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Daily Dose

Penicillin Allergy

1:30 to read

Has your child ever been labelled “penicillin allergic”?  Interestingly, up to 10% of people (of all ages) report having a penicillin allergy, but only about 1% are truly allergic. I see this often in my own practice, especially when seeing a new patient and inquiring about drug allergies, and the parent replies, “ she is penicillin allergic, and developed a rash when she was younger”.  In many if not most of those cases the child is not allergic to penicillin.

 

Penicillins are a class of antibiotics known as beta-lactams and include not only penicillin but  amoxicillin, augmentin, oxacillin and nafcillin, just to name a few.  If you are incorrectly identified as penicillin allergic, when your doctor needs to prescribe an antibiotic they may resort to another class of antibiotic, which are not only more expensive but often may cause more side effects.  

 

Penicillins are the antibiotic of choice and the first line treatment for many pediatric bacterial illnesses including otitis ( ear infections ), strep throat, and sinus infections. They are not only effective, but they are typically inexpensive and have few side effects….which includes allergic reactions.

 

Penicillin allergy is an immune - mediated reaction which usually causes hives ( raised rash ), face or throat swelling, difficulty breathing and in some cases life threatening anaphylaxis.  Intolerance to penicillin is different than being allergic, and in this case symptoms are more likely nausea, diarrhea, headache or dizziness, which may make you uncomfortable but are not immune mediated. 

 

In pediatrics, many children present with a viral illness that includes several days of fever and upper respiratory symptoms, and are then also found to have an ear infection. They are given a prescription for amoxicillin and several days later develop a rash. Many viral infections in children also cause a rash, which is typically red, flat and covers the trunk, face and extremities and does not cause any other symptoms which are seen with a true penicillin allergy.  This rash is benign, but unfortunately many young children will be seen at an urgent care or even an ER due to the rash. The parents are told that their child is penicillin allergic and the antibiotic is changed…and the label “pen allergic” sticks….for many years or even life.  I even saw this rash occur in one of my own sons while on an antibiotic. He is NOT allergic!

 

The good news is that most children are truly not penicillin allergic, and if possible I try to see all of my patients who report a rash while they are on an antibiotic. At times this is not possible, and now with the advent of “smart phones” I have parents send me a picture of the child and the rash. This often helps in determining if the rash truly appears allergic and to identify if there are other symptoms.  Back to the “get a good history”. 

 

If I see an older patient who has had a rash on amoxil when they were little and had no other adverse effects (get a good history), I will sometimes try using a penicillin again, as most people also “outrgrow” their sensitivity after about 10 years. If it is my patient and I have seen the rash I tell the parents that this is not a “pen allergy” and I will use penicillins again.  Some  patients will report a “pen-allergy” but say I can take “augmentin” which is penicillin derivative, so that makes it easy to know they are not allergic.  If I am unsure if a child has had a true penicillin allergy I will refer them to a pediatric allergist for skin testing.  Skin testing is not painful and is an important method for documenting a true allergy. 

 

 

   

Your Child

Kids and Caffeine

2.00 to read

While sipping on a coffee-laced Frappuccino, I’m reading about a current study on caffeine and kids. It made me think about my own dependence on caffeine and when it started. For as long as I can remember, my parents would drink several cups of coffee in the morning before going to work, and even as late as right before they retired for the night.  I suspect my mother had a cup while I was busy being born.

I can’t remember exactly when I joined the family coffee drinking ritual, but I know I was pretty young.  Fall and winter demanded hot steaming cups of coffee and iced coffee helped cool the torturous Texas summers. Spring was a combination of both. Sometimes I think that by now, there’s probably coffee bean residue percolating in my blood stream. 

I kind of wish that I’d never started drinking coffee, because it’s the caffeine I really crave- not necessarily the taste of the brew.  When I’ve tried to quit, my body and mind rebels with headaches and bad attitudes. Which brings me back to the study on kids and caffeine.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children and teens are now getting less caffeine from soda, but more from caffeine-heavy energy drinks and coffee.

"You might expect that caffeine intake decreased, since so much of the caffeine kids drink comes from soda," said the study's lead author, Amy Branum, a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "But what we saw is that these decreases in soda were offset by increases in coffee and energy drinks."

Not too long ago, energy drinks were just a fad, something that was more likely to give you the shakes than boost your energy level. That was before they were tweaked and bottled or canned in fruity flavors, sugary beverages and clever advertising. Once kids (and adults) got a taste of the “new and improved” tasty stimulates, the caffeinated beverages began to become a part of every day life – at least Monday through Friday when school and work beckoned.

"In a very short time, they have gone from basically contributing nothing to 6 percent of total caffeine intake," Branum said.

