Today's Health Notes

Half of Kids with AD/HD Don't Receive Medication

Health Notes Archives - Click Here(November 2006) Though the percentage of kids taking medications for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) has soared in recent years, new research concludes that many kids who suffer from the disorder are not receiving drug treatment. The research, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suggests that concerns about overmedication of children for AD/HD are unfounded.

In a study of 1,610 children, ages 7 to 17, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that only about half of those with AD/HD (58 percent of the boys and 45 percent of the girls) were receiving prescribed medication. The researchers speculated that:

  • untreated children aren't being identified and diagnosed, or

  • their parents are choosing not to put their children on medication.

Among children in the study who did not have AD/HD - but had some AD/HD-like symptoms - only 3.6 percent of the boys and 2.6 percent of the girls were taking medication. The researchers noted that most of the kids taking medication without a full diagnosis had a twin sibling who had been diagnosed with AD/HD.

The study seems to address widely reported concerns about children being overprescribed medication for AD/HD. "Our study found little evidence for widespread misuse of these medications in children and adolescents," says Richard D. Todd, M.D., Ph.D., head of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine.

Most of the parents in the study whose children were receiving medication for AD/HD reported that it helped, Todd says. Still, only half of children who might benefit are currently being treated. "Clearly," he adds, "there is room for improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of AD/HD."

- Christina Elston

Flu Shots Recommended for All Kids Under 5

By Christina Elston

(November 2006) It's flu season again, and there are new reasons for families to roll up their sleeves for the annual flu shot this month. The biggest one is that federal health officials are now recommending the vaccine for all children under age 5.

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year found that doctors failed to diagnose the flu in 72 percent of young children who had been hospitalized because they were ill, and in 83 percent of those visiting clinics or doctors' offices. Leaving flu untreated makes it more likely that these children will spread infections to others (like you!).

The study was compelling enough to prompt the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to recommend that all children under age 5 be vaccinated against influenza. The committee's previous recommendations only included children under age 2. Other high-risk groups that should be vaccinated include pregnant women, people over 50, and those with chronic medical conditions or close contact with anyone in a high-risk group.

Need further inspiration? A small Turkish study, reported in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, found that the influenza vaccination reduced the rate of ear infections in kids ages 6 months to 5 years by 11 percent.

Indoor Heat and the Danger of Carbon Monoxide

Each year, more than 500 people die from unintentional CO poisoning.
- Centers for Disease Control

(November 2006) As winter approaches, families tend to spend more time indoors and, inevitably, turn up the thermostat. Most of us are well aware of the risk of fire from portable heaters, wood stoves or mattresses jammed up against hot radiators. Working smoke detectors are a must at this time of year.

But what many households still lack, in spite of increased public safety warnings, are carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and, more important, regular inspections and maintenance of furnaces, gas water heaters, space heaters, ovens, fireplaces and wood stoves. Each year in the United States, more than 500 people die from unintentional CO poisoning, according to the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Fetuses, infants, the elderly and people with anemia or a history of heart or respiratory disease are particularly at risk.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced when any fuel is incompletely burned, including natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline and wood. It can leak from a faulty furnace or fuel-fired heater; it can build up in fireplaces with a blocked chimney or flue, and it can seep into the house from a car left running in an attached garage.

CO poisoning is easily mistaken for the flu or even food poisoning, since its symptoms are similar - dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea and irregular breathing.

While the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both recommend that families purchase CO detectors (and some states now require them in homes and businesses), these agencies also caution families not to rely solely on the detectors for protection. In laboratory tests, performance of CO detectors has varied widely, according to the EPA.

Better to first make sure that your home heaters, furnaces, fireplaces and ovens are inspected annually for leaks, proper ventilation, cleanliness and efficiency. Choose appliances that vent fumes to the outside, and keep vents clear of lint, dirt, snow, ice and other debris. [READ MORE]