Your Child

Is Autism On The Rise?

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Autism in the U.S. has increased by about 25% since 2006 according to a new report issued by The Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).  It has nearly doubled from the CDC report released in 2002. That means for every 88 children, 1 has autism or a related disorder.

The report notes that boys are almost five times more likely to have autism than girls. Currently, 1 in 54 boys have an autism spectrum disorder. The number of girls is 1 in 252.

"One thing the data tells us with certainty - there are many children and families who need help," CDC Director Thomas Frieden said at a press conference.

The spike in numbers begs the question; Are parents, teachers, pediatricians and general health care providers better able to diagnose the disorder - thus more cases are being reported, or are the number of new autism cases actually increasing? 


When asked about this during the news conference, CDC's Frieden pointed out that "doctors have gotten better at diagnosing the condition and communities have gotten better at providing services, so I think we can say it is possible that the increase is the result of better detection."

Advocates for people with autism nevertheless seized on the new data to call for more research to identify the causes of autism-spectrum disorder and for more services for those affected by it.

"This is a national emergency and it's time for a national strategy," said Mark Roithmayr, president of the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks. He called for a "national training service corps" of therapists, caregivers, teachers and others who are trained to help children with autism.

"Inevitably when these statistics come out, the question is, what is driving the increase?" said Roithmayr. Better diagnoses, broader diagnostic criteria and higher awareness, he estimated, account for about half the reported increase.

The new analysis from the CDC comes from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which currently operates at sites in 14 states.

To determine whether a child has autism or a related disorder, what CDC calls "clinician reviewers" examined the medical and school records of 337,093 eight-year-olds in those states in 2008 and conducted screenings. Children, whose records included either an explicit notation of autism-spectrum disorder or descriptions of behavior consistent with it, were counted as falling on the autism spectrum.

The prevalence of autism in the states monitored by CDC varied widely, from a high of one in 47 in Utah to one in 210 in Alabama. Experts said that variation likely reflected differences in awareness of the disorder among parents, teachers and even physicians, as well as differences in the availability of services, rather than any true "hot spots" of autism.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines autism spectrum disorder  (ASD) as a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Although the disorder can be mild or severe, in general children with autism have difficulty communicating and making friends. Many find it painful to look other people in the eyes - which can impair their ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

There are no medical tests that can identify autism. Brain imaging, blood tests or other rigorously objective diagnostics cannot give a patient a verifiable result one way or the other. Instead, physicians determine whether someone fits the criteria laid out in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM. Someone must meet at least 8 out of 16 standards of criteria, including symptoms involving social interaction, communication, and repetitive or restricted behaviors and interests.

The manual has undergone significant changes over the years causing some to question whether the updated criteria may be the reason for the increased cases. Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a professor of psychology and autism researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and others have cited these changes to question the reality of the reported autism increase.

At this point in time, no one knows what actually causes autism. Some scientists believe that environmental factors may play a role. Scientists had long estimated that 90 percent of autism risk was genetic and 10 percent reflected environmental factors. But a 2011 study of twins by scientists at Stanford University concluded that genes account for 38 percent of autism risk and environmental factors 62 percent. 

Exactly what those factors are, however, remains the subject of intense research, with two large studies funded by the National Institutes of Health examining everything from what the mother of a child with autism ate during her pregnancy to what cleaners were in the house and what pollutants were in the dust.

"There is not a clear front-runner" among possible environmental causes of autism, said Craig Newschaffer, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Drexel University School of Public Health and lead investigator of one of the NIH-sponsored studies.

There is, however, what he called "good evidence" that any environmental culprit is present during the second or third trimester, the peak of synapse formation. Scientists believe that faulty brain wiring underlies autism.

Other factors investigated were the use of anti-depressants by pregnant women, older women becoming pregnant, and the rise in pre-term and low-birth weight babies.

Even as experts disagree on whether the reported increase in the prevalence is real and what causes the disorder, there is a clear consensus that "the earlier a child is diagnosed the more he will benefit from interventions," Dr. Coleen Boyle, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities said during the news conference.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children be screened for autism at 18 months and again at 24 months.

Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development — social interaction, language and behavior. But because autism symptoms vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. In most cases, though, severe autism is marked by a complete inability to communicate or interact with other people.

