WBEZ | Children&#039;s Health http://www.wbez.org/tags/children039s-health Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Autism May Be Far More Common, Study Suggests http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-05-08/autism-may-be-far-more-common-study-suggests-86229 <p><p>An exhaustive study of autism in one community has found that the disorder is far more common than suggested by earlier research.</p><p>The study of 55,000 children in Goyang, South Korea, found that 2.64 percent — one in every 38 children — had an autism spectrum disorder.</p><p>"That is two and a half times what the estimated prevalence is in the United States," says Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at The George Washington University and one of the study's authors.</p><p>The South Korean study probably produced such a high figure because it screened a lot of kids who seemed to be doing OK and included in-person evaluations of any child suspected of having autism, Grinker says.</p><p>"Two-thirds of the children with autism that we ended up identifying were in mainstream schools, unrecognized, untreated," he says.</p><p>The team of Korean and American scientists who carried out the study, published online in the <em>American Journal of Psychiatry</em>, say the result doesn't mean there's something different about South Korean children.</p><p>"There's no reason to think that South Korea has more children with autism than anyplace else in the world," says Bennett Leventhal, another author of the study. Leventhal is also deputy director of New York's Nathan Klein Institute for Psychiatric Research and a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University Medical Center.</p><p>The study's primary message, Leventhal says, is that "if you really go look carefully amongst all children everywhere, you find that things are far more common than you previously expected."</p><p>Previous efforts to identify children with autism have tended to focus on kids in special education classes, or those whose school records show they have language or learning problems.</p><p>But that approach has the potential to miss a lot of kids, Grinker says. "What we wanted to do was to go beyond that and pick a medium-sized city where we could look at every child," he says.</p><p>The city they chose, Goyang, is not far from Seoul. And South Korea is an ideal place for this kind of study because the government makes sure that every child goes to school.</p><p>Until now, South Korean officials and educators have assumed that autism was quite rare. The group's five-year-long study of children aged 7 to 12 showed otherwise.</p><p>"I had some expectation that it's going to be a little higher than the previous studies because we're including children from the general population that have been understudied in the past," says Young-Shin Kim, the study's first author and an assistant professor at the Child Study Center at Yale University. "But the extent — that was a surprise to us."</p><p>Many of the children were probably missed because they didn't misbehave and they weren't failing academically, Kim says.</p><p>"These children could function at a level that was expected, even though they were having a lot of difficulties with their peers and social engagement," she says.</p><p>Also, Kim says, autism carries a severe stigma in South Korea. So some parents may have ignored some telltale behaviors.</p><p>And she says they were often upset to learn they had a child on the spectrum.</p><p>"Some of the parents were yelling at us like, 'You guys are crazy, my child is OK,'" she says. "Some parents are shocked. Some are devastated. But some are like, 'Oh, my god, now it makes sense. Actually I'm so glad you told me that because I couldn't make any sense out of my child.'"</p><p>The authors say maybe people shouldn't be surprised to find that autism is so common. After all, other brain disorders, such as severe depression, affect more than 2 percent of adults; severe anxiety disorder affects about 4 percent.</p><p>And the implications of this study are global, Leventhal says. He says there are powerful reasons to identify all kids with autism, even if they aren't failing in school.</p><p>"They're socially awkward and they have trouble making friends. They get in trouble because their behavior is a little odd," he says. "And then when we teach them their skills, they actually can fit in better and succeed better." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1304924240?&gn=Autism+May+Be+Far+More+Common%2C+Study+Suggests&ev=event2&ch=1030&h1=Health,Asia,Your+Health,Children%27s+Health,Mental+Health,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=136066097&c7=1030&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1030&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110509&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Sun, 08 May 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-05-08/autism-may-be-far-more-common-study-suggests-86229 Using Mosquitoes To Put The Bite On Malaria http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-25/using-mosquitoes-put-bite-malaria-85630 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//0" alt="" /><p><p>The parasite responsible for the intense fevers, chills, and headaches of <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/faqs.html" target="_self">malaria</a> has proven elusive to the scientific effort to come up with a <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/12/14/132058312/end-to-malaria-deaths-in-sight-but-progress-is-fragile" target="_self">vaccine</a>.</p><p>So Dutch researchers are trying a new approach — "vaccinating" people by having them get bitten by mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite, similar to how people get infected in the real world. Their way is different than the conventional vaccine approach of injecting people with bits and pieces of the malaria parasite, or a parasite that's been weakened in the lab.