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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Sunday
May262013

Seven People Suffer Complications After Using Common Pain-Reliever

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEWBERN, Tenn.) -- Seven people in Midwest and south are suffering complications after being injected with medicine routinely used to treat back pain and joint swelling, and health officials are on the case because this particular medication already has a controversial history.

The Food and Drug Administration is focusing their investigation on the Main Street Family Pharmacy, a small pharmacy in Newbern, Tenn.

Health officials say seven people developed skin abscesses after being treated with an injectable steroid made at the pharmacy that is possibly contaminated.

While there is no conclusive evidence that the drugs are contaminated, health officials recommend that doctors immediately stop using any drugs sold by the pharmacy, and are conducting a thorough investigation. It's too soon to tell how many people were injected with the drug. It's already been shipped to 13 states, including California and both Carolinas.

“They shouldn't be in business if they’re doin’ that,” said Bob Newhouse, a Newbern resident. “When you talking about somebody's health, that's serious.”

The steroid in question, methylprednisolone acetate, is the same drug at the center of last year's deadly outbreak of functional meningitis which killed 55 people and sickened more than 700. Those cases were traced back to a single pharmacy in Massachusetts.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May262013

'Redshirting' in Kindergarten Still Subject to Debate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More parents are putting off a child's kindergarten entry so he or she will be a little older than the classmates. It's a phenomenon known as redshirting.

"The reasons parents choose to redshirt their child vary, depending on the child's emotional, social and academic readiness to join school," Dana Vela, president of Sunrise Preschools, in Arizona, said in an interview with ABCNews.com.

"It has always been in practice, but it has gotten more attention recently and people are talking more about it," said Vela, a mother of three and a preschool teacher for 25 years.

Parents might think their child is not emotionally ready to leave home, or not socially or academically adept. Some parents are even delaying schooling to give their children a competitive advantage in sports, or to delay admission age to college.

A joint study by the University of Virginia and Stanford University released in 2013 established a relationship between red shirting and socio-economic status and ethnicity. "We find that between 4 and 5.5 percent of children delay kindergarten, a lower number than typically reported… We find substantial variation in practices across schools, with schools serving larger proportions of white and high-income children having far higher rates of delayed entry," noted the report, The Extent, Patterns, and Implications of Kindergarten "Redshirting," issued in April 2013.

According to a report issued by the National Center for Education Statistics in spring 2011, the scores for kindergarten entry were higher for delayed-entry kindergartners and on-time kindergartners than for repeating kindergartners.

"Even though most school districts want the child to be at least at the age of five, the cut-off date for joining differs according to school district and state," said Vela.

There are mixed results on whether redshirting is helpful for the child in the long run. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2011 said that starting kindergarten one year late "substantially reduces the probability of repeating the third grade, and meaningfully increases in tenth grade math and reading scores. Effects are highest for low income students and males." Alternately, estimates suggest that entering kindergarten early may also have detrimental effect on future outcomes.

Redshirting poses challenges not only to children but to teachers and parents.

"The teacher is mostly impacted by it. They are dealing with children of ages ranging between four and a half and six and a half. This is a large developmental gap when trying to get through the state standard curricula," said Vela.

"The student will develop a persona that they are always bigger, better, and have the upper hand, which might be challenging in their future," she said.

Tracy Gibb, a mother, blogger of Less than Perfect, deliberately redshirted her son because she thought he was emotionally immature. Her son, now 13, has a best friend one year younger than he is.

"When he complains about his friend, I always try to remind him that he is one year younger than him and that he was doing the same things last year," Gibb told ABCNews.com.

Gibb still thinks she made the right choice not only because her son was "emotionally immature," but also because she did not want him to join high school or college at a very young age. "If he's older, he won't be easily manipulated into drug use and malpractices like this. He might feel more confident dealing with older students," she said.

Just as Gibb made a choice depending on her son's emotional needs, Vela recommends that parents do the same.

"Parents make that decision for all kinds of different reasons. We can test a child academically but we can never test their emotional readiness. They sometimes are not ready to leave home at the age of five and the separation anxiety will impact them for a long time. You also find children who are ready to leave home at an even younger age. So it's really up to the parent to decide for their child," said Vela.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May252013

Real Risks at Amusement Park Not Rollercoasters, Study Finds

iStockphoto(NEW YORK) -- May to September is prime time for fun at the amusement park, and with fun comes a little bit of danger. From frightening news reports to personal YouTube videos, there is no shortage of amusement-ride scares. But a new study has found that it's not always the biggest and fastest rides we should fear.

