Your Child

Music Improves Kids' Memory and Reading Skills

2.00 to read

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

Exaggerated Praise May Backfire!

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In the last couple of decades, self-esteem has been a hot topic when it comes to kids. Entire school programs have been changed in order to boost student’s self-esteem. Trophies are given to children, not for actually excelling in a task, but for simply showing up, so that kid’s self-esteem won’t be damaged by having to endure a loss.  Children are constantly being told “good job” as well as receiving an enormous amount of praise for doing nothing more than being a typical kid.

There’s a lot of debate at the PTA and on the sports field over what “self-esteem” actually means. Self-esteem is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as (1) A confidence and satisfaction in oneself, (2) An exaggerated opinion of one’s own abilities. 

A new study says that parents of children with low self-esteem may want to pull back on the inflated praise because all the ego stroking may be doing more harm than good. Researchers found that children who have low self-esteem may actually achieve less when they receive too much praise.  The team said that children with high self-esteem who are constantly lauded thrive, but those with lower self-esteem tend to run away from new challenges.

“Inflated praise can backfire with those kids who seem to need it the most – kids with low self-esteem,” said Eddie Brummelman, lead author of the study that was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers said that inflated praise was characterized as containing an additional descriptive adjective. An example might be a parent telling their child “You’re incredibly perfect at that task!” Phrases like “You are good at this” were considered simple praise, but parents who said, “You’re incredibly good at this” were placed in the inflated praise category.

The study included 114 parents, 88 percent of whom were mothers. The parents participated in the study with their child, and before the study began the researchers used a test to determine the child’s self-esteem.

Parents administered 12 math exercises to their child for the study, and afterwards they scored how well their child did on the tests. The sessions were videotaped, and the researchers used these recordings to count how many times the parents praised their child.

Researchers found that parents of children in the low self-esteem group gave their children twice as much inflated praise than parents of the high self-esteem children.

The most common embellished praise statements included “You answered very fast!” and “Super good!” and “Fantastic!” The most common non-inflated praise statements were “You’re good at this” and “Well done!”

The team noted that parents praised their child an average of about 6 times during the session, and about 25 percent of that praise was inflated. 

“Parents seemed to think that the children with low self-esteem needed to get extra praise to make them feel better,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State. “It’s understandable why adults would do that, but we found in another experiment that this inflated praise can backfire in these children.”

So far it sounds like parents were just eager to assure their child that they were more than capable of handling the tasks. It’s something that many parents do almost out of habit. So, does all that extra praise really help?

In another experiment, 240 children were asked to draw a famous Vincent van Gogh painting and then received praise in the form of a note from someone identified as a professional painter. After the child received the note they were told to draw copies of other pictures that they could choose from. The children were given the option to either choose from pictures that were easy to do, or they could choose to draw more difficult pictures.

The team found after the second experiment that children with low self-esteem were more likely to choose the easier pictures if they received inflated praise in the note. Children with higher self-esteem were more likely to choose the more difficult pictures if they received inflated praise. Brummelman said children with low self-esteem may have gone for the easier challenge because they worry about meeting those high standards and decided not to take on any new challenges.

The lesson may be that children with low self-esteem need praise (like all of us), but require more realistic and simple praise.  They may feel like the inflated praise puts too high an expectation on them, while the simpler praise feels more authentic.

“It goes against what many people may believe would be most helpful,” Bushman said. “But it really isn’t helpful to give inflated praise to children who already feel bad about themselves.”

Source: Lee Rannals,  http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113038014/inflated-praise-not-beneficial-for-all-kids-010214/#pdGaJuceet6Y0ywu.99

Your Child

When Are Kids Ready to Stay Home Alone?

2.00 to read

There will come a time when your child is going to want to stay home alone whether it’s after school (or during school breaks), on the weekend or when mom and dad need to run errands or go on a much deserved date night.

How do you know when your child is ready to stay home alone? A lot depends on your child and their ability to take home-alone responsibility seriously.

Child experts generally agree that children should be at least eleven or twelve years old before parents consider leaving them without supervision, but there are other factors to consider as well. Is the neighborhood mostly a safe one? Are there neighbors that are around that can lend a hand during an emergency? Does your child know what to do if a stranger comes to the door or calls? Is your child generally responsible with such tasks as homework, chores, and day-to-day decisions?

