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Daily Dose

Acetaminophen & Vaccines

1:30 to read

A recent article in Lancet was quite thought provoking as it studied the common practice of giving infants a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) with their routine immunizations.

Many parents and some pediatricians routinely dose their infants with acetaminophen prior to receiving their vaccines at two, four and six months of age. In the study of 459 infants from 10 different centers in the Czech Republic, patients were randomized to either receive three doses of acetaminophen every six to eight hours at the time of vaccination or no acetaminophen. The researchers then looked at both the reduction of febrile reactions post vaccination and at antibody titers among the two groups. Interestingly, there were both some expected and some not so expected results. Not surprisingly, the group that received acetaminophen had a lower incidence of fever post immunization. Of those that received acetaminophen 94 out of 226 (42 percent) developed a fever, compared to 154 out of 233 (66 percent) in the non-treated group after their primary immunization series. After booster vaccination 64 out of 178 (36 percent) in the treated group and 100 out of 172 (58 percent) developed fever. So the widespread perception by both many parents and doctors that routine acetaminophen use with vaccination does reduce the incidence of fever was supported.

The most interesting result of this study was the vaccine antibody response in the acetaminophen treated group. Surprisingly, antibody responses to several of the routinely administered vaccines (including tetanus, diphtheria, h. flu, and pneumococcal serotypes) were lower in the group who received routine acetaminophen. This was also seen after booster doses of the same vaccines between 15 to 18 months of age. The hypothesis is that acetaminophen may reduce the inflammatory response and that this may also induce less of an immune response. So, it would seem prudent to no longer encourage routine use of acetaminophen with vaccines unless a baby develops significant fever, or is at risk for fever and febrile seizures. As a parent you are always trying to “protect” you child, and this would include any pain or fever that might develop with vaccination. Now we have science to show how this may actually provide less protection, against disease. Thought provoking!

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Baby

Homemade or Commercial Baby Food- Which is Best?

1:45

A new study from the U.K. looked at homemade baby food versus commercial baby food bought in grocery stores. They both come up winners in some categories and losers in others.

The researchers wanted to assess how well homemade and commercially available readymade meals designed for infants and young children met age specific national dietary recommendations.

Once thought to be the ideal baby food, homemade meals turned out to be higher in calories and fat and more time-consuming to prepare, but less expensive and higher in nutrients and variety. Commercial baby food came in more convenient, lower in calories, total fats and salt but was more expensive and lacked variety. Sugar content was about the same in both foods.

Each option had upsides and downsides. For example, home-cooked food had higher nutritional content, but 50% of homemade meals also exceed calorie recommendations, and 37% exceeded the recommendations for calories from fat, reported a research team led by Sharon Carstairs, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Only 7% of the commercial baby food evaluated exceeded calorie recommendations, and less than 1% exceeded recommendations for calories from fat, Carstairs and colleagues reported in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Researchers compared the store-bought meals with 408 recipes for home-cooked infant meals obtained from best-selling published cookbooks. The investigators entered the recipe ingredients into dietary analysis software to calculate the nutritional composition of the recipes per 100 grams.

A chief limitation of the study was that it only analyzed the recipes for homemade meals and did not take into account how these meals might be prepared in "real life."

"Parents may use cookbooks prescriptively or only as guidance, and thus the nutritional content of home-cooked recipes can vary greatly, and this can be augmented further by natural variations in the nutritional composition of raw ingredients," Carstairs and colleagues noted.

In addition, "the authors may have overestimated the values for salt within home-cooked recipes as it was often cited as optional; these results should thus be considered with caution."

The study reassures parents that it is okay to give homemade food to babies being weaned from breast milk or formula, Lauri Wright, PhD, of the University of South Florida College of Public Health and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told MedPage Today.

"This is an important study, because in the United States parents think they have to do the commercial foods. Parents are afraid their child will miss out on nutrients if they don't give the specialized baby food."