</p><p>Those approaches aren't working all that well in clinical trials so far. The <em>Plasmodium </em>parasite is a notoriously tough challenge for vaccines because it spends most of its time hiding inside red blood cells and liver cells, out of sight of the immune system – one reason why it was able to <a href="http://www.who.int/malaria/world_malaria_report_2010/en/index.html" target="_self">kill 781,000 people</a> in 2009. Most of those were children in developing countries.</p><p></p><p>In the Dutch experiment, 10 volunteers were bitten multiple times by malarious mosquitoes. The researchers then gave the volunteers an anti-malaria drug, chloroquine. (And yes, the researchers were very careful to pick a malaria type that responds to chloroquine, not a chloroquine-resistant variety.)</p><p>A couple of years ago, the researchers <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0805832#t=articleTop" target="_self">reported</a> that this process works in the short run to protect against malaria. But that's not such a big deal. People naturally infected by malaria build up an immunity that holds for several months.</p><p>What's new is that the researchers went back to six of the volunteers 28 months later. Once again the volunteers allowed themselves to be bitten by malarious mosquitoes. Four of the six did not get infected. And the immune systems of the remaining two put up a fight – their infections were delayed (and quickly treated). The <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2811%2960360-7/abstract" target="_self">results</a> were published online in <em>The Lancet</em>.</p><p>Wondering who would volunteer to be bitten by a malarious mosquito? Study author Robert Sauerwein of Radboud University in the Netherlands says most were university students. And the <a href="http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00757887?term=NCT00757887&rank=1" target="_self">trial </a>was designed pretty carefully.</p><p>A lot more work needs to be done to test this approach. This study was very small – only six people. And the researchers note that they may have stacked the deck a little – they used the exact same strain of malaria to infect, and to re-infect. And they worked with adults with mature immune systems, rather than children.</p><p>It's not clear yet why the experimental vaccination protected longer than infection by mosquito in the field. The anti-malarial drug could have helped. Or maybe it was the intense exposure to multiple bites at the same time. Whatever the reason, they say, it's worth investigating given how well the malaria parasite has been at outsmarting attempts to get rid of it.</p><p>. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303737139?&gn=Using+Mosquitoes+To+Put+The+Bite+On+Malaria&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Public+Health,Malaria,Vaccines,Public+Health+%26+Prevention,Children%27s+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Medical+Treatments,Health,World+Health,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135635948&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110425&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=133188449,132050182,126567541,126567402,126567378,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 07:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-25/using-mosquitoes-put-bite-malaria-85630 To Test, Or Not To Test, Kids' Genes For Adult Diseases http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-04-18/test-or-not-test-kids-genes-adult-diseases-85345 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-18/dnamodel_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some parents think testing their kids for genes to see if they're at risk for common health problems like cancer or high cholesterol sounds like a fine idea, according to a survey just published in the journal <em>Pediatrics</em>.</p><p>Dozens of <a href="http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/testing/directtoconsumer">direct-to-consumer genetic tests</a> for adults are already being sold on the Internet, so it seems inevitable that parents will start to order up home kits that would purport to predict whether little Sophie faces a future risk of, say, <a href="http://www.cygenedirect.com/browse-10876/Osteoporosis.html">osteoporosis</a>, or <a href="http://www.cygenedirect.com/browse-10871/Metabolic-Health-Assessment-Dna-Analysis.html">diabetes</a>.</p><p>And that raises big questions about whether these types of genetic tests are more trouble than they are worth — especially for kids.</p><p></p><p>By and large, doctors still can't use genes to conclusively predict whether a particular person will develop a specific, common health problem. Cancer and heart disease, for instance, are almost always caused by interactions between a number of genes, a person's lifestyle and the environment.</p><p>Now, that's not the case for illnesses like cystic fibrosis, a lung disease caused by a mutation in just one gene. But, as the <a href="http://www.acmg.net/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Policy_Statements&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=2975">American College of Medical Genetics</a> points out, many genetic tests marketed to consumers "do not give a definitive answer as to whether an individual will develop a given condition, but provide only a risk or probability of developing a disease."</p><p>So even if a genetic test says a child has an increased risk of heart disease in adulthood, the advice the pediatrician would give parents whose child showed a genetic susceptibility for a common illness would be exactly the same advice they give all children now: Eat healthy, exercise, don't smoke, take it easy on the booze when you grow up.</p><p>In the <em>Pediatrics</em> <a href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2010-0938v1">survey</a>, researchers asked parents who were already participating in a study about genetic testing of adults what they would think about having their children's genes tested.</p><p>The 219 parents polled thought that the benefits of genetic testing for children outweighed the risk, saying that they thought conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes were serious health risks, and that it was very important to know the relationship between genetics and health.