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Your Child

2 Doses of Chickenpox Vaccine Almost 100 Percent Effective


Chickenpox is one of the most common childhood illnesses. It is a viral infection caused by the Varicella zoster virus and produces a painful, itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters.

It occurs most often in early spring and late winter and is highly contagious. Typically, chickenpox occurs in kids between 6 and 10 years of age.

A new study shows that among schoolchildren, two doses of the chickenpox vaccine is more effective than one.

Giving the first dose at age 1 and the second dose at ages 4 to 6 is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing the once common childhood disease, researchers have found.

"A second dose of varicella [chickenpox] vaccine provides school-aged children with better protection against the chickenpox virus, compared to one dose alone or no vaccination," said lead researcher Dana Perella, of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Two doses of the vaccine protected against the moderate to severe chickenpox infections that can lead to complications and hospitalizations, she said.

Before routine chickenpox vaccination began in 1995, virtually all children were infected at some point, sometimes with serious complications. About 11,000 children were hospitalized each year for chickenpox, and 100 died annually from the disease, according to the CDC.

One-dose vaccination greatly reduced incidence of chickenpox, but outbreaks continued to be reported in schools where many kids had been vaccinated. That led the CDC in 2006 to recommend a second vaccine dose.

To evaluate effectiveness of the double- dose regimen, Perella and colleagues collected data on 125 children with chickenpox in Philadelphia and northern Los Angeles and compared them with 408 kids who had not had the disease.

They found that two doses of the vaccine was slightly more than 97 percent effective in protecting kids from chickenpox.

"With improved protection provided by two-dose varicella vaccination compared with one-dose only, continued decreases in the occurrence of chickenpox, including more severe infections and hospitalizations, are expected as more children routinely receive dose two between the ages of 4 and 6 years," Perella said.

For children with weakened immune systems that cannot take the vaccine, having their classmates and playmates protected by the vaccine helps protect them against the viral infection.

School vaccine requirements should include two-dose varicella vaccination, Perella said.

"In addition, 'catch-up' varicella vaccination is also important," she said. This applies to anyone over 6 who haven’t had a second vaccine dose, especially if they could be exposed to chickenpox or shingles - a painful condition in older people caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus, she said.

Most healthy children who get chickenpox do not have serious complications from the illness. But there are cases when chickenpox has caused hospitalization, serious complications and even death.

A child may be at greater risk for complications if he or she:

·      Has a weakened immune system

·      Is under 1 year of age

·      Suffers from eczema

·      Takes a medication called salicylate

·      Was born prematurely

The report was published online March 14 and will appear in the April print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Story sources: Steven Reinberg,

Your Child

More Myths About the Measles Vaccine


As measles cases continue to climb, people are taking notice. Public health officials as well as a growing list of politicians are asking parents to make sure that their child or children get the MMR vaccine.

While support is growing to have all children immunized against the highly contagious disease, anti-vaccination groups are also speaking out through media outlets, emails, social media and blogs.

In the 1990s, a now discredited study linked the MMR vaccine to autism. Parents reacted with fear throughout world and began opting out of getting their children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.

Since that time, dozens of medical studies have been conducted and found no connection between the vaccine and autism. The doctor, Andrew Wakefield, was stripped of his license and the British Medical Journal called his research “fraudulent.”

That hasn’t stopped people from continuing to quote his discredited findings.

With so much attention being given to measles these days, new myths have popped up from people who continue to spread fear about the MMR vaccine.

Two myths in particular are making the rounds:

1. The vaccine doesn’t work because it protects against a different strain.

The first concern, which has been posted on anti-vaccination blogs, is that the vaccine protects against an “A” type of measles virus, while the kind that’s making everyone sick is a “B”-type virus. Therefore, the vaccine doesn’t protect against the kind of measles that’s making everyone sick.

It’s true that are different strains of the measles virus, but it doesn’t act like the flu virus – where different strains can overpower a particular vaccine. Each measles virus is given a letter and a number, for example B3 or D4. They refer to the genetic fingerprint of the virus. Since 1990, 19 different strains, or fingerprints, have been identified, according to the CDC, and scientists use these fingerprints to link infections during an outbreak.

However, the measles virus doesn’t change as much as the flu virus. Once the current vaccine and boosters are in the body’s system – the vaccine protects against all strains of measles.