The greater variety offered by homemade food may result in healthier taste preferences later in life, Wright added. "We used to think that taste preference developed at age 4 or 5, but we now know that taste preferences develop with the introduction of these first solid foods."

The bottom line from this study is that both types of baby food are acceptable; each comes with its own pros and cons. Just like with any other meal, how your homemade baby food is prepared is the key to whether it’s going to be healthy or not for baby. Understanding the guidelines for nourishing infant food and knowing the nutritional values of the foods you use, can help you prepare a wholesome meal for baby. Commercial baby foods also offer convenience and lower calories and fats. A mix of both will probably suit most families very well.

Story source: Medpage Today staff, http://www.medpagetoday.com/pediatrics/generalpediatrics/59228

 

 

Your Child

What Food is Best for Your Child's Breakfast?

1:30

What’s the best choice for your child’s breakfast? According to a new study, eggs. Researchers found that children who eat eggs for breakfast tend to consume fewer calories at lunch and benefited from the protein and vitamins they provide.

The study looked at 40 eight to ten year olds who ate a 350 calorie breakfast-of eggs, porridge or cereal. Between breakfast and lunch they played physically active games.

The children were asked throughout the morning how hungry they were and parents kept a food journal of what else the children ate.

The research, led by Tanja Kral of the university’s Department of Biobehavioural Health Science, found children who ate the eggs for breakfast reduced their calorie intake by about four percent (70 calories) at lunch.

The scientists noted that children who regularly eat more than their daily calorie limit could gain weight, leading to obesity. Eggs contain about 6 grams of high quality protein and are a good source of vitamins and amino acids.

 "I'm not surprised that the egg breakfast was the most satiating breakfast," said Kral. He was however, surprised that the children said that the egg breakfast didn’t actually make them feel fuller than cereal or oatmeal even though they ate less at lunchtime.

”It's really important that we identify certain types of food that can help children feel full and also moderate caloric intake, especially in children who are prone to excess weight gain.“

The study was published in the International journal, Eating Behaviours.

Source: Emma Henderson, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/best-breakfast-for-children-eggs-what-is-scientists-research-a6850501.html

 

 

Your Toddler

Proof That Reading to Your Child is Good for Them

1:45

Not only do small children love being read to but a new study confirms that it is actually good for them.

Brain scans taken of 19 preschoolers whose parents regularly read to them showed heightened activity in important areas of the brain. Experts have long theorized that reading to young children on a consistent basis has a positive impact on their brain development; researchers say this study provides hard evidence that it does.

 The study’s leader Dr. John Hutton, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,

 and his team used functional MRI scans to measure real-time brain activity in 19 children, aged 3 to 5 years, as they listened to stories and to sounds other than speech.

Parents were interviewed about "cognitive stimulation" at home, including how often they read to their children. Based on their responses, the number ranged from two nights a week to every night.

Overall, Hutton's team found, the more often children had story time at home, the more brain activity they showed while listening to stories in the research lab.

The impact was largely seen in the area of the brain that is used to obtain meaning from words. There was "particularly robust" activity, the researchers said, in areas where mental images are formed from what is heard.

"When children listen to stories, they have to put it all together in their mind's eye," Hutton explained.

Even though children's books have pictures, he added, that's different from watching all the action play out on a TV or computer screen.

When a child is listening to a story being read to them, they are engaging a different part of the brain than when they are passively sitting in front of a screen with images.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to read to their children every day, starting at birth. That pre-kindergarten time is a critical time for brain development, Hutton said. Other research has found that children with poor reading skills in first grade usually do not "catch up" with their peers.

Hutton believes that a traditional story time provides a critical "back-and-forth" between parents and children.

"It's not just a nice thing to do with your child," he said. "It's important to their cognitive, social and emotional development."

Reading to your child can help him or her build a lifelong relationship with the written word. That skill will help them be able to navigate more easily in school, later on in business and can bring hours of personal pleasure through the stories of gifted writers.