</p><p>They anticipated being happy if they found out that their child had a reduced risk of disease, but discounted the fact that they might be devastated to discover that a child was genetically disposed to a serious health problem, with no treatment in sight.</p><p>"It is important to note that the actual risks, benefits, and utility of genetic testing for common preventable health conditions have not been established for adults or for children," the study authors write.</p><p>And that uncertain information comes at a significant cost. Prices for at-home genetic tests range from $295 to $1,200, according to the <a href="http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/health/hea02.shtm">Federal Trade Commission</a>. The agency's consumer fact sheet says, "A healthy dose of skepticism may be the best prescription."</p><p>The Food and Drug Administration is <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/05/13/126794698/no-gene-test-for-walgreens-just-yet">wrestling with how to deal with the tests</a>. As blogger and lawyer Dan Vorhaus noted in a post after a public meeting the subject last month, "The issue, for quite some time now, has not been whether the <a href="http://www.genomicslawreport.com/index.php/2011/03/11/the-fda-and-dtc-genetic-testing-setting-the-record-straight/">FDA intends<em> </em>to regulate DTC genetic tests</a>." Rather what will the agency require and when?</p><p>In the meantime, you might think it over before signing the kids up for online genetic tests over spring break. Signing them up for soccer camp may provide a greater benefit for their future health. And other than a few blown whistles, soccer isn't subject to regulatory review.</p> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 12:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-04-18/test-or-not-test-kids-genes-adult-diseases-85345 How The 'Pox' Epidemic Changed Vaccination Rules http://www.wbez.org/story/arts-amp-life/2011-04-05/how-pox-epidemic-changed-vaccination-rules-84930 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-08/pox_300dpi_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Historian Michael Willrich was planning to write a book about civil liberties in the aftermath of Sept. 11 when he stumbled across an article from <em>The New York Times</em> archives. It was about a 1901 smallpox vaccination raid in New York — when 250 men arrived at a Little Italy tenement house in the middle of the night and set about vaccinating everyone they could find.</p><p>"There were scenes of policemen holding down men in their night robes while vaccinators began their work on their arms," Willrich tells <em>Fresh</em> <em>Air</em>'s Terry Gross. "Inspectors were going room to room looking for children with smallpox. And when they found them, they were literally tearing babes from their mothers' arms to take them to the city pesthouse [which housed smallpox victims.]"</p><p>The vaccination raid was not an isolated incident. As the smallpox epidemic swept across the country, New York and Boston policemen conducted several raids and health officials across the country ordered mandatory vaccinations in schools, factories and on railroads. In <em>Pox: An American History</em>, Willrich details how the smallpox epidemic of 1898-1904 had far-reaching implications for public health officials — as well as Americans concerned about their own civil liberties.</p><p>"110 years ago, vaccination was compelled by the state," he says. "But there no effort taken by the government to ensure that vaccines on the market were safe and effective. We live in a very different environment today where there are extensive regulations governing the entire vaccine industry."</p><p>At the turn of the 20th century, explains Willrich, there were little to no regulations governing the pharmaceutical industry. Many people were forced to receive the vaccine — most of the time against their will.</p><p>"There was one episode in Middlesboro, Ky., where the police and a group of vaccinators went into this African-American section of town, rounded up people outside this home, handcuffed the men and women and vaccinated them at gunpoint," says Willrich. "It's a shocking scene and very much at odds with our daily-held notions of American liberty."</p><p>People infected with small pox would also be quarantined against their will in large isolation hospitals called pest houses.</p><p>"People would literally dragged there against their will," he says. "Some of the most poignant scenes are when mothers are fighting with health officials to keep their children in their own homes rather than have them be taken off to a pesthouse. People at the time rightly associated pest houses with death. That's where someone was taken to die."</p><p><strong>Resistance To Vaccinations</strong></p><p>From the very start of the organized vaccination campaign against smallpox, there was public resistance, says Willrich. The battle between the government and the vocal anti-vaccinators came to a head in a landmark 1902 Supreme Court decision, where the Supreme Court upheld the right of a state to order a vaccination for its population during an epidemic to protect the people from a devastating disease.</p><p>"But at the same time, the Court recognized certain limitations on that power — that this power of health policing was no absolute and was not total and there was a sphere of individual liberty that needed to be recognized," says Willrich. "Measures like this needed to be reasonable and someone who could make a legitimate claim that a vaccine posed a particular risk to them because of their family history or medical history [would not have to be vaccinated.]"</p><p>In addition, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts stipulated that a state couldn't forcibly vaccinate its population.</p><p>"[They said,] 'Of course, it would be unconstitutional and go beyond the pale for health officials to forcibly vaccinate anyone because that's not within their power,'" says Willrich. "And I think that's really a shoutout to the Boston health authorities who were employing forcible vaccination all the time in the poorest neighborhoods in the city."