November 15, 2011

Cholesterol screening recommended for kids at age 9

All children should be tested for high cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 11 even if they don't have a family history of the disease, according to new health guideines.

The guidelines, released by the and the American Academy of Pediatrics said that students should be tested again between the ages of 17 and 21 years of age.

The two medical groups are trying to prevent the disease, that is inflicting more of the nation's population, at an early age.

“By working with families, we can keep kids at a lower lifetime risk and prevent more serious problems in adulthood," Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, chairman of the panel responsible for the guidelines, wrote in the report.

Previous guidelines only recommended screening children with a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease. The panel also recommended that doctors use a test that doesn't require kids to fast.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

September 29, 2011

B'more for Healthy Babies gets funds to aid mothers


An ongoing program in Baltimore City to improve birth outcomes has received two grants totaling $2.2 million to pay for home visits and weight loss programs for pregnant and new mothers.

The B’more for Healthy Babies campaign will get $1.5 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health for one program that helps women lose weight using the Weight Watchers model.

The program began as a pilot in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood in the past year. The grant money will expand the program to 1,400 obese women of childbearing age. These women face risks during pregnancy and delivery.

Another federal grant of $702,000 will go through the state of Maryland to a home-visiting program. Nurses and paraprofessionals will provide pregnant women and new mothers with physical and mental health assessments and connect the women to services they may need.

“This funding will allow us and our partners to do a better job of serving low-income women and families, which is critically important to our community’s overall health,” said Kevin Keegan, chief executive of the Family League of Baltimore City, Inc. in a statement. The group is administering the two grants for the B’more for Healthy Babies campaign and co-directs B'more for Healthy Babies with the Baltimore City Health Department.

The B’more for Healthy Babies campaign was launched in 2009 in response to an infant mortality rate that was among the worst in the nation. That year, 120 infants died before their first birthday and more were pre-term and underweight.

Baltimore Sun file photo of family participating in the weight loss program/Barbara Haddock Taylor

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 18, 2011

Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital gets grant for rehab clinic

Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital has received a $12,500 grant to use to buy equipment for its rehabilitation program.

The hospital will use the grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for machines that will help patients with neuro-motor disorders to increase their range of movement.

The award was one of 77 grants worth more than $508,000 awarded by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations which work with people with paralysis, as well as their families and caregivers.

The foundation was founded by the late Dana Reeve, wife of Christopher Reeve, known for his role as Superman. Christopher Reeve was paralyzed after a spinal injury from a horse riding accident. He died in 2004.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 3, 2011

Most hospitals not promoting breastfeeding for infants

The majority of U.S. hospitals do not fully support breastfeeding, which can have a significant impact on children’s health and their risk of obesity, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Less than 4 percent of U.S. hospitals provide the range of support mothers need to be able to breastfeed, the report says.

“Hospitals play a vital role in supporting a mother to be able to breastfeed,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, CDC director, in a statement. “Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breastfeed are critical. Hospitals need to better support breastfeeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn. Breastfeeding helps babies grow up healthy and reduces health care costs.”

The report looked at data from the CDC’s national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care. It showed that only 14 percent of hospitals had a written policy about breastfeeding and nearly 80 percent gave infants formula when it wasn’t medically necessary. That made it harder for the babies to breastfeed at home.

The report also found 75 percent of hospitals didn’t provide support for mothers after they left the hospital. That support included a visit or call from staff or referrals to lactation consultants or other agencies in their communities.

The CDC says low rates of breastfeeding add $2.2 billion a year to medical costs because babies that don’t breastfeed have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalization and prescriptions.

Nationally, the CDC says 74.6 percent of babies have ever been breastfed and 44.3 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months. In Maryland, the numbers are slightly higher: 78.5 percent have ever breastfed and 45.2 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months, according to the CDC's breastfeeding report card.

See more information at


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Categories: Pediatrics

July 25, 2011

Dr. Bob's children's hospice opens today

A much needed child hospice has opened in Baltimore today.

Dr. Bob’s Place opened its new inpatient hospice facility near downtown at 838 N. Eutaw Street. The facility will serve children 18 and under with life limiting illness. The facility has private rooms where parents can stay the night.

Dr. Bob's Place becomes the second hospice in the state to serve children. Gilchrist Kids, a division of Gilchrist Hospice in Towson, began serving kids last year.

Dr. Bob's Place began its home-based services in March.

Children are often underserved in the hospice community. Most die in intensive-care units at hospitals or in emergency rooms, where the focus is on treatment rather than comfort and quality of life.

Only about 10 to 20 percent of dying children recieve hospice care, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Research has shown it can be more costly and complicated to care for dying children. Insurance rules have also made it difficult for children to qualify for hospice coverage.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 12:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 12, 2011

Chat with doctor on treating children in pain


On Wednesday at noon on, Dr. Paul Christo, a pain specialist at Johns Hopkins, will take readers' questions on treating children who have painful illnesses and issues, such as sickle cell pain, cancer pain, postoperative pain, fibromyalgia and CRPS. With even over-the-counter pain medication for children under increased scrutiny, we thought this would be a timely topic.

You can sign up for the chat in advance here and receive an email reminder when it starts. Or if you can't make the chat, email your questions in advance to and come back to the same page to read the transcript.

Christo is director of the Multidisciplinary Pain Fellowship Training Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also has a radio talk show Saturday nights on WBAL.

Getty Images file

Posted by Kim Walker at 5:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

June 28, 2011

Government says sales of tobacco to minors falls

Sales of tobacco to minors has hit an all time low, according to a new government report.

Reducing tobacco sales has been a priority nationally and in Maryland for years, and now the average violation rate by retailers is down to 9.3 percent, the lowest level in the 14 year history of the Synar program. Synar, named for a former congressman from Oklahoma, aims to eliminate sales to minors and is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admistration.

The program requires states to have laws and enforce programs to cut sales of tobacco products to minors. They have to annually report the percentage of inspected retail shops that sold products to customers under 18.

The average rate has been trending down, and for the fifth year in a row no state was out of compliance, which would be more than  20 percent of shops selling tobacco to minors. Most states found fewer than 15 percent of shops violating the rules in fiscal 2010. About a third were below 10 percent.

Maryland was at 16.8 percent of shops violating the rules in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2009, the state was at 5.1 percent.

Report authors said the despite this good news, progress in reducing actual tobacco use has stalled because of the economy. And that may be the reason for the uptick in sales in Maryland, too. Kathleen Rebbert-Franklin, deputy director of the state's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, said money to localities to do checks at the shops has dropped.

Without the checks, shops get a little loose with the rules, she said. Or there isnt training for employees as they turnover. But a new influx of federal dollars means the state will pick up where the localities have left off.

Clearly, the spot checks matter, as the Synar report shows, she said.

"We're trying to keep our eye on the prize during tight budget times," she said. 

FDA photo of new labelling required on cigarette packages

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Categories: Cancer, Pediatrics

June 22, 2011

Don't leave infants unattended in the car

No sane parent would intentionally leave their child in a smoldering car all day, but unfortunately tragic mistakes like this happen.

In light of such an incident in Ellicott City recently, Howard County health, police and fire department officials today gave parents tips on how not to be the one who forgets their child.

A 23-month-old girl died of heatstroke after one of her parents unintentionally left the child strapped in her car seat in front of their home. Police said a "change of routine" caused the parent to forget that the child was in the car for nearly nine hours.

An average of 36 children a year dies from hyperthermia, or overheating, after being left unattended in a car, according to Howard County officials. A child can die if left inside a vehicle even if temperatures are as cool as 70 degrees. Cracking a window does little to cool down the inside of a car.

 Peter Beilenson, Howard County Health Officer, urges parents to take these precautions:

• Start a “Look before you leave routine”: be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Do not overlook sleeping babies.

• Place your purse, wallet or cell phone on the back seat as a reminder you have a child in the car.

• Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat; when the child is put in the car seat, place the animal in the front with the driver.

• Have a plan that your childcare provider will call if your child does not show up for daycare.

• Look into new child reminder technologies that connect wireless car seat alarms to key rings.

Maryland is one of 15 states with a law that prohibits leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Criminal charges can be brought against parents.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 3:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

New method invented to collect stem cells after birth

Stem cells from newborns’ umbilical cords and placenta are normally tossed, but some Johns Hopkins students have come up with a new system that could significantly increase collections.

The stem cells could then be used to boost the immune systems of patients with leukemia and lymphoma and other blood disorders.

The invention called CBx System is in the testing stage, but the students – all pursuing master's degrees in the university's Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design -- have gotten a provisional patent for the technology and formed a company called TheraCord LLC. They hope it will eventually be widely used in hospital maternity wards.

“Cord blood, collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after live birth, is the most viable source of stem cells, yet over 90 percent is uncollected and discarded,” the team members wrote for a presentation at the university's recent Biomedical Engineering Design Day. “One of the main reasons valuable cord blood is so frequently discarded is because no adequate collection method exists.”

Now, when a baby is born the parents have to opt to save the cord blood and pay for it, unless they are at one of 180 hospitals that are affiliated with public cord blood banks where parents can donate cord blood.

And the method of collection relies on gravity. Only 40-50 percent of units collected can be used for transplants and the stem cells are usually only enough for a child. The students’ collection method uses mechanical forces and a chemical solution to detach and flush more stem cells from the cord and placenta vessels – up to 50 percent more stem cells.

The students, who have graduated, will keep working so they can get even more.

So, would you donate?

Getty Images photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cancer, Pediatrics

June 21, 2011

Portable pools pose safety hazard for children


Portable pools, a staple in the summer in many back yards, may be fun for kids. But they can also be trouble.

Every five days a child drowns in one of these pools in the United States, according to a study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Most cases involved kids under age 5 and three quarters involved pools in the kids’ own yards, according to the study released online and scheduled to appear in the July 2011 print issue of Pediatrics.

“Because portable pools are generally small, inexpensive and easy to use, parents often do not think about the potential dangers these pools present,” Dr. Gary Smith, senior author of the study and director of the center, said in a statement. “It only takes a couple of minutes and a few inches of water for a child to drown. It is important for parents to realize that portable pools can be just as dangerous as in-ground pools.”

More than 40 percent of the kids were being supervised by an adult. In 18 percent of the cases, it was just a brief distraction such as a phone call that allowed an accident.

The study authors suggested multiple layers of protection including keeping kids from the pool without supervision and being prepared with there is a submersion. They noted that some tools are expensive or not available such as fencing, safety covers, lockable or removable ladders and pool alarms. They called on manufacturers to produce better safety mechanisms just for portable pools.

Associated Press photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

June 20, 2011

More lead in children's jewelry found in retail shops

The Baltimore City Health Department continues to crack down on retailers who sell kids’ jewelry that contains harmful levels of lead, a dangerous neurotoxin that can severely impair development and can cause death.

Three retailers were given violation notices and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been alerted. The retailers can no longer sell the items.

“One of these products is labeled ‘lead compliant,’ yet it contains 18,000 ppm of lead, far above the regulated limit of 300 ppm,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a statement. “The Health Department will continue to look for children’s products with high lead levels so parents can shop with confidence, knowing toys sold in the city are safe.”

The federal government bans items with more than 300 parts per million – and these shops were cited for selling jewelry that far exceeding that level:

+Fashion Kiosk at Mondawmin Mall, 2401 Liberty Heights Ave. The item was the 4-piece Pink & Rhinestone Flower Set (Rhinestone flower clip on earrings). Total lead content was 18,000 ppm.

+Beauty Max, 2222 E. Monument St. The item was the Strawberry Charm Bracelet (Big Strawberry Charm). Total lead content was 180,000 ppm.

+KG Beauty, 2465 Frederick Ave. The item was the 3-piece Pearl Set (Pearl Necklace). Total lead content was 3,800 ppm in the clasp and 280,000 ppm in the chain.

For a list of recalled products that contain metals known to be toxic, click here.  For Baltimore’s regulation on lead in children’s jewelry, click here.

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Health Department

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

June 9, 2011

Kids getting vaccines despite parents' concerns

Parents aren’t all convinced that childhood vaccines against diseases are all safe and necessary, but are still largely getting them for their kids, a new survey shows.

The survey was analyzed by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Program Office. The officials concluded in this month in the journal Health Affairs more needs to be done to convey the vaccine’s benefits and low risks.

“The good news is that almost all parents are getting their children vaccinated. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all parents have a high level of confidence in those vaccines,” said lead author Allison Kennedy, an epidemiologist in CDC’s Immunization Services Division, in a statement.

“These findings point us toward what we need to focus on to better answer questions and concerns parents have about why immunization is important.”

