Simplifying Science

An Allergy Revolution

The past several weeks have seen a flurry of breakthroughs on the allergy front. One study looked at how many kids actually have food allergies vs. the number whose parents think their kids do. Another revealed that, though the parental reflex of “cleaning” a child’s dropped pacifier by sucking it may be gross, it also might have real benefits. And a third shows amazing results from a drug trial treating peanut-allergic kids. Taken together, this one-two-three punch signals major progress when it comes to food allergies… READ MORE

Giving While Giving

My life as a pediatrician working in hospitals left an indelible impression upon me. Really, it was the kids. No matter how sick – and some were fighting for their lives – they all mustered smiles and found joy wherever they could.

There are days when I am feeling overwhelmed or beaten down. But I swear all I need to do is think about one or another of these young heroes and I can feel their spirits fill me. This is why I love being part of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, an organization that delivers joy to hospitalized kids in the form of care packages, books, toys, Radio Flyer wagons, virtual reality headsets and Starlight gowns (cute, comfy, and revolutionary in that they don’t open in the back!). I am even more proud to watch an emerging group of young volunteers raising awareness about Starlight – props to my daughter Talia and her pal Caroline. Check out their newest peer-to-peer awareness-raising campaign and if you’re still shopping for some gifts this holiday season, give a gown!

Bug Fix

Probiotics aren't bad for you at all. And some might even be helpful. But as this study shows, one of the most common types available doesn't make a bit of difference in healing the gut during an episode of stomach flu. That's important info, especially when a parent is trying to get something into the intestinal tract of their child who is nauseous or worse. If it doesn't help, there is no good reason to push the remedy.

One thing this article doesn't address is the fact that many probiotics don't contain quite what they claim to. Probiotics are regulated as nutritional supplements, not drugs, so no one is regularly checking inside the bottle to make sure that what is advertised on the label is really in there. Plus, if you consume your probiotics in dairy foods, like yogurt, and the dairy is pasteurized to reduced the likelihood of bad bacteria, then you can bet the population of good bacteria (AKA probiotics) is reduced during pasteurization as well. Again, there's no guarantee that what the label claims ("1 gazillion active live cultures!") is at all true.

I am a big fan of the right probiotics made by companies dedicated to transparency and given in the right instances. Looks like a bout of stomach flu is not a time to try this remedy...

A widely-used probiotic therapy is ineffective against the diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain of gastroenteritis, two large studies in the U.S. and Canada have concluded.

Five days of treatment with a key ingredient in many products, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, was no better at stopping symptoms than placebo among children ages 3 months to 4 years.

In the Canadian study, a second probiotic added to the mix also showed no benefit.


The Gift of Nothing

Yup, you read that right. An empty cardboard box is a great gift for a toddler!

Not joking here. Pediatricians have been putting this at the top of their go-to gift list for years. I mean, think about it. When a two-year old opens a box, how often is she more interested in the box? You are right if you said most of the time. There's paper, ribbons, sometimes even bubble wrap. What more could they want?!

I will disagree on how long this trick can stretch, though. The report covered here suggests up to age five - I say good luck. When my daughter was three, or maybe she was four, I tried to replicate the magic of the gift of nothing and she didn't exactly go for it. So then I stashed a new pair of underpants in a separate box and "gifted" those to her. She opened the box and did a double take. Then she asked me, sweetly but with a subtle smirk foreshadowing her future teen years, "Did you just give me underwear?"

Yes, yes I did. And we laughed so hard that every year since, at least one holiday present has been a box with underpants.

Skip the costly electronic games and flashy digital gizmos. Pediatricians say the best toys for tots are old-fashioned hands-on playthings that young children can enjoy with parents — things like blocks, puzzles — even throwaway cardboard boxes — that spark imagination and creativity.

“A cardboard box can be used to draw on, or made into a house,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, co-author of a new report on selecting toys for young children, up to around age 5. READ MORE

Brain Changes Seen in MRIs of Young Football Players

The interesting take-home point here, at least to me, is a reminder that practices can be more injury-producing than games. This is not a new concept, but it's one many of us tend to forget about on a regular basis...

High-impact hits may affect the brain development of children and teens after just one season of football, preliminary research suggests.

The study compared functional MRI scans taken pre- and post-season. The researchers saw more gray matter volume in those who had high-impact hits -- but no concussions -- over the season.

More gray matter indicates that the brain might not be working as well as it.... READ MORE

Bringing Baby in a Lyft?

Ride-share has upended many rules of the road, but safety shouldn't be on that list. There is a reason why infants, toddlers, and young children are required to ride in car seats and/or boosters: these seats save lives. Instead of exempting ride-share companies from the safety requirement, how about if we innovate the safety equipment? Infant car seats have ALWAYS been too bulky, heavy and cumbersome. They are nearly impossible to install correctly, particularly when you are trying to hustle into a car, kids in hand, along a busy roadway. So rather than change the rules, let's change the hardware. Who out there can invent a more portable, more easily installable, equally safe (or even safer) car seat? Go for it!

There are wide variations between states when it comes to child restraint rules for ride-share services such as Lyft and Uber, researchers report.

This can cause uncertainty and confusion for parents and other caregivers. Ride-share vehicles typically don't come with a car seat, and an option to request one is available only in some cities, the study authors said.

Parents can provide their own car seat, but many are bulky, heavy and…READ MORE

Why Teenagers Mix Drinking and Sex

Outstanding article, Lisa Damour - and with the added voice of Peggy Orenstein, Author to boot! I am passing along to my teenage daughter today. Sage advice to not simply believe hype...

Adults should talk with teenagers about drinking. And we should talk with teenagers about sex. But in addition to taking up each of these topics separately, we should also address the fact that adolescents are more likely than adults to combine the two.

Common sense suggests, and research confirms, that intoxicated sex can be a bad idea. Of course, underage drinking is illegal; state laws vary on the legality of… READ MORE