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

Caregiving Tasks Are Too Much for Young Children

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It’s not uncommon for children of aging parents to feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caregiving. Studies have shown that the “sandwich generation” – adults trying to raise a family while caring for their parents – is just about stretched to their limits dealing with stress and economic struggles.

While adults may be having a hard time figuring out how to juggle all the demands on their time and resources, a new study looks at the impact on children who have had to take on a similar role as a caregiver.

An astounding 1.3 million American children and teens are caring for family members with physical or mental illness or substance abuse problems, and these children are at risk for poor health and school failure themselves according to the study.

This "hidden population" of young caregivers suffers physical and emotional stress due to their caregiving duties, wrote study author Dr. Julia Belkowitz, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

For this study, Belkowitz and her team studied youth caregivers in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Interestingly, the group of children mirrored the adult population of caregivers, with more females carrying the load than males. The average age was 12 years old, with 63 percent being girls and 37 percent boys.

When surveyed, the children reported that they spent an average of two hours each school day and four hours each weekend day doing caregiver tasks at home. Their family members said the children spent less than that amount of time caregiving. They estimated the children spent 1.5 hours a day on weekdays and 2.75 hours a day on weekends doing caregiver tasks.

The children’s tasks included helping family members with getting around, eating, dressing, bathing, using the toilet, and continence care. The youth caregivers also kept the family members company and offered emotional support, gave medications, translated during medical visits, handled medical equipment at home, cleaned the house and did grocery shopping.

"This study is an important step toward raising awareness about the issue of caregiving youth," Belkowitz said.

She and her colleagues worked on the study with the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY).

"Today in the U.S., there are many more than the 1.3 million children identified in 2005 who face the challenges of juggling adult-sized responsibilities of caring for ill, injured, aging or disabled family members while trying to keep up at school," Connie Siskowski, founder and president of AACY, said in the news release.

For many families, asking young children to help with caregiving may seem like the only option. This is particularly true for single parent families with no relatives nearby or two parent families that each have demanding or time consuming jobs. However, young caregivers pay a high price when asked to take over adult responsibilities. They may take extra time off from school, feel tired or overly stressed and not take the time to be with friends in an environment where they can just be kids or teens.

Parents needing caregiver help should look to other resources for assistance. While a parent might be reluctant to ask for help – fearing that certain services might try to interfere - it might be the only way to make life easier for you and your family.

The website www.aacy.org offers this advice: “If you want advice that is guaranteed to be private, use an anonymous telephone helpline or search for advice on the internet. Remember, most services and organizations that help people will only consider breaking confidentiality if they think it is the only way to keep someone safe. The Data Protection Act says that they must keep your personal information private unless you give them permission to share it or there is a very good reason for sharing it, such as keeping someone safe from harm.

If you have a disability, illness or substance misuse problem, you may be able to get an assessment of your needs from a social worker. An assessment is not a test of whether you are a good parent or not, it is a way of finding out what you and your family need to stay well. During an assessment, a social worker or sometimes a health worker will talk to you in private about your health problem and what help you need.”

This study was presented recently at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in San Diego. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Sources: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/senior-citizen-information-31/caregiving-news-728/young-caregivers-at-risk-for-failing-in-school-study-shows-692430.html

http://www.aacy.org

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

Reducing the Spread of Enterovirus-D68 in Children

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While the first case of Ebola in the U.S. has captured the headlines, another virus that is actually having an impact on our kids, is picking up steam across the country.

43 states and the District of Columbia have reported over 500 confirmed cases of Enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68).

The virus was first isolated in1962 in California and had been considered a rather rare virus with only small pockets of cases reported regularly to the CDC since 1987. However, this year the number of cases is increasing rapidly

There has been one confirmed death from the virus: a four year-old boy from New Jersey. Four other deaths have been linked to EV-D68, but it’s still unclear whether the children actually died from the virus or whether there was an underlying condition that caused their death.

One thing the experts agree on is that the number of cases this year is higher and more severe than in other years. Health officials are also trying to determine if the virus is associated with cases of muscle weakness or paralysis that have struck 10 children in the Denver area. Similar cases have been reported in Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri.

Infants, children and teenagers are the most likely to become infected with the enterovirus. It’s spread like any other virus; an infected person sneezes, coughs or touches a surface.

Doctors want parents to know that children with asthma or breathing problems are at risk for the more severe symptoms from EV-D68.

"Children with pre-existing lung conditions, such as asthma, appear to be at the greatest risk for severe symptoms from this virus. Most EV-D68 infected children recover without serious illness," Dr. Albert Rizzo, senior medical advisor at the American Lung Association, said in a news release.

Most children will recover from EV-D68 just as they would from any other cold-related virus, but there are symptoms- that if present- need immediate attention.