The vaccines are best before age two when children are most vulnerable, she said. But some parents still associate them with autism and learning disabilities. Parents said they got information from pediatricians, family, friends and, increasingly, the Internet. 

About 23 percent of 376 parents surveyed had no concern about vaccines. But the others were concerned about such things as pain from shots, too many shots in one visit, too many vaccine before age two, unsafe ingredients, the level of safety testing and the low instance of some diseases. About two percent said they would get no vaccine for their children.

Reuters photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

May 6, 2011

Preemies given human milk avoid a complication

Another study is showing the benefits of breast milk for babies. This time, it’s may provide more than a healthy meal, it may prevent a potentially deadly condition in extremely premature babies.
The multi-center study lead by Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that the preemies fed human donor milk were less likely to develop the intestinal condition necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which damages a baby’s bowel, than those fed premature infant formula made from cow’s milk.

Only one of 29 infants fed breast milk developed the condition and didn’t need surgery. Five of 24 babies on formula got NEC and four needed surgery.

The babies also tolerated food better and could be taken off supplemental nutrition given through an IV sooner. IV nutrition is given to all premature babies to supplement feeding.

“The stark differences in the risk of NEC, its complications and the need for surgery between babies who receive human donor milk and those who get formula signal the need for a change in feeding practices across neonatal intensive care units,” said lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Cristofalo, a Hopkins neonatologist, in a statement.

The researchers said that these babies, weighing less than 3.3 pounds, should only get human milk. They said there has been concerns in the past about donor milk, but it has shown to be superior to when mixed with mother’s milk than mother’s milk fortified with cow’s milk protein.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

April 18, 2011

State solicits comments on crib bumper pads

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is looking for data and public input on infant crib bumper pads, those cushioned linings that are supposed to prevent babies from bumping into the crib but may provide a means of asphyxiation.

The pads have been linked to 20 infant deaths in the United States, including at least one in Maryland in 2007, though data is limited. The American Academy of Pediatrics has expressed concern about them and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently announced it plans to consider the issue.

State health officials want to hear from the public, interested parties, health professionals and other knowledgeable about product safety. Are they a risk? Are there benefits? Could dangers be reduced with labeling? The state will decide whether to pass on the information to federal officials or take action within the state.

The comment period is open until May 9. An advisory panel will review the comments and make recommendations.

Submit comments to Michele Phinney, Director of the Office of Regulation and Policy Coordination, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 201 W. Preston St., Room 512, Baltimore, MD 21201, or call 410-767-6499, TTY:800-735-2258, or by email to, or by fax to 410-767-6483.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

March 14, 2011

New children's hospice begins services today

A much needed children's hospice began providing services to the state's youngest victim's today.

Dr. Bob's Place: A Hospice for Children became only the second program in the state serving children under age 18. Gilchrist Kids, a division of Gilchrist Hospice in Towson, began serving kids last year.

Dr. Bob's Place in Baltimore began with home-based services today and will also eventually offer in-patient services.

Children are often underserved in the hospice community. Most die in intensive-care units at hospitals or in emergency rooms, where the focus is on treatment rather than comfort and quality of life. Only about 10 to 20 percent of dying children recieve hospice care, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Research has shown it can be more costly and complicated to care for dying children. Insurance rules have also made it difficult for children to qualify for hospice coverage.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

February 21, 2011

When parents allow their teens to drink

Nearly 6 percent of 12- to 14-year-olds drank alcohol in the past month and almost half of them got their drinks at home or from family members, according to a new federal study.

Teen drinking isn't just risky, it can lead to problems down the road, the report warns.

People who drink alcohol before they turn 15 are six times more likely to develop drinking problems than those who wait until the legal drinking age, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, which conducted the study based on surveys of more than 44,000 young people.

The report, based on responses between 2006 to 2009, found that of the 706,000 youth who drank alcohol, about 15 percent took the booze from their homes. And nearly 16 percent were provided the liquor from their parents. Another 14 percent got it from their adult relatives.

Getty Images photo 

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

February 17, 2011

Nearly 10,000 babies injuried in cribs each year

Cribs are supposed to offer parents a safe-haven to leave their babies. But new research suggests they can be dangerous.

Nearly 182,000 babies and toddlers under 2 were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2008 for injuries in cribs, playpens and bassinets, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

While the government and safety gurus have sounded the alarm on crib deaths -- some 9 million cribs have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission since 2007 for safety concerns --  researchers in this new study are calling it the first to investigate crib-related injuries.

Despite recent attention paid to crib safety, 26 children a day are injured in cribs in the United States, the report states.  The authors are calling for more stringent safety standards as a House committee plans to discuss crib safety concerns.

Two-thirds of the injuries involved falls, particularly from drop-side cribs, a ban on which will go into effect in June. The vast majority of children taken to ERs were treated and released. The rate of injuries actually declined over the 19-year study period, but the number remained high, the authors write.

Continue reading "Nearly 10,000 babies injuried in cribs each year" »

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 14, 2011

Study: Energy drinks could pose serious health risks to children

Packed with harmful levels of caffeine, energy drinks offer no therapeutic benefit and may put some children and young adults at risk of health problems, according to a study published today in the journal Pediatrics.

Energy drink overdose -- causing a small body to ingest too much caffeine and ingredients such as taurine and guarana -- could lead to stroke, seizure and even sudden death, particularly in youth with health problems such as diabetes, cardiac abnormalities or behavior disorders, the study found.

Because the drinks are marketed as nutritional supplements, they aren't subject to the same caffeine limits on soft drinks or the safety testing of medicines, the authors write. And many drinks include ingredients that aren't regulated or haven't been sufficiently studied, they said.

Researchers at the University of Miami came to their conclusions after a review of published articles -- from medical journals, newspapers and trade publications.

Young people make up about half of the huge energy drink market and somewhere between 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks, according to background information in the study. Since energy drinks are often marketed to young people, doctors should screen their young patients for their use and work to educate parents and children of the potential harms, the authors write.

Folks at the American Beverage Association told the AP that the report is simply spreading misinformation.

Nevertheless, researchers have expressed concerns about the high levels of caffeine in such drinks before. I wrote a few years back about a Johns Hopkins study in which the author said the drinks should come with labels warning of the possible health risks.

The new study comes on the heels of some local governments banning caffeine-infused alcohol drinks, after federal warnings that they pose health risks. While this study doesn't specifically take on this class of drinks, it mentions that coupling energy drinks with alcohol could only intensify the risks.

Baltimore Sun photo

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Pediatrics

January 24, 2011

Women sharing breast milk

breastfeeding momI blogged last week about a new emphasis the federal government is putting on breast feeding, but because of health reasons many mothers aren't able to do it even if they want to.

To get the benefits that come with breast feeding, some mothers are getting their breast milk from other women. An NPR article explores the practice.

The article talks about a facebook group called "Eats on Feets" that helps moms find women willing to donate breast milk. The idea is for mothers to be able to get the milk for free.

But the Food and Drug Administration warns that feeding babies donated milk leaves them exposed to diseases, such as HIV. The NPR article said that there are milk banks that mothers can use where the women who donate are tested for diseases.

In promoting breast feeding last week the Surgeon General's office pointed to research that has shown breastfeeding protects babies from infection and illnesses, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, according to the surgeon general's office. Babies who breastfeed for six months are less likely to become obese.

Breastfeeding is also good for moms who have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

But is it worth taking the risk of using another women's breast milk? What do readers think?


Posted by Andrea Walker at 4:47 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Pediatrics

January 21, 2011

Surgeon General promotes breastfeeding

breastfeedingSurgeon General Regina M. Benjamin this week issued a call to action to support breastfeeding, saying it needs to be made easier for women to perform the practice.

About 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, but only 13 percent are still exclusively breastfeeding at the end of six months, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The surgeon's general office said women point to many obstacles to breastfeeding. They may find no support from family members and don't have time or a private place to pump at work.

Benjamin outlines ways families, employers and health care professionals can make it easier to breast feed. They include:

* Communities should expand programs that give mothers peer counseling and support

* Clinicians should promote breastfeeding to patients and make sure they have information on how to breastfeed

* Employees should provide women with break time and a private space to pump. They should also create lactation support programs.

Research has shown that breastfeeding protects babies from infection and illnesses, such as diarrhea, infections and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, according to the surgeon general's office.

Babies who breastfeed for six months are less likely to become obese. Breastfeeding is also good for moms who have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 4:48 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Pediatrics

January 12, 2011

Nitric oxide not helpful for most really early babies


Treating premature babies with nitric oxide doesn’t seem to help stave off major problems or death, a new Johns Hopkins Children’s Center research finds.

The practice is widespread, but the babies who got nitric oxide were no less likely to die, develop chronic lung disease, suffer cerebral palsy or have neurological or cognitive impairments, according to the review of 22 major studies.

The finding will appear in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics. The researchers said there was a small difference in some babies, but not enough to warrant across-the-board use. They, instead, conclude that for babies born at less than 34 weeks, the decision to use nitric oxide should be done on a case-by-case basis.

“What we call for is careful evaluation by a team of clinicians of each patient’s risk-benefit profile, factoring in birth weight, degree of prematurity and degree of lung and brain maturation,” said lead investigator Pamela Donohue, in a statement.

The researcher note that there is evidence that nitric oxide is effective treatment in babies born near-term, or after 34 weeks.

Baltimore Sun file photo/Kim Hairston

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

January 10, 2011

Study: Closely spaced pregnancies increases autism risk

Babies born less than a year after an older sibling were more likely to be diagnosed with autism, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers at Columbia University examined the birth records of some 660,000 California second-born children to determine their odds of being diagnosed with the puzzling developmental disorder.

Second children conceived less than two years after the first baby were nearly twice as likely to develop autism. And those conceived less than 12 months after the first child were three times as likely to be diagnosed with autism. 

Now for the hard question: why?

Researchers aren't sure what the connection might be. One theory is that the a woman who recently had a child could have depleted levels of important baby-growing nutrients such as folate and iron. Still, researchers didn't test that idea. Peter Bearman, a Columbia sociologist who conducted the research said parents with children close in age might be more likely to notice when a sibling isn't developing on target.  Clearly, more research is needed to pinpoint what's at play here.

No one knows what causes autism and there is no cure, to the dismay of approximately 1 in 100 children nationwide thought to have the disorder.  But many researchers believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at work. Autism is actually a wide range of disabilities known as autism spectrum disorders and is marked by impaired communication and social interaction.

The study comes on the heels of last week's news further discrediting the 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that first linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.  

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 10:27 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Pediatrics

January 6, 2011

Controversial study linking vaccines to autism called a fraud

The now infamous 1998 article that first linked the MMR vaccine to autism was not just incorrect, it was based on falsified evidence, according to a new article published in the medical journal BMJ.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield's study set off a global panic about the safety of a common childhood vaccine and today the emotional debate over the causes of the complex disorder rages on. 

The new BMJ evidence comes a year after the medical journal Lancet retracted the original paper. And last May, Wakefield was stripped of his license to practice medicine.

Last year's news was just the latest in a series of mounting evidence from the Institute of Medicine and others that found no link between the combination measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. Nevertheless, many parents continue to cling to the possibility that the vaccine is unsafe. As a result, vaccination rates have dropped and measles cases surged. In 2008, more measles cases were reported in United States than any year since 1996, the CDC found.

The new BMJ report by British journalist Brian Deer interviewed families of the 12 children in the original study concluding that Wakefield misrepresented or falsified the experiences of the kids in the study.

Wakefield is still defending his research and on CNN called Deer a "hit man" trying to take him down.

Could this be the end of the vaccine-autism controversy? I asked that a year ago, when Wakefield's paper was retracted. But perhaps this ends it for good? What say you?

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 1:15 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Pediatrics

December 28, 2010

2nd UPDATE: Newborn photos banned in hospital

Some parents are not so happy with a new policy at a Hagerstown hospital than bans all kinds of photography in the delivery room until 5 minutes after the babies are born.

The Associated Press is reporting that officials at Meritus Medical Center say the new policy aims to cut down on distractions and protect the moms' privacy. 

Civil rights officials say the pics and video do not violate any privacy laws. The hospital may fear lawsuits.  

I've asked a couple of the popular birthing centers to let me know what their policies are and will pass them on when I get them.

In the meantime, let me know if you got images of your child's birth and where you delivered. How do you feel about such a delay?

Below are the highlights from the policy in effect since 2006 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, which has one of the busiest delivery rooms around. The center is in the process of updating its general photo/video policy. 

Also, see the policy at Mercy Medical Center, which I believes delivers the most babies in the city.

