home
RSS
May 12th, 2009
03:57 PM ET

FDA issues face paint warning

By Jen Pifer-Bixler
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Where I live, festival season is in full swing. You know how I know? The little people are painted. Just the other day, I ran into a group of children with ladybugs, flowers and spiders drawn on their faces. This childhood tradition is usually harmless, but today a certain brand of face paint is causing concern.

The Food and Drug Administration is telling consumers to stop using "Face Paint" distributed by Fun Express, Inc., a subsidiary of Oriental Trading Company of Omaha, Nebraska.

So what's going on? Apparently a group of children developed skin problems after using the paints at an organized event. The FDA says the skin problems included rashes, itchiness, burning and swelling in places where the face paints were applied. Subsequent tests found “significant microbial contamination” in most of the products. As a result, the company issued a recall. The FDA says if you have any of these face paints, you should throw them away or return them to the company.

We contacted the company for a comment, but so far, they haven't returned any of our calls. If your child has suffered a rash after using face paint, the FDA wants to hear from you. You can contact the agency online at MedWatch or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


February 20th, 2009
03:27 PM ET

Should I keep my child home from school?

By Jennifer Pifer-Bixler
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Last week my in-laws came over to watch my 5-year-old stepdaughter while my husband ran an errand. After a few minutes of visiting with Grandma and Grandpa, Arden announced that she wanted to take a nap. Nap? This is NOT a child who volunteers to nap. When she woke up, my husband put his hand on her forehead. Arden was hot. He then took her temperature. His suspicions were confirmed. She had a 102-degree fever. Arden slurped down some grape-flavored medicine and headed off to bed. For the next few days, our typically active 5-year-old was a couch potato. Apple juice, a fuzzy blanket and "Hannah Montana" were her constant companions.

I don't know about you, but sometimes as a parent, I’m not sure how “bad” it has to be to keep my child home from school. Some parents send their kids to school coughing and sneezing, while other parents let their kids take "mental health" days. For some parents who work outside the home, the issue can be complicated by financial concerns: If they don't work, they don't get paid. So when should you keep your kid home from school? Here are some guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Does she have a fever?

Generally, a fever over 101 degrees or a fever at the beginning of an illness should be a sign that your child should stay home.

Does he feel well enough to participate in class?

Every kid and every illness is different. Some sick kids feel good enough to concentrate and get something out of going to school. Other kids are so out of it, they are better off staying at home.

Is she contagious?

If so, keep her at home. As any teacher will tell you, classrooms can be like petri dishes. Kids can infect one another over and over. It's not fair to other children if your child brings germs to school. If you are not sure whether you should keep your child at home, talk with your pediatrician.

I want to know what you think: Have you ever sent your child to school sick? What's your rule of thumb? Also, for those of you with older kids, do you ever let them take “mental health” days? The parents I know are really divided over that. I am curious what you think.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 14th, 2009
10:06 AM ET

National addiction to overeating?

By Jennifer Pifer-Bixler
CNN Medical Senior Producer

One of my favorite television shows is “Intervention.” On the show, people with harrowing addictions are confronted by loved ones with the help of a trained interventionist. Typically, the episodes end with the addicts going to rehab. It's my idea of “must see TV”: trauma, drama and redemption all wrapped into an hour. Most of the time, the people on the show are addicted to drugs or alcohol. But there was one addict with a different story. Josh was a compulsive overeater. In his early 20s, Josh spent his days gorging on fast food and sweets. He weighed nearly 550 pounds and was miserable. Every time Josh walked up the stairs, he felt as if he were going to have a heart attack. Something about Josh really struck me. He had a gentle demeanor. His passion was singing and he had a beautiful voice. When he went away to the rehab, I was really rooting for him. The other night, I caught a follow-up episode on Josh. It's hard to believe what's happened to him.

Josh's story came to mind as I read an unsettling statistic. For the first time, obese Americans now outnumber the merely overweight. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 32 percent of Americans are overweight, 34 percent obese and 6 percent are extremely obese. To put that into perspective, if you are 5 feet 5 and weigh 150 lbs, that's considered overweight. If you weigh 180, that's considered obese. Statistically, women as a whole tend to be a tad more obese then men. As we've pointed out many times, America has an obesity epidemic. Over the years, we've seen a number of carrots and sticks offered as ways to combat to this major U.S. health issue. Some health insurance policies offer discounted gym memberships to help people watch their weight. In New York City, certain restaurants have to post calorie information on menu and menu boards. In Mississippi, lawmakers even discussed proposing a bill that would make it illegal for restaurants to serve obese people. That idea was shot down pretty quickly. Ideas abound. But still the numbers go up. Why? I decided to ask an unconventional expert.

