Archive for September, 2011
Apparently Ed Koch, mayor of New York City from 1978-1989, was a chubby kid. And while he finally overcame being “more than just a little overweight” in high school, the pain and embarrassment stayed with him.
With the help of his sister Pat Koch Thaler and illustrator Jonathan Hoefer, Koch has re-imagined his childhood experience for kids in Eddie Shapes Up (Sept. 2011, Zagat).
The story begins with young Eddie huddled under the covers, trying to convince his mom to let him stay home from school – and avoid heading out to the playground at recess. His mom says he has to go, and even after noticing that his pants are fitting a little tight, Eddie chooses a bagel with butter over cereal and fruit for breakfast, and requests plenty of cookies in his lunch.
At school, Eddie can’t keep up with the other kids on the playground, and they tease him and call him names. His two best pals, both leaner and more fit than Eddie, offer advice about good eating and invite Eddie out for a bit of healthy exercise. Eddie backs off the cookies, takes up jogging and jump rope, and by the end of the book is out there holding his own in a game of dodge ball – much to his pals’ delight.
The book portrays Eddie, through the illustrations and the text, as a likeable kid with a serious but fixable problem. Kids will understand Eddie’s love of cookies, and that he prefers books to soccer games. So they’ll also understand that all it really takes to change things for Eddie is a few more fruits and vegetables, and some fun time outdoors with his friends.
His transformation isn’t dramatic – say, from couch potato to soccer star – but realistic. The kid who wants to skip recess and eat extra cookies becomes a kid who can dodge a ball and asks his mom for an apple. He’s not skinny, but he’s thinner, stronger, and happier. And his story would be an inspiration to any kid with a few pounds to lose.
Depression impacts as many as 15-20% of kids at some point during their childhood, and the signs are often missed by parents. But if parents don’t notice there’s a problem, that their “difficult,” clingy, bored child might be depressed, these untreated symptoms can lead to problems later in life, or even suicide.
Fortunately, treatment options continue to advance. UCLA’s Youth Stress & Mood program works – via grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the CDC – to better understand depression in children and teens. They’ve been involved in clinical trials examining the benefits of various approaches to treating depression. Joan Asarnow, Ph.D., director of the program, recently answered a few questions about kids and depression, and what parents can do to help.
How often does depression in children go undiagnosed? Untreated?
Unfortunately, many youngsters dealing with depression do not receive treatment. One recent study suggested that less than 50% of children with depression receive professional help. The good news is that we now have a number of treatments with scientific evidence that show that they work. There have been major advances in the past few decades and parents whose children are suffering from depression now have evidence-based psychotherapies (talk therapies) that have been shown to be beneficial in scientific studies.
While medications are still somewhat controversial for the treatment of depression in children and adolescents, there are medicines that are approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for depression treatment. In our recent studies completed at UCLA we have had success in improving depressive symptoms in a wide variety of samples, with between 50% to 60% of youths benefiting substantially from treatment within about 12 weeks. Researchers are constantly working on developing better treatments and improving access to treatments, however, we need parents, caregivers, and teachers to reach out to kids in trouble and bring them in for treatment.
Are the signs of depression the same for children as for adults?
Many of the signs of depression are the same in children as in adults. These include sadness, not enjoying things as much as one used to, appetite or weight changes, changes in sleep patterns (particularly trouble sleeping or sleeping too much), feeling really tired, feeling down about oneself, having trouble concentrating, having difficulty making decisions about little every day things, and thinking a lot about death or suicide. In children, we also see sadness coming across as irritability, general crankiness, and a tendency to be “bored” and find things “boring.” Read more about kids and depression …
Most parents switch their children from rear-facing to forward-facing seats too early – before their second birthday – according to poll results released this week by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children stay in rear-facing seats until they are 2 years old, but the poll found that 73% of parents let their children ride forward-facing before age 2, and 30% turned their tots around before their first birthday.
In a front-end collision, the force on a child in a rear-facing seat is spread out over the entire back, with the car seat acting as a cushion. For children in the forward-facing position, the crash force is focused on the points of the body in contact with the car seat straps, and the child’s head and limbs keep moving forward and pull against the seat. Experts say it is up to five times safer for toddlers to ride in a rear-facing seat. C.S. Mott researchers remind parents that:
• Most children outgrown rear-facing infant carrier seats before their first birthday, but that doesn’t mean it is OK for them to face forward. Instead, parents need to switch them to larger convertible seats that can be used rear-facing and forward facing.
• Convertible seats are a better investment if money is tight, as they can be used for newborns through the preschool years.
• Car seat inspection stations can help you make sure you are using your child safety seat correctly. Find one in your area at www.seatcheck.org.
The C.S. Mott survey include more than 500 randomly selected parents of children ages 7 months to 2 years, polled in May.
If you have a preschooler or school-age child, there are a few contagious words guaranteed to make you shiver. “Head lice,” “chickenpox,” “stomach bug,” and “pink eye” certainly make the list. This last, also called “conjunctivitis,” is responsible for 3 million missed school days a year in the U.S. according to the American Journal of Infection Control.
In honor of Children’s Eye Health Month, here’s some info from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
What is pink eye?
