Health Updates 9 April 2012

  • Many little kids lack outdoor time with parents: “Half of preschoolers don’t spend time playing outside with a parent each day, according to results from a recent study.  In interviews with parents of close to 9,000 kids, less than half of moms and only a quarter of dads reported taking their child for a walk or playing with them in the yard or park at least once a day.  ‘It does make sense that for many parents, especially for parents who work outside the home…it’s not so easy to have outdoor playtime with your children every day,’ said Dr. Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician at the University of Washington in Seattle, who worked on the new study.  Still, she added, outdoor play has been tied to a host of benefits for young kids – who may not always be getting outdoor time in childcare or at preschool, as some parents assume.  Guidelines from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education suggest that kids get at least an hour of physical activity per day for long-term health benefits, like helping to ward off childhood obesity.  Preschoolers should also get a few hours of unstructured playtime each day, according to the recommendations.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Study finds antibiotics best for appendicitis: “For people suffering from uncomplicated appendicitis, a course of antibiotics may be just as good has having the appendix removed, British researchers report.  The researchers reviewed studies involving hundreds of patients to determine that treatment with antibiotics could be a safe alternative to surgery, which has been the so-called ‘gold standard’ of care for an inflamed appendix since 1889.  ‘Starting antibiotics when the diagnosis of uncomplicated acute appendicitis is made, with reassessment for the patient, will prevent the need for most appendectomies, reducing patient morbidity,’ said lead researcher Dr. Dileep Lobo, professor of gastrointestinal surgery at the University of Nottingham and Queen’s Medical Centre.  Antibiotics also can shorten a patient’s hospital stay, he added.  Since better diagnostic tools are now available to diagnose appendicitis, it is safe to adopt a careful ‘wait, watch and treat’ policy for those who have uncomplicated appendicitis or when the diagnosis is uncertain, Lobo said.” (HealthDay)
  • Regimen may hike survival in advanced cancer: Patients with advanced and metastatic cancers had ‘unexpected 5-year survival’ when treated with an inexpensive maintenance immunotherapy that boosted levels of natural killer cells, investigators reported….Patients with a variety of stage IV cancers had substantially better overall survival when they received the combination of interleukin-2 and 13-cis retinoic acid after chemotherapy that produced stable disease or better response.  As compared with historical survival data, the regimen was associated with a twofold or greater improvement in 5-year survival.  The maintenance therapy was well tolerated.”  The study was presented at a recent conference and the data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal. (Charles Bankhead, MedPage Today)
  • Bilingual kids are better multi-taskers, study says: “Children who grow up learning to speak two languages are better at multi-tasking than children who learn only one language, a new study finds.  But, the bilingual kids are slower to build their vocabulary.  The study of 104 children, age 6, compared those who spoke on English with those who were bilingual and spoke either Chinese and English, French and English, or Spanish and English.  The children were asked to press a computer key when they saw a series of computer images of either animals or depictions of colors.  When their responses were limited to only one of the categories, all the children responded at the same speed.  However, when the children had to switch between categories and press different buttons for each category, the bilingual children were faster at making the change than the English-only children…’In simplest terms, the switching task is an indicator of the ability to multi-task,’ Peggy McCardle, chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the NICHD, said in a National Institutes of Health news release.  ‘Bilinguals have two sets of language rules in mind, and their brains apparently are wired to toggle back and forth between them depending on the circumstances,’ she explained.” (

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