Your Teen

4 Dangerous Teen Trends Parents Should Know

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When kids get together they not only share the latest gossip or fashions, but also dangerous trends.

Children in middle school and high school are sharing videos of kids their age doing incredibly perilous activities and many times, their parents don’t have a clue.

Today, parents need to know what kinds of influences their kids are being inundated with. The types of trends that are gaining in popularity aren’t necessarily the ones that your child will easily divulge.

As the school year reconnects students and introduces new peers into the mix, pre-teens and teens-in search of recognition-are either doing or considering doing some seriously stupid things.

We know that kids in this age group act out impulsively with little thought given to consequences. There’s a scientific reason for this type of behavior.

Brain scans reveal that the frontal lobes, used in making critical and objective decisions, do not mature until about age 25.

Since the brain is still developing, choices teens make can be strongly influenced by peer pressure, a need to stand out among others and intense emotional feelings. A pre-teen or adolescent’s decision making may become overwhelmed by their immature circuitry.

While you may think your child would never do something truly dangerous, he or she may surprise you.

Here are four popular trends that parents need to be aware of:

The Fire Challenge: This one is particularly dangerous. Teens are taking the “fire challenge.” They are dousing themselves in flammable liquids, lighting it and — in theory —extinguishing it before being seriously injured, while recording the act and then sharing the video on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Yes, our kids are recording themselves being engulfed in flames, flailing and screaming in pain. 

There are thousands of the videos circulating and injuries have included severe burns and hospitalization. Officials around the country, along with the American Burn Association, are asking parents to warn their child about the game.

Many parents just can’t believe their child would actually do something like this, but even “good” kids are taking the challenge. Be sure and talk to your child about these types of videos and persuade them not to share or promote them with friends.

Synthetic Pot or Spice: Also called “Scooby snacks,” “K2,” or any of half a dozen other names, teens might consider this an “alternative” to pot, but it’s dangerously more potent. These “synthetic cannabinoids” consist of dozens of chemicals manufactured in China, Eastern Europe and American labs.

The drug looks like potpourri or lawn clippings. The pieces have been sprayed or soaked with a solution of designer chemicals.

 Because of the popularity of these drugs, there has been an explosion of ER visits related to Spice or K2 over the past few years. There’s been a reported death in California of a 19 year –old that took one after he took just one hit of Spice. So if you hear your kids talking about it, know that despite the name, the only thing that is being cooked here is your teen’s brain.  

Dirty Sprite: Although this may sound like a soda that’s got dirt on it- it’s much more insidious than that. When you hear a reference to “Dirty Sprite,”. Kids are talking about the latest teen party drink. It’s also called “Drank” or “”Lean.” It’s a combination of Sprite, candy (usually Jolly Ranchers) and prescription drugs or codeine cough syrup.

There are YouTube videos of teens creating the concoction, and even sweatshirts with the recipe printed on it.

Experts warn that Dirty Sprite can be addictive and tell parents that it’s best to keep prescription meds locked up, as well as discarding ones that have expired. If you think that it won’t help to talk to your kids about prescription drug abuse, you’re wrong. Children who learn a lot about the risks of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use them, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Texting and Walking or Driving:  Every year a new batch of teens is behind the wheel, especially once school begins.  Never stop reminding your teen of the dangers of texting and driving. They may roll their eyes or give you the typical “I get it mom (dad)” response, but repeated warnings stick in the mind. A recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that among teens, 25 percent reported responding to a text message at least once every time they drive, and 20 percent admitted to holding multi-message conversations.

Since videos are one way that other dangerous trends are spread, you can share more valuable videos by showing your teen stories that show the outcomes of teens’ texting and driving. They act as a third-party negotiator that makes the point clearly.

But perhaps the best type of parental influence is to just be a good role model. Sadly, adults are the biggest offenders of texting and driving. The “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude never brings about the desired results.

It's not just driving, either. Pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19-year olds have been increasing and the death rate among older teens is at least twice that of younger kids, according to SafeKids.com. It's unclear how many of those are because of mobile devices, but it's worth reminding your teen, "eyes up while walking." 

These are only four of the most dangerous trends this year. Kids are often too afraid to say no to their peers. As parents, it’s our job to teach them how and to report what they are seeing and hearing from other teens.

Research, open communication and reminders are essential to helping your child understand that these are not the sort of activities that will bring a brighter, happier or healthier future.