“Energy drinks have more caffeine than soda,. That's their claim to fame," she said. "That's what they're marketed for."

So, what effect does excessive caffeine intake have on our kids? Scientists are not sure yet. There are concerns and a lot of questions about the possible adverse consequences for kids who are still developing.  Caffeine addiction, obesity from sugar heavy beverages, high blood pressure, rapid heart beats and anxiety are some of the side –effects researchers are exploring. 

Using data from the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Branum's team estimated that 73 percent of American children consume some level of caffeine each day.

Although much of their caffeine still comes from soda, the proportion has decreased from 62 percent to 38 percent. At the same time, the amount of caffeine kids get from coffee rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2010, the researchers found.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents and in general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided. The AAP suggests that children should drink water or moderate amounts of juice instead.

The genie is probably out of the preverbal bottle as far as some adolescents and college-aged kids are concerned.  Although, if they are more aware of the possible health risks associated with excessive caffeinated beverages, they may decide to look at healthier energy producing sources such as exercise, meditation and more rest.

Where parents can have the most influence is with their younger children.  Refraining from purchasing caffeinated products (there’s even “energy” gum) and keeping them out of the home is a good first step.

And by all means, avoid introducing your kids to coffee at a young age. It might seem kind of cute, but twenty years down the road, they may wish you hadn’t slid that first cup of java their way.

The report was published in the February edition of the online journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Steven Reinberg,  http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20140210/energy-drinks-coffee-increasing-sources-of-caffeine-for-kids-cdc-says

www.aap.org

Your Teen

AAP: Raise the Smoking Age to 21 for Tobacco, e-Cigarettes

2:00

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes raised to 21 across the United States. In new policy recommendations, the AAP released a statement urging more than two- dozen tough regulations to help reduce youth smoking and addiction to nicotine.

Nicotine is considered physically and psychologically addictive, with some experts claiming that it is as additive and hard to kick as heroin and other hard narcotics.

The AAP also calls for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finally regulate e-cigarettes the same way it regulates other tobacco products. The FDA has issued a proposed rule that would extend the agency’s tobacco authority to cover additional products that meet the legal definition of a tobacco product, such as e-cigarettes.

"Most adolescents don't use just one nicotine product but will commonly use or experiment with several," said Dr. Harold Farber, lead author of two of the statements and a pediatric pulmonologist at Texas Children's Hospital. "Research to date shows that adolescents who experiment with e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes are much more likely to go on to become regular cigarette smokers and less likely to stop cigarette smoking."

Currently, only Hawaii and about 90 cities and communities in several other states have a law requiring a minimum age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"As the brain matures, the ability to make decisions with important health consequences should likewise improve," said Dr. Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. "Thus, slightly older young adults may choose to forgo tobacco products," suggested Fisher, who was not involved with the new policy recommendations.

Not only would the AAP like to see e-cigarettes regulated, but also their candy-like flavors and menthol eliminated.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  more adolescents used e-cigarettes than any other tobacco product in 2014.

In addition to calling for FDA control of e-cigarettes, the AAP recommended that smoke-free laws expand to include e-cigarettes. The group recommends that use of any tobacco or nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, be banned in all workplaces, schools, dormitories, bars, restaurants, health care facilities, sidewalks, parks, recreational and sports facilities, entertainment venues and multi-unit housing.

"The jury on e-cigarettes remains out, but it is clear that carcinogens and potentially harmful substances are nonetheless present in this alternate nicotine delivery system," said Dr. Jack Jacoub, director of thoracic oncology at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center's MemorialCare Cancer Institute in Fountain Valley, Calif.

Other policy recommendations include a ban on Internet sales of e-cigarettes, a tax on e-cigarettes at the same rate as traditional cigarettes and a requirement for adult ratings on any entertainment depicting e-cigarette use.

The AAP also recommended banning advertising of tobacco products and e-cigarettes in all media, including television, radio, print, billboards, signs and online, and in stores where children and teens might see them..

Another concern is the number of young children who have suffered nicotine poisoning from accidently ingesting liquid nicotine. Poison control centers receive more than 200 calls per month for accidental ingestion of nicotine for e-cigarettes, the AAP noted, and one toddler died last year from swallowing some. The APP recommends child-resistant packaging for these products.

"Toddlers and young children love to explore new things and to put things in their mouths, so it is imperative that packaging and childproofing be done to enhance the safety of their environments," Fisher said. "This is analogous to having childproof caps on pill bottles."

