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Your Child

New Guidelines for Tonsillectomies

Most children who get repeated throat infections probably don’t need surgery to remove their tonsils and would improve in time with careful monitoring, according to new clinical guidelines on tonsillectomies in children.

The new guidelines also suggest, however, that removal of the tonsils, or tonsillectomy, may improve problems tied to poor sleep, including bed-wetting, slow growth, hyperactive behavior, and poor school performance. In fact, sleep-disordered breathing -- a set or problems that range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea - is now the most common reason for tonsil removal in kids younger than 15. “We used to think that only if you were an air traffic controller did it matter if you slept well or not, and now we know that’s not the case,” says Amelia F. Drake, MD, chief of the division of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. More than half a million tonsillectomies are performed each year on children in the U.S., making it the second most common surgery in this age group, just behind procedures to place tubes in the ears to relieve recurrent ear infections. Despite the fact that it is a mainstay of American medicine, experts have long disagreed about how useful or appropriate tonsillectomies may be. The new guidelines, published Monday by the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, are the first set of official recommendations on tonsillectomy published in the U.S. The guidelines aim to give doctors and parents more information about when tonsillectomy may be warranted and to help minimize the risks and pain of this procedure in young patients. “I thought they were very comprehensive,” says Drake, who reviewed the new recommendations but was not involved in drafting them. “This is an area where improvements and refinements can have a huge impact. This is medicine at its core.” New Criteria for Removing Tonsils The guidelines update a set of clinical indicators for tonsillectomies published in 2000 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology, which suggested that doctors could consider taking out the tonsils if a child had at least three cases of swollen and infected tonsils in a year. The new guideline, however, says that kids should have at least seven episodes of throat infection, such as tonsillitis or strep throat in a year, or at least five episodes each year for two years, or three episodes annually for three years, before they become candidates for surgery, and that those infections should be documented by a doctor, rather than just reported by parents. The idea, experts said, was to reserve surgery only for the most severely affected, because the surgery can rarely have serious complications including infections and serious bleeding. “Children who have fewer episodes really aren’t going to see a lot of benefit,” says Jack L. Paradise, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “There aren’t many kids, overall, who meet those stringent criteria,” Paradise says. What’s more, Paradise, and other experts stress, that even children who satisfy the guidelines shouldn’t get an automatic green light for surgery. “I’m not sure, if I had a child that met all the criteria, that I’d automatically subject the child to the consequences of that,” Paradise says, “Post-operatively, it’s a very painful procedure.” The tonsils are cone-shaped lumps of tissue embedded in the throat, and they are believed to play a role in how the body responds to infections, though experts aren’t exactly sure how. But in the early part of the 20th century, the tonsils were blamed as the “focus of infection” in the body, and doctors began taking them out as a way to promote good health. The operation became so common for example, that entire classrooms of youngsters would get their tonsils taken out at school. But by the 1970s, many experts were questioning how effective and appropriate it was to subject kids to a painful operation that could have rare but serious complications; all for what new research suggested were minimal improvements in the risk of sore throats. At the same time, however, doctors were starting to become more aware of the myriad problems tied to sleep disordered breathing in children, a spectrum of problems that can range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea. And more tonsils began to be taken out as a way to open up the airway and improve sleep. Improvement in Care for Kids Having Surgery Several of the guidelines suggest ways doctors and parents can improve the care of children having tonsillectomies. One of the strongest recommendations is against the use of antibiotics just before or just after surgery. “They are commonly given, and there’s no evidence that antibiotics offer any benefit,” says study researcher Reginald F. Baugh, MD, professor and chief of otolaryngology at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio. “You run the risk of allergic reactions and there are the harms of over-prescribing.” In drafting the statement that advises doctors to counsel parents about the importance of pain management in kids after surgery, Baugh says the panel that reviewed the evidence behind the guidelines was alarmed to learn that many parents don’t give medications to control pain after the procedure. “That was one thing we really learned, about the importance of telling parents about the need to give pain meds in these kids,” Baugh says.

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

Teens Getting Less and Less Sleep

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Today’s American teens are getting a whole lot less sleep than they did in the 90s according to a new study. Too little sleep makes focusing difficult and depletes one’s energy. As a result, school performance often suffers and unhealthy and/or unwise decisions are much easier to make.

Just 63 percent of 15-year-olds reported getting seven or more hours of sleep a night in 2012. That number is down from 72 percent in 1991, according to the study.

