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How to talk to your patients about Zika

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The hype around Zika virus seems to be settling down. The Summer Olympics in Rio appeared to occur without incident (at least associated to the virus spread), and the number of reported cases has plateaued. Media interest, while not gone, is definitely waning from where it was in February, when the World Health Organization declared Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Yet for those working on the frontlines or in global organizations trying to define and understand the outbreak, it is clear this is a false period of calm.

This past July, as I walked the halls of a hospital in Brazil, I witnessed the impact of the disease firsthand. Tired and despairing mothers carried their infants with abnormally small heads, trying futilely to soothe their shrill cries as they waited for medical care. They carried them close and explained to our visiting group of public health officials that the stigma of having a child with Zika virus has started to pervade society, with people simultaneously fascinated and frightened by their children.

For these mothers, taking care of their children has become their full-time job. Providers and families in the affected regions remain afraid and worried about the long-term care that these children will require. And this wave of fear and uncertainty is moving to the U.S. …Read More

Melatonin and children: advice from a sleep specialist

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(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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5 tips for helping a child with needle phobia

child teddy bear blood draw needle phobia

Many children are afraid of needles to varying degrees, and may become anxious in the days leading up to a medical visit or take longer to get shots or blood draws because of their fear. For some, that fear can reach the point of interfering with their medical care.

On our sister blog Thriving, child psychologist Carolyn Snell, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Medical Coping Clinic shares five tips for families that can help them prepare their child for blood draws and other procedures requiring needle sticks. She also shares suggestions for approaching situations where a child’s needle phobia is so great that it delays necessary care.

Do you care for children with needle phobia? Consider sharing Snell’s tips with their families or caregivers.

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Five things to know about microcephaly and Zika

microcephaly Zika
(Catherine Delphia)

The rapid spread of Zika virus and its association with cases of microcephaly have raised alarm across the Americas, such that the World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency.

Notes spoke to Ganeshwaran Mochida, MD, of the Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Neurology, who specializes in in microcephaly care, about the virus and microcephaly. He raised five points about microcephaly for both providers and their patients to consider. …Read More

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