The new policies were presented Monday at the group's national conference and published online simultaneously in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Tara Haelle, http://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/misc-tobacco-health-news-666/raise-smoking-age-to-21-u-s-pediatricians-group-urges-704535.html

Your Baby

Antibiotics Not Effective for Mild Eczema in Kids

2:00

As many as 10 percent of all infants have some form of eczema, a condition that usually develops between the ages of 2 and 6 months, and almost always before the age of 5 years old. Kids with eczema usually develop itchy, dry, red skin with small bumps on their cheeks, forehead or scalp. The rash may spread to the arms and legs and the trunk, and red, crusted, or open lesions may appear on any area affected.

They also may have circular, slightly raised, itchy, and scaly rashes in the bends of the elbows, behind the knees, or on the backs of the wrists and ankles.

Eczema is not contagious, so there's no need to keep a baby or child who has it away from siblings, other kids, or anyone else.

Antibiotics are often prescribed as a treatment, but a new study says that they are not effective for milder cases in children.

"This is a good example of a common situation in medicine," said Dr. Michael Grosso. "A particular intervention 'makes sense,' becomes common practice -- and often becomes the so-called 'standard of care' -- only to be proved ineffective when the therapy is subjected to scientific investigation."

Eczema is an immunological condition affecting both children and adults.

Dr. Craig Osleeb explained, "Children with eczema have an overabundance of the bacteria normally found on skin." He is a pediatric allergist at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

"The excessive colonization of bacteria can exacerbate symptoms by causing infection and/or triggering inflammation," Osleeb said. So, "antibiotics have often been used to quell eczema exacerbations."

Doctors are concerned that, over time, bacteria can develop a resistance to antibiotics, opening the door for dangerous drug-resistant “superbug” infections. While once a very popular treatment, doctors are now leaning towards reducing the number of antibiotic prescriptions to treat certain cases.

The new study, led by Nick Francis of Cardiff University in Wales, included 113 children with non-severe, infected eczema who were randomly selected to join one of three groups.

The children received either an antibiotic pill plus a "dummy" placebo cream; a placebo pill and an antibiotic cream; or placebo pill plus placebo cream (the "control" group).

After watching outcomes for two weeks, four weeks and then three months, the British team found no significant differences between the three groups in terms of easing of eczema symptoms.

Researchers found that the children with non-severe eczema, given the antibiotics either in a pill or a cream, did not benefit from the treatment. The study authors added that such use might even promote antibiotic resistance or additional skin sensitization.

Francis and his team noted that the study focused only on kids with a milder form of eczema, so the results may not apply to children with more infected eczema.

Osleeb agreed. For children battling milder eczema outbreaks, "corticosteroid creams alone will suffice," he said, but "this study does not eliminate the potential role of antibiotics in more moderate to severe eczema exacerbations."

Diagnosing eczema can be challenging because each child has a unique combination of symptoms, which can vary in severity. Treatments can consist of topical corticosteroid creams, antihistamines and in some instances, ultraviolet light under the supervision of a dermatologist.

Some children will outgrow eczema and some may continue to have symptoms during their teens and into adulthood.

If you suspect your baby or young child may have eczema, have your child seen by your pediatrician for diagnosis and treatment options.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/diseases-and-conditions-information-37/eczema-news-618/skip-the-antibiotics-for-mild-eczema-in-kids-720482.html

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/eczema-atopic-dermatitis.html#

Your Child

ATV Accidents Causing Serious Chest Injuries in Kids

1:45

From rural America to the suburbs, you can count on the sound of children and their new ATV buzzing up and down the street on Christmas morning. All-terrain vehicles are a popular gift during the holidays, and more often than not, you’ll see children with a safety helmet on to reduce the risk of head trauma – should they have an accident.

What parents may not know is that these vehicles also pose a high risk for severe chest injuries, according to a new study.

"I believe that many parents are unaware of how serious ATV-related injuries can be," said the study's author, Dr. Kelly Hagedorn, a radiology resident at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

"Some parents view ATVs as being more similar to bicycles. However, many of the injury patterns are more similar to those sustained in motor vehicle collisions," Hagedorn explained.

ATVs are motorized recreational vehicles with three or four tires, designed for off-road use. Because they can weigh 300 to 400 pounds and travel at speeds of up to 75 miles an hour, ATVs can often be involved in serious accidents, including crashes, rollovers and ejections, the researchers said.

The good news is that ATV-related injuries have declined since 2007. As public safety awareness about ATVs increases, more parents are making sure that helmets, protective clothing and personal oversight safeguard their children.

However, nearly 25,000 children under the age of 16 were treated for ATV-related injuries in hospital emergency rooms nationwide in 2014, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Researchers suspect that one of the reasons children’s ATV-related chest injuries are becoming more severe and frequent is that the newer vehicles are larger and weigh more than their predecessors. 