Source: Kavita Varma-White, http://www.today.com/parents/fire-challenge-spice-4-things-parents-should-get-clue-about-2D80183586

Your Teen

Teens Giving Birth Reaches Historic Low

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U.S. teens giving birth has reached historic lows. New evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today points to the ongoing and significant drop in the U.S. teen birth rate over the past 2o-plus years.

The CDC attributes the drop to fewer teens having sex and more frequent use of contraception. While the overall rate dropped significantly, some states did better than others in the reduction of teenagers giving birth.

Rates are consistently highest across the southern and southwestern United States and lowest in the Northeast.

The 10 highest states were Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The 10 lowest states were Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

The teen birth rate has declined across all racial groups since 1991, but the steepest declines have been recorded among Asian-Pacific Islanders (API) (64 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (63 percent). API teens currently have the lowest birth rate overall (9.7 per 1,000), while Hispanic teens have the highest rate among the racial groups (46.3 percent). Still, the rate for Hispanic teens has fallen the fastest since 2007 (39 percent).

The good news for America is somewhat tempered by the fact that our teen birth rate still ranks among some of the highest for developed countries. While countries like Denmark, Switzerland and Japan recorded teen birth rates under 5 per 1,000, the United States finds itself among seven of 31 countries highlighted by the CDC with rates exceeding 20 births per 1,000 teens.

Even though we lag behind many other developed countries, we’re still making progress and progress is good for our teens’ health and our economy.

The CDC says the progress made since 1991 has amounted to 4 million fewer teen births. Citing research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the CDC says this also saved taxpayers an estimated $12 billion alone in 2010 from costs associated with government-funded health care, child welfare and higher incarceration rates for the children of teen moms. And having fewer babies born to teen mothers, the CDC points out, is good for other reasons. Teen motherhood comes with a higher health risk for the baby, educational limits for the mother and limited resources, since about 90 percent of teen births are to unmarried mothers. And babies born to teen mothers are more likely to eventually become teen mothers themselves.

Some states, like Colorado, have seen dramatic reductions in teen births by re-thinking their approach. Between 2007 and 2012, Colorado saw the highest percentage drop in birth rates among teens 15 to 19 in the country, according to the CDC report. During that time, its teen birth rates dropped 39 percent compared to 29 percent nationwide. Abortion rates in the state among teens fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2012 and are falling nationally, as well.

What did Colorado do differently? They invested wisely in their young women and teen’s public health education and pregnancy prevention options.

State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long-acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens.

Public health officials there and elsewhere long have argued the use of long-acting reversible contraception can dramatically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies -- which make up a majority of teen pregnancies. Colorado’s initiative built upon a somewhat similar effort in St. Louis, Mo., which educated about 7,500 sexually active women on various forms of contraception and then offered to pay for that contraception over the next three years.

Seventy percent of women in the Missouri study chose an IUD or implant. The conclusion: those who chose short-term methods such as the pill or the patch were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who used an IUD or an implant.

Whether teens are delaying having sex or they are becoming savvier about using contraception, for their health and future prospects- it’s good to see that our young teenage girls are having fewer babies.

Sources: Jason Millman, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/20/the-uneven-and-historic-decline-in-teen-births/

Tina Griego, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/08/20/the-simple-policy-that-led-americas-biggest-drop-in-teen-pregnancies/

Your Teen

Growing Use of E-Cigarettes Among Teens

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A new study says that e-cigarette use among teens is accelerating at a rapid pace, particularly in Hawaii. Nearly one-third of the high school students that took part in the study said they had tried e-cigarettes.

An e-cigarette is a device that turns nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into an inhalable vapor. Many e-cigarettes are designed to resemble tobacco cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Researchers surveyed more than 1,900 teens in Hawaii. The average age was between 14 and 15 years old. The teens were in ninth and 10th grades, and from both public and private schools, according to the study. The survey assessed e-cigarette and cigarette use, alcohol and marijuana use, and psychosocial risk factors for substance use.

Twelve percent of the students reported using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Seventeen percent had used only e-cigarettes and three percent used cigarettes only.

Study author Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at University of Hawaii Cancer Center, said his team was surprised by the research results in several ways.

"We had thought that persons who used e-cigarettes would look pretty much like smokers on the psychosocial variables we measured, like sensation seeking, impulsivity and peer smoking" he said. "It turned out that the students who only used e-cigarettes had a lower risk profile than smokers and dual users -- persons who use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes."