Symptoms to look for include:

Social skills

- Fails to respond to his or her name

- Has poor eye contact

- Appears not to hear you at times

- Resists cuddling and holding

- Appears unaware of others' feelings

- Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her "own world"


-Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months

- Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences

- Doesn't make eye contact when making requests

- Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech

- Can't start a conversation or keep one going

- May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them


- Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping

- Develops specific routines or rituals

- Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals

- Moves constantly

- May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car

      - May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to   pain.



Your Child

Your Child's Eyes

Good vision is key to a child’s physical development, success in school and overall well-being. From birth through the teen years, a child’s eyesight can change remarkably. Your Pediatrician can keep you informed on signs of normal or abnormal visual development.

The vision system is not fully formed in babies and young children, and equal input from both eyes is necessary for the brain’s vision centers to develop normally. If a young child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may be limited in ways that can never be reversed. But if problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat them effectively. At one month your baby still can’t see very clearly beyond 12 inches (30.4 cm) or so, but he or she will closely study anything within this range: the corner of the crib, toys attached to the side rail, or the shapes of mobile dangling above the crib. The human face is a baby’s favorite image however. Your baby’s distance vision also is developing at this time. You may notice at three months that your baby is smiling at you halfway across the room, or studying a toy several feet away. By four months, you’ll catch your baby staring at the distant wall hanging or looking out the window. These are clues that the baby’s distance vision is developing properly. Newborn. All infants before discharge from the hospital should have their eyes checked in the newborn nursery for infections, defects, cataracts, or glaucoma. This is especially true for premature infants, infants who were given oxygen, and infants with multiple medical problems. 6 months of age. Pediatricians should screen infants at their well-baby visits to check for proper eye health, vision development, and alignment of the eyes. 3 to 4 years of age. All children should have their eyes and vision checked for any abnormalities that may cause problems with later development. 5 years of age and older. Your pediatrician should check your child's vision in each eye separately every year. If a problem is found during routine eye exams, your pediatrician may have your child see a pediatric ophthalmologist, an eye doctor trained and experienced in the care of children's eye problems. Your pediatrician can advise you on eye doctors in your area. Middle childhood is a common time for the recognition of vision problems, especially when children first have assigned seats in classrooms. Your child may tell you that he cannot read the blackboard unless he squints or moves to a front-row seat. Or you may notice that when she watches television, she sits close to the set. Less commonly, your child may complain that the words on the pages of books are blurry. All of these suggest a focusing prob­lem and call for an examination by an eye doctor. Myopia, or nearsightedness, is the most common vision problem among school-age children, often developing between age six and adolescence. As a result the child cannot clearly see distant objects. Children with Hyperopia, or farsighted­ness, have the opposite problem. Because of the shorter shape of their eyeballs, im­ages are focused behind the retina, causing them to be blurry. These children cannot clearly see objects that are close to them without making an effort to focus. No matter how old your child is, if you spot any one of the following, let your pediatrician know: •                Eyes that look crossed, turn out, or don't focus together •                White, grayish-white, or yellow-colored material in the pupil •                Eyes that flutter quickly from side-to-side or up-and-down •                Bulging eye(s) •                Persistent eye pain, itching, or discomfort •                Redness in either eye that doesn't go away in a few days •                Pus or crust in either eye •                Eyes that are always watery •                Drooping eyelid(s) •                Excessive rubbing or squinting of the eyes •                Eyes that are always sensitive to light

Your Child

Playing With Food May Help Picky Eaters


If your child is a picky eater, encouraging them to play with their food may help them overcome the reluctance to try new foods according to a new study.

Researchers in the United Kingdom asked a group of 70 children – ages 2 to 5 – to play with mushy, slimy food while their parents observed, watching to see if kids would happily use their hands to search for a toy soldier buried at the bottom of a bowl of mashed potatoes or jelly. Children who wouldn't use their hands were offered a spoon.

Parents and researchers each rated how happy the kids were to get their hands dirty on a scale of one to five, with a higher number indicating more enjoyment. Children could get a total score as high as 20, a tally of the scores from researchers and parents for play with both the mashed potatoes and the jelly.

Researchers also gave parents a questionnaire to assess children's so-called tactile sensitivity, quizzing them about things like whether kids disliked going barefoot in the sand and grass or avoided getting messy.