"As ATVs have gotten bigger and heavier, riders have a harder time separating from the vehicle in a crash," said Gerene Denning. She's director of emergency medicine research at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

"The increasing size and weight of ATVs leads to more cases of the vehicle striking the rider. There is also a growing trend of riders being pinned by the vehicle, which can lead to compression asphyxia [a condition where the body doesn't get enough oxygen]," said Denning, who wasn't involved in this study.

The new study included records from 455 patients, 18 years old and younger. All had chest imaging at a trauma center in Houston after ATV-related incidents. The accidents occurred between 1992 and 2013. Of those admitted, 102 (22%) suffered a chest injury.

The researchers said that 40% of patients with chest injuries were treated in an intensive care unit (ICU), compared to 22% of patients without chest injuries. On average, patients with chest injuries were 13 years old.

The most common chest injury (61%) was pulmonary contusion, or bruising of the lung. About 45% of patients had a collapsed lung and 34% had rib fractures. Eight deaths occurred among the 102 patients who had chest trauma, the study found.

The study authors found that the biggest cause of chest injury was rollover (43%), followed by collision with landscape (2 %) and falls (16%).

In 41 cases, the injured child had been driving the ATV. In 33 cases, he or she had been riding along as a passenger. In the remaining 28 cases, it wasn't known whether the injured child was the driver or passenger.

While many parents are being more vigilant about ATV safety, some still believe bigger is better and are still allowing their children to operate adult-size vehicles.

"This increases both the risk of crashing and the severity of vehicle-related trauma," Denning said. "A group called Concerned Families for ATV Safety have story after story of children killed in ATV crashes. A common thread through those stories is a parent saying they didn't know how dangerous these vehicles were for their children."

ATV laws are not consistent nationwide. In many states, children younger than 16 can drive ATVs designed for adults, according to the CPSC. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under that age be prohibited from riding ATVs.

Hagedorn is scheduled to present the study results at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Concerned Families for ATV Safety, mentioned above, offers educational resources, news and ATV safety tips for parents. It also shares family stories of children injured or killed in an ATV accident. Their website is: http://www.cfatvsafety.org

Story source: Don Rauf, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-safety-news-587/atv-accidents-can-cause-serious-chest-injuries-in-children-717207.html

Parenting

Cashews Recalled Due to Glass Pieces

1:30

Nuts have become a go-to snack for many families looking to live a healthier life. If you’ve purchased cashews from an ALDI grocery store recently, be sure to check and see if the brand is Southern Grove Cashew Halves and Pieces with Sea Salt.

The recall was initiated after the company received consumer reports of glass found in the product. To date, there have not been any reported injuries. Potentially impacted product has been removed from store shelves.

This recall affects the Southern Grove Cashew Halves and Pieces with Sea Salt sold in 8-ounce (227-gram) canisters, labeled with UPC No. 041498179366. The affected cashews have best by dates of 11/27/18 and 11/28/18.

The cashews were sold by ALDI stores in 29 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Consumers who have purchased the product in question are urged not to consume this product and may return the product to their local ALDI store for a refund or dispose of the item.

Consumers with questions may contact Star Snacks at 201-882-4593 or RecallFEQ01@gmail.com, Monday-Friday 9 am – 2 pm EST.

Story source: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm562129.htm

Your Baby

“Revolutionary” Newborn Has 3 Parents

1:45

There’s been a first in the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help parents avoid passing on a fatal rare disease to their baby.

In what many medical experts are calling a “revolutionary” medical event, a baby with DNA from three donors has been born.

As first reported in New Scientist, a science and technology magazine published in the U.K., the baby boy was born on April 6, 2016 and doctors say he appears healthy. His parents were treated by U.S. fertility specialists in Mexico, where there are no laws prohibiting such methods. His mother carries a genetic mutation for Leigh syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that usually becomes apparent in the first year of life and is generally fatal.

The newborn’s mother had suffered four miscarriages and had two children who died from Leigh syndrome, one at age six and one at eight months. It’s a devastating disease for parents and children. Symptoms of Leigh disease usually progress rapidly and lead to generalized weakness, a lack of muscle tone and a buildup of lactic acid in the body, which can cause respiratory and kidney problems. Children rarely live more than six or seven years.

While the mother herself is healthy, a gene for the disease resides in her DNA, in the mitochondria that powers cells. In this mother’s case, about 25 percent of her mitochondria reportedly carries the disease-causing mutation.

In order to avoid transferring the disease, the couple sought help from Dr. John Zhang, a reproductive endocrinologist at New Hope Fertility Center in New York City. 