Electronic cigarettes hit the American market around 2006- 2007, after taking hold in China and Europe. According to the FDA’s website, it does not currently regulate these products, but has proposed extending its authority to cover additional products that meet the definition of a tobacco product under the proposed rule: Tobacco Products Deemed To Be Subject to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (Deeming).

Forty-one states have laws forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and many cities in states that do not forbid the sale, have regulated the sales through ordinances.

E-cigarettes have helped many adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes or cut-down on their use. What is stirring concern over the increase in use among teens is the worry that these products are creating a new generation of teens addicted to nicotine and possible health risks. Nicotine is an extremely difficult drug to quit.

"Kids will try any psychoactive device that seems interesting," said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association. "But the American Lung Association is very concerned about that because we think one of the major deleterious effects of e-cigarettes is hooking a whole generation of kids on this very addictive substance that is nicotine."

He noted that e-cigarettes are only one of many available "nicotine delivery devices," which also include items resembling pens or USB drives that release puffs of nicotine vapor.

Recent studies suggest that the overall use of e-cigarettes by teens in the mainland is lower than the results from the Hawaii study, but adolescent use continues to grow in popularity. 

The big question is, what are the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes and other nicotine vapor products? Since there is not any current government oversight on how these products are made, it’s difficult to know what other chemicals are being used in their production.

"Parents have to make it clear to kids that these things are not necessarily safe," Edelman said, "and to live a full and complete life, it would be good if they were drug-free."

Results of the study were published online on Dec. 15 in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Maureen Salamon, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/growing-use-of-e-cigarettes-among-teenagers-694585.html

Your Teen

Obesity Study: Teen Diabetes and Heart Disease

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No parent likes to think that his or her child is skating on the edge of disaster. But if your teen is obese – 10 percent higher than what is recommended for their height and body type – they could be at a much higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that half of American overweight teens have unhealthy blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels.

The rise in Type 2 diabetes among today’s youth is a real concern. The study showed that the percentage of adolescents who were diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes rose dramatically from 9 percent in 1999, to 21 percent in 2008. Pre-diabetics have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to count as diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is a condition that until recently doctors almost never saw in kids. But that was before the childhood obesity epidemic.

"That's a shockingly high figure that has dire implications to the health of this entire generation of children. This report really sounds the alarm," says David S. Ludwig, a childhood obesity expert at Children's Hospital in Boston.

For the study, researchers from the CDC focused on 3,383 adolescents ages 12 through 19, who were part of an intensive National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that involves interviewing, weighing, measuring and performing medical tests on people across the country.

"It's one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack. It's a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10," Ludwig says. "Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences from these serious medical problems related to obesity.”

Diabetic teens will someday be diabetic adults struggling to keep their blood sugar levels under control. They will also be saddled with the possible results of long-term diabetes such as blindness, nerve damage, heart attacks and strokes. The good news is that parents can help their children turn things around now. Young children and teens can avoid these lifetime health problems by losing the extra pounds and getting fit before type 2 diabetes and other health problems have a chance to develop. 

Are parents getting the message that there is an obesity epidemic among this nation’s children? Not as many as should be.  Recent studies have shown that many parents of obese children do not think their child is overweight, particularly if one or both of the parents is obese. If parents don’t take action because they don’t recognize that their child is not merely a few pounds overweight, but clinically obese, their child will pay the price. If you need help figuring out where to start making lifestyle changes, the CDC has a guide to family healthy living on their website at www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating.

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are not what parents want for their children. That’s why it’s so important that they pay attention to the health issues that obesity can cause. 

"The impact of the epidemic will continue to mount for many years as this generation of children carry these increased risk factors into adulthood and carry the burden of chronic disease for so many years longer than ever has been the case in history," Ludwig notes.

Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/05/21/153030283/a-dire-sign-of-the-...

Your Teen

Teens: Smoking Less, Texting While Driving More

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Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to emotional highs and lows and it typically shows in their behavior. Mixed in with lots of good days and excellent choices are temptations and decisions that put them at high risk for dangerous and sometimes deadly outcomes. It’s all part of the adolescent stage of life.

The good news is that a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows teenagers are smoking cigarettes, using drugs, fighting and drinking alcohol less.