"It is important for parents to understand that children with this infection who have asthma or a history of wheezing episodes are at higher risk for increased symptoms of shortness of breath and wheezing and are more likely to need specific treatment to address this problem. This means quick contact with their pediatrician or family doctor and even a trip to the emergency room, or a call to 911 is appropriate if respiratory distress is present," Rizzo advised.

At this time there is no vaccine for EV-D68, but there are actions that adults and children can take to help prevent infection. They are:

·      Washing hands often with soap and water, for 20 seconds each time.

·      Not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

·      Avoiding contact such as kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups and glasses with people who are sick.

·      Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

You can also check with your child’s school or daycare center about what actions are being taken to help prevent the spread of colds and viruses.

Earlier in the virus season, there was not as much concern about EV-D68 in the medical community because it was considered a rare virus that would likely be contained, just like in past years. However, this year is proving to be different than expected and doctors are now warning parents to keep a closer eye on their children’s symptoms if they are sick, especially if any breathing difficulties arise. It’s much better to get checked out as far as this virus is concerned.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/experts-give-advice-on-respiratory-virus-that-has-struck-kids-across-the-u-s-692372.html

http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/EV-D68.html

Your Child

Antibiotics Often Prescribed When Not Needed

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By now, most parents understand that antibiotics are not effective for viral infections, only for illnesses caused by bacteria.

However, that hasn’t deterred many physicians from over-prescribing antibiotics for children with ear and throat infections.

More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to researchers from University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital. This excess antibiotic use not only fails to eradicate children's viral illnesses, researchers said, but also supports the dangerous evolution of bacteria toward antibiotic resistance.

"I think it's well-known that we prescribers overprescribe antibiotics, and our intent was to put a number on how often we're doing that," said study author Dr. Matthew Kronman, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Seattle Children's Hospital.

"But as we found out, there's really been no change in this [situation] over the last decade," added Kronman. "And we don't have easily available tools in the real-world setting to discriminate between infections caused by bacteria or viruses."

 Doctors have limited resources when it comes to differentiating between bacterial or viral infections. Physicians can use the rapid step test to determine if the streptococcus bacteria is the cause of a child’s sore throat, but that is about it for immediate diagnostic tools.

Most colds are virus related and one of the first symptoms will be a sore or scratchy throat. It will typically go away after the first day or so and other cold symptoms will continue. Strep throat is often more severe and persistent.

A virus often causes ear infection as well. Many doctors treat ear infections as though they are bacterial to be on the safe side and avoid serious middle ear infections.

To determine antibiotic prescribing rates, Kronman and his colleagues analyzed a group of English-language studies published between 2000 and 2011 and data on children 18 and younger who were examined in outpatient clinics.

Based on the prevalence of bacteria in ear and throat infections and the introduction of a pneumococcal vaccine that prevents many bacterial infections, the researchers estimated that about 27 percent of U.S. children with infections of the ear, sinus area, throat or upper respiratory tract had illnesses caused by bacteria.

But antibiotics were prescribed for nearly 57 percent of doctors' visits for these infections, the study found.

Kronan hopes that the study’s results will encourage the development of more diagnostic tools and will spur doctors to think more critically about prescribing antibiotics unless clearly needed.

Previous research has shown that parents often pressure their doctor to prescribe an antibiotic to treat their child’s ear or sore throat symptoms. However, when parents are given other suggestions on how to alleviate the symptoms they have been much more receptive than when their doctor just flat out says he won’t prescribe antibiotics.

Many physicians and researchers are concerned that the amount of antibiotics being prescribed these days is setting us all up for future problems when dealing with bacterial infections. Bacteria are adaptable and mutate over time becoming less responsive to antibiotics. When possible, it’s much healthier in the long run to treat your child’s symptoms with simpler therapies. Ask your physican ways you can make your little one more comfortable until the symptoms pass. 

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Maureen Salamon, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/antibiotics-news-30/antibiotics-prescribed-twice-as-often-as-needed-in-children-study-says-691686.html

Your Child

Bounce House Safety

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For many young kids, bounce houses are magical places where you can vault through the air, land on a pillow and take flight again.  They’ve become a very hot item for kid’s parties and backyard play areas. Many clubs, schools and organizations use them for fundraising.

While they can be great fun under the right circumstances, the rise in injuries to young children has increased an astonishing 1500 percent from 1995 to 2010.  In 2012, a team led by the Center for Injury Research and Policy published the first comprehensive study of such injuries in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers found that 31 children per day were seen in emergency departments for “an inflatable bouncer-related injury.”

On average, they found that the patient was about seven years old, and most commonly sustained some kind of fracture or sprain to a leg or an arm. Almost 20% of the cases involved head and neck injuries. Kids usually got hurt while falling inside the bouncer—rather than out of it—often into another kid of a different size.

