Pediatrics for parents

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Vol. 24, Number 2

Pediatrics
Richard J. Sagall, MD, Editor

Parents

February, 2008

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The newsletter for people who care for children

In this Issue...
Cough Medicine Dangers ...1 Chickpox Complications .....1 Allergen of the Year ............2 TV Watching and Social Skills ...................2 Cord Blood Banking............3 Activity and Risks of Heart Disease...............5 Pregnant Teens ..................6 Antibiotics ...........................7 (Over)Protecting Your Children ................8 Shampoo Dangers..............9 Children’s Emergencies....10 Children and Pets .............12 Rickets ..............................13 Qs and As MRSA ..........................14 Sleep Problems ...........14 Picky Eater ..................15 Car Seat Placement ....15Cough Medicine Dangers
Nearly 7,100 children under 12 years old are seen in emergency departments each year for problems related to over-the-counter and prescription cough and cold medications. Two-thirds of the visits were due to unsupervised ingestions. Only 47% of ingestions of other medications are unsupervised. These medications contain decongestants, antihistamines, antitussives (coughsuppresant), and/or expectorants. There is now great doubt as to the effectiveness of many of these classes of drugs. Not only are these medications largely ineffective, but they can be dangerous if taken in large amounts. There’s little reason to have them in your home. Many manufacturers of these medications are voluntarily adding childresistant packaging to their cough and cold medications. Accordingto Linda Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, “Our companies are all committed to the idea of child-resistant packaging, and most products already have that, and we are now working very quickly to make sure all products do.” Pediatrics, 4/08 and Family Practice News, 2/15/08

Chickenpox Complications
Most people think of chickenpox – caused by the varicella zostervirus – as a benign childhood illness that, though annoying and uncomfortable, is no more severe than a bad cold. But that’s not the case. Chickenpox can cause severe illness and even death. That’s why all children should receive the chickenpox vaccine. To determine just how serious a chickenpox infection can be, researchers in the United Kingdom evaluated all the cases of chickenpox requiringhospitalization during a 13-month period. To be counted, the sick child had to be under 16 years old. They found 112 children ranging in age from three to fourteen years old. This calculates to slightly less than one child out of every 100,000 being hospitalized due to complications of chickenpox. These children experienced a number of potentially life-threatening chickenpox-related complications: •Bacteremia/septic shock – 30 children Continued on page 2

Chickenpox – Continue from page 1 • Pneumonia – 30 children • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) – 26 children • Ataxia (balance problems) – 25 children • Toxic shock syndrome – 14 children • Necrotizing fasciitis (severe infection of the skin leading to skin death) – 7 children • Disseminated coagulopathy (problems with bloodclotting) – 5 children • Fulminant varicella (a severe case of chickenpox) – 5 children • Neonatal varicella (chickenpox in newborns) – 3 children (The total is greater than 112 because some children had more than one complication.) The average length of hospitalization was seven days, with stays ranging between one and sixty-eight days. Forty-one children had problems when discharged, the mostcommon being ataxia and skin scarring. Of the 112 children, six died (one death was intrauterine and four of the other five children had a pre-existing medical problem such as heart disease, asthma, etc.). Most of the complications occurred in otherwise healthy children. The authors conclude that, “Most complications, excluding deaths, occur in otherwise healthy children and thus would be preventable...
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