Category Archives: News

What is wrong with people?

There are just days when I cannot bear to read the news. Today is one of them. Two stories I found are Woman on Trial in Baby’s Microwave Death (from The Washington Post) and Somerset, PA, man accused of assaulting 11-day-old infant (from the Times Leader).

Yes, the first story is exactly what the headline describes. Wow. It just leaves me speechless. The woman (27) apparently confessed to it, saying, “I killed my baby” and the baby “fit right in” the microwave. Her defense attorney claims that other people had access to the baby, that she was drunk to the point of being on the edge of blacking out when the baby died, and also questions the reliability of science to determine what effect microwaves have on humans.

In the other story, a 31-year-old man has been charged with assault on the 11-day-old infant after it was discovered that the baby’s arm, leg, skull, and nose had been fractured. It seems that the injuries occurred when the man attacked the baby’s grandmother (the suspect’s girlfriend, apparently) while she was holding the baby – he beat her and the baby at the same time. What a charming individual.

It is days like this that I really wonder about the future of our society. How do people like this come to be? I’m aware of the “cycle of abuse”. I’m aware that alcohol alters people’s behavior significantly. I know these things, just like I know that people can have trouble coping with crying babies, sleep deprivation, and the like. But there is help available! Frequently family will help. If not family, churches can sometimes help out and there are some community/county/city programs that can help. It is a matter of reaching out, of asking someone around you for help.

I have two children now, two young children.  As I look at their small, beautiful faces, I cannot imagine losing control of myself to the point of hurting them.  I have been terribly tired, sleep-deprived, and completely without privacy for any longer time than that required for a shower, but I still cannot imagine it.  Yes, I get angry, particularly when I’m overtired, but I can step away.  I get out with friends from time to time.  When the grandparents visit, my husband and I go out and leave the children with the grandparents.

Of course, in some cases there are other underlying issues. For example, in the microwave story, the prosecutor says that the woman and her boyfriend had argued over whether they had been faithful to each other. She didn’t want her boyfriend to know whether he was the father because he had said he would leave her if he was not. What happened to admitting to a mistake, breaking up, and moving on? What happened to being faithful? If you don’t want to lose your boyfriend, wouldn’t it make sense to be faithful? Seems so easy to me.

These things make me so sick. Add these to the stories of teachers seducing children, either ones that they teach or others that they know and you have to wonder what happened to society. Yes, I know these things probably happened before the advent of television and they are just getting more publicity, but that doesn’t comfort me.

How can anyone other than a thirteen-year-old be attracted to a person of that age? I know that when I WAS 13, I didn’t like 13-year-olds.  Why, why, why would someone be attracted to a child?  I just don’t understand at all.  I suppose that I should be grateful for that.

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Researchers say to drink and exercise

Now here is a study I can get behind! According to Danish researchers, “drinking is healthy, exercise is healthy, and doing a little of both is even healthier.” This is according to an article published by Reuters on January 8, 2008 (here).

Obviously, you are not supposed to go out and get drunk every night – that is most definitely NOT healthy and not what is being touted by doctors. Rather, a drink or two regularly in addition to regular exercise is a healthy way of life.

According to the article, people who neither exercise nor drink have a 30-49 percent higher risk of heart disease than those who do one or both of the activities, according to a report in the European Heart Journal. “Several major studies have found that light to moderate drinking – up to two drinks a day on a regular basis – is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and some have also found this leads to a lower risk of some cancers.” The Danish study, though, is the largest of its kind to examine the combined effect of drinking and exercise, and it found there were additional benefits from doing both things. Non-drinkers had a 30-31 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to moderate drinkers, regardless of the level of activity. Moderate consumption of alcohol was defined as up to 2 drinks per day (1-14 drinks per week). Teetotalers were able to reduce their risk of heart disease by exercising at least moderately. The people with the lowest risk of dying from any cause were those who performed both activities while those at the highest risk were those who were physically inactive, heavy drinkers.

Just something to think about…and of course, you do have to wonder if a study next week or next month will find the opposite. My husband’s doctor did indeed recommend a drink a day for health benefits; he gets a kick out of telling people that he’s having a drink due to doctor’s orders.

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More on Children’s Cold Remedies

If you’ve been following the news lately (and the articles I’ve posted references to in this blog), children’s cold remedies are under fire. Now it turns out that they have been “raised questions for years”, according to the Washington Post. (Here, for now). This article was in the Post on Friday, October 26, 2007.

