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Daily Dose

HPV Vaccine

1:30 to read

I don’t think I have posted the latest good news about vaccines. As you know I am a huge proponent of vaccinating children (and ourselves), and remind patients that there continue to be ongoing studies regarding vaccine safety, as well as efficacy.  The CDC and ACIP recently announced that the HPV vaccine may be protective and effective after just 2 doses of vaccine rather than the previous recommendation of a series of 3 vaccines.  That is good news for teens, especially those that are “needle phobic”!  

 

The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices  recommended  a 2 dose HPV vaccine series for young adolescents, those that begin the vaccine series between 11 and 14 years.  For adolescents who begin the HPV vaccine series at the age 15 or older, the 3 dose series is still recommended.

 

This recommendation was based upon data presented to the ACIP and CDC from clinical trials which showed that two doses of HPV vaccine in younger adolescents (11-14 years old) produced an immune response similar or higher than the response in older adolescents (15 yrs or older). 

 

The HPV vaccine, which prevents many different types of cancer caused by human papilloma virus, has been routinely recommended beginning at age 11 years  approved to use as young as 9 years), but unfortunately only about 42% of girls and 28% of teenage boys has completed the 3 dose series.  

 

By showing that a 2 dose series (when started at younger ages) is effective and protective the hope is that more and more young adolescents will complete the series.  The two doses now must be spaced at least 6 months apart and may even be given at the 11 year and then 12 year check up which would not require as many visit to the pediatrician.

 

According to the CDC more HPV - related cancers have been diagnosed in recent years, and reported more than 31,000 new cases of cancer each year (from 2008 - 2012) were attributable to HPV, and that routine vaccination could potentially prevent about 29,000 cases of those cancers from occurring.  But, in order to see these numbers shrink, more and more adolescents need to be immunized…before they are ever exposed to the virus. Remember, the HPV vaccine is protective against certain strains of HPV, but does not treat HPV disease.

 

So..once again a good example of using science based evidence to provide the best protection against a serious disease…with less shots too!! Win - Win!!

 

 

Your Child

Getting Ready for a New School Year!

2:00

As summer break begins to wind down, preparations for a new school year are gearing up.  Whether it’s the first day of school for your little one or your teen’s first year of college, making the transition from vacation to a daily schedule requires some pre-planning.

Typically, the most difficult changeover for everyone is getting used to a regulated bedtime routine. Getting enough sleep will help family members handle the switch better. I know that’s much easier said than done, but it's worth the effort. Now is a good time to start preparing for a new school year schedule.

As pediatrician, Dr. Sue Hubbard, has said previously in her kidsdr.com Daily Dose article, a couple of weeks before the start of a new school year is when families should start getting used to a new schedule.

“In order to try and minimize grouchy and tired children (and parents too) during those first days of school, going to bed on time will be a necessity. Working on re-adjusting betimes now will also make the transition from summer schedule to school schedule a little easier. If your children have been staying up later than usual, try pushing the bedtime back by 15 minutes each night and gradually shifting the bedtime to the “normal” hour. At the same time, especially for older children, you will need to awaken them a little earlier each day to re-set their clocks for early morning awakening,” Hubbard noted.

Another important detail to take care of before school begins is making sure your child is current on all immunizations. Each state has its own requirements and exemptions. In Texas for instance:

K-12 grades are required to have - the Tetanus/ Diphtheria/ Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, the Polio vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, and the varicella vaccine. K through 6th grade are also required to get the Hepatitis A vaccine and 7th through 12 grades, a meningococcal vaccine.

Also highly recommended, but not a state law requirement, is the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV) for boys and girls.

You can find out exactly what your state’s school immunization program is by logging onto http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/awardee-imz-websites.html and clicking on your state.

And lets not forget our college bound students! Universities have their own policies, but these vaccines and booster shots are highly recommended by physicians and most universities: Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), Tdap, HPV vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine. Be sure to check with your child’s school to see what specific vaccines are required or suggested.

The first day of school for kindergarteners and / or first-graders can be unsettling for kids and parents. Here are a few ways you can help your child face the uncertainty:

·      Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.

·      Point out the positive aspects of starting school.  She'll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.

·      Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride on the bus.

·      If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school with your child before the first day.