Smaller ones, which parents might not consider as dangerous, contribute to injuries of more than 4,000 U.S. children each year.

Destiny Malone was just eight when she broke her arm by reaching out while riding a seemingly innocuous kiddie roller coaster.

"When I took her to the emergency room, that's when I found out it was broken," her mother, Crystal Malone, said.

The study, in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, tracked injuries on all kinds of rides: 4,400 per year -- up to 20 a day. When researchers looked at emergency records on which the type of ride was recorded, roller coasters accounted for 10.1 percent, bumper cars 3.9 percent.

But carousels accounted for 20.9 percent -- which might explain why one third of kids injured were five or younger.

The most common kind of accident was falling.

Industry advocates told ABC News that safety is their top priority, and pointed out that injuries among the nearly 300 million riders at their parks are rare. Less than two percent of these injuries required a trip to the hospital, they added.

The best advice may be to take seriously the warnings and instructions on the rides. And if your child may not be able to heed them for any reason, get ice cream instead.

 

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May252013

Motorists Can't Face Fears, Get a Lift Across Bridge 

iStockphoto(MACKINAW CITY, Mich.) -- The Mackinac Bridge in Michigan spans five miles and is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world with the roadway soaring more than 200 feet over Lake Michigan. The bridge's dimensions provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape, but those vistas can be stomach-churning for people with gephyrophobia, or an abnormal fear of crossing bridges.

Between 1,200 to 1,400 calls are made every year to the bridge's Drivers Assistance Program that provides motorists with a crew member to drive them across if they're too afraid to drive themselves.

After the Thursday collapse of a highway bridge in Mount Vernon, Wash., the number of calls might increase with more fearful drivers wanting to be chauffeured across the Mackinac Bridge. But experts say phobias like gephyrophobia are sometimes more complicated in their origins.

Dr. Frank Schneier, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said many people who're afraid to cross bridges are also suffering from agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder triggered by a fear of feeling trapped.

"They have intense anxiety symptoms or panic attacks," Schneier said. "It's not so much the idea that bridges are [going to collapse]. It's that they are places you can't escape from."

About 0.8 percent of Americans older than 18 have a form of agoraphobia, according to the National Institute of Health.

"There are techniques that can help people overcome these kinds of fears," Schneier said, citing therapy and anti-anxiety mediation as options for drivers to ease their worries.

But for those who haven't conquered their fear of crossing the Mackinac Bridge, the Driver's Assistance Program is another option. Bob Sweeney, the secretary of the Mackinac Bridge, said phone booths on either side of the bridge allow motorists the chance to call the program. Some even use it during their commute to and from work.

"There's a truck driver, who comes once month," Sweeney said. "He gets into a sleeper behind the cab and lays down for the whole trip [under a blanket]. It's amazing."

Only one crew member is available during the night shift, so a toll operator has to pitch in and drive a second car that picks up the crew member for the return trip to the opposite side of the bridge.

The Mackinac Bridge isn't the only bridge that provides the extra service for fearful drivers. A similar program exists for New York City's Tappan Zee Bridge. The New York Thruway Authority allows motorists afraid of driving across the bridge to make an appointment to be chauffeured over.

But a New York Thruway Authority representative estimated that the service is used far less than the Michigan program, likely only a handful of times annually.

Schneier said such programs to ferry scared drivers across bridges can be helpful to keep traffic moving but don't solve the core of the problem and that people should seek help if their fears become incapacitating.

"It's a patch to get the person over the bridge that day," Schneier said. "Most people, with the right kind of help, can overcome these disorders if they become debilitating."

For some people, however, even being chauffeured over the bridge is too much. Sweeney said his own brother-in-law is too afraid to drive across the Mackinac Bridge and, as a result, has never been to his home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which is joined to the state's Lower Peninsula by the bridge.

"Surprisingly, there's a lot of people who [have this] phobia," Sweeney said. "I just found out my brother-in-law is so afraid they stay [on the other side of the bridge.]"

For an upcoming family visit, Sweeney's brother-in-law is planning to take two ferries to make the trip.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May242013

Costs of Stroke May Double, and Then Some, by 2030

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new report shows it really does pay to give careful attention to your health. A detailed analysis by the American Heart Association (AHA) shows the total annual costs of stroke in the U.S. are projected to increase to $240.67 billion by 2030 -- that’s 129 percent higher than today.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked by a clot or a bleeding vessel, leading brain cells lacking in oxygen-rich blood to die.

