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Childhood mental health disabilities on the rise
August 18th, 2014
11:10 AM ET

Childhood mental health disabilities on the rise

Over the past half century, the prevalence of childhood disabilities in the United States has been on the rise, possibly due to an increased awareness about these issues. Now a study published in this week’s online issue of Pediatrics suggests the nature of those newly diagnosed disabilities is changing.

The report, “Changing Trends of Childhood Disability, 2001-2011" found the number of American children with disabilities rose 16% over a 10-year period. While there was a noted decline in physical problems, there was a large increase in disabilities classified as neurodevelopmental conditions or mental health issues, such as ADHD and autism.

“We found that that physical disability health conditions in children were down 12%, but the disabilities related to mental and neurodevelopmental health went up 21%,” said lead study author Dr. Amy Houtrow, chief of the Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
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Have you had the 'sext' talk with your kids?
June 30th, 2014
01:33 PM ET

Have you had the 'sext' talk with your kids?

It’s called sexting, the act of sending and/or receiving sexually explicit text or photo messages via your mobile phone. And one in five middle school-aged students are doing it, according to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Among the 1,285 Los Angeles students aged 10 to 15 surveyed for the study, 20% reported having received at least one sext, while 5% reported having sent at least one sext.

“Very frequently it’s the image or the sex, that is finding its way to the middle schooler first, prior to any sort of conversation or education" by parents, said Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and father to two boys. "That makes it even more confusing (for kids).”

The study authors also looked at how sexting relates to sexual behavior among these adolescents. The survey showed that those who reported receiving a sext, were six times more likely to report being sexually active than teens who hadn't received a sext. Those who sent a sext were about 4 times more likely to report being sexually active.
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Casual marijuana use may damage your brain
April 16th, 2014
09:02 AM ET

Casual marijuana use may damage your brain

If you thought smoking a joint occasionally was OK, a new study released Tuesday suggests you might want to reconsider.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to link casual marijuana use to major changes in the brain. And according to the researchers, the degree of abnormalities is based on the number of joints you smoke in a week.

Using different types of neuroimaging, researchers examined the brains of 40 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who were enrolled in Boston-area colleges. Twenty of them smoked marijuana at least once a week. The other 20 did not use pot at all. FULL POST


Severe obesity in kids on the rise
This chart shows the trends in prevalence of overweight and obese children between 1999 and 2012.
April 7th, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Severe obesity in kids on the rise

The decline of childhood obesity rates seen in a couple of recent studies may be nothing more than an illusion, according to a new study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers looked at data from more than 26,000 children age 2 to 19 in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that rates of overweight and obese children have been trending upward since 1999, with significant increases seen recently in the number of severely obese children.

Severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999, according to the study. In 1999-2000, less than 1% of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category - meaning they had a body mass index 140% higher than their peers. In 2011-2012, 2.1% of children were in the same category. An additional 5.9% met the criteria for Class 2 obesity.
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Best ways to prevent and treat the common cold
January 27th, 2014
01:59 PM ET

Best ways to prevent and treat the common cold

Although the world of medicine has made incredible progress when it comes to tackling certain illnesses, scientists still have not been able to find the cure for the common cold. But there are ways to prevent colds as well as treat them. The question is, which are the most effective?

According to a review in the recent edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, hand washing and possibly taking zinc seem to be the best ways to avoid getting sick. Investigators reviewed 67 randomized controlled trials that showed hand washing as well as alcohol disinfectants are the best ways to ward off colds.

Zinc was found to work mostly in children, with two trials showing that little ones who took 10 to 12 milligrams of zinc sulfate every day had fewer colds and fewer absences from school because of colds. Authors of the study suggest that zinc could work for adults. Vitamin C, the "gold standard" of cold fighters, did not seem as effective.

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Doctors don’t talk to adolescents about sex
December 31st, 2013
08:48 AM ET

Doctors don’t talk to adolescents about sex

Thirty-six seconds is the average time a physician spends speaking with adolescent patients about sexuality, according to research published online Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

About one-third of adolescent patient-doctor interactions result in no talk at all about sexuality - which includes things like sexual activity, dating and sexual orientation.

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More students think marijuana is OK
More than a third of high school seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the last year.
December 18th, 2013
12:02 AM ET

More students think marijuana is OK

Most teens may be "Above the Influence" when it comes to cocaine and cigarettes, but marijuana use is growing among students.

Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors do not see regular marijuana use as harmful to their health, according to this year's Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.

Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.
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Pediatricians support condoms for teens
October 28th, 2013
02:00 PM ET

Pediatricians support condoms for teens

Providing condoms to adolescents has been - and likely will continue to be - a controversial topic. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking communities, educators, parents and doctors to step up in making this form of contraception more available to teens.

"Although abstinence of sexual activity is the most effective method for prevention of pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), young people should be prepared for the time when they will become sexually active," several doctors wrote in a policy statement published Monday in the organization's journal Pediatrics. "When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms reduce the risk of pregnancy and many STIs, including HIV."

Teen pregnancy rates are declining in the United States; in 2011, the number of babies born to women aged 15 to 19 was at a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, continue to be a problem for this age group. The CDC estimates that people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of the 20 million new STI cases that are reported each year.

In the statement, an update from their 2001 position, the pediatricians' organization recommends removing restrictions and barriers that often prevent teens from accessing condoms. Parents should be talking to their teens about sex, the doctors say, and pediatricians can help. The paper's authors encourage their colleagues to provide condoms in their offices and support increasing access in the community. They also recommend providing condoms in schools, in addition to comprehensive sexual education.
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Teens gaining healthy habits, but not enough
September 16th, 2013
01:46 PM ET

Teens gaining healthy habits, but not enough

Efforts to increase healthy habits in American teens may be making an impact, according to a new study. Adolescents are moving more, eating better and watching less TV than they used to, and researchers say obesity rates in this group may finally be stabilizing.

The study results come a little more than a month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was seeing signs of progress in the fight against childhood obesity, especially in low-income families.

In the new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers analyzed data from three sets of students in grades 6 to 10. One set was surveyed during the 2001-2002 school year, another set during the 2005-2006 school year and the third set from the 2009-2010 school year. Researchers asked the students about their daily physical activity, nutrition, breakfast consumption, TV habits, and height and weight. They then compared the answers across the three school years to identify trends in healthy - or unhealthy - behaviors.
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Should there be choking warning labels on food?
High-risk choking foods, including hot dogs, seeds and nuts, were more likely to require hospitalizations.
July 29th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Should there be choking warning labels on food?

Choking is a leading cause of injury in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, especially those four years and younger. Although the number of choking incidents involving toys and toy parts has gone down in the last 20 years due to manufacturer and federal government warnings, the number of food-choking cases in youngsters is still high.

"We have done a great job in this country (of) preventing choking in children on toys, “says Dr. Gary Smith, co-author of a new study on choking injuries and a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Since the 1990s we've had laws and regulations, systems where we can monitor these injuries when they happen. We have no such systems in place currently for food."

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reviewed thousands of statistics on children who had choking-related emergency room visits between 2001 to 2009. The study authors found that an average of 12,400 children under the age of 15 were treated for non-fatal, food-related choking each year, which equals about 34 children per day.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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