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Early school sports reduce ADHD symptoms for girls in later years

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Girls who played after-school sports in elementary school seem to have fewer symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder once they reach middle school, a new study suggests.

The research included both boys and girls, but the effect of sports on attention and behavior symptoms was only significant in girls.

“Girls, in particular, benefit from participation in sport when it comes to ADHD symptoms,” said lead author Linda Pagani. She’s a professor at the University of Montreal School of Psychoeducation in Quebec, Canada.

ADHD is a condition that includes ongoing patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity — issues that interfere with a person’s functioning or development, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

ADHD signs and symptoms include: Making careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work or during other activities; having difficulty paying attention in tasks like a lecture or lengthy reading assignment or during play; seeming not to listen when spoken to directly; interrupting others; fidgeting; leaving one’s seat when staying seated is expected; running around in inappropriate situations or feeling restless, in teens and adults.

The current study included nearly 1,500 children born in Quebec in 1997 and 1998. The group included 758 girls and 733 boys with complete data from age 6.

Parents were asked if kids participated in an extra-curricular physical activity with a coach or instructor between the ages of 6 and 10.

When kids were 12, teachers were asked to compare their ADHD symptoms and behaviors to their peers’. Teachers only looked for symptoms suggestive of ADHD, not a formal diagnosis, Pagani said.

Girls who consistently participated in organized sports were less likely to have ADHD symptoms than girls who didn’t, the study found. The researchers didn’t find a similar link for boys.

Pagani said organized sports likely help reduce ADHD symptoms in several ways: During an organized physical activity, kids have to listen and focus on what their coach is saying. It’s different from an unstructured after-school program where kids can do whatever they want.

Sports also help inhibit distraction and promote planning behavior, Pagani explained. Plus, sports get kids away from their screens and switching from one app to the next, and give them a chance to shake off some energy.

So, why wouldn’t sports make a difference for boys, too?

They probably do, Pagani said, but the upside wasn’t strong enough to be statistically significant.

“Boys are over-identified when it comes to any kind of ADHD symptoms,” she said. “For every three boys with ADHD, only one girl will get identified. Girls may not be getting pharmacology [medications] and psychotherapy that boys often do. In this particular domain, because girls are under-identified and under-treated, they tend to benefit a lot from sports.”

All kids — both girls and boys — can benefit from taking part in organized sports, Pagani said.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., reviewed the findings.

“Although the researchers found an association in girls between organized sports and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms, very few boys or girls in the study had ADHD,” Adesman said. “Thus, we don’t know if children with ADHD in this research study differed from their non-ADHD peers with respect to involvement with organized sports,” he said.

The findings were recently published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

More information

Learn more about how playing sports can benefit and challenge children with ADHD from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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Study: Kids’ hospitalizations accompany rising unemployment rates

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COVID-19 has led to widespread job loss in the United States. And now a new study reports that when unemployment rates rise, so do hospitalizations of children.

For the study, researchers analyzed 12 years of data — 2002 to 2014 — from 14 states. They found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there was a 2% increase in child hospitalizations for all causes, among them diabetes and poisonings.

Specifically, every 1% bump in unemployment was associated with a 5% increase in hospitalizations for substance abuse and a 4% jump for diabetes. The researchers also found a 2% increase for poisoning and burns, and a 2% rise for children with medical complexity — a high need for prescriptions, medical equipment or services.

For children with diabetes and other forms of medical complexity, reduced family income could mean they’re less likely to receive medical services. This could raise their risk of hospitalizations, the study authors suggested.

It’s also possible that poor housing conditions brought on by slimmer wallets could increase children’s risk of poisonings and burns. And higher household stress due to unemployment might increase alcohol and drug use.

Further research is needed to understand how to prevent declining health in children during economic downturns, said study author Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and his colleagues.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study was published in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.

The study relied on data from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on children’s health.

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Researchers confirm coronavirus can infect the eye

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COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory infection, but experts have suspected the virus can also infiltrate the eyes. Now, scientists have more direct evidence of it.

The findings are based on a patient in China who developed an acute glaucoma attack soon after recovering from COVID-19. Her doctors had to perform surgery to treat the condition, and tests of her eye tissue showed evidence of the coronavirus.

The case offers proof that “[the coronavirus] can also infect ocular tissues in addition to the respiratory system,” the doctors reported in the Oct. 8 online edition of the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

“It’s been suspected that the eyes can be a source of both ‘in’ and ‘out'” for the novel coronavirus, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

That’s why health care workers protect their eyes with goggles or face shields, he noted.

It’s not possible to say whether the patient in this case contracted the coronavirus via her eyes, according to Glatt. But that is a possibility — whether through viral particles in the air or by touching her eyes with a virus-contaminated hand, he said.