Between the ages of 13 and 18, teens getting 7 hours or more of sleep a night plummets. At 13, roughly two-thirds of teens get at least seven hours of sleep a night; by 18 that percentage drops to about one-third.

"After age 16, the majority are not meeting the recommended guidelines," said study author Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

Why is it so important that teens get enough sleep? A lack of sleep can impact just about every part of their life. Hormones are escalating, social interactions are fragile, school demands are heightened, self-image is developing and many begin testing boundaries with parents, teachers and each other. It can be a rugged time for teens and those around them.

For the study, researchers from Columbia University looked at sleep data from a national survey of more than 270,000 teens from 1991 to 2012. Each year, teens reported how often they got seven or more hours of sleep, as well as how often they got less sleep than they need.

The most recent recommendation from the National Sleep Foundation says teens aged 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours a night and people aged 18 to 25 need seven to nine hours.

The largest declines in those getting enough sleep occurred between 1991 through 2000; then the problem plateaued, Keyes said.

Researchers also found that girls were less likely to get an adequate amount of sleep compared to boys.

So what’s causing the decline? There a several theories about what may be contributing to this downward slide in teen sleep.

Keyes did not have access to information about the teens' use of electronic media, a factor often blamed for lack of sleep as teens text, check social media, play video games and work on laptops late into the night. However, that might be a factor, she said.

"On an individual level, excessive use of technology may impair an adolescent's ability to sleep," Keyes said.

Caffeine may also be a culprit. It’s estimated that about 30 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks which are packed with caffeine. Many teens drink specialty coffees as well.

Another issue may be early school start times. Some sleep disorder experts believe that starting school – even an hour later- could help teens get more valuable sleep. Starting school, for instance at 8:30 a.m., is an approach favored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Other studies have noted that a lack of sleep is linked with many other teen health problems including obesity, car accidents, depression and a drop in school performance.

When kids are younger, parents are more likely to set limits on bedtime behavior as well as bedtimes. Once kids reach their teens, some of those limits may get a little lax, but this is the time when they are needed most.

Parents still have the authority to set a bedtime and require that computers, tablets and phones are off at least an hour before bedtime. Many kids (and adults) are addicted to their smartphones, so it’s a tough rule to set; it takes a strong commitment and a good example for it to work.

Lack of sleep is hard on everyone, but teens really need the extra help to stay healthy and function well in school. It has such a big impact not only on their present but for their future as well.

Source: Kathleen Doheny, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150216/us-teens-getting-less-sleep-than-ever

Your Baby

Kid’s Exposure to Dogs May Help Prevent Asthma

1:30

It may sound like the opposite would be true, but a new study suggests that when children are exposed to dogs and other animals early on, they’re less likely to have asthma later in life.

Researchers looked at more than one million Swedish children. They found that those who grew up with dogs in the home were nearly 15 percent less likely to develop asthma than those not exposed to dogs.

This ties in with an earlier study that showed children who grow up on farms also have lower rates of asthma.

The study was led by author Tove Fall, assistant professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a university news release, she noted that "earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child's risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true for children growing up with dogs in their homes."

Fall said, "Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socioeconomic status."

Study senior author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, stressed that the finding is only relates to children who have not yet developed asthma or allergies.

"We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them," she said in the news release.

What about other pets, such as cats, birds or hamsters?  The jury is still out on that one.

"In this study, early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduced asthma risk, and this may or may not include other types of pets that children keep," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The takeaway is that early exposure may reduce the incidence of a later pathological process," he said.

Experts have begin to warn parents that children raised in too sterile an environment are more prone to developing allergies and reactions to common bacteria and pet dander.  A little dirt and dander may be just what the doctor orders now to help prevent allergies and asthma later.

The findings were recently published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/dogs-in-the-home-may-lower-kids-odds-for-asthma-study-finds-704764.html

Your Baby

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

1.30 to read

A new study slated to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, says that there is no association between the amount of vaccines a young child receives and autism. Some parents have worried that there may be a link and have opted out of having their child vaccinated or reduced the number of vaccines recommended.

The percentage of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased by 72% since 2007. Some experts believe that changes in the diagnostic criteria may account for some of the increase as well as better screening tools and rating scales.

According to a statement released from the journal, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Abt Associates analyzed data from children with and without ASD.

Researchers examined each child's cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, the journal's statement said.

The antigen totals were the same for children with and without ASD, researchers found.

