News Worthy

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The Inconvenience Of Prepackaged Baby Food

dv2159103Feeding a toddler is hard work because of all sorts of normal shifts that happen after the first birthday. But new data out this past month (see below) reminds us how pre-packaged baby food isn’t the best food source, despite package claims. Whole food, the food your family eats, and the fresh stuff is the way to go.

Infant hunger matches their rapid growth; we’re used to our babies ravenous and near consistent basis from day one yet as infancy progresses feedings space out and form meals. By a year of age most children go 4 hours or more between eating. Toddlerhood is a completely different story; growth slows after a year of age and toddlers start to test limits in profound ways. Food is no exception. It can be tempting to reach for whatever’s convenient that you know your kid will eat (fish crackers, anyone?) but in the long run making good nutritional choices for whole food regularly will exceed the nutritional detriments of pre-packaged “toddler” food.  In fact, a new policy statement released by the AAP this month is urging parents (and schools, daycares etc.) to take a “whole diet” approach to kids’ nutrition, namely focusing on a mix of foods from the five food groups and avoiding highly processed foods. Read more about the policy here from my friend Dr Claire McCarthy. These “fresh is best” ideas aren’t new to you I suspect but the data about food being marketed to us (and our children) is: Read full post »

Legal Doesn’t Mean Safe: Marijuana

Legal never has meant “safe” but the two words may at times overlap in our minds. When it comes to marijuana I’d suggest there is quite a bit of confusion right now about safety, recreational and medicinal use, and the effects of use on our population. In general, as laws change and access to marijuana increases we have a responsibility to be clear about what is known.

The adverse effects of marijuana in children and teens have been well-documented. Marijuana use can impair memory, decrease concentration, and change problem-solving capacity. It’s not good for the lungs nor long-term health; teens who use pot have a higher likelihood of drug addiction later on in life, the risks increase the earlier they start using. Research also finds that teens who use marijuana are less likely to finish high school, are more likely to use other (illicit) drugs, and have an increase in suicide attempts compared to those who don’t. The more they use, the more the effect. I can’t help but think about what a mom to a teen said to me recently in clinic, “marijuana is everywhere now.”

One in 5 high school students says they have used marijuana in the last month and up to 1 in every 16 students says they use it every single day. Who are we if we ignore these numbers?

As legal may mean “safe” to some a strong statement from pediatricians everywhere from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was released today to set the record straight. The two things to know:

  1. Research has found marijuana has adverse effects on teen health. It’s now known that the brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20’s raising real concerns about what the drug does while the brain is still forming. The effects of marijuana change how teens think in school, how safe they are on the road, and potentially how they act for a lifetime (lifelong addiction risks increase with use, teens who use are less likely to finish high school, teens who use have higher suicide risk).
  2. Use Coupled With Criminalization Can Change Lives For Good: Legalization for medical and recreational use may imply marijuana is benign; for children and teens this is untrue. History shows that teens, especially those of racial minority groups, are incarcerated at higher rates secondary to possession or use of marijuana. A criminal record can have lifelong negative effects — the AAP is advocating to decrease marijuana crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, study effects of legalization in states like WA or Colorado, Alaska or in DC, and strictly limit access to and marketing of marijuana to youth. The big concern here as well is that policies that lead to more adult use will likely lead to more adolescent use. Decriminalization is especially important in states where recreational use is legal for those over 21 years of age.

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Pre-Vacation Tanning?

This girl in a tanning bed should provoke the same response in you that a photo of a 5 year-old smoking a cigarette would.

This girl in a tanning bed should provoke the same response in you that a photo of a 5 year-old smoking a cigarette would.

More than a million people go indoor tanning every day and research says the average city has more tanning salons than they do Starbucks or McDonalds (I’m wondering about Seattle though since coffee shops truly dot every block). I’m also guessing the tanning industry is somewhat seasonal; if we did the research on which week people go tanning, we’d find a bump during winter break, yes?

The pre-vacation tan is often used as a handy excuse for hitting the indoor tanning salon this time of year. There’s no such thing as a “safe” tan since tanning is a reflection of damage to the skin cells — a tan is the body’s response to damaged DNA in the skin cells. However, vacationers (lucky you!) often feel that getting a tan before they go to the equator will protect them. Instinct here is wrong.

