All Articles tagged ‘teens’

Pale4Prom: Indoor Tanning And A Hashtag

Image courtesy: @mdub686 (Original source found here)

Image courtesy: Melissa Walling (Original source found here)

It’s prom season and we all know it’s the season where teens feel pressure (and sometimes giddy delight) to prepare to look entirely fabulous for the night. Full of pressure or full of glee, this is without a doubt the time of year when teens I see in clinic talk most about tanning.

A 2014 JAMA study found 19% of teens (under the age of 19) have used a tanning bed, with 18% of them stating that they’ve used one in the last year. That’s in every teenagers still feeling that “bronzed is better” and a thing of youthful beauty regardless of the known consequences. We have to do a better job, both as parents and as doctors and health educators, explaining the unnecessary risks teens take on when changing the color of their skin. Recently, a hashtag surfaced on social media encouraging teens to be “#pale4prom.” Thoughtful critics have raised concerns about the racial implications this campaign could ignite, I do feel this campaign can do good for those teens exploring indoor tanning. We all want to feel beautiful in skin that is protected from the sun. In my mind, the easiest word to market the idea of skin without sun is pale. I’ve urged teens to enjoy the beauty of pale skin (sometimes unsuccessfully, in clinic and in my personal life) and hope the shift from bronze to pale is a trend that continues to grow as years unfold. There’s no question we can do a better job valuing what beautiful skin really is. 5 reasons why: Read full post »

E-Cigs And A Free App To Help Quit Smoking

Last week a proposal was introduced that would give Washington State the toughest e-cigarette laws in the country. If passed, House Bill 1645 would significantly raise the taxes on e-cigarettes, ban the sale of flavored vaping liquids, ban online sales to Washington residents and require producers to list ingredients on labels. And while opponents of the bill argue that e-cigarettes are “healthier” than tobacco, there’s no denying the dangers of having such a highly addictive substance in arm’s reach to children and teens in an unregulated manner. Washington isn’t the only state taking action. This week California released a campaign calling out marketers of e-cigs for targeting teens. Teens are using e-cigs more and more with 1 in 5 high school sophomores here reporting having used them in the last month. E-cigarettes and e-hookahs may carry an illusion of safety they don’t warrant.

What House Bill 1645 Proposes

  • Instill a 95% tax on vaping products similar to tobacco product taxes
    • Right now only North Carolina and Minnesota have imposed taxes on E-cigarettes
  • Make it illegal to sell flavored liquid nicotine or other vaping fluids
  • Ban internet sales to Washington residents
  • Require ingredients list on all labels

Curbing An Urge To Smoke: An App For That

Supporters of e-cigarettes and those fighting against regulation often claim the devices are helpful in helping tobacco users quit, so-called harm reduction. I certainly won’t and can’t argue with anecdotes that this is useful for those wanting to quit. While this concept hasn’t been entirely disproved or entirely proven, there is still a lot we don’t know about vaping and the effects of liquid nicotine. If you or someone you know wants to quit tobacco, there are some new digital resources available to help you kick the habit. The good news is we can be hopeful that dual-pronged approaches may help those wanting to quit earnestly succeed. Download this app?

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Image courtesy: Washington Department of Health

Washington State residents have access, for a limited time, to a free app called SmartQuit. Sponsored by the Department of Health, the app is a tobacco cessation program that proved three times more effective than trying to quit on your own, according to a recent study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. SmartQuit users create a personal plan to become aware of their urges to smoke, they then learn new ways of thinking about those urges to suppress the desire to smoke. The Washington Department of Health is offering the app for free to a limited number of users. Because the funding is limited, please don’t download unless you’re serious about using the app as the number of free downloads will run out. Consider it? If you or someone you know does, report back on your opinions?

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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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Teens And Medicine Abuse, A Bad Rap?

OTC med abuse

infographic from OTCsafety

I’ve been lucky enough to interact with teens on a regular basis for my entire career. As a previous middle and junior high school teacher, people often express pity when they hear I taught middle-school, as if teens are “too” tough, histrionic, and irresponsible to have wanted the job. I really did want the job. I love the drama and rate of change during adolescence. In my experience I see teens take on huge responsibility, make good choices, care deeply about their family and friends, and work diligently to improve their world. Their interest and work on evolving into an ideal self is captivating. Most teens are highly motivated. Many are over-extended because they are so committed. Lazy teens just aren’t the norm…

Sometimes teens get a bad rap. Sometimes they make choices without thinking of the consequences too. That’s normal when you’re still developing. Those mistakes pave the road of opportunity for us to give teens information that keeps them safe.

