Health Updates 30 April 2012

  • Drug screens show high degree of noncompliance: “The majority of patients whose doctors order a urine screen to monitor prescription drug use — usually pain meds, central nervous system agents, and amphetamines — are not using them as prescribed, a report from one of the nation’s largest diagnostic laboratories showed.  An analysis of almost 76,000 urine screens from 2011 found that in 63% of cases results did not match up with what the doctor was looking for, researchers from Quest Diagnostics found.  In 60% of those mismatches, the screen picked up drugs other than those that had been ordered, or contained additional drugs, suggesting that many patients are using drugs in ‘potentially dangerous combinations’.  In the other 40%, no drugs was detected at all.  Such noncompliance could indicate financial constraints, the researchers noted, or drug aversion.  Inconsistent results were not confined to one drug class.  They showed up in 50% of patients on central nervous system agents, 48% of those on amphetamines, and 44% of those on pain medications.  But the researchers found that the  inconsistencies diminished slightly on follow-up screens.  Among the 6,858 patients who had repeat testing about a month later, inconsistency rates fell to 55%, they reported.” (Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today)
  • Animals more interesting to kids than toys, study shows: “Given the choice between a real animal and a toy, new research shows that children prefer a living creature.  Even babies as young as 11 months old are naturally drawn to animals, including those that may frighten many adults, such as spiders and snakes, investigators from the University of Virginia and Rutgers University found.  The researchers conducted three separate experiments in which children had the opportunity to choose between animals or attractive toys.  The children, the study revealed, spent more time with all types of animals than with the toys.  The animals also sparked more curiosity and interest among the children than the toys did, the investigators noted.  For example, when focusing their attention on the animals the kids gestured more, talked about the animals more and asked more questions.  As a result, the researchers suggested that animals help children learn.  ‘The fact that child finds animals so appealing suggests that children may benefit from having an animal, like a pet, in their lives….Our research develops the idea that animals may be a good instrument for learning….This is borne out by the widespread use of animal characters in children’s books and TV programs‘.” (HealthDay)
  • Some schools don’t let kids carry asthma inhalers: “Although all 50 states have laws that allow children with asthma to carry inhalers at school and 48 states have laws that let youngsters carry epinephrine pens for serious allergies, experts say that some kids are still being denied access to these lifesaving medications during the school day.  ‘Every school district handles this a little bit different, and for those who don’t allow children to carry their medications, I think may be due to a lack of knowledge.  School officials may not appreciate the risk that having epinephrine pens and inhalers in a locked office, instead of with the child, can pose’, said Maureen George, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia.  “Fewer than 200 children die each year from asthma in the US.  That number is low, but those deaths are preventable.  And it’s a double tragedy when you lose a child to a preventable condition.  And, some of those deaths happen in schools,’ she said.  George said school officials may deny access to inhalers and epinephrine injectors because they’re concerned about potential liability from allowing a child to carry their own medication.  What if the child uses the medicine incorrectly? What if the child uses the medication and doesn’t let an adult know?  Of, what if a child allows another child to use their inhaler?… George said that drug abuse prevention concerns are often chief among those listed as reasons why children shouldn’t carry their own medications.  ‘But, do prescription medications really need to be grouped with illicit drugs?’ George asked.  The bottom line, however, is that children and their parents now have the law on their side.  Federal and state legislation allows children to carry their own inhalers.  Not surprisingly though, there is paperwork that’s required for youngsters to be able to do so.  Talk with your child’s school and get the required paperwork….kids who can demonstrate that they know how to use an inhaler can usually be allowed to carry their own medication, regardless of their age.  Children must also be responsible enough to tell an adult when they’ve used their medication.  They must also understand that they can’t share their medication with other children.” (
  • Toxic gas in dog vomit a threat to veterinarians, says CDC: “Dogs who accidentally eat a commercial poison to combat gophers and moles can emit a toxic gas that can sicken veterinary staff, a new report indicates.  Experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say such canine gas attacks felled workers at four veterinary clinics between 2006 and 2011, and such incidents ‘might be underreported’.  All the workers (and dogs) involved in the four cases recovered, the report added.  The cases involved zinc phosphide, a ‘readily available rodenticide that, on contact with the stomach acid and water, produced phosphine, a highly toxic gas,’ explained a team led by Rebecca Tsai, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC.  People who use the rodenticide are typically aiming to rid properties of burrowing rodents such as gophers or moles, and the products’ instructions say that the pellets should be inserted within the animals’ tunnels or burrows.  However, sometimes users may have simply spread the pellets on the ground, where dogs could eat them, or ‘even with correct application, dogs might be exposed while digging in treated areas with their paws or by consuming poisoned prey,’ the CDC noted.”  Veterinary technicians or veterinarians treating these pets have experienced immediate nausea and pain, headache, dizziness, sore throat and chest pain.  One doctor was admitted overnight to a hospital after treating a sick dog in a poorly ventilated room.  Vets treating horses for the poisoning have also become sick.  In all cases where pets are suspected of becoming sick after ingesting pellets containing zinc phosphide, vets should induce vomiting outdoors to disperse any toxic fumes. (MedlinePlus)

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