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Health Care

By Kathy Sena

 

BABY'S SLEEP POSITION IS MAJOR FACTOR IN "FLAT-HEADEDNESS"

A baby's sleep position is the best predictor of a misshapen-skull condition known as deformational plagiocephaly - or the development of flat spots on an infant's head - according to findings reported by Arizona State University researchers in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Analyzing a database of more than 20,000 children, the ASU researchers found that the number of babies who have developed flat-headedness has dramatically increased since 1992. The increase coincides with the American Academy of Pediatrics' launch of a "Back to Sleep" educational campaign that recommended parents place their infants on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

"We looked at a number of risk factors, but the largest factor was the sleep position of the baby," says Brian Verrelli, an assistant professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences. The condition is thought to occur when babies spend too much time in one position. The research team found that sleep position, and specifically head position, are linked to flat-headedness. Babies who slept on their right side or left side tended to have right-side and left-side flat spots, respectively.

The researchers also found that boys were twice as likely as girls to have the condition (a nearly perfect 2-to-1 ratio) and that it is more common in firstborn infants, babies with low birth weight, those who were in breech and transverse positions in the womb and in multiple births, specifically fraternal twins.

"The unprecedented size of the sample in our study allowed us to identify potential factors, such as maternal prenatal conditions and low birth weight, that were previously unrecognized in smaller cohort studies. These other factors need to be explored further before we can begin to piece together the entire puzzle," says Jessica Joganic, the lead author on the study.

However, independent of the biological and environmental factors, the findings showed that sleep position was the best predictor of deformational plagiocephaly, and one that can be addressed by altering behavior, says Verrelli.

 

THE 'SEX TALK" COMES TOO LATE FOR MANY KIDS

Are we parents closing the barn door after the horse is already headed down the road? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents educate their children about sexuality beginning early in life. But according to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, many of these discussions are occurring after adolescents have already passed key sexual milestones.

In a series of surveys with 141 parents and their teenaged children, researchers found more than 40 percent of children had sexual intercourse before any discussion with their parents about sexually transmitted disease symptoms, condom use, choosing birth control or what to do if a partner refuses to use a condom.

This says it might be time for a chat. But it helps to look at teaching your kids about sexuality as a long-term process, not as "the talk," experts say. Start young, answering your kids' questions as they come up. That will help pave the way for good communication when it's time to talk about things like (gulp) condoms.

 

CONCERNED ABOUT ALLERGIES? DON'T WAIT TOO LONG TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS

Late introduction of solid foods may increase the risk of allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens, according to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Researchers examined the diets and allergic sensitivities of 994 children. Results indicate that late introduction of solid foods was associated with increased allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens.

Eggs, wheat and oats were most commonly related to food sensitization, while potatoes and fish were strongly associated with inhalant sensitization. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the introduction of solid foods between the ages of 4 and 6 months. The study authors conclude that neither extended, exclusive breastfeeding, nor delaying the introduction of solid foods, may prevent allergic diseases in children.

 

DON'T LOSE SLEEP OVER NIGHTTIME BEDWETTING

Giving children control over bedwetting helps them overcome not only the nighttime nuisance but also the stigma of it, say doctors at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"Because studies have yet to identify the cause of nighttime bed wetting, no one treatment is guaranteed to work for everyone. Nevertheless, the course of action with which the child is most comfortable tends to produce the best outcome," says Edmond T. Gonzales, Jr., M.D., professor of urology at BCM. "With parents' support, giving children an active role in treatment builds confidence."

Some treatment options include prescription medications. One commonly used medicine makes the body react as if dehydrated so the kidneys retain liquids overnight. Another treatment involves an alarm system, worn in pajamas, that sounds when it becomes wet.
More commonly, doctors suggest parents limit the amount of liquids children drink in the evening and schedule a bathroom break before bed.

Gonzales says family doctors can help rule out any major health problems that could be contributing to bedwetting before discussing the many options.

 

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in health and parenting issues and is the mother of a 14-year-old son. Visit her blog here on our site.

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