</p><p>Because so many refused to get vaccinated, there were isolated incidents of smallpox outbreaks in the United States until 1949, says Willrich. It wasn't until 1972 that the U.S. government decided to stop mandatory vaccination against smallpox, in part because the disease had been largely eradicated.</p><p><strong>The Current Anti-Vaccine Controversy</strong></p><p>In 1998, the British medical journal <em>The Lancet </em>published a report by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that suggested that there might be a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.</p><p>"This paper was thoroughly discredited and debunked but the idea that vaccines might somehow be the cause of autism stuck," says Willrich. "And so, according to some of the most recent studies, something like one-fifth of all American parents believe that vaccines cause autism. This is simply not true. But it's a powerful association in the public mind."</p><p>Wakefield is no longer allowed to practice medicine in England and <em>The Lancet </em>withdrew the study in 2010. In January, 2011, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> said that the study wasn't just wrong — it was "a deliberate fraud" that altered key facts to support the link between vaccinations and autism.</p><p>Even though the study was discredited, many people continue to believe the link between vaccinations and autism, says Willrich.</p><p>"[In 2003,] according to the CDC, there was something like 22 percent of American parents of young children were refusing one or more vaccines for their children," he says. "Five years later, that percentage had nearly doubled to about 40 percent of all Americans. So the vaccine controversy today is one of the most important public health crises we face in America."</p><p>And, he says, public health officials can and should do more to inform the public that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the CDC all believe that vaccines are safe.</p><p>"I think this is the time for doubling their efforts to spread the good word about vaccines and also have a candid public discussion about the risks and benefits," he says. "There's no more opportune moment than the present to launch a new publicity campaign around vaccines. ... Viruses spread in human populations from person to person and if you have a vast majority of a community vaccinated against that virus, the virus will simply never have a toehold in that community." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Tue, 05 Apr 2011 10:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/arts-amp-life/2011-04-05/how-pox-epidemic-changed-vaccination-rules-84930 FDA Probes Link Between Food Dyes, Kids' Behavior http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-29/fda-probes-link-between-food-dyes-kids-behavior-84472 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//jelly-bellys-3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Food and Drug Administration is meeting Wednesday and Thursday to examine whether artificial food dyes cause hyperactivity in children. Artificial food dyes are made from petroleum and approved for use by the FDA to enhance the color of processed foods.</p><p>They've been around for decades and are found in everything from pudding to potato chips to soft drinks.</p><p>But recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA ban foods containing them — or at least require a warning label.</p><p><strong>No More Little Red Dinosaurs</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Christine Woodman of Fairfax, Va., first starting noticing her children were having trouble focusing on school projects and were acting way too reckless at home when they were in elementary school. She suspected they might have ADHD.</p><p>Woodman's daughter, Dawnielle, is 19 now, but she remembers a particular incident: the time she thought it would be fun to take some blankets from her bed and slide down the basement stairs on them.</p><p>"It was really fun and funny until I got my head stuck in the wall," Dawnielle says.</p><p>Christine was reluctant at first to take her kids to the doctor for their hyperactive behavior. She lived in the Pacific Northwest at the time, and the family embraced a theme common among their friends and neighbors.</p><p>"What is natural is good, what isn't natural was bad," she remembers.</p><p>On the advice of friends, Christine decided to start by cutting out foods with artificial coloring, but Dawnielle didn't really go for it. She missed her favorite oatmeal with little red-colored dinosaurs in it. Christine tried a substitute. "You know, I made the oatmeal with blueberries and soymilk and thought you would be happy with it," she said to Dawnielle.</p><p>"I was not. That was not a good replacement," Dawnielle said, laughing.</p><p>But it was tough back then. After a year of trying various diets — from eliminating food dyes to eliminating dairy — Christine said her children's behavior never really changed.</p><p>She finally took them to a pediatrician, who diagnosed them with ADHD and prescribed medication. The difference was stunning, Christine says.</p><p>"Suddenly, my world came back together and I could do stuff," Dawnielle says. She went from being the class clown to the class example.</p><p><strong>Diets A Popular First Step</strong></p><p>Lots of people try "elimination diets" to address their kids' behavior, and many say they work. The diet idea dates back to the1970s, when pediatrician Benjamin Feingold first claimed that there was a link between behavior and food dyes.</p><p>The diet he prescribed eliminated food dyes and other food additives, like the common preservatives BHT and BHA.</p><p>Artificial food dyes might be an easy target for elimination because they aren't essential to food.</p><p>"Food dyes are added simply for their color to make foods fun. They serve no health purpose whatsoever," says Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.</p><p>CSPI wants the FDA to ban eight artificial food dyes. He's particularly concerned with Red #40, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, which make up 90 percent of the food dyes on the market.