October is a lot of things (more on that this month) but know it’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month and there’s a big push to both educate parents on signs of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse and encourage parents to talk with teens about the risks of using medications as recreational drugs.

Thing is, approximately 1 in 25 teens reports abusing excessive amounts of Dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high. DXM is a safe ingredient found in more than 100 OTC medicines. It’s typically found in cough suppressants or medicines for cough and colds. Because it’s a stimulant, when DXM is consumed in excess it can cause a rapid heart beat, vomiting, stomach pain, hallucinations, confusion, and loss of motor control. It also can induce a high — hence why teens experiment with it.

1 in 3 teens know someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high. Consider asking at home what your kids know. Read full post »

3 Shots: Protect Against Cancer

It’s 2014 and it’s a reality that you can protect a child, teen or young adult from a cancer-causing virus with a series of just three shots. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause warts but also lead to cancer (anogenital and/or throat cancers). Most data find 14 million new people are infected with the virus every year. Most of the time, HPV enters our body and our immune system gets rid of it on its own, however sometimes HPV causes trouble at the cellular level. Fortunately there’s a safe and effective way to stop the spread of HPV, prevent some strains of the virus from ever causing cellular changes in our body and ultimately prevent the related cancers it triggers: the HPV vaccine.

HPV Vaccine Is Safe

The HPV vaccine isn’t really “new” anymore. Between June 2006-March 2014, approximately 67 million doses of HPV vaccines were distributed. The vaccine is made from one protein from the HPV virus, designed to trigger a protective immune response; the vaccine cannot cause HPV infection or cancer. A recent study by Pediatrics found the HPV vaccine to be not only effective, but long-lasting. The study followed vaccinated girls and boys for eight years and showed evidence of durability; the HPV-antibodies remained at high levels over the years after immunization. Read full post »

Caffeine Intake High For Children But Shifting

CoffeeI was up helping my son for the majority of the night. He’s got a stomach bug (which he got from his brother) therefore I was up dealing with the enormous mess that comes with vomiting in the middle of the night. I know you know my woe. This is the second round of this bug at our house so I was clearly exhausted when 6 am rolled around.

First thing I reached for was my cup of coffee. Pretty typical for a working mom just trying to get by. As I write about caffeine, from my perch in this dear coffee town, I’m in no way suggesting we parents should ditch the latte! In fact the health benefits of moderate coffee intake during adulthood continue to unfold amidst ongoing small concerns. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth on the health benefits lurking in coffee. Moderation, like always, is key.

Yet when it comes to children, we may be more lax about caffeine intake than ideal. Caffeine consumption is pretty high in the US with more than 70% of children having caffeine on a daily basis. New research out today evaluating trends in caffeine intake from 1999 to 2010 illuminates the shifts in our children’s consumption. The researchers summed it up best here:

Mean caffeine intake has not increased among children and adolescents in recent years. However, coffee and energy drinks represent a greater proportion of caffeine intake as soda intake has declined, and generally have higher concentrations and amounts of caffeine than soda.

Read full post »

Tanning Beds: Clear and Present Danger

tanning_signTanning beds are a known carcinogen. Word on the street (or in the hallway) may not reflect true knowledge of the dangers. I know plenty of cancer survivors who use tanning beds. Therefore it’s obvious to me that there is a clear disconnect between the science of tanning risks and our insight.

Although you may think tanning beds are a thing of the 1990s, widespread use continues. In fact, new research published today in JAMA Dermatology finds that 35% of adults in Western countries have used a tanning bed during their life while 14% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Tanning beds deliver ultraviolet (UV) radiation that damages skin cells or cells in our eyes. The Center for Disease Control explains it this way, “Indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59% higher risk of melanoma. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of wrinkles and eye damage, and changes skin texture. Indoor tanning is a known and preventable cause of skin cancer, skin aging, and wrinkling.”

In my opinion it’s worth your time to figure out ways to ban indoor tanning for those in your home.

Education and tanning have an unfortunate relationship. Going to college actually increases your exposure to the carcinogen. In the JAMA study, researchers found that 55% of university students have used a tanning bed and 43% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Indoor tanning is a known real threat to human health, on par with the risks incurred from things like cigarettes. It’s predicted the rate skin cancer due to indoor tanning will continue to surpass the number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. Smoking causes other health problems (elevated BP, heart disease) so the comparison is imperfect. That being said, researchers explain that indoor tanning is a relatively new behavior that has grown in popularity, whereas smoking rates are declining in the US and other Western countries.

Teens And Tanning:

  • The JAMA study found 19.3% of adolescents (< 19 years) in Western countries have used a tanning bed. Read full post »

Plan B Approved For All Girls 15 And Older

Chosing Plan BThe FDA announced today that it is approving Plan B for all girls age 15 and up without a prescription.

