Author: Nancy Fliesler

Quick Note: Developmental pediatricians offer long-range perspective on Zika

The ongoing Zika virus outbreak has shined a spotlight on microcephaly. But Boston Children’s Hospital’s developmental/behavioral experts Marie Reilly, MD, and Leonard Rappaport, MD, note that Zika isn’t the first virus to cause birth defects.

In an article published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, they offer a long-range perspective on challenges children infected with Zika prenatally may face.  …Read More

Poor areas of US have more deaths due to accidents — and things are getting worse


What killed 488,015 people from 1999 to 2012?  A mega-crunch of data from the National Center for Health Statistics against national census data suggests that poverty may be to blame.

The study, published last week in PLOS One, looked at every U.S. fatality from unintentional injuries and income data for the entire U.S. population, for the 14-year period, down to the county level.

“This is national data — the highest quality data you could possibly have,” says investigator Eric Fleegler, MD, MPH, an emergency physician physician at Boston Children’s Hospital who is interested in socioeconomic factors in health. “It’s unusual to have data of this breadth and depth.”

Unintentional injuries are already known to be the fifth largest cause of death in the U.S., and these mortalities have been rising over the past decade. At the same time, more people are living in areas with high poverty levels.

Are these two trends connected?

…Read More

Melatonin and children: advice from a sleep specialist

child insomnia melatonin
(Natalia Deksbakh/Shutterstock)

There is evidence that melatonin — an over-the-counter synthetic form of the melatonin hormone our brains naturally produce to help us fall asleep — can shorten the time to fall asleep in children with insomnia, including children with ADHD, autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. But there is much less evidence melatonin helps children stay asleep, even in its extended-release forms. In addition, there are many reasons why children may have trouble falling asleep; anxiety, restless legs symptoms or a too-early bedtime are just a few.

In a conversation with our sister blog Thriving, Judith Owens, MD, director of the Sleep Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, answered several questions about melatonin’s safety and benefits in children.

Read Owens’s advice on Thriving for families asking about melatonin.

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Keeping an eye on teen marijuana use

teens pot adolescents marijuana surveillance

With laws at least partially legalizing marijuana in 23 states and the District of Columbia, it’s now a big business. What are the public health consequences of freely available weed — both acute and long-term? Are we making a big mistake here?

Our sister blog Vector reports that Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Developmental Medicine and Elissa Weitzman, ScD, MSc, of the hospital’s Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, both of whom are concerned about potential harms to adolescents, recently argued in JAMA Pediatrics for a real-time marijuana surveillance system that could “monitor harms to youth from marijuana — in the context of legalization and fast-paced expansion of a commercial marijuana market.”

Learn about Levy and Weitzmann’s suggestions for beefing up marijuana surveillance on Vector.

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