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Your Child

Kids and Caffeine

2.00 to read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.aap.org

Your Teen

Teens Drive Better With More Sleep

1.45 to read

The study, published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, compared school start times and automobile crash rates for students aged 16 to 18 years in Virginia Beach, Va., where high school classes began between 7:20 a.m. and 7:25 a.m., to students at schools in adjacent Chesapeake, Va., where classes started between 8:40 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. A new study suggests that getting an extra hour of sleep at night could help your teen drive safer.

The study, published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, compared school start times and automobile crash rates for students aged 16 to 18 years in Virginia Beach, Va., where high school classes began between 7:20 a.m. and 7:25 a.m., to students at schools in adjacent Chesapeake, Va., where classes started between 8:40 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. What they discovered was that the earlier risers may not be very alert while behind the wheel and were more prone to sleep loss and daytime sleepiness. The study's lead author, Dr. Robert Vorona, said that starting high school later in the morning might make young drivers more alert simply because they get more sleep. There were 65.8 automobile crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach, and 46.6 crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Chesapeake. The comparisons were made in 2008 and were similar to results in 2007. "We believe that high schools should take a close look at having later start times to align with circadian rhythms in teens and to allow for longer sleep times," said Vorona who is an associate professor of internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. "Too many teens in this country obtain insufficient sleep. Increasingly, the literature suggests that this may lead to problematic consequences including mood disorders, academic difficulties and behavioral issues." An extra hour of sleep could also improve attention levels, reduce mistakes and performance according to another study in the April edition of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The Israeli study of 14-year-old, eighth-grade students found those teens that slept 55 minutes longer each night performed better on tests that require attention. So just one more hour of sleep can make a big difference in how teens drive, and perform in school. Instead of the 7 or 8 hours of sleep recommended for adults, teens should think in terms of about 9 hours per night. With school schedules and other activities it can be a challenge to set aside that much time. It is also a good idea to get this amount of sleep on a daily basis and not skimp during the week and then try to make it up on the weekend.

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

 

 

 

 

Your Baby

Pets May Protect Infants Against Allergies

1.30 to read

Fluffy or Fido may protect your baby from developing allergies later in life. Many owners will tell you that their pet is like a family member. A new study suggests that those four-legged family members may reduce a child’s risk of developing allergies.

For years allergists have warned parents that some pets may actually cause allergies, but a new study published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy suggests that early exposure to pets, during an infant’s first year of life, appears to provide an actual defense against allergies later in life. Lead study author Ganesa Wegienka, Ph.D., of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit noted, “Exposing children to cats and dogs in the home is not going to increase the risk of sensitization to these animals. It might even decrease the risk.” Interesting revelations were found in the study such as; 18 year old males, who lived with a dog in the house when they were an infant, reduced their risks of developing allergies by half,  but not so with girls. Cats, on the other hand, seem to affect both sexes. Infant boys and girls who lived in a home with cats reduced their risks of developing allergies –by about 48%- by the age of 18 years. Another finding of the analysis showed that both males and females delivered by C-section had a 67 percent less likelihood of developing a dog allergy when a dog was present in the home during their first year of life. Wegienka said that this could be due to the fact that babies born by cesarean section are not exposed to the diverse microflora that babies born vaginally are. The long held idea that pets may cause allergies led Wegienka, and her colleagues, to study what effects childhood exposure to cats and dogs had on the risk of developing allergies to them. For their study, the researchers analyzed blood samples of more than 500 children taken during the Detroit Childhood Allergy Study from 1987 to 1989 that followed participants from birth. The focus of the analysis was to look for the presence of an antibody known as animal-specific IgE, which would indicate that a child was sensitized to that animal. In addition, follow-up among children in the study at age 18 included additional blood samples and pet histories. The histories indicated that 184 participants had a dog, and 110 of the children had a cat, during their first year of life. Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal's skin cells, saliva or urine. Signs of pet allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Some people may also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing. Severe allergic reactions can be deadly. Pet allergy is often triggered by exposure to the dead flakes, or dander, that a pet sheds. Any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergy, but the most common pets are cats, dogs, rodents and horses. Wegienka pointed out that the study does not definitively indicate that having a family pet will prevent infants from developing allergies later in life, as it only found an association between a reduced risk for allergies and exposure to cats and dogs at an early age. Wegienka cautioned, “We don't want to say that everyone should go out and get a dog or cat to prevent allergies.” She then added, “More research is needed, though we think this is a worthwhile avenue to pursue. How does having a dog or a cat change the home environment? And, how does that affect allergy risk?" If you have an infant and a pet sharing the house, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your little one to make sure that he or she is able to tolerate pet dander.