·      If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with him or her) to school and pick them up on the first day.

Nutrition is an important factor in children doing well in school. During the summer break kids often get off schedule with their eating habits. Start the early morning routine at least a week before school actually starts so that everyone has a chance to get used to having and preparing breakfast early.

Studies have shown that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches are more alert throughout the school day and earn higher grades than those who have an unhealthy diet. 

Back-to-school- shopping, new schedule arrangements, homework time and space, immunizations, after-school sports and activities – they’re all part of a new school year.

One way to help keep everybody on track is with a calendar that is placed where everyone can see it and update it.

Here’s to a new school year that is full of learning, exciting experiences and good grades!

Source: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Back-to-School-Tips.aspx

 

Your Toddler

Uncut Grapes Can Choke Young Children

1:30

While good nutrition involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, there’s one fruit that should not be given to children 5 and under; grapes.

Uncut grapes are dangerous for young children because their size and smooth texture can cause choking and even death.

There have already been three choking cases in Scotland, out of which two turned out to be fatal, involving boys who were 5 or younger.

A report published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood notes that food is responsible for more than half of the choking incidents, which end in deaths when it comes to children under the age of 5.

"There is general awareness of the need to supervise young children when they are eating ... but knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread," noted Dr. Jamie Cooper, co-author of the report, from the emergency department at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital.

According to the same report, there is no awareness concerning the specific risks that soft fruits raise, and the relatively small numbers of cases per hospital, which occur every year, don't fully reflect the extent to which this issue can affect young children.

Kids that have choked on grapes don’t often make the news, but according to research conducted in the United States and Canada, grapes occupy third place when it comes to deaths caused by food-related incidents, after hotdogs and sweets.

There are two reasons why grapes are so dangerous, especially in very young children: first, because the airways of the children are small and their swallow reflex is not fully developed, and second due to the smooth texture of the fruit.

Other foods with similar texture can pose a choking hazard, such as tomatoes.  Health experts suggest that grapes and tomatoes be cut in half twice. Anytime a child (or an adult for that matter) is eating uncut grapes or small tomatoes they should pay attention to their eating and not mechanically pop them into their mouths – like when watching TV or playing video games.

Grapes and tomatoes are good sources of fiber and healthy nutrients, just make sure that your little one has his or hers’ cut up so they are not easily choked when eating them.

Story source: Livia Rusu, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/189851/20161224/grapes-as-a-choking-hazard-doctors-say-lack-of-awareness-puts-young-children-at-risk.htm

 

 

Your Teen

10 Reasons Teens Act The Way They Do

2:30

Anyone in the midst of raising a teen knows that the adolescent years can be some of the most difficult to get through and understand.

As a parent or guardian of a teenager that wants to be more independent, but also needs supervision and guidance, the times can be challenging indeed.

If that’s the position you find yourself in, you may be asking – what’s going on in that youngster’s brain? Actually, there’s a lot happening!

There are several scientific reasons an adolescent brain can be similar to a toddler’s: After infancy, the brain's most dramatic growth spurt occurs in adolescence. Here’s 10 things you may not know about your teen’s brain.

10. Critical period of development. Adolescence is generally considered to be the years between 11 and 19. It’s easy to see the outward changes that occur in boys and girls during this time, but inside, their brains are working on overdrive.

"The brain continues to change throughout life, but there are huge leaps in development during adolescence," said Sara Johnson, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Parents should understand that no matter how tall their son has sprouted or how grown-up their daughter dresses, "they are still in a developmental period that will affect the rest of their life," Johnson told LiveScience

9. The growing brain. Scientists used to believe the greatest leap in neuronal connections occurred in infancy, but brain imaging studies show that a second burst of neuronal sprouting happens right before puberty, peaking at about age 11 for girls and 12 for boys.

The adolescent's experiences shape this new grey matter, mostly following a "use it or lose it" strategy, Johnson said. The structural reorganization is thought to continue until the age of 25, and smaller changes continue throughout life.

8. New Thinking Skills. This increase in brain matter allows the teenager to become more interconnected and gain processing power, Johnson notes.

If given time and access to information, adolescents start to have the computational and decision-making skills of an adult. However, their decisions may be more emotional than objective because their brains rely more on the limbic system (the emotional seat of the brain) than the more rational prefrontal cortex.