Another big unknown is whether any lingering virus in patients’ eye tissue will cause problems.

According to Dr. Grace Richter, an ophthalmologist at the University of Southern California’s Roski Eye Institute in Los Angeles, “It’s too early to know what having this virus floating around in the eye means for ocular health.”

At this point, Richter said, limited eye problems have been seen with COVID-19: A small number of patients develop conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” where the white part of the eye and inside of the eyelid become swollen, red and itchy.

The patient in this case suffered acute angle-closure glaucoma — a serious condition in which pressure in the eyes suddenly rises due to fluid buildup. It requires prompt treatment to relieve the pressure, sometimes with surgery to restore the eye’s normal fluid movement.

Richter was doubtful the coronavirus directly caused the eye complication. In general, certain anatomical features of the eye make some people vulnerable to acute angle-closure glaucoma, and it can be triggered by medications, she explained.

Richter speculated that since the patient was hospitalized and likely received various drugs, that might have been the cause.

That is possible, agreed Dr. Sonal Tuli, a clinical spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and chairwoman of ophthalmology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in Gainesville.

Tuli said the patient’s case is “interesting,” but leaves open a number of questions. One is whether the virus present in the eye tissue is actually infectious.

The patient was a 64-year-old woman who was hospitalized for COVID-19 on Jan. 31. Eighteen days later, her symptoms had fully resolved, and throat swabs turned up negative for the coronavirus.

About a week later, though, she developed pain and vision loss in one eye, and then in her other eye a few days afterward, according to the report by Dr. Ying Yan and colleagues at the General Hospital of the Central Theater Command in Wuhan, China.

The patient landed in the hospital again, where she was diagnosed with acute angle-closure glaucoma and cataract. Medication failed to bring down her eye pressure, so her doctors performed surgery — taking tissue samples in the process.

Tests of those samples turned up evidence that the coronavirus had invaded the eye tissues, Yan’s team reported.

While it’s not clear how the virus got into the patient’s eyes, the experts agreed the case underscores the importance of eye protection. For health care providers, that means goggles and face shields for the average person, it’s regular hand-washing and keeping the hands away from the eyes.

“I think people don’t realize how often they touch their eyes,” Tuli said.

That advice will reduce the chance of any virus, including cold and flu bugs, from coming into contact with the eyes, she noted.

While that may be enough in most cases, people caring for someone with COVID-19 at home may want to be extra cautious, Tuli suggested. Wearing eye protection in addition to a mask is a “good idea,” she said.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more on coronavirus and eye health.

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Study: Restricting promotions of sweet foods cuts sugar, not profits

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Limiting marketing of high-sugar foods in supermarkets doesn’t cut into store profits, but it may improve public health, Australian researchers report.

Price promotions, end-of-aisle displays and putting products at eye level can stimulate sales. Ending these practices reduced purchase of sugar-sweetened drinks and candy in participating stores by the equivalent to nearly two tons of sugar, the researchers said. These included foods and drinks with added sugars, as well as natural sugar in honey, syrups and fruit juices.

The reductions in soft drink and candy purchases were particularly large, researchers said. Even so, profits were not affected, they added.

The study, published Oct. 7 in The Lancet Planetary Health, ran for 12 weeks and focused on 20 randomly selected stores in rural Australia. Some stores restricted promotion of sugary foods, others did not.

“Our novel study is the first to show that limiting [promotional] activities can also have an effect on sales, in particular, of unhealthy food and drinks,” said researcher Julie Brimblecombe, an associate professor of nutrition, dietetics and food at Monash University in Melbourne.

“This strategy has important health implications and is an opportunity to improve diets and reduce associated non-communicable diseases. It also offers a way for supermarkets to position themselves as responsible retailers, which could potentially strengthen customers’ loyalty without damaging business performance,” she said in a journal news release.

The changes affected sugar-sweetened drinks, candy and other sweets, table sugar and sweet biscuits or cookies. Among other things, these restricted price promotions, removed end-of-aisle and counter displays, and reduced refrigerator space for sugary drinks while placing large-size soft drinks elsewhere. Stores also promoted water and listed the amount of sugar in soft drinks.

As a result, added sugars purchased in foods and drinks fell 3%. Sugars in purchased sugar-sweetened drinks were cut by 7%, and from soda purchases it dropped 13%. Sugars from candy sales fell 7.5%, the researchers found.

Co-author Emma McMahon, a research fellow at Menzies School of Health Research in Casuarina, Australia, said researchers expected the strategy would work best on impulse items like sweet biscuits rather than on staples like table sugar.

“A different strategy for biscuits and items like table sugar should be explored to stimulate change in those buying behaviors,” she said in the release.

More information

To learn more about sugar and your health, see Harvard University.

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