This situation has raised a number of questions (from the article):

  • How could the products remain on the market so ling without proof that they work?
  • Why didn’t the FDA act sooner?
  • Why didn’t the medical establishment warn parents?

It seems that about two-thirds of drugs prescribed for use in children have not been tested in children! In addition, “there are a huge number of drugs that are regularly given to children that have never been tested in children,” said Michael W. Shannon, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “I’m very concerned that many of these agents may also be inappropriate for children.” One factor in the lack of testing in children is the fact that it was considered unethical and unnecessary to test drugs in children. The dosages were extrapolated from dosages for adults.

In 1972, the FDA did organize a panel to review nonprescription cough and cold medicines; previously, their attention had been focused on prescription medicines. This panel concluded that there was enough evidence to endorce 35 of the 92 ingredients. That recommendation was based on studies in adults. In 1976, the group recommended that doses for children be extrapolated from data for adults.

“As researchers began testing some of the products directly in children, they slowly started to raise disturbing questions. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an analysis in 1993 that concluded there was no good evidence that the medications worked. The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent international project that regularly evaluates medical therapies, reached a similar conclusion in 2004.”

The article goes on to say that although many pediatricians began to counsel their patients not to use these products, some continued to tell them that they could use them. The products remained very popular. In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted a policy stating that cough medicines are ineffective. The American College of Chest Physicians produced a similar statement in 2006. However, many other organizations have never issued any formal guidance to doctors on this subject.

I have a two year old (almost two and a half) and my doctor has never mentioned any concern. I have to admit that he is rarely sick, but he has had an occasional cough/cold. I had no idea that these products had not been tested on children, that there were concerns that they were ineffective. Giving a child medicine is enough of a struggle; why would I continue to do so, if it is not going to help?

Some experts are defending the doctors’ groups, saying that they are up against a multibillion-dollar industry, a group that aggressively markets their products (spending more than $50 million a year to sell their stuff). I can understand that to a point – it is like going against the tobacco lobby and all the tobacco firms; they have a lot of money to throw at the situation. Still, as a patient, it would have been nice to have been told this. I don’t understand why more doctors don’t say something to their patients.

On the bright side, the FDA has started demanding that some prescription drugs be tested in children before they are approved. It has also enticed drug companies to conduct pediatric studies of some medications already on the market; unfortunately, the article fails to say how they enticed them. The FDA is reviewing recommendations, but it says that formal action could take years. The industry has voluntarily removed products designed for children younger than two from the market, but “maintains that the remedies are both safe and effective for older children when used properly.”

Well, I’m going to keep watching to see what happens. I want to know if the industry will police itself, if the FDA is going to wake up and take action, … I want to know if doctors are going to pass on information like this to their patients in a more organized fashion. I’m also going to do my part and be a more aware consumer.

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Recall of Children’s Cough Medicines

Johnson and Johnson recalled specific infant cough and cold products today, saying that “rare” instances of improper use, particularly in infants under two years old, have lead to overdoses. These products include:

  • Infants’ Tylenol Drops Plus Cold
  • Concentrated Infants’ Tylenol Drops Plus Cold & Cough
  • Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant
  • Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant and Cough
  • Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant
  • Pediacare Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough
  • Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant and Cough (PE) products

This recall does not include cough and cold products for children two years and older, or products that are single-ingredient pain reliever and fever reducers expressly labeled for infants.

The Washington Post article is here.

This certainly got my attention. I use, or have used, one product on that list. Of course, I used it properly and after my doctor said it was fine. Still…it makes me second-guess myself; should I give my child this medicine? On the other hand, how can you not give a sick child something if you think it will help?

Well, now the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory committee will be meeting this month to discuss the use of cough and cold drugs by children. I will be very interested to see what comes out of that meeting.

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The FDA and Cold Medicines for Children – Part II

According to a Washington Post article today, here (for now), federal officials are now recommending that “consult your physician” be dropped from guidelines on boxes of cold/cough medicine for children under two.  These medicines, in many cases, simply should not be given to young children.  “The preliminary recommendation, from Food and Drug Administration safety officials would apply to decongestant use in children under 2 and antihistimines in those younger than 6, according to agency documents released Friday.”

