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Health Care

By Kathy Sena

ENJOY JULY 4TH — BUT KEEP IT SAFE

It’s impossible to picture July 4 in America without fireworks. But they can be dangerous, causing serious burns and eye injuries. Of course, it’s always best to attend a community celebration where fireworks are handled by the pros. But if fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

° Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

° Read and follow all warnings and instructions.

° Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.

° Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

° Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.

° Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.


LACK OF VARIETY AT MEALTIME CAN PUT KIDS WITH AUTISM AT RISK FOR POOR NUTRITION

The strong preference kids with autism have for certain foods places them at risk for nutritional deficiencies because their diets lack sufficient variety, according to a small study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Researchers say screening children for the amount of variety in their diets may help predict which children might be at risk for nutrition problems. Most of the 19 autistic children in the study had much lower food-variety scores than do typically developing children. A majority of the children with autism also suffered from nutritional deficiencies.

Kids with low food-variety scores who are at risk could then be referred to dieticians or therapists to help them expand food choices and improve nutrition, says Michelle Zimmer, M.D., lead investigator and a pediatrician in the division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.


PACIFIERS DON’T HINDER BREASTFEEDING SUCCESS

Many parents have heard of the benefits of breastfeeding and pacifier use in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But they’re concerned that giving their baby a pacifier will interfere with breastfeeding. Not to worry, says Fern Hauck, M.D., researcher and associate professor of family medicine and public health sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

In a review of more than 1,000 reports (who knew there could be so many on this subject!), Hauck found that the highest level of evidence on pacifier use and breastfeeding shows no adverse relationship between the two. Her results appeared recently in the medical journal Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.

“Physicians, nurses and others who advise parents on infant-care issues do need to be educated about the potential benefit of using a pacifier for SIDS prevention, and further, now need to be reassured that using the pacifier should not interfere with breastfeeding,” says Hauck, who also sits on an American Academy of Pediatrics task force on SIDS. Hauck authored a study on the association between pacifier use and reduced SIDS risk.

Some studies have reported an association between pacifier use and shortened duration of breastfeeding. But this association was likely due to other factors such as breastfeeding difficulties or desire to wean, according to Hauck.

“Mothers who breastfeed are often advised not to use a pacifier. This recommendation needs to be corrected. However, if a baby refuses a pacifier, it should not be forced upon him or her,” Hauck advises. She adds that the best time to introduce a pacifier is usually when the baby is three to four weeks old, after breastfeeding is well established. Most of all, mothers who choose to breastfeed need lots of support.


NO CLEAR RECOMMENDATION ON BEST CAVITY-FILLING MATERIALS FOR KIDS

I was chatting with a group of moms the other day and the subject of kids’ “fillings” came up. “What’s the best material to use?” we wondered. A good question — with no clear answer, experts say. So far, there is a not a clear winner among the types of fillings used to repair cavities. In fact, there are so few useful studies on the topic that there is not enough evidence to make any recommendations.

Joel Berg, D.D.S., chair of pediatric dentistry at the University of Washington and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, says large, high-level studies of dental fillings could be hard to come by, since filling manufacturers change their products from year to year. “Manufacturers replace their products so frequently that, by the time outcome and controlled data can be collected on a product, it might not be on the market any longer,” says Berg.

Three recent small studies have included 81 children between ages 4 and 9. In each study, the children had at least one cavity on each side of their mouth filled with a different material, so that researchers could compare different fillings for one person. The materials included a metal-mercury amalgam, a resin-modified glass-composite filling and a filling that combines a plastic-ceramic material with elements of the glass filling.

The researchers found no significant differences among the materials, whether in terms of how well the materials lasted or whether the children were free from tooth pain at the end of the studies.

The most important thing, of course, is to make sure your child receives regular dental check-ups so that cavities can be prevented — and also treated promptly when they do occur. If a child has cavities, the decay may travel beyond the tooth to infect the gums and face, says Berg. “Treating a caries lesion can get rid of the disease before it can progress and become dangerous over time,” he adds.

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in health and parenting issues and is the mother of a 13-year-old son. Visit her blog on our site.

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