Kids who are allowed to stay by them selves should be able to handle the following routine tasks:

  • Knows how to properly answer the telephone. Kids should never disclose to an unfamiliar voice that they are alone. An appropriate response would be: “My mom’s not able to come to the phone right now; can I take your number and have her get back to you?”
  • Knows what to do and who to call in the event of a fire, a medical crisis, a suspicious stranger at the door or other emergency. Teach your child the correct way to respond to each of these situations. Make sure emergency phone numbers are placed in easy to find areas such as on the refrigerator and by the phone. If your child uses a cell phone, have emergency numbers ready in “favorites” or together in a group contact page titled emergency. Go over all exits (including windows- make sure they can be opened quickly) in the house and be sure they know at least two escape routes from the home.
  • Knows where to find the first-aid supplies and how to handle basic
first aid (or whom to call) for cuts, scrapes, nosebleeds, minor burns and so on.
  • Knows where the breaker box is in the house and how to switch on and off an electrical circuit breaker or replace a fuse.
  • Knows where to find the shutoff valves on all toilets and sinks, as
well as the main water valve, in the event of a leak or overflowing toilet.
  • Knows how to put out a cooking fire. Keep baking soda, flour or a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Kids should be taught to never to throw water on a grease fire.
  • Knows how to contact you in an emergency.
  • Knows the names of his or her pediatrician or family doctor and the preferred family hospital.

Some of these ideas may seem like overkill for kids who may be staying by them selves for only a couple of hours, but knowing any of the undertakings listed above is helpful even when the whole family is home.

Before your child is allowed to go-it-alone for a bit, make sure they understand the rules and what you expect of them. Create a “contract” so there is no confusion or misunderstandings and have them read it and sign it. Contracts also work well when kids are learning to drive or when they get their first cell phone. It’s simply rules set in writing that outline expectations – as well as consequences when the rules are broken.

A few things to consider covering when setting rules are:

  • Is he/she allowed to have friends over? How many? Same-sex friends only?
  • Under what circumstances is he/she to answer the door? Or are they not to open the door at all?
  • Which activities are off-limits? For example, if your home is wired for cable television, are there channels he/she is prohibited from watching? (Parents who are not home in the afternoon might want to investigate purchasing parental-control tools for TVs and for computers linked to the Internet. Though by no means infallible, the “V-chip” and Web filters do enable you to choose the types of programming that come into your home).
  • Is he/she expected to complete her homework and/or certain chores before you get home? Try your best to contact your child while you are away, even if it’s only a brief conversation to find out how his or her day went. Kids should always be able to reach you or another responsible adult, either by phone, e-mail, text or pager.

As for parents, turn about is fair play. If you’re not going to be home when you say you are, let your child know and give them a time when they can expect you. While they may act all grown up because they have the run of the house, studies have shown that kids who are by them selves, even for short periods of time, can become anxious and overwhelmed especially if anything out of the ordinary happens.

These days there are plenty of temptations from the Internet, television programs, peers and social media that can get even a “good” kid in trouble, but that doesn’t mean they should be kept in a bubble. Children need to experience greater doses of independence as they get older, but they need to know the rules.

Summertime is when a lot of kids are going to experience being unsupervised for one reason or another. If your child is itching to go it alone, consider the above outline and how he or she typically handles responsibilities. You may decide it’s time to give it a try, or you may feel that they’re just not ready yet. Either way, you’ve given it serious consideration and know the time when they will have that opportunity is probably drawing near.

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Is-Your-Child-Ready-To-Stay-Home-Alone.aspx

Your Child

Are Overindulgent Parents Raising Narcissistic Kids?

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The authors of a new study say their research demonstrates that narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation: parents believing their child to be more special and more entitled than others. In contrast, high self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth: parents expressing affection and appreciation toward their child.

"It comes pretty naturally," said senior study author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. "Most parents think their children are special, and deserve better treatment. But when our children receive special treatment, they become narcissistic and come to believe they deserve more and are superior to others."

On the opposite end of the scale, researchers found that children raised in an atmosphere of simple parental warmth were more likely to have an appropriate level of self-esteem, but not narcissism.

"It's good to be a warm parent and a loving parent, but it's not OK to treat your children as if they are better than others," Bushman concluded. "Everyone we meet is better than us at something, and the fact that we're all human beings makes us equally valuable."

In the study, researchers evaluated 565 children aged 7 to 11 from middle-class neighborhoods in the Netherlands, along with their parents.

Parents and children answered a series of questions designed to assess a child's narcissism and self-esteem, as well as a parent's warmth and overvaluation of their child. Researchers administered the questionnaires four times over a period of 18 months.

The research team found that parents who overvalued their children -- reflected in statements such as "my child is more special than other children" -- did end up with children who were overly convinced of their own importance.

"I honestly believe one of the most dangerous beliefs that a person can have is that they are [more] superior than others," Bushman said. "When people think they are superior to others, they behave very badly. It's much better to treat everybody like we are all part of the human family, and are all worthy of respect."

The study did not prove that parents who idolize their children cause their child to be narcissistic; it only showed a link between the two.

Bushman believes that children should earn their rewards and not simply be given them.

