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Secondhand smoke may land asthmatic children in hospital

Children with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or in a car are at increased risk of ending up in the hospital within a year of their asthma diagnosis, a new study found.

The researchers looked at cotinine levels in the blood and saliva of more than 600 children with asthma who were admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital between August 2010 and October 2011. Cotinine is found when the body is breaking down nicotine, so it’s a marker of breathing in tobacco smoke. The children’s primary caregivers were also asked about their tobacco exposure.

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Children with higher levels of
cotinine were more than twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital within a year compared with children who had no cotinine in their body. The level of smoking in the home that was reported by the primary caregiver was not linked to a child’s likelihood for readmission, but self-reports from family members may not be accurate.

BOTTOM LINE: Children with asthma who were exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of being hospitalized within a year of their asthma diagnosis.

CAUTIONS: The study looked at low-income and minority children so the findings may not apply to a wider group. It shows a correlation but does not prove that secondhand smoke causes hospital readmissions.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Pediatrics, Jan. 20

Chinese herbal medication may lower diabetes risk

A traditional Chinese herbal treatment may slow the onset of diabetes for some people who are on the brink of developing the disease, according to a study in China.

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Nearly 400 participants with elevated blood glucose levels were randomly picked to either take a capsule called Tianqi, a mixture of 10 Chinese herbal medicines, or a placebo three times a day before meals for a year. All of the participants received a month of lifestyle and nutrition coaching at the start of the study. The researchers measured the participants’ glucose levels every four months.

Those who took Tiangi were 32 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who took the placebo. That was comparable to the reduced risk found in studies of widely used diabetes drugs, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: A traditional Chinese herbal mixture may slow the onset of diabetes for some people who are on the brink of developing the disease.

CAUTIONS: The study did not assess whether participants followed through on lifestyle changes they were coached on. The researchers did not measure insulin levels of the participants to offer an accurate diabetes diagnosis, and the timeframe was too short to assess long-term effects of taking the herbal medication.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Jan 16.

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