Bounce houses and moonwalks have grown in popularity over the last two decades and can now be purchased at stores like Costco and Sam’s. These DYI items are typically not as well made as commercial houses and do not come with anchors that are long and strong enough to withstand robust winds.

Because bounce houses have become so popular, there are a lot more amusement rental companies sprouting up. Drew Tewksbury, a senior vice president at insurance broker Britton Gallagher, developed an insurance program for amusement rentals like bounce houses. He says that trying to set up such playthings without professional operators and attendants is a “recipe for disaster.” He also says that the question of liability is always determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on where the bouncy house is, who set it up, whether waivers were signed and whether instructions were followed.

Currently there are voluntary guidelines for how to set up and operate a bounce house set out by ASTM International. Nearly 20 states, Tewksbury says, have passed legislation making those guidelines mandatory, rules that cover everything from the number of attendants one must have present to how deeply stakes must be pounded into the ground and how strong winds can be before all children are forced to get out.

If you’re considering renting or purchasing a bounce house for your child, there are safety guidelines set by the Child Injury Prevention Alliance that should be applied.

Injury prevention tips:

  • Limit bouncer use to children 6 years of age and older.
  • Only allow a bouncer to be used when an adult trained on safe bouncer use is present.
  • The safest way to use a bouncer is to have only one child on it at a time.
  • If more than one child will be on the bouncer at the same time, make sure that the children are about the same age and size (weight).

Proper use:

  • Take off shoes, eyeglasses and jewelry and remove all sharp objects from your pockets before entering the bouncer.
  • No rough play, tumbling, wrestling or flips. Stay away from the entrance or exit and the sides or walls of the bouncer while you are inside of it.
  • If the bouncer begins to lose air, stop play and carefully exit the bouncer.

Two recent bounce house events have brought home how quickly fun can turn into tragedy.  In mid-May, New York kindergartners playing inside a bounce house, were suddenly tossed 15 feet into the air when the bounce house was picked up by a strong gust of wind. Three children were injured, two seriously. A similar incident occurred in Colorado where two children were also injured.

Despite what may seem like a new rash of freak accidents, children with bounce-house injuries have been regular customers in the nation’s emergency rooms for years—and they’re only getting more frequent. Safety experts have been arguing for years that tougher safety guidelines need to be in place.

When the weather turns warm and school is out, bounce houses and moonwalk rentals and purchases increase.  If you’re thinking about one of these for your kids this summer, make sure that there is a well trained attendant on site and follow the Child Injury Prevention Alliance’s guidelines. If the wind picks while your child is in a bounce house, have them get out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Sources: Kate Steinmetz, http://time.com/2811240/bounce-house-injuries-become-an-epidemic/

http://www.childinjurypreventionalliance.org/inflatablebouncers.aspx

Your Child

Kids Are Consuming Way Too Much Salt

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I don’t think it’s any surprise that American kids are getting way too much salt in their diets. It’s hard for adults to monitor their sodium intake even when they are making an effort, and most kids don’t give a second thought about how much sodium is in that slice of pizza they’re eating.

If children aren’t thinking about their salt intake, their parents should be paying attention to how much their kids are consuming according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The reason is that too much daily sodium could be setting their children up for serious health problems as they get older.

The CDC report found that more than 90 percent of American children – ages 6 to 18-ingest too much sodium daily.

Those children eat an average of about 3,300 mg of sodium daily even before salt is added at the table, according to the CDC study based on national surveys in 2009 and 2010. That exceeds dietary guidelines calling for less than 2,300 mg per day.

The CDC noted that one in six young Americans already has elevated blood pressure - a condition closely linked to high sodium intake and obesity that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Where is all this sodium coming from? Mostly from the 10 most popular types of food. Here’s the list:

  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches like cheeseburgers
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Pasta with sauce
  • Cheese
  • Salty snacks like potato chips
  • Chicken nuggets and patties
  • Tacos and burritos
  • Breads
  • Soup

"Most sodium is from processed and restaurant food, not the saltshaker," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. "Reducing sodium intake will help our children avoid tragic and expensive health problems."

The largest single servings of sodium occur at dinnertime, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the daily intake.

Where else are kids getting too much sodium? The report said that 65 percent comes from food bought in stores - where salt is already added in the products. 13 percent are getting sodium from meals at fast food restaurants and 9 percent from meals at school.

According to the CDC report, teens are ahead of younger children when it comes to too much daily salt.

Researchers said that there is a need to reduce sodium intake “across multiple foods, venues and eating occasions.” Since so much food is bought at grocery stores, processed foods should have less sodium, the study noted.

Many food distributers have started reducing the amount of sodium they put in their products, but increase the amount of sugar to add more flavor.