I tracked down Josh. He is doing great. In the past year and a half, he has lost close to 249 pounds. He's now around 300 pounds and is working hard to lose 100 more pounds. I asked him why he thought the number of obese Americans is growing. While he doesn't claim to speak for all obese people, Josh thinks for most of them food is an addiction. "It's a cheap way to stuff down emotions," says Josh. "I used food as a drug so I didn't have to feel." Josh says food for him is like booze for an alcoholic. "I don't think it's a matter of willpower. I could not control the power of food," he says. He couldn't just have one sliver of cake. "I'd eat the whole thing," he says. Like an addict looking for his next fix, Josh says, he use to plan his days around when he was going to eat and what. When he went into rehab, Josh says he had to come to terms with some things about who he is and what he wants. "The number on the scale is just one small part of the story," he says. "The real miracle has come through my spiritual and emotional growth. My goal is to help other people who have been where I was."

I love Josh's story and hope he continues to lose the weight and grow into the man he wants to become. His confidence is soaring. He plans to audition for “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.” Josh has become a success story in America’s obesity epidemic. I am curious. Do you think obesity is the result of addiction? Do you think health insurance companies should pay for compulsive eating rehab?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


December 2nd, 2008
04:20 PM ET

Are your doctors awake?

By Jennifer Pifer-Bixler
CNN Medical Senior Producer

When I was in college, I had emergency surgery.  The whole incident was a blur. One moment I was being poked, the next, I was being wheeled off to the OR.  When I woke up after surgery, I was groggy and feeling NO pain.  For the next few days, morphine was my best friend.  Granted, my memories from that week are pretty limited, but one thing I do remember is a young doctor stopping by my room to check on me.  I have no idea what he said, but I do remember vividly that he tried to stifle a yawn while he was talking to me.  That made ME yawn and in turn, he yawned AGAIN.  Perhaps it was the pain meds, but boy I thought that was hilarious.

The “dueling yawns incident” pops in my mind whenever I hear about the long hours doctors work while they are in residency.  To succeed, not only do these new doctors have to be smart, they must have endurance.  For a long time, there was no limit to how many hours a resident was expected to be on duty.  But in 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the council that evaluates and accredits medical residency programs in the United States, set up new rules limiting the maximum resident work week to an average of 80 hours and the maximum shift length to 30 hours.  However, according to some researchers, even with the 30-hour limit on shifts, there can be a whole host of serious problems.  I recently spoke with Dr. Charles Czeisler at the Harvard Medical School Department of Sleep Medicine.  He studies lack of sleep and its impact on doctors.  Czeisler's research shows that one in five residents admit making a fatigue-related mistake that hurt a patient.  One in 20 admits making a fatigue-related mistake that resulted in death.  In other words, says Czeisler, working 24 hours straight without sleep is comparable to being legally drunk.

That's sobering news.  And it makes me wonder about the doctor who treated me in college.  I wonder now how many hours he had been working.  Now the Institute of Medicine says it it's time to talk about residents’ hours and workloads.  "Fatigue, spotty supervision, and excessive workloads all create conditions that can put patients' safety at risk and undermine residents' ability to learn," said committee chair Dr. Michael M.E. Johns, chancellor of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Among the recommendations from the IOM:

           * Limit shifts to 16 consecutive hours

           * Give residents more days off

           * Provide transportation home after a long shift.

The IOM acknowledges that there is no easy solution.  In fact, it says there are very valid reasons for some residents to work long hours.  Keep in mind that this is a training time for doctors.  And getting the most experience possible ultimately benefits patients.  Also, the work flow varies from specialty to specialty and experts say 'one size’ doesn't fit all when it comes to schedules. For example, the time a surgeon needs to spend with a patient is different than a dermatologist.

The committee stresses that limiting resident hours is not a “silver bullet.”  It also recommends greater supervision of residents by experienced physicians and limits on patient caseloads based on residents levels of specialty and experience. 

Reaction to the report has been mixed.  Public Citizen http://www.citizen.org says the IOM has missed “a golden opportunity” and doesn't go far enough to protect patients.   Czeisler, however, says it is an important first step.  But he worries that nothing will change unless the federal government gets involved and enacts new laws.

I want to know what you think.  Do you think these recommendations are needed?  Have you ever been treated by a “drowsy doctor?"  And if you are a doctor, do you think working long hours helped or hurt your residency?

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Advertisement
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.

Advertisement
Advertisement