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Mom Seeks Medical Marijuana Despite Pediatric Group's Opposition


Andrea Saretti(NEW YORK) -- A leading pediatric medicine group has come out against the use of medical marijuana for children in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement Monday that it is opposed to the use of marijuana for medical purposes in young people, except for drugs that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are two FDA approved drugs that contain synthetic compounds similar to the active ingredients in marijuana, which the group said could be used with children with "debilitating or life-limiting diseases."

Andrea Saretti said she believes her son Sam, who was diagnosed with epilepsy last year, should be one of the exceptions. He starts each morning by putting on a special helmet and medical bracelet to protect him in case he falls to the ground with a seizure.

Sam, 9, has suffered seizures that have not stopped despite multiple medications and even an electronic implant that is designed to prevent seizures by sending mild electrical pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve.

"He misses a lot of school," Saretti told ABC News. "He had a seizure in the road on the way to the bus stop. ...It happens at school and happens at restaurants and happens everywhere."

The medications Sam is currently on have helped somewhat but they have also led to side effects, including significant weight gain, Saretti said, noting that Sam, who is also autistic, went from 80 pounds to over 120 pounds in just one year of treatment after being prescribed adult doses of medication to try and stop the seizures.

While AAP and other pediatric medicine groups recommend caution when prescribing marijuana for children with epilepsy, patients have turned to the remedy as anecdotal reports suggest it can reduce seizures.

Sam's doctors decided last fall they wanted to try using low-THC cannabis to help Sam, his mom said, referring to the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. The timing seemed perfect as the Florida legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act in June, allowing doctors to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients with certain criteria in Florida.

However, while the medical use of the drug became legal as of Jan. 1, Sam and his mother are still waiting to get the medication.

The reason for the delay is that a Florida administrative law judge invalidated the Florida Health Department's plan to use a lottery system to choose marijuana growers. As a result, no one in the state is currently allowed to grow marijuana.

The Florida Department of Health said it will meet again with potential growers in February to decide how to proceed, according to ABC News affiliate WFTV in Orlando, Florida.

Saretti said she's hoping something will change in the coming months so that Sam can stay in school rather than be stuck at home, where he can be more easily monitored. It's unclear if the new AAP statement will have any influence on the process.

"We're looking at [being] home-bound now for the remaining of the year," said Saretti. "You look at quality of life -- something like [the Compassionate Care Act] can give him back a quality of life."

The AAP's statement on Monday reaffirmed the group's earlier position that more study is needed to determine the effectiveness and dosing of the drugs in young people. They are concerned that the risks outweigh the benefits, the statement said.

"We should not consider marijuana 'innocent until proven guilty,' given what we already know about the harms to adolescents," said Dr. Sharon Levy, chair of the AAP Committee on Substance Abuse.

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Northeast Blizzard: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe


Irina Igumnova/Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With winter storm watches, warnings and advisories in effect from the mid-Atlantic to New England on Monday, residents from New York City to Boston can expect perhaps 2 feet or more of snow.

The storm, which began as a clipper system that brought snow and slick roads to the Midwest on Sunday, is expected to hit the East Coast hardest Monday evening through Tuesday.

Here are some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to keep in mind Monday before the worst of the storm hits:

  1. Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning by using power sources appropriately indoors during power outages. (Never use a generator, grill or other gasoline or propane devices inside your home).
  2. Keep an emergency kit in your car, stocked with tools including: extra batteries, windshield scraper, shovel, matches, first aid kit and blankets.
  3. When you're outside, cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from the cold air. Put on dry clothes as soon as you come inside.
  4. Pay attention to emergency messages called Wireless Emergency Alerts that are sent by the government through your mobile carrier.
  5. Remember to bring your pets inside.

Airlines canceled 2,061 flights for Monday as of 7:30 a.m. An additional 1,904 flights had been cancelled for Tuesday and the number is expected to rise, according to FlightAware.com.

