By Kathy Sena
WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR CHILD'S LANGUAGE SKILLS? TURN OFF THE TV AND TALK
Healthy child language development is closely associated with adult-child conversations, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Results of a recent study of 275 families of children ages 2 to 48 months show that children with high language scores engaged in a lot of conversation with adults, says the AAP. Daily television viewing was associated with a decrease in the language scores.
The AAP recommends no television for babies under 2 years of age because TV viewing at that age limits the opportunities for adult-child interactions.
Parents can provide speech-related opportunities to their children by talking to them, telling them stories and reading books, but it is equally important to engage children in two-sided conversations. More conversations can mean more opportunities for mistakes and corrections, which help children practice newly acquired language skills.
SPECIALIZED TRANSPORT OF CRITICALLY ILL KIDS IMPROVES THEIR CHANCE OF SURVIVAL
Specialized transport teams have been known to improve survival rates for adults, but few studies have examined the results of using such transport teams for infants and children.
A recent study at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh examined the hospital's transport team during a 20-month period. A total of 1,085 infants and children were retrieved, with 94 percent transported by a pediatric critical-care specialty team, and 6 percent by a non-specialized team.
Unplanned events occurred in 55 patients, including cardiopulmonary arrest, loss of critical intravenous access and airway-related issues. These events were more common among patients transported by the non-specialized teams (61 percent vs. 1.5 percent).
After adjustment for illness severity, death also occurred more often among patients transported by non-specialized teams (23 percent vs. 9 percent). Based on this study, researchers report that transport of critically ill children can be conducted more safely with a pediatric critical-care specialized team.
KID-SAFE CAR-TRAVEL TIPS FOR PARENTS
When preparing your kids for a trip in the car - whether you're heading to Grandma's house two states away or to the grocery store two blocks away - keep these tips, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, in mind:
° Always use a car-safety seat for infants and young children. A rear-facing car-safety seat should be used until your child has reached the highest weight and/or height allowed by his car-safety seat. (At a minimum, you should use it until your child is at least one year old AND weighs at least 20 pounds.) It is best for the child to ride rear-facing as long as possible. Once he has outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit, he can ride in a forward-facing car-safety seat.
° A child who has outgrown her car-safety seat with a harness (she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots or her ears have reached the top of the seat) should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 and 12 years old).
° All children under age 13 should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
° Never place a child in a rear-facing car-safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.
° Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt.
° Plan to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours.
° Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute. Temperatures inside the car can reach deadly levels in minutes and the child can die of heat stroke.
° In addition to a first-aid kit, parents should carry drinking water and snacks, child-safe hand wipes and (for infants) a waterproof ground sheet for safe play outside.
SMOKING DURING PREGNANCY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD CAN AFFECT CHILDREN'S OWN SMOKING RATES YEARS LATER
Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy and the early childhood years may be predisposed to take up smoking as teens and young adults, compounding the physical damage they sustained from the early smoke exposure.
"It is well-known that maternal smoking influences a developing fetus in myriad ways, contributing to low birth weight, premature birth and a host of other health problems after birth," says Roni Grad, M.D., associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. "Previous studies have suggested that maternal smoking during pregnancy may increase the risk of the offspring becoming regular smokers as adults, but the impact of postnatal cigarette smoke exposure was hard to differentiate from prenatal exposure."
The researchers used data from the Tucson Children's Respiratory Study. Maternal smoking during pregnancy, at nine days, 1.5 months and 1.5 years was used to assess smoke exposure during pregnancy and the early life of the child. Maternal smoking was further assessed at ages six, nine and eleven years to evaluate smoke exposure during the school-age years of the child. The smoking behavior of the offspring was then assessed at ages 16 and 22 years.
The researchers found that maternal smoking during pregnancy and the early childhood years was associated with children being regular smokers at age 22, independent of whether the mother smoked during the child's school-age years. Furthermore, of all of the offspring who had ever smoked, offspring of mothers who smoked during pregnancy and early life were less likely to quit than those of mothers who had never smoked or who had taken up the habit only when the child reached the school-age years.
The impact of the mother's smoking was independent of the effect of the father's smoking and also the effect of exposure to peer smoking during the child's adolescence.
"Smoking during pregnancy by mothers who stopped smoking by the time the child reached the school age years is a risk factor for smoking in their offspring during early adulthood," says Grad. "The data suggest that a biological effect is in play, and that eliminating maternal smoking during pregnancy and the preschool years of the child will reduce the risk of her children becoming regular smokers in adulthood," adds Grad. "In children of mothers who did smoke during this critical period, it is important to prevent experimentation with tobacco during the adolescent years."
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 here on Fredericksburg Parent and Family.