Continue reading "2nd UPDATE: Newborn photos banned in hospital" »

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:38 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 27, 2010

Severe constipation growing in children

Constipation in most people's minds is a problem associated with the geriatric generation.

But researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center have found that more children are dealing with more serious and chronic bouts of the condition.

The researchers attribute the problem to kids who don't get enough exercise, don't drink enough water and don't have enough fiber in their diets.

The children's center will open a clinic this month to help provide medical and behavioral therapy for children with constipation.

Doctors don't know just how many kids suffer from the ailment, but said they have seen a 30-percent increase in related visits from 2008 to 2009. It's also unclear if it is a new problem or if children weren't diagnosed early enough and, therefore, didn't get the right treatment.

Young children often aren't diagnosed or people believe the condition will ago away on its own. Simply changing a child's diet isn't enough to treat the disease.

Signs of severe constipation are abdominal bloating and a feeling of fullness, straining with bowel movements, and lumpy or hard stools or small pellet-like stools. These symptoms are often accompanied by a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bowel.

Children may also refuse to go to the toilet or want to go in a private place. They may soil their underwear or wet the bed.

Constipation develops over time and often begins when kids hold back bowel movements, the researchers said. Holding the stool disrupts the brain colon signaling mechanism that tells a child when he or she needs to use the bathroom.

Chronic constipation may impact a child's quality of life, research has shown. Many will continue to have the condition as an adult.

 Treatment includes taking osmotic products which come in a powder form and work by increasing the amount of water in the colon to promote bowel movements. Parents can also make sure the child drinks plenty of water, exercises and eats high-fiber foods.

When using the bathroom children should have their legs propped on a stool or box with their knees at right angles to make it easier to let out a bowl movement.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 20, 2010

Daycare viruses put some babies at risk

Daycare can be a breeding ground for viruses.

For most kids this might mean they get sick and spend a couple of days at home.

For babies with a chronic lung condition caused by premature birth, it can put them at risk for serious respiratory infections, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

"Daycare can be a breeding ground for viruses and puts these already vulnerable children at risk for prolonged illness and serious complications from infections that are typically mild and short-lived in children with healthy lungs," said lead investigator Sharon McGrath-Morrow.

The results of the study, funded by the Thomas Wilson Sanitarium for Children and the National Institutes of Health, were printed in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Researcher interviewed the parents of 111 children age 3 and under with chronic lung disease of prematurity. They asked them about their child's daycare attendance, infections, symptoms, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and use of medications.

Children with chronic lung disease who attended daycare were nearly four times more likely to end up in the ER with serious respiratory symptoms than those who didn't attend daycare. They were twice as likely to need corticosteroids and twice as likely to need antibiotics.

The children in daycare were also three times more likely to have breathing problems at least once  week.

Investigators want pediatricians to make parents more aware of the risk because serious complications caused by these infections can land kids in the hospital. Repeated infections can lead to lifelong respiratory problems and chronic lung damage.

The researchers advise parents to keep children with chronic lung disease out of daycare for the first two years of life.

Chronic lung disease develops in about a quarter of babies born at or before 26 weeks of gestation, according to the researchers.

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Categories: Pediatrics

September 30, 2010

Doctors urge minimal use of CT scans in children

catscanRadiologists at Johns Hopkins Children's Center are warning doctors to be careful about performing CT scans on children.

Because CT scans and other tests that use X-ray technology expose the body to large doses of radiation, too much use can expose kids to cancer, the radiologists said.

Nearly 7 million CT scans are performed on children every year in the United States and many are avoidable, the doctors found.

Children's growing tissues and rapidly dividing cells are more vunerable to the effects of radiation.

Exposure at such a young age also gives cancerous mutations that much more time to develop into full-blown cancer. A single cat scan can deliver a much higher dose of radiation to a small child's body than to an adult.

Parents should ask doctors if there are alternatives to CT scans. The Hopkins doctors recommend alternatives such as MRIs and ultrasounds.

Parents should also let doctors know if their child has had previous CT scans.

(Picture courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

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Categories: Pediatrics

Flu vaccines safe for children allergic to eggs

If you're a parent with children who have food allergies, you may be wondering if the egg-based flu vaccine is safe for them.

The answer is most likely yes, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

The flu vaccine contains egg protein, but can be given to children with allergies if some precautions are taken, according to the researchers.

The doctors argue that not getting the flu vaccine can lead to health complications. 

Leaving children with egg allergies - about 2 to 3 percent of all kids - unprotected against the flu can lead to preventable infections and hospitalizations, the Hopkins doctors said. Many children with food allergies have asthma, which puts them at even higher risk for complications from flu.

Even children with severe allergies can probably be vaccinated safely after a skin-prick test to the vaccine to gage the risk for a reaction. These children should get the vaccine from a pediatric allergist.

Children with mild egg allergies can usually get the flu vaccine done at their pediatrician's office.

The Hopkins researchers offer these guidelines for giving flu vaccines to children with egg allergies:

 - Get a workup by a pediatric allergist including skin pricking test. Blood tests can detect antibodies against gelatin or egg proteins used in common vaccines.

- Pediatricians can use allergen-free forms of the vaccine. If none is available, the child can be vaccinated with the regular drug but should remain under the supervision of a doctor for several hours in case there is an allergic reaction that needs to be treated.

- Children with known allergies can be given anti-allergy medications such as corticosteroids or antihistamines before a vaccination to help fight off or lessen an allergic reaction.

(Photo by Barbara Haddock of The Baltimore Sun)

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Categories: Pediatrics

September 8, 2010

Kids stressed out by school should take a walk

If your morning ritual includes packing the kids in the car and driving them to school, you might want to consider changing up the routine.

Consider walking them instead. A short morning walk to school could reduce kid stress levels during the school day, according to a study by the University of Buffalo.

The researchers, led by James Roemmich, had some 10 to 14-year-old school children walk on a treadmill while watching a video of what they might see on the way to school. Others did not walk, but watched the same video.

They then were given an exam that would typically raise stress levels. The walkers showed less stress than those who didn't walk.

It is unclear how long the affects of the walk on stress last - a couple of hours or all day. So the researchers said kids should get bits of physical activity througout the day, such as during recess.

The study found that the walk curbs increases in heart rate, blood pressure and other factors that could lead to cardiovascular disease later in life.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 29, 2010

Send your kids to school with lice, doctors say

Head lice may seem icky, but the little critters that end up in children's hair aren't medically harmful, doctors say.

They are so benign the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a clinical report saying parents can even send their children to school with lice. The group goes as far as to say schools should get rid of policies that forbid kids from coming to school with lice.

The lice should still be treated of course.

Head lice are not a sign of uncleanliness and don't spread disease, the group said. Lice are transmitted from head-to-head contact, such as when children sleep near each other at camp or a slumber party.

The AAP's findings were published in the August print edition of Pediatrics and published online July 26.

So what do you guys think? Would you send your kids to school with lice? Take our poll.


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Categories: Pediatrics

May 25, 2010

Delaying childhood vaccines doesn't benefit a child's development

Parents worried that their babies are getting too many vaccines too soon often opt to space out vaccinations in an alternative schedule. But new research finds that doing so offers no benefit to a child's development.

In fact, delaying vaccines can cause health risks, this WSJ article explains, exposing children to the very illnesses the vaccines are designed to protect against.

The study, appearing online in this week's Pediatrics, analyzed data on more than 1,000 children born between 1993 and 1997. Researchers compared vaccination schedules up to the time they reached a year old, and studied their performance 7 to 10 years later on dozens of neuropsychological tests. Those who got vaccinated at the recommended schedule actually performed better on many of the tests, the researchers found.

While it's true that babies are given more vaccines in their first two years than they were a generation ago, the amount of antigen -- elements of the vaccine that spark the immune response -- have actually decreased, this NPR piece discusses.

Nevertheless, parents are opting for alternative vaccination schedules, or skipping the routine shots entirely. Some 39 percent of parents refused or delayed at least one routine childhood vaccine in 2008, up from 22 percent five years earlier, the CDC found.

The study comes out the same day that the doctor whose research first linked autism to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was stripped of his license. Dr. Andrew Wakefield's controversial paper from a dozen years ago was retracted by the journal the Lancet earlier this year, after igniting a global panic over claims of a link that has been proven not to exist.

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Categories: Pediatrics

May 20, 2010

Autism in kids doesn't drive parents to divorce

There's no doubt that having a child with autism can put stress on a marriage. The same can be said for any number of puzzling childhood diseases. But a common perception that parents of autistic kids have high divorce rates -- as much as 80 percent -- is a myth, according to a new study from Kennedy Krieger researchers.

Using data from nearly 78,000 children ages 3 through 17 recorded by the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, researchers found that the parents of autistic children are just as likely to be married as the parents of their peers.

Some 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder have two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children without autism, researchers found.

Brian Freedman, the lead researcher at the Baltimore-based Kennedy Krieger Institute, said that parents of children recently diagnosed with the disorder often quote the 80 percent divorce rate figure and feel an instant sense of hopelessness. But there's no reason to believe that their marriage is likely doomed, he said. (In fact, no one knows for sure where the 80 percent figure first came from. But it's been perpetuated for years.)

“While there are indeed stressors in parenting a child with autism, it doesn’t necessarily result in the family breaking up more often than would occur in another family,” said Dr. Freedman in a statement. “And as someone who works with a team of health care professionals to treat and provide support for families of children with autism, it’s important for us to make sure our patients’ parents know that, and for our fellow clinicians to provide reliable, evidence-based information about the divorce rate among this population as well.” ...

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Categories: Medical studies, Pediatrics

May 17, 2010

Could pesticides be causing your child's ADHD?

As if we needed more evidence that common pesticides in produce could be bad for us. Now a new study suggests that they could be linked to ADHD in children.

The research, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with higher levels of pesticides measured in their urine were more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard measured pesticide levels in the urine of more than 1,100 children ages 8 to 15 and found that those with the highest levels of markers for a common class of pesticide known as organophosphates, had the highest incidence of ADHD. In one measure, children with higher than average levels of the marker, had twice the incidence of ADHD. The compound itself was found in nearly all -- 94 percent -- of children.

Of course the study couldn't prove that the insecticides caused ADHD. Researchers note that a limitation of the study is that childrens' urine was only tested once. Measuring any link to ADHD likely would require evidence of long-term exposure and require ongoing testing, the investigators said.

Still, the findings are consistent with previous research that shows links between organophosphates and behavior problems and lower cognitive function, the paper notes. Researchers have been warning for some time about too much exposure to the pesticides, but mostly with farm workers, not the general public.

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Categories: Pediatrics

Child care has an impact into the teen years


Quality child care can make a difference in a child's readiness for school and overall socialization. It can also have an impact well into adolescence, according to a new government study.

Teens who attended high-quality child care programs scored better on cognitive and academic tests -- particularly reading and math -- and had fewer behavior problems than teens who did not, researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found.

The study, published in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development, followed 1,364 children in 10 cities across the country from birth until they turned 15. In addition to examining the type and quality of child care they were enrolled in using a 1-4 rating system, researchers examined their grades and reports from parents, teachers and the kids themselves when they became teenagers.

While the link between academic performance and child care quality was small, the researchers are quick to note, it does underscore the importance of quality child care on the life of a child -- beyond those early elementary school days.

Researchers discovered another interesting finding: The amount of time spent in child care seemed to have an impact on behavior. Teens who spent the most hours in child care by age 4 1/2 were more likely to be impulsive and risk taking at 15 than those who spent less time at daycare.

Experts aren't sure exactly why this is. But they have a few theories: 

"High quality child care appears to provide a small boost to academic performance, perhaps by fostering the early acquisition of school readiness skills," said James A. Griffin, deputy chief of the NICHD Child Development & Behavior Branch, in a statement. "Likewise, more time spent in child care may provide a different socialization experience, resulting in slightly more impulsive and risk-taking behaviors in adolescence. These findings underscore the importance of studying the linkages between early care and later development."

Baltimore Sun photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

May 4, 2010

Tylenol recall update: FDA finds contaminants in recalled medications

The more than 40 over-the-counter infant and children's medications recalled last Friday were contaminated with bacteria, according to a report released this afternoon from the Food and Drug Administration.

The report finds more than 20 manufacturing problems found by FDA investigators at the McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant in Fort Washington, Pa. The problems had to do with quality control, such as the company didn't have a lab to test the drug ingredients and did not follow up on customer complaints.

McNeil issued a statement Tuesday saying it suspended operations at the plant today until it "can assure the quality of products made there," according to the Washington Post.

The FDA is considering possible criminal action against the company.

The recalled products include children's Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl -- see the full list here

Concerned parents should check out this good Q&A about the recall. For more information on the recall and to get a refund see the McNeil website. 