2. It’s vaccinated people who are spreading measles, not those that are unvaccinated.

The thought behind this myth is that the measles shot, which contains a weakened but live form of the virus, can give people infections that allow them to pass on the disease to others.

It’s an interesting twist according to William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.

“The vaccine virus, can, on occasion, spread to others,” Schaffner says. “That gives them protection. It doesn’t give them disease.”

But, he says, to be clear: "On occasion" means the possibility is so remote that it’s highly unlikely.

If that were to happen, Schaffner says, it would actually be a good thing because the person who “caught” the vaccine virus would get the protection, but not the illness. Most likely, they wouldn’t even know it occurred. Other experts say this is more theory than anything else.

Some parents believe measles is a somewhat minor disease that may cause a short period of illness and doesn’t have any long-term effects. There are even groups that have “measles parties” so their children can build a “natural” immunity.

Measles can be fatal to children, adults with suppressed immune systems and the elderly – that’s a very long-term side effect. It can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) and require intensive care in the hospital. Complications from measles can cause permanent hearing loss. Measles is not something you want to mess with. Medical experts agree that parents need to get the real facts and have their children vaccinated. 

Source: Brenda Goodman MA,

Your Child

Physical Activity Improves Kids Brain Power!


Kids who enjoy lots of physical activity are doing more than just having fun; they’re improving their brain structure, brain function and academic prowess according to new consensus statement published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A group of 24 researchers from the United States, Canada and Europe examined the latest scientific and medical research on the benefits of exercise in kids, ages 6 to 18 years old.

Experts from a variety of disciplines evaluated the values of all kinds of exercise, including recess, physical education classes, youth sports leagues and old-fashioned outdoor play.

The researchers noted that:

•       Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are good for children's and young people's brain development and function as well as their intellect

•       A session of physical activity before, during, and after school boosts academic prowess

•       A single session of moderately energetic physical activity has immediate positive effects on brain function, intellect, and academic performance

•       Mastery of basic movement boosts brain power and academic performance

•       Time taken away from lessons in favor of physical activity does not come at the cost of getting good grades

In terms of the physiological benefits of exercise, the Statement says that cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness "are strong predictors" of the risk of developing heart disease and type2 diabetes in later life, and that vigorous exercise in childhood helps to keep these risk factors in check.

Even low intensity exercise will help improve kids’ heart health and their metabolism.

But the positive effects of exercise are not restricted to physical health, says the Statement. Regular physical activity can help develop important life skills, and boost self-esteem, motivation, confidence and wellbeing. And it may play a role in strengthening /fostering relationships with peers, parents, and coaches.

Just as importantly, activities that take account of culture and context can promote social inclusion for those from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientation, skill levels and physical capacity.

Incorporating physical activity into every aspect of school life and providing protected public spaces, such as bike lanes, parks and playgrounds "are both effective strategies for providing equitable access to, and enhancing physical activity for, children and youth," says the Statement.

For many kids right now, summer vacation is in full gear. With longer daylight hours and relaxed schedules, opportunities for more adventurous types of exercise are numerous. Swimming, hiking, biking, camping, water skiing, sports – you name it – all add to the overall mental and physical health of our children. Now’s a good time to start and stay active!

Story source:

Your Teen

Glee Star is the New Face of Heroin Addiction

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Headlines recently announced the death of Cory Monteith, one of the stars of the TV show “Glee.” Looking at the fresh-faced young man, you’d never suspect that he struggled with alcohol and drugs. But experts say he fits the new profile of heroin users.

Many Americans are not aware of the new realities of heroin use among kids, teens and young adults. In fact, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monteith largely fits the new profile of a heroin user: a white male in his 30s.

“I deal with drug users every day,” Dr. Richard Clark, an emergency room physician and director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, told NBC News. “The stereotypical user on the street? That’s the past as far as heroin use in the U.S. is concerned. Lots of people are using it these days – kids, teenagers, white-collar workers.”

Many of the young adults using heroin started when they were teenagers. Many of them live in suburbs and rural communities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), documented an alarming 80 percent increase in first use of heroin among teens since 2002.

In 2009, 510 teens and young adults between 15 and 24 died of a heroin overdose, up from 198 a decade earlier.

“People think it’s totally impossible that they could know somebody who could be on that trajectory,” said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington School of Public Health who writes frequently about heroin use. Monteith, Banta-Green said, “is what a heroin user looks like.”