They’re also more likely to wear their seatbelts and helmets when they are supposed to.

On the flip side, more teens are obese and not getting enough sleep.

However, the most troubling new data shows that more than 40% of teenagers who drive cars admit to having texted or emailed while driving recently.

"We're encouraged to see that high school students are making better choices in some areas, like smoking, fighting, and alcohol use," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD.

However, other areas are concerning, he said, including the amount of time students spend glued to a screen instead of being active and a relatively new worry -- texting or emailing while driving.

Two in five of the 64% of students who reported driving in the 30 days before the survey also said they had been texting or emailing while behind the wheel, according to Stephanie Zaza, MD, director of the agency's Division of Adolescent and School Health.

"This puts them and other drivers at risk," she said.

On the whole though, there’s been really good progress made in teenager’s safety and health.

“I think it's really encouraging that we're seeing the lowest cigarette smoking rate ever,” Frieden told NBC News.

While smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death in the United States — it causes heart disease, cancer and lung disease — teenagers face a more immediate risk. The single biggest killer of teens is motor vehicle crashes, causing 23% of deaths among 10 to 24-year-olds, CDC says.

Frieden believes that there’s a reason teens are buckling up more, whether they are behind the wheel or riding as a passenger.

“These positive trends didn't just happen. They're the result of hard work in communities all over the country — doing things like protecting kids from secondhand smoke, passing laws that are graduated driving laws so that kids don't drink and drive,” he said.

On the texting front, older teen drivers may do it more often. CDC found that 58% of high school seniors admitted to texting while driving.

Another positive statistic is that fewer teens are having sex. Unfortunately this good news is tempered with a down side. Teen sex is decreasing but so is condom use.

Just over a third of teenagers are currently sexually active.

Teens should use condoms even if they are also using other contraception, Frieden said. Pregnancy is a big worry, but STDs are even more likely, and Frieden fears "there may be a sense that, well, there's treatment for HIV so it's not such a terrible problem.”

There may be treatments for HIV but there’s no cure. People must take pills every single day for life and the virus can develop resistance to those medications.

The other long-term risks to health are poor diet and a lack of exercise. Teens are trying, but not reaching targets there, the survey indicates.

Results of this survey show that teens are making progress in some important safety and health related areas and, like most of us, need work in others. The fact that fewer teens are smoking is very good news. The increase in texting while driving is very troubling but not surprising considering that adults are doing the same thing.

Many of the safety and health issues teens are experiencing are not much different from what adults are doing and that’s where parents and guardians can make a big difference. Kids are much more likely to control their own behavior better when they see their parents doing the same.

Sources: Maggie Fox, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/teen-smoking-sex-hit-new-lows-texting-fat-are-new-n129541

Your Teen

What Really Improves a Child’s Math Skills?

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Ask people to raise their hand if they like math and you most likely won’t see a lot of hands in the air. When asked why math isn’t particularly popular, many will answer that they just never have been very good at it. A new study suggests that for kids who are not mathematically inclined, studying harder and being strongly motivated to improve can be the key to making better grades.

While genetics may play a role in math comprehension, motivation and study habits can play a more important role during the all important high school years according to the study.  “It’s not how smart we are; it’s how motivated we are and how effectively we study that determines growth in math achievement over time,” says Kou Murayama, a post-doctoral psychology researcher at University of California  Los Angeles and lead author of the study published in the journal Child Development.

Murayama and his colleagues studied math achievement among roughly 3,500 public school students living in the German state of Bavariain. Students were followed from 5th grade through 10th grade and were given annual standard math tests in each grade. They were also given IQ tests and questioned about their attitude towards mathematics.

Researchers wanted to know if the kids believed that better math skills were achievable through hard work and if they were interested in math for its own sake. They also wanted to know if their approach to math included incorporating mathematical concepts into their every day life, or if they relied more on memorization to pass tests.

The psychologists said they were surprised that a higher IQ did not predict “new” learning ability. Intelligence measured by the IQ test did not indicate how likely students were to understand new concepts or to add new skills. Children with high IQs did have higher test scores but how much new material the kids learned throughout the years the study was conducted, was not related to how high their IQ registered.

“Students with high IQ have high math achievement and students with low IQ have low math achievement,” Murayama says. “But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. It determines the starting point.