Even though stroke, as the fourth leading cause of death and top cause of disability, already accounts for 1.7 percent of national health expenditures, it is predicted to increase dramatically due to the aging of the U.S. population, according to data published in the AHA journal Stroke. More people suffer stroke after the age of 55.

And the deck is further stacked: improved treatment for stroke will lead to higher stroke survivor rates, and our increase in obesity, hypertension, and diabetes will lead to more strokes overall.

With increased survivor rates, medical professionals agree the cost of caring for stroke survivors will eventually take its toll on the healthcare system.

Policy changes in the health system that focus on preventative interventions are necessary now, given the reports findings, or we will certainly pay later.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May242013

Alabama Mystery Illness Solved

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It turns out the mystery Alabama illness was a coincidental cluster of varying viruses, but that doesn't mean public health officials were wrong to raise the alarm, experts say.

Testing confirmed that the seven respiratory illnesses in the southeastern part of the state were the result of a mix of the common cold and a strain of flu, rather than the feared new H7N9 bird flu and the new SARS-like virus currently making headlines in other parts of the world, Alabama Department of Public Health announced Thursday.

"This is a great example of science sorting through the mystery of a 'pseudo-outbreak,'" said Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News. "As expected, these were a variety of infections that just happened to occur close in time."

Health officials became aware of a possible mystery illness on May 16 when seven patients came down with a cough, a fever and shortness of breath, but there wasn't a known cause for these symptoms. Two patients eventually died after coming down with pneumonia, Dr. Mary McIntyre, who is leading the investigation, told ABC News in an email.

Since the patients had little in common – their ages ranged from mid-20s to late 80s, and their test results varied -- the health department couldn't find a link among them.

"You never want to assume that there isn't a connection, because as soon as you do that, you will be proved wrong," Besser said. "The first cases of the next SARS or the next flu pandemic could look very much like this. You treat every one of these clusters the same: You attack it with rapid public health science."

The five patients still alive seem to be getting better, McIntyre said Wednesday. One of them was released from the hospital Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May242013

Heart Failure? Don’t Go to the Hospital in January – or Overnight 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Some patients' fears about being admitted to the hospital overnight might just be valid. A recent study of heart patients linked higher death rates with overnight admissions.

Researchers at the University of Colorado recently analyzed heart failure admissions in the state of New York from 1994 to 2007 -- a total of 949,907 admissions.   

They found that death rates and length of stay were lowest when the patient was admitted between 6 a.m. and noon. But death rates for patients admitted between midnight and 6 a.m. were at their highest.

The researchers also compared days of the week and different months. It turns out the highest death rate and length of time in the hospital was for patients admitted on Fridays and during the month of January.  

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May242013

Cockroaches Evolve to Lose Sweet Tooth to Avoid Traps

iStockphoto(NEW YORK) -- Add this to the list of reasons why cockroaches are going to rule the world one day.

In only a few years, several German populations of cockroaches have evolved to lose their sweet tooths, according to a new study published in the U.S. journal Science.

Many insecticide traps use sugary glucose as bait to lure these pests to their demise. Scientists discovered, in the late 1980s, cockroaches were coming back to kitchens after just visiting insecticide traps.

In less than five years, a short amount of time evolutionary speaking, the cockroaches the scientist studied stopped being attracted to sweets. According to the study, glucose now simulates “an aversive bitter compound receptor,” actually driving the roaches away from the traps.

Traps that used glucose bait stopped working. New types of bait have been introduced -- a sort of arms race between man and insect. In the end though, it really might take a nuclear war to find out who wins.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May242013

Taking the Kids: First Lady Talks Summer Vacations 

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ready to let the kids lead the way on vacation?

First lady Michelle Obama suggests that's one way to get everyone more active on vacation this summer. The first lady told Taking the Kids in an exclusive interview, "The key to getting kids moving is to find something they enjoy, and join in." For the first family, that includes biking.

Every traveling parent, including the first parents, of course knows that if the kids are happy on vacation, everyone will be happy. But these days, with worries about childhood obesity and fitness, none of us want our kids to spend vacation sitting around eating fries, playing video games or texting, even if that's what makes them happy.

Neither do we. American travelers recently ranked getting healthier as their top goal this year, according to research from the new Portrait of American Travelers from MMGY Global/Harrison Group.