Your Baby

Abusive Head Trauma in Babies, Toddlers Can Last a Lifetime

2:30

This is going to be a hard story to read, but don’t let that stop you. It’s difficult because it involves very young children who suffer head trauma because they are abused.   Sometimes, it’s an accident. Sometimes it’s because a parent or guardian loses control and angrily shakes an infant or toddler until brain damage occurs.  While you may never intentionally abuse your own child, you should know how to recognize the symptoms of an infant or toddler that has been shaken. That knowledge could save a child’s life or improve the quality of treatment they receive.

Half of children who experience a severe abusive head trauma before the age of 5 will die before they turn 21, according to a new study.

In addition, among those who survive severe injuries, quality of life will be cut in half, the study found.

What causes such terrible consequences? According to www.babycenter.com, when a caregiver shakes and injures a child, it's sometimes called shaken baby syndrome. Abusive head trauma (AHT) and shaken baby syndrome usually refer to the same thing.

When a child's head is shaken back and forth, his brain bumps against the skull, causing bruising, swelling, pressure, and bleeding in and around the brain. The impact often causes bleeding in the retina – the light-sensitive portion of the eye that transmits images to the brain.

A child with AHT may also have a damaged spinal cord or neck as well as bone fractures. The extent of the damage depends on how long and hard the child is shaken or how severe the blow to the head is. But in just seconds, a child can suffer severe, permanent damage or even death.

In the United States, "at least 4,500 children a year suffer preventable abusive head trauma," said lead researcher Ted Miller, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, in Calverton, Md.

Among children with any abusive head trauma, including minor cases, one in three "will not survive to adulthood, and even the survivors will lose significant quality of life," Miller said.

For the study, the researchers surveyed parents, caregivers or pediatricians of 170 youngsters who survived an abusive head trauma to determine the victims' quality of life. The head traumas all occurred before the children were 5 years old. But, most -- about eight in 10 -- experienced the head trauma before they were 1 year old.

The majority  (71%) of the cases fell into the severe impact category. Moderate impact cases accounted for 13.5 percent and there were 16 percent that were listed as minor cases. 

Injuries caused by shaking a baby or toddler can be shocking. Almost one-quarter of children required a feeding tube, and 57 percent were blind or legally blind. Among the severe cases, 86 percent of the children lost their sight or needed corrective eye surgery, the report indicated.

"This article is a devastating reminder of how serious shaken baby syndrome is and how fragile these little ones are," said Linda Spears, vice president of policy and programs at Child Welfare League of America. She said children under 5 are much more likely to die due to abuse and neglect for several reasons.

"One is fragility of their little bodies, and another is that they have less ability to protect themselves," she said. "They're also less visible in the community because they rely on the people who abuse them. They're not in school yet and not seen in the community as much as older children."

Frustration is often the cause for shaking a baby. Parents can feel overwhelmed when their infant or toddler doesn’t stop crying. Potty training time is another trigger for some parents or guardians the study notes.

Parents of small children need a support system to help them through the rough times. Without one, things can get out of hand quickly.

"Shaken baby is one of the more devastating things that happen when people don't have what they need in terms of knowledge, skills, emotional maturity, concrete services and emotional support." Spears said.

She explained that "people feel incredibly inadequate in those moments, and if you have little support and little mentoring, frustration levels can get pretty high pretty quickly because parents feel upset and angry and need to feel like they can manage the situation."

The most common signs of abusive head trauma in an infant or young child are:

•       The child is not eating or is having difficulty feeding 

•       The child’s body is rigid; stiff, not flexible or feels firmly fixed.

