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Parents Need to Know is a newsletter written by Craig Collison, MD, pediatrician with Mount Nittany Physician Group.
The importance of testing for depression in childhood

It has been long thought that children are too developmentally immature to exhibit depressive symptoms. If fact, until 1980, depression wasn't even recognized as a childhood disease. However, a new study suggests that even very young children can suffer clinical depression. Scientific studies have demonstrated that depression can surface in the preschool years, estimating that 1 to 3 percent of children between the ages of two and five have depression.

Although sadness and irritability are observed in preschoolers with depression, the most common symptoms include excessive guilt, failure to enjoy play, changes in sleep and appetite, and a decrease in activity level. A depressed preschooler, unlike a depressed adult, may not appear obviously sad or withdrawn and may have periods of normal functioning or lighter moods throughout the day, making it difficult to diagnose. Depression in children may also exhibit as irritability, moodiness, shyness and boredom.

It is not uncommon for parents to be unaware of how depressed their child is, however, if you suspect your child may be suffering from depression, a pediatrician, child psychiatrist or psychologist can help to diagnose him. Treatment options will depend on the development of the child and severity of symptoms, although play therapy is usually used at this age level. Though research does not support the use of antidepressants in children this young, medication of preschoolers, often off-label, is on the rise.



The number of severely obese children continues to rise
  childhood obesity  

A new study by North Carolina researchers suggests that severe obesity in children has increased over the past 14 years, especially in school-age girls and teenage boys. It is now estimated that one-third of children and adolescents are obese or overweight.

Obese youth are at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Obese adolescents are especially at risk for prediabetes, while children and adolescents who are obese are at a greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems.

Long-term, youth who are obese are more likely to remain obese into adulthood and are at a greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, cervix, prostate, as well as myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

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Head lice is growing resistant to standard medications

Head lice is a growing concern in communities across the U.S. with more than 10 percent of children missing school due to contracting lice. Of greater concern is that most head lice found in North America carry a gene mutation, making them resistant to standard over-the-counter treatments containing the active ingredient, pyrethroid.

After years of using this treatment option, the bug has mutated to be able to resist it. Researchers estimate that close to 100 percent of lice in the U.S. and Canada have the mutated gene. Europe and South America stopped using pyrethroid years ago, due to the same problem.

However, over the last three years, about five new compounds entered the market. These drugs are actually easier to use, because they require one application, whereas the others had to be applied multiple times. The new medications cannot be found over-the-counter, though. If you or your children contract lice, ask your physician for a prescription for one of the new formulas.

To prevent head lice, do not share hats, headbands, hair accessories, pillows and combs and avoid head-to-head contact with anyone being treated for lice.



Are iPads OK for babies?

The use of screens with children is controversial. While the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages TV-viewing for those under age two, the pediatrician who helped to author those guidelines, written three years ago, recently authored a piece in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting that iPads and other tablets that engage a baby may be as mentally stimulating as toys.

There is no doubt that tablets can be educational. Studies have shown that apps have helped to improve reading and math skills. In fact, a recent study of the use of a PBS app by 3- to 7-year-olds showed that the app helped to boost the children’s vocabularies by as much as 31 percent. Another study of 3-year-olds showed a 17 percent gain in their vocabulary. There is also evidence that apps have helped to boost language use and social interaction in children with cognitive delays.

Although interactive games on a tablet are very different than passive TV-viewing, the latter which could have possible detrimental effects on cognition or be overstimulating and potentially harmful, caution should still be exercised with the use of tablets in children under two and TV should still be avoided entirely. However, 30-60 minutes a day of interactive screen time on a tablet may actually be beneficial.



Understanding the signs of child abuse, and how to talk with your children
Written by Kristina Taylor-Porter, MA, executive director, Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County, Mount Nittany Health
  blue ribbon  

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, and with national statistics of one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, the likelihood of knowing a child or adult who has been victimized is high.

As adults, it's our obligation to recognize the potential signs of abuse and take an active role in preventing, responding and reporting our suspicion of abuse. Oftentimes, there are no physical signs of abuse; however, the most recognizable signs are changes in the child.

Some signs of abuse may include but are not limited to:

  • Unexplained injuries, which may include cuts, burns, and/or bruises in a pattern or shape
  • The child may appear anxious, depressed, aggressive or withdrawn
  • The child may regress to earlier behaviors that may be exhibited by thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, etc.
  • Some children may express fear of going to the place in which the abuse may be occurring such as home, school, church, etc.
  • The child's sleep patterns may change and the child may report frequent nightmares. Often, adults notice a more fatigued or tired child
  • The child's performance and attendance at school may be affected
  • The child may exhibit poor personal care or hygiene
  • Some children may display inappropriate sexual behaviors

Sometimes, children are very reluctant to disclose their abuse for many reasons, and as adults, we may struggle with ways to talk with our children about abuse. But it’s important to start when they are young.

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Recent product recalls

Here are recent product recalls announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. For the most up-to-date recall information, please visit and click on the Recalls tab from the homepage.

Name of product: Ikea Children’s Bed Canopies

Hazard: An infant or young child can get entangled at the neck in the canopy’s fabric, posing a strangulation hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: There have been nine reports worldwide of children getting entangled in the bed canopies, including one in the U.S. involving a 7-month-old girl who pulled the canopy’s fabric into her crib and wrapped it around her neck several times.

Description: This recall involves IKEA children’s bed canopies. The canopies are made out of mesh fabric and hang from the ceiling onto a child’s crib or bed. They measure about 7 ft. long and about 2 ft. in diameter. The canopy’s name is printed on the washing instructions label sewn onto the bottom of the fabric.

Sold at: IKEA stores nationwide and online at from August 1996 through March 2014 for between $10 and $30.

Manufactured in: Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Vietnam

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled children’s bed canopies and return them to any IKEA store for a full refund.

Consumer contact: Call IKEA toll-free at 888.966.4532 anytime, or visit and click on the recall link at the top of the page for more information.

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