</p><p>And their use has gone up fivefold in the last 50 years. "That's a good indication of how much junk food we're consuming," Jacobson says. He says there's substantial evidence showing food dyes trigger hyperactivity in kids.</p><p>But other experts question that conclusion. Before today's meeting, the FDA released its analysis of 35 years of scientific studies. It finds no conclusive proof that food dyes cause hyperactivity in most kids, although it suggests that some kids with ADHD may be particularly sensitive to them.</p><p><a href="http://www.webmd.com/andrew-adesman">Andrew Adesman</a>, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, says more studies are needed and that the current studies leave a lot of room for doubt.</p><p>"Some of the studies are difficult or imperfect in that they don't always tease out specific chemicals in isolation," he says. "But there is this body of literature that does suggest that food colorings are not as benign as people have been led to believe."</p><p><strong>European Action On Food Dyes</strong></p><p>A 2007 British study known as the Southampton study has become something of a flashpoint in the current debate. In it, 3- and 8-year-olds were given two kinds of drinks that contained a mix of dyes. Afterwards, parents reported a significant increase in hyperactivity. But teachers and independent observers didn't, critics say. Also, since the dyes were mixed together, it's hard to tell which might be causing a problem.</p><p>"It gives you pause, but it's certainly not convincing evidence that there's a problem," says Julie Miller Jones, professor emeritus of nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn.</p><p>But Adesman, the pediatrician, says if parents are concerned, there's no harm in cutting out food dyes if they can manage it.</p><p>"We're not putting food coloring into broccoli or other fresh fruits and vegetables. It's going into processed foods, concentrated sweets, things like that," Adesman says.</p><p>Despite concerns with the British study, European lawmakers now require a warning label on foods that contain artificial dyes. It lets parents know their kids might become hyperactive if they consume the product.</p><p>Manufacturers overseas, instead of adding a warning label, have turned to natural dyes made from beets and tumeric. Some U.S.-based manufacturers are considering switching to natural dyes, but as the food industry points out, natural dyes are more expensive and less stable.</p><p>Joseph Borzelleca, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Virginia Commonwealth University medical school, will be testifying at the FDA meeting on the safety and functionality of food dyes. He says food dyes are rigorously tested and have a long and safe history. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1301468237?&gn=FDA+Probes+Link+Between+Food+Dyes%2C+Kids%27+Behavior&ev=event2&ch=1128&h1=Health,Food,Children%27s+Health,Science,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134962888&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110330&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-29/fda-probes-link-between-food-dyes-kids-behavior-84472 Doctors Should Ask Kids: Are You On Facebook? http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-28/doctors-should-ask-kids-are-you-facebook-84380 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//teenonline_vert.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If the pediatrician wants to know if your kids are on Facebook, it's not because she wants to friend them.</p><p>The question about Facebook, and other queries about a child's life online, should be part of the medical history doctors take of kids in the age of social media, according to <a href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2011-0054v1">recommendations just out</a> from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents should find out, too.</p><p>You don't really need peer-reviewed stats to know that tweens and teens spend a ton of time checking up on their friends (and rivals) on smartphones and computers. But sometimes the chatter can stray into dark territory, including cyberbullying, sexting, or even "Facebook depression."</p><p>Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines, told the Associated Press, that Facebook presents a special challenge for kids struggling with their own self-esteem.</p><p></p><p>As the AP <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=134912484">summed it up</a>:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>With in-your-face friends' tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don't measure up.</p><p></blockquote></p><p>The pediatricians also point to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20110764">work that suggests Internet addiction</a> may be linked to depression.</p><p>Parents shouldn't wait for the doctor to check up on their kids behavior, though. Indeed, the advice to pediatricians says they should help parents get with the program and find out what their kids are doing.</p><p>The pediatricians have <a href="http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/june09socialmedia.htm">long recommended</a> that parents ask their kids each day, "Have you used the computer and the Internet today?"</p><p>The latest advice also suggests that pediatricians tell parents to educate themselves about how social media work to narrow the "participation gap" that separates them from their tech-savvy kids.</p><p>Parents, the doctors say, should also hold family meetings to talk about rules of the online road and to check privacy settings and things like that. "The emphasis should be on citizenship and health behavior and not punitive action, unless truly warranted," the pediatricians advise. Don't rely on monitoring software alone.</p><p>Bringing up some of these subjects may not be easy for parents. The pediatricians have some ideas for that, too. Check out tips for talking with kids about <a href="http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/june09socialmedia.htm">social media and sexting</a> from the academy.