The study found that kids who liked playing with their food were less likely to have food neophobia (the fear of trying something new) or tactile sensitivity.

"Although this is just an association, the implication is that getting children to play with messy substances may help their food acceptance," lead study author Helen Coulthard, a psychology researcher at De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K., told Reuters Health by email.

Previous research has linked food neophobia to limited fruit and vegetable consumption. Courtland and her team wanted to see if they could establish a link between touching food and tasting unfamiliar foods.

Courtland suggested that parents of picky eaters begin introducing new foods to their child by creating “food art.” Food art is making pictures or images with different foods on a plate.  The first step is letting your child make a picture or design by arranging various colored foods on the plate.  Don’t pressure them to taste their creation, but wait till they are ready to give it a try. Make it a game and eventually begin encouraging them to taste what they have created. Start small and expand to larger food groups and pictures.

Offering as much variety as possible from a young age also helps children experience lots of textures and flavors, which may minimize their fear of unfamiliar foods.

You’re probably going to have to join in on the taste experimentation to show how good these food pictures taste! You might also take a picture of your child with their creation on your phone and then show it to them – to make it a little more fun.

It’s fairly normal for kids to go through a period of refusing to try new foods, though most kids will grow out of this phase by the time they start school. However, there are some children that carry new food aversion on into adulthood. It isn't necessarily harmful as long as the children maintain a healthy weight for their height, pediatricians say.

But over time, neophobia can make it very difficult to enjoy social engagements. Parents that have a hard time trying or enjoying new foods themselves too often pass that trait onto their own children.  Most of the time it’s just a phase that kids go through and finding creative ways to help them work through it eliminates the problem.

Source: Lisa Rapaport,




Your Child

Asbestos Found in Children’s Crayons and Toys


Coloring with crayons has been an American tradition since the late 1800s.  Since that time, the wax crayon has been instrumental in teaching children how to draw and imagine the world in a rainbow of colors.

Although the words “non-toxic” appear on crayon boxes designated for children’s use, a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund says that asbestos fibers have been found in crayons and other toys sold in the United States.

The fibers were found in four brands of crayons and two children’s crime-scene toy fingerprint kits.

The contaminated crayons included Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crayons, Disney's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Jumbo Crayons and Saban's Power Rangers Super Megaforce Jumbo Crayons and ones by Amscan, according to the new report.

Asbestos was also found in two crime lab toys: EduScience's Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit, and Inside Intelligence's Secret Spy Kit.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that asbestos, which is composed of long, thin mineral fibers, once was common in insulation material.

Though tiny and invisible to the naked eye, airborne asbestos fibers are easily inhaled. With time, scarring, inflammation and breathing impairment can occur, as can lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen, according to the NIH.

Asbestos is no longer widely used in manufacturing in the United States. It is banned in nearly all other developed nations, the research group said.

EWG hired an independent company, Scientific Analytical Institute from Greensboro, N.C., to conduct so-called transmission electron microscopy tests to look for asbestos. This is said to be the most sensitive and accurate method of testing available.

EWG said that a second independent lab reconfirmed the crayons and toys that tested positive.

"Just a couple of fibers can lodge in your lungs and be there forever," said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Washington, D.C. based group. "And there's very clear evidence that asbestos leads to two forms of cancer, and thousands and thousands of Americans have been killed by fiber exposure."

Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Richard Lemen welcomed the report.

"These are important findings, because asbestos is being placed in children's products," said Lemen, now an adjunct professor with Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

"Even if the absolute risk is relatively low, children are more vulnerable to toxic material and carcinogens," he said. "And because they are so young they have a longer latency in which to develop these diseases, which are known to be diseases that develop over time."

The crayons were purchased between February and May of this year at two national chains -- Party City and Dollar Tree -- in a suburban county near San Francisco. The group said it ordered the two crime scene toys through and Toys"R"

For analysis, 28 brands of crayons were tested and 21 toy fingerprint kits. All the products that tested positive were made in China.

A spokeswoman for Toys "R" Us, which distributes the EduScience Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit, responded to the report, saying customer safety is the company's highest priority.

"We require that every product we carry meets or exceeds all applicable state and federal laws, industry standards, codes and requirements. At this time, we are reviewing the referenced report, along with supplier test reports, to ensure full compliance to our strict safety standards," Kathleen Waugh, vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement.

