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Sanjay Gupta MD

Immunizations for College Students; Celebrity Healthy Eating Tips

Aired August 27, 2005 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Welcome to HOUSECALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Well, children across the country are heading back to school. But getting ready for class is about more than just buying new clothes and new notebooks.
Today on HOUSECALL, we're going to be looking how to get your child ready to battle the usual suspects, from colds and flus, to heavy backpacks and head lice, even anxiety. Let's get started with a look at the new generation immunizations for college students.

Christy Feig reports.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Gittleson is a freshman at the University of Maryland. He's got his schedule, his books. Now all he needs is a meningitis shot. The state of Maryland requires that all college students get the vaccine or sign a waiver. Alex knew little about the disease. And now he understands why it's important to get one.

ALEX GITTLESON, COLLEGE STUDENT: It's transmitted through sharing, whether it's drinks, cigarettes, etcetera.

FEIG: Menigitis has become a major concern for campus health apartments. Meningococcal meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, caused by bacteria and transmitted from person to person. As many as 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year. About 5 percent of those occur on college campuses in dorm settings.

It isn't that common, but when it strikes, it can be deadly.

JUDITH PERRY, DR., UNIV. OF MARYLAND: In 27 years here, I've had -- we've seen 11 total cases of meningitis throughout that entire time. But it's devastating.

FEIG: Most schools also recommend that students get a series of three Hepatitis B shots. According to the CDC, 80,000 people, mostly young adults, become infected yearly. Spread through sexual contact or needle sharing, Hepatitis B can become a chronic illness with serious complications.

PERRY: Of those people that are chronic carriers, about 10 percent of those are high at risk for later developing in life cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancers. FEIG: Personal physicians can also talk to parents and young people about the inoculations and how they are given.

I'm Christy Feig, reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Christy.

And joining us to talk more about immunizations and other back to school issues is Dr. Seema Czukas from the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

First of all, thank you very much for joining us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to the show. First of all, what is the biggest concern you think students have this year going back to school?

CSUKAS: The biggest concern, I think, which is not really a new concern, is kids are going back to school and you want kids to be healthy and you want them to do well in school. So I get a lot of questions about that.

GUPTA: Eating breakfast.

CSUKAS: Eating breakfast is a good way to start your day.

GUPTA: One small tip. Good for kids going back to school, to remember that. Lots of e-mails coming in this topic. Lots of parents concerned.

Let's launch right into our first e-mail, which is one of several received specifically about immunizations.

Tyler in San Marcos, Texas writes this. "I am a freshman in college and everyone keeps talking about getting a meningitis shot, but it is $90 and they say there has never been one case of it on campus. I was wondering if I really need to spend the money to get it, or if I can do without?"

Common question?

CSUKAS: Common question. And $90 does seem like a lot, but if you consider the risks and benefits of that, it's definitely well worth the expense.

Meningitis shot is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and lots of other groups. And basically, it's a vaccine that you can get to reduce your risk of getting Meningococcus disease.

GUPTA: Yes, it seems like a pretty rare thing, though. I don't remember hearing really about any cases when I was a college student. Has it become more common?

CSUKAS: Not necessarily more common, but, you know, there are about 3,000 case a year. And certainly college students are at higher risk, particularly those living in dormitories because you've got lots of kids living in a small space. And so kids who are college bound in dormitories probably have a five times higher risk of getting the disease than other college-bound students.

GUPTA: And because those dormitories are also at higher risk for getting everything else, too.


GUPTA: Flus and spreading all those viruses.

Let's keep going. Another e-mail now. Mary in Papillion, Nebraska asks this: "How do you stop the winter sniffles from turning into bronchitis or a sinus infection? What about using Vitamin C to prevent these illnesses in school-age children?"

You know, everyone's worried about that. You get the little sniffles, turns into a real cold. Can you stop that process?

CSUKAS: Probably not. Colds are very common. And there is not a cure for the cold. So it is a virus. And so there are antibiotics or other things you can use for that. You certainly want to help your child: Drink lots of fluids, lots of rest; vitamin C, perhaps. For some people they feel that it's the greatest thing in the world. Other people, maybe not so. So that's an individual opinion.

GUPTA: Any danger to children, giving Vitamin C?

CSUKAS: I don't think so.

GUPTA: You pretty much -- you get rid of what you don't use...


GUPTA: ... When it comes to Vitamin C.

All right, let's keep going here. We received several e-mails about when it's OK to send your child back to school after being sick.

Shawna in Atlanta asks this: "My daughter recently caught a cold. How can I tell when she is no longer contagious?"

