A May 2011 World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer report suggested a correlation between radiation-emitting radio frequency waves of cell phones and malignant brain tumors. But just two months later, researchers in Switzerland found no such link — they also reported in the same well-known journal that, contrary to prior reports, children who use cell phones are at no significantly greater risk for brain cancer than those who don’t. Say what?
It may take years for researchers to come to a definitive conclusion on cell phone radiation. But here’s what we do know: According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of teens own cell phones, up from 45 percent in 2004. Cell phones emit radiation. The human brain doesn’t fully develop until we’re in our 20s. And children’s skulls and scalps are thinner than adults’.
In light of these facts, here are the best ways for you and your kids to talk and text on the side of caution:
1. Find out how just much radiation your family’s cell phones emit.
Go to the Environmental Working Group’s online guide to find cell phone radiation levels for each model in your household.
2. Type, don’t talk.
Our cell phones emit radiation whenever we talk, leave voicemails — and yes, even text. Still, some researchers say that giving potential carcinogens ready access to our domes might be more harmful than when we just text (and hold the phone away from our bodies). So if your kid is sending hundreds of texts a day, don’t get angry. She might be doing the right thing — health-wise at least.
3. Don’t chat through weak signals.
Battling a weak signal? Don’t. Studies have shown that our cell phones emit more radiation when they’re struggling to transmit a signal to a tower. Instead of straining to put together sentences out of fragments and half words, put the convo to rest and try again when your reception works.
4. Invest in a radiation-slaying gadget.
There are several gizmos designed to stick onto a cell phone to reduce radiation. The jury’s still out on whether all of them are effective, but what has yielded credibility in the scientific community are headsets, since they create some distance between the cell phone and the user’s head. Some headset-makers have even concocted radiation-reducing sets, which carry sound through a tube, not through wiring.
5. Delay buying your kid a cell phone.
No matter how thick-headed your kids act, their brain and skull is thinner than yours. Some researchers think this allows for radiation to penetrate deeper into a child’s brain. Is that for certain? Only time and more research will tell. For now, think about all the facts about radiation before green-lighting that cell phone for your 5-year-old.
Editor’s Note: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) mentioned in this post has also reported on its website about recent changes to the FCC’s online consumer advice about cell phone safety, that soften the advisory. These changes make US guidelines weaker than guidelines in other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland. Clearly there is ongoing debate and controversy about health risks posed by cell phones, but it seems the issue bears continued assessment and monitoring. We hope these resources help families better make their own decisions for the health and safety of their children.
*The EWG is a non-profit organization established in 1993 that conducts research, circulates information and lobbies government to protect public health and the environment.
Pneumonia in kids is probably more common than we all realize. It represents an infection of the lung tissue which can be caused by viral illnesses, bacterial illnesses or a type of organism that is somewhere between a virus and bacteria called mycoplasma. The most common cause of pneumonia is usually viral, but viral illnesses can predispose lung tissue to become infected with bacteria. Other ways of acquiring pneumonia are by inhalation (this is unusual but certain illnesses such as tuberculosis and anthrax may be acquired in this manner).
The best way to diagnose kids with pneumonia is through a thorough history and physical exam that your doctor will perform on your child. Another way that can be used to diagnose pneumonia is through the use of a chest X-ray, but small areas of pneumonia or early pneumonia might not show up on X-ray. Your Doctor will be able to diagnose this early on by piecing together what you tell him and his observation and examination of your child.
One thinks of pneumonia as an illness with high fever and severe productive cough but this is not always the case and sometimes all that is seen are the symptoms created by the body to help compensate for the changes occurring in the lungs. If a large amount of lung tissue is involved and it becomes difficult for the gas exchange (oxygen in and carbon dioxide out) to take place then a signal is sent to the brain to increase the rate of breathing so that more air is forced in and more oxygen can be extracted. When it is even more difficult to breathe the child may use muscles not ordinarily used to help with breathing such as abdominal muscles and neck muscles and one can observe this. With further progression of the disease less oxygen will reach the body and mild blueness or cyanosis will be seen in the skin.
OK we’ve talked about the more severe problems with pneumonia but let’s get back to the beginning and restate that most pneumonia is mild and might very well be a natural progression of a cold. In a considerable amount of children with mild pneumonia the diagnosis might never be made because it is not severe. And because most of these are viral in nature, they will clear up as the cold clears without the use of an antibiotic, and the child never exhibits the signs and symptoms mentioned in the previous paragraph.
If your Doctor pieces together the parts of the history and physical exam and decides your child might have pneumonia, and if your child appears sick or ill, he might very well begin an antibiotic because the exact nature of the pneumonia might be difficult to determine. Most of the time pneumonia can be adequately treated at home without the need for hospitalization and he/she will recover fully without any subsequent problems.
Bronchitis is a wastebasket term describing what is thought to be inflammation and mucous collection in the tubes that lead from your nose and mouth down into your lungs due to many causes- again usually viral. Any cold with a significant loose cough probably represents some degree of bronchitis or tracheitis (higher up). Generally, it also does not necessarily need an antibiotic to “cure” it because bronchitis, like mild pneumonia, will also go away as the cold resolves. There are instances, again, when your child’s doctor might very well decide to use an antibiotic for your child and those would include when your child looks sick or ill (because significant bronchitis and pneumonia can look exactly the same) or if your child has any sort of chronic lung condition such as asthma or cystic fibrosis where the chance of bacterial infection is increased.
So, especially during the winter months, if your child is diagnosed with pneumonia or bronchitis, you needn’t panic or assume the worst. Just follow your child’s doctor’s advice and he/she will be just fine.
