Kids Should Ride in Rear-Facing Car Seats Until Age 2
Children should be kept in rear-facing car seats until they're at least 2 years old, contrary to long-standing advice to switch them to forward-facing seats around their first birthday. That's according to new recommendations released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The new policy is based on research suggesting that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or suffer severe injuries in traffic accidents if they're in rear-facing car seats, which better support the head, neck, and spine. "When you're facing the rear of the vehicle in a seat, the child is sort of cradled and supported by the structure of the seat," study author Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency physician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News. "If they're forward-facing, their trunk and their shoulders might be well restrained by the harness straps, but their head and neck are often left free to whip forward in a crash." Parents are urged to keep their kids in rear-facing seats for as long as possible, or at least until they outgrow the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer.
What's Wrong With This Picture? Baby Is in Danger
Danger hides in these cozy scenes: an infant sleeping on its tummy on a plush sheepskin rug; twin newborns snoozing side by side in a crib; a crib decked with so many blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals that there's nearly no room for a baby. If you've thumbed through some popular parenting and women's magazines lately, chances are you've seen images depicting these or similar scenes, U.S. News reported in 2009. And while they may make for good photographs, they set bad examples for parents, experts say. Those situations, they say, are not safe for sleeping babies.
"There are a lot of mixed messages that are being sent to families," says Rachel Moon, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center in Washington who has probed several widely read parenting and women's magazines and found that many photos in articles and advertisements clash with what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents do to keep infants safe while asleep. More than a third of the photos of sleeping babies showed the infants in perilous positions, and two thirds of those depicting cribs and other sleep environments showed situations that the organization deems dangerous, Moon and other researchers reported in Pediatrics.
"That's a problem," says Moon. "Studies have shown that where the baby sleeps and how the baby sleeps are very important in terms of SIDS risk reduction." SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, remains the chief killer of infants under age 1. Experts use the SIDS label to describe the abrupt, unexpected death of a seemingly healthy baby, usually during sleep, that neither autopsy nor death-scene examination can explain. [Read more: What's Wrong With This Picture? Baby Is in Danger.]
Health Benefits of Home-Grown Produce
Americans need to adopt a more plant-based diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, U.S. News's Megan Johnson reports. And for good reason: Plants offer a host of health benefits. Aside from their fiber, vitamins, and minerals, evidence suggests that fruits and veggies contain compounds that play a role in preventing certain cancers as well as heart disease and stroke, for which supplements are no substitute, says dietitian Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the nonprofit Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Beta carotene found in carrots and sweet potatoes, for example, has been shown to help protect against lung cancer, but may be harmful when taken in pill form. And the latest research suggests that calcium supplements may raise the risk of heart attacks in adults while doing little to benefit bone health. (That's why some researchers are now encouraging folks to get the nutrient in their diet instead. Spinach and broccoli are good sources.)