CSUKAS: Typically, the most contagious thing is the runny nose. So if your child has a runny nose, if your child has fever, probably best not to have them in school.

But keep in mind, runny noses are very common. So you want to use tissues when you can. You want to make sure that if you don't have tissues available, you sneeze into your sleeve. And hand washing, can never wash your hands enough.

GUPTA: For children and adults alike. Always good advice. We're talking to Dr. Seema Czukas about all your e-mail questions. We've got of those coming up on HOUSECALL.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plus, some tips for buying a backpack that won't be a pain in the neck, or the back or the shoulders. And how you can help ease your child's back to school blues.

But first, take today's daily dose quiz. Which one of the following is not one of the top four causes of missed school? A, colds; B, stomach flu; C, head lice; D, strep throat; or E, Pink Eye. The answer right after the break.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking the daily dose quiz, we asked which one of the following is NOT one of the top four causes of missed school? A, colds; B, stomach flu; C, head lice; D, strep throat; or E, Pink Eye.

The answer C, head lice. Most missed school days are caused by the other four common illnesses.

GUPTA: All right. Well, welcome back to HOUSECALL. We're talking about back to school health. And head lice might not be one of the top four reasons kids miss school, but that problem still generated a lot of e-mails.

And we're joined again by a Dr. Seema Czukas from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to answer your e-mail questions. Let's get right into them.

Here's one about that topic from Edward in Burlington, New Jersey. He asks this. "Why does head lice always show up at the beginning of a school year?" Worst time.

CSUKAS: Head lice is actually fairly common. It's an insect that actually lives on humans. And it's passed by crawling from one human to the next.


CSUKAS: And when you think about the beginning of the school year, kids are close together, they're sharing coats, hats, combs, those kinds of things. And that's how it's passed.

GUPTA: Best advice for getting rid of them?

CSUKAS: It's a tough one. Certainly there are over the counter medications that are available, as well as prescription medicine. So you want to talk to your physician. Clothes, blankets, anything the child has used, wash them in hot water. Things that you can't wash in hot water, like stuffed animals, those kinds of things, either throw them in the dryer for a little while or put them in a plastic bag and seal them for two weeks.

GUPTA: Are the products that you see in the stores, are they safe for children?

CSUKAS: You do have to be careful about which product you use. And that's, I think, where your physician can help you.

GUPTA: All right, well, a lot of people paying attention to that. Head lice can cause anxiety in children and parents alike, but that's not the only thing that can cause serious back to school blues.

Christy Feig has more.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All summer, 9- year-old Jordan Johnson dreaded the first day of school. He's especially nervous about his teachers.

LAVONNIA JOHNSON, JORDAN'S GRANDMOTHER: He found out who the teachers were in the school, and what their reputation stood for at that school, he got more anxious.

FEIG: He was so nervous, his grandmother arranged for him to work with a counselor who Jordan says taught him to control his fear.

JORDAN JOHNSON, ANXIOUS ABOUT SCHOOL: School is nothing to worry about. We just come there to learn.

FEIG: Experts say anxiety about school is usually triggered by fear of the unknown.

DR> JAY SALPEKAR, CHILDREN'S NATIONAL MEDICAL CTR.: There are a lot of new challenges, new things they have to face, new friends, new classrooms.

FEIG: Although Jordan's anxiety may be extreme, a little bit of the back to school jitters is normal.

SALPEKAR: This become as problem when the nervousness prevents them from actually embarking on something new, when they don't enjoy things or aren't able to enjoy things that will be fun for them.


GUPTA: And the back to school jitters can be tough. Christy Feig's report looked at a 9-year-old, but we received a related e-mail about a younger child even.

Usha in Sterling, Virginia asks this question. "How do you reinforce self confidence in a 5-year old?"

Dr. Seema Czukas, you got any ideas about that? That's young.

CSUKAS: Very young, very good question. Certainly you want to find out what -- if there are any issues with the child. Ask questions. Meet the teacher. Make sure that the child has other friends that you can put them in touch with. And I think the biggest thing to instill confidence is celebrate their successes. When they learn to tie their shoe, when they learn how to recite the alphabet, colors, address and phone number, celebrate the successes. And that'll help build that confidence. GUPTA: And you take care of children obviously. You're a pediatrician. Most students, most kids I should say, have back to school jitters, don't they?

CSUKAS: Oh, yes. It's very common. It's a new environment, a new situation. Parents and students alike.

GUPTA: All right. Lots more e-mail questions. A lot more answers as well, coming up on HOUSECALL. Stay with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plus, picking the right backpack could save your child's back. And we'll check in with two kids who tried to improve their health on summer vacation.