•       The child’s eyes are glassy looking. They show no expression.

•       The child is unable to lift their head.

•       The child’s eyes are unable to focus on an object.

•       Vomiting

•       The child is lethargic.

•       The child seems constantly irritated.

In a second study, researchers tested the accuracy of a new screening method to identify which children's injuries were most likely caused by abuse.

By assessing four specific types of injuries to almost 300 children under 3 years old, the researchers determined that the method was approximately 96 percent accurate at identifying cases that were definitely caused by abusive head trauma.

Spears said providing education and support to parents, especially younger parents, is effective at preventing abusive head trauma and other forms of abuse, but it is a matter of identifying those families and getting them the support they need.

What should you do if you suspect a baby has been shaken in this way? Miller said you should report it to law enforcement or child protective services. Parents of children who may have been shaken, he said, should take their children to the emergency room, where immediate treatment may improve their long-term outcomes.

Both studies have been published in the journal Pediatrics. The newest study is in the online November issue.

Sources: Tara Haelle, http://consumer.healthday.com/head-and-neck-information-17/head-injury-news-344/abusive-head-trauma-in-babies-toddlers-can-have-lifelong-impact-693746.html

Karen Miles, http://www.babycenter.com/0_abusive-head-trauma-shaken-baby-syndrome_1501729.bc

Your Child

Super-Lice Resistant to OTC Treatment

1:45

Well, this certainly isn’t good news.

The American Chemical Society recently reported a new study shows that certain lice in at least 25 states are now resistant to over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.

Study author Kyong S. Yoon, PhD, assistant professor in the Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences Program at Southern Illinois University, has been researching lice since 2000. His research is still ongoing, but what he’s found so far in 109 samples from 30 states is startling: the vast majority of lice now carry genes that are super-resistant to the OTC treatment used against them.

Permethrin, part of the pyrethroid class of insecticides, is the active ingredient in some OTC treatments. Certain lice have developed a trio of mutations that make it resistant to the pyrethroids. What happens is you end up with a new kind of super-lice that doesn’t respond to typical treatment any longer.

“It’s a really, really serious problem right now in the U.S.,” Yoon says.

Six million to 12 million U.S. children are infested with head lice every year, "with parents spending about $350 million dollars annually on permethrin-laced over-the-counter and prescription treatments," Yoon said. Lice infestations occur in rich neighborhoods as well as poor ones.

Currently, there are 25 states, including Arizona, California, the Carolinas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia where lice have what Yoon calls "knock-down resistant mutations". This involves a triple whammy of genetic alterations that render them immune to OTC permethrin treatments.

Lice in four states, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, have developed partial resistance, the researchers found.

Michigan's lice have no resistance as yet. Why that is remains unclear.

Fortunately, there are prescription medications that still work in treating lice. They are more expensive than over-the-counter formulas and do not contain permethrin. These prescriptions may contain benzyl alcohol, ivermectin, malathion and spinosad; all powerful agents or insecticides. Lindane shampoo is another alternative for difficult-to-treat cases.

If your child has head lice and OTC medicines haven’t worked, you can check with your pediatrician or family doctor for a prescription treatment. 

Sources: Mandy Oaklander, http://time.com/4000857/lice-treatment/

Alan Mozes, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/08/18/head-lice-now-resistant-to-common-meds-in-25-states

 

Your Child

New Studies Look At Childhood Asthma

1.45 to read

2 new studies take a look at childhood asthma. One suggests that antibiotics given to babies in the first year of life may increase a child’s chances of getting asthma by age 18, while the other study cautions that childhood food allergies may be a predictor of asthma later in life.2 new studies take a look at childhood asthma. One suggests that antibiotics given to babies in the first year of life may increase a child’s chances of getting asthma by age 18, while the other study cautions that childhood food allergies may be a predictor of asthma later in life

