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Daily Dose

Marketing Healthy Foods to Kids

1:15 to read

The marketing of foods to children continues to be a hot topic.  As any parent knows…by the time your child is 3, 4 or 5 years old…they can often point to the box of sugary cereal with their favorite cartoon character on it, or identify a sign (McDonalds, Chic-Fil-A, Pizza) although they are not yet reading.  Companies are very clever when it comes to marketing…especially to children who drive a lot of consumer choices.

But, a recent article in Pediatrics shows how marketing may also drive healthy food choices. The study entitled, “Marketing Vegetable in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”, looked at the number of students who chose fresh vegetables from the salad bar at 10 elementary school cafeterias in a large school district over a six-week period.

The study included four different groups. In the first group the schools displayed vinyl banners with branded cartoon vegetable characters. These banners were then wrapped around the salad bar bases. The characters displayed “super human” strength related to eating vegetables (the Popeye of my generation - with his spinach).  The second group of schools showed short television segments which had vegetable characters delivering healthy nutritional advice. In the third group of schools both the salad bar banners and TV segments were used to promote healthy nutrition and food choices.  The fourth group was the control group and received no intervention.  The intervention schools also had decals with the vegetable characters placed on the floor which directed the children to the salad bars.

The results?  Nearly twice as many students ate vegetables from the salad bar when they were exposed to the banners.  More than 3 times as many students who were exposed to both banners and TV segments went to the salad bar (more girls than boys ). Interestingly, the marketing campaign also increased the number of students who chose a vegetable serving in the regular lunch line as well. 

So, it seems that branded marketing strategies may be used in a positive way to promote healthier food choices among young children.  Now we just have to get the advertisers to change some of their branded messaging aimed at young children from the “junk” to the healthy foods, as we have data to show that kids will choose good foods…especially if their super heroes like it too!

Daily Dose

Your Child May Need More Than One EpiPen

It can be very frightening when a child suffers witha food allergy. What's the best treatment?I am seeing more and more children with food allergies these days.  Many parents struggle with the fear of “what if my child unknowingly eats something they are allergic to and has a full blown allergic reaction when I’m not around?"  A study published in Pediatrics confirms the advice I have been giving my patients for years: make sure your child carries more than one dose of epinephrine.

The study published in Pediatrics (March 2010) looked at the results among more than 1,200 children who were treated for food allergies in two large Boston hospitals over a 5 year period. During an allergic reaction, 44% of the young patients were treated with at least one does of epinephrine and 12% of those who received the drug needed more than one dose. Food allergies numbers are on the rise; up about 20% over the last 1o years.  Nearly three million school-aged children in the U.S. have some sort of food allergy.  Peanuts, tree nuts and milk trigger most allergic reactions.  And some children are even allergic to shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables. If you suspect your child has a food allergy, you should ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric allergist.   You will be given instructions on foods to avoid and most likely be prescribed and taught how to use a self-injectable epinephrine pen. Besides needing more than one dosage, there are other reasons to carry more than one EpiPen.  Each pen lasts between 10 and 20 minutes; therefore, if you are more than 10 minutes away from emergency medical care you will need to administer another dose.  Also, the pens can misfire. Make sure all caregivers know that your child has a food allergy and arm them with all critical medical information to insure your child’s safety. I also recommend a medical alert bracelet.  These bracelets may not be the most fashionable, but when your child is going into anaphylaxis shock and can’t speak, the bracelet could potentially save his/her life. Always stay in contact with your child’s pediatrician to insure you’re following their advice when it comes to your child’s food allergy. That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Get Your Flu Shot!

1:30 to read

I just had my flu vaccine!  Guess what - my arm didn’t even hurt this year.  I have also been reminding all of the pregnant mothers that I see to get their flu vaccines as well.  The current recommendation is that pregnant women receive influenza vaccine as soon as possible beginning after their 28th week of pregnancy (3rd trimester). 

When a pregnant woman receives her flu vaccine she is not only protecting herself, but also her baby.  Infants cannot receive a flu vaccine until they are 6 months of age…and for babies born during the fall and winter season, that means they will not be vaccinated until the following year. But when a mother has received a flu vaccine the infant is also getting protection via antibody that the mother passes to her baby across the placenta. 

In a 2014 study, the authors reported that “immunization of pregnant women with trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV3) was safe, immunogenic, and partially protected the women with a vaccine efficacy of 50% and their infants with a vaccine efficacy of 49% against laboratory-confirmed influenza illness during a 6-month follow-up post delivery ”. In other words, the infants in the study had just as much protection as the mother.