</p><p>And for more on how to help kids navigate the challenging online world, check out <a href="http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/03/the-pitfalls-and-promise-of-social-media-and-kids/">this post</a> from KQED's MindShift blog Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1301344432?&gn=Doctors+Should+Ask+Kids%3A+Are+You+On+Facebook%3F&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Your+Health,Children%27s+Health,Facebook,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Digital+Life,Technology,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134921115&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110328&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=126567525,126567378,125099650,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 28 Mar 2011 10:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-28/doctors-should-ask-kids-are-you-facebook-84380 How Risky Is Infant Formula Made With Tokyo Tap Water? http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-23/how-risky-infant-formula-made-tokyo-tap-water-84164 <p><p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/03/23/134782109/tokyo-says-radiation-in-tap-water-above-limit">warning</a> that Tokyo's tap water contains twice as much radioactive iodine as allowed for infants strikes a particularly distressing chord.</p><p>Infants are especially vulnerable because their cells are dividing faster than at any other time of life, and dividing cells are especially sensitive to radiation damage.</p><p>The dilemma is compounded by the fact that bottled water can be hard to get in Tokyo right now. That could make matters desperate for mothers of formula-fed babies. And nursing mothers are undoubtedly wondering if the water they drink raises their babies' risk of cancer. (Answer: It could.)</p><p>But <a href="http://www-personal.umich.edu/%7Ekearfott/">Kim Kearfott</a>, an expert on the health effects of radiation, says these young mothers shouldn't panic.</p><p></p><p>"If it were my infant, I would make an effort to secure some water that's clean," says Kearfott, a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan. But if she couldn't, she says, "I wouldn't be concerned [about using the tap water] unless this continues over a long time period."</p><p>How long? "Half a year," she says.</p><p>That's because the radiation dose limit for infants — 100 <a href="http://hps.org/publicinformation/radterms/radfact35.html">becquerels</a> per liter of water — is based on a year's worth of exposure. The radioactivity from iodine-131 in Tokyo's water, due to the emissions of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, is twice that.</p><p>So drinking the radioactive tap water for half a year would not exceed the safety standard, she says.</p><p>But parents are understandably reluctant to ignore the authorities' advice to stop giving the contaminated water to their babies. Kearfott says there are other ways to reduce the risk.</p><p>"Using a charcoal filter would dramatically reduce the amount of iodine-131 in the water, by between 50 and 100 percent," she says. These are the kinds of filters available in many grocery stores.</p><p>Another strategy is to draw tap water and keep it in a jug for eight days. That's the half-life of iodine-131, so in that time, half of the radioactivity would be gone — and the water would be within the 100-becquerel safety standard. Meanwhile, parents could use bottled water if available, or just use tap water in the knowledge that short-term use isn't likely to cause any harm.</p><p>Another reassuring fact: The radiation safety limits (100 becquerels/liter for infants, 300 for adults) are roughly equivalent to the difference in radiation dose people naturally get if they live in a place like Denver versus a sea-level city such as Los Angeles. (That's because the thinner atmosphere in Denver provides less protection against cosmic rays.)</p><p>"We would guess that cancer rates would be higher for people living in the Rockies," Kearfott says. "However, we've been unable to detect any increase. There are too many confounding factors, and the risks are much, much too small."</p><p>Another thing people should keep in mind is that the cancer risk from very low levels of radiation exposure are really unknown. Our knowledge of that risk is based largely on 60 years of studies of cancer among survivors of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.</p><p>From that research, the smallest radiation dose that scientists can tie to cancer risk is 100 millisieverts. Below that, the risk is just a guess — or rather, an extrapolation based on the somewhat controversial assumption that there's a straight-line relationship between radiation dose and cancer risk.</p><p>The radiation dose in a liter of Tokyo tap water right now is equivalent to 1 to 2 millisieverts. That's a tiny fraction (1 to 2 percent) of the lowest cancer threshold that scientists have been able to identify, based largely on the research from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some health researchers are <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20275-act-now-to-track-health-effects-of-nuclear-crisis.html">calling for monitoring to begin</a> now for any possible longterm health effects from Fukushima.</p><p>"We need to stay calm and reasonable," Kearfott says. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1300921952?&gn=How+Risky+Is+Infant+Formula++Made+With+Tokyo+Tap+Water%3F&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=japan+nuclear,The+Science+Of+Japan%27s+Nuclear+Crisis,Japan+In+Crisis,Public+Health,Cancer,Children%27s+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134804037&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110323&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=134660789,134592647,134454848,133188449,126567422,126567378,103537970,134454848&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 23 Mar 2011 17:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-23/how-risky-infant-formula-made-tokyo-tap-water-84164 Study: Diet May Help ADHD Kids More Than Drugs http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-11/study-diet-may-help-adhd-kids-more-drugs-83599 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//berries.