Thursday, April 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Health Hazards

POSTED: Saturday, April 12, 2014, 6:00 AM
Filed Under: Anna Nguyen | Health Hazards

With e-cigarettes becoming more popular, the number of calls of exposure to e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine to poison control centers have significantly grown, according to a CDC study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report earlier this month.

The number of calls rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. More than half (51.1 percent) of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age 5, and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older.

Data for this study came from the poison centers that serve the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. The study examined all calls reporting exposure to regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or nicotine liquid used in e-cigarettes. 

POSTED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 5:30 AM

Two-year-old Joey had been playing in the basement near the laundry room while his mom was cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner.  About a half an hour later, he started throwing up while in the bath.  His mom smelled laundry detergent in his vomit. Then she found an empty packet of an All laundry detergent pod – a small, single-use concentrated packet – on the laundry room floor. While being cleaned up, he could barely stand up and became unresponsive within a few minutes. His mom called the Poison Control Center hotline and his dad called 911. 

On arrival to the Emergency Department, Joey was very drowsy and barely breathing. A tube was placed in his airway and he was hooked to a ventilator.  He spent the night in the pediatric intensive care unit.  The next day, specialists performed an endoscopy and found no damage to his breathing tube or to the lining of his esophagus and stomach. Later that day, he became more alert and was breathing on his own. He spent another day in the hospital and when he was able to eat and drink without difficulty, he was discharged home without any anticipated long-term problems.

Household cleaning products, such as laundry detergent and bleach, rank in the top five most common exposures for children 5 years and younger.  Until 2012, although about 6,500 cases of young children per year came into contact or swallowed liquid or powdered laundry detergent, injuries were minor, such as mouth irritation or mild vomiting. Children often swallowed very little or would immediately spit them out because of these products’ foul taste.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 9:34 AM

Johnson & Johnson announced last week that it was taking conjugated aldehydes such as formaldehyde out of all of its products as it had promised to do two years ago, and it was working on getting parabens out next.  Why is this news?  Formaldehyde has been used to preserve dead bodies for over a century and is used in many household products in more complex forms as a preservative.

One of the problems with trying to deal with formaldehyde is that it is found in many interchangeable forms and it is intrinsically not very stable. It is called formalin if dissolved in water – the substance used in mortuaries.  Three molecules of formaldehyde join to become metaformaldehyde in many solutions –the preservation agent for many industrial chemicals.  By itself, formaldehyde is a gas that is very unstable and becomes safer compounds within minutes of release into the atmosphere.

Formaldehyde is made in nature all the time as methane gas (generated from the breakdown of organic material in swamps or composts or from the intestinal gas of grazing animals such as cattle) is hit by sunlight in the upper atmosphere.  The formaldehyde reacts chemically with other gases when it drifts down to the lower atmosphere and is one of the most important components of smog.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 5:30 AM

The United States has a crisis in the abuse of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.  The rate of newborns withdrawing from painkillers or opiates – called neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS – in the US almost tripled from 2000 to 2009 (1.2 babies per 1000 newborns to 3.4) and has gone up even more since.  The areas with the highest levels of addicted newborns are not big cities, but rural areas in states such as Kentucky and Maine, which have very limited pediatric resources to care for these sick infants. The cost of Medicaid for newborns has increased greatly because the care for NAS babies is expensive. 

At the other end of the pediatric age range, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are now 10,000 extra deaths yearly from prescription opiate overdose (some obtained legally, much not) and these include many adolescents and young adults. Additionally, opiate overdose deaths in the past have been heavily male-dominated, but now over one-third are female.

Many factors contribute to the increasing abuse of prescription painkillers by kids, including greater availability. For example, the number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the United States increased from about 40 million in 1991 to nearly 180 million in 2007, according to a recent study. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that one man managed to obtain 380,000 tablets of Oxycodone and Xanax from one family doctor in Philadelphia in less than two years by using a small army of accomplices recruited to pose as patients in severe pain

POSTED: Friday, October 25, 2013, 4:21 PM

Do you think guns in the home make your children safer? It’s usually not the case. Last January, high school student Anthony Krueger locked himself in his room and shot himself under the chin twice after his mother called the police about his drug use.  Stories like this highlight that one of the largest risk factors for teen suicide is the presence of a gun in the home. 