Heroin is now cheaper and more plentiful than in the past. Where heroin was once obtained from the Far East and Southwest Asia, it is now transported into the U.S. from South America and Mexico making it much more affordable and easier to get. Heroin is also coming in from Afghanistan where production has steadily increased.

Why is heroin becoming popular among teens? One reason may be because the U.S. government has made a strong push to crack down on prescription opiates, a popular drug of choice among kids. Drugs like Oxycodone and other painkillers are now harder to get and more expensive. Heroin, on the other hand, is cheap and plentiful. It also packs a stronger punch or “rush.”

Heroin use dropped sharply during the height of the late 1980s-1990s AIDS crisis because drug users didn’t want to risk injections. Now, though, heroin is often snorted or smoked, giving it the same kind of ease of use, and even societal popularity that cocaine once had.

When a heroin user overdoses, they often just stop breathing. While most teen drug users are not typically going to be snorting or injecting heroin when they are in the middle of a crowd, they may be consuming a lot of alcohol. Once they get home they may decide to top off the evening with heroin. That can be a deadly combination especially when they are in their room and no one knows to check on them.

Too many parents think that their child doesn’t fit the typical heroin user stereotype. They are simply unaware that heroin is the new “in” drug and it’s in the schools, on the playgrounds and in the malls. Dealers may be kids that you’ve known since they were little.

The sad news of Cory Monteith’s death shocked his fans, friends and family. He reportedly had been struggling with alcohol and drug abuse since his early teens. After a recent stay in rehab, many thought he had licked his demons and was on the way to a true recovery. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. He made the decision to give heroin one more try and this time it killed him.

Heroin is extremely addictive. It doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care if you are rich, middle-class or poor. Whether you live in a mansion, a suburb or the inner city.  It treats everyone exactly the same way and it can quickly stop a heart. 

If you suspect that your child is using ANY drugs, make it your business to find out for sure. And if they are – get them the help they need to deal with whatever is causing their use. It will not make you popular, but it may save your child’s life.

Source: Brian Alexander,


Your Baby

Higher ADHD Risks Linked to Premature Births


The risk that a child will have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is relatively low among the general population. However, a new study suggests that the more premature a baby is when born; the risk for ADHD increases significantly.

Finnish researchers led by Dr. Minna Sucksdorff of the University of Turku compared more than 10,000 children with ADHD against more than 38,000 children without ADHD but similar in terms of gender, birth date and place of birth.

The researchers used birth medical records to see how far along in the pregnancy the mother was when the child was born. They also looked at whether the children were underweight or overweight for what is expected at that gestational age.

The study results showed that the risk of ADHD increased for each week earlier that a child was born. A full-term pregnancy is considered to be 40 weeks.

The odds of children with ADHD were 10 times greater when they were born during the 23rd to 24th week of pregnancy. Children born between the 27th and 33rd week of pregnancy were twice as likely to have ADHD compared to those without ADHD.

Other factors that affect gestational age and ADHD were also taken in account such as the mother’s age and whether she smoked or used drugs or alcohol. After these considerations, the findings remained the same.

In regards to birth weight, researchers found that infants born at very low or very high weight percentages were also at a higher risk for ADHD.

These findings imply that the pathways in the fetal brain may develop differently in children who are not adequately nourished, or are over-nourished, in the womb, or once a child is delivered prematurely, said Dr. Glen Elliott, chief psychiatrist and medical director of Children's Health Council in Palo Alto, Calif.

However, he added, this type of study cannot show that premature birth or growth rate in the womb actually causes ADHD. Symptoms of the common brain disorder include inattention, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity, which can affect a child's ability to learn and make friends.

Most early cesarean births happen because a mother and / or her infant are in distress and surgery is needed to protect one or the other or both of their health. Planned cesareans are typically scheduled close to the original due date and are unlikely to be associated to ADHD risk. However, the findings may give doctors something to consider when making a decision about cesarean birth.

"Since both gestational weight and gestational age have marked effects, clinicians may face difficult choices if a fetus is not thriving in the womb at an early gestational age," Elliott said. "Does one deliver the child early to enhance nutrition or delay to minimize the effects of premature delivery?"

The risk is still low overall that a child will have ADHD, and these findings are based on a child's relative risk of having the condition compared to others, Elliott added. The study suggests that the chance for ADHD appears to be greatest among the very premature babies.

