Posted On: March 26, 2012

Early Sleep Problems Signal Later Emotional Troubles

A milestone in child development, at least for many parents, is when the kid finally sleeps through the night. But a recent study suggests that it’s a good idea for parents to monitor how the wee ones are sleeping as well as how long.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study shows that children who have problems breathing while they sleep are more likely to experience behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness when they get older. They’re also more likely to have emotional issues such as difficult peer relationships.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University followed the sleeping patterns of more than 11,000 children for six years. They found that kids who snored, breathed heavily through their mouths and experienced apnea—long pauses between breaths during sleep—were at risk.

Collectively known as sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), the problem peaks when children are between 2 and 6 years old, but can occur when they are younger. Approximately 1 in 10 children snores regularly and 2 to 4 in 100 have sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Health and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). Common causes of SDB are enlarged tonsils or adenoids, but be wary of the “quick-fix” of tonsillectomy—as we have reported, that surgical procedure is often unnecessary, and to conclude that tonsils contribute to sleep disorders requires careful diagnosis.

Quite simply, the study’s authors said, “Parents and pediatricians alike should be paying closer attention to sleep-disordered breathing in young children, perhaps as early as the first year of life.”

Although earlier studies indicated sleep problems could signal later difficulties, they involved only small numbers of patients, short follow-up of a single symptom or limited control of individual traits such as low birth weight that could be responsible for some symptoms.

In the new, more substantial study, children whose symptoms peaked between the ages of six and 18 months were much more likely to experience behavioral problems when they were 7 compared with children who breathe normally during sleep. Children whose SDB symptoms persisted throughout the evaluation period, and were most severe at 30 months, expressed the most severe behavioral problems.

Researchers theorize that SDB might be responsible for behavioral problems because of its effect on the brain. Decreased oxygen levels and increased carbon dioxide interrupts the restorative process of sleep and disrupts various chemical systems. Such malfunctions can impair one’s ability to pay attention, plan ahead and organize. They also impede one’s ability to regulate emotions.

To learn more about SDB and treatment options, consult the AAO-HNS fact sheet.

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Posted On: March 19, 2012

Is Spinbrush a Toothbrush or a Weapon?

It’s hard enough for some parents to get their kids to brush their teeth regularly. If your little ones use an electric device called the Spinbrush, your job just got a little harder.

According to the FDA, the Spinbrush, whose colorful packaging and design is aimed at children, can cause serious injuries, as reported on

More than 39 million Spinbrushes have been sold, some models under the Arm & Hammer brand, others under Crest. All are manufactured by Church & Dwight Co. Inc, and are sold as Spinbrush.

According to the FDA’s website, parts can fly off the device and chip teeth, damage eyes, cut the mouth and gums and get stuck in the throat.

The FDA cites the potential for injury while using these Spinbrush models:

  • Spinbrush ProClean

  • Spinbrush ProClean Recharge

  • Spinbrush Pro Whitening

  • Spinbrush SONIC

  • Spinbrush SONIC Recharge

  • Spinbrush Swirl

  • Spinbrush Classic Clean

  • Spinbrush For Kids

  • Spinbrush Replacement Heads

The toothbrushes aren't being recalled, but Church & Dwight is informing consumers how to avoid injury on its website and via television and print advertising.

This isn’t the first time the FDA has come down on Church & Dwight. An inspection last year uncovered evidence that there had been numerous consumer complaints that had not been reported to the agency. In May, the FDA warned the company of its violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, including failure to report—within a reasonable period—serious injuries.

“Electric toothbrushes can be very effective in removing dental plaque, and so they can help prevent dental decay and gum disease,” says Susan Runner, D.D.S., chief of FDA’s dental devices branch. “At the same time, it’s important to supervise children when they use these brushes, and to look out for any malfunctions of the toothbrush that might cause an injury.”

If you or your child uses a Spinbrush:

  • Inspect the Spinbrush for damage or loose brush bristles. If it’s damaged, don’t use the toothbrush.

  • Check to ensure the headpiece is connected securely to the handle, and test it outside of the mouth. If the connection feels loose or the headpiece easily detaches from the handle, don’t use it.

  • Do not bite down on the brush head while brushing.

Report damaged toothbrushes to Church & Dwight toll-free at (800) 352-3384 or (800) 561-0752. Report injuries or problems with the Spinbrush to MedWatch, the FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. You can file a report online, by regular mail or by fax or phone.

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Posted On: March 12, 2012

Good News for Kids About the Orphan Drug Act

Few medical scenarios are more heartbreaking than a child with a dread rare disease who might be able to be treated if only drugs were available.

“Orphan drugs,” as we recently described, treat extremely rare disorders, generally afflicting 6,000 or fewer patients. Because the consumer market for them is so small, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to conduct the R&D necessary to develop them, or to spend the money marketing them.

Legislative efforts are underway to deliver orphan drugs faster to the people who need them. An article published recently in the journal Pediatrics, “What the Orphan Drug Act Has Done Lately for Children With Rare Diseases: A 10-Year Analysis,” reviewed progress for victimized youngsters.

