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Health Capsules: Dec. 6

By: Lisa Russell


Shoppers, beware of ‘10 Worst Toys’

What do a wooden xylophone, a soft, pink baby doll and a colorful fidget spinner have in common? Particular brands of these toys recently were listed among the “10 Worst Toys of 2017” by the consumer watchdog group World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. [W.A.T.C.H.]. The annual list, which coincides with the kickoff of the holiday shopping season as well as National Safe Toys and Gifts Month in December, provides details regarding why these and other potentially unsafe toys should be kept out of the hands of children.

Every three minutes, a child is treated in a U.S. emergency room for a toy-related injury, according to the Boston-based group. Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed a 40 percent increase in toy-related injuries between 1990 and 2011, and 72 children died as a result of toy-related accidents between 2010 and 2015. W.A.T.C.H. was founded more than 40 years ago to address the ongoing need for stringent oversight of the toy industry, and to urge continued vigilance by parents and caregivers regarding potentially hazardous toys.

Because consumers are expected to do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year, W.A.T.C.H. emphasized the impact of online purchasing on toy safety at its November press conference. Although internet shoppers may believe that toys already deemed to be unsafe have been pulled from the market, this is not necessarily the case. Regulations and safety protocols governing internet sales often are nonexistent or inadequate, and consumer-to-consumer secondhand sales are poorly monitored, if at all. For example, one of the W.A.T.C.H. “10 Worst Toys” this year, Hallmark’s itty bittys® baby plush stacking toy, can be purchased from several online sources even after the toy’s recall in August due to a potential choking hazard.

Although parents have a right to expect that toys they give to their children are safe, hazardous toys remain a major problem due to poor design and manufacturing practices, along with failure to market a toy only for use by a particular age group, according to W.A.T.C.H. Toys with hidden dangers such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials, and inaccurate warnings and labels continue to reach far too many children’s toy boxes each year, the group maintains. Its central message for consumers is that while there are dangerous toys being sold in retail stores and online, awareness of those safety hazards can save lives.

For a slideshow presentation of this year’s W.A.T.C.H. 10 Worst Toys list, visit toysafety.org/portfolio-items/toy-7-2017/.

Counting holiday calories? Don’t forget the cocktails

Sometimes it’s not just the cookies, cakes and other treats that can blow your diet during the holidays – often it’s the beer, wine or festive cocktails sipped at holiday parties that may do the most damage. Many of these beverages are loaded with calories, fat and sugar that can add unwanted pounds no matter how carefully you are eating.

To burn off the calories in one hot buttered rum drink, for example, a 150-pound woman would have to walk briskly for approximately 90 minutes or head out for a 4-mile run, according to the website nutritionaction.com. Following are the average calorie counts in a few popular holiday party drinks – along with the approximate amount of exercise that a 150-pound woman would have to undertake to burn them off:

• Beer [Bud Light]: 110 calories = 15 minutes of easy jogging

• Champagne [5 ounces]: 122 calories = 30 minutes of water aerobics

• Red or white wine [5 ounces]: 125 calories = 35 minutes of strength training

• Spiced cider with rum [one cup]: 150 calories = 45 minutes of active housework

• Peppermint Mojito [6 ounces]: 180 calories = 30 minutes of Pilates

• Martini [3 ounces]: 196 calories = 25 minutes using a rowing machine

• White Russian [16 ounces]: 355 calories = 30 minutes of jumping rope

• Eggnog [one cup]: 390 calories = 35 minutes of kickboxing

• Hot buttered rum [16 ounces]: 418 calories = running 4 miles at a moderate pace

• Mudslide [8 ounces]: 590 calories = 45-minute spin class

Researchers recommend lowering age for first colonoscopy

Screening for colorectal cancer [CRC] currently is recommended to begin at 50 years of age. After conducting an analysis that found rising CRC mortality rates in younger adults, however, European medical professionals now contend that screenings should begin at age 45.

Scientists in France recently analyzed 6,027 colonoscopies, and found a 400 percent increase in the detection of neoplasia [the new, uncontrolled growth of abnormal tissue] in patients between the ages of 45 and 49, compared to those aged 40-44. The neoplasia detection rate also was 8 percent higher in people aged 45-49 than it was in patients between 50 and 54.

