Public Health News Roundup: November 19
Smoking During Pregnancy Harms Reading Comprehension in Kids
Children whose mothers smoke more than one pack of cigarettes daily during pregnancy perform 21 percent lower on reading comprehension tests than the kids of non-smokers, according to a new study in The Journal of Pediatrics. "It's not a little difference—it's a big difference in accuracy and comprehension at a critical time when children are being assessed, and are getting a sense of what it means to be successful," said Jeffrey Gruen, MD, of Yale University to Reuters. Other health studies have linked tobacco use during pregnancy to lower IQs and poor academic performance. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Teens Turning to Steroids to Build Muscle, Meet Body Ideals
Approximately 5 percent of teenagers have use steroids in an attempt to build muscle, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Steroid use can lead to a range of side effects, from the minor all the way up to heart attacks and liver disease. Researchers also found that about 11 percent were using other physique-enhancing substances such as creatine or DHEA, all of which raises concerns not just about physical health, but also mental and emotional health. "We specifically asked whether they were doing those things to increase muscle mass or tone," said Marla Eisenberg, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. "If a kid is often exercising for that reason, it might point to body-image concerns." Read more on substance abuse.
Study: Younger, Less Mature Kids Being Misdiagnosed with ADHD
A new study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that some children may be medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when in fact they are simply younger—so less mature—than their classmates. Researchers found that kids who were in the youngest third of their classes were far more likely than those in the oldest third to be diagnosed with ADHD. "Educators and health-care providers should take children's ages in relation to their [classmates] into account when evaluating academic performance and other criteria for ADHD diagnosis," said Helga Zoega, a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Parents can use these findings to help inform their decisions about school readiness for children born close to cutoff dates for school entry." The number of ADHD cases has been increasing over the past several years, with many in the health community wondering whether it is being over-diagnosed. Read more on mental health.