The greatest number of children who showed improvement in math skills during the study were the ones who agreed or strongly agreed with statements such as, “When doing math, the harder I try, the better I perform,” or “I invest a lot of effort in math, because I am interested in the subject.” These included students who were not high achievers when they started. And at the other end of the spectrum, kids who were motivated purely by the desire to get good grades saw no greater improvement over the average.

Kids who said they tried incorporating connections between mathematical ideas typically improved faster than those who used memorization techniques.

While not entirely surprising — it makes sense that more motivated students would do better and that those who put in more effort to learn would see better results — the findings provide reassuring confirmation that academic success is not governed by a student’s cognitive abilities alone. Instead, students who want to learn math and who work at it may find they make faster gains and learn better than students who are bright but less motivated. That’s encouraging not just for students, but for schools as well, says Murayama.

How well the German school results apply to other nations is not known. Murayama is intrigued enough to investigate different instructional styles that teachers and parents may use to inspire kids to learn. While certain intelligence traits seem to be based in genetics and therefore hard to change, previous research suggests that motivation is not innate, but largely learned. Even, it seems, when it comes to math.

Source: http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/26/motivation-not-iq-matters-most-for-learning-new-math-skills/#ixzz2GJ0rEdaP

Your Teen

Do Expensive Football Helmets Prevent Concussions?

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These days, parents, student athletes and coaches are much more aware of the long-term medical problems that concussions can cause. Fortunately, many efforts are being made to protect kids from head injuries.

Sports equipment companies have jumped on the bandwagon and have improved the protection their helmets and pads offer. However, some of these newer products, like football helmets, are quite expensive. Parents want to know if these more expensive football helmets actually offer more protection. According to a new study, just because a  helmet may be heavier and more expensive, it will not lower a player’s risk of concussion.

Why is that? It could be because a helmet doesn’t keep the brain from moving around in the skull. It may offer better protection against a skull fracture, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with concussion.

A study of more than 1,300 players on football teams at 36 Wisconsin high schools found that players wearing older helmets received just as much protection from concussion as players with flashy new models, said study author Timothy McGuine, senior scientist and research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin Health Sports Medicine Center in Madison.

"The helmet technology is advanced as it can be. They've done a wonderful job. We don't have skull fractures in football," he said. "But I don't know how much padding can be put in to prevent the brain from sloshing around inside the cranium."

This research, to be presented Saturday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Chicago, comes at a time when some sports equipment manufacturers are marketing expensive football helmets amid claims that they offer better protection against concussion than earlier models, McGuine said.

"They're all being touted as the next best thing to prevent sports injuries, and it really puts the squeeze on athletic directors and coaches," he said. "Some companies are going right to the parents and saying, 'We know it's too expensive for the school to pay for it, so you should pay for this helmet to protect your child.'"

Here’s how the study worked. Licensed athletic trainers at each of the high schools taking part in the study, kept thorough records during the 2012 football season. All safety equipment used by the athletes was noted. Data was also recorded on the numbers of games and practices each player participated in and the number of sports-related concussions.

The players wore helmets manufactured by Riddell, Schutt and Xenith.

Out of 1,332 players tracked, 115 sustained a concussion during the season, McGuine reported.

Researchers found no difference in the rate of concussion by either the type of helmet worn or the helmet's age.

"We found the actual incidence of concussion was not more for players wearing the newest helmets versus wearing helmets 3, 4 or 5 years old," McGuine said. "We also looked at [concussion] severity by helmet model. No difference there, either."

Another interesting fact also popped up during the study. Players who wore a specialized or custom-fitted mouth guard actually had a higher risk of suffering a concussion than players who wore the generic mouth-guard provided by the school.

The American Medical Society of Sports Medicine released a position statement in January that said hard sports helmets can prevent impact injuries such as lacerations or fractures but have not been shown to reduce the incidence or severity of concussions, said Dr. Anne-Felicia Ambrose, medical director of the traumatic brain injury unit in the department of rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

"In terms of equipment, there really isn't that much more we can do," Ambrose said. "Where we have a lot of potential for reducing concussion is the way the game is played."

Some experts believe that changing how games are played is more likely to prevent concussions than equipment.

For example, limiting contact between players outside of competition is one means of reducing concussions, she said. "A lot more concussions occur during practice, when coaches cannot have their eyes on everyone on the field," Ambrose said. "The chance of impact is increased."