“This mitochondrial disease is usually a very devastating situation for the babies and the family,” Zhang told CBS News.

The controversial procedure involved using the three-parent IVF technique to ensure that the disease mutation would not be passed along to the baby. So far, it seems to have worked.

The procedure, called spindle nuclear transfer, involves removing the healthy nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs and transferring it to a donor-egg, which had, had its nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilized with the father’s sperm. 

The resulting embryo contained genetic material from three parents – the mother, the egg donor, and the father.

According to New Scientist, the scientists in this case created five embryos using the technique. Only one developed normally and that embryo was implanted in the mother.

The baby has not shown any signs of developing the illness, Zhang said. His mitochondria have been tested and less than one percent carries the mutation, believed to be too low a level to lead to disease.

The controversial fertility method is not legal in the United States. Zhang told New Scientist that they conducted the procedure in Mexico because “there are no rules” there.

The procedure received widespread media attention when lawmakers in the U.K. became the first to approve its use last year.

Sian Harding, a medical professor and bioethics adviser who reviewed the ethics of the technique in the U.K., told New Scientist the case seems to have been handled according to ethical standards.

“It’s as good as or better than what we’ll do in the U.K.,” said Harding.

Much of the controversy surrounding this procedure involves safety and religious concerns.

Harding notes that this is not the first time multiple DNA has been used to try and create a healthy baby. “Last time embryologists tried to create a baby using DNA from three people was in the 1990s, when they injected mitochondrial DNA from a donor into another woman’s egg, along with sperm from her partner. Some of the babies went on to develop genetic disorders, and the technique was banned. The problem may have arisen from the babies having mitochondria from two sources.”

In Britain, where the procedure allowing DNA from three parents was approved in February 2015, leaders disagreed heatedly on the issue while it was up for debate in the House of Commons, with some raising concerns about “designer babies” and “playing God.” Leading churches in Britain – both Protestant and Catholic – opposed the procedure on religious and ethical grounds.

Medical and moral concerns about this IVF method are most likely going to continue as experts look for ways to refine the controversial procedure.

But for one couple, being able to cradle their newborn - that shows no sign of carrying the deadly Leigh disease - will forever be a precious gift. 

Story source: Mary Brophy Marcus, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/first-3-parent-dna-baby-born-rare-disease/

 

Your Baby

Study: Fracking Linked to Babies Low Birth Weight

High volume fracturing, also known as fracking, has increased in production all through the United States. The process allows access to large amounts of natural gas trapped in shale deposits by utilizing natural gas wells.

These types of wells were once more likely to be found in rural settings but are now increasingly located in and near populated neighborhoods.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found a link between mothers who live close to high volume fracking wells and an increased risk of having a lower birth weight baby.

Researchers analyzed the birth records of more than 15,400 babies born in Pennsylvania's Washington, Westmoreland and Butler counties between 2007 and 2010.

Women who lived close to a high number of natural gas fracking sites were 34 percent more likely to have babies who were "small for gestational age" than mothers who did not live close to a large number of such wells, the study found.

Small for gestational age means a baby is smaller than normal based on the number of weeks the baby has been in the womb, according to the March of Dimes.

The findings held true even after other factors were accounted for such as whether the mother smoked, her race, age, education and prenatal care. Also taken into account was whether she had previous children and the baby’s gender.

Like other cities around the country, the number of fracking sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale has increased substantially in the last few years. In 2007 there were 44 wells; by 2010, more than 2,800.

"Our work is a first for our region and supports previous research linking unconventional gas development and adverse health outcomes," study co-author Bruce Pitt, chair of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, said in a university news release.

"These findings cannot be ignored. There is a clear need for studies in larger populations with better estimates of exposure and more in-depth medical records," he added.

The main concerns around fracking sites are the air and noise pollution and waste fluids.

"Developing fetuses are particularly sensitive to the effects of environmental pollutants. We know that fine particulate air pollution, exposure to heavy metals and benzene, and maternal stress all are associated with lower birth weight," Pitt said.

While the study provides an association between fracking and lower weight babies, it does not prove that living close to a high concentration of natural gas fracking sites causes lower birth weights. Researchers said that they believe the study’s findings warrant further investigations.

The study was published online in the June edition of the journal PLOS One.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/environmental-health-information-12/environment-health-news-233/fracking-linked-to-low-birth-weight-babies-700018.html

Your Child

Obesity Related Heart Disease Found in Children as Young as 8

2:00

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, http://consumer.healthday.com/cardiovascular-health-information-20/misc-stroke-related-heart-news-360/obese-kids-as-young-as-8-show-heart-disease-signs-705099.html

 

 

 

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