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Your Child

2 Doses of Chickenpox Vaccine Almost 100 Percent Effective

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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, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20160314/two-dose-chickenpox-shot-gets-the-job-done-study-shows

http://www.parents.com/health/vaccines/chicken-pox/chickenpox-facts/

Your Teen

Almost Half of Teens Drink, Use Drugs, Smoke

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If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, there is a good chance your teen will try these drugs.If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there is a good chance that your teen will try these drugs.

A new report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) has even more startling news for parents. Nearly half of all American high school students smoke, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs. One in four, who start using these substances before they turn 18, may become addicts. The report also indicates that one-quarter of people in the U.S. who began using drugs or alcohol before age 18 meet the criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, compared with one of 25 Americans who started using drugs or alcohol when they were 21 or older. Why is dinking, smoking and using drugs more addictive for a younger person? Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addiction expert in Dallas, says that from the age of 15 to 22, the adolescent brain is still developing. “A complex layer of neural networks is being laid down and brain growth is exponential during these years, so even a little bit of injury from alcohol or drugs is greatly magnified.” “I was surprised at the prevalence of substance use disorders among young people,” says study author Susan E. Foster, CASA’s vice president and director of policy research and analysis. The new study opens a window of opportunity for providers and parents to intervene and prevent addiction, she says. “Do everything you can to get young people through their teen years without using drugs or alcohol. Every year they don’t use drugs or alcohol reduces their risk of negative consequences, such as addiction.” The report also mentioned other findings that give parents an insight to the kinds of drugs teens are choosing. - The most common drug of choice among high school students in the U.S. is alcohol, followed by cigarettes and marijuana. - Ten million, or 75%, of high school students have tried tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine; and one in five of them meet the medical criteria for addiction. - Of the 6.1 million, or 46%, of high school students who currently use addictive substances, one in three is addicted to these substances. The findings are based on surveys of 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, and 500 school officers, along with expert interviews, focus groups, a literature review of 2,000 scientific articles, and an analysis of seven data sets. “Health care providers need to integrate screening for substance abuse into their practice, and treat and refer patients,” Foster says. This may be easier said than done because there is a dearth of addiction treatment information and options available as well as insurance barriers, she says. Most teens don't begin taking drugs thinking they will become addicted. They usually start trying drugs or alcohol to have a good time and be more like their friends. There’s a certain vulnerability to peer pressure that often replaces common sense, and moral teachings. According to TeenDrugAbuse.org many teens who are addicted don't see a problem with their behavior or their drug use. Drugs make them feel good, and are a way to relieve the stress of school, problems at home, disagreements with friends, and other pressures of growing up. “Teen substance abuse is a huge problem,” says Stephen Grcevich, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Family Center by the fall in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “The numbers in the new report are very consistent with what we see in context of our practice and surrounding areas.” But teen substance abuse and addiction are not inevitable, he says. Preventing substance abuse starts with “intentional parenting” at an early age. “You have to have a plan that allows you to be a positive influence on your children at a young age so that when they get to an age where they are exposed to drugs and alcohol, they will know how to say no,” he says. “Kids who do well academically, are involved in religion, and/or are actively engaged in sports are less likely to get involved with these substances,” he says. “We need to look at giving kids something meaningful and important to do.” For many teens, the stigma of drug use, drinking and smoking has vanished. It’s become acceptable, and almost expected, behavior. It’s time for parents and caregivers to take the blinders off and become educated about teenagers and drug use. Parents often notice that their teen will start pushing away from their guidance, and advice. Sometimes communication is almost impossible when both teen and parent don’t agree on a particular behavior. But this is the most critical time for parents to keep trying and finding new ways to reach their teen. If the parent – child relationship reaches the point where no valuable communication is happening, then you may want to try family counseling. It’s worth the heartbreak, effort, costs, and stress in the long run.

Your Baby

Moms Getting Poor Advice on Baby’s Health Care

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Moms are getting conflicting advice on infant and child care from family members, online searchers and even their family doctors a recent study found.

Oftentimes, that advice goes against the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for topics such as breast-feeding, vaccines, pacifier use and infant-sleep, researchers say.