In a more recent study the authors now looked at how long the immunity lasted in the infants born to the flu vaccinated mothers. Surprisingly, the immunity was not as long lived as had been thought. The infants involved in the study were born an average of 81 days after their mothers were vaccinated with flu vaccine, and were monitored for influenza infection for about 172 days after birth.

Infants born to mothers who had a longer interval between vaccination and delivery had higher antibody titers. The infants’ antibody levels did drop off after birth and by 8 weeks of age the babies did not have significant antibody. Ideally, In order for babies to have better protection a mother would be vaccinated even earlier in her pregnancy, and studies are being done to look at this possibility.

Infants are especially susceptible to influenza and have a higher rate of complications as well as hospitalizations.  While the current recommendations for vaccinating pregnant women may not confer as much immunity to the newborn as was previously thought , there is very high protection for the first 8 weeks after birth. Any protection is preferable to none!.

Get your flu vaccine and if you are pregnant ask your doctor to give it to you as soon as you are in your 28th week.  The longer the baby is getting placental antibody the better!!

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

HPV Vaccine

1:30 to read

I don’t think I have posted the latest good news about vaccines. As you know I am a huge proponent of vaccinating children (and ourselves), and remind patients that there continue to be ongoing studies regarding vaccine safety, as well as efficacy.  The CDC and ACIP recently announced that the HPV vaccine may be protective and effective after just 2 doses of vaccine rather than the previous recommendation of a series of 3 vaccines.  That is good news for teens, especially those that are “needle phobic”!  

 

The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices  recommended  a 2 dose HPV vaccine series for young adolescents, those that begin the vaccine series between 11 and 14 years.  For adolescents who begin the HPV vaccine series at the age 15 or older, the 3 dose series is still recommended.

 

This recommendation was based upon data presented to the ACIP and CDC from clinical trials which showed that two doses of HPV vaccine in younger adolescents (11-14 years old) produced an immune response similar or higher than the response in older adolescents (15 yrs or older). 

 

The HPV vaccine, which prevents many different types of cancer caused by human papilloma virus, has been routinely recommended beginning at age 11 years  approved to use as young as 9 years), but unfortunately only about 42% of girls and 28% of teenage boys has completed the 3 dose series.  

 

By showing that a 2 dose series (when started at younger ages) is effective and protective the hope is that more and more young adolescents will complete the series.  The two doses now must be spaced at least 6 months apart and may even be given at the 11 year and then 12 year check up which would not require as many visit to the pediatrician.

 

According to the CDC more HPV - related cancers have been diagnosed in recent years, and reported more than 31,000 new cases of cancer each year (from 2008 - 2012) were attributable to HPV, and that routine vaccination could potentially prevent about 29,000 cases of those cancers from occurring.  But, in order to see these numbers shrink, more and more adolescents need to be immunized…before they are ever exposed to the virus. Remember, the HPV vaccine is protective against certain strains of HPV, but does not treat HPV disease.

 

So..once again a good example of using science based evidence to provide the best protection against a serious disease…with less shots too!! Win - Win!!

 

 

Daily Dose

Good Grades Pill

1.15 to read

There is a lot of pressure placed on students to succeed and many of them are turning to what teens call the “good grade pill”.  What is it?  Prescription stimulants that are commonly used to treat children with ADHD.  Teens that have not been diagnosed with ADHD have figured out that with the help of these drugs, they can focus and improve their grades.  

I see a lot of kids who have attentional issues and I evaluate and treat children for ADHD. With that being said, I also spend a great deal of time with each family looking at their child’s history, report cards, teacher comments, educational testing and subjective ADHD rating scales. 

While many families would like it if I just “wrote a script for a stimulant”, I feel it is my job to try and determine to the best of my ability, which children really fit the diagnosis of ADHD. (There are specific criteria for diagnosing ADHD). 

But in the last 3-5 years I personally have seen more and more teenage patients coming to me with complaints of “having ADHD”. These are successful teens who are now in competitive schools. 

In most of the cases there have never been any previous complaints of difficulty with focusing or inattentiveness. All are typically A and B students but are now having to work harder to keep their grades up, and to also keep up all of their extracurricular activities. They too all want to go to “great colleges” and their parents expect that of them as well. 

When I see these teens, I point out to them that there has never been mention of school difficulties throughout their elementary and middle school years. I also tell them that ADHD symptoms by definition are typically evident by the time a child is 7 years of age, and often earlier.  So what do you do? I don’t take out the script pad. 

I believe that stimulant medications are useful when used appropriately.  I am also well aware that these drugs are overprescribed and are also being abused. I have had parents (and teens) be quite upset with me when I decline to write a script for stimulant medication for their teen.  

I think that this problem is growing and (we) parents need to stop pressuring our children and (we) doctors need to be vigilant in deciding when stimulant medications are appropriate. 

