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A Valuable Resource or Children’s Health Risk?




March 21, 2024 – For Courtney Stinson, ensuring her daughter’s comfort is a constant battle against the challenges of congenital myopathy. At 9 years old, she relies on a ventilator to breathe, has multiple respiratory treatments daily, and is under the constant care of rotating skilled caregivers. Last year alone, she endured 36 doctor appointments.

To ease her daughter’s struggles with sleep, and after consulting a pediatrician, Stinson turned to melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the body to manage sleep. She gave her daughter a low dose of melatonin and saw significant improvement in her ability to settle down, especially when her mind raced.

“She would have such a hard time sleeping when everything is swirling in her head,” said Stinson, a mother of two who lives in Milan, MI. “It’s really been helpful when her brain is moving 100 miles an hour.”

Melatonin is sold without a prescription as a sleep aid in the form of a supplement. For some parents, especially those whose children have complex needs, melatonin can be a valuable resource – but the rise in melatonin across otherwise healthy populations has had its consequences, too, according to pediatric sleep experts. 

Recent data from the CDC illustrates one of these drawbacks: a significant surge in accidental melatonin ingestion among young children over the past 2 decades.

Between 2012 and 2021, poison center calls related to pediatric melatonin exposures skyrocketed by 530%, while emergency department visits for unsupervised melatonin ingestion by infants and young children surged by 420% from 2009 to 2020, according to the CDC report.

Between 2019 and 2022, an estimated 10,930 emergency room visits were linked to 295 cases of children under the age of 6 ingesting melatonin. These incidents accounted for 7.1% of all emergency department visits for medication exposures in this age group, according to the report.

The share of U.S. adults using melatonin increased from 0.4% during 1999 to 2000 to 2.1% during 2017 to 2018.

Doctors say the escalating number of melatonin-related incidents underscores the need for increased awareness and safety measures to protect young children from unintentional overdose, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and confusion.

“I do think there is a safe way to use it in certain children, but it should only be used under the guidance of a physician,” said Laura Sterni, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Sleep Center. “There are dangers to using it without that guidance.”

Almost 1 in 5 Children Use Melatonin 

Nearly 1 in 5 school-age children and preteens take melatonin for sleep, according to research published last year in JAMA Pediatrics, which also found that 18% of children between 5 and 9 take the supplement.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a warning in 2022 advising parents to approach the sleep aid with caution. 

“While melatonin can be useful in treating certain sleep-wake disorders, like jet lag, there is much less evidence it can help healthy children or adults fall asleep faster,” M. Adeel Rishi, MD, vice chair of the Academy of Sleep Medicine’s Public Safety Committee, warned on the the academy’s site. “Instead of turning to melatonin, parents should work on encouraging their children to develop good sleep habits, like setting a regular bedtime and wake time, having a bedtime routine, and limiting screen time as bedtime approaches.”

What’s the Best Way to Give Kids Melatonin?

Melatonin has been found to work well for children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, or other conditions like blindness that can hinder the development of a normal circadian rhythm. 

But beyond consulting a pediatrician, caregivers whose children are otherwise healthy should consider trying other approaches to sleep disruption first, Sterni said, and things like proper sleep hygiene and anxiety should be addressed first. 

“Most sleep problems in children really should be managed with behavioral therapy alone,” she said. “To first pull out a medication to treat that I think is the wrong approach.”

Sterni also recommends starting with the lowest dose possible, which is 0.5 milligrams, with the help of pediatrician. It should be taken 1 to 2 hours before bedtime and 2 hours after their last meal, she said. 

But she notes that because melatonin is sold as a supplement and is not regulated by the FDA, it is impossible to know the exact amount in each dose.

According to JAMA, out of 25 supplements of melatonin, most of the products contained up to 50% more melatonin than what was listed.

Dangers of Keeping It Within Reach 

One of the biggest dangers for children is that melatonin is often sold in the form of gummies or chewable tablets – things that appeal to children, said Jenna Wheeler, MD, a pediatric critical care doctor at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. 

Because it is sold as a supplement, there are no child-safe packaging requirements. 

From a critical care standpoint, just remember to keep it up high, not on the nightstand or in a drawer,” Wheeler said. “A child may eat the whole bottle, thinking, ‘This is just like fruits snacks.’”

She noted that the amount people need is often lower than what they buy at the store, and that regardless of whether it is used in proper amounts, it is not meant to be a long-term supplement – for adults or for children.

“Like with anything that’s out there, it’s all about how it’s used,” Wheeler said. “The problem is when kids get into it accidentally or when it’s not used appropriately.”


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The Truth About Whole-Body Scans




Take a drive around certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles and you may spot as many signs advertising body scans as burger joints. Or maybe you’ve seen the ads on TV or the internet: “Protect your health! Get a body scan now!” 

Are whole-body CT scans really able to do that – and what are the risks? And are DEXA scans a good way to check on your body composition?

While technologies vary, most of these high-tech checkups use computed tomography (CT) scans to examine your entire body or specific parts, such as the heart and lungs, to try to catch dangerous diseases in earlier, more curable stages.

During the 15- or 20-minute scan, you lie inside a doughnut-shaped machine as an imaging device rotates around you, transmitting radiation. The technique combines multiple X-ray images and, with the aid of a computer, produces cross-sectional views of your body. By examining the views, a doctor can look for early signs of abnormalities.

The scans aren’t cheap – whole-body scans run anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per scan and usually aren’t reimbursed by insurance. And the question of how helpful these scans really are is a matter of debate among medical experts.

Advocates promote scans as a smart part of a routine physical exam. But if you’re healthy, with no worrisome symptoms, a scan is usually not warranted, says Arl Van Moore, MD, a radiologist and clinical assistant professor of radiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, who is also a spokesman for the American College of Radiology (ACR).