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hyperactivity. Fidgeting. Inattention. Impulsivity. If your child has one or more of these qualities on a regular basis, you may be told that he or she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If so, they'd be among about 10 percent of children in the United States.</p><p>Kids with ADHD can be restless and difficult to handle. Many of them are treated with drugs, but a new study says food may be the key. Published in <em>The Lancet </em>journal, the study suggests that with a very restrictive diet, kids with ADHD could experience a significant reduction in symptoms.</p><p>The study's lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands, writes in <em>The Lancet</em> that the disorder is triggered in many cases by external factors — and those can be treated through changes to one's environment.</p><p>"ADHD, it's just a couple of symptoms — it's not a disease," the Dutch researcher tells <em>All Things Considered</em> weekend host Guy Raz.</p><p>The way we think about — and treat — these behaviors is wrong, Pelsser says. "There is a paradigm shift needed. If a child is diagnosed ADHD, we should say, 'OK, we have got those symptoms, now let's start looking for a cause.' "</p><p>Pelsser compares ADHD to eczema. "The skin is affected, but a lot of people get eczema because of a latex allergy or because they are eating a pineapple or strawberries."</p><p>According to Pelsser, 64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food. Researchers determined that by starting kids on a very elaborate diet, then restricting it over a few weeks' time.</p><p>"It's only five weeks," Pelsser says. "If it is the diet, then we start to find out which foods are causing the problems."</p><p>Teachers and doctors who worked with children in the study reported marked changes in behavior. "In fact, they were flabbergasted," Pelsser says.</p><p>"After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior," she says. No longer were they easily distracted or forgetful, and the temper tantrums subsided.</p><p>Some teachers said they never thought it would work, Pelsser says. "It was so strange," she says, "that a diet would change the behavior of a child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, a teacher said."</p><p>But diet is not the solution for all children with ADHD, Pelsser cautions.</p><p>"In all children, we should start with diet research," she says. If a child's behavior doesn't change, then drugs may still be necessary. "But now we are giving them all drugs, and I think that's a huge mistake," she says.</p><p>Also, Pelsser warns, altering your child's diet without a doctor's supervision is inadvisable.</p><p>"We have got good news — that food is the main cause of ADHD," she says. "We've got bad news — that we have to train physicians to monitor this procedure because it cannot be done by a physician who is not trained." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 23:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-11/study-diet-may-help-adhd-kids-more-drugs-83599 Cartoon characters neutralize healthful cereal messages http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-08/cartoon-characters-neutralize-healthful-cereal-messages-83431 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//healthybitshoriz_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It probably comes as no surprise to most parents, and regular readers of our blog, that kids prefer the taste of cereals <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/06/21/127981154/kids-prefer-cereal-with-cartoon-characters">marketed with popular cartoon characters</a>.</p><p>But a new study suggests that a box sporting Shrek or Dora the Explorer may also make children forget their reservations about unhealthful foods.</p><p></p><p>Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's <a href="http://childrenmedia.asc.upenn.edu/childrenmedia/Index.asp">Annenberg School of Communication</a> gave 80 kids (ages 4-6) an unfamiliar looking cereal from a box labeled either "Healthy Bits" or "Sugar Bits." Half the boxes were decorated with cartoon penguins; the other half weren't.</p><p>After seeing the box and tasting the cereal, the kids rated the cereals on a scale of 1 to 5 smiley faces.</p><p>To the researchers' surprise, the kids universally liked the Healthy Bits. Penguin or not, it earned about 4.5 smileys. Even more surprising, they rated the cereal labeled Sugar Bits significantly lower — less than 3 smileys — when it came from an undecorated box.</p><p>The <a href="http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/165/3/229">results appear</a> in the March issue of the journal <em>Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.</em></p><p>Why did the kids not go for the penguin-free "sugary" cereal? Hard to say exactly. But <a href="http://www.asc.upenn.edu/Students/Graduate/GradBio.aspx?id=40">Matt Lapierre</a>, one of the study's authors, tells Shots that "one of the explanations we've been working with is that kids grow up with this negative association with sugar."</p><p>He notes that most cereal brands have traded mentions of sugar for synonyms that at least sound a little more wholesome. "What used to be Sugar Smacks is now Honey Smacks," Lapierre says. "What used to be Sugar Crisp is now Golden Crisp."</p><p>So healthier eating habits may be resonating with kids after all, fueling their negative perception of the researchers' Sugar Bits faux brand.</p><p>But add a friendly penguin to the box and Sugar Bits rated just as high as Healthy Bits. The presence of a cartoon character was enough to override the children's misgivings.</p><p>The study concluded that "not only do appealing ... characters manipulate young children's subjective judgments, the resulting heightened preference<br />for food products featuring these characters is likely to contribute to unhealthy eating habits."</p><p>A five-year-old might pass on a plain box of Frosted Flakes, but add Tony the Tiger and they're grrrrreat. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1299605543?