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 6:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

Obese kids more likely to be bullied

Here's another interesting study about childhood obesity, especially given the increased concern about bullying here in Baltimore: Obese children are more likely to be bullied, regardless of race, class, gender or how great their social skills were or how well they did in school.

To anyone who was ever taunted for being even a little pudgy as a kid, this is not surprising. But the study, appearing in the latest issue of Pediatrics, sheds light on yet another negative impact of the nation's childhood obesity epidemic.

The study of 821 third, fifth and sixth graders based on reports from parents and teachers, found that children who were obese were 63 percent more likely to be the target of bullies. Consider that impact on the 17 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds estimated to be are obese.

The study implies that it's obesity that attracts the merciless teasing. But could being bullied actually lead to being obese instead of the other way around?

The researchers say likely not. They address that concern and other questions about child bullying in this Q&A with the Chicago Tribune.

AP photo

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

Childhood obesity in Maryland rose slower than national average

The rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. rose by 10 percent between 2003 and 2007, but in Maryland that rate of increase was just two percent, according to new study that shows wide variations in obesity rates by states.

About 13 percent of Maryland children ages 10 to 17 were obese in 2007, a slight increase from four years earlier, the study found. But it was still below the national average of a little more than 16 percent.

The percentage of overweight children in Maryland was 29 percent, a decrease by nearly four percent, according to the statistics published online in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

We've known for years that children across the country are getting fatter. But this study zooms in on the huge disparities that exist by state and region and suggests that if the country is going to fight the obesity epidemic as everyone from local schools to Michelle Obama would like to do, zeroing in on these variations will be key. 

Nationwide, more than 16 percent of American children are obese and 32 percent are overweight, with rates highest for states in the Southeast. The highest was Mississippi, where more than a fifth of children are obese. Oregon had the smallest percentage -- just under 10 percent of children were obese. It was the only state that had a significant decrease over the four-year period.

African-Americans and Latinos were twice as likely as whites to be overweight and obese, even when researchers adjusted for issues such as poverty and inactivity. And the increases for girls in some states were dramatic. For instance, in Arizona and Kansas the obesity rate for girls doubled, the study found.

The findings, gleaned from statistics of more than 44,000 children, mirrored geographic differences among adults. For both adults and kids, the Southeast had the highest obesity rates and the Western states had the lowest. 

Prevention programs should focus on reducing these disparities and should include behavior interventions -- getting kids more active and cutting out the TV time -- as well as policy measures that get at the broader societal factors for the obesity epidemic, the authors write. 

AP photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

May 3, 2010

Children's Tylenol recall: Are generics better?

This weekend's huge recall of 40 over the counter infant and children's liquid medicines from a division of Johnsons & Johnsons has caused a flurry of panic among parents.

The company announced the recall, which affects Children's Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and other products -- see the full list here -- because the products didn't meet quality standards.

For instance, some of the medicines have higher than normal quantities of the active ingredient, while others didn't meet testing standards. The company and the FDA say that the possibility for serious medical problems is "remote," but if you bought the recalled products, don't use them just in case, they warn. 

It's the second Tylenol recall in recent months. Back in December, the maker of Tylenol Arthritis Pain medicine recalled that product because a moldy smell triggered nausea, dizziness and stomach pain.

With all the concern over the popular name brand, are people switching to generics? That's the question this NYT story asks, quoting wary parents and industry watchers who say the company's going to have to go the extra mile to regain consumers' trust.

Of course, generics are also cheaper, and for penny-pinchers, they've always been a good option. Besides, when it comes to the formulations, the active ingredients in generic drugs and name brands are the same, says the FDA.

What do you think? Would you rather buy generics?

For more info on the recall, and to get refund see McNeil's product recall site for contacts and instructions.

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 11:18 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Pediatrics

Doctors often miss high blood pressure in kids

Even though blood pressure readings are standard at any check up, doctors and nurses often miss abnormal readings in children -- and in some cases don't bother to check blood pressure at all, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins researchers.

The findings, published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, underscore the need for better monitoring in children of a condition that most of us erroneously associate with adults, the authors say.

In an analysis of 2,500 child medical records, medical staff failed to check a child's blood pressure in about 500 of them -- about a fifth of the total. And while higher than normal blood pressure scores were recorded in 726 of the 2,000 cases, the implications of the problem weren't recognized in 87 percent of them, the research found. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine blood pressure checks for all children ages 3 and over. Three consecutive high readings could indicate hypertension, according to the AAP.

Taking a child's blood pressure isn't as straightforward as you might think. For adults, high blood pressure is a pretty standard benchmark. But for children, each reading needs to be checked on a chart of a child's age, weight, height and gender, writes Dr. Tammy Brady, the study's lead author.

I spoke with Dr. Brady last year on this story about doctors not only missing hypertension in children, but missing the clues of a serious heart problem associated with it. The condition, left ventricular hypertrophy, or LVH, can lead to heart failure, rhythm abnormalities and death. Black children are at a higher risk of developing it.

Doctors know to look for high blood pressure in obese children or those with family members with the disease. But too often, they overlook children without symptoms or risk factors, the authors warn.

"Nurses and doctors may be so falsely reassured by a child’s lack of symptoms and risk factors that they either miss milder elevations or may chalk them up to measurement error and never follow up on them,” Brady said in a statement.

Tribune photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

April 22, 2010

Challenges of caring for the tiniest babies

Life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can be fraught with uncertainties, challenges and fear for new parents and caregivers alike. A new series on Discovery Health and filmed at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center aims to capture the journey that providers, families and their babies face.

The series, called NICU DIARIES, airs in July. It features stories from Mercy as well as UCSD Medical Center in San Diego, Calif.

It's not the only national TV program featuring local babies.

Next week, TLC's "Make Room for Multiples" follows Reisterstown couple Carin and Scott Clingan and the birth of their triplets(!) Teegan, Jordyn, and Rileigh were born February 17 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The TLC crew followed the couple at the tail end of the pregnancy through the C-section birth and their trip home from the hospital. The Clingans conceived the babies naturally, which is rare for triplets. They also have a 2-year-old son Truhn at home. The newborns are doing great, but the family's life has been completely transformed, say the new parents.

“Our life is definitely not the same,” said Carin Clingan.  “It’s much more chaotic, we can’t do anything spur of the moment, and it takes much more planning to do anything, even as simple as going to the park and going to Grandma’s house.”

The show airs at Tues. April 27 at 2 p.m.

Photo: The pastel-clad Clingan triplets courtesy of GBMC. Awwww!

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

April 21, 2010

Deaf children benefit from cochlear implants early

Deaf children who received a cochlear implants before they reached 18 months old saw a marked improvement in their ability to hear, speak and comprehend, a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers found.

Cochlear implants are a small device that stimulates the auditory nerve to provide a sense of sound to adults and children with hearing loss.

The study, appearing today in the new issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed 188 children ages 6 months to 5 years, who had profound hearing loss for three years. Researchers found improvements in speech and language comprehension in children across the board, but those who received implants younger than 18 months had bigger improvements. These children nearly caught up with their normal-hearing peers and tended to reach milestones faster than those who got implants later.

In fact, each year that implants are delayed can put a child behind in language development, researchers concluded.

The results are significant because children who have severe hearing loss struggle to develop language skills, because they can't detect the cues needed to recognize speech -- even when they used hearing aids, the authors write. Cochlear implants may be a better alternative for children -- especially when started younger, they concluded.

LA Times photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

April 12, 2010

Spanking toddlers leads to aggressive behavior

When it comes to disciplining toddlers, spanking doesn't work and it can even make them more aggressive later on, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics

Researchers at Tulane University studied about 2,500 3-year-olds and found that children whose mothers spanked them more than twice in a month were more likely to show higher levels of aggression by the time they turned 5. Researchers said they controlled for the child's initial aggression levels and issues that increase the risk that a child will act aggressively, such as a mother's depression, substance abuse and intimate partner violence.

The study underscores similar findings in other research and is in line with a long held position by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends against corporal punishment. Instead, the group advises parents to consider "time outs" and withholding privileges as more effective ways to discipline a child.

Nevertheless, most Americans seem to support corporal punishment, the study explains citing a 2005 poll that found 72 percent of adults reported that it was “OK to spank a child.”

Do you? What do you think about corporal punishment? What kind of discipline is appropriate and at what ages?

Baltimore Sun photo

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:50 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Pediatrics

April 7, 2010

Kids cured of cancer face shortened lifespan

Medical advances have made it easier to successfully treat childhood cancers. But doing so may come at a price later in life, a new study suggests.

Children surviving cancer may live a decade less than the general population, according to a paper by Harvard researchers appearing in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Depending on the type of cancer, the expected loss of life ranges from four to 17 years, researchers found. The study was done using a computer model based on how patients were treated 20 to 40 years ago, to estimate the toll childhood cancers can take. 

Doctors know that cancer survivors are more likely to die from a subsequent cancer, a cardiac problem or lung complications. They also have higher rates of chronic conditions. 

Still, the findings surprised researchers who called the risk of a shortened lifespan "disheartening." 

But they also offered a more optimistic view. The study was based on how children were treated in the 70s and 80s when cancer treatments were more toxic.

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Categories: Pediatrics

April 2, 2010

Parents push a sugar-free Easter

Say it ain't so! Just two days ago, we were extolling the virtues of Easter chocolate for your health (dark chocolate, that is, and in small doses, mind you). Now we learn that parents are cracking down on Easter basket sweets. 

No chocolate bunnies, no jelly beans, no Peeps, says this piece in today's Sun by our colleague Jill Rosen.

Health experts say it's a welcomed change, considering that nationwide one in three children are overweight. The last thing an overweight child needs is a basket brimming over with junk food.

Even some stores are getting in on the trend, advertising Easter-themed gadgets rather than chocolate.

With all our talk about childhood obesity here, I'm interested to hear what you guys think. Good idea, or does Easter deserve a pass from the food police?

Baltimore Sun photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

March 24, 2010

The complications facing children with sickle cell disease

Children with sickle cell disease are more likely to have hearing problems, intellectual disabilities and migraines, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease, in which red blood cells take on a crescent or sickle shape, blocking blood flow, is one of the most common genetic disorders and is more likely to affect people of African or Middle Eastern descent.

The study found that black children with sickle cell disease are four times more likely to have poor health and twice as likely to have recently visited a mental health professional and received special education services than black children without the illness. 

Not only are they more likely to visit doctors' offices and emergency rooms, children with the disease are more likely to have problems accessing health care, according to the study, which analyzed data from a 1997-2005 National Health Interview Survey that examined the health of black children with the disease.

Sickle cell doesn't only affect children; it can be a debilitating disease for adults. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine last year found that bone marrow treatments often used to treat children can be effective for adults too.

For more resources on the disease and how to cope with its complications, check out these sites: Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and Sickle Cell Kids, which offers cute interactive educational tools for parents and children.

AP photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

March 19, 2010

FDA gets tough on restricting tobacco to kids

The FDA announced yesterday it would crack down on the sale and marketing of tobacco products to children.

While such bans already exist in most states, enforcement varies. Every day, some 4,000 children try a cigarette for the first time, and about 1,000 of them become daily smokers, according to the Food and Drug Administration. 

But we've known this for years. In fact, the federal rule, which goes into effect June 22, was initially proposed some 15 years ago, this NY Times article explains

Still, the rule is a significant step toward regulating the ingredients in tobacco and restricting the way it is sold. It's part of new broad powers Congress gave the FDA last year, when it passed legislation to regulate the $89 billion industry, this Washington Post story explains.

The new rule:

    * prohibits the sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to people younger than 18
    * forbids the sale of cigarette packages with less than 20 cigarettes
    * forbids distribution of cigarette free samples
    * restricts distribution of free samples of smokeless tobacco
    * would prevent tobacco brand name sponsorship of athletic, musical and cultural events.

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 11:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

Are baby slings safe?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a warning about infant slings, saying they can be treacherous for babies under 4 months old. The agency is investigating the deaths of 14 babies connected to the trendy sling-style carriers -- three from last year alone.

The soft slings pose a suffocation risk to small babies who can't control their neck muscles and whose mouth and nose can wind up too close to the fabric, the agency warns.

The warning has generated all sorts of chatter on parenting blogs and chatrooms, where some mothers swear by the slings saying when used properly they are convenient and comfortable for both mom and baby. Attachment parenting advocates, who recommend "baby wearing" as a parent-baby bonding tool, insist the slings are safe, saying they've been used for centuries with few injuries.

Others say that the sling warnings give them much pause and that many parents don't use them the right way.