"In order for parents to make informed decisions about their baby's health and safety, it is important that they get information, and that the information is accurate," said the study's lead author, Dr. Staci Eisenberg, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.

"We know from prior studies that advice matters," Eisenberg said. Parents are more likely to follow the recommendations of medical professionals when they "receive appropriate advice from multiple sources, such as family and physicians," she added.

The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. mothers. Their children were between 2 months and 6 months old. Researchers asked the mothers what advice they had been given on a variety of topics, including vaccines, breastfeeding, pacifiers and infant sleep position and location.

Sources for information included medical professionals, family members, online searches and other media such as television shows. Mothers got the majority of their advice from doctors. However, some of that advice contradicted the recommendations from the AAP on these topics.

For example, as much as 15 percent of the advice mothers received from doctors on breast-feeding and on pacifiers didn't match recommendations. Similarly, 26 percent of advice about sleeping positions contradicted recommendations. And nearly 29 percent of mothers got misinformation on where babies should sleep, the study found.

"I don't think too many people will be shocked to learn that medical advice found online or on an episode of Dr. Oz might be very different from the recommendations of pediatric medical experts or even unsupported by legitimate evidence," said Dr. Clay Jones, a pediatrician specializing in newborn medicine at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. He said inaccurate advice from some family members might not be surprising, too.

Mothers got advice from family members between 30 percent and 60 percent of the time, depending on the topic. More than 20 percent of the advice about breast-feeding from family members didn't match AAP recommendations.

Similarly, family advice related to pacifiers, where babies sleep and babies' sleep position went against the AAP recommendations two-thirds of the time, the study found.

"Families give inconsistent advice largely because they are not trained medical professionals and are basing their recommendations on personal anecdotal experience," Jones said.

Less than half of the mothers said they used media sources for advice except when it came to breastfeeding. Seventy percent reported their main source of advice on breastfeeding came from media sources; many of these sources were not consistent with AAP recommendations.

In addition, more than a quarter of the mothers who got advice about vaccines from the media received information that was not consistent with AAP recommendations.

"Mothers get inconsistent advice from the media, especially the Internet, because it is the Wild West with no regulation on content at all," Jones said.

The possible consequences of bad advice depend on the topic and the advice, Jones said.

"Not vaccinating your child against potentially life-threatening diseases like measles is an obvious example," he said. "Others may result in less risk of severe illness or injury but may still result in increased stress and anxiety, such as inappropriately demonizing the use of pacifiers while breast-feeding."

Mothers who look for information online should stick to sources such as the AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Eisenberg suggested.

Even though some advice from doctors did not follow AAP recommendations entirely, Eisenberg and Jones agreed that doctors are the best source for mothers on the health and care of their children.

"While our findings suggest that there is room for improvement, we did find that health care providers were an important source of information, and the information was generally accurate," Eisenberg said. "But I would encourage parents to ask questions if they don't feel like their provider has been entirely clear, or if they have any questions about the recommendations."

The study was published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Tara Haelle, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20150727/new-moms-often-get-poor-advice-on-baby-care-study

 

Your Teen

Alcohol-Branded Clothing & Accessories Linked to Youth Alcohol Use

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The T-shirts, handbags, backpacks, hats, jackets and sunglasses we wear and carry all say a little something about who we think we are or would like to be. Clothing with slogans and photos, accessories with name –brands or specific designs help express, at least a small way, how we connect with others and want others to connect with us.

From politics to religion to music and movies – we’re not likely to wear something that we philosophically disagree with. That’s pretty much true in all age groups.

So, what does it mean when teens proudly wear clothing and carry products with alcohol-brands up front and center?

According to a large review of different studies on the topic, teens that own caps, shirts, and other merchandise displaying alcohol logos are more likely to drink.

Australian researchers reviewed results from 13 studies looking at alcohol-branded merchandise and teen alcohol use. The research included more than 26,000 kids and teens, mostly from the United States.

Four studies looked specifically at young people who hadn't started drinking alcohol. Those who owned alcohol-branded merchandise were more likely to start drinking a year later, the researchers said.

