This year’s flu season hitting young adults hardest

Each year, thousands of people are admitted to hospital emergency rooms for cases of influenza, and so far the 2013-2014 flu season isn’t shaping up to be any different. What does seem to be different, however, is who is being admitted. This year it’s young adults who seem to be suffering most from influenza symptoms.

There may be several reasons for this unexpected surge. Because children and senior citizens are known to be more vulnerable to the virus, many receive flu vaccinations each year. Young adults and middle-aged folks, on the other hand, are less likely to be vaccinated. Another theory, according to the University of Michigan Health System, is that many children may be experiencing enhanced immunity as a result of previous flu shots.

“In 2009, school-aged kids were hit pretty hard by H1N1, and if any of them still have some residual protection, they may possibly be a little more protected this year,” said Michael Jhung, M.D., medical officer in the flu division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, the influenza virus is considered “widespread” in 25 states and 20 additional regions of the U.S. While it hasn’t quite reached epidemic levels just yet, more instances are being reported at a substantial rate.

According to the CDC, 171 children died of flu in the past flu season, whereas the 2013-2014 has seen six flu-related child deaths so far. In the U-M hospital alone, however, there are over a dozen people infected with influenza currently on life support.

“Most have the H1N1 strain of flu,” the hospital said in a statement. “And as far as hospital staff can tell, these patients either didn’t get the flu vaccine at all – or didn’t get it in time to protect them fully.”

If someone in your family is experiencing flu symptoms, make sure they get the medical attention they need in order to become well. Doctors can prescribe medications that can help fight the potentially devastating effects of influenza.

FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that makes medicine easier for children to take. Ask your pharmacist about FLAVORx today.

Vitamin D may be the key to strong muscles in children, study finds

Every mom wants her child to grow up to have strong muscles. Muscles are what allow the body to move and function, and they also play an important role in the metabolic process. However, emerging studies show that many of today’s children aren’t getting enough vitamin D to spark good muscle growth. While part of the problem may be related to less active time spent outdoors, another part may even occur before the child is born. A recent long-term study published in the January edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that optimal muscle growth in children is related to mom’s vitamin D intake during her pregnancy.

For the study, researchers at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton reviewed 678 mothers in the later stages of their pregnancies. The review included blood tests to determine the amount of vitamin D in the mother’s system. Then, researchers measured the grip strength and muscle mass of the children at age 4. Their results indicated that mothers with higher levels of vitamin D during pregnancy bore children with higher grip strength and muscle mass. According to researchers, these results are likely to continue on into adulthood.

“These associations … may well have consequences for later health; muscle strength peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures,” commented lead researcher Nicholas Harvey, Ph.D. “It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years … will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age.”

Harvey and his team drew their data from the Southampton Women’s Survey, which is one of the largest and best characterized studies currently in the world. Later data from the survey may well prove Harvey’s hypothesis. In the meantime, expecting moms are advised to load up on their vitamin D.

D deficiencies are a growing problem, doctors say
Vitamin D deficiencies are common in women in their childbearing years, and while supplements are available, many women choose not to take them. With recent new stories questioning the value of store-bought supplements, many aren’t convinced that what they’re paying for is actually present in over-the-counter pills. As the FDA doesn’t currently regulate these types of supplements, they may in fact be right.

Many doctors recommend that women and children get their vitamin D from fortified sources, such as orange juice. Many popular brands of orange juice offer fortified products to help them develop healthy bone and muscle mass. Many milk and breakfast cereal brands offer fortified products for the same reason.

If you want to ensure that your child is getting the vitamin D he or she needs to grow up strong, make sure he or she is getting the recommended amount by including plenty of these foods into his or her diet.

If you’re pregnant and you’d like to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor or pharmacist how to get pharmacy-grade supplements. Pharmacy-grade products are tested and trustworthy sources of the vitamins and minerals you need to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

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Eating peanuts during pregnancy may help children avoid allergies

Not too long ago, medical professionals recommended women refrain from eating peanuts and other highly allergenic foods during pregnancy and nursing periods in order to reduce the chance of their children experiencing early exposure and sensitization to common, serious allergens. Now, however, a new study suggests that eating peanuts won’t harm a woman’s pregnancy – and researchers are hopeful that further study may prove that eating peanuts while pregnant is actually beneficial in preventing infants from developing these types of allergies in the first place.

According to researchers from the Boston Children’s Hospital, women who aren’t allergic to peanuts themselves can indulge without fear during their pregnancy and even while nursing. The study’s senior author, Michael Young, M.D., of Boston Children’s Division of Allergy and Immunology, and his team looked to the Growing Up Today Study for their data, which presented the records of 8,205 children.

