recent article and accompanying commentary in the journal Pediatrics describe what we currently know about children who have died from influenza over the past decade or more. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has collected information about this since the 2003-2004 influenza season. In that first report, there were 153 deaths. Since then there have been at least 100 influenza deaths annually among children. Several characteristics have not changed. ...

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We’ve known for some time the prevalence of obesity is growing among Americans -- not just adults, but children, too. Obesity is associated with a long list of medical problems, including heart and other vascular diseases, diabetes, and joint problems. It is encouraging that recently the seemingly inexorable growth of pediatric obesity prevalence seems to have reached a plateau. But we still have a future problem looming for population health as ...

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I majored in history of religion in college and have always had an interest in the places various twists and turns of theology can lead people. One relatively recent wrinkle is what has been loosely termed "prosperity gospel" or "prosperity theology." It’s built upon the basic notion good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Of course, that’s a foundational viewpoint of much of Christianity in the ...

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Most experienced pediatric intensivists, myself included, have encountered situations in which we, the doctors, believe continuing to support a child is unethical because it is not saving the life but prolonging the dying; whereas the child’s parents believe the opposite -- that it is unethical to withdraw life support because all life is sacred, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes these situations arise because poor communication causes families to distrust the ...

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Humans evolved with the constant force of the earth’s gravity. This is relevant to several of our organs, but the brain’s anatomy makes it especially important. The brain floats in spinal fluid encased inside the closed box of the skull. Gravity would be expected to affect the details of that. Indeed, studies of people who spent prolonged periods of time in bed in a head down position indicate this abnormal ...

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In theory, of course, it’s a great idea for people to give their opinions and rate their experiences with any goods or services they buy. The notion goes back long before the Internet with publications like Consumer Reports, which is now itself online. Sites such as Angie’s List are very popular and can give you testimonials about providers of everything from home renovations to car repair to daycare. So it’s not surprising several ...

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It’s fall in the PICU, and we just saw our first severe case of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) of the season. RSV is by far the most common cause of bronchiolitis in infants. To scientists, RSV is a fascinating virus with several unique properties. One of these is its behavior in the population. When it’s present, RSV is everywhere. Then it suddenly vanishes. There are exceptions to everything in medicine ...

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I swiped this editorial cartoon by Steve Sack from the redoubtable Dr. David Gorski’s blog, who goes by the nom-de-web of Orac. Recent epidemiology shows reducing the fraction of vaccinated children in the population rather promptly leads to a resurgence of the diseases vaccines protect against. This is the concept of community or herd immunity. Epidemiologists debate the concept around ...

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As the kids say, it’s complicated. Practicing physicians are seeing an ever increasing list of protocols and pathways coming their way. These arrive in several forms -- order sets for medications, guidelines in how to proceed for various conditions, when to do this, when to do that, and when not to do either one. They generally are the product of various committees trying to synthesize what these days we call ...

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I occasionally dip my toe into the constant Internet flame wars over the generous term "vaccine skepticism," and the less generous "vaccine denial." If you’re looking to see one of these quickly, Twitter always has some ongoing vaccine fireworks. The character limit of Twitter tends to compress the exchanges into hurled invectives, only occasionally punctuated by futile pleas for calm. Many quickly devolve into exchanges between posters of what they believe to ...

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For many centuries medical practice was a black art. What physicians did was based upon theories of how the body worked that turned out to be fanciful at best, dangerous at worst. The late nineteenth century brought breakthroughs in the biological sciences, such as the identification of bacteria and new understandings of physiology, which increasingly placed medical practice on a scientific basis. That process has continued over the past 150 years, ...

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Those of us who work in pediatric intensive care have frequent encounters with the problem of suicide and attempted suicide. It has seemed to me for some years that the numbers are increasing, and this has been shown to be the case. After years of declining, the suicide rate in our country has been increasing, now at about 125 percent of the rate of several decades ago. This increase ...

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A fairly recent article in the Journal of Pediatrics is both intriguing and sobering. It is intriguing because it lays bare something we don’t talk much about or teach our students. It is sobering because it describes the potential harm that can come from it — harm I have personally witnessed. The issue is overdiagnosis, and it’s related to our relentless quest to explain everything. "Overdiagnosis" is the term the authors ...

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We do many things in medicine to patients that are either not helpful or have the potential to harm. If you take the long view of medical history, this should not be surprising. After all less than a century ago, physicians were still giving toxic mercury compounds to people in the form of calomel. And a century before that, physicians were bleeding people because they thought that was a good ...

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Should school boards discontinue support for high school football? That’s the provocative title of a recent article in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The background to this controversy is the increasing recognition that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a severe and debilitating brain problem first identified in former professional football players, can have its beginnings in college or even high school football ...

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Sometimes an interesting thing happens on patient rounds. Rounds are a traditional exercise in hospitals going back at least a century. In the old days, this meant the physician going from patient to patient. He (it was nearly always he back then) went over the patient’s progress with the bedside nurse, examined the patient, reviewed pertinent test results, made an assessment, decided on a plan for the day, and gave ...

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Asthma is a complex, chronic lung problem that now affects nearly 10 percent of all children. Both the incidence of new cases and the prevalence of ongoing cases in the pediatric population have been rising steadily for years, although there are hints these increases may have leveled off. A wealth of research suggests a huge part of asthma causation comes from the environment the child lives in, things like air quality and exposure to various ...

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A manifesto has been making the rounds on Twitter (and other places) over the past year. It has been attributed to Dr. Mike Ginsberg, a California pediatrician. It reportedly was originally a Facebook post that has since been taken down, perhaps because of the controversy it generated. I can understand why; vaccines are a hot button topic, and anyone who writes about them attracts attention, some of it unpleasant. I know ...

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I found this study to be absolutely fascinating. The link is to the abstract; the complete article is behind a paywall, but I can get it for anybody who’s interested in reading the whole study in detail. Its title is “Fundamental frequency variation in crying of Mandarin and German neonates.” I have always assumed, like most people I suspect, that babies cry the same the world over. When they’re uncomfortable or ...

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The USA trains its physicians differently from every other Western country I know. Everyone (with rare exceptions) who goes to medical school first must get a four-year undergraduate college degree in something. There are no such degrees in medicine, although the overwhelming majority of students going on to medical school major in one of the sciences, such as chemistry, biochemistry, and biology. If they don’t major in a science, they generally ...

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