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Your Child

Kids May Get Swine Flu Shots First

U.S. schoolchildren may be first in line for swine flu vaccine this fall, and might even be able to get the shot right at school. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is taking that possible scenario to school superintendents around the country, urging them to spend the summer planning what to do if the government decides it needs their buildings for mass vaccinations.

"If you think about vaccinating kids, schools are the logical place," Sebelius told The Associated Press. No decision has been made yet on whether and how to vaccinate millions of Americans against the new flu strain that the World Health Organization has formally dubbed a pandemic, meaning it now is circulating the globe unchecked. Currently, swine flu doesn't appear any more lethal than the regular flu that strikes each winter. But scientists fear it may morph into a more dangerous strain. Regardless, it can kill, and the WHO says about half of the world's more than 140 known deaths so far have been people who were previously young and healthy. If that trend continues, "the target may be school-age children as a first priority" for vaccination, Sebelius said. "That's being watched carefully." Those shots would be in addition to the regular winter-flu shots that will be given as usual. Health officials are working to make people understand who will need which vaccine, or maybe both. "We really just don't know, unfortunately, at this point," Sebelius said, noting that those decisions will be made in part based on how swine flu behaves in the Southern Hemisphere this summer, where flu season is just beginning.

Your Child

It’s Official; CDC Says Flu is Epidemic

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The flu has reached epidemic levels in the United States, with 15 children dead so far this season, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported at the end of December 2014.

Every year, the U.S. reaches a point where the number of flu cases enters the epidemic stage.  There’s no way to tell right now if this year’s flu season will end up being more or less severe than previous ones. Those statistics won’t be available till later in the year.

No state will be spared this season with more flu cases and deaths’ increasing in the next few weeks says Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in CDC's influenza division. "We are in the middle of flu season," Jhung said. "It's a safe bet that we are going to see flu activity continue to increase for a few more weeks. We are going to see every state in the country affected by flu."

The number of children’s deaths from flu changes every year. The latest victim may be a 17 year-old-girl in Minnesota. She was diagnosed with the flu and sent home to recover. Shanna Zwanziger had the flu for about a week before she died says her family. Her mother said Shanna was given the choice of whether to get the vaccine or not, and she chose not to.

The South, Midwest and Western states have been especially hard hit this flu season. At least six children have died in Tennessee and four in Minnesota, according to published reports.

The predominant flu strain this season is the H3N2 virus, the CDC says. This virus is not well matched to this year's flu vaccine, but what part this mismatch is playing in flu deaths isn't known, Jhung said.

The CDC acknowledges that that this year’s flu vaccine is not a good match for the most dominant strain of the virus. That’s because there’s not just one type of flu and the virus can mutate. This year’s vaccine was created before one of the viruses mutated. However, experts say that getting this year’s vaccine can still help protect you and can help make symptoms less severe if you get the flu.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot. It's not too late to get vaccinated, Jhung said. More than one type of flu is circulating, and the vaccine protects against at least three strains of circulating virus, he added.

"If you encounter one of those viruses where there is a very good match, then you will be well-protected," he said. "Even if there isn't a great match, the vaccine still provides protection against the virus that's circulating."

Many people get the flu and recover at home. They spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks feeling very bad and then start to feel better. But others face life-threatening complications – such as pneumonia- according to the CDC.

Jhung says parents should always take the flu seriously, and get medical help if their child is very sick.

Warning signs might include a cough that disrupts sleep, a fever that doesn't come down with treatment, or increased shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There are treatments for the flu such as Tamiflu and Relenza. "Those work best when they are given very quickly. So if you do have signs and symptoms of flu, reach out to a health care provider and get evaluated," Jhung said.

The flu season moves into its later stage in January and February, with different flu types taking the lead. It’s not too late to get your family the flu shot. They are still available at physician’s offices as well as at many pharmacies and health care centers.

Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/flu-news-314/flu-now-epidemic-in-u-s-with-15-child-deaths-reported-695066.html

Liz Neporent, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/years-subpar-flu-shot-save-life/story?id=27898830

Your Child

Melatonin May Help Kids with Eczema Sleep Better

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Eczema is a common skin disease that affects as many as 30 percent of all kids.  It’s an itchy red rash that often causes continuous scratching. Numerous children with eczema have trouble sleeping through the night. A new study suggests that over-the-counter melatonin may help them sleep longer and better.

These sleep problems can be difficult to treat in these children, said Dr. Yung-Sen Chang, an attending physician in pediatrics at Taipei City Hospital Renai Branch in Taiwan. Antihistamines can stop working after a few days, and tranquilizers have potentially serious side effects, Chang said.

But giving children melatonin, his study found, "is safe and effective for helping children with atopic dermatitis fall asleep faster."

The link between the skin condition and insufficient sleep "has an impact on people with eczema at all ages," said Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at the University of California, San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital.

According to Eichenfield, it's generally established that it’s the itching that keeps people with eczema from getting enough sleep. However, Chang said that may not be the case.

Chang and colleagues discovered that patients with eczema, that had difficulty sleeping, had low levels of nocturnal melatonin. That intrigued Chang and inspired the new study.

"Melatonin is a natural human hormone with minimal adverse effects," Chang said, "so it seemed like a good choice for children."

The study was small and involved 48 children, about 22 months to 18 years old, who had eczema. The children received treatment with either an inactive placebo or a 3-milligram daily dose of melatonin at bedtime for four weeks. Thirty-eight participants then took the alternate treatment (melatonin or placebo) for another four weeks.

When the children took melatonin, the severity of eczema dipped slightly, possibly because melatonin's anti-inflammatory effect improved the skin condition, Chang said.

Also, kids taking melatonin fell asleep about 21 minutes sooner than kids taking the placebo, the findings showed.

Total nightly sleep rose by 10 minutes on average (from 380 to 390 minutes, or 6.5 hours total) in the melatonin group, while it fell by 20 minutes among those who took a placebo, according to the report.

The participants did not report any side effects. Melatonin supplements are inexpensive in the U.S.- typically under 9 cents a pill from one major supplier.

Eichenfield, who wasn't involved in the research, said the study appears to be well-designed. Melatonin hasn't been studied much as a sleep treatment for kids, he cautioned.

While Eichenfield said melatonin may turn out to be helpful, he said there are a broad set of other tools available to treat eczema and minimize its effect on children. He suggested tackling the skin condition first to try to mitigate the sleep issues.

Chang recommended that parents talk to their child's doctor before starting melatonin. As for adults, melatonin may help them, too. But more studies are needed, Chang said.

The study was published in a November online edition of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20151124/melatonin-might-help-sleepless-kids-with-eczema-study-finds

 

Your Child

Back to School Immunizations

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Parents and kids are officially in the back-to-school mode as they make the rounds searching for new clothes, shoes and supplies. One requirement that often gets pushed to the back of the list is immunizations. They’re not near as exciting as shopping for new dresses, tops and pants but much more important.

All states require that children be vaccinated against certain contagious diseases before they enroll in school, although there are exemptions for medical reasons. Some states also have exemptions in place for religious or philosophical reasons.

The point of vaccinations is to protect children, teachers and the general public from preventable contagious diseases. Schools provide the perfect environment – whether it’s kindergarten or college- for the spread of illnesses. Once a disease or virus, such as measles or the flu, gets hold of the school population it can rapidly spread throughout a family and community.

Immunizations help keep the most vulnerable members of the population from becoming infected.

All 50 states have school immunization laws, although the types of vaccinations may differ from state to state. Every state has a website and/or contact number where parents can obtain the immunization list.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (TSHS) has a list of the minimum 2014-2015 vaccine requirements and doses for students grades K-12 on its website at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize.

The minimum requirements are: 

  • Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Varicella
  • Meningococcal
  • Hepatitis A

You will also find a list of vaccine requirements for child-care facilities.

Texas colleges require that students show proof that they have received an initial meningococcal vaccination or a booster dose during the five-year period prior to enrolling. There are also exemptions to those rules listed on the website http://collegevaccinerequirements.com/requirements.php.