At the same time, kids surveyed by the U.S. Travel Association said that what they like most on vacation is doing things with their families that they can't do at home, things they'll talk about all year. Why not make some of those activities ones that get you all moving, suggests the first lady.

"I'd encourage families to pick activities -- no matter where you're visiting -- that involve getting active, whether it's walking, biking or anything else you find fun," she said.

Michelle Obama has made combating childhood obesity and encouraging families, including her own, to eat healthier and get more active one of her signature White House initiatives by way of her Let's Move! campaign.

The fact that her daughters, Sasha and Malia, weren't eating enough vegetables was the impetus for the famous White House garden -- the largest ever planted at the president's residence. The garden has even encouraged families around the country to plant their own. Last summer, the first lady told Taking the Kids that one way to encourage kids to eat healthier on vacation is to visit farmers' markets.

"Get them involved in buying the food your family eats, at a farmers' market you can let them pick out any three vegetables they want, and then plan dinner around those," she said. (For more tips from the first lady on eating healthier on vacation visit, click here.)

This year, as Memorial Day approaches, signaling the start of the summer family travel season, I was glad that the first lady took the time out of her busy schedule to respond again to questions from Taking the Kids about how we can all vacation healthier. I'm sure you'll find that she has some pretty useful tips.

Q. How can families be more active on vacation this summer, whether they're touring a city like Washington, D.C., or heading to the beach?

A: One of my favorite activities in the summer is biking. Barack and I love to bike with the girls when we can, and it's a great way to explore a new place. And many cities now have affordable ways of renting bikes for a few hours or a few days. Going on a long walk is also a great way to explore a new city or new neighborhoods. You can also choose a vacation spot that will get you active without even thinking about it, like visiting one of our nation's many beautiful national parks.

Q. How can you encourage kids to move on vacation, if they'd rather play video games or text?

A. We are our kids' first and best role models, so if we're getting active and enjoying it, they will too. Also, set limits on screen time during vacation. If they aren't moving, they should be reading.

Q. We know the Junior Ranger program that engages and enables kids to get a kids-eye-view of the national parks has incorporated some Let's Move! activities in the national parks. Why should families include a national park in their vacation plans?

A. Our national parks are so beautiful and offer an amazing diversity of experiences. And Junior Rangers makes it extra fun for kids to visit national parks, which are already such great places for families to get active and spend time together. From hiking to biking to swimming and canoeing, our country's national parks offer a wide variety of family-friendly activities.

And if you're a military family, you can also get free passes to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

(Note: The Let's Move Outside Junior Ranger program encourages kids and their families to engage in outdoor activity that will get hearts pumping and bodies moving during visits to national parks. Kids who complete at least one physical activity in pursuit of their Junior Ranger badge receive a sticker that designates them as a Let's Move Outside Junior Ranger.)

Q. Do you have a favorite national park your family has visited?

A. We are blessed to live in a country that has so many unique national parks, and each one has so much to offer. We have gorgeous, awe-inspiring parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, which I actually went to for the very first time as first lady. It was amazing. But the thing I love to remind people is you don't have to go far to find a national park. There are national parks all around the country -- some may be even in your own backyard -- that are there for families to enjoy year-round.

Q. We all think vacation is a time to kick back, relax and indulge, especially when it comes to food. How can we do that and still eat healthier on vacation?

A. It's OK to indulge. I do it myself. The key is balance. I've always told my girls that if you're eating healthy 90 percent of the time, then you don't have to worry about watching what you eat on special occasions. I would also say that vacations are a great time to try something that you haven't before and expand your kids' food horizons. Maybe a local dish with ingredients from the town you're staying in, such as locally grown fruits or vegetables, or the "catch of the day." As for me, I'll have some homemade ice cream for dessert -- after that bike ride.

For more ideas on where to get active on vacation, check out the Taking the Kids Very Best Family Summer Vacation Ideas and Eileen's new kid's guides to Washington, D.C., Orlando and NYC from Globe Pequot Press. You can also follow "taking the kids" on Facebook and Twitter where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May242013

Watch Out for These Five Long-Weekend Health Hazards

(Brand X PicturesNEW YORK) -- For many people Memorial Day weekend means finally getting to kick off summer by striking up the barbecue, taking a dip in the ocean or simply basking in the sunshine during a long weekend.

But celebrating the unofficial start of summer also means encountering a few hazards of the season. From sunburns to bug bites or even an ill-cooked hotdog, the summer months have a few perils to contend with.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, we've put together a list of five health hazards for the summer months and how to avoid them.