McGuine agreed. "I don't see any reason for kids to have full tackle on practice days," he said.

Since football players are going to be wearing helmets for other safety reasons, McGuine suggests that coaches and trainers make sure that each player’s helmet is properly fitted and checked weekly.

How many high school football players receive a concussion every year during play or practice? McGuine says about 40,000. That’s a lot of concussions.

Parents want to make sure that their child is as safe as can reasonably be expected, so they are more vulnerable to high-pressure sales pitches that tout the safety of certain products. According to this study, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean safer, especially where concussions are concerned. 

The research presented at the meetings mentioned above, are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Dennis Thompson, http://consumer.healthday.com

Your Teen

Talking To Your Child About Smoking

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It’s really amazing how far this country has come in its recognition that smoking is bad for you. During the 1950s almost half of American adults were lighting up, today that number is below 20 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Lung Association says that 68 percent of adult smokers say that started smoking regularly when they were age18 or younger.

Tobacco use among middle and high school students is gradually going down, but far too many kids are still giving cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco a try.

Kids are attracted to smoking for a lot of reasons. I don’t think anyone of any age thinks cigarettes smell good or finds a brown slimy wad of spit attractive, but kids will overlook the gross factor if they really want to try a cigarette.

So how do you talk to your child about the dangers of smoking without it going in one ear and out the other? What if YOU smoke- how do you tell your child not to smoke? 

The number one reason for smoking among kids is peer pressure. Kids want to fit in. So, the first conversation to have when you talk to your child about smoking is how to respond to peer pressure other than just saying no thanks. Other suggestions might be “It makes my clothes and breath smell bad. I don’t like that”,  “ Smoking can make you sick and I don’t like being sick”, “ You may want to smoke but I really don’t want to. If you are going to smoke, please don’t do it around me”, and “smoking will make my teeth yellow”.  Give your child some optional ways to respond when pressure is applied. Create a plan and even let your child practice responding by role-playing.

Another approach to talking with your child about smoking is to ask them why they think kids start smoking. There are actually a lot of reasons kids (and adults) start smoking. Anxious or worried kids like the calming affect it has on them.  A lot of girls think smoking will help them lose weight. Top tier models have been quoted as saying they lose weight with caffeine and cigarettes.

Some kids think that smoking makes them look and feel older, it also gives them a sense of independence. If your child is looking at smoking from that vantage point, you might direct them to the Internet and a program called www.ageme.com. It’s pretty interesting. You can see how smoking, weight gain and sun exposure will affect how you look as you age. It’s not a pretty sight.

And of course, there are the health reasons. If your child plays sports, ask them how hard would it be to play the sport they’re involved in if they couldn’t breathe. Explain how smoking eventually will destroy their lungs but it doesn’t take a lifetime of smoking to start feeling the effects. You become much more susceptible to colds and bronchitis. Mucus builds up in your lungs and you begin coughing more. And if you want to become a singer (say on… American Idol or The Voice) smoking will keep you from hitting the high and low notes as well as making it tougher to hold those sustained notes the judges all love.

And then there is cancer. Kids don’t normally relate to cancer very well. It seems like an old persons disease to them. If you’ve had anyone in your family or a friend die of lung cancer or emphysema and they smoked, you might talk about how much longer they could have lived and been a part of you and your child’s life. How much you miss them.

I think shock sometimes has a place in this discussion. There are photos online of smokers and non-smokers lungs. The difference is shocking. Black tarred lungs are difficult to look at. Lung cancer is difficult to look at – but it’s also a reality check.

Smokeless tobacco. A lot of kids (and adults) think chewing tobacco isn’t as bad as smoking a cigarette. So untrue. It may not cause lung cancer and smell as bad, but it comes with its own set of really bad problems. Once very popular with baseball players, its use has been reduced by players substituting sunflower seeds and gum, although there still seems to be a lot of spitting going on.

There’s plenty of nicotine in chewing tobacco, so it’s just as addictive.

For kids who chew tobacco you might mention that they are very likely to end up with cracked and bleeding lips and gums. Plus, receding gums that can eventually make your teeth fall out as well as high blood pressure. None of the above is a desirable look.

Kids may have heard about lung cancer, but they may be unfamiliar with oral cancer. Several baseball players have died because of oral cancer, Bill Tuttle and Babe Ruth to name a couple.