This is good news for girls in the US of A. The easier the access to contraception, the less likely girls will have an unintended pregnancy.

As many as 80% of pregnancies in teen girls in the United States are unintended. Most pregnancies are a result of non-use of contraception or mishaps with protection (condoms breaking, pills being missed and/or forgotten or used inconsistently). The birth rate for 15 to 19 year-olds is 34 out of 1000 and although only 13% of 15 year-olds say they have had sex, by the time children head out the door to adulthood, the majority (70%) say they have had sex.

Allowing the majority of teens access to Plan B seems a great step in the right direction in avoiding unintended pregnancies. I was thrilled to see the news tonight about the FDA shifting the age from 17 years down to 15 years. Some 10% of teens report being a victim of sexual assault, putting them at risk for unintended pregnancy.

The Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on emergency contraception has provided comprehensive insight on understanding, prescribing, and using emergency contraception.
Read full post »

About Violent Video Games

“We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.” Obama said. “Congress should fund research into the effects violent video games have on young minds.”

Only a month after the Newtown, CT tragedy I was pleased to hear the President’s plan today to decrease gun violence and his steadfast effort to improve the safety of our communities by decreasing violence, death, and suffering from firearms.  Delighted to hear that the government is looking to ensure that it’s safe to talk about firearm safety in the exam room (at a federal level) and also that he’s implored Congress to study the effects of video games on young minds. That being said, we do know a bit about the effects of video games on young minds. An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2009 Media Violence statement noted, “The strength of the correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior found on meta-analysis is greater than that of calcium intake and bone mass, lead ingestion and lower IQ, condom non-use and sexually acquired human immunodeficiency virus infection, or environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer—associations clinicians accept and on which preventive medicine is based without question.”

To be clear, the $10 million that Obama is granting the CDC to investigate the effects of violent video games on our children is not a ton of money. And their tone, according to Stephan Dinan of The Washington Times places more responsibility in our hands — “But overall, the White House said that while limiting guns is the role of the government, controlling what Americans see in movies and games is best left to parents.”

As parents and pediatricians, community members and mentors, and American citizens, there are things we can do now to improve our children’s exposure to and absorption of violence.

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Thoughts On Children’s Massive Exposure to Violence

  • Data finds that witnessing violent acts in the media (in a game, TV, or video) can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed. Research finds, “Consistent and significant associations between media exposure and increases in aggression and violence have been found in American and cross-cultural studies; in field experiments, laboratory experiments, cross-sectional studies, and longitudinal studies and with children, teens, and young adults. Read full post »

Going Back To School Monday

Sick day alleyAs Monday approaches and we ready our children for school, I would suspect most of us have a little bit of dread in our hearts. I do. There is unease as we return our children to school. This post covers information for supporting your children but also information on supporting yourself during these upcoming days, too.

The past few days have been bewildering. Making sense of the tragedy in Connecticut is a huge challenge, particularly as the details of the shooting simultaneously unfold along side the details of the beautiful lost children and teachers and protectors. There’s little to say more than this is tragic and head-shaking. There is just no sense to what unfolded here in America last Friday. And although there are stories of incredible heroism we are left mourning and aching.

In my 4 years using social media, no single topic has over-run my channels like this shooting. We are all aghast and terrified, sad and stunned. As President Obama said, “We’re heartbroken.” When I opened the Sunday New York Times this morning, I gulped and teared-up again—I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the number of 6 and 7 year-olds that we’ve lost. Especially as one sat next to me at the breakfast table.

The randomness of this event allows us all to relate to the details of the horror and loss with uncomfortable familiarity.

We can and will work towards a safer future for our children. Don’t ease up on yourself or those in your community for action–improved communication, access to mental health, examining gun control–as months unfold. The future comes quickly. Today and tomorrow are about the ongoing effort to bolster yourself and your child in feeling great about the days ahead, in and out of school at the mall, wherever you find yourselves.

Tips For Parents With Children Going Back To School

  • Your child’s school is safe. The fact remains that this random, horrific shooting is an anomaly. Your child’s school is a very safe place to be. Remind yourself, and your children if they ask, that this tragedy was an exception.
  • Get the information you need to feel safe this week. Send an email to the principal, your children’s teacher, and/or fellow parents–perhaps commit to participating in ensuring you have good safety measures in place at your school. Leaving a VM message, sending an email, and/or joining the community of families wanting to ensure safety as the days unfold will likely ease your fears. Get involved. Write a letter to The President (The White House/1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW/Washington, D.C. 20500) or your congressman. Action is an antidote to anxiety. Read full post »