"In America, we have it all backward. We assume if we boost our child's self-esteem, they'll behave well. We assume self-esteem is the panacea for every ill," he said. "Rather than boost self-esteem and hope our kids act well, we should wait for good behavior and then give them a pat on the back for that."

James Garbarino, senior faculty fellow at the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago, warned that parents who treat their children as though they walk on water are setting them up to sink like stones later in life.

"It's a good investment to temper narcissism, because otherwise you are setting your kids up for a big fall later in life," Garbarino said. "Eventually, life shows you that you're not that special. You've heard the saying, 'Time heals all wounds?' In this case, 'Time wounds all heels.' "

What is narcissism? Narcissism is an obsession with one’s self and an exaggerated sense of entitlement. A narcissistic personality seeks attention constantly and considers themselves better than others. When they feel humiliated, they can lash out aggressively or even violently. They set unrealistic goals and often take advantage of others to achieve those goals.

An appropriate amount of self-esteem comes and goes in cycles. It’s a child’s sense of worth and belonging. Family, friends, failure, skills and accomplishments play a large role in the building and re-building of self-esteem. A child is better able to achieve a healthy dose of self-esteem when parents offer realistic support and respect in their child’s struggles. Self-esteem can also come from helping others.

As parents, most of us believe that our children are indeed special – that’s a normal parental outlook. This study however, looks at the type of parent that believes his or her child is not only special (in their eyes) but should also be seated far above all others. The kind of parenting that teaches a child that everything they desire should be given to them even at the risk of hurting others. 

The study was published in the March online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 Sources: Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20150309/overindulgent-parents-may-breed-narcissistic-children

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/narcissistic-personality-disorder

Your Child

Could More Dietary Fiber Reduce Food Allergies?

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In the never–ending search for an answer as to why more Americans – from children to adults- are experiencing food allergies, several new studies suggest that the culprit could be too little fiber in our diets.  

According to the non-profit organization, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 15 million Americans have food allergies. That’s a 50 percent increase from 1997 to 2011. About 90 percent of people with food allergies are allergic to one of eight types of foods; peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs, milk, shellfish and fish. 

So, what is going on that so many people are suffering from food allergies, particularly children? That’s what researchers around the world are trying to find out.  Many studies are beginning to suggest that it’s not just one thing but a combination of factors.

A lack of dietary fiber in the diet may be one of those factors. The notion is based on the idea that bacteria in the gut have the enzymes needed to digest dietary fiber, and when these bacteria break down fiber, they produce substances that help to prevent an allergic response to foods, said Charles Mackay, an immunologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

So far, the research related to this idea has been done mainly in mice, and dietary factors are unlikely to be the sole explanation for why allergy rates have skyrocketed, researchers say. But if the results were to be replicated in human studies, they would suggest that promoting the growth of good gut bacteria could be one way to protect against, and possibly even reverse, certain allergies, researchers say.

The modern western diet, high in fat, sugar and refined carbs seems to produce a different kind of bacteria in the gut that may be liked to food allergies.  Fiber such as beans, whole grains, nuts, berries, vegetables and brown rice promote the growth of a class of bacteria called Clostridia, which break down fiber and are some of the biggest producers of byproducts called short-chain fatty acids.

In a 2011 study in the journal Nature, researchers found that these short-chain fatty acids normally prevent gut cells from becoming too permeable, and letting food particles, bacteria or other problematic compounds move into the blood.

An overabundance of antibiotic use may also be contributing to food allergies. Not only are people being over-prescribed, we may also be getting extra doses in some of our foods.

Antibiotics, which are widely used in agriculture and for treating ear infections in babies and toddlers, kill the bacteria in the gut. So the combination of antibiotics and low-fiber diets may be a "double whammy," that predisposes people to allergic responses, notes said Cathryn Nagler, a food allergy researcher at the University of Chicago.

The new findings also suggest a way to prevent, or possibly even reverse some allergies. For instance, allergy treatments could use probiotics that recolonize the gut with healthy forms of Clostridia, Nagler said.

In fact, in a small study published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that children with peanut allergies who received probiotics were able to eat the nut without having an allergic reaction, and their tolerance to peanuts persisted even after the treatment.

Many factors may contribute to the rise in food allergies, said Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. Epidemiological studies have found that having pets, going to day care, having a sibling, being born vaginally and even washing dishes by hand can affect the risk of allergies.

As more and more research is being conducted on food allergies, a bigger picture is starting to emerge about possible causes. Pediatricians and family physicians are keeping a close eye on the new findings to better help their patients. Some of those findings are changing the way physicians are treating food allergies.

For years, doctors told parents of children at a high risk of developing allergies to wait until the children were 3 years old before giving them peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods, Wood said.

"We really thought we knew what we were doing, and it turns out it was 100 percent wrong," Wood said.