And yet, the slings seem to be as popular as ever with celebs sporting their newborns in them all the time. 

The CPSC offers a few visuals on the safe way to wear slings as well as video. 

Do you wear your baby in a sling? Has the warning changed your mind about it?

AP photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

March 3, 2010

Junk food makes up more of kids' daily calories

Today's kids are a generation of snackers. Munching on junk food accounts for more than 27 percent of the daily calories children take in -- an increase of 168 calories per day between 1977 and 2006, according to a new study appearing in the journal Health Affairs.

Snacking is just the latest example of the problem. In a review of food surveys of 31,000 children, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that in 1977 to 1978, 74 percent of children ages 2 to 18 snacked outside of regular meals. In 2003 to 2006, that number surged to 98 percent. It shakes out to about three snacks per day, which the authors warn, is way too much.

And naturally, kids are eating all the wrong things, bypassing milk, fruit and veggies.

“Kids still eat three meals a day, but they’re also loading up on high-calorie junk food that contains little or no nutritional value during these snacks,” said lead author Barry M. Popkin in a statement.

This journal's entire March issue is devoted to childhood obesity, a problem everyone from school districts to First Lady Michelle Obama is trying to tackle.

There's a wealth of information in the journal, including a paper on what the state of Delaware has done to combat childhood obesity, another that tackles the thorny question of personal responsibility in controlling the nation's obesity epidemic and another about a local Baltimore weight loss program that we wrote about recently in The Sun.

Baltimore Sun photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

March 2, 2010

Toddlers don't learn from educational videos

Some parents swear by them, but the latest data on educational DVDs for toddlers show they do little to help babies learn.

A study of 96 1 to 2 years old found no evidence after six weeks that the children had learned the words highlighted in Baby Einstein videos, according to a new study appearing in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside studied vocabulary and general development of the children while their parents answered questions about their development and exposure to videos. 

Such videos have long been controversial. Baby Einstein has come under fire and Disney, who makes it, even started offering refunds of the videos in an acknowledgment that they didn't fulfill their claims. 

In general, TV for tots has long been the subject of debate. A study in the journal Pediatrics found last year that time in front of the TV doesn't help babies learn, but it probably isn't harmful.

Meanwhile, other studies have found that that early tube time is associated with lower language ability, language delays, and kids who watched Baby Einstein videos actually learned fewer words than toddlers who didn't

In general, medical experts have warned against TV time for toddlers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against screen time for babies before they turn 2 years old. And yet, the average age kids start watching is 5 months, according to the study. And children 2 and younger spend an estimated two hours a day in front of the TV.

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Categories: Pediatrics

March 1, 2010

Child vaccine safety concerns persist

While the vast majority of parents believe vaccines protect their children from life-threatening illnesses, many continue to have concerns about the safety of childhood vaccines, according to a new national survey.

More than half -- 54 percent -- of the 1,552 parents surveyed said they have serious worries about adverse affects and overall vaccine safety, according to the findings, appearing today in the journal Pediatrics. And nearly 1 in 8 parents said they refused to have their child vaccinated against at least one recommended vaccine.

News of the 2009 survey comes just a month after the Lancet retracted a controversial article from a dozen years ago that first linked the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism, sparking a global panic over the safety of routine childhood inoculations.  

Nevertheless, more than 1 in 5 parents believe that some vaccines cause autism, the survey found. The study calls that figure "disturbingly high."

Well before the Lancet retraction, the evidence had been stacking up for years: study after study showed child vaccines are safe and effective ways at preventing a host of horrible diseases. So why so much fear among parents?

Many simply aren't getting the correct information, the paper states. Public health education campaigns are clearly falling short and more aggressive outreach is needed, said the study's authors, a team of University of Michigan researchers.

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 24, 2010

Study: 1 in 5 children go without dental care but Maryland improving

Nationwide, about 17 million low-income children go without dental care each year, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States. But Maryland is among the states recognized for its efforts to improve that problem.

Maryland was one of just six states that received an "A" grade on the report.

The study discusses how Maryland went from receiving national attention for a 2007 case in which a 12-year-old boy died after an abscessed tooth infection spread to his brain, to becoming a leader in dental care access for poor children.

States like Maryland which scored well made changes to their Medicaid structure to encourage more dentists to provide care to low-income kids and worked to increase the number of dental providers overall. In 2008, Maryland made a $7 million investment in reimbursement rates and added 200 new providers the same year, according to the study.

Elsewhere, poor children are suffering because of a lack of basic dental checkups. Often they are covered by Medicaid or eligible for it, but few dentists accept the government insurance because its reimbursement rates are lower than private coverage. In some places, there simply aren't enough dental providers to begin with. 

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 22, 2010

Pediatricians: More regulations needed to limit child choking hazards

Choking is one of the leading causes of injuries and death in kids, particularly those under 3. Toys, coins and food are the biggest hazard. Choking on food alone sends more than 10,000 children under 14 go to the emergency room each year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks the government needs better regulations to curb this public health problem, according to a policy statement released today in the journal Pediatrics

To that end, the AAP is calling for a few foods to be redesigned so that they're less likely to get caught in a child's throat.

Enter the choke-proof hot dog, USA today reports. But really, is that even possible?

Well, sure the APP states: 

The characteristics of these foods are engineered and, therefore, amenable to change, unlike naturally occurring food products such as certain fruits and vegetables. Manufacturers of foods that are frequently consumed by children should, to the extent possible, design these products to minimize choking risk to those in that age group.

Hot dogs alone accounted for 17 percent of food-related choking deaths children younger than 10, according to a 41-state study, the report states. But don't stop there, the APP advises. Grapes, carrots, popcorn, marshmallows, chewing gum and sausage all have the same choke-prone characteristics as franks.

In summary, the APP recommends the Food and Drug Administration adopt the following steps to limit food-related child choking hazards: Use warning labels on foods that pose a choking hazards and create a surveillance and reporting system to alert the public of food-choking risks.

In addition, pediatricians, dentists and other health care providers should offer better choke-related counseling to parents. Meanwhile, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission needs better choke-hazard warnings on toys sold in vending machines, the APP advises.

Baltimore Sun photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 17, 2010

Chronic health problems among children on the rise

We've talked a lot about the three-decade rise in childhood obesity. But it's not the only chronic health problem children struggle with.

In fact, the prevalence of child chronic health conditions, from asthma to behavioral problems, increased  from nearly 13 percent in 1994 to nearly 27 percent in 2006, according to a new study appearing in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association.

Harvard researchers examined three groups of children ages two to eight and followed them for six years.

Despite the overall increase, most children got better over the course of the study period. Only about 7 percent of children who reported a chronic health problem in the beginning of the study had one six years later, researchers found.

(This begs for a definition of the word "chronic." The study defined a chronic condition as one lasting at least 12 months). Among the illnesses they found: diabetes, heart problems, ADHD and ear infections.

While the increase in obesity has been well-documented, the rise in other conditions is less understood, the study states. 

One explanation is that children have better access to specialized care for chronic problems and are able to survive diseases today that would have killed them decades ago, the study explains.

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 10, 2010

Weight loss surgery shows promise in teens

Teens who went under a type of bariatric surgery called gastric banding lost 50 percent more weight than those who made lifestyle changes, according to a new study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The small study of 50 14-18 year olds with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 35, compared teens in two groups. One received banding, a laparoscopic procedure in which a silicone band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. The other made lifestyle changes such as lowering their calories and increasing their exercise.

After two years, the gastric banding group lost an average of 76 pounds, while the lifestyle group lost just 6.6. pounds on average, the Australian researchers found.

The jury is still out whether weight loss surgery is recommended for adolescents and most programs that provide it do so as part of clinical trials -- like this one -- to study their effectiveness and safety.

Critics say any weight loss surgery for teens should only be done as a therapy of last resort, and some fear the impact of surgery on a child's growth and development. Others say another type of weight loss surgery -- bypass surgery -- is better than banding.

Meanwhile, the obesity epidemic among children and adolescents remains a huge national problem.

Nationwide, more than 17.4 percent, or more than 5 million adolescents were obese in 2004, a jump from 14.8 percent in 2000. Obesity leaves teens at risk for type 2 diabetes and health problems once thought strictly the domain of adults: sleep apnea, hypertension and pyschosocial problems, the report explains.

AP photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 9, 2010

White House launches childhood obesity effort

President Obama signed a memorandum this morning officially launching a federal task force to battle the  childhood obesity epidemic. It's part of a government campaign to tackle the problem, led by first lady Michelle Obama, who declared fighting childhood obesity would be her signature issue this year. 

Known as Let's Move, the campaign focuses on better informing parents of the importance of nutrition and exercise, decreasing fat and sugar in school lunches, making healthy food more accessible to families and more emphasis on physical education.

The administration plans to get the FDA and the American Beverage Association to use better labeling of nutritional information, according to the Politico. The American Academy of Pediatrics will also work to educate their members on better obesity monitoring.

This falls in line with news we reported a few weeks ago that a government task force now recommends screening children as young as 6 for obesity and referring them to a weight loss program.

While government statistics released last month suggest the stunning three-decade rise in child obesity rates is leveling off, the rate is still too high, say public health officials. A third of U.S. children are obese or overweight, putting them at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep problems and depression.

Michelle Obama has spoken candidly about why this is a priority for her -- and the nation. Her own children had troubles with fluctuating weight, leading to Obama to make changes in their eating habits and exercise. Obama told NPR:

I thought my kids were perfect," Mrs. Obama said. "They are and always will be." She hadn't realized that her daughters were in danger of becoming obese. She wasn't sure what to do, but she knew she had to do something she said.

Over the course of a few months, the Obama family started making what seemed like minor changes. "We did things like limit TV time," she said.

(Of course, the first lady's gotten a heap of criticism for being so forthcoming about the issue. Who knew trying to get kids to eat right and exercise could be controversial?)

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Categories: Pediatrics

Mother's age linked to child's autism risk

Mothers over 40 are more likely to have a child with autism, but the age of fathers often has little to do the chances of a child having the developmental disorder, new research has found.

For years, researchers have known that the age of the parents affects a child's risk for having autism. But experts couldn't say for sure whether the risk was higher for older mothers, older fathers or both. 

In fact, some studies suggested that it was the father's age that increased the autism risk. The new study, published in the journal Autism Research, found the father's age increased the chance of a child having autism only when the dad is over 40 and the mother is under 30. 

The risk of having a child with autism increased by 18 percent for every five-year increase in the mother's age, according to the study which examined nearly 5 million births in California in the 1990s. A 40-year-old woman's risk of having a child diagnosed with autism was 50 percent greater than that of a woman between 25 and 29 years old.

Researchers at UC Davis Health System compared the 4.9 million electronic birth records, noting the parents ages, with cases of autism diagnosed before age 6 as classified by the California's department of developmental services.

Other experts warned that the increased risks are small, even for older mothers. The overal low risk for autism "may be the most important take-away message," Maureen Durkin, a University of Wisconsin researcher told the AP.

While interesting, the new study tells us nothing why the risk of autism may be linked to a mother's age. The authors say more study is needed to explain the connection, although they have a few theories.

For now, though, add this to the multitude of incremental findings as researchers work to unlock the mysteries of the puzzling disorder, affecting as many as 1 in 100 children.

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 3, 2010

Is this the end of vaccine-autism debate?

We have a story today about the Lancet retracting Dr. Andrew Wakefield's controversial article from a dozen years ago that first linked a childhood vaccine to autism and spurred a global panic over vaccines and an emotional debate over the causes of the disorder.

This comes after years of mounting evidence, including two review papers from the Institute of Medicine showing no link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. Last week, a British medical panel said Wakefield's work was full of false information and he risks losing his medical practice.

It's highly uncommon for a prestigious medical journal to retract a paper, usually done only in examples of "fraud or misrepresentation," and as Dr. Paul A. Offit, author of "Autism's False Profits" told me yesterday. Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is a huge critic of Wakefield and other vaccine skeptics.

So is this the end of the vaccine-autism debate?

Don't be so sure, said medical experts I spoke to. Despite the evidence, groups such as Jenny McCarthy's Generation Rescue are calling Wakefield a hero and vastly misunderstood. What do you think?

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Categories: Pediatrics

February 2, 2010

Study: abstinence-only program shows promise

Sixth and seventh graders who took part in an abstinence-only education program were more likely to delay sex, according to a new study that could reignite the debate over what's the best method to reverse the teen pregnancy rate and prevent sexually transmitted diseases. 

The study, appearing in today's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests that abstinence-only programs that don't preach about morals may be effective in preventing young teens from engaging in sex, according to the authors of the NIH-funded study. 

