child health

RECENT POSTS

Should Schools Screen Kids For Eating Disorders? Study Finds It Would Cost Little

(Wikimedia Commons)

Veronica Thomas
CommonHealth Intern

Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?

Would you say that food dominates your life?

Have you recently lost more than 14 pounds in a three-month period?

I wonder, if I had answered these questions during my sophomore year of high school, would my anorexia have been caught earlier on? As a female ballerina with a Type A personality, I was an obvious candidate, but it took several months of starving myself before my eating disorder was diagnosed and treated.

According to a new Boston Children’s Hospital study, school screenings with questions like these could be a cost-effective way to detect eating disorders. At 35 cents apiece, a brief questionnaire could help identify and treat some of the most serious and potentially dangerous psychiatric disorders in kids.

Yet while the price is low, recent experiences with school obesity screening suggest that the issues can go beyond money.

Eating disorders, which include anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder, affect at least 3.8 percent of teen girls and 1.5 percent of teen boys in the U.S. While effective therapies exist, only about 3 to 28 percent of teens actually receive treatment.

If left untreated, eating disorders can lead to serious medical complications, hospitalizations and even death. I think my own anorexia went undiagnosed for so long mainly because of the many lies I told about my diet—”I already ate,” “I had a huge lunch”—and the countless hours I spent in school and dance classes, out of my parent’s sight and scrutiny.

But I was lucky: I narrowly avoided hospital time. I only had to make frequent visits to my own health care trifecta—pediatrician, dietician and therapist. Had my anorexia been more severe or diagnosed even later—as is often the case—my treatment might have involved residential therapies and been much more expensive.

So could school screenings help catch the diseases earlier? The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, assessed whether they could help minimize both the health burdens and the cost burdens of eating disorders.

Using a computer simulation, the researchers compared the annual screening of 10- to 17-year-olds with a no-screening scenario. Continue reading

When Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease Sweeps Through: What To Know

(Bob Reck via Compfight)

Veronica Thomas
CommonHealth Intern

Summer is not only the season for watermelon and zucchini. It’s also the time for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Typically found in younger kids, it’s a contagious viral illness marked by a fever and rash — either skin or mouth blisters.

Hand, Foot and Mouth swept through several WBUR employees’ families recently, so we checked in with an expert: Dr. Clement Bottino, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital in the Division of General Pediatrics who sees a lot of the illness in the Primary Care Center. “Nothing unusual,” he says, “just the summertime viruses.”

“Viruses are kind of like vegetables,” he explains. “There are winter and summer varieties. The winter ones cause illnesses like the common cold, while those in the summer cause fever-plus-rash-type illnesses, like Hand, Foot and Mouth.”

Hand, Foot and Mouth typically affects children under the age of 5, but older children and even adults can catch it as well. Symptoms can vary. Some children may only have a fever and mouth blisters, while others have the characteristic rash without other symptoms. The rash may present with classic red bumps on a child’s hands and feet, or a more diffuse rash that includes the diaper area.

Some people, particularly adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can still spread the illness to others. Hand, Foot and Mouth is transmitted through direct contact with saliva, mucus or feces. Daycare is notorious as a hotbed of activities for spreading infection: hugging, sharing cups, coughing and sneezing, and touching infected objects. While patients are most contagious during their first week of illness, they can spread the virus for weeks after the symptoms fade.

According to Dr. Bottino, the most important thing for parents to know is that the virus is mild and “self-limited,” meaning it usually goes away on its own, causing no scars or lasting problems. Most patients feel better in seven to 10 days without any treatment at all. I asked Dr. Bottino what else parents should know about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Our conversation, edited: Continue reading