President Obama was briefed on the storm and White House officials have been in touch with state and local officials on the eastern seaboard, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest. FEMA also has assets in the region ready to assist, Earnest said.

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Cinnamon's Aroma Spurs Buying Urges


iStock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) — The scent of cinnamon can elicit some powerful feelings…such as making you want to spend money.

That’s what researchers from Temple University and two other institutions discovered when they examined how different smells affected shoppers’ so-called “spatial perceptions.”

In particular, they tested the effect of scents like cinnamon that create warm sensations and lavender, which is interpreted as cool.

Essentially, when the warm scent of cinnamon is released in an area that’s crowded it makes people feel more powerless. As a result, they compensate for this feeling by purchasing more “prestigious items.”

The researchers believe that buying stuff induces pleasure by boosting dopamine levels in the brain. Interestingly, the temperature and a number of people in the room didn’t bring on feelings of powerlessness until the scent of cinnamon was added to the mix.

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Vastly Limiting Social Contact Could Stop Flu Spread


iStock/Thinkstock(DAVIS, Calif.) — Keeping your distance from others could be the best way to prevent spreading the flu, based on how Mexico City handled the swine flu epidemic in April 2009.

At the time, government officials closed schools, cancelled major events and told residents of Mexico City to stay home.

As a result, TV viewing exploded by 20 percent during the first week that the stringent new health policy was enacted. And apparently, it kept the flu from spreading.

Michael Springborn, an economist at the University of California, Davis, says the "spread of the virus was reduced by people's behavioral response of distancing themselves from each other.”

In the five weeks before things got back to normal, the flu stabilized and then the number of cases dropped off. It was believed that had Mexico City not asked people to limit their social contact, cases of the flu would have quadrupled over the same amount of time.

Meanwhile, it was also noted that TV viewing returned to normal levels by the second week, which suggests people found other things to do when they were cooped up in their homes.

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Degree of Delivery Room Pain Linked to Mother's Mate


iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Fathers-to-be shouldn’t take it personally when a woman howls in pain during childbirth. Or maybe they should.

A new study out of the University of London suggests that women in the delivery room may actually feel more discomfort when their significant other is hanging around to provide moral support.

To get a better idea, researchers first gave 39 women a test to determine how close they were to their male partner. Then, the women were hooked up to a machine that delivered a “tolerable” amount of pain to one of their fingers.

While wearing a brain scan, each woman was asked the degree of discomfort felt when their partner was present as opposed to when they weren’t.

As it happened, women who said in the test that they preferred less closeness to their mate reported more pain in their finger. No difference was noted in the other women.

So are men really making things better when they’re around for the birth of a child? Perhaps they should ask the mother if they really want them there in the first place.

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Americans Still Prefer Unhealthy Food Choices


iStock/Thinkstock(KIEL, Germany) — The government can run all the public service announcements it wants about convincing people to change their eating habits but it all may be a big waste of time.

It has to do with people’s preconceived notions about what tastes good and what doesn’t, according to researchers Robert Mai and Stefan Hoffmann from Kiel University, Germany.

They say that despite an obesity epidemic that has gone global, people continue to overeat namely because people’s main reason for being drawn to food is its taste and the idea that unhealthy food tastes better than meals that are supposed to be healthier choices.

Mai and Hoffmann gave participants in a study different yogurts that varied in sugar and fat content. Invariably, people were more enthusiastic about the tastier selections, that is, with more sugar and fat, even when given useful information about the ingredients.

Invariably, both those who were overweight and even participants who were more health conscious went for the tastier yogurts.

In order to combat this problem, Mail and Hoffman recommended that food makers need to make their healthy food tastier as well as improving the marketing and packaging of the products. In addition, they urged those responsible for health awareness campaigns to change their approach so that consumers believe that eating healthy is both “cool” and prestigious.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Reaffirms Opposition to Legalization of Marijuana


sarra22/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics reiterated its opposition to the legalization of marijuana in an updated statement on Monday.

