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Health Updates 10 June 2012

  • Kids breathe better with dog in the house: “Having a dog in the home can help ward off infections in very young infants, possibly by hastening immune system development, researchers suggested.  During the first year of life, children living with dogs were generally healthier…and were less likely to have frequent ear infections…according to Eija Bergroth, MD, of Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland, and colleagues.  In addition, they typically were treated with fewer courses of antibiotics for otitis…compared to children without contact, the researchers reported in the August Pediatrics online.  Previous studies concerning the presence of animals in the home and childhood immunity have had conflicting results, with some suggesting that living with dogs can have favorable effects, while others found an increased risk for respiratory infections in children with pets.  ‘A better understanding of the interplay between pet-related exposures and the development of early respiratory tract infections may provide indirect insight regarding the factors affecting the maturation of the immune responses and its disturbances,’ Bergroth and colleagues wrote.”  As the data was studied, interesting things emerged, including the finding that having a dog, rather than a cat, inside the house for less than 6 hours per day was associated with better overall health, perhaps because dogs that were outside longer tracked in more dirt, which in turn created an environment with more bacterial diversity in the living quarters.  (Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today)
  • Really? Dieting is unsafe for pregnant women“Obesity in pregnancy is a growing problem.  Nationwide, about one in five expectant mo thers is obese, and up to 40 percent of women gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy.  But many experts worry that dieting can carry risks during pregnancy, including complications like low birth weight and preterm delivery, although a number of studies over the years have provided largely inconsistent results.  To find a more definitive answer, British researchers recently carried out a meta-analysis that pooled data from 44 randomized studies involving more than 7,000 pregnant women, most of them overweight or obese.  The studies looked at the effects of diet, exercise – mainly light resistance training and walking – and other lifestyle interventions on maternal weight and pregnancy outcomes.  Over all, the team found that the diets that were most effective at limiting weight gain among expectant mothers emphasized whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein.  The study, published in the journal BMJalso found that such a diet – as long as it was ‘balanced’ and tailored to nutritional needs – lowered the risk of complications.  Compared with other overweight women, those who went on a diet had a 61 percent lower risk of gestational diabetes and a 33 percent lower risk of pre-eclampsia, which causes dangerous increases in blood pressure in pregnant women.  They also had lower rates of gestational hypertension and preterm delivery.  The bottom line: For overweight women, losing weight through diet and exercise can lower the risk of complications in pregnancy.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • US high schools lax in preventing dating abuse – study: “Although dating violence is a recognized problem for US teens, a majority of high school counselors say their school provides no training or guidelines for dealing with abusive romantic relationships, a new study finds.  Prior research has found that between 10 percent and 30 percent of teens have been physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to background information in the study.  And dating abuse has been linked to suicidal thoughts, weight gain, sexually transmitted diseases and other physical and mental health problems, the researchers noted.  But preventing dating abuse and assisting victims are not priorities for US high schools, the new study concluded.  ‘We found that the majority of schools don’t have a protocol to deal with incidents of teen dating abuse,’ said lead researcher Dr. Jagdish Kubchandani, an assistant professor of community health education at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.  ‘This means that most of the school counselors would not know what to do.  This is also true for school nurses,’ he said.  The reasons vary from not considering dating abuse a serious issue to school administrators’  reluctance to get involved in romantic relationships, he said.  Some also fear parents will object to school interference in a child’s personal or sexual life.  ‘There needs to be more awareness and education about dating violence,’ Khubchandani said. ‘Parents and school personnel should collaborate, and there should be regular assessments of the prevalence of the problem’.  In addition to physical aggression and sexual assault, dating violence includes psychological abuse.  Because teen victims of dating violence are just beginning to date, they may think abusive behavior is the norm, which can perpetuate the cycle, experts say.” (HealthDay)
  • Health Tip: Going scuba diving?  “Scuba diving requires careful training and preparation, or you can suffer the health effects of the difference in pressure between the spaces in your body and the higher water pressure as you dive deeper.  Diving without training can raise your risk of problems including dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath.  More serious medical problems can include decompression sickness (the ‘bends’).  The American Academy of Family Physiciansoffers these general guidelines for safer scuba diving:
    • Don’t push yourself beyond your comfort level, and always stay within your dive plan.
    • Slowly and gently equalize the pressure in your mask and ears as you descend and ascend.
    • Educate yourself on local dangers, such as currents, tides and dangerous marine life.
    • Always dive with a buddy and stay calm and relaxed; turn to your buddy if you need help.
    • Always use the proper equipment.
    • Make sure your doctor says it’s safe for you to dive.
    • Never drink alcohol before a dive.” (US Dept. of HHS)
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