Browsing Tag

Risk

I Want Data: Pregnancy When You Have A Rare(ish) Disease

By February 29, 2016 No Comments
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“Can’t you just look at the monitor and tell me when to push?” I asked my nurse. “I feel like I need more data to tell me whether or not I’m getting any closer to having this baby.”

I had been pushing for more than three hours and the epidural left me with little physical data about how my contractions were progressing. After what seemed like an eternity, my nurse looked at me and said “How’s this for data?” She then picked up the intercom and announced “Delivery Room 3.” Soon a sea of medical personnel showed up to help deliver my baby.

As a scientist, I like to have information. This was especially true when I was in active labor, but my quest for data on pregnancy and childbirth actually started about a year earlier. My husband and I are both scientists, so we tend to approach things systematically and with data in hand. So when we decided it was time to start a family, I started to look for information.

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Categories: Chronic Illnesses + Conditions, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

Planning A Pregnancy in the Time of Zika

By February 9, 2016 1 Comment
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Like a lot of couples, my wife and I have waited to start a family until the time was right for us, which just so happens to be now-ish.  Unfortunately the right time for us has coincided with the spread of the Zika virus in North America, a virus that shows an association between infection with it during pregnancy and an increased risk of microcephaly (reduced brain/head size) in newborns. The Zika virus is not a new virus from a historical perspective, however, the newly accepted correlation with microcephaly seems to have given the virus a significant amount of media attention.

For any expectant parent – or couples planning on getting pregnant, like my wife and me  – the possibility of a Zika infection is terrifying.  My wife and I are the kind of people who like to arm ourselves with information, so let’s dive into Zika virus infections and take a look at some facts and figures.

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Categories: Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

My Son Deserves to See His Fourth Birthday

By February 3, 2016 5 Comments
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A few days ago a plea I made on Facebook for my son’s life went viral. As of today it’s been shared over 6,000 times, but still I worry my plea has been unheard.

My son, my precious two year old Atticus, is fighting a form of childhood cancer called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), right now. Except for the cancer and his treatment he’s like every other two-year-old. He loves dinosaurs, silly jokes, his dog, his five-year-old sister and did I mention dinosaurs? Atticus is a hefty, strong kid – I have never had to put a band-aid on him, he’d never had an ear infection, never had a fever, never threw up, he was literally never sick a day in his life until he got cancer.

His type of leukemia, ALL, is the most common, most researched childhood cancer, yet it cannot be predicted or prevented, only treated. Everyone who has ever met my AtticusterMan is always amazed at just how happy he is. His baseline for existing is just to see the world as all sunshine and rainbows, and I have done my best to keep that for him. He actually loves broccoli, but the chemo has killed off most of his taste buds, so right now, nothing except super strongly flavored food tastes like anything to him. So we do what we can to get him to eat.

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Chronic Illnesses + Conditions, Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Newborns + Infants, Toddlers + Preschoolers

What is Microcephaly + What’s the Link to Zika?

By February 1, 2016 1 Comment
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With the increasing news coverage of Zika and it’s reported link to the birth defect microcephaly we’ve received a number of reader questions about microcephaly and what it actually means for children born with the condition.  We reached out to infectious disease specialist, Dr. Judy Stone, to answer some of your questions.

What does microcephaly actually mean (Is the brain small, does it stop growing at a certain stage, is part of the brain missing)?
Microcephaly literally means an abnormally small head. Both the skull and brain are abnormally small with microcephaly, and X-ray studies often show abnormal calcified areas in the brain and lack of normal development.

Is Zika the only way a baby can be born with microcephaly or are there other risk factors?
Microcephaly has been associated with many infections as well as genetic abnormalities, malnutrition, or exposure to certain toxins. It already happens very rarely in the U.S. due to the level of nutrition and prenatal care most women receive (although even with good nutrition and proper prenatal care, microcephaly can still occur due to certain genetic factors or infections). Even in Brazil, the “epidemic” of this birth defect is thought to be <1%. Some researchers think that some of the sudden apparent increase reflects changes in reporting rather than new illnesses. It’s also important to know that the link right now is just correlated with Zika, there hasn’t yet been a cause and effect relationship proven, but it’s enough to raise alarm bells.

