February 25th, 2013
03:43 PM ET
Guidelines for diagnosing and treating ear infections are changing and the result may mean fewer prescriptions for antibiotics.
Going forward, pediatricians should only diagnose acute ear infections if the child's eardrum is moderately to severely bulging or if there is discharge leaking from the ear, according to the recommendations. They may diagnose a middle ear infection if the child's ear drum is mildly bulging and there is recent onset of pain or intense redness. FULL POST
February 18th, 2013
03:56 PM ET
For years, pediatricians have recommended that young children watch no TV, or as little as possible, because it can lead to problems in school and behavior issues. Now a new study concedes children are sitting in front of the TV a lot longer. However, controlling what they watch can improve how they behave.
When preschoolers watch educational programs instead of violent TV shows, they tend to be more compassionate and less aggressive, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
About 600 families were recruited and assigned to one of two groups. Parents in the first group were encouraged to substitute violent shows with educational and pro-social ones - shows that stressed compassion and cooperation.
Families were given monthly TV guides listing educational programming for their area: shows such as "Dora the Explorer," "Super WHY," "Sesame Street" and "It's a Big, Big World." Parents were also encouraged to watch TV with their kids.
The children went from watching a half-hour of violent programming a day to 23 minutes. Parents then increased educational viewing from about 30 to 43 minutes a day.
Families in the second group did not change their viewing habits.
"This is the first study to try to modify the viewing habits of preschool kids," says Dr. Vic Strasburger, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "That's one of the significances of this study."
After a year, researchers found that children watching less violent and more child-appropriate shows scored better on tests that measured cooperation, a willingness to share or compromise. They also had fewer incidents of aggressive behavior such as yelling and hitting.
"Although television is frequently implicated as a cause of many problems in children, our research indicates that it may also be part of the solution," the study notes.
The scientists saw the greatest improvements in boys raised in disadvantaged homes where children tends to watch more TV.
Experts know that children mimic what they see, whether it's in real life or what's on the screen. And this is of particular concern when children watch TV or movies riddled with violence.
"Children learn their attitudes about violence at a very young age, before age 8 and once they learn those attitudes it's very difficult to unlearn them," says Strasburger.
"It doesn't mean that children who watch violence are going to become murderers, but it does mean that they are desensitized to violence in the real world and they are more likely to be aggressive themselves," says study author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute.
Better shows, better kids
But on the flip side, when children watch shows with positive social messages, it helps them get along better with others and gives them the tools to become better communicators, the study suggests.
"They will imitate the good things too," says Christakis. "We should take more advantage of the fact that you can demonstrate good behaviors on-screen and that children will emulate them in real life."
Right now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschoolers and older children get only one to two hours of TV or screen time a day. But in reality, they're really watching much more. According to this study, preschoolers see an average of about four and a half hours daily at home and in daycare settings. Parents struggle with guilt, researchers say, because they allow so much TV time.
"Parents need to get this message that it's not just about how much TV your children watch, it's about what they watch," says Christakis. "It's not just about turning off the set; it's about changing the channel."
February 12th, 2013
11:53 AM ET
How many times have you seen a young child with a patch over one eye or wearing glasses with one lens blocked and wondered why? Chances are that child has something called amblyopia (sometimes called "lazy eye"), where one eye is not being used by the brain because it doesn't see as well.
After looking at more than 10 years of data, researchers now say children as young as a year old can be reliably screened for amblyopia; by using a camera that takes pictures of the eye, symptoms of the condition can be detected long before it becomes apparent, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
The goal is to identify children with this problem as early as possible, says lead study author Dr. Susannah Longmuir, "so we can start treatment before they have a problem or treat it before it gets worse."
February 4th, 2013
10:47 AM ET
If you watched "Little House on the Prairie," chances are you remember the story of Mary Ingalls.
The television show and popular book series drew on the real-life experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mary, Laura's sister, went blind as a teenager after contracting scarlet fever, according to the story. Now a team of medical researchers are raising questions about whether that's true.