A number of the “11 Action Signs” published recently by the Mayo Clinic to help parents, caregivers and health care professionals better recognize when a child may be suffering from a behavioral or emotional disorder (see the November 3rd post by Stefanie Zucker) were very familiar to me.
We witnessed some of these in our son when he was 6-7 years old: crying on the way to school and faking illness to stay home (he put a thermometer up to a light bulb to fake a fever!); often being very difficult and argumentative – then collapsing into meltdowns; sitting in a corner behind the sofa hugging his knees and rocking; saying things such as, “I’m not like other kids.”
It was so difficult to witness our son going through this kind of emotional pain. Eventually we determined that he was VERY unhappy at his school – due to some bullying, and overall dysfunction in his class and the school generally. However, it wasn’t so easy to figure out that there was something really negative going on at school – and that his emotional state was being seriously compromised as a result. He didn’t share what went on during his day, even when I asked – a typical boy! And the changes in his behavior came on slowly, in fits and starts. It was also hard to compare current to past behavior because kids keep growing and changing – not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. What constitutes “normal” at any given point? This is especially challenging because, as the Mayo Clinic report points out, most kids exhibit these behaviors at some point.
But the challenges do not stop at identification. What do you do when you begin to recognize the signs that your child is in emotional pain? Do you try talking to him – or involve a trusted family friend with whom he might be more open? Do you talk to his teacher? What if the teacher isn’t trained on these dimensions and insinuates that your child has a character flaw or that his behavior must be due to issues at home? Does it occur to you to contact his pediatrician or a child psychologist (do you even have one on hand)? Or do you – or your spouse - worry about stigma or that it might be overkill to involve a medical professional?
I experienced all of these situations. When I confided in another mother from school that our son was very unhappy and wanted to change schools, she asked if we would really let him push such a decision – and that from a primary care doctor with 2 kids! All these experiences and uncertainties can undermine your confidence in the right path of action.
In the end we had TWO medical professionals recommend his immediate removal from his current school. Fast forward 2 years – and an entirely different (and wonderful!) school – and life is altogether different. Or back to an earlier state we had forgotten about. After just two months in the new school, he was so much happier and better behaved – and back to singing and dancing around the house as he did things. We even remembered that we used to call him “Tigger” – because of the way he bounced around everywhere, full of infectious energy and enthusiasm.
Throughout this process I tried hard to show my son how special and loved he was. I had many long talks with him to try to help him cope with whatever was going on. When he said he was different and kids didn’t like him – one day solemnly proclaiming: “I’m the least popular kid in my class and the third least-popular kid in the school” – I told him to remember that everyone was different and worthy – and that “no kid fits everywhere, but EVERYONE fits somewhere.” And at Christmas two years ago – when everything was coming to a head – “Santa” wrote him an encouraging letter and gave him a plaque – that hangs proudly right over his bed:
As I consider what I am thankful for this holiday season I realize that some things do not change: I am always thankful for my son. Even if there are frequent hassles and meltdowns, he has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Despite the chewed fence and dug-up lawn, I am also thankful for our dogs, whose unwavering doggy love can make the worst day feel better.
As I danced to Bollywood Bhangra music this past Saturday at a friend’s 40th celebration, I was thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had to live and work abroad; to be exposed to all the color and diversity of this crazy world. I am very thankful for my friends, both near and far, with whom I never tire of sharing, and whose support sustains me through work, life and parenting challenges. But I am also thankful for the societies I have had the good fortune to live and raise my son in. With all the issues we face, we often forget the many rights and benefits we enjoy in the rich-world countries.
As I look back at this year of transition, I am thankful for the courage to take a break from work and explore new paths when I needed to – and for the resources and support of my husband to do so, at least for a while!
Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with the Pedsafe audience. Thank you for reading and for your many valuable comments. We appreciate your support.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but think about this past year and all the changes in my life that I am grateful for. Not that this was an easy year…it wasn’t for me and I know it wasn’t for many of you who’ve also been affected by the downturn in our economy. Still – as I move forward towards 2012 I am hopeful and I find that I truly am grateful:
To have found a wonderful man that I love– someone who “gets me”… who puts my needs ahead of his own…who can cook with me in the kitchen…and will clean up when I am dead tired. For him I am truly grateful…
To have found a close friendship that I thought had been lost forever. Someone who treated the last 5 years of silence as if it had only been 5 days… who joined me at Pediatric Safety to help make this community something really special…and who picked me up and offered me unconditional support when I was at my lowest. For her I am truly grateful…
To have a healthy family – of course there are the usual colds, sinus infections, stomach aches, headaches (aches in general) – but that’s life. No one has anything incurable or life-altering. For that I am also grateful…
Finally, to have found all of you who believe in and support our goals here at Pediatric Safety…who read us day in and day out and believe that where ANY child is concerned, “one ouch is too many.” For you I am eternally grateful!
From all of us here at Pediatric Safety,
have a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
You must address lying behavior assertively because this is a habit that can become serious. Tell your son the story about the boy who cried wolf and explain how lying undermines trust in relationships.
Encourage him to share the reason why he is trying to avoid school and his feelings in general. Work with his teacher on the underlying reasons and help him develop more effective social and emotional skills for handling stressful situations.
If he has developed chronic physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches, consult your pediatrician as well. Never let him stay home unless he has observable medical symptoms. If he does, require him to rest and skip all activities, making sure that it is not a rewarding experience to stay home. Six-year-old boys should prefer to be with their friends at school!