The tests discovered the highest concentration of asbestos was found in the toy crime-scene fingerprint kits.

If your child is one of the millions that play with crayons or the crime lab kits, be sure to check the brand to make sure they are not one of the contaminated products or kits that tested positive for asbestos.

Source: Alan Mozes,





Your Child

Super-Lice Resistant to OTC Treatment


Well, this certainly isn’t good news.

The American Chemical Society recently reported a new study shows that certain lice in at least 25 states are now resistant to over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.

Study author Kyong S. Yoon, PhD, assistant professor in the Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences Program at Southern Illinois University, has been researching lice since 2000. His research is still ongoing, but what he’s found so far in 109 samples from 30 states is startling: the vast majority of lice now carry genes that are super-resistant to the OTC treatment used against them.

Permethrin, part of the pyrethroid class of insecticides, is the active ingredient in some OTC treatments. Certain lice have developed a trio of mutations that make it resistant to the pyrethroids. What happens is you end up with a new kind of super-lice that doesn’t respond to typical treatment any longer.

“It’s a really, really serious problem right now in the U.S.,” Yoon says.

Six million to 12 million U.S. children are infested with head lice every year, "with parents spending about $350 million dollars annually on permethrin-laced over-the-counter and prescription treatments," Yoon said. Lice infestations occur in rich neighborhoods as well as poor ones.

Currently, there are 25 states, including Arizona, California, the Carolinas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia where lice have what Yoon calls "knock-down resistant mutations". This involves a triple whammy of genetic alterations that render them immune to OTC permethrin treatments.

Lice in four states, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, have developed partial resistance, the researchers found.

Michigan's lice have no resistance as yet. Why that is remains unclear.

Fortunately, there are prescription medications that still work in treating lice. They are more expensive than over-the-counter formulas and do not contain permethrin. These prescriptions may contain benzyl alcohol, ivermectin, malathion and spinosad; all powerful agents or insecticides. Lindane shampoo is another alternative for difficult-to-treat cases.

If your child has head lice and OTC medicines haven’t worked, you can check with your pediatrician or family doctor for a prescription treatment. 

Sources: Mandy Oaklander,

Alan Mozes,


Your Child

Bullied Kids at Risk for Health problems as Adults


Being teased or humiliated by fellow classmates in school was once just a part of growing up for many kids. No one took it very seriously and children were basically told to either deal with it or physically fight back.

That began to change when bullying tactics changed from one-on-one painful snubs or pushing in the hallways to shaming and hateful social media taunts. All of a sudden everyone was in on the game and there was no where to hide or seek refuge from the never-ending onslaught of mean spirited and sometimes violent threats to a child’s very existence.

Bullying had reached a new stage of hurtfulness and too often the coping mechanism from children who were bullied was and still is suicide. Schools, parents and peers began to take notice and implement strategies to stop the bullying – at least in public environments.

Some of these strategies have been very effective and kids, as well as parents, are much more aware of the dangers that can come from bullying. However, there is always someone who thinks that they have a right to humiliate someone else. While it is more a reflection of the insecurity and abnormal personality of the person doing the bullying, the recipient still feels the pain and harbors the emotional damage to their self-value.

A new study looks at the possible future health hazards for children who have been bullied. Their findings reveal that adults who were bullied in childhood may be at an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Our research has already shown a link between childhood bullying and risk of mental health disorders in children, adolescents and adults, but this study is the first to widen the spectrum of adverse outcomes to include risks for cardiovascular disease at mid-life," said senior study author Louise Arseneault. She is a professor from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Evidently, being bullied in childhood does get under your skin," she said in a college news release.

The long-term study involved analyzed data from more than 7,100 people.  Participants in the study included all the children from England, Scotland and Wales that were born during one week in 1958. Their parents provided information on whether the participants were bullied at ages 7 and 11.

By age 45, more than one-quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied during childhood were obese, compared to 19 percent of those who never experienced bullying, the study found. Both men and women who were bullied during childhood were more likely to be overweight.

Compared to those who weren't bullied, men and women who were bullied had higher levels of blood inflammation, putting them at increased risk for heart attack and age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.