Source: Amy Norton, http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/brain-scans-show-why-reading-to-kids-is-good-for-them-701897.html

 

 

Your Child

2 Doses of Chickenpox Vaccine Almost 100 Percent Effective

2:00

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 Baby

Prenatal Exposure To Pesticides

1.30 to read

Moms exposed to higher levels of pesticides have lower mental development scores. Children whose mothers had higher levels of exposure to a substance found in a commonly used pesticide were more likely to get lower scores on a mental developmental test at 3 years of age than children whose mothers were exposed to lower levels or not at all, new research says.

Megan Horton, a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, and her colleagues followed 348 mothers from low-income areas of New York City whose prenatal exposure to pyrethroid insecticides -- found in pesticides commonly used around the home -- was tracked. The researchers measured not the common pyrethroid called permethrin but rather piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a chemical added to permethrin that boosts its potency, Horton said. They measured PBO because permethrin is metabolized quickly and difficult to measure, she added. The study authors measured the mothers' prenatal exposure by taking air samples or blood samples. To get the air samples, mothers wore backpacks that collected air from their breathing zone, which was then analyzed. Children were then put into four groups or "quartiles," depending on the level of their mothers' exposures to PBO during pregnancy. At age 3, the children were evaluated using standard scales to assess their cognitive and motor development, according to the study published online Feb. 7 in the journal Pediatrics. "Kids who were in the highest quartile range of exposure to PBO were three times as likely to be in the delayed category, compared to kids with lower exposure," Horton said. Horton's team compensated for factors such as gender, ethnicity, education of the mothers, and toxins such as tobacco smoke in the home. Horton said it's impossible to say what levels of pesticide are safe, partly because many factors come into play, such as the type of pesticide used and the ventilation provided. She did not have data on the frequency of pesticide use. "I don't know whether the mothers used it five times a week or once a week," she added. Pyrethroid insecticides have replaced another class of bug killers, known as organophosphorus (OP) insecticides, Horton said. Increasing pesticide regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have resulted in fewer residential exposures to OP insecticides, she said. But, pyrethroid insecticides have not been evaluated for long-term effects on the body after low-level exposure, she said. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who reviewed the study but was not involved with it, said the findings ''should convince every parent and want-to-be parent to avoid these pesticides." Horton suggests that parents turn to so-called integrated pest management, which includes common-sense measures to control pests such as eating only in home eating areas, not bedrooms; keeping cracks and crevices in the house repaired to keep out pests; using trash cans with a lid and liner to contain garbage; and storing food properly. You can also find piperonyl butoxide (PBO) in medications used for treating scabies (a skin infestation) and lice infestations of the head, body, and pubic area. Some of the products containing piperonyl butoxide (PBO),are listed below. Check with your physician before using these products if you are pregnant. •       A-200 Lice Control® Topical Spray (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Lice-X Liquid® Topical Solution (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Pronto® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Pyrinyl® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       R & C® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       RID® Medicated Shampoo (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Stop Lice® Maximum Strength Medicated Shampoo (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Tegrin-LT® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) Triple X Pediculicide® Medicated Shampoo (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin)

Your Child

Could More Dietary Fiber Reduce Food Allergies?

2:00

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 Teen

Mental Health Clues Found in Teen Brain Scans

1:30

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many ups and downs in your teenager’s moods- there’s a very good reason; their brain is still developing. Brain scans from a research team at the University of Cambridge identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teen years. It’s no surprise that areas associated with complex thought and decision-making are the ones going through a growth spurt during this time.

The scientists also discovered a link between teenage brain development and mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

The team from Cambridge's department of psychiatry scanned the brains of 300 people between the ages of 14 and 24.

They found that basic functions such as vision, hearing and movement were fully developed by adolescence. However, complex thinking processes and decision-making were still in a growth stage.

These areas are nerve centers with lots of connections to and from other key areas.

You can think of the brain as a global airline network that's made up of small infrequently used airports and huge hubs like Heathrow where there is very high traffic.

The brain uses a similar set up to co-ordinate our thoughts and actions.

