Your Child

Music Improves Kids' Memory and Reading Skills

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Maybe Plato was right when he noted that music “…gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

A new study suggests that children who practice singing or learn an instrument are also more likely to improve in language and reading skills.

Previous research has shown a positive link between music and learning skills, but was mainly conducted on children in upper or middle class families. This new study looks at whether the same results apply to children living in impoverished and low socioeconomic neighborhoods. The present study included students from musical training programs in Chicago and Los Angeles public schools.

The findings support the idea that musical training can help any child not only benefit from the joy and discipline of musical training, but also the stimulation that the mind acquires through music.  This could prove particularly helpful to children living in difficult circumstances.

"Research has shown that there are differences in the brains of children raised in impoverished environments that affect their ability to learn," said Nina Kraus, PhD, a neurobiologist at the Northwestern University. "While more affluent students do better in school than children from lower income backgrounds, we are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner and help offset this academic gap."

How does music help a child learn better? According to researchers, musical training improves the brain's ability to process sounds. Children who learn music are better equipped to understand sounds in a noisy background. Improvements in neural networks also strengthen memory and learning skills.

For the study, scientists used two groups of children. One group was given music classes, while the other received Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps classes. Each group had comparable IQs at the beginning of the study.

The researchers recorded children's brain waves as they listened to repeated syllable against a soft background sound. The children were tested again after one year of music training/JROTC classes and again after a two-year study period. The team found that children's neural responses were strengthened after two years of music classes. The study shows that music training isn't a quick fix, but is a long-term approach to improve academic performance of children belonging to lower socioeconomic classes.

"We're spending millions of dollars on drugs to help kids focus and here we have a non-pharmacologic intervention that thousands of disadvantaged kids devote themselves to in their non-school hours-that works," Margaret Martin, founder of Harmony Project in Los Angeles, said in a news release. "Learning to make music appears to remodel our kids' brains in ways that facilitates and improves their ability to learn."

In other studies, music has also been shown to be effective in promoting better social behavior in teenage boys who have learning difficulties and poor social skills.

Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, many school districts have either cut back or completely eliminated music and arts programs. The loss of such a treasure in our school systems is tragic. Music not only “hath charms to soothe a savages beast,” but also to refresh and calm an anxious mind. It’s time we rethink the importance of music and the other arts programs in our schools. Fund them and bring them back – for all of our children’s sake.

The study was presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.

Source: Staff Reporter, http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/8472/20140809/music-training-improves-memory-reading-skills-children.htm

Your Child

Common Chemicals Linked to Lower IQ in Kids

 Phthalates are chemicals used in thousands of every day products. They make plastics more flexible and difficult to break. They are also used in personal-care products such  as soaps, shampoos, hairsprays and nail polishers. There are several different types of phthalates.

 A new study suggests that two phthalate chemicals in particular, may be damaging to fetal development and could even lower children's IQs.

 The chemicals, Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), are found in a wide range of products including vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, plastic food  containers, raincoats, dryer sheets, lipstick, hairspray, nail polish, certain soaps and chemical air fresheners. They can be absorbed into a person's body, and exposure in- utero was linked in the study to lower IQs later in a child's life.

 Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City headed the study.

 Three hundred and twenty eight New York City low-income women and their children participated in the study. The researchers followed the expectant mothers to assess  the impact of exposure to four phthalates in the third trimester of pregnancy: DnBP and DiBP, as well as 2 other phthalates. The chemical amounts were measured in each woman's urine, and the children took IQ tests at age 7.

 After controlling for factors such as the mother's IQ, education level and family home environment, the researchers found the children of mothers with the highest concentrations of DnBP and DiBP in their systems had IQ levels of 6.6 and 7.6 points lower than children in the lowest exposure group.

 The two other phthalates did not appear to have an impact on the children's intellectual development.

 "Because phthalate exposures are ubiquitous and concentrations seen here within the range previously observed among general populations, results are of public health significance," the researchers write in their study.

 The authors point out that the mothers with a higher volume of chemicals in their system were still within the national average of a larger sample measured by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicates Americans are being exposed to too high a dose of these common chemicals.

 Six phthalates have been banned in children’s products since 2009, but health officials have yet take to take steps to alert pregnant women of the risk that comes with using certain products that contain phthalates. Moreover, companies are not required to label the use of phthalates in products.

 Because so many products contain phthalates, it’s almost impossible to eliminate the chemicals entirely from your system.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies phthalates as endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with a person's hormone system. They have been associated with a number of physical developmental abnormalities such as cleft palate and skeletal malformations.

 Other studies have linked increased fetal deaths and preterm births in animals to phthalate exposure. They’ve also associated the chemicals to health problems in teens such as insulin resistance.

 The researchers recommend pregnant women take a number of measures to at least minimize risks. They suggest avoiding products with recyclable plastic that's labeled with the numbers 3, 6 or 7.

 The Environmental Working Group also recommends against using cleaning and cosmetic products that include "fragrance" on the list of ingredients, since that indicates the product may contain some hidden phthalates. Many companies are now labeling which of their products are “phthalate free.”

 The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

 Source: Jessica Firger, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/prenatal-exposure-to-common-chemicals-linked-to-lower-iq-in-children/

 http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/phthalates_factsheet.html

Your Child

Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later

A new report shows that preteens who were bullied persistently when they were younger are more to have hallucinations, delusions or other psychotic symptoms.A new report out on bullying shows that preteens who were bullied persistently when they were younger are more likely than others their age to have hallucinations, delusions or other psychotic symptoms. The study conducted by British researchers involved over 6,000 children who averaged just less than 13 years of age. Their parents had provided regular updates about the youngsters' health and development since birth and the children had undergone yearly physical and psychological assessments since age seven.

Almost half (46 percent) had experienced bullying at ages eight or 10. As they neared 13, about 14 percent of the children had broad psychosis-like symptoms, with one or more symptoms suspected or confirmed. 11 percent had intermediate symptoms (one or more symptoms suspected or present at times other than when going to sleep, waking from sleep during a fever or after substance use) and 6 percent had narrow symptoms (one or more symptoms confirmed). Children who were bullied at either ages eight or 10 were about twice as likely as other children to have psychotic symptoms. The risk was highest in preteens who had suffered chronic or severe bullying. The study appears in the May 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. "Whether repeated victimization experiences alter cognitive and affective processing or re-program stress response, or whether psychotic symptoms are more likely due to genetic predisposition still needs to be determined in further research," wrote the researchers. "A major implication is that chronic or severe peer victimization has non-trivial, adverse, long-term consequences," they wrote. "Reduction of peer victimization and the resulting stress caused to victims could be a worthwhile target for prevention and early intervention efforts for common mental health problems and psychosis."

Your Child

Unnecessary X-Rays for Kids

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Too many children are receiving unnecessary x-rays for symptoms such as vomiting, feeling ill and fainting says a new study from the Mayo Clinic.

"Chest X-rays can be a valuable exam when ordered for the correct indications. However, there are several indications where pediatric chest X-rays offer no benefit and likely should not be performed to decrease radiation dose and cost," said study author Dr. Ann Packard, a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Researchers looked at the reasoning behind 637 chest x-rays given to children from newborns to 17 years- old between 2008 and 2014. They found that 88 percent of the x-rays given to children did not have an impact on treatment they receive.

What kinds of symptoms were children displaying when they were given an x-ray?  Kids and infants had chest pain, fainting, dizziness, cyclical vomiting, and a general feeling of being unwell or under distress (spells). Another problem stated was a condition called "postural orthostatic hypotension," in which blood pressure drops suddenly when a person stands up after sitting or lying down.

X-rays are often given when a physician suspects someone may have pneumonia or a bronchial infection.

Thirty-nine of the x-rays for chest pain were positive for pneumonia, bronchial inflammation, trauma or other conditions, according to the findings scheduled for presentation in Chicago Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. But chest X-rays had no effect on treatment for any of the children with fainting, postural orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, spells or cyclical vomiting.

Radiation in children is a concern. Many pediatricians and experts recommend limiting the exposure to radiation in children when possible. These procedures can also be expensive for families.

"This study addresses both of these issues, which is important not only for physicians but also for young patients and their parents," Packard noted in a society news release.

"I would like this research to help guide clinicians and deter them from ordering unnecessary exams which offer no clinical benefit to the patient," she added.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

If a doctor recommends x-rays for your child, be sure and ask specifically why they believe the x-ray is needed and what impact they believe it will have on your child’s treatment.

Possible broken bones need x-rays, trouble breathing could need an x-ray to look for infection or pneumonia. Your doctor may have a perfectly sound reason for ordering an x-ray, but you may want to know ahead of time exactly what it will tell your physician before agreeing.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20141203/many-kids-exposed-to-unneeded-x-rays-study-finds

Your Child

Can Your Child Hear You?