In Krueger’s case, the 17-year-old from Dover, Del. survived, but faces a long slow recovery from his injuries . Without access to a gun, an emotional argument can lead to broken doors and objects, screaming, tears and even a fist fight, but rarely does it end in death.  With a gun present, the circumstances change.

Krueger’s mother had bought the gun for protection, and allowed him access so he could “protect” his younger siblings while his mom was at work.  His suicide attempt was featured in a Wilmington News Journal article earlier this month that looked at an adolescent suicide cluster in the state last year.

POSTED: Monday, August 5, 2013, 5:00 AM

Recently, a 13-year-old girl in Sacramento, CA, died of anaphylaxis after ingesting a rice krispies treat coated with peanut butter, to which she was extremely allergic. In this tragic case, even though everything possible was done to save her, including the swift administration of epinephrine (Epi-pen), she went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead later at the hospital. Her heartbroken parents, one of whom is a physician, issued a statement imploring people to stay ever vigilant and never let their guard down when it comes to known food allergies.

Although such deadly consequences are rare, this sad story exemplifies that they do indeed occur. The victim was at a church camp, her mother was present. Food was being shared in a festive and communal atmosphere. It was dusk and visibility was low. The girl picked up a treat without realizing that it had been coated with chocolate and peanut butter. As soon as she took a bite, she recognized the taste and spit it out. But just that minimal exposure was enough to trigger anaphylaxis.

The Epi-pen (one of several available epinephrine autoinjectors on the market) is a very effective rescue medication, especially if used right away. Unfortunately in this case, it did not work. The reasons for this are purely speculative. The point is to never be cavalier about food allergies, particularly with nut and shellfish allergies. ALWAYS read labels. ALWAYS ask questions at restaurants. NEVER eat home-prepared foods unless you are certain they contain none of the potentially lethal substance. The sad truth is that the best medicine that we have failed to help this girl, the only effective “treatment” would have been avoidance.

POSTED: Monday, July 29, 2013, 9:13 AM
Filed Under: Anna Nguyen | Health Hazards

With two young children, meal time prep usually involves cutting food into small pieces to avoid any potential chozing hazards. Despite my best efforts, there have been some near choking incidents – my 1-year-old stuffing too much fruit in her month at once and my 3-year-old swallowing meat that wasn’t chewed well enough. Luckily for me, coughing cleared things up.

A study in Pediatrics released online today captures how common non-fatal food choking incidents are for children. Almost 112,914 children from ages 0 to 14 years had a nonfatal food-related choking episode that required a trip to the emergency room from 2001 to 2009. That’s an average of 12,435 children per year or 34 children per day.

In fact, choking is a leading cause of injury among children, and can sometimes be fatal, especially in children 4 years of age or younger. The size, shape, and consistency of certain foods make them more likely to be a choking hazard for these kids. In the study, infants under the age of 1 accounted for 37.8 percent of all the choking cases.

POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6:00 AM
Filed Under: Anna Nguyen | Health Hazards

For some kids, it might seem like a funny prank to make and detonate a homemade chemical bomb. Also known as MacGyver bombs, these bottle bombs are easily made by combining commonly available chemicals including toilet bowl, drain, or driveway cleaners in a container. Then the container, such as a soda bottle, is sealed and shaken to cause a chemical reaction that leads to an explosion.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that these bombs are hazardous and especially dangerous if detonated in public areas. In an analysis, the CDC found 134 events from 15 states involving homemade chemical bombs were reported from 2003 to 2011. Among those incidences, 21 resulted in breathing problems, and injuries like burns or skin irritation for 53 people. Two thirds of the injuries were kids, according to the report from the June 21 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The agency wants to raise awareness about these bombs among first-responders, parents, school staff members and others who work with kids to help reduce injuries associated with these bombs. Most bomb explosions were reported in schools, mail boxes, and residential backyards.

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Mario Cruz, M.D St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, RD Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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