Using the GUTS data, researchers identified children with documented cases of peanut or other tree nut allergies. They then examined the diets of these children’s mothers during the pregnancy and nursing periods and compared them with diets of mothers with non-allergic children. Looking specifically at peanut and tree nut ingestion, Young’s team found that peanut allergies occurred at significantly lower rates when mothers consumed these nuts during the gestational period.

New wisdom replaces the old
The new study findings were published in the online medical journal JAMA Pediatrics on Dec. 23, and conflict with research published in a November 2010 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The previous study, which was conducted by the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, claimed that pregnant women who consumed peanuts or other highly allergenic foods (such as eggs or dairy) may be putting their unborn infants at risk of developing these allergies and experiencing serious reactions before their immune systems were fully developed. At the time, the study backed up recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics established in the year 2000.

“No one can say for sure if the avoidance recommendation for peanuts was related to the rising number of peanut allergies seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but one thing is certain: it did not stop the increase,” Young suggested in regard to the prior recommendations outlined by the AAP. “It was clear that a new approach was needed, opening the door for new research.”

Young also noted that, though the study performed at the Boston Children’s Hospital was promising, there is as yet no cause-and-effect link to women eating peanuts actually preventing these allergies from developing. So far, the research merely suggests that women who ingest the legumes aren’t putting their infants in harm’s way. However, some medical researchers remain hopeful that a cause-and-effect relationship will be established upon further study.

“By linking maternal peanut consumption to reduced allergy risk we are providing new data to support the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases tolerance and reduces risk of childhood food allergy,” said Young.

While the research provides new hope, parents should still take child allergy symptoms seriously. Many children experience severe allergic reactions, even when their parents have no history of allergies. Parents who believe their children may be experiencing allergies should seek medical attention as soon as possible to get the necessary medication.

FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that help make medicine taste better for children. Ask your pharmacist how you can get FLAVORx for your child’s prescription today.

Help your children make their own New Year’s resolution

New Year’s Eve is just before us, and people all over the world are thinking about what their New Year’s resolutions will be. Parents often choose goals related to family fitness – such as losing weight or keeping less sweets around the house in favor of healthier snacks. Children, however, have their own priorities, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to jump on the New Year’s bandwagon as well!

This year, have a little fun helping your kids create their own New Year’s resolutions and thinking of inventive ways to fulfill them. Here is a list of common resolutions and tips for helping your kids achieve them.

This year, I will get more exercise
When kids make exercise a regular habit early in life, it’s that much easier for them to keep it up over the years. Plus, kids who exercise frequently are less likely to experience being overweight or obese. This may help protect them from physical ailments such as diabetes and heart disease as well as mental issues such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

There are a number of ways you can help your children stay fit and active. One idea is to sign them up for an after-school athletic program such as soccer or basketball. If your child isn’t interested in competitive sports, try a class that emphasizes fitness, such as dance or gymnastics. Other ideas include yoga, martial arts or even aerobics.

This year, I will do better in school
This is a worthy goal for any student, even if he or she already gets good marks. In general, students who make their schoolwork a priority do better in college and beyond – and what parent wouldn’t want this kind of success for their little one?

Help your kids do better in school this year by identifying both their strong suits and the subjects with which they need more help. You can create flash cards or invest in learning software that your child can use on a PC or tablet. Many programs turn learning into a game, making even your child’s least favorite subject more fun. A number of studies cite that children who eat healthy diets and engage in regular fitness activities perform better in school as well. Make sure to include a healthy diet with brain-boosting proteins, fruits and veggies along with this resolution.

This year, I will be nicer to others
For many kids, good social skills aren’t always intuitive, but need to be learned. Even if your children are comfortable with their own group of friends, a resolution to be nice or more inclusive to other kids will help them develop better social skills and widen their circle of influence. Kids who have a number of friends are more likely to develop healthy confidence levels and a positive self-image. This can help them avoid certain types of anxiety and depressive disorders.

If your child wants to make improving their relationships a priority this year, help them by challenging them to do kind deeds for others. It can be something as simple as saying “hi” to a child who isn’t always included or taking home assignments for a sick friend. Help your child come up with several new, small goals each week and discuss them over the dinner table or during other quality time.

This year, I will be healthy
Kids don’t spend as much time thinking about their health as their parents do; however taking ownership of their own health and well-being is essential. Help your children develop a self-care plan that includes eating healthy, exercise and getting the right amount of sleep.

Staying healthy should also include taking their medication when necessary. FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that help make medicine time easier for kids. Ask your pharmacist how you can get FLAVORx for your child’s prescription today.