You can let them know that while they may not get lung cancer from using smokeless tobacco, he or she will most definitely be a candidate for developing oral cancer. Oral cancer can include the lips, tongue, cheeks, mouth and throat.

So, how do you have this conversation with your child if you are a smoker or you chew tobacco?  The best thing to do is to quit and to let your child know that you are going to probably have a rough time of it. Let them see how difficult it is and share that they too will have to go through the same kind of suffering if they start smoking and continue.

Talk to your child about how you began smoking – what age you were- and why you wish you never had started. Talk about the times you’ve tried to quit and how hard it was. Discuss addiction and how you’re not in control of smoking, smoking is in control of you. Don’t leave cigarettes or smokeless tobacco around the house. It’s just too tempting.

Talking about your smoking doesn’t encourage your child to smoke, especially if you are honest about how it has impacted your life.

And then there is the economics of smoking. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are expensive. Depending on what state you live in, a pack of cigarettes can cost around $5.00 to $12.50. If you smoke a pack-or two-or three a week it can add up (imagine a pack or two a day!). Ask you child what else they could be spending their money on instead of cigarettes.

The “Don’t smoke” conversation is multi-layered. Threats and character assassination are not helpful. In fact, that is exactly the kind of approach that can push a child to smoke.

There is no one conversation about smoking that covers everything. It’s a process that has to be creative and delivered on a consistent basis. You have to listen as well as talk. You have to be able to be teen-brained as well as the adult.  

While peers may have the strongest impact on pushing your child to smoke, parents still hold the number one position on how their children learn to make important decisions.

Sources: http://kidshealth.org

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/

Your Teen

Summer Viruses Are Gearing Up

1.15 to read

Is it hot enough for you? Summer is here and will continue for a bit! Winter viruses are a distant memory (good bye flu and RSV), summer viruses which have been laying dormant are once again rearing their angry heads.

My office has been overflowing with really hot feverish kids of all ages.   I think the most likely culprit for much of the illness we are seeing right now is an enteroviral infection.  For some reason, it makes us parents feel better if we can “name that virus”, seems to help validate the illness.  

Enteroviral infections typically cause a non-specific febrile illness and with that you can see fairly high fever. In other words, just like the thermometer as summer heat arrives , 101-104 degrees of fever is not uncommon in these patients.  Remember the mantra, “fever is our friend”. I think it is almost worse to have a high fever in the summer as you are even more uncomfortable because it is already hot!

With that being said, if your child has a fever, don’t bundle them up with layers of clothes and blankets.  It is perfectly acceptable to have your younger child in a diaper and t-shirt, and older children can be in sundress or shorts rather than long sleeves and pants.  Bundling may increase the body temperature, even while you are driving to the doctor’s office. I often come into a room with a precious baby who is running a fever and they are wrapped in blankets, let them out! That hot body needs to breathe.

These summer enteroviruses may cause other symptoms as well as fever, so many kids right now seem to have sore throats and are also vomiting and having diarrhea. With this type of virus you also hear complaints of headaches and body aches (myalgias).  The kids I am seeing don’t look especially sick, but they do feel pretty yucky!  Just kind of wiped out, especially when their temps are up.

Besides treating their fevers, treat their other symptoms to make them comfortable.   If they are vomiting do not give them anything to eat and start giving them frequent sips of liquids such as Pedialyte (for the younger ones) and Gatorade or even Sprite or Ginger Ale. Small volumes are the key. 

I often use pieces of Popsicle or spoonfuls of a Slurpee to get fluids in kids. I always tried to pick drink colors for my own kids that were easier to clean up, in case they were going to vomit again, so no bright red!  The cold fluids may also help to soothe a sore throat. Once the vomiting has stopped, and it is usually no more than 12-24 hours, you can start feeding small amounts of food, but I would steer away from any dairy for a day or two. Again, nothing worse than thinking your child is over vomiting, fixing them I nice milkshake (comfort food) and seeing that thrown up!  Many a mother has come into my office wanting to strip after being vomited on, in a hot car no less.   I don’t think there is a car wash around that can fully get rid of that smell!

Most enteroviral infection last anywhere from 2-5 days. There are many different enteroviruses too, so you can get more than one infection during the season. This is not just a virus you see in children, so watch out parents you may succumb as well. Keep up good hand washing and your child should stay home from school, the pool, camp, day care etc. until they have been fever free for 24 hours. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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