The best option for reducing daily sodium to healthier levels is to avoid processed foods and replace them with fresh meats, poultry and vegetables when possible. If you tend to use frozen meats or poultry, rinse them after defrosting to get rid of some of the extra salt they are soaked in before freezing.

Source: Letitia Stein, Will Dunham, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/09/us-usa-health-sodium-idUSKBN0H423M20140909

Your Child

Are You Making Your Child More Anxious?

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When a child shows that he or she is anxious or in distress, a natural response is for a parent to want to remove whatever is causing the discomfort. However, according to a new study, it may not be the best reaction for your child in the long run.

Researchers call it the “protection trap.” Basically it means smothering children with too much attention or making the menace go away.

The research showed that certain parental coddling behaviors might actually boost anxiety in a child, although the study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"We found evidence that when parents try to help their anxious children they do a lot of things," said study co-author Armando Pina, an associate professor of child developmental psychology at Arizona State University. "Some of them are good, like promoting courage with warmth and kindness. Others are less helpful, like promoting avoidance by overprotecting, which many times leads to more anxiety."

Other experts have also weighed in on this topic.

"Left untreated, anxiety disorders in youth are associated with greater risk for other psychological problems such as depression and substance use problems," said Donna Pincus, director of research at the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University. Anxiety problems can also disrupt families and cause kids to perform worse in school, she added.

So what should a parent do or not do?

"When children are in distress or upset they need parental comfort, reassurance and extra love. This is good," said study lead author Lindsay Holly, a graduate student at Arizona State University. "Sometimes, however, parents end up providing excessive reassurance and doing things for the child, like making excuses for why a child who is anxious in social situations won't go to a birthday party or talking for the child by ordering at restaurants."

Here’s how the study was conducted.

Researchers examined the results of a survey of 70 kids aged 6 to 16 who were treated for anxiety and/or depression at a clinic. The kids were equally divided among boys and girls and among whites and Hispanic/Latinos.

The investigators found that some kids were more likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms if their parents reinforced or punished their anxiety through various approaches. Among the two ethnic groups, "the only difference was that Latino parents seemed to attend more frequently to their children's anxiety," Holly said.

Pina noted that previous research has indicated that a certain kind of therapy can help kids become less anxious and more resilient by teaching the importance of facing fears. One of the goals of the therapy is to teach parents how to promote courage in the kids through a combination of warmth and kindness, Pina said.

Some experts believe that by exposing children to anxious situations in a controlled, supportive environment, they can learn how to handle their anxiety better.

Holly suggests that parents encourage their children "to do brave things that are small and manageable." A child who's afraid of speaking in public, for instance, might be urged to answer a question about whether they want fries with their meal at a restaurant.

While every child is going to be anxious at one time or another, a more difficult situation is when children suffer from an anxiety disorder. That is a more serious problem where someone experiences fear, nervousness, and shyness so much so that they start to avoid places and activities.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. Anxiety disorder often shows up alongside other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and ADHD.

The good news is that with treatment and support, a child can learn how to successfully manage the symptoms and live a normal childhood.

The study conducted at Arizona State University, looked at typical child anxieties and how parent’s interactions either helped or prolonged the anxiousness.

The study was published recently in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development.

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/overprotective-parenting-could-worsen-kids-anxiety/

http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/childhood-anxiety-disorders

Your Child

Study: Children May Benefit From Probiotics

The study published by the journal Pediatrics, says that when probiotics are given to children, who are otherwise healthy but are suffering with diarrhea from a viral infection, the duration of the illness is shortened. The review also found that probiotics may help prevent diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics.A new study suggests that giving probiotics to children with diarrhea, from a viral infection, can shorten the illness.

A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that probiotics, “good” bacteria that colonize in the gut and may help improve digestion, immune defense and even metabolism, can have certain health benefits for some children. The study published by the journal Pediatrics, says that when probiotics are given to children, who are otherwise healthy but are suffering with diarrhea from a viral infection, the duration of the illness is shortened. The review also found that probiotics may help prevent diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics. The AAP stopped short of recommending that probiotics be added to children's formula, and warned that the live microorganisms should not be given to seriously ill children with weakened immune systems or who use intravenous catheters because serious infections have been reported. There's also not enough data to recommend probiotics to kids for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease, or to prevent asthma or eczema in children, the AAP reports. Future research may find more benefits, the report says. And "prebiotics," which contain fiber and other nutrients that feed probiotic bacteria, also may someday prove helpful. The bacteria in the products are only helpful if they're alive. "Consumers should keep in mind that a large percentage of organisms in a probiotic supplement may die before the product is even purchased and labels can be misleading or incorrect," said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, which tests products and reports on their quality. The company tested probiotic supplements last year. Two children's probiotics contained only 7 percent and 21 percent of the listed amounts. Cooperman suggested that products be stored in sealed containers out of heat, light and humidity. He said it's best to refrigerate them.

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