Antibiotic Use and Childhood Asthma Pediatricians have cautioned parents about taking antibiotics, and giving their children antibiotics, without a true medical need. Now a study appearing online in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that infants who take antibiotics during the first year of life may be at a slightly increased risk of developing asthma by age 18. In a separate analysis, the children of women who took antibiotics during pregnancy were nearly 25% more likely to have asthma compared to mothers who did not take the drug. Asthma can be a life threatening condition. Nine million children under age 18 in the U.S. have asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Here’s how the study was conducted. Researchers gathered data from 22 previous studies between 1950 and 2010. Two of the 22 studies looked at antibiotic exposure during pregnancy while 19 studies evaluated antibiotic exposure during the first year of life. One study assessed antibiotic exposure during both time periods. Other studies have shown that infants who receive antibiotics are at an increased risk for developing asthma by age 7, and the more courses of the drug given that first year, the greater the risk. This review analyzed the results of studies using over 600,000 participants. It also grouped studies according to design type to see how the results were affected. When all 20 studies were grouped together, researchers found that infants who took antibiotics during their first year of life were about 50% more likely than babies who never received the drugs to be diagnosed with asthma. Researchers also analyzed studies where children who were treated with antibiotics for respiratory infections, were removed.  The respiratory infections skewed the overall results because of the possibility that the infections themselves might be a precursor to asthma. In studies that adjusted for these respiratory infections, a child who took antibiotics was 13% more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than a child who never took the medication. The researchers say they are not suggesting that early antibiotic exposure causes childhood asthma, but that even a slight increase in risk may be a good enough reason to avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics during pregnancy and the first year of life. Food Allergies and Childhood Asthma Infants and toddlers often have some type of food allergy, while teens and adults are more prone to dust, ragweed and mold allergies according to U.S. researchers. A preliminary release of the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Report, Allergies Across America, is based on laboratory testing from more than 2 million U.S. patient visits. In this report the findings reveal a pattern of allergen sensitivity consistent with the "allergy march," a medical condition by which allergies to foods in early childhood heighten the risk for the development of additional and more severe allergy-related conditions - including asthma- later in life. "Allergy and asthma often go hand in hand, and the development of asthma is often linked to allergies in childhood via the allergy march," Study investigator Dr. Harvey W. Kaufman says in a statement. "Given the growing incidence of asthma in the United States, our study underscores the need for clinicians to evaluate and treat patients, particularly young children, suspected of having food allergies in order to minimize the prospect that more severe allergic conditions and asthma will develop with age." The most common foods responsible for allergic reactions are eggs, cow's milk, peanuts, soya, fish and shellfish in children and peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish in adults. Substances that are used as food additives and preservatives can also affect individuals. Although a causal link has not been determined, increased awareness of the heightened risks of having both childhood asthma and allergen sensitivity plus good patient-parent education and management of both conditions, can lead to improved health and medical outcomes.

Your Child

Household Bleach Causing Flu and Infections in Kids?

1:30

One of the most popular disinfectants used in household cleaning is bleach. From cleaning wipes to straight out of the bottle, bleach is used to clean surfaces, remove mold and brighten clothes.

As far back as 3000 B.C. a form of bleach was used to brighten white clothes. Shakespeare even made reference to bleaching in 1598. But it was around 1913 that bleach was touted as a disinfectant. In many of today’s households, products containing bleach are used as a surface sanitizer to kill bacteria.

A new study from the Netherlands says the cleaning agent may increase children’s risk for flu, tonsillitis and other infections. The study did not prove cause and effect, but suggested that bleach and other similar cleaning products may be contributors to these types of illnesses.

The study was led by Lidia Casas, of the Center for Environment and Health at KU Leuven in Leuven, the Netherlands. Her team looked at more than 9,000 children, aged 6 to 12, in the Netherlands, Finland and Spain.

Those whose parents used bleach to clean their homes at least once a week had higher rates of respiratory and other types of infections. Specifically, Casas and colleagues found that these children had a 20 percent higher risk of having the flu at least once in the previous year, a 35 percent higher risk of recurrent tonsillitis and an 18 percent higher risk for any recurrent infection.

According to the study’s authors, airborne components of bleach and similar products may irritate the lining of children's lungs, triggering inflammation and making it easier for infections to take hold. Or, bleach may somehow suppress the immune system, making infections more likely, the team said.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which represents makers of bleach and bleach products, responded quickly to the study.

