This is an article written for HomemakerBarbi.com by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H., publisher of James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor
Magazine, the magazine written by health-care professionals. Dr. Hubbard was recently awarded the Top Health Blogger distinction by WellSphere.
5 Must-Know Children’s Medical Headlines
The last few months have brought lots of big medical news stories affecting kids and families. Here are my picks for the top-five biggest, with tips on what to do now.
1. Kawasaki disease. Named after the discovering doctor, and also known as Kawasaki syndrome, it affects fewer than one in 500 children under age 5. Although relatively rare, it’s in the news because John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s recently deceased son had it as a young child. It’s diagnosed when a child has a high fever lasting over five days, and four of the following signs and symptoms.
- Sore throat
- Body rash
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck
- Swollen, red tongue (strawberry tongue) and dry, cracked lips
- Swollen, red palms or soles
- Red conjunctivae (whites of the eyes)
It inflames the lining of the body’s heart and arteries. The cause is unknown but, if not treated within about 10 days of onset, 25 percent develop serious heart and arterial problems. If treated, that figure decreases to 2 to 4 percent. In spite of everything, 1 percent die, usually within a few months of onset.
If your child has these symptoms, see your doctor, but realize there are much more common illnesses with similar symptoms, such as various viral illnesses, scarlet fever (strep throat with a rash) and drug reactions.
2. Vitamin D. Arguably, the biggest nutrition story in 2008 was vitamin D and the findings that it helped about everything, it seemed. Along with strengthening bones, studies showed it decreases the risk of some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.
Because of this—along with the fact that rickets is still around and breast milk has no vitamin D—the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends babies begin a supplement of 400 I.U. per day soon after birth. The only exception is if the child is drinking a quart or more of vitamin D enriched milk or formula daily.
3. Cough and cold medicines. The FDA says not to use these in children under 2 years old. Critics wanted the ban to go up to 5 years of age, but the FDA refused. They acknowledged that the medicine has never been proven to work in children and sends thousands per year to the emergency room, but they were afraid parents might just use stronger adult medicines if they didn’t have the children’s strength alternative. A group of major manufacturers has decided to put a “do not use under 4” label on them, anyway.
What can you do instead? Keep the child hydrated with fluids and a humidifier and consider dark honey, which has shown to be effective. (Never give honey to children under 2 because of a botulism risk in that age.) You can try the following, with or without an uncaffeinated beverage, 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Ages 2 to 5: ½ teaspoon
- Ages 5 to 11: 1 teaspoon
- Ages 12 and up: 2 teaspoons
4. Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical found in plastics. Animal studies have shown it can affect brain behavioral and prostate development. The FDA says it’s safe in the small amounts found in baby toys. Critics disagree, saying human studies need to be done to prove safety.
Some major retailers no longer stock toys containing BPA. If you’re concerned, you have the alternative to buy glass baby bottles or plastic ones that are BPA free.
5. Influenza vaccines. The FDA now recommends every child aged 6 months to 18 years be immunized yearly. Babies up to 6 months old have their mother’s immunity if she was vaccinated while pregnant.
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