The group is against legalized marijuana -- both for recreational and medicinal purposes -- due to the potentially harmful effects on adolescents, such as memory impairment and difficulty concentrating.

The AAP also says that studies have linked marijuana with a lower likelihood of completing high school and receiving a college degree. Those studies, however, did not prove that use of marijuana caused that lower likelihood of high school completion.

According to the statement, the group's opposition to medicinal marijuana is based in a need for further research to determine correct dosing and true efficacy.

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UK Ebola Patient Released from Hospital, Free of Virus


JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Ebola patient admitted to a London hospital in December was discharged on Saturday and is now virus-free.

Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse, had returned from Sierra Leone to the United Kingdom on Dec. 28, 2014, where she had been treating Ebola patients. According to a statement released by the hospital, Cafferkey said she still didn't feel 100 percent. "I feel quite weak, but I'm looking forward to going home," she added.

Cafferkey had been admitted to the hospital on Dec. 30, 2014. Earlier this month, there was concern after the hospital had said that her condition had "gradually deteriorated."

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Epileptic Boy's Parents Frustrated by Delays Plaguing Medical Marijuana Rollout


pkripper503/iStock/Thinkstock(ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.) -- Andrea Saretti's son Sam starts the day each morning by putting on a special helmet and medical bracelet to protect him in case he falls to the ground with a seizure.

Sam, 9, was diagnosed with epilepsy last year and has suffered seizures that have not stopped despite multiple medications and even an electronic implant that is designed to prevent seizures by sending mild electrical pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve.

"He misses a lot of school," Saretti told ABC News. "He had a seizure in the road on the way to the bus stop. ... It happens at school and happens at restaurants and happens everywhere."

The medications Sam is currently on have helped somewhat but they have also led to side effects, including weight gain, Saretti said, noting that Sam, who is also autistic, went from 80 pounds to over 120 pounds in just one year of treatment after being prescribed adult doses of medication to try and stop the seizures.

While many doctors are reluctant to say with certainty that marijuana can help with epilepsy, patients who have found little relief with conventional drugs have turned to the natural remedy as anecdotal reports suggest it can reduce seizures.

Sam's doctors decided last fall they wanted to try using low-THC cannabis to help Sam, his mom said, referring to the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. The timing seemed perfect as the Florida legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act in June, allowing doctors to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients with certain criteria in Florida.

However, while the medical use of the drug became legal as of Jan. 1, Sam and his mother are still waiting to get the medication.

The reason for the delay is that a Florida administrative law judge invalidated the Florida Health Department's plan to use a lottery system to choose marijuana growers. As a result, no one in the state is currently allowed to grow marijuana and the Florida Department of Health has been meeting with potential growers to decide how to proceed, according to ABC News affiliate WFTV-TV in Orlando.

"There are many parents across the state who are waiting with baited breath [saying] 'When is this going to be available for my kid?'" said Saretti, noting she's talked online to parents in similar situations.

Saretti said she's hoping something will change in the coming months so that Sam can stay in school rather than be stuck at home, where he can be more easily monitored.

"We're looking at [being] home-bound now for the remaining of the year," said Saretti. "You look at quality of life -- something like [the Compassionate Care Act] can give him back a quality of life."

After consulting with growers and others about how to progress forward, the Florida Health Department announced last week that a panel would convene in February to discuss how to implement that act and approve marijuana growers in the state.

“The department remains committed to getting this product to children with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer as safely and quickly as possible,” read a statement from the Department of Health. “This rulemaking negotiation is part of the department’s commitment to working with all stakeholders to arrive at a rule and start providing the product to those who need it."

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, the director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said low-THC cannabis or cannabidoil (a chemical derived from cannabis) has been used by some patients only after cycling through different medications unsuccessfully.

However, Thiele, who has not treated Sam, said there has been no large comprehensive study examining if cannabis-derived medications are an effective treatment for epilepsy. But epileptic patients including some children across the country have been trying out low-THC cannabis as a last resort, she said.

