News roundup


Should you save your infant's umbilical cord blood? Parents say yes, doctors say it's not necessary

Umbilical cord blood, the source of those wondrous stem cells that can self-replicate and take on the properties of specialized cells within the human body, is the new health insurance policy for children of well-to-do parents.

A dozen cancers, half a dozen diseases caused by bone marrow failure and some metabolic disorders are treatable with a stem cell transplant. So parents who can afford the cost-roughly $1,800 to process and store cord blood for the first year and about $100 a year thereafter-are freezing their infant's cord blood in the hope it could one day save the life of the child or a sibling.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not encourage the practice, however. Too many questions remain unanswered. It's not clear a child would need a stem cell transplant or how long cord blood can be stored. Finally, the small quantity of cord blood means it probably would help only children weighing less than 100 pounds.

Ear infections: heal thyselves Hoping to stem the rise in antibiotic-resistant germs, physicians are on the verge of a startling new approach to treating most children's ear infections: Letting the infection heal itself.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice are formalizing guidelines telling members to stop prescribing antibiotics to fight minor ear infections. Under the proposed guidelines children with serious middle ear infections accompanied by severe pain and a fever of 102.6 degrees or more, still would be treated with antibiotics.

Less severe ear infections generally clear up on their own in two to seven days, the doctors' groups say.

Bill aims at camp counselors All camp counselors and camp volunteers in Illinois would have to submit to a finger print background check before working with children under a bill pending in the General Assembly.

The Children's Camp Counselor Background Investigation Act, sponsored by Rep. John A. Fritchey (D-Chicago), is aimed at determining whether counselors and volunteers have ever been charged with a crime. If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2005.

The downsides: It would reveal only whether an applicant has been convicted of a crime previously, not whether that person is a pedophile, and the cost of the background check, estimated at about $40, would be passed along to campers. Medill News Service and Chicago Parent staff


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