According to the ACR’s official position, there’s not enough evidence to recommend scans for those with no symptoms or family history suggesting disease. But Van Moore sees a possible exception. “There may be a benefit to people at high risk of lung cancers, such as current smokers or those with a long history of smoking,” he says. 

For healthy people, the scans may cause undue worry – for instance, by finding something that turns out to be benign. Plus, the amount of radiation exposure, especially with frequent scans, is another concern. If scans are done too often, the radiation exposure may actually increase the number of cancer cases over the long term, according to a 2004 report in the journal Radiology.

The American College of Preventive Medicine says that whole-body scans “aren’t very good at finding cancer in people without symptoms” and that the radiation you get from these scans can increase your risk of cancer.

Before scheduling a body scan, talk to your doctor about your overall health risks and how a scan may or may not help you. In particular, ask yourself:

  • What’s your history? Do you have a personal or family history of lung disease, heart disease, or specific cancers?
  • Did you inhale? Are you a longtime smoker?
  • If so, how long? Even if you’ve quit smoking, for how many years were you an active smoker?


This is a different type of scan, called DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry). You might have heard of DEXA scans to check on bone density to see if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia. It uses low-level X-rays to check on your body composition, like how much body fat you have and where it is in your body. 

There are various ways to measure your body fat. Experts have told WebMD in the past that DEXA scanning is a “very good technique” and “one of the most accurate methods out there.” And researchers have called it the “gold standard” for checking on body composition – specifically, for bone, fat, and muscle. But it’s not covered by insurance, unless you’re getting a DEXA scan to screen for bone density. The cost of a DEXA scan varies, starting around $75 in some cases.


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5 Family and Community Engagement Strategies to Improve Student Outcomes




Strong school-family-community partnerships bring exceptional value to children’s education. A recent book by Karen L. Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and four other co-collaborators synthesizes the available research to explain who benefits from these partnerships and the many advantages of family and community engagement.

Everyone Wins! The Evidence for Family-School Partnerships & Implications for Practice (Scholastic, 2022) cites various research to demonstrate how family-community-school partnerships benefit all stakeholder groups when they’re approached effectively:

  • Students have higher grades, better attendance, deeper engagement in school, greater self-esteem, and higher rates of graduation and college attainment.
  • Educators enjoy better job satisfaction, better success motivating students from different backgrounds, more family support, and an improved mindset about students and their families.
  • Families have stronger relationships with their children and better rapport with educators. They can navigate school policies and advocate for their children more effectively.
  • Schools enjoy a better climate, more support from their community, and improved staff morale—leading to better teacher retention.
  • School districts and communities become better places to live and raise children. They experience fewer disciplinary problems, greater participation in afterschool programs, and more family and student involvement in decision-making.
community members talking and hugging in matching green volunteer t-shirts in front of an outdoor mural

What elements make school-family-community partnerships particularly effective? Here are five tips for how school systems can successfully promote family and community engagement in education and drive better student outcomes.

1. Successful Family Engagement Requires Intentional Leadership

Engaging with families has to be a core activity and not just an afterthought. It requires a total commitment by school and district leaders, and this commitment must include investing in the tools and training needed to help educators effectively engage with families from all backgrounds. It must be a real and intentional focus, and as Mapp says: “It’s real when I see it on your budget sheets.”

2. Teachers and Administrators Must Communicate Clearly and Consistently

To encourage family involvement in their children’s education, educators must interact with families frequently—and in many ways. For instance, teachers and administrators might engage with families in person during school drop-off and pick-up periods, set up a Family Information Board in the school’s lobby, write and distribute regular newsletters or blog posts, and/or send emails or text messages to parents.

Communicating effectively is one of the National PTA’s “National Standards for Family-School Partnerships,” which guides how schools and families should work together to support student success. Teachers and administrators should learn about and meet families’ preferred methods of communication, and families should be able to share and receive information in culturally and linguistically relevant ways.

3. Develop Healthy, Positive Relationships Based on Mutual Trust and Respect

Interactions between educators and families should be positive and reciprocal, with families feeling valued and supported. Educators can establish trust and encourage healthy, two-way communications with families by sharing information about their children’s positive behaviors and accomplishments and which skills may need work. Listen to all parents and provide opportunities for shared decision-making.

4. Be Mindful of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Welcoming all families and fostering a sense of belonging is another National PTA standard. When families engage with your school, do they feel respected, understood, and connected to the school community?

To ensure equity and inclusion, learn about the families you serve and their unique needs and challenges. Use culturally responsive engagement practices. Create opportunities for connection, especially with historically marginalized families and students. Learn about and seek to remove barriers for families to participate fully in their children’s education.

5. Help Families Support and Extend the Learning at Home

Students learn more effectively when they have opportunities at home to practice, reinforce, or extend the skills and lessons they’ve learned in school. Educators can facilitate this process by giving families specific ideas for expanding their children’s learning at home, such as by incorporating core math and literacy concepts into everyday routines.

Schools can also make instructional resources such as take-home packs, activity sets, and other materials available to families to support their children’s education.

How School Specialty® Can Help

School Specialty has more than six decades of experience in providing tools, resources, and strategies that promote successful education both in school and at home. We offer arts and crafts, early childhood, ELA, math, science, STEM/STEAM, physical education, special needs, and social emotional learning resources for families, as well as games, puzzles, and general supplies.

How do you promote family engagement in your classroom and community? Let us know in the comments!


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Preteens and skincare: What parents should know – CHOC





Published on: April 16, 2024
Last updated: April 9, 2024

Should teens and preteens be using so many skincare products with fancy ingredients? A pediatric dermatologist answers parents’ questions.



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