Data finds that those who indoor tan before their trip are careless while on the trip, thinking they are protected, and in the end have more sun exposure and ultimately more sunburn than those who don’t.

People may visit a tanning salon to prepare the skin for a sunny vacation, the “prevacation tan”, thinking that a “base tan” will protect against subsequent skin damage during the vacation. This leads to extra radiation before the vacation and also afterward, because people may use fewer sun-protection precautions during the vacation because of a mistaken belief that the tan will protect them. The “prevacation tan” results in minimal protection (an estimated SPF of 3) and provides virtually no protection against sun induced DNA damage. ~ Pediatrics, April 2013

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More Data That Laundry “Pods” Carry Risk

pod photo croppedLaundry detergent pods continue to cause trouble — increasing convenience yet posing risks to young children. New data out today confirms what we’ve seen since their introduction. These cute, colorful and entirely convenient laundry packets (typically called “pods”) were introduced in the U.S. in 2012 and quickly made measuring out laundry detergent a thing of the past. Unfortunately we’ve also seen that these pods grab the attention of young children. Beautiful design gone wrong. As you’ve likely heard, or witnessed yourself, young children can be drawn to the pods (often these packets of detergent look like a preschooler’s toy or a piece of candy) and because of young children’s unique method of exploration (infants/toddlers/preschools use their mouths as much as their eyes & hands to explore) they may be at risk for injuries if the detergent pods are in arm’s reach. New research out today from Pediatrics documents an ongoing onslaught of children exposed to laundry pods, more than 17,000 children in less than two years. Some in the media have translated the volume of calls to poison control — a call every hour in this country — secondary to exposures to these packets of concentrated detergent.

Single-Dose Detergent Concerns

The first warnings about the dangers of laundry pods came out in May of 2012.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) started getting calls about children getting in to the capsules and ABC news did a subsequent story warning parents about the risks. Several factors make the pods a serious risk for young children: they’re appealing to the eye (look how fun and colorful the Tide pods look in the photo above) and small in size.  They also have a thin membrane (built to dissolve quickly in the wash) and are full of highly concentrated soap. It’s unclear exactly why this concentrated liquid causing so many new symptoms (vomiting, coughing, or rarely severe breathing problems and severe symptoms like changes in level of alertness or seizures). Dr. Suzan Mazor, an emergency physician at Seattle Children’s, adds she’s seen several eye abrasions, which happen when children accidentally squirt the pod contents in their eyes. She adds, “These ultimately heal just fine but can be painful and distressing to the children and parents.” The ingestions have been serious enough at times to send children to the ICU and need mechanical ventilation. With the beautiful curiosity of a toddler coupled to the lack of judgement, you have a recipe for this “pod” problem. Here’s a look at it by the recent study numbers:

  • 17,230 – Children under the age of 6 exposed to laundry pods (between Feb. 2012 – Dec. 2013), the majority being ingestions. The AAPCC reports that 8,915 exposures have already been reported in 2014 (data through end of September, 2014)
  • 645% -The increase in exposures to laundry packets between March 2012 – April 2013
  • 74% – The percentage of children exposed to detergent packets who are under age 3 years. Clearly toddlers are the most vulnerable group when it comes to these packets of detergent
  • 80% – The percentage of ingestion for the reported cases. This translates out that 8 of 10 children who have an exposure put these pods in their mouths. About 7% of children have injuries to their eyes, and the remaining 3% are a combination of skin injuries and damage caused by inhalation into the lungs
  • #1 – #1 household product ingested in Italy. This isn’t just a US problem. In Italy, where detergent pods have been available since 2010, the product is the number one most commonly ingested household product
  • 56% – More than 1/3 of kids vomit after an ingestion. For overall exposures, 48% percent of children exposed to pods vomited, making it the most common side effect. After vomiting comes coughing  or choking (13%), eye irritation or pain (11%), drowsiness or lethargy (7%), and eye redness (6%)

pod poison timeline

What Parents Need to Know:

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