It looked at orphan drug designations and approvals from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2009, and determined that the Act “led to increased product availability for [rare diseases] overall, with an increasing number of marketing approvals for children this past decade.”

During that time period:

  • 1,138 drugs were designated as “orphan,” of which 148 received marketing approval;
  • 38 (more than 1 in 4) addressed pediatric diseases;
  • the proportion of approvals for pediatric products increased from fewer than 1 in 5 in the first half of the decade to slightly fewer than 1 in 3 in the second half.
This is good news, as is the fact that approval for “orphan” designation and marketing for pediatric diseases with fewer than 20 000 patients grew more than for any other group.

Anyone interested in knowing more about the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development may link here.

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Posted On: March 6, 2012

How to Help Your Child in the Wake of School Violence

It doesn’t matter that tragedies like the recent school shooting in Ohio are random and nonsensical. If they’re horrifying to an adult, they can be positively terrifying to a school kid.

Even if your child isn’t within three area codes of this or any other school shooting, he or she can be traumatized. Several child violence experts on suggest ways to help a child overcome an irrational fear in the wake of such incidents.

Q. What can parents tell their children if they are afraid to go to school after a school shooting?
A. Let children voice their fears and concerns. Open a conversation by saying, “When we hear about something as sad and scary as a school shooting, it makes mommies, daddies and children worry about our children being safe at school.”

If your child expresses concern about safety or violence at his or her school, talk about it and offer to join the child in discussions with the appropriate school personnel.

Shootings can remind children of a previous experience with danger. If it does, discuss these prior experiences and differentiate them from this recent shooting.

For a limited time, accompany your child to school or home. Spend a little extra time with them at bedtime. But make sure your child understands this is temporary help to assist in returning to a normal routine.

Give your child realistic assurances — that while these events can and do happen, they are rare.

Q. What can you do to protect your children?
A. If violence occurs in your home between adults or between adults and children, get help immediately. Violence at home is the primary exposure for children to violence and violent injury.

All parents experience constant tension between allowing children to be independent and setting limitations for their own protection. Most important is to continually educate your children and openly discuss the safety strategies that accompany increased independence. You can renegotiate this balance with your children on a temporary basis because of immediate safety issues within their own communities and schools.

If you must restrict your child from activities because of safety concerns, explain that the restrictions are temporary and that you are looking forward to the time when the child can enjoy more independence. Know their friends and communicate with their friends’ parents and other parents who might have information about your child’s friends and activities.

Q. How can you recognize the potential for a child to be violent?
A. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says the presence of one or more of the following increases the risk of violent or dangerous behavior:

  • past violent or aggressive behavior (including uncontrollable angry outbursts)

  • access to guns or other weapons

  • bringing a weapon to school

  • past suicide attempts or threats

  • family history of violent behavior or suicide attempts

  • recent experience of humiliation, shame, loss or rejection

  • bullying or intimidating peers or younger children

  • a pattern of threats

  • being a victim of abuse or neglect (physical, sexual or emotional)

  • witnessing abuse or violence in the home

  • themes of death or depression evident in conversation, written expressions, reading selections or artwork

  • preoccupation with themes and acts of violence in TV shows, movies, music, magazines, comics, books, video games and Internet sites

  • mental illness, such as depression, mania, psychosis or biopolar disorder

  • use of alcohol or illicit drugs

  • disciplinary problems at school or in the community (delinquent behavior)

  • past destruction of property or vandalism

  • cruelty to animals

  • fire-setting behavior

  • poor peer relationships and/or social isolation

  • involvement with cults or gangs

  • little or no supervision or support from parents or other caring adult

Communication is key. Encourage your child to express any concerns he or she has about the behavior of others. Be prepared to speak to other parents if your child observes something concerning them about a peer’s behavior. Make sure that your child’s school authorities address any concerns that you bring to their attention.

Schools must have an appropriate procedure to evaluate children of concern to others. Find out if your child’s school has a procedure, and what it is. Find out how it monitors a child’s progress. Parents must impress upon their schools the need to adopt a comprehensive, team approach to ensure one person does not miss the warning signs someone else might see.

Q. What can schools do to prevent violent incidents?
After the recent school shootings, the U.S. Department of Education issued school safety guidelines to every school in the country.

Parents can ask school personnel if they have reviewed and implemented any of the Department of Education recommendations. In addition, parents and schools can refer to the recommendations of the National School Safety Center and the material provided by the National Education Association on its website. In coordination with parents, teachers, community agencies, community law enforcement and mental health professionals, the school should develop a plan for violence prevention and intervention.

Q. What can parents do to ease their own anxiety about sending their children to school?
School shootings challenge our belief that parents or schools can guarantee total protection and make us keenly aware of our children’s vulnerability to harm or injury.

These concerns are appropriate if they prompt parents to constructively review issues of safety within the family, neighborhood and school community. Taking constructive actions is an important way to alleviate anxieties that result from real-life events. If an act of violence exposes parents to a realistic concern, they must take practical steps to address this concern.

A parent might be experiencing severe anxiety if the shooting brings back previous memories of danger or loss. It can be helpful for parents to talk over these issues with other parents, school personnel and community or religious leaders.

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