As most of us know, vaccines aren’t always 100 percent effective in disease prevention, but they help can make the symptoms less severe. Vaccines have reduced the number of infections from vaccine-preventable disease overall, by more than 90 percent.

Many parents worry about the safety and possible side effects of vaccinating their child. The American Academy of Pediatrics addresses many of these questions on its website http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/safety.html. Ingredients, Autism and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) are some of the topics covered for parents who may have concerns about these issues.

Doors open for the new school year in less than a month and parents who wait till the last minute to take their children to get immunized will most certainly face long lines and wait times. You’ll be doing yourself and your child a favor by beating the rush and making your appointment now.

Sources: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize

http://collegevaccinerequirements.com/requirements.php

http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/safety.html

Your Child

Fitness Improves Children’s Academics

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It won’t be long before summer break is over and school is back in session. Parents are already buying supplies and clothes to get ready for the start of another school year.  As households begin to shift from vacation mode to school routines and studies, new research suggests that children who are fit are not only healthier, but have an advantage when it comes to learning.

Do fitter children do better academically? They do according to researcher, Sudhish Srikanth, a student at the University of North Texas. Srikanth recently presented his findings to the American Psychological Association.  

1,211 students were tested from five Texas middle schools. Researchers looked at each student’s academic self-concept -- how confident they were in their abilities to do well -- and took into account the student's socioeconomic status.

They knew these two factors would play a role in how well the students did, Srikanth says.

They took into account other influences such as social support, fitness and body composition. What they discovered matched what other studies have found – kids who are fit tend to do better academically than kids who are not fit.

The findings are considered preliminary since they have not undergone the “peer review” process. But other research suggests why fitness is so important, says researcher Trent Petrie, PhD, director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas.

"Physical fitness is associated with improvements in memory, concentration, organization, and staying on task," he says.

For one to five months before the students took standardized reading and math tests, they answered questions about usual physical activity, their view of their school ability, their self-esteem and social support.

The researchers assessed the students' fitness. They used a variety of tests that looked at muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, aerobic capacity, and body composition.

Previous studies have found a link between fitness and improved school performance, Srikanth says. However, this new study also looked at several other potential influences.

For the boys, having social support was also related to better reading scores.

For the girls, a larger body-mass index was the only factor other than fitness that predicted better reading scores. The researchers are not sure why.

For both boys and girls, fitness levels were the only factors studied (besides socioeconomic status and self-concept) related to math scores.

Srikanth found an upward trend, with more fitness linked with better scores.

The new research reiterates that of James Sallis, PhD, distinguished professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. A long-time researcher on physical fitness, he reviewed the findings.

"The mountain of evidence just got higher that active and fit kids perform better in school," he says.

The finding that fitness was related to both reading and math scores in both girls and boys is impressive, he says. "That's strong evidence."

"I hope this study convinces both parents and school administrators to increase and improve physical education, recess, classroom activity breaks, after-school physical activity and sports, and walk-to-school programs."

For about a decade now, PE classes and recess time have been disappearing from public school programs. Budget cuts and time restraints are often the reasons sited. Testing also seems to be one of the main reasons gym classes and play time have been reduced or eliminated. Some parents and caregivers take advantage of after-school fitness programs, but that option isn’t available or affordable for everyone.

So as schools move farther away from offering physical fitness programs, parents have to become more proactive in helping their kids stay active and fit. As it turns out, a fit body is not only good for the heart, but the head as well.

Source: http://children.webmd.com/news/20120803/fitter-kids-better-grades

Your Child

Report Child Abuse

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Once again, a story about a child being sexually abused by someone they know and trust makes the news. Several people knew about the abuse- no one called the police.

This time the alleged abuser is a well-known college coach, and founder of a charity for high-risk kids. The man charged with the abuse had access to vulnerable children needing a helping hand and guidance. He was a leader in the community, and on the football field. The grand jury report details 40 charges involving at least eight alleged victims and spanning 15 years, beginning in 1994.

How did this go on for so long?  The answer is as simple as it is infuriating, because no one stood up for the children.