If your child suffers from food allergies, you might want to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about adding more dietary fiber or probiotics to your child’s diet. However, it’s not recommended that you “experiment” on your own because some children’s health problems can be made worse from probiotic use or too much fiber. Be sure and check with your doctor first.

Sources: Tia Ghose, http://www.livescience.com/50046-fiber-reduce-allergies.html

http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

Your Child

A Little Sugar and Higher Fat In School Lunches?

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Should sugar and fat be included in your child’s school lunch meal? In an effort to curb obesity in children, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has frequently urged parents and schools to restrict these 2 ingredients and find healthier substitutes.

In a new policy statement, the AAP is asking parents and schools to take a broader approach to kid’s nutrition. What the AAP would like to see instead of focusing on specific foods is the emphasis placed on the child’s overall diet. 

"A good diet is built on highly nutritious foods from each of the main food groups," said Robert Murray, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, "Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools," published in the latest journal of Pediatrics. "No ingredient should be banned. A small amount of sugar or fat is ok if it means a child is more likely to eat foods that are highly nutritious."

In the last 20 years, improvements have gradually been implemented in school lunch programs with more lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains replacing high fat meats and nutritionally deprived starches and sweets.

In that effort, national standards now limit the type of foods and drinks that are sold in schools.  As of 2014, 92 percent of school districts reported meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal standards released in 2012.

While some parents and school boards have objected to the required changes, most schools have moved forward using creative culinary skills and producing healthier meals that taste good and in some cases, use locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Parents can always choose to pack a lunch at home for their child to take to school and many do. They know what foods their children are more likely to eat and they make an effort to provide a nutritional alternative to the school lunch. Sometimes however, parents pack high-calorie meals that are way over the daily sodium and fat recommendations for a child.   

The AAP believes there is an opportunity to help all parents or guardians make better choices for their child’s home-made lunches by offering a five-step approach in selecting food for packed lunches and social events:

•       Select a mix of foods from the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and quality protein sources, including lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs).

•       Offer a variety of food experiences.

•       Avoid highly processed foods.

•       Use small amounts of sugar, salt, fats and oils with highly nutritious foods to enhance enjoyment and consumption.

•       Offer appropriate portions.

"Children, like adults, often want their own preferred flavors and textures during meals and snacks," Dr. Murray said. "It's no secret that brown sugar on oatmeal, or salad dressing with cut vegetables, can make these healthy foods more palatable to children, and increase their consumption. This is not a license to give kids anything they want; we just need to use sugar, fat and sodium strategically."

The Internet is full of websites that offer great recipes and suggestions for kid's healthy lunches. You can review the sites, check out the ingredients and decide which ones fit your lifestyle and time schedule.

A little added sugar or fat is not a problem as long as the child is getting a well-balanced meal. The key (as with everything) is moderation.

Source: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Recommends-Whole-Diet-Approach-to-Children's-Nutrition.aspx

Your Child

Promising New Peanut Allergy Patch

1:30

Peanut allergies can be life-threatening for some children, but a new “peanut patch” may be the solution their parents have been searching for.

The small skin patch – known as Viaskin® Peanut -is applied to the child’s skin and appears to offer safe and effective protection against this serious condition.

“This is exciting news for families who suffer with peanut allergies because Viaskin represents a new treatment option for patients and physicians,” study author Hugh A. Sampson, a doctor at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai, said in a statement.

Based on the principle of epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), the patch delivers small doses of peanut proteins when placed on patients’ skin.

The team of researchers completed a double blind, placebo-controlled randomized Phase IIb trial in which 221 individuals with peanut allergies underwent the therapy for a year.

The patch exposed patients to a small dose of peanut protein, ranging from 50 to 250 micrograms, for the course of the study.

The 250 µg peanut patch shows the most promise for researchers. “After one year of therapy, half of the patients treated with the 250 micrograms patch tolerated at least 1 gram of peanut protein – about four peanuts —which is 10 times the dose that they tolerated in their entry oral peanut challenge,” Sampson explained.

Compliance was greater than 95% and less than 1% of the participants dropped out of the study due to adverse symptoms. In fact, there were no serious adverse reactions related to the patch treatment.

Overall, children treated with the larger patch experienced a robust increase (19 fold) in peanut-specific IgG4 levels, the antibody associated with protection following immunotherapy.

“EPIT appears safe, well tolerated and effective. That’s good news for families who suffer from food allergies,” Sampson said.

While the results are promising, researchers will continue to follow the participants for another year. It could be several more years before the patch become available for consumers, but there is hope on the horizon.

Source: http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/news-releases/peanut-patch.aspx

Justin Worland, http://time.com/3718529/peanut-patch-allergy/

Your Child

Unnecessary X-Rays for Kids

1:45

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

Antibiotics Often Prescribed When Not Needed

2.00 to read

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

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