The research is billed as the first of its kind to measure the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs and comes on the heels of last week's news about a rise in the teen pregnancy rate , which set off yet another round of the contentious contraception vs. abstinence-only debate.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania enrolled 622 African-American students in either an 8-hour abstinence-only class, or one of three other classes that focused on condom use, other interventions and general health issues. Black teens are at especially high risk for unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

By the three-year follow up mark, about a third of kids in the abstinence only course had had sex, while nearly half of the kids in the other courses had.

Critics of abstinence-only programs say they actually lead to less condom use if teens do end up having sex. But this study found that wasn't the case.  

The findings don't settle the contraception vs. abstinence only debate, the authors are clear to note. Nor should this study signify that all abstinence only programs work.

"Tackling the problem of STIs among young people requires an array of approaches implemented in a variety of venues," they conclude. "What the present results suggest is that theory-based abstinence-only interventions can be part of this mix. Using theory-based abstinence-only interventions selectively might contribute to the overall goal of curbing the spread of STIs in both the United States and other countries."


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Categories: Pediatrics

January 29, 2010

Schools swap whole milk for low-fat and cut calories

When New York City public schools made the switch from whole milk to the fat-free variety in 2005, kids consumed 33 fewer calories and 3.4 fat grams per day, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers get really impressive when you add them all up. For each of NYC's 1.1 million public school students, the switch resulted in 5,960 fewer calories and 619 fewer grams of fat in 2009 compared to 2004.

More calories could get cut if schools abandoned chocolate milk as well, the CDC report found.

The amount of sweetened, chocolate milk being consumed by students is a matter of concern. Low-fat and fat-free chocolate milk have more calories than reduced-fat white milk and contain twice the amount of sugars. Limiting chocolate milk availability would reduce further the number of calories served to students by approximately 23 percent.

But some are concerns that getting rid of low-fat and fat-free chocolate milk would reduce milk consumption overall. We've debated chocolate milk here at Picture of Health and some of you had some strong opinions about the Raise your hand for chocolate milk campaign. Any additional thoughts?

Baltimore Sun photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

January 7, 2010

With baby names, Baltimore breaks the mold

According to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, one of the most popular places to have a baby in the area, parents last year didn't follow the national trends so closely.

GBMC compared its names from 2009 to those reported to the parenting website

Local moms and dads picked Mary more often than any other name last year (35 babies), but that name wasn't in the Top 100 nationally. It also didn't crack the Top 10 at GBMC in 2007 or 2008.

For boys at GBMC, William was tops (42 babies) for the second consecutive year, followed by Michael (39 babies).  Neither was in the Top 10 nationally. Michael ranked 18th while William was 27th.  None of the Top 10 boy’s names nationally were in GBMC’s Top 10 most popular.

"Picking a baby's name is a monumental decision, and the multitude of 'baby name' Web sites makes it hard to narrow a million choices down to one,” said Lori Kantziper, clinical partner for GBMC's Postpartum Unit and a nurse specializing in care for new mothers and infants, in a statement.

See the full Top 10 lists and other facts from GBMC here.

Associated Press photo of one of the first babies born in the United States in 2010, who was not yet named

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Categories: Pediatrics

December 17, 2009

Teens: Smoking is risky, but drugs and alcohol? Not so much

We're never surprised by the attitudes of teens, but new research has us at Picture of Health scratching our heads.

Adolescents perceive cigarette smoking to be riskier than using drugs and alcohol, according to a new government report.

On one hand, it's good news for the work that public health officials have put into anti-smoking campaigns. Nearly 70 percent of kids 12 to 17 years old said there was a great risk from smoking one or more packs a day.

But only 40 percent said there was a great risk from binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks once or twice a week) and just a third perceived a great risk from smoking marijuana once a month. And just about half said there was a great risk in using cocaine once a month or LSD once or twice.

The findings, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, are based on responses from nearly 50,000 12 to 17-year olds participating in a national survey.

They bolster the government's annual report of teens drug and alcohol use released earlier this week that found teen cigarette smoking is down to the lowest level since 1975. At the same time, though, marijuana use is growing and prescription drug use remains high.

University of Michigan researcher Lloyd Johnston, who oversaw that survey, told the LA Times that kids underestimate the risks of LSD, inhalants and Ecstasy. It's a sign that "a new generation of kids are interested . . . in rediscovering these drugs, because they don't understand why they shouldn't be using them."

AP photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

Women's attitudes towards elective c-sections

Despite the risk posed to mother and baby, early births -- both by elective c-section and induction -- are on the rise.

But many women aren't completely aware of the potential harms of giving birth too soon -- especially when there is no medical need, according to a new study by United Health Care on women's attitudes toward the safety of early births. 

Even though the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends scheduled deliveries take place after a woman's pregnancy has reached 39 weeks (of a 40 week pregnancy) a little more than half of women surveyed think it's safe to deliver before 37 weeks.

Despite the warnings, rates of births between 34 and 36 weeks are increasing, the report says. The risks are real: studies show babies born that early are more likely to have medical problems.

The authors suggest that doctors are planning births to fit their schedules or that of their patients -- overlooking safety concerns. Patients' misconceptions of the risks might be fueling their decision to request a c-section, the authors said.

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Categories: Pediatrics

December 15, 2009

Parents: Ornaments can be hazardous to the kids

If there isn't enough to watch out for, a new study from Children's Hospital Boston’s Division of Emergency Medicine shows that holiday decorations, particularly glass ornaments, can be a safety hazard.

Records there show an average of five ornament-related injuries per year. More than half involve children eating fragments of these decorations, as well as batteries and pieces of glass.
“Parents need to be vigilant during the holiday season, even though it’s also a busy time of year,” says co-author Dr. Lois Lee, of Children’s Division of Emergency Medicine and director of the hospital’s Emergency Department Injury Prevention Program. “If you know that your child has a tendency to put things in his or her mouth, you should be especially careful.”
The study, which looked back at hospital records, was published in the December 2009 issue of Pediatric Emergency Care.
Out of a total of 76 cases:
-56 percent involved ingestion or taking fragments of ornaments or light bulbs into the mouth and more than a quarter of these injuries resulted in bleeding of the mouth or gastrointestinal tract;
-27 percent of cases involved lacerations; more than two-thirds of lacerations required surgical repair;
-85 percent of cases required radiological screening;
-three patients were examined for potential toxin exposure;
-two patients experienced minor electrocution;
-one case of ingestion involved an ornament not made of glass.

Because so many kids get hurt, researcher recommend health care professionals talk to parents about their decorations. They suggest keeping toddler away from the Christmas tree by putting a gate around it or keep ornaments off lower branches.  And make sure the tree won't easily fall over on someone.

Anyone else have suggestions to keep things merry this time of year?

Associated Press photo of glass ornaments

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Categories: Pediatrics

December 10, 2009

Preventing child obesity -- it's not happening at day care centers

Does your child care center serve your kid fatty snacks and sugary drinks? Does your child watch TV more than once a week at day care? 

With nearly 25 percent of children ages 2 through 5 classified as obese or overweight, children should learn about healthy lifestyles as early as day care, according to a new report. But for many children, that's not happening, finds the study from Harvard and Duke researchers done for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Researchers graded states on how well their regulations required children to eat healthy and do physical activity. Most states had just a few regulations on obesity prevention. 

Researchers drew up model regulations -- 10 for healthy eating, such as not serving sugar-sweetened drinks, and 10 for physical activity, including providing children 60 minutes a day of exercise. On average, states had just three of the 20 model regulations.

States then were given letter grades on how well they matched the model guidelines. Across the board, the grades were dismal. Maryland was mediocre with a C average. Jeesh.

Georgia and Nevada ranked highest for healthy eating and physical activity regulations, and South Dakota, Puerto Rico, and Idaho ranked lowest. (You can see how states compare here.)

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Categories: Pediatrics

December 7, 2009

City clamps down on lead in jewelry

The Baltimore City Health Department has ordered two city businesses to stop selling children's jewelry found to have levels of lead in excess of what the city allows.

The items include a "Gymnastics bracelet," full of red and blue charms, sold at Beauty Zone, 231 N. Eutaw Street and a "Dora" bracelet and earring set sold at Choice Corner Accessories & Fine Gifts, 400 W. Lexington Street. Both items were found to have lead levels in excess of 600 parts per million, higher than the city limit.


Concerned about lead's damaging effect on children, the city took on the hazard of lead back in 2006, banning its use in jewelry, candy and even eyeliner sold in the city. The effort was spearheaded by Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, former city health department commissioner who now holds the deputy commissioner post at the Food and Drug Administration.

In 2006, the city set a lead level limit of 600 pmm, lower than federal regulations at the time. Earlier this year, the feds lowered its limit to 300 pmm with plans to drop it to 100 pmm in two years. The health department plans to follow suit with new regulations of its own, said a health department spokesman.

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Categories: Pediatrics

Zhu Zhu Pets unsafe?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating safety issues of the Zhu Zhu toys, after complaints that they may have unsafe levels of a hazardous metal called antimony.

The probe was sparked by the consumer group Good Guide, says our colleagues at Charm City Moms. The group claims this year's holiday season toy craze contains levels of antimony that could make a child sick, if ingested. The toy maker, Cepia, insists the product is safe.

Could this spell trouble for the insanely popular hamster toys? 

Baltimore Sun photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

Parents wait too late to talk to teens about sex

It's among a parent's most dreaded tasks: talking to their teen about sex.

Medical experts and public health advocates say it's not just what you say to teens about sex, but when you say it. Too many parents, it seems, are waiting too long to have "the talk."

More than 40 percent of adolescents have already had sex by the time their parent had talked to them about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control, according to a new study appearing today in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings are based on a survey of 141 parents with children aged 13 to 17. Parents were asked whether they discussed among 24 sex topics -- from body changes during adolescence to how condoms prevent STDs. Researchers followed up with surveys three, six and 12 months later to gauge progress. Meanwhile, participants' children answered separate surveys about their sexual experiences.

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Categories: Pediatrics

November 30, 2009

Early autism interventions show promise

Pediatricians recommend that all toddlers get screened for autism. And for years studies have shown that the disorder can be diagnosed in children as young as 14 months.

Everyone seems to agree that early intervention is key in managing the puzzling neurodevelopmental disorder. But are there effective treatments for children diagnosed as young as their first birthday?

New research appearing in today's Pediatrics suggests there are. A very small five-year study found interventions starting as early as 18 months improved IQ, language ability and social interaction in autistic children.

The study, by researchers with Autism Speaks, the University of Washington and UC Davis Mind Institute, is based on a clinical trial of 48 18-to-30 month old children. Half got intensive two-hour therapy sessions with a specialist five days a week and five hours of parent therapy. The control group received only annual assessments from doctors and referrals to therapies already available in their communities.

The children who received the interventions had an average increase of 18 IQ points over the study period and made gains in language skills and social interaction. Only one child in the control group had an improved diagnosis, the authors found.

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Categories: Pediatrics

November 24, 2009

Huge crib recall

Just two weeks after Maclaren recalled more than 1 million strollers, another baby product line is recalling its products in what is being called the biggest crib recall in U.S. history.

Our colleagues at Charm City Moms break down the specifics: More than 2.1 million drop-side cribs made by Stork Craft Manufacturing are being recalled after reports that four infants suffocated.

The problem is with the crib hardware, the Associated Press reports. The drop-side can detach, creating a space between the side and the mattress, where a baby can become trapped. Scary stuff.

For more information: Contact the company, 877-274-0277, to order the free repair kit, or log on to

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Categories: Pediatrics

November 23, 2009

Smoking, lead exposure during pregnancy linked to ADHD

Cigarette smoke and lead are known to have bad effects on children. Some studies have shown a link to between the exposures and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

A new study shows those downsides begin as early as in the womb. Children exposed to cigarette smoke and to lead in utero were eight times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, according to an article appearing in today's Pediatrics.

For years, researchers have known too much lead exposure in pregnancy can lead to a host of developmental and behavioral problems once the child is born. And other research has shown a link between tobacco and attention problems. This study takes a look at both exposures to reveal a significant impact.

The team of researchers from around the country studied a national health survey of 2,588 children 8 to 15 years old. They measured lead levels in a child's blood and measured tobacco exposure based on how much smoking a woman reported during pregnancy. Children exposed to tobacco or lead alone were more likely to have ADHD. The risk was even greater when exposed to both toxins.

The findings may not be surprising -- we've known for years that lead exposure and smoking are bad during pregnancy. But consider that some 15 percent of women smoke during pregnancy, according to a 2004 study the article states. And nearly 2 percent of children nationwide have lead levels above what the CDC says are "levels of concern."