&gn=Cartoon+Characters+Neutralize+Healthful+Cereal+Messages&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Fitness+%26+Nutrition,Your+Health,Children%27s+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134337236&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110308&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=126567887,126567525,126567378,126567378,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 08 Mar 2011 06:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-08/cartoon-characters-neutralize-healthful-cereal-messages-83431 Scientists grow parts for kids with urinary damage http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-07/scientists-grow-parts-kids-urinary-damage-83432 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//atala_in_lab.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For going on 30 years, scientists have been trying to grow replacement parts for diseased, defective or damaged tissues and organs. They've had more disappointments than successes. But now and again, they come up with results that rekindle the flame.</p><p>The latest involves five Mexican boys between 10 and 14 who suffered terrible damage to their urinary tracts from auto accidents. They were unable to urinate normally.</p><p>"When they first came in, they had a leg bag that drains urine, and they have to carry this bag everywhere they go," says Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University in North Carolina. "It's uncomfortable and painful. So these children were mostly sitting or bed-bound."</p><p>Atala and his colleagues, including doctors at Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City, figured out a way to grow a new urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder, for the children.</p><p>The first thing they did was remove a small patch of each boy's bladder.</p><p>"The piece of tissue we take is very small -– less than half the size of a postage stamp," Atala says. The tissue contains two types of cells –- muscle cells and endothelial cells, which form the lining of the urethra and other hollow tubes in the body, such as blood vessels.</p><p>The researchers multiplied these cells in the lab until there were 100 million of them. Then they used the cells to "seed" a cylinder made out of biodegradable material. A week or so later, the cells covered the cylinder, creating a tube of tissue about as long as a deck of cards, with a diameter a little bigger than a soda straw.</p><p>The researchers stitched these made-to-order tissue tubes into the gaps in the boys' urinary systems. Eventually, the biodegradable "scaffolding" melts away.</p><p>That was as long as six years ago. Today, in every case, the boys' re-engineered urinary tracts are functioning normally, the researchers say.</p><p>The unusually long follow-up is perhaps the most important aspect of the new report, <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673610623549/fulltext" target="_blank">which appears online in the British journal <em>The Lancet</em></a>.</p><p>"Typically, if you're going to see these structures fail, they can fail early or they can fail late," Atala says. "But if you have them with this long of a follow-up, then you know they're going to do well over time."</p><p>Atala says the tissue grafts have grown along with the boys, who have had major growth spurts since their urinary repairs. "So the body is recognizing the implant as its own," Atala says.</p><p>He says the procedure has transformed the boys' lives. "These children are now totally normal," he says. "They're running around and doing the things they usually do."</p><p>The procedure might ultimately help thousands of children — not only those who suffer injury, but those with urinary birth defects, which afflict about one in every 150 male births.</p><p>But it won't happen tomorrow. First the trick has to be replicated in many more cases.</p><p>"We are only talking about five patients, which is certainly not enough for widespread, meaningful conclusions," says Dr. Dario Fauzo of Children's Hospital in Boston, a researcher not connected with Atala's research.</p><p>Fauzo welcomed the new results but says he'd like more evidence that the implanted cells actually stuck around. Alternatively, they might have somehow stimulated other cells in the boys' systems to heal the damage. Either way, he says, it appears they "did something helpful," but it would be important to know how they did it.</p><p>Atala says animal studies have shown that existing cells can't grow more than a half-centimeter into the kind of biodegradable "scaffolding" like the ones implanted in the Mexican children. So he thinks the implanted cells must have persisted.</p><p>In 2009, Atala's Wake Forest group implanted tissue-engineered bladders in nine patients, seven of whom were followed long-term. He says all seven of those replacement bladders are still functioning normally.</p><p>Other researchers have reported success in growing windpipes and blood vessels — though no one has yet grown a solid organ, such as a liver or kidney.</p><p>But, in another sign that the field of tissue engineering may be entering a new phase, Fauzo is set to try correcting some birth defects diagnosed by ultrasound in gestating fetuses. If the experiment wins Food and Drug Administration approval, he plans to harvest fetal cells from the amniotic fluid, multiply them in the laboratory, and direct them into becoming tissues that can replace a defective windpipe or repair a hernia in the fetus's diaphragm.</p><p>If it works, the replacement part would be ready by the time the baby is born. Beyond that, Fauzo hopes it will be possible to use the lab-grown tissues to repair birth defects before birth. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1299605543?&gn=Scientists+Grow+Parts+For+Kids+With+Urinary+Damage&ev=event2&ch=1024&h1=Medical+Treatments,Health,Children%27s+Health,Research+News,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134340350&c7=1024&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1024&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110308&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 07 Mar 2011 23:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/children039s-health/2011-03-07/scientists-grow-parts-kids-urinary-damage-83432