Scientists believe genetics play a fundamental role in the risk for a child developing autism (80-90%), but recent studies also suggests that the father’s age at the time of conception may also be a contributor by increasing risks for genetic mistakes in the sperm that could be passed along to offspring.

Parents have worried about a link between vaccines and autism for decades despite the growing body of scientific evidence disproving such an association.

Source: Luciana Lopez, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/29/us-usa-health-autism-idUSBRE92S0GO20130329

Your Child

Bullied Kids at Risk for Health problems as Adults

2:00

Being teased or humiliated by fellow classmates in school was once just a part of growing up for many kids. No one took it very seriously and children were basically told to either deal with it or physically fight back.

That began to change when bullying tactics changed from one-on-one painful snubs or pushing in the hallways to shaming and hateful social media taunts. All of a sudden everyone was in on the game and there was no where to hide or seek refuge from the never-ending onslaught of mean spirited and sometimes violent threats to a child’s very existence.

Bullying had reached a new stage of hurtfulness and too often the coping mechanism from children who were bullied was and still is suicide. Schools, parents and peers began to take notice and implement strategies to stop the bullying – at least in public environments.

Some of these strategies have been very effective and kids, as well as parents, are much more aware of the dangers that can come from bullying. However, there is always someone who thinks that they have a right to humiliate someone else. While it is more a reflection of the insecurity and abnormal personality of the person doing the bullying, the recipient still feels the pain and harbors the emotional damage to their self-value.

A new study looks at the possible future health hazards for children who have been bullied. Their findings reveal that adults who were bullied in childhood may be at an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Our research has already shown a link between childhood bullying and risk of mental health disorders in children, adolescents and adults, but this study is the first to widen the spectrum of adverse outcomes to include risks for cardiovascular disease at mid-life," said senior study author Louise Arseneault. She is a professor from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Evidently, being bullied in childhood does get under your skin," she said in a college news release.

The long-term study involved analyzed data from more than 7,100 people.  Participants in the study included all the children from England, Scotland and Wales that were born during one week in 1958. Their parents provided information on whether the participants were bullied at ages 7 and 11.

By age 45, more than one-quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied during childhood were obese, compared to 19 percent of those who never experienced bullying, the study found. Both men and women who were bullied during childhood were more likely to be overweight.

Compared to those who weren't bullied, men and women who were bullied had higher levels of blood inflammation, putting them at increased risk for heart attack and age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.

Like most studies, results didn’t show an actual cause and effect relationship, only an association or link between being bullied and future health risks.

"Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups," Arseneault said. "While many important school programs focus on preventing bullying behaviors, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering. Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood."

Andrea Danese, a study co-author, pointed out that obesity and high blood inflammation can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking steps to prevent these conditions is important, Danese said in the news release.

"The effects of being bullied in childhood on the risk for developing poor health later in life are relatively small compared to other factors," Danese added. "However, because obesity and bullying are quite common these days, tackling these effects may have a real impact."

Counseling coupled with family support for children who have been or are being bullied can offer tremendous value to helping a child disconnect with the hurtful words and actions of others. No one likes to be made fun of or taunted for some slight “imperfection”, but those kinds of things can linger in the mind and wear on one’s self-value. The sooner they are dealt with and put in their true perspective, the quicker one can let them go.

The study was published May 20 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/bullying-health-news-718/bullying-heart-disease-psych-med-kcl-release-batch-1756-699576.html

Daily Dose

Teens & Headaches Go Together

I just read an interesting study about teenagers with headaches. About one to two percent of adolescents have chronic daily headaches, defined as greater than 15 headache days per month for greater than three months.