Understanding the causes of ADHD has been a challenge for researchers. They believe a mix of genes and environmental factors is at play. The authors say the new research could play an important role in tackling the condition.

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Categories: Pediatrics

November 17, 2009

Better heart screening could save young athletes

Comprehensive heart screening could save the lives of more young athletes, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers. 
The findings, based on screenings of 134 Maryland high school athletes, suggests that more screening could help detect rare -- but deadly -- heart problems that can strike young athlete, usually those in top form with no symptoms of serious problems.
Sudden cardiac death from heart rhythm disturbances kills one in 3,000 young people each year. While that risk may be relatively low, Hopkins researchers suggest doing several screening tests can help save lives.

The data, presented at this week's American Heart Association conference in Orlando Fla.,found benefits in testing athletes with both an echocardiogram, a heart ultrasound to measure heart size and an electrocardiogram, or EKG, to assess the heart's electrical rhythms.

Researchers tested the athletes, who were at state track and field championships last year, with the two screening tools and found no life threatening problems, but did find abnormalities in 36 kids. The majority of those were picked up using both screening tools.

Researchers acknowledge the tests are pricey but disagree with critics think the costs outweigh the benefits of detecting these rare problems.

 "What is the price for a single life?" said Dr. Theodore Abraham in a news release. "We're counting the costs upfront. We're not counting the savings on the downstream end."

AP photo

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Categories: Pediatrics

November 16, 2009

Food allergies among children on the rise

For years, we've been hearing that more children are suffering from food allergies. Some estimates say allergy to peanuts in particular have as much as doubled or tripled in the past decade. 

A new study from federal researchers offers the latest, albeit lower, estimate. Food allergy among children increased 19 percent between 1997 and 2007, they found. In 2007, about 4 percent of all children had a food or digestive allergy.

Between 1993 and 2007, the number of visits to clinicians for allergies tripled. Hospitalizations increased, too. In the period between 1998 and 2000 and 2004 and 2006, hospitalizations rose from an average of 2,600 to 9,500.

The research, published in the new issue of the journal Pediatrics, is based on a review of several federal surveys, such as hospital discharge data and interviews with parents of children with allergies. Researchers with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics also looked at estimates of child food allergies by race and gender. They found that black children were twice as likely as whites to have peanut allergy and nearly twice as likely to be allergic to milk.

The study examines levels of a particular antibody, known as immunoglobulin E, or IgE. Children with higher IgE levels appeared more susceptible to allergies. Some 9 percent of children had detectable levels of IgE to peanuts, the study found.

The bottom line: food allergies are increasing for boys, girls and children of all ages and ethnicities. But how much of this is a real increase and how much is due to closer detection and increased awareness remains murky.

Continue reading "Food allergies among children on the rise" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:02 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Pediatrics

November 12, 2009

Chocolate milk in schools causes a stir

A new dairy industry ad campaign extolling the virtues of chocolate milk is drawing the ire of some educators and healthy eating activists.

The "Raise your hand for chocolate milk" campaign, which starts Monday, comes with a website that asks supporters to sign a petition showing their support for chocolate milk in schools. (Get a glimpse of the campaign with this video

Really? And here I thought school lunches were getting healthier. The Institute of Medicine said just last month that schools needed to strip the fat and salt from their lunches and offer fat free milk -- not chocolate.

The dairy folks insist that their hope is to get children to drink milk. Without chocolate milk, they may not drink milk at all, they claim. In addition, they say they hope to draw a distinction between chocolate milk and soda, the milk lobby told the AP. Chocolate milk actually has some nutrients -- when compared to soda, they say.

Um, OK. Well, lots of folks aren't buying their claims. With child obesity levels soaring, schools shouldn't be in the business of giving kids chocolate milk-- which has more calories and sugar than the plain variety, opponents say.

Others see more sinister motives. The campaign -- costing between $500,000 and $1 million -- is supported by a group that has been fighting efforts to get chocolate milk out of schools. With millions of dollars in sales to schools at stake, this campaign is all about money, argues the Marion Nestle at the Food Politics blog.

What do you think?

AP photo

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:00 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Pediatrics

November 9, 2009

Maclaren stroller company announces huge recall

Stroller company Maclaren USA announced a huge stroller recall this morning affecting more than 1 million strollers after a dozen reports of children's fingertips being amputated when they put their hands into a side hinge. 

Our colleagues at the Consuming Interests blog give us the full details.

The recalled strollers include 11 different models, details of which can be found at the company website or by calling (877) 688-2326. The products were sold from 1999 through November 2009 at stores like BabysRUs for $100 to $360.

photo courtesy of AP

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:20 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 29, 2009

Uninsured children and a rising death toll

Children without insurance are 60 percent more likely to die than their insured peers, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins researchers that argues that health care reform must protect the nation's most vulnerable.  

The findings, published in the Oct. 30 issue of the Journal of Public Health, offer another sobering statistic: lack of insurance might have contributed nearly 17,000 deaths among children in the United States over the last two decades.

Researchers analyzed more than 23 million hospital records from 37 states between 1988 and 2005, comparing the risk of death in children with and without health coverage. When comparing death rates taking into account underlying disease, uninsured kids had a higher risk of dying regardless of their medical problems, researchers found.

The uninsured rate for children has been rising steadily for two decades causing some lawmakers to fight for expansion of the public insurance to low-income kids through the Children Health Insurance Program, which President Obama signed into law earlier this year. Last year, the rate and the number of uninsured children dipped to their lowest since 1987. Still, advocates are quick to point out, some 7.3 million children lack insurance nationwide.

Confronting the issue is a moral imperative, said researchers.

"Thousands of children die needlessly each year because we lack a health system that provides health insurance. This should not be," said Dr. Peter Provonost, director of Critical Care Medicine at Hopkins, in a statement. "In a country as wealthy as ours, the need to provide health insurance to the millions of children who lack it is a moral, not an economic issue."

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:13 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 23, 2009

Federal panel does not recommend Gardasil in boys... now what?

A CDC advisory panel has said the HPV-vaccine Gardasil should not be used routinely in men and boys. The panel's advice, which the CDC usually follows, comes on the heels of the vaccine winning approval for boys by the Food and Drug Administration.

The panel said it's OK to give the vaccine to males who want it, but stopped short of adding it to the list of routine recommended vaccines for boys.

Supporters of the vaccine's use in boys had hoped recommending the vaccine to them would lead to greater protection for girls and women from the sexually transmitted virus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer. But members of the panel questioned whether this was cost effective. The vaccine isn't cheap -- a series of three injections runs upwards of $300.

Others hoped that the approval would signal gender parity in the war against sexually transmitted diseases. After all, it takes two doesn't it? If girls can contract HPV from sex, shouldn't their partners help protect them from the virus?

The vaccine would also protect boys from genital warts. While genital warts may not be as severe as cervical cancer, the costs associated with its treatment could be reason enough to vaccinate boys, some experts say.

"It’s embarrassing, but it does not cause cancer," Dr. Maura Gillison, an oncologist at Ohio State University told me recently. "But it does cause a heck of a lot of money for the American health care system. For that, there is no question."

Continue reading "Federal panel does not recommend Gardasil in boys... now what?" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:39 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 21, 2009

Mercury levels no different in children with autism

The level of mercury in the blood of autistic children is no different than that of their typically developing peers, according to new research that takes aim at the theory held by some parents that one trigger -- mercury in vaccines -- causes autism.

Several studies have ruled out that vaccines cause autism. Nevertheless, the issue sparks controversy in some circles at just the mention of a possible link.

The new study by researchers at the University of California Davis' MIND Institute, looks directly at blood-mercury levels and finds they are virtually no different a group of 452 children 2 to 5-year olds, 249 of whom were diagnosed with autism. The study examined a wide range of sources of mercury in the children's environments, from dental fillings to fish consumption. The research, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, comes from a long-range study to identify causes of autism, a wide spectrum of disabilities marked by impaired communication and social interaction.

It's important to note that while the study is among the first to examine the blood mercury levels of children with autism, researchers cautioned that they did not probe whether mercury is a factor in the cause of autism.

Still, researchers point to it as evidence that a host of research is necessary to identify what is likely a complex web of causes for a very complicated set of neurobiological disorders.

Continue reading "Mercury levels no different in children with autism" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 20, 2009

Study: healthier school lunches needed

Back when I was in school -- no need to specify when -- lunches consisted of a rectangular block of pizza and milk (chocolate if it was Friday!). On some days I don't recall a single vegetable on my plate.

School lunches have improved since then, but they have a ways to go as far as nutrition is concerned, according to a new study by the Institute of Medicine, that urges new dietary standards. The current guidelines -- which set the standard for school lunches for some 30.5 million children and breakfasts for another 10.5 million -- haven't been changed since 1995, the report states. 

The report recommends that lunches have more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and less saturated fat and sodium. Right now, there are no requirements for whole grains and fruit and veggies are counted in the same category. While the current guidelines set minimum calories needed, there is no maximum set.

The current guidelines don't specify limits for sodium, either. Right now, a typical high school lunch contains about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. The new recommendations say the limit should be more than half that amount at 740 milligrams.  

Continue reading "Study: healthier school lunches needed" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 3:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 15, 2009

Hispanic kids less likely to get top-notch brain cancer care

We've written a good deal here at Picture of Health about racial and ethnic health disparities. But here's an issue of unequal access that's news to me: gaps in care among children with brain tumors.

Hispanic children who have been diagnosed with brain tumors are less likely to receive high-quality treatment in specialty hospitals than their peers of other ethnicities, according to a recent paper by Johns Hopkins researchers.

The findings, published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that out of a study over 18 years of 4,421 children with brain cancer, Latino children had the worst access to quality care.

You might think this is a matter of access to good health insurance. But researchers found that coverage didn't play a role in where a patient was treated. Rather, even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, Latino children received top-notch care at one-third of the rate of other children, researchers found.

The gaps in care were shocking to researchers. Despite recent studies and industry efforts pushing to provide quality care for all, the gaps remain, they said. The reasons for the gaps are unclear. Perhaps Hispanic kids are less likely to live near to-notch institutions? Or maybe something else is at play? Researchers also found disparities were higher in communities with high numbers of immigrants and fewer neurosurgeons, which makes sense.

Continue reading "Hispanic kids less likely to get top-notch brain cancer care" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

October 6, 2009

Autism diagnoses on the rise

So much about autism is a mystery to scientists -- no one knows what causes it and there is no cure. But in recent years one aspect of the puzzling neurobiological disorder appears clear: more children are being diagnosed with autism.

New research suggests that previous estimates of the number of children with autism are too low. As many as 1 in 100 children may have autism -- higher than the 1 in 150 estimate widely cited.

The findings come from the journal Pediatrics and an unpublished paper from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Pediatrics study was based on a phone survey of some 78,000 parents of children ages 3 to 17 and asked if they had been told by a health care provider that their child had autism, Asperger disorder or a related disorder. The results showed 1 in 91 children had received such a diagnosis. Parents who answered yes were asked about the severity of the disorder.

For years, researchers have been trying to understand the causes of autism and whether there is a true increase in its prevalence. Some specialists think genetics are its main cause while others see environmental factors. And other experts attribute some of the growth to better diagnosis and a broadening of autism's definition.

Now researchers think the figures might reflect a real rise in cases.

"The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health told the Associated Press. "We're going to have to think very hard about what we're going to do for the 1 in 100."

Continue reading "Autism diagnoses on the rise " »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Pediatrics

September 25, 2009

Will babies with Down syndrome disappear?

Pregnant women have access to more prenatal tests than ever before with numerous options available to determine the likelihood of genetic disorders. What if those tests slowly led to fewer babies being born with Down syndrome and if the disorder eventually disappeared?

Well, it's happening, according to new research.

Between 1989 and 2005 there was a 15 percent decrease in births of babies with Down syndrome, according to new study by Dr. Brian Skotko, a genetics fellow at Children's Hospital Boston.

It's a striking finding, considering that more women are waiting longer to have children -- a factor that increases the chance of Down syndrome. If there were no prenatal testing, researchers would have expected the opposite - a 34 percent increase, not a decrease, Skotko found. Instead, women are finding out the diagnosis of Down syndrome and choosing not to continue the pregnancy.

The research, appearing in the latest issue of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, raises some interesting questions about how doctors and patients should navigate such a diagnosis. As it is now, doctors do a poor job explaining Down syndrome and discussing the diagnosis with soon-to-be parents, Skotko says. This could only get tougher in the future.