Sunburns
After a long winter hibernation, it can be tempting to soak up as much sun as possible during a day at the beach or a picnic in the park, but experts warn that even a single sunburn can do lasting damage to the skin.

To enjoy the sun safely, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays, which has an SPF of 30 or higher.
Additionally, experts advise seeking shade from 10a.m. to 2p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.

Unfortunately water and sand can amplify the sun's rays, so be extra-careful during trips to the beach. And be sure to reapply sun block every two hours or after taking a dip in the ocean.

If you do get a sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking a cool bath, popping a few aspirin or ibuprofen to help lessen the swelling and redness, and drinking lots of water since a sunburn draws fluid from the body.

Insects that Sting and Bite
One consequence of enjoying the great outdoors is being assailed by various stinging and biting insects that only a beekeeper outfit could keep at bay. While many of these insects are merely a nuisance, for people who are allergic, they pose a clear and even deadly threat to their health. The American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology estimates that 2 million Americans are allergic to insect stings. That includes people who are at risk of having a potentially fatal reaction to the venom of certain insects.

More than 500,000 Americans end up in the hospital every year due to insect stings and bites, and they cause at least 50 known deaths a year.

Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist and instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health, says it's imperative for those who are allergic to insect stings to carry around an epi-pen, which can be used to easily inject epinephrine to help ease a severe allergic reaction.

"It does you no good to have it in your medicine cabinet if you're out and about [and get stung]," said Pollack.

In addition to life-threatening reactions from bee or wasp stings, warmer weather also means ticks will be actively looking for a host to feed off. Ticks can carry multiple diseases, including Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.  

"If you're going to enjoy the outdoors, even just a backyard barbecue, you run some risk of acquiring a tick," said Pollack. "At the end of the day, do a tick check on yourself, children and even your pets."

To keep insects at bay during the spring and summer months, Pollack recommends using an insect repellent when outdoors and putting screens over your windows to keep out pests such as mosquitoes.

Food Poisoning
While enjoying a picnic or barbecue is one of the great traditions of Memorial Day weekend, getting ill from spoiled potato salad or a rotten deviled egg is one of the worst.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 48 million Americans become sick with food poisoning every year. Reactions to spoiled food can result in nausea, vomiting, fever or diarrhea.

To avoid any dietary mishaps this holiday, the CDC recommends that foods prone to spoiling not be kept unrefrigerated for more than two hours, one hour in extremely hot weather, and that meat is cooked to the proper temperature.

The United States Department of Agriculture even has a website dedicated to grilling safely, which explains the correct temperature for all your favorite summer meals. Hot dogs, for example, need to be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot. The CDC recommends that whole meats be cooked to a temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground meats cooked to 160; and poultry, 165.

Poison ivy
A hiking trip can be a great way to celebrate the long holiday weekend, but one brush with poison ivy and a fun holiday excursion can turn excruciating.

While many people know to avoid poison ivy's infamous "leaves of three," the American Academy of Family Physicians says if people accidently swipe the plant they can quickly wash the skin with soap and water to help minimize effects. The oily sap of the plant contains urushiol, which bonds to the skin after a few minutes of contact and over the next few days will result in an itchy-blistered rash.

If you end up one of the unfortunate ones who didn't spot the plant in time, you can use one of the recommended over-the-counter medications such as a hydrocortisone cream, Calamine lotion, an antihistamine or an oatmeal bath to ease the symptoms.

Pollen Allergies
For those with pollen allergies, spending Memorial Day outdoors can mean suffering through a host of unpleasant allergy symptoms from sneezing to itchy watery eyes. In some states the summer grass season is already gearing up before the spring tree pollen season has fully ended. Anyone allergic to both kinds of pollen should consider staying inside for the long weekend.

However, Dr. Andy Nish, a Georgia-based allergist and fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says people should try to avoid being out in the mornings if they have particularly bad reactions to grass pollen since the pollen count is usually highest during the early hours. Additionally, anyone who has allergies and is attending a barbecue may want to stay away from the grill.

"We know that other things [like smoke] can prime the nose and make it more sensitive to allergies," said Nish. "It can make [people] have a double whammy."

In addition to taking nasal steroids or over-the-counter medications, there are other steps allergy sufferers can take to lessen their symptoms. Nish recommends that people who are allergic to pollen change their clothes and take a shower when they get home so that the pollen isn't tracked indoors.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio