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Holidays Add Stress to Children Who Stutter

December 16, 1986|ALLAN PARACHINI | Times Staff Writer

Count stutterers among the various groups of people for whom the Christmas season can be a time of tension and emotional trauma.

According to the Speech Foundation of America, while strong scientific information is still sparse on the question, a growing number of speech experts believe the holiday time increases emotional pressures on people--children, in particular--who stutter. The tension can begin with something as innocent as a visit to a department store Santa Claus.

If Santa tries to rush a child along--or finish sentences for him or her--what began as an innocent pleasure of childhood can deteriorate quickly and stuttering can begin or worsen. Parents can help, the foundation said, by making a point of paying as much attention as possible to a stuttering child during the holidays.

"The bottom line is to reduce the chances for sharp emotions like stress, anxiety and excitement," the foundation advised.

You probably already know that trusty, old reliable aspirin has among its less than desirable properties the possibility of fatal overdose. So perhaps you switched to acetaminophen (Tylenol, Datril and others) in part to avoid the risk.

Or maybe you welcomed the news when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration two years ago approved the arthritis pain reliever ibuprofen for sale over-the-counter (as Advil or Nuprin), having heard, among other things, there was no overdose problem.

But two recent reports underscore that, in pharmacology, nothing is completely safe. The inviolate rule of drug use remains: Take no drug in any amount greater than you actually need, for any longer than you must.

Acetaminophen is generally thought to be a complication-free pain reliever, but in the last year or so there have been several reports of fatal acetaminophen overdoses in which people have swallowed entire bottles of the drug--triggering irreversible liver damage within less than an hour.

Now, the Harvard Medical School Health letter reiterates a warning that taking even routine doses of acetaminophen may be dangerous for heavy drinkers since the drug-and-alcohol combination may have a potentially catastrophic effect at routine dosage levels safe for nondrinkers.

More surprising, perhaps, though, is a report from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver calling into question assumptions about over-the-counter ibuprofen, which until now has been viewed as essentially danger-free.

The Denver center, in a report in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine, has tallied 126 cases of apparent ibuprofen overdose resulting in seizures, slower than normal heartbeat, nausea, blurred vision, temporary cessation of breathing and kidney malfunction. All of the symptoms began within four hours of taking doses of ibuprofen greater than recommended by the manufacturer.

While deaths were reported in three cases, most were comparatively mild, but the poison center advised renewed caution about ibuprofen. Overdose levels necessary to bring on symptoms in adults were more unpredictable than in children. In adults, some comparatively small overdoses are enough to cause kidney failure.

Tobacco addicts are continuing to kick their habits nationwide, but there continue to be striking regional patterns in the proportion of people smoking and the rate at which they are attempting to quit.

The Centers for Disease Control focused on smoking trends in 22 states that are participating in a new government program that gathers periodic survey data on behavioral health risk factors. Most surprising: Georgia recorded an increase in the proportion of people who smoke between the 1981-to-1983 period and 1985, with 5% more Georgians saying they used tobacco--bringing the state's rate to 38%.

Nationwide, tobacco use went down 5.6%, to 28.6% overall. The California smoking rate dropped 4.6% to 26.3%; New York's dropped 1.6% to 32.7%; Florida's declined 6.8% to 26.9%, and Ohio's fell 4%, to 31.9%.

Just over 42% of California smokers reported they had quit for more than a week in 1985, along with 54% in the District of Columbia, 33.1% in Illinois and 44.4% in Arizona for a 42.3% national quit rate.

The proportion of women who smoke--increases in some age groups of which have concerned public health officials for several years--dropped nationwide by 3.2%, to 24.9%. Women smokers tried to quit at a rate of 39.8%.

DOCTOR'S LEXICON--In an era in which coronary artery bypass surgery and related techniques have become a huge medical industry, the word being bandied about by physicians is patent. It looks like it's the familiar term associated with protecting manufacturing rights to a product, but this word is pronounced "PATE-ent." It is synonymous with open and it is used to express the degree to which any vessel, artery or passageway in the body is open and able to function normally.

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