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Chronic Illnesses + Conditions, Disability + Disability Advocacy, Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Newborns + Infants

When NOT Washing your Hands Is a Crime: What We Can Learn From The Chipotle Sanitation Nightmare

By January 18, 2016 2 Comments
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Chipotle touts organic and fresh ingredients, making it a fan favorite for many parents, but perhaps not anymore, given the terrible year that the fast-food chain is struggling to recover from. 2015 ended poorly for Chipotle, with at least five viral or bacterial outbreaks in various branches of their restaurant chain between July and December. Three of those five outbreaks were associated with naturally occurring bacteria in food (Salmonella and E.coli) and possible food mishandling; the other two outbreaks were directly linked to sick employees (who had the norovirus) who spread their illness through improper hand-washing. These type of issues are both a public health and a parenting nightmare, since the spread of those three contagions are enough to make anyone violently ill, and for children, dangerously so. And soon, it seems, spreading the latter through poor hand hygiene in the workplace could be considered a crime. 

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Infectious Disease + Vaccines

Just Because You Disagree, Doesn’t Make it Child Abuse

By January 11, 2016 1 Comment
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Humans are terrible judges of risk.  We are all awful at it, and it’s not our fault, our brains are hardwired to struggle with risk.  In addition, our risk thresholds are all different.  For example, there is a pine tree in our neighborhood that kids love to play under.  One mother won’t allow her daughter to touch the needles out of fear that she’ll prick herself and will then be afraid of the tree.  I’m OK with my son touching the needles on the tree.  I’ve judged the risk that he will injure himself and the associated trauma as low, and the other mother has judged the risk of injury and trauma as high.

Neither of us are right and neither of us are wrong.  Neither of us are bad parents.  Neither of us love our children any less than the other.  We’ve each simply made an assessment of risk and our threshold is different.

When I told a friend about the pine needles her response was, “that’s child abuse.  She’s not letting her have a full childhood, she’s teaching her kid to live in fear of nothing.”  The other mother may have been what others consider to be over protective, but it was far from child abuse.

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Categories: Accidents, Injuries, + Abuse

Recent Reports of Skin-to-Skin Benefits Fail to Mention Key Infant Safety Risks

By January 5, 2016 1 Comment
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Last week, news of a recent study trickled  across my newsfeed, touting the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with infants. That study, published online by the American Association of Pediatrics,  presented evidence in support of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), which is a method that involves infants being carried and held with prolonged skin-to-skin contact (S2S).

As is often the case, though, the mainstream media picked up the story and ran with it, touting the potential benefits of the practices, while making no mention of any risk. But there are risks – and I believe a parent needs to be aware before putting the practices into place.

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Categories: Accidents, Injuries, + Abuse, Ages + Stages, Newborns + Infants, Science 101 + Mythbusting

“My Kids Aren’t Guinea Pigs,” Says Parent Affected By Porter Ranch Gas Leak

By January 4, 2016 4 Comments
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A brave parent stepped forward to talk to The Scientific Parent about the Porter Ranch gas leak, and asked that he remain anonymous, for fear of retaliation against his family. Here is his story.

I am part of one of the 3,000 families displaced by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) leak in Porter Ranch, but I consider my family lucky, because we’re finally safe. The latest reports say that an additional 3,000 more families are waiting to leave the area, and are still living in a zone that’s being called the biggest environmental disaster since the BP oil spill. Notice I say leave, not evacuate. I’ll get back to that.

On Oct 23, 2015, SoCalGas announced that their Aliso Canyon Storage Facility was leaking a combination of methane and mercaptan gases into my community, which is in Los Angeles, California. Methane is a natural gas. Mercaptan is the chemical the gas companies add to make it smell so people are warned when there’s a gas leak in their home.

At the time, they said the leak shouldn’t affect us, and at that point we didn’t know that symptoms of exposure to those gases are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of coordination. If we had, we would have realized that my family had been experiencing these symptoms for some time.

For weeks, our 3-and-a-half-year-old son, was lethargic and didn’t have his usual energy to do things. What normal three year old isn’t constantly running around and into things? My wife was complaining about nausea, and that her breathing was short and challenging. I had headaches every day when I came home from work. We never thought any of those things were related.

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Categories: Accidents, Injuries, + Abuse, Policy, Politics, + Pop Health