Risk of Autism in Siblings Higher Than Thought
Kids with an older autistic sibling are more likely to develop the condition than experts previously believed. Past research suggested children had a 3 to 10 percent chance of being diagnosed with the developmental disorder if they had an older sibling with autism. But those estimates were based on a small number of families and an outdated definition of autism. A new study puts the risk at 19 percent; 32 percent if a child has more than one older sibling with the disorder, according to a study published today in Pediatrics. The findings are based on an analysis of 664 infants across the United States and Canada who had at least one older brother or sister with autism. "It's the first thing families ask: How likely is this to happen again?" study author Sally Ozonoff of the University of California—Davis told NPR. "We are able to supply some answers. This should mean there is more careful monitoring and screening beyond the usual questions at a normal well-child visit. Drilling down into the things that we know are early signs of autism—interest in people, responding to their name, responding to other people, smiling at other people." Closer screening of younger siblings will hopefully lead to earlier diagnoses and better outcomes; treatment is most likely to work if it's started early.
4 Promising Autism Treatments, From Vitamin B12 to Alzheimer's Drug Namenda
Medicine hasn't come up with a cure for autism, the often-devastating developmental disorder that now affects 1 in 150 children, and one big reason is that doctors don't yet know what causes it. Parents frustrated by the lack of options often turn to the Internet for help, where dozens of medical and behavioral treatments are promoted.
Unfortunately, most of the treatments out there have not been tested to find out if they work, making it tough for parents to figure out what might help, U.S. News reported in 2009. Those that have been rigorously tested so far have failed to measure up. That includes secretin, a hormone affecting liver and pancreas function that was popular until a 2003 trial found it did nothing to alleviate symptoms.
Yet treatments for autism do exist. Those proven to work include structured behavioral interventions that teach children social and language skills, as well as medications that reduce disabling symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal disorders. Increasingly, researchers are looking at autism as a "state" that could be changed rather than a "trait," according to Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. And researchers are starting to rigorously test other potential treatments, including methyl vitamin B12 and an Alzheimer's drug known as Namenda. [Read more: 4 Promising Autism Treatments, From Vitamin B12 to Alzheimer's Drug Namenda.]
7 Signs That Your Child May Have Exercise-Induced Asthma
When exercise leads to wheezing or coughing, people often blame the symptoms on being out of shape. But research shows that, in children at least, there may be more to the story, U.S. News reported in 2010. It's possible that children who experience problems following intense exercise may have undiagnosed, intermittent, exercised-induced asthma, says Clifford Bassett, chair of the public education committee at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Research published last year found that short periods of heavy exercise caused decreased lung function in some children with no history of asthma or allergies. Nearly half of the 56 healthy children studied had at least one abnormal pulmonary function result following exercise. More research is needed to determine why this occurs and how it can be prevented, the authors wrote.
Complications of exercise-induced asthma include permanent narrowing of the child's airways, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and poor athletic performance, according to the Mayo Clinic. But Bassett says it's likely that many children with exercise-induced asthma go undiagnosed. Some parents may not realize their children are having difficulty breathing after physical activity because kids tend to hide how they feel due to peer pressure or embarrassment, he says. And the symptoms may not happen during every round of physical activity. High pollen counts or poor air quality days may make symptoms more likely in susceptible children. [Read more: 7 Signs That Your Child May Have Exercise-Induced Asthma.]
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