Thiele is currently studying 25 pediatric patients with epilepsy who are being treated with doses of cannabidoil, which contain virtually none of the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. She said early results have been promising but not a total success in treating seizures.


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Sorry, Pregnant Women, New Study Is Not a Carte Blanche to Eat Sushi


Kesu01/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite jubilant tweets and Facebook posts to the contrary, a new study does not reverse decades of advice prohibiting pregnant women from eating sushi, experts said.

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said pregnant women may be able to eat more fish than previously thought thanks to what appear to be minimal negative effects from mercury consumption on their unborn children, but experts say sushi is a whole different story.

Researchers at Rochester University followed more than 1,200 pregnant mothers in the Republic of Seychelles until their children were 20 months old. Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean where people eat more fish than they do in the United States.

"They don't really eat sushi," said study author Gary Myers. "That's the first thing I would say. They ate quite a wide mixture of fish -- much wider than what we have in the states, actually."

The pregnant women in the study ate 12 fish meals a week on average, and researchers concluded that the fatty acids found in the fish may have protected children's brains from the harmful effects of mercury. Researchers found that pregnant women whose blood had higher levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish went on to have children who performed better on a battery of tests on motor skills and other functions that might be effected by high mercury levels.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that women eat no more than 12 ounces of fish or two fish meals a week, but Myers said it's considering whether to allow more.

For now, Dr. Jeff Ecker, who chairs the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Obstetric Practice, said women should continue to follow the current FDA recommendations. He said the study might help convince the FDA to change the guidelines, but more research analysis is needed.

"The study suggests, as has been known for a while, that there are real benefits from fish eating," he said. "The balance between the benefits and potential risk of mercury exposure and this work suggest that there's not as direct a relationship between mercury exposure and adverse outcome as initially thought."

Still, pregnant women are told not to eat raw or under-cooked fish for several reasons, said teratologist Robert Felix, who studies and counsels women on how things during pregnancy effect their unborn children. If it is not prepared and handled properly, sushi can cause parasitic infections, be cross-contaminated by bacteria or other substances or contain high levels of mercury, Felix said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women only eat fish cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

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CDC Issues Health Alert Over Measles Outbreak


Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The Centers for Disease Control issued a health alert on Friday to health department and hospitals around the country to make them aware there's an ongoing outbreak of measles.

The outbreak, originally linked to a single case at Disneyland in California in December, has grown to affecting 58 people and spread from California to Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, and across the border to Mexico.  

In 2000, the U.S. declared that measles had been eliminated, meaning the disease is no longer native to the U.S. The virus can however hitch a ride with people who have been overseas.

Most of those who have gotten sick have been unvaccinated, according to health officials.

Many young doctors and medical workers likely have never seen a case of measles, prompting the CDC’s alert to remind them what it looks like, and to review vaccination recommendations.


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Patients Get 'Burned' During Surgery at Oregon Hospital


XiXinXing/iStock/Thinkstock(SILVERTON, Ore.) -- A small number of patients at an Oregon hospital woke up to more than run-of-the-mill post-surgery scars -- their skin was burned.

Thanks to unfiltered halogen operating room lights, about ten Silverton Hospital patients suffered from skin irritations ranging from redness to blistering to "full thickness" burns, according to Silverton Health in Silverton, Oregon.

The hospital noticed the problem during a quality review process and said it has since fixed the problem.

“For all of us working in health care, we're in it to help people get better, so it's difficult for us when safety of patients are compromised in any way," Dr. Joseph Huang, chief medical officer, said in a statement. "It's our responsibility to our patients and the communities that we serve that we respond in a transparent and accountable way."

It may seem shocking, but this isn't the first time patients have been burned in the O.R.

In 1989, a plastic surgeon published case study of injuries during the five months he used a certain surgical light fixture. He noticed that a 68-year-old woman who had an "uneventful" procedure unwrapped her bandages two weeks later to find a nine by seven centimeter purplish discoloration that progressed to scarring and skin loss.

