Kid health issues to watch in 2010
Earliest signs of autism identified in babies: With about one in every 150 children being diagnosed with a condition in the "autism spectrum," there's been an upsurge in autism awareness and research. New research, which finds that the earliest signs of autism can be detected in babies, will help improve screening efforts for autism. Babies who get an earlier diagnosis get the interventions they need sooner.
*Obesity and kids: What parents should understand: Why are so many kids today overweight or obese? Many factors are involved, from out-of-control portion sizes and eating on the go to sedentary lifestyles and parental uncertainty about what kids should weigh. It's important for parents to be good role models for their kids by eating well and exercising often. But beyond that, moms and dads also need to educate themselves regarding where kids should fall on a growth chart and how their child compares with peers on these charts.
*Many kids missing out on CHIP benefits: A recent study concluded what seems obvious - kids who lack regular pediatric care often don't get the medical services they need. Although it's uncertain how well current health care reform initiatives will help meet kids' needs, there is help available for millions of uninsured children via the children's health Insurance program, or CHIP. So what's the problem? Most of the 11 million eligible kids still haven't been enrolled.
*H1N1 flu pandemic affecting kids the hardest: worry over H1N1 virus has let up a bit in recent weeks and the peak of the outbreak appears to have passed, but experts caution that cases could surge again. So it's important for parents to remain vigilant and do their best to protect their families, especially since kids and teens were especially hard hit by the recent H1N1 pandemic.
*Texting and driving: just say no: As irritating as cell phone and texting proficiencies can be for "old-school" parents, they can be more than just annoying. On the road, these distractions can be deadly. One report estimates that teens are four times more likely than adult drivers to get into an accident related to cell-phone use. Another found that texting was, by far, the most potentially dangerous and lethal activity related to cell phone use on the road.
*The importance of vitamin D: Most of us know that vitamin D is crucial to bone health, but now it's been shown that insufficient levels can cause or increase the risk of developing a number of health problems. Recent studies report that about 70 percent of kids in the United States have low vitamin D levels. Traditionally, milk has been the main source of vitamin D for kids, but fewer kids now drink much milk every day. Another likely risk factor is the 3-4 hours of TV and computer time many kids get each day. Ultraviolet rays absorbed by the skin help the body make a usable form of vitamin D - so kids who are parked inside day after day aren't getting these natural "doses" of vitamin D the way kids did in the past.
*The Impact on Concussions: In the wake of head injuries among some of the NFL's most high-profile players, concussions and their treatment have become big news. Because the treatment of concussions relies heavily on symptom reporting by those who incur them rather than more obvious signs, many athletes have been encouraged to "play through" head injuries. This is especially troubling for younger athletes, in whom repeat concussions can be serious. So it's important to prevent concussions from happening in the first place and, if they do, to know the signs and how to make sure a child recovers completely.
*Pregnancy, STDs Increasing Among U.S. Teens: The CDC reports that, following declines from 1991 to 2005, birth rates among U.S. teens are increasing, and more than 25 percent of 14- to 19-year-old girls had one of four sexually transmitted diseases in 2008. And in a new study, the AAP reports that many parents aren't talking to their kids about sexual development until it's "too late" - more than 40 percent of kids already had sexual intercourse before any discussion with their parents about STDs, condom use, birth control, or what to do if a partner refuses to use a condom.
*Smoking: The U.S. smoking rate has dropped sharply, from around 40 percent in the mid-1960s to a little over 20 percent now. That's the good news. However; the American Lung Association,says each day 6,300 American kids try their first cigarette and nearly 2,000 of them will become daily smokers. Gaining traction are electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes), marketed as the "healthier alternatives" to regular smoking, with many brands offering free trial kits through online promotions that kids can easily access.