Like most studies, results didn’t show an actual cause and effect relationship, only an association or link between being bullied and future health risks.

"Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups," Arseneault said. "While many important school programs focus on preventing bullying behaviors, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering. Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood."

Andrea Danese, a study co-author, pointed out that obesity and high blood inflammation can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking steps to prevent these conditions is important, Danese said in the news release.

"The effects of being bullied in childhood on the risk for developing poor health later in life are relatively small compared to other factors," Danese added. "However, because obesity and bullying are quite common these days, tackling these effects may have a real impact."

Counseling coupled with family support for children who have been or are being bullied can offer tremendous value to helping a child disconnect with the hurtful words and actions of others. No one likes to be made fun of or taunted for some slight “imperfection”, but those kinds of things can linger in the mind and wear on one’s self-value. The sooner they are dealt with and put in their true perspective, the quicker one can let them go.

The study was published May 20 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Source: Robert Preidt,

Your Child

Parents Beware! Ads for Concussion Supplements

2.00 to read

Dietary supplement companies are tuned into the concerns parents have about their children and sports related concussions. They often promise that their supplements provide faster brain healing and less time spent away from sport activities.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that dietary supplements that claim to prevent, treat or cure concussions are untested, unproven and possibly dangerous.

The agency said in a news release that companies attempting to exploit parents’ increasing concerns about concussions often sell their products on the Internet and in stores.

The products are also being marketed on social media sites.

One common misleading claim is that these dietary supplements promote faster brain healing after a concussion. Even if some of these products don't contain harmful ingredients, the claim itself can be dangerous, explained Gary Coody, National Health Fraud Coordinator at the FDA.

"We're very concerned that false assurances of faster recovery will convince athletes of all ages, coaches and even parents that someone suffering from a concussion is ready to resume activities before they are really ready," he said in the news release.

"Also, watch for claims that these products can prevent or lessen the severity of concussions or [traumatic brain injuries]," he added.

Many concussions occur during the time that kids are playing fall sports. Right now is the prime marketing time for these types of products and the FDA wants parents to be aware that replacing medical advice with supplements could lead to serious health problems for their children.

Head injuries require proper diagnosis, treatment and monitoring by a medical professional, the FDA stressed. There is mounting evidence that if concussion patients resume playing sports too soon, they're at increased risk for another concussion.

If a child is on the field and playing too soon after a concussion, repeat concussions are more likely to occur. Repeat concussions can lead to severe problems such as brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disability and death.

"There is simply no scientific evidence to support the use of any dietary supplement for the prevention of concussions or the reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would allow athletes to return to play sooner," Charlotte Christin, acting director of the FDA's division of dietary supplement programs, said in the news release.

Many of the dietary supplements boast omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils and spices, such as turmeric, as their “secret weapon”. While these products may be beneficial for some heath concerns, the FDA wants parents to know that they are not helpful as far as concussions are concerned.

Two companies making false claims about their products changed their websites and labeling after the FDA sent them warning letters in 2012. The FDA issued a warning letter in 2013 to a third company that was doing the same.

"As we continue to work on this problem, we can't guarantee you won't see a claim about [traumatic brain injuries]," Coody said. "But we can promise you this: There is no dietary supplement that has been shown to prevent or treat them. If someone tells you otherwise, walk away."


Your Child

New Guidelines for Treating Sinus Infections

1.45 to read

Kids get runny noses. But is it caused by allergies, a simple cold or something more serious like a sinus infection? If your child has a history of sinus infections, a new review of clinical guidelines may be just what the doctor ordered.

A recent review of the research looked at the most current studies related to acute bacterial sinusitis in children.

The review offers physicians new guidelines for treating sinusitis in children. In the new guidelines, doctors may wait up to three days before beginning treatment with antibiotics and are discouraged from giving children x-rays.

The study, written by Michael J. Smith, MD, from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, reviewed the most recently published research available for treating bacterial sinusitis in children.

Smith’s research led to several changes in guidelines for treatment.

Children can contract viral sinusitis or bacterial sinusitis. Viral sinusitis usually develops when a child has a cold or allergies.  Bacterial sinusitis tends to make a child feel sicker than viral sinusitis. A child with bacterial sinusitis usually will have more facial pain and swelling than someone with viral sinusitis, and might also develop a fever. Acute bacterial sinusitis is usually diagnosed when a child with an upper respiratory infection improves then spirals downward with worsening symptoms.  Five to ten percent of children with an upper respiratory infection develop acute bacterial sinusitis.