But first, this week's medical headlines in "the pulse."


KELLY CALLAHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America's problem with obesity is growing. In a study released by the non- profit advocacy group Trust for America's Health, only one state, Oregon, didn't see a rise in obesity rates. Factors like biking to work may have kept the percentage of overweight Oregonians steady at 21 percent, slightly below the national average and much lower than other southern states where obesity is as high as 29 percent.

And a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that as many as a quarter of all NFL players fall into the same risky weight category as San Francisco 49ers player Thomas Herrion. An athlete with a body mass index so high, that health experts considered him morbidly obese when he collapsed and died following a football game this month.

The March 2005 study disputed by the NFL calls for more research into the health consequences of overweight athletes.

Kelly Callahan, CNN.



TIME STAMP: 0848:39

GUPTA: All right, welcome back to HOUSECALL. Could your child's backpack be bad for their health? Let's go to Christy Feig another time for more about the hazards of too packed backpacks.


DANA COX, CONCERNED MOTHER: JCPenney has backpacks...

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dana Cox, her daughter Heather, and her niece Ruby are hunting for the perfect backpack. Dana lets them pick their own, but worries about the load they carry. COX: They have their hard backed books, the notebooks. And my daughter's locker last year was so far away that she didn't go to it all day. She never used her locker. She kept everything she needed for the day in her backpack all day.

FEIG: This year, Heather's giving up fashion for comfort.

HEATHER COX, GAITHERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL: Last year I had a messenger bag. And it hurt my shoulder so much because I had so much stuff in it. That's why I have to get the regular ones now.

FEIG: Most kids choose shoulder backpacks. The rolling ones just aren't cool enough, according to Ruby. But doctors caution kids who wear them incorrectly may eventually have neck and spine problems.

DR. REBECCA DEMOREST, CHILDRENS NATIONAL MEDICAL CTR.: They tend to sort of lurch forward a little bit. And their head gets poked up. And if they're not keeping proper posture, it makes you suggest that at least, you know, some of the mechanics of their spine aren't being in the proper form, may potentially cause some back pain.

FEIG: Demorest recommends these backpack basics. Wear the straps on both shoulders, so the weight is evenly distributed. One shoulder backpack, wear it like Ruby with the strap across your body, not slung over your shoulder. Make it fit around the waist. Backpacks hanging too low causes upper shoulder stress. And don't over pack. Many experts say a child should not carry more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.


GUPTA: OK, Christy, thanks again.

Joining us again to help answer your e-mail questions specifically on back to school health, Dr. Seema Czukas. And doctor, do you run across a lot of problems with backpacks specifically?

CSUKAS: Yes, we get a lot of families coming in and the kids are complaining about neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain. So it comes up a lot.

GUPTA: You know, and when I was in college, again, used to wear it over just one shoulder. And they said obviously not to do that. What's the worse thing that you see from a backpack injury?

CSUKAS: I think limitations in being able to even move your arm because your shoulder hurts so badly that it's causing problems for the child.

GUPTA: All right. Well, let's move on to another e-mail question. This one specifically about environmental hazards for kids. Laura and her family from El Paso, Texas, write this. "Can you give us some advice or tips to protecting our kids during 'Ozone Action Days?'"

First of all, what are 'Ozone Action Days'? CSUKAS: Those are days when the air quality is at -- probably at its worse. And what you're seeing is pollution combining with the heat and the sunlight.

GUPTA: All right. And what tips do you have for them?

CSUKAS: Number one, find out what the air quality is in your community. And you can do that by television, radio, even the Internet.

The worst times are between about 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. So during those times, if you can, move activities indoors. A lot of kids, particularly ones with respiratory problems such as asthma will be even more sensitive. So knowing that situation, talk to your physician, talk to your child, make sure you know what to do in that situation. And let the teacher know as well.

GUPTA: OK. We are talking with Dr. Seema Czukas. Really good advice today about children going back to school. And more coming up on back to school health when HOUSECALL continues. Stay tuned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in our continuing series about childhood obesity, kids who are trying to change their lives by taking the plunge in more ways than one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared, but I'm going anyways!


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Well, it's time to get going in the fight against childhood obesity. We are committed to this here at CNN. Two weeks ago, we met some children who are going to a special camp to help them lose weight.

Elizabeth Cohen updates us on their first week at camp.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the next four weeks, Nathan hopes to lose 30 pounds at Wellspring Adventure Camp. It's a serious place. They search luggage for hidden food. They weigh out portions. Campers have mandatory morning walks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of our bodies are different.

