Incredibly the the findings persisted almost 20 years later!  This study even looked at cofounding factors including sex, parental history of allergies, pet ownership, breast feeding and parental smoking… none of which played a role. 

So, while not advocating for children to suck their thumbs or bite their nails (which unfortunately I did until high school when I decided to have nails to polish) there may be a silver lining….a protective effect against allergies that persists into adulthood. 

Lemonade out of lemons!!!

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Kids Benefit With Older Moms

2:00

Many women are waiting till they are older to have their first child, but their offspring may be the one that reaps the most benefit, according to a new study from Denmark.

Older mothers are less likely to scold or punish their young children, and those children tend to have fewer behavioral, social and emotional problems, the study suggests.

According to researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, older moms tend to have more stable relationships, are more educated, and have more wealth and resources.

"We know that people become more mentally flexible with age, are more tolerant of other people and thrive better emotionally themselves," researcher Dion Sommer said in a university news release.

One theory as to why older mothers may make better parents is that they tend to be more psychologically mature.

Sommer noted, “that may explain why older mothers do not scold and physically discipline their children as much."

This type of upbringing may contribute to a more positive environment to grow up in.

In the study, the investigators looked at data from a random sample of just over 4,700 Danish mothers.

Among their findings: older moms generally resorted less to verbal and physical punishment than younger moms did — though those findings did get a little wobbly at the 15-year point.

The children of older mothers also had fewer behavioral, social and emotional problems than kids of younger mothers, at least at the 7- and 11-year-old points, while adolescence again seemed to muddy things up. The study controlled for factors like income and education, and attributed the results mostly to the greater patience and steadiness that comes to adults as they age.

Other studies, pointed out in a TIME Health article, have shown benefits for older moms, including:

Older moms live longer: react-text: 234 According to a 2016 study, of 28,000 U.S. women, those who had their first child after age 25 were 11% likelier to live to age 90 than those who became mothers younger. A 2014 study took this even further, finding that women who gave birth after age 33 were 50% likelier to live to age 95 than women who had their last child when they were 29 or younger. One caveat — and it’s a big one: the cause-and-effect still has not been determined, so it’s possible the older moms were simply healthier to begin with.

Their kids are taller and smarter. According to a 2016 study published in Population and Development Review. The investigators surveyed 1.5 million men and women in Sweden and found that those born to older mothers were more physically fit, had better grades when they were in school and had at least a small height advantage over people born to younger mothers. Again, causation was uncertain, allowing for the possibility that mothers who started off healthier and were able to have kids later may have simply passed those robust genes onto their children. Demographics — especially regarding income and education — may have also been at work. Wealthier moms with higher power jobs are likelier to have the financial flexibility to delay childbearing, bringing them into the cohort of older moms. More money can also mean better nutrition. Still, 1.5 million is an impressive sample group.

Older moms have more energy than you’d think: A study of mothers who had babies via egg donation after age 50 — well and truly beyond the point at which most women consider conceiving — found that they had levels of energy and physical function similar to women who had babies in their 30s and 40s.

So there you have it, women who are considering waiting a little while to start a family can do as well or better than younger women raising children, depending on their general health and outlook.

Many experts advise women not to wait too long to have children, due to declining fertility and increased risk of problems such as miscarriage, preterm birth and birth defects.

"However, when estimating the consequences of the rising maternal age, it's important to consider both the physical and psychosocial pros and cons," Sommer said.

The Denmark study was published recently in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, HealthDay reporter, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20170323/older-mothers-may-raise-better-behaved-kids-study-suggests

Jeffrey Kluger, http://time.com/4709403/older-mother-benefits/

 

Daily Dose

Marketing Healthy Foods to Kids

1:15 to read

The marketing of foods to children continues to be a hot topic.  As any parent knows…by the time your child is 3, 4 or 5 years old…they can often point to the box of sugary cereal with their favorite cartoon character on it, or identify a sign (McDonalds, Chic-Fil-A, Pizza) although they are not yet reading.  Companies are very clever when it comes to marketing…especially to children who drive a lot of consumer choices.

But, a recent article in Pediatrics shows how marketing may also drive healthy food choices. The study entitled, “Marketing Vegetable in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”, looked at the number of students who chose fresh vegetables from the salad bar at 10 elementary school cafeterias in a large school district over a six-week period.

The study included four different groups. In the first group the schools displayed vinyl banners with branded cartoon vegetable characters. These banners were then wrapped around the salad bar bases. The characters displayed “super human” strength related to eating vegetables (the Popeye of my generation - with his spinach).  The second group of schools showed short television segments which had vegetable characters delivering healthy nutritional advice. In the third group of schools both the salad bar banners and TV segments were used to promote healthy nutrition and food choices.  The fourth group was the control group and received no intervention.  The intervention schools also had decals with the vegetable characters placed on the floor which directed the children to the salad bars.

