Child Health News-12/15 (Pedcast)

So many interesting things and so little time. I come across a plethora of interesting things as I do research for this blog that I simply don’t have time to make a stand alone article or pedcast about. Well, I don’t want you to miss out on all this so I have decided to clean house a little and get some articles to you that have been backlogged for a while. Let’s clean the Doc Smo desk, shall we? Rather than making a pedcast about each one, I am going to give you a synopsis of these articles in a series that I am calling, “Child Health News”.  So sit back and continue your free pediatric education. Oh yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. I’m your pedcast host, Dr. Paul Smolen, a real board certified pediatrician with 34 years of clinical practice and 5 years of blogging.  Welcome to another edition of portable practical pediatrics.



September 2015 Pediatrics had an article that dovetails nicely with my very popular podcast entitled “Babies Need Words” where I addressed the differences in language development among children who are read to on a regular basis and those that are not. For more on that you can read the AAP statement on language development in children and also read Jim Trelease’s great book that I have previously reviewed on this blog entitled, “The Read Aloud Handbook”. So back to the new information. Pediatricians at Cincinnatti Children’s Hospital tested brain activation in preschool children who were read to and found that, sure enough, left brain activation and activity was increased when children were read to compared to when they watched screens. Imagine that; million dollar scanners, high level statistics, and researchers with more letters after their names than a bowl of alphabet soup, all to find out what common sense would tell you– reading to children stimulates their brains, specifically the areas of the brain where language is processed. Grandma wouldn’t be surprised by this research. She knew this a 100 years ago.


Next, article 2–the CDC brought us some interesting information in April 2015 about the current cases of measles that have been occurring in the US. Let me remind you that measles is a serious disease, killing 1 out of every 100 children infected. It’s eradication has been a major public health victory of the 20th century, but unfortunately, it is coming back. In 2015, so far, 159 cases have been reported in the US and this is no doubt, a significant underreporting and identification of the disease.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the real number isn’t 10X that. Anyway, the CDC asked the question, “Where is the measles coming from?” Not surprisingly, 96% of the cases were either brought here by unvaccinated Americans traveling abroad or were imported by visitors from other countries where vaccine rates are low. If the trend toward vaccine refusal continues to gain steam in the US, we can expect to see a lot more measles in the US. What’s the expression, “What is old is new and what is new is old?” I hope we don’t have to touch the measles stove to find out it is still hot!


Article 3- Why is puberty getting younger in girls? Well, news flash…it is also getting younger in boys. More in that in a minute. In a 2013 study lead author Dr. Biro found in studying 1200 girls over time, that the average age of the first sign of puberty, breast development, continues to be getting younger. Race, and presumbably genetics is a factor here but they also found that obesity is the biggest factor reducing the age of thelarche (age of breast development). The higher the BMI or body mass index, the earlier the pubertal process begins on average. The authors are studying other factors such as exposure to chemicals in our environment but right now, I think most investigators believe that being bigger at a younger age is the biggest factor.  I’m sure there will be more coming on this fascinating study.


And finally, article 4–There is news about the virus RSV and asthma. Researchers have suspected for a long time that an early bronchial infection with RSV does something to the infant’s airways that makes them more sensitive to irritants and easier to go into bronchospasm for many years–the so called intrinsic asthma.  This line of reasoning is now supported by two important supporting studies. The first comes from Brazil, where researchers found that babies born in the fall (the beginning of RSV season of infections) were more likely to go onto wheeze recurrently and be labeled asthmatic. The second article comes in the NEJM where researchers found that premature babies who got infected with RSV at a young age were much more likely to wheeze in the first year of life than their counterparts that didn’t get this infection. Both of the studies confirm that argument that RSV is a very mean virus and that an early infection with it, changes a baby’s bronchial sensitivity for a long time.


Well, I hope you found that peds update interesting. Health and parenting issues in pediatrics are fascinating, aren’t they. New stuff comes out all the time and I do my best to keep you informed. In fact, if you subscribe to and read my new book Can Doesn’t Mean Should, I feel confident that you will be the best informed parent in the room at your next parent get together. Thanks for your comments, your interest, and support. I truly hope I can bring you pediatric information that is portable and practical. This is Dr Paul Smolen, broadcasting from studio 1E, you know, my first child’s bedroom on the east side of my house, hoping that I was able to  shed a little light with my pedcast tonight. Until next time.


Smo Notes: