Children’s Health

RECENT POSTS

Too Young to Buy Tobacco, But Not Too Young to Pick It

A Human Rights Watch study found that most children working in tobacco field got sick with nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness. (Getty Images)

A Human Rights Watch study found that most children working in tobacco fields got sick with nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness. (Getty Images)

By Debbie Elliott, NPR

Kids under 18 can’t buy cigarettes in the U.S., but they can legally work in tobacco fields when they’re as young as 12.

One of those kids is Eddie Ramirez, 15, who works the fields in the summer.

“The rows are narrow and the tobacco is really big. You just feel like you’re suffocating or can’t breathe really well.” – Eddie Ramirez, 15 

“It just sticks to my hand,” he says of the plant. “It’s really sticky, you know, and really yellow.” It’s nearly impossible to wash off, he says.

new report from Human Rights Watch says the practice of children farming tobacco is hazardous and should be stopped. The group interviewed more than 140 kids in 2012 and 2013, including Eddie, who work on tobacco farms in the South.

From the sparse mobile home he shares with his mother in Snow Hill, N.C., Eddie describes feeling lightheaded and queasy after a 12-hour day in the tobacco fields. Continue reading

Emotional Symptoms Can Linger After Kids’ Concussions

Emotional symptoms such as frustration, and sleep difficulty can start more than a week after the initial injury and may be a sign of more serious concussion. (Paul-W/Flickr)

While headaches and fatigue are the most common concussion symptoms, nearly one in five patients may also suffer emotional symptoms. (Paul-W/Flickr)

By Brian Lau

That big hit your child took on the football field was over a week ago. He says his headaches are gone — but he’s just not himself. He can’t sleep and he just snapped back at you when you asked him how he was doing. You wonder if this is just normal teenager behavior or a sign of the concussion.

Frustration, irritability, and sleep difficulty a week or more after injury may signal a more serious concussion.
Concussions are diagnosed by physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, difficulty thinking clearly, or fatigue after a head injury. But those physical symptoms may evolve into emotional symptoms during the days and weeks after an injury according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Yes, headaches and fatigue were the most common symptoms immediately following a concussion, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. But emotional symptoms such as frustration, irritability, restlessness, and sleep difficulty were seen in up to 17 percent of patients a week or more after injury and may be a marker of a more serious concussion. Continue reading

Hoarding Can Start Early, But Harder to Spot Signs in Teens

Teens may not have had enough time to accumulate a lot of stuff, but they may still  have symptoms. (Tara R./Flickr)

Teens may not have had enough time to accumulate a lot of stuff, but they may still have symptoms. (Tara R./Flickr)

By Maanvi Singh, NPR

Hoarding disorder is generally diagnosed in older adults, after their inability to discard things and their anxiety over possessions leave them unable to function. But it may take root much earlier in life, though psychiatrists say they’re just starting to figure that out.

Study shows 2 percent of teens may have the disorder.

Hoarding symptoms may look different in teenagers than they do in adults, researchers reported at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting this week in New York.

A seriously cluttered living space is one of the main signs of hoarding disorder in adults. But teens who show some of the symptoms of hoarding usually haven’t collected nearly as many things as adults, says Volen Ivanov, a psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Continue reading

In Oakland, Finding a Safe Place for Kids to Play

IMG_0259

The fear of street violence in her East Oakland community prevents Maria Peña (left) from taking her children to neighborhood parks and from allowing them to play in front of their home. A supervised playgroup provides that opportunity. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: When it’s too dangerous for children to play outside, what can parents do? Thirty-five-year-old Maria Peña recalls her own childhood in East Oakland as one spent playing happily on the streets with neighborhood children. Today, her community’s high crime rate makes the street a hazardous place for her two kids. As part of our ongoing health series Vital Signs, Peña describes how an East Oakland playgroup called Room to Bloom gives her four-year-old daughter a safe space to be a kid.

By Maria Peña

We were going to leave to a baseball game and something held us back from leaving. It was a drive-by in broad daylight.

My daughter is 4-years-old, and she’s like, “Why are they shooting? Why are these people doing this?” Continue reading

Words Matter: To Get Kids to Help, Try Switching How You Ask

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Maanvi Singh, NPR

Motivating children to stop playing and help out with chores isn’t exactly an easy sell, as most parents and teachers will attest. But how you ask can make all the difference, psychologists say.

“Helping” versus “being a helper.”

If you say something like, “Please help me,” the kids are more likely to keep playing with their Legos. But ask them, “Please be a helper,” and they’ll be more responsive, researchers report this week in the journal Child Development.

Being called a helper makes kids feel like they’re embodying a virtue, says Christopher Bryan, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego and one of the researchers behind the study.

“It’s really important to all of us to be good people,” Bryan says. Helping is nice, but helpers are good people.

Continue reading

Why Playing Minecraft Might Be More Healthy for Kids Than TV

(screenshot from Minecraft trailer)

(screenshot from Minecraft trailer)

By Maanvi Singh, NPR

Doctors say children shouldn’t log more than two hours a day of screen time, though what with phones, computers and TV most children put in much more.

But it may be that not all screens are equally evil.

One theory? Harder to snack on chips when tapping on keyboard.    

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that sixth-graders who watched a lot of TV were more likely to eat junk food and drink soda than their peers who spent the same amount of time on the computer or playing video games, the researchers say.

Of course, running around outside is still much better for children’s health than playing Temple Run on an iPhone. Kids who watched two to six hours a day of TV and those who played video games or used a computer for the same amount of time were heavier and had higher blood pressure than those who put in less than an hour a day of screen time, the researchers found. Continue reading

More Students with Serious Medical Needs — But Few School Nurses

Gabriella Dominguez, a transitional kindergarten student, follows a strict dietary regimen to deal with a congenital intestinal disease. (Courtesy: Dominguez Family)

Gabriella Dominguez, a transitional kindergarten student, follows a strict dietary regimen to deal with a congenital intestinal disease. (Courtesy: Dominguez Family)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

Five-year-old Gabriella Dominguez spends 20 minutes every hour in the back of her transitional kindergarten classroom consuming mini-meals she finds dreadfully unappetizing: no water, no sugar, no fat, the occasional cracker and lots of bland liquid nutritional supplements.

Born with Hirschsprung’s disease, an intestinal disorder, Gabriella is one of four medically fragile students at Willow Glen Elementary School in San Jose and part of a growing number of students who come to school with chronic and often serious health conditions.

The medical oversight that students like Gabriella receive at school is part of a “hidden health care system” that intertwines school nurses, educators and community health providers according to a statewide report released Friday. That system could be run a lot more efficiently and effectively, according to the report’s authors at the School of Nursing at California State University, Sacramento. Continue reading

Neighbors Skeptical of L.A. Battery Recycling Plant’s Clean Up Proposal

Doelores Mejia attended a recent public meeting in Boyle Heights where state Department of Toxic Substances Control officials described neighborhood lead contamination. Mejia says state officials should have closed the plant long ago. (Chris Richard)

Doelores Mejia attended a recent public meeting in Boyle Heights where state officials described neighborhood lead contamination. Mejia says regulators should have closed the plant long ago. (Chris Richard)

By Chris Richard

Operators of a battery recycling plant suspected of showering its neighbors just east of downtown Los Angeles with lead dust for decades have submitted new soil testing and remediation plans. According to the documents, the area  that incrementally increases the area to be surveyed will be incrementally increased and homes inhabited by young children and pregnant women will be specially vacuumed or have lead dust sealed.

The Exide plant has been cited repeatedly for leaking lead and arsenic into nearby residential neighborhoods.

Exide Technologies also may remove an undisclosed amount of soil from two yards already identified as hazardous to children.

At the same time, the company has received regulatory approval for more than $5 million in improvements to pollution-control measures at its plant in Vernon. That’s on top of $15 million the company has committed to anti-pollution measures since 2010.

In separate press releases regarding the ground contamination and the air-quality protection measures, senior Exide director E.N. “Bud” DeSart is quoted as saying the company is resolved to protect the public health. Continue reading

Frustrated Neighbors Want Faster Action Over L.A. Battery Recycling Plant

Roberto Cabrales of Communities for a Better Environment regularly includes the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon in the activist group’s “toxic tour” of pollution sites to the east and south of Los Angeles. (Chris Richard)

Roberto Cabrales of Communities for a Better Environment regularly includes the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon in the activist group’s “toxic tour” of pollution sites to the east and south of Los Angeles. (Chris Richard)

By Chris Richard

Like most 6-year-olds, Claudia Gomez’s son, Stanley, loves to play in the dirt, and he doesn’t much like washing his hands. But these days more than ever, Gomez is a stickler for cleanliness.

On Sunday evening, she spotted the grime as Stanley raced past her on his way to play outside.

Exide plant may have showered its neighbors with lead dust for decades. 

“I already washed my hands!” Stanley complained.

The protest didn’t work. Gomez hauled Stanley to the sink and started scrubbing.

Gomez is being so careful because the state Department of Toxic Substances Control has warned parents not to let their children play in the dirt. The department is urging frequent hand-washing as a precaution against lead poisoning. Continue reading

High Levels of Lead Found in Soil Near L.A. Battery Recycling Plant

The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (Photo/Chris Richard)

The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (Photo/Chris Richard)

By Chris Richard

Tests of homes and schools near a battery recycling plant east of Los Angeles have detected elevated lead levels, prompting state officials Monday to caution the public against exposure and to order expanded testing.

Both neighborhoods surveyed exceeded the state’s “health screening level” for lead of 80 parts per million. One home topped 580 parts per million, according to a testing report.

Residents are cautioned to keep children away from bare soil and to wash hands thoroughly.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has given Exide Technologies until March 21 to develop a plan for additional testing of the 39 homes and two schools included in the original study, as well as a wider area.

This announcement follows testing last month in Boyle Heights and Maywood, just east of downtown Los Angeles. It marks the DTSC’s first discovery of widespread ground contamination in residential areas near Exide’s plant in Vernon. Continue reading