"This duality of adolescent competence can be very confusing for parents," Johnson said, meaning that sometimes teens do things, like punching a wall or driving too fast, when, if asked, they clearly know better.

Sound familiar?

7.  Teen tantrums. While teens are acquiring amazing new skills during this time, they aren’t that good at using them yet, especially when it comes to social behavior and abstract thought.

That’s when parents can become the proverbial guinea pig. Many kids this age view conflict as a type of self-expression and may have trouble focusing on an abstract idea or understanding another's point of view.

Particularly in today’s heavy media influenced world, teens are dealing with a huge amount of social, emotional and cognitive flux says Sheryl Feinstein, author of Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.)

That’s when they need a more stable adult brain (parents) to help them stay calm and find the better path.

6. Intense emotions. Remember the limbic system mentioned earlier (the more emotional part of the brain)? It’s accelerated development, along with hormonal changes, may give rise to newly intense experiences of rage, fear, aggression (including towards oneself), excitement and sexual attraction.

Over the course of adolescence, the limbic system comes under greater control of the prefrontal cortex, the area just behind the forehead, which is associated with planning, impulse control and higher order thought.

As teens grow older, additional areas in the brain start to help it process emotions and gain equilibrium in decision-making and interpreting others. But until that time, teens can often misread parents and teachers Feinstein said.

5. Peer pressure. As teens become better at abstract thinking, their social anxiety begins to increase.  Ever wonder why your teen seems obsessed with what others are thinking and doing?

Abstract reasoning makes it possible to consider yourself from the eyes of another. Teens may use this new skill to ruminate about what others are thinking of them. In particular, peer approval has been shown to be highly rewarding to the teen brain, Johnson said, which may be why teens are more likely to take risks when other teens are around.

Friends also provide teens with opportunities to learn skills such as negotiating, compromise and group planning. "They are practicing adult social skills in a safe setting and they are really not good at it at first," Feinstein said. So even if all they do is sit around with their friends, teens are hard at work acquiring important life skills.

4. Measuring risk.  "The brakes come online somewhat later than the accelerator of the brain," said Johnson, referring to the development of the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system respectively.

At the same time, "teens need higher doses of risk to feel the same amount of rush adults do," Johnson said. Not a very comforting thought for parents.

This is a time when teens are vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviors, such as trying drugs, sex, getting into fights or jumping into unsafe water.

So what can a parent do during this risky time? "Continue to parent your child." Johnson said. Like all children, "teens have specific developmental vulnerabilities and they need parents to limit their behavior," she said.

It’s when being a parent to your child instead of trying to be their “friend” is more difficult but much more important for their physical and emotional safety.

3. Yes, parents are still important. According to Feinstein, a survey of teenagers revealed that 84 percent think highly of their mothers and 89 percent think highly of their fathers. And more than three-quarters of teenagers enjoy spending time with their parents; 79 percent enjoy hanging out with Mom and 76 percent like chilling with Dad. That’s not 100%, but it’s probably more than you thought.

One of the tasks of adolescence is separating from the family and establishing some autonomy, Feinstein said, but that does not mean a teen no longer needs parents – even if they say otherwise.

"They still need some structure and are looking to their parents to provide that structure," she said. "The parent that decides to treat a 16 or 17 year old as an adult is behaving unfairly and setting them up for failure." 

Listening to your teen and being a good role model, especially when dealing with stress and the other difficulties life can present, can help your teen figure out their own coping strategies.

2. Sleep. Ah, yes, sleep. Although teens need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night, their bodies are telling them a different story. Part of the problem is a shift in circadian rhythms during adolescence: It makes sense to teen bodies to get up later and stay up later, Johnson said.

But due to early bussing and class schedules, many teens rack up sleep debt and "become increasingly cognitively impaired across the week," Johnson said. Sleep-deprivation only exacerbates moodiness and cloudy decision-making. And sleep is thought to aid the critical reorganization of the teen brain.

"There is a disconnect between teen’s bodies and our schedules," Johnson said.

Shutting down the electronics an hour before bedtime has been shown to help teens as well as adults get to sleep quicker and sleep better. No computer, TV, video games or cell phones.

