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Compiled from Times wires
Published June 1, 2004

BECAUSE PEANUT ALLERGY is the third most common in young children and the most common in older kids, teens and adults, there has been considerable discussion about how best to prevent inadvertent exposure to peanuts.

Soap-free hand sanitizers apparently aren't enough.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore applied a teaspoon of peanut butter to the hands of 19 nonallergic adults and then had them wash their hands with a variety of cleansers, with plain water and with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand wipes, liquid soap and bar soap removed all of the allergen. Water and the hand sanitizer left some behind.

MOST PEOPLE TANK up on caffeine early in the morning, often ingesting up to 500 milligrams of the stimulant (the amount in a Starbucks grande coffee). But if you need to stay awake for extended periods, a better way to stay sharp - without suffering sleepless nights - might be to consume caffeine slowly and steadily, beginning halfway through the workday. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied 16 men for 29 days. Instead of keeping to a 24-hour day, the subjects lived on a 42.85-hour day, with more than 28 hours of awake time. Every hour the volunteers were awake, half received a pill that contained the amount of caffeine in 2 ounces of coffee; the others received dummy pills. Researchers found that the small doses kept caffeine blood levels building steadily. They also found that the men who got the caffeine performed better on cognitive tests and were less likely to doze off than those who got the placebos. To replicate the results without pills, researchers suggest a 5-ounce cup of coffee (75 to 150 milligrams of caffeine) or an 8-ounce soda (45 to 50 milligrams) every couple of hours.

CHILDREN WHO HAVE had serious diseases might be expected to grow into adulthood plagued by anxiety and depression. Instead, they become thriving young adults no more prone to major psychiatric illnesses than their peers. "Although we have historically thought of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses as vulnerable and at risk for adjustment problems, our work has found they are quite resilient," said Cynthia Gerhardt, a pediatric psychologist at Columbus Children's Research Institute in Ohio. "What we don't see are diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, major depressive disorders," she said.

AT JUST 1 to 2.2 pounds, babies with very low birth weights are too tiny to breast-feed. But by pumping and collecting breast milk for tube feedings, mothers can help protect these infants from potentially fatal infections. In an analysis of 1,270 very premature newborns studied at 15 medical centers, pediatric epidemiologist Jareen Meinzen-Derr and her colleagues at Cincinnati Children's Hospital found that 39 percent developed sepsis but that "as the amount of human milk increased as a percentage of total nutrition, the risk of sepsis decreased." Sepsis is a bodywide infection that affects about 35 percent of extremely low birth weight babies and kills as many as 20 percent of them.

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