BE WELL

Online searches
on child health
often inaccurate

Many parents search online for health information regarding their children. A new study suggests top Google search results related to safe-sleeping practices for kids are often inaccurate.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina and George Washington University medical schools searched 13 different key phrases, such as “infant sleep position” and “safe sleep bedding”. They analyzed the top 100 websites that appeared for each phrase to see whether the information matched safe-sleeping recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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About 57 percent of the sites provided either inaccurate or irrelevant information, while 43 percent were accurate.

The search words “infant cigarette smoking,” “infant sleep position,” and “infant sleep surface,” were most likely to produce results with accurate information. Government and organizational websites were the most accurate. Sites that contained inaccurate information were mostly blogs, retail product sites, and independent websites. News sites had accurate information about half of the time.

BOTTOM LINE: A majority of website searches for safe-sleeping practices yield inaccurate or irrelevant information.

CAUTIONS: Parents may search using words not in the study.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Pediatrics, Aug. 2

Pets may help autistic individuals develop social skills

People with autism significantly improved their social skills after getting a pet, according to French researchers.

In the first of two studies involving a total of 40 individuals with autism between ages 6 to 34, researchers looked at social behaviors among individuals who adopted a a pet after age 5 compared with those who did not have one. In the second study, the researchers compared individuals with autism who were born with a pet in the family with those who didn’t.

Autistic individuals who were introduced to a pet after age 5 were more likely to offer to share and offer comfort to others compared with the period of time before they had a pet, the study found. But the researchers found no significant change in social behavior among individuals who were born with a pet in the home compared with those who did not own a pet. The researchers said this suggests introducing a pet later on provides a new stimulus that may alter behavior.

BOTTOM LINE: Introducing a pet to individuals with autism could help them develop social skills.

CAUTIONS: Because of the small number of participants, the findings may not apply broadly to people with autism.

WHERE TO FIND IT: PLoS One, Aug. 1 Lara Salahi

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