Should nursing mothers drink?
Advice on whether breast-feeding women should drink alcohol has so far been confusing and contradictory. An infant at the breast does take in a little bit of alcohol after the mother drinks, but as yet not much is known about how these mini-cocktails affect the baby. A recent study by Julie A. Mennella and Gary K. Beauchamp, at the Monell Chemical Sense Center in Philadelphia, shows that drinking changes the smell of mother's milk and that a baby takes in less milk when nursing after the mother drinks.
This news tends to raise many questions. Is it the different smell and taste of the milk that changes the way the baby nurses? Is it some effect that alcohol may have on the baby's nervous system? Or does alcohol alter the mother's milk production?
Janine Jason, a physician for the Centers for Disease Control, writes in an editorial accompanying the Monell study that whatever the long-term effects of alcohol in breast milk, they are probably less significant than the effects of heavy drinking on a mother's ability to parent. In short, the experts are still far from drawing any real conclusions. Meanwhile, most physicians think it's all right for a breast-feeding mother to have an occasional drink.
Guarding against giardia:
Even under the best supervision, children in day care are bound to share more than toys. One of the most common diseases being passed around these days is diarrhea caused by the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia. Unfortunately, new research indicates that finding an effective and economical solution to cleaning up child-care centers will pose a serious challenge.
A team of scientists from Johns Hopkins University and from public health agencies in Arizona recently studied the problem at 31 day-care centers. They evaluated the effectiveness of a variety of strategies, the strictest of which included educating the center staff about Giardia, testing children and staff for the parasite, prescribing treatment for all infected individuals with or without symptoms, and barring them from day care until the treatment was complete.
The stricter measures cost more in medical expenses, in missed child-care, and in parents' work days, but the really bad news is that these measures didn't result in better control of the dread Giardia.
The best thing to do, then, is to prepare yourself in the event that you or your child does get sick. Symptoms, which include bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, fatigue, weight loss, lactose intolerance and constipation, can last as long as two weeks and may recur repeatedly. If you or your child fit the profile, ask your doctor for a full stool-specimen test to be sure.
Smoke signals of depression:
Depression can be treated, but the doctor has to recognize it first. One clue to this sometimes tricky diagnosis could be a smoking habit, according to a University of Oklahoma family practitioner. Using questionnaires and psychological screening, Michael L. Parchman found that people who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to be depressed. Dr. Parchman ruled out the possibility that other characteristics shared by his smokers, such as marital status, age or education, could be the responsible factors.
Why more smokers than non-smokers tend toward depression isn't clear. There may be a process of self-selection; people in search of an emotional lift are often drawn to nicotine's stimulant effects. It's also possible that some smoking habits produce a chronic nicotine withdrawal that brings on the blues -- in other words, smoking could cause the psychological disorder.
In any case, it's absurd to suspect every smoker of a serious emotional problem. But if you have reason to think that you or someone else is suffering from depression, smoking could provide the doctor with an additional clue.