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>New guide helps schools help kids with diabetes

If your child has diabetes, you already know how to help her with finger sticks, insulin injections and special dietary needs. But her school may not be so adept. Now the American Diabetes Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have produced a guide to help schools help diabetic kids.

The guide, "Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed. A Guide for School Personnel," was published in June 2003. It acknowledges that school personnel often feel overwhelmed by the daily care regimens of diabetic children and undertrained to manage complications that can occur when a diabetic student suddenly gets sick at school.

The guide describes diabetes and suggests a team approach for schools with diabetic students. Responsibilities are outlined for parents and students as well as many key school personnel including school nurses, administrators, teachers, lunchroom staff, bus drivers and others. It also suggests tools that may be useful in an emergency.

If your child has diabetes, call your school district to make sure they have a copy of the guide. The guide may be downloaded at www.ndep.nih.gov, or copies may be ordered by calling 1-800-438-5383.

Milk fats may protect kids from asthma

Hoping your kids won't develop asthma in the first place? Try whole milk.

Researchers from the Netherlands studied the diets of almost 3,000 2-year-olds and then determined how many of them had asthma when they reached 3 years of age. Their findings were published in the July, 2003 issue of Thorax.

They found that children who drank whole milk every day were less likely to have asthma than kids who didn't. Even kids who may have asthma were less likely to wheeze if they had been consuming milk products. Yogurt and chocolate milk were just as effective as plain milk.

Researchers also found lower rates of asthma and improved wheezing in kids that ate brown bread every day. Daily consumption of fruit juice and vegetables accounted for small improvements as well.

The down sides of sweetened drinks

Kids crave fruit punches and sodas, lemonades and sweetened teas. Sure they taste great. But a new study shows that kids who drink a lot of them may be getting more calories and less nutrition than they—and you—bargained for.

Researchers at Cornell University studied 30 school-aged children for two months who attended a day camp at which they received breakfast, lunch and two snacks. The kids were weighed at the beginning and end of the study, and the scientists counted the numbers of calories each kid consumed during the days at camp. Their findings were published in the June, 2003, issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

They found that the kids who drank more than 16 ounces of sweetened drinks each day gained an average of 2.5 pounds during the study. Kids who drank less of the sweet stuff gained an average of less than a pound. Kids drinking sweetened beverages consumed almost 250 calories more than their milk-drinking playmates, mostly because they didn't decrease their food intake to compensate for the calories they drank instead.

The kids who drank lots of the sweet stuff also drank less milk. And because of that, the kids got a lot less of some important nutrients—20 percent less phosphorus, 19 percent less protein and magnesium, 16 percent less bone-building calcium, and 10 percent less vitamin A every day.

"These findings suggest that sweetened drinks may be a significant factor in the increase in obesity among children in the United States," says David Levitsky, Cornell University professor of nutritional sciences and psychology. "And the fact that these drinks and fruit juices displace milk is dangerous, especially for girls, who need a strong supply of calcium before they mature or they will be at risk for osteoporosis after age 60."

Fascinating kid Facts

If your child has already had tubes placed in his ears once, you may be wondering if he'll need repeat placements someday to prevent recurrent ear infections. A study published in the March, 2003, issue of Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery says that the likelihood is higher if his first tube placement was before he was 18 months old and less likely if he has had an adenoidectomy, a surgery often done at the same time as a tonsillectomy.

• Quiet activities such as playing on the computer or watching television seem like good ways for your child to wind down before bed. But think again. Sleep experts at University of Texas Southwestern say the bright lights in TV and computer screens act as brain stimulants. So they recommend shutting down the electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

• Kids with attention deficit—hyperactivity disorder are often treated with stimulant drugs, causing some parents to worry about future use of illicit drugs such as cocaine. But a study published in the January 6, 2003 issue of Pediatrics should help lay those fears to rest. Researchers studying 158 kids over the course of 23 years said hyperactive kids treated with stimulants were no more likely than any other youngster to experiment with illicit drugs.

Dale Mazer is an internal medicine specialist who also has a degree in public health.
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