- Created on 23 April 2013
Don't take the cinnamon challenge. That's the advice from doctors in a new report about a dangerous prank depicted in popular YouTube videos but which has led to hospitalizations and a surge in calls to U.S. poison centers.
The fad involves daring someone to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. But the spice is caustic, and trying to gulp it down can cause choking, throat irritation, breathing trouble and even collapsed lungs, the report said.
Published online Monday in Pediatrics, the report said at least 30 teens nationwide needed medical attention after taking the challenge last year.
The number of poison control center calls about teens doing the prank "has increased dramatically," from 51 in 2011 to 222 last year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
"People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are at greater risk of having this result in shortness of breath and trouble breathing," according to an alert posted on the association's website.
Thousands of YouTube videos depict kids attempting the challenge, resulting in an "orange burst of dragon breath" spewing out of their mouths and sometimes hysterical laughter from friends watching the stunt, said report co-author Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, a pediatrics professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Cinnamon is made from tree bark and contains cellulose fibers that don't easily break down. Animal research suggests that when cinnamon gets into the lungs, it can cause scarring, Lipshultz said.
Dr. Stephen Pont, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and an Austin, Texas pediatrician, said the report is "a call to arms to parents and doctors to be aware of things like the cinnamon challenge" and to pay attention to what their kids are viewing online.
An Ypsilanti, Mich., teen who was hospitalized for a collapsed lung after trying the cinnamon challenge heartily supports the new advice and started her own website telling teens to "just say no" to the fad.
Dejah Reed, 16, said she took the challenge four times — the final time was in February last year with a friend who didn't want to try it alone.
"I was laughing very hard and I coughed it out and I inhaled it into my lungs," she said. "I couldn't breathe."
Her father, Fred Reed, said he arrived home soon after to find Dejah "a pale bluish color. It was very terrifying. I threw her over my shoulder" and drove to a nearby emergency room.
Dejah was hospitalized for four days and went home with an inhaler and said she still has to use it when she gets short of breath from running or talking too fast. Her dad said she'd never had asthma or breathing problems before.
Dejah said she'd read about the challenge on Facebook and other social networking sites and "thought it would be cool" to try.
Now she knows "it's not cool and it's dangerous."
- Created on 18 April 2013
State health officials are urging parents to make sure their children have received all their recommended vaccinations.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says the state is reporting its highest number of pertussis cases since 1950.
In 2012 there were 2,026 cases of the illness, also known as whooping cough.
Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck is director of the state public health department. He says the record number of cases is "the perfect example of the importance of continued immunization."
Saturday marks the start of National Infant Immunization Week.
Hasbrouck says parents may visit the department's website to find a list of recommended vaccines and the age at which children should receive them. Illinois residents who cannot afford to pay for the immunizations may be eligible for assistance.
- Created on 09 April 2013
WASHINGTON — The morning-after pill might become as easy to buy as aspirin.
In a scathing rebuke accusing the Obama administration of letting election-year politics trump science, a federal judge ruled Friday that there should be no age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraception without a doctor's prescription.
Today, buyers must prove at the pharmacy that they're 17 or older; everyone else must see a doctor first. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the government's decision on age limits as "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable," and ordered an end to the restrictions within 30 days.
The Justice Department was evaluating whether to appeal, and spokeswoman Allison Price said there would be a prompt decision.
President Barack Obama had supported the 2011 decision setting age limits, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday the president hasn't changed his position. "He believes it was the right common-sense approach to this issue," Carney said.
If the court order stands, Plan B One-Step and its generic versions could move from behind pharmacy counters out to drugstore shelves — ending a decade-plus struggle by women's groups for easier access to these pills, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.
Saying the sales restrictions can make it hard for women of any age to buy the pills, Korman described the administration's decision, in the year before the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, as "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent."
Women's health specialists hailed the ruling.
"It has been clear for a long time that the medical and scientific community think this should be fully over the counter and is safe for women of all ages to use," said Dr. Susan Wood, who resigned as FDA's women's health chief in 2005 to protest Bush administration foot-dragging over Plan B.
Half the nation's pregnancies every year are unintended. Doctors' groups say more access to morning-after pills — by putting them near the condoms and spermicides so people can learn about them and buy them quickly — could cut those numbers. They see little risk in overuse, as the pills cost $40 to $50 apiece.
"The fact that it's over the counter does not make people have sex," said Dr. Angela Diaz, director of New York's Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. "Sixty percent of young people are sexually active by 12th grade, and the more tools we have to help them be responsible, the better."
Social conservatives criticized the ruling.
"There is a real danger that Plan B may be given to young girls, under coercion or without their consent," said Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council. "The involvement of parents and medical professionals acts as a safeguard for these young girls. However, today's ruling removes these common-sense protections."
The Food and Drug Administration actually was preparing to allow over-the-counter sale of Plan B One-Step with no age limits in late 2011 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, overruled her own scientists. Sebelius said some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children but shouldn't be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own.
The federal judge dismissed that argument.
"This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds," said Korman, who called the pills safe for girls but said the number using them "is likely to be minuscule" as less than 3 percent of girls under age 13 are sexually active.
He cited the Administrative Procedure Act as granting a judge the authority to set aside an agency's rulings "if they are 'arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law.'"
Korman didn't spare the FDA from criticism, citing "a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence" going back to the Bush administration, when the center filed a citizen's petition to try to get the agency to act. That was followed by the lawsuit.
The judge said the FDA decided after 11 months, 47,000 public comments and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars spent, that it did not need rulemaking on the subject.
The morning-after pill contains a higher dose of the female progestin hormone than is in regular birth control pills. Taking it within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting regular contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. But it works best within the first 24 hours.
If a woman already is pregnant, the pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg. According to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn't begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. Still, some critics say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, a contention that many scientists — and Korman, in his ruling — said has been discredited.
- Created on 12 April 2013
The Cook County Department of Public Health is launching a new ad campaign aimed at getting people to quit smoking.
The ads depict children who are exposed to second-hand smoke. They note that when adults smoke around kids, it's as if the kids themselves were smoking. Many of the ads show photos of kids with the words "I wish I could stop smoking."
Dr. Terry Mason is chief operating officer of the public health department.
Mason says smokers need to hear the message that if they smoke around their kids, the child will have inhaled more than 100 packs of cigarettes by the time he or she turns five years old.
Mason says second-hand smoke also can trigger asthma attacks, cause respiratory problems and increase incidences of ear infections.
- Created on 27 March 2013
Illinois health officials are putting out the word about diabetes management and prevention.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is joining the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness about the disease that affects nearly 10 percent of adults in the state. Tuesday was "Diabetes Alert Day," a day set side to raise awareness.
Health department officials say the highest prevalence of diabetes in Illinois is among residents of Alexander, Pulaski and Williamson counties.
People can prevent or delay diabetes by losing just 7 percent of body weight — that's about 15 pounds if you weigh 200 — and through regular physical activity and healthy eating.
And the state provides funding to local health departments and community organizations to offer programs with information about diabetes prevention and management.