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Study: Kids with food allergies, and their parents, become targets for bullies

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As if having food allergies isn’t hard enough on a child, new research shows that almost 1 in 5 of these kids are bullied.

The bullying didn’t stop at the schoolyard. A similar percentage of parents said they had been teased about their concern for their child’s food allergies.

“I think this is an underreported problem because a lot of kids don’t report being bullied. I think bullying is something that allergists should start screening kids for,” said study author Dannielle Brown, a second-year medical student at Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago.

Senior author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said the problem may stem from a lack of awareness.

“Food is a part of everything kids do. It’s often hard for kids to understand that food can be life-threatening,” Gupta said. “Students hear the word allergy and think, ‘It’s like how I’m allergic to cats and get sniffles and sneeze after being with a cat.’ They may think it’s not a big deal.”

But food allergies are a big deal, and the support of peers is very important for keeping kids safe, Gupta explained. “When peers aren’t supportive, kids with food allergies engage in more risk-taking behaviors [like not checking food ingredients],” she said.

The new study included 252 kids from age 4 to 17. Slightly more than one-quarter of the group was Black; the rest were White. Their parents completed surveys about bullying and food allergies.

About one-third of kids over 11 reported being bullied due to their food allergy. Just over 13% of youngsters aged 4 to 11 said they had been bullied due to food allergies.

When the researchers looked at the rates of bullying by race, they found that Black children with food allergies were bullied for their food allergies at similar rates. However, Black children were twice as likely to be bullied for non-food allergy-related reasons.

Kids weren’t often forthcoming about being bullied. Only about 14% had told parents they’d been bullied.

The good news is that when parents knew about bullying and stepped in, they were successful about half the time. Speaking with a teacher or someone in the school administration were the options parents turned to most often for their child.

For parents who reported being teased about their child’s food allergy, it was often by the parent of another child or a friend.

Both Brown and Gupta said the findings point to a need for more education and awareness about how serious food allergies can be.

People often think that food allergies aren’t severe and that there’s a simple medication that people can take. But food allergies aren’t like other allergies, Gupta stressed.

Someone having a reaction to food might have typical allergy symptoms, like hives, but they can also have trouble breathing and need to go to the hospital. They’ll also need to have a shot of the drug epinephrine to counteract the allergic reaction.

“Other parents may not understand because food allergies weren’t as prevalent when they were growing up. It’s important to be willing to learn from one another. People need to treat each other with kindness and respect, and not be so quick to react and respond,” Brown suggested.

Gupta said parents can also empower their child through role-playing. For example, many kids with food allergies need to sit at a designated allergy-free table at lunch. Bullies may see this as an opportunity to tease.

“Go through some common scenarios your child might encounter, and help them practice what to say,” she said. That way, if something does happen, your child will already know how he or she wants to respond.

Dr. Irene Mikhail, a pediatric allergist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, looked over the study and said she hasn’t had many patients tell her they’ve been bullied — but “kids might not want to talk about bullying with me or with their parents in the room.”

Mikhail also thought that a lack of understanding or experience with food allergies is a big issue. “When I was a kid, no one had food allergies, but there has been a legitimate increase in the rate of food allergies over the last 30 years,” she said.

Another issue is that people misuse the term food allergy for other, less serious conditions like a food intolerance. “We really want to only classify a food allergy as an allergy so that people in the community don’t become complacent about food allergies.”

Mikhail also recommends role-playing with kids. “Empower kids with what they can say. If they sense confidence, a bully might not act. If kids are being bullied, they should get help from adults around them,” she suggested.

The researchers will present their findings Friday at a virtual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Learn more about food allergies and bullying from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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‘Green prescriptions’ could cancel mental health benefits for some

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So-called “green prescriptions” may end up being counterproductive for people with mental health conditions, researchers say.

Spending time in nature is believed to benefit mental health, so some doctors are beginning to “prescribe” outdoor time for their patients.

That led researchers to investigate whether being in nature helps actually does help people with issues such as anxiety and depression. They collected data from more than 18,000 people in 18 countries.

The takeaway: Time in nature does provide several benefits for people with mental health conditions, but only if they choose on their own to visit green spaces.

While being advised to spend time outdoors can encourage such activity, it can also undermine the potential emotional benefits, according to the authors of the study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that people with depression were spending time in nature as often as folks with no mental health issues, and that people with anxiety were doing so much more often.

While in nature, those with depression and anxiety tended to feel happy and reported low anxiety. But those benefits appeared to be undermined when the visits were done at others’ urging, the investigators found.

The more external pressure people with depression and anxiety felt to visit nature, the less motivated they were to do so and the more anxious they felt.