During adolescence, this network of big hubs is consolidated and strengthened. It's a bit like how Heathrow or JFK have become gradually busier over the years.

Researchers found that genes involved in the “hub” were similar to those associated with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

The discovery is in line with the observation that many mental disorders develop during adolescence, according to researcher Dr Kirstie Whitaker.

"We have shown a pathway from the biology of cells in the area through to how people who are in their late teenage years might then have their first episode of psychosis," she told the BBC.

Genetics are not the only reason for mental illnesses. Older studies have also linked stress during childhood and the teenage years as a possible contributor. Recent findings have shown an association between maltreatment, abuse and neglect and brain development during childhood and adolescence. In addition, these types of stressors may also contribute to the emergence of mental illness.

Lead researcher, Professor Ed Bullmore, whose work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, believes the discovery of a biological link between teenage brain development and the onset of mental illness might help researchers identify those most at risk of becoming ill.

"As we understand more about what puts people at risk for schizophrenia, that gives us an opportunity to try to identify individuals that are at risk of becoming schizophrenic in the foreseeable future, the next two to three years, and perhaps to offer some treatment then that could be helpful in preventing the onset of clinical symptoms. "

The study also sheds light on the mood and behavioral changes experienced by teenagers during normal brain development.

"The regions that are changing most are those associated with complex behavior and decision making," says Dr. Whitaker.

"It shows that teenagers are on a journey of becoming an adult and becoming someone who is able to pull together all these bits of information.

This is a really important stage to go through. You wouldn't want to be a child all your life.

This is a powerful and important stage that you have to go through to be the best and the most capable adult that you can be."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Story source: Pallab Ghosh, http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36887224

 

Your Child

Students Do Better on Tests After Short Break

2:00

As the school day wears on, kids can begin to suffer from mental exhaustion. A new study suggests that students do better on test scores if the testing starts earlier in the day or they are allowed a short break before testing begins.

The study found that students aged 15 and under suffered from mental fatigue as the school day progressed, and that their test scores dipped later in the day. The effect appeared to be the greatest on those who scored the poorest; a hint that tests later in the day might hurt struggling students the most.

They also found that kids who were given a short break before they took the test scored higher.

Many school administrations have toyed with the idea of extending the school day.

"If policymakers want to have longer days, then they should consider having more frequent breaks," said study co-author Francesca Gino, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston.

The researchers also suggested that standardized tests be given at the same time of day to avoid giving some students an advantage over others and skewing the results in favor of children who are tested earlier in the day. If testing times must be spread out, then the study’s author recommend that students who test later in the day be given time to relax and recharge before the test begins.

The new study is unusual because it's so large and because it explores the role played by breaks during the day, Gino said.

The researchers reviewed results from about 2 million national standardized tests taken by kids aged 8 to 15. The children attended public schools in Denmark from 2009-2010 and 2012-2013.

The findings revealed that test performance decreased as the day progressed. As each hour went by, scores declined. But they improved after breaks of 20 minutes to 30 minutes, the research showed.

Gino described the effect as "small, but significant."

"We found that taking the test one hour later affects the average child the same way as having 10 days less of schooling," she said.

Gino blames "cognitive fatigue" -- essentially, tiredness that affects thinking. "But a break can counterbalance this negative effect. For example, during a break, children can have something to eat, relax, play with classmates or just have some fresh air. These activities recharge them."

Even though the test score differences were not huge, Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Tubingen in Germany, believes they were still significant. They could be consequential if they affect a student’s chances of getting into college, he said.

Other academic experts also found the findings had an important message. Pamela Thacher, an associate professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., endorsed the study. She agreed with Randler that small differences in test scores could be important to a student's future.

As for the value of breaks, she said the findings make sense. "Rest restores the ability to perform," she said. "These results are consistent with virtually every study we have that has spoken to the brain's requirements for best performance."

The study appears in the February issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/kids-score-better-on-tests-earlier-in-day-study-finds-708062.html

 

 

 

 

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