Another woman, this time 52 years old, also discovered an unexplained scar after her procedure and needed follow-up surgery to correct it.

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How a Sonogram Is Helping Gym Goers Lose Weight


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sonograms are the latest piece of technology gyms are using to help inspire their members to tone up and lose weight. But rather than scoping a growing baby in utero, the hand-held ultrasound scanners evaluate body fat percentage.

Bari Studio in New York City uses this technique to give their members insight into their progress.

“It takes measurements from four different parts of their body -- the triceps, waist, hip and thigh -- so we can see what’s going on in these specific areas and get information about their total body composition,” explained Courtney Romano, a certified personal trainer who is Bari’s head trainer in New York.

The machine works by bouncing sound off the body’s various tissues to estimate fat thickness without using any radiation. Since sound rebounds off fat at a particular wavelength, the operator can use this information to calculate an overall body fat percentage.

Each measurement costs $50, Romano said, and the typical gym member repeats the measurement about once a month to help fine tune her training program. Clients like Diem Tran said the checkup provides a different perspective on her training.

“When I first started working out my weight stayed the same and I couldn’t figure out what was actually going on,” Tran told ABC News' Good Morning America.

The 26-year-old credits the regular feedback she gets from the measurement for helping her lose 12 pounds and 7 percent body fat since August.

But proceed with caution, urged Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' senior medical contributor.

“Anytime we have technology to improve our health, that can potentially be an exciting thing,” Ashton said. “But my concern is that this not be misused or abused.”

The accuracy of sonogram body fat measurements is well established, Ashton said, but results can vary depending on the skill of the technician, the quality of the machine and how often the scan is repeated.

Despite the caveats, Ashton said she feels the measurement may help some exercisers reach their goals.

“Haters shouldn’t hate on this technology. At the end of the day, it’s whatever motivates the individual,” she said.


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Infant Grins After 'Seeing' Mom Clearly for First Time


Megan McMorris(DENVER) — An emotional video of a Denver infant smiling after "seeing" her mother clearly for the first time has also made millions of others share in that joy.

Megan McMorris took the video of her 8-month-old daughter Louise after the girl was given new glasses to help address her sight problems.

Louise was born with albinism, which means she has no pigment in her skin, hair or eyes. As a result, she has debilitating sight problems, according to McMorris.

"Once she could actually see me, it’s like 'Oh hi that’s you'," said McMorris of the moment her daughter looked at her with glasses. "She’s happy. At least she didn’t start crying."

Video of the meeting has already garnered more than 3 million views in less than two weeks.

In the video, Louise appears to break into a big grin as Megan speaks to her.

With the new specially designed prescription glasses, McMorris also said that Louise has been able to finally play with her older brother Mason since she can more clearly see what she's doing.

"She’s able to reach out for things because she can see them now," McMorris told ABC News of Louise's new ability. "If I walk into a room, I can tell she can see something."

McMorris said one result of the albinism is that Louise tends to rely on hearing more than sight. As a result, McMorris has taken to singing to her daughter to bond with her.

"I can sing to her and I know she’s really listening," said McMorris. "It’s our thing. It’s a special moment."

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Does Stressing Out Cause Your Hair to Turn Grey?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Grey can be a difficult color to pull off especially when it’s on your head. So is the only way to avoid grey locks to live a life free of stress and strain?

Not so fast. Each of us have two chemicals in our bodies: melanin, which is the pigment in our hair, and hydrogen peroxide. Early in life, it seems that melanin overpowers the hydrogen peroxide, allowing us to have a colorful head of hair.

Later in life, though, the hydrogen peroxide seems to overtake the melanin, causing a loss of pigmentation and a greying of the hair.

“But in terms of stress causing grey hair, there is no scientific proof whatsoever,” Dr. Michael Stern, an Emergency Medicine Physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, says.

You may now resume your stress-filled lives without the added weight of worrying about hair color.

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