Their analysis also found that the mean number of polyps – growths on the colon’s inner lining that can turn cancerous if left untreated – increased by more than 95 percent between the 40-44 and 45-49 age groups.

“These findings demonstrate that it is at 45 years old that a remarkable increase in the colorectal lesions frequency is shown, especially in the detection rate of early neoplasia,” said lead researcher Dr. David Karsenti, who recently presented the results at the annual United European Gastroenterology Week event. “Regardless of the type of screening that is in place, the results of our research strongly indicate that screening for colorectal cancer should begin at the age of 45. This will this help us to increase the early detection of colorectal cancer in young adults and also enable the identification and safe removal of polyps that may become cancerous at a later date.”

Screening colonoscopies have been proven to sharply reduce both the incidence and mortality rate of CRC, which now is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Europe. It also holds this position among American men, and is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S. Worldwide, the incidence of CRC is expected to increase by 60 percent to more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.1 million deaths by 2030.

Using acetaminophen during pregnancy linked to ADHD in kids

Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in Tylenol and many other pain medicines. It has long been viewed and recommended by doctors as safe to take during pregnancy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 65 to 70 percent of pregnant women in the United States use acetaminophen at least occasionally to relieve pain and reduce fever.

However, a newly published large study appearing in the November issue of Pediatrics showed that pregnant women who use acetaminophen, particularly over a certain number of days, during pregnancy may unknowingly be putting their children at future risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].

The study was conducted at the Institute of Public Health in Norway. Researchers analyzed data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which included information on nearly 115,000 children born between 1999 and 2009, as well as data from more than 95,000 mothers and 75,000 fathers of those children. Both parents completed questionnaires at 18 weeks of gestation. The mothers also filled out questionnaires later in pregnancy, after delivery, and when their children reached 6 months, 1.5 years and 3 years of age. The researchers also obtained information on subsequent ADHD diagnoses from records maintained by the Norwegian Patient Registry.

They found that nearly 47 percent of the women used acetaminophen during their pregnancies: 27 percent in one trimester, 16 percent in two trimesters and less than 4 percent in all three.

Those who used acetaminophen for 29 days or more during pregnancy had a 220 percent increase in risk for ADHD in their children – more than twice the expected risk, according to Eivind Ystrøm, Ph.D., who led the study. “This was after taking medical conditions and risk for ADHD in the family into account,” he said.

Interestingly, use of acetaminophen for less than seven days by mothers in the study actually was associated with a lower than normal ADHD risk. Fathers who used the pain reliever for 29 or more days prior to conception also had twice the number of children with ADHD. Although unsure how to interpret this finding, Ystrøm suggested that “it could be that fathers who use a lot of acetaminophen have a higher genetic risk for ADHD,” or that long-term use of the medicine may lead to changes in sperm.

U.S. experts currently are divided regarding the validity of this and previous studies linking acetaminophen to behavioral problems, saying that none have proven that the medications caused ADHD, but only showed an association. They also note that untreated pain or fever in pregnancy can carry its own risks for an unborn child. Dr. Hal C. Lawrence, CEO and executive vice president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has said the studies “show no clear evidence that proves a direct relationship between the prudent use of acetaminophen during any trimester and developmental issues in children.”

On the calendar

Area residents are encouraged to participate in an American Red Cross blood drive from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18 at Cornerstone Mortgage, Inc.,17280 N. Outer 40 Road, Suite 100 in Chesterfield Valley. To register for an appointment time, visitredcrossblood.org.

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A free information session on non-surgical weight loss options is available from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 20 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Medical Office Building 3, 1020 N. Mason Road in Creve Coeur. A Washington University gastroenterologist will present on FDA-approved alternatives for those struggling with weight loss. To register, call (314) 542-9378 or visitbarnesjewishwestcounty.org.

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St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Babysitting 101 course from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the Wildwood Municipal Building, 16860 Main St. in Wildwood. This class is a comprehensive introduction to babysitting for children of any age. A workbook and light snack are provided. The fee is $30 per person. To register, call (314) 454-5437.

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