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You may think your child isn’t listening to you, but in fact, he or she may not hear you.

Twelve percent of U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss – that’s about 5.2 million children – according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 U.S. children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

Many hearing experts have suspected that long-term hearing loss begins in childhood and now studies have shown how common hearing impairment is among kids.

"Historically, people have been looking only at adult hearing loss and assuming that this is not a problem among children," said Amanda Niskar, a nurse at the CDC and lead author of a study released last summer. "What we have found here for the first time is that this is not true. [Hearing loss] is a progression, and it starts when you're very young."

Some hearing experts say the problem of hearing loss in kids will likely worsen, considering rising levels of environmental noise.

One of the most common contributors to kid’s hearing loss is loud music. Regular exposure to loud noises can damage nerve cells in the ear called hair cells. As the name suggests, these cells have tiny hairs that detect sound vibrations and turn them into signals sent to the brain. But while soft noises only cause the hairs to vibrate, loud noises can break them.

Brief instances of exposure to loud noise may only temporarily damage these hairs. Niskar said two hours of loud music on headphones or seven minutes next to the speakers at a rock concert result in damage that may last for only a few days. However, chronic exposures can damage the hair cells — and hearing — permanently.

Loud toys can also cause hearing impairment. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLH) discusses toy noise on their website www.asha.org.

“Some toys are so loud that they can cause hearing damage in children. Some toy sirens and squeaky rubber toys can emit sounds of 90 dB, as loud as a lawn mower. Workers would have to wear ear protection for similarly noisy sounds on the job.

The danger with noisy toys is greater than the 90-dB level implies. When held directly to the ear, as children often do, a noisy toy actually exposes the ear to as much as 120 dB of sound, the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. Noise at this level is painful and can result in permanent hearing loss.

Toys that pose a noise danger include cap guns, talking dolls, vehicles with horns and sirens, walkie-talkies, musical instruments, and toys with cranks. Parents who have normal hearing need to inspect toys for noise danger.

Before purchasing a new toy, listen to it. If the toy sounds loud, don’t buy it.”

Good advice to help protect your child’s hearing.

What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in kids? Each child is different, but there are some symptoms such as:

Signs in Babies

•       Does not startle at loud noises.

•       Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age.

•       Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age.

•       Turns head when he or she sees you but not if you only call out his or her name. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.

•       Seems to hear some sounds but not others.

Signs in Children

•       Speech is delayed.

•       Speech is not clear.

•       Does not follow directions. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.

•       Often says, “Huh?”

•       Turns the TV volume up too high.

If you suspect your baby may have a hearing problem, make sure that he or she has a hearing screening. It’s easy and not painful. Older children should have their hearing tested before entering school any time there is a concern about the child’s hearing. Children who do not pass the hearing screening need to get a full hearing test as soon as possible.

With Christmas and holiday shopping in full swing, make sure to test the toys you buy for your child if they produce a noise and check to see that they are not too loud for your little one to be around.

Hearing loss can affect a child’s performance in school and personal relationships. If you have any suspicions that your child is having difficulty hearing the sooner he or she is checked, the better. There are many excellent therapies for hearing loss now as opposed to even a decade ago.

Sources: Dan Childs, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117355

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/facts.html

http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Noisy-Toys/

Your Child

Vaccine Proves Effective Against “Superbugs”

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A new study takes a deeper look at the benefits of the pneumococcal vaccine for children. The vaccine helps children avoid the suffering and danger of ear infections, meningitis and pneumonia.

The vaccine was first used in children in 2010. In this study, researchers found that not only are vaccinated children experiencing fewer infections, but they may also be protected from antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

Since the vaccine has been in use, it has been associated with a 62 percent reduction of drug-resistant infections of bacterial pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections for children under 5.

"The vaccine is an important tool against antibiotic resistance," said lead researcher Sara Tomczyk, an epidemic intelligence service officer in the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Along with appropriate antibiotic use, it is part of the solution to protecting ourselves against the growing threat of antibiotic resistance," she added.

As more and more adults and children overuse antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant bacteria become especially worrisome. Traditional drugs used to treat infections begin to have little effect on the bacteria. These “superbugs” can produce uncontrollable infection that can lead to death.

The good news is that the pneumococcal vaccine may have lessened the danger. According to Tomczyk, more than 4,400 cases of antibiotic-resistant, invasive pneumococcal disease were prevented between 2010 and 2013.

"Not only does this vaccine prevent pneumococcal infection, which means fewer antibiotics are prescribed, but it also prevents antibiotic-resistant infections," she added.

Although we’re not at 100 percent compliance, 85 percent of U.S. children are receiving the vaccine. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is given in four doses, at 2, 4 and 6 months of age and at 12 through 15 months.

Tomczyk said the vaccine has been so effective that the U.S. government's Healthy People 2020 goal of reducing bacteria-resistant pneumococcal disease from 9.3 to 6 cases per 100,000 children was achieved nine years early and has since dropped to 3.5 cases per 100,000.

The vaccine is not only recommended for children, but adults as well. One dose is recommended for all adults 65 and older, followed by a dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine six to 12 months later.

There are more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine protects against 13 of the most common severe pneumococcal infections among children, while the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, including those most likely to cause serious disease, which is why both are recommended for older adults.

Dr. Adriana Cadilla, a pediatrician at Miami Children's Hospital, said, "It's wonderful news that we have proof that the vaccine works as well as it does."

It has clearly reduced antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal disease, she added. "It seems to be doing a great job. It is something parents should make sure their children have."

The pneumococcal vaccine is currently recommended for all children age 5 and younger. Pneumococcal bacteria can cause ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis. It is the most common vaccine-preventable bacterial cause of death, the researchers noted.

Source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/news/20141010/common-childhood-vaccine-cuts-superbug-infection-study?

Your Child

Kid’s Cereals Packed with Artificial Dyes

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In general, the brighter the color in processed foods, the higher the amount of artificial dyes says a new study. Processed foods include, but are not limited to, cereals, candy and cakes; the mighty three Cs that children love.

Previous studies have suggested that some children may be sensitive to artificial coloring or the preservatives that often accompany it. Dyes have also been linked to inattention and hyperactivity.

For the new study, researchers bought and tested common processed foods to find out how much artificial coloring they included.

“Very few of these products were nutritious,” said Laura J. Stevens, who worked on the study at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The study noted that the amount certified of artificial dyes in processed foods has risen from 12mg/capita/d in 1950 to 62 mg/capita /d in 2010.

Children probably consume more of the heavily dyed foods, since bright colors appeal to kids, Stevens said.

Among popular children’s breakfast cereals, Fruity Cheerios, Trix and Cap’n Crunch OOPS! All Berries contained the most artificial dyes. These foods also had some of the highest sugar contents.

When you read the labels on some of these products you may see numbers after the dye such as: Red #40, Yellow #6, Yellow #5 or Blue #1. Numbered artificial colors are derived from petroleum, Stevens noted. Most of the brightly colored cereals contain numbered dyes. However, some cereals like Special K Red Berries and Berry Berry Kix were colored with strawberries or fruit juice and contained no artificial coloring.

Candies, cakes and colored icings also had large amounts of artificial dyes. M&M’s Milk Chocolate included almost 30 milligrams and a packet of original Skittles came in at 33 milligrams.

“Some white foods have dye, like marshmallows, and French dressing and cherry pie fillings actually had color enhancers too,” Stevens said.

She also noted “There are also dyes in pediatric medicines, personal care products, mouthwash and toothpaste”.

General Mills, Mars and the Grocery Manufacturers Association all responded to the report that the dyes they use are safe and within the bounds of current regulations. Each mentioned that the FDA has reviewed artificial dyes extensively and have affirmed their safety.

Many of the studies on artificial colors and behavioral problems were done decades ago and used dosages lower than what kids might actually be eating today, according to Joel Nigg. He studies attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

“The dosages were average at that time but weren’t very high by today’s standard,” Nigg told Reuters Health. “Many of the studies have found fairly small effects, but we may be underestimating compared to what children actually get these days.”

Some kids respond to higher amounts of dyes with inattention, hyperactivity, irritability, temper tantrums or trouble sleeping, but researchers don’t understand why or how, Stevens said.

Those behavioral problems don’t manifest in all kids, but tend to be more common among those who already have behavioral issues, like kids with ADHD.

Stevens recommends that parents read the labels of the food products they buy for their kids and avoid artificial colorings entirely. 

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/20/us-food-artificial-colors-idUSKBN0E01UR20140520

Your Child

New Retailers Added to Peanut Butter Recall

1.45 to read

A recent recall for peanut butter manufactured by Sunland Inc., and sold at Trader Joe’s, has expanded its list of grocery stores and nuts and butters. The peanut butter originally recalled is “Trader Joe’s Creamy Salted Peanut Butter.”