While the study doesn’t prove causation (teens will drink if they own alcohol-branded items), it does show an association between the two activities.

"It is possible that owning the merchandise makes young people more likely to drink, or that young people who drink are more likely to want to own the merchandise, or a combination of these effects," explained study leader Sandra Jones. She's director of the Centre for Health and Social Research at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Children, Adolescents, and Advertising policy statement, said, "The studies showed that this ownership contributes to onset of drinking, not the amount of drinking.”

“But we know that when teenagers begin drinking, they tend to binge drink, not use good judgment, and drive when drunk or intoxicated," he added.

Because of the study’s findings, Jones believes that promotional alcohol-branded products encourage drinking among adolescents.

"As they transition through adolescence, young people are developing their sense of identity," she said.

"The things that they wear, carry, and consume help to create and convey their desired identity. There is increasing evidence that brands facilitate this by allowing the young person to take on and project the desirable characteristics that are associated with that brand. These characteristics and brands then become a part of their sense of self, as well as the way that others see them," Jones said.

In addition to hats, caps and T-shirts, other examples of alcohol-related products include accessories, such as bags, backpacks, belts, lighters, sunglasses, wallets and key rings. Other promotional items include drinking glasses, utensils, cooler bags, bottle openers and coffee cups, the researchers said.

Depending on the study, ownership of such items ranged from 11 percent to 59 percent of the young participants. Ownership was higher among older children and males, the researchers said.

Most of the studies didn't find any gender differences. But two studies did find that the association between branded merchandise and drinking issues was actually stronger for girls.

Jones noted that company policies and regulations could help prevent the availability of such products for teens. She recommended restricting the sale of alcohol promotional products where the sale of alcohol is allowed, that alcohol-branded clothing not be made in children’s sizes and toys and gimmicks that appeal to children be discontinued.

Jones also noted that it’s not only up to businesses and government to regulate the availability of these products to kids, but parents as well.

"Many of these items are given away for free at promotional events or as gifts with purchase, and parents may hand them on to their children -- or allow others to do so -- without processing the fact that they are providing their child with extended exposure to an advertisement for an alcohol brand," she said.

Strasburger said the media are often irresponsible when it comes to alcohol. "They depict alcohol use as normative behavior, or a solution for complex problems, or show being drunk as funny," he said. "We spend something like $5 million on alcohol advertising every year, then we wonder why so many teenagers drink. It's not rocket science."

The findings were publised online in the April 1st edition of the journal Pediatrics. 

Story source: Don Rauf, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/kids-and-alcohol-health-news-11/booze-branded-merchandise-may-spur-teen-drinking-709478.html

 

 

 

Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence

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The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/03/02/teen-dating-violence-study/24127121/