1.The “I am the Center of the Universe” syndrome. You may have noticed that your teen’s hormones are causing quite a bit of havoc. Experts say that’s to be expected. But you may still wonder- what the heck is going on with my kid?

The hormone changes at puberty have huge affects on the brain, one of which is to spur the production of more receptors for oxytocin, according to a 2008 issue of the journal Developmental Review.

The increased sensitivity caused by oxytocin has a powerful impact on the area of the brain controlling one’s emotions. Teens develop a feeling of self-consciousness and may truly believe that everyone is watching him or her. These feelings peek around age 15.

While this may make a teen seem self-centered (and in their defense, they do have a lot going on), the changes in the teen brain may also spur some of the more idealistic efforts tackled by young people throughout history.

"It is the first time they are seeing themselves in the world," Johnson said, meaning their greater autonomy has opened their eyes to what lies beyond their families and schools. They are asking themselves, she continued, for perhaps the first time: What kind of person do I want to be and what type of place do I want the world to be?

Until their brains develop enough to handle shades of grey, their answers to these questions can be quite one-sided, Feinstein said, but the parents' job is to help them explore the questions, rather than give them answers.

And there you have it. Teen’s brains are exploding with new data, confusing signals and dueling desires. It’s a tough time in one’s development- but rest assured, what you teach them by example and compassion as well as how you gingerly help guide them will last a life-time. Even when you do the best you can, there are no guarantees that they will turn out the way you’re hoping they will – they are after all- individuals with a will and a mind of their own. But now you know a little more about why your teen acts the way they do.

Story Source: Robin Nixon, http://www.livescience.com/13850-10-facts-parent-teen-brain.html

Your Child

Are Hand Sanitizers Are Making Kids Sick?

2:00

Hand sanitizer is available just about everywhere you go, especially during the flu and cold season.  I’ve used it myself to wipe down grocery cart handles and while visiting friends and family members in the hospital. Schools have also become very conscientious about spreading germs and many have sanitizer dispensers in classrooms and halls. Lots of families make sure that sanitizers are available in the home to help keep bacteria and viruses at bay.

While gel hand sanitizers are convenient, they are also contributing to a rise in kids getting sick after ingesting the products, according to a new government report.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers tracked illnesses from 2011 to 2014 for children aged 12 and under. The investigators believe some kids in the higher age range may be drinking sanitizers because of the products' high alcohol content.

"Older children [aged 6-12 years] were more likely to report intentional ingestion and to have adverse health effects and worse outcomes than were younger children, suggesting that older children might be deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers," wrote the team led by Dr. Cynthia Santos, of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.

Typical hand sanitizers contain 60 to 90 percent ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, as well as scents that children might find appealing.

"Recent reports have identified serious consequences" with ingesting hand sanitizers, the CDC team said. These include breathing difficulties, excessive acid buildup in tissues, and even coma.

So, what’s going on with kids and hand sanitizers? The researchers said that answer might depend on the age of the child. Most of these exposures may have been accidental, with 91 percent occurring in kids, aged 5 and under. But about 6,200 incidents affected kids aged 6 to 12, and these have a much higher odds of being intentional ingestions, the research showed.

Santos noted that ingestion of alcohol sanitizers was also associated with worse symptoms in kids.

While vomiting and eye irritation were the most common symptoms, much more serious events were also recorded, including five cases of coma and three cases involving seizures, Santos' group said.

What’s influencing this change? According to the CDC team, in recent years many schools have installed gel hand sanitizer dispensers, or requested that children bring their own hand sanitizer gels to school.

Santos' group pointed to "a study examining Texas poison center data from 2000 to 2011 [that] found that, among 385 adolescents who ingested hand sanitizer, 35 percent of ingestions occurred at school.

The CDC team noted that "hand washing with soap and water is the recommended method of hand hygiene in non-health care settings" such as the home and school. Hand washing is a safe, effective germ-killer, they said, without the risks to children that can come with hand sanitizers.

If hand sanitizers must be used, the researchers said adult supervision and proper storage -- away from children's reach when not in use -- could help lower poisoning risks.

