Thursday, January 30, 2014

Drinking during pregnancy 'worse than smoking tobacco or cannabis' and 7,000 babies a year are harmed, warn senior medics

This is not a well-supported judgment.  See  here and here.  There are even findings that mothers who drink moderately  have healthier babies.  The data on which the mavens below base their judgments will almost certainly be epidemiological and class-confounded

Drinking during pregnancy causes more harm to the unborn child than tobacco smoke or cannabis, according to senior doctors.

They want Government guidelines to be changed to tell women to avoid alcohol altogether rather than once or twice a week.

Paediatricians - who specialise in the care of children - say as many as 1 per cent of babies born in England suffer behavioural or developmental problems due to alcohol exposure.

There are 730,000 births in this country a year meaning as many as 7,000 could be affected.

One consultant said that if women must have one bad habit while pregnant, it would be safer to smoke tobacco or cannabis than drink alcohol.

Dr Neil Aiton, a paediatrician at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘If it is a choice between a drink, a smoke or a spliff then ‘don’t drink’, would be my recommendation.

‘We have firm evidence that drinking alcohol regularly is damaging.  ‘Cigarettes cause babies to be born a bit on the smaller side.

‘There is other evidence but it is minor compared to the long-term neurological and psychological damage that alcohol causes to the nervous system.’

Doctors are calling for government advice to be changed to state that women should not drink alcohol at all either while pregnant or trying to conceive.

The current guidelines state that women should avoid it - but if they do choose to drink to limit it to one or two units a week.

But there are concerns this is misinterpreted by women who assume they can safely have one or two glasses of wine once or twice a week.

A large 250ml glass of wine contains about three units of alcohol and doctors say that women are unwittingly putting their foetuses at risk.

Baroness Sheila Hollins, head of the British Medical Association Board of Science, said: ‘That is quite difficult advice to follow. People don’t know what a unit is.

'The BMA’s advice would be that the elimination of drinking during pregnancy is safest because of the uncertainties of drinking at low to moderate levels.’

The chief medical officer for England Professor Dame Sallie Davies is currently reviewing the guidelines and may change them later this year.

Dr Raja Mukherjee runs for a clinic children and adults with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), a range of symptoms caused by alcohol damage in the womb, which is part of the NHS
She says that although many children are diagnosed as having foetal alcohol syndrome - which has clear physical characteristics - foetal alcohol spectrum disorders are rarely picked up.

Her clinic estimates that between 1 per and 3 per of the population is affected by FASDs but many grow up unaware of the cause of their condition.



Want to avoid the office cold? DITCH the Vitamin C: Washing hands and taking zinc is better at preventing infection

If you are suffering from a cold, read this before reaching for the orange juice.

Consuming vitamin C does little to help your symptoms, a new study suggests.

It found that washing your hands is one of the best defences against the common cold - while zinc tablets can also prevent it.

But they dismiss vitamin C supplements as having no effect.

The new review -  looking at medical and non-medical remedies to prevent and treat the common cold - also shows natural remedies often suggested for winter bugs have little evidence supporting them.

Ginseng, gargling, vapour rubs and homeopathy have ‘unclear’ benefits, according to a review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Antibiotics were also ineffective, because they only work on bacteria when colds are caused by viral infections.

The common cold strikes 930,000 Britons, on average, on any day in winter, with more than 200 viruses to blame.

Adults can expect to suffer between two and five colds a year, although they don’t always lead to symptoms.

Symptoms such as sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, cough and malaise are usually worse for the first three days but can last up to three weeks.

A new review by Dr Michael Allan, of the University of Alberta in Canada, and Dr Bruce Arroll, of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, concludes that clean hands, along with alcohol rubs and gloves, is the best prevention based on findings from 67 trials.

Zinc supplements of 10 or 15mg a day works for children, resulting in lower rates of colds and less time off school caused by colds, they say.

The doctors believe the evidence suggests adults would also benefit from taking zinc.

Researchers also found paracetamol, ibuprofen and perhaps antihistamine-decongestant combinations are among best treatments for a cold.

Ipratropium, a drug used to treat allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, may alleviate a runny nose when used in a nasal spray but has no effect on congestion.

Cough medicines show no benefit in children, but may offer slight benefit in adults, while honey has a slight effect in relieving cough symptoms in children over the age of one.

The long-held belief that vitamin C assists in preventing and treating colds,  largely comes from research studies of poor quality and inconsistent results, says the review.

Dr Allan said ‘Much more evidence now exists in this area, but many uncertainties remain regarding interventions to prevent and treat the common cold.

‘We focused on randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of trials for therapy, but few of the studies had a low risk of bias.

‘However, many of the results were inconsistent and had small effects - for example, vitamin C - which arouses suspicion that any noted benefit may represent bias rather than a true effect.’


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