The findings were published in the August 24th online edition of  the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Tara Haelle,

Your Child

Obesity Related Heart Disease Found in Children as Young as 8


All you have to do is look around, wherever children are gathered, to see that there are far too many kids that are overweight in this country.  And sadly, some of these children may already be developing heart disease according to a new study.

The study reports that obese children as young as 8 years of age, are beginning to show signs of heart abnormalities.

"It is both surprising and alarming to us that even the youngest obese children in our study who were 8 years old had evidence of heart disease," said study lead author Linyuan Jing, a postdoctoral fellow with Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.

"Ultimately, we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible," Jing added. "However, it is possible that there could be permanent damage."

Researchers conducted MRI scans of 40 children between 8 and 16 years old. Half of the participants were obese; the other half was of normal weight for their age and height.

They found that the obese children had an average of 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle region their heart, and 12 percent thicker heart muscle overall. Both are considered indicators of heart disease, Jing said.

Among 40 percent of the obese children, scans showed thickened heart muscle had already translated into a reduced ability to pump blood. The children with this reduced heart capacity were considered to be at “high risk” for adult cardiac strain and heart disease.

"This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle," Jing said.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, called the findings "alarming."

Some of the obese children in the study were struggling with health complications often associated with excess weight, including asthma, high blood pressure and depression, the researchers said. But none displayed customary warning signs of heart disease such as fatigue, dizziness or shortness of breath, Jing said.

The study did not include kids with diabetes or those that were too large to fit inside the MRI scanning machine. Jing noted that the study might actually underestimate how many children are suffering from heart related problems associated with obesity.

Jing said it’s up to parents to help their children maintain a healthy weight. They should buy healthy foods instead of cheap fast food and fruit juice, "which is high in sugar but low in fiber," she said.

She also recommended that parents limit TV, computer and video game time and encourage more physical outdoor activities.

Childhood obesity isn’t just an American problem; it’s a global problem as well.  The World Heart Federation says that one in 10 school-aged children worldwide are estimated to be overweight. However, in the USA, the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.

The researchers believe that schools can play a role in helping families understand the health problems associated with obesity.

“…Schools and communities need to do a better job at educating both the parents and children about the health risks of overweight and obesity," said Jing.

Fonarow agreed adding, "Substantially increased efforts are needed to prevent and treat childhood obesity."

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Alan Mozes,




Your Toddler

Thumb Sucking

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I admit it – I was a thumb sucker for way too long. My thumb and mouth didn’t part company until I was in first grade. The fear of getting caught during a sleepover at a friend’s house was enough for me to finally call it quits.

It’s normal for babies and toddlers to suck their thumbs. Babies are born with the urge to suck as part of their survival. They also use it as a way to soothe themselves when they feel hungry, afraid, restless, sleepy or bored. Toddlers carry on that natural instinct as they find their way in the world.

By the time children are around four-years-old they’ve typically stopped sucking their thumb and found replacements for self-soothing. Occasionally, children (like myself) will continue to suck their thumb out of habit.

Some experts say that if a child is still sucking their thumb by the age of six, they may be doing so because of emotional distress such as anxiety.

Thumb sucking isn’t a problem under the age of four, but if a child continues- with great intensity- after five or six years old, they could be setting themselves up for dental or speech problems.

Prolonged thumb sucking may cause their teeth to become improperly aligned (malocclusion) or push their teeth outward. If the thumb sucking stops, the teeth most likely will align correctly, but the longer the sucking continues the more likely orthodontic treatment will be needed.

Extended thumb sucking may also cause speech issues such as lisping, inability to say Ts and Ds, and pushing the tongue out when talking. A speech therapist may be needed to help correct these problems.

How do you help your child stop sucking their thumb? It takes a lot of patience.

One place to begin is to pay attention to what triggers the thumb sucking. Does your little one start when they are bored, sleepy, or unsure about something? Redirecting can help. Busy hands help keep thumbs from going into the mouth. Give your child a large stuffed animal to wrap their arms around or have them help hold the book when you are reading to them. Offer a squeezable rubber ball or finger puppets to grasp when they are watching TV.  The key is to offer an alternative at the times you notice they are the most likely to want to suck their thumb.

Ask your child to not suck their thumb in public and gently remind them when you see them doing it. Let them suck their thumb at home, but start the process of being self-aware in public. Kids often unconsciously slip their thumb into their mouth. A reminder helps them notice what they are doing.