Once school begins, teens stress levels increase with each week of school, and with that come more complaints of chronic headaches. It is not unusual for me to see several teens a week who complain that they have headaches every day. Despite these persistent headaches, the majority of adolescents continue to participate in their school activities, sleep well once they fall asleep and spend their weekends doing whatever it is that teens all do. I see very few teens who look like they are in “severe” pain, although they state that their head is “killing” them while they chatter away about where it hurts, and how often it hurts etc. It is quite reassuring to watch their faces and expressions as they go into detail about their headaches. In these cases it is important to obtain a good history to rule out any underlying pathology, as well as to inquire about family history of migraines. In this study the authors followed adolescents ages 12 – 14 years who met criteria for chronic daily headaches. They followed the group after both one and two years, and then again after eight years. The results showed that after one year 40 percent of adolescents still complained of chronic headaches. After two years, only 25 percent reported headaches. After eight years, only 12 percent reported chronic headaches. Most participants reported substantial or some improvement in headache intensity and frequency during the eight-year follow-up. The most significant predictor for ongoing problems with headaches was onset of chronic headaches before the age of 13 years. For the most part 75 percent of adolescents with chronic daily headaches improved over the eight-year period, which is quite reassuring. This study just seemed to confirm that teens and headaches go together. If a good history and physical exam is performed and there seem to be no underlying problems that contribute to their headaches, it is best to discuss the natural history of chronic headaches. I think it is important to spend time with adolescents to explore ways to alleviate stress as a trigger for chronic daily headaches. Basic changes in lifestyle such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep will often help reduce headaches. Relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy may also be utilized. At least we know that the headaches reduce with time, maybe just a maturational process, like many things! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Child

Kid’s Head Injury Linked to Long Term Attention Problems

1:45

Even mild brain injuries may cause children to have momentary gaps in attention long after an accident occurs, according to a new study.

The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers.

"Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower," said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This loss of focus was apparent even when brain scans showed no obvious damage, the researchers said.

The study’s results are being released as schools gear up for a new academic year combined with some sports programs that can put children at risk for head injuries.

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a blow to the head caused by a fall, traffic accident, and assault or sports injury.

Concussion is one type of traumatic brain injury. In 2009, more than 248,000 teens and children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries or concussions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the study was conducted.  Researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average.

The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries.

The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention -- the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.

As is typical with most studies, the results do not prove a cause and effect relationship, but an association.

The take-home message from this study is that even mild head injury can lead to problems, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was not involved with the research.

"This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior," Adesman said.

This research underscores the need to protect children from head injuries through proper supervision, consistent use of child car seats and seat belts, as well as headgear when bike riding and playing contact sports, he added.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

More information on brain injury in children can be found at the Brain Injury Association of America’s website, http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm.

Source: Kathleen Doheny,  http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/head-injury-may-trigger-attention-issues-in-kids-701821.html

Your Baby

Gap Between Pregnancies Linked to Autism

2:00

Does it make a difference how long a woman waits between pregnancies in the health of her newborn?  According to a new large study, the closer the pregnancies, the higher the risk that her child will have autism or other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

"Based on the current best available evidence, it appears that the ideal inter-pregnancy interval -- the time elapsed between the birth of the immediate older sibling and the conception of the younger sibling -- is 2 to 5 years, in order to reduce the risk of autism," said study author Dr. Agustin Conde-Agudelo. He is a researcher at the World Health Organization Collaborating Center in Human Reproduction at the University of Valle in Cali, Colombia.

Researchers looked at existing studies involving more than 1.1 million children and also found that waiting too long between pregnancies (5 years or more) could raise the odds of autism.

The reasons for the link between short pregnancy spacing and autism are not known noted Conde-Agudelo. He said that scientists believe nutrition and other factors may play a role.

The study doesn’t prove that either long or short intervals between pregnancies actually causes autism, just that there seems to be an association between the two.

Conde-Agudelo and his team reviewed seven large studies reporting a link between short birth spacing and autism. The investigators found that children born to women with less than 12 months between pregnancies were nearly twice as likely to develop autism as children born to women with three years or longer between pregnancies.

Three of those studies also reported a significant link between long pregnancy spacing and autism, especially for two milder types, which were formerly called Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder.

Meanwhile, the findings also suggested that shorter pregnancy spacing was associated with an increased risk of developmental delays and cerebral palsy, which can affect body movement, muscle coordination and balance.

Conde-Agudelo and other researchers conjectured that the mother’s depleted levels of folic acid between closely spaced pregnancies might play a role in the rise of autism risk.

The B vitamin folic acid is necessary for proper brain and spinal cord development in fetuses, and women are typically advised to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy.

As for longer pregnancy intervals also potentially linked to autism, Conde-Agudelo said it's been hypothesized that related factors such as infertility, unintended pregnancy and maternal inflammation levels may affect autism possibility.

Most neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors. These include genetics, environment, parental health and behaviors during pregnancy, and complications during birth, the researchers said in background notes.

The study was published in the April online edition of the journal Pediatrics, and will appear in the May print issue.

Story source: Maureen Salamon,  http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/autism-news-51/pregnancies-close-together-may-raise-autism-risk-study-says-709733.html

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