People knew this was going on. Another coach witnessed the sexual abuse and walked away. He told another coach. That coach told the two high-ranking officials at the college. Lots of people were told, no one reported the abuse to the police.

That’s how child abuse is able to continue. Whether it’s a high profile case such as this one, or your neighbor, family member or friend – people know but no one reports it to the police, or social services.

If you know about child abuse, if you suspect child abuse, you should report it. You cannot rely on a child to report his or her own sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Many children are not capable of understanding what is happening to them, and they are fearful of the consequences of saying anything.

So it’s up to you to help them. Helpguide.org is an excellent resource if you suspect or know that child abuse is happening. Some of the myths behind reporting child abuse are listed.

▪       I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.

▪       What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home - unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.

▪       They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.

▪       It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

It doesn’t matter if a child is sexually, physically or emotionally abused, the results are the same; a child’s innocence, safety, health, peace of mind and future are damaged forever.

In the case making headlines today, the college, its leaders and the coaches will all pay a price. The abuser will most likely serve time if found guilty. As unpleasant as that may be for them, they are getting off easy. The real victims in this situation are the children. They will most likely spend the rest of their lives trying to understand and comes to terms with how they were sexually abused (raped), and how those who could have reached out and helped – looked the other way.

If you know about or even suspect child abuse is occurring, report it.  

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Your Child

Lack of Sleep Tied to Childhood Obesity

Over the past three decades, obesity rates have doubled among children age 2 to 5, and tripled among 6- to 11-year-olds. University of Washington maternal and child health researcher Janice Bell wanted to know whether sleep had anything to do with it.Infants and preschoolers who don't get enough sleep at night are at increased risk for later childhood obesity, a new study suggests.

Over the past three decades, obesity rates have doubled among children age 2 to 5, and tripled among 6- to 11-year-olds. University of Washington maternal and child health researcher Janice Bell wanted to know whether sleep had anything to do with it. For purposes of the study, the children were separated into a group of zero to 4 years old and an older group of 5 to 13 years old. Bell and her colleagues collected data first in 1997, and then again in 2002. She looked at federal data collected on nearly 2,000 children and compared those who slept 10 hours or more a night with those who slept less. She also looked at how much the children weighed over the five-year period. The most striking findings had to do with infants and toddlers. "They were nearly twice as likely to move from normal weight to overweight, or overweight to obese in that five-year period," she says. Bell's study didn't examine the reasons why children who sleep less have an increased risk of gaining weight within just a few years, but she does have some theories. "It may be that children who don't sleep enough at night are too tired to engage in the kind of physical activity that may prevent obesity," Bell says. She adds that another reason may be the result of the relationships between hormones that control appetite and sleep. Bell also says that napping isn’t a substitute for a good night’s sleep. “Insufficient nighttime sleep among infants and preschool-aged children appears to be a lasting risk factor for subsequent obesity, while contemporaneous sleep appears to be important to weight status in adolescents,” Bell writes. “Napping had no effects on the development of obesity and is not a substitute for sufficient nighttime sleep.” On average, doctors suggest children up to age 5 need at least 10 hours of sleep a night. Infants and young toddlers need even more. The study appears in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Your Child

Tonsillectomy Linked to Excess Weight Gain in Children

Children who have their tonsils removed with or without the removal of their adenoids are at increased risk for becoming overweight in the years after surgery.Children who have their tonsils removed with or without the removal of their adenoids are at increased risk for becoming overweight in the years after surgery according to a report in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment analyzed data from nearly 4,000 children in the Dutch Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy (PIAMA) birth cohort study.

Annual parental questionnaires were used to assess weight, tonsillectomy status and other factors. In addition, the height and weight of all subjects at 8 years of age was assessed by the researchers. Researchers found that tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy significantly increased the odds of being overweight and obese at 8 years by 61 percent and 136 percent, respectively. Adenoidectomy alone did not increase the risk of becoming overweight, but id did increase the risk of obesity by 94 percent. "Longitudinal data on weight and height in the years before and after surgery," the authors note, "suggest that (adeno) tonsillectomy forms a turning point between a period of growth faltering and a period of catch-up growth," which may explain the increased risk of becoming overweight after the operation. Based on these findings, the authors recommend that dietary and lifestyle advice be given to parents whose children are undergoing tonsillectomy. Growth monitoring after surgery is key to ensure that catch-up growth occurs within healthy limits, they add.

