Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Allergic Children Able to Build-Up Tolerance to Peanuts: Study

British scientists say they've successfully built up tolerance in children with severe peanut allergies.

The study included four children who were given small daily doses of peanut flour mixed into yogurt. Over six months, the doses were increased to the equivalent of five whole peanuts. By the end of the trial, the children could eat at least 10 peanuts without suffering any allergic reaction, Agence France Presse reported.

The findings appear in the journal Allergy.

The researchers at Addenbroke's Hospital in Cambridge are continuing the trial, which now includes 20 children ages seven to 17. Some of them can now eat 12 peanuts a day, AFP reported.

"At the moment we know that if they continue to eat five peanuts a day, their tolerance is maintained. If they were to stop, then there is some evidence that tolerance would be lost and they may have a reaction," said research leader Andrew Clark, a consultant in pediatric allergy.

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Unhealthy Lifestyle Boosts Stroke Risk

The risk of stroke is more than doubled by an unhealthy lifestyle that includes smoking, drinking too much alcohol, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits, according to a British study that included 20,000 adults, ages 40 to 79.

The participants were given one point for each of the following healthy habits: not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption to one to 14 units per week, consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and being physically active. More women than men achieved the maximum four points, BBC News reported.

Participants who scored zero points were 2.3 times more likely to have a stroke in the 11 years of follow-up than those who scored four points. For every point decrease in participants' scores, there was an increased risk of stroke, according to the study, published in the British Medical Journal.

Fifteen (5.8 percent) of the 259 people who didn't score any points suffered a stroke, compared to 186 (2.4 percent) of the 7,822 who achieved a score of three, and 1.7 percent of the 5,000 who had a score of four, BBC News reported.

"Together with the substantial existing body of evidence about modifiable behaviors and stroke risk, this may provide further encouragement to make entirely feasible changes which have the potential to have a major impact on stroke," said study leader Dr. Phyo Myint of the University of East Anglia.

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Sensory Changes Ease Children's Dental Visit Anxiety

Playing soothing music, altering the lighting, and other sensory changes can help ease children's anxiety during a dental appointment, suggests an Israeli study that included 35 youngsters, ages six to 11. Their anxiety levels were monitored during two routine cleaning visits.

The first was a normal visit, with fluorescent lighting and an overhead dental lamp. For the second visit, the researchers removed the overhead lighting, added a slow moving, repetitive color lamp, and the dental hygienist wore an LED headlamp that shone into the child' mouth, CBC News reported.

In addition, the dental chair was modified to vibrate, the children listened to soothing music and they wore a heavy vest designed to feel like a hug.

The changes reduced children's anxious behavior from an average of 3.69 minutes to 1.48 minutes. The reduction was even greater among children with developmental disabilities -- from 23.44 minutes to 9.04 minutes, CBC News reported.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

Posted: February 2009


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