“These findings are consistent with wider research that suggests that urban natural environments provide spaces for people to relax and recover from stress,” said study leader Michelle Tester-Jones, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

But the findings also show that health care practitioners and loved ones should be sensitive about recommending time in nature for people who have mental health issues.

“It could be helpful to encourage them to spend more time in places that people already enjoy visiting, so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience,” Tester-Jones said in a university news release.

More information

For more on the benefits of green spaces, go to the National Recreation and Park Association.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: Nearly half of ‘essential workers’ in U.S. at risk for severe COVID-19

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — Nearly half of those classified as “essential workers” in the United States are at increased risk for severe COVID-19, according to an analysis published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine.

This means that more than 74 million workers and those with whom they live could be at risk for serious illness, based on disease risk guidelines developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers said.

“Many parts of the country face high and rising infection rates, [and] we should not think about work exposure and health risks in isolation, given that workers and persons at increased risk often live in the same households,” study co-author Thomas M. Selden told UPI.

“Insofar as we can reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, we can reduce the extent to which policymakers have to choose between the economy and keeping the population safe,” said Selden, an economist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States in March, states and cities across the country have instituted lockdown measures designed to limit the spread of the disease.

Many of these measures entailed closing schools and non-essential businesses, with only banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed to provide vital services allowed to stay open.

For this study, Selden and his colleagues analyzed data on the U.S. workforce to examine how many people were in essential jobs, how often they were able to work at home, their risk for severe COVID-19 and the potential health risks for their household members.

Of the more than 157 million workers across the country, 72% are in jobs deemed essential — based on U.S. Department of Homeland Security criteria — and more than three-fourths of all essential workers are unable to work at home, Selden said.

Essential workers include those in the medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics and energy, water and wastewater industries, as well as those in law enforcement and public works, the DHS criteria stipulates.

The study notes that up to 60% of these workers have underlying health issues, placing them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 if they get infected, as defined by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Those with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and chronic respiratory conditions like asthma are considered to be at high risk for serious illness, the CDC says.

Based on these findings, between roughly 57 million and 74 million adults working in on-site essential jobs — and their families — are at increased risk for serious illness, Selden and his colleagues estimated.

“Policymakers face important decisions about how to balance the economic benefits of keeping workers employed and the public health benefits of protecting those with increased risk of severe COVID-19,” Selden said.

“These issues arise in the context of decisions to close segments of the economy and decisions about how to distribute vaccines, which will initially be available only with limited supply, [and] become all the more difficult when the prevalence of infection rises in parts of the country,” he said.



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Study: Hydroxychloroquine no better than placebo for hospitalized COVID-19 patients

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine showed no signs of significant improvement in “clinical status” compared with those given a placebo, a study published Monday by JAMA found.

Patients given a five-day course of the drug were scored as “category six” based on the World Health Organization’s seven-category COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, the same as those given a placebo, the researchers said.

Also, 28 days after they started treatment, 10.4% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died, just slightly lower than the 10.6% fatality rate in the placebo group.

“The results show that hydroxychloroquine did not help patients recover from COVID-19,” study co-author Dr. Wesley H. Self told UPI.

“In the study, patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and those treated with a placebo had nearly identical outcomes, [so] I do not foresee any role for hydroxychloroquine in acutely ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” said Self, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Hydroxychloroquine is an immunosuppressive and anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat malaria.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was touted by President Donald Trump and others as a potential treatment for the virus, despite the lack of any scientific data supporting its use.

Given its effectiveness helping those sickened with malaria — a mosquito-borne infection — to recover, “there was a strong rationale for why hydroxychloroquine may have been beneficial for patients with COVID-19,” according to Self.

However, in July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against the drug’s use in the treatment of those infected with the new coronavirus, due to potentially serious heart-related side effects.

For this study, Self and his colleagues treated 433 COVID-19 patients at 34 hospitals across the United States with either the drug or a placebo for a period of five days.

Patients assigned to the hydroxychloroquine group received 400 milligrams of the drug in pill form twice a day for the first two doses and then 200 mg. in pill form twice a day for the next eight doses, for a total of 10 doses over the five days.

All of the patients were then assessed based on the WHO’s COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, which categorizes those infected according to disease severity.

Most of the patients in both the hydroxycholorquine group and the placebo group were in “category six,” meaning they were hospitalized and receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or invasive mechanical ventilation to maintain their breathing, the researchers said.

“Our results, especially when combined from other studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, are good evidence that hydroxychloroquine does not provide benefit for patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” Self said.



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