COHEN: And counseling sessions four times a week.


COHEN: He's never been away from his family before.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, too.

COHEN: Shawna's another scholarship student here at Wellspring. We've also been following her in her quest to lose weight. She takes to camp immediately. Nathan does, too, at first. Everything seems great. But then comes the initiation ceremony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready to commit to become a tribling (ph) and stepping out of your comfort zone?


COHEN: For the next four weeks, these campers will be Nathan's family. It dawns on him that this is going to be far different from life at home with his own family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not always going to be easy.

COHEN: Nathan breaks down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's wrong? Do you need a hug?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he needs a hug.

COHEN: The next morning, he writes a letter to his mother, begging to come home.

NATHAN: The first night I got here, I cried for four hours. Can you please come on Monday, mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did everybody get their beads?

COHEN: Tiffany, his behavioral counselor, strikes a deal with Nathan.

TIFFANY: We'll give it a week, we'll see how it goes. I think he'll be okay.

COHEN: But a few hours later, Nathan decides even a week is too much. He wrote this letter to our producer. I decided to go home. It's not working out.

SHAWNA: I wrote my dad a long letter because I miss him, too.

COHEN: Shawna, too, misses her family, but she's ready to give these next four weeks her all.

SHAWNA: I'm scared but I'm going anyway!

COHEN: This month is her chance to lose 40 pounds. Right now, she weighs 239.

Elizabeth Cohen, Campton, North Carolina.


GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth, thanks. Really interesting stuff.

Eating right, of course, is a hot topic for children and their parents. And we're talking about that as well as all back to school stuff issues with Dr. Seema Czukas of the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

You know, Elizabeth's piece was really about children who have problems with their weight and are trying to do something about it. We got an e-mail question also about eating.

Layla in Spartanburg, South Carolina asks this question: "I have a child who is a picky eater. How do you get kids to try other foods? Is it OK for them to decide what they want to eat?"

CSUKAS: Number one key word is patience. Lots of patience. You want to introduce foods a number of times. Don't expect they're going to try it the first go around. If other family members are interested in eating that food, that's going to encourage that child to eat that.

And as far as making decisions, parents make the decision on what food comes into the house, what food is prepared. The child can decide to eat this food or not eat this food, but the parents are the ones who drive that.

GUPTA: At what age is a diet an OK thing for a child?

CSUKAS: See, I don't even think about diets. We think about healthy lifestyles, healthy behaviors, making healthy choices. That doesn't mean eliminating anything from your diet, but there's moderation to consider.

GUPTA: Maybe the Twinkies, though. Maybe eliminating the Twinkies. Really good stuff. Dr. Seema Czukas has been our guest today.

From eating healthfully to eating like a celebrity, that's still to come on HOUSECALL'S "bod squad" report. Stay tuned for that.



ART SMITH, CHEF: This is show business. Show business is about making it pretty.

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chef Art Smith is personal chef to Oprah and has cooked for many Hollywood A-listers.

SMITH: When you walk the red carpet, you've got to look beautiful. And you don't want to feel that heaviness when you eat foods and stuff.

FIRFER: Chef Smith says you don't have to be a star to eat like one if you keep it simple. For example, just a drop of porcini mushroom oil with a touch of lemon prevents you from adding too many extra calories or fat, but you won't sacrifice flavor.

SMITH: Roasting a great healthy way to cook and one that I have used for years cooking for celebrities.

FIRFER: A favorite dish among the jet set is steamed clam and mussel dish with artichokes in a wine and pepper sauce, which you can whip up with minutes.

SMITH: Time is money. You want to make sure that you can get them something delicious and nutritious as quickly as possible.

FIRFER: You can make that happen by using foods that are in season.

SMITH: We have wonderful organic farmers. You're able to go and serve and say, guess what I found at the market? And they grew up just for you! They love that.

FIRFER: Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: Holly, thanks so much.

We've been talking about back to school health today on HOUSECALL. For more information, go online to They have a special section on all about back to school health for children of all ages. Another good resource is The American Academy of Pediatrics,

And Dr. Seema Czukas has been our guest today. Really important information, good information. Do you have a final thought for everyone watching today?

CZUKAS: Yes. Kids are going back to school. You want them to be successful. That's a partnership between the parent, the child and the school. So get involved in your child's education.

GUPTA: That's probably the best advice of all. Thank you very much.

That's all the time we have today. I want to thank Dr. Csukas for being our guest from the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Also, thank you at home for all of your e-mail questions. Remember, this is the place to answer all of your questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.