Thursday, November 15, 2007
Common birth myths debunked

By Anthony Policastro, M.D

Now that I am doing more newborn exams, I frequently get asked a question about birthmarks. It seems that some people believe that every newborn has some kind of a birthmark. While a lot of children are born with some type of spot on their skin, most newborns have no such thing. All a birthmark means is a spot present at birth. There is no requirement that every child has some kind of birthmark. There are other ideas that patients have that are not true. One of these is related to umbilical hernias. These occur when the umbilicus (belly button) sticks out on an infant. In most cases this goes away by two years of age. There are many people who think that taping a silver dollar to the umbilicus will help it to go away. Doing such makes it better in about two years. It does not change what will happen. All it does is create skin problems from the tape. Some people still think that children whose feet turn in need to wear braces at night. We did treat turned in feet like that at one time. We found that children who wore the braces had their feet turn straight by 15 - 18 months. We then found out that children who did not wear braces had their feet turn out at 15 - 18 months. There was no difference. Some people think that it is a good idea to buy special shoes for babies once they begin to walk. It makes no difference what shoe a baby wears. All they need is something to protect their feet from the elements. Sneakers do that the best. The idea about feeding babies cereal to help them sleep through the night usually works only through coincidence. By the time we feed the cereal and then give the formula, the bedtime is changed. They get to sleep later so they wake up later. However, they usually sleep for the exact same number of hours. Most newborn males in the United States get circumcised. In most other countries that is not the case. However, some people believe that newborn males have to be circumcised. It is a choice not a necessity. People get concerned when their children get a chill. They think that it will make them more prone to infection. That is only true if the chill causes a significant decrease in body temperature. That is very unlikely to happen from a brief chill. It usually requires a prolonged period of being wet and then chilled. The decreased body temperature interferes with the immune system. It makes us more likely to get sick. Ear infections in children occur in the middle ear. That is the area behind the eardrum. Some people believe that getting fluid in the ear canal causes an ear infection. Fluid in the ear canal cannot get past the eardrum. It does not cause middle ear infections. These are just a few of the common things that we have heard over the years. The stories go from person to person. However, there is usually not much to them.

DPH adopts new rapid HIV test
Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) announces the adoption of a new HIV rapid test for use in DPH clinics and community testing programs statewide. After evaluating several test technologies, DPH offers the Unigold Rapid HIV test which requires only a drop of blood from a finger prick to produce results in about 10 minutes. The test is offered free of charge. The Unigold test was selected because: It delivers accurate results in just 10 minutes, making it more convenient for clients and providers to fit into busy schedules. The shelf life of the product is 12 months, making ordering and supply to community providers easier.

It offered a cost savings. While the previous OraQuick rapid test cost DPH $13 each, the Unigold test costs $10. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 50 percent of all new HIV infections are passed from those who simply do not know that they are infected. HIV testing is recommended for all Delaware adults. To find the HIV testing site nearest you, visit and type in your ZIP code or call 800-232-4636 or the Public Health HIV Prevention Program at 302-744-1050.

National Hospice Month
Delaware Hospice celebrates its 25th anniversary as President Bush declares November 2007 "National Hospice Month." In a proclamation issued from the White House yesterday, hospice care professionals and volunteers were recognized for their strength and compassion "in answering a timeless call to love their neighbors as themselves." This is the 29th consecutive year in which November has been designated as a national month honoring hospice and it is the 25th year that Delaware Hospice has been answering that timeless call. On Oct. 18, 1982, the first patient was admitted to Delaware Hospice. Thus, years of research, planning, community education, and fundraising by nurses, physicians, religious, community leaders and dedicated volunteers launched the first and still the only not-for-profit hospice organization in Delaware. The original goal of the organization was "to offer hospice care to New Castle County." Twenty five years later, 30,000 patients and families have been served statewide and in adjacent counties of Pennsylvania. Delaware Hospice has proven to be a model of community need being met through community support, which will be demonstrated this 25th year of operation with the opening of the Delaware Hospice Center, funded with the support of the "Community Campaign to Expand Delaware Hospice."

Osteoporosis and stroke screenings
Residents living in and around the Seaford community can be screened to reduce their risk of having a stroke or a serious bone fracture. Life Line Screening will be at Nanticoke Senior Center on Dec. 4. The site is located at 310 Virginia Ave. in Seaford. Appointments will begin at 8 a.m. The cost for a Wellness Package of all screenings including a free osteoporosis screening is $129. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 877-237-1287 or visit Pre-registration is required.

Depression support group in Laurel
The Mental health Association in Delaware will be sponsoring a Depression Support Group in Laurel on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. The meetings begin at 7 p.m. In November, the meetings are the second and fifth Thursdays due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. The purpose of the Laurel Depression Support Group is to share experiences related to living and coping with depression. The group is confidential and offered at no charge. The MHA encourages anyone dealing with a depressive disorder to attend. Register by calling 800-287-6423. Peer support groups sponsored by Mental Health Association of Delaware are not intended to replace professional mental health treatment. To maintain the privacy of our members, MHA does not publish support group locations; locations are provided with registration.

Stroke support group
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer free monthly Stroke Support Group meetings designed for individuals who have survived a stroke and their families and caregivers. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. Sheila Brant and Joan Burditt, occupational therapists at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will facilitate the support group meetings. Pre-registration is not required. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 5121.