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html

Your Teen

Concussions: Boys and Girls May Have Different Symptoms

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The findings suggest that boys are more likely to report amnesia and confusion/disorientation, whereas girls tend to report drowsiness and greater sensitivity to noise more often.A new study of high school athletes, finds that boys and girls who suffer concussions, may differ in their symptoms. The findings suggest that boys are more likely to report amnesia and confusion/disorientation, whereas girls tend to report drowsiness and greater sensitivity to noise more often. "The take-home message is that coaches, parents, athletic trainers, and physicians must be observant for all signs and symptoms of concussion, and should recognize that young male and female athletes may present with different symptoms," said R. Dawn Comstock, an author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus. More than 60,000 brain injuries occur among high school athletes every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although more males than females participate in sports, female athletes are more likely to suffer sports-related concussions, the researchers note. For instance, girls who play high school soccer suffer almost 40 percent more concussions than their male counterparts, according to NATA. The findings suggest that girls who suffer concussions might sometimes go undiagnosed since symptoms such as drowsiness or sensitivity to noise "may be overlooked on sideline assessments or they may be attributed to other conditions," Comstock said. For the study, Comstock and her co-authors at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, examined data from an Internet-based surveillance system for high school sports-related injuries. The researchers looked at concussions involved in interscholastic sports practice or competition in nine sports (boys' football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball and girls' soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball) during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years at a representative sample of 100 high schools. During that time, 812 concussions (610 in boys and 202 in girls) were reported. During the first year of the study, the surveillance system included only the primary concussion symptom for each athlete. In the second year, high school athletic trainers were able to record all the symptoms reported by the concussed athlete. In both years, headache was the most commonly reported symptom and no difference was noted between the sexes. However, in year one, 13 percent of the males reported confusion/disorientation as their primary symptom versus 6 percent of the girls. Also in the first year, amnesia was the primary symptom of 9 percent of the males but only 3 percent of the females. In the second year, amnesia and confusion/disorientation continued to be more common among males than females. In addition, 31 percent of the concussed females complained of drowsiness versus 20 percent of the males, and 14 percent of the females said they were sensitive to noise, compared with just 5 percent of the males. Concussion researcher Gerard A. Gioia, chief of pediatric neuropsychology at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., called the findings "relatively subtle" and "at best hypothesis-generating, meaning they are suggestive but in no way conclusive." Gioia said one of the study's limitations is that the reporting system didn't explain about how the injuries occurred. "The presence of increased amnesia and confusion, two early injury characteristics, in the males suggests that the injuries between the males and females may have been different," he said. Future studies will likely address this theory, said Comstock, now that the surveillance system has been expanded to include much more detailed information. Preliminary data suggest, for instance, that football players tend to get hit on the front of the head, while girls who play soccer or basketball often suffer a blow to the side of the head, she said. The findings will also be published in the January issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

Your Child

Could More Dietary Fiber Reduce Food Allergies?

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In the never–ending search for an answer as to why more Americans – from children to adults- are experiencing food allergies, several new studies suggest that the culprit could be too little fiber in our diets.  

According to the non-profit organization, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 15 million Americans have food allergies. That’s a 50 percent increase from 1997 to 2011. About 90 percent of people with food allergies are allergic to one of eight types of foods; peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs, milk, shellfish and fish. 

So, what is going on that so many people are suffering from food allergies, particularly children? That’s what researchers around the world are trying to find out.  Many studies are beginning to suggest that it’s not just one thing but a combination of factors.

A lack of dietary fiber in the diet may be one of those factors. The notion is based on the idea that bacteria in the gut have the enzymes needed to digest dietary fiber, and when these bacteria break down fiber, they produce substances that help to prevent an allergic response to foods, said Charles Mackay, an immunologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

So far, the research related to this idea has been done mainly in mice, and dietary factors are unlikely to be the sole explanation for why allergy rates have skyrocketed, researchers say. But if the results were to be replicated in human studies, they would suggest that promoting the growth of good gut bacteria could be one way to protect against, and possibly even reverse, certain allergies, researchers say.

The modern western diet, high in fat, sugar and refined carbs seems to produce a different kind of bacteria in the gut that may be liked to food allergies.  Fiber such as beans, whole grains, nuts, berries, vegetables and brown rice promote the growth of a class of bacteria called Clostridia, which break down fiber and are some of the biggest producers of byproducts called short-chain fatty acids.

In a 2011 study in the journal Nature, researchers found that these short-chain fatty acids normally prevent gut cells from becoming too permeable, and letting food particles, bacteria or other problematic compounds move into the blood.

An overabundance of antibiotic use may also be contributing to food allergies. Not only are people being over-prescribed, we may also be getting extra doses in some of our foods.

Antibiotics, which are widely used in agriculture and for treating ear infections in babies and toddlers, kill the bacteria in the gut. So the combination of antibiotics and low-fiber diets may be a "double whammy," that predisposes people to allergic responses, notes said Cathryn Nagler, a food allergy researcher at the University of Chicago.

The new findings also suggest a way to prevent, or possibly even reverse some allergies. For instance, allergy treatments could use probiotics that recolonize the gut with healthy forms of Clostridia, Nagler said.

In fact, in a small study published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that children with peanut allergies who received probiotics were able to eat the nut without having an allergic reaction, and their tolerance to peanuts persisted even after the treatment.

Many factors may contribute to the rise in food allergies, said Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. Epidemiological studies have found that having pets, going to day care, having a sibling, being born vaginally and even washing dishes by hand can affect the risk of allergies.