Conjunctivitis is swelling of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the inside of your eyelids and the white part of your eye.
• Viral conjunctivitis, the most common form of pink eye, is a contagious infection caused by the same virus that causes the common cold. And like the common cold, it has to run its course (one to two weeks) on its own, and then goes away without treatment.
• Bacterial conjunctivitis, also highly contagious, is caused by bacterial infections. It usually requires treatment with prescription antibiotic drops or ointment.
• Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious, and is caused by the body’s reaction to an allergen. Like other allergic reactions, it is often treated with prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines.
Pink Eye Prevention
Preventing contagious forms of conjunctivitis is much the same as preventing other contagious illnesses. Remind your kids to wash their hands often, tell them not to share towels or washcloths, and to avoid touching their eyes. You can also make sure they have plenty of disposable tissues on hand to wipe their eyes and noses, and change their pillow cases frequently.
The best way to prevent allergic conjunctivitis is to minimize your child’s exposure to the allergen in question – pollen, mold, animal dander, etc.
If your child does contract pink eye, follow your doctor’s advice. You can also make her more comfortable by soaking a clean, lint-free cloth in warm or cold water, wringing it out, and letting it rest over your child’s closed eyelids. Warm water works best for viral and bacterial pink eye, cool for allergic conjunctivitis. If your child has pink eye in only one eye, use a separate cloth for each eye to avoid spreading infection.
Learn more online at www.geteyesmart.org.
Soup is good food – but not if it includes a dose of bisphenol A (BPA). Product testing conducted by the nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund, an organization that advocates for the elimination of environmental causes of breast cancer, found BPA in Campbell’s Disney Princess soup, Chef Boyardee pasta with meatballs, Annie’s cheesy ravioli, and other canned food items marketed to kids. The chemical is used in the lining of food cans, which is meant to be a protective barrier between the metal and the can’s contents.
BPA is a chemical known to mimic the hormone estrogen, and exposure has been linked to breast cancer, problems with reproductive and brain development, and some learning and social problems. Around 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Breast Cancer Fund sent samples of six canned meal products for testing at an independent lab in San Francisco. Every sample tested positive for BPA, with Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups testing highest. Child-size servings of these foods could result in risky levels of BPA exposure, and consuming adult-size servings of these foods on a regular basis or pairing these with other canned foods would result in even higher exposures.
There is no widely available BPA-free option for canned food, but the Breast Cancer Fund suggests a few alternatives for families:
Dry Pasta: Buy your favorite dry pasta and mix with fresh or jarred sauce, or consider boxed macaroni and cheese, which is now even available in organic form.
Frozen Pasta: Heat-and-serve pasta meals are available in most frozen-food aisles. Just remove any plastic packaging before heating in the microwave, so chemicals from the plastic don’t leach into the food.
Cartons Of Soup: Many varieties of soup now come in containers that look like giant juice boxes. Called “Tetra Paks,” these are even re-sealable.
Frozen or Dried Fruit: Dried and frozen fruit often has less added sugar than canned, and comes in BPA-free packaging. Fresh fruit is also a great healthy alternative to canned.
The Breast Cancer Fund has also launched a “Cans Not Cancer” campaign to urge manufacturers to replace BPA in food packaging with safer alternatives. You can find sample letters to these companies and more information at www.breastcancerfund.org/cansnotcancer.
For postpartum pain management, there are three basic drugs of choice: codeine, oxycodone and the less-powerful acetaminophen. Doctors who for many years had considered codeine a safe choice during breastfeeding started rethinking this around 2006, following the death of a baby exposed to codeine through breast milk. Many began prescribing oxycodone instead.
But that may be no better, according to a study in the September issue of The Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and other institutions in Canada and the Netherlands found that women using oxycodone reported similar levels of sleepiness, lethargy and trouble breastfeeding – all symptoms of central nervous system depression – in their nursing infants as those using codeine.
Among 533 women who contacted the hospital with questions about medication safety during breastfeeding, 16.7% of those using codeine and 20% of those taking oxycodone reported central nervous system symptoms in their babies. But just .5% of the moms taking acetaminophen reported such symptoms.
The researchers suggest that doctors perform follow-up examinations of breastfeeding infants whose mothers are taking codeine or oxycodone, stressing that these drugs cannot be considered safe during breastfeeding in all cases.
To keep yourself from shoveling in calories you don’t need, take a look at where and when you’re used to eating. That’s the message from a new USC study that found people used to eating in a given environment will keep eating – even if the food doesn’t taste good.
Psychologists gave people about to enter a movie theater buckets of either just-popped or week-old popcorn. People who said they don’t usually eat popcorn at the movies ate less if their popcorn was stale than if it was fresh. People in the habit of eating popcorn during a film ate the same amount – even if their popcorn was a week old.
When the experiment was moved to a meeting room, a space not usually associated with popcorn, everybody ate less if their popcorn was stale.
We might think we eat because food tastes good, but once we’ve formed an eating habit, like eating at the movies, we stop paying attention to the taste and just keep on eating, the researchers concluded.
But you don’t have to give up your showtime treat. The researchers also found you can interrupt your mindless eating by switching to your non-dominant hand. Left-handed gummy worms anyone?
The study appears in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.