Sunland Inc. has widened its recall of peanut butter and almond butter to include cashew butters, tahini and blanched and roasted peanut products. The company, which sells its nuts and nut butters to large groceries and other food distributors around the country, recalled products under multiple brand names last month after salmonella illnesses were linked to Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter, one of the brands it manufactures.

In addition to Trader Joe's, the recall includes some nut butters and nut products sold at Whole Foods Market, Target, Safeway, Fresh & Easy, Harry and David, Sprouts, Heinen's, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, Giant Food of Landover, Md. and several other stores. Some of those retailers used Sunland ingredients in items they prepared and packaged themselves.

The FDA has listed product names in alphabetical order on their website at http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/CORENetwork/ucm320413.htm.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are now 30 salmonella illnesses in 19 states that can be traced to the Trader Joe's peanut butter. No other foods have been linked to the illnesses, but Sunland recalled other products manufactured on the same equipment as the Trader Joe's product.

Some of the brand names included in the recall are Target's Archer Farms, Safeway's Open Nature, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Late July, Heinen's, Joseph's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Peanut Power Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite Power, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprouts, Sunland and Dogsbutter.

Sunland's recall includes 101 products, and several retailers have issued additional recalls including items made with Sunland ingredients.

Almost two-thirds of people who reported being ill from the products, were children under the age of 10. Children are often given peanut butter as a healthy snack or treat.  

Those sickened reported becoming ill between, June 11 to September 11th.

The salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 hours to 72 hours after infection. It is most dangerous to children, the elderly and others with weak immune systems.

If you have one of these products, you can return it to the store where it was purchased, or you can throw it out.  If it in doubt, throw it out. Salmonella can make someone, especially a child, very ill.

Sources: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/peanut-butter-recall-includes-major-retailers/story?id=17370232#.UGsiJrQuqcM

http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/CORENetwork/ucm320413.htm.

Your Child

Sports Video Games May Help Kids Lose Weight

1.45 to read

Video games are often blamed for an increase in childhood obesity, but a new study suggests that certain types of games may actually assist kids in losing weight. Sports video games that require kids to actively participate may actually offer obese or overweight kids a new tool to help drop those extra pounds. 

The 16 - week study, sponsored by United Health Group, showed that overweight kids who expended energy by playing bowling, soccer or track and field video games, compared to those that simply followed a weight loss program, lost more than two and half times their Body Mass Index (BMI). That’s a pretty remarkable loss.

The study was based on a trial weight loss program that the United Health Group launched in 2011. The program is called Join for Me.

Join for Me borrows from the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, conducted by the National Institutes of Health. It demonstrated that healthy eating and regular exercise along with counseling were more effective than medication at preventing diabetes. The success of that study led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a similar 16-week program for adults in partnership with the YMCA and UnitedHealth. “Why not use the same winning formula?” says Deneen Vojta, a pediatrician in charge of clinical affairs at UnitedHealth, and a principal investigator on the JOIN for ME study.

Voita and other researchers decided to add sports video games to the weight loss program, hoping it would prod kids, ages 8 to 12, to increase their activity. Of the 75 kids in the program, 34 were given Microsoft’s Xbox 360 consoles and received two games, Kinnect Adventures and Kinnect Sorts.

Notably, children did not receive instructions on how long to use the games. Although Vojta doesn’t know whether the kids exercised the whole time in front of a screen, that group registered an additional 7.4 minutes a day in moderate to vigorous activity, which could translate into a yearly loss of four pounds of fat.

Although the results were impressive, two drawbacks remain; the games and console are expensive and kids often get bored with and tend to stop playing them after awhile.

Vojta is considering offering JOIN for ME online, which could lower costs, and make it more widely available. “No one believes that gaming 
is going to solve obesity,” she says.  “It’s a signal for the health care and gaming industries that although passive screen time contributed to obesity, it could contribute to a solution.”

These kinds of sports games are not a quick fix for kids who typically do not get much exercise, eat a diet high in calories and fat and are overweight or obese. However, entertaining video games that require active physical participation might be a good additional tool to help overweight children slim down. 

Source: Zina Moukheiber, http://www.forbes.com/sites/zinamoukheiber/2014/03/03/unitedhealth-study-shows-sports-video-games-help-children-lose-weight/

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