It is a slippery slope, but the number of teens obtaining stimulants illegally is on the rise.  Why? They hear that this is a quick fix to getting good grades. It may help their grades for the short term, but what does their long term future look like? 

That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Food Allergies at Halloween

1:30 to read

Halloween is just around the corner and for children with food allergies or sensitivities it is sometimes challenging to go trick or treating.  In the United States 1 in 13 children has a food allergy and for some children even the tiniest bit of their allergen can cause a severe reaction!!

So…have you heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project? It was introduced several years ago to enable children with food allergies to enjoy a fun and safe trick or treating experience….with no fear of being exposed to allergens.  

Nuts, milk, soy, wheat and egg are a few of the most common allergens in children  and adults). So many Halloween candies may contain many of these ingredients, and many of the miniature versions of popular candy that is given out on Halloween may not be labelled as to their ingredients. At times the “snack” size treat may even contain a different ingredient than the usual size candy bar.  Even with diligence it may be difficult for parents to determine if the candy in question is safe.

The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes having non-food treats available for children with food allergies. By putting a teal colored pumpkin on your front porch along with the traditional pumpkins and jack o lanterns, you let families know that you have special treats for a food allergic child, or for any child where candy may present a problem. In this way trick-or-treating is inclusive for everyone and the teal pumpkin ( or a poster with a teal pumpkin ) is an easy way for kids and parents to spot the houses that are participating.

Children love to get stickers, glow sticks, pencils, chalk and small toys are all suitable options for kids who have food allergies or intolerances, or for any child who prefers not to have candy. Kids get so much candy you may be the hit of the block by having a different basket for them to choose from.

Remember, if you are getting a food item for another child in your family to make sure that all candy has been unopened and to avoid choking hazards (like nuts and popcorn) for younger children

Be safe, have fun and look for a teal pumpkin….I am going to go buy some spray paint to turn one of my orange pumpkins into blue!!!  Fun project for a family and neighborhood to do together - a block of teal pumpkins!

 

Daily Dose

New Concussion Guidelines

1:30 to read

A really interesting study was published in Pediatrics online entitled “Benefits of Strict Rest After Acute Concussion”.  The guidelines for treating a concussion continue to be debated and that is what makes this study thought provoking.  

This was a “randomized controlled study”  which followed 88 patients between the ages of 11 and 22 years who had been diagnosed with a concussion.  45 of the patients were given instructions for 5 days of strict rest at home with no school, no work and no physical activity.  They were then allowed to have a “stepwise return to activity”.  The other 43 patients were told to “rest” for 1-2 days after which time they could  return to school also follow a “stepwise return to activity”.

Interestingly, there was no clinically significant difference in the  neurocognitive or balance outcomes between the two groups.  In fact the group that was “advised to rest for 5 days” reported more daily post concussive symptoms and slower resolution of symptoms than those who were told to rest for 1-2 days.  

This was a small study and does not mean that everyone should be treated the same way. In fact, when seeing a patient who has sustained a concussion each person seems to be a bit different.....as one could expect when discussing a “brain injury”.  No two brains are exactly alike...at least for the time being...who knows what will happen one day with genetics

In my own limited practice I have found that “very few” tweens and teens subscribe to the complete rest theory...that is no school, but also no TV, no computer and no videos or smart phones....WHAT??? No social media for 5 days?  You would have to put most of them on an isolated “post concussion island” to ensure they disconnect.  

The study authors also wondered if patients reported more symptoms after having strict rest recommended.  It seems plausible that I too might notice a few more symptoms when just sitting there wondering if my head hurts or if I seem to be more fatigued.

Subjective symptoms are always difficult to quantify...which makes treating a concussion more problematic.  I think erring on the conservative side and restricting “return to play” for a longer period seems to be of more importance than any other recommendation, including “5 days of strict rest”. In the meantime this is an interesting study....with more data to surely follow. 

 

Daily Dose

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

1:30 to read

I am back on my soap box about what is a newsworthy announcement…..especially as it pertains to viral infections. While I know that day care centers and pre-schools are “keen” on posting notices or sending emails to parents about the latest virus to be found at school, I am still baffled as to the necessity to do this and alarm parents. Aren’t there HIPPA violations or something?  Knowing that a child in school has been diagnosed with  “hand-foot-mouth" disease (HFMD) does not seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Pediatricians are used to seeing HFMD, sometimes daily, and yes it does seem that these viral illnesses cluster at different times of the year. But, with that being said, does it really do any one any good, and does it maybe actually “worry” already anxious parents about possible exposure. Are we forgetting that children are exposed to these pesky viral infections all of the time…and that in most cases they are fairly minor, inconvenient and cause several days of fever and generally not feeling well.  End of story.

