Health Briefs

Health Briefs

Health & Fitness

May 02, 2004

For strep throat, a better cure

For years, the common wisdom has been that a child's strep throat is best treated with penicillin. But a review of dozens of previous studies involving thousands of youngsters has found that newer antibiotics called cephalo-sporins are better than penicillin at curing kids' infections.

Oral cephalosporins, available since the 1970s, are safe for children and teens and can be taken in liquid and pill forms. Although they've been part of doctors' arsenals for decades, penicillin has been favored because doctors thought it was the only drug that might prevent kids' strep infections from causing rheumatic heart disease, a potentially deadly complication, said Dr. Janet Casey, who led the study review.

Casey, a pediatrician at the University of Rochester in New York, said she hoped the findings would prompt medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, to reconsider guidelines that recommend penicillin as the first-line treatment for strep throat. Such recommendations ignore the fact that penicillin has a documented failure rate of up to 42 percent, she said.

Jaundice screening for infants

As hospital maternity stays have grown shorter in recent years, many babies have suffered no ill consequences from being released with their mothers 24 to 48 hours after delivery. However, about 5 percent of infants develop jaundice -- a condition that usually doesn't show up until several days after birth and requires hospital readmission.

Now some pediatricians are urging changes in the diagnosis and treatment of jaundice in infants. New studies suggest an increasing number of cases of a rare but serious neurological disorder caused by untreated jaundice. The disorder, kernicterus, can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy and hearing loss. Some doctors are pressing for a universal screening program to evaluate newborns for jaundice before they leave the hospital.

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