Dr. Beth Tarini, one of the co-authors of the paper, became intrigued by the question as a medical student.
"I was in my pediatrics rotation. We were talking about scarlet fever, and I said, 'Oh, scarlet fever makes you go blind. Mary Ingalls went blind from it,'" recalls Tarini, who is now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan. My supervisor said, "I don't think so."
Tarini started doing research. Over the course of 10 years, she and her team of researchers, pored over old papers and letters written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, local newspaper accounts of Mary's illness and epidemiological data on blindness and infectious disease in the late 19th century. What they found was intriguing.
January 30th, 2013
04:01 PM ET
Obese girls are at greater risk of developing multiple sclerosis or MS-like illness, according to a new study published Wednesday in the online journal Neurology.
Researchers looked at body mass index (BMI) data from more than 900,000 children from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Children's health study. Seventy-five of those children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 18 were diagnosed with pediatric MS. More than 50% of them were overweight or obese, and the majority were girls.
According to the study, the MS risk was more than one and a half times higher for overweight girls, almost two times higher in moderately obese girls and almost four times higher in extremely obese girls.
January 29th, 2013
10:29 AM ET
Pregnant women should receive a whooping cough vaccine in the second half of each pregnancy, according to this year's recommended vaccine schedule for children and adolescents.
In addition, the new schedule - published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians – consolidates the schedules into one comprehensive list, covering children from birth through age 18.
That's a change from previous years, when the schedule was separated into two different lists, for ages 0 to 6 and 7 to 18. The new schedule will also include an additional column that highlights which vaccines 4-to-6-year-olds and adolescents need.
The schedule, which is published every February, tells parents and doctors when is the correct time to vaccinate children against the 16 infectious diseases for which vaccines are available, said Dr. Cody Meissner, head of the pediatric infectious disease division at Tufts Medical Center and a consultant for the AAP's Committee on Infectious Diseases. The schedule is updated yearly to reflect any changes based on new research or developments. FULL POST
January 28th, 2013
04:56 PM ET
Doctors have a new set of guidelines when treating children diagnosed with type II diabetes. It's the first time recommendations have been issued for children aged 10 to 18, a sign that childhood obesity continues to have a broad impact.
More children are developing type II diabetes "largely due to the increase in obesity and overweight (patients) in the pediatric population, as well as the overall population and the decreased activity we are seeing in our young people," said Dr. Janet Silverstein, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and chief of endocrinology at the University of Florida's Shands Hospital.
Type II diabetes affects 90% to 95% of the 26 million Americans with diabetes, while it's still rare in children and adolescents, it's being diagnosed more frequently among minority populations including American Indians, African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and Asians/Pacific Islanders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FULL POST
January 14th, 2013
04:26 PM ET
Teenagers and young children who eat fast food could be increasing their risk of developing asthma, eczema and hay fever, according to a study published Monday in the British Medical Journal's respiratory journal Thorax.
The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) study used written questionnaires completed by 319,196 13- and 14-year-olds from 51 countries and by the parents of 181,631 6- and 7-year-olds in 31 countries. They were asked if they had symptoms of the three conditions and about their weekly diet - including the types of foods they ate over the last year, and how often.
January 3rd, 2013
02:26 PM ET
It's a heated question: should women take antidepressants during pregnancy? Some experts argue for it and some against, but a new study may ease the minds of women facing the decision.
Researchers say taking a common type of antidepressant does not increase the risk of having a stillborn child or losing an infant early in life. The study was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"It does strengthen the view that these meds are safer than we once thought," explains Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. FULL POST
December 26th, 2012
03:26 PM ET
The number of young children who are obese and extremely obese is going down, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In what researchers say is the first national study to show that the prevalence of obesity among young children may have begun to decline, scientists analyzed data from more than 27 million children from low-income families between the ages of 2 and 4 in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
"The results of this study indicate modest recent progress of obesity prevention among young children," according to the study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
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.