As more and more research is being conducted on food allergies, a bigger picture is starting to emerge about possible causes. Pediatricians and family physicians are keeping a close eye on the new findings to better help their patients. Some of those findings are changing the way physicians are treating food allergies.

For years, doctors told parents of children at a high risk of developing allergies to wait until the children were 3 years old before giving them peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods, Wood said.

"We really thought we knew what we were doing, and it turns out it was 100 percent wrong," Wood said.

If your child suffers from food allergies, you might want to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about adding more dietary fiber or probiotics to your child’s diet. However, it’s not recommended that you “experiment” on your own because some children’s health problems can be made worse from probiotic use or too much fiber. Be sure and check with your doctor first.

Sources: Tia Ghose, http://www.livescience.com/50046-fiber-reduce-allergies.html

http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

Your Baby

Fish Oil During Pregnancy May Reduce Baby’s Asthma Risk

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A Danish study’s results suggests pregnant women that take a fish oil supplement during the final 3 months of pregnancy may reduce their baby’s risk of developing asthma or persistent wheezing.

The study involved 736 pregnant women, in their third trimester. Half the women took a placebo containing olive oil and the other group was given 2.4 grams of fish oil. The women took the supplements until one week after birth.

Among children whose mothers took fish-oil capsules, 16.9 percent had asthma by age 3, compared with 23.7 percent whose mothers were given placebos. The difference, nearly 7 percentage points, translates to a risk reduction of about 31 percent.

In the study, the researchers noted that they are not ready to recommend that pregnant women routinely take fish oil. Although the results of the study were positive, several experts have noted that more research needs to be done before higher doses of fish oil supplements are recommended over eating more fish.

Researchers found no adverse effects in the mothers or babies, the doses were high, 2.4 grams per day is 15 to 20 times what most Americans consume from foods.

One in five young children are affected by asthma and wheezing disorders. In recent decades, the rate has more than doubled in Western countries. Previous research has shown that those conditions are more prevalent among babies whose mothers have low levels of fish oil in their bodies. The new large-scale test, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to see if supplements can actually lower the risk.

Before doctors can make any recommendations, the study should be replicated, and fish oil should be tested earlier in pregnancy and at different doses, Dr. Hans Bisgaard, the leading author of the study, said in an email to the New York Times. He is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Copenhagen and the head of research at the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood, an independent research unit.

Dr. Bisgaard said it was not possible to tell from the study whether pregnant women could benefit from simply eating more fish. Pregnant women are generally advised to limit their consumption of certain types of fish like swordfish and tuna because they contain mercury. But many other types are considered safe, especially smaller fish like sardines that are not at the top of the food chain and therefore not likely to accumulate mercury and other contaminants from eating other fish.

“It is possible that a lower dose would have sufficed," the Bisgaard team said.

The supplements didn't seem to affect the odds of a baby or toddler developing the skin condition eczema, or an allergy such as a reaction to milk or egg products, or a severe asthma attack.

An editorial in the same journal by an expert who was not part of the study praised the research, saying it was well designed and carefully performed. The author of that editorial, Dr. Christopher E. Ramsden, from the National Institutes of Health, said the findings would help doctors develop a “precision medicine” approach in which fish-oil treatment could be tailored to women who are most likely to benefit.

If the findings are confirmed in other populations, doctors could test to see who would mostly likely benefit from fish oil supplements. "The health care system is currently not geared for such," Bisgaard said. "But clearly this would be the future."

If you are considering taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy, be sure and check with your OB/GYN for a recommended dose.

All fish oils are not the same. Some brands of fish oil are of higher quality than others. A reputable fish oil manufacturer should be able to provide documentation of third-party lab results that show the purity levels of their fish oil, down to the particles per trillion level. Also, if the supplements smell or taste fishy, they shouldn’t. High quality fish oil supplements don’t. Avoid fish oils that have really strong or artificial flavors added to them because they are most likely trying to hide the fishy flavor of rancid oil.

