There remains no evidence that vaccines cause autism

This blog was prepared by (pictured left to right)
Andrew Martinez, PhD, Co-Director of the Autism Program
Melissa Svoboda, MD, Pediatric Neurology, Director, Autism Program
Jonathan Crews, MD, MS, Pediatric Infectious Diseases
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Although allegations arise from time to time about a link between autism and childhood vaccines, the medical community has spent the last 30 years examining this question numerous times with the same conclusion – there is no link between autism and vaccines. As health care professionals and parents, we want what is best for children – ours and yours. Multiple large studies have been performed by independent researchers from around the world and have included different groups of children. Overwhelmingly, these studies concluded there is no evidence to support an association between vaccines and autism.

These concerns started when Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, published a study in 1998 where he associated the onset of autism symptoms with the timing of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) combination vaccine. Wakefield was later found to have knowingly falsified data and to have financial interests in the study, including a pending application for an alternative measles-only vaccine. Once his fraud was discovered, the journal redacted the study and Wakefield was stripped of his United Kingdom medical license. Unfortunately, he decided to make a documentary on his journey that has stirred up much of this controversy.

Continue reading “There remains no evidence that vaccines cause autism”

Helping your child cope with anxiety in middle school and high school

By Elena Mikalsen, Ph.D.
Section Chief, Department of Psychology
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Most children will have anxiety about starting middle school or high school. They worry about being good enough for sports or other electives, being smart enough for their pre-advanced placement and advanced placement classes, and fitting in with peers who all seem taller, prettier, smarter, and more socially savvy than they are. Each year brings new anxiety and most children will have some degree of anxiety and worry on their first day of school, even when it’s not their first year of middle or high school or even if they have many friends going with them to the same school. 

How to help your teen feel that she fits in
The most common worry for teens is fitting in with a new, and usually much larger group of peers. Adolescence is the time when teens struggle to find their identity and struggle to figure out which group of peers they wish to fit in with. Schools have multiple groups for teens to try and there will always be a group that will accept your teen. Reassure your child that he will absolutely find peers and acceptance. Encourage him to express his interests but also to try new things. Adolescence is a good time to experiment and try new hobbies. Encourage him to try different extracurricular activities, based on not just abilities but also interests. Especially, encourage children to try something outside of what their group of peers is doing, as often teens get stuck choosing activities based on whether they will grant an automatic acceptance to a clique. 

Continue reading “Helping your child cope with anxiety in middle school and high school”

Better Health for Back-to-School

By  Dr. Julie La Barba
Medical Director
Culinary Health Education for Families

The start of the school year can both excite and overwhelm us. Major transitions like suddenly becoming the new kid in school, or entering middle or high school, are especially stressful – and bring on real anxiety that can cause sleep problems. Time crunches from new schedules add even more stress for students and parents alike, making nutritious family meals more of a “maybe” than a norm.

A Bit of Science
Night after night of shortened sleep creates a “sleep deficit.” When we’re not working with a full tank of zzzs, it’s harder to concentrate on school work and other activities. Add stress into the mix and look out for mood swings, overeating and eventual weight gain. It’s hard to believe, but too little sleep and too much stress can be partially responsible for piling on extra pounds.  Continue reading “Better Health for Back-to-School”

Is your child ready for kindergarten?

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
General Pediatrics
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Sending your child to kindergarten is a bittersweet juncture, filled with mixed emotions ranging from anxiety to pride to excitement! But how do you know your little preschooler is ready to make the jump?  Every child’s rate of development is different, and you may find that your child picks some tasks up quite quickly, while others try your patience.  Here are a few skills that tell you your big kid is ready to board the bus:

Social Skills:  Dressing your child and rushing out the door on time is akin to an Olympic sport at times.  Now imagine the teacher dressing 20 children.  Consequently, kindergarteners should be able to perform simple self-help tasks including getting jackets on and off, going to the bathroom independently, eating neatly, etc.  They should also be able to play well with others.  Promote sharing and taking turns in your home to help develop these skills.  Kindergarten teachers expect students to be able to listen to instructions and follow them promptly.

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Gotta catch some exercise this summer? Pokémon GO to the rescue

By Dr. Sky Izaddoost
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care

As a pediatrician, one of the most dreaded questions I have to ask is: What are you doing this summer? “Nothing” is the number one answer. While our kids do benefit from the unstructured summer months, they spend too much time glued to the television, video games, smartphones, and tablets. These tools can be used for an educational purpose, but sometimes, kids revert to Sponge Bob reruns, Netflix binging, and the never-ending Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Toca Hair Salon. This costs our children some badly needed exercise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese. That is 12.7 million children in the United States. Both a diet of moderation and exercise are vital to curing this problem, but also according to the CDC, over 75 percent of teenagers are not getting the recommended hour of physical activity daily.

Fortunately, now there is a popular smartphone app that is encouraging San Antonio’s children to get up and out, but is it safe? Continue reading “Gotta catch some exercise this summer? Pokémon GO to the rescue”

Are you a sitting duck?

By Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP
Medical Director, Culinary Health Education for Families
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

It should not sit well that most of our nation’s time is spent in chairs. Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic researcher, calls ours a “chair-based lifestyle.” Sound extreme? Then just think about how often our work, leisure time, transportation, entertainment and meal times revolve around a sedentary posture. High tech conveniences DO save us work, but sitting and pushing buttons also means we move our bodies considerably less often and with less force.  Continue reading “Are you a sitting duck?”

Make your pool a safe zone

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
General Pediatrics

Summer is upon us, and with the heat comes the desire to jump in the pool!  For parents, with this pool plunge comes the importance of swimming safety.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists drowning as the second-leading cause of injury-related death in children ages 1 to 14 years.  So, before diving into summer, be sure to review a few water safety tips with your “water babies.” Continue reading “Make your pool a safe zone”