The results?  Nearly twice as many students ate vegetables from the salad bar when they were exposed to the banners.  More than 3 times as many students who were exposed to both banners and TV segments went to the salad bar (more girls than boys ). Interestingly, the marketing campaign also increased the number of students who chose a vegetable serving in the regular lunch line as well. 

So, it seems that branded marketing strategies may be used in a positive way to promote healthier food choices among young children.  Now we just have to get the advertisers to change some of their branded messaging aimed at young children from the “junk” to the healthy foods, as we have data to show that kids will choose good foods…especially if their super heroes like it too!

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Daily Dose

Get Kids to Behave: Sassy Sauce?

2.00 to read

Parents are always trying new behavior modification with their kids. Have you ever heard of sassy sauce? I was examining a five year old the other day and while the mother and I were talking the little boy became impatient and interrupted his mother.  When she told him he would have to wait he said “I don’t have to”.  Within a split-second she replied, “do you need some sassy sauce because you are being impolite?”

I must admit, this was a new term to me, but the little boy immediately became quiet and apologized to his mother. He definitely did not want “sassy sauce!” Well, it seems that “sassy sauce” is a spray bottle filled with red wine vinegar which this mother uses as a means of behavior modification. She says that she uses it when the children are impolite, use inappropriate words for their ages, and for just being “sassy”. This seemed rather brilliant to me. When my children were younger we always talked about “getting your mouth washed out with soap”, although I cannot remember actually ever following through with it.  I may have gotten a soapy washcloth and threatened to put it in their mouths and that was all that was necessary? I should probably ask them, they seem to remember everything.  Some of my staff members said they remembered getting their mouth washed out with soap for being “sassy”.  They said it burned. At any rate, national news is a buzz focusing on a story of a mother who put Tabasco sauce in her child’s mouth for misbehaving at school.  This mother has been charged with child abuse due to her controversial disciplinary actions.  She will be sentenced on Monday. Parents are always seeking behavior modification strategies when it comes to disciplining their children. I was thinking about my patient and red wine vinegar seems innocuous enough to me and little ones are not likely to enjoy that sour taste. (there is no burning of the tongue) When we talked about how effective this method had been for disciplining her two children (she has a two year old daughter too), she began to giggle.  She said the only draw back is that the five year old is beginning to like the taste and is even starting to eat salad. I realize my patient's situation is very different than “Hot Sauce Mom” but they both began similarly…two moms trying to find a way to get their child to behave. It’s not easy being a parent but the one thing we cannot do when disciplining our children is to take out our frustrations and anger on them or place them in a harmful situation. Using vinegar worked for my patient; her children are quite polite and well behaved. The interesting thing?  Her five year old likes salad with oil and vinegar dressing.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true. What do you think of "sassy sauce"?  I would love your comments!

Daily Dose

New Year New You

1:30 to read

With the New Year upon us what better time to talk about changing some habits.  Why is it that habits are certainly easy to acquire, but difficult to change?  I saw a book on The New York Times Bestseller list about “Habits” and I am committed to reading it this year.  

I know that we started many “bad” habits when my husband and I were new parents, and I talk to my patients every day about not doing the same things I did.....but, even with that knowledge there are several recurrent habits that I wish parents would try to change....or better yet, don’t start.

Here you go!

#1  Do not have your baby/child sleep with you  (unless they are sick).  This is a recurrent theme in my practice and the conversation typically starts when a parent complains that “I am not getting enough sleep, my child wakes me up all night long”.  Whether that means getting in the habit of breast feeding your child all night long, or having your two year old “refuse” to go to sleep without you...children need to be independent sleepers. Some children are born to be good sleepers while others require “learning” to sleep, but either way your child needs to know how to sleep alone. I promise you...their college roommate will one day thank you.

#2  Poor eating habits.  Family meals are a must and healthy eating starts with parents (do you see a recurrent theme?). I still have parents, with 2, 3 or 4 children who are “short order cooks” which means they make a different meal for everyone.  Who even has the time?  Sounds exhausting!!  Even cooking 2 meals (breakfast, dinner) a day for a family is hard to do for 20 years, but enabling your children to have poor eating habits by only serving “their 4 favorite foods- is setting them up for a lifetime of picky and typically unhealthy eating.  Start serving one nutritious family dinner and let everyone have one night a week to help select the meal. Beyond that, everyone eats the same thing.  Easy!  If they are hungry they will eat.

#3  No electronics in your child’s room. If you start this habit from the beginning it will be easy....if you have a TV in your child’s room when they are 6-8, good luck taking it out when they are 13-15.  First TV in their room should be in a college dorm.  For older children make sure that you are docking their electronics outside of their rooms for the night. Everyone will sleep better!

These may sound easy....so give it a try.  

Happy New Year!

 

 

Daily Dose

Back to School

1:30 to read

Schools around the country have opened their doors and some will be starting soon. This is the first week of school for most students in my area and parents have been busy in the last few days attending “back to school” and “meet the teacher” nights in preparation for a new school yea

So…every school has different rules, expectations and strategies for helping their students evolve into their “best” selves and as you get older the “rules” often change in hopes of making students more independent and responsible. I other words, getting ready for the “real world ‘ one day.

Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Arkansas has recently been highlighted in the news and on social media for the sign that is posted on the entrance to the school. It reads “If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment etc, please TURN AROUND and exit the building”  Your son will learn to problem solve in your absence.”  The school posted the same message on their Facebook page as well.

According to the principal of the school, this has been a Catholic High rule for quite some time…it was also a rule at the high school my boys attended.  While some feel that this is unjust and that the students should be allowed to “phone home” if they have forgotten something, the school’s explanation is really fairly simple…allowing your child to have some “soft failures” and to learn both problem solving skills and responsibility will ultimately mold them into functioning members of society as they reach adulthood.  Sounds reasonable to me.

I know that as my boys went from elementary school, on to middle school and then high school their father and I had greater expectations that they needed to be responsible for getting their “stuff” to school.  We started off the school year with a game of sorts where you were given 3 “hall passes” for the year. I guess this started from something at school where they were given a hall pass to go to the bathroom or the office, and some teachers would hand out homework passes that allowed you to “skip” an assignment. So, each child ( this probably started in about 3rd or 4th grade) had 3 passes/year  where they could call and have us “rescue” them if they forgot something. Once you used up your “hall passes” you had to suffer the consequences of no lunch or turning in an assignment late.  Interestingly, each child was a bit different….one would use them up pretty quickly, another would “hoard” them for late in the year.  One wanted to know if they could be accrued? 

By the time they reached high school it was not a SHOCK when they were told the school rule that they could not call their parents.  It seems they figured out how to borrow money for lunch, or share with a friend, how to borrow a tie or jacket for an assembly and that turning in assignments a day late usually meant 10 points off. Not only did it help them become more organized and responsible, it also made me a working Mom “feel less guilt” that I really was not available to rescue them sometimes, even if I wanted to.  Do you think you would appreciate waiting in your pediatrician’s office (any longer than you may already) while they tried to run a homework assignment to school??  

You might try starting off the school year with a few hall passes and see if it works for your family!  

Daily Dose

College Students & Drugs

1:30 to read

It is the end of the school year and therefore there seems to be a great deal of stress among students of all ages. I am especially seeing this in some of my college students…..who seem to be making some rather dangerous choices in order to “help them cram for finals” and “stay awake”.

In the past few weeks I have had several students who have purchased or somehow procured a variety of drugs that were “purported” to aid in their studying for finals.  While there has been a great deal in the news about opiod addiction in young adult males, some of my patients have preferred other drugs that are seemingly available and acquiring them illegally.  

The on line drug scene, as well as the drug dealing among students, seems to be a growing problem among some college students.  While I have known that there was a great deal of alcohol and weed being used and abused, I suddenly feel as if I am getting more calls about patients, typically male, being taken to the ER after trying a combination of drugs, which were purportedly being taken to help them study, stay awake, curb anxiety and “succeed in school”.

So, what to do when you realize you have a test in a few days, or a paper that is due and you are “freaking out” as you are not prepared?!?!  Your roommate, or friend in the dorm, or even a complete stranger on line offers you an option - why not take a “stimulant”,  the preferred drug seems to be Adderall  (which was not prescribed for you) and chase it with an anti-anxiety drug   (Xanax, Valium or Ativan) then add in some alcohol when you need to chill or get some sleep. Some have even bought an unknown drug that is also supposed to curb anxiety and relax you (on line fake quaaludes)? This same scenario may occur over a few days or even weeks. While these patients thought they were “fine” and ready for class the next morning they were not!  In several cases these “crazy, stupid boys” suffered a grand mal seizure..never making it to class. Truly they are lucky to be alive the way they combined all of these medications.

Neither of my patients had ever had a history of seizures and were otherwise healthy.  Thankfully, they both recovered without problems.  But, they both admitted to me that they were just one of many who were doing the same thing.  Why they asked, did they have “adverse effects” from this lifestyle, when lots of their friends seemed to be fine….really??? I don’t even have words to try and answer this.

When I probed about how they “acquired” these drugs they said they are for sale in the dorms or on line and basically all over their campuses…..and these students attended what would be called “good” colleges. I have asked several kids who were already home from school about this and they too had heard some similar stories….and were aware of drugs being readily available, but had not partaken.

So, when your college student gets home you might take the opportunity to ask some questions about their college experience and if they are aware of these drugs …and remind them of the fact that taking ANY drug which is not prescribed for them is dangerous.  I have discussed binge drinking before and warn all of my student/patients that drinking excessive alcohol to “get drunk and pass out” can kill you from alcohol poisoning. But after hearing these stories and dealing with my own patients and their visits to the ER I am adding more information to my check ups with college students.  Mixing alcohol  and drugs has always been risky….but now the availability of these drugs is nothing but scary…..BE WARNED.  

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