Story sources: Denise Grady, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/28/health/fish-oil-asthma-pregnancy.html?WT.mc_id=SmartBriefs-Newsletter&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=smartbriefsnl

Gene Emery, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-asthma-fish-oil-idUSKBN14H1T3

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fish-oil/

 

Your Teen

Kid's Poor Sleep Habits and Depression

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A 2010 study of 392 boys and girls published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that those who had trouble sleeping at 12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age.Scientists are discovering that children with chronic sleep problems are at increased risk for developing a mental illness later in life.

Recent studies show that children who have persistent sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or not getting enough night-time shut-eye, are more likely later to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders and to abuse alcohol and drugs than kids without sleep problems. The findings add to previous research that has linked children's sleep problems to a host of issues, including aggressive behavior, learning and memory problems and obesity. A 2010 study of 392 boys and girls published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that those who had trouble sleeping at 12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age. In a study published last year in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, involving 386 participants, children whose mothers reported that they were overtired when 3 to 8 years old were 2.8 times as likely to binge drink when they were 18 to 20 years old. And a study of 1,037 children revealed that 46% of those who were considered to have a persistent sleep difficulty at age 9 had an anxiety disorder at age 21 or 26. By comparison, of the children who didn't have sleep problems at age 9, 33% had an anxiety disorder as young adults, according to the research, which was published in 2005 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Scientists caution that some study-sample sizes are small and research is still in its early stages. Psychiatrists and psychologists say they hope that by addressing sleep problems in childhood, some of the instances of later mental illness can be prevented. Clinicians also have developed effective treatments for poor sleep and are experimenting with some new approaches that teach kids how to reduce the frequency and strength of anxious thoughts that can crop up at night. In general, doctors do not recommend using medication to help kids sleep. "We think that healthy, optimal sleep may be a buffer against developing anxiety and depression in kids," says Ronald E. Dahl, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a leading researcher on pediatric sleep. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses: 28.8% of the general population will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and 20.8% will have a mood disorder, according to a 2005 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Anxiety disorders emerge early in life: The median age of onset is 11, according to the study. Rates of depression spike in adolescence, too. And those who develop depression young tend to have a more serious disease, with a higher risk of relapse. Scientists aren't certain as to why poor sleep in childhood increases the risk of anxiety disorders and depression. It could be that sleep problems lead to changes in the brain, which, in turn, contribute to the psychiatric illnesses, they say. Or some underlying issue, partly explained by genetics and early childhood experiences, could be a precursor to both poor sleep and the mental disorders. Researchers say that before puberty—between the ages of about 9 and 13—is a key time to tackle poor sleep. That's before the spike in rates of depression and the upheavals of adolescence and while the brain is still very responsive. "The brains of children are far more plastic and amenable to change," says Candice Alfano, assistant professor of psychology and pediatrics at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Sleep changes dramatically after puberty: Circadian rhythms shift so kids naturally stay up later. With schools starting early, kids often don't get enough sleep. Academic and social pressures surge, too. A small study suggested healthy sleep may be able to help protect kids from depression—even those at high-risk because of genetics. (Both anxiety disorders and depression are believed to be partly inherited.) The study, published in 2007 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, found that children who fell asleep quicker and spent more time in the deepest stage of sleep were less likely to develop depression as young adults. A larger body of research shows that improving sleep in kids and adults who already have mental-health problems also leads to a stronger recovery. A Good Night Most parents underestimate the amount of sleep children should get a day. They need: Infants: 14 to 15 hours Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours School-age kids: 10 to 11 hours Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours Strategies to encourage healthy sleep in kids Set a regular bedtime and wake time, even on weekends. Make the bedroom a dark and quiet oasis for sleep. No homework in bed. Create a calming bedtime routine. For younger kids: a bath and story. For older kids: Reading or listening to mellow music. Limit caffeine consumption, especially after 4 p.m. Ban technology (TV, Web surfing, texting) in the half hour before bed. The activities are stimulating. The light from a computer can interfere with the production of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin. Don't send kids to bed as punishment or allow them to stay up late as a reward for good behavior. This delivers a negative message about sleep. Help kids review happy moments from the day. Have them imagine a TV with a 'savoring channel.' Relegate anxious thoughts to 'a worry channel.'

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