Continue reading "Will babies with Down syndrome disappear?" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 28, 2009

CDC weighs circumcision policy

The CDC is considering promoting circumcision of all infant boys as a way to reduce HIV transmission. (Warning: this, ahem, delicate, issue always seems to inspire sharp remarks from both sides.)

So far, data from Africa about whether circumcision reduces the spread of HIV is somewhat promising. Several large clinical trials in Uganda showed circumcision reduces a man's risk of getting HIV by more than half. Still, another trial was stopped recently when it showed circumcision does little to reduce the virus' transmission to a female partner. And circumcision doesn't appear to protect men who have sex with men from contracting the disease, a separate study found. It’s unclear how those studies might translate to reducing the HIV risk here.

The CDC isn't close to deciding whether or not to recommend the practice yet debate is already raging about it all over the web.

Continue reading "CDC weighs circumcision policy " »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 26, 2009

Wanted: tiny testers

The University of Maryland is still looking for some itty bitty volunteers to take part in its swine flu vaccine trial: babies 6 to 35 months.

Investigators have had no problem recruiting adults and older children in the trails, which started in adults earlier this month and in children last week. In fact, they had so many 18-64 year olds try to volunteer, they had to use a lottery to make the final cut. Even older children, many of whom were signed up by their doctor parents, have been an easy find.

But the smallest of all test subjects have proved a challenge for researchers. Officials say it isn't because parents are reluctant to test the experimental inoculation on their wee ones. They've had great response from all age groups. Rather, it seems babies' recommended -- and rigorous -- vaccine schedule might be getting in the way. From 12 to 18 months alone, children can receive various vaccines from shots against measles, mumps and rubella to hepatitus A. But the swine flu study requires that babies have not had recent inoculations and will not be vaccinated soon after they receive the H1N1 shot.

If you are interested in volunteering your tot and want to know if your child qualifies, call the University of Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development for details: 410-706-6156. Vaccinations are taking place now at the University of Maryland's Ambulatory Pediatric Center in Baltimore and at clinics in Annapolis and Frederick. The university, one of a handful of vaccination sites across the nation, hopes to test 40 children in the 6 to 35 month old range.   

Continue reading "Wanted: tiny testers" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics, Swine flu/H1N1

August 24, 2009

Teens abusing ADHD medication, study finds

adhd medication abusePoison control centers have seen a sharp increase in the number of calls about teen misuse of attention-deficit drugs, suggesting "a rising problem with abuse of these medications," according to a new study out today.

The calls came from emergency room doctors, parents and school officials asking for advice for how to deal with apparent abuse of the increasingly common medications. The severity of the calls has increased over time and four deaths were reported in the study.

Teens, who many times use the drugs to get high, may not realize that there can be serious consequences to using what are, after all, prescription medications. Sales data of attention-deficit drugs suggest that abuse of the medications reflects an increased availability of the prescriptions, which have also been rising. The calls about ADHD medication rose 76 percent over an eight-year period, a pace outstripping calls for victims of substance abuse generally and teen substance abuse.

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Posted by Stephanie Desmon at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

Infant car seats can cut off air to babies

car seatThere is no question that properly installed infant car seats save lives.

But a study today in the journal Pediatrics finds that even healthy newborns may not be getting enough oxygen when they spend too much time in those cozy and convenient carriers.

The study, done with 200 two-day-old babies in Slovenia, showed that infants placed in cribs got more oxygen than those who spent prolonged periods of time in either car seats or in car beds, which are designed for tiny or premature babies.

Among the findings: The percentage of time the babies spent with oxygen saturation levels below 95 percent was, on average, significantly higher for those in car seats (23.9 percent) compared to those in cribs (6.5 percent).

The moral here is not to dump your car seat. Instead, the authors note, parents should limit the their babies spend in those carriers to when they are on the road.

Continue reading "Infant car seats can cut off air to babies" »

Posted by Stephanie Desmon at 7:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 21, 2009

Got milk allergies? Drink more milk

Now this might sound counterintuitive: Giving children small quantities of milk over time may ease their allergic reaction to it.

Allergy experts at Johns Hopkins started following a small group of children in 2008, giving them higher doses of milk over time in an attempt to train their immune systems to tolerate it. It worked. In a recent follow-up, all 18 children with a history of severe milk allergy saw their allergy eased or disappear within 17 months, researchers report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  

Given the extremely small sample size, there are a number of caveats. Researchers are still learning about milk allergy and ways to possibly overcome it. What works for one child may not work for another. And these patients were given milk under the close supervision of a doctor. So a word of caution to parents -- don't try this at home.

Still, researchers are encouraged by the findings: regular dairy use could help children become more tolerant and remain so.

Continue reading "Got milk allergies? Drink more milk" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:00 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 19, 2009

HPV vaccine promoted with drug company money

Two new studies shed light on the safety of the vaccine to protect women from cervical cancer and call into question the ethics behind the marketing of the shot.

Gardasil, the blockbuster vaccine to combat the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, is linked to complications, including 32 deaths, according to an analysis in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. But researchers note that the rate of side effects is low and the safety record is not out of line from other similar vaccines. The most common side effects are fainting, nausea and dizziness at a rate of about 40 to 80 cases per 1 million girls vaccinated.

Raising more eyebrows, however, is an accompanying JAMA article revealing that the makers of Gardasil, Merck & Co, provided grants to professional medical associations to help promote the vaccine.

"However, much of the material did not address the full complexity of the issues surrounding the vaccine and did not provide balanced recommendations on risks and benefits," the authors note.

Continue reading "HPV vaccine promoted with drug company money" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:22 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Medical studies, Pediatrics

August 17, 2009

Calling Mr. Yuk

medication errorsTwice as many kids are overdosing on what's in the medicine cabinet as what's underneath the sink, according to a new study.

More than 70,000 kids each year in the U.S. are treated in emergency room for unintentional medication overdoses -- 80 percent of them from unsupervised ingestion of drugs. Many are getting sick after they get their hands on commonly available over-the-counter medications. The four most frequent culprits: acetaminophen (Tylenol), cough and cold medicine, antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen).

The rate of hospitalizations for medication overdoses, according to the study in this month's American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was four times that for poisonings from non-pharmaceutical products like cleaning sprays, pesticides and shampoos.

Continue reading "Calling Mr. Yuk" »

Posted by Stephanie Desmon at 7:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 4, 2009

Depression in preschoolers

In recent years, childhood depression has received a lot of attention as researchers have tried to unravel how the disorder affects kids. But little is known about if, and how, depression strikes very young children. A new study suggests that children as young as 3 can be diagnosed with depression and that the disorder is often a chronic condition.

The study, which appears in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is sure to raise eyebrows among people who question if children that young are emotionally mature enough to be depressed. The study's authors say that despite skepticism, a growing body of research suggests that depression does exist among preschoolers and they launched the study to better understand it.

The authors studied 306 children 3 to 6 years old, including 75 of them diagnosed with depression, and evaluated them for up to two years. Preschoolers with depression at the beginning of the study were four times more likely to have depression 12 or 24 months later  than children who were not depressed at the study's start. 

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:08 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Mental health, Pediatrics

August 3, 2009

Study: 7 in 10 kids need more vitamin D

vitamin D deficiencyA new study out today suggests that 7 out of 10 children in the U.S. have low levels of vitamin D, raising their risk for bone and heart disease.

The findings, in what appears to be largest study to date of children and vitamin D, seemed to surprise even the researchers. In sheer numbers, the study published online in the journal Pediatrics suggests that 7.6 million children have a vitamin D deficiency while 50.8 million more have levels considered insufficient.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that children take vitamin D supplements of 400 IU a day.

Continue reading "Study: 7 in 10 kids need more vitamin D" »

Posted by Stephanie Desmon at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 28, 2009

Study raises doubts about link between autism and digestive problems

For a while now, parents, physicians and researchers have debated whether children with autism have more digestive problems than their non-autistic peers. As parents search for therapies for a mysterious disorder with no cure, many have placed their children on gluten-free and other restrictive diets.

But little research has been done on the diets or the link between gut problems and autism. Until now.

A new study out of the Mayo Clinic finds that autistic children don't have more gastrointestinal problems than other kids. And researchers warn that children should not be put on such restrictive diets unless appropriate tests are done that discover a digestive issue. 

Continue reading "Study raises doubts about link between autism and digestive problems" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 16, 2009

Sobering statistics on teen pregnancy and STDs

The teen pregnancy rate increased in 2006 and again in 2007, after 14 years of declines, according to a report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's among a string of worrisome statistics released today that indicate after recent years of improvements, some trends are getting worse. Among the findings in the CDC's analysis of youth sexual and reproductive health: 

+   The rate of AIDS diagnoses in young men (15-19 years old) is on the rise, nearly doubling from 1.3 cases per 100,000 population in 1997 to 2.5 cases per 100,000 population in 2006.

+   In 2006, about 1 million teens and young adults had chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. And the rates of syphillis, for men and women, are on the rise.

+   The humanpapillomavirus, or HPV, is widespread. Between 2003 and 2006, nearly a quarter of girls 15-19 years old had an HPV infection. That figure was 45 percent for young women ages 20-24.



Continue reading "Sobering statistics on teen pregnancy and STDs" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 12:53 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 13, 2009

Bathtub dangers for kids


baby in bathtub
Photo by - Zara - @ Flickr

Most warnings about bathtub safety focus on making sure the water isn't too hot to scald children and that someone is always watching the kids to be sure they don't drown.

Turns out, the more common danger to kids in the tub or shower is slipping and falling. In fact, tens of thousands of children end up in the emergency room each year after being hurt in the tub or shower, according to a study published today in the online issue of the journal Pediatrics. Eighty-one percent of tub or shower injuries are slips and falls. And more than half of the injuries occur in children under the age of 4.

The researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio say that scalding and drownings have gotten the most attention because of the severity of these injuries. Legislation and educational efforts have helped make strides in those areas. But, the study's authors write, "bathtub slips and falls should not be overlooked."

Continue reading "Bathtub dangers for kids" »

Posted by Stephanie Desmon at 12:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 9, 2009

Infants and medication errors

pediatric medication errorsMedication errors happen. They can and do occur at every step of the way from calculating dosages to prescribing, dispensing and giving drugs not only to adults but to children. Take one of the more famous cases: Actor Dennis Quaid's newborn twins who somehow survived being given a blood-thinner at 1,000 times the proper dose.

A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics looked at medication errors specifically involving heart drugs dispensed to children. What they found was, er, heart-stopping. They found that in a single year, half of the errors made were in children under the age of 1 and 90 percent of those were in children younger than six months. The littlest seem to be most vulnerable because health care providers may miscalculate and give them more medication than someone of their weight can handle or they may prescribe a drug not meant for someone so young. ...

Continue reading "Infants and medication errors" »

Posted by Stephanie Desmon at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Pediatrics

July 8, 2009

Keepings teens safe from HIV

HIV testWhen it comes to HIV/AIDS the mantra has always been: get tested.

But some doctors warn that not all tests are created equal. Sometimes a negative test can give a false sense of security to both doctors and patients, particularly for risk-taking teenagers, said Dr. Allison Agwu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Rapid HIV tests are designed to pick up antibodies to the virus, not the virus itself. It can take weeks or months for someone to produce antibodies. So a rapid test can come up negative the first time, but positive some weeks or months later. False negatives often happen during the earliest and most contagious stages of the infection.

And with teens, those crucial months matter.

“The test is only as good as when you get the test,” said Agwu. “I can’t tell you the number of times I spoke to a patient, and they say, ‘Well I’m negative. And they go on to doing whatever risky behaviors they’ve been doing.”

Of the 53,000 new HIV infections diagnosed each year in the United States, 14 percent of those occurred in 13 to 25-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Continue reading "Keepings teens safe from HIV" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 8:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: HIV/AIDS, Pediatrics

June 29, 2009

Not so invincible

Conventional wisdom says teenagers do crazy things because they think they’re invincible. But a new study finds that while many teens think they’ll live forever, a sizable minority is downright fatalistic about their future.

Some 15 percent of adolescents aren’t sure they’ll live past 35, and these teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as doing drugs and having unsafe sex, according to a study by University of Minnesota researchers appearing in today’s Pediatrics.

The figures are even more startling among minorities and teens living in poverty. Among whites, some 10 percent said they thought they might die young. Meanwhile, that figure was 26 percent for blacks, 21 percent for Latinos, 15 percent for Asians and a staggering 29 percent for Native Americans, the study found. Among black youth on public assistance, 1 in 3 youth shared these negative views.

There’s no doubt that adolescence is a crazy, confusing time. But even researchers were troubled and surprised at the magnitude of the findings.

Continue reading "Not so invincible" »

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 1:30 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Pediatrics
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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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