You can also start talking to your child about why it’s time to give some thought to stopping. In age-appropriate language explain how thumb sucking is okay for younger children, but as children get older they learn how to stop. Ask them questions like “Do you see (insert name of an older child or adult here) sucking his or her thumb?” They’ll think about it more and start to decide whether they want to continue. It’s a process that takes time.

Punishing or shaming your child is absolutely the wrong method to address thumb sucking. This approach not only doesn’t work, but also lowers a child self-value and can create an even stronger desire to thumb suck. It’s like quitting anything you’re doing that may not be good for you in the long run- the worse someone tries to make you feel about it- the more you want to do it (think overeating, smoking, drinking.)

You can also talk to your pediatrician or family doctor for his or her suggestions on how to help your child. For older children, behavioral therapy may be beneficial.

There are products that are nasty tasting that can be swabbed on your child’s thumb, but some experts think that approach is cruel and more like a punishment than a humane way to help a child outgrow a natural inclination.

Most kids will simply quit sucking their thumb when they are good and ready. Helping your child reach that point may require patience and creativity, but in time his or her thumb will cease to be a constant comfort companion.


Your Baby

Breastfeeding May Improve Infant’s Dental Development.


Infants that breastfeed exclusively or predominately for their first three to six months of life are less likely to develop any kind of dental misalignment later on according to a new study.

The researchers, led by Karen Peres at the University of Adelaide in Australia, tracked just over 1,300 children for five years, including how much they breast-fed at 3 months, 1 year and 2 years old.

The children were also monitored for pacifier use.  About forty percent used a pacifier daily for four years.

When the children were 5, the researchers determined which of them had various types of misaligned teeth or jaw conditions, including open bite, cross bite, overbite or a moderate to severe misalignment.

The risk of overbite was one-third lower for those who exclusively breast-fed for three to six months compared to those who didn't, the findings showed. If they breast-fed at least six months or more, the risk of overbite dropped by 44 percent.

Similarly, children who exclusively breast-fed for three months to six months were 41 percent less likely to have moderate to severe misalignment of the teeth. Breast-feeding six months or longer reduced their risk by 72 percent.

The reason breastfeeding might offer protection from dental misalignments is the way it works an infant’s jaws. Breastfeeding involves coordinated tongue and jaw movements that support the normal development of teeth and facial muscles.

Dr. Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, agrees that it’s the jaw movement.

"Breast-feeding requires the use of jaw muscles more so than bottle-feeding, so the mechanics of breast-feeding stimulate muscle tone in the jaw," Fisher said.

Open bite, overbite and moderate to severe misalignment were generally less common overall among the children who mostly or exclusively breast-fed. Children who mostly breast-fed but also used pacifiers, however, were slightly more likely to have one of these misalignment issues, the study found.

"Pacifiers are used for non-nutritive sucking but when overused, they can put pressure on the developing jaw and lead to more problems in older children with malocclusion [teeth/jaw misalignment]," Fisher said.

Parents oftentimes depend on the pacifier to help babies relax and self-soothe. The key is moderation of use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents consider using a pacifier for an infant's first six months because pacifiers are associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

"Most infants need to suck for comfort or non-nutritive sucking," Fisher said. "Pacifiers can be helpful in the newborn period and even help reduce incidents of SIDS in infants who sleep with them."

Instead, parents should simply limit pacifier use, she said. In addition, pacifiers are not needed past the first six to 12 months, Fisher said, so parents can begin weaning after that time.

Like most studies, the results did not prove cause and effect, but an association.

The findings were published online in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Tara Haelle,


Blue Bell Creameries Recalls All of Its Products


Say it isn’t so! Yes, one of the country’s favorite ice cream brands is recalling all of its ice cream products due to possible contamination with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.

Until now, Blue Bell Creameries has been issuing gradual recalls of specific ice cream items. Monday, the company decided to recall all of its ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and all other frozen snacks.

Three people have died and five others have fallen ill from the bacteria that may have come from Blue Bell products, health officials have said.

Listeria is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Blue Bell made the decision to recall all of its products after analysis of some half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie-dough ice cream contained listeria.

"This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants," the company said in a written statement.

"At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities, and so we have taken this unprecedented step."

So far there have been five confirmed cases of listeria infections in Kansas and three in Texas.

According to their website notification about the recall, the company promises to sure all their products are safe before they go back on sale.

“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president.

“We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.”

Blue Bell says it is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.


Holly Yan,



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Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!


Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

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