More than 350 pages of documents were released on Friday.  They are part of a broad investigation into whether roughly 800 medicines (yes, 800) are safe and effective in treating children’s colds and coughs.  Many of those medicines are popular and widely used.

“An FDA review of side-effect records filed with the agency between 1969 and September 2006, found 54 reports of deaths in children associated with decongestant medicines made with pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine. It also found 69 reports of deaths associated with antihistamine medicines containing diphenhydramine, brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine.”  In addition, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report also found more than 1500 toddlers and babies wound up in ERs in a two-year period as a result of the medicines.

The Consumer Healthcare Products  Association (represents makers of OTC medicines)  is backing the recommendation that these products not be given to young children and in terms of antihistamines, they recommend that a warning be added that the medicines not be used to sedate children.

How sad is it that you have to add a warning about that?  And really, do they think that the types of people that would use it for that purpose would care whether there is a warning on the box or not?  It seems to me that the only purpose for that warning is for legal purposes for themselves.  I admit that I’ve wondered about how effective these medicines have been on my two-year-old, but he’s rarely (thank goodness) sick so it hasn’t come up much.  He has taken an antihistimine occasionally, on the recommendation of his doctor, so I wonder about that part of the article as well.  I’m going to have to talk to his doctor about this next time I go in (or rather, next time WE go in).

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Sports…Man’s Achievements or Man’s Falls?

“Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.” – George Will

If only that were still true. Yes, I know. Athletes are still excelling, winning gold medals, trophies, Grand Slams, and the like. However, the big sports news stories are getting to be just like the big stories in other areas: drugs, corruption, gambling, violence, domestic violence…

It used to be that you could read the sports section of the newspaper to see wonderful, incredible achievements. Now, you see dog fighting, referees gambling, steroids stories and accusations of so many other types. There is an entire “era” in baseball that seems doomed to have an asterisk by it; you know that there are players that are clean, but who?

How about the story from the Orlando Sentinel (here) yesterday?  Apparently a father is facing 10 years in prison for providing his 13-year-old son, a world-class inline speed skater, with steriods.  He wanted to “give him an edge.”  The son’s trainer has also been convicted.  The son, during the investigation, lied to investigators because “he didn’t want to get his father in trouble.”  And to think we were worried about the effect of all the steroids in sports on children!  According to the article, it is thought this is the first and only case like this in the US – I certainly hope so.  I cannot imagine competitive nature overcoming my desire to see my children grow up healthy.  I cannot imagine knowingly putting my children’s health at risk.  What has he taught a 13-year-old, on top of the health issues?  He’s taught him that cheating and lying are the way to go, that that is the way to succeed or to get what you want.  I’m starting to feel old and old fashioned; I’d prefer that my kids grow up healthy and succeed by working hard!

Kids used to look up to sports figures. Ok, I am sure that they still do. However, I’m certainly going to take a close look at the figures my children admire and explain things that may need to be explained. I hate the fact that I may have to explain things like dog fighting and cruelty to animals, violence at a night club after a big game, and so on, but I also want my children to have a good idea of what makes a good role model – and what does not. Notice that I realize that that is MY responsibility. I hope my children will be selective in who they look up to; I hope that I can give them the foundation that will enable them to discern a good role model from a bad role model. It would just be nice if I didn’t face having to explain so many negative things to my children based on their behavior.

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FDA Warning About Cough Syrup and Toddlers

In the Washington Post on Thursday, there was an article (here) stating that the FDA has issued a warning to parents to NEVER give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children younger than 2 without a doctor’s approval. Apparently, the effectiveness of such medicines has not been proven and there is a distinct risk of overdose or dosage to the point of heart problems and other serious side effects.

Now, the medicines typically already indicate the age range of use, including the notice not to use on children younger than 2 without a doctor’s advice. So what now? It is really sad that people apparently just ignore the notices. If the age limits and warnings already on the medicine do not give parents pause, what will?

The only thing mentioned in the article is possibly barring direct marketing of the products for use in young children. I wonder how much of an effect that would have; I don’t really remember seeing advertisements for these medicines regularly. I guess I’ll have to go back and take a look at some of my magazines. I just don’t think that that is enough. Perhaps they should consider a section in childbirth classes, parenting classes, handouts at OB/GYN offices, and the like.

The FDA is convening a panel of experts in October to review the use of cold medicines in young children. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes out of it.

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