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Your Child

Young Baseball Pitchers Playing With Pain

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It’s that glorious time of year when pitchers pitch; batters swing and outfielders reach out to catch a fast and furious white leather-bound ball. Yep, it’s baseball season!

While the pros start their 162 game regular season, school teams and Little Leagues are suiting up and hitting the fields as well.

Although typically in good physical shape, professional players are not immune to injuries – just ask the Texas Rangers.

Kids on the other hand, play long and sometimes double games at tournaments on the weekends. Many of these kids are weekend warriors that love the game, but aren’t always in the best physical condition.

According to a pair of recent studies, young baseball pitchers are playing with arm and shoulder pain because they feel pressured by their parents or coaches. Playing through the pain may lead to injuries that won’t heal.

"Kids are playing harder and longer in more leagues than ever before," said Dr. Paul Saluan, director of pediatric and adolescent sports medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "Kids also are not getting enough rest in between episodes of pitching, which may lead to insufficient time to heal smaller stress injuries. Over time, these smaller injuries add up."

Kids explained why they kept playing even though they were in pain.  "Players who experience pain often felt their parents and coaches were frustrated with them," said Dr. Christopher Ahmad, professor of orthopedic surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

"Throwing with pain is a signal that injury is occurring," added Ahmad, who is the New York Yankees' head team physician.

In Ahmad's study, he and his colleagues surveyed 203 healthy players, aged 8 to 18. Just under one-quarter of them had experienced a prior overuse injury, they found.

Almost half of the players -- 46 percent -- said they had been encouraged to continue playing with arm pain, and 30 percent said their arm pain sometimes made playing less fun.

Those most likely to report being encouraged to play despite pain had a previous overuse injury. They were also more likely to report feeling arm pain while throwing and to experience arm fatigue during games or practice.

The second study looked at whether parents were monitoring their child’s pitch count during a game. Sixty parents of baseball pitchers were surveyed and just over half of the parents were not aware of safe pitching guidelines and did not actively monitor their child's pitch count.

The most important aspects of safe pitching guidelines are a maximum number of recommended throws based on a child's age and the number of days of rest needed between throwing stints, said Saluan.

"The focus has been on creating a better athlete who can throw harder, faster and more accurately than ever before," Saluan said. "Injury prevention has taken a back seat."

One in five parents did not know how many pitches their child threw in a typical game, but 64 percent recalled that their child had experienced pain in the upper extremities because of pitching, the survey found. For one-third of the pitchers, the pain required a medical evaluation.

"Kids who continue to pitch through pain end up with significant injuries that may have lifelong consequences," Saluan said. "Younger pitchers who are still growing are much more vulnerable than adults to sustain an injury to the growth plates around the shoulder and elbow.”

Injuries to the growth plates usually heal with rest, Ahmad said. But he noted that more young pitchers are also damaging their ulnar collateral ligament, an important ligament in the elbow.

"Unfortunately, these injuries do not always heal and often require surgery," he said.

Most of the injuries are caused when kids are playing too many games, specializing in one aspect of the game, using poor pitching mechanics and throwing too hard.

In the pitching study, half the young pitchers threw in at least two leagues at a time, one-quarter pitched more than nine months of the year, and just over half participated in extra showcase situations.

"We have fallen into the trap of 'too much too soon,'" said Saluan. "This has resulted in a rise in injury rates in kids whose bodies are not prepared to handle the stresses that are encountered."

If you’re unsure of how to monitor your child’s pitching, the Major League Baseball website has a “Pitch Smart” guidelines page for young and adolescent pitchers listed at the end of this article.

The studies were presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' annual meeting in Las Vegas. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Sources: Tara Haelle, http://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/baseball-or-softball-health-news-240/young-pitchers-often-pressured-to-play-despite-pain-study-says-697197.html

http://m.mlb.com/pitchsmart/pitching-guidelines

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