But now HFMD has made the national news….as there have been 22 cases of HFMD diagnosed at Florida State University…..which has an enrollment of over 41,000 students!!!  Statistically speaking, that is not a significant “attack” rate….and this news is being reported on all of the networks.  While I realize that adolescents and young adults are less likely to acquire HFMD and they may feel worse than a toddler who in most cases seems to “power through”  with fever reducing medication, popsicles and ice cream, is this really a national news story?  

HFMD is caused by an enterovirus (Coxsackie A16) and typically causes several days of fever and not feeing well followed by small ulcers and blisters that may occur in the throat (painful) as well as on the hands and feet. (younger children seem to often get a rash on their buttocks too).  HFMD may be spread in a variety of ways including direct contact with saliva or fluid from the blisters that may occur on the hands and feet, from fecal contamination, and also when a person coughs or sneezes in close proximity. The virus may also live on surfaces that we touch and then touch our eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.  As I always say, “good hand washing” and keeping yourself home when sick is the best way to prevent the spread of a virus. While I believe in good sanitation and clean public spaces is it really necessary to “wipe down” classrooms, dorms, cafeterias and even toys in school due to several cases of HFMD. Do you have to do this all day long?  HFMD is not a bacterial disease like meningitis and does not have life threatening consequences.  There will be another viral infection  (or 2 or 3 or 4)  soon to follow and one of these will be influenza.

So, rather than talking about HFMD and mass “cleaning efforts” I think we should focus on another way to prevent illness. VACCINATIONS!  We do know that vaccines work to prevent disease and despite the science behind that, there are still those that “opt out” of vaccines, and this includes getting a flu vaccine.  I wonder if there are students at FSU who have opted out of vaccines and if so how many….maybe more than 22/41,000?  At the same time, how many of those students will opt “in” and get a flu vaccine? That is the bigger story ….get vaccinated for flu now…so we don’t have another even bigger “outbreak”.   I know there will be more than 22 students who get the flu at FSU and will that make the news?  It is the same thing for schools everywhere…lets put up signs about flu vaccines and keep those numbers down.I hope the news reports this.

 

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Daily Dose

The Truth About Antibiotics

1:30 to read

Despite warmer than normal temperatures in much of the country it is certainly already cough and cold season. Our office background music is already a lot of coughing coming from children of all ages…and a few of their parents too. In fact, a few of our nurses and docs are fighting a fall cold as well.

 

This makes it timely to discuss (once again) the difference between a cold which is a viral infection and a bacterial infection (example strep throat).  Viruses are NOT treated with antibiotics!! In other words, antibiotics are not useful when you have the common cold. Asking your doctor to put you on an antibiotic “just in case “ it might help is not advised, and doctors should be taking the time to explain the difference between a viral infection and a bacterial infection, rather than writing an unnecessary antibiotic prescription.  

 

While some people (fewer and fewer young parents) still think an antibiotic is necessary, the overuse of antibiotics has been called “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems”s, by the CDC. Not only does the overuse of antibiotics promote drug resistance, it may also cause other health concerns as well. While antibiotics kill many different bacteria, they may also kill “good bacteria” which in fact help the body to stay healthy. Sometimes, taking antibiotics may cause diarrhea and may even allow “bad bacteria” like clostridium difficile to take over and cause a serious secondary infection.  

 

At the same time that there are too many antibiotic prescriptions being written for routine viral upper respiratory infections, a new study in JAMA also found that bacterial infections (sinusitis, strep throat, community acquired pneumonias), are not being treated with appropriate “first line” antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin.  Of the 44 million patients who received an antibiotic prescription for the treatment of sinusitis, strep throat, or ear infections, only 52% were given a prescription for the appropriate first line antibiotic. When a doctor prescribes a broader spectrum, often newer antibiotic, instead of the recommended first line drug, they too are responsible for increasing antibiotic resistance.

 

So, you should actually be happy when your pediatrician reassures you that your child does not need an antibiotic, and that fever control with an over the counter product, extra fluids and rest will actually do the trick to get them well.  I “brag” about my patients who have never taken an antibiotic…..as they have never had a bacterial illness, and tell their parents how smart they are for not asking for an antibiotic “just because”.

 

At the same time, if your child does have a bacterial infection, ask the doctor if they are using a “first line” drug and if not why…? It could be because your child has drug allergies to penicillins, or that your child has had a recent first line drug and has not improved or has had ‘back to back” infections necessitating the use of a broader spectrum antibiotic.  Whatever the reason, always good to ask.

 

Keep washing those hands, teach your child about good cough hygiene and run don’t walk to get your flu vaccines….November is here and flu usually won’t be too far behind.

 

 

  

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