Hand sanitizers play a role in making sure that germs aren’t spread or for a quick cleanup when water and soap aren’t available, but as with most chemicals, they need to be kept out of the mouths of young children. Older kids may not understand the dangers of ingesting products with alcohol listed as an ingredient. What may seem like a lark could put them in a coma. A discussion about drinking alcohol and the facts about the different types of alcohol – such as ethanol or isopropyl alcohol – may save them from a trip to the ER.

The report was published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality.

Story source: E.J. Mundell, https://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/poisons-health-news-537/rising-number-of-kids-ill-from-drinking-hand-sanitizers-cdc-720300.html

 

 

Your Toddler

Kid’s “Hypoallergenic” Products May Cause Allergic Reactions

2:00

When a child has eczema, doctors often recommend that parents purchase hypoallergenic ointments, creams or lotions to ease the suffering from dry, inflamed skin.

However, according to a new study, many products labeled as hypoallergenic contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the “hypoallergenic” label, said Carsten Hamann, a medical student at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California and the lead researcher on the study.

“Kids who have eczema or atopic dermatitis use more lotions and creams and ointments, etc. Ostensibly, their caregivers who purchase these products to use on the kids' skin, give preference to products using these meaningless marketing terms,” Hamann told Reuters Health in an email.

Hamann and his colleagues tested products that might be used by kids with eczema, which affects 17.8 million people in the U.S., according to the National Eczema Association. Patients have patches of red, itchy skin, often on the arms, legs, cheeks, and behind the ears.

Doctors often advise people with eczema to apply moisturizer to the affected areas.  People with eczema tend to have a higher risk of so-called “contact allergies.” That is, they may have allergic reactions to substances that come in contact with their skin, including fragrances, preservatives, and other kinds of chemicals.

Researchers tested 187 cosmetic products found in 6 different stores in California, to see if they contained any of the 80 most common known allergens.  All of the products were specifically marketed as being safe for use by children and labeled as “hypoallergenic”, “ dermatologist recommended/ tested”, “fragrance-free,” or “Paraben free.” Most people assume that these types of products are actually designed to help people who have sensitive skin.

But, researchers found that 89 percent of the products contained at least one allergen, 63 percent contained two or more, and 11 percent contained five or more. The average number of allergens per product was 2.4, the researchers reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Preservatives and fragrances accounted for 58 percent and 29 percent of the allergens, respectively. These ingredients often irritate a skin condition.

Ten percent of the products contained methylisothizolinone, a preservative that is about to be banned in the European Union because it can cause severe skin irritation, according to the researchers.

“It would be very difficult for even the most caring, intelligent and well-read parent to know the names of 80-plus allergens and their synonyms, let alone compare that list of allergens to a 15-plus long ingredient list on the back of a pediatric product,” Hamann said.

Dr. Michael Arden-Jones, a skin disease specialist at the University of Southampton in the U.K., said that defining something as an allergen can be complicated.

“Almost any chemical compound could be implicated as an allergen, so it is almost impossible for a cream to be truly non-allergic,” he told Reuters Health. “Thus, as there is no true ‘hypoallergenic’ cream, there is no agreed meaning of ‘hypoallergenic.’”

Skin experts say that ointments are generally the safest products for kids who have eczema. Creams and lotions contain water and therefore must contain preservatives, making them more likely to contain allergens. Prescription moisturizers are typically reliable. Products with artificial coloring or fragrances or do not have the ingredients listed on the box should be avoided.

The National Eczema Association reviews products and offers the “NEA Seal of Acceptance” for those that do not include known irritants. Depending on the product, the NEA Seal of Acceptance™ Review Panel considers testing data on sensitivity, safety, and toxicity, as well as the ingredients, content, and formulation data. There is a tab on the website dedicated to information on child eczema in infants to older children. Their website is: http://nationaleczema.org.

Sources: Madeline Kennedy, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/21/us-eczema-products-safety-idUSKCN0J529L20141121

http://nationaleczema.org.

Daily Dose

Being a Dad

1:30 to read

Seeing that this is the week of Father’s Day (have you made your card or shopped yet?), I thought this was a good time to discuss some recent data that might be of interest to men….especially those who may be planning a family in the near future. 