Dr. Smith looked for all randomized, controlled trials that had been published since 2001, when the last guidelines were published.

He located 17 studies that related specifically to treating acute bacterial sinusitis in children.

The current recommended treatment in the new guidelines is prescribing the antibiotic amoxicillin.

Doctors should prescribe this antibiotic if a child comes in with very severe symptoms of sinusitis (a runny nose with non-clear mucus and a fever over 102º Fahrenheit for at least three days).

If a child has a runny nose, cough and minor fever for more than 10 days, doctors can treat the child right away or, with the parents' input, wait up to three days to prescribe antibiotics, according to the new clinical guidelines.

The new guidelines that came from this systematic review recommend that doctors do not give children x-rays.

The new guidelines also suggest that children who get better at first and then have worse symptoms (acute bacterial sinusitis) should be treated right away.

The review and guidelines were published in the June journal of Pediatrics.

The signs and symptoms of bacterial sinusitis are:

- A stuffy or runny nose with a daytime cough that lasts for 10 to 14 days or longer without improvement

- Continuous thick green mucus discharge from the nose (sometimes with post nasal drip).

- Persistent dull pain or swelling around the eyes.

- Tenderness or pain in or around the cheekbones.

- A feeling of pressure in your head.

- A headache when you wake up in the morning or when bending over.

- Bad breath even after brushing your teeth.

- Pain in the upper teeth.

- A fever greater than 102°F (39°C).

Some of the symptoms listed above are the same as viral sinusitis, so it’s really best to take your child to his or her pediatrician or family doctor for a correct diagnosis.

Sources: Dominique Brooks,

Your Child

Boys Entering Puberty Earlier

1.45 to read

For years scientific studies have indicated that girls are entering puberty at a younger age. Now a new study, focused on boys, says they too are starting puberty up to 2 years earlier than the average age. 

The study was conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)  It involved more than 4,100 boys, aged 6 to 16, in 41 states. Pediatricians were recruited to participate in the study and reported their findings to the research network. Half of the boys were white, and the rest were evenly divided among African-American and Hispanic boys.  The pediatrician visits took place between 2005 and 2010.

What the researchers found was that the white boys started puberty at age 10, a full year and a half earlier than what has been considered the normal average.  The African-American boys started puberty at about 9 years of age, about 2 years earlier than the average. The Hispanic boys were about 10 years old -the average age for boys of Mexican –American heritage. The new study also included boys from other Hispanic backgrounds.

Puberty development was measured by examining the size of the boys’ testes and the start of pubic hair growth. Testes enlargement was seen at age 6 in nine-percent of white boys, almost 20 percent in African-American boys, and seven-percent in Hispanic boys.

Pubic hair growth started about a year later than testicle enlargement in all groups. That’s about the normal time pubic hair growth begins, but it began at an earlier age in conjunction with the testes growth. 

So what does this mean for young boys?

"If it's true that boys are starting puberty younger, it's not clear that means anything negative or has any implications for long-term," said Adelman, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescence. But it might be advantageous for parents to talk their young boys sooner about the birds and bees. Children this young are not always prepared for the physical changes that occur to their bodies and may not be emotionally equipped to handle these changes. 

The study also eliminated boys with other health concerns such as thyroid abnormalities, brain tumors or chronic medical conditions that required certain medications.  All these conditions have been associated with possible early puberty.

The reason for early puberty in boys was not a part of the study, but researchers have suggested that obesity and hormone enhancing products may be contributors.

The study contained other limitations that doctors say could have skewed the results. Testes were measured only once and pediatricians were volunteers and not randomly selected leading to the possibility that early maturing patients were overly represented.

The results will probably not be established as the new average age of puberty for boys until more research studies are completed and support this study’s results.

The bottom line seems to be at this point, that parents should keep a close eye on their boys as they mature. If you see that your youngster is entering puberty at a younger age that normal, talk to your pediatrician about what to expect and how to talk to your boy about the changes he is going through.

The study was published in the October edition of the online journal Pediatrics.



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