"Since there was no data presented on the children's actual exposure to bleach -- nor any diagnoses of actual diseases -- the authors are merely speculating," the ACI said in a statement. The group also said that disinfecting household surfaces with bleach can protect people from bacterial infection.

Responses to the study from medical specialists have been mixed.

"While this study observes higher respiratory effects of bleach on children, it is not a cause-and-effect study, and other factors or household cleaners may be involved," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"There is evidence that high concentrations of bleach can cause asthmatic reactions when ventilation is not adequate, but the leap to increased incidence of infections is less clear," he said.

Dr. Jacqueline Moline, vice president of population health at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y., noted, "These results are in line with other studies that show the impact of cleaning products on the health of young children."

Moline also said that parents might want to consider using a different product for household cleaning, "the take-home message from this study is that one should be prudent in the use of harsh household cleaners with bleach or other chemicals, especially in homes with young children, and seek out less toxic or harsh products to clean the home."

The study was published online in the April edition of the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/could-household-bleach-raise-kids-risk-for-flu-other-infections-698036.html

Your Child

Can Dogs Help Kids Be Less Anxious?

1:45

Scientific studies have already linked fewer allergies and asthma in kids that own dogs, now a new study says you can also add less anxiety to the list of benefits from man’s best friend.

Researchers say a new study shows kids who live in a home with a pet dog score far lower on clinical measures of anxiety.

Although the study was small, the results were not surprising. Researchers focused on 643 kids between 6 and 7. But the team at Bassett Medical Center in New York found that just 12 percent of children with pet dogs tested positive for clinical anxiety, compared to 21 percent of children without a dog.

"It may be that less anxious children have pet dogs or pet dogs make children less anxious," Dr. Anne Gadomski and colleagues wrote in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Previous studies have also shown that adults benefit from owning a pet as well as kids. In fact, many health officials suggest that adults should consider getting a dog. Not only can they provide companionship but can encourage more exercise.

Gadomski acknowledged how special pets can be to a child by noting that, "Sometimes their first word is the name of their pet," she told NBC News. "There is a very strong bond between children and their pets."

What makes dogs such special pets for kids?  Godmski’s team said, "From a mental health standpoint, children aged 7 to 8 often ranked pets higher than humans as providers of comfort and self-esteem and as confidants," they wrote.

"Animal-assisted therapy with dogs affects children's mental health and developmental disorders by reducing anxiety and arousal or enhancing attachment," they added.

"Because dogs follow human communicative cues, they may be particularly effective agents for children's emotional development."

The researchers asked parents for specific details about what type of anxiety a child showed.

Pets seemed to help in several areas.

"Significant differences between groups were found for the separation anxiety component ('My child is afraid to be alone in the house') and social anxiety component ('My child is shy') favoring pet ownership," they wrote.

Most of the families in the study - 73 percent - had a pet of some kind. Most - 58 percent - had dogs. Families with pets may be more stable and may be more affluent, but the researchers suggest there's more to it than that.

"A pet dog can stimulate conversation, an ice-breaking effect that can alleviate social anxiety via a social catalyst effect," they wrote.

Other studies have also shown that playing or cuddling with a dog can release the bonding hormone oxytocin, and lower the stress hormone cortisol, they noted.

There’s already an abundance of research on dogs and families, which is one of the reasons Gadomski chose to look at the relationship between dogs and kids for this study.

However, she noted that cat lovers might also benefit from the same type of interaction.

If you’re interested in getting a dog as a pet for your family, there are several websites that offer a quiz to help families decide which breed may best be suited for them. Just search “best dog breeds for families.”

Shelters also have puppies and dogs that make wonderful pets.  Many of the older dogs are already house trained and socialized. Shelter staff can answer your questions about whether a particular dog that is up for adoption would be suitable for a family and small children.

Source: Maggie Fox, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/heres-reason-get-puppy-kids-pets-have-less-anxiety-n469591

Image:http://www.popsugar.com/moms/Benefits-Dogs-Kids-36052085#photo-36052085

 

 

 

 

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