For years research has shown that maternal age may contribute to birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities, including Down’s syndrome.. It has also been known that a pregnant woman’s health and habits may also affect their unborn baby’s health, therefore  woman are instructed to stop smoking and drinking alcohol while trying to get pregnant as well as throughout their pregnancy.

Dr. Joanna Kitlinska a researcher from Georgetown University has been studying how men’s age as well as their habits might also impact a child.  Her findings have shown a link between men who are over 40 years- “advanced paternal age”  and the incidence of autism as compared to fathers under 30 years of age.  Studies have also found that older fathers are more  likely to have children who develop schizophrenia.  Researchers wonder if this link may be due to changes in a father’s genes as they age….but to date this is unclear. “Biological clocks” and a woman’s decision to delay a pregnancy until their career is established (or for a myriad of reasons) may now be a decision that men will face as well.  Could both aging eggs and sperm play a role in genetic abnormalities? 

Smoking seems to be another habit that may somehow affect a man’s sperm and could potentially lead to genetic abnormalities in a child. 

While fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are known to be found in women who have consumed alcohol throughout their pregnancy,  researchers have also noted that 3 out of 4 children diagnosed with FAS also have alcoholic fathers.   Could their father’s excessive use of alcohol have also played a role in their developing brain?  This association has been found even if the mother did not drink alcohol during her pregnancy. Again, did the alcohol affect a father’s sperm and genes which was passed on to their child?

So…bottom line, it is important that “fathers to be” are equally invested in a healthy lifestyle when they are planning on having children.  It goes without saying that smoking, drinking, and even obesity and stress are not good choices for anyone …..but the fact that these choices may affect a future child are good reasons for both fathers, and mothers to be aware of this research when they are planning a family. 

 

Your Teen

Teenage Heavy Pot Use and Memory Loss

2:00

Teens who are heavy users of marijuana may be setting themselves up for memory loss and physical changes in the brain suggests a new study.

Researchers found that young adults who'd smoked pot heavily as teens performed worse on memory tests than their peers who'd never used the drug regularly. And on brain scans, they tended to show differences in the shape of the hippocampus -the part of the brain that is involved with forming, organizing and storing memory. 

The findings did not prove that heavy marijuana use caused the changes in the brain or memory dysfunction, but suggests that there could be a connection. The study was small and participants were only assessed once.

Matthew Smith, lead researcher and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, pointed out that other research has found a link between teenagers' heavy marijuana use and lingering memory problems, as well as a loss in IQ points. Similarly, brain-imaging studies have found that habitual pot smokers show differences in the volume and shape of the hippocampus, versus non-users.

The young adults had stopped smoking pot on an average of two years before participating in this study. Smith said that the brain changes and memory loss suggests that the effects may indicate long-term damage.

The current findings are based on 10 young adults who smoked pot heavily as teens -- usually daily, starting at 16 or 17, for an average of three years. Smith's team compared them with 44 young adults the same age, and from similar backgrounds, with no history of drug abuse.

Overall, the former marijuana users performed worse on a test where they had to listen to a series of stories, then remember as much information as possible a half-hour later.

Smith said he thinks the gap would be relevant in real life. "It would be similar to having a conversation, and then forgetting details 30 minutes later," he said.

The researchers also found a correlation between having an "oddly shaped" hippocampus and poorer memory performance, Smith said, though he added that does not prove the structural difference caused the memory issues.

Because teenager’s brain are still developing, Smith suggests that if young people want to smoke marijuana it might be best to wait until they are in their 20s before they start.

"The overall body of evidence is pretty clear that when teenagers use marijuana [regularly], their brains tend to look different and there tend to be cognitive differences," he said.

Not everyone agrees that this study points out a link between teenage heavy marijuana use with cognitive difficulties or hippocampus changes.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a non-profit that advocates for legal marijuana use, says that because participants in the study were assessed only once, there’s no way to know whether the pot use came before any memory issues.

He also suggests other factors may be responsible for the hippocampus changes such as heavy drinking.

Armentano believes concerns about teenagers' developing brains presents a good argument for legalizing marijuana. "The obvious public-policy response," he said, "is to regulate the substance in a manner that better restricts young people's access to it, and provides them with evidence-based information in regard to its potential risks."

With the legalization of marijuana use in several states and other states looking at the possibility of legalization, more studies of the long-term effects are beginning to flow in.

