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Health Capsules: May 2

New guidelines for pediatricians put them on the front lines of screening for depression in their teenage patients.

New depression screening guidelines issued for teens

To combat the growing problem of teen depression – which now is estimated to affect one in five young people during their adolescent years – the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] recently updated its medical guidelines to more directly involve pediatricians in its diagnosis and treatment. The new “Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care” state that pediatricians and other primary medical providers are a key first line of care in recognizing and treating depression in teenagers. This is the first update to the guidelines in 10 years.

For the first time, the new guidelines call for universal depression screening for adolescents age 12 and older. They also recommend that pediatricians spend time alone with young patients during well visits, sports physicals or other regular office visits at least once per year, to enable them to ask questions privately concerning teens’ mental health.

The guidelines distinguish between between mild, moderate and severe forms of Major Depressive Disorder and provide direction for physicians on when to consult with mental health care providers. The new recommendations also call for families with a depressed teen to develop a safety plan restricting the young person’s access to lethal means of harm, such as firearms, in the home. Adolescent suicide risk is strongly associated with firearm availability, according to a previous AAP report.

“A lot of parents go to their pediatrician for the scraped knees and sore throats but don’t think of them when it comes to seeking help for emotional and behavioral issues …[but] the earlier we identify teenagers who show signs of depression, the better the outcome,” said Rachel Zuckerbrot, M.D., FAAP, a lead author of the guidelines.

New research suggests that a universal cure for allergies of all types may soon be possible.

Universal ‘cure’ for allergies could be a step closer

Spring is – at long last – underway in the St. Louis area, along with National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, which takes place in May of each year. As welcome as the delayed change of seasons may be, it will also undoubtedly set off an annual cycle of allergies to everything from tree pollen to mold in area residents.

But help may be on the horizon. A team of European researchers say they have recently uncovered a mechanism to totally inactivate the body’s allergic response. This breakthrough, they claim, brings science one step closer to developing a universal treatment to prevent allergies in humans.

When an allergen enters the body of an allergic person, it causes that person’s immune system to call upon a protective antibody called immunoglobulin E [IgE] to fight the invading substance. Although everyone has some IgE, an allergic person has an unusually large number of these IgE defenders. The IgE antibodies bind to special cells called mast cells, which in turn releases histamines into the tissues and blood – causing a cascade of allergic reactions, from hay fever to asthma and more.

In the new study, scientists used substances called anti-IgE antibodies to prevent the allergen-induced IgE molecules from binding with mast cells in the first place, blocking histamine production. Using cells from patients with birch pollen and insect venom allergies, they were able to stop allergic reactions in the cells in as little as 15 minutes. Disrupting this process can effectively stop all allergic symptoms from appearing, no matter how much of an allergen is present, they said.

“Once the IgE on immune cells can be eliminated, it doesn’t matter that the body produces millions of allergen-specific IgE molecules,” said lead researcher Edzard Spillner, of the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University. “When we can remove the trigger, the allergic reaction and symptoms will not occur.”

Although any commercial use of the antibody in allergy therapy is still several years away, the long-term implications of their research look extremely promising in the development of new and potentially universal allergy treatments, Spillner said.

On the calendar

BJC offers Know Your Numbers health screenings on Friday, May 11 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon. This community health screening for adults will include lung function check; blood pressure check; cholesterol lipid panel and glucose measurements; body composition analysis, and body mass index [BMI]. Participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening. All screenings are free, but advance registration is required. Appointments can be made online at www.bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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An American Red Cross community blood drive is on Wednesday, May 16 from 3-7 p.m. at the Cottleville Fire Protection District, 5701 Hwy. N in Cottleville. Appointments are not required, but may speed the donation process. Register for an appointment time online at www.redcrossblood.org or by phone at (800) 733-2767.

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A Babysitting 101 course for children and teens is offered on Saturday, May 19 from 1-5 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 6 Jungermann Circle in St. Peters, in the Healthwise Center Conference Room. Topics include the business of babysitting, child development, safety and first aid, and fun and games. A workbook, backpack and light snack are provided. The course fee is $30 per child. Advance registration is required by visiting www.stlouischildrens.org/classes-events.

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BJC Hosts A Day of Play on Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon. This family-focused event will feature activities, information and fun for all ages, including bounce houses, edible art, rescue trucks and free health screenings. Admission is free.

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