Legalization certainly isn’t the beginning of pot use among teens. However, the perception of marijuana use as harmful is changing rather quickly among teens and even pre-teens.

According to www.drugabuse.gov, marijuana use remained stable in 2014, even though the percentage of youth perceiving the drug as harmful went down. Past-month use of marijuana remained steady among 8th graders at 6.5 percent, among 10th graders at 16.6 percent, and among 12th graders at 21.2 percent. Close to 6 percent of 12th graders report daily use of marijuana (similar to 2013), and 81 percent of them said the drug is easy to get.

Although marijuana use has remained relatively stable over the past few years, there continues to be a shifting of teens’ attitudes about its perceived risks. The majority of high school seniors do not think occasional marijuana smoking is harmful, with only 36.1 percent saying that regular use puts the user at great risk, compared to 39.5 percent in 2013 and 52.4 percent in 2009. However, 56.7 percent of seniors say they disapprove of adults who smoke it occasionally, and 73.4 percent say they disapprove of adults smoking marijuana regularly.

Waiting till a child has reached their pre-teen or teenage years to start discussing drug use isn’t going to be near as effective as beginning that conversation much earlier. Drugs have long held a fascination for kids whether you’re talking about marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol or any of the other type of inhalant or pills. That’s not news to parents. The difference is that drugs are now more easily available and new temptations are widespread.  

No matter what the research eventually reveals, drug use should be a topic that parents start discussing with their children when they are young- using age-appropriate terminology- along with the sex, personal responsibility and ethics discussions. These conversations can provide information that will help them navigate peer and societal temptations in a more mature and educated way.

Sources: Amy Norton, http://teens.webmd.com/news/20150312/teens-heavy-pot-smoking-tied-to-memory-problems

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends

Your Child

Different Ways for Kids to Handle Stress

2:00

If you’re alive (and of course, you are) then you’ve experienced some form of stress.

Stress can be minor, more like annoyances that add up. There’s mid-level stress that can give you a bad day, but doesn’t hang around much after that. Then there is chronic stress; the kind that can affect your health and wellbeing.  There’s also varying degrees of stress between those three layers.

Experiencing stress begins early in life and for some kids can be devastating, depending on the circumstances.

However, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can also be a motivator or make you aware of your surroundings. It can help you find solutions to difficult problems. It is normal and even healthy for children to experience some stress, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). How well kids handle stress depends on how much support they have from others and strength inside them.

Stress cannot be totally eliminated, but it can be managed.

Sometimes medications are given to kids and adults to help reduce stress – but there are other methods that are definitely worth looking into.

Exercise:  Physical activity is a great stress reducer. The body not only benefits from exercise, but so does the brain. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted yours or your child’s energy or ability to concentrate.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

Yoga: Many children do yoga to get rid of stress, pain and health problems. Yoga uses breathing and body postures to connect the mind and the body. It also helps kids manage feelings and how they act, and yoga is good for kids with anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other mental health conditions, according to the AAP.

Yoga is actually good for the whole family. It’s a good way to connect with the body, mind and emotions while sharing some peaceful time together.

Clinical hypnosis: Hypnosis can help children with irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, and anxiety before surgery and cancer. Not to be confused with the act that entertainers use to put people into a trance-like state; trained specialists help children through hypnosis in a medical setting. Kids are asked to tune out their surroundings to change their feelings about something.

Sometimes doctors use clinical hypnosis along with guided imagery. This therapy uses all of the senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and movement.

Meditation: Children can improve their attention span and learn how to focus better with mediation.  Some schools have found that meditation helps reduce absences and negative behaviors and improves kids’ self-esteem. One study found that students in an urban school were less stressed out after participating in a school mindfulness meditation program.

The AAP has a 10-point “Personal Stress Plan” form that can be downloaded at (http://bit.ly/2aop7IR). It is a series of questions with options for personal development. The questions are a good way for parents and kids to talk about the impact stress is having and what they can do to manage it.

Most of the methods mentioned above for reducing stress, were once tagged as “alternative” medicine. Today, they are much more mainstream and are providing families